Pixel Scroll 10/22/23 All I Have In My Pocket Is A Pixel And A File

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

RiverFlow update

He posted to Twitter this morning (UK time), and a couple of people have since told me that he’s doing better now.

Best Short Story finalist Lu Ban’s Hugo photos

Not sure if he’s at the Worldcon – the post says it came from Sichuan province, so quite possibly he was – but Best Short Story finalist Lu Ban posted these photos to Weibo.  Rather more stylish than your typical author attire, I think?

Three Short Story finalists appear on TV show

Lu Ban also reposted this 11 minute video clip. It’s a fair bit beyond my Chinese language skills, but it seems to be him and fellow finalists Jiang Bo and Ren Qing appearing on a Friday night TV show, possibly aimed at teenagers or young adults judging by the shots of the audience.

Once you get past the opening comedy (?) skit, at around 01:07 the speaker references the 81st Worldcon and the three Hugo Award finalists just before they come on stage.  They then talk about the SFnal topics shown on the board on the left of the stage.

Two more somewhat mysterious announcements

I wasn’t able to watch the closing ceremony due to a failure to connect to the stream (again), but Japanese author Taiyo Fujii posted on Mastodon this image of the “Establishment of Chengdu Worldcon Brand Promotion Center”.  I’m puzzled why you would need a centre to promote the brand of a con that’s just finished.  Google search for that English text didn’t find anything, and I couldn’t make out all the hanzi due to the firework graphics on the screen to be able to search for the Chinese name.  It looks like Ben Yalow and other Western VIPs were on stage for this announcement, so I’m sure they’ll all be able to tell us what exactly it’s about.

(via Zimozi Natsuco)  Besides the Tianwen Program & Award covered in yesterday’s Scroll, we now have the “International Youth Science Fiction Alliance”.  Via Google Translate, with minor cleanup edits:

According to the relevant person in charge, the alliance aims to empower the development of Chinese science fiction, create a high-quality science fiction ecosystem, and jointly promote the development and innovation of China’s science fiction cause and science fiction industry through the alliance platform and linking all-round resources of government, industry, academia and research.

So far, the alliance has received support from more than 70 domestic and foreign university societies such as Stanford University, University College London, Oxford University, Paris-Sorbonne University, Peking University, Renmin University of China, Zhejiang University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Fudan University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 

At first glance, I don’t see any crossover with the names associated with the Tianwen Program, but I think there are members of the Chengdu concom named as being involved in both of these organizations.

Zimozi also said that, as the former president of the Zhejiang University SF society, no-one had contacted him or that association prior to this announcement yesterday afternoon, so the nature of the support the named universities are providing is unclear to say the least.

Bilibili videos

I’ve not had as much time today to trawl Bilibili, Xiaohongshu or Weibo as I’d have liked, but here are a few:

As far as I could tell, there’s nothing on YouTube as yet, but these Bilibili videos appear to be official releases of the Hugo Ceremony, as the uploader is listed as “Hugo X”: EnglishChinese.

Chengdu Plus posted a bilingual compilation of a bilingual compilation of clips summarizing the events of the con.  Much of the footage has been seen before, but there’s footage of what I assume is the Hugo party, with some recognizable faces.

A three-and-a-half-minute clip video of a Chinese fan wandering around the con – nothing earth-shattering, but gives a better idea of what the con was like for regular attendees than the glitzy official promos, none of which show the lengthy snaking line of metal barriers that open this video.

(2) HUGO, GIRL! ACCEPTS. The Hugo, Girl! team posted video of their Best Fancast Hugo acceptance remarks here. However, the tweet is locked except for those who are approved to follow the account.

(3) BLACK TO THE FUTURE. An Afro-Futurist celebration of outstanding Black artists, Black To The Future, a space for visionary imaginings to thrive, launches October 24. See the schedule of events and exhibitions at the link.

BTTF begins as British Black History month ends; launching late October and running until US Black History Month in February 2024, to accompany the British Library’s upcoming major exhibition: Fantasy: Realms of Imagination.

Curated, founded and directed by Irenosen Okojie MBE, in collaboration with the Royal Society of Literature and the British Library.

FANTASY: REALMS OF IMAGINATION

BTTF will accompany the upcoming major British Library exhibition – Fantasy: Realms of Imagination – one of the largest of its kind – showing everything from the original Beowulf and Alice in Wonderland manuscripts to a wide range of contemporary writing and everything in between – plus maps, interactives, sound fan perspectives and so on.

The display will ask why we need Fantasy, or how it reflects the social issues of the day, and where it is going, with an advisory panel including Neil Gaiman.

(4) SARTREAN NAUSEA. Ted Gioia shares “My Lost Gumby Essay” at The Honest Broker.

… Raise the subject of Gumby during a casual conversation. Okay, that’s not always easy to do—so bring a toy Gumby with you to various events.

Then watch how people react.

Gumby will evoke powerful feelings—both positive and negative—in everybody he encounters. Some people will grab your Gumby and caress him lovingly. Others will sneer and mock. But nobody will be indifferent.

This is simply not the case with other figures of children’s TV. Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Mister Rogers, all three Stooges—these we may like or dislike, tolerate or dismiss, but none reaches as deeply into our psyches as Gumby.

But why?

The key to solving the mystery of the Gumby Syndrome (I’m going to become renowned for naming it thus) can be found in the writings of French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Towards the end of Sartre’s monumental work Being and Nothingness, he reflects that viscous substance have the rare effect of both attracting us and disgusting us at the same time.

Mud, glue, and all the various types of goo and stickum which we encounter day to day are often things we openly despise, but with an undercurrent of fascination….

(5) RIPPING GOOD TOUR.  The New York Times follows guides who are “Chasing Jack the Ripper Through the Streets of Modern London”.

From certain corners of Commercial Street in East London, a busy thoroughfare that runs through the heart of where Jack the Ripper killed five women more than a century ago, the city can look like it did in 1888, with narrow alleys snaking their way between Victorian-era buildings.

Go down the street, though, and the views turn unmistakably modern: skyscrapers, glassy office buildings lit up with workers eating dinner at their desks, a Peloton store and expensive apartments.

The changed landscape and tall buildings do not deter hundreds of people on most nights from taking guided tours that follow the killer’s footsteps through the neighborhood known as Whitechapel. And much like the city around them, the stories they’re told in 2023 about those murders can feel at turns modern, and unchanged since 1888….

… These days, the Ripper economy is still flourishing in Whitechapel. There’s a barbershop called Jack the Clipper. A fish and chips restaurant called Jack the Chipper. And, night after night, the tours, most of which cost around $20 and run up to two hours. Interest is especially high during late summer and fall, with mild, dark nights and Halloween around the corner….

(6) ART OF GENRE INTEREST IN HUNTSVILLE. [Item by Marc Criley.] An art exhibition integrating sculpture and AR (Augmented Reality) has opened at the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama.

In Reforestation of the Imagination, artists Ginny Ruffner and Grant Kirkpatrick “[use] technology to overlay digital information onto sculptural objects, [portraying] two disparate environments.”

Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination combines traditional sculpture with augmented reality (AR). By using technology to overlay digital information onto sculptural objects, two disparate environments are portrayed. The setting is an apocalyptic landscape far in the future. The initial environment consists of five landmasses, which support the glass stumps. Except for the painted shelf mushrooms and tree rings on the stumps and logs, the scene is colorless. The landmasses surround a sixth rocky outcropping that features a large fiberglass stump. The central stump sprouts beautifully grotesque bronze, then glass appendages. This improbable growth has survived the devastation to create a new botany.

“Other than the central stump, the landscape appears at first glance to be barren. Yet, upon viewing the tree rings aided by AR technology a second environment is revealed. Plants appear (both fruit and flowers) which have evolved from existing flora. They have developed dramatic appendages and the skills necessary to adapt and flourish in this radically different environment. From accessing nutrients in ways that symbiotically improve their surrounding conditions, to cultivating protections from new threats, these adaptations are unexpected, beautiful, and optimistic. This is nature reimagining itself. The imagination cannot be exterminated. It just recreates itself.” —Ginny Ruffner

Ginny Ruffner with Grant Kirkpatrick, Digitalis artherium (Double art flowers), 2017, sculpture (handblown glass with acrylic paint tree rings), island (plywood, low-density foam, fiberglass, epoxy, sand, pebbles, and acrylic paint), and holographic image. Sculpture: 9 x 13 x 11 ½ in. Installation view at MadArt Studio, 2018. Courtesy MadArt. Photo by James Harnois.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature – and a Worldcon guest of honor in 1987. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1927 Lee Jacobs. Fan who lived in LA in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. “Boobs” won the Best Story Hugo at ConFiction. It was written over a forty year period as the first novel, Walk to the End of the World was published in 1974, and the last novel, The Conqueror’s Child was published in 1999. Her Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast novelette was a nominee at LoneStarCon 2. She’s also won the Otherwise, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature, Nebula, Gaylactic Spectrum, and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series? (Died 2023.)
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If for three years. He edited the sf line at Ace ad then Tor before starting his own namesake company in 1983. In late 1999, he started Webscriptions, now called Baen Ebooks, which is considered to be the first profitable e-book service. He also was the editor of Destinies and New Destinies which I remember fondly.  He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo five times between 1975 and 1981 but never won. At Nippon 2007, he’d be nominated for Best Editor, Long Form. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. No Hugos not even a short list nomination but he’s won quite a few BFAs and one WFA for The Facts of Life novel. (Died 2015.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper,  67. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) KEEP DRAWING THE SKIES. “When Étienne Trouvelot turned his attention from insects to astronomy, the result was celestial magic,” says the Smithsonian Air and Space Quarterly: “An Artist Sketches the Heavens”. A gallery of art is at the link.

In the chilly early morning hours of  November 14, 1868, Étienne Léopold Trouvelot gazed out from an upstairs window in his home at 27 Myrtle Street in Medford, Massachusetts. Trouvelot stationed himself at the window from midnight to 5 am so that he could watch a steady stream of meteors visible in the clear black sky. No doubt thrilled by the astronomical display, he immortalized his observations in a pastel illustration titled November Meteors….

(10) BREAKTHROUGH. “Women Sci-fi Writer Numbers Rocketing In China”Barron’s has the story.

Women writers are taking the Chinese science fiction scene by storm, with their increasing prominence one of the genre’s most noticeable trends, according to participants at a major convention in Chengdu this week.

Worldcon — the world’s oldest and most influential sci-fi gathering — is taking place in China for the first time, drawing hordes of eager local fans of all genders.

China can still be a relatively socially conservative country, and under President Xi Jinping the space for the expression of feminism has shrunk even further over the last decade.

But in science fiction, the number of women authors has rocketed in recent years, said Regina Kanyu Wang, a writer and editor nominated for two prestigious Hugo Awards at Worldcon this year.

More women are now realising “it’s not only this nerdy, geeky style of science fiction that can be published, or that can be regarded as science fiction”, she said.

“Liu Cixin (the author of the world-famous Three-Body series) is great, we all love him. But there’s so much more outside of the Liu Cixin style.”

The good news is that once women do get their start as writers, they do not tend to feel they are treated unequally, according to Wang.

The market and readers are demanding new perspectives, she said.

“Nowadays, a lot of Chinese female sci-fi writers pay attention to the problems women face that men might not feel,” Zhou Danxue, a literature scholar at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, told AFP.

“The writers can use their own methods to reflect uniquely female feelings.”

In the past two years, there have been four anthologies published that were made up of only women or non-binary authors, Wang said, a major breakthrough….

(11) GENTLEBEINGS, BE SEATED. Here’s a classic type of fan project – identifying the “Commercially Available Chairs in Star Trek” at Ex Astris Scientia.

Countless off-the-shelf office chairs, lounge chairs or car seats appeared in Star Trek productions. Here is a list of the models that we found, among them many design classics. Currently identified: 163.

See also a list of unidentified chairs and help us track their origin….

Here’s one example of how they match a chair to a scene in the show.

(12) THEY DO THE MICRO MUNCH. “‘We are just getting started’: the plastic-eating bacteria that could change the world” reports the Guardian.

In 2001, a group of Japanese scientists made a startling discovery at a rubbish dump. In trenches packed with dirt and waste, they found a slimy film of bacteria that had been happily chewing through plastic bottles, toys and other bric-a-brac. As they broke down the trash, the bacteria harvested the carbon in the plastic for energy, which they used to grow, move and divide into even more plastic-hungry bacteria. Even if not in quite the hand-to-mouth-to-stomach way we normally understand it, the bacteria were eating the plastic.

The scientists were led by Kohei Oda, a professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. His team was looking for substances that could soften synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, which is made from the same kind of plastic used in most beverage bottles. Oda is a microbiologist, and he believes that whatever scientific problem one faces, microbes have probably already worked out a solution. “I say to people, watch this part of nature very carefully. It often has very good ideas,” Oda told me recently.

What Oda and his colleagues found in that rubbish dump had never been seen before. They had hoped to discover some micro-organism that had evolved a simple way to attack the surface of plastic. But these bacteria were doing much more than that – they appeared to be breaking down plastic fully and processing it into basic nutrients. From our vantage point, hyperaware of the scale of plastic pollution, the potential of this discovery seems obvious. But back in 2001 – still three years before the term “microplastic” even came into use – it was “not considered a topic of great interest”, Oda said. The preliminary papers on the bacteria his team put together were never published….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s time again to practice your imitation of the “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Todd Mason, Brick Barrientos, Marc Criley, Kathy Sullivan, Lise Andreasen, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

23 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/22/23 All I Have In My Pocket Is A Pixel And A File

  1. When I was in London after InterSection in 1995 I took one of those Jack the Ripper Walking Tours. A number of the streets do still look like they did in 1888. The tour stopped at a local pub, that was the last place one of the Ripper victims was seen alive. The stop was for a bathroom break and to allow us a time for a drink and to sit down. Before going in the Tour Guide warned us that in 1888 the pub was a meeting place for the local prostitutes where they would hang out looking for customers, and that things hadn’t changed and local prostitutes still hung out there.

    The area where the Ripper’s victims were found isn’t very large, just a matter of city blocks really, but being London, the streets wind and turn and going three blocks takes much longer.

  2. @Thomas
    I’ve read that some of the sites of the Ripper crimes have been torn down and become boring office buildings and even parking lots. Some “Ripperologists” think it’s sad, while others think the areas were so blighted that even a parking lot is an improvement. (One example is Mary Kelly’s apartment.)

    (7a) I loved “Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast.” I might be biased because it was a Phantom of the Opera story — but it was a really really good one.

    (7b) I’m still very grateful to Jim Baen for finding Lois McMaster Bujold, among others. And for Webscriptions!

    Does anyone know if this Jim Baen story is real or apocryphal? I read that Jim Baen was the person responsible for putting that one lit window on the mysterious mansions on the covers of the Ace Gothic romances. But I suspect that’s apocryphal because he worked in that department in the early 1970s, and Ace was putting out Gothic romances since the 1950s. I’m sure at least some of the early covers had a candle in a window…

  3. (12) What could possibly go wrong?

    (Hurting, enough so I have no positive outlook on anything right now. Ask Cat how cranky I am about talking software.)

  4. Anne Marble says Does anyone know if this Jim Baen story is real or apocryphal? I read that Jim Baen was the person responsible for putting that one lit window on the mysterious mansions on the covers of the Ace Gothic romances. But I suspect that’s apocryphal because he worked in that department in the early 1970s, and Ace was putting out Gothic romances since the 1950s. I’m sure at least some of the early covers had a candle in a window…

    If Baen did it after 1973, then he wasn’t the first as Ace Gothic published its first novel, Bride of Darkness and it indeed had a manor in the background. If he did it earlier, than he was the first.

    No, there were no Ace Gothic novels earlier than that according to ISFDB.

  5. Anne Marble asked: “Does anyone know if this Jim Baen story is real or apocryphal? I read that Jim Baen was the person responsible for putting that one lit window on the mysterious mansions on the covers of the Ace Gothic romances. But I suspect that’s apocryphal because he worked in that department in the early 1970s, and Ace was putting out Gothic romances since the 1950s. I’m sure at least some of the early covers had a candle in a window…”

    I heard – back in the day – that it was Don Wolheim while at Ace.

  6. (4) Sorry to say, I was middle-aged before I started seeing references to Gumby, and my reaction is still, “huh?”
    Birthdays: Doris Lessing. Sorry, I got 40 or so pages into the first Archives of Canopus in Argus, and as far as I’m concerned, the storyline reads almost exactly like the Shaver Mysteries.
    Jim Baen – another one we lost far, far too soon.
    Gretchen – happy birthday! See you next month.

    And I knew it – Thomas posted as soon as it came out, then read the pixel scroll. Cheat!

  7. Gumby is definitely a weird one, though I have to say that my reaction is actually fairly neutral (despite the claim that no one is neutral). The shape-changing powers were pretty cool, but the stories always just seemed insipid. With better writing, I probably would have been a big fan. As it is…well, I’m still impressed that something so weird became as big a hit as it was!

  8. @ Thomas the Red
    I always tell people that the university I attended was founded by Jack the a Ripper because it’s pretty close to the truth.

    The people from the area felt that they did not get enough protection from the authorities during the ripper attacks so extra public spending was used to placate them by building a technical college, which became the university, and a theatre in the Mile Ended Road

    I had a vacation job just up the road in the Whitechapel Hospital while they were reopening some of the basement rooms that had been closed since the time of the Ripper. Everyone was walking around with an attitude of “we’re not superstitious” but really we felt like we were living in the first reel of a horror film

  9. (8) Having seen The Straight Story, I think Charlie Brown’s concept seems a lot more marketable than Schroeder did.

  10. @Joshua K. “The Straight Story” is an excellent movie. Too bad that Farnsworth (and Harry Dean Stanton) will not make any more movies.

  11. Thanks for linking our acceptance video! I’ve unlocked the account and will leave it so for a few days.

    (Recently locked it in a small huff over so many bot comments/follows and unwanted attention from a foot fetish account ???? That’ll teach me to post a “look at our cute matching shoes!” photo on the internet for free)

  12. @mark: I read the scroll, and then I went to the comments to see who had commented first, and much to my suprise no one had.

    @AnnMarable: Thanks for the Link. The Ten Bells was the pub we stopped at and in 1995 it was still a haunt for “working girls”

    @MartinEasterbrook: That’s way cool, did they find any interesting artefacts in the re-opened rooms?

    One thing that struck me about the walking tour, I had been on a walking tour a couple of days earlier around St Paul’s, and the guide pointed out the areas near the Cathedral that was flattened during the Blitz and then were later rebuilt in ugly Brutalist and Glass & Steel architecture, they even changed the street grid in the area as block after block has been wiped out. But the area where the Ripper prowled still had it’s original street pattern and so many of the buildings had not been destroyed in the Blitz. The Whitechapel area is located in the Eastend and close by the Docklands with the London Docks and the attendant warehouses, this was a prime target of the Luftwaffe. This was the area where Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mum) paid many visits to during the Blitz and where she referred to after the bombing of Buckingham Palace (with her and the King in the building) as then she felt she could “look the Eastend in the face.”

  13. “Pixel little, Scroll a little, Pixel little, Scroll a little, Pix, Pix, Pix, Scroll a lot, File a little more”

  14. (1) Lu Ban really has those fashion-model poses down!

    (4) I think of Gumby as bend-y, which is why I think people think it’s cool, but I have never thought of it as “viscous”, and don’t see why anyone would. Its texture does feel a bit weird when you handle it, though.

    (9) The meteor painting is cool.

    (12) The plastic-eating bacteria discovery is a good one; I guess there are so many bacteria out there looking for nourishment that it’s not surprising that one would mutate to eat plastic. The trick will be keeping it from munching things we don’t want it to eat….

  15. (12) Brings to mind the hilarious novelette “The Gift of Garigolli” by Pohl & Kornbluth, Galaxy 1974.

  16. Addendum to above: the hilarity in “Garigolli” is tempered by the writing of a female character as a complete airhead. It’s as if, by making this woman a dolt, the men will be made to seem more intelligent in comparison.

  17. (1) The Chengdu group seems to be forming something that will offer to partner with other World Science Fiction Conventions to help them promote their Worldcons within China. At least, that’s what they told me, and that’s what I congratulated them for in the short statement I made at the Closing Ceremony before going over to push the ceremonial levers starting the project. It’s up to the individual Worldcon committees to decide whether they want to get involved in such partnerships. It’s not something that works through WSFS, although they did introduce me as the Chair of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee for my single-sentence congratulatory remark, and I did run it past the Vice Chair of the MPC and two other members to confirm that I wasn’t committing the MPC to anything.

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