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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available from bookshops and online.

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

…We are Riders (of Rohan!)

The beacons are lit and Gondor is hurtin’

Facing total disaster for certain

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering Roger Corman (April 5, 1926 – May 9, 2024)

By Steve Vertlieb: Roger Corman, the legendary motion picture producer/director has succumbed at age 98. His status as a film pioneer is undeniable.

From humble beginnings, Corman virtually re-invented the traditional horror genre in the 1950’s and 60’s with reimagined cinematic translations of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, featuring such classic actors as Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Ray Milland, and Peter Lorre, while discovering and virtually creating the careers of Jack Nicholson, and Peter Fonda.

Vincent Price, in particular, found his career newly flourishing as a result of his frequent collaborations with Corman, while other stars such as Jack Nicholson were nurtured and encouraged by the director, finding new prominence in their early screen careers.

Roger Corman remains an essential component in film history, having launched the careers of such prominent film makers as Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Bruce Dern, Joe Dante, Ellen Burstyn, Robert De Niro, Robert Towne, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Ron Howard, and Peter Bogdanovich, as well as creating his own enduring imprint as a major influence in the development and cultural respectability of the horror/science fiction/fantasy genre over the past sixty five “odd” years.

More importantly, however, he was a genuinely bright, thoughtful, gracious soul whose celebrity never diminished his kindness toward others.

The man will be missed … but his artistry and legacy remain eternal.

Roger Corman and Steve Vertlieb.

Here are the posters for some of his films.

Camille Alexa Review: Folkmanis Sea Serpent Puppet

Review by Camille Alexa: Folkmanis has gained an excellent reputation in recent decades for its overwhelming array of puppets. The plushies range from eerily lifelike to utterly fantastical. Right now I’m holding the Sea Serpent Stage Puppet in my hand. Well, okay, I’m wearing it on my hand. . . is that so wrong?

Fun facts gleaned from the tag:

  • Made in China for Folkmanis, Emeryville, CA
  • Contents: Polyester fiber, polyurethane foam
  • Care: surface washable with cold water; air dry

This little sucker has incredibly well-articulated features for a plush puppet, and lots of different elements: beanbag-filled flaps (ears? horns?); nostrils deep enough to play around with — pull out as though puffing and huffing, or push deep in, which gives the Serpent a look of deep concentration; eyes with great range of movement, though I could never quite figure out how to manipulate them with the interior ring which begs to be toggled, explored, experimented with. I imagine someone could become quite proficient with enough practice at the eye ring — eyes bulging, goggling, recessing . . . overall an intriguing addition to the puppet’s functionality.

The hide’s scales are a rich lustrous aqua, and the fins have a delicate rippled quality to their accordion pleats along the spine and “hands” (flippers? the attached play calls them fins — more about the play in a moment). This is a very shiny, sparkly puppet. The scale pattern is printed into the fabric rather than sewn, and there’s mercifully little glitter fallout; it’s not at all like playing with one of those toys which seem to herald the glitterpocalypse.

For a smaller hand, it might be tricky to manipulate multiple elements at once — the flippers, the eyes, the mouth. And unless you’re willing to experiment with both hands, it would be impossible to use all the manipulable features at the same time — the tongue (oddly the most satisfying part of the puppet: forked and bright red and very expressive), the jaw (typical open/closed puppet style, though with two great soft rubber accent teeth — fangs? — one on each side of the mouth), the eyes (goggling; recessed; recessed & goggling). At least it’s a nice, long puppet, reaching nearly to my elbow, so with a little practice one can achieve some great serpentine motion, like a sea creature riding waves. My brief forays into two-handed use produce some lovely undulating neck motion.

Attached by a small cord about the neck is a play, “Help Wanted.” (Opening: “Sea Serpentis center stage looking around nervously. Enter Cat. . . “)

A brief synopsis of the play:

Cat asks Serpent for a resume and display of typing skills, neither of which the Sea Serpent can offer due to the lack of hands (the Serpent explains). When asked for a list of useful skills, Serpent replies, “Well, I’m great at capsizing large ships, I can eat 20 sailors per minute, I am very good at creating giant whirlpools on short notice . . . and I am highly impervious to evil.”

Serpent describes past employment, including a Mermaid: “for about two hundred years, mostly just chauffeuring her around on my back and eating her enemies,” though there were also “more menial tasks, dredging harbors and whatnot.”

A bargain for gainful employment is eventually struck at the pay rate of five trunks of pirate treasure per year, with benefits.

The end.


Camille Alexa shares her Edwardian home in the Pacific Northwest with an array of fossils, dried willow branches, pressed flowers, and other very pretty dead things. Her first book, Push Of The Sky, earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was a finalist for the Endeavour Award. She likes her humor dark and her horror funny, and can be found on twitter @camillealexa or on LiveJournal as camillealexa.

2024 Sir Julius Vogel Finalists

The 2024 Sir Julius Vogel Award finalists were announced April 17. The awards recognize excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents.

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are administered by SFFANZ, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand Inc

BEST NOVEL

  • Turncoat by Tīhema Baker (Lawrence & Gibson)
  • A New Eden Menilik by Henry Dyer (Podium)
  • A Wolf in the Garden by Allegra Hall (self-published)
  • Decimus and the Wary Widow by Emily Larkin (self-published)
  • Ghosts of the Catacombs by Janna Ruth (self-published)

BEST YOUTH NOVEL

  • New Dawning by A.M. Dixon (Monarch Educational Services)
  • Corporeal by Mike Gwyther (Qualia House)
  • Odd Wolf Out by Juliette MacIver (Scholastic NZ)
  • A Spring of Magic by Janna Ruth (self-published)
  • Maggie and the Mountain of Light by Mark Snoad (Monarch Educational Services)
  • The Song of the Swan by Karah Sutton (Penguin Random House)

BEST NOVELLA

  • How to Get a Date With the Evil Queen by Marie Cardno (Paper Road)
  • Once We Flew by Nikky Lee (Caelestis)
  • The Tablet by S.R. Manssen (Upsidedown)
  • The Butterflies of Meadow Hill Manor by Stefanie Parks (The Book Guild)
  • Hamlet, Prince of Robots by M. Darusha Wehm (In Potentia)

BEST NOVELETTE

  • “Luke’s Lesson” by Michael Botur (Bloodalcohol)
  • “Starving” by Michael Botur (Bloodalcohol)
  • “Ernestine” by Octavia Cade (Asimov’s 3-4/ 23)
  • “Happiness” by Octavia Cade (Clarkesworld 4/23)
  • Lightrunner’s Gambit by Rem Wigmore (Queen of Swords)

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “Fires of Fate” by Jacqui Greaves (Remains to Be Told: Dark Tales of Aotearoa)
  • “Please Sign the Waiver” by Jacqui Greaves (Letters from Elsewhere)
  • “What Bones These Tides Bring” by Nikky Lee (Remains to Be Told: Dark Tales of Aotearoa)
  • “The Watchman” by Kirsten McKenzie (Remains to Be Told: Dark Tales of Aotearoa)
  • “An Obituary to Birdsong” by Tehnuka (If There’s Anyone Left)
  • “Why We Bury Our Dead at Sea” by Tehnuka (Reckoning 7)

BEST COLLECTED WORK

  • Letters from Elsewhere by Jacqui Greaves (self-published)
  • You Are My Sunshine and Other Stories by Octavia Cade (Stelliform)
  • 20,000 Bloody Words by Denver Grenell (Beware The Moon)
  • Remains to Be Told: Dark Tales of Aotearoa by Lee Murray, ed. (Clan Destine)
  • Bloodalcohol by Michael Botur (Next Chapter)

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTWORK

  • Cover art of Tarquin the Honest; Occian’s Elven by Bex Blackwood (Bateman)
  • Cover art of Bloodalcohol by Michael Botur (Next Chapter)

BEST PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTION/PUBLICATION

  • Sidetrack by Andi C. Buchanan

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • Creamerie, Season 2

BEST FAN PRODUCTION/PUBLICATION

  • Phoenixine

BEST FAN WRITING

  • “SITREP” by Alex Lindsay (Phoenixine)
  • “Pass the Rules” by Jo Toon (Phoenixine)

SPECIAL AWARDS

NEW TALENT

  • Katharine J. Adams
  • Menilik Henry Dyer
  • Allegra Hall
  • Mark Snoad

2024 CWA Dagger Awards Shortlist

The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) of the United Kingdom announced the shortlist for the 2024 CWA Dagger Awards on May 10.

The winners will be presented on July 4.

GOLD DAGGER

This award is for the best crime novel by an author of any nationality.

  • Over My Dead Body by Maz Evans, (Headline)
  • The Secret Hours, by Mick Herron (Baskerville, John Murray)
  • Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane (Abacus, Little Brown)
  • Tell me What I Am, by Una Mannion (Faber & Faber)
  • Black River, by Nilanjana Roy (Pushkin Vertigo)
  • Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, by Jesse Sutanto (HQ ,Harper Collins)

IAN FLEMING STEEL DAGGER

Eligible books in this category are thrillers set in any period and include, but are not limited to, spy fiction, psychological thrillers and action/adventure stories.

  • All the Sinners Bleed, by S A Cosby (Headline, Hachette)
  • Ozark Dogs, by Eli Cranor  (Headline Hachette)
  • Everybody Knows, by Jordan Harper (Faber & Faber)
  • The Mantis by Kotaro Isaka, (Harvill Secker, Penguin Random House) 
  • Gaslight by Femi Kayode (Raven Books, Bloomsbury)
  • Drowning, by T J Newman (Simon & Schuster)

ILP JOHN CREASEY (NEW BLOOD) DAGGER

This award is for the best crime novel by a first-time author of any nationality.

  • In The Blink of An Eye, by Jo Callaghan  (Simon & Schuster UK)
  • The Golden Gate by Amy Chua, (Corvus, Atlantic Books)
  • The Maiden, by Kate Foster (Mantle Pan Macmillan)
  • West Heart Kill, by Dann McDorman (Raven Books)
  • Go Seek by Michelle Teahan (Headline)
  • The Tumbling Girl by Bridget Walsh, (Gallic Books)

HISTORICAL DAGGER

This award is for the best historical crime novel, set in any period up to 50 years prior to the year in which the award will be made.

  • Clara & Olivia, by Lucy Ashe (Magpie, Oneworld Publications)
  • Harlem After Midnight by Louise Hare  (HQ, HarperCollins)
  • A Bitter Remedy by Alis Hawkins (Canelo)
  • Viper’s Dream by Jake Lamar (No Exit Press)
  • Scarlet Town by Leonora Nattrass (Viper, Profile Books)
  • Voices of the Dead by Ambrose Parry (Canongate Books)

CRIME FICTION IN TRANSLATION DAGGER

This award is for a crime novel not originally written in English and which has been translated into English for UK publication.

  • Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado, (translated by Nick Caistor,) Macmillan
  • The Sins Of Our Fathers by Asa Larsson (translated by Frank Perry), Maclehose Press
  • Nothing Is Lost, by Cloé Mehdi (translated by Howard Curtis), Europa Editions UK
  • The Consultant, by Im Seong-sun (translated by An Seong Jae,) Raven Books
  • The Prey by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (translated by Victoria Cribb), Hodder & Stoughton
  • My Husband by Maud Ventura (translated by Emma Ramadan,) Hutchinson Heinemann

ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION 

This award is for any non-fiction work on a crime-related theme by an author of any nationality.

  • The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel (Simon & Schuster)
  • No Ordinary Day by Matt Johnson with John Murray  (Ad Lib Publishers)
  • Devil’s Coin by Jennifer McAdam with Douglas Thompson  (Ad Lib Publishers Ltd)
  • Seventy Times Seven by Alex Mar (Bedford Square Publishers)
  • How Many More Women? By Jennifer Robinson & Keina Yoshida  (Endeavour)
  • Ian Fleming: The Complete Man by Nicholas Shakespeare, (Vintage)

SHORT STORY DAGGER

This award is for any crime short story first published in the UK in English in a publication that pays for contributions, or broadcast in the UK in return for payment.

  • Safe Enough by Lee Child from An Unnecessary Assassin, edited by Lorraine Stevens, (Rivertree)
  • The Last Best Thing by Mia Dalia from Bang!:An Anthology of Modern Noir Fiction, edited by Andrew Hook, (Head Shot Press)
  • The Also-Rans by Benedict J Jones from Bang!:An Anthology of Modern Noir Fiction edited by Andrew Hook, (Head Shot Press)
  • The Divide by Sanjida Kay from The Book of Bristol edited by Joe Melia and Heather Marks, (Comma Press)
  • The Spendthrift and the Swallow, by Ambrose Parry (Canongate Books)
  • Best Served Cold by FD Quinn from An Unnecessary Assassin edited by Lorraine Stevens, (Rivertree)

DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY

The Dagger in the Library is a prize for a body of work by an established crime writer who has long been popular with borrowers from libraries, and who has supported libraries and their users.

PUBLISHERS’ DAGGER

This prestigious Dagger is awarded annually to the Best Crime and Mystery Publisher of the Year.

  • Canelo
  • Headline (Hachette)
  • Joffe Books
  • Michael Joseph (PenguinRandomHouse)
  • Pushkin Press
  • Simon & Schuster

DEBUT DAGGER (Sponsored by ProWritingAid)

A competition for the opening of a crime novel and synopsis.

  • Burnt Ranch by Katherine Ahlert,
  • Unnatural Predators by Caroline Arnoul
  • Makoto Murders by Richard Jerram
  • Not a Good Mother by Karabi Mitra
  • Long Way Home by Lynn Tavernier
  • The Last Days of Forever by Jeremy Tinker
  • The Blond by Megan Toogood

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

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

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

Dear readers, authors and partners,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science Fiction World Magazine. May 11, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the VERY prelimary allocation of books to blogs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

Richard P. Feynman. (Caltech Archives)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Street’s May 7 report says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat Eldridge Review: Funko’s Rock Candy Lady Thor Figure

Review by Cat Eldridge: I spotted this Lady Thor (aka Jane Foster in Marvel Comics) figure in a local comics shop that happens to carry a wide selection of the Funko figures. Now no one locally carries them all, as there are thousands, and the ones I’m interested in are not the big headed ones that most fans collect. I’ve got the masked Spider-Gwen, Captain Marvel and the Thirteenth Doctor, all Funko products in this scale.

Neither is close to the complexity of Lady Thor, though each is spot-on to her character. Her costuming rivals of much more expensive action figures – she cost just ten dollars — as she looks damn good from her boots and leg wrappings to her winged helmet. Even her face, what we can see of it is fairly realistic with a nice set of eyes and quite cute lips.

The blue eye design is, by the way, something that carries across most of the female Funko Rock Candy figures, and all of the ones I have share it. No, they’re certainly realistic and they certainly give the female figures a distinct design motif.

Keep in mind that’s she’s only five-and-a-half inches tall. That cape is remarkably good-looking considering that it is solid plastic and doesn’t move at all save the head. Her costume is spot on to what Jane Foster wore during her run in Thor. Just look at her helmet — perfectly detailed. As is Mjölnir, Thor’s Hammer.

All in all, a most excellent figure.

Pixel Scroll 5/10/24 Pride And Prejudice And Pixels

(1) STAR TREK WINS PEABODY AWARD. The Star Trek franchise was among the Peabody Award winners announced today. Given to television, radio, and other media, the Peabody honors “stories that powerfully reflect the pressing social issues and the vibrant emerging voices of our day.”

TrekMovie.com homes in on the story of greatest interest to fans: “Star Trek Franchise Wins Peabody Award”

… This is actually Trek’s second Peabody. In 1987 the Next Generation episode “The Big Goodbye” won the Entertainment, Children’s & Youth Award. The first season of Star Trek: Discovery was also nominated for the same award.

Here is the full text of the announcement for Star Trek…

The Institutional Award – Star Trek

The original Star Trek television series aired on NBC for only three seasons, from September 1966 to June 1969. It was fresh, prescient, and so ahead of its time that it couldn’t quite capture the mainstream audience required for hits during a particularly insipid time in television. But fast forward nearly 60 years, and creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision is alive and well, having spawned a media franchise of 13 feature films, 11 television series, and numerous books and comics, with a legendary fan following. Today Star Trek is more vibrant, imaginative, funny, entertaining, and progressive than ever. And these days, we’ve got the special effects to make it look stellar.

The original science-fiction series was set aboard a starship, Enterprise, whose mostly human crew encountered alien life as they traversed the stars, led by the iconic Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). It was groundbreaking for its diverse cast and for its unapologetically progressive values—exploration over colonialism, cooperation over violence. Its fandom grew over time, and the successors to the original series have updated the franchise without losing its moral core—the dream of a future free from human destruction, poverty, and bigotry. Subsequent captains have served as models of ethical and diverse leadership: The Next Generation’s Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), and Voyager’s Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) among them.

With every passing decade, new versions have proliferated, attracting new generations of fans. Film reboots directed by J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin revived Kirk and his crew with new, young actors, zippier dialogue, and vastly improved effects in the 2000s and 2010s. The Streaming Era has brought a raft of reimaginings with a variety of sensibilities, from the dark and complicated Star Trek: Discovery to the crowd-pleasing prequel Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (featuring a young Spock!) to the hilariously meta cartoon Star Trek: Lower Decks. As the latest versions of Star Trek invite in a new generation of viewers, the interstellar travelers still encounter danger and difficulty, of course. But the Starfleet crew always comes out on top— and without sacrificing essential values that seem quintessentially human: valor, self-sacrifice, curiosity, compassion, broadmindedness.

“From a groundbreaking television series to an expansive collection of films, novels, comic books and so much more, Star Trek has been delivering joy, wonder, and thought-provoking stories since the 1960s,” said Jones. “With powerful anti-war and anti-discrimination messages, it has blazed trails for all science fiction franchises while winning over passionate fans across the globe. We’re proud to honor Star Trek with Peabody’s Institutional Award.”

The Hollywood Reporter has the complete list of Peabody Awards 2024 Winners.

Other winners of genre interest are:

CHILDREN’S/YOUTH

Bluey (Disney+)
Creator Joe Brumm’s endearing family of animated Australian dogs have captivated both children and adults for years in episodes equally delightful and heartrending. Very little feels off the table, as Bluey fearlessly tackles topics from death to infertility to fleeting friendships, all while maintaining a sense of innocence and exuberance for the children, and affinity and understanding for the parents, who are allowed to be dynamic, imperfect beings on their own growth journey. 
Ludo Studio, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Studios

ENTERTAINMENT

The Last of Us (HBO | Max)
In HBO’s post-apocalyptic The Last of Us, a faithful adaptation of the critically-acclaimed Naughty Dog video game, the road trip odyssey of Joel and Ellie (played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey) functions as a recursive meditation on love and loss—and how love is capable of changing people, for good and for ill. In the hands of showrunner Craig Mazin, who worked in collaboration with Neil Druckmann, a co-director on the original game, this adaptation extracts new layers from the text that expand its meaning—imagining what a life of love and fulfillment, and survival, can look like at the end of the world.
HBO in association with Sony Pictures Television Studios, PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint, and Naughty Dog.

(2) MINNESOTA BOOK AWARDS. The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced the Minnesota Book Awards winners. The complete list is at the link.

Emma Törzs’ fantasy novel Ink Blood Sister Scribe is the winner of the Genre Fiction category.

For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements—books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.

All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna’s isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they’ll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries . . .

(3) OUT OF TIME. Jonathan Russell Clark analyzes “Why We Love Time Travel Stories” for Esquire.

…For Wells’s contemporaries, Gleick notes, “technology had a special persuasive power.” For us, now a quarter of the way through the 21st century, things have grown complicated. Technology governs everything we do, but rather than enhancing our lives, our gadgets seem to exploit us, isolate us, box us in. Moreover, the technology itself has moved beyond our understanding, leaving us dependent on the two or three corporate entities producing it. The World of Tomorrow never arrived; no matter how much technology has progressed, it is still frustratingly Today.

Instead of holding out for a future that will solve our problems, contemporary readers now look into the past to address the wrongs inflicted on the less powerful, so what makes a convincing time-travel story in the 21st century isn’t the verisimilitude of the science but rather the morality of the characters’ intentions. In her book on ’80s movies, Life Moves Pretty Fast, Hadley Freeman notes that in Back to the Future, “Marty’s meddling in the past results in his parents living in a nice house, with chicer furnishings, posher breakfast dishes, and even domestic help in the form of Biff Tannen in 1985. Marty’s triumph is to lift his family up to middle-class status.” If Hollywood rebooted the franchise today, Freeman writes, “Marty’s challenge would be to save the world.” I still think a remake would keep Marty’s adventures confined to his personal bubble; it’s just that instead of reuniting his parents to ensure his existence, his mission would instruct him to meddle in his parents’ past because, down the line, this will save the world. Nowadays, to exploit time travel for personal gain—and indeed to tell a story in which such actions are uncritically celebrated—is unacceptable, as is returning to our discriminatory, segregated, slavery-filled history without seriously grappling with those realities. It’s no longer technology but rather moral conviction that now has a special persuasive power on us….

(4) A RARE HEINLEIN CONNECTION. Dave Hook has done fascinating research into a forgotten Heinlein collaborator: “Who is Elma ‘Miller’ Wentz?”

I know I’ve read this story in “Beyond the End of Time” at least once, but I remember nothing about it or even that it existed until seeing this. I found this very interesting for several reasons:

  1. To my knowledge, this is the only fiction published by Heinlein with a co-author during his lifetime.
  2. Heinlein clearly was not fond of it, as he never allowed this and two of his other early stories published as by “Lyle Monroe” to be reissued in a Heinlein collection during his lifetime (per Wikipedia).
  3. I had no idea who “Elma Wentz” was.

…Sometime in the early 1930s, she moved to Los Angeles. Her family did also, although it’s not clear if they moved at the same time or not.

William H. Patterson, Jr.’s “Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve” (“Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue…”), 2010 Tor, noted that Elma was working for Upton Sinclair on Sinclair’s California 1934 governor’s campaign as his personal secretary. Patterson also notes that she and her husband to be, Roby Wentz, met Robert A. Heinlein when Heinlein joined Sinclair’s related “End Poverty in California” (EPIC) movement in early 1935. The EPIC movement overlapped substantially with Sinclair’s run for governor. This resulted in her and Roby becomes friends with Robert A. Heinlein and his first wife Leslyn (MacDonald) Heinlein, and with journalist (and future SF writer) Cleve Cartmill….

(5) GUARDIAN REVIEW ROUNDUP. Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup” for the Guardian encompasses The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard; A View from the Stars by Cixin Liu; Flowers from the Void by Gianni Washington; The Dark Side of the Sky by Francesco Dimitri; The Hungry Dark by Jen Williams; and To the Stars and Back by various writers.

(6) VANISHING POINT. Atlas Obscura advises “Don’t Stare at the Dark Watchers”.

… There are dozens of similar accounts of so-called dark watchers by hikers in the Santa Lucia Mountains near Big Sur, California. The stories often share details: The figure stands seven to 10 feet tall and has a walking stick and hat, for example. No one has ever been able to interact with the looming figures—they always disappear once the hiker acknowledges them…

…Despite their ephemeral nature—and claims that they only appear to hikers with low-tech, old-school gear—stories of these cryptids go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Some people trace the legend to the pre-colonial oral stories of the Chumash, Indigenous peoples that have lived along the Central Coast of California and the Channel Islands for 13,000 years. But while there are many Chumash accounts of various creatures in December’s Child by Thomas Blackburn—the most complete written record of Chumash stories—it’s unclear whether any describe the dark watchers.

“These entities—whatever they are—have not just influenced the local people,” says Offutt. “They influenced some pretty famous people, too.” The earliest written accounts of dark watchers go back to the 1700s, when Spanish colonists gave the mysterious beings their name: los vigilantes oscuros. Since then, sightings have continued, and in 1937, the creatures made their literary debut….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 55. This is not full accounting of everything that the rather prolific John Scalzi has done, nor is it limited to his fiction. Now that I’ve got that out of the way let’s start…

I was trying to remember what I first read by him and I think it was actually Old Man’s War whereas I expect you know the characters of Old Man’s War are senior citizens who leave Earth to have their brains transplanted into cyborg bodies and sent off to be fight in an interstellar war. Scalzi has said the series was in homage in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

John Scalzi in 2019.

I only read further in the series through the “Questions for a Soldier” short story, The Ghost Brigades and the Zoe’s Tale. The latter broke my heart really it. Damn, I so like the main character here, and spoiler alert, what happened to her really did severely distressed me. Effing hell. 

So who here has read and liked The Android’s Dream novels? I liked everything I read by Scalzi save this. Maybe it was the premise itself, maybe the weirdness of the sheep hybrid which I’ll not discuss lest somebody be here who’s keen to read it still, maybe there there was too much Philip K. Dick in it. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it. So tell me why I should have.

Space opera, I knew he had it in him. And the Interdependency series certainly proved that amply. Lovely premise of an Empire, spoiler alert again so go drink Romulan blood wine, as the portals connecting the worlds of their Empire are apparently collapsing. The titles of the final novel in the trilogy sums up the trilogy up nicely, The Last Emperox.

And then there’s the Hugo winning Redshirts. Obviously off the Trek’s infamous oh my he’s a red shirt and will die a horrible death meme, it allowed Scalzi to play around with that delicious premise. No, I’m not saying a word more, so no spoiler alert needed. It’s a great story told well. There’s even something that Scalzi might well have borrowed from the Clue film here.

The last novel I want to talk about involves Fuzzies. Fuzzy Nation, authorized by the estate of H. Beam Piper, was not intended to be a sequel to Little Fuzzy, the Piper novel which was nominated for a Hugo. Scalzi wrote it first and then got permission from the Estate to publish it. It doesn’t feel like something the Piper would have written, but it’s worth reading none the less. 

Now let’s note Whatever, no doubt the most entertaining blog done by any writer, genre or otherwise. Is this what he won a Fan Writer Hugo for? If so, great choice. It’s something I very much look forward to reading every day. I see his Hugo for Best Related Book was related to his blog, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever 1998–2008. 

Ok, that’s what I like by him. No, it’s not everything but I did say it would be. As always, I know you’ll give copious comments about what I didn’t mention. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark’s lines up the usual suspects.
  • Shoe lets the name speak for itself.
  • Speed Bump disappoints these readers.
  • Carpe Diem has an unexpected haunting.
  • Nathan W Pyle shows a character resisting inimical forces!

(9) A VICIOUS GANG OF FACTS. Those skeptics at ScreenRant pooh-pooh “8 Sci-Fi Movie Inventions Ruined By Real Science”. First on their list of impossibilities:

8. Lightsabers

The Star Wars Series

One of the most iconic movie weapons ever created, lightsabers need little introduction. The mythical weapons of both the legendary Jedi order and the insidious Sith, these blazing hot swords of pure light can slice through nearly anything in the Star Wars universe, barring specialty-made materials like Durasteel. Not only that, but they’re also capable of deflecting bolts from energy-based blaster weapons, making them an impressive source of offense as well as defense. In the lore of the franchise, the lightsabers are powered by the mysterious Kyber crystals.

The lightsabers operate on different laws of physics than those in reality. Creating a powerful enough beam of light to cut through solid metal would result in a much longer, unwieldy weapon, not limited in its projection to a mere three feet. Even ignoring the issues regarding the lightsabers’ power source, which would easily need to be connected to some kind of power-generating backpack with today’s available technology, the ability of the weapons to physically clash with one another disobeys the properties of light. In reality, crossing lightsabers would simply pass through one another.

(10) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER. Is it really? I don’t know, so better safe etc. “Doctor Who’ Star Ncuti Gatwa Filmed With 20 Babies in Season Premiere”.

While filming episode one of “Doctor Who” season 14, entitled “Space Babies,” Millie Gibson had to do the impossible: keep the attention of 20 infants at once. Although she was bearing her soul in a speech integral to her character’s backstory, the babies kept dozing off and losing their attention to the flashing lights of the space-age set. So, to keep their little eyes focused on her, she delivered her lines while a nursery rhyme played on her phone just out of camera view.

“It was so hard honestly,” recalled Gibson. “It was the most bizarre thing but it will stay in my mind forever.”

…“They were such divas,” Gatwa joked about his toddler co-stars. “They had so many demands.”…

(11) FLAME ON! I don’t know how this cooking news item ended up at Popular Mechanics: “’Star Wars’ Fans, Truff’s Latest Super-Spicy Hot Sauce Is for You”.

…That’s right: Truff—the brand behind the decadent truffle-infused hot sauces Oprah has named to her Favorite Things list for the last three years—just dropped a new hot sauce with some serious Star Wars flair. Truff’s Star Wars Dark Side Hot Sauce is nothing to play with, given it’s now the brand’s spiciest sauce, featuring the hot-as-Hades ghost pepper.

Yes, the ghost pepper is certainly quite hot, topping out at over 1 million Scoville Units. That said, it isn’t the hottest. That title only recently belongs to Pepper X, which reaches more than double the ghost pepper’s 1+ million Scoville Units. According to Britannica, though, less than 20 years ago, the ghost pepper actually was the fieriest, most fearsome of them all. But just because there’s one hotter out there now doesn’t mean ghost peppers aren’t still fierce, as you’ll find out when you crack open this hot sauce….

(12) MONSOON Q&A. A BBC interview: “Doctor Who star Jinkx Monsoon on playing ‘zany’ villain Maestro”.

… American drag queen Jinkx Monsoon, who plays the new nemesis, tells BBC Newsbeat her “dreams have been granted in a wonderful way”.

Jinkx is known as the “Queen of Queens” after winning a regular and All Star season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

And she says moving to the world’s longest-running science fiction show felt like a natural progression for a self-described trans queer actor.

“Sci-fi has always been queer. Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional,” she says.

“There are prominent writers, directors, producers who are queer in these fields. And it just hasn’t really been able to be talked about and a lot of them nowadays are done being silent.”

She adds there has been “so much queer progress” in society, but feels in the entertainment industry “there’s still been this thing of queer people behind the cameras”.

“And only certain palatable society-approved queer people get to be in front of the camera.

“What I really love about this Doctor Who season is it saying: ‘To hell with that’.”

(13) HOLY SH!T! Aka the video of the day — Hell and Back by Scott Base. A short film based on original Bad Space comic. Mark sent the link with a warning, “I’m not sure I’d want to see a whole movie…”

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

Gunn Center Names Drake as New Director

Professor Philip Drake will become the new director of The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) at the University of Kansas it was announced today.  

The center was founded in 1982 by James Gunn (1923-2020), a SFWA Grandmaster. KU Professor Christopher McKitterick superseded him as Director of the CSSF in 2010. KU Professor of English Giselle Anatol replaced McKitterick in 2021, however, for the past year she also has served as Interim Director of the University of Kansas’ Hall Center of the Humanities, an appointment that now has been made permanent.

According to the press release, Professor Drake has a long-time interest in science fiction and speculative fiction. He brings that interest together with his scholarship and teaching in science and technology studies, animal studies, and environmental humanities.

GRANT TO BE CREATED. The Gunn CSSF also reported progress on the establishment of a new grant:

Last year, the Advisory Board gave input on a proposed grant for visiting KU’s considerable SFF collections that are housed in the Spencer Research Library, Watson Library, and the Gunn Center itself. We decided that it would be best to wait to launch that grant until the Gunn Center’s collections are fully catalogued. Our archivist, Mike Johnson, has been working on this project in conjunction with the Open Language Resource Center. We anticipate being able to launch the grant in the 2024-25 academic year.

VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB. The Gunn CSSF also will continue their Virtual Book Club for 2024-25. In order to broaden the audience and increase attendance and engagement, they’re asking for feedback. People are invited to fill out this survey whether or not they’ve attended a session.

STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The 3rd annual Sturgeon Symposium will take place October 24-25 and focus on the work of Samuel Delany, who is planning to attend.  Proposals for papers are due May 31. The call for papers and other information is here.

2024 World Video Game Hall of Fame Inductees

It’s official! Asteroids, Myst, Resident Evil, SimCity, and Ultima are the 10th class of inductees to join the World Video Game Hall of Fame. The inductees were announced at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, on May 9, where they are on permanent view on the museum’s second floor.

These five games—which have significantly influenced popular culture and the video game industry—emerged from a field of finalists that also included Elite, Guitar Hero, Metroid, Neopets, Tokimeki Memorial, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and You Don’t Know Jack. The games are enshrined in the museum’s World Video Game Hall of Fame rotunda, part of the ESL Digital Worlds exhibit.

About the Inductees:

  • Asteroids
  • Myst
  • Resident Evil
  • SimCity
  • Ultima

Asteroids: Released in 1979, Atari’s Asteroids offered players challenging gameplay, glowing graphics, and intense sound effects in an action-packed space setting. The game quickly supplanted the popular Space Invaders in many arcades and sold more than 70,000 arcade units, becoming Atari’s bestselling coin-operated game. The home version of the game—made available on the Atari 2600—took the game’s popularity to new heights, bringing it into millions of living rooms.

Says Jeremy Saucier, assistant vice president for interpretation and electronic games, “Through endless variants and remakes across dozens of arcade, home, handheld, and mobile platforms, Asteroids made a simple, yet challenging game about blasting rocks into one of the most widely played and influential video games of all time.”

Myst: Released by Broderbund in 1993, Myst welcomed players to a mesmerizing world of mysterious puzzles and haunting vistas. The game harnessed early CD-ROM technology—which offered high storage capacity but slow loading times. The discs paired well with the slow-paced, contemplative style of the game, though, and allowed the creation of an immersive world. Myst became the best-selling computer game in the 1990s, selling more than six million copies.

Says Kristy Hisert, collections manager, “Few other games can match Myst’s ability to open imaginative worlds. It was a work of artistic genius that captured the imagination of an entire generation of computer game players, and its influence can be seen in many of today’s open-world games.”

Resident Evil: Although it wasn’t the first horror video game, Resident Evil (or Biohazard as it was known in Japan) was the first game to popularize the “survival horror” genre. Created by game director Shinji Mikami and released by Capcom in 1996, Resident Evil spawned a billion-dollar media franchise while it helped demonstrate that video games could offer mature entertainment for older teenagers and adults. As of 2022, films based on the Resident Evil franchise have collective grossed more than $1.2 billion.

Says Lindsey Kurano, video game curator, “Resident Evil’s combination of cheesy B-movie dialogue, engrossing gameplay, and chilling suspense made it a favorite of gamers searching for more mature video games, and it helped establish one of gaming’s most enduring franchises.”

SimCityReleased by Maxis in 1989, SimCity helped expand the audience for video games by offering a city building simulator that appealed to adults as much as children. Drawing from real-life principles of urban design, it allowed players to build their own city and respond to ever-changing problems. The game spawned numerous sequels and offshoots—such as World Video Game Hall of Fame inductee The Sims—and influenced the development of many city-building simulation games and even real-time strategy games, like Command and Conquer and Age of Empires.

Says Aryol Prater, research specialist for Black play and culture, “Simulations are some of the oldest forms of video games, but few have had the popularity, influence, or staying power of SimCity. At a time when many people thought of video games in terms of arcade shooters or console platformers, SimCity appealed to players who wanted intellectually stimulating fun on their newly bought personal computers.”

UltimaUltima: The First Age of Darkness helped define the computer role-playing genre. Designed by Richard Garriott and released in 1981, Ultima combined role-playing mechanics, a massive fictional world, and fantasy and science fiction themes. Ultima’s innovative gameplay laid the foundation for one of the most enduring and influential gaming franchises of all time (with eight sequels). Many top game designers credit it with inspiring their later role-playing games, such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.

Says Andrew Borman, director of digital preservation, “Ultima helped define the computer role-playing game genre. Although it may not be a household name, the game, and the series it spawned, are legendary among role-playing game fans and game developers around the world.”

About the World Video Game Hall of Fame: The World Video Game Hall of Fame at The Strong was established in 2015 to recognize individual electronic games of all types—arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile—that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general. 

Anyone may nominate a game to the World Video Game Hall of Fame. Final selections are made on the advice of journalists, scholars, and other individuals familiar with the history of video games and their role in society.

 [Based on a press release.]