Emails From Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the Hundred & Fifteenth

A dark forest sits beneath a starry sky. Creepy black goo drips over the scene. White whimsical letters read: “Fit the Hundred & Fifteenth: Do Demons Take Adderall?”

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA.]

DO DEMONS TAKE ADDERALL?

Hello, All! Melanie here.

Last week, our usual routine was disrupted in a rather unexpected way. Instead of the familiar weekly email from Writer X, we found ourselves reading a message from her boyfriend and fellow fantasy writer, Tod Boadkins.

As it happened, X fell off the roof of the town hall in a time machine-related accident and broke both her hands. Tod has informed us that he’ll send weekly emails on her behalf for the next few weeks “lest the world cracks in two” while she heals.

But perhaps, like me, you’re still stuck on the words “time machine-related accident.” X and Tryxy are back to their time machine-related antics. If you’re new to these posts,

Cradensburg, New Hampshire (where X hails from) has a beautiful library from which town residents can check out time machines nearly as easily as they can check out books. The waitlist is long, and X and Tryxy have already been banned from checking out time machines.

So they’ve ordered parts off the internet and built their own, and that’s got Tod Boadkins worried. Tryxy’s been having trouble writing songs for his band DemonKitty. With a festival booking coming up at the end of this month, the demon needs a full roster of songs and doesn’t have them.

The solution? Jump into a future when DemonKitty is on their first world tour and copy the songs Future DemonKitty plays. Unfortunately, art doesn’t work that way, even if time does.

But Tod has a new concern about Tryxy’s behavior that I never considered. I admit, I think he has a point. What do you think?

Without further ado…


Subject: Tod Boadkins is sending you a message courtesy of Time Lounge™

Hi Gladys,

I don’t know how much time I have to send this message. I paid for a universal half-hour of connectivity, but Tryxy keeps floating over my shoulder pretending that he isn’t reading my screen and I might have to hit send to keep him from seeing this. If that happens, I’ll send you another message right away, and you can string the fragments togethe


Subject: Tod Boadkins is sending you a message courtesy of Time Lounge™

Hey,

I’ll cut to the chase. I want your thoughts on this. Do you think Tryxy may have ADHD?

I’m not playing armchair psychiatrist, but the events of the last few weeks—last few years, as I think of it—have made me concerned for him. I think he might need help, but I’m unsure how to convince him.

My mother is a psychologist. I’d ask her, but she’s been renting her body to a mind named Tingus Morty for the last few weeks. Regardless of how much “squirrel!” is the punchline of ADHD jokes, untreated ADHD isn’t a joke. It has real repercussions and consequences that can make education, career advancement, and primary self-care out of reach for those with it.

I’m worried that if Tryxy doesn’t get help, he’ll be no-show for the Memorial Day festival gig. And I’m a little worried he’s going to get dropped from his college classes agai


Subject: Tod Boadkins is sending you a message courtesy of Time Lounge™

Hi again,

As I said earlier, I think “fear of the blank page” is going around. Fear of the blank page is simply when a writer wants to write but is overwhelmed by the expectation to create something brilliant. I started working on a new story last week, and I’ve been hit with a bad case of the stuff.

This is how I ended up writing to you from this time lounge while we wait for X and Tryxy’s time machine to be fixed by an eight-armed time mechanic with a bad temper and a love of gin.

“Lounge” is misleading. Ever been in a depressing truck stop at four in the morning where they rent showers and beds by the hour, and there’s an equally depressing number of cigarette butts and torn condom wrappers swept into corners and a free-to-use microwave that’s been cooking the same depressing frozen burrito for the last six minutes while a bored clerk smokes cigarettes and scrapes scratch off tickets with the pull tab off a beer can while listening to a horse race broadcasting in 1964?

At least they offer a pay-by-the-minute wifi connection that lets you send an email in your Point-of-Origin time.

I’m sorry, Gladys. I had to hop topics like that to throw Tryxy off the scent. He’s gone off to help X scratch under her casts with a ballpoint pen. She will have ink scribbles everywhere when they cut the casts off her.

It’s still true that I’m avoiding working on this new story. That’s a big part of why I decided to come with X and Tryxy on their attempt at time jumping. Someone needs to provide adult supervision.

For the two adults.

Who need supervision.

Here’s what I noticed. I asked Tryxy last week about focusing his efforts on writing one song a day. If he writes one song a day between now and his show, he’ll have fourteen or so new songs. Not all of them will be great, but he’ll at least have the material.

Something about how he’s reacting makes me think that Tryxy isn’t focusing on songwriting because he can’t focus. X said the promoter reached out to Tryxy to ask if DemonKitty needed anything for the show, but Tryxy never responded.

I’ve also noticed that Tryxy’s spent a lot of time doing anything—and I mean anything— random. I haven’t seen him work on school stuff, but I know he’s got finals and papers to write, and I don’t know how a demon with papers to write has so much time to piece together a time machine while X squeaks out directions…in German.

I’m starting to notice other things, too. Tryxy goes on “benders.” There was the time he watched ALL of the Golden Girls. The time he got into “making cozy food” rather than doing his homework. The time he went back in time with X to look for Ursula Le Guin and was dropped from all his courses. He got so involved with time jumping with X that he lost track of time and paid the price.

He would have crashed and burned that semester and lost his scholarship if X hadn’t laid siege to Miskatonic University with a potato gun in exchange for his reinstatement.

If it happens again, I don’t think X can rescue him. For one, X can’t shoot a potato gun with both her hands broken. For two, I think the university installed potato-proof windows.

I spoke to X and

Shit, he’s walking back across the truck stop. Will write again in a few. Regards,

TB


Subject: Tod Boadkins is sending you a message courtesy of Time Lounge™

Hi Gladys,

Here’s the problem with writing a new story even when you’ve already written many stories: when you finish writing a story and all its subsequent drafts, you know how to write that story. That story exists. That story has a beginning, middle, end, plot, fleshed-out characters, and hopefully a theme.

But the one you write next? You have to start writing while you know the least about it. The first thirty percent of a new story always feels like a breaking atmosphere. It takes far more fuel to send a rocket into space than to land a space shuttle. And it takes the most nerve, too.

This story will have a romantic subplot; I’ve never written anything romantic before. I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull it

He’s gone back to X. Jeez, this kid has an eighth sense for when he’s being talked about.

Back to what I was saying: do you know if demons can have ADHD? I think Tryxy’s trapped, and he doesn’t know how to ask for help. I threw the idea past X, and she said that “not writing” is how “artistic artists” are.

I don’t know about that. All I know is that I’m stuck in a time lounge with no idea when the time machine will be repaired, and I’m starting to think we need to find a therapist who can help Tryxy rather than enabling him to bomb his music and college career in the same week. ADHD can do that.

Your input is much appreciated. Regards,

TB

Pixel Scroll 5/19/24 Come For The Chocolate, Stay For The Pixels

(1) SMALL WONDERS IS KICKSTARTING YEAR 2. Cislyn Smith and Stephen Granade have launched a Kickstarter to fund the year two of Small Wonders, a monthly online SFF magazine for flash fiction and poetry.

For the past year, Small Wonders has published original and reprint flash fiction and narrative poetry, all tinged with the wonder of other worlds both science fictional and fantastic. Now the magazine is raising funds to cover Year Two, with an initial goal of $11,000. Stretch goals include publishing a Best of Year One collection, an issue guest edited by Premee Mohamed and Chimedum Ohaegbu, and more. Backers can get discounted yearly subscriptions; a Kickstarter-only mini issue with new works by Nino Cipri, Myna Chang, Jennifer Mace, Avra Margariti, and more; and pins and stickers themed to stories and poems from Year One. The Kickstarter runs through June 3.

Each issue of Small Wonders contains three original pieces of flash fiction, three new poems, and three re-printed flash fiction stories. Issues are published as ebooks (mobi, epub, and pdf) at the first of the month, and subscribers can receive every story and poem in their inboxes as they’re published on the website.

The first year of Small Wonders succeeded beyond Cislyn and Stephen’s expectations. It published new authors and poets as well as familiar names such as John Wiswell, Ali Trotta, Premee Mohamed, and Mary Soon Lee. and included multiple Rhysling-nominated poems. They’re excited to see what year two will bring, and hope you’ll be a part of it through the Kickstarter.

(2) VOTE FOR BEST FRENCH SFF SHORT STORY OF 2022. SFSF Boréal invited readers during the month of March to nominate the best French-speaking sff short stories that were published in 2022 in Canada. The four finalists for the Prix Aurora-Boréal have been announced. Members of SFSF Boréal are invited to vote for the best story at this link. Votes must be cast by June 1. The finalists are:

  • Blouin, Geneviève, “La Vie secrète des carapaces” (Solaris 223)
  • Côté, Philippe-Aubert, “À l’Ère des Jumeaux errants” (Les Six Brumes)
  • Kurtness, J.D., “Bienvenue, Alyson” (Hannenorak)
  • Vonarburg, Élisabeth, “Into White”, (Les Six Brumes)

The Congrès Boréal will be held in Montréal, Québec from September 20-22.

(3) THE N-WORD. Wrath James White gives his conclusive answer to using the n-word in dialog: “Make It Make Sense” at Words of Wrath.

Wrath James White

I have been asked several times lately about non-Black authors using the n-word when writing character dialog. Because I am, frankly, weary of answering this question, I decided to answer it here, once and for all. 

So, here’s my answer. It is appropriate for a White author to put the n-word in a character’s mouth if it isn’t done gratuitously (ala Quinton Tarantino) where the word is just shoehorned in unnecessarily to sound cool or edgy. If the dialog feels natural and non stereotypical. If the characters themselves aren’t one dimensional caricatures and are the type of people who would use the word as part of their everyday vernacular. If it’s the appropriate word to use in the moment and another word wouldn’t work just as well, then by all means do it. Wherever another word would be just as effective, don’t do it. 

For example, if your story takes place in the 90s or early oughts, then “dog”, “playa”, “gangsta”, “playboy”, “sistah” and “bruh” would all work just as well in most situations where one Black person is talking to another. Using the n-word in place of these words is a choice and the author should definitely question their motives for making that choice. That is unless you are writing a racist character. 

Obviously, it would be absurd to have a racist character avoid using the n-word unless he’s a closeted racist. Still, even a racist doesn’t use the word in every sentence, and might even use other more creative pejoratives. And, most racists are not blatant in their racism….

…The bottom line, I can’t grant you a pass to use the n-word. Nothing I have said above will guarantee that you won’t get the taste slapped out of your mouth for including it in yourwriting. But, if you do find it necessary to use it, just like I said in a previous article about grossout and gore, make it make sense. Make it feel natural and not like a teenager or adolescent trying to shock their parents. If you don’t think you can pull that off, use another word.

(4) LEFT BEHIND? “Some fight change, while others adapt. It’s a Toy Story sort of deal,” says Ronald Kelly in “Woody, Buzz, & the Changing of the Guard” at Fear County Chronicle.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my place in an ever-growing, ever-changing horror genre. How it once was, how it is now, and if Ol’ Ron has the willpower and stamina to hang in there and keep up the pace with all the new and wildly talented authors who are flooding a market that was once relatively small and limited, both in ranks and growth. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Pixar movie Toy Story….

You see, I’m Woody. Most of us veteran horror authors are. Woody is old-fashioned, leery of change, and a little hesitant to hand over the reins to anyone else because he likes the position he’s held for so long (Andy’s favorite and the leader of the toys). Deep down inside, he believes that he deserves to retain that position, perhaps indefinitely. Could be that he was pretty special and popular in the past, along with some of his peers (Woody’s Roundup stars Jessie, Bullseye, and even Stinky Pete in Toy Story 2). Woody likes how it is in Andy’s Room because it’s familiar, comfortable, and safe. He feels like he’s the head honcho there… not necessarily giving the orders but holding some measure of respect and authority among those around him. Even the mouthy and cantankerous Mister Potato Head looks to him for stability and guidance….

…Truthfully, very few veteran writers feel contempt and suspicion toward the swell of new storytellers bursting on the scene, but unfortunately some do. They feel challenged by progress and diversity and aren’t receptive to those who want a piece of the action. They also don’t approve of how the rules have changed, and how the dynamic of the writing world is evolving at a rapid pace. The mere thought of the Changing of the Guard horrifies them. We’ve seen it happen in social media in the past few years; an old-dog author bristles at the sudden influx of new talent in the genre and cries foul, sometimes in very volatile and unflattering ways. Some have even gone as far as losing all respect in the genre they helped trailblaze and end up being cast from the ranks for their nearsightedness, prejudice, and insolence….

(5) IN THE BEGINNING. “A Closer Look At Great Animated Title Sequences” at CartoonBrew.

In honor of Saul Bass’s birthday this month, we’re taking a look at some of the greatest animated title sequences from live-action movies (the topic of great credits sequences in animated movies is a subject for another time)….

… As Walt Disney suggested above, opening credits in the early days of movies tended to be straightforwardly informational, often created quickly by in-house art departments superimposing text over static background paintings. Even so, there are a handful of movies from the 1930s and ’40s that contain brief bits of animation during the credits. One great example is the cartoon opening of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). This scene is frequently attributed to Walter Lantz, but was actually directed by Dave Fleischer….

… Maybe the all-time classic title sequence comes from The Pink Panther (1963), by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which not only introduced a cartoon star but also introduced one of the best movie themes ever composed (by Henry Mancini). Looney Tunes director Friz Freleng supervised the sequence, while Freleng’s longtime layout artist Hawley Pratt designed the panther and Ken Harris primarily animated him. Producer David DePatie remembered the movie’s premiere: “The memories of that night will remain with me forever. The projector started to roll and as the Panther first appeared there was a ripple of laughter from the audience which quickly became whistles and roars of approval as the Panther toyed with the various titles. At the conclusion of the main title, the crowd went bananas.”…

(6) REESE WITHERSPOON, LITERARY TASTEMAKER. “When her career hit a wall, the Oscar-winning actor built a ladder made of books — for herself, and for others.” Link bypasses Paywall, courtesy Brad Verter: “Inside Reese Witherspoon’s Literary Empire”

…First and foremost, she wants books by women, with women at the center of the action who save themselves. “Because that’s what women do,” she said. “No one’s coming to save us.”

Witherspoon, 48, has now been a presence in the book world for a decade. Her productions of novels like “Big Little Lies,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and “The Last Thing He Told Me” are foundations of the binge-watching canon. Her book club picks reliably land on the best-seller list for weeks, months or, in the case of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” years. In 2023, print sales for the club’s selections outpaced those of Oprah’s Book Club and Read With Jenna, according to Circana Bookscan, adding up to 2.3 million copies sold.

So how did an actor who dropped out of college (fine, Stanford) become one of the most influential people in an industry known for being intractable and slightly tweedy?

It started with Witherspoon’s frustration over the film industry’s skimpy representation of women onscreen — especially seasoned, strong, smart, brave, mysterious, complicated and, yes, dangerous women…

(7) PUBLIC FROCKING. Attention 18th-century re-enactors! “You Can’t Live in the Past, Even in a Period-Accurate Frock” contends the New York Times, although they know where you can get one.

In 2012, not long after he decided to dedicate his professional life to 18th-century wares, Casey Samson spent a weekend at a colonial-era fair in Bardstown, Ky., selling leather mugs out of a tent.

On his first night there, Mr. Samson sat alone by a crackling campfire, smelled the wood smoke and felt as if he had been transported to a different time. He knew then, he said, that he had made the right choice.

Today, Mr. Samson and his wife, Abbie, own and operate Samson Historical, a three-story business that doubles as a pseudo-museum on the downtown square in Lebanon, Ind., about 30 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

On a recent morning, Mr. Samson, 32, walked into a small warehouse tucked behind the retail space and waxed poetic about the shop’s “great wall of waistcoats.” But there was more: “These are original sugar dippers.” And: “One of Abbie’s passions is clay pipes.” And: “All right, so: gun flints.”

There were breeches and bonnets, frocks and cloaks, candles and lanterns, hip kidneys (for extra support) and bum rolls (for that perfect silhouette). And while Samson Historical has 10 full-time employees and manufactures its own merchandise, it also works with about 40 artisans from trades that are teetering on the edge of extinction: blacksmiths, woodworkers, glass blowers, horners. A fifth-generation pipe maker from Germany handcrafts the store’s pipes.

“A lot of what we do,” Mr. Samson said, “is trying to help keep these things alive.”…

(8) MAYBE YOU WONDERED. “How the ‘B Movie’ Got Its Name” at MSN.com.

When the legendary filmmaker Roger Corman died on May 9 at the age of 98, obituaries dubbed him “the King of the B Movies”—or, even more snappily, “King of the B’s.” He earned that sobriquet by churning out hundreds of low-budget productions, often sensationalistic “exploitation films” or genre fare like horror or science fiction….

In the silent era, motion picture studios began using a tiered approach to categorize productions. When Adolph Zukor founded his Famous Players film company in 1912, he used a three-way classification. As Gerald Mast recounted in his 1971 book “A Short History Of The Movies,” Zukor initially divided his pictures into “Class A (with stage stars and stage properties, the artsy films); Class B (with established screen players); and Class C (cheap, quick features).” Mary Pickford started as a “B” actress in 1914, but her movies quickly proved more popular than Zukor’s “Class A” productions.

A two-tiered system with “Class A” and “Class B” films became the industry standard, catching on during the Great Depression when the “double feature” offered two-for-one pricing to attract customers. The main feature would have the prestigious stars and high production values, while the “B” feature would be an inexpensive, quickly produced genre film like a Western. Studios set up “B units” to produce second features, and the slapdash “B movies” were aptly nicknamed “quickies” or “cheapies.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 19, 1946 André the Giant.  (Died 1993.) This Birthday for André René Roussimoffwho performed as André the Giant came about because (a) I really, really like The Princess Bride film and have seen it way too many times, and (b) I thought that he was charming in it as Fezzik. That said, I knew nothing about him and all his other performances, or his life story, at all.

He was a French professional wrestler of impressive height, seven feet and four inches to be precise. He would wrestle his entire life right up until he died at age forty-six of congestive heart failure after an apparent heart attack in his sleep in the Paris hotel he was staying at in order to attend his father’s funeral. It was likely associated with his untreated acromegaly which had been diagnosed some twenty-five years earlier.

His first genre role was being Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man on “The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 1” and “The Secret of Bigfoot Part 2”. Naturally I’m giving you a photo of him in that role. 

Next up is being the Monster in “Heaven Is in Your Genes” on Greatest American Hero. Monster, just Monster? So, what did he look like there? Ahhh…. They apparently didn’t a budget for creating a monster which explains the generic name. I’m giving you a photo anyway so you can see what he looked like sans makeup. 

Andre the Giant on Greatest American Hero

He got to be in a film with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Destroyer. He played Dagoth the Dreaming God, the main antagonist of Conan. For some reason, he was uncredited. Considering what he looks like in the film, it was easy for him to go uncredited. 

Andre the Giant as Dagoth

And that brings us to his best and last genre role, that of Fezzik, the giant in The Princess Bride. He’s played as Goldman describes him in his novel, “Fezzik. The timid, large-hearted and obedient giant who accompanies Vizzini. Fezzik loves rhymes and his friend Inigo, and he is excellent at lifting heavy things.”  

Not a long career, but an interesting one I’d say. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld shared his latest:

(11) SAURON TURNS HIS EYE TO YOUR WALLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Palantír viewing room included. Hopefully without a working Palantír just in case Melkor find a way to open the Door of Night. I mean, if you thought Sauron was bad news, you sure don’t want to deal with the OG baddy. “$460, 5,471-piece Lego Barad-dûr set comes for LOTR fans’ wallets in June” at Ars Technica. (See the set in detail at the LEGO® Icons website.)

…Sauron, Base Master of Treachery, will keep his Eye on you from atop the tower, which will actually glow thanks to a built-in light brick. The tower includes a minifig of Sauron himself, plus the Mouth of Sauron, Gollum, and a handful of Orcs.

The Lego Barad-dûr set will launch on June 1 for Lego Insiders and June 4 for everybody else. If you buy it between June 1 and June 7, you’ll also get the “Fell Beast” bonus set, with pose-able wings and a Nazgûl minifig. It doesn’t seem as though this bonus set will be sold separately, making it much harder to buy the nine Nazgûl you would need to make your collection story-accurate….

(12) SPACE AT LAST. “90-year-old Ed Dwight, 5 others blast into space aboard Blue Origin rocket”NPR has the story. (This was Blue Origin’s 25th mission to space. The New Shepard Mission NS-25 Webcast replay is on YouTube.)

Ed Dwight, the man who six decades ago nearly became America’s first Black astronaut, made his first trip into space at age 90 on Sunday along with five crewmates aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

The flawless liftoff from a West Texas launch site marked the first passenger flight in nearly two years for the commercial space venture run by billionaire Jeff Bezos. The approximately 10-minute suborbital flight put Dwight in the history books as the oldest person ever to reach space. He beat out Star Trek actor William Shatner for that honor by just a few months. Shatner was a few months younger when he went up on a New Shepard rocket in 2021.

(13) INDIA’S NEXT MARS MISSION. Space.com says “India’s ambitious 2nd Mars mission to include a rover, helicopter, sky crane and a supersonic parachute”.

India is preparing to launch a family of seemingly sci-fi robots to Mars, perhaps as soon as late 2024.

The Mars Orbiter Mission-2 (MOM-2), or Mangalyaan-2 (Hindi for “Mars Craft”), is set to include a rover and a helicopter, like a robotic NASA duo already on Mars — the Perseverance rover and now-grounded Ingenuity. A supersonic parachute and a sky crane that will lower the rover onto the Martian surface will also be part of Mangalyaan-2, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials said last week during a presentation at the Space Applications Centre in Gujarat, India Today reported….

Media reports from late last year suggest that Mangalyaan-2 will have at least four science instruments designed to study the early history of Mars, analyze its leaking atmosphere, and look for a hypothesized dust ring around the planet generated by its two moons, Phobos and Deimos….

(14) SPEEDING UP TRAVEL TO MARS. “NASA-funded pulsed plasma rocket concept aims to send astronauts to Mars in 2 months” reports Space.com.

An innovative rocket system could revolutionize future deep space missions to Mars, reducing travel time to the Red Planet to just a few months. 

The goal of landing humans on Mars has presented a myriad of challenges, including the need to quickly transport large payloads to and from the distant planet, which, depending on the positions of Earth and Mars, would take almost two years for a round trip using current propulsion technology.The Pulsed Plasma Rocket (PPR), under development by Howe Industries, is a propulsion system designed to be far more efficient than current methods of deep space propulsion, enabling the trip between Earth and the Red Planet to be made in just two months. Specifically, the rocket will have a high specific impulse or Isp, a measure of how efficiently an engine generates thrust. This technology could therefore enable astronauts and cargo to travel to and from Mars more efficiently and rapidly than existing spacecraft, according to a statement from NASA…

(15) THE FINEST SUPERNATURAL TALE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at the Media Death Cult YouTube Channel invites us to consider Algernon Blackwood’s 1907 novelette, ‘The Willows’, as a contender for the grand chief fountainhead of the insidious order.  It did though inspire the likes of H. P. Lovecraft.  You don’t have to buy in to the pronunciation of Danube as ‘dan-noob’ but it is the Moidelhoff way…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Daniel Dern, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Prix Jacques-Brossard 2024

 Alain Bergeron has won the Prix Jacques-Brossard, a juried award for French sff worth C$3,000 given to an author who has distinguished himself with a work or production published during the year. The jury selected Bergeron for his 2023 novel Le Silène assassiné, volume 1 of the Huitième register.

The other two finalists for the award were Venefica by Raphaëlle B. Adam and La Respiration du ciel, volume 1 of La Semeuse de vents, by Mélodie Joseph.

Alain Bergeron has twice won the precursor of the Prix Jacques-Brossard – the Grand Prix de la science-fiction et du fantastique québécois: in 1998, for his collection of short stories Corps-machines et rêves d’anges and his fantasy novel L’ Ennemie, and in 2004, for his novel Phaos. At the time of his retirement in 2008, he was Secretary-General of the Council for Science and Technology.

This year’s award jurors were Michel Bélisle, sff and co-founder of the Grand Prix de la science fiction et du fantastic québécois; Ariane Gélinas, lecturer at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières and winner of the Jacques-Brossard prize in 2013; Josée Lepire, social worker, science fiction writer, and literary critic for the Quebec magazine Solaris; Rachel Mayrand, teacher in literature and communication at the Cégep de Sherbrooke and sff literary critic in Lurelu, and Fabien Ménard, winner of the France-Québec prize in 2006.

Pixel Scroll 5/18/24 Come On You Pixels, Do You Want To Scroll Forever?

(1) R. F. KUANG’S BABEL WINS AWARD AT A CEREMONY AT THE CHENGDU SF MUSEUM. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The Chinese edition of R. F. Kuang’s Babel, as translated by Chen Yang, won the “Best Translated Work” category of the Xingyun (Chinese Nebula) Award.  The award ceremony took place in the Hugo Hall at the Chengdu SF Museum on Saturday May 18.

China.org.cn have published a brief English language article on the awards; a longer Chinese-language report, including all the winners, was published by the Xingyun Award account on WeChat/Weixin, which is where the pictures below are taken from.   A five-and-a-half-hour long video has also been posted to Weibo.

Judging by the logos in the hall and on photos from the event, the awards appear to have been sponsored by Guojiao 1573, an alcohol brand.  The aforementioned WeChat/Weixin report mentions that a member of the Pidu district local government gave a welcoming speech, but the report does not mention if there was any discussion of the 10-year science fiction plan.

(2) TRIPLETS. “Red Dwarf ‘returning to TV with 3 brand new episodes’” promises Radio Times.

It has been reported that long-running sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf will be returning for a new set of three specials in 2025, the first time the show has been seen on-screen since 2020.

British Comedy Guide has reported that one feature-length instalment will be split into three episodes, with filming set to begin in September, and stars Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn all returning.

Robert Llewellyn reportedy confirmed the news on his Fully Charged YouTube channel, saying: “We knew we were going to do more Red Dwarf, and we’re actually now doing it in the middle of October to the middle of November this year.

“A 90-minute special, three half-hours. So yes, we are making more. I can’t believe I’ve agreed to do it, I’m insane. I’m much too old.”

He previously told the channel: “We’ve all agreed to do more. We’re not going to do a new series, but we’re making something and it should be fun.”…

(3) BEAGLE Q&A. “Peter S. Beagle on his new novel, the hero’s journey, and why villains talk so much” at NPR.

[SCOTT] SIMON: Let me ask you about the wizard in the book ’cause he can’t keep his yap shut about what he’s hellbent on doing. Why is that?

BEAGLE: Well, you can’t possibly blame him. After all, he has been destroyed and come back. He has ridden with dragons. He knows so much about dragons, just not the important stuff. But because of his experience, he thinks he knows more than he does. And that’s fatal. I know that myself.

SIMON: That’s happened to you?

BEAGLE: It has. It has. Not with dragons, particularly….

(4) READ THE ANTHONY AWARD FINALISTS. The 2024 Bouchercon recently posted the Anthony Award Shortlists, and where one can read the short story finalists online.

(5) BWAH! Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook contends there are “25 Great Things About The Phantom Menace”. (Maybe you had trouble thinking of even one?) Seventh on his list —

I have to put “Sound Design” as one item on this list, because if wasn’t, 90% of this list would be me trying to find the onomatopoeia for practically every noise in this movie. The thrum of podrace engines, the clack of droideka feet, the little wibble Gungan energy shields make under fire, and yes, the Naboo blasters that go “bwah!”.

Especially the Naboo blasters that go “bwah!”.

(6) AND BLAB! “Did a Star Wars Producer Just Reveal the Title For James Mangold’s Movie?” asks Collider.

In a recent interview with SFX Magazine, Emanuel referred to the movie with a new title that could signal a significant shift in its direction. He said, “James Mangold’s Jedi Prime is set thousands and thousands of years before [the original trilogy], and I’m really excited to see what happens there.” While that quote does not officially confirm a title change, Emanuel’s use of “Jedi Prime” suggests exciting possibilities for the upcoming film.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 18, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. (Died 2007.)

By Paul Weimer: I came to Fred Saberhagen through epic fantasy.  I came across a reference to his Empire of the East series in a piece discussing science fantasy and the mixture of the two.  So I sought out that series and started to devour it. The idea of a post apocalypse America now ruled by magic, but the protagonist finds an old tank, and then goes on to find the “g0d” that was once a supercomputer fighting a demon that was once a nuclear bomb…the appeal to me of this was obvious from the start. 

Fred Saberhagen. Photo by Patricia Rogers.

After Empire of the East, I fell into his Books of Swords stories (which are in the same verse although the connection between the two was very very thin), and then, once I had gone with all of those, looked to see what else Saberhagen had written. 

If you are a sophisticated reader, you are probably wondering where Saberhagen’s Berserkers came in. It actually took me a while to make my way to Saberhagen’s most famous creation, with stops in Dracula, Frankenstein, and more before I would finally come across the ultimate killer AI stories. When I watched a Babylon 5 episode that referenced Berserkers, I was absolutely delighted. Beserker’s Planet is probably the oddest one of the whole series, which is much taken up with the ultimate MMA tournament where fighters of different skills from across the planet compete to be the champion (this is all secretly run by a half broken berserker, but for a lot of this book you have no idea it’s even there)

My favorite Saberhagen, overall, though, is a novella, “The Mask of The Sun”, which is about an absolutely interesting artifact that almost works like magic, showing probabilistic results from actions when you put it on. The main character gets hold of this, and it turns out two timelines and timeline/time travelling empires want that same artifact, at any cost. The interesting fillip for me, back then, was that it was timelines and polities based on the Aztecs and the Inca, rather than (at the time) more usual choices.  A Time War with the Inca and Aztecs pushes a LOT of my buttons. And I vividly enjoyed the main character trying to figure out how to have the Inca defeat Pizzaro and the Spanish, sustainably, once he wound up in 16th century Peru. His solution is ingenious and it makes a lot of sense, and overall, the story has a strong playground of the imagination, and shows Saberhagen at his best. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) LIBRARY’S STAR TURN. TrekMovie.com takes us “Inside How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Transformed A Toronto University Library Into The Eternal Archive”.

Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Labyrinths,” featured an unusual location: the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. Star Trek fan Michael Cassabon, the Director of Advancement for the University of Toronto library system, assisted the production team on site and wrote about his experiences with the show and what makes the Fisher Library so unique.

… Modern-day Toronto is part of Trek canon (SNW: “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow”); for those of you keeping track, the library complex is a few blocks away from where the child Khan Noonien-Singh — the notorious ancestor of La’an — lives, and where an alt-universe Captain Kirk was killed trying to restore the timeline.

It is almost unheard of for filming to take place at the Fisher Library, but a rare exception was made for Star Trek: Discovery. Our library’s leadership believed that this collaboration would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the enduring relevance of libraries in the human quest for meaning. Libraries connect people to the information they seek in their quest for knowledge. The executive producers dedicated the episode with thanks “to librarians everywhere, dedicated to the preservation of artifacts, knowledge, and truth.”…

(10) LEARNING FROM THE SEVENTIES. Francis Hamit recommends Ken Miyamoto’s ScreenCraft article “25 Years Later: Why The DAZED AND CONFUSED Script Works”.

…So with no major character arcs being explored, surely there’s a compelling plot that takes us through the whole eventual film?

Not so much. Dazed and Confused is lacking in significant plot motivations and devices. There is no conventional plotting of moments beyond the overarching conflict of first-year students getting paddled by seniors. That is the sole piece of evidence of any consistent plot.

Instead, we follow the characters through their first day and night of summer. They drive in cars and bob their heads to now-classic seventies tunes, they play baseball, they smoke pot, they drink, they fight, they make out, and that’s about it….

The script teaches us that not every story needs broad character arcs, crucial plot points, and pinpoint structure. If you have stories that involve multiple characters, you can:

  • Engage the reader and audience by showcasing a specific world that attracts attention and interest
  • Offer characters that are void of the clichés we’ve already seen in multiple films and television series
  • Focus on small story windows to enhance the conflicts and drama
  • Use the multiple characters in creative ways to cut between scenes and showcase small character moment windows
  • Find creative ways to break up the dialogue to heighten each and every word that is spoken
  • Learn when too much is too much in scenes during the rewrite process
  • Set up the collaboration process by writing great characters that call for great casting

So go do likewise in your scripts and just keep livin’. L-I-V-I-N.

 (11) MONTY PYTHON. Eric Idle is fond of this take on King Charles’ portrait:

(12) DYSON SPHERES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There may be seven Dyson spheres within 1,000 light years!

A collaboration of eight, primarily Swedish-based, astronomers have identified seven Dyson sphere candidates within 300 parsecs (about 1,000 light years) of Earth.  The astronomers looked a data from ESA’s Gaia satellite, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and 2MASS of around five million stars.

A Dyson sphere is a theoretical concept seriously developed in 1960 by Freeman Dyson, but actually originating from the novel Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon. The Dyson sphere is a construct that completely surrounds a star and so captures all of, or most of, its visible light. Similarly, a Dyson swarm is a multitude of small orbiting bodies about a star that captures the majority of its light. While Dyson spheres and Dyson swarms capture visible light, they in turn warm and so give off infra-red (IR) and this IR excess might be considered a ‘techno-signature’ of an extraterrestrial civilisation.

Combing through the Gaia, WISE and 2MASS data, the astronomers come up with 7 possible candidates for Dyson spheres/swarms. The nearest is 466 light years away. All are M-type stars or red dwarfs. The astronomers do point out that there are several alternate natural explanations to the Dyson sphere/swarm suggestions but none of them fully explain the spectra seen from these candidate stars.

See   Suazo, M. et al (2024) Project Hephaistos – II. Dyson sphere candidates from Gaia DR3, 2MASS, and WISE. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. vol. 531 p695–707.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The “Young Frankenstein Movie Documentary (with Mel Brooks)” is a 2002 documentary. A bit self-adulatory, but worth it for the amusing anecdotes.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a 1974 American comedy horror film directed by Mel Brooks. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder. Wilder also starred in the lead role as the title character, a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and Peter Boyle as the monster. The film co-stars Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Richard Haydn, and Gene Hackman. The film is a parody of the classic horror film genre, in particular the various film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus produced by Universal Pictures in the 1930s. Much of the lab equipment used as props was created by Kenneth Strickfaden for the 1931 film Frankenstein. To help evoke the atmosphere of the earlier films, Brooks shot the picture entirely in black and white, a rarity in the 1970s, and employed 1930s’ style opening credits and scene transitions such as iris outs, wipes, and fades to black. The film also features a period score by Brooks’ longtime composer John Morris.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Ersatz Culture, Joel Zakem, Francis Hamit, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dann.]

15th Annual Xingyun Awards for Chinese Science Fiction

The winners of the 15th annual Xingyun Awards for Chinese science fiction were announced by the World Chinese Science Fiction Association at a ceremony in Chengdu on May 18.

Ironically, the award for Best Translated Work was presented to R.F. Kuang’s Babel in the same hall that hosted last year’s Hugo Awards for which the novel was unjustifiably ruled ineligible by the committee.

BEST NOVEL 2023

  • The City in the Well, by Liu Yang (People’s Literature Publishing House)

BEST NOVELLA 2023

  • “The Fleeting Gravity of Words”, by Zhou Wen (Visiting the Stars: Chinese Stories of Flying to the Outer Space)

BEST SHORT STORY 2023

  •  “Let the White Deer Roam”, by Cheng Jingbo (Science Fiction World, November 2023)

BEST TRANSLATED WORK 2023

  • Babel, by R.F. Kuang, translated by Chen Yang (CITIC Press)

BEST NON-FICTION 2023

  • Gazing at the Stars: My Personal Encounter with Chinese Science Fiction, by Yang Xiao (Sichuan People’s Publishing House; Science Fiction World)

BEST NEW WRITER 2021-2023

  • Lu Hang

BEST REVIEW 2023

  • No Award

 [Thanks to Feng Zhang and the World Chinese Science Fiction Association for the title translations.]

Best Novel trophy and certificate
Liu Yang, the winner of Best Novel, is standing in the middle

2023 Aurealis Awards

The 2023 Aurealis Awards were presented on May 18 by the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. The award recognizes the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.

2023 AUREALIS AWARDS

BEST CHILDREN’S FICTION

  • Spellhounds, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin) 

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL / ILLUSTRATED WORK

  • Ember and the Island of Lost Creatures, Jason Pamment (Allen & Unwin)

BEST YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY

  • “Follow The Water”, J Palmer (Where the weird things are Vol 2, Deadset Press) 

BEST HORROR SHORT STORY

  • “Death interrupted”, Pamela Jeffs (Body of work, Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild)

BEST HORROR NOVELLA

  • “Quicksilver”, J S Breukelaar (Vandal: Stories of damage, Crystal Lake Entertainment)

BEST FANTASY SHORT STORY

  • “12 days of Witchmas”, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Patreon, self-published)

BEST FANTASY NOVELLA

  • Gate sinister, Tansy Rayner Roberts (self-published)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY  

(TIE)

  • “Hollywood animals”, Corey J White (Interzone #295)
  • “Customer service”, Emily Wyeth (Mother’s milk, Sempiternal House)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVELLA

  • Once we flew, Nikky Lee (self-published)

BEST COLLECTION

  • Firelight, John Morrissey (Text Publishing)

BEST ANTHOLOGY

  • The book of witches, Jonathan Strahan (Ed.) (HarperVoyager)

BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

  • When ghosts call us home, Katya de Becerra (Macmillan)

BEST HORROR NOVEL

  • Bunny, S E Tolsen (Pan Macmillan Australia)

BEST FANTASY NOVEL 

  • The will of the many, James Islington (Text Publishing)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

  • Time of the cat, Tansy Rayner Roberts (self-published)

CONVENORS’ AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE 

2024 Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Winners

The Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire 2024 finalists were presented during La Comédie du Livre – Dix jours en mai on May 18 in Montpellier, France.

The award’s mission is described on its website with a touch of irony: “Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire is the oldest French prize still in operation – since 1974 – as well as the most prestigious dedicated to the ‘literatures of the Imaginary’. The term ‘Imaginary’ covers all these ‘bad genres’ that are science fiction, fantasy, fantasy, as well as various fusions of these genres and ‘transfictions’ where, for example, some ‘non-mimetic’ elements creep insidiously into a so-called ‘general’ literature.”

The jurors are Joëlle Wintrebert (president), Jean-Claude Dunyach (treasurer), Sylvie Allouche, Audrey Burki, Lloyd Chéry, Catherine Dufour, Olivier Legendre (vice-president), Benjamin Spohr, and Nicolas Winter. The Secretary (not a member of the jury) is Sylvie Le Jemtel.

ROMAN FRANCOPHONE / NOVEL IN FRENCH

  • Du thé pour les fantômes by Chris Vuklisevic (Denoël)

ROMAN ÉTRANGER / FOREIGN NOVEL

  • Le Ministère du futur by Kim Stanley Robinson [The Ministry of the Future] (Bragelonne)

NOUVELLE FRANCOPHONE / SHORT FICTION IN FRENCH

  • Traduction vers le rose by Esmée Dubois (1115)

NOUVELLE ÉTRANGÈRE / FOREIGN SHORT FICTION

  • Protectorats by Ray Nayler [Protectorates] (Le Bélial’ & Quarante-Deux)

ROMAN JEUNESSE FRANCOPHONE / NOVELS FOR YOUTH IN FRENCH

  • Histoire de la fille qui ne voulait tuer personne by Jérôme Leroy (Syros)

ROMAN JEUNESSE ÉTRANGER / FOREIGN NOVELS FOR YOUTH

  • L’Étrange voyage de Clover Elkin by Eli Brown [Oddity] (Bayard)

TRADUCTION : PRIX JACQUES CHAMBON / JACQUES CHAMBON TRANSLATION PRIZE

  • Claire Kreutzberger for Illuminations by Alan Moore (Bragelonne)

GRAPHISME : PRIX WOJTEK SIUDMAK / WOJTEK SIUDMAK GRAPHIC DESIGN PRIZE

  • Anouck Faure for Les Trois Malla-Moulgars by Walter de la Mare (Callidor)

ESSAI / NONFICTION

  • Terry Pratchett : Une vie avec notes de bas de page, la biographie officielle by Rob Wilkins (L’Atalante)

PRIX SPÉCIAL

Denise Dutton Review: Orchard Valley Harvest’s Sweetened Cherries in Dark Chocolate 

Review by Denise Kitashima Dutton: Dried cherries and dark chocolate. Two great tastes y’all. I’m not a chocolate covered berry kinda gal; the berry ends up mushy and the chocolate ends up damp. It’s a downer no matter how you look at it. But dried fruit covered in chocolate? Sign me up. Especially if we’re talking cherries, heaven on a stem.

These are tart dried cherries, not the Bing that you may find in gourmet groceries sold by the pound. Think of these as slightly larger Rasinets, but with a higher level pedigree. These bits are half the size of their larger counterparts, but have a lovely bite to them that blends well with the dark chocolate. That tart bite hits right in the jawline, tightening up the salivary glands as each bite is chewed.

The chocolate is serviceable, at 64% cacao. It blends so well with the tart of the cherries it’s difficult to distinguish itself as a solo performer. My only issue is the chocolate coating, with tends to crumble if you try to make each cherry a two-bite treat. If the chocolate were a bit thicker, it’d stand to such dental scrutiny and perhaps make its presence known a bit more, but as it is pieces of this coating threaten to fall onto the table more times than not. It’s a little thing – I could just pop ’em whole into my gaping maw – but I do enjoy biting into each piece. Double the satisfaction, right? Right.

Pair these with hot tea, coffee, or a nice wine (sparkling or no) for optimal enjoyment. If you want to take it to the next level, a liqueur or port would go nicely as well.


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fan Girl, Movie-Blogger.com, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.

Pixel Scroll 5/17/24 You Can’t Plant Me In Your Pixel, I’m Going Back To My Scroll

(1) THREAT ASSESSMENT. The U.S. State Department issued a “Worldwide Caution” for Americans overseas today, warning about potential threats to LGBTQ+ travelers and other violence.

Location: Worldwide

Event: Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.  The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.  U.S. citizens should:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.

(2) HELP RETURN AN ITEM. Is this yours? Marcia Kelly Illingworth would like to return an item that was given to her at the 1996 Worldcon.

Sorry to call on you for something so insignificant, but it’s important to me, and to at least one other fan out there. In order to be sure this gets in the right hands, there will be some detail left out.

My first Worldcon dealing experience was in 1996 in Anaheim/Los Angeles. I was beginning to make my own jewelry at that time, and felt very flattered when a woman came to me with a treasured memento of a beloved pet, and asked me to make it into a piece of jewelry for her. I agreed, and dutifully took her details and the item. 

This was all during the time that I was burning up the airways, back and forth between Tennessee and London, which eventually turned into a happily ever after, and a long term move. During all of this, the details became separated from the item, and I didn’t know how to contact the owner. I hoped every year that she would return to a table where I was dealing. That hasn’t happened.  

Some of you may be aware that after the 2016 MidAmericon, I had a catastrophic illness, which landed me in emergency surgery to remove my colon, during which I arrested and had to be resuscitated, and in critical condition on a ventilator. I’m apparently too stubborn to even stay dead, but I digress. I went on to survive breast cancer and a bilateral mastectomy four years later.

What I haven’t been as open about is the toll it has taken on my life. My lungs were damaged, leaving me with ongoing breathing issues. My brain was affected, more than I was willing to admit, leaving me with memory deficits and personality changes. These appear to be progressing, unfortunately, so I’m trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible. 

I have intentionally not said what the sentimental item is, so that the right person is the one who contacts me for its return. You can reach me through Facebook Messenger. I’m still, as far as I can ascertain, the only Marcia Kelly Illingworth there is.  Please help me finish this task.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on cryptid pizza with Lesley Conner in Episode 225 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Longtime listeners will have heard Lesley’s voice way back in 2017 on Episode 53 when she took part in a Horror 101 roundtable. Back then, she shared the microphone with five other creators, but a lot has changed for her over the past seven years, and now that she’s the Chief Editor at Apex magazine, I thought she deserved a spotlight of her own.

Lesley Connor and Scott Edelman.

You’ll understand why Lesley was the right dining companion for such a place just from the titles of the anthologies in which her fiction has appeared — all horror-focussed such as Mountain DeadDark Tales of TerrorBig Book of New Short HorrorRuthless, and A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre. Her horror novel The Weight of Chains was released in 2015. In addition to being the Chief Editor over at Apex magazine, she’s also co-editor of the anthologies Do Not Go Quietly and Robotic Ambitions, as well as of the upcoming The Map of Lost Places.

We discussed why horror is where she feels the most comfortable as a writer, how her role at Apex magazine grew from Social Media Manager to Chief Editor, her “Price is Right” method of filling out an issue’s word count, why she hardly ever reads cover letters, the trends she’s seen in the slush pile and what they mean, the key difference between editing magazines vs. anthologies, her longtime obsession with serial killers, how to go on writing after one’s writing mentor passes away, and much more.

(4) ONLINE FLASH SCIENCE FICTION NIGHT. Space Cowboy Books will host an online Flash Science Fiction Night with KC Grifant, Laura Blackwell, and Denise Dumars on Tuesday May 21 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings (1000 words or less) with authors KC Grifant, Laura Blackwell, and Denise Dumars. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

Register for free at Eventbrite.

(5) GETTING AHEAD. Kathryn Adams is working through this year’s finalists a piece at a time. Here’s an excerpt from the first of her very good reviews of “Three More Novelettes” at Pixelated Geek.

The last three of the 2024 Hugo-nominated novelettes go from dystopian to near-utopian (with a lot of work from devoted neighbors), to a fantasy set in the outskirts of the jazz area.

I AM AI – Ai Jiang

…AI has found a surprising niche in order to make a living as a writer and pay off her parents’ and aunt’s debt: pretending to be an AI herself. Working anonymously in an internet cafe on the outskirts of the city, she scrapes together paying jobs by undercutting the fees that actual AI’s charge and churning out content that has the “surprisingly human for an AI” feel that AI subscribers are looking for.

Ai has to keep up a relentless pace, and she’s been gradually replacing parts of herself with tech so she can work a little faster, keep writing for a little longer into the night….

(6) BACK TO THE STACKS. “’The Librarians’ Spinoff on The CW: First Look at ‘Next Chapter’ Team” at TVLine.

The Librarians are ready to make some noise again, by way of a spinoff coming to The CW — and TVLine has your exclusive first look at the brand-new team, above.

A spinoff of TNT’s three movies-and-four seasons franchise, The CW’s The Librarians: The Next Chapter centers on Vikram Chamberlin (played by Jamestown‘s Callum McGowan), a protean genius, swashbuckler and Librarian from the year 1847 who accidentally time-travels to present-day Central Europe and now finds himself stuck here. When Vikram returns to his castle, which is now a museum, he inadvertently releases magic across the continent. He in turn is given a team of talented young people to help him clean up the mess he made by reclaiming magical artifacts from those who would abuse them.

The Librarians are ready to make some noise again, by way of a spinoff coming to The CW — and TVLine has your exclusive first look at the brand-new team, above.

A spinoff of TNT’s three movies-and-four seasons franchise, The CW’s The Librarians: The Next Chapter centers on Vikram Chamberlin (played by Jamestown‘s Callum McGowan), a protean genius, swashbuckler and Librarian from the year 1847 who accidentally time-travels to present-day Central Europe and now finds himself stuck here. When Vikram returns to his castle, which is now a museum, he inadvertently releases magic across the continent. He in turn is given a team of talented young people to help him clean up the mess he made by reclaiming magical artifacts from those who would abuse them.

The question is: Will Vikram keep his oath to the Library (and his new team), or will he attempt to travel back to his own time where unfinished business — and his heart — remain?…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 17, 1955 Bill Paxton. (Died 2017.) Let’s talk about Bill PaxtonHe worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando, The Terminator and True Lies. I know only The Terminator is genre but I actually like the other films as well. He’s also in Predator 2 but Schwarzenegger went walkabout by then on hunting those aliens.

Bill Paxton at Wondercon in 2014. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

None of those roles were as major as the next role I’m going to mention which is his Alien one as Hudson, a boastful but ever so panicky Colonial Marine private. He’s known for this choice piece of dialogue, after the team’s dropship is destroyed, he exclaims, “That’s it, man! Game over, man! Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?”

He’s Chet Donnelly in John Hughes’ wonderfully offbeat Weird Science. Of course everything John Hughes does is either offbeat or just plain weird. This film I think stayed on this side of the former.

Slipstream has him co-starring with Mark Hamill in post-global apocalypse bounty hunter thriller. It gets a decent rating at Rotten Tomatoes at forty-three percent audience approval rating. 

Yes, he had a lead role in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 as Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise. It’s a really stellar film. 

Finally he had a recurring role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as John Garret. He was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was left for dead, only to survive as he became the first Deathlok. Let’s just say his story becomes even more complicated from there. 

No, I forgot one role, though it’s definitely not genre. He was in my beloved Tombstone as Morgan Earp, the Tombstone Special Policeman present at that gunfight where he helped his brothers Virgil and Wyatt, as well as Doc Holliday, confront the outlaw Cochise County Cowboys. 

(8) BONUS BIRTHDAY. [Item by Lis Carey.]

Born May 17 Mark Leeper.

Avid and active sf fan Mark Leeper became enraptured by TV’s Commando Cody at the age of six, and never looked back. He’s been publishing movie reviews online since 1984, and began attending conventions with Boskone VI in 1969. In the years since, he has been on panels and conducted popular origami workshops at many conventions.  Mark and his wife Evelyn founded a science fiction club at Bell Labs in New Jersey in 1978, and maintained it until their retirement in 2001. Their fanzine, the MT VOID, also began in 1978, and is still being published—pretty impressive for a zine published weekly. Along with Mark’s editorials and reviews, it also features reviews and comments by others.

Mark has been an active fan for decades, and is still contributing to our community. Wish him a happy birthday!

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) END AT THE BEGINNING. Camestros Felapton’s review concludes “X-Men97 is a good argument against new X-Men movies”. But that doesn’t mean you should skip his review!

I only got around to watching the X-Men97 finale yesterday. It was tremendous and ridiculous fun. Lots of angst, weird morality and piles of people fighting each other with mutant and techno-virus super-powers. As a series, it just got better and better but so much of it was weaponising nostalgia as its mutant superpower. The story morphed from nostalgia about the original cartoon to nostalgia for how the comics at the time felt but using the same chopping up of comic plot lines into its own story….

(11) ORDER IN THE FOOD COURT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Sfnal it aint…but it does address certain aspects of one of the major burning issues of our time. Just what is a sandwich? “Are tacos and burritos sandwiches? A judge in Indiana ruled yes.” reports the Washington Post.

… Are tacos considered sandwiches?

According to one judge in Fort Wayne, Ind., the answer is yes. And he says burritos are sandwiches, too.

Allen County Superior Court Judge Craig J. Bobay wrote in a ruling Monday that tacos and burritos are “Mexican-style sandwiches.” Bobay made the decision in a case reviewing whether a restaurant, “Famous Taco,” could open a new location at a Fort Wayne shopping center.

The zoning policy for the property prohibits fast food, but allows exceptions for restaurants whose primary business is to sell “made-to-order” or Subway-style sandwiches. A city commission denied the request.

But Famous Taco, Bobay ruled, is allowed at the shopping center because it would serve “Mexican-style sandwiches,” and the zoning policy “does not restrict potential restaurants to only American cuisine-style sandwiches.” Hypothetically, other restaurants that serve made-to-order items, including “Greek gyros, Indian naan wraps or Vietnamese banh mi,” would also be allowed, Bobay wrote in his decision….

…With that, at least for now, the judge seems to have wrapped up the sandwich beef in Fort Wayne.

(12) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.]. Another day, another round of reporting on SFF on Jeopardy! and Jeopardy! Masters. I’m covering the regular game on Thursday, May 16, and Masters for Wednesday the 15th, and there was a fair amount.

Jeopardy! 5/16/2024

Single Jeopardy round:

Here Be Monsters, $1000: 1939’s “Son of Frankenstein” was the third in the series to feature the monster, and the last with this actor playing the role

Returning champion Grant DeYoung asked: “What’s Karloff?” (Like Matt Amodio, he seemed to just use “What’s” for all responses.)

Here Be Monsters, $200: In one of his many big-screen battles for Earth’s survival, he fought against Hedorah, the smog monster

Grant got it again: “What’s Godzilla?”

Anagrammed Authors, $400: Author born Eric Blair: gore lower leg

Grant was in again with “What’s George Orwell?”

Double Jeopardy round:

TV “Q”, $1200: On “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, this Ferengi bar owner was up, then down as his flavorful crew unionized

Still Grant! “What’s Quark?”

TV “Q”, $800: This NBC reboot tapped Raymond Lee to play time-traveling physicist Ben Song

Other contestants did buzz in sometimes, but you wouldn’t know it from reading this: Grant responded, “What’s ‘Quantum Leap’?”

Jeopardy! Masters 5/15/2024

In Game 1, the Double Jeopardy round:

Music in Books, $2000: The sinfonietta by Czech composer Leos Janaček features prominently in this Murakami book partly set in a world with 2 moons

Yogesh Raut came up with, “What is ‘1Q84’?”

Movie Memes: Who Said It, $2000: 2001: “One does not simply walk into Mordor”

Matt Amodio got it right: “What’s Boromir?” Ken noted, “Lord of the Rings!”

In Conceivable (i.e., words you can make using the letters in the word “conceivable”), $1200: In “Foundation” Isaac Asimov pithily wrote that this “is the last refuge of the incompetent”

This was a triple stumper! I’d expect most Filers to know this, but just in case I’ll say that the “this” is violence.

Movie Memes: Who Said It, $1200: 2002: “I don’t like sand”

Yogesh knew that it was gritty and gets everywhere: “Who is Anakin?”

Ken Jennings expanded on this: “Yes, in Star Wars!”

Movie Memes: Who Said It, $400: 1993: “Life finds a way”

Yogesh: “Who is Dr. Ian Malcolm?” Ken Jennings: “In ‘Jurassic Park’. You got it.”

Game 2:

The Single Jeopardy round had a whole “Science Fiction” category. I’ll present the clues in the order they were encountered.

Science Fiction, $600: Takeshi Kovacs has his consciousness downloaded into a new body in this “organic” Richard K. Morgan book from 2002

Victoria Groce successfully responded, “What is ‘Altered Carbon’?”

Science Fiction, $800. The Daily Double in the round, which went to Victoria, who bet all of the $1400 she had amassed. In novels by Dan Simmons, the planet Hyperion has a capital named for this poet who wrote an epic about the sun god Hyperion.

Victoria got it right: John Keats.

Science Fiction, $1000: The title virus in this Neal Stephenson cyberpunk classic affects users offline & online, but Hiro Protagonist is on the case

Amy Schneider got in ahead of Victoria with, “What is ‘Snow Crash’?”

There was one bit of SF-adjacent content in another category:

Floating on a Stream of TV, $600: We’d watch this Netflix title character deal with life and death(s) at Nevermore Academy any day of the week

Victoria asked, “Who is Wednesday?”

Science Fiction, $400: The title hero of this 1985 novel is a boy genius (last name Wiggin) on his way to Battle School & who might just be Earth’s savior

Amy got this one: “What is ‘Ender’s Game’?” (Which technically is not the response to the clue, but was accepted.)

Science Fiction, $200: In an 1897 H.G. Wells tale, these invaders were killed by “disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared”

Mattea Roach got in on this one. I wondered whether “What is ‘The War of the Worlds?” would be accepted, but in the event she responded to the clue as given with “Who are the Martians?”

(13) LEFT ON THE DRAWING BOARD. “A mega egg in Paris, a hovering hotel in Machu Picchu, an hourglass tower in New York, a pleasure island in Baghdad … we reveal the architectural visions that were just too costly – or too weird.” “How the world could have looked: the most spectacular buildings that were never made” – an architecture commentary in the Guardian.

…Did you know that, if things had gone differently, the Pompidou Centre could have been an egg? In the 1969 competition for the Paris art centre – ultimately won by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, with their inside-out symphony of pipework – a radical French architect called André Bruyère submitted a proposal for a gigantic ovoid tower. His bulbous building would have risen 100 metres above the city’s streets, clad in shimmering scales of alabaster, glass and concrete, its walls swelling out in a curvaceous riposte to the tyranny of the straight line.

“Time,” Bruyère declared, “instead of being linear, like the straight streets and vertical skyscrapers, will become oval, in tune with the egg.” His hallowed Oeuf would be held aloft on three chunky legs, while a monorail would pierce the facade and circle through the structure along a sinuous floating ribbon. The atrium was to take the form of an enclosed globe, like a yolk.

“Between the hard geometries,” Bruyère added, “comes the sweetness of a volume [with] curves in all directions, in contrast to these facades where the angle always falls right from the sky, always similar. So, the egg.” Sadly, it wasn’t to be. His ovular poetry didn’t impress the judges and Paris got its high-tech hymn to plumbing instead.

L’Oeuf de Pompidou is one of many astonishing schemes to feature in Atlas of Never Built Architecture, a bulging compendium of dashed hopes and broken dreams that charts a fascinating alternative universe of “what ifs”. It is a world of runners-up and second bests, an encyclopaedia of hubristic plans that were too big, expensive or weird to make it off the drawing board….

(14) TYRANNOSAURUS FLASH MOB. Yahoo! invites everyone to “Watch: High turnout turns dino record attempt into Tyrannosaurus wreck”.

A Canadian city’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as dinosaurs was disqualified due to the unexpectedly high turnout.

Travel Drumheller, the tourism organization for the Town of Drumheller, Alberta, said in a Facebook post that the April 27 record attempt in the city’s downtown attracted more than 3,000 people in dino-dress, but officials “could not obtain an exact measurement” of participants.

Keri Looijen, marketing manager for Travel Drumheller, said a Guinness World Records adjudicator was present during the attempt.

“He recorded 3,000 people through numbered bracelets or wristbands, which far exceeded what we had originally thought,” Looijen told CBC News.

She said photos and videos from the attempt indicate there may have been “close to double” that number of people, but an accurate count could not be obtained due to officials being unprepared for such a massive turnout.

“We weren’t entirely prepared for that many people to come,” Looijen said. “Guinness said that there were people that they had witnessed leaving the area after they had been wrist-banded, so they weren’t following what the volunteers had told them by staying in the space. They had to be all together in the area for one solid minute.”

The attempt was disqualified, despite very handily beating the current record of 252 people, which was set in Los Angeles in 2019.

Looijen said the city is hoping to make the “Jurassic Jamboree” an annual event, and it will be better prepared for the next official world record attempt.

(15) CONTINUED PROGRESS IN LONG MARCH TO FUSION POWER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Abundant, clean energy is something of an SF trope powering civilizations of the future and a post-scarcity society….

This week’s Nature sees a rather dry paper but one that is still of importance as progress continues to be made in the long march to develop fusion power.

A group of largely US-based researchers have theoretically created tokamak plasmas with a line-averaged density approximately 20% above the Greenwald density and an energy confinement quality of approximately 50% better than the standard high-confinement mode.

Human made fusion power works by confining a plasma, creating such high plasma densities that atoms fuse to release energy with the creation of helium.

The confinement is done through a magnetic bottle. The very simplest confinement would be a tube with electric coils creating a magnetic field.  However, such a simple arrangement would see the plasma leak out of each of the tube’s ends.

To get around this you can turn the linear tube into a circular tube joining the former tube’s ends together, which gets rid of end-of-tube leakage as there are now no ends from which leakage can take place.

Such a circular ring, or donut-shaped ring, is the basis of the Tokamak design, which is what the researchers used.

Fusion power is oft ridiculed because it has long been predicted to be available to us in a few decades time but never seems to happen: tomorrow never comes. This is a little unfair as in the last decades of the 20th century a road map to commercial fusion was created and funding pledges made by various nations.  However, successive governments from various nations were repeatedly slow to provide this funding. Further, there were bureaucratic, administrative hurdles.  I recall around the turn of the millennium, that while the land in France for the US$22-billion ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) – scheduled to be operational next year – had been slated, the current landowners refused surveyor access!). This reactor will be the world’s largest Tokamak: it will weigh 23,000 tonnes and is designed to generate 10 times the power that it consumes.

We are getting there, albeit slower than we all had hoped.  Meanwhile, this is another milestone.

ITER experimental fusion reactor.

OK, so we are not there yet.  The researchers themselves point out that their experimental theory does not take into account the metal walls to carry away the heat used for electricity generation. Nor can it deal with the helium waste. But it is still a significant progress that should help ITER operation.

The researchers themselves say: “The operating regime we report supports some critical requirements in many fusion reactor designs all over the world and opens a potential avenue to an operating point for producing economically attractive fusion energy.”

Their paper itself concludes with: “The experimental achievement and the increased understanding reported in this paper may open a potential avenue to an operating point for producing economically attractive fusion energy.”

You can see the primary research paper here.  Though no-one seems to have picked up on this paper, Nature has made it open access (most research papers in Nature are not open access.)

(16) BILL AND NEIL’S EXCELLENT CONVERSATION. On Star Talk, “William Shatner Has Questions for Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

What is the value of curiosity? Neil deGrasse Tyson sits down with William Shatner to explore the nature of spacetime, Star Trek, human curiosity, loneliness, and more. How would warp drive work? What is William Shanter’s favorite Star Trek episode? Learn about the question Stephen Hawking had for Bill and the secret power of science fiction. Bill talks about what it was like to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon after Star Trek was originally canceled. We discuss Artemis, our return to the moon, and how we can create a base there. Will there be enough water on the moon for people to use? Neil breaks down how water can be used for fuel and how humans have harnessed the power of physics. We discuss Bill’s new documentary You Can Call Me Bill and some philosophical points about science. Are electrons lonely? We explore the difference between being lonely and being alone and the nature of curiosity. Is human curiosity a double-edged sword? Is there anything left on Bill’s bucket list? Plus, Bill asks if living beings like mycelia could be analogs for the universe’s structure. Why is it spacetime and not space and time separately? What is the vacuum of space made of? Discover virtual particles and how the fabric of spacetime may be a web made of wormholes. We break down dark energy and dark matter, and why their names may be misleading. To end, we discuss old age and wisdom: do they go together?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, David Goldfarb, Lis Carey, Marcia Kelly Illingworth, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

2024 Eisner Awards Nominations

Comic-Con International: San Diego has announced the nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2024 chosen by a panel of judges.

The nominees in 32 categories reflect the wide range of material being published in the U.S. today in comics and graphic novels, representing some 150 print and online titles from over 60 publishers, produced by creators from all over the world.

The 2024 Eisner Awards judging panel consists of educator/comics creator Ryan Claytor, author/editor/educator N. C. Christopher Couch, retailer/academic Andréa Gilroy, writer/editor Joseph Illidge, retailer Mathias Lewis, and author/public school librarian Jillian Rudes.

Named for acclaimed comics creator Will Eisner, the awards are celebrating their 36th year of bringing attention to and highlighting the best publications and creators in comics and graphic novels. The Eisner Award trophies will be presented during Comic-Con on July 26.

The complete list of nominees follows the jump.

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