Pixel Scroll 10/10/22 I Demand Satisfaction. Pixels At Dawn

Illo by Joe Pearson

(1) ASKING ABOUT BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES IN SF. Prof. Brendan Allison has a question, and File 770 has volunteered to try and crowdsource the answer:

I am an academic researcher in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). I’m writing a book chapter about BCIs in science fiction, called BCI-fi. Among other academic pursuits, I’m looking for the first reference to an artificial brain interface. It must involve a device. I’m just writing you as a way to research this question.   

The earliest reference so far was the first X-Men comic in 1963. Professor X can “interface” with psychic power – which doesn’t count – but also uses a brain interface to bolster that ability. Frankenstein does use a device to stimulate the brain, but that’s arguably not an interface.

Prof. Allison also sent links to recordings of two recent workshops about BCI-fi where one of the participants was Andy Weir. (“BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 1” and “BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 2”.)

In this two-part event, we will have prominent speakers within the BCI-fi community to discuss their contributions to BCI-fi, their favorite examples of BCI-fi including movies, books, and podcasts, and next steps to develop, foster, or publicize “good” BCI-fi. We will be joined by Dr. Brendan Allison (UCSD), Andy Weir (author of The Martian), Dr. Eric Leuthardt (Washington University in St. Louis), Stephen Hou (host of Neurratives podcast), Dr. Richard Ramchurn (University of Nottingham), Dr. Jane Huggins (University of Michigan) and Dr. Robert Hampson (Wake Forest University).

(2) IS THERE AN IDEAL LENGTH? “Novels versus novellas in Speculative Fiction” are debated at A Deep Look by Dave Hook.

Many argue that the perfect length for speculative fiction is the novella, or short novel. Some believe that this is long enough to tell a successful story while not longer than needed. It is said that this length allows for character development and change, and perhaps multiple plot lines, while short enough to be taut and not meander or bog down.

I don’t know if it’s true that the novella is the perfect length for speculative fiction, but it is certainly true that many great works of speculative fiction are novella length, whether works such as “The Times Machine” by H. G. Wells right up to modern fiction such as “A Spindle Splintered” by Alix E. Harrow….

(3) SFWA SF STORYBUNDLE SUBMISSION CALL. The Independent Authors Committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) is open for submissions for their science fiction StoryBundle to be released next spring. Submissions will be accepted through October 31, 2022, at 11:59pm Eastern Time. The theme for the call is Space is Big. Really Big. They are looking for space opera and “other books that span large swaths of space.” Full guidelines for this submission call can be found here.

StoryBundles are curated collections of books offered at a discounted price. Proceeds go to the participating authors and StoryBundle, and a small cut is donated to SFWA. 

This is a great chance for independent and small press authors to gain more exposure and sell more books! Submissions of indie and traditionally published novels will be accepted, though publishers must give permission in writing. You do not need to be a SFWA member to apply! 

We welcome full-length science fiction novels of over 40,000 words. We ask that authors submit only one novel, and do not submit a novel that has appeared in any previous StoryBundle (SFWA or otherwise.) Please only submit novels that will be for sale by March 1, 2023. You must have full rights to enter your novel in the StoryBundle, and the novel must not be in Amazon’s KDP Select at the time that the StoryBundle is offered.  Participants will be notified by December 1, 2022, so that any books enrolled in KDP will have time to be brought out of exclusivity before the bundle is released on or about March 1, 2023.

Questions may be directed to storybundle@sfwa.org

(4) FUNDRAISING FOR THE THOMASES. The Gofundme for “Lynne and Michael Thomas”, who are facing the loss of their 19-year-old daughter Caitlin to medical complications from Aicardi Syndrome, had raised $58,486 when checked earlier today.  Jim C. Hines, who set up the appeal, explained what it’s for:

…I’ve spoken a bit with Michael. It sounds like the medical costs of Caitlin’s treatment are covered. End-of-life costs are another matter.

The goal of this fundraiser is to cover those end-of-life expenses, and to hopefully provide a financial cushion to allow the Thomases to spend their remaining time with Caitlin – and when the time comes, to grieve – without also having to worry about money. All donations will go directly to Michael and Lynne (with the exception of GoFundMe’s processing fee)….

(5) EKPEKI CROWDFUNDING. The Gofundme to “Send Oghenechovwe Ekpeki World Fantasy Con” has brought in $2,000 of its $4,000 goal as of this afternoon.  Jason Sanford outlined why it’s needed:

…A successful previous fundraiser brought Ekpeki to this year’s Worldcon, where he was a finalist for two Hugo Awards. However, his gruesome battle with the US embassy in Nigeria for a visa and exorbitant fees and repeated payments resulting from that (including last-minute changes to his international flights) resulted in costs far exceeding what that fundraiser brought in. So this new fundraiser would also mop up those expenses as well….

(6) NEVERTHELESS, A BRADBURY AND ASIMOV FAN. “Temple Grandin Is a Visual Thinker Who Hates Graphic Novels” according to a headline in the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt from their interview with Grandin.  

What kind of a reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you?

I was not able to read until I was age 8. Mother tutored me with phonics, and I quickly went from no reading to reading above my age level. My favorite books when I was in fourth grade were “Black Beauty,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and a children’s book about famous inventors. I really related to Black Beauty’s pain when he was forced to pull a heavy carriage with his head held up by a bearing rein. The inventor book appealed to me because I loved to tinker with my kites to make them fly better.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading and which do you avoid?

I avoid romance novels. The books I really enjoy are either about animals or science fiction. I loved “Merle’s Door,” by Ted Kerasote. Many dogs today live really restricted lives and they have no normal dog social life. Another favorite is “The Soul of the Octopus,” by Sy Montgomery. It really made me think about consciousness. When I received a review copy of “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, I could not put it down. In the science fiction genre, I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

(7) PICK SIX. How long has this variation been around? A spinoff from Nerds of a Feather’s “Six Books” interview series is “6 Games With Aidan Moher”.

1. What game are you currently playing?

Appropriately, I’m splitting my time between a couple of JRPGs—one current, one retro.

On the big screen downstairs I’m about 60 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and still mildly obsessed. I really love a lot of creator Tetsuya Takahashi’s older games—especially Xenogears, which I just finished replaying—but bounced hard off Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so I was a little hesitant when they announced the third game. It’s exceeded all of my expectations, though, and is probably my favourite game in the series now—an improvement on the second game in pretty much every way. Vast world, memorable characters, and Takahashi’s typical zany JRPG plot is a drool-worth combination.

Upstairs in my CRT corner, I’m playing Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64 for the first time. I’ve enjoyed many other games in the series—including Sticker Star, which has a bad reputation—but the original slipped past me for a variety of reasons. It’s wild to go back to the very beginning and see all of the series’s trademarks right there, fully formed, polished, and perfectly enjoyable 20 years later. It’s genuinely funny, the combat is simple but engaging thanks to its timing-based mechanics, and it’s got some of the best graphics on the system.

(8) WAS THE ZODIAC KILLER A FAN? [Item by Susan de Guardiola.] There’s a new theory that the Zodiac killer was a fan, Paul Doerr.

The news reports on this are the first time I’ve ever seen fanzines, filk, D&D, SCA, Renfaires, etc. paired with a Zodiac killer theory.

The evidence is circumstantial, but there’s an awful lot of it.

Los Angeles Magazine devoted an article to the question “Has The Zodiac Killer Mystery Been Solved (Again)”, discussing author Jarrett Kobek’s books Motor Spiritabout the misbegotten hunt for Zodiac, and How to Find Zodiacabout Paul Doerr. 

… As he studied Zodiac’s cryptic letters, Kobek brought a writerly attention to bear. He zeroed in on the killer’s habit of quoting forgotten bits of cultural ephemera (the well-known call-outs to The Mikado and to the 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” as well as a telling reference to an obscure 1950s comic book, identified by an anonymous online researcher, Tahoe27, several years back). Running other apparent quotations through Google Books and the Internet Archive, Kobek formed a picture of the killer as a fan of pulp novels, comics, and other nerdy touchstones. Kobek knew a bit about the early years of the sci-fi and fantasy fandoms, how these nascent communities had begun taking shape around an array of obscure self-published zines. On a hunch, he did a quick web search of “fanzines” and “Vallejo.”…

Paul Haynes has published a long Twitter thread about Kobek’s evidence, now collected in three parts at Threadreader: Part I; Part II; Part III.

I don’t know if anyone who knew Paul Doerr is still around.

(9) THE CORFLU AUCTION IS NOW LIVE! The catalog for the Corflu Pangloss auction is now online at Corflu.org and eFanzines.com. Anyone can bid on those 80 lots, including non-members – the catalog has instruction on how to bid. See the Pangloss Fanzine Auction Catalog and Bid Sheet at the links.

Corflu has a long tradition of raising funds to support the convention by selling and auctioning off vintage science fiction fanzines before, during and sometimes after the convention. As Corflu is a convention devoted to fanzines and the fans who create them, it has always been a natural place to buy, sell or trade zines, and the live auction has often raised very impressive sums.

For the 39th issue of the convention, taking place October 21st to 23rd, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, we have taken a new approach…  By creating this catalog of auction items and publishing it some weeks in advance of the convention, we hope to allow fans not attending Corflu Pangloss to participate. Anyone interested in buying is invited to send their bids by email to fanmailaph@aol.com by midnight, Pacific daylight time on October 22nd, 2022.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] “Relics” was the one hundred and thirtieth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found it to be one of the more fascinating episodes that series did and I’ll tell why in a minute, but first let’s talk about the usual details. 

Ronald Dowl Moore was the writer of this episode and he was best known fleshing out the Klingons. He also wrote the series finale here, “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo Award at Intersection.  And yes, he’s done a lot more Great Things than that but I have an understanding with OGH that I’ll try to keep things reasonably brief.

So why do I like it? Look there’s a Dyson Sphere being depicted as far as I know for the very first time on a video series! Y’all know what that is so you know why I’m so excited by this.

And then there’s the matter of the idea of the Enterprise in responding to a distress signal having the singular honor of rescuing Capt. Montgomery Scott! 

So how do the two connect? 

Well, the Enterprise, responding to a distress call discovers a Dyson sphere where they the distress call to the USS Jenolan, a Federation transport ship that has been missing for seventy-five years, which they find crashed on the sphere’s outer shell. And in the transporter buffer field, jury rigged to keep working, are two signals, two patterns, one degraded to be saved, the other that of Doohan. 

He bonds with Geordie which is fortunate as together they need to figure out how to get the Enterprise out of that damn Sphere. Afterwards he’s feeling like a relic but Picard cheers him up. As the Enterprise returns to its mission, the crew of the ship give Scott a shuttlecraft “on extended loan” to do whatever he wanted. 

I thought the writers did a nice job of making him a believable character, much more to be honest than the original series often did. And critics agreed as they’ve consistently voted this to be one of the best episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)

Born October 10, 1924 Edward Wood Jr. Though known for Plan 9 from Outer Space, he did a lot of other bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)

Born October 10, 1929 Robin HardyWicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? (Died 2016.)

Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2017.)

Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. Under the pen name Larry Maddock he wrote science fiction and mystery stories in the Fifties and Sixties. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)

Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 81. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.

Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 75. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa“. She’s credited solely for the cover art for the 1993 Easton Press interior art for The Left Hand of Darkness according to ISFDB. 

Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 56. She’s Miss West in Wild West West and the Mysterious Woman in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Annie has turned the “little orphan” into a time traveler!
  • Off the Mark shows “parts is parts” isn’t true if you’re Frankenstein.

(13) DRESSED FOR EXCESS. SYFY Wire shares a load of photos in the NYCC 2022 – Final Day Cosplay Gallery.

New York Comic Con saved some of its coolest news for the weekend this year, as studios dropped loads of fun facts and features surrounding The Winchesters, Marvel’s Moon KnightThe Walking Dead, and Back to the Future — just to name a few.

But the stage wasn’t the only place catching fans’ attention as the four-day event rolled on at the Javitz Convention Center: Down on the ground, the guests themselves kept the cosplay fit tight, lining the halls with creatively killer takes on Mysterio, Red Skull, Buzz Lightyear, Predator, and tons more….

(14) CRILLY Q&A. Stone Soup questions the writer about a new novel: “Exclusive Interview with Brandon Crilly: Catalyst”.

Catalyst features an incredible cast of characters with complicated, overlapping histories. One of these characters is a stage magician who performs illusory tricks in a world where “real” magic is very present. What made you decide to bring these two contrasting approaches to magic central to this character’s identity?

Thank you for that compliment! Catalyst actually went through several serious revision drafts, and originally Mavrin (my street magician) was much more skeptical and almost willfully dismissive of “real” magic. When I added magic-bestowing squid gods (the Aspects) literally in orbit around Aelda, that level of skepticism didn’t make as much sense – so instead, it became obstinance. Mavrin has a lot of issues with the Aspects and their worshippers, so becoming an illusionist is part of how he distances himself from both. “I can make my own magic, I don’t need you!” is probably percolating in his subconscious somewhere (even though he’s fifty and not, like fifteen). But thankfully, he can only stay obstinate and grumpy for so long….

(15) A MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Nerds of a Feather’s Arturo Serrano, in “Review: Wolf at the Door by Joel McKay”, says the book does one thing well.

There’s danger in hosting a big social gathering. People you haven’t seen in years can still make your throat tighten. Various combinations of acquaintances can be in good terms with you but be mortal enemies to each other. You dread the thought of who may knock at the door next. Your pulse quickens and your survival instinct rings alarms urging you to flee. Once the tension reaches critical mass, too much honesty will rip someone’s heart. The exchange of bitter words becomes a series of rounds of mutual eviscerations. Arguments get heated until someone loses their head. A friend’s careless remark under too much alcohol may lead to you never seeing them again. At any moment, the air can get so heavy that some of those present will suddenly depart from your life.

In Wolf at the Door, by Canadian author Joel McKay, these emotions that tear people to pieces are materialized into tooth and claw….

(16) SOLAR POWER. “‘Eye of Sauron’: The Dazzling Solar Tower in the Israeli Desert” – the New York Times sees both sides.

…This is the great solar tower of Ashalim, one of the tallest structures in Israel and, until recently, the tallest solar power plant in the world.

“It’s like a sun,” said Eli Baliti, a shopkeeper in the nearest village. “A second sun.”

To backers, the tower is an impressive feat of engineering, testament to Israeli solar innovation. To critics, it is an expensive folly, dependent on technology that had become outmoded by the time it was operational.

…The tower is more than 800 feet high, one of the tallest structures in Israel. It’s visible even from space.

To some, it’s reminiscent of something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

“It’s the eye of Sauron,” said Uriya Suued, an engineer who lived in Ashalim until September.

Other times, the tower seems more like a gawky, gentle giant, awkwardly standing on the edge of a group photo. You can even forget it’s there — until you spot it hovering, almost comically, behind a garden wall or incongruously, even apologetically, over the swimmers in the village’s outdoor pool.

“A lighthouse without the sea,” said Ben Malka, who runs the pool….

(17) DEMONIC IMPRESSION. Netflix dropped a trailer for Wendell & Wild, the new film written by Henry Selick and Jordan Peele and directed by Henry Selick.

(18) GIBSON ADAPTATION. This trailer for The Peripheral Season 1 on Prime Video was unveiled at New York Comic Con. “On October 21, the future holds the key to saving the past.”

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Pitch Meeting: Don’t Worry Darling,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, explains that Don’t Worry Darling “feels like a “go to the theatre film” and not something you stay home and stream. But it’s “a string of random occurrences for about 90 minutes with little or no information revealed.”  And then in the third act we learn the film is “like The Matrix with 10,000 times less kung fu.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, SFWA, Jerry Kaufman, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

16 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/10/22 I Demand Satisfaction. Pixels At Dawn

  1. The illustration at the top – on one hand, it’s cute. On the other… it looks like a WWI soldier, with gas mask and barbed wire, and I, at least, remember how horrible that war was.
    1. Brain/computer interfaces – not sure if what I did in 11,000 Years (2021) counts… genetically engineered cells in the bloodstream, and they’re passed on, so your kids have it, etc, that can both pick up pre-subvocalization, and broadcast into and read from the visual cortext. Those are very short-range, but people who accept it have “mesh-hosts”, AI/expert systems, and these can broadcast longer distance. Gives you AR…. For those without the mesh-hosts, there are AR headsets.

  2. (1) Typo in the item title “abount” should be “about”

    An early brain interface story is Vinge’s “Bookworm, Run” from 1966 – this website might have earlier examples http://technovelgy.com/

  3. (1) I’m sure there’s earlier, but the first pre-1963 one that springs to mind is the (arguably worst) Hugo winner ever, They’d Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, which was serialized in 1954, and involved an artificial brain which could grant immortality by “optimizing” people’s minds.

  4. Early brain interface candidates include Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness” (Weird Tales August 1931), in which the protagonist realizes the person he has been conversing with is actually that person’s brain, removed from his body to a metal cylinder in which he is shortly to be dispatched to Pluto. Eando Binder’s ENSLAVED BRAINS (Wonder Stories July-September 1934, book version from Avalon in early ‘60s) is what it sounds like. “Camouflage” by Lewis Padgett (ps of Kuttner and Moore) (Astounding Sept 1945) features a Transplant (a brain in a box) operating a spaceship.

  5. (2) Thanks for the shoutout to my post on novellas (and novelettes and short stories) versus novels. I focus a fair amount of effort into what I am calling “expanded” novels, where an author has expanded a single shorter work into a novel. Note that this is not the same thing as a “fix-up novel”. I’d still love any more examples of such “expanded” novels and the stories they originated from, especially by female authors.

  6. (1) There’s a Poul Anderson story, “Kings Who Die”, in the May 1963 Worlds of If.

    “Look.” Rostock pulled off his hood.
    The head beneath was hairless, not shaved but depilated. A dozen silvery plates were set into it, flush with the scalp; in them were plug outlets. Rostock pointed toward the office. “The rest of me is in there,” he said. “I need only set the jacks into the appropriate points of myslf, and I become … no, not part of the computer. It becomes part of me.”

    Collected in 7 Conquests, probably other places also.

  7. (8) Regardless of whether he is Zodiac, he’s got some disturbing incel rhetoric going on in his fan writing that has me seriously side-eyeing him.

  8. 1) John Boston’s already mentioned “The Whisperer in Darkness”, I’ll add Neil R. Jones’s “The Jameson Satellite”, also 1931, the start of several adventures for the titular Professor Jameson, who puts himself in cryonic preservation, and is thawed out and installed in a robot body in the far future.

  9. The adaptation of The Peripheral is exciting. The book was wonderful, with a really clever take on time travel. I hope the show lives up to it — the visuals do look good.

  10. 11). Sadly I’ve seen The Wicker Tree. While I dearly love Wicker Man, Tree is horrible. It follows two Fundies from Texas (with horrible fake Texas accents) who travel to Summer Isle. They are so pathetic you actually start feeling sorry for them. This was obviously a case where the first movie should have been left alone and no sequels contemplated (I’m also looking at you, Highlander sequels).

  11. (1) A few more: in Andre Norton’s Witch World, also from 1963, the Kolder wear soft caps that allow them to control machinery and the minds of their slaves. And in Jack Vance’s “The New Prime”, from 1951, participants are connected to a machine that displays the scenes they imagine — and, of course, all the tests are conducted in something resembling virtual reality (but much more convincing).

    Still, I find the Anderson story interesting because it specifically mentions electronic computers, and because it speculates that an interface would lead to a new, superior form of conciousness.

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