Pixel Scroll 5/21/24 Cotton Candy Pixels, What Flavor Is Your Favorite?

(1) COUNTERFEIT CHARACTERS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We all now know that A.I. threatens creativity… something we seemed to have missed in SF where A/I. was oft portrayed more as a physical threat. BBC Radio 4 (the BBC’s national news and magazine station that replaced the Home Service) is airing a half-hour programme on A.I. replacing actors…. “Counterfeit Characters”.

What do Artificial Intelligence and digital technology mean for actors and their relationship with audiences?

Leading acting coach Geoffrey Colman, who has spent his working life on the sets of Hollywood movies, in theatrical rehearsal spaces, and teaching in the UK’s most prestigious classrooms, wants to find out.

AI, he says, may represent the most profound change to the acting business since the move from silent films to talkies. But does it, and if so how are actors dealing with it? What does that mean for the connection between actors and audiences?

Geoffrey’s concern is rooted in acting process: the idea that the construction of a complex inner thinking architecture resonates with audiences in an authentic almost magical way. But if performance capture and AI just creates the outer facial or physical expression, what happens to the inner joy or pain of a character’s thinking? The implications for the actor’s technique are profound.

To get to the bottom of these questions Geoffrey visits some of those at the cutting edge of developing this new technology. On the storied Pinewood lot he visits Imaginarium Studios, and is shown around their ‘volume’, where actors’ every movement is captured. In East London he talks to the head of another studio about his new AI actor – made up from different actors’ body parts. And at a leading acting school he speaks to students and teachers about what this new digital era means for them. He discusses concerns about ethical questions, hears from an actor fresh from the set of a major new movie, quizzes a tech expert already using AI to create avatars of herself, and speaks to Star Wars fans about how this technology has allowed beloved characters to be rejuvenated, and even resuscitated.

You can access the programme at this link.

(2) VOICEJACKING. Meanwhile, back in the litigious real world… “Scarlett Johansson Said No, but OpenAI’s Virtual Assistant Sounds Just Like Her” says the New York Times.

Days before OpenAI demonstrated its new, flirty voice assistant last week, the actress Scarlett Johansson said, Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive, called her agent and asked that she consider licensing her voice for a virtual assistant.

It was his second request to the actress in the past year, Ms. Johannson said in a statement on Monday, adding that the reply both times was no.

Despite those refusals, Ms. Johansson said, OpenAI used a voice that sounded “eerily similar to mine.” She has hired a lawyer and asked OpenAI to stop using a voice it called “Sky.”

OpenAI suspended its release of “Sky” over the weekend. The company said in a blog post on Sunday that “AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.”

For Ms. Johansson, the episode has been a surreal case of life-imitating art. In 2013, she provided the voice for an A.I. system in the Spike Jonze movie “Her.” The film told the story of a lonely introvert seduced by a virtual assistant named Samantha, a tragic commentary on the potential pitfalls of technology as it becomes more realistic.

Last week, Mr. Altman appeared to nod to the similarity between OpenAI’s virtual assistant and the film in a post on X with the single word “her.”…

(3) WHISKY TASTING EVENT CONCURRENT WITH WORLDCON. [Item by Sandra Childress.] This is an invitation to those attending Worldcon this summer to venture outside of the convention space for a couple of hours and taste some local history and whisky at the Clydeside Distillery Tour & Tasting. This event is a venue takeover being hosted by Joel Phillips’ Friday Night Weekly Whisky Zoom that has been running nearly non-stop since April 2020. This group has hosted parties at Discon 3 and Chicon 8 — all in the name of friendship and whisky. 

The Clydeside Distillery

This time around, the group is doing something different. The Clydeside Distillery is across the parking lot for the convention center. Joel and the Zoom members knew this was not to be passed up. So, on August 9 (Friday) starting at 7:00 p.m. there will be a tour and tastings for up to 150 pre-paid attendees. The cost of $103USD includes the following:

  • 2 tickets for welcome drinks (1 of which can be used at the blind Scotch tasting station if you choose)
  • Welcome drinks are Prosecco, Beer or mixed whisky drink
  • 6 canapes per person
  • 4 wee drams of single malts (your choice) from Clydeside Distillery including a bourbon cask finish and sherry cask finish only available at the distillery and a third single malt yet to be determined.

Additionally, a cash bar will also be available and a station where you may buy a bottle for £68 and create your own personalized label.

Deadline to register and pay is Thursday July 25th or when the count hits 150. There will be no onsite registrations available. Please register via the Google Form (https://forms.gle/QnGmmhTN58Xe76un6) and follow the instructions there for payment. As of May 20, there are 62 registered…so there is still room for you and your friends to join the tour and tasting.

(4) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2024. The non-genre novel Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Michael Hofmann, has been named the winner of the International Booker Prize 2024. The winner was announced by Eleanor Wachtel, Chair of the 2024 judges, at a ceremony sponsored by Maison Valentino and held at London’s Tate Modern today. 

The £50,000 prize is split equally between author Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Michael Hofmann, giving each equal recognition. 

Erpenbeck’s novel, which was originally written in German, follows a destructive affair between a young woman and an older man in 1980s East Berlin, with the two lovers seemingly embodying East Germany’s crushed idealism. A meditation on hope and disappointment, Kairos poses complex questions about freedom, loyalty, love and power. 

(5) SHE’S THE CAPTAIN. “’Star Trek: Starfleet Academy’ Series Casts Holly Hunter in Main Role”Variety has details about the actor and the series. If you wondered, this Hunter is no relation to the Hunter who played Star Trek’s first Captain.

The “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy” series at Paramount+ has cast Holly Hunter in a lead role, Variety has learned.

Hunter’s character will serve as the captain and chancellor of the Academy, presiding over both the faculty and a new class of Starfleet cadets as they learn to navigate the galaxy in the 32nd century….

(6) DON’T PANIC. Not that you were anyway… “’3 Body Problem’ Creators Clarify Netflix’s Mysterious Renewal Plan” for The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the biggest 3 Body Problem mysteries since the show ended has been: What did Netflix‘s renewal announcement mean, exactly?

During the streamer’s upfront presentation last week, Netflix promised “additional episodes” of the acclaimed sci-fi drama to “finish the story.”

Of course, “additional episodes” could mean anything from two episodes to five seasons and, naturally, many fans worried that the ultimate answer would be too close to the former for comfort.

But showrunners David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Alexander Woo assure things are going to be just fine (for the show, at least, if not for their ensemble drama’s characters facing an alien invasion). While the trio didn’t reveal the exact number of episodes in their new deal, they emphasized it was for “seasons” — plural — and that the number of hours aligns with their original plan to adapt author Liu Cixin’s two remaining novels in his Hugo-winning trilogy.

“We knew going into this how many hours we need to tell the rest of the story because we’ve got a roadmap through to the end,” Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter. “And we have what we need to get to the end as intended from when we started.”

“By the time we finish with the show, it will be seven years we’ve devoted to it,” Benioff added. “We’re now at a place where we get to tell the rest of the story, and, yes, we have enough time to tell the rest of the story the way we want to and that’s immensely gratifying.”…

(7) LECKIE Q&A. The Mountain View (CA) Public Library hosted an online event with author Ann Leckie as part of Sci-Fi September last year.

Critically acclaimed science fiction author Ann Leckie joined us for an exclusive conversation about her new novel Translation State and answered questions from the audience.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. (Died 1993.) Surely you know Raymond Burr, the man whose Birthday it is today. So let’s get started.

I must of course start with his long running role as Perry Mason which is decidedly not genre. CBS paid Gardener for the rights to two hundred and seventy-two of his stories, a good idea given that Perry Mason would run nine seasons. Many early episodes were based off his stories and novels.  

The role of Perry Mason proved the hardest to cast. Richard Carlson, Mike Connors, Richard Egan, and William Holden were considered. None at all suited the casting team. Burr initially read for the role of district attorney Hamilton Burger, but he told them that he was more interested in the Perry Mason role. They had seen him being a lawyer, and said he could play the role provided he lose at least sixty pounds. He did and got the role.

Raymond Burr, right, Frank Iwanaga, left, in Godzilla, King of the Monsters

What a magnificent Perry Mason he made. Burr’s coolness, control and reserved sense of humor were such that he became so identified with the character that, for the television audience, that meant there was no other Mason but Burr. He was not the Mason that had existed, there were four before him, all on film, and the producers tried reviving the series after CBS cancelled it, but it utterly failed. And HBO has a new series that looks at early years of his life. 

In the late Eighties he reprised his Mason role in twenty-six tv movies. The first has the title of Perry Mason Returns.

Now for his genre work.  Mike joked with me when I said when I was doing him that he was the lawyer for Godzilla. Well, he was Steven Martin in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! It is a re-edited for American audiences of the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla which in its original wasn’t available outside Japan for fifty years. He would reprise this role in Godzilla 1985.

He was the Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet. Evil viziers! Dungeons! Magic carpets! Princesses! 

He’s Cy Mill, hulking villain in Gorilla at Large. Remember what was said about his weight in his Burr casting. Well, this film was done just previous to this series and he was quoted as saying there, “I was just a fat heavy.” Burr told journalist James Bawden, “I split the heavy parts with Bill Conrad. We were both in our twenties playing much older men. I never got the girl but I once got the gorilla in a 3-D picture called Gorilla at Large.”

He was Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil , the seventeenth film of the Tarzan film series that began with 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man, twenty years earlier.

Television wise, he appeared on Tales on Tomorrow in “The Masks of Medusa” and in the horror film Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, he’s Jonash Sebastian. I thought there’d be more but there aren’t. 

(9) ARMED SURVIVOR. In “Rocket Man No More”, Heritage Auctions introduces one of the headline lots from the May 31 Star Wars Signature Auction: “Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted”.

Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted AFA 60 (Kenner, 1979). The Rocket Firing Boba Fett has been called the “Crown Jewel of Unproduced Toys” It’s become legendary as an iconic Star Wars “Mandela Effect,” (far better termed “Rocket Fett Syndrome.”) The figure everyone thought they had, but didn’t. Offered as a mail-away premium, the Rocket Firing Boba Fett was highly promoted by Kenner, lodging it in everyone’s imaginations. For four proof-of-purchase seals cut from any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure card back it could be yours. It seemed a cruel trick, when the Boba Fett figures that shipped, arrived with their plastic missiles sonically welded in place. It was a clear letdown. Helping along this disappointment was a small polite letter explaining Kenner’s safety concerns over the toy necessitating the change. It offered in substitution any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure of choice if the consumer wasn’t satisfied with the redesign. Looking back, the removal of the rocket launching mechanism should have been no surprise. Almost immediately anything to do with it was being mysteriously obscured by stickers ignoring the feature. Kenner’s legal department already had concerns over the toy’s safety, but the company’s outgoing President Bernie Loomis was highly in favor of the project. As Kenner engineer’s struggled to make the toy safe, another ominous event was happening in the toy world. Rival toy company Mattel was experiencing their own problems with their popular Battlestar Galactica toy spaceships, which fired a similar sized projectile. If accidentally shot into the mouth, the choking potential for children was becoming clear. Already, there were several aspiration induced injuries, and one child’s death. The culmination of these two events ultimately doomed the Rocket Firing Boba Fett. Painfully most would agree Kenner made the right decision, erroring on the side of safety. It’s uncertain exactly how many Rocket Firing Boba Fetts were created before Kenner abandoned the concept for a safer non-firing figure. What survives today in the hobby generally comes from ex-Kenner employees who took examples home. All others are believed destroyed with none (despite urban legends) ever getting distributed to the public. Surviving populations featuring the original reverse “L-slot” latch configuration number about seventy. Mostly injection molded in blue-gray, these “first-shot” figures are generally unpainted and were created to test the mold cavity functions before general production. As such these unpainted “first-shots” lack all copyright and point of origin stamps to the back of the legs. Of the seventy examples believed in collector’s hands today, only five have been found hand painted – two in production paint scheme as this example, and three in unique alternate paint schemes. One of only two examples known to exist…

(10) DOCTOR MEWLITTLE. An SJW credential with credentials! “Meet Max, the cat receiving an (honorary) doctorate from Vermont State University this weekend”Vermont Public has the story.

As Vermont State University Castleton graduates receive their degrees this weekend, so too will a tabby cat. The cat, named Max, is getting an honorary degree as a “Doctor in Litter-ature.”

Once a feral kitten in the town of Fair Haven, Max has lived with his human mom, Ashley Dow, on Seminary Street in Castleton for the past five years. And for most of those years, he’s been venturing up to the university campus….

(11) ANOTHER SPACE CAT. Captain Kirk also picked up an honorary sheepskin on May 20. Forbes reports, “William Shatner Among Geniuses Honored At Liberty Science Center Gala, Underscoring Intrinsic Bond Of Art And Science”.

William Shatner beamed up into the Liberty Science Center (LSC) last night to accept the 2024 Icon Award at the sold-out 12th Annual Liberty Science Center Genius Gala.

“On October 13, 2021, William Shatner, age 90, boldly went where no one else had gone before: into space,” said LSC President and CEO Paul Hoffman. “At 93, Will remains incredibly active.”

Shatner was filming in Los Angeles, so Hoffman interviewed him in his Studio City office.

“I saw a great deal that made me cry, and I didn’t know why I was crying, literally crying. I was weeping uncontrollably when I landed,” said Shatner. “I realized, oh my God, I’m in grief! For what I’ve seen of the world, you look at your telescopes, it’s fantastic, it’s magical. Space is magical. I’m looking at space from the spaceship and all it is is palpable blackness, it’s black death. I look back and I see blue, beige, and white. The planet is calling to us. You can’t believe how small this rock we’re living on is. You can’t believe how thin the fertile earth is. … That’s how precious our topsoil is. And then there’s the air. I’m a pilot. I know you can’t go above 3,500 feet for oxygen. Two miles of oxygen, a handful of dirt that we’re going to live on, and live on with increasing numbers. We now know everything is connected, interconnected. Everything is part of each other. All of nature is alive and vibrant with intelligence and life.”…

(12) SPACEPLANE MISSION TO ISS. “World’s first commercial spaceplane in final stages before debut ISS flight” reports New Atlas.

The world’s first winged commercial spaceplane has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its final destination before its first mission to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

Following rigorous testing at Ohio’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility, the Dream Chaser DC-100 spaceplane named Tenacity got the green light to commence final pre-launch preparations, such as finishing its thermal protection system and payload integration, before it hitches a ride on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket to deliver 7,800 pounds (3,540 kg) of food, water and science experiments to the ISS….

(13) MILKY WAY. [Item by Steven French.] A collection of absolutely stunning photographs: “Milky Way photographer of the year 2024 – in pictures” in the Guardian. Photo at the link —

The vanity of life | Wadi Rum desert, Jordan

Photographer Mihail Minkov: ‘The concept behind this shot is to highlight the stark contrast between the vastness of the cosmos and the minuscule nature of humanity. The composition intentionally draws the viewer’s focus to a small figure, underscoring our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, while the majestic Milky Way core dominates the background’

Photograph: Mihail Minkov/2024 Milky Way photographer of the year

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Heritage Auctions has an interview with Former Kenner Engineer Jacob Miles about the Boba Fett – Star Wars action figure pulled from production.

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

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.]

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.]

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.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/24 The First Thing We Do, Let’s Scroll All The Pixels

(1) THE SHARP END OF SCIENCE FICTION. At Reactor, James Davis Nicoll delivers a highly scientific “Ranking of Science Fiction’s Most Dangerous Awards”.

… Most awards are woefully unfit as weapons3. Authors with a mantlepiece loaded with award trophies would have few options if, say, they had to ward off an attacker with a handy trophy. But there are a few such options.

Before I list the top candidates for most lethal award trophy4, I should grant an honorable mention to the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award, also known as the Skylark Award. The trophy looks no more dangerous than any random trophy, likely to break as soon as you hit someone with it. However, the trophy is topped by a perfectly functional lens through which sunlight can and has focused to start fires. This is why Skylark Award winner Jane Yolen has advised winners to put the Skylark “where the sun does not shine.” If I were assembling a list of SF trophies most useful for arson, the Skylark would be at the top…

To paraphrase Richard Pryor, I know that when a winner is walking through an airline terminal with a pointy Hugo Award in their hand “people get out of your way.”

(Nicoll omitted the otherwise obvious number one choice, Reddit r/Fantasy’s Stabby, because they’ve been on hiatus since 2021. Fair enough.)

(2) FAN REACTION TO THE NEW DOCTOR. The New York Times tells what it’s like “Watching the New ‘Doctor Who’ With 5 Superfans” (Gift link bypasses paywall.)

…On a recent evening, Richard Unwin, a 44-year-old writer and actor, gathered four other “Doctor Who” fans at his apartment in East London to watch the first two episodes. They were a little nervous about what the Disney influence, and the need to cater to a new, international audience, might have done to their favorite program.

…“I am worried that they will Americanize it,” said George Norohna, a 61-year-old retired civil servant, who remembers the show as the first thing he ever saw on a color television. They were joined by the fantasy author Janelle McCurdy, 28, Francis Beveridge, a 27-year-old neuroscience researcher, and Beth Axford, 26, who writes for “Doctor Who Magazine,” a fan publication….

What does casting Gatwa as the Doctor mean to you?

MCCURDY I know there’s old school Doctor Who fans who might see it as just a token thing. But it means a lot to me as a Black woman.

UNWIN It’s the first time that the Doctor talks like I do, as a gay man.

MCCURDY I feel exactly the same, he’s talking like how I talk.

BEVERIDGE The Doctor has always appealed to gay men, because he’s a nonconventional male role model. So having the doctor be more queer has allowed people to identify that bit more closely with him.

(3) GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS. The trolls have found a new way to get at Patrick S. Tomlinson. He posted this on Facebook yesterday.

(4) HOW GREEN WAS YOUR BALLET. Entertainment Weekly enthuses that“The new ‘Wicked’ trailer has us dancing through life”.

…The trailer shows young outcast Elphaba (Erivo) and the ever-popular Glinda (Grande) arriving at Shiz University, where they immediately clash. But their rivalry cannot keep them apart because Headmistress Madame Morrible (Michelle Yeoh) wastes no time in assigning them as roommates….

(5) HUGO BOOK CLUB BLOG HVP IN SCOTS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Last year, we were one of several Hugo Award finalists who ensured that our Hugo Voter Packet materials were available in the local language out of respect for the fact that the Worldcon was being held in China. With the Worldcon being held in Glasgow in 2024, we started thinking about the fact that there are significant minority languages in Scotland, but that they don’t garner the same sort of respect from outsiders.

Having made a couple of (possibly ill-considered) jokes about the matter, Amanda and I reached out to experts in Scots languages and dialects to learn more. In the end, we decided that (although not strictly necessary), having our Hugo Voter Packet available in Scots would be an appropriate gesture in recognition of the country’s linguistic diversity and distinct cultural identity that is different than any of the other British nations. As of today, thanks to the Scots Language Centre, that translation is complete and is available on our blog. A PDF of this will be prepared and sent to the Worldcon. “Hugo Book Club Blog: Hugo Packet Translated (2024)”.

Note: Scots is one of three native languages spoken in Scotland, the other two being English and Scottish Gaelic.

Here’s a brief example of the Scots translation from the opening lines of “The Un-American wey that a Lee-Science Fan fae the Left wis haunelt” (English: “The Un-American Treatment of a Leftist Science Fiction Fan”.)

Chan Davis (1929-2022) wis weel kent tae fans o lee-science in the 1940s an 1950s. He wis a fanzine editor, an early filker, kent for his daffin at Worldcon, an a ongauin screivar wi Astounding Science Fiction.

But the publict in general is mair likely tae mind o him as a mathematician…an as a political presonar….

(6) HEARING FROM SAWYER. Science Fiction 101 podcast hosts Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie present episode 42 “Off On A Tangent – more interview fun with award-winning novelist Robert J. Sawyer”.

Time for another regular episode of the podcast, and this time we have more interview goodness from the Hugo- and Nebula-winning SF writer Robert J. Sawyer. We had so much fun talking to Rob about his new novel The Downloaded (see episode 40) that we decided to gather up our more general discussion into a separate segment. So here you will hear talk of Planet of the Apes, science fiction conferences, and much much more.

We also have a mostly Star Trek quiz, but with a few Star Wars questions thrown in to trip Phil up.

And the usual recommendations of past/present/future SF.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 55. David Boreanaz is one of the performers that I really like as an individual as himself, and always as a character, though sometimes better in some series.  

Before I get to his genre roles, let me tell about about me about my favorite role by him. It’s  Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Jason Hayes in the SEAL Team series.  It’s a role that gives a depth of personality that mostly lacking in his previous role as Angel on his own series of Angel as he is executive producer here

David Boreanaz at GalaxyCon Austin 2023.

The series tells the story of a team of Navy operatives called Bravo that do covert missions overseas, many of which, if you pardon my slang, are SNAFUed. It got more realistically portrayed when the series moved off CBS to Paramount + and the language restrictions were gone, so fuck and such language were allowed. Their personal lives of course get messily intertwined with their professional ones. 

Speaking of Seeley Booth, let’s discuss Bones. I like the series as having seen all of it save the last season. Temperance Brennan and the other characters are mostly interesting, and her relationship with Seeley is fascinating. 

The show itself? It’s is pseudoscience-science. Like such series that shows lots pretty, impressive technology, it’s not really able to do what the writers say it can. Yes, I’ve read the actual forensic experts critique such series. That it crosses over into the fantasy of the Sleepy Hollow series makes it genre in some manner. Seeley Booth actually will be on that series for an episode. 

Now Seeley himself is great character. An FBI agent that is fun to watch and I think that Boreanaz early on figured out his character couldn’t be taken too seriously.  He looks like an archetypal agent FBI — tall, muscular and handsome. He’s even a deeply religious man here , as he was raised and still is a practicing Catholic. Philadelphia born, the sports teams show up in the series.  I like him at lot in this role as I do in the following series. 

And that is on Angel, and not Buffy on the Vampire Slayer, where I thought he was was interesting but didn’t live up to his full potential as character so I’m going to skip over him there. Why Angel, you say? Because that series, like SEAL Team, was centered on him. 

By the way, The “Smile Time” episode of the fifth season had the storyline of a television children’s show stealing the life forces of those children by hypnotizing them so when Angel goes to the studio to uncover the evil doings, he triggers a spell when entering there that transforms him into a puppet. 

So, the ever so cool puppet done at time I now realize I should’ve bought. The cheapest mint one on eBay, and I think the price is quite reasonable given the Angel series aired twenty years ago, is now one hundred and twenty-five dollars. 

But more than that and yes that was crucial to his development as a performer there, I thought the scripts there were far better than they were on Buffy. Oh. Buffy had its stellar storylines, but I think Angel just worked better in terms of pure ongoing storytelling than Buffy did. So that meant Angel there was a more rounded, interesting character there than he was on Buffy

Finally, though not chronologically, he voiced Hal Jordan in Justice League: The New Frontier. In an episode of Bones, “The Pain in the Heart”, Seeley is in his bathtub reading a Green Lantern comic.  Nice touch that was.

As always, this is not a full look at every genre role he did, so feel free to give me anything you feel I should have included here. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lola finds the new king.

(9) SFF AUTHOR ON JEOPARDY! THIS MONTH. Ellen Klages will be on Jeopardy! on May 22 (and possibly subsequently) reports Steven H Silver.

(10) JEOPARDY! SFF REFERENCES. [By David Goldfarb.] Monday’s episode of Jeopardy! Masters and Tuesday’s episode of Jeopardy! had some more SFF-related questions. Here they are:

Jeopardy! 5/14/2024

Prequels & Sequels, $1600: Suzanne Collins tells the backstory of Coriolanus Snow in her 2020 “Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of” these 2 animals

Ashley Atkin responded, “What are songbirds and snakes?”

Prequels & Sequels, $1200: A book with famous sequels begins, “In a hole in the ground, there lived” one of these

Ashley, “What is a hobbit?”

Prequels & Sequels, $2000: “The Infernal Devices” is a prequel trilogy to this Cassandra Clare series that includes “City of Bones” & “City of Ashes”

This was a triple stumper. The series is “The Mortal Instruments”.

Jeopardy! Masters 5/13/2024

Game 1, Double Jeopardy round:

Looking for Something to Read, $2000: Published in the 1880s, his utopian novel “Looking Backward” was set in the year 2000

Victoria Groce was up on her utopias, responding “Who’s Bellamy?”

Speaking My Language, $1200: This fictional language in “Game of Thrones” has more than a dozen different words for horse

James Holzhauer knew it was Dothraki.

Speaking My Language, $2000: “The Epic of Gilgamesh” was written in Akkadian, which supplanted this, considered the world’s oldest written language

This one went to Matt Amodio: “What’s Sumerian?”

Looking for Something to Read, $400: Chess, reverse imagery & the poem “Jabberwocky” appear in this sequel from the 1870s

Victoria got it: “What is ‘Through the Looking-Glass’?”

Game 2, Single Jeopardy round:

I’m Chris Pratt, $800: “I worked hard to lose 60 pounds to play Peter Quill, also known by this name, in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. The toughest part — brace yourselves — I quit drinking beer.”

Amy Schneider sounded uncertain or even incredulous: “What is…Star-Lord?” But this was correct.

Mais Oui, French Lit, $400: The narrator of this children’s book believes the title royal is from out of town…asteroid B-612, to be Precise

It went to Yogesh Raut: “What is ‘The Little Prince’?”

(11) HALL OF FAMER’S LATEST. Matt Hughes writes fantasy, space opera, crime, and historical fiction. He has sold 24 novels as well as 100 works of short fiction. He’s won the Endeavour and Arthur Ellis Awards, and has been inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s Hall of Fame

His new novel is The One:

Meet Luff Imbry, an insidiously clever thief, forger, and confidence man . . . He likes good wine, good food, and good stolen goods, and he always maintains the upper hand.

Luff Imbry returns from the weird planet Fulda, to which he was shanghaied by a mysterious enemy, only to find that an impostor has stolen from the strongroom at his private club collection of magical paraphernalia he acquired from a would-be thaumaturge.

That’s impossible, but Imbry has to deal with reality. He sets off on a quest to solve the mystery and recover his goods, bringing him into conflict with shadowy forces that are preparing for the great change, when the universe once again gives up on rationalism and embraces an age of magic.

The odds are against him, but Imbry is a great improvisor.

The book is available as a paperback or ebook from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(12) EAT THE FORCE, LUKE. Gizmodo promises “Oreo’s Special Edition Star Wars Cookies Are Here to Feed Your Inner Wookiee”. (Oreo’s dedicated Star Wars webpage is at the link.)

…The fun catch? You won’t know which side you’ve got until you actually open the package. Each pack will feature one of two different color fillings: red for the dark side and blue for the light side—both infused with “kyber” sugar crystals inspired by lightsaber cores. The Oreos also feature heroes or villains embossed on the cookies themselves, with characters like Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and a stormtrooper representing the dark side, and Luke Skywalker, Yoda, and Princess Leia representing the light side. In total, there will be 20 iconic characters featured….

Greg Hildebrandt’s hand-painted pack art features 14 individual one-of-a-kind characters by the iconic Star Wars™ poster artist.

(13) INTEGRAL TREES? “Tree seeds that flew around the moon are now are being planted across the U.S.”NPR is a witness.

In late 2022, a NASA flight around the moon carried a variety of tree seeds. After their time in space, they returned to Earth. And now, the hope is that they will become moon trees. Troy, Ala., is one of the first places to get one. Here’s Troy Public Radio’s Joey Hudson….

MCCARTHY: There was a very significant preparation process to make sure they were completely dry and that there would be no moisture or potential. They tried to protect the seeds as much as possible from any impacts related to heat.

HUDSON: The mission was a success. After about four weeks, the seeds returned to Earth and were tested for radiation levels and genetic variants. And then the seeds became seedlings to be planted in communities around the country, like here at Troy University….

(14) BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. “After 250 hours, a Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom player lost an 82% complete save and declared ‘I’m free’ until he tragically realized he could get it back”. GamesRadar+ relays the pathos.

One The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom player suffered what seemed like the ultimate tragedy in losing a 250-hour, 82% complete save file. But it turns out there’s a fate even worse: getting that save file back.

Back on April 23, Brian ‘Brian_F’ Foster, a competitive fighting game player and commentator, revealed that he had beaten Tears of the Kingdom after 250 hours, having gotten all Shrines, all light roots, all Armor sets, all Sage’s Wills, and all Yiga schematics. But with six sidequests missing and the map only 77% completed, Brian_F decided to keep going for a 100% completion run.Tears of the Kingdom is an amazing, expansive game that’s an absolute joy to explore – up until the very moment you decide you want to 100% complete it. We’re talking about a feat that initially took speedrunners 139 hours – that’s over five days straight – to complete, and while Speedrun.com shows those runs are now down to ‘just’ one or two days, that’s still a good metric for you to judge just how arduous and menial going for full completion here can be….

(15) I THEME OF JEANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not new, but only just discovered it: “Jeannie’s Diner” by Mark Jonathan Davis (1990) – Nick At Nite TV Promo from 1995.

I’m familiar with Mark Jonathan Davis from his great Star Wars parodies, including “The Phantom Medley, Bob Hope At The Mos Eisley” comedy routine (also a Johnny Carson one), and more.

(I’ve got the CD, and more recently found his “The Star Wars Cantina” parody of “Copacabana” (1997) which he wasn’t allowed to include on the CD).

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

Pixel Scroll 5/15/24 Goodbye Yellow Brick Scroll, May the Dogs of Pixelry Howl

(1) AND THE WINNING NAME IS… You weren’t holding your breath waiting for them to quit kidding around and reveal the final title, were you? Well, if you were, inhale! Variety has it: “’Agatha All Along’ Sets September Premiere Date on Disney+”.

…The “WandaVision” spinoff “Agatha All Along” has set its Disney+ premiere date.

The series will debut with two episodes on Sept.. 18. The announcement was made during the Disney upfront presentation to advertisers in New York on Tuesday.

Series star Kathryn Hahn took the stage with co-stars Joe Locke and Patti LuPone, who confirmed the series’ title after a number of changes. The show was first called “Agatha: House of Harkness.” The title appeared to change to “Agatha: Coven of Chaos” by July 2022, and then to “Agatha: Darkhold Diaries” in September 2023….

(2) THE CASE FOR PLAIN ELVES. [Item by Danny Sichel.] This video essay by Perseus Grim argues “Why Fantasy Worlds SHOULD Be Stuck in Medieval Times”.

(3) MILLENNIA BEFORE DUNE. “Dune: Prophecy: first trailer for female-led prequel TV series” – the Guardian sets the frame.

The first trailer for the much-anticipated TV prequel to the recent Dune movies promises a female-fronted look at life 10,000 years before.

Dune: Prophecy will follow the roots of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood led by the Harkonnen siblings, played by Emily Watson and Olivia Williams. Later members of the sect are played by Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Rampling on the big screen.

It is inspired by the novel Sisterhood of Dune, written by Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert, the elder son of Frank Herbert, who wrote the original Dune novels….

(4) RAGE REQUIRED. Stephanie Burt plumbs “The Radical Worldmaking of Joanna Russ” in The Nation.

“From now on, I will not trust anyone who isn’t angry.” The science-fiction writer Joanna Russ set down those words in 1984. They might have been Russ’s motto. From her 1968 novel Picnic on Paradise, about a time-traveling, take-no-prisoners female assassin named Alyx, to her 1975 pathbreaking lesbian and feminist novel The Female Man, to her collection of essays on feminism, What Are We Fighting For?, in 1997, Russ wrote unsparingly, if also elegantly, against those elements in society that keep women, especially lesbians, from becoming our best selves. Her novels and essays sometimes cut themselves short; other times, they cut to the bone. They could make room for hope, and for solidarity, and for erotic joy. Russ saw what was wrong with the world we know, how much needless pain it contains on account of gender roles—and she let herself stay angry about it, too.

Divisive in her lifetime, admired within the world of science fiction then and now, Russ has recently become the seventh sci-fi writer, and the third female one (after Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin), to get a whole Library of America volume. Assembling four novels (Picnic on ParadiseThe Female ManOn Strike Against God, and We Who Are About To…) along with shorter stories, the Library of America volume helps the reader understand the scale and scope of her talents as a prose stylist and a writer of metafiction. And it lets readers see—in Russ, and in the 1970s feminism that nurtured her—not only the rage but also the hope that her astringent imagination found…

(5) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA has released episode 75 of the Simultaneous Times podcast. The stories featured in this episode are:

  • “Memory Scars” by Adele Gardner; with music by TSG
  • “The Good Twin” by Marie Vibbert; with music by Phog Masheeen

Theme music by Dain Luscombe. Listen to all episodes on your favorite podcast player or at Podmatic.

(6) BEWARE TINY SPOILER. In The Hollywood Reporter: “Doctor Who Boss Russell T Davies on Callbacks, Villains and Disney Notes”. Sort of tiny spoiler here.

There’s a moment where the Doctor uses his Sonic Screwdriver to enable Ruby’s (the Doctor’s companion, played by Millie Gibson) phone to call her mum, even though they are thousands of years apart. That’s a lovely callback to your 2005 episode “The End of the World,” where the Ninth Doctor (Ecclestondid the very same thing for his companion Rose.

Yes, it is. It’s what he’d do. I remember sitting writing that thinking, “Oh gosh, I did that. I’ve done that before.” And then I thought, “Well, I did it 19 years ago and this is a brand new audience. But it’s very important that she doesn’t feel separated and abandoned from her family.” So there’s no way he couldn’t do it again, because it’s a good scene. It’s what he’d do, it needs reminding.

This time, when Ruby gets her phone zapped, she says, “How much did that cost?” Rose wouldn’t have thought of that. There’s something a lot more savvy about it. Ruby’s very aware of that 50 quid she got for a gig last night. And that’s her first question, “What does that cost?” I like that.

(7) ELENA STEIER (1958-2024). Comics creator Elena Steier died March 1 of cancer. The family obituary is in the Hartford Courant.

…An accomplished illustrator, author, and cartoonist, Steier created several comics and strips, such as The Ramp Rats (for the Detroit Metropolitan News), The Goth Scouts (for The South Shore Monthly Newspaper) and The Vampire Bed and Breakfast (a self-published comic book)….

Cartoonist Mike Lynch has put together an extensive tribute.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 15, 1909 James Mason. (Died 1984.) I do believe the first time I saw James Mason acting was in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest where he had the role of Phillip Vandamm, a Cold War spy. Three years after this, he’d be on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour as Warren Barrow in the “Captive Audience” episode. 

James Mason as Captain Nemo driving the getaway submarine.

Now let’s turn to what he did as genre roles. The one you most likely remember him from is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where he was Captain Nemo. Surely you remember his fight with the squid? The film was personally produced by Walt Disney, something he rarely did.

He’s Hendrik van der Zee in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, based off that story. He may or may not be the Flying Dutchman. Let’s say the film is ambiguous. Deliberately. 

He was Rupert of Hentzau in The Prisoner of Zenda which is at least genre adjacent, isn’t it? Well I think it is. Truly great silly film, and an amusing role for him. 

In Journey to the Center of the Earth, he was Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook, a professor. He was not the first choice here as Clifton Webb had been cast but turned it down as he said he could not play the part because it was such a physical part. Mason said later that he delighted in doing his stunts here.

He played Polidori in the Frankenstein: The True Story, a thirteen-episode series. Now let’s recall that Dr. Polidori did not appear in the original novel, but was rather based on the character of Dr. Pretorius from Universal Pictures’ Bride of Frankenstein, but named after John Polidori, an acquaintance of author Mary Shelley.

Finally he’s in Salem’s Lot as Richard K. Straker.

 Very impressive as a performer I’d say. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! depicts overreaction to criticism
  • The Argyle Sweater is proud of its bad video game titles.
  • Carpe Diem reveals something we never knew about flying saucers.

(10) BODY DOUBLES. “’3 Body Problem’ Renewed for Season 2 at Netflix” reports Variety.

3 Body Problem” has been renewed for at least one more season at Netflix — the streamer says that the number of seasons and episodes will be announced at a later date.

It appears that the greenlight will take the series to its finale, as creators David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo noted in a statement that they “get to tell this story through to its epic conclusion.” In an April interview with Collider, Benioff said the team would “need at least three, maybe four seasons to tell the whole story.”

Based on the novels by Liu Cixin, “3 Body Problem” follows how a decision made by a young woman in 1960s China reverberates across space and time into the present day, driving a group of scientists to join forces with an unorthodox detective to confront a major threat to humanity.

(11) A SONG OF ICE OR FIRE. While some think the new portrait of King Charles makes it look like he’s trapped in flames or swimming in blood, Filer Carl says the portrait of King Charles looks a bit like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. You decide!

(12) YESTERDAY’S VIDEO. We take you now to the year 2015 to enjoy the “’Star Wars Fan’ – Official ‘Rocket Man’ Parody”.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/14/24 Down The Seven Pixels Scroll

(1) BUTLER CONFERENCE AT HUNTINGTON THIS MONTH. The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA will host a two-day conference, “Futurity as Praxis: Learning from Octavia E. Butler” on May 23-24.

Octavia Butler.

The year 2024 marks the beginning of the critical dystopian future Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) envisioned in her groundbreaking novel Parable of the Sower. Her fiction and the story of her life compel us to reckon with power, leadership, creativity, the Earth, human relationships, and the unknown possibilities that await us in the stars. Now, intellectuals from different communities will gather to contemplate her legacy. This conference asks how we have learned from Butler’s writing and what her archive at The Huntington—a short distance from where the author spent her formative years in Pasadena, California—can help future generations discover.

One of the panels will feature well-known sff creators.

Session 1: Creativity as Praxis

  • Moderator: Sage Ni’Ja Whitson
    Queer & Trans anti-disciplinary artist and writer, Department of Dance and Department of Black Study at UC Riverside
  • Damian Duffy
    Author of the graphic novel adaptations of Kindred and Parable of the Sower
  • Steven Barnes
    Author of The Eightfold PathMarvel’s Black Panther: Sins of the King podcast series, and Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror on Shudder
  • Sheree Renée Thomas
    Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and the Dark Matter anthologies, poet, author of Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future

Tickets for the two-day conference are available here. General: $25 (Students free). Optional lunch: $20 (each day)

(2) ROMAN AROUND. “’Megalopolis’: New Teaser Trailer Drops Ahead of Cannes Premiere” reports Deadline.

Ahead of its world premiere here at Cannes, Francis Ford Coppola has dropped a teaser trailer for his master epic Meglopolis. While the first trailer showed Adam Driver’s ambitious architectural idealist Cesar attempting suicide atop a skyscraper, yet stopping time, here we see a montage of the pic’s action: a devastated city indulged in neon and noir infused Bacchanal.

Coppola’s latest is billed as a Roman Epic fable set in an imagined Modern America. The City of New Rome must change, causing conflict between Cesar Catilina (Driver), a genius artist who seeks to leap into a utopian, idealistic future, and his opposition, Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who remains committed to a regressive status quo, perpetuating greed, special interests, and partisan warfare.  Torn between them is socialite Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel), the mayor’s daughter, whose love for Cesar has divided her loyalties, forcing her to discover what she truly believes humanity deserves.

(3) FROM SOUP TO NUTS. The Guardian has a long feature on the history of Coppola’s efforts to make this film: “’Has this guy ever made a movie before?’ Francis Ford Coppola’s 40-year battle to film Megalopolis”.

Early reactions to Megalopolis have been mixed. After a private screening in Los Angeles last month, one executive described it as “batshit crazy”….

…Others, however, were fulsome in their praise. “I feel I was a part of history. Megalopolis is a brilliant, visionary masterpiece,” said the director Gregory Nava after the screening. “I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day.” An anonymous viewer at a London screening went even further: “This film is like Einstein and relativity in 1905, Picasso and Guernica in 1937 – it’s a date in the history of cinema.”…

(4) CAROL SHIELDS PRIZE. The 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, which provides $150,000USD to the winner, is the largest English-language literary prize in the world for women and non-binary authors. So the announcement of the winner may be of interest to you even if the book is not genre.

V. V. Ganeshananthan has been named the winner for her novel Brotherless Night, published by Random House.

(5) COMPUSERVE GETS A PLAQUE. It didn’t take as long as you might have expected for one of the building blocks of personal computing to earn its own historic marker. Alex Krislov shared a photo of Ohio’s salute to CompuServe.

(6) LATEST ITERATION OF FANHISTORIC CLIFTON’S. Boing Boing says “Legendary L.A. eatery Clifton’s Cafeteria is back! (but is called Clifton’s Republic now)”.

…To say Clifton’s is kitschy doesn’t begin to capture it. It’s more like if uber-kitschy, ur-kitschy and mondo-kitschy had a baby….

We’re interested because LASFS used to meet at Clifton’s in the late 1930s. And consequently, Discover Los Angeles’ article “Clifton’s Republic: The Story of an LA Icon” has the tidbit of greatest interest to fans:

…The third floor is home to the Gothic Bar, which features a booth named after sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, a patron of the original Clifton’s who became a pal of Meieran’s. The back bar is a repurposed 19th-century gothic altar. The third floor also features Clinton Hall, a live performance and private event space, and lots of taxidermy dioramas created in consultation with experts from the Natural History Museum….

(7) HE’S ON THE COVER. Fantasy author Lev Grossman in on the front of Publishers Weekly.

(8) DON’T REIGN ON THEIR PARADE. Scavenger’s Reign may get a second chance on another platform. “Netflix Just Saved 2023’s Most Underrated Sci-Fi Show From Cancelation” reports Inverse:

Scavengers Reign, the remarkable but underseen sci-fi series that premiered on Max in late 2023. Scavengers Reign was widely regarded as one of the year’s best shows, and one of many projects that heralded a golden age for indie animation. Unfortunately, the series was canceled on May 10… but that development has a silver lining.

Per VarietyScavengers Reign will remain on Max (a rare concession for WB’s canceled shows), but its first season will also stream on Netflix. The rival streamer is reportedly interested in picking up the show for more seasons, but continuation is contingent on Scavengers’ success on the platform.

… Given Netflix’s growing interest in adult animation, the streamer might be an ideal destination. Scavengers Reign follows the crew of a deep space freighter after they crash on a hostile alien planet. Across 12 episodes, the crew works to find their way back to their ship, and survive a world trying to annihilate them. The series doesn’t shy away from dark themes, so it should feel at home alongside Netflix originals like Blue Eyed Samurai….

(9) TEDDY HARVIA CARTOON.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 80. I can say without doubt George Lucas was a director whose first work I encountered was THX 1138. What a damn strange film that is. Upon rewatching it twenty or so years later, the Suck Fairy wasn’t pleased by it as I’ll say she holds that it just feels really dated now which I agree with her. 

Ahhh but then was Star Wars, and no I won’t accept the renaming it. Simply didn’t happen. The film itself which I’ve seen at the theater and watched a number of times since is extraordinary. That it garnered a Hugo at IguanaCon II shouldn’t surprise anyone here. 

George Lucas in 2009.

Confession time. I’ve not watched any of Star Wars films past the first three. I adore The Empire Strikes Back, a Hugo winner at Denvention Two, actually my favorite of the first three films. I don’t dislike the final film, Return of the Jedi, Hugo of course, this time at L.A. Con II, but I really do think the story is better in The Empire Strikes Back. Also, Lucas gave his screenwriting credit to Leigh Brackett for that film after her death from cancer.

So, what’s my next film that he did that I really like? Oh guess. It was when he was story writer and executive producer on the first four Indiana Jones films, which his colleague and good friend Steven Spielberg directed, so it is Raiders of The Lost Ark is my favorite film here (with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom being almost as good), and the last should been not have been done. So not surprisingly Raiders of The Lost Ark would win him and Spielberg a Hugo, this time at Chicon IV.

Need I say that The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was wonderful? Yes, it stretched probability to the breaking point and way beyond continuously in terms of who young Indy met, but that was the sheer fun of the series. No Hugo nomination, why, oh why?

Did you know he wrote the story for Willow? (Not the screenplay.) Well, he did. Cool. I mean really cool. Noreascon 3 nominated it for a Hugo but a rabbit from Toon Town won that year. Speaking of really cool films, he was executive producer and co-edited Labyrinth with director Jim Henson. Yes, you nominated it for a Hugo, this time at Conspiracy ’87. 

He produced Howard the Duck, which the French had the gall to name on the one-sheets Howard Une nouvelle race de héros (Howard: A New Breed of Hero) was considered his worst film by far. It’s not a film I like but I feel that it should be noted here. No, you did not nominate Howard Une nouvelle race de héros for a Hugo. Nor did French give it any Awards either.

Finally for me, he also was the creator and executive producer of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series which premiered with a feature film of the same name that aired just before its first episode. 

I know he’s done a lot more including some new material now on Disney+ but I’m not taking that streaming service now. At some point, I’ll gorge myself over there but not yet. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro depicts the benefits of home delivery.
  • UFO lets a great line go astray.

(12) SPEAKING OF GEORGE. “’Grow up. These are my movies, not yours’: George Lucas Won’t be Happy How Star Wars Fan Group is Illegally Saving the Original Trilogy” Fandomwire says confidently.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away began George Lucas’ epic space opera tale that eventually grew into the pop culture phenomenon we know today as Star Wars. The original trilogy of films Lucas made during the 70s and 80s, became beloved across the globe, but the theatrical cuts of the movies have neared the brink of extinction following Lucas’ special edition re-releases.

As a result, a group of rebel Star Wars fans have taken it upon themselves to not only preserve but also digitally restore the original cuts so that the fanbase can enjoy the version of the films they first fell in love with. However, the group’s activities directly clash with Lucas’ vision for his franchise and border on a legal grey area. Here is why George Lucas won’t be happy with the rebel fans trying to preserve the original cuts of the original trilogy.

The original trilogy of Star Wars films, spearheaded by George Lucas were critical and commercial successes. However, in 1997 Lucas released the “Special Edition” of the films for the trilogy’s 20th anniversary, which featured extensive changes to the original theatrical cuts.

The original cuts have since become scarce. However, a group of Star Wars fans, known as Team Negative One have reportedly almost completely digitally restored the original cuts in 4K using 35-millimeter prints of the original trilogy….

To show how serious Lucas is about his later cuts —

…Similarly, when the National Film Registry aimed to preserve 1977’s Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope), Lucas reportedly refused to provide them with a copy of the original theatrical release…

(13) Q&A ABOUT FUNDRAISING ANTHOLOGY. Broken Olive Branches is a charity anthology; over 30 authors in the horror community donated stories to help the civilians of Palestine. The proceeds from the anthology go to ANERA and the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. Roseanna interviews the editor and some of the authors involved in “Roundtable Interview: Broken Olive Branches” at Nerds of a Feather.

(14) WHERE’S THE BEEF? AI raises the dead: “It was a classic rap beef. Then Drake revived Tupac with AI and Congress got involved” on NPR’s “Planet Money”.

In late April, Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) began his testimony before a Senate subcommittee hearing by doing something unusual for a stuffy institution like Congress: He played a new song from the rapper Drake.

But it wasn’t Drake’s rap verse that Tillis felt was important for Congress to hear. Rather it was a verse in the song featuring the voice of the legendary — and long dead — rapper Tupac Shakur.

In a kind of uniquely modern sorcery, the song uses artificial intelligence to resurrect Tupac from the dead and manufacture a completely new — and synthetic — verse delivered in the late rapper’s voice. The song, titled “Taylor Made Freestyle,” is one in a barrage of brutal diss tracks exchanged between Drake and Kendrick Lamar in a chart-topping rap battle. Kendrick is from California, where Tupac is like a god among rap fans, so weaponizing the West Coast rap legend’s voice in the feud had some strategic value for Drake, who is from Toronto.

Drake, apparently, thought it’d be okay to use Tupac’s synthetic voice in his song without asking permission from the late rapper’s estate. But, soon after the song’s release, Tupac’s estate sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Drake take the song down, which he did. However — given the murky legal landscape regulating AI creations — it’s unclear whether Tupac’s estate actually has the law on their side.

And so the beef between Drake and Kendrick Lamar has become not only one of the most brilliant — and most vicious — battles in the history of rap. It’s also become a historic flashpoint for the issues posed by what you might call AI necromancy — resurrecting traits of the dead using AI technology.

We’ve entered a new world where anyone can conjure the voice or visual likeness of a dead celebrity — or really anyone, dead or alive — with a few clicks using AI software.

(15) JEOPARDY! SFF. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Catching up on Jeopardy Masters and also watching tonight’s episode, here’s the SFF content I saw:

Jeopardy Masters, Wednesday 5/8/2024

Game 1:

Literature: Who Said It? $2000: “I freewheel a lot…I reckon I’ll become president of the galaxy, and it just happens, it’s easy”

Matt Amodio got the right book but the wrong character: “What’s Dent?”

(One of his quirks is that he never bothers to change his question words but just always says “What’s…?”)

Amy Schneider gave us, “Who is Beeblebrox?”

Most Filers I assume know this, but just in case I’ll fill in that the book was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the characters Arthur Dent and Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Literature: Who Said It? $1600: “For if he is still with the quick un-dead, your death would make you even as he is. No, you must live!”

Yogesh Raut knew or correctly guessed, “Who is Van Helsing?”

Literature: Who Said It? $1200: A Daily Double for Yogesh, who wagered all of his 15,400 points. “She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately — unreservedly. I have seldom seen anyone come over to us so promptly”.

Yogesh hesitated a bit, then tried, “Who is…O’Brien?” And this was correct, the inquisitor from 1984.

Literature: Who Said It? $400: “What’s taters, precious, eh, what’s taters?”

Matt got it: “What’s Gollum?”

Game 2:

On the Director’s Résumé, $2000: He spoke the silent language of horror in 1922’s “Nosferatu”

Victoria Groce got it: “Who is Murnau?”

Regular Jeopardy!, Monday 5/13/2024

In the Double Jeopardy round:

TV’s Fantastical Places, $1200: This undersea abode of cartoon fame is based on an actual atoll used for atomic testing between 1946 and 1958

Michael Richter tried, “What is SpongeBob Squarepants?” but this was the name of the show, not the place.

Returning champ Will Stewart knew, “What is Bikini Bottom?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $2000: First seen in 1969, this planet on “Doctor Who” was caught up in a time war with the Daleks

Will knew it: “What is Gallifrey?”

Literary Title Occupations, $800: In a special edition, J.K. Rowling did her own illustrations for the story collection title “The Tales of Beedle the” this

Michael got it: “What is a bard?”

Literary Title Occupations, $400: Emily Chambers is one of these spiritual intermediaries in a C.J. Archer novel, hunting a demon & talking to a ghost

Will: “What is a medium?”

Literary Title Occupations, $1200: In “The Magician’s Nephew”, animals talk like humans & Jadis, an evil witch, flees from Charn & reaches this fantasy land

Will got this one too: “What is Narnia?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $800: This castle was the ancestral home of Ned Stark & family on “Game of Thrones”

Will, evidently an SFF watcher, knew “What is Winterfell?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $800: Mystic Falls is the locale for blood-sucking brothers Damon & Stefan on this long-running CW show

Joyce Yang got in for “What’s The Vampire Diaries?”

Jeopardy Masters, Friday 5/10/2024

Game 1, Double Jeopardy round:

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $1600: For this 2015 film, Lesley Vanderwalt got the idea for Furiosa’s look from an image of a girl with clay across her forehead

Mattea Roach got it: “What’s Mad Max: Fury Road?”

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $1200: This man has won 7 Academy Awards for makeup, including one for his work on “An American Werewolf in London”

Amy Schneider responded, “Who is Baker?” And Rick Baker was correct.

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $400: Makeup artist Ve Neill used moss to make Michael Keaton look like he crawled out from underneath a rock for this 1988 film.

Mattea asked us, “What’s ‘Beetlejuice’?”

Game 2, Single Jeopardy round

A Literary Tipple, $600: It takes a lot of flowers (weeds, some say) to make a batch of this stuff, the title of a Ray Bradbury novel

James Holzhauer knew it was dandelion wine.

Made You Say It, $1000: Compelled by his people’s naiveté, this Trojan said, “Don’t trust the horse…even when they bring gifts, I fear the Greeks”

Victoria Groce gave us, “Who is Laocöon?”

(16) ALIEN EMBASSIES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It was the monthly  ‘Sci-Fi Sunday’ over at Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur with a look at the SF trope of alien embassies.

Because it was a Sci-Fi Sunday episode, Isaac assumed some sort of FTL travel but not instantaneous communication. He takes a (he himself says) simple assumption of all civilizations arising together and expanding their sphere of influence, which in 3-dimensions would give each 12 neighbors.

With regards to SF, he draws mainly on cinema and TV looking at embassies Babylon V, Star Trek and Stargate.  However Niven and Pournelle’s A Mote in God’s Eye,  and Dune do get a look in.

He also points to flaws in many SF shows’ plot arising out of mis-understandings making a fairly plausible case against such actually taking place.

He opines that the embassy would be in space for control biological contaminants (both ways) and here, it is bacteria rather than viruses are the major problem. He also notes that assuming an advanced planetary system might be colonized out to the equivalent of it Kuiper belt, such is the distance between stars that any traveler passing through a stellar empire would likely come no closer than many thousands of times the Kuiper orbit distance to a single star’s civilization and so no need or practicality to control travelers simply passing through.

“We often imagine encountering many alien civilizations, and establishing trade and relationships with them, but what would being an alien ambassador be like?”

35-minute episode below…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/24 Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Pixel Was In

(1) RAPHAEL HYTHLODAEUS’ UTOPIA. Go back to where Utopia began in “Utopian Realism, a speech by Bruce Sterling”.

…So, Thomas More and Peter Gillis are in this private home, avoiding actual work. They enjoy many free-wheeling, private, intellectual discussions, which are all about law, and justice, and business, and economics, and politics, and the general state of the world.

These two intellectuals agree that the state of the world is pretty terrible. Clearly the real world is quite bad, it’s not a Utopia at all. In fact the first part of the book “Utopia” is pretty much all dystopia. It’s about how bad things are in Europe, and it’s rather realistic too — these are grim assessments.

So, Thomas More and Peter Gillis, while discussing the world together, decide to invent this wandering scholar named Raphael Hythlodaeus. The wise and learned Raphael can speak Latin and Greek, just like they do — but Raphael has been to a country where everything works.

Peter Gillis even invents a Utopian alphabet, and he writes some poetry in the language of Utopia — just to demonstrate that he can play this fun Utopian game with his guest Thomas More.

Peter Gillis is willing to cooperate. He even pretends to personally introduce Thomas More to Raphael Hythlodaeus.

In the book, Raphael appears, and he starts talking. He recites the entire story of Utopia. Raphael speaks the book “Utopia,” aloud. It’s 30,000 words of text, so Raphael recites this book in one long afternoon. It’s a three and a half hour lecture, and Thomas More writes it all down.

However, it’s somehow not boring. It’s a brilliant, world-class lecture, because Raphael Hythlodaeus is quite an amazing guy. Raphael doesn’t look rich or famous. Basically, he looks like a sailor. He’s got a long beard, and he’s kind of weatherbeaten. He’s a long-haired wanderer in beat-up old clothes…

(2) WHO FELL? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired a dramatisation of a mid-twentieth century classic The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963) by Walter Tevis. This was made famous beyond the SF book-reading community with the 1976 UK film starring starman David Bowie as the man himself from a dying world who comes to Earth for help and who uses his knowledge to create a techno-industry to fund his own space mission home, but whom the authorities rumble and capture…

This 1-hour radio play co-stars Doctor Who’s northern incarnation, Christopher Eccleston (also known for the apocalyptic 28 Days Later and a bit-part in the US series Heroes among much else) as Bryce. Harry Treadaway stars as Thomas Newton.

Prior to the radio play there was a separate introductory programme that most interestingly includes an audio clip of an interview with Tevis himself. This reveals that the story is as much about alcoholism: a man struggling to cope in a strange, hostile world, separated from his family.

“The Man Who Fell to Earth by American writer Walter Tevis was published in 1963. Unlike most sci-fi of its time, it’s not about space, far-off galaxies or a distant future, but set only a decade or so from the time of writing.”

I was unaware that a few years later Tevis modified the novel to include a reference to ‘Watergate’ but that (apparently (I’ve not read it)) this was unnecessary for the core of the story. Here’s  the BBC descriptor for the play…

“The classic novel that spawned the acclaimed film starring David Bowie, from the writer of The Queen’s Gambit and The Hustler.

An alien arrives in Kentucky with five years to save the handful of survivors of his dying planet, and to save humanity from itself. Calling himself Thomas Newton, his plan is to use his race’s advanced technology to make millions, and then build a spaceship to bring the last of his people to live on Earth.

But Newton begins to doubt his purpose, and finds himself unable to cope with the emotional weight of being human. He finds solace with two fellow outsiders – cheery functioning alcoholic Betty-Jo, who falls quietly in love with him, and widowed scientist Nathan Bryce, who tracks him down after recognising his tech as impossible.

Little do they realise that the Government are watching…”

You can download the introduction as an MP3 here.

You can download the play as an MP3 here.

(3) BAFTA TV AWARDS 2024. There was only one winner of genre interest in last night’s BAFTA TV Awards 2024.

REALITY

  • Squid Game: The Challenge Production Team – Studio Lambert, The Garden / Netflix

In contrast, there were many genre winners when the 2024 BAFTA Television Craft Awards were previously announced on April 28.

(4) QUIRINO AWARDS. Animation Magazine reports the winners of the “Quirino Awards: ‘Robot Dreams,’ ‘Jasmine & Jambo,’ ‘Lulina and the Moon’”.

The Ibero-American Animation Quirino Awards closed its seventh edition with the awards ceremony on Saturday. Streamed worldwide, the Tenerife event was swept by animation from Spain, which won five of the 10 awards….

7th Quirino Awards Winners

  • Best Feature Film – Robot Dreams by Pablo Berger. Arcadia Motion Pictures, Lokiz Films, Noodles Prod., Les films du Worso (Spain, France).
  • Best Series – Jasmine & Jambo – Season 2 by Sílvia Cortés. Teidees Audiovisuals, Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals, with the participation of IB3 (Televisió de les illes Balears), Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals (Spain).
  • Best Short Film – Lulina and the Moo by Marcus Vinicius Vasconcelos and Alois Di Leo. Estudio Teremim (Brazil).
  • Best Animation School Short Film – The Leak by Paola Cubillos. KASK & Conservatorium Hogeschool Gent, Vrije Universiteit Brussels (Belgium, Colombia).
  • Best Commissioned Animation – In the Stars by Gabriel Osorio. Punkrobot Studio, Lucasfilm (Chile, US).
  • Best Music Video – SIAMÉS “All the Best” by Pablo Roldán. Rudo Company (Argentina).
  • Best Video Game Animation – The Many Pieces of Mr Coo directed by Nacho Rodríguez. Developed by Gammera Nest (Spain).
  • Best Visual Development – Sultana’s Dream by Isabel Herguera. Abano Producións, El Gatoverde Producciones, UniKo Estudio Creativo, Sultana Films, Fabian&Fred (Spain, Germany).
  • Best Animation Design – Cold Soup by Marta Monteiro. Animais AVPL, La Clairière Ouest (Portugal, France).
  • Best Sound Design and Original Music – Robot Dreams by Pablo Berger. Arcadia Motion Pictures, Lokiz Films, Noodles Production, Les films du Worso (Spain, France).

(5) FURRY STEM. “Furries, Neurodivergence, and STEM: Finding Your Path from Zero to One to One Billion” is Furries at Berkeley’s inaugural Furry Masterclass event, the first in a series of talks featuring prominent academic voices from within the furry community.

This talk is hosted by the fantastic Dr. David “Spottacus” Benaron! Spottacus is an inventor, entrepreneur, biochemist, a founding editorial board member of the Journal of Biomedical Optics, and a former professor at Stanford University. Among his achievements are the invention of the green light heart sensor, the first in vivo imaging of light-emitting genes, and the multispectral wearable optical sensor for tracking hemoglobin and hydration levels. Last year, Spottacus won a lifetime achievement award in biomedical optical physics from the International Society for Optics and Photonics. Spottacus is also a furry; a member of a community based upon the appreciation of anthropomorphic animals, featuring all kinds of creative self-expression. While furry has long been the target of misinterpretation and vitriol, folks like Spottacus show that fandom engagement and living outside the box can be boons rather than limitations. Spottacus’ talk explores his personal experiences with; as well as the intersections between; his career in STEM, the furry fandom, and neurodivergence.

(6) SFF FILMS THAT PASS MUSTER. BGR conducts a roll call of “The best sci-fi movies ever, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

Celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has never been shy about expressing his opinion about movies on X/Twitter — and, specifically, weighing in as to whether they got the scientific elements right or not. On a recent episode of his show StarTalk, meanwhile, he decided to actually share a detailed list of the sci-fi movies that he thinks are the best of the best, detailing what they got right, what they missed the mark on, and why some of them are so good that they deserve a “hall pass” for any errors….

These are two of the films on his list:

The Martian (2015): Tyson describes this one, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars, as “the most scientifically accurate movie I’ve ever witnessed.”

The Blob (1958): Reaching deep into the past for this one, Tyson gives this old-school creature feature high marks because of the way it imagines aliens looking amoeba-like — totally different, in other words, from almost every other movie in which you see an alien depicted as something like a little green man.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. (Died 1995.)

By Paul Weimer: The author that got me into Science Fiction and Fantasy? Maybe.  My first science fiction and fantasy was Asimov (I,Robot), Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles) and Tolkien (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings).  But it was Roger Zelazny who really made it stick. Sure, I read more of Asimov, and I tried to read The Silmarillion and failed, but it was reading Nine Princes in Amber and its sequels that really convinced me to get on the endless road through shadow to seek out other science fiction and fantasy. 

It is ironic that for a writer best known for his short stories that I started with, and for a while stuck with, Zelazny’s novels. After Amber came Jack of ShadowsDeus IraeDilvish the DamnedLord of Light and others. 

Roger Zelazny

If I had to point a single novel at a reader for Zelazny, I would go with Jack of ShadowsJack of Shadows does a lot of things that the second Amber series tries to do (and not always successfully) . And I have mentioned before and elsewhere science fantasy IS my jam. How can I resist a novel where the dayside of the Earth is run on science, and the darkside is run on magic? 

 It took me a while to actually find and delve into the short fiction that everyone had raved about.  The Last Defender of Camelot was the first collection of his I read, and then I started hunting his stories in “Best of” collections and other anthologies, and started filling in hjs oeuvre and trying to read all of his work. 

This is a process that continues to this day. 

Reading the NESFA collections of Roger Zelazny, which I have been reviewing here at File 770, I have realized how much of the Zelazny stories I have missed, and how much, for even the author that got me into SF and Fantasy, I still have a lot to learn about. My love for Roger Zelazny and his work is a lifelong journey. I suppose in theory there will come a day where I can say I have read all of Zelazny’s work. Someday. 

There are always surprises. I remember reading and liking a story in an old anthology of “best stories” that, much to my surprise, I only recently learned was a Zelazny story. (“The Game of Blood and Dust”). Zelazny continues to delight me.

But why do I like Zelazny’s work in the first place?  Even long before I picked up a camera, I’ve always been interested in imagery, in capturing moments. Zelazny captures these moments, that imagery, those scenes that resonate in my mind. Those moments captured, that lovely writing demands my attention. From Corwin walking down the stairs to Rebma, to Jack coming back from the death at the eastern pole of the world, to the Tristan and Isolde imagery of The Dream Master, to Hellwell in Lord of Light. And on, and on, and on. 

And such well drawn characters in often very limited space. They are often driven, and yes, the women very often have green eyes and red hair. (Zelazny had a type, you see) but I see that as feature, not bug. And yes, too many of them smoked, and that helped take him from us way way too soon. I never got to meet him, much to my sorrow. (He, Pratchett and Banks are three of my regrets in that regard). Dilvish the Damned, particularly comes across as a character we learn in bursts, in small bits of backstory and worldbuilding. (Also a lot of Zelazny’s characters are driven, almost to obsession.  They are passionate and seize things by the horns, and sometimes get the horns as a result.

But, finally, what other SFF author has written properties that I’ve mined and run roleplaying games out of for three decades, after all? Long live the work of Roger Zelazny.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld has been busy again.

(9) IT’S A WRAP. “’The Mummy’ at 25: Director on Brendan Fraser, Dwayne Johnson, Reboot” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Brendan has talked about doing some of his own stunts, during which he endured some bumps and scrapes.

We had a great stunt team, but Brendan [Fraser] is a big, tough guy, and he was younger back then. We kind of beat the crap out of him. Everybody talks about the scene when he gets hung. Usually when somebody gets hung, it’s a dummy, and that’s why they put bags over people’s heads. Brendan was always gung-ho, and he was like, “Make the noose really tight on me.” Then he decided to let his knees sag a little bit. But what he forgot is that the minute you put that much pressure on your carotid arteries, it knocks you out. We all looked, and he’s completely unconscious. It was fine, and he recovered in 10 seconds. But he woke up like, “What happened?”

(10) AGATHA UPDATE, MAYBE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “What the Heck Is Happening With Marvel Studios’ Agatha Show?” asks Gizmodo. The studio must be telling them it’s “Narnia business!”

The fact that a show about a devious witch has us so confused feels completely on brand. It started back in late 2021 when Marvel revealed it was working on a WandaVision spinoff series focused on Kathryn Hahn’s breakout character, Agatha Harkness. Since then, the show has had at least four publicly announced titles, with a possible fifth revealed in the most Agatha of ways. All of which (witch?) is to say, what the heck is happening?

The first title revealed back in 2021 was Agatha: House of Harkness. A few months later, at Comic-Con 2022, that was changed to AgathaCoven of Chaos. A year or so after that, it became AgathaDarkhold Diaries. Finally, earlier this year, it became just plain Agatha. You’d imagine it couldn’t change again (unless, of course, Marvel finally goes with the always-best choice Agatha All Along) but that may not be the case. Monday morning, the official Marvel Studios account tweeted a new Agatha title which was deleted only minutes later. The title was Agatha: The Lying Witch With Great Wardrobe….

(11) SPACE MINING. Ars Technica tells how “In the race for space metals, companies hope to cash in”. If they can get their tech to work.

…Potential applications of space-mined material abound: Asteroids contain metals like platinum and cobalt, which are used in electronics and electric vehicle batteries, respectively. Although there are plenty of these materials on Earth, they can be more concentrated on asteroids than mountainsides, making them easier to scrape out. And scraping in space, advocates say, could cut down on the damaging impacts that mining has on this planet. Space-resource advocates also want to explore the potential of other substances. What if space ice could be used for spacecraft and rocket propellant? Space dirt for housing structures for astronauts and radiation shielding?…

… To further the company’s goals, AstroForge’s initial mission was loaded with simulated asteroid material and a refinery system designed to extract platinum from the simulant, to show that metal-processing could happen in space.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned. After the small craft got to orbit, it was hard to identify and communicate with among the dozens of other newly launched satellites. The solar panels, which provide the spacecraft with power, wouldn’t deploy at first. And the satellite was initially beset with a wobble that prevented communication. They have not been able to do the simulated extraction.

The company will soon embark on a second mission, with a different goal: to slingshot to an asteroid and take a picture — a surveying project which may help the company understand which valuable materials exist on a particular asteroid….

(12) TO AIR IS HUMAN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This Earth-like exoplanet is the first confirmed to have an atmosphere. “‘Milestone’ discovery as JWST confirms atmosphere on an Earth-like exoplanet” in Nature. This is an important milestone in exo-planet astronomy.  55 Cancri e is too hot to support life as we know it, but could provide clues about Earth’s formation.

 Astronomers say that they have used the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to detect for the first time an atmosphere surrounding a rocky planet outside the Solar System1. Although this planet cannot support life as we know it, in part because it is probably covered by a magma ocean, scientists might learn something from it about the early history of Earth — which is also a rocky planet and was once molten.

Finding a gaseous envelope around an Earth-like planet is a big milestone in exoplanet research, says Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who was not involved with the research. Earth’s thin atmosphere is crucial for sustaining life, and being able to spot atmospheres on similar terrestrial planets is an important step in the search for life beyond the Solar System.

Primary research here (abstract only as rest is behind a pay wall).

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at the Media Death Cult  YouTube channel has had a look at a book by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, who was married to the Duke William Cavendish.  One of her books inspired Alan Moore…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/12/24 With A Sprinkle Of Pixel Dust, You Can File Like A Bird

(1) COMPLAINTS AS FANIMECON DROPS MASKING REQUIREMENT AT LAST MINUTE. [Item by Janice Gelb.] FanimeCon in San Jose made the following announcement on May 12, 12 days before the con starts, and is refusing to provide refunds to people who now don’t feel they can attend safely (not to mention travel arrangement costs and the hotel’s cancellation policy now requires them to pay for one night). “FanimeCon | Masking Policy Change”.

FanimeCon is changing our masking policy from ‘required’ to ‘strongly recommended’ due to feedback from our attendees, staff, and local health partners. Some events may require mandatory masking due space issues and bigger crowds.

The complete policy is here: “FanimeCon COVID-19 Vaccination Policy”.

(2) LIADEN UNIVERSE® IS MARCHING ON. Sharon Lee was happy with Joshua Tyler’s article “The Best Sci-Fi Read You’ve Missed Is Filled With Spies, Romance, And Massive Space Battles Stretched Over 27 Books” at GiantFreakinRobot except for one thing, which she blogged about today: “From the mail bag” at Sharon Lee, Writer.

Despite being largely positive, Mr. Tyler’s piece contains a sentence which has . . . horrified, concerned, and angered some Liaden readers and fans, and thus I find letters in my mailbox.  This blog post is a blanket reply to those letters, and statements of concern.

Mr. Tyler states:  “Sadly, Liaden co-author Steve Miller died suddenly on February 20, 2024. He was 73. It’s unclear if Sharon will continue writing the series without him. As a fan of the series, I hope not.” (bolding is mine)

Now, whether this is opinion or corrigendum, I can’t tell you.  I am not the author of the piece.  In general, it’s wise to assume that what the author wrote is what the author meant, and Mr. Tyler is, as we all are, entitled to his opinion.

What I can say is this:  There are three Liaden Universe® novels now under contract with Baen Books.  I am currently lead on one of those, the sequel to Ribbon Dance.  In addition, before Steve’s death and the attendant dis- and re-organizations engendered by that cataclysm, I was making notes for the sequel to the sequel.  Steve was lead on Trade Lanes, which had become increasingly difficult for him as his heart slowly failed him.  I may or may not be able, eventually, to finish Trade Lanes.  If not, another Liaden book will fill the third slot.

So, for the moment, Mr. Tyler must reside in disappointment.  Sharon will be continuing the series, but, not, as he supposes, “without” Steve….

 (3) TREK’S OWN STORAGE WAR. “Court is the final frontier for this lost ‘Star Trek’ model” reports the LA Times. Junot Diaz posted the text of the Times’ paywalled story on Facebook. It says in part:

In April, Heritage Auctions heralded the discovery of the original model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the iconic starship that whooshed through the stars in the opening credits of the 1960s TV series “Star Trek” but had mysteriously disappeared around 45 years ago.

The auction house, known for its dazzling sales of movie and television props and memorabilia, announced that it was returning the 33-inch model to Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr., son of series creator Gene Roddenberry. The model was kept at Heritage’s Beverly Hills office for “safekeeping,” the house proclaimed in a statement, shortly after an individual discovered it and brought it to Heritage for authentication.

“After a long journey, she’s home,” Roddenberry’s son posted on X, (formerly Twitter).

But the journey has been far from smooth. The starship model and its celebrated return is now the subject of a lawsuit alleging fraud, negligence and deceptive trade practice, highlighting the enduring value of memorabilia from the iconic sci-fi TV series.

The case was brought by Dustin Riach and Jason Rivas, longtime friends and self-described storage unit entrepreneurs who discovered the model among a stash of items they bought “sight unseen” from a lien sale at a storage locker in Van Nuys last October.

“It’s an unfortunate misunderstanding. We have a seller on one side and a buyer on the other side and Heritage is in the middle, and we are aligning the parties on both sides to get the transaction complete,” said Armen Vartian, an attorney representing the Dallas-based auction house, adding that the allegations against his client were “unfounded.”

The pair claimed that once the model was authenticated and given a value of $800,000, they agreed to consign it to an auction sale with Heritage planned for July 2024, according to the lawsuit. However, following their agreement, they allege the auction house falsely questioned their title to the model and then convinced them, instead of taking it to auction, to sell it for a low-ball $500,000 to Roddenberry Entertainment Inc. According to the suit, Eugene Roddenberry, the company’s CEO, had shown great interest in the model and could potentially provide a pipeline of memorabilia to the auction house in the future.

“They think we have a disagreement with Roddenberry,” said Dale Washington, Riach and Rivas’ attorney. “We don’t. We think they violated property law in the discharge of their fiduciary duties.”

The two men allege they have yet to receive the $500,000 payment.

For years, Riach and Rivas have made a living buying repossessed storage lockers and selling the contents online, at auction and at flea markets. In fact, Riach has appeared on the reality TV series “Storage Wars.”

“It’s a roll of dice in the dark,” Riach said of his profession bidding on storage lockers. “Sometimes you are buying a picture of a unit. When a unit goes to lien, what you see is what you get and the rest is a surprise. At a live auction you can shine a flashlight, smell and look inside to get a gauge. But online is a gamble, it’s only as good as the photo.”

Last fall, Riach said he saw a picture of a large locker in an online sale. It was 10 feet by 30 feet, and “I saw boxes hiding in the back, it was dirty, dusty, there were cobwebs and what looked like a bunch of broken furniture,” he said.

Something about it, he said, “looked interesting,” and he called Rivas and told him they should bid on it. Riach declined to say how much they paid.

There were tins of old photographs and negatives of nitrate film reels from the 1800s and 1900s. When Rivas unwrapped a trash bag that was sitting on top of furniture, he pulled out a model of a spaceship. The business card of its maker, Richard C. Datin, was affixed to the bottom of the base.

A Google search turned up that Datin had made “Star Trek” models, although the two men didn’t make the connection to the TV series.

“We buy lots of units and see models all of the time,” Riach said. He thought they would find a buyer and decided to list it on eBay with a starting price of $1,000….

(4) BALLARD’S MACHINED POETRY. The Conversation says “Novelist J.G. Ballard was experimenting with computer-generated poetry 50 years before ChatGPT was invented”.

…Listening recently to the audiobook version of Ballard’s autobiography Miracles of Life, one very short passage seemed to speak directly to these contemporary debates about generative artificial intelligence and the perceived power of so-called large language models that create content in response to prompts. Ballard, who was born in 1930 and died in 2009, reflected on how, during the very early 1970s, when he was prose editor at Ambit (a literary quarterly magazine that published from 1959 until April 2023) he became interested in computers that could write:

“I wanted more science in Ambit, since science was reshaping the world, and less poetry. After meeting Dr Christopher Evans, a psychologist who worked at the National Physical Laboratories, I asked him to contribute to Ambit. We published a remarkable series of computer generated poems which Martin said were as good as the real thing. I went further, they were the real thing.”

Ballard said nothing else about these poems in the book, nor does he reflect on how they were received at the time. Searching through Ambit back-issues issues from the 1970s I managed to locate four items that appeared to be in the series to which Ballard referred. They were all seemingly produced by computers and published between 1972 and 1977….

(5) BLEEPS WITHOUT END. Scott Lynch has a pretty clear idea about how Harlan would respond to Lincoln Michel’s question.

(6) IN A GALAXY OF SFF, ONE CONSTELLATION IS BLINKING OUT. The Verge argues that “Apple TV Plus is turning into the best place for streaming sci-fi”. The article discusses a large number of series. But one of them isn’t going to be around for long.

…More recently, the service has edged toward a darker tone. First there was the debut of Constellation earlier this year, which starred Noomi Rapace as an astronaut who returned to an Earth that’s very different than the one she left. And now we have Dark Matter based on the novel by Blake Crouch, which premieres on May 8th. It’s a multiversal story about a physicist played by Joel Edgerton who gets kidnapped by a parallel version of himself. So far, I’ve watched the first two episodes, and it manages to merge the tone of a tense thriller with the mind-bending nature of time travel, creating the kind of story that intentionally makes you feel unmoored. Also, there are some very large and impressive cubes…

Two days ago Deadline reported “’Constellation’ Canceled By Apple After One Season”.

 Apple TV+ has opted not to continue with a second season of Constellation, its sci-fi psychological thriller series starring Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks. The news comes a month and a half after Constellation‘s eight-episode first season wrapped its quiet run on the streamer March 27.

Created and written by Peter Harness, Constellation stars Rapace as Jo – an astronaut who returns to Earth after a disaster in space – only to discover that key pieces of her life seem to be missing. The action-packed space adventure is an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology, and one woman’s desperate quest to expose the truth about the hidden history of space travel and recover all that she has lost.

… Sci-fi is a core genre for Apple TV+ whose roster of series also includes For All Mankind, recently renewed for a fifth season alongside a pickup for a spinoff series, Star City, as well as Foundation, Severance, Invasion and Silo — all slated to return with new seasons.

Apple’s latest entry in the genre, Dark Matter, premiered this week, with Neuromancer, starring Callum Turner, and Murderbot, headlined by Alexander Skarsgard, coming up. The streamer also had an surprise entrant into the space with the mystery drama Sugar, which took an unexpected sci-fi turn last week.

(7) LEIGH EDMONDS’ AUSTRALIAN FANHISTORY. From Bruce Richard Gillespie on Facebook I learned that Norstrilia Press has published Leigh Edmonds’ fanhistory Proud and Lonely: A History of Science Fiction Fandom in Australia. Part One: 1930 – 1961

Proud and Lonely is a new history of science fiction and its fans in Australia, telling the story of its arrival in Australia in the 1920s, and the start here of a sub-culture of fans of the genre.

Historian Dr Leigh Edmonds shows how science fiction was seen as a low form of literature and didn’t get public acceptance until at least the 1970s.

Because of the frequent ridicule, fans of the genre kept quiet about their interest in public. But in private they sought out other fans, locally and overseas. They corresponded, started clubs and published amateur magazines about the genre.

They created a fascinating sub-culture that was a microcosmos of Australian life from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Norstrilia Press in its first incarnation had its major focus on science fiction, and Leigh’s history makes a significant contribution to the study of the field. It will also be of value to people interested in cultural and literary studies.

Proud and Lonely is the first of a two-part history exploring how science fiction fandom developed in Australia, from its beginnings in the 1930s to the first World Science Fiction Convention held in Australia, in 1975.

Part one deals with the early period up to 1961, when government regulations prevented most science fiction from being imported into Australia, and the seeds were sown of a gathering energy that would raise Australia’s profile in the global science fiction community.

Available from bookshops and online.

(8) FROM BROOKLYN TO ROHAN. [Item by Dann.] Mike Burke found himself in the theater department auditioning for a part in Newsies: the Musical.  One of the songs from that production – “Brooklyn’s Here” — seemed to match the narrative of the riders of Rohan arriving at the Pelennor Fields.  And a little filking ensued. “Rohan’s Here!” at Storytelling Skunkworks.

…We are Riders (of Rohan!)

The beacons are lit and Gondor is hurtin’

Facing total disaster for certain

That’s our cue lads, it’s time to come runnin’

Hey Minas Tirith, the calvalry’s comin’!…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 74. Let’s look at our Birthday celebrant, Bruce Boxleitner, first for the interesting work he did before that series. 

One of my very favorite characters that he played was the top-level unnamed Agency operative Lee Stetson on the Scarecrow and Mrs. King which starred him and Kate Jackson as divorced housewife Amanda King and top-level Agency operative Lee Stetson as they began their unusual partnership and eventual romance after encountering one another in a train station. It ran for four seasons.

Remember Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler”? Well, it would afterwards become a series of Gambler movies. Boxleitner played Billy Montanain in three of five films being the sidekick to Roger’s Brady Hawkes character. He was the comic relief in those films apparently. I’ve not seen them. 

Bruce Boxleitner at Phoenix Comicon in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He’s been on Outer Limits in “Decompression” as Senator Wyndom Brody in a twisty time travel episode that’d make Heinlein proud. Enough said of that story. He had a recurring role as another politician on the first Supergirl series as President Phillip Baker, a vain, egotistical man. He even played the President of the Planetary Union President on The Orville.

Then there’s Tron where he has the dual roles of Alan Bradley, a programmer at ENCOM Boxleitner and Tron, a security program developed by Bradley to self-monitor communications between the MCP and the real world. It’s an amazing dual for him. He’d reprise, in voice, so I supposed in spirit as well, that role in the animated TronUprising series, and then in I think finally in the animated Tron: Legacy film. 

So that brings us to Babylon 5 commander, Captain John Sheridan. What an amazing role it was for. Lis Carey says of him, “John Sheridan was raised in a diplomat’s family, and enlisted in the military–leading to him becoming a war hero, the only officer to win a battle against the Minbari. When he became the second commander of Babylon 5, he was not well received by the Minbari. Relations obviously improved, while the Earth Alliance was being transformed into a military dictatorship, which Sheridan opposed. In the last season, after confronting the Earth Alliance decisively, he became President of the new Interstellar Alliance, and subsequently married the Minbari ambassador, Delenn.”

Ok, it was a great role and if you haven’t seen it, go see it that’s all I have to say so. I’m ending this now. Have a good night.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COUNT HIM IN. [Item by Steven French.] Guardian television reviewer Joel Golby becomes one of us: “Doctor Who: even the haters will find it impossible to resist Ncuti Gatwa”.

The injection of Disney cash has definitely helped – the new series looks utterly, hugely epic, but without sliding into the “CGI on top of another layer of CGI” thing that could ruin a still pleasingly British-feeling series like this – and the casting of the two new leads is inspired. If it first came out now, a show like Doctor Who – an infinite number of universes and possible monsters and possible problems and possible ancient villains – would be easy to mess up, push it so it’s too sci-fi, forget to ever come back down to Earth, have Gatwa trapped in a studio for a few months acting opposite a tennis ball. But you’ve got 60 years of lore and an army of fans guarding it and ready to email you if you mess with it too much, and I honestly think that probably helps keep Doctor Who honest. I’ll see you for the Christmas special this year. I think I’ve been converted.

(12) THE PRICE IS A HORROR, TOO. The dramatically-staged Montegrappa Universal Monsters Fountain Pen – Frankenstein edition can be yours for a mere $9,175.

Vintage Hollywood staging and mechanical mayhem are the base ingredients for an homage to a horror icon. Montegrappa’s own strain of mad science brings Frankenstein’s creation back to life, with props and special effects that revisit the magic of a 1931 cinema classic. Energy pulses through its XXL, all-brass body, with ingenious complications to re-animate the senses – bringing fun to high function.

(13) AGED IN THE CROCK, ER, CASK. Nothing to do with sff, except for all the fans who like to drink this sort of thing. And for you, we present Tasting Table’s interview, “Pappy Van Winkle’s Grandson Tells Us 10 Things You May Not Know About Old Rip Van Winkle”.

… Additionally, Van Winkle III noted the 15-year bourbon makes a great cocktail. Now, we know that for some of you, mixing any Old Rip Van Winkle whiskey into a cocktail may sound like blasphemy. But Van Winkle III believes you shouldn’t be worried about mixing high-quality alcohol into a drink. Either way, because the 15-year hits that sweet spot of flavor between younger and older whiskey expressions, Van Winkle III thinks it’s “a fun one to have.”…

I laughed because it reminds me that when LASFS’ Len Moffatt hosted a party he warned the guys that violence would ensue if he found any of us making mixed drinks with his Cutty Sark.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George invites us to step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/11/24 I’m Still Scrolling After All This Time, Picking Up The Pixels Of My Life Without You In My File

(1) SCAM TARGETING WESTERN AUTHORS PURPORTS TO BE FROM SCIENCE FICTION WORLD. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] On Saturday May 11th, the Weibo account of Science Fiction World magazine issued a statement about fraudulent emails addressed to authors.  The emails claimed that SFW had decided to no longer publish work by the author that had previously been acquired, but would retain the copyright, and offered the author the chance to pay to reclaim their copyright.  The post did include an image showing part of the (English language) email that one affected author did receive, but redacted their name.  A Weibo post a day or so earlier identified at least one such affected author, but at time of writing, that author hasn’t posted about it on Twitter or Bluesky, so I’ve not included their name here.

A Google Translate rendition of the statement, with minor manual edits, follows.

Dear readers, authors and partners,

Recently, we have received feedback from foreign science fiction writers that we work with. Some criminals are using impersonation techniques to launch carefully planned email fraud incidents targeting those foreign writers.

This fraudulent email uses the email address “[email protected]“, purporting to be from an editor at our company.  It falsely informs the author that their work will not be published due to so-called “commercial evaluation” or other reasons, and illegally claims to retain the copyright of the author’s work, proposing that the author should pay a fee to redeem their copyright.

We strongly condemn such illegal behavior and have taken corresponding measures to cooperate with law enforcement agencies and actively investigate the matter.  In order to protect the rights and interests of all authors, readers and partners, we hereby issue the following anti-fraud guidelines. Please be vigilant and jointly prevent such fraud as follows:

1. Get confirmation through official channels: Our company will formally notify you through official channels (the official contact channels are indicated on the copyright pages of “Science Fiction World” and its journals) for any decisions regarding the publication status of the work, copyright transfer, or financial transactions. . When receiving similar emails, please do not reply directly to the email, but verify through official channels.

2. Be wary of fake email addresses: Scammers often use addresses that are very similar to official email addresses to send emails.  When receiving similar emails, please carefully check the sender’s email address and pay attention to identifying subtle differences, such as adding or replacing characters, using different top-level domain names, etc.

3. Understand the formal processes: Our company has complete and strict business processes. For major matters such as copyright and contract changes, our company will implement a strict and formal process and will never make a hasty decision through just one email.

4. Direct communication verification: If you receive such an email, the most direct and effective way is to contact us through the official contact method you know to verify the situation. Never use the contact number or return address provided in the email for verification.

5. Improve information security awareness: Keep personal information and communications safe, and do not click on unknown links or attachments in emails to prevent personal information from being leaked or being attacked by malware.

We are fully aware of the importance of each author’s work and the hard work behind it.

We will fight resolutely to the end against any behavior that undermines the rights of authors. At the same time, we also encourage authors or other individuals who receive similar emails to report them to us and local law enforcement agencies in a timely manner, so as to jointly maintain a good creative and publishing environment.

Here, we reiterate our commitment to all partners: we will continue to strengthen information security protection and ensure that the rights and interests of every author who works with us are respected and protected to the greatest extent. The general public is requested to remain vigilant and work together to build a safe space for literary exchange.

Science Fiction World Magazine. May 11, 2024

(2)  PTERRY SURPRISE. The Terry Pratchett website has announced “Another lost Terry Pratchett story found”.

We are pleased (delighted, ecstatic) to announce that one further lost story by Terry Pratchett has been found.

A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories, published in 2023, collected 20 rediscovered tales from when Terry wrote under a pseudonym back in the 1970s and 1980s. It was, at the time, believed to be the last stories of his. But, we were wrong.

One final published tale has been found, that was missed from this collection: Arnold, the Bominable Snowman, which brings us to some more news.

This new story will appear in the paperback edition of A Stroke of the Pen, which will publish in September 2024. Furthermore, the story itself will be published online – for free – by Penguin Books, so that those who bought the hardback do not miss out on this tale. More information on the paperback edition, and where to read the story online, will be made available at a later date….

(3) FANFICTION GOT THERE FIRST. In case you thought the title sounded familiar, The Hollywood Reporter says there’s a reason: “’The Hunt for Gollum’ LOTR Movie Already Exists”. And for a moment, Warner Bros.’ lawyers were trying to pitch the video into Mount Doom.

If Warner Bros.’ newly announced The Lord of the Rings movie idea The Hunt for Gollum sounded a bit like fan fiction, that’s because it already is.

There’s a 2009 fan-made film titled The Hunt for Gollum that you can watch below. The film, directed by Chris Bouchard, is rather ambitious. The Hunt for Gollum spans 39 minutes and has received plenty of praise from fans upon its release.

Following WB’s announcement, the film was taken offline for many hours and YouTube put up a notice saying Warner Bros. had filed a copyright claim against the fan movie and blocked it. LOTR fans reacted quite negatively to the takedown online and, early Friday, the film was restored to YouTube….

The fan-made Hunt for Gollum is set during opening act of The Fellowship of the Ring and fills in a quest that was only briefly discussed in Jackson’s 2001 film: Gandalf (played by Patrick O’Connor in the short) meets with Aragorn (Adrian Webster) and asks him to hunt for Gollum to find out more about Frodo’s magic ring. Aragorn has a series of adventures, traps and loses Gollum and gets attacked by orcs and Ringwraiths. Gollum is recaptured by the Elves of Mirkwood, and he’s interrogated by Gandalf….

With my terrible hearing I can’t say whether the audio is in English – but the closed captioning is in Spanish.

(4) SPFBOX. Mark Lawrence’s tenth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (“SPFBOX”) immediately filled its 300-entry quota on May 10 and has moved on to “SPFBOX phase 1”.

This is the VERY prelimary allocation of books to blogs.

What now follows will be swapping from blog to blog for books that meet the contest rules but have authors who are friends with someone in the blog they’ve been allocated to.

And elimination of books that don’t meet the rules, followed by their replacement with books that didn’t get selected in the original 300.

(5) FRANCHISE COLLISION. A reference to the latest episode of Doctor Who. A spoiler? I never know. “Could the 2 Oldest Sci-Fi Shows Finally Cross Over?” at Inverse.

In “Space Babies,” the debut episode of the newly relaunched 2024 Doctor Who “Season 1” (or Season 14, or Season 40, depending on how you count) the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) and Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson) have a quick discussion about how beaming works in the universe of Star Trek. When the Doctor makes one small quip, fans of both venerable sci-fi franchises might wonder if travel between the Final Frontier and the Whoinverse, is, indeed possible in some kind of mega-geek-multiverse….

At the start of “Space Babies,” Ruby asks the Doctor if they were just beamed somewhere, saying “Is that like a matter transporter? Like in Star Trek?” The Doctor grins broadly and says, “We gotta visit them one day.” This is not the first time Doctor Who has referenced Star Trek (or that Trek has referenced Who) but, it does seem to be the biggest indication to date — at least on screen — that the canon of Trek could exist in an adjacent dimension, rather than just as fiction.

Throughout all of post-2005 Doctor Who, there have been multiple references to characters and ideas from the Star Trek franchise. Rose called the 9th Doctor “Spock,” in the Season 1 episode “The Empty Child,” the 10th Doctor flashed the Vulcan “live long and prosper” hand symbol in the Season 2 episode “Fear Her,” while the 12th Doctor evoked the famous opening lines “Space… the final frontier,” in the Season 10 episode “Oxygen.” And that’s just a small sampling of Trek Easter eggs in Who!

(6) CHALLENGING HERSELF. “Brush and Ink” at Colleen Doran’s Funny Business, is illustrated with examples based on Gaiman’s Sandman series.

I used to get a lot of ribbing for having an elaborate, decorative style. The word was, artists who choose to add decoration and complex rendering are probably hiding drawing deficiencies.

While I agree that this is sometimes the case (and I can think of a few artists who make my hair go the wrong way with endless rendering and very weak underdrawing,) not all of us are covering up poor structure with frou frou.

I always start with a simple, solid drawing before adding the stylization. If the drawing isn’t solid, I don’t proceed until it is.

Awhile ago I decided to challenge my skill set with a series of minimalist brush and ink pieces. I limited the time cost of each drawing to 10 minutes or less. And I tried to stick to no underdrawing, if possible.

That is, one and done, no prelim. Ink only, nothing else.

While I’ve shown some of these drawings before, you folks on Substack probably haven’t seen most of them.

Most of the original exploratory sketches were based on characters from Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN series, like this group of sketches of Death….

Nicki Lynch, left, and Sheila Strickland, right, at the Southern Fandom Press Alliance party during Worldcon 76 in San Jose. Photo by Kay McCutcheon.

(7) R.I.P. SHEILA STRICKLAND. Longtime File 770 subscriber Sheila Strickland died May 9. The Louisiana fan said in her zine for the Southern Fandom Press Alliance a few months back that her doctors had detected cancer and it had spread to her intestine and liver. She went into hospice just a few days ago. Rich Lynch says, “She was a great lady, always looking toward the future.  And now she’s very much missed.”

Guy H. Lillian III says Sheila’s sister told her Facebook friends that the family obituary will be in the New Orleans Advocate this week and the funeral on May 16 at the Greenoaks Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Baton Rouge at noon.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 11, 1918 Richard P. Feynman. (Died 1988.) I’ll admit that I don’t begin to understand what most of the work Richard P. Feynman did as a theoretical physicist. I seriously doubt most of you do. 

While at Princeton, Feynman was recruited for the theoretical division of the Manhattan Project, the very, very secret U.S. Army laboratory set up in Los Alamos, for the purpose of developing the atomic bomb. He was present at the first detonation of an atomic bomb.

Richard P. Feynman. (Caltech Archives)

In 1965, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. The three each created new mathematical tools for a theory called quantum electrodynamics, which describes how subatomic particles interact with light. 

Now there is the matter his influence on the genre. Although as I said was his work in theoretical physics, Feynman was largely pioneered the field of quantum computing and was solely responsible for the concept of nanotechnology. So yes, two widely used SF concepts are from him. 

By the late Fifties, he was already popularizing his love of physics through books and lectures including lectures  on nanotechnology called There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, and a multi volume publication of his undergraduate lectures, The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Yes, these are available from the usual suspects. 

He also became known through his autobiographical works Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?. Naturally there would be books written about him. The biography by James Gleick,  Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman is the one I’ll single out as being the best.

It’s worth noting last is that he was selected to be a member the Presidential Rogers Commission that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. 

Lis notes that during the Challenger explosion hearings, Feynman  demonstrated on camera that an O-ring dropped into ice water lost all the resilience critical to its function on the shuttle solid rocket fuel tanks. 

(9) ROBERT BLOCH WEBSITE UPDATE. Eight vintage photos of Robert Bloch with such friends/family as Bob Tucker, Dean A. Grennell, Fritz Leiber, Marion Bloch, and others have been added to the RobertBloch.net gallery.

(10) UNEXPECTED NETWORKING. At GamesRadar+, “Russell T Davies explains how his ‘accidental’ criticism of Loki led to the Marvel show’s director writing a Doctor Who episode”.

…As reported by Uproxx, during a virtual Pride month panel at Swansea University, Davies described the queer representation in the MCU show [Loki] as being a “feeble gesture”. As you may recall, Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief became the first openly queer lead character in MCU canon thanks to a reference to the character’s love life in the first season, but at the time Davies wasn’t impressed by the inclusion: “Loki makes one reference to being bisexual once, and everyone’s like, ‘Oh my god, it’s like a pansexual show.’ It’s like one word. He said the word ‘prince’ and we’re meant to go, ‘Thank you, Disney! Aren’t you marvelous?’ It’s a ridiculous, craven, feeble gesture towards the vital politics and the stories that should be told.”

…Reflecting on that statement now, Davies admits that his comments were a mistake, explaining that he reached out to Herron immediately to apologize. Little did he know that they would continue chatting, striking up a friendship, which would then result in working together on Doctor Who….

… For the upcoming season, Herron and her co-writer Briony Redman have penned episode 6 which is titled ‘Rogue’. Of course, since the Doctor Who team like to keep their cards close to their chests, little has been revealed about the episode, but we do know that it is set in the Regency era and will feature Mindhunter star Jonathan Groff.

(11) A PROBLEMATIC PIXIE? According to The Street’s report “Disney World cuts classic character from meet-and-greets amid scrutiny” it appears that Disney has permanently discontinued “meet and greet” sessions for Tinkerbell at almost all of their attractions. 

This action followed the New York Times’ 2022 article “Disney, Built on Fairy Tales and Fantasy, Confronts the Real World” which said the company’s Disney Stories Matter team “was marked for caution because she is ‘body conscious’ and jealous of Peter Pan’s attention, according to the executives…”

The Street’s May 7 report says:

…[The] Disney’s Stories Matter team was developed to spot and correct “negative depictions of people and cultures” in Disney’s products.

“We are reviewing our offerings beyond the screen, which include products, books, music and experiences,” reads the Stories Matter homepage on Disney’s website. “While advisories for negative depictions of people and cultures may be added to some offerings, others will be reimagined. We are also investing in new ways to better reflect the rich diversity of stories in our world. This work is ongoing and will evolve as we strive toward a more inclusive tomorrow.”…

The PlanDisney website, answering the question “Why does Tinkerbell no longer have a meet and greet and are their plans to bring her back?” says that currently the only location where Tink does meet visitors is at Pixie Hollow at the Disneyland Resort in California.

(12) MINNESOTA’S NEW FLAG. AP News is there as “Minnesota unfurls new state flag atop the capitol for the first time”. However, my real reason for running this story is that it was the first time I heard about the famed losing entry featuring a loon with lasers for eyes.

Minnesota officially unfurled its new state flag atop the capitol for the first time Saturday on statehood day.

The new flag and accompanying state seal were adopted to replace an old design that Native Americans said reminded them of painful memories of conquest and displacement.

The new symbols eliminate an old state seal that featured the image of a Native American riding off into the sunset while a white settler plows his field with a rifle at the ready. The seal was a key feature of the old flag. That’s why there was pressure to change both.

Officials didn’t pick any of the most popular designs submitted online that included options like a loon — the state bird — with lasers for eyes….

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