Pixel Scroll 2/21/24 Born Of Scroll And Pixel?

(1) NOT A NEW PHENOMENON. [Item by Anne Marble.] If the article quoted in Seanan McGuire’s thread is any indication, the people marketing “romantasy” seem to think they’re the first to publish fantasy novels for women. Or maybe they know better — but they don’t care because they’re trying to market romantasy/romantic fantasy.  Bluesky thread starts here.

(2) WELCOME TO DYSTOPIA. Like Abigail Nussbaum says in her headline: “The 2023 Hugo Awards: Somehow, It Got Worse” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

… I’m going to say this again, because it is so shocking that it seems to have taken a lot of people some time to grasp the enormity of it: hundreds, perhaps even thousands of valid, legal nominating ballots were dropped from the final nominating stats, apparently under the pretext of having represented a slate, even though slates are perfectly legal under the Hugo rules. This was done on the orders of the Hugo administrator, with apparently no outside input or discussion, and appears to have elicited so little response from the Hugo team that they are casually mentioning it as if it’s nothing. If these numbers are correct, it’s entirely possible that the whole Hugo ballot should have looked completely different, and that none of the eventual winners in the fiction categories should have even been nominated.

What this means is that the entire 2023 Hugo scandal is something completely different from what we’ve understood it as during the last month. Appalling as it is, the choice to screen English-language nominees for ideological compatibility may, in fact, be a sideshow to the real scandal, which is that hundreds of Chinese voters have been disenfranchised. And—barring even more revelations—this disenfranchisement cannot be blamed on PRC sensibilities and censorship. I truly doubt that it was in the interest of China, or the Chinese business interests who took over Worldcon, to remove Chinese-language nominees from last year’s Hugo ballot. This decision came from the American and Canadian staffers who made up the English-language Hugo team, many of them Worldcon volunteers of long standing.

In this context, it is infuriating to recall just how quickly the response to our original sense of what this scandal was turned to anti-democratic measures and calls to limit the power of rank-and-file Worldcon members. “Elections have consequences!” crowed the people who are still pissed they weren’t allowed to steal the site selection vote in 2021, while others called to limit site selection to those with “skin in the game”—read, those with the wherewithal to travel to US-based conventions. But as it turns out, the call was coming from inside the house. This was never a China problem. It’s an us problem. If the allegations that are now emerging claiming that McCarty has behaved this way in the past, and also harassed other Worldcon staffers, are to be believed (and there is certainly more than enough reason to believe them at this point), it’s a profound failure on the part of Worldcon and its membership to police toxic members, which has now blown up in all our faces….

(3) TCHAIKOVSKY’S STATEMENT ABOUT 2023 HUGO. His Children of Time was announced as winner of the 2023 Best Series Hugo, however, after all the revelations “Adrian Tchaikovsky Will No Longer Cite His 2023 Hugo”.

There are many reasonable points of view about how to deal with the awards. File 770’s goal is to support and respect the recipients’ decisions.

Another author, Samantha Mills, recently made a decision comparable to Tchaikovsky’s, in a blog post titled “’Rabbit Test’ unwins the Hugo”

(4) THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. The Hugo Awards scandal has even made it into Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter – “Litteraturpris valde bort kinesiska författare”. The article is behind a paywall, though that’s honestly only a problem if you read Swedish.

(5) RAH VS. PKD. Giant Freakin Robot, in “The Sci-Fi Master Whose Work Has Been Ignored By Hollywood, And That Needs To Change”, feels Robert A. Heinlein deserves the kind of cinematic attention given to Philip K. Dick. (Survey says – *bzzzt*! “Wrong!”)

…Hollywood has had an ongoing love affair with the works of Phillip K. Dick for decades now. Sometimes it’s a healthy relationship, giving us masterworks such as Blade Runner. Sometimes it’s downright abusive when it produces flicks like Screamers or Paycheck. And sometimes it splits the difference and serves up enjoyable silliness such as Total Recall.

Still, as many times as the movies have returned to Dick’s catalog, you’d think he was the only SF writer out there. We all know better, of course, and pretty much any SF fan has their dream list of books they’d love to see brought to the silver screen.

If Hollywood really wants to freshen things up, they should take a closer look at the work of Robert A. Heinlein….

(6) BANNED FROM THE HIGHWAY. [Item by Dann.] Remember when non-genre magazines used to publish SFF stories?

Every automobile begins as the sparkle in someone’s eye. In 1981, Neil Peart and his Rush bandmates introduced the world to a Red Barchetta. Saved in an old white-haired uncle’s barn. A relic from before the Motor Law being chased down by gleaming alloy air cars before being saved by a one-lane bridge

But before that, it was an old MGB roadster. Rendered obsolete by wave after wave of modern automobile safety standards had made surviving car crashes not only likely but predictable. The drivers of the newly designed cars expected to walk away from accidents unscathed. As a result, drivers of these Modern Safety Vehicles began targeting older vehicles leaving them in mangled heaps. Those driving older cars were likely to be left in a similarly mangled condition. The price for driving a classic. And so the driver of the old MGB engages in a race for his life pursued by a pair of MSVs.

The story was “A Nice Morning Drive“. It was written by Richard S. Foster and first published in the November 1973 issue of Road & Track magazine. Neil Peart had encountered the story and was inspired to re-tell it in a more distant future where automobiles were banned. It appeared in 1981 on the quintessential RUSH album, Moving Pictures as the second track, “Red Barchetta“.

The band had tried to contact Richard, but R&T no longer had his current address. They did add a credit note referencing the original story in the liner notes.

It was many years later before a friend pointed out that Neil had been inspired by Richard’s story. And it was a few years after that when Richard began corresponding with Neil. The two eventually planned a motorcycle ride along the East Coast. It turns out that they both owned the same model motorcycle, the BMW R1200GS.

As a footnote, Moving Pictures came out in my junior year of high school when I took an advanced composition class. At some point, a red car entered into the zeitgeist of my classmates. The model would shift to suit the moods and tastes of various authors. Sometimes it was only glimpsed under a protective tarp. Other times it would it would fly along country roads kicking up a stream of fall leaves. Our automobile appreciations lasted about a month before our teacher put a firm but kindly end to our vehicular ruminations.

(7) BACK IN ACTION. Nancy Collins’ February 19 update to her GoFundMe backers is good news indeed: “Fundraiser by Nancy Collins : What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”.

I want to take a moment to thank all of you once again for the great kindness and generosity you have shown me in the recent weeks and also update you on my current status and plans.

This coming weekend (February 23rd-25th) I will be a guest at Pensacon 2024 in Pensacola, FL. My doctor says I’m in good enough health to travel as long as I continue to pace myself and take my meds and supplements. And, to be blunt, I can’t afford to pass up what is likely my only comic con appearance for the foreseeable future. So if any of you who have donated are at the convention this coming weekend, please stop by so I can thank you in person. My good friend, Adam–who is the one who talked me into going to the ER instead of gutting it out another 24 hours–will be driving me there and back, as well as helping set-up and run my merchandise table for the weekend, so I have reliable support with me.

I have 3 more weeks, more or less, of blood thinners twice a day ahead of me before I get an idea of whether or not the blood clots were a one-off event or a symptom of something more serious. Until I know one way or another, I will be staying close to home. However, I still plan to be at the Outer Dark Writer’s Symposium in Atlanta next month, health permitting.

(8) LEE AND MILLER PHOTO. Following yesterday’s announcement of Steve Miller’s death, Andrew Porter sent File 770 his photo of the Steve and Sharon at Book Expo.

(9) MARK MERLINO DIES. Mark Merlino, one of the early founders of organized Anime and Furry fandoms in North America, died February 20 at age 71. He suffered a stroke in December, then was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer about two weeks ago. 

Merlino was known for organizing ConFurence, the very first furry convention, which laid the groundwork for the community’s expansion and visibility. His influential role was also recognized in the documentary feature The Fandom, showcasing his significant contributions.

Mark Merlino in 2006.

(10) RICHARD MATHEWS (1944-2024). Scholar Douglas Anderson pays tribute to a colleague in “R.I.P. Richard Mathews (1944-2024)” at Tolkien and Fantasy.

I just googled to see if my old friend Richard Mathews was still the Director of the University of Tampa Press, only to find out that he died last month.

I met him at the 1987 Mythcon in Milwaukee, where we both appeared on a panel on David Lindsay. We found we had many common interests. Richard had published, with Borgo Press, a short book on Tolkien, Lightning from a Clear Sky (1978), and other short books on William Morris and Brian Aldiss. His most notable work was the Twayne volume Fantasy: The Liberation of Imagination (1997; reissued in 2012), which was filled with insights despite the somewhat odd structure of the book (presumably imposed upon him as part of the series it was in). Richard also contributed introductions to some of the William Morris reprints for the Newcastle fantasy series in the 1970s…. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. (Died 2016.) The first time I saw Alan Rickman was in the decidedly not-genre role of German terrorist leader Hans Gruber in Die Hard, a film that’s still high on my list of great thriller films. Great role for him, too. It was amazingly his first film role.

He would won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I actually did see that film. No, I’ll never watch again. Simon R. Green’s publicist tells me he made a lot of money for writing the novelization. 

Rickman went on to play the wizard Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. I can’t say I cared for the character but I don’t think we were supposed to. I never got beyond a hundred pages in the first novel before I gave up reading it, but loved the films. 

While in the film The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyWarwick Davis played Marvin, the android who was clinically depressed and in the novels I thought a royal pain in the ass, it was Alan Rickman who actually voiced the character.

He also voiced Absolem, the Caterpillar in an odd version of Alice in Wonderland. Look it up. Trust me, it’s weird.

And yes, I saved the best first last for last which as you already know is his role in the Hugo Award winning Galaxy Quest which is by far his best genre role. Alexander Dane is a Shakesperean actor who resents his character  Dr. Lazarus, the ship’s science officer. His catch phrase? Oh, you know that by heart.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo shows who really was entitled to say, “How wude!!”

(13) ALL IN THE FOUND FAMILY. [Item by Steven French.] How the story of the ‘Hopkinsville goblins’ led to ET, Gremlins and a bunch of other movies! “The Long, Surprising Legacy of the Hopkinsville Goblins” at Atlas Obscura.

…THE STORY COMES TO US from the local newspaper Kentucky New Era, which, on August 22, 1955, reported strange goings-on the previous night, eight miles north of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. At about 11:00 pm, two cars arrived at the local police station, blasting out of the night filled with at least five adults and several children, all of whom were highly agitated. “We need help,” they told the police. “We’ve been fighting them for nearly four hours.”

Once they’d calmed down enough to talk, they unfurled a strange story. One of the men, Billy Ray Taylor, had been visiting from Pennsylvania. At one point, he went outside to fetch water from the farm’s well. As he walked through the failing light, he saw a circular-shaped object hover through the air before coming to rest in a nearby gully…

… Concerned, Taylor retreated inside and returned with a shotgun to investigate. As he walked into the gloom, a strange, goblin-like thing with glowing eyes appeared and moved toward him. It had “huge eyes,” and hands out of proportion with its body, and looked to be wearing some kind of “metal plate.” Taylor retreated to the house yet again and grabbed a .22 caliber pistol, while Lucky Sutton grabbed a shotgun and joined him.

A creature—whether it was the same one, they didn’t know—appeared in the window, and Sutton unloaded his shotgun at it, blowing out the window screen. When they went outside to see if they’d hit anything, Taylor felt a “huge hand” reach down from the low roof above and grab his hair….

(14) CARVING OUT A PLACE IN SPACE. “Japan to launch world’s first wooden satellite to combat space pollution” – the Guardian has the story.

The LignoSat probe has been built of magnolia wood, which, in experiments carried out on the International Space Station (ISS), was found to be particularly stable and resistant to cracking. Now plans are being finalised for it to be launched on a US rocket this summer.

The timber satellite has been built by researchers at Kyoto University and the logging company Sumitomo Forestry in order to test the idea of using biodegradable materials such as wood to see if they can act as environmentally friendly alternatives to the metals from which all satellites are currently constructed.

“All the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles, which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Takao Doi, a Japanese astronaut and aerospace engineer with Kyoto University, warned recently. “Eventually, it will affect the environment of the Earth.”…

(15) IT’S SUN-GRY. The Guardian reports — “Astronomers discover universe’s brightest object – a quasar powered by a black hole that eats a sun a day”. (“Feed me!”)

The brightest known object in the universe, a quasar 500tn times brighter than our sun, was “hiding in plain sight”, researchers say.

Australian scientists spotted a quasar powered by the fastest growing black hole ever discovered. Its mass is about 17bn times that of our solar system’s sun, and it devours the equivalent of a sun a day.

The light from the celestial object travelled for more than 12bn years to reach Earth….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Animation Magazine encourages readers: “Watch: Prime Video Sneak Peeks ‘The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy’ in New Clip”. The series debuts February 23.

…In a new exclusive clip shared with Animation Magazine, we get an advance look at the premiere episode. The excerpt features Dr. Klak (Keke Palmer), Dr. Sleech (Stephanie Hsu), Dr. Vlam (Maya Rudolph) and Dr. Plowp (Kieran Culkin). In Season 1, doctors Sleech and Klak take on a highly dangerous and potentially groundbreaking case and, in doing so, put existence itself in jeopardy. (Although considering their dismal personal lives, oblivion might be an improvement.)…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Taral Wayne, Rich Lynch, Anne Marble, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/24 The Scroll Of Theseus

(1) IN THE BEGINNING. Philip Athans asks everyone, “Don’t Be Hatin’ On Prologues (Again)” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

… Anyway, once again we’re being told that all prologues are bad, no books should ever have a prologue, and all authors who write prologues are bad, and anyway, it’s best to just skip over them if one should have the nerve to appear….

…Let’s take this monumental misconception in two parts. First, the notion that prologues are optional and no one reads them.

As both an editor and a reader I have never in my life skipped a prologue or in any way went in thinking it was not necessary to the story. Not one time, not ever. This notion is so alien to me I can’t even begin to understand the origin of it.

Richard Lee Byers, author of Called to Darkness and The Reaver (neither of which happen to have prologues) tried to help: “…the assumption is that the prologue is an info dump. Beyond that, even if it’s exciting in its own right, there’s a feeling that if Chapter 1 switches to different characters or is Ten Years Later, you’ve thrown away whatever narrative momentum you might have built up.”

There should never be an assumption that a prologue is an info dump, because prologues should never be info dumps—not ever, not under any circumstances. And yes, even if your world is really complex and you’ve spent years worldbuilding and you’re sure no one will understand your story unless you “set the scene” or teach them all about your amazing world, and all that nonsense. If this is what your prologue is doing, that’s why your book is being rejected, not because it has a prologue, but because it has a crappy prologue….

(3) HISTORY AND MORAL PHILOSOPHY. Canadian sff author D.G. Valdron writes about “Moral Compromise and the Lesson of the Hugos” on Medium.

… Well, the Hugos Scandal isn’t the battle for Civil Rights. But the sort of moral compromise and coercion that King criticized is on display here, and it’s frightening how unnecessary it was, how shallow virtue turned out to be.

How do we really act, how do we really think or behave, how virtuous are we if we are genuinely tested, if there’s a real push. How often have you bowed your head and simply gone along to get along.

And how brave will you be when there are real consequences? When taking a stand actually can get you arrested, or get you fired from your job, or get you beaten up? How principled are you, when there’s money involved, either to lose or to gain? When principles mean some form of inconvenience? When principles mean going against the crowd?

Sadly, I think that most of us won’t be. We’ll be just like the Hugo folk….

(4) THE FIRST. “’No one had done it before him’: the groundbreaking stories of Black astronauts” – the Guardian discusses the documentary film The Space Race.

…Glover describes the tension of code switching between his professional and personal lives. He is a military officer and Nasa astronaut – he will pilot the upcoming Artemis II mission that will orbit the moon – but also a Black man in America. “Is it really possible to have a double consciousness? No, but you almost have to think of it that way: there’s a bit of me that I am at home and then there’s a bit of me that I am at work, and the overlap is kind of small.”…

(5) STEVE MILLER (1950-2024). Sff author Steve Miller died this afternoon. His wife and co-author Sharon Lee told Facebook readers:

He went downstairs to take a walk at about 4:30. At about 5:30, I thought he’d been awhile and went downstairs to see what was going on.

He was on the floor, unconscious, and not breathing. I called 911, and did CPR until the ambulance and EMTs arrived. They did everything they could, but his heart just wouldn’t beat on its own.

Miller’s health had been failing; he recently wrote his own obituary, which Sharon Lee has allowed File 770 to post (see “Steven Richard Miller (July 31, 1950 – February 20, 2024)”.)

Steve and Sharon Lee declared themselves partners in life and in writing in 1978. They married in November 1980, and moved from Maryland to Skowhegan, Maine, in October 1988 after the publication of their first joint novel, Agent of Change, the first in what was to become a long series of space opera novels and stories set in their original Liaden Universe®. A book in that series, Scout’s Progress, won the 2002 Romantic Times Book Club Reviewers Choice Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Steve was an active member of fandom in earlier years, as Director of Information of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for some time, and as vice-chair of the bid committee to hold the 1980 Worldcon in Baltimore (they lost to Boston).

The SF Encyclopedia says Steve began publishing work of genre interest with “Shalgiel” for Flux Magazine in 1976, one of his few solo works. He began collaborating with Sharon with “The Naming of Kinzel: The Foolish” (June 1984 Fantasy Book); and all his novels have been with Lee, primarily the Liaden Universe® sequence. 

Steve ran his own small press from 1995 through 2012, specializing in chapbooks containing 2-3 short stories set in the Liaden Universe® and other settings from books by him, Sharon Lee and other authors.

For awhile Steve and Sharon ran Bookcastle & Dreamsgarth, Inc., a genre bookstore with a traveling convention SF art agency component.

Steve and Sharon were honored together in 2012 with NESFA’s Skylark Award, given for contributions to SF in the spirit of E.E. “Doc” Smith.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. (Died 2013.) Now we come to Richard Matheson. So where shall I start?  From a genre viewpoint, we should start with the Hugo he would share at Solacon for The Incredible Shrinking Man, directed by Jack Arnold from Matheson’s screenplay based off his novel. 

What next? Well The Twilight Zone, of course. He scripted thirteen episodes of which “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with William Shatner is certainly the best-known. I’d also single out “Little Girl Lost” for just being out really, really scary, again it’s based off a story of his. Also, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” became part of the Twilight Zone film.

Richard Matheson

Oh, sweet mother, he was prolific! I mean really, really prolific. Just cinema films alone totaled up to at least twenty-eight: television work adds another thirty-four. So no, I’m not covering these in detail, am I? 

Matheson’s famous novel I Am Legend was made into three movies – but he wondered in an interview why it kept being optioned when no one ever made a movie that actually followed the book. He hated The Last Man on Earth, so he’s credited as Logan Swanson instead. It got made twice more, as The Omega Man, and much later as I Am Legend with Will Smith.

Now where was I? (The phone rang from a medical office. Lots of those these days.) Ahhh, series work. 

The Night Stalker was his greatest success. The Night Stalker first aired in January 1972, and garnered the highest ratings of any television movie at that time. Matheson would receive an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Feature or Miniseries Teleplay. 

He scripted but a single episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., “The Atlantis Affair” and none of the other U.N.C.L.E. series. 

He did “The Enemy Within” episode of the Trek series, not one that I consider to be all that great.

Remember in the Jack Palance Birthday I mentioned Dracula, also known as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dan Curtis’ Dracula? Well guess who the scriptwriter was for it?

He’s the scriptwriter of The Martian Chronicles, the good, the bad whatever of that series. Seen it at least three times, still love the original version much more.

He was involved in Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics. The first and much shorter segment, The Theatre, was expanded and scripted by him from a Serling outline. 

Now his fiction. 

Thirty novels which with the exception of the ones of the ones I’ve already noted and The Shrinking Man and The Night Stalker novels, I recognized absolutely nothing. What I found fascinating is that half of the nearly thirty novels had become films. Nearly all with him writing the scripts for them. 

Short stories. Oh yes. And as I’ve mentioned previously, many of them were adapted by him into scripts for such series as The Twilight Zone. He’s got literally dozens of collections but not being one who’s read him deeply, I cannot recommend what ones are the best to acquire.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) HOW EDUCATIONAL! The New York Times declares, “It’s Alive! EC Comics Returns”.

EC Comics, which specialized in tales of horror, crime and suspense, and was shut down in the “moral panic” of the 1950s, is making a comeback.

Oni Press will publish two new anthology series under the EC Comics banner. The first, Epitaphs From the Abyss, coming in July, will be horror focused; Cruel Universe, the second, arrives in August and will tell science fiction stories.

Hunter Gorinson, the president and publisher of Oni Press, said the new stories will interpret the world of today, much as EC Comics explored the American psyche of the 1950s. The cover designs will feel familiar to EC Comics fans: Running down the top left is a label declaring the type of story — “Terror” or “Horror” or “Science-Fiction” — and the logo evokes the bold colors and fonts of past series like “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror.”

The series are a partnership between Oni and the family of William M. Gaines, the original publisher of EC Comics, who died in 1992. Gary Groth, the editor of The Comics Journal, told The New York Times in 2013 that EC Comics was “arguably the best commercial comics company in the history of the medium.”….

 (9) IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. “I Went to Hogwarts for Seven Years and Did Not Learn Math or Spelling, and Now I Can’t Get a Job” is a 2020 humor piece from The New Yorker.

Dear Headmaster McGonagall:

I am a recent Hogwarts graduate, and, although my time with you was a literal fantasy, I unfortunately did not learn a lot of basic skills, like math or spelling, at your skool.

You may say, “Why do you need arithmetic? You’re a wizard. You can do magic!” To which I reply, sure, for some wizard careers that’s great, but other wizards work in middle management and just want a normal nine-to-five gig. When I graduated, I thought that all I would need was my wand and a couple of choice incantations, but these days, without at least a little algebra, you’re not even qualified to work in Bertie Bott’s retail department…

(10) ARTIFICIAL SURE, INTELLIGENT? MAYBE. Not including any copies of the images was an easy choice: “The rat with the big balls and the enormous penis – how Frontiers published a paper with botched AI-generated images” at Science Integrity Digest.

… The authors disclose that the figures were generated by Midjourney, but the images are – ahem – anatomically and scientifically incorrect.

Figure 1 features an illustration of a rat, sitting up like a squirrel, with four enormous testicles and a giant … penis? The figure includes indecipherable labels like ‘testtomcels‘, ‘senctolic‘, ‘dissilced‘, ‘iollotte sserotgomar‘ and ‘diƨlocttal stem ells’. At least the word ‘rat‘ is correct.

One of the insets shows a ‘retat‘, with some ‘sterrn cells‘ in a Petri dish with a serving spoon. Enjoy!…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Lise Andreasen, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John A Arkansawyer, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/24 Pease Porridge In The Pot Nine Days Scrolled

(1) LEAVING THE HAMC. Cheryl Morgan’s 7-point “Public Statement re the Hugos” at Cheryl’s Mewsings explains why she recently resigned from WSFS’ Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. It says in part:

3. As a member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee it was my duty to ensure that the results of the Hugo Award voting process were posted to the official website promptly and accurately, as they were supplied to us by each year’s Worldcon, including those from Chengdu. We had no authority to comment on or change those results in any way.

4. I am not, nor ever have been, a member of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee (MPC).

5. I am not, nor ever have been, a Director of Worldcon Intellectual Property (WIP), and have no financial stake in that organisation. WIP was created from the corporation that ran the SF&F Translation Awards (of which I was a Director), but no directorships carried over from the one organisation to the other, save for Kevin Standlee who is a Director of WIP because of his membership of the MPC.

6. I resigned from the Hugo Award Marketing Committee, primarily because I no longer wish to be held responsible for (including being subject to legal and reputational risk for) the actions of organisations of which I am not a member and over which I have no influence….

(2) DAVE MCCARTY SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. McCarty’s name is in the news because of the Hugos, but two people today shared other grievances at Bluesky.

Meg Frank said on Bluesky: “Dave McCarty is emotionally abusive, generally manipulative, and has sexually harassed myself and numerous others. I’ve spoken openly about this and made CoC complaints when possible. He is not a missing stair, he is a creepy handyman who has been using his previous community service as a shield.”

Jesi Lipp added, “I’ve never made it a secret that he groped me at a Smofcon in 2011 and it has always been largely treated as a non-issue.”

(3) AI COVER TRACED TO SOURCE. Cassandra L. Thompson draws attention back to the Gothikana AI book cover story on Threads

Thompson’s comment appears to be in response to a TikTok video by emmaskies.

@emmaskies

Replying to @be_kindful That didn’t take long. This is beyond lazy. I still can’t believe anyone approved the use of these really poorly AI-generated assets. Here’s a thought, if you can’t find good stock images to fit the creative vision HIRE AN ARTIST TO MAKE THEM. ???? #torbooks #brambleromance #gothikana #runyx #aiart #noaiart #bookcover #bookcovers #booktok #darkromance #emmaskiesreads

? original sound – emmaskies

(4) DRAWN THAT WAY. Novelist Kelly Link tells the Guardian “‘I was drawn to the monsters and half-naked women on fantasy covers’”. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.

The book that changed me as a teenager
I was a weekend lurker in the fantasy and science fiction section of my local bookstore, eager to spend my weekly allowance, but overwhelmed by the selection. I was drawn to the monsters and half-naked women on the paperback covers of Arthur Saha’s Year’s Best Fantasy anthologies, but too embarrassed for a long time to bring one up to the counter and pay for it. When, eventually, I got up the nerve, I found the stories uniformly enthralling, and the bookseller didn’t bat an eye. After that, I grew much more bold about what I wanted to read, regardless of how lurid the cover might be.

Kelly Link in 2016

(5) NEW TOU ARE DOA. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss reports “Outrage Over New Terms of Use at Findaway Voices Forces Change”. Pushback against Findaway/Spotify’s new Terms of Use succeeded in bringing about a substantial revision.

…Unsurprisingly, the new license terms generated a storm of criticism. Judging by what I saw on social media, and by what authors who alerted me to the new TOU told me, many rights holders took steps to cancel their contracts. Findaway/Spotify appears to have been caught completely flat-footed by the backlash.

… There’s still some vagueness (“otherwise use”) and I note the inclusion of “training” (AI training? It’s not clear, although I think the language following suggests not).

But it is a substantial change, and it does address the criticism of the original version. The license is no longer irrevocable or royalty-free. “Translate” and “modify” have been removed, as has the derivative works language. There’s no longer a moral rights waiver. And, pretty clearly in response to authors’ and narrators’ concerns, the final sentence rules out using audiobook files to create new works based on the original, or to create new machine voices, unless the rights holder gives permission (although, if I were a narrator, I might wonder whether “new” in that context creates a loophole for duplicating an existing voice).

There are two ways to look at what happened here. One is that Spotify tried an egregious rights grab, got called out for it, and did what greedy corporations sometimes do when challenged: walked it back, though not quite completely. The other is that Spotify did not anticipate the backlash, and whether because it recognized the validity of the criticism or simply saw that its self-interest was at stake, reconsidered and implemented the change.

Regardless, I do think that Findaway/Spotify deserves some credit….

(6) KERFUFFLE OVERDOSE. Maya St. Clair delivers “The last News from the Orb”.

This week, I took down that psychoanalytic take I did about Cait Corrain. Reception of the piece was positive, but I’d started to feel rankled and uncomfortable when I saw it on my page, like I needed a shower….

St. Clair’s explanation deserves a click-through to read. And I truly empathize with the next paragraph.

…As the Internet plunges its talons further into everybody’s brains, this kind of doom spiral is going to get harder to resist. The SFF, publishing, and book-reading communities have largely chosen their futures, and it’s more of this codependency: more controversies, more incidents called Something-Gate, more of that awful, druglike disgust that keeps one fixated. As writers, we could follow along: delve into endless Internet research, throw around receipts, assemble our alembics and phials and glass curlicues and try to distil the final Take on this week’s Cait Corrain. Or maybe we could think about literally anything else….

(7) THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND. Peter Wood discusses “The Pros and Cons of Nostalgia” at Asimov’s SF blog From Earth to the Stars.

Margaret Atwood  and I both grew up in large Canadian cities and our fathers ran summer camps in rural Ontario. Atwood’s father, a forest entomologist, took his family from Toronto into the wilds of Ontario to live with graduate students. As a teenager, Atwood worked as a camp counselor for three years.

I tell you this, because our family lived at the northern Ontario summer camp my Dad ran for the Ottawa Boys Club every summer until we moved to Florida. I worked for three years as a camp counselor in college. No need to cue the Twilight Zone music, but the settings of two of Atwood’s short story collections—Moral Disorder and Cats Eye—spoke to me because of her descriptions of rustic Ontario in the summer and cold dark winters in Toronto.

Like Atwood, I often use my own memories to embellish my writing. “Une Time Machine, S’il Vous Plait” has scenes in a summer camp in northern Ontario and sections in  the dead of winter in Toronto and Ottawa in the 1970s. Those scenes were some of the easiest in the short story to put to paper, because they are still vivid to me. Their impressions are much stronger than memories of much more recent events….

(8) DAVE MCKEAN Q&A. The Comics Journal’s Jake Zawlacki has a long, probing interview with Dave McKean. One question is about Midjourney. “’I Will Always Choose Reality’: Dave McKean, Retrospective”.

…It seems that AI may be soon having its day. Early in the book you tease a reason for Thalamus finally coming about and mention an “emergency final page.” When we get to the end, you offer a very honest experience with using Midjourney, and how you felt you needed to accommodate AI in your work, or quit. To start, how do you feel about someone typing in “Dave McKean style comic book cover” into Midjourney and using the result?

I had completed the book by June of last year, and had written that last page as a much more positive paragraph with walking anecdotes and bird pictures and a sense that I’d never felt more professionally fulfilled and personally happy as I did at the time, partly because I really enjoyed putting the book together and revisiting so much stuff that I determinedly had not looked back at for decades. But then the Midjourney thing happened and suddenly the book took on a whole other meaning for me, it was literally the end of my era, from now on my life is pre and post AI.

To start? I consider that action to be theft, the final image will be trained on my work without my knowledge, agreement, or any reimbursement. It’s fraudulent, because the user will consider it their work when my name is in the prompt, surely no simpler paper trail has ever existed for a fraud court case? So then it also makes a difference to me whether this is just one person at home having some fun with a new tech toy and not taking it any further, or someone selling that image, and there’s a greyscale of uses in between. The legal side is a minefield, and we really haven’t caught up with the implications. And finally, and most importantly in this case, the people I’ve talked to who are enthusiastic about AI actually believe this is a creative act. Typing a few words into a bot, and they will tell you how much they thought about the exact words to use, and tweaked the prompt 20-odd times, but this is essentially typing a few words into a bot and waiting a minute. This is such a denuded idea of what creativity is, they are only fooling themselves. There will always be artists who will use it as a tool and be very clear and thorough about staying on the right side of perceived moral lines, but I think they are hypnotized by the shiny new thing. They will be the Trojan horse that wrecks the notion of art, something which has carefully evolved over tens of thousands of years and helped shape the best of us, trashed by glorified predictive text. And you have no idea how sad it is for me to hear artists justify this work with the sort of evasive, relativist art-bollocks that has corrupted the contemporary gallery market….

(9) BISHOP REMEMBERED. Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams tells about her friendship with the late Michael Bishop and his family in “Cri de Coeur”.

…The 1992 World Fantasy Convention was held in Mike’s hometown—Pine Mountain, Georgia—and that’s where I got the chance to really get to know him. After spending time with Mike and his wife Jeri, they invited me, and a couple of other people, over to their beautiful home. They gave us a tour of their house, which I believe had been owned by Jeri’s family for a few generations. They also regaled us with stories about their son Jamie and daughter Stephanie, who were both away at college.

My oldest daughter was born in 1993, and I tentatively included a photo of her in a few of our authors’ holiday cards. Mike’s response to the photo and his sincere interest in my family encouraged me to continue to include these photos in cards and to expand on the number of people who received them. [I know some authors were perplexed, but I was delighted that eventually many started sending photos of their kids and/or pets back to me.] As I told Mike years later, I also tried to emulate the loving home life for my kids that he and Jeri had provided for their own children.

Mike’s ninth story in Asimov’s, “Cri de Coeur,” was our September 1994 cover story. This moving novella about the journey on a generation starship was also a finalist for both the Hugo and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. There was a twelve-year gap between Mike’s tenth Asimov’s story in 1996 and his eleventh in 2008. During that time, Mike and I mostly stayed in touch via holiday cards.

On April 16, 2007, Mike and Jeri experienced one of the most terrible tragedies that can befall a family. Their thirty-five-year-old son Jamie, now an instructor of German at Virginia Tech, was murdered in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Mike’s next tale for us, “Vinegar Peace, or, The Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage” (July 2008), was the painful story of a society that sends adults to orphanages after their last child dies. It, too, was nominated for a Nebula….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 19, 1937 Terry Carr. (Died 1987.) I’ll admit right now that I do not know Terry Car from any of his novels which are Warlord of KorInvasion from 2500 co-written with Ted White, and Cirque. I’ll certainly invite opinions on how they are. What I do know about him is from his most excellent and rather extensive work in the area of editing anthologies.

But first I must discuss his work as a fanzine editor, winning his first Hugo for the zine FANAC, co-edited with Ron Ellik, which they started in 1958. There were seventy-one issues (the last six were co-edited with his first wife, Miriam Carr). Read the first issue at Fanac.org. Terry would win a second Hugo for Best Fan Writer in 1973 at Torcon II. He would also be the 1986 Worldcon’s Fan Guest of Honor.

Terry and second wife Carol Carr, center, Jock Root and German literary agent Thomas Schlueck left, with Gary Deindorfer at far right, on the subway coming back to Manhattan from a gathering at Ted White’s house for TAFF delegate Schlueck in 1966. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

His work on anthologies began in the Sixties on the first seven volumes of World’s Best Science Fiction with Donald A. Wollheim. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read at least some of them as the contents are quite familiar. 

Also while working for Donald A. Wollheim at Ace Books, he was responsible for the acclaimed Ace Special series, bringing out R.A. Lafferty’s Past Master (1968), Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage (1968).

Now I know that I’ve read much of his next two anthology series as they were quite excellent. They came out almost out at the same time as the Seventies got under way, with Universe having an impressive run of seventeen volumes, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year with just a volume less. 

He also had an anthology series devoted to original fantasy only, New Worlds of Fantasy which published three volumes stating in the Sixties. He did five volumes in the Fantasy Annual reprint series starting in the late Seventies. 

His work would earn two Best Professional Editor Hugos (1985, 1987). 

Lastly, he published in his regrettably brief lifetime a reasonably large amount of shorter fiction, over forty pieces. The Seventies collection The Light at the End of the Universe is the only sole look at his short fiction to date. Subterranean Press, where art thou?

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy apparently learns from Looney Tunes.

(12) WEB BREAKS. The Hollywood Reporter says it’s dead, Jim: “Inside Sony’s ‘Madame Web’ Collapse: Forget About a New Franchise”.

The trailer buzz was worrisome, advance ticket sales anemic. Then last week, the critic reviews for Madame Web were posted, and they stung deepest of all — Sony’s Spider-Man spinoff received the lowest average Rotten Tomatoes score (13 percent) of any major superhero film in nearly a decade.

“On Wednesday night, you could actually watch advance purchase sales declining in real time as buyers were refunding their tickets,” marvels a major theatrical chain insider. “It really says something when you’d rather have Shazam! 2 numbers.”

It marked one of the lowest starts in Hollywood history for a film based on a Marvel character. Domestic box office for the first six days in North America was just $26.2 million after opening midweek on Valentine’s Day. International tallied $25.7 million from 61 markets. Even the fan-friendly CinemaScore grade was poor (C+ — extremely low for a superhero title).

Like DC and the once-unstoppable Marvel, Sony is now finding itself in under the gun to reevaluate how it makes comic book movies….

(13) LEFT BEHIND. “Harrison Ford left behind a Star Wars script. It just sold for $13,600” reports Yahoo!

A draft script from the original Star Wars movie trilogy, left in a London home rented by the actor Harrison Ford in the 1970s, has sold for more than $10,000 at auction.

The fourth draft of the screenplay that became the epic 1977 film “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” was unbound and incomplete. But it included iconic scenes, including the one that introduces Chewbacca – the towering, hairy Wookiee who co-pilots the Millennium Falcon alongside Ford’s character, Han Solo – in a dimly lit tavern.

The script, dated March 15, 1976, and titled “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller,” sold to an Austrian collector for about $13,600 during a live-streamed auction on Saturday. The seller owned the home that Ford had rented while working on the film….

(14) SPIDER MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] People have certain expectations of an Adam Sandler movie. They should throw them out the window before seeing this Netflix pic.

In Spaceman, Sandler plays a “dour, isolated, arrogant” astronaut whose marriage is falling apart “due to his own failings as a husband.” Then, as depression sets in months into his solo mission, he unexpectedly finds a companion—an “ancient mind-reading spider-like creature from the beginning of time.” “‘Spaceman’ Director Johan Renck on His First Project After ‘Chernobyl’ and Giving Adam Sandler His Most Un-Adam Sandler Role to Date” in Variety.  

How did you get [Adam Sandler] on board? 

It was almost random, to be honest. I had a general meeting with him in L.A. a couple of years ago, because I’m a massive fan of his, and by the end of that chat, he was like, “Hey, what about this space film I hear you guys are developing, I’d love to read it.” We weren’t that far along but that’s how it unfolded. I remember going back up to my room and thinking: that’s pretty fucking brilliant. It was like an epiphany. But when it he said he wanted to do it, I was like, “the issue is that you’re a big name in the comedy circuit, but I’m just a little concerned about being able to pull up the financing for this with you in a dramatic role.” It’s a weird thing to say to one of the highest-grossing actors! But he’s not going to bank a dramatic science fiction film like George Clooney would. He asked how much we needed, and I said, “Well, it’s in zero gravity, one of the characters is CGI, so it’s gonna cost a bunch of money.” And he says: “I’ll get your money, I have a deal with Netflix.” And three weeks later we were shaking hands….

One similarity between “Spaceman” and “Chernobyl” was that you didn’t try to give your actors Eastern European accents. Adam Sandler sounds like Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan sounds like Carey Mulligan.

I hate accents. They’re the most ridiculous thing ever. To me, if we want to suggest they’re speaking Czech, why is the best way to achieve that having them speak English with a really fake accents? Have you ever heard an accent in a movie work? 

(15) SLAUGHTERLESS HOUSE FIVE. “Lab-Made Meat? Florida Lawmakers Don’t Like the Sound of It.” The New York Times tells how the meat is grown.

…Start-up companies around the world are competing to develop technologies for producing chicken, beef, salmon and other options without the need to raise and slaughter animals. China has made the development of the industry a priority. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture has given initial blessings to two producers.

Now, a measure in Florida that would ban sales of laboratory-grown meat has gained widespread attention beyond state borders. The bill, which is advancing through the Florida Legislature, would make the sale or manufacture of lab-grown meat a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000. It’s one of a half-dozen similar measures in ArizonaTennesseeWest Virginia and elsewhere.

Opponents of lab-grown meat include beef and poultry associations worried that laboratory-made hamburgers or chicken nuggets could cut into their business.

Supporters include environmentalists who say it would reduce animal cruelty and potentially help slow climate change. Meat and dairy together account for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.

Other backers of the industry include advocates for space exploration, a subject particularly relevant to Florida, which is home to the Kennedy Space Center and the site of countless launches to the moon and beyond. Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX has its own outer space ambitions, has partnered with Israel-based Aleph Farms to research lab-grown meat on a Space X flight to the International Space Station that launched from Florida.

How’s this actually made?

Lab-grown meat, also called cultivated meat, is grown from cells that have been taken from an animal. The animals aren’t slaughtered. 

Then water, salt and nutrients like amino acids, minerals and vitamins are added to the cells, which multiply and eventually become minced meat….

(16) CAKE AND CANDLES. James Bacon volunteered to let me run the poem he composed to wish me “Happy birthday”.

Happy birthday to you Mike, 
We wish you cheer & delight, 
On your auspicious nice day 
Hoping your brother’s is a nice night. 

You report on the appalling news 
That’s giving us all the horrid blues 
Doubtful of when it might actually end 
With an apology, perhaps only if wills bend. 

We need to see your cheerful smile 
Defeating those who tried to defile 
Shining a light on where it went bad 
Finding reason to cease being sad 

A happy day is yours to enjoy 
What positives can we also deploy 
Looking forward upward bright 
Some cake and cheer on birthday night 

Ray Bradbury’s 89th Birthday Cake. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Jean-Paul Garnier, James Bacon, Daniel Dern, Jason Sanford, Anne Marble, 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 OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 2/18/24 Aren’t All Pixels Made Of Exotic Materials?

(1) CANCELLING HERSELF. Samantha Mills mournfully headlined her latest blog post “’Rabbit Test’ unwins the Hugo”. After reading the Barkley/Sanford report and some others’ analysis of the voting reports, Mills says:

…Looking at the information we currently have, it’s hard for me to conclude anything other than: I shouldn’t have been on that ballot. On the one hand, it seems as though the final vote hasn’t been tampered with, and the voters engaged in good faith with the works they were told were the finalists, for which I still say thank you! But it’s really, really hard for me to see past the initial fact, which is that I shouldn’t have been on that ballot.

This entire experience has been very stressful and fraught. Initially I assumed I wasn’t going to be a finalist, because even though the story had taken off like mad in the U.S., the bulk of the membership was not going to be American. I assumed we would see a lot of Chinese nominees — which would have been cool! We’d get a slice of international scifi that I rarely ever see! And then I was really pleasantly surprised to be informed I was a finalist after all. When the full ballot was posted, I was also surprised at how few Chinese nominees were in the fiction categories. There were four in the short story category, though, so I thought it was legit, and that wow, John Wiswell and I somehow made the cutoff anyway, isn’t that amazing!

I accepted the nomination because, you know, it is supposed to be an honor. But then due to concerns about the Worldcon event itself, I elected not to participate in programming or accept a free trip to Chengdu. This was also fraught. I’ve never been to a Worldcon, and I’d never been nominated before. And as I said in my previous long-winded post on the subject, I have nothing against the fandoms at play. But I wasn’t comfortable being one of the faces of local PR under political circumstances that felt entirely above my pay grade, so I bowed out…

(2) HUGO DIAGNOSIS AND POSSIBLE CURE. Nerds of a Feather editorsThe G, Vance K, Arturo Serrano, Adri Joy, Chris Garcia, Paul Weimer, and Alex Wallace have each written part of “The Hugo Awards Crisis Deepens – Where We Stand and How to Save the Awards”.

The G’s segment concludes:

There are two sets of problems here: (a) the proximate issue of what was done in 2023 and (b) what this reveals or illuminates about the the cartel of self-proclaimed “SMOFs” (secret masters of fandom) who treat the Hugos – and Worldcon more broadly – as their birthright, playground and personal fiefdom. The Hugo Awards are supposed to be democratic in nature and process; the behavior of the self-proclaimed “SMOFs” is fundamentally anti-democratic – and this is by no means confined to Chengdu Worldcon.

Now here are my suggestions for how to rebuild trust in the Hugo Awards:

  1. No one involved in the administration of the 2023 Hugo Awards, or who assisted in the collection of political evidence, can ever be allowed to have any role in administering the awards ever again.
  2. Vote tabulation must be performed in a transparent manner using software that multiple people have access to for purposes of validation. 
  3. All tabulations must be independently audited for purposes of verification. 
  4. Individual Cons should no longer administer the Hugo Awards – this should be done by an independent, rotating committee.
  5. All decisions by said committee must be audited; all disqualified nominees must be notified and given time to appeal.

(3) STARSHIP FONZIE SCOOP. Eric Hildeman got ahead of the “Glasgow 2024 Passalong Funds Announcement” with the information he reported in Episode 36 of his “Starship Fonzie” podcast. He’s now also posted a transcript on his blog.

Here’s more information about Chengdu’s passalong offer of $40,000 to Glasgow:

“… My colleague, and I think it’s fair to say, con-running coach, Alexia Hebel, is not only the treasurer for Capricon, she was the treasurer for the Western component of the Worldcon in Chengdu. And as such, one of her duties was to administer the pass-along funds from Chengdu over to Glasgow. What are pass-along funds? Well, if there’s any money left over after running a Worldcon, they have the option and traditionally always do of passing that surplus along to the next Worldcon as a donation towards its effort. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea. While in between duties at Capricon and after speaking with Ben Yalow about it, she offered $40,000 in pass-along funds to the Glasgow Worldcon. And again, that’s de rigueur. You know, every Worldcon does this if they can. Glasgow turned the money down. They’re so anxious to avoid any associations with the Chengdu Worldcon that they’re unwilling to even touch the money, to the tune of 40 grand.

(4) SEEN AROUND FANDOM. These convention badge ribbons will be in great demand once somebody starts handing them out.

(5) DRAMA CRITIC. Lauren Oyler asks what effect Goodreads one-star reviews – or any other reviews – have in “’God forbid that a dog should die’: when Goodreads reviews go bad” at the Guardian.

Something dramatic happens on a social media platform every day. On Goodreads, the anachro­nistically designed website for logging, rating (out of five) and reviewing books, the dramas are more amusing, and they occasionally even draw attention from areas beyond the site’s supposedly book-loving users. The most recent featured Cait Corrain, the fantasy author who set up an elaborate network of fake accounts to post positive reviews of her own forthcoming book as well as negative reviews of authors she felt were her competitors. When citizen journalists uncovered her plot in December 2023, her book was cancelled, and she lost her agent and a future book deal.

A juicy, postmodern story of self-sabotage, or a sad one about the intersection of the internet and mental health. Regardless, its stakes are relatively low: publicly harassing one’s colleagues is a sackable offence anyway, and it’s hard to find someone who really cares about the vicissitudes of the young adult literature world who isn’t part of the subculture. I’m not; I’m a professional critic, and an author of a literary novel. I’m a snob. I care about my book, and the authors I feel are my competitors. And while Goodreads has been around since 2007, its significance to the broader literary world remains steadfastly confusing. Does it sell books? Does it make and break careers? The flashy, funny stories that have emerged about the site over the last several years have done exactly what its proprietors surely want: make it seem like Goodreads is important. But is it?…

(6) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA presents episode 72 of the Simultaneous Times podcast with Eugen Bacon & Todd Sullivan. Stories featured in this episode:

  • “A Good Ball” by Eugen Bacon, with music by Fall Precauxions, read by Jean-Paul Garnier
  • “Shards of Glass” by Todd Sullivan, with music by Phog Masheeen, read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

Available on all podcast players or at Podomatic.

(7) THE SOURCE: SARAH MAAS FANTASY. Ann Smoot points out “The Jewishness of Sarah Maas’ Fantasy World” at Hey Alma. Beware spoilers.

Whether you’ve been thinking about starting to read “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” or you’re a long-time fan of “Throne of Glass,” it’s likely that you’ve heard of Sarah J. Maas. The author is making headlines the world over thanks to her fantasy series. Whether you’re invested in them for the well-written smut or the beautiful way she weaves her stories, fans can’t put down her novels. But what some readers might not know about the rather private author is that she was raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father and attended Hebrew school in her youth. She went on to attend Hamilton College for religious studies and met her future husband at her college’s Hillel, where he served as president. Her connection to her Jewish faith isn’t just apparent when looking at her personal history, though. It just takes a keen eye and a flip through any of her series’ to recognize that she has woven her culture through every story….

… The way that Maas deftly and lovingly weaves her Jewish culture and faith into her writing opens up the world of our stories and tradition to a wider audience. Jewish faith hasn’t had a very loud voice in fantasy — but thanks to Maas, that might be about to change.

(8) ROLE MODEL. [Item by Danny Sichel.] “Peter Talks To a Spider”, a ten-page comic, by Donny Cates and Chip Zdarsky, published on Marvel’s official Threads account: “What happens when Spider-Man chats with an actual Spider”. Images at the link.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. (Died 2006.) Tonight I’ve come to talk of Jack Palance who was born of Ukrainian immigrant parents with name of Volodymyr Palahniuk. His last name was actually a derivative of his original name. While guesting on What’s My Line?, he noted that no one could pronounce his last name, and how it was suggested that he be called Palanski but instead that he decided just to use Palance instead. He didn’t say where his first name came from.

(OK nitpickers, I do not want to hear from you. Seriously, I don’t. His career makes a gaggle of overly catnapped kittens playing with skeins of yarn with lots of lanolin still on it look simple by comparison so I may or may not have knitted it properly here, so bear with my version of it.) 

Jack Palance in 1954.

Surprisingly it looks like that he got his start in our end of things in television performances and relatively late as they started in the Sixties with the first one being Jabberwock on a musical version of Alice Through the Looking Glass. I’m sure I want to see that as it had Jimmy Durante as Humpty Dumpty, and the Smothers Brothers as Tweedledee and Tweedledum. 

Next up was a Canadian production with him in the title role of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and that in turn saw him being the lead in Dracula, also known as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dan Curtis’ Dracula, the last when the ego of the Director got way, way too big. 

Jack Palance as Dracula (1973)

I’m going to digress here because it’s so fascinating. In 1963, The Greatest Show on Earth first aired. This Circus drama had Johnny Slate as the big boss who keeps the circus running as it moves from town to town. It was produced by Desilu, the production company founded by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Sr. It lasted but one season as it was up against shows by Jack Benny and Richard Boone. 

A bit of hard SF was next, Cyborg 2, released in other countries as Glass Shadow, creative but terribly uninformative, where he’s Mercy, an old renegade cyborg. 

Remember my Birthday recently on the wonderful Carol Serling? Well he was in The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics film that she made possible as Dr. Jeremy Wheaton in “Where the Dead Are”. 

If Treasure Island counts as genre and yes I do count it in my personal canon, then his role as Long John Silver is definitely canon. 

He got to play Ebenezer Scrooge in Ebenezer. Now the fun part is that it’s set in the Old West, where he is the most greedy, corrupt and mean-spirited crook in the old West obviously, he sees no value in “Holiday Humbug” by several reviewers. This film I went to look up on Rotten Tomatoes, but no rating there.

Not at all shockingly to me, he shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. where he plays a character of Louis Strago in a two-parter “The Concrete Overcoat Affair” which got reedited as “The Spy in the Green Hat”. 

A bit of horror was next in Tales of the Haunted as Stokes in “Evil Stalks This House” was up late in career.

Finally for roles that I’m reasonably sure were of genre interest, he was on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Kaleel in the “Planet of the Slave Girls” episode.

One more gig for him related to genre or at least genre adjacent, though not as a performer, but as the host of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! for four years. He had three different co-hosts from season to season, including his daughter, Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff, and finally singer Marie Osmond. 

I’ll take your leave now. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) HEAVENLY OSCULATION. [Item by Steven French.] David Tennant answers Guardian readers’ questions about the length of his sideburns, what kind of cheese he would be and being a Doctor Who fan: “David Tennant: ‘Kissing Michael Sheen was fine. He’d brushed his teeth’”.

“Am I as geeky as the Doctor who fans? Yes. As a Doctor Who fan myself of old, I can very much can plug into that. I don’t think I ever got in trouble at school. That is one of those stories that’s ended up on Wikipedia. I wrote an essay on Doctor Who, which some unpleasant newspaper found and printed. But I didn’t get in trouble for it. I think I got quite a good mark for it.”

(12) LGBTQ VIDEO GAMERS. The New York Times article about a GLAAD study says “Report Says 17 Percent of Gamers Identify as L.G.B.T.Q.”  There were 1500 participants in the survey.

Less than 2 percent of console video games include L.G.B.T.Q. characters or story lines even though 17 percent of gamers are queer, according to GLAAD’s first survey on the industry.

The survey, whose results were released on Tuesday, said a majority of respondents had experienced some form of harassment when playing online. But it also found that many queer gamers saw virtual worlds as an escape in states where recent legislation has targeted L.G.B.T.Q. people. Seventy-five percent of queer respondents from those states said they could express themselves in games in a way they did not feel comfortable doing in reality.

“That is a statistic that should pull on everyone’s heartstrings,” said Blair Durkee, who led the advocacy group’s survey alongside partners from Nielsen, the data and marketing firm. “The statistic is driven largely by young gamers. Gaming is a lifeline for them.”

GLAAD has produced a similar breakdown of queer representation in television since 1996. Its latest report found that 10.6 percent of series regulars in prime-time scripted shows identified as L.G.B.T.Q., which researchers said helped put their video game study in perspective….

(13) CREATING VIDEO FROM TEXT. That’s the latest step forward in artificial intelligence says OpenAI in “Sora”.

We’re teaching AI to understand and simulate the physical world in motion, with the goal of training models that help people solve problems that require real-world interaction.

Introducing Sora, our text-to-video model. Sora can generate videos up to a minute long while maintaining visual quality and adherence to the user’s prompt.

Today, Sora is becoming available to red teamers to assess critical areas for harms or risks. We are also granting access to a number of visual artists, designers, and filmmakers to gain feedback on how to advance the model to be most helpful for creative professionals.

We’re sharing our research progress early to start working with and getting feedback from people outside of OpenAI and to give the public a sense of what AI capabilities are on the horizon….

… The current model has weaknesses. It may struggle with accurately simulating the physics of a complex scene, and may not understand specific instances of cause and effect. For example, a person might take a bite out of a cookie, but afterward, the cookie may not have a bite mark….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The second trailer for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire has dropped. Only in theaters March 29.

The guardians of nature. The protectors of humanity. The rise of a new empire.

The epic battle continues! Legendary Pictures’ cinematic Monsterverse follows up the explosive showdown of “Godzilla vs. Kong” with an all-new adventure that pits the almighty Kong and the fearsome Godzilla against a colossal undiscovered threat hidden within our world, challenging their very existence—and our own. “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” delves further into the histories of these Titans and their origins, as well as the mysteries of Skull Island and beyond, while uncovering the mythic battle that helped forge these extraordinary beings and tied them to humankind forever.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Paul Weimer, Eric Hildeman, Joshua K., Cliff Ramshaw, Kathy Sullivan, Jean-Paul Garnier, Dan Bloch, Rich Lynch, Danny Sichel, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/24 BOOM Goes The Corbomite

(0) My brother, his wife, and I unexpectedly spent the day binge-watching The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix, so I am staying over another night. Therefore this will be a short-short Scroll assembled on his Mac tablet. Looks like I have figured out what I need to do despite the unfamiliar software. (He uses the Brave browser – tell me, does my text always look so bleached out to you?)

(1) MORE MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE HUGO REPORT.

The New York Times“Some Authors Were Left Out of Awards Held in China. Leaked Emails Show Why.” is paywalled.  But this gift link will get you in – thanks to Susan.

What did the leaked emails reveal?

The exclusion of popular authors of Chinese descent led to speculation that the awards’ administrators had weeded out those whose political views might prove controversial in China. Those suspicions were confirmed recently, when emails leaked by Diane Lacey, a member of last year’s Hugo administration team, were published in a report by Chris M. Barkley, a science fiction fan and journalist, and Jason Sanford, a journalist and science fiction writer.

The email correspondence published in the report showed that Dave McCarty, one of the Hugo administrators, had advised other members to vet the finalists and “highlight anything of a sensitive political nature” in China, including works that focused “on China, Taiwan, Tibet or other topics that may be an issue in China.” Such works, he added, might not be safe to put on the ballot.

“This really just cut to the core of the awards,” Sanford said. “For a genre that believes so deeply in free speech to willingly take part in doing research on political issues of awards finalists, knowing that it’s going to be used to eliminate some of those finalists, it’s outrageous.”…

Salon “Hugo Awards scandal: Why the prestigious sci-fi literary awards is under fire for censorship”

The Hill – Chris Barkley tells me, “The Hill is a conservative news site that’s KNOWN for its lightweight coverage on cultural issues. And here’s a prime example. I would not even bother posting this piece of fluff…” I disobeyed: “Neil Gaiman, Paul Weimer among writers excluded from Hugo Awards over fear of offending China”. (Besides, I’ll bet Paul likes the idea of being named in a headline along with Neil Gaiman, even though he said it annoys him that his name is misspelled in the URL)

(2) HOW HE MET MRS. WEIRD AL. [Item by Dann] Craig Ferguson recently hosted “Weird Al” Yankovic on his  JOY podcast. (There’s also a full transcript at the link.)  Within the wide-ranging discussion, Al revealed that he was introduced to his wife by Art Barnes.

Al was on the Doctor Demento Show when he met Art.  They got on pretty well and Art invited Al to his place in the Hollywood hills.

Looking around the place, Al sees a ton of Lost in Space memorability.  He thinks to himself that Art is really into Lost in Space.  And there was a ton of Will Robinson/Billy Mumy collectibles.  Art must have been a superfan!

Sort of.

Art Barnes was half of the musical team known as Barnes & Barnes.  One of their most known songs was “Fish Heads”.

Of course, Art Barnes was actually Billy Mumy himself.  That should make the whole superfan of Will Robinson thing a bit less creepy.

Billy set Al up on several blind dates.  But one time, he told Al that he had to date this woman from 20th Century Fox.  Billy told Al that Al had to marry her.

And that’s how things worked out.

The rest of the podcast was pretty good.

(3) MEMORY LANE.

February 17, 1912Andre Norton. (Died 2005.) I always think of Andre Norton with some fondness. She always write things that as an individual that I just liked.  Warning: this is not complete listing by any stretch of the imagination. 

The title of her first novel, The Prince Commands, being sundry adventures of Michael Karl, sometime crown prince & pretender to the throne of Morvania, could have easily been that of a fantasy novel or a mainstream swashbuckler novel. Well, it’s the latter — ninety years old this year, it’s still quite readable.

She was twice nominated for the Hugo Award, at Pacificon II for Witch World, a favorite of mind, and then again at NyCon 3 for her “Wizard’s World” novelette which appeared in the June 1967 issue of If.

Andre Norton

Her first fantasy novel, Huon of The Horn, the 13th-century story of Huon, Duke of Bordeaux, and adds in Oberon, to create one delightful tale.

Her first SF novel, Star Man’s Son, 2250 A.D, was published at the same time over seventy-five years ago. I’ve not read it, so opinions please.  Star Rangers which followed I’ve read and I did like that novel. 

After Gary Gygax inviting her to play Dungeons & Dragons in his Greyhawk world, she wrote two novels based in two setting, Quag Keep and Return to Quag Keep. They’re fun, not very serious, but definitely fun. 

And than there Catseye in which a man finds work in a pet shop where there’s ex-spacer owner, and xeno-animals who might be stranger than he knows. 

Her final novel that she actually wrote was the rather excellent Three Hands for Scorpio. Tor, which never passed after a chance to make another a dollar or two, or even a lot more, had Jean Rabe write two more crediting her as co-author, Dragon Mage and Taste of Magic.

No, I’ve not forgotten her Awards. She won an Ohioan, given for lterature by writers from Ohio and about Ohio, for Sword in Sheath, a Gandalf, Grandmaster of Fantasy; an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction; a Nebula, a Grand Master Award; a World Fantasy Award, Special Convention Award; First Fandom Hall of Fame Award; a Workd Fantasy Award Award Award for Lifetime Achievement; and three Sir Julius Vogels with Lyn McConchie — Beast Master’s CircusBeast Master’s Ark and The Duke’s Ballad.

I take my leave now. I need to see Catseye was ever made into audiobook as it’d make a delightful listening experience. 

(4) COMICS SECTION.

(5) SIGNAL BOOST. New Zealand fans are far from alone in experiencing the problems described in “A message from the current committee of Continuity 2024” ay SFFANZ.

For the past three years a small but hardy bunch of fans have tried to revitalise conventions in New Zealand in the wake of the pandemic and CoNZealand. The former has made conventions difficult to host, and the latter made those who’d run events want to hide in a corner going wibble.

Sadly, that’s meant that a very small number of people, who are also members of the SFFANZ board, have been left holding the baby that is Continuity 2024. We’ve asked for assistance from fandom at large, and whilst a few volunteers put their hands up, they suddenly lost interest or ability to help when we had our first meeting. Now we who are left are running out of steam, and wondering if we have the spirit and time to continue. We want conventions in New Zealand to continue as we see value in them. We want to gather with friends to discuss our passion for the genre. But we can’t do it alone.

For the past three years we’ve hosted a revitalising fandom discussion, which has been robust, but every year the same thing happens. People want, want, want, but there’s no give, give, give.

At a recent fannish gathering, a number of fen asked what plans were for Continuity 2024, when bookings could be made etc. Not one person offered to put their hand up to help or run anything. It seemed to that people wanted to be entertained rather than to participate. Oh, and we have to make the event as long as possible (meaning we need to find more information/panels/events to entertain people) so that it makes it worthwhile to attend, otherwise they won’t. And, not unnaturally given the times, everyone expects that events will be both in person and online making the effort involved greater again.

There are many conflicting issues going on here, we realise. Fandom, as a group, is not getting any younger. We all have lives, and things we want to do, but unless more of us put in an effort to keep momentum in conventions alive, then SF cons in New Zealand will go the way of the dodo.

We do have some ideas, such as holding a SMOFcon South, a con-running event, alongside a day where we celebrate fandom in New Zealand, but this idea is in its infancy. We’ve got a date, a venue, ideas for guests, events, and of course the Sir Julius Vogel Awards to host. But we need ideas, fresh ones, to assist us to get this plan across the line. And we need more people to volunteer to make that happen.

We will be hosting a meeting on February 25 at 10am to discuss where we go from here with Continuity 2024. I invite you to register here for the zoho meeting. If we don’t get sufficient interest, we will be turning Continuity 2024 into a one-day event again, and that will be it. We won’t try again. 

Fandom is what you put into it. It requires active engagement and participation to make it thrive and grow. This is where you come in, yes YOU.

We hope to see you on the 25th.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/16/24 The Worm Pixelscrollus

(0) Short scroll today because I need to hit the road. Am driving up to my brother’s for a birthday party – mine! Toot your party horn, or leave your own news links in comments….

(1) LACEY LEAVES CANSMOFS. Diane Lacey has announced her resignation from CanSmofs on Facebook. CanSmofs is a Canadian sf convention running group now bidding for the 2027 Worldcon. 

I wish to announce my resignation from the board of CanSmofs. I can not effectively represent the board given today’s revelations about the Hugos and my part in it. I want to emphasize that nobody has requested this. It is of my own volition, and I wish them and the Montreal bid well.

Lacey shared 2023 Hugo administration team emails Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford for use in “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion”, and discussed her own work on the Hugos in an open letter.

(2) MORE HUGO REPORT COVERAGE.

NBC News interviewed Paul Weimer for its post “Science fiction authors were excluded from awards for fear of offending China”.

…Among the reasons cited for excluding Weimer was his supposed previous travel to Tibet, a Chinese region where Beijing is also accused of abuses.

“The funny thing is that I didn’t even go to Tibet. I was in Nepal. They didn’t get basic facts right about me,” he said.

Weimer, whose display name on X had as of Friday been changed to “Paul ‘Nepal is not Tibet’ Weimer,” said the vetting went against the spirit not only of the Hugo Awards but of science fiction itself.

“Censoring people based on what you think that a government might not like is completely against what the whole science fiction project is,” he said….

Vajra Chandrasekera has a very good thread on Bluesky which starts here. One thing they discuss is the Science Fiction World recommendation list:

Zionius has a post “2023年雨果奖审核情况初探” at Zion in Ulthos. It’s in Chinese; they dropped an English excerpt into comments here yesterday.

…Content censorship does seem to have an impact on the final shortlist, but the greater impact is likely to be from invalid votes. The opinions of the censors are neglected most of the time (though here we can only see detailed opinions from Western censors), whereas with like 1000 votes declared invalid, the shortlist can be completely changed. None of the top 5 best novels in initial shortlist got through to the final shortlist. In the initial shortlist of the five print fiction categories, 2/3 works are from China, the final shortlist has only 2/15 Chinese works.

The items suffered most from invalid votes basically come from two Chinese publishers, Qidian and Science Fiction World. SFW’s recommendation list is almost identical to the initial shortlist in the Chinese part, which might be the reason why the Hugo team decided to remove most votes related to SFW and Qidian. Slates in thousands is beyond the capacity of EPH.

Last but not the least, the “invitation list” mentioned so many times in “Validation.pdf” appears to have huge impact on the final shortlist. It appears to be a separate ranked list. 5 works on invitation list were not among the top 10 of the initial shortlist, yet still they made it to the final shortlist (Spare Man, Nona the Ninth, Kaiju Preservation Society, DIY, Stranger Things 404). OTOH, 3 works on the initial shortlist were marked as “disappeared on invitation list” (Upstart, Hummingbird, Sandman 106), then they disappeared on the final shortlist….

Publishers Weekly leads with Esther MacCallum-Stewart’s statement in “Glasgow Worldcon Chair Vows Transparency Following Chengdu Hugos Censorship”.

(3) VANDEMEERS SUFFER VANDALISM. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer are reporting their streetside mailbox was intentionally wrecked.

(4) IT’S NEVER TOO LATE FOR THE NEW WAVE. “The 2024 Met Gala theme has been announced — along with four superstar co-chairs” at CNN.

Fashion’s biggest night of the year is just around the corner, and the Met Gala red carpet theme has finally been announced — along with superstars Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny and Chris Hemsworth as this year’s co-chairs.

Organizers announced today that the official dress code for the event, which will take place on May 6, is “The Garden of Time.” The theme takes its title from a 1962 short story written by British author J. G. Ballard, set (as its title suggests) in a garden filled with translucent, time-manipulating flowers….

Ballard, who is closely associated with New Wave science fiction, often set his searingly relevant dystopian stories in eras of ecological apocalypse or rising dissenting technologies.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 16, 1954 Iain M Banks. (Died 2013.) There are deaths that are sad, there are deaths that are just ones you just don’t want to hear about and then there are deaths like that of Iain M. Banks in which, and this is the only way I can express this, what the hell was the Universe thinking when it did this to him? 

Of course the more rational part of me sadly knows that very bad things randomly do happen to very good people that we care about and so that happened here. 

Iain M. Banks

I was just editing the review of his epic whisky crawl when he announced that he was dying. So though not genre, let’s start off with Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about single malt whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. Specifically the one he bought with the advance for this work. Nice, dry nice.

Of course, I’ve read every novel and even the few short works in The Culture series. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my favs. 

Now “The State of the Art” novella about a Sixties Culture mission to Earth is out on the usual suspects. He’s only written nine pieces of genre short fiction and eight are here. No idea why the ninth isn’t.

Of his one-offs, I think The Algebraist is fascinating but the best of these novels by far is Against a Dark Background, the story of a heist that goes terribly wrong. 

(6) THE SOUND OF A SOLAR ECLIPSE? Maybe in space they can’t hear you scream… “NASA Urges U.S. Public To Listen During April 8’s Total Solar Eclipse” reports Forbes.

April 8’s total solar eclipse will not only be something you see—it will be something you experience on many levels. Part of that is the sights and sounds of how insects, animals and nature react to sudden totality. At many of the eclipses I’ve witnessed, I’ve seen cows return to the barn as the light levels gradually fall, cicadas build to a cacophony then fall silent during totality, and birds panicking as “night” begins when they least expected it.

Sound Of Eclipses

“Eclipses are often thought of as a visual event—something that you see,” said Kelsey Perrett, communications coordinator with the NASA-funded Eclipse Soundscapes Project. “We want to show that eclipses can be studied in a multi-sensory manner, through sound and feeling and other forms of observation.”

April 8 is an opportunity like no other. On that day, over 30 million people in the U.S. already live within the path of totality—the track of the moon’s shadow as it sweeps across the planet—despite it being just 115 miles wide. That’s compared to 12 million people that lived within the path during the last total solar eclipse in the U.S. in 2017. Cue a large-scale citizen science project, which will seek to collect the sights and sounds of a total solar eclipse as recorded by members of the public. The end result will be, scientists hope, a better understanding of how an eclipse affects different ecosystems….

(7) FOR THE BOOKS NEXT DOOR. Amazon is one place to buy the “Bookend Magic House Building kit”. 1488 pieces – holy cats!

This bookend is carefully assembled from 1400+ blocks, presenting the unique charm of the classic magical house building in the film, every detail shows the high quality of production workmanship.

Compared with traditional bookends, our block bookends incorporate the magic elements of the film, which instantly fills your bookends with the charm of the wizarding world, giving a brand new visual experience and making the reading time more fun, it will add a chic and unique to your bookshelf…

(8) YOU CAN’T FIGHT IN THE WAR ROOM! TechCrunch tells how “Bluesky and Mastodon users are having a fight that could shape the next generation of social media”. Because of course they are.

People on Bluesky and Mastodon are fighting over how to bridge the two decentralized social networks, and whether there should even be a bridge at all. Behind the snarky GitHub comments, these coding conflicts aren’t frivolous — in fact, they could shape the future of the internet.

Mastodon is the most established decentralized social app to date. Last year, Mastodon ballooned in size as people sought an alternative to Elon Musk’s Twitter, and now stands at 8.7 million users. Then Bluesky opened to the general public last week, adding 1.5 million users in a few days and bringing its total to 4.8 million users.

Bluesky is on the verge of federating its AT Protocol, meaning that anyone will be able to set up a server and make their own social network using the open source software; each individual server will be able to communicate with the others, requiring a user to have just one account across all the different social networks on the protocol. But Mastodon uses a different protocol called ActivityPub, meaning that Bluesky and Mastodon users cannot natively interact.

Turns out, some Mastodon users like it that way….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/24 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO HUGO AWARDS CENSORSHIP REPORT. Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford’s report “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion” (also available at Genre Grapevine and as an e-book epub file and as a PDF) has sparked the attention of mass media: .

The Guardian: “Authors ‘excluded from Hugo awards over China concerns’”. In addition to covering the report, the article includes an excellent quote from Chinese social media:

…The incident prompted discussion among the science fiction community in China. One commenter on Weibo wrote: “Diane Lacey’s courage to disclose the truth makes people feel that there is still hope in the world, and not everyone is so shameless … I can understand the concerns of the Hugo award staff, but ‘I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards.’”…

BBC Radio 4: Last night’s arts programme Front Row’s third quarter looked at the Hugo Awards debacle. “Ukraine drama A Small Stubborn Town, Emma Rice, The Hugo Awards”. Jonathan Cowie says, “It was a superficial dive. For example, it did not note that the nominating stats literally did not add up, so clear fraud, nor that Glasgow also is ignoring WSFS rules.” (Cowie adds, “Remember to skip to the programme’s final third quarter.”)

In the wake of the Hugo Awards scandal, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, culture critic and Hugo awards finalist, Han Zhang, editor-at-large at Riverhead Books, focussed on finding works in the Chinese language for translation and publication in the US, and Megan Walsh, author of The Subplot: What China is reading and why it matters, discuss the fallout and what is reveals about the popularity of Sci-Fi in China.

There’s also a paywalled article in New Scientist: “Amid (more) Hugo awards controversy, let’s remember some past greats”.

IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that all awards are total bunk except for the ones you personally have lifted into the air in triumph. That rule doesn’t hold, however, if your prize is in some way sullied later on. This, sadly, is the situation for the winners of the 2023 Hugo awards….

Slashdot has an excerpt of 404 Media’s paywalled article: “Leaked Emails Show Hugo Awards Self-Censoring To Appease China”.

And here are some highlights from the vast social media discussion.

John Scalzi: “The 2023 Hugo Fraud and Where We Go From Here” at Whatever

Cora Buhlert: “The 2023 Hugo Nomination Scandal Gets Worse”

Mary Robinette Kowal’s thread on Bluesky starts with this link.

Neil Gaiman commented on Bluesky: “I’m unsure how comfortable I would be participating if anything I was involved in was nominated for a Hugo in 2024, if there were people involved who had been part of what happened in Chengdu.”

Chuck Tingle’s thread on X.com begins, “this report of leaks regarding what actually happened at hugo awards shows a disgusting way. years of buckaroos working in and around hugo awards popularizing phrases like ‘chuck tingle made the hugos illegitimate’ when the rot was starting with them.”

Courtney Milan, on Bluesky, offers a series of short scripts for how censorship could have been deflected. The first is: “Ways to handle censorship if someone asks you on the DL to censor your award. 1. ‘No, this isn’t in our rules. Is this going to be a problem? I can let the community know that the Hugo rules aren’t going to be applied if so.’”

(2) IT ONLY GETS VERSE. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] A brilliant poem by TrishEM about the Hugo mess: “A Vanilla Villain’s Variant Villanelle” at What’s the Word Now. The first stanza is:

It’s wrong to allege we were mere censors’ tools;
If you knew all the facts, you’d condone our behavior.
I grok Chinese fans, and was their White Savior.
I maintain the Committee just followed the rules.

(3) HOW CENSORSHIP WORKS.  Ada Palmer’s post about censorship and self-censorship comes highly recommended: “Tools for Thinking About Censorship”. It begins:

“Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?”

This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks that any expressive work (a book, film, news story, blog post etc.) has been censored or suppressed by the company or group trusted with it (a publisher, a film studio, a newspaper, an awards organization etc.)

This is not a direct analysis of the current 2023 Chengdu Hugo Awards controversy. But since I am a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates, I want to put at the service of those thinking about the situation this zoomed-out portrait of a few important features of how censorship tends to work, drawn from my examination of examples from dozens of countries and over many centuries….

(4) ELIGIBILITY UPDATE FOR US NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. “US National Book Awards: Opening to Non-US Citizens”Publishing Perspectives has the story.

In recent years, as readers of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of book and publishing awards know, there have been several cases in which higher-profile book and publishing awards programs have decided to broaden their eligibility requirements for authors whose work is submitted.

Today’s (February 15) announcement from the National Book Foundation about the United States’ National Book Awards‘ change in eligibility opens the program to submissions of work by authors who are not citizens of the United States, as long as they “maintain their primary, long-term home in the United States, US territories, or Tribal lands.”

These new updated criteria will be in effect as of March 13, when submissions for the 75th National Book Awards open….

(5) WAYWARD WORMHOLE. Two workshops will be available at “The Rambo Academy Wayward Wormhole – New Mexico 2024”.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is pleased to announce the second annual Wayward Wormhole, this time in New Mexico. Join us for the short story workshop to study with Arley Sorg and Minister Faust, or the novel workshop with Donald Maass, C.C. Finlay, and Cat Rambo.

Both intensive workshops will be hosted at the Painted Pony ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. The short story workshop runs November 4-12, 2024, and the novel workshop runs November 15 through 24, 2024.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers has been in existence for thirteen years, serving hundreds of students who have gone on to win awards, honors, and accolades, including Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. “I attended Clarion West, and have taught at multiple workshops now,” says Academy founder Cat Rambo. “While others have delivered the gold standard, I decided to stretch to the platinum level and deliver amazing workshops in equally amazing settings. Last year’s was a castle in Spain, this year a fabulous location in southwestern America. And wait till you hear what we’ve got cooked up for 2025!”

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

(6) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

The Chengdu SF Museum reopened to the public a few weeks ago, after an event a few days earlier involving Hai Ya and other authors.  The images I’ve selected here are primarily because of their potential interest to MPC types, but you can click on the following links to see the Xiaohongshu galleries these came from.

As far as I can tell, all of these photos have been taken in the past few weeks; there are none from when the Worldcon was running.

Gallery 1Gallery 2Gallery 3Gallery 4Gallery 5Gallery 6Gallery 7Gallery 8Gallery 9

(7) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 103 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Just This Guy, Y’know?”, is available for listening. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty say:

Octothorpe 103 is here! We discuss a bunch of stuff which isn’t Hugo Award-related before moving onto the bits of the kerfuffle that we couldn’t fit into 102 and hadn’t come out when we recorded.

The words “Octothorpe 103 Hugo Regalia Shop” appear above a selection of costumes. There are small depictions of a clown, a pirate, a panda and a banana above full-length depictions of a member of the Catholic church (with Hugos on their mitre and crosier), a gangster (labelled “boss”, holding a Hugo), Zaphod Beeblebrox (holding three Hugos) and Jesus (with a crown of thorns but made with Hugos).

(8) MOURNING MUSIC. “Matthew” (at Bandcamp) is a tribute song about Matthew Pavletich by his sister, Jo Morgan. Matthew died in January. The lyrics are heart-wrenching – see them at the link.

‘Matthew’ is a touching tribute dedicated to Jo’s beloved brother who passed away after a courageous battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Tenderly capturing the power of familial love, serving as an anthem honouring all the qualities defining him.

Jo says “I wrote this song to celebrate my brother Matthew who passed away from Motor Neurone Disease in January 2024. There are so many wonderful qualities about this beautiful man and I am so blessed to have had him as my brother. He lost so much to this illness, and I want the world to know about this sweet and humble gentle man.”

Jo will be making a donation from some of the proceeds from the song to support MND NZ and animal welfare charities.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 79. It’s been awhile since we’ve done an Australian resident writer, so let’s do Jack Dann tonight. Yes, I know he’s American-born but he’s lived there for the past forty years and yes he’s citizen there.

In 1994 he had moved to Melbourne to join Janeen Webb, a Melbourne based academic, SF critic, and writer, whom he had met at a conference in San Francisco and who he married a year later. Thirty years later they’re still married. 

They would edit together In the Field of Fire, a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories relating to the horrors of the Vietnam War. I’m not aware who anyone else has done one on this subject, so go ahead and tell who else has. 

Jack Dann

He published his first book as an editor, Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction forty years ago, (later followed up by More Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction) and his first novel, Starhiker, several years later. 

His Dreaming Again and Dreaming down-under are excellent anthologies of Australian genre short fiction. The latter, edited with his wife, would win a Ditmar and a World Fantasy Award. Dreaming Again, again edited with his wife, also won a Ditmar. 

With Nick Gever, he won a Shirley Jackson Award for one of my favorite reads, Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense.

He’s written roughly a hundred pieces of shorter fiction.  I’ve read enough of it to say that he’s quite excellent in that length of fiction.  Recently Centipede Press released in their Masters of Science Fiction, a volume devoted to him. Thirty stories, all quite excellent.

So what is worth reading for novels beyond Starhiker which I like a lot? Well if you’ve not read it, do read The Memory Cathedral: A Secret History of Leonardo da Vinci in which de Vinci actually constructs his creations as it is indeed an amazing story. 

The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean is extraordinary. All I’ll say here is Dean lived, had an amazing life and yes it’s genre. I see PS Publishing filled out the story when they gave us Promised Land.

Those are the three novels of his that I really, really like. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) EVIL GENIUS GAMES. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Morrus, the owner of ENWorld, posted an article on “The Rise And Fall Of Evil Genius Games” that may be of interest to the gaming contingent of File770’s readership: EGG has produced games for a number of licensed genre properties, including Pacific Rim, Escape from New York, and The Crow. “DriveThruRPG – Evil Genius Games”

How does a company go from over twenty core staff to just six in the space of a few weeks?

In the summer of 2023, Evil Genius Games appeared to be riding high. They’d made about half a million dollars over two Kickstarter campaigns and had raised $1M from several rich investors in the form of technology companies. The company boasted 25-30 core staff, an official tabletop role-playing game for a movie franchise called Rebel Moon was well under development, and EGG standees and window clings representing characters from the d20 Modern-inspired Everyday Heroes could be seen in game stores across America.

By the end of the year, the Rebel Moon game was dead, staff had been asked to work without pay for periods of up to three months, freelancers were struggling to get paid, people were being laid off, and the company’s tech company investors seemed to be having cold feet in the face of escalating expenditure and dwindling resources….

(12) SFF FROM LAGOS. “’Iwájú’ trailer: Disney’s enticing limited series is set in a futuristic Nigeria” says Mashable. Available February 28 on Disney+.

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos.

(13) NSFF770? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Star Zendaya walked the red carpet at the Dune Part Two premiere wearing a formfitting silver and translucent robot-inspired outfit. Friendly warning: anyone inclined to over-agitation at such a sight might want to make sure they’ve taken their heart medication before checking out the video. “Zendaya’s Robotic Outfit For The ‘Dune: Part Two’ Premiere Has To Be Seen To Be Believed” at Uproxx. Article includes a roundup of X.com posts with video.

(14) WHAT REALLY MATTERS. “This new map of the Universe suggests dark matter shaped the cosmos” at Nature. See the compilation photo at the link.

Astronomers have reconstructed nearly nine billion years of cosmic evolution by tracing the X-ray glow of distant clusters of galaxies. The analysis supports the standard model of cosmology, according to which the gravitational pull of dark matter — a still-mysterious substance — is the main factor shaping the Universe’s structure.

“We do not see any departures from the standard model of cosmology,” says Esra Bulbul, a senior member of the team and an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany. The results are described1 in a preprint posted online on 14 February.

The galactic clusters were spotted in the most detailed picture ever taken of the sky using X-rays, which was published late last month. This image revealed around 900,000 X-ray sources, from black holes to the relics of supernova explosions.

The picture was the result of the first six months of operation of eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array), one of two X-ray telescopes that were launched into space in July 2019 aboard the Russian spacecraft SRG (Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma). eROSITA scans the sky as the spacecraft spins, and collects data over wider angles than are possible for most other X-ray observatories. This enables it to slowly sweep the entire sky every six months….

(15) VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE TARDIS. How can you not click when Radio Times offers to tell about “Doctor Who’s four greatest love stories – and why they make the cut”?

The love stories definitely aren’t the main focus in Doctor Who… but they certainly don’t hurt.

From David Tennant’s Ten and Billie Piper’s Rose being ripped away from each other in Doomsday, to Matt Smith’s Eleven and Alex Kingston’s River Song finding their way back to each other through time, some of them are love stories for the ages.

Some of them, perhaps, deserved a little more time (looking at Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteen and Mandip Gill’s Yaz), and some don’t even feature the Doctor at all, with Karen Gillan’s Amy and Arthur Darvill’s Rory melting our hearts….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Jason Sanford, Cat Rambo, Kathy Sullivan, Eric Franklin, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, 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 2/14/24 Big Pixel in Little Scroll

(1) OOKPIK FIXED. Terry Fong, chair of the Montréal in 2027 Worldcon bid, sent an official reply to a question from File 770 about the $350 level presupport.

We goofed on the wording of one of our membership presupport levels. The description of our highest level (Ookpik) now reads as follow:

“We will pay your Advance WSFS membership (voting fee) in the 2027 Site Selection election. You still will have to join the 2025 Worldcon as at least a WSFS (supporting) member in order to vote on the 2027 Site Selection. (Of course, you have to cast your own ballot.) If we win, you will get a full attending membership including a WSFS membership. All the perks of lower support levels, a piece of nifty swag from a previous CANSMOF-sponsored convention AND a fridge magnet.  You also get a unique nifty cool ribbon for your support at this level.”

Apologies to all for any confusion arising from our previous wording.

(2) HEAR TERRY PRATCHETT. Fanac.org has added an audio recording of Terry Pratchett’s GoH speech from Noreascon 4 (2004).  

It’s very, very, funny. The recording is about 1 hr, 10 minutes long. It does not include all the Q&A. Audio provided by Steven Silver. Thanks, Steven! Portrait of Terry Pratchett by Charles Williams, from the N4 Program Book.

Noreascon 4 Program Book art by Charles Williams

(3) NERD LOVE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the New York Times: “Who Kissed First? Archaeology Has an Answer”.

This is a love story:…

They met a week earlier at a pub near the University of Copenhagen, where both were undergraduates. “I had asked my cousin if he knew any nice single guys with long hair and long beards,” Dr. Rasmussen said. “And he said, ‘Sure, I’ll introduce you to one.’”

Dr. Arboll, in turn, had been looking for a partner that shared his interest in Assyriology, the study of Mesopotamian languages and the sources written in them. “Not many people know what an Assyriologist actually does,” he told her.

“I do,” said Dr. Rasmussen, who had taken some of the same classes.

Dr. Arboll, now a professor of Assyriology at the university, said, “When I heard that, I knew she was a keeper.” …

(4) NOW, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T PANIC! [Item by SF Concatenaton’s Jonathan Cowie.] Douglas Adams’ novel The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) was the subject of the last third of this week’s BBC Radio 4 show A Good Read.

Now, I came to Hitch-Hiker’s in its original incarnation as the 1978 BBC 4 Radio show the last two episodes of which greatly benefited from some cohesiveness from John Lloyd. That season and the subsequent ‘Christmas edition’ (which became the first episode of the second season) is for me what Hitch-Hiker’s is all about: to me, you can keep the subsequent series; the fist season and Christmas episode alone were works of true genius).

I was not alone, Hitch-Hiker’s was a favourite with almost all to my fellow members of my college SF group, Hatfield PSIFA (now Hertfordshire University PSIFA). And even then we were not alone.  I remember at the 1979 Worldcon in Brighton, Britain, when the Hugo Award short-list for ‘Best Dramatic Presentation’ was read out there was a huge cheer from the audience.  As it happened, the film Superman won and Kal El himself in the mortal guise of Christopher Reeve (not Clark Kent) took to the stage. He, very graciously, said while he was happy that technically Superman had won that clearly for the people there in the hall it was Hitch-Hiker’s that was the true winner… (You have to remember that, back in the 1970s, N. America dominated the Worldcon and Hugos far more than they do today.)

Which brings us to this week’s BBC Radio 4 A Good Read.  The presenter noted that though the novel (1979) came out some 45 years ago, Hitch-Hiker’s had never been a subject on that programme!  It has to be said that the novel did not get an entirely smooth ride as one of the show’s panelists did not like SF and another took a more of a curate’s egg approach.  All this despite the presenter noting that 15 million copies of the book had been sold among other related adaptations to other media and merch.  Nonetheless, some interesting points were made including that the character Zaphod Beeblebrox was a politician who actually never did run anything but was a self-serving, self publicist… It was noted that here there are parallels with some of today’s politicians (examples, it was hinted, including in the UK and elsewhere (the US?), who could she have meant?).

“Harriett’s choice is Douglas Adams’ story about Arthur Dent’s journey through space with an alien called Ford Prefect after earth is demolished to make way for a bypass.”

You can access this episode of A Good Read at the link. Remember to skip to the programme’s final third. (Phew. Now, where’s my towel?)

(5) COURT TOSSES FOUR CLAIMS IN SUIT AGAINST OPEN AI. “Court Trims Authors’ Copyright Lawsuit Against Open AI”Publishers Weekly knows where it was clipped.

A federal judge in California this week dismissed four of six claims made by authors in a now consolidated lawsuit alleging that Open AI infringes their copyrights. But the court gave the authors a month to amend their complaint, and the suit’s core claim of direct infringement—which Open AI did not seek to dismiss—remains active.

Following a December 7 hearing, federal judge Araceli Martínez-Olguín needed just 13 pages to dismiss a host of claims made by the authors, including vicarious infringement (count two), claims that Open AI removed or altered copyright management information (count three); negligence under the unfair competition law (count five); and unjust enrichment (count six). The court allowed a fourth claim of “unfairness” under the unfair competition law to proceed, however, holding that, if true, the authors’ claims that Open AI used their copyrighted works “to train their language models for commercial profit may constitute an unfair practice.”….

Amazing Stories has a more quotes from the decision in its post “Breaking: AI Copyright Infringement Claims Rejected”.

(6) THE ‘SHOW’ SHOULD GO ON. Philip Athans turns to an old paperback for an example of “What We Can Learn From A Random Science Fiction Novel: ‘Show’ Vs. Info Dump” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

…When I say “show, don’t tell,” the first thing I’m attacking is the info dump. This is when authors effectively stop the story and start explaining, when they start writing an article instead of a scene. I’ve called out one author on that here, so you can see an example of what not to do, but in reading—and loving—Star Bridge, when I got to Chapter 8, I found a fantastic example of how to balance showing a character’s experience of an imagined world while conveying, not dumping, all sorts of specific information about how that world operates.

In Star Bridge, authors Jack Williamson and James E. Gunn seems to have committed the cardinal sin of opening each and every chapter with what, on the surface, would appear to be short info dumps. Presented under the title THE HISTORY, we’re “told” a little about the unique future in which interstellar travel, via a teleportation device, is strictly controlled by Eron, a monopoly that has reached essentially imperial status. The story begins with our hero, Horn, having been sent to assassinate the leader of this monopoly. It’s a fun ride, and one that goes into deeper places as the story unfolds….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 54. Though Simon Pegg’s certainly not James Doohan, who’s beloved for being the first and for most Trekkies still the only  Montgomery “Scotty” Scott no doubt, I found his version in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond to be quite true to the original character. Though it’s been eight years since the last film, they are talking apparently about a fourth film. 

(For the record, I thought the primary actors were fine in all three, but the scripts in the second two sucked. And the less said a certain recast villian from the original series, the better.)

Simon Pegg in 2016.

Paramount + has all of the Tom Cruise Mission Impossible films of which there are eight so far. Pegg is Benji Dunn, an IMF technician, who debuts in Mission: Impossible III as a supporting protagonist before returning in Mission: Impossible – Ghost ProtocolMission: Impossible — Rogue NationMission: Impossible – FalloutMission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and Part Two, no longer as a supporting cast member but as a leading cast member. 

So who’s seen some of these? Opinions please?

Now let’s deal with his non-franchise film roles. His first venture into the genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote with Edgar Wright and had an acting role in as, errr, Shaun. Of course he got, wait for it, the meaty role. You can groan now. 

It was inspired by ideas they used for their Spaced comedy series about two women living in a small but posh apartment, particularly an episode in which Pegg’s character hallucinates a zombie invasion. Though not SF, the fourteen episodes often made references to popular culture, including SF and horror films, comic books, and video games. 

At Romero’s invitation, Pegg and Wright made both cameo appearances in Romero’s Land of the Dead. Not meaty roles, but they are there. 

He appeared in a Ninth Doctor story, “the Long Game” as The Editor. The BBC press release for this episode says Pegg had grown up with Who and he considered it a “great honour” to guest star on the series, and he was rather pleased at being cast as a bad guy.

I’m going to note just several of the animated works he did. He did the voice and motion capture for detective Thompson in The Adventures of Tintin (also known, though I didn’t know this before as charmingly as The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn). And he did the voice of what sounds like a bad sneeze, Reepicheep the Mouse, in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Let’s end with Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose, a curious film indeed. It is based on the legend of Gef an apparently talking mongoose , a story that got extensive coverage in the British tabloid press in the early 1930s. Pegg plays investigator Nandor Fodor, and Neil Gaiman voices Gef.  It left British critics terribly annoyed. Not that it takes much to annoy them, does it? 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! reveals the truth about a superhero’s laundry.
  • Speed Bump shows the last person on Earth learning the reason she’s still around.

(9) FANTASTIC CAST. Variety names names: “Fantastic Four: Pedro Pascal, Vanessa Kirby, Joseph Quinn Cast at Marvel (variety.com)

The superhero quartet — the first characters created for Marvel Comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — will be played by Pedro Pascal as Reed Richards (aka Mr. Fantastic), Vanessa Kirby as Sue Storm (aka the Invisible Woman), Joseph Quinn as Johnny Storm (aka the Human Torch) and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Ben Grimm (aka the Thing).

As part of the casting announcement, Disney has swapped the release dates of “The Fantastic Four” (now set for July 25, 2025) and “Thunderbolts” (now set for May 2, 2025). Those are two of four Marvel tentpoles currently set to open in 2025, along with “Captain America: Brave New World” in February and “Blade” in November. Four Marvel films are also scheduled for 2026, including “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty.” That’s a ramp up from 2024: Marvel only has “Deadpool & Wolverine” for theaters, on July 26….

(Image courtesy of Marvel Studios)

(10) OH WHAT A TANGLED WEB. Inverse critic Hoai-Tran Bui declares that “Madame Web Is Embarrassing for Everyone Involved”.

Madame Web isn’t so much a movie as it is the pretense of one — a collection of Easter eggs and prequel nonsense strung together by half-assed ADR and dialogue that feels like it was drummed up in Screenwriting 101. But the most alarming thing about Madame Web is that it is a movie that never really gets started. Instead, it’s just one long prelude to the actual story, like being trapped in one of Cassie Webb’s time-looping visions with no escape….

(11) REPO’D AGAIN. “Alex Cox Directing Kiowa Gordon in ‘Repo Man 2’” reports Variety.

Alex Cox is getting back behind the wheel.

The “Repo Man” director is revisiting the off-kilter world of extraterrestrials and car repossession that he mined so memorably in the 1984 cult classic in a new sequel that is being introduced to buyers at the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market. Entitled “Repo Man 2: The Wages of Beer,” the film is being backed by Buffalo 8 Productions, a film and media company best known for the critically acclaimed work on Netflix series “The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes.” Cox wrote the script along with directing the film.

Kiowa Gordon, best known for his role as Embry Call in “The Twilight Saga” and for his work in the AMC series “Dark Winds,” is set to lead the cast as Otto. Emilio Estevez played Otto in the 1984 original. The film picks up after Otto has boarded his trusty 1967 Chevy Malibu to journey across the infinities of time and space. In that time he has aged exactly 90 minutes. 

(12) FOR THOSE WITH YOUNGER DIGESTIVE TRACTS. “Mountain Dew pie and chocolate tacos revealed in Taco Bell showcase” reports Independent. See the hour-long event in this YouTube video: “Taco Bell Presents Live Más Live 2024”.

(13) THAT IS THE QUESTION. Revisit Sir Patrick Stewart’s visit to Sesame Street from many years ago: “Patrick Stewart Soliloquy on B”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/24 If I Could Talk Through The Ansibles

(1) VENITA BLACKBURN Q&A. “How Venita Blackburn Wrote a Sci-Fi Novel About Sex, Grief, and Debt Collection” at Interview Magazine.

RITA BULLWINKEL: Black Jesus and Other Superheroes and How to Wrestle a Girl are two of my favorite books I’ve ever read. And Dead in Long Beach, California, I just gobbled it whole in one sitting. I really feel like it is a book of science fiction. How do you feel about that genre camp? 

BLACKBURN: I don’t think about genre like that, so I don’t approach any kind of work with one tone or angle as the goal. I have to have the voice that matters to me. But for this one, I did have this intention of doing this sort of high fantasy sci-fi, speculative kind of world that was tethered to our current modern world in a way. And as I kept going, I figured out, “Oh, the thing that’s nagging me, the thing that’s most hard to write is actually the part that’s closer to reality, and that’s the part I need to start investing more of my energy in.” That was a turning point during the early drafting stages, where I had to readjust the proportions and the vision and the scope. But I always knew it was going to be a little bit out of this world. Of course, the original title was “Lesbian Assassins at the End of the World,” so I was definitely going to reach far beyond what we know in this tangible universe. So that was fun to write, especially during the pandemic, when I was very disconnected from humanity. I wanted to be someplace safer, someplace where I understood everything, where I knew what was going to happen. So I started to get invested in that process and, apparently, that is a pretty cross-genre kind of way of looking at a story. 

(2) LIVE FROM 1965. James Davis Nicoll fed the Young People Read Old SFF panel James Schmitz’ “Balanced Ecology” from a 1965 issue of Analog, and one of the nominees for the first Nebula Awards (1966). What did they think? Well, they didn’t hate it.

(3) NESFA NEWS. The 2023-2024 winners of the NESFA Short Story Contest were announced at Boskone 61 last weekend:

  • Winners (tie): Dragana Matovic of Serbia for the story “Outside the Rain Was Relentlessly Falling” and Dr. Jennifer Grimes of Milford, MA for the story “The Simulation: Subject Ashe Klinn”.
  • Runner-up: Michael Barron of Parkville, MD for the story “The Last Time My Twin Destroyed the World”.
  • Honorable Mention: Jessica Li of Fremont, CA for the story “Wed the Sea Angels”.
  • Honorable Mention: Tyler Robinson of Dexter, MO for the story “Acid Memory Reflux”.

(4) STANDING BY. Hazel’s Picture Gallery, the massive archive of fanhistorical photos hosted by Chaz Boston Baden, isn’t around right now, for reasons he shared on Facebook last month.

It turns out my unlimited hosting account was not as unlimited as I’d thought. In particular, it’s “not intended to be used for data backup or archiving purposes.” And 20-plus years and a quarter-terabyte of photos is clearly an archive of my own.

So I’m learning how I can rebuild the Gallery within my hosting service’s rules. It’s going to be a process, but we’ll get there.

(5) DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO OSCARLAND? “Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Jimmy Kimmel Spoof Barbie in Oscars Promo” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Jimmy Kimmel is ripping the Barbie parody band-aid a full month before the Oscars.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host dropped a five-minute short on Monday night, directed by JKL‘s Will Burke, hyping his March 10 gig emceeing the Academy Awards — re-creating many Barbie sets and reuniting four of its castmembers in a spoof that finds a hapless Kimmel trying to make his way to the Dolby Theatre. “Since the dawn of time, men have been getting lost,” says a voice-of-God Helen Mirren, spoofing her own narration of the Margot Robbie feature. “This is the story of one such dum-dum.”…

(6) THE MARVELS MINI-REVIEW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Marvels is now on Disney+ (as in, available to subscribers – we just watched it), and, I see, also on DVD/BluRay in libraries (having just checked my local library/network).

I liked this a lot. It was (IMHO) a fun, well-done ride throughout, with some unexpected scenes and bits.

Some brief possibly-helpful non-spoiler notes:

  • If you haven’t already watched the Ms. Marvel series (via Disney), it would help, I’m sure, so you know who (within the Marvel video universe) Ms Marvel is (there’s some powers differences vs the comics). And it’s a good show, well worth watching.
  • Captain Monica Rambeau’s story starts in WandaVision. I’m not sure watching WV for this is essential (they do one-line-summarize, which feels sufficient vis-a-vis the movie). IFTM (It Feels To Me)(and it’s implied/flashbacked) that some other of Rambeau’s character/backstory takes place in the Captain Marvel movie.

(One wonders what this movie might have been like if Rachel Brosnahan had been given that Cap M. role instead of Brie Larsen, yielding The Mazel-ous Ms Marvel 🙂 )

(7) NY FILM/TV TAX CREDIT CRITICIZED. “State-funded report says NY’s $700 million film tax credit is a bust” says Gothamist.

New York’s $700 million-a-year tax break for film and TV productions isn’t providing taxpayers with a good return on investment, according to a new analysis commissioned by the state itself….

…The state’s biggest industry-specific tax break belongs to the film industry, which gets $700 million a year to film or do post-production work in the Empire State. Hochul and legislative leaders are big supporters of the program, which has helped lure hundreds of productions over the years.

The tax break can be considerable. It covers up to 30% of a film’s qualified production costs, with another 10% available if productions are filmed in certain counties north of New York City. The credit is also refundable, meaning the state pays out the excess money if it exceeds a film production’s tax bill.

Last year, TV shows “Saturday Night Live,” “Blue Bloods,” “New Amsterdam” and “God Friended Me” all claimed the tax credit, totaling more than $20 million each, according to state records.

Beyond the lackluster return on investment, PFM’s report surmised that much of the filming that occurred in New York would have happened regardless of the tax credit….

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. Nancy Collins shared news with followers of her GoFundMe about her recovery from a blood clot in one of her lungs: “What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”. Donors have given $6,708 of the $10,000 goal as of today.

February 7th, 2024 by Nancy Collins, Organizer

I had to adjust my goal upward because I just found out how much my Eliquis prescription is costing me even *with* insurance. Holy cow. As it is, I’m having trouble getting it filled. The doctor sent my prescription to the Walgreens I use Monday evening. It’s Wednesday morning and it’s still not in stock. Apparently the “Starter Pack” isn’t kept in stock at any of the Walgreens–or most pharmacies, for that matter. My PCP is trying to get me samples to tide me over. Luckily, I feel okay and have enough energy to go buy compression socks.

I am deeply touched by the response so far. Y’all are good peoples.

Today by Nancy Collins, Organizer

I saw my PCP today, and she said my lungs sound good and warned me from taking NSAIDS until I’m off the blood thinners. She also set up an outpatient appointment with a Cancer Care Center for next month, to check that my clotting issues have been resolved. Also, this is the last day I take 4 Eliquis–tomorrow I step down to 2 a day for the next 3 weeks. And it’s also Mardi Gras!
Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez to all of you who have helped by donating or passing along the link!

(9) GARY SWATY OBITUARY. Arizona fan Gary Swaty has died. The CoCoCon announcement on Facebook covered his lifetime of fanac.  

He’s been attending science fiction conventions for half a century.

The first con he worked was IguanaCon II, the 1978 Worldcon, here in Phoenix.

He chaired HexaCon 16 and CopperCon 28 and has worked most committee positions at a host of others, especially LepreCons and CopperCons, but also multiple Westercons, World Horror, World Fantasy, Anizona, MythosCon and RandomCon. Most recently he sponsored filk GoHs at CoKoCon.

Gary loved to read poetry on panels at various conventions. He was also a gaming fan and could be found at most of the local gaming conventions.

He was the editor’s assistant for years on ConNotations.

He’s served on the boards of LepreCon, Inc., CASFS and WesternSFA and still held positions on all three when he passed.

He was honoured at LepreCon 42, who made him their Fan GoH.

Perhaps most of all, he’s known for his association with filk, especially through the Phoenix Filk Circle, which he ran for many years.

Bruce D. Arthurs adds, “Hilde and I have known Gary for years, and always tried to catch up with each other at local conventions. One more face that will be missed.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 13, 1929 Carol Serling, (Died 2020.) I try here to write Birthdays that I’ve not done before which is how I come to be celebrating Carol Serling, wife of Rod Serling.

She was, as all her family and friends will tell you, the faithful defender and steward of his work. She was born Carolyn Louise Kramer and she married him in 1948; they were married just twenty-seven years until his heart simply didn’t survive open heart surgery at age fifty. 

Upon his death, she became rather active in preserving his legacy. She would become editor and television producer for many of The Twilight Zone-related enterprises including the third iteration of The Twilight Zone series in which she was an executive producer for the first twenty episodes.

She has but one acting credit, in Twilight Zone: The Movie’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” segment, as a passenger. She was a key consultant for this film. 

She was the executive producer on Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics, a two-story film.  Ms. Serling found these two unproduced stories by her husband in a trunk at her home. 

She donated many of his television scripts and movie screenplays to Ithaca College where her husband had taught courses in creative writing and film and television criticism. The gifts helped the college establish its Rod Serling Archives.

Now we come to her print publications. 

She edited five Twilight Zone anthologies (Journeys to the Twilight ZoneReturn to the Twilight ZoneAdventures in the Twilight ZoneTwilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary and More Stories from the Twilight Zone), plus the Rod Serling’s Night Gallery Reader with Martin H. Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh. 

With David Brode, she wrote Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone: The 50th Anniversary Tribute

I know that she was responsible for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine by licensing the name to Montcalm Publishing. She would be the associate publisher and consulting editor there. 

Carol told her daughters that she would like this poem to be read at the time of her death…

Mary Elizabeth Frye’s “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s strategy to save libraries.

(12) PYTHON KERFUFFLE. “John Cleese Responds To Eric Idle: ‘We Always Loathed Each Other’”Deadline recaps the brawl from X.com:

John Cleese is making it clear that he – and a few other Pythons – are in complete disagreement with long-ago co-star Eric Idle, who last weekend slammed manager (and daughter of Python co-founder Terry Gilliam) Holly Gilliam for what Idle suggested were the troupe’s dwindling finances.

“We own everything we ever made in Python and I never dreamed that at this age the income streams would tail off so disastrously,” Idle posted on X/Twitter Saturday. “But I guess if you put a Gilliam child in as your manager you should not be so surprised. One Gilliam is bad enough. Two can take out any company.”

Cleese left no doubt where he stands on the matter.

“I have worked with Holly for the last ten years,” the Fawlty Towers creator tweeted today, “and I find her very efficient, clear-minded, hard-working, and pleasant to have dealings with.”

Cleese continued, “Michael Palin has asked me to to make it clear that he shares this opinion. Terry Gilliam is also in agreement with this.”

Apparently there’s no love lost between Cleese and Idle, with the latter responding, when asked by an X follower if the two remain close, “I haven’t seen Cleese for seven years.” When another follower replied saying that made him sad, Idle responded, “Why. It makes me happy.”

Today, Cleese responded with an assessment so blunt some followers wondered if it was all a gag: “We always loathed and despised each other, but it’s only recently that the truth has begun to emerge.”

(13) PRIME CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT. “Amazon Prime Video Slapped With Class Action Lawsuit Over Introduction of Ads” reports Cord Cutters News.

Some Amazon Prime customer were angry enough at Prime Video’s introduction of ads that decided to take legal action.

The retail giant is facing a proposed class action lawsuit filed on Friday that alleges it breached its terms of service and misled customers by introducing ads into Prime Video service and then requiring users to pay $2.99 to get rid of them. The Hollywood Reporter first spotted the lawsuit, and posted a copy of the lawsuit on its site.

Amazon turned on the ads to its Prime Video service after telegraphing the move a few months earlier. Executives said the ads would allow Amazon to continue investing in content without having to raise the price of the service. Unlike other subscription streaming services, Prime Video is a feature tied to the online retail company’s Prime service, so raising prices could’ve meant charging people who don’t even use the service a higher rate.

But beyond the introduction of ads, the new standard service also dials back sound and picture quality….

(14) DON’T POOH IN YOUR PANTS, BUT HE’S BACK… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] …and he brought along a new friend. “Tigger arrives in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’ trailer” reports Entertainment Weekly.

A couple of years back, British filmmaker Rhys Frake-Waterfield learned that the 1926 book Winnie-the-Pooh — which introduced the characters Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Christopher Robin — was about to fall into the public domain and decided to direct a horror film featuring the quartet. The low-budget result, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honeybecame a viral sensation after stills from the film hit the internet in May 2022.

At the time he was making the film, Frake-Waterfield was unable to feature the character of Tigger, who first appeared in 1928’s The House at Pooh Corner and had not yet bounced into the public domain. Pooh’s tiger buddy does, however, feature in the director’s sequel, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2, as you can see in the frightening first-look images of the horror franchise’s version of Tigger.

In the film, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Owl, and Tigger find their woodland home and their lives endangered after Christopher Robin reveals their existence. Not wanting to live in the shadows any longer, the group decides to take the fight to the town of Ashdown, leaving a bloody trail of death and mayhem in their wake….

(15) READER, I CLICKED. “Dinosaur Evergreens Thought Extinct for 2Mil Years Discovered by Park Ranger–the Grove is the ‘Find of the Century’” at the GoodNewsNetwork.

From Australia comes a story too cool to believe. Like a vegetable version of Jurassic Park or King Kong, a copse of pine trees from a species that evolved in the Cretaceous Era were found high in the mountains.

These living fossils, to use the classic phrase, survived both the comet impact and subsequent global firestorm that killed the dinosaurs, as well as two intervening ice ages to make it to our time, and Australian botanists are treating the specimens as a top-secret national treasure.

The Wollemi pine evolved 91 million years ago and went extinct according to the fossil record 2 million years ago, but in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, a stand of 90 specimens were found high in the more remote peaks in 1994.

For the past three decades, and in extreme secrecy, a team of specialists from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of Australia has been gradually planting small clumps of the Wollemi pine in other locations to help ensure it has every chance to see another 91 million years.

It helps the story that the Wollemi doesn’t look much like any pine tree you’ve seen in the woods by your house. Sporting Granny Smith apple-green foliage that grows in a pattern similar to a fern, it has a covering of bark reminiscent of Coco-puffs….

(16) GORT REPORT. Dan Monroe at Media Master Design tracks down “What Happened to GORT from The Day The Earth Stood Still?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the Argylle Pitch Meeting”.

Matthew Vaughn really made a name for himself with the ultra-stylized action movie Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2014. Now he’s bringing us Argylle, with an absolutely stacked cast of actors who are sometimes in it! Argyle definitely raises some questions. Like why was Henry Cavill presented as the star of this movie when he’s in it for just a few minutes? How many twists is too many twists? What does The Division even do? Why did they let her publicly share their secrets for half a decade? What’s that cat doing here?

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Steven Lee, Rich Lynch, Bruce D. Arthurs, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/12/24 Cats Dream Well. Why Do You Think They Sleep So Much?

(1) STUMBLING OUT OF THE STARTING GATE. When the Montréal in 2027 Worldcon bid launched two days ago, one of its Presupport levels included an offer that sparked debate about whether it violated the WSFS Constitution’s site selection rules:

Today that language has been removed:

Mike Scott explained the problem on Facebook:

WSFS constitution 4.3. Non-natural persons can only cast site selection ballots for No Preference. Montreal in 2027 buying you a WSFS membership in Seattle is fine, and you can still vote in site selection yourself, because you’re a natural person. But if you delegate Montreal in 2027 to cast a ballot on your behalf, that ballot must be counted as No Preference, because Montreal in 2027 is not a natural person. The constitution doesn’t say that ballots must be cast on behalf of a natural person, it says they must be cast by a natural person.

Other people have always been allowed to deliver ballots properly executed by a voter. Here, the committee had said they would execute these ballots for others. In that case, the ballots would have to be counted as No Preference.

(2) TEL AVIV IN 2027 WEBSITE. The announcement of competition from Montréal has led to a wider awareness that the WorldCon 2027 in Tel aviv bidders launched a new website last October.

The TLV2027 bid committee boasts a team of highly experienced individuals. Guy Kovel, the Bid Chair, has a track record of convention operations. Gadi Evron, with a history of organizing events since 1996, handled logistics and events at prestigious conventions like Dublin 2019 and CoNZealand. Other members, including Einat Citron, Naama Friedman, Dror Raif Nesher, and Tal Goldman, bring expertise in programming, logistics,  volunteer management, and event operations.

The front page also carries this statement about the situation in Israel:

We want to update you on the current situation with our bid committee. Firstly, we’re relieved to share that all the members of our committee are safe, even though some of us have been called to service during these challenging times.

We’re all deeply devastated by the recent attacks, but we remain steadfast in our belief that things will stabilize, and ultimately, peace will prevail. Our commitment to our shared goals remains unshaken, and we’ll continue to work diligently to bring our vision to life.

Thank you for your unwavering support, and together, we’ll navigate through these trying times and look forward to a brighter future.

(3) ROMANTASY ON THE RADIO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Open Book on BBC’s Radio 4 looked at the sub-genre of “Romantasy”.  This is a hugely growing book genre in Britain the past couple of years that has had to overcome some snobbery with clear overlaps – depending on the book – with epic fantasy, military fantasy, etc…

‘Romantasy’ – combining fantasy and racy romance, it’s the hot new genre sought after by publishers and readers alike, and dominated by female authors and readers. To discuss it’s huge growth in popularity, Johny is joined by: Saara El-Arifi – bestselling author of Faebound, the first in a three part trilogy, which went straight to number one on release last month; Natasha Bardon – publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy for Harper Voyager, of romantasy-focussed imprint Magpie Books, and of the upcoming ‘spicy’ romantasy list, the Midnight Collection; and by Katie Fraser – journalist for The Bookseller who writes about SFF.

You can download it from here: “Open Book, Madeleine Grey”.

(4) TAKE THE TOUR. Congratulations to Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni on their store opening! And thanks for the Vortex Books & Comics Opening Day video tour. (I see Brian starts right off in the true outlaw spirit by ignoring the crossing signal!)

Authors Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni have opened a bookstore in Columbia, Pennsylvania — focusing on horror, science-fiction, fantasy, thrillers, and other speculative fiction genres, as well as comic books and magazines. Brian gives you a tour on opening day.

(5) MYRIAD MEN OF TIN. G. W. Thomas rounds up an enormous number of examples of robots in Seventies comics in “Bronze Age Robots! 1970s” at Dark Worlds Quarterly.

…The 1970s divides neatly in two with Star Wars at the center. The 1980s would see Science Fiction explode in all media as Star Wars proved that fans wanted space opera again, even if they hadn’t known it. For robot fans in America there was the coming of the Japanese style giant robots. And more toy-based products like ROM the Spaceknight.

(6) OMEGA AWARDS DEADLINE. February 13 is the last day to submit entries for The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award.

(7) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. This list is presented as an infographic: “The 15 BEST Science Fiction Books of ALL TIME” at Daily Infographic. Number 1 is Dune. But number 2 is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

(8) THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND. The New York Times tells how “Video Games Are Mourning the Old, Weird, Clunky Internet”.

Surfing the web in the 1990s and early 2000s was a slower endeavor, and fewer people had access to the technology. But it is still easy to reminisce about the days when it felt like a public marketplace, with a good chance that someone out there had made a blog or GeoCities site about the niche topic you found interesting.

Those robust online forums have since been flattened into algorithmic social media feeds or hidden on messaging apps, a shift mourned by several video games with a shared fondness for bygone internet eras.

Games like last year’s Videoverse, 2019’s Hypnospace Outlaw and the upcoming Darkweb Streamer use chat interfaces akin to AIM or MSN, as well as fake websites that greet people with MIDI songs and text written in bold fonts. Each experience has its own nostalgic lens but is a snapshot of lost expression, creativity and independence.

Chantal Ryan, an anthropologist and the lead developer of Darkweb Streamer, a horror simulation game that merges the perils of modern streaming with the ’90s internet, bemoaned how high-quality independent services were often cannibalized by corporate interests. She pointed to sites like Goodreads and AbeBooks, both bought by Amazon.

“It reminds me of forest clearing,” said Ryan, who studied at the University of Adelaide. “You have this habitat with sustainable ecosystems, and communities of beings living harmoniously. And then the bulldozer comes in and destroys literally everything in its path with no regard to who’s being affected.”…

The visual novel Videoverse follows the final days of the online social network for a fictional gaming system in 2003. Kinmoku

(9) ELIZABETH (WARREN) ADAMS OBITUARY. Norwescon social media has announced that Elizabeth (Warren) Adams, affectionately known as The Dragon Lady, died on February 9. She was the chair of Norwescons 11, 12, and 14, and ran legendary hospitality rooms at the con. She also was a past editor of Westwind, the NWSFS clubzine, and was very active with PSST (Puget Sound Star Trekkers).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 73. The role I remember Michael Ironside most for was as Lieutenant Jean Rasczak in Starship Troopers. There wasn’t much great about that film but I thought that he made much of that character. 

Do I need to say that I’m not covering everything he’s done of a genre nature? Well most of you get that. Really you do. So let’s see what I find interesting.

Michael Ironside in Starship Troopers

Scanners is one weird film. It really is. And he was in it as Darryl Revok, the Big Baddie, a role he perfectly played. 

Next he got cast as the main antagonist in another of my favorite SF films, this time as Overdog McNab in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. Who comes with these names?

Then there was Total Recall where he was Agent Richter, the ruthless enforcer of Cohaagen, the source of everything corrupt on Mars. Great role that fit his gruff voice and frankly even gruffer looks absolutely perfectly.

One of his major ongoing roles was in the V franchise, first as Ham Tyle, a recurring role in V: The Final Battle, and then playing the same character in all episodes of V: The Series.

Now we come to my favorite of his roles, in one one of my favorite series, seaQuest 2032, where he was Captain Oliver Hudson. Great series and an absolute fantastic performance by him! Pity it got cancelled after thirteen episodes. 

Finally he has one voice acting role I loved. In the DC universe, he was Darkseid, the absolute rule of Apokolis. He voiced him primarily on Superman: The Animated Series, but also on the Justice League series as well, and to my surprise on the HBO Harley Quinn series as well.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater mashes up a nursery rhyme and online shopping.
  • Existential Comics stages a humorous confrontation between a student and teacher of the magical arts. Sort of Clarke’s Law in reverse.

(12) A LITTLE RAY OF SUNSHINE. Nic Farey, in This Here 72, thinks that the most noteworthy feature of the 2023 Hugo stats embarrassment (“Even a WorldThing avoider such as meself cannot have failed to clock the latest brouhaha (causing much haha round here, to be sure)”) is the opportunity it affords to declare his own report of the voting figures for this year’s FAAn awards will be immediately available — while predicting coverage of the FAAns he anticipates winning will be exploited to take attention away from the Hugos’ disgrace.

The fact that the probity of the FAAns (and my own alleged “fixing” of them, a libelous statement to be sure) has been questioned starts to be more of a “but look over there…” diversion, don’t it?…

Great suggestion, Nic, except (and I know you’ll be surprised to hear this) even your figleaf won’t be big enough to cover this cockup.

(13) THE QUIET BEFORE…THE QUIET. “’A Quiet Place: Day One’ first look at Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn” at Entertainment Weekly.

The ingenuity of the next A Quiet Place movie lies in the simplicity of its idea: Take the same core premise of the previous entries, but just change the setting. That tweak alone drastically affects the stakes. 

John Krasinski’s 2018 horror-thriller introduced the Abbott family, who embraced a life of silence at their rural farmhouse in upstate New York in a terrifying reality overrun by sightless alien monsters that hunt through sound. The story continued in 2021’s A Quiet Place: Part II, but now A Quiet Place: Day One, a prequel film and the franchise’s first spinoff, will see how the citizens of New York City, one of the noisiest metropolitans on the globe, fared when these vicious creatures arrived on Earth….

(14) SFF MOVIE TRAILERS DROPPED DURING SUPER  BOWL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Most (if not all) of the movie trailers debuted during the Super Bowl are for genre works. Comicbook.com did a roundup of all the YouTube videos. See them at the link: “2024 Super Bowl: Watch Every New Movie Trailer Released for the Big Game”.

The Super Bowl may technically be about the two best teams in the NFL facing off for football’s ultimate prize, but for many around the country, it represents one of the biggest movie events of the year. Several film studios use the Super Bowl as a platform to advertise some of their biggest movies in the coming year, leading to more than a few awesome trailers arriving online in the same weekend….

(15) BUGS, MISTER RICO! And some other commercials had a genre flavor, too, like this one: “Jeff Goldblum Returns as Brad Bellflower in Apartments.com’s Sci-Fi Super Bowl Ad” at LBBOnline.

Apartments.com returns to the Super Bowl as the universal leader in renting and debuted a never-before-seen 30-second spot, titled ‘Extraterrentials.’ In the new ad, which premiered during the first quarter of Super Bowl LVII, Jeff Goldblum continues his role as Brad Bellflower, visionary leader of Apartments.com, and defuses a tense standoff with some new arrivals on Earth. The campaign rollout spoofs an upcoming Jeff Goldblum sci-fi blockbuster, featuring a clever media strategy and unique creative from agency of record, RPA.   

“Leading up to the Super Bowl, Apartments.com leveraged extraterrestrial buzz in culture to generate intrigue and awareness across media channels by leaning into the possibility of a new Goldblum sci-fi film,” said Fred Saint, president, marketplaces at CoStar Group…. 

(16) DOPPELGÄNGERS3: “Exploring New Futures in Space: A Revolutionary Integration of Neuroscience, Quantum Physics, and Space Exploration” at SETI.org.

The SETI Institute is proud to support a groundbreaking project from London-based filmmaker and SETI Institute Designer of Experiences Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun-Stépanian that combines insights from intergenerational trauma, neuroscience, quantum physics, and space exploration.

Premiering at SXSW 2024, Doppelgängers3 is a feature film and research project that challenges conventional narratives of space colonization by integrating diverse perspectives. Ben Hayoun-Stépanian will present this multidisciplinary endeavor at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2024, highlighting its unique blend of science, culture, and storytelling within the decolonial space and space culture sessions.

The project spotlights the importance of acknowledging collective trauma and its impacts — a burgeoning field in neuropsychology research. By weaving together the stories of three individuals across different geographies, Doppelgängers3imagines a utopian community on the moon that learns from the past and aspires to a future where diversity and plurality are celebrated….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dan Monroe at Media Master Design answers the question “What Happened to THE TIME MACHINE?”

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Dann, 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 Cat Eldridge.]