Pixel Scroll 11/22/20 If You Pixel Any Of That, I’m Out Of A Scroll

(1) WILLIS DISCUSSES SURGERIES. Connie Willis gave a medical update to her fans on Facebook:

I haven’t posted anything recently, mostly because I had a difficult summer and fall. I had two surgeries in a row: an emergency surgery for a herniated disc in my upper back and then four weeks later a knee replacement, and the combination completely laid me low. I know, that sounds like poor planning, but the doctor was anxious to get it (and my ensuing physical therapy) done before the Covid got completely out of hand in our area.

We just made it–Weld County goes red tomorrow, with 45 of our 48 available ICU beds filled–so it was the right decision, but two surgeries that close together really took it out of me, and I’ve been too exhausted to do much more than my exercises and my worrying about the political and pandemical situation.

Willis nevertheless has completed a couple of projects:

… In spite of surgeries, the pandemic, and obsessing about the election, I did manage to get some writing done. I finally finished my UFO novel, THE ROAD TO ROSWELL, it’s now in my agent’s hands! Yay!

It’s about a young woman, Francie, who goes to Roswell to be a college friend Serena’s maid-of-honor. Serena (who has horrible taste in men) is marrying a UFO nut, so they’ve scheduled the wedding to take place during the UFO convention that happens every year in July on the anniversary of the Roswell crash. And when Francie goes to get something from Serena’s car, she’s abducted by an alien and dragged off on a road trip across the Southwest that includes RVs, wind farms, rattlesnakes, chemtrails, casinos, cattle mutilations, a charming con man, a truly annoying conspiracy theorist, a sweet little old lady, a Western movie buff, Las Vegas wedding chapels, and Monument Valley.

I also finished a Christmas story called “Take a Look at the Five and Ten,” which is out right now in ASIMOV’S November/December issue and is coming out in a beautiful edition from Subterranean Press.

(2) WOODEN SHIPS. Watch as renowned artist “Johnna Klukas Turns a Spaceship.”

(3) LIADEN AUTHORS ASSIST UNCLE HUGO’S. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have announced how they’re helping Don Blyly of Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore by providing an exclusive signed page —  

Don Blyly at Uncle Hugos Bookstore, working from home after his store was burnt out, has been trying to keep up with demand for our books. He tells us that the exclusive to the Uncles signed-via-tipped-in-sheets Trader’s Leap (latest hardcover Liaden novel) has arrived and is being shipped as he has time — he’s already packed some Canadian orders as well as a bunch of US orders. Official publication date was set for December 1, but since Baen doesn’t usually embargo books (and Don’s house can only hold so many books) Don is going ahead now. He mentions that he has more than enough for the 150 or so pre-orders, and he’ll ship new orders first-come basis after the pre-orders are done.   http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/ah-lee-miller.php

In the face of this, we’re releasing the related Ambient Conditions chapbook in paper edition as soon as it can work through the Amazon.com  …. the ebook is still set to be published November 27.

And that’s the news this morning …

(4) LIMITED TIME BARGAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Amazon Unlimited for $0.99 for two months –(remember to cancel before the period is up, it’s $9.99/month regularly… although there’s also a $29.97 for 6 months deal on this page.)

While I own an Amazon eReader — Kindle — I’m more likely to read it on my iPad or my non-Fire tablet, so I’ll splurge for the $0.99 deal.

And then do my best to remember to use it while I’ve got it!

(5) SETI. The John W. Kluge Center will host an online discussion of the latest thinking on the search for life and intelligence outside of Earth on December 3 at 10 a.m. Eastern. Register here:“Artificial Intelligence and the Search for Life in the Universe Tickets”.

Join the John W. Kluge Center for a discussion of the latest thinking on the search for life and intelligence outside of Earth.

This conversation, hosted by Blumberg Chair Susan Schneider, and featuring Caleb Scharf and Sarah Imari Walker, explores the relationship between intelligence, life, and consciousness, in biological and synthetic cases. It considers whether AI could be conscious, as well as the related epistemological questions of how to identify intelligence and consciousness in beings that are very different from us perceptually and cognitively. The speakers will consider philosophical issues about the nature of intelligence, discussing how to identify intelligence in biological life and AI, and how our understanding of these areas informs the search for life in the universe and our ability to detect it.

This event is cosponsored by Florida Atlantic University, Initiative on the Future of Mind.

Susan Schneider leads the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Initiative on the Future Mind, and is the William F. Dietrich Professor of Philosophy at FAU. She is the most recent Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific innovation at the Kluge Center.

Caleb Scharf is Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, New York as well as a research scientist studying exoplanets, exomoons, and the nature of environments suitable for life.

Sara Imari Walker is Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University (ASU), Associate Professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, Deputy Director, Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at ASU, and an associate professor at ASU

(6) READY TO MOVE IN. Suzanne Walker’s addition to the series hosted by Sarah Gailey — “Personal Canons: Lloyd Alexander”.

…Somewhere during that period, I picked up a book called The Black Cauldron, by Lloyd Alexander. It was my first introduction to a secondary fantasy world so vast and lush that I could imagine myself in it with remarkable ease. Based loosely off Welsh mythology, the world of Prydain contains undead soldiers, evil witches, giant cats, dwarves, and giant winged birds called gwythiants.

I was enchanted in a way I’d never been with any other book before. I wanted to live in this world, despite its rather high body count. I wanted to pick up a sword and ride on a horse and follow Taran of Caer Dallben on his adventures. I discovered the book was actually the second in a series, and quickly devoured the rest of the Chronicles of Prydain. 

Lloyd Alexander’s books are what made me fall in love with fantasy. Theybecame a direct line to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce, and Megan Whalen Turner. I might have discovered those books eventually, but Prydain was my first and best love. They introduced me to the themes that so often appear in fantasy, ones I cherish and hold dear. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 22, 2012 — The animated Rise Of The Guardians enjoyed its premiere. It was directed by Peter Ramsey and produced by Christina Steinberg Nancy Bernstein from a  screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire. The feature starred the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Isla Fisher. It was based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood series, it really bombed though most critics at least grudgingly liked it. However, the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is very healthy 80%. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 22, 1862 – Warwick Goble.  Illustrator, mainly of children’s books or what was so thought.  First to illustrate The War of the Worlds.  I’ve found only a few covers made during his lifetime; at least a hundred fifty interiors.  Here is Vector 202 re-using a War of Worlds interior.  Here is another for War of Worlds.  Here is the 2014 reprint of Green Willow (1910), with his forty watercolor-over-ink interiors.  Here is a Pook Press biographical page showing several reprints.  Here is a 2008 Dover edition of reprints.  Here is The Star Lovers.  Much more outside our field, e.g. Van Milligan’s 1906 Constantinople, Fletcher’s 1919 Cistercians in Yorkshire.  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1896 – Joel Townsley Rogers.  A dozen short stories for us; his fine novelette “Beyond Space and Time” is in Boucher’s Treasury vol. 1 (don’t complain of its 1938 style, it’s a masterwork; Boucher was no dope), “No Matter Where You Go” is in Mills’ 9th Best from “[The Magazine of] Fantasy & Science Fiction”.  Four other novels, hundreds of shorter stories.  JTR was one of the first U.S. Navy flyers.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1932 Robert Vaughn. His best-known genre work was as Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with other genre work being in Teenage CavemanStarship InvasionsThe Lucifer ComplexVirusHangar 18Battle Beyond the StarsSuperman III C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (seriously who penned that awful title?), Transylvania Twist and Witch Academy. God did he do some truly awful films. Oh, and he wrote the introduction to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series companion that came out a generation after the series aired. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1940 – Roy Thomas, 80.  Took over Alter Ego from Jerry Bails, appeared in DC and Marvel lettercols; going pro, worked a while for Weisinger at DC, then Marvel: Sgt. Fury, Doctor Strange, Conan, the Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, first successor to Lee as editor-in-chief.  Back to DC: Wonder Woman, revival of the Justice Society.  Marvel again and independents.  Saw Lee about RT’s Stan Lee Story 48 hours before Lee died.  Inkpot.  Roll of Honor in the Eagle Awards.  One of Fifty Who Made DC Great.  Eisner Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 80. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else.  Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his work for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had the staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one. He’s not won any Hugos to date.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits. (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1943 William Kotzwinkle, 77. Fata Morgana might be in my opinion his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. And his short stories of which there are many are quite excellent too.  Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books. (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant, 71. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (CE) 
  • Born November 22, 1953 – Marly Youmans, 67.  (Pronounced like “yeoman’s”.)  Ten novels, two dozen shorter stories, poems (five books so far).  Interviewed in ClarkesworldLightspeedWaylines.  Six of her books collaborated with Clive Hicks-Jenkins who decorated; MY did title poems for The Book of Ystwyth: Six Poets on the Art of CHJ.  Website here (“Seek Giacometti’s Palace at 4 a.m.  Go back two hours”).  [JH] 
  • Born November 22, 1957 Kim Yale. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer, she was a writer who’s first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. Oh,and for First Comics, she co-wrote much of Grimjack with her husband. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born November 22, 1958 Jamie Lee Curtis, 62. Can we agree that she was the best Scream Queen for her film debut in the 1978  Halloween film in which she played the role of Laurie Strode? No? Well, that’s my claim. She followed up with yet more horror films, The Fog and Prom Niight. In all, she’s the only character that survives. She would reprise the role of Laurie in four sequels, including Halloween H20, Halloween: ResurrectionHalloween II and Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  She shows up in up of my fav SF films, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Sandra Banzai but you’ll need to see the director’s extended version as she’s only there in that version. Is True Lies genre? Probably not but for her performance, Curtis won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Damn impressive I’d say. No, I’m not listing all her films here as OGH would likely start growling. Suffice to say she’s had a very impressive career. (CE)
  • Born November 22, 1980 – Daniele Lanzarotta, 40.  A dozen novels, four shorter stories.  Recently some film work.  Has read The Old Man and the Sea, looks forward to Dracula.  Hockey fan.  [JH]
  • Born November 22, 1982 – Maryse Meijer, 38.  One novel, two collections; novella “Northwood” separately published.  I thought this interview after a reading MM headlined more helpful than her Website, but what do I know?  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Dilbert, naming calls.

(10) ANOTHER THEORY OF FANDOM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is a passage from Isaac Asimov’s In Memory Yet Green (1979) about how he joined fandom only to learn that in 1938 the Queens Science Fiction Club and the Futurians were engaged in a titanic fan feud.

Science-fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp (another dear friend of mine) has…developed a theory of human contentiousness that I rather like. He points out that in the long history of human groups in the food-gathering stage. a multiplying tribe was always in danger. A group of fifty could not gather any more ground than a group of twenty-five could, and would not find any more food.  Therefore, the fifty might starve where the twenty-five would not.

If the fifty were full of loving kindness and brotherly affection and could not bear to break up, they would be in serious trouble.  If they were contentious individuals who tended to split up, each smaller group, staking out a territory of its own, might survive.  Hence contentiousness had survival value and flourished, and still exists among mankind despite the fact that ever since agriculture became the most important activity of man, co-operation, and not contentiousness, has been required.

Sprague says that if the contentiousness of small groups is to be studied seriously, no better start could be made than to read and study (however painful that might be) The Immortal Storm [by Sam Moskowitz].

(11) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. “Scientists Say Laser Device Can Make Lightning Strike Specific Targets” reports The Futurist.

An international team of researchers says that small lasers could be used to guide lightning strikes — much like Thor’s legendary hammer Mjölnir.

“It turns out that to deliver particles, you do not need high-intensity lasers, even low intensity like your laser pointer will be already enough,” Andrey Miroshnichenko, a researcher at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia, told Agence France Presse of the work.

The team says it’s already tested the concept in labs using devices known as hollow lasers, which in effect create a pipe of light. These lasers can short circuit storm clouds and trigger lightning strikes by heating micro-particles in the air.

(12) KEEP YOUR IDEAS IN CIRCULATION. WIRED finds there’s “A New Way to Plug a Human Brain Into a Computer: via Veins”.

… On Wednesday, a team of scientists and engineers showed results from a promising new approach. It involves mounting electrodes on an expandable, springy tube called a stent and threading it through a blood vessel that leads to the brain. In tests on two people, the researchers literally went for the jugular, running a stent-tipped wire up that vein in the throat and then into a vessel near the brain’s primary motor cortex, where they popped the spring. The electrodes snuggled into the vessel wall and started sensing when the people’s brains signaled their intention to move—and sent those signals wirelessly to a computer, via an infrared transmitter surgically inserted in the subjects’ chests. In an article published in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery, the Australian and US researchers describe how two people with paralysis due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) used such a device to send texts and fool around online by brain-control alone….

(13) DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS. Mental Floss simulates a trip on America’s “Most Haunted Roads”.

What could be scarier than driving down a dark road at night? Driving down one of these dark roads at night. If any of the below routes—compiled by Commercial Truck Trader—pop up on your GPS this spooky season, consider finding an alternate way to your destination.

1. JEREMY SWAMP ROAD // SOUTHBURY, CONNECTICUT

Jeremy Swamp Road and several other streets in southwestern Connecticut are said to be frequented by Melon Heads, creatures that, according to the New England Historical Society, live in wooded areas and “look like small humanoids with oversized heads” that “survive by eating small animals, stray cats and human flesh, usually the flesh of teenagers.” Some say the Melon Heads are the result of inbreeding, with others theorizing that they escaped from local hospitals or asylums….

(14) ESCAPE CLAWS. Den of Geek reminds us never to underestimate “The Importance of Cats in Horror Cinema”.

… Exempting terrors such as Nine Lives and Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas from the canon of feline representation, these everyday animals are turned to all sorts of purposes in horror, and seeing as it’s Halloween, we’ve been thinking about some of those different portrayals. There’s a famous storytelling maxim that states characters should ‘save the cat’ early on in the story, but in horror, they more often need saving from the cat.

What follows is not a complete, exhaustive cat-alogue of their screen history in the genre. We haven’t included one-off models of moggyness, such as the 2010 home invasion film Burning Bright, which contrives a Lemony Snicket-esque tower of circumstances to put a live tiger in a boarded up house with a teenager and her autistic brother during a hurricane. Instead, we’re using key examples to look at nine major tropes for cats in horror, whether lucky or unlucky; natural or supernatural; good or evil…

2. Revenants

Getting onto actual feline characters, there are a fair few films that position cats as zombies or revenants, to one end or another, usually to differing degrees of gross-out.

For instance, on one end of the scale, we have Thackery Binx in Disney’s Hocus Pocus, with his immortal soul trapped inside a black cat by the wicked Sanderson sisters. He gets flattened by a tyre at one point, but the curse affords him a swift return. On the gorier end, Re-Animator‘s Herbert West demonstrates his ghastly green serum on his roommate’s dearly departed pet Rufus, though it’s unclear if he was already dead when West got hold of him….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers:  Genshin Impact” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game has so many micropayments that it’s perfect for people who played trading card games as a teenager and can say to themselves, “I’ve been ripped off this way since I was a kid and I’m not stopping now!”

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

Group Sends Letter of Concern To CoNZealand Programming

Alasdair Stuart has published a “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” on behalf of a group of CoNZealand program participants and award finalists. Stuart, co-owner of Escape Artists podcasts and a 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, outlined the issues in a Twitter thread starting here.

Stuart told File 770, “The letter was workshopped by the entire group, and wasn’t published before they gave express approval so it very much is a group of co-signees.”

The group includes: Charles Payseur, Benjamin C. Kinney, Jennifer Mace, SL Huang, Shiv Ramdas, SB Divya, Jenn Lyons, Sarah Gailey, Paul Weimer, Sarah Pinsker, Claire Rousseau, Maria Haskins, Tasha Suri, Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, Jonathan Strahan, Pablo Defendini, Elsa Sjunneson, Brent Lambert, Freya Marske, Julia Rios, Alix Harrow, Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Lorelei Marcus, James Davis Nicoll, Neil Clarke, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Brandon O’Brien, Erica Frank, Jen Zink, Adri Joy, Fran Wilde, Suzanne Walker, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Navah Wolfe, John Picacio, and Max Gladstone.

The letter says:

We applaud the courage and conviction of the CoNZealand organisers in pivoting to a virtual Worldcon during an unprecedented global event. Their work has been admirable and — in many aspects — both innovative and successful.

We are a group of Hugo Award finalists who identified concerns with our programming when we received our “final schedules” this week, and came together to help CoNZealand recognize and address these issues.

In brief, our key concerns are:

  • Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
  • We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
  • Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.

We present our concerns in the hope that these issues represent not intentional choices on the convention’s part but the unavoidable consequences of Worldcon’s discontinuous structure, and the necessary prioritization CoNZealand has had to undertake in order to pivot successfully to a virtual event. 

We have tried to be brief and targeted in our recommendations so as to remain sensitive to the time pressure CoNZealand is under. Accompanying this letter is a spreadsheet containing specific examples of the issues above. We have listed (1) which panel topics we are missing; (2) which panels have problematic design or membership; (3) which panels we finalists want off or are willing to leave to create space; and (4) finalists that were deterred from participation due to lack of membership.

Our data are incomplete because we could only recruit a limited number of Hugo finalists to provide input without further delaying the process. Among our group of finalists, about 25% entirely lack relevant panels, and about 45% are dissatisfied with the fit of the programming they have.

We recognize there is a difficult balance to strike when raising concerns to an overtaxed team less than two weeks before an event, however many of us have repeatedly raised these issues or volunteered only to receive no response. We have intentionally not sought to assume ownership of programming items, but we are committed to assisting where possible and desired by CoNZealand. However, we emphasize that our bringing awareness to these issues does not obligate us to single-handedly resolve them.

As part of our offer to assist, we have begun identifying additional and replacement panelists who could add necessary diversity. If CoNZealand lacks sufficient BIPOC attendees, we hope you will provide free attendance to needed panelists who aren’t members. Moreover, there remain issues we cannot address on our own, especially (1) communicating with all finalists whether paid membership is required for programming; and (2) making sure all finalists with memberships are on relevant programming.

We are not united in what actions we intend to take if our concerns are not addressed. Many have already begun the process of asking to be removed from programming in its entirety, while others are actively working to locate replacements for the programming items they feel need improvement. Our focus at this stage remains taking action to make our concerns known, and to support CoNZealand addressing them in the combined spirit of fostering an environment for all to share in the celebration of our genre.

Although there are some echoes of the representation issues raised before the 2018 Worldcon (which a team led by Mary Robinette Kowal stepped in to address before the con), so far the efforts have been collaborative.

The CoNZealand’s Programming Division Head Jannie Shea emailed this reply to Stuart:

Thank you for sending us your concerns. We are addressing those we can. We encourage indigenous, marginalised and historically underrepresented fans to apply for our Inclusion Initiative, (https://conzealand.nz/blog/2020/07/03/conzealand-chairs-inclusion-initiative) which offers two types of opportunities to join CoNZealand. 

We appreciate your volunteerism in contacting all those people for us. As you know, due to privacy regulations, we cannot contact people more than once without a response from them. We hope they will get in touch with us directly and soon, to see if we can fit them in.

All the best,
Jannie

Shea points to CoNZealand’s inclusion initiative in answer to the letter’s question “whether paid membership is required for programming.” Typically, only people who have bought attending memberships become Worldcon program participants. The introduction to the  inclusion initiative explains what help is available:

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

We want the convention to be a global one, where all communities and viewpoints are represented, and this fund is intended to help those who would otherwise not be able to participate fully in the activities of the Worldcon.

The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. …There are a small number of attending passes available.

CoNZealand is especially challenged in its efforts to answer these needs because, as a virtual convention, it isn’t limited to programming people who can afford to come to Wellington, as would have been the case before the pandemic — it could draw people from everywhere. But like most non-U.S. Worldcons it has a smaller membership base from which to draw the financial support needed to make its budget.  

Following the jump is a roundup of Twitter comments from participants.

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