Empire Of Evil: Space Opera Duo

Art by Robert Gibson Jones

Guest Post by G.W. Thomas: Space opera in the 1950s found its home at Amazing Stories. For the nuts-and-bolts fan there was Astounding (not renamed Analog for another ten years). The literary reader had Fantasy & Science Fiction. The sophisticated fan had Galaxy. But if you wanted good old blasters and spaceships, after the death of Planet Stories in 1955 it was Amazing.

The Empire of Evil is a two-part space opera series by Robert Arnette that crossed that timeline. But these two stories pose questions. Arnette was a house name that belonged to the Ray A. Palmer Amazing Stories and was handed down to Howard Browne and later Paul W. Fairman when they edited the magazine.

The questions partly arise from the fact that these magazines were filled (during Browne and Fairman’s time anyway) by a stable of a dozen writers who produced 50,000 words a month for various magazines, which was purchased sight unseen. The editors didn’t bother to even read them so long as the quality didn’t slip too much. Writers like Milton Lesser, Henry Slesar, Robert Bloch, Randall Garrett, John Russell Fearn and others appeared every month as Alexander Blade, S. M. Tenneshaw, E. K. Jarvis and of course, Robert Arnette. Many of the stories’ creators are still unknown.

Robert Silverberg was one of these pseudonymous pulp-mill writers. In Other Spaces, Other Times, 2009, he remembers the creation of one story in particular:

In the 1950s magazine covers were printed well ahead of the interiors of the magazines, done in batches of, I think, four at a time. This was a matter of economics — using one large plate to print four covers at once was much cheaper than printing them one by one. But sometimes the practice created problems. For example, the April 1957 cover of Amazing Stories was printed in the fall of 1956 with a group of others, well ahead of its publication date, bearing this announcement above the name of the magazine: BEGINNING—COSMIC KILL—2-part serial of thundering impact.

“Cosmic Kill” was supposed to be a sequel to a short novel that Amazing had published six years before — “Empire of Evil,” by Robert Arnette. The readers had supposedly been clamoring for a follow-up to that great story all that time, and now, finally, it was going to be published.

According to Silverberg, the author of Empire of Evil was Paul W. Fairman, who had been promoted to editor after Browne left, and didn’t have time to pen the sequel. Unfortunately ISFDB lists Rog Phillips as author. I don’t know which of these men was “Robert Arnette” when the story appeared.

Link: Amazing Stories January 1951 issue at the Internet Archive.

This space opera novelette concerns a band of raiders who live on Venus in the city of Venusia. They pillage Earth and other planets ruthlessly, stealing their women. (Sleaze was a big part of selling SF in 1951.) The pirates are led by a scientific genius named Darrien. He can get away with his raiding because he has built a giant force-field shield that destroys invaders. Our heroes, there will be two, are set to find and destroy the generator of the shield.

The story opens with the first of two Earth agents, Ron Kratnick, going to his boss, Blake Wentworth, for the suicide mission of trying to infiltrate the reavers. Wentworth warns him he may have sit idly by when he sees some pirate molesting an Earth woman. But Kratnick’s cover must not be blown if he is to find the generator and destroy it.

Also undercover is Agent Tanton, thought dead by the Earth brass, who works his way towards the shield machinery by a circuitous route. He makes an offer to a beauty named Margot, who is love slave to an ugly underworld figure known as Tza-Necros. Tanton plans to get Margot next to Lars Valcan, the officer in charge of the generator in exchange for taking her to Earth, away from Tza-Necros’s reach.

Tanton is jailed but eventually allowed to escape. He steals a slaver’s booty as cover to get to his meet with Valcan but is attacked by Kratnick, who has come from Earth in a slaver ship. He had been followed by agents and starts drinking at a cafe. Now the story becomes about both of the men.

Tanton flees to the Undercity with both the new agent and the beautiful woman-prize, named Glory Evans. Tanton has an appointment with Valcan so he sends Kratnick and Evans on alone. They don’t end up finding Margot but in the hands of the Undercity people, and their leader, Caliban. Kratnick’s only hope is Tanton. Unfortunately, he went to his meeting with Valcan, brought him to meet Margot and got caught by Tza-Necros. Tanton is in the same cell as the two new lovers.

Things look pretty bleak for the Earth agents. Valcan is killed by Tza-Necros and Margot is thrown into the cell with the others. Without her beauty drugs, she becomes an old crone and dies. Tanton has a plan. He charges up Caliban with news that Darrien has found the Undercity and will soon kill everyone in it with a lethal gas. He lies, saying Tza-Necros knows this. Caliban leads the under-people in a mad rebellion. Tanton also tells him the shield generator is the really the gas machine. In this way, Caliban takes the agents to the building where the shield machinery is guarded.

The generator building is heavily guarded. The mob can’t penetrate their defences. The Earth trio sneak in. Guards come to arrest them. Ron and Glory escape out the roof on floating grav disks. Tanton stays behind to destroy the ray generator. He does this by throwing himself off twenty stories and sacrificing himself. The story ends with Ron quitting the secret service because he will never be as good as Tanton. He decides to become a farmer. Glory is overjoyed to become a farmer’s wife.

The Space Opera of the 1950s had some sophistication over the 1930s version but in many respects it hadn’t changed much at all. Arnette supposes humans living on all the planets of the Solar System. (Leigh Brackett was still doing the same thing at Planet Stories, around this time too, so it wasn’t only in Amazing.) This is not the cutting edge SF of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction. Ray A. Palmer had made Amazing Stories into an adventure SF Pulp back in 1939 and it still remained such, aimed at the juvenile market.

The story was illustrated by Henry Sharp, who would return six years later to illustrate the sequel. The cover for Empire of Evil was painted by Robert Gibson Jones, showing women flying on anti-grav disks. These devices are in the story but women are not soldiers, only booty, to the Venusians.

The second tale, “Cosmic Kill”, appeared in the digest-sized Amazing Stories. The collapse of 1955 cleared a rather crowded field. Plenty of SF magazines died along with the Pulps. Amazing was one of the long-standing survivors, but one of the least prestigious magazines still around. But Space Opera survived despite the haters.

The introduction to the sequel to “Empire of Evil” reads:

“Empire of Evil” (Jan 1951) was one of the most popular novelettes ever published in Amazing Stories. Mr. Arnette has done a sequel, featuring the same fabulous characters, and charged with the same suspense and furious action.

Silverberg recalls having to write a 20,000 word novella in two days. Randall Garrett, Bob’s partner in their little fiction factory, helped him out by introducing him to speed:

…I went out of my way to mimic the style of the original story, using all sorts of substitutes for “he said” that were never part of my own style —”he snapped,”“he wheezed,”“she wailed” and peppering the pages with adverbial modifiers — “he continued inexorably,” “he said appreciatively,” “he remarked casually.”The next day I took the whole 80-page shebang down to Paul Fairman’s office and it went straight to the printer. It was just in time for serialization in the April and May, 1957 issues of Amazing, my one and only appearance under the byline of Robert Arnette. And on the seventh day I rested, you betcha.

Link: Amazing Stories April 1957 issue at the Internet Archive.

Silverberg uses the same plot format as the first story. There will be two agents, a beauty belonging to a tyrant and a new virginal Earth girl/love interest. Silverberg picks up right after Fairman. Wentworth has a new agent in Lon Archman. Darrien escaped the bombing of Venusia and has fled to Mars. There he plots in secret. Lon’s assignment is to find and kill the evil genius. He will have to be careful of the simulacra Darrien uses as decoys. The assignment is illegal and Lon can expect no official help from Earth.

Hendrin is also an agent but not of Earth. He has been sent by the ruler of Mercury to discover all of Darrien’s secrets, the space mines, the robot doubles, etc. then to kill the evil scientist. He ingratiates himself by buying an Earth woman named Elissa Hall, stolen from an Earth outpost. Hendrin plans to sell her to Darrien and work his way into the upper escalations.

Lon Archman runs into him in the bar where he buys the girl. The agent follows him to the office of Dorvis Graal, the Viceroy of Canalopis, Darrien’s capitol on Mars. Graal allows the Mercurian to take his prize to the master. Darrien is smitten with the girl, buying her for two hundred credas and a captaincy. Meryola, Darrien’s mistress, is not pleased. Meryola is beautiful but aging, despite the youth drugs. She will not put up with any rival. Hendrin double-deals with her, saying he will steal her away to the dungeons.

Archman plays his own desperate game with Dorvis Graal and is imprisoned. He is placed in the same cell as Elissa. With her help, he escapes while she remains imprisoned. Running, he encounters Hendrin who has just had a disastrous moment with Meryola and Darrien. Visiting the mistress, the Mercurian is caught by Darrien. But the scientist isn’t jealous. He just wants his play-thing back. He tells Hendrin if he doesn’t produce the girl, he will die. Meryola tells him the opposite, if he doesn’t kill her, he dies.

The two agents team up (as Tanton and Ron did before) and rescue Elissa. Together they put Hendrin’s plan into action. He and Elissa will go to Darrien and tell him that Meryola planned to assassinate him. Meanwhile Lon goes to the mistress and tells her that Darrien plans to kill her. When Martians come to take her, she falls in with Archman. She reveals that the real Darrien is hiding in a secret room only she knows. She takes the Earthman to the real Darrien.

But Lon can’t shoot him dead because he has Elissa as a shield. Meryola is all for shooting them both but Archman won’t. Hendrin and one of the Darrien robots show up and in a scene worthy of Hamlet, Hendrin, Meryola and the imposter robot all die. Lon is left to shoot Darrien dead and win Elissa’s love.

The plot seems very familiar with Hendrin in place of Tanton, Meryola in place of Margot, Darrien for Tza-Necros, Lon for Ron, etc. Silverberg livens it up by having the objective to kill Darrien rather than destroy the shield generator.

Silverberg passes judgment on his old story:

The funny thing is that “Cosmic Kill” isn’t really so bad. I had to read it for the first time in 48 years for Tales from the Pulp Era, and I was impressed with the way it zips swiftly along from one dire situation to another without pausing for breath, exactly as its author did back there in December 1956. It is the one and only example of Silverberg writing a story on speed.

My judgment is a little less lenient. Silverberg cannibalizes the first story heavily, giving a largely repeat performance. He hasn’t added much except a finale for Darrien, which Fairman hadn’t provided in Empire of Evil.

As a fan of Space Opera, I quite enjoyed both tales for its different races, each distinct and largely evil.  The action is simple but effective. (Like when Hendrin blows the head off a Plutonian by shoving a zam-gun into his large, fishy mouth.) This is not Hugo-winning stuff and it never was meant to be. The spirit of the Clayton Astounding to Buck Rogers lives here. Today it lies in Star Wars but back in the 1950s it could only be found in Amazing Stories.

BIO: G. W. Thomas has appeared in over 400 different magazines, books, podcasts and webzines including Writer’s Digest, The Armchair Detective and Pseudopod. His latest book is a collection of Space Westerns called Whispers of Ice and Sand. His blog is gwthomas.org.

Gary Whitehouse Review: Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Blood Orange Sunset Bar

Review By Gary Whitehouse: This bar is part of a line of Intense Dark chocolate bars from Ghirardelli. Others include Sea Salt Soiree, Raspberry Radiance, Hazelnut Heaven and Salted Caramel Cascade. This one is relatively new, having been introduced in 2019.

The bar is scored into eight squares that you can pretty easily break off for a serving, which is two squares. The chocolate is very smooth and at 86 percent cocoa has a mildly bitter flavor — mostly in the aftertaste. The initial taste is dominated by sugar, common with chocolate of this type, and it’s listed as the first ingredient, before unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter and milk fat. I assume some of the sweetness comes from the couverture.

This is a good one to let melt a bit on the tongue before chewing any. Once you do that, the sweetness fades away some, replaced by a pleasant tartness. It’s a little hard to tell how much of the tartness comes from the chocolate and how much from the bits of crystallized blood orange. Yes, it’s crystallized or candied, so it comes in little crunchy bits. Like the bar itself, those bits start with a little pop of sweetness that opens up into tartness. My favorite part is the occasional bit of orange peel, tiny grated slivers that have a delicate chewiness and a slight bitterness to them. As the sweetness and tartness fade, they’re replaced by that delicate bitterness of the chocolate, which lasts quite a while. I wouldn’t call this dark chocolate exactly intense, although the average American consumer may find it so. And I’m just a tiny bit skeptical about the provenance of the “blood” orange bits, because of the presence of beet juice as coloring listed in the ingredients. Most likely it’s used because the blood orange color fades during processing and people are going to expect some red color in the bits. Studies have shown that our perception of taste can be highly influenced by color or lack of it.

Ghirardelli is what passes for quality chocolate at the grocery or drug store. That’s not intended as a put-down. It’s pretty darn good chocolate compared to much of what you get in mass-produced chocolate products, but several steps below what I’d call premium chocolate. This bar with its crispy bits, chewy bits and pleasant blend of tart and bitter flavors, is pretty good for what it is. Decent chocolate with a fun mix of flavor and texture.

Pixel Scroll 6/2/23 I Thought Muddy Waters Scrolled That Pixel

(1) JMS RETURNS TO MARVEL IN CAPTAIN AMERICA #1. Marvel Comics has announced that writer and filmmaker J. Michael Stracyznski will return this September in Captain America #1. Marvel previously shared the news with io9.

Stracyznski has written fan-favorite stories including AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and THORand now he’s ready to embark on a new adventure with Marvel’s star-spangled hero! Alongside superstar artist Jesús Saiz (PUNISHER, DOCTOR STRANGE), the talented duo is ready to take Steve Rogers on an exhilarating new adventure.

Decades ago, Steve Rogers changed the world forever. Now powerful and insidious forces are assembling to ensure he never does it again. Past, present and future collide as the man out of time reckons with an existential threat determined to set the world on a darker path at any cost…

 Speaking with io9, Straczynski says, “Overall, the goal is to do some really challenging stories, some really fun stories, and get inside Steve’s head to see who he really is in ways that may not have been fully explored before. If folks like what I did with Peter in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and Thor in, well… THOR, then they should give this a shot, because I’m really swinging for the bleachers in this one!”

 See the cover by Jesús Saiz below.

(2) ARTIFACTS OF AFROFUTURISM. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC is displaying “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures” through March 24, 2024. An online version of the exhibit is here.

Investigating Afrofuturist expression through art, music, activism and more, this exhibition explores and reveals Afrofuturism’s historic and poignant engagement with African American history and popular culture. From the enslaved looking to the cosmos for freedom to popular sci-fi stories inspiring Black astronauts, to the musical influence of Sun Ra, OutKast, Janelle Monae, P-Funk and more, this exhibition covers the broad and impactful spectrum of Afrofuturism.

A highlight of the exhibition is the Black Panther hero costume worn by the late Chadwick Boseman. The Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent to appear in mainstream American comics, and the film itself is the first major cinematic production based on the character.

The exhibition also utilizes select objects to elevate stories that speak to Black liberation and social equality, such as Trayvon Martin’s flight suit from Experience Aviation, and his childhood dream of being an astronaut.

Companion book: Afrofuturism: A History of Black FuturesNational Museum of African American History and Culture, Kevin Strait, and Kinshasha Holman Conwill

(3) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Mark Roth-Whitworth says, “I’m so tired of hearing how ‘character-driven’ stories are somehow ‘better’ than plot-driven, and I’ve written a rant, er, sorry, criticism.” “Character- or Plot-Driven – A False Dichotomy?”

As I’ve been developing as a writer, and submitting stories, I read and hear a lot about character-driven stories vs. plot-driven these days. Most novels seem to me to still are “plot-driven”, while a lot of shorter fiction that gets published in magazines is character-driven, or primarily thus, and I have issues with this.

Many years ago, in a long letter to my just-teenage children, speaking of people and relationships, I said that barring some life-changing event, whoever someone is at eighteen is who they will remain, only growing to be more of that. The result of that is that thinking someone is perfect, except for one little thing that you can fix… well, you can’t. In a story, the same is necessarily true….

(4) HAPPY WINNERS. Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser are ecstatic to have won Analog’s AnLab Award for their novella “Communion” in the Jan 2022 issue as you can see in this photo taken by Brianna Wu. The winning cover was Eldar Zakirov’s artwork for the same story. Frank’s elevator pitch for the story is –

 A space ship is about to crash and a 50-km-long mag wire is an essential part of the drive. During the crash, the robot saves the wire – and the mission and his human captain – by wrapping the wire around his arm and using his own body as a heatfield!

Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser with their certificates recognizing their Anlab-winning novella “Communion” in the Jan 2022 issue. Photo by Brianna Wu.

(5) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT EASY. “How to be a Regency Lady Sleuth” by Alison Goodman at CrimeReads.

…For instance, the Regency era – officially from 1811 to 1820—was well before England had a police force. So where does a lady sleuth get her official back up and assistance?

What’s more, record keeping was patchy at best and, if it did exist, was not centralised or easy to access. This was particularly the case for women because a vast majority of them could not read. Education, my dear fellow, is wasted on women—or at least that was the majority opinion of the time. How then, does a lady sleuth track down the information she needs to solve her mysteries?

So, when it came to written information, my lady sleuths had to be the kind of women of that era who would be feasibly taught to read, and secondly have access to the various places these records were kept. That is why I decided to make Lady Augusta (aka Gus), and Lady Julia part of the highest rank in Regency society, the aristocracy. At this rank, they would have a chance of some education, as well as having access to private libraries (public libraries as we know them were not yet in existence). They would also have the social clout and contacts to obtain information from other sources. At that time, most of the government officials were men from the gentry class or the aristocracy and since Gus and Julia move in those circles, they literally have friends in high place: excellent sources of information….

(6) BANNED IN 2023. The Los Angeles Times discusses each of “The 15 most banned books in America this school year” before moving on to a list of challenged classics which include these genre works:

“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Modern Library’s editorial board ranked “Brave New World,” the 1932 novel about the discontents of a technologically-advanced future society, as the fifth most important novel of the 20th centuryNevertheless, the book was challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco Unified School District in 1993 because it is “centered around negative activity.” The novel also was removed from a high school library in Foley, Ala., in 2000 after a parent complained that it showed contempt for religion, marriage and family.

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell. The 1945 allegorical novella has been a target of complaints for decades, according to the ALA. In 1987, “Animal Farm” was one of dozens of books banned in schools in Bay County, Fla. Then 44 parents, students and teachers filed a federal lawsuit, and the school board reversed the decision. ‘’The only thing we have succeeded in doing is making sure every child in Bay County reads the books we banned,’’ a board member told the Associated Press.

(7) BEAGLE Q&A. Shelf Awareness is “Reading with… Peter S. Beagle”

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. If you’re going to write a historical novel, you’ve got to start with that one. It’s a fascinating book about the way that medieval England actually was, as opposed to the novels about it. It’s still a book that I go back to if I’m setting a story in anything like medieval England.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dip into durian ice cream with William Shunn in Episode 199 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

William Shunn

It’s time to head to Anaheim, California to take a seat at the table with William Shunn, the first of five guests I managed to chat and chew with for Eating the Fantastic during last month’s Nebula Awards conference. I first met Bill in 1993 though his words alone, when I bought his short story “Colin and Ishmael in the Dark” for publication in Science Fiction Age magazine. We met in the flesh later that same year at the San Francisco Worldcon, and he’s been part of my life for the past 30 years.

Bill attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1985, when he was only 17. (A class which included Mary TurzilloGeoffrey Landis, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Resa Nelson, and other writers with whom you might be familiar.) In addition to being published in Science Fiction Age, he’s also appeared in Asimov’sAnalogF&SFRealms of Fantasy, and other magazines. In 2002, he was nominated for a Nebula in the category of novelette for “Dance of the Yellow-Breasted Luddites,” and a few years later hit the nomination trifecta when he was up for a Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Award for his novella “Inclination,” which had been published in Asimov’s in 2006.

In addition, if you’re a writer, you might be familiar with what’s come to be called the “Shunn format,” a guide to proper manuscript preparation which first appeared online in 1995 and has since become the gold standard for numerous publications. His widely acclaimed memoir, The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary, was published in 2015, and in addition to detailing the youthful indiscretion which prevents him from ever returning to Canada, explains how Clarion changed his life and helped him become the writer he is today.

We discussed what he hoped would happen when he arrived at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop when he was 17 vs. what actually did happen, how his post-Clarion homelife was haunted by Ray Bradbury, the time Kate Wilhelm critiqued his critiquers, how an early rejection from Playboy got him in big trouble, the way a tragedy scuttled the sale of his memoir to a major publisher, how he and Derryl Murphy collaborated on a novella without killing each other, and so much more.

(9) RAJNAR VAJRA-LOEB (1947-2023). Rajnar Vajra-Loeb, known to the sff field as author Rajnar Vajra, died May 16 at the age of 75. Memorial comments are being gathered on his funeral information webpage.

He twice won the Analog Readers Poll, in 2002 for the short story “Jake, Me, and the Zipper” , and in 2005 for his novella “Layna’s Mirror”.

His 2015 Hugo-nominated story “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” was on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates, however, as reported by Chris Barkley at the time “he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.”

He lived long enough to celebrate the “book birthday” of his latest novel Opening Wonders released on May 2.


2019[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer. Mexican born and raised, she moved to Canada in her twenties. Her debut novel, Signal to Noise, is a superb first novel. 

She’s the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press, a press devoted to weird fiction. With Lavie Tidhar, she edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review

Gods of Jade and Shadow, the source of our Beginning, a historical fantasy, was published by Del Rey four years ago.  Gods of Jade and Shadow was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel.

And now let’s go into our Beginning….

But what the lords wished was that they should not discover their names.—Popol Vuh, translated into English by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from the work by Adrian Recino

Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the eposition of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament. She was eighteen, penniless, and had grown up in Uukumil, a drab town where mule-drawn railcars stopped twice a week and the sun scorched out dreams. She was reasonable enough to recognize that many other young women lived in equally drab, equally small towns. However, she doubted that many other young women had to endure the living hell that was her daily life in grandfather Cirilo Leyva’s house. 

Cirilo was a bitter man, with more poison in his shriveled body than was in the stinger of a white scorpion. Casiopea tended to him. She served his meals, ironed his clothes, and combed his sparse hair. When the old brute, who still had enough strength to beat her over the head with his cane when it pleased him, was not yelling for his grandchild to fetch him a glass of water or his slippers, her aunts and cousins were telling Casiopea to do the laundry, scrub the floors, and dust the living room.

Casiopea, who had prayed at the age of ten for her cousin Martín to go off and live in another town, far from her, understood by now that God, if he existed, did not give a damn about her. What had God done for Casiopea, aside from taking her father from her? That quiet, patient clerk with a love for poetry, a fascination with Mayan and Greek mythology, a knack for bedtime stories. A man whose heart gave up one morning, like a poorly wound clock. His death sent Casiopea and her mother packing back to Grandfather’s house. Mother’s family had been charitable, if one’s definition of charity is that they were put immediately to work while their idle relatives twiddled their thumbs. 

Had Casiopea possessed her father’s pronounced romantic leanings, perhaps she might have seen herself as a Cinderella-like figure. But although she treasured his old books, the skeletal remains of his collection—especially the sonnets by Quevedo, wells of sentiment for a young heart—she had decided it would be nonsense to configure herself into a tragic heroine. Instead, she chose to focus on more pragmatic issues, mainly that her horrible grandfather, despite his constant yelling, had promised that upon his passing Casiopea would be the beneficiary of a modest sum of money, enough that it might allow her to move to Mérida.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 2, 1915 Lester Del Rey. Editor at Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books, along with his fourth wife Judy-Lynn del Rey. As regard his fiction, I’m fond of Rocket Journey and Police Your Own Planet, early works of his. His Jim Stanley series has much to say for it. And he got nominated for four Retro Hugos. (Died 1993.)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster. Author of the much beloved Phantom Tollbooth and its less known variant, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Adapted in 1970 into a quirky film, now stuck in development hell being remade again. He also wrote The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a story he says was inspired by Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 2, 1941 Stacy Keach, 82. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with being The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999 followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really likeMore horror, and a really silly title, await him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return where The Hollow has a tasteful title which the Man with the Screaming Brain does not provide him. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo. 
  • Born June 2, 1920 Bob Madle. Helped start his local sf club in 1934, went to what he considered to be the first-ever sf convention in 1936, and attended the first Worldcon (Nycon I) in 1939. Bob Madle and named the Hugo Awards. He was the first North American TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to an overseas con (Loncon, 1957). Twenty years later he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1977 Worldcon (listen to his GoH speech here.) First Fandom has inducted him to their Hall of Fame, and given him the Moskowitz Award for collecting. He’s a winner of the Big Heart Award). This post about his centennial birthday in 2020 includes photos and a summary of his fannish life in his own words. (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 2, 1979 Morena Baccarin, 44. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in Deadpool and Deadpool 2; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham.
  • Born June 2, 1982 Jewel Staite, 41. Best known as the engineer Kaylee Frye in the Firefly verse. She was Jennifer Keller in Stargate Atlantis, Catalina in the Canadian series Space Cases, Tiara VanHorn in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show and “Becca” Fisher in Flash Forward. Genre one-offs? Oh yes: The Odyssey (twice), Are You Afraid of The Dark (again twice), The X-FilesSo WeirdSabrina: The Animated SeriesThe ImmortalSeven DaysStargate AtlantisSupernaturalLegends of TomorrowThe Order and The Magicians.

(12) A DOCKET FOR DEMETRIOUS. “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Trust Sues Author For Selling ‘Derivative’ Sequel To ‘Lord of the Rings’ As $250 Million Battle Heats Up”Radar Online has the story. “The legal moves comes weeks after Demetrious Polychron filed his own $250 million lawsuit against the Trust, Amazon and Jeff Bezos.”

J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate has filed a bombshell lawsuit accusing a writer of ripping off the late author’s iconic Lord of The Rings series and is demanding his books be taken out of stores, RadarOnline.com has learned.

According to court documents obtained by RadarOnline.com, The Tolkien Trust, which is responsible for managing the intellectual property of the late Professor J. R.R. Tolkien, is suing a man named Demetrious Polychron.

In the suit, the Trust said the lawsuit was brought due to Polychron’s “willful and blatant violation” of its copyright interests in the Lord of the Rings franchise.

The Trust said despite the author being aware of its rights in Tolkien’s work, he decided to “write, publish, market and sell a blatantly infringing derivative sequel to the Tolkien Trilogy entitled The Fellowship of the King (the “Infringing Work”). In addition to clearly mimicking the title of the first book in the Tolkien Trilogy, the Infringing Work constitutes a blatant, wide-ranging and comprehensive misappropriation of Professor Tolkien’s creative opus.”

The Trust said its aware that Polychron plans to release up to six additional books — all based on Tolkien’s characters.

“The Infringing Work is currently being offered for sale on various online platforms in the United States for $17.99 – $26.99 a copy,” the suit read.

The suit explained, “Neither Professor Tolkien nor the Tolkien Estate has ever authorized any written sequels to the Tolkien Trilogy. Not only was the Infringing Work unauthorized, but the Tolkien Estate had already expressly refused the [Polychron’s] request to publish any work of this nature, in keeping with its longstanding policy.”

(13) PAYING THOSE STORY IOUs. Charlie Jane Anders demonstrates with her own novel that “Revision is the Process of Going from General to Specific” at Happy Dancing.

I feel as if a big part of revision is going from the general to the specific. My first drafts, at least, always include a lot of details that are kind of fuzzy. Sometimes, a piece of information changes every time it comes up, because I haven’t made up my mind yet what the actual real version is, and I’m just hedging my bets. Sometimes there’s a highly specific piece of backstory, front story or side story, but it’s just really a placeholder — a supporting character is a stock character, or someone’s job is merely a sitcom job that doesn’t feel like a real employment situation. And sometimes, things are just left so vague that they could be anything, or there’s no information whatsoever.

So when I revise, I try to nail things down more. On one level, this is just a process of deciding on stuff. Where did this character grow up? Who were their parents? What kind of job do they have, and what specifically does the job ask of them? And so on….

(14) AWARD-WORTHY VISIT TO THE SPIDER-VERSE. Variety’s Clayton Davis makes the case why “’Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse’ Should Be a Best Picture Oscar Contender”.

Don’t tell me “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is merely a cartoon. It’s a visionary work that redefines what the animation medium can achieve, sitting alongside the handful of sequels such as “The Dark Knight” and “The Empire Strikes Back” that elevate their franchises by pushing them in surprising new directions.

On a personal level, this animated second installment of the web-slinging superhero is the closest I’ve ever come to seeing an accurate depiction of my life and culture on a movie screen – well, with a few fantastic elements added into the mix. That’s invaluable.

“Across the Spider-Verse” takes place a year after the events of the previous film with Miles Morales (a.k.a. Spider-Man) facing a new threat. Unfortunately, it’s one that causes him to interact with a new group of Spider-People from across the multiverse.

So why did I respond so deeply to this superhero story? Like Miles, I’m made up of an exciting ethnic mix of Puerto Rican and Black parents brought together in the melting pot that is New York City. Neither of us possesses the acceptable amount of Spanish fluency that our fellow Boricuas require. Nonetheless, we have a weakness for fried platanos, as well as an appreciation for our heritage. Just hearing the word “bendición,” a standard greeting and farewell term used in Latino culture, used in “Across the Spider-Verse, ” filled my eyes with tears and pride….

(15) COMMUNICAT. Salon reports “A ‘talking’ cat is giving scientists insight into how felines think”. And if you think only a hungry plant will say “Feed me”, stick around, it won’t be long until this cat does it.

…Considering Billi’s feline status, Baker was naturally a bit skeptical at first.

“I was concerned because they [the buttons] were quite large for a little tiny kitty, and I was not sure that she was actually going to be heavy enough to press them,” Baker said. “So I started with a word that I’d really not recommend that you start with, which is ‘food,’ because it becomes very motivating for them. And Billi loves food.”

Baker’s concerns quickly washed away once it became clear that Billi was able to press the button “food” — which she appeared to enjoy doing perhaps a little too much.

“She was definitely heavy enough for it,” Baker said. “And then I later regretted starting with food because it kind of backfired on me, but it definitely got the ball rolling.”

Today, Billi has 50 words on her board, and — like Bunny — is part of the ongoing research project called TheyCanTalk, whose goal is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC devices. While the study is mostly made up of dogs, about 5 percent of the animals using AAC devices are now felines. It turns out that many cats have been successful at using the device.

“They have this reputation of just doing what they want and not really caring what the humans are doing, and I think this is a great opportunity to see that they actually are paying attention,” Smith said. “Seeing that they can be engaged, that they’re not just cat automatons, that aren’t driven by instinct 24/7 can function a great deal positively for their role in other studies.”

(16) PAYING DIVIDENDS ON BORROWED TIME.  Ingenuity, NASA’s record-breaking Mars helicopter, continues to fly two years after scientists expected it to fail. “NASA plays hide-and-seek with unrelenting Mars helicopter Ingenuity” in the Washington Post.

…On April 2, Ingenuity soared 52 feet up into the Martian sky — a record height for the drone — to take a suborbital photo of Mars’s landscape.

After landing, it disappeared. When scientists attempted to upload instructions for a subsequent flight, Ingenuity’s radio sign was gone.

Scientists eventually located Ingenuity after six days of searching as the helicopter’s companion on Mars, the Perseverance rover, crested a ridge and drove closer to where the helicopter had landed.

Ingenuity, controlled via radio signals relayed from Perseverance, completed its five-flight mission — a simple series to prove that the helicopter’s design would work in the thin Martian atmosphere — in May 2021. Then, Tzanetos’s team received approval to keep flying.

“At that point, we’re on borrowed time,” Tzanetos said. “None of the mechanisms were designed to survive longer than that.”

Somehow, they did — for months and months, and dozens more flights. By May 2022, it seemed as if Ingenuity’s miraculous story would finally plummet down to (Martian) earth. Winter was setting in, and NASA feared the lower temperatures would cause Ingenuity’s solar-charged batteries to fail, or even freeze overnight.

The helicopter entered a low-power state after its 28th flight in late April of that year, and scientists told The Post they weren’t sure if it would fly again.

Incredibly, Ingenuity’s delicate parts stood up to the Martian cold. But NASA still faced the challenge of reconnecting with the helicopter every time its components froze, Tzanetos said. The Ingenuity team adjusted by using data on Martian sunrises to calculate when the helicopter would thaw out each morning and regain enough charge to power on….

(17) CAN WE MOVE EARTH ACROSS SPACE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Shades of Stephen Baxter in this week’s PBS Space Time when Matt O’Dowd asks can we move planet Earth across the Universe?

Interstellar travel is horrible-what with the cramped quarters of your spaceship and only the thin hull separating you from deathly cold and deadly cosmic rays. Much safer to stay on here Earth with our gloriously habitable biosphere, protective magnetic field, and endless energy from the Sun. But what if we could have the best of all worlds? No pun intended. What if we could turn our entire solar system into a spaceship and drive the Sun itself around the galaxy? Well, I don’t know if we definitely can, but we might not not be able to.

(18) TALES FROM THE ZONE – ROADSIDE PICNIC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Media Death Cult Moid Moidelhoff considers Roadside Picnic. Roadside Picnic is in the Goldilocks zone, it is a perfect balance of a straight narrative that requires nothing more than standard plot and characters to make sense. But the sub-text is as thick as porridge… “Tales From The Zone – Roadside Picnic”.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, Jennifer Hawthorne, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter. John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]

Kickstarter Suspends Effort to Fund Schantz Comic About “Defying Transgenderism”

Author Hans G. Schantz, shortlisted for the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance’s Book of the Year in 2018, and a guest at the first BasedCon in 2021, made Fox News when Kickstarter suspended his appeal to fund a comic project about the fictional prosecution of a high school teacher for “defying transgenderism”.

Schantz described his plans for The Wise of Heart, a satirical inversion of the Scopes Monkey Trial, in his newsletter:

…One evening in the early summer of 2022, I settled in to watch Inherit the Wind on YouTube. Not the 1960 film starring Spencer Tracy, but rather the 1988 television movie version starring Jason Robards and Kirk Douglas. I got a few minutes into watching it, and I had a sudden epiphany. This would make a great story set in the present day, featuring a high school biology teacher caught up in the transgender craze arrested for teaching the facts of biological science in defiance of a state law requiring unquestioning gender affirmation. I turned off the movie, and instead, I hunted down the transcript for the Scopes Monkey Trial….

He ran segments of the illustrated story through his newsletter, which Vox Day also published on his Arkhaven comics website (Internet Archive link).

Then in May 2023 Schantz launched a Kickstarter to fund publication of a book containing all the installments. The initial $3,000 goal was fully funded and Schantz was closing in on a stretch goal of $6,000 to pay for an audiobook version when on May 24 Kickstarter suspended the project and refunded all the pledges. A notice from the Kickstarter Trust & Safety (see screencap below) gave these reasons for the action:

A thorough review of your project uncovered one or more of the following violations: Inappropriate content, including but not limited to explicit or pornographic material [or] Hateful or offensive content that fails to meet Kickstarter’s spirit of inclusivity by promoting discrimination, bigotry or intolerance towards marginalized groups.

Fox News picked up the story on May 25: “Kickstarter abruptly suspends comic project for ‘defying transgenderism’”. Although their coverage is little more than a rehash of Schantz’ newsletter articles they did devote 500 words to it, and he says the major media attention has given a financial push to his replacement campaign at a different crowdfunding site.

We’ve all heard of the “Streisand Effect.” That’s where an attempt to suppress information online backfires spectacularly and only serves to increase awareness of the information. That “psychological reactance” occurs because once people are aware that information is being kept from them, they are more highly motivated to seek it….

At FundMyComic he has already raised more than $8,000 with a week to go.

Vincent Preis 2022 and Rein A. Zondergeld Preis Winners

The winners of the Vincent Preis 2022 and Rein A. Zondergeld Preis for German horror literature were announced on May 12.

A total of 63 people voted and cast 490 votes.

Thanks to Cora Buhlert for providing the English translations.


Best Novel – National

  • Thomas Lohwasser, Vanessa Kaiser, Thomas Karg – Die Erben Abaddons: Verfall (The Heirs of Abaddon: Decay), Torsten Low

Best International Literary Work

  • Michael Schmidt & Matthias Käther (eds.) – Fantastic Pulp 3, Blitz Verlag

Best Short Story

  • Oliver Müller – “Im Namen der heiligen Jungfrau Maria” (“In the Name of the Holy Virgin Mary”) in Dark Empire

Best Anthology/Magazine

Best Short Story Collection

Best Horror Artwork

Best Horror Dime Novel

These are monthly or weekly 64-page fiction magazines in A5 format, which are sold at newsstands. They come in a variety of genres and are either long-running series centered around a single character (John Sinclair and Professor Zamorra are both occult detectives) or anthology series offering different stories every issue such as Gespenster-Krimi

Special Award

  • Eric Hantsch for many years of organizing the Vincent-Preis, for his work as an editor and publisher and his services to fandom and classic.

2022 REIN A. ZONDERGELD – PREIS for secondary and tertiary literary contributions to the fantasy genre

Best Non-Fiction Book

Best Short Non-Fiction

Pixel Scroll 6/1/23 Three Little Muad’Dibs From Sand Are We

(1) FORD PERFECT. Ryan D’Agostino has a tremendously entertaining profile of “Harrison Ford on ‘Indiana Jones,’ ‘Star Wars,’ Career” in Esquire.

….What you don’t know is what happens when they mess up Harrison Ford’s eggs. The plates come, two Farmer’s Breakfasts. Mine’s good: over easy. As Ford cuts into his first poached egg, I’m asking, “So would you say the character of Indiana Jones has some of your own boyhood—”

He lays down his fork and knife. His shoulders droop in defeat.

The egg white is rubbery, the yolk chalky. He looks up at me.

“You couldn’t have been clearer,” I say.

The waiter, seeing a problem, scurries over, eager and recoiling at the same time. Ford just looks up at the poor guy, not with anger but with something worse: disappointment. It’s not a mean look. It’s a look that says, “We can do better, friend.”

The waiter is smiling and trying to speak, and he looks as if he might cry. “Are they . . . not soft?” He slinks away. Ford tries to refocus….

(2) INDY BEGINNING. And if you have Disney+, Slashfilm says these are “The Essential Young Indiana Jones Episodes You Need To Stream On Disney+”.

…Since these revised mini-Indy movies are appearing on Disney+ for the first time, we picked out the six most important episodes you might want to watch as you count down to “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” … though it must be said that every episode is worth your time…

Their list begins with —

My First Adventure

Exactly as the title says, “My First Adventure” is the first adventure of the young Henry Jones, Jr. It begins with a nine-year-old Indy living at Princeton with his parents when his life gets turned upside down when he has to accompany them on a journey around the world. The family heads to Oxford first, where Indy picks up his tutor, Ms. Seymour. They find themselves in Egypt and Indiana Jones helps T.E. Lawrence (yes, the “Lawrence of Arabia”) solve a murder mystery. Then, they travel to Africa, where Indy learns a lot about colonialism, slavery, and languages. It’s a good taste of what the younger side of Indy’s adventures will hold for audiences and an essential introduction to the series.

(3) ANOTHER FIRST FOR EKPEKI. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is the first Black winner of the Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers Award editor Sheila Williams told him today. Part of the reason, she adds, is that they published Octavia Butler’s stories, which won major awards, before the Asimov’s SF Readers Award was created.

(4) IT’S REAL! I’M ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN OF IT! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Prepare for a barrage of proclamations that this is a real ET message, and the government is just covering things up by pretending it’s a test. Pfffft!

In what may be the first piece of interplanetary performance art, a message crafted by an artist to look like an extra terrestrial broadcast is coming from a Mars orbiter. Now people are trying to decipher it. “The Race Is On to Crack an Artist’s ‘Test’ Signal From Aliens” in WIRED.

For decades, a dedicated international band of researchers has searched the skies in the hopes of finding some sign that humanity is not alone in the universe. They’re engaged in SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. So far, the hunt for an alien signal has turned up only false positives. But that hasn’t stopped anyone from speculating about how people might respond to a real communication attempt. Now, Daniela de Paulis, an artist in residence at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, is simulating just such an alien message to see how humans react and whether they can figure out how to decipher it. 

Her group’s project, A Sign in Space, began last week by transmitting a mysterious radio signal from the Trace Gas Orbiter, a European Space Agency craft that’s orbiting Mars. Participating astronomers at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, the Allen Telescope Array in California, and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station in Italy received the signal, removed the telemetry data, and posted the remaining encoded message on the project’s website for anyone to download. Now it’s up to the people of Earth to crack the code, interpret the message, and—de Paulis hopes—make some art. She and her colleagues are leading a series of online workshops to encourage people to discuss the concept of alien communication, including an event she hosted yesterday at which people shared thoughts and artwork inspired by the project so far….

(5) THE MAN FROM GONDOR. A classic fanfic is now available on the ConChord website, The Tenth Nazgul Affair by William Baker Glass, with illustrations by Richard Paul Glass. Barry Gold has made it available in HTML and EPUB formats.

Napoleon and Illya are engaged in a firefight with several T.H.R.U.S.H. agents when Illya is struck by lightning and ends up in Middle Earth. He helps King Elessar Telcontar (aka Strider) fight off Shelob and one extra Nazgul that somehow survived the destruction of the One Ring.

(6) SOMETHING NICE TO SAY ABOUT AI. Rob Hansen says he’s recently begun using A.I. for extrapolated reconstruction of old photos and sent links to work done on pictures of Forties LASFS members. Bill Burns found the online site to do this and produced this enhanced Tigrina image. Then Hansen  followed with Art Joquel and Sam Russell.

Rob adds, “These are extrapolations rather than reconstructions, of course, but I think the results are pretty remarkable. Using A.I. for good; who’da thunk it?”

(7) EARLIEST RAY. Phil Nichols has launched a “Chronological Bradbury!” sequence with the latest episode of his Bradbury 100 podcast.

The idea is to work through Ray Bradbury’s fiction output in the order of publication, discussing each item as we go.

In this first “Chronological Bradbury”, I start right at the beginning, with a discussion of Ray’s earliest published works, which appeared in amateur magazines in 1938.

(8) FUTURE TENSE. The May 2023 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination is Tara Isabella Burton’s “I Know Thy Works”, about an AI designed to compute and uphold our preferred moral systems.

Harry wasn’t a bad person. You just couldn’t take him too seriously, that’s all. Whatever Harry said, whatever Harry did, whatever Harry put down as his meta-ethic, this week, on his Arete profile, be it the ends justify the means or the greatest happiness for the greatest number or do what thou wilt be the whole of the law, Harry never meant a word. Harry changed his meta-ethic more often than he changed his clothes….

It was published along with a response essay “Why it’s so hard to compute ethics” by computer scientist Suren Jayasuriya.

…There’s debate over whether the trolley problem is really the right framing to interrogate ethical choices (specifically whether decisions made in the simulation really reflect what you would choose in real life), and the experiment itself has also been criticized for both its setup and assumptions. But the Moral Machine does provide a fascinating example of an algorithm that observes your ability to make decisions in a handful of tense driving situations, and then spits out a bulleted list of your preferences for saving babies over dogs, and how that compares with the rest of the world (or at least the rest of the people who have taken the test)….

(9) TOOLS FOR FORESIGHT. On Wednesday, June 14 from 12-1 p.m. Eastern, ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination will be hosting a free virtual event, “Reimagining the Future of [X],” exploring how to build collective visions of the future using science fiction and foresight tools.

The event is the fourth and final in the series for the Applied Sci-Fi Project, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it, and to study the ways that sci-fi storytelling can a tool for innovation and foresight.

We’ll be joined by our opening speaker, science fiction and nonfiction author Annalee Newitz (The TerraformersFour Lost Cities) and four special guests: sci-fi author and futurist Tobias Buckell (Arctic Rising, “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”); policy expert, foresight consultant and sci-fi author August Cole (Ghost FleetBurn-In); anthropologist Amy Johnson, who researches the use of speculative futures techniques at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center; and Tory Stephens, climate fiction editor at Grist Magazine. The panel will be moderated by CSI’s managing editor Joey Eschrich, who will also share his perspective on CSI’s own “Future of X” book anthologies, contests, and other projects. 


1998[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Tricia Sullivan is the writer responsible for our Beginning this time. 

A US-born author who moved to the United Kingdom in 1995. Four years later, she won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel Dreaming in Smoke which is where we get this Beginning. To date, it’s her one Award won. 

She writes SF under her own name and fantasy as Valery Leith. She is a very prolific novelist, writing thirteen novels over a period of twenty-two years.

She’s written a double handful of fiction. Interestingly she stopped getting published six years ago. And she stopped updating her blog seven years ago. There’s a story there, isn’t there? 

Dreaming in Smoke is a Meredith Moment at the usual suspects.

So here’s our Beginning…

my man’s gone now

The night Kalypso Deed vowed to stop Dreaming was the same night a four-dimensional snake with a Canadian accent, eleven heads and attitude employed a Diriangen function to rip out all her veins, then swiftly crocheted them into a harp that could only play a medley of Miles Davis tunes transposed (to their detriment) into the key of G. As she contemplated the loss of all blood supply to her vital organs it seemed to her that no amount of Picasso’s Blue, bonus alcohol rations, or access privileges to the penis of Tehar the witch doctor could compensate for having to ride shotgun to Azamat Marcsson on one of his statistical sprees with the AI Ganesh. She intended to tell him so–as soon as she could find her lungs. Ganesh was murmuring through her interface. 


 ‘Did you hear that, Azamat? Keep it off my wave!’ she sent, annoyed at being reduced to verbing. She simply didn’t have the resources to image him, for by now the snake had decomposed into a flight of simian, transgressive bees, which were in the process of liquefying her perception of left and right. Everything seen through her right eye became negative and sideways. The alarming part was that it didn’t seem to make any difference.

Marcsson’s response came back as a series of pyrotechnical arrays, which, loosely translated, meant, ‘Relax. It’s only math.’ 


The AI had a point. Kalypso mustered her wits and started cutting sensory intake to the Dreamer, feeling a little defensive about Miles Davis. Maybe she shouldn’t have been listening to the jazz Archives; maybe if she’d endured the boredom of monitoring the feeds between Ganesh and Marcsson she could have cut off the sudden explosion of parameters in the Dream the instant it began. But she had been shotgunning Marcsson for a long time, and he had always been safe. Marcsson had been Dreaming since before Kalypso was even born–he knew what he was doing with the AI, which could take data and weave them into Marcsson’s sensory awareness while he floated in a state of semi-conscious, lucid thought. He could immerse himself in literalized math through Dreams that improved a hundred-fold on the raw visions that humanity had experienced in its sleep for eons. He could be secure in his own safety because he had technique.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 1, 1914 George Sayer. His Jack: C. S. Lewis and His Times won a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies and is considered one of the best looks at that author. He also wrote the liner notes for the J. R. R. Tolkien Soundbook, a Cadmeon release of Christopher Tolkien reading from excerpts from The SilmarillionThe Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. (Died 2005.)
  • Born June 1, 1926 Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 1, 1928 Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
  • Born June 1, 1940 René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
  • Born June 1, 1947 Jonathan Pryce, 76. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. 
  • Born June 1, 1950 Michael McDowell. Screenwriter and novelist whose most well-known work is the screenplay for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. He also did work on Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas though he’s not listed as the scriptwriter. He wrote eleven scripts for Tales from the Darkside, more than anyone else. And he wrote a lot of horror which Stephen King likes quite a bit. (Died 1999.)
  • Born June 1, 1965 Tim Eldred, 58. Author and illustrator of Grease Monkey, a most excellent humorous take on space operas and uplifting species.  As an illustrator alone, he was involved in Daniel Quinn’s superb The Man Who Grew Young
  • Born June 1, 1966 David Dean Oberhelman. Mike has an appreciation of him here.  The Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote with Amy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)


  • Poorly Drawn Lines’ Astronaut Bill shows friendship is the best. (And if you go to the link, preceding this date are four or five really great cartoons about various other characters.)

(13) MARRIAGE IS WHAT BRINGS US TOGETHER. Actor Alex Kingston remembers her time on Doctor Who as the Doctor’s enigmatic time-travelling wife in “Alex Kingston on 15 Years of River Song”, a feature in the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine. This excerpt appears at the link.

“I spoke to Steven [Moffat] on the phone and he said, ‘I’ve got this idea and I need to know if you’re available for it, because if you’re not I can’t write this.’ I let him know when I was available and he told me the outline, but I had to swear not to tell anyone. I’m very good at keeping secrets. Matt, Karen and Arthur had guessed I knew something and tried to persuade me to tell them, but I wouldn’t! Even when we had the script for that episode, the reveal wasn’t in it. They kept those pages out so the crew didn’t know. The actors were given the single pages – I’m not even sure when. And even on shooting day, the pages weren’t there and it was only then, at the last minute, that the crew saw the reveal. They managed to keep the secret and avoid any leaks at all. That takes a lot of doing.”

The season climaxed with THE WEDDING OF RIVER SONG (2011), a game-changer that, despite its title, left the status of the relationship between the Doctor and River up to the viewer’s interpretation. “I still get people going, ‘You’re not really married to him because he was a Teselecta!’” Alex laughs, referring to the shape-shifting craft that had taken on the Eleventh Doctor’s form. “I’m like, ‘Thank you very much, I was married to him. I’m his wife!’”

(14) CLIMBING MT. TBR. Lifehacker advises on “How to Actually Read the Books You Buy”. It may be something you already do or it may be news to you. (The actual advice is at the link. Fair is fair.)

…The problem with all of these items is that they are quick to purchase, but take a long time to use. You can add a game to your Steam collection in minutes, but chances are most will take you 20 hours or more to play. (Howlongtobeat.com says Tears of the Kingdom takes 52 hours for the main story alone.)

How many more games will you impulse-buy before you’ve finished that one? How many skeins of yarn will you snap up (they were on sale! And so soft!) before you’ve finished the sweater you’re currently knitting? It’s the same problem as the TBR pile, really. And I promise, there is a solution…

(15) BEFORE 1984. The Guardian reviews Orwell by DJ Taylor review – a very English socialist”.

…The key to his reading of Orwell is what happened to him in Spain. Though married to Eileen only six months before, he was determined to fight for the Republican cause (“Good chaps, the Spaniards, can’t let them down”) and on his return became far more politically engaged: “at last [I] really believe in Socialism, which I never did before”. But he’d seen bullying and infighting too. For the rest of his life and in his two great novels, this was the war he fought, on behalf of a wholesome, English, sweetly C of E brand of socialism, as opposed to Stalinist totalitarianism….

(16) STRIKES HINDER SCI-FI LONDON. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Sci-Fi-London film fest is now go… But sadly rails strikes made its opening day Wednesday difficult for fans to attend except by bus. Rail strike also on Saturday. Nonetheless hoping to make Sunday’s two sessions of shorts and there’s a free cyber tech exhibition and demonstration there too…. 2023-Hackstock.

(17) JAWS: THE OVERBITE. Check out the WTF! photo of a Goblin Shark at the National Geographic.

Swishing through the deep sea, a goblin shark notices a small, yummy-looking squid. The animal inches toward its prey. But as the fish closes in, the snack starts to dart away. So the shark thrusts its jaw three inches out of its mouth! (The jaw is connected to three-inch-long flaps of skin that can unfold from its snout.) The predator then grabs the squid in its teeth. After scarfing down the meal, the shark fits its jaw back into its mouth and swims off….

(18) TURKISH DELIGHT. “Superman towers over the Kremlin: Reiner Riedler’s best photograph” – see it in the Guardian.

…This photo is part of my Fake Holidays series. At the beginning of the project, more than 15 years ago, I went to Lara Beach in Antalya, Turkey, where there is one luxury five-star hotel after another, all along the coastline. On the other side of the road were the tents of the workers who had built the hotels. Luxury hotels are like little ghettoes. You take your plane and your taxi, then you are in the middle of an isolated luxury area.

The Kremlin Palace hotel, where this photo was taken, has an exact copy of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow. I have been to Moscow and seen the original church, which is a focal point – all tourists take a picture there. But here in Turkey, there is a swimming pool in front of the cathedral. I was fascinated. There were many Russian tourists.

I saw a weird guy, an astronaut, walking around the pool. “What’s happening here?” I asked. It turned out the hotel had a huge room with costumes for the entertainers who perform for the tourists. Superman was one of them. I found him by the pool and immediately asked to take his picture. I took about three shots. I chose the photo point, in front of the church with the pool between us, then asked Superman to jump. It was a very childish approach, perhaps, but he did it. The way he jumped was perfect. I felt in the moment: “That’s the picture.”…

(19) IT’S A GUSHER. “James Webb telescope: Icy moon Enceladus spews massive water plume” and BBC News has the photos.

…The new super-plume was spied by the James Webb Space Telescope. Previous observations had tracked vapour emissions extending for hundreds of kilometres, but this geyser is on a different scale.

The European Space Agency (Esa) calculated the rate at which the water was gushing out at about 300 litres per second. This would be sufficient to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just a few hours, Esa said.

Webb was able to map the plume’s properties using its extremely sensitive Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument.

The instrument showed how much of the ejected vapour (about 30%) feeds a fuzzy torus of water co-located with one of Saturn’s famous rings – its so-called E-ring.

“The temperature on the surface of Enceladus is minus 200 degrees Celsius. It’s freezing cold,” commented Prof Catherine Heymans, Astronomer Royal for Scotland.

“But at the core of the moon, we think it’s hot enough to heat up this water. And that’s what’s causing these plumes to come out.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Barry Gold, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2022 Analog AnLab Award and Asimov’s Science Fiction’s Readers’ Award Winners

The 2022 winners of Analog Science Fiction and Fact’s AnLab Award and Asimov’s Science Fiction’s Readers’ Award were announced today at an event and reading held at the SOHO Housing Works Bookstore in Manhattan.



  • “Communion” by Jay Werkheiser & Frank Wu (1-2/22)


  • “Shepherd Moons” by Jerry Oltion (9-10/22)


  • TIE “Beneath the Surface, a Womb of Ice” by Deborah L. Davitt (11-12/22)
  • TIE “Sacred Cow” by Larry Niven & Steven Barnes (11-12/22)


  • “The Science Behind ‘The Power of Apollo (16),’” Marianne J. Dyson (9-10/22)


  • “Belter Cats” by Mary Soon Lee (7-8/22)


  • January/February 2022 by Eldar Zakirov
January/February 2022 Eldar Zakirov



  • The Court Martial of the Renegat Renegades by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (9-10/22 and 11-12/22)


  • “Falling Off the Edge of the World” by Suzanne Palmer (11-12/22)


  • TIE “Destiny Delayed” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (5-6/22)
  • TIE “Sparrows” by Susan Palwick (9-10/22)


  • “The Three Laws of Poetics” by Stewart C. Baker (11-12/22)


  • TIE Dominic Harman (1-2/22)
  • TIE Maurizio Manzieri (11-12/22)

[Based on a press release.]

Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser with their certificates recognizing their Anlab-winning novella “Communion” in the Jan 2022 issue. Photo by Brianna Wu.

Top 10 Stories for May 2023

Interest in the latest Nebula Award winners surpassed everything else on File 770 in May.

The topical anxiety over AI art generators drew readers to last month’s second leading story. The discovery that the latest Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off cover contest winner was produced using AI in violation of the rules was a shock, and came only after others showed why the cover artist’s evidence that he had done it himself could not be believed.

Here are the ten most widely-read posts of May 2023 according to Google Analytics.

  1. SFWA Announces the 58th Nebula Awards Winners
  2. SPFBO Cover Contest Killed After Discovery That 2023 Winner Was Produced by AI
  3. BasedCon 2023 Becomes the Culture Wars Battlefield of Its Dreams
  4. Westercon 75 Anaheim Canceled
  5. Pixel Scroll 5/23/23 I Had A Pixel Scroll About An Hour Ago, And It Went Right To My Head
  6. The Nautilus: Where Childhood Dreams Were Born
  7. Pixel Scroll 5/14/23 Pixelberry Jam On Filer Buttered Scrolls
  8. S. B. Divya Promotes Sudowrite
  9. Pixel Scroll 5/25/23 Pixels Propagate Like Tribbles And They Purr Like Them Too
  10. Pixel Scroll 5/15/23 It’s More Like A Big Ball Of Wibbly-Wobbly, Pixelly-Scrolly Stuff

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #75

Loncon One 1957 Hugo Award photo by Michael Benveniste


By Chris M. Barkley: As we all impatiently await the announcement of the Hugo Award Finalists for 2023 by the Chengdu Worldcon, we in the fannish community are facing an interesting conundrum. 

Because for the first time in our fannish history, a majority, or the entirety, of a Hugo Award Finalist ballot may feature works that have not been published in English first.

Over the sixty plus years of the administration of the World Science Fiction Convention’s achievement awards, the Worldcon has been held in cities on four continents, in the countries of Canada, the United Kingdom (including Glasgow, Scotland), the Republic of Ireland, Heidelberg, (West) Germany, Australia, the Hague in the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Finland, and the United States.

In each and every case, a majority of the nominees and winners have been decidedly anglo-centric and/or American in origin.    

Two of last year’s nominees for Best Fan Editor,  Amanda Wakaruk and Olav Rokne pointed out this disparity in an article posted on their Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blob on Thursday, May 25, “The Word For ‘World’ Isn’t America”.

The main criticism in the essay is:

To date 84.2 per cent of all winners, and 84.5 per cent of the authors represented in the prose categories (short story, novelette, novella, novel and series) were born in the United States. If anything, these statistics understate the level of American dominance, given that the non-American 15 per cent includes figures like Isaac Asimov (born in Russia), Algis Budrys (born in Germany) and Ursula Vernon (born in Japan). If the goal of the Hugo Awards is to represent the best science fiction in the world, then we cannot limit ourselves to works by American authors.

And that is quite valid as far as I’m concerned. For decades, I and a lot of other fans thought that the Hugo Awards were highly representative of the state of sf literature. But, as the essay points out, this is a false dichotomy fed by what is being perceived by others as the voting fans of the United States (who have made up the plurality of participants for decades) whose tendencies to favor American or anglo-centric works and not translated works, which, to be fair, are not readily available in North America. 

Still, as I grew older, and hopefully more worldly (if you’ll pardon the pun), I gradually realized that, at best, the voters of the Hugo Awards could claim to be international connoisseurs of fiction, art and fan activity but in reality, these revered awards were, at best, mainly for works in English.

For example, how else can it be explained that three of the most recent Worldcons held in non-English speaking countries (2007-Yokohama, 2009-Montreal and 2017-Helsinki) featured no nominees from any of the host countries.

Clearly, the problem with the American (and English language) hegemony regarding Hugo Award is the voting base which selects the nominees and recipients, who are, by and large, Americans and anglo-centric readers. 

The Constitution of the World Science Fiction Convention does not concern itself in any way about this disparity, other than this, from The rules directly regarding the Hugo Awards in Article 3, Section 3:

3.2.1: Unless otherwise specified, Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year.” 

It can (and has been) interpreted that foreign language works which are first published in English for the first time are eligible for nomination in their year of broadcast or publication. (The Constitution does provide relief of an extra year of eligibility for works that had limited distribution, but only through a majority vote by the WSFS Business Meeting.) 

In 2015, two works of fiction by foreign born writers, Cixin Liu’s novel, The Three Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) and “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” a novelette by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Lia Belt), made history by winning Hugo Awards in their respective categories.

As progressive as that was, it must be noted that no other translated works have been nominated (or won) since then.

Considering fandom’s current state of artistic, cultural and social upheaval, Ms. Wakaruk and Mr. Rokne concerns should be taken quite seriously.

– Contraction: Restrict the eligibility of nominations to just native born Americans.  I am not in favor of this course of action. We live in the 21st century, not the 18th. Such a move would be seen both here (and abroad as well) as nationalistic, racist and needlessly xenophobic. 

– Promotion: One could just promote a number of other awards, SFWA’s Nebula Awards, the annual Locus Magazine awards, Dragoncon’s Dragon Awards or, extending a friendly hand across the Canadian border, try and persuade the Aurora Awards to expand to encompass all of North America. But I highly suspect each of these organizations state they’re doing just fine thank you very much and would firmly reject their having the judgment of their members and voters being subsumed.

– Utilizing Other Established Conventions: Would it be possible for one of America’s larger regional conventions, such as Westercon, Arisia, Boskone, Norwescon or Balticon to take up the mantle of being the annual “American Convention”? Again, the optics of establishing an “American Convention”, when the nation is divided along political and social lines, would be an open invitation for a prolonged culture war clash. No (sane) convention committee would sanction such a move.

– Establishing A Brand New Convention: A precarious thing to undertake in these precarious economic times and social unrest. Also, see the entry above.

However, after outlining these negative possibilities, I see two possible, and positive ways forward.

The first would be to keep the Hugo Awards as they are currently, and establish a new North American Award, whose nominees would be drawn from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, no matter what language the work was first published in. The convention committee would encourage any of the media outlets countries who choose to participate (especially the United States) to provide translations for stories, non-fiction items and visual media in a number of outlets. It would be a large and arduous task to pull off but it might be worthwhile pursuing by a dedicated (and persistent) group of volunteers. 

I have to confess that the best idea I have seen to date to diminish America’s cultural imperialism came from longtime fan and the former Editor of Amazing Stories, Steve Davidson, who posted the following on Facebook on May 26:

Buzz  surrounding the issue of an “American” SF Achievement award in light of the Hugo’s becoming more truly “international”.

Not going to get into that aspect, but I do want to mention that a major hurdle awaits any “truly” international, fan-based award, unless by such an award you mean moving Worldcon deliberately to different countries so their local population dominates the vote and some local creators get a good (or at least better) chance at being nominated and winning.

The translation issue.

I don’t believe there is any way to come to a global consensus on the best whatever of a given year unless and until eligible works are near-immediately available in every language that is represented in literature.

Not to mention the volume issue.  No way could anyone possibly read enough international works (those from outside of their native language in translation) to be able to make nominations that aren’t some brand of “local”. The volume in single languages is already unmanageable in many cases.

If such a thing were fully realized (you can read or view any published work in your native language via good translation), how could an international vote be anything but a small minority doing the right thing and trying to survey the field, while the rest engage in voting for their own local community – the people and  works they are most familiar with (and ought to show some degree of partisanship for)?

If anything, I think we ought to go in the opposite direction: encourage each country and/or language community to create their own Hugo Award and use Worldcon to elevate the status of those awards….Make the Hugos an English language award, elevate others to the same status.

Indeed. But the Hugo Awards cannot be co-opted by other entities without permission; it would have to be trademarked and licenced (for a nominal fee to the World Science Fiction Society, of course) to any interested (and vetted) international literary organization, which is an easy and manageable solution to this problem. 

The only obstacle to any implementation of any of these plans is the WSFS Business Meeting, which has shown its repeated reluctance to embrace anything that they might perceive as not being in the best interest of the Worldcon. (Which I think is quite strange for an organization that promotes innovative and imaginative fiction and non-fiction.)

But the gauntlet has been thrown down and I do not think it can be ignored.

I hope that the members of the WSFS Business Meeting will take this issue seriously AND strenuously debate this issue in the next several years.

Watch this space…

2023 SFPA Poetry Contest Opens

The 2023 SFPA Speculative Poetry Contest is taking entries starting today through August 31. The contest is open to all poets, including non-SFPA-members. Prizes will be awarded for best unpublished poem in three categories:

  • Dwarf (poems 1–10 lines [prose poems 0–100 words])
  • Short (11–49 lines [prose poems 101–499 words])
  • Long (50 lines and more [prose 500 words and up])

Line count does not include title or stanza breaks. All sub-genres of speculative poetry are allowed in any form.

Prizes in each category (Dwarf, Short, Long) will be $150 First Prize, $75 Second Prize, $25 Third Prize. Publication on the SFPA website for first through third places. There is an entry fee of $3 per poem.

The contest judge is Michael Arnzen, who holds four Bram Stoker Awards and an International Horror Guild Award. He has been teaching as a Professor of English in the MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University since 1999, and has work forthcoming in Weird Tales, Writing Poetry in the Dark and more. He also is a past Secretary/Treasurer of the SFPA. 

The contest chair is R. Thursday (they/them), a writer, educator, historian, and all-around nerd. They placed second in the 2021 Rhysling Award for Short Poems, and the 2022 Bacopa Formal Verse Contest. Their work has been published in Vulture Bones, The Poet’s Haven, Crow and Quill, Eye to the Telescope, Sheepshead Review, Luna Station Quarterly, Book of Matches, and many other fine journals.

Entries are read blind. Unpublished poems only. Author retains rights, except that first through third place winners will be published on the SPFA website. Full guidelines here.

[Based on a press release.]