Pixel Scroll 10/29/23 Swamp Thing! You Make My Scroll Sing

(1) LINDA ADDISON ON HALLOWEEN. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its October theme: “Halloween Haunts: All The Treats! by Linda D. Addison”.

Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays my whole life. As a child the idea of dressing up that one day and going house to house to collect candy was magical. Back then, no one worried about being poisoned or razors in fruit. I felt stronger and magical in costume then in regular clothes. The thin awkward kid who read books all the time and didn’t talk much could become a powerful witch, one of my favorite costumes, and no doubt the easiest for my mother to create, since there were nine of us….

(2)  CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]  So, when I emailed Mike yesterday’s update, I told him that that would be the last of the big daily updates, and anything in the future would just be ad hoc submissions.  Unfortunately the real-world had other ideas.

Con reports: Jiang Bo, SF Light Year and Nicholas Whyte

This pair of Chinese reports posted to Weibo are coming from different perspectives; one from a Hugo finalist in the Best Short Story, the other from a high profile fan.

Jiang Bo

This one is a bit awkward to report on, as whilst it was published on Weibo, the latter sections are only visible to logged in users, and creating a Weibo account – from the UK at least – is a Kafkaesque nightmare of “you need to verify via a code sent by SMS/sorry, we can’t send you an SMS, try again tomorrow/rinse and repeat”.  Fortunately a kind person on Twitter was able to provide me with the full text; I’ll see if there’s some way of getting the full text available more easily.

In terms of events at the con, he mostly writes about “businessy” and writerly stuff, which he seems to have enjoyed.  The selected extracts below are about more humdrum stuff, but which I think Filers would maybe relate to more.  In the interests of full transparency, it seems that these aspects were less enjoyable for him, and it would not be an unreasonable accusation to say I’m giving a negative spin on his overall experience.  

(Via Google Translate, with minor manual edits.)

It was only when I landed that I learned some big news: the hotel I was staying at, the Wyndham Hotel, was far away from the venue, and the organizer had arranged a shuttle bus to solve the transportation problem. As a rule of thumb, the hotel is usually next to the venue, and you can enter the venue just a short walk away. The shuttle bus takes about thirty minutes to get to the venue, and it leaves on time. This poses a challenge to the conference schedule, and is also the reason why I will be quite tired in the next few days – I have to catch the early morning bus to the conference venue every day…

The name of the venue is Nebula, and the largest hall inside is called Hugo. If you add some text to it, wouldn’t it mean that Nebula is greater than Hugo? I wonder if Americans will quarrel about this. However, a Chinese venue is too far away and the sound cannot be transmitted even if there is a noise…

There was an episode where I went back and forth for fifteen minutes just to find the Hall of Mars. This venue is very unique. The halls on the second floor are basically isolated from each other. They are small halls. You must find the correct elevator to go up. When you first arrive, it’s easy to get confused…

Speaking of eating, there are no restaurants around the huge Xingyun Hall. There is only one storefront on the first floor, which houses three or four fast food restaurants, including Subway, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. If everyone wants to solve the problem of eating in the venue, they can only find these three or four restaurants. There are so many people there, it’s almost like a restaurant in Disneyland. It’s hard to find tables and chairs, so just find a place to eat…

“Hanging by a Thread” [aka “On the Razor’s Edge”] won the Galaxy Award for Best Short Story, which was a surprise. On returning to the hotel, I was interviewed by a Chengdu TV station for almost an hour, and it was almost midnight. Then I chatted with the producer Lao Wu about creative matters, and it was already 1 a.m. when we finished talking. It felt good to chat with Lao Wu and talk about pure creation. It’s just that the schedule of the World Science Fiction Convention is too tight. If we don’t seize this time, we may not have the chance to have a good chat…

In order to get to the venue before 10 a.m., I took the 9 a.m. bus. The opening hours of science fiction convention venues are actually 9:30, so there will generally be fewer people attending the 9:30 morning session. In fact, at 10 a.m., there were still very few people, especially on weekdays. So the audience at our panel seemed very minimal, especially since it was located in the road show area, a corner that is difficult for tourists to reach. We started with the same number of people on stage and off stage. Fortunately, as time went by, the number of listeners gradually increased, and finally it was like a decent press conference…

After the press conference, I started thinking about eating again. The afternoon activity was at the Sheraton Hotel. After looking at my guest card, I had a bold idea, why not try the Sheraton?

The Sheraton Hotel is right next to the venue and can be reached on foot in about fifteen minutes. The Sheraton housed VVIPs, who are some important international friends and more important domestic guests. Although you needed to show your room card to eat at the Sheraton, what if you only needed to show your card during the conference?

I contacted the contact person and they replied that I could only have lunch at the hotel where I am staying. But I still set foot on the road to the Sheraton Hotel with hope…

The smooth lines of the Nebula Pavilion are natural, and equally smooth are the queues waiting for autograph signings. That’s right, this afternoon happened to be Liu’s autograph signing. The signing line stretched from the third floor to the first floor, and then meandered along the lakeside. I was shocked when I saw such a long line, and quickly took out my mobile phone to take pictures… I was both admiring and envious at the same time: I wish I could have such a long signing queue one day!…

Something strange also happened at SF Night [a reception jointly organized by Science Fiction World and Saifan Space]. The security of this science fiction conference was extremely strict. Xia Jia and several other authors were stopped outside.  Even organizers like Sun Yueraz were stopped from entering again after leaving. I met Xia Jia when I went out after the event. He was sitting at a table outside the security gate, looking relaxed and comfortable, chatting with others. Some things are changing, and some things remain unchanged…

The signing event went much better than expected. For at least an hour, there was a steady stream of people coming to get my signature. This is the power of the World Science Fiction Convention. It gathered a large number of people and brought some traffic to us authors. One of the fans took out the journal where I first published my novel, the April 2003 issue of The End Game, which had a photo of me on it. Compared to that time, my hair volume is a bit anxious. After all, people only have so many good days, and youth never comes back once it’s gone…

[Extracts from the acceptance speech he prepared] Thank you to all readers who voted for me and for recognizing this work.

Thank you to all readers who voted for the Hugo Awards. Anyone who is willing to spend money to vote is true love. Your support is the driving force behind this award continuing to this day….

The last thing I want to thank is this great era. In the past few decades, China has developed from an agricultural country to an industrial country, and has continuously made progress in economy and science and technology. This great process must be reflected in the writer’s thinking. Without this era and the Chinese Space Station, stories like “Hanging by a Thread” would not have been possible.

As for me, I would like to quote Mr. Carl Sagan’s epitaph to illustrate, “He never grew up, but he never stopped growing.” I hope that I can continue to grow in science fiction. Share this with everyone.

Thank you everyone, thank you to everyone who loves Chinese science fiction.[end of his acceptance speech].

Finally, the lottery was drawn, and the pie did not fall on my head. When my boots hit the ground, I felt calm. This is probably the closest I’ve ever been to a Hugo Award. If I miss it, I won’t get it again. Life always has its ups and downs. But after all, I never had the chance to say this. Writing it down is also a kind of record and will not be forgotten.

After the awards ceremony, there was a reception on Hugo night. It was held on the large terrace of the Nebula Pavilion, and you needed a ticket to enter, have a drink and chat. Generally speaking, I still chat to people I know. The organizer also arranged some programs. Many foreign friends gathered to watch, but domestic people seemed not very interested.

I came out before the reception ended and happened to meet [SF World editor, Hugo Editor finalist, concom member] Yao Haijun. I took his car back to the hotel and enjoyed the VVIP red flag car treatment…

I felt very sleepy after the conference. For the two days after I came back, I felt like I couldn’t wake up every day. Maybe I had a dream. Dreams are easy to be forgotten, so I have to fix them with words. This is probably the only thing that short-lived humans can struggle with in the face of the infinite world. 

SF Light Year

SF Light Year (aka 科幻光年/Kehuan Guang Nian aka Adaoli) is an influential Chinese fan, with 370k followers on Weibo.  He has been mentioned in several earlier Chengdu updates, and has commented here a few times.  Disclosure: he was also my co-conspirator in a plan to exchange fanzines and signed books between the UK and China, in order to give them as surprise gifts to some Hugo finalists, a couple of whom went on to win in their categories.  I also get namechecked in the second of the three parts of this report posted to Weibo.  As such, I’m not an impartial reporter of his comments.  Note also that Mike and File 770 also gets briefly mentioned in the first part.

Part 1Part 2Part 3

Note: Because these three posts are so long, the “Translate content” links that appear at the bottom of posts timed out for me.  I ended up having to copypaste the text into Google Translate.  I did ask him if I could upload the translated text (e.g. to Pastebin or similar) for everyone’s convenience, but didn’t get a reply due to it being night in China when I asked that question.  

The following excerpts are via Google Translate, with minor manual edits.

(from first post)

Every time I attend various science fiction conferences and meet authors and fantasy fans, I am always happy and excited. What gives me good memories of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference is not the gorgeous venue but every sincere science fiction fan and person who laughed, cried, got angry, and was moved. I will remember every moment in my heart. But this long article is dedicated to recording my disappointment with the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference, as a small supplement to a grand narrative, because it is important to us science fiction fans, to our science fiction community, and to our internal and external science fiction. Communication can have far-reaching consequences. I’d love to be that little kid who calls out that the Emperor has no clothes.

After the successful bid to host the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference in 2021, the organizing committee promised that fantasy travelers will “enter as VIP guests, enjoy VIP treatment, and all tickets to the conference will be free of charge.” The actual situation of the conference is that these so-called VIP guests (who are also members of WSFS) are different from the guests separately invited by the organizing committee. They did not automatically receive the right to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies and the Hugo Award ceremony… Those who purchased event tickets (non-members) also needed to participate in the lottery for access to one of the three ceremonies. Some fellow WSFS members were not even able to get admission to any of the ceremonies…

On the other hand, public news shows that as early as April 2022, an internal meeting in Pidu District arranged the event planning plan for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in that district. Real estate developers also used the venue of the Pidu District convention as a selling point to make plans for nearby properties. [Real estate developer] Vanke also once put up a big sign announcing the countdown to the World Science Fiction Conference at the sales office, but it was later removed at the request of the organizing committee. In the tug-of-war of the balance of forces among all parties, the interests of this group of college student application groups were the first to be sacrificed.

Because he had been tracking the venue confirmation and conference information posted on Weibo from very early on, which revealed the venue change to Pidu District before the official announcement, Yao Chi [from the con team, I think this is the same person as Joe Yao] once contacted me and asked me to remove the relevant article. My response was that if Pidu District took down their announcements, I would also take down my posts on Weibo…

(from second post)

… Wu Miao mentioned that his book signing was actually a mess: although the book sold well in the two days, part way through, the con removed copies of his book, and the readers who went in the afternoon were all empty-handed and could not buy the book.  I took four customers everywhere to look for books, but none of the exhibition staff had any explanation or follow-up. His autograph signing was arranged for the first two days (non-weekends) when there were few people. The on-site booth was borrowed from Booker Bookstore because the conditions of the venue were very poor… His publisher also stated that the conference did not consider the interests of exhibitors and “there will be no next time.” Similar lack of coordination occurred repeatedly. Several guests told me that they were suddenly informed that there was a signing, or that there was a time conflict between the signing and the panel schedule. The book sales were located on the first floor, but the book signings were on the third floor. It was very inconvenient for readers to buy books and sign books, and the process of selecting and finding books was very unfriendly.

On October 14, 2023 in our online science fiction group, a hearing-impaired person attending the conference, who has a disability certificate, told us about the accessibility request email she sent to the conference.  She had asked what kind of help will be provided to the hearing-disabled people if they need it, and what materials should be applied and prepared for in advance.  Her email was returned undelivered… We found that the contact address given on the official website was wrong.  However [after this was pointed out on Weibo and the address got promptly fixed] our disabled member sent another email to the correct address, but there was no reply or official contact instructions until the end of the conference.  For such an important communication channel, it seemed that the accessibility service department was just a fiction, which is disappointing especially when the organizing committee clearly knew from reading Weibo that someone had applied for accessibility services. Fortunately, she was always accompanied by enthusiastic fans during the conference.

The lack of communication was also reflected in the coordination of volunteers. The organizing committee announced the recruitment of volunteers through different processes more than once. I submitted forms and emails twice, stating that my specialty was Japanese and that I could be a volunteer, but there was no response to any emails from the beginning to the end. Many times in various groups, I encountered netizens complaining and asking me about the same situation. Later, I learned that the government had arranged a bidding process for volunteer service projects [1], and the volunteers and training procedures were determined through other methods. However, all offline applications were not responded to and followed up, which is indeed inappropriate…

Many Hugo Award finalists, including those from China, were told they would stay at the Sheraton [close to the venue], but were eventually downgraded to Wyndham [much further away]. In terms of differential treatment, I would like to mention that Ling Shizhen, who was also a Hugo Award finalist for the Zero Gravity fanzine, was not initially given permission to attend the opening and closing ceremonies or the Hugo Award Ceremony. (His badge only had the number 3/5, which was the minimum permission for all invited guests, only allowing entry to the Science Fiction Museum and the Sheraton hotel). He was very angry about this. After contacting the organizing committee, he had to travel back and forth between the con venue and the hotel to coordinate, until finally he was allowed to enter the ceremony hall, and eventually went on stage to receive the Hugo Award.

(from third post)

On the opening day of the conference on October 18, 2023, we passed by the venue and found that the newly established “food truck area” at the Nebula Campground (renovated from dozens of buses) at the Science Museum and Sheraton Road was blocked off. and not open to the public. The news circulating in our group was that “the food in the food trucks was not classy and would affect the image” and therefore it was cancelled….

Regarding the sudden need to control the number of attendees at the reception held at the Sheraton during the conference, which resulted in a large number of invited domestic and foreign guests being unable to enter, breaking up unhappy or even causing disputes, we will not discuss this for the time being….

Enthusiastic netizens have compiled a complete breakdown of the amount related to the venue construction, tens of millions related to conference preparation and venue.  For example, the winning bid amount for the Hugo Trophy, just for the design was as high as 570 thousand yuan [approximately $80,000 USD]…

Basically, this World Science Fiction Convention was held in a situation that was both open and closed, rich and barren. If you were interviewing foreign guests, especially several World Science Fiction Convention officials or important guests – the venue has a distinction between VVIP and VIP arrangements for volunteers – there were elaborate arrangements for the support of various celebrities, free travel, meals and accommodation for two people, and special personnel to coordinate and arrange access, and enjoy exquisite meals. [Regular] Guests who have participated in dozens of conferences never enjoyed such support, even though participating in the Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference would be their highlight moment. According to Nnedi Okorafor herself, “I was treated like a queen.”… 

On the other hand, I came into contact with front-line staff from the exhibition organizers who were exhausted due to internal friction in coordination and communication, relevant leaders who frankly said they no longer wanted to bid for the World Science Fiction Convention, guests who canceled their panels because they were angry that the promised venue control would not cooperate, as well as guests who continued to attend the convention…

 In every sense of the word, this is an unforgettable World Science Fiction Convention. This was the first time it was held in China. I don’t know if there will be a second time.

[1] This might explain a Xiaohongshu post I saw yesterday, which was a group selfie of some volunteers, who were all employees of (IIRC) a construction company.  At the time I just assumed it was a group of colleagues who’d decided to do a good deed, but now I wonder if there was more to it.

Nicholas Whyte

His post about the Doctor Who panel was covered in Friday’s Scroll, but he has also posted about a visit to a panda research centrethe panels he was on, and the events he attended  and his various experiences.

Still waiting on the Hugo Statistics report

A week ago today, there was an indication that the statistics might be published on the Friday just gone.  That hasn’t happened, and as far as I know, there has been no further status update.

I think lots of us are very interested in finding out where certain books that seemed like dead certs – or as close as you can get to it in the Hugos – ended up in the nominations.

(3) CHEERS FOR FEARS.  “Shock of the new: Jordan Peele, Mariana Enríquez and more on the horror fiction renaissance” in the Guardian.

…Now horror is emphatically back, and it is no longer a dirty word. Publishing imprints such as Titan and Nightfire are devoted almost entirely to the genre, small presses are helping to introduce new names, and a thriving online community of readers, writers, critics and commentators champion literature’s most sinister impulses.

Such insatiable appetite is forcing change. From the Argentinian new wave to British neo-folk, from the Asian-inflected horror of authors such as Chinese-Canadian writer Ai Jiang to the African heritage of British-Nigerian Nuzo Onoh, writers across the world are pushing outwards, creating space for new perspectives. Horror is rapidly evolving from what was once a white, male and highly Anglocentric genre into something more diverse and much more reactive.

A new US book is testament to this progress. Out There Screaming: An Anthology of New Black Horroris edited by film director Jordan Peele, who made Us and the electrifying Oscar-winner Get Out. Peele writes in his introduction: “I view horror as catharsis through entertainment. It’s a way to work through your deepest pain and fear.” But, he suggests, that isn’t possible for Black people “without the stories being told in the first place”.

For Peele, this collection, compiled with co-editor John Joseph Adams, was a chance to commission “the very best Black authors in fiction,” he tells me over email. “I hoped that, when prompted to create a personalised nightmare, their ‘monsters’ might be representative of some previously unnamed truths. What you get are stories that feel like they couldn’t or wouldn’t have been told a few years ago.”

NK Jemisin’s contribution examines police brutality through surrealistic body horror, while Tananarive Due imagines a moment from the civil rights movement that reads like an unearthed piece of folk history. But it’s interesting how many of the tales in Out There Screamingeschew overtly racialised horror – in particular, the tight focus on trauma that has long been a thorny issue in the Black horror community….

(4) WHY JEMINSIN CONTRIBUTED. “For N.K. Jemisin, Reality Inspired Horror Fiction” – the New York Times has the details.  

Nineteen writers contributed to the story collection, including N.K. JemisinLesley Nneka ArimahTochi Onyebuchi and Tananarive Due. Initially Jemisin declined to participate, although she was pleased to be approached. “I like writing stories, but I’m very slow to write them and I don’t do well with commissions,” Jemisin said in a phone interview. “I don’t have any interest in writing to order, basically. I said, if something inspires me, sure, I’m on it, but otherwise don’t count on anything.”

Jemisin had a change of heart on a vacation in the Outer Banks: “Next door to us was a family of cops, apparently, who hung a thin blue line flag and partied all weekend and made a great deal of noise, knowing full well nobody was going to call the cops on them.”

She went on, “Nothing overt happened. We were fine. But we were on this trip with some teenagers and we told them, ‘Do not go out by yourselves because this doesn’t feel like a safe place to be a bunch of young Black folks.’”

Instead of going to the beach, Jemisin started writing “Reckless Eyeballing,” the story that now opens “Out There Screaming.” It’s about Carl Billings, a Black highway patrol officer with a habit of “roughing up” people he pulls over — a broken arm here, a baton to the teeth there. His white supervisor is on to him, and then a video of one of his traffic stops goes viral. But worst of all is Carl’s unsettling vision of oncoming headlights as eyeballs, blinking and veined, watching. He can’t get away from them…

(5) HARVEY Q&A. “Samantha Harvey: ‘I like Alien as much as anybody else. But I see this novel as space pastoral’” in the Guardian.

…How come you initially lost your nerve?
We’re in an age of first-person veracity. By some bizarre spasm of fate, I’m doing a radio interview next month alongside Tim Peake. I’m filled with anxiety: why would anyone care what some woman in Wiltshire has to say about what it might be like to be in space, when she’s sitting alongside Tim Peake? Maybe the answer is that there’s somewhere the imagination can go that experience can’t. Nasa’s website has hundreds of fascinating but quite humdrum journals that astronauts have written while in space. I was thinking, there’s a gap here – a sort of metaphysical gap, a magical experience that isn’t being documented the way I’d like to document it.

Did you want to write against more plot-driven space narratives?
I like Alien as much as anybody else. I never saw this novel as being against sci-fi, but I didn’t see it as having an awful lot in relation to it either. I thought of it as space pastoral – a kind of nature writing about the beauty of space, with a slightly nostalgic sense of what’s disappearing. Not just on Earth, but also the ISS itself, this really quite retro piece of kit which is going to be deorbited after 23 years of rattling around at 17,500 miles an hour….

(6) LOWER DECKS. “Mike McMahan Talks ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Season 4” with Animation World Network’s Dan Sarto.

…DS: Right. Let’s talk a little bit about the Strange New Worlds crossover episode. You teased it when we spoke last August. It was a fantastic episode.

MM: Thank you.

DS: The animation held its own against a well-designed visual effects-driven show. It did both worlds proud. It fit. It wasn’t too gaggy, but it was funny. I was really impressed because I had no idea what to expect. And of course, Commander Riker [Jonathan Frakes] directed it. So, tell me about your involvement. And how tough was it to pull that off?

MM: Strange New Worlds allowed me to get to somewhere where it was a little funnier than they’re used to and a little more strange new worlds than I’m used to. I was a tool that they were using. So, they used me on multiple script passes in the edit, helping conceive of the episode and all that stuff, but I can’t take any credit for that. It really was an amazing thing that they wanted to do because it was so different. And they’re only in their second season. I don’t think I would’ve had the balls to do that on a second-season show. But what it really came down to is we all had a blast, and that really comes through when you watch the episode.

And I could have made that a feature-length episode and added way more Orion pirates and all sorts of stuff. But at the end of the day, what it really highlighted was character, and I think that was really smart, that Tawny and Jack are fucking amazing. But you know who else is? Everybody on Strange New Worlds. So, getting to see them all mixed together the whole episode, it’s just such a party. It’s just such a Star Trek party that, if you’re watching this era, that is a crazy encapsulation of what makes you feel good. It’s like what you like about Trek….


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 29, 1906 Fredric Brown. Author of Martians, Go Home which would be made into a movie of the same name. He received compensation and credit from NBC as their Trek episode “Arena” had more than a passing similarity to his novelette which was nominated for Retro Hugo at CoNZealand. Interestingly, a whole lot of his Edgar Award-winning mysteries are being released on the usual suspects in December. (Died 1972.)
  • Born October 29, 1935 Shelia Finch, 88. She is best remembered for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists which aptly enough are collected in The Guild of Xenolinguists story collection. She first used it her 1986 Triad novel. The term would later be used to describe the character Uhura in the rebooted Trek film. Her Reading the Bones novel, part of the Guild of Xenolinguists series would win a Nebula. 
  • Born October 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 85. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse which I adore. His first major break would be on CBS as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat when should make it genre, yes? Genre wise, I’d say Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and whose final name was Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you know what film. It was nominated for a Hugo at IguanaCon II when Star Wars won. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World
  •  Born October 29, 1941 Hal W. Hall, 82. Bibliographer responsible for the Science Fiction Book Review Index (1970 – 1985) and the Science Fiction Research Index (1981 – 1922). He also did a number of reviews including three of H. Beam Piper’s Fuzzy books showing he had excellent taste in fiction.
  •  Born October 29, 1954 Paul Di Filippo, 69. Ciphers: a post-Shannon rock-n-roll mystery was his first work. He is, I’d say, an acquired taste. I like him. I’d suggest first reading you don’t know him should be The Steampunk Trilogy and go from there.  His “A Year in the Linear City” novella was nominated at Torcon 3 for Best Novella, and won the 2003 World Fantasy Award and the 2003 Theodore Sturgeon Award. Oh, and he’s one of our stellar reviewers having reviewed at one time or another for Asimov’s Science FictionThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionScience Fiction EyeThe New York Review of Science FictionInterzoneNova Express and Science Fiction Weekly
  •  Born October 29, 1954 Kathleen O’Neal Gear, 69. Archaeologist and writer. I highly recommend the three Anasazi Mysteries that she co-wrote with W. Michael Gear. She’s a historian of note so she’s done a lot of interesting work in that area such as Viking Warrior Women: Did ‘Shieldmaidens’ like Lagertha Really Exist?  And should you decide you want to keep buffalo, she’s the expert on doing so. Really. Truly, she is.
  • Born October 29, 1971 Anna Dale, 52. Scottish writer whom many reviewers have dubbed “the next JK Rowling” who’s best known for her Whispering to Witches children’s novel. It was based on her masters dissertation in children’s writing. She has written two more novels of a similar ilk, Spellbound and Magical Mischief


  • The Flying McCoys explains why a Charles Schulz tradition came to an end.
  • Tom Gauld shares the cauldron ingredient list.

(9) REFLECTS A CHANGING MARKET. LAist brings the bad news that “Two Of LA’s Oldest Comic Stores Are Closing Down”.

Not even a superhero could save two of Los Angeles’s oldest comic book stores.

Torrance’s Geoffrey’s Comics and Hi De-Ho Comics in Santa Monica are closing at the end of the year.

Owner Geoffrey Patterson II said that ever since the pandemic, many comic book fans moved from purchasing their comics in person to online. For his stores, that meant losing half of his customer base and more than half of the profits.

But the pandemic was just the last straw.

“It’s also just as it has become mainstream, that other places are now selling comic books that weren’t selling them before,” he said, citing big retailers like Target. “It went from being only in comic book stores to everywhere. So the customers now have 100 choices for where they pick up a comic book story, and that just kept shrinking and shrinking our customer base.”…

(10) DOING HARD TIME. He’s rocky, just not the one that first comes to mind.Animation World Network reviews “‘Curses!’ Blends Horror, Comedy, and Action with a Dad Turned to Stone”

Premiering today, Friday, October 27, Curses!, from DreamWorks Animation, hits Apple TV+ just in time for Halloween. In the all-new animated, spooky adventure-comedy series for kids, when a generations-long family curse turns Alex Vanderhouven to stone, it’s up to his two children, Pandora and Russ, and his wife Sky, to return artifacts stolen by their ancestors to their rightful homes to finally lift the curse for good….

Curses! began as a collaboration between creators Jim Cooper and Jeff Dixon. The two had never written together before; they met when their children started school together, and after dropping them off, they’d walk home and discuss their writing careers. “Jeff was mostly in horror, and I was mostly in family animation,” Cooper shares. “Sometime over the years, we thought, ‘Hey, it would be cool to combine the two.’ We hit upon the idea of Curses! after discussing what we call my ‘family curse.’ That got us thinking about other family curses and their causes, and things just sort of went from there.”

“It started with Coop telling me the story of his ‘family curse,’ Dixon adds. “He told me that all the men on one side of his family died young, generation after generation. After he showed me a photo of his grandfather as a baby holding an actual human skull, we started thinking, ‘Holy hell, that skull must somehow be the origin of the curse!’ Then our imaginations started spinning out of control thinking about curses and what happens to later generations when a family line is cursed because of something their ancestors did, to no fault of their own. And it only grew from there.”…

(11) JUST DUCKY. Heritage Auctions’ November 16 – 19 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction has rafts of collectible art.  This piece is particularly interesting – and is already bid up to $26,000.

 Carl Barks Luck of the North Donald Duck Painting Original Art (1973). Though this rollicking scene is based on one of the “Good Duck Artist’s” most famous yarns, this is the only painted version of it that he ever did. Carl Barks based this colorful calamity on his 1949 Donald Duck adventure from Four Color #256. This mirthful masterwork was published on Page 169 (as color plate 49) of The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck, where Barks noted: “In that northern lights effect at the top, I found pictures of the northern lights in some National Geographics and I kind of stole some. I find water very difficult to paint. It’s hard work, but I worked at this until I got it to look halfway authentic. I generally just plunged right in on an idea whether I was going to have trouble or not. I’d start out with a simple idea, and keep on elaborating on it until I had a real complex thing going.”

(12) VAMPIRE HUNTER D. The Animation Explorations Podcast has dropped the first episode of their second year. For the spooky season they take a look at the 1985 adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s first novel in “Vampire Hunter D (1985)” series. 

(13) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY.  “‘Call me chief priestess for the moon goddess’: space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock” tells the Guardian.

Call me chief priestess for the moon goddess,” says Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock when I ask whether she prefers to be known as an astronomer, physicist or space scientist. She is, after all, entitled to all of them because before presenting The Sky at Night on the BBC she trained as a physicist, then an engineer and is now the nation’s go-to woman for all things space. But it seems that she really has her eye on the job of a 4,300-year-old Sumerian religious leader.

“I was giving a talk in the Scottish parliament,” she explains when we meet at a photographer’s studio hidden in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it alleyway in east London, “and I mentioned En Hedu’anna, the first female scientist who was known as chief priestess for the moon goddess of the city of Ur [in ancient Mesopotamia].” After the talk, the chair suggested they vote to bestow on Aderin-Pocock the title of chief priestess for the moon goddess of the city of Edinburgh. “That’s what I would like on my business card,” she says with a delighted clap of the hands and the kind of irresistible enthusiasm that viewers of The Sky at Night will be familiar with.

Forgotten or uncredited scientists, such as En Hedu’anna, feature prominently in Aderin-Pocock’s new book, The Art of Stargazing, a practical guide to identifying and understanding the 88 constellations…

…[Why] is outdated ancient science from long-dead civilisations still important? “When I grew up, there were many kids who looked at science and thought: ‘Well, someone like me doesn’t do that because it’s not my culture, it’s not for me – I don’t have a history of this.’ Diversity is about bringing different ideas and people into science because if it’s all just done by the European white guys, we get a very blinkered view of the world. That’s why access to the history of astronomy is important for everyone.’…

 [Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Steven French, Alexander Case, 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 Daniel Dern.]

34 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/29/23 Swamp Thing! You Make My Scroll Sing

  1. (7) Fredric Brown is awesome – I think I’ve read all of his short works (SF or not) and several of his novels.

  2. Andrew, he’s also one of those writers that the Suck Fairy doesn’t seem to have had any effect on at all.

    Now contemplating listening to Mur Lafferty’s Station Eternity. Any thoughts on it from y’all?

  3. (2) I keep getting disturbed by it all. But part of it crystalized with the issue of trying to get to the con on time in the morning. Personally, I’ve been thinking for years that cons are over-programmed. They were created for there to be programming… but also for us to get together with our people, to be able to talk and spend time with them. There are folks these days who don’t hit the parties, who really aren’t socializing with the rest of us.
    Back in the early eighties, when I was running the con suite at Philcon, I’d shut down during the GOH speech. Now? There’s multiple tracks, taking audience away.
    What’s fandom about? Are the SMOFs trying to make us an alternative to the academic study? Are they trying to take the juice out of what made cons fun, something you REALLY wanted to get to, to meet new people, people you could talk to, who’d understand?

    Then there was this idea of “not hard enough sf” – right now, most of the zines seem to want character driven stories… and how that fits into harder sf, I don’t see it.
    Birthdays: Bakshi, I actually liked his part of LotR. And the new adventures of Mighty Mouse was unmissable.

  4. (2) one of the interesting question I hope the 2023 stats will shed light on is the degree to which non-US based Worldcons have differences in their Hugo Awards. 2005 in Glasgow had a clear UK presence in the ballot but 2010 in Melbourne didn’t have much of an Australian presence (other than Shaun Tan). 2007 in Tokyo had no Japanese winners or finalists (I think).

  5. Camestros Felapton: You’re right, there were no Japanese winners or finalists in 2007. Practically none on the long list either.

  6. 8) This is so on the mark. I think Yotam Ottolenghi’s excellent recipes are the reason I have sumac in my pantry as well as a big bottle of bright red pommegranate molasses I got from a Lebanese grocery. They didn’t have small bottles, I had to buy the big one. The bottle looks like something that belongs on a mirrored shelf in a cocktail bar.

    For some con goers, the panels and programming are the reason they go. For others, it’s the masquerade, the costumes or the dealers room. I never went to any of the Worldcon parties, until I tagged along with someone else and found I enjoyed them.

  7. @Cora Buhlert
    I have sumac because I like Persian food – and it’s a necessity. Goes well with grilled meat, and it also goes on rice – with lots of butter. And then there’s its major role in za’atar (with thyme and sesame seeds, which I think are optional, but that’s me).

  8. 7: Anna Dale

    I don’t see any Scottish connection. She looks to have been born and have lived entirely along the South coast of England.

  9. @Mark
    First, my Con-rricular Vita:
    I’ve written Programming for Albacon, Arisia, Boskone, Lunacon, I-Con, Pi-Con, Philcon, some cons i didn’t even go to and the occasional Worldcon that wanders too close. Our intention in Programming is to give fans a wide range of panels to choose from. If you say “There’s too much good stuff!” then we have been successful, because we aim to entertain as much of an incredibly diverse fandom as possible.
    Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, as it were.
    I have also worked Program Ops for all of the above, and one of our important metrics is how many people are attending panels vs. how many people are on-site: aka the Body Count. I can assure you that at best only 10% to 15% of Warm Bodies on-site are at panels, and i have the hard numbers, including Anticipation/Montreal, to back that up (shout-out to Jeff Beeler).
    Cora is right, many people go for many reasons. Masquerade, Dealer’s Room, Filking, Events, and Gaming, to say nothing of Con Suite, Room Parties and Lobby-Con. So if you suffer from a wealth of abundance in Programming, we’ll take it as a compliment.

    Per Ardua Ad Astra

  10. Thanks for all the information. To me, the single item that sums it all up is the banning of the food trucks for not being “classy.” It was all about promoting the venue, not about the fans. I’m sure that wasn’t the concom’s fault.

  11. Has there been any updates about the Hugo award stats? I do care but I’m more than two levels of Kevin Bacon away.

  12. Wow. I freely admit the only things I know about this WorldCon are what I read here, but boy howdy, it sounds like it was a charlie foxtrot from start to finish.

    Hopefully people will remember this if another Chinese city bids in the future.

  13. re food trucks being banned: in the admittedly unlikely event that I ever find myself in Sichuan, a province famous for its cuisine, I would certainly want to sample the local food. Rather than, say, Subway, McDonald’s or Pizza Hut.

  14. @mark–if you can’t see how character-driven fiction and hard science fiction intersect in your writing…perhaps that suggests an area to work on improving in your work? You seem to have a particular issue with that combination, coupled with your targeted sneers toward the literary genre.

    Frankly, I don’t see the issue with the combination of hard sf and character-driven fiction. But then again, I also tend to like the combination.

    Also, I’ve known folx who just live for masquerades, or panels, or other elements of conventions and fandom that just leave me cold (it’s unlikely that you will ever see me around filk, for one thing. Just isn’t my yum. But I’m not gonna yuck it for those people who absolutely love filk…or gaming, which is another thing that isn’t my yum). Perhaps you need to remember not to yuck someone else’s yum. There are many reasons why people choose to attend conventions–art shows, panels, costuming, cosplay, socializing, even just plain old barcon. All are valid.

  15. @Mark Generally I’m going to conventions for the panels myself as well – The room parties I went to when I went to Sasquan were nice, but I also didn’t know anyone, so I ended up feeling more like the outsider looking in than anything else.

    I’d say that the anime conventions I’ve been to have used the programming style of having multiple tracks covering a variety of different interests that people would be interested in (as @JeffWarner brings up), whether academic discussion, fan works, etc – with the additional catch that in some cases, depending on the venue, you just can’t fit everyone in the Main Events for the big stuff like Masquerade, Opening Ceremonies, AMV contest, Guest of Honor panels, etc, so you need to counterprogram for those panels so people have something else to do when/if they fill – if only to avoid incurring the wrath of the Dread Fire Marshal (CR 20, SA Shut Down Convention).

    Sometimes this means that panelists get stuck opposite something they want to go to themselves (which happened to me with my Collecting Anime Soundtracks on Vinyl panel at Kumoricon 2022) – but this also meant that I got a bunch of turnout at my panel anyway, which was great – considering it was the first panel I’d done ever.

  16. Rhea on October 30, 2023 at 5:17 am said:

    Has there been any updates about the Hugo award stats? I do care but I’m more than two levels of Kevin Bacon away.

    No news that I have seen. Nothing on Chengdu Worldcon’s official social media. Dave McCarty hasn’t posted on Facebook for several days. No sign on the Chengdu Worldcon website.

  17. There are folks these days who don’t hit the parties, who really aren’t socializing with the rest of us.

    I don’t go to cons anymore for several reasons but when I did go it was for panels, programming, the dealer room, the art room, and so on, but never for parties.

  18. Yeah, as I got older, the parties held less appeal, even before the pandemic. My tolerance for alcohol has declined, I have hearing issues, and at most of the cons I’ve been to, the parties were somewhat in decline. I’d be more likely to do barcon than parties these days.

  19. I go to a lot of panels, and hang out in the dealer’s room a fair amount for shopping and conversation. Sometimes I just wander about to see who I run into. Pre-pandemic I’d hang out in the con suite or green room (when I was a panelist or a presenter) and talk to folks, but less often these days. Filk-sings and room parties are another thing I don’t do as much post-pandemic (my guilty pleasure at cons is just finding a quiet place and reading – secure in the knowledge that no one is going to give me a hard time about that). If there’s a trivia contest, I’m also in.

  20. AlexanderC – an outsider? That’s a problem…. When I come to a con, I expect to meet new people, and find new friends. Parties were always a good place for that….

  21. 2) Jiang Bo sounds like a nice person. Even these “negative” comments show he had fun and of course Worldcon had no say in how the venue rooms were arranged. (Fear not, Chinese friends — the same happens in the US; I only found the art show and some of the fan tables by getting lost at the last con I went to.) Nor could they overcome the limited dining options, or that only the foreigners and guests got to stay at the close hotel. The reception security does seem excessive.

    And banning food trucks was a stupid idea. Since the governments were using the con to promote the area, having food trucks of local cuisine would have really impressed the laowei even more! I agree with @Jim: I ain’t eating McD’s when I should be surrounded by Sichuan food being all spicy at me.

    I know lots of people who only do Lobbycon/Barcon, or filk, or games, or ignore all panels completely. Mr. LT would come in for some gentle ribbing when people would ask where he was and my friends or I would announced in a mock-horrified voice “He goes to programming” which would elicit theatrical gasps. I think I made it to 3 panels at the last con, because friends incl. Heather Rose Jones were on them. But I spent a lot of time in the lobby, hallways, and hucksters’ catching up with friends. There were 3 small parties, and I only found 2 of them. High-quality, though. I go to more panels at Worldcon because there are so many people I’ll never see locally.

    I met a long-term friend at Chicon 1982 because one day she and I had the same build, hairdo and were dressed almost identically. The other ones’ friends kept coming up behind and finding the wrong person. So after a couple hours, her friends dragged me to her to meet, and we kept in touch for a decade or more.

  22. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 10/30/23 If You Give A Scroll A Cookie - File 770

  23. So how common in Chinese major cities are food trucks? And how hard in a city of twenty million would’ve been to find restaurants within a convenient walking distance of the Con location?

  24. Cat:

    The district where the Worldcon was held is so new that there really do not appear to be many restaurants within convenient walking distance of the Worldcon site.

    I ended up buying sandwiches from the Subway (it being one of the few places that would accept cash anyway) because the Pizza Hut and KFC were sufficiently different from their US counterparts that it did not attract me. By the final day, the woman behind the counter recognized me by my Jacaru Australia hat and remembered what I’d been ordering previously. In all cases, I could have gone back to the Sheraton (where meals were included with my room if I showed up at the right times), but I simply didn’t have enough time to go back and forth, even with 5-minute-interval shuttle buses, to make the trip. It was something like 200 m between the main entrance to the venue and the bus stop on the street, and that takes time to walk. The alternative was the pleasant but time-consuming 1200 m walk around the lake.

    I heard about the food trucks but never saw them.

  25. Note that the street catering was previously covered in the 2023-10-17, although I could never work out exactly where those photos and videos were taken, maybe somewhere to the south of the venue.

    I also heard (a) ahead of the con that no food would be allowed to be brought on site, although I was later told that this maybe wasn’t being enforced that strictly, and (b) on one day – the Saturday maybe? – the on-site restaurants ran out of food, although that might have been a misunderstanding. (TBH, if the latter did indeed happen, I would have expected to have seen far more reports about it, but that was the only one.)

  26. @Mark It’s not that people were hostile. It’s that I’m coming in more-or-less alone to what was basically a tight-knit friend group made up of people who have come to know each other very well through Worldcons and look forward to meeting at Worldcons each year. I don’t necessarily have the same connections that they did.

    I knew people who they knew (I had met Ben & Suzle & Jerry at OryCon at their Fanzine panel when I was basically the only other person there), but those people also either weren’t there or were otherwise engaged, which made it awkward as a person who is on spectrum (and who was also generally the youngest person in the room), and who was attending their first Worldcon, and whose primary con experiences prior to this were smaller cons (OryCon), and Anime & Retro gaming cons (which don’t have the same room party culture) to merge into the flow of things, so to speak. It’s kind of intimidating.

  27. @Alexander Case:

    I hope that I wasn’t one of those off-putting people. Admittedly, the odds of you running across me were relatively low. (Besides there being ~20K other people around us, I was mostly over in Meteor Hall, ~150 m away and on a path that, while signed, looked discouraging.) The only other places I tended to be was at my one panel, occasionally behind the Site Selection desk, hanging around the Fan Tables, or getting some egoboo from looking at my name in the Worldcon History/Hugo Award history exhibit.

    I do sympathize with being the Youngest Member, as that’s the way I came into fandom almost forty years ago at the 1984 Anaheim Worldcon, my first SF/F convention, where I turned 19 years old. (And that was, by attendance, the largest Worldcon until Chengdu 2023; all of the other Worldcons with more total members did not exceed L.A.con II’s attendance.) I though I knew nobody there, but by sheer coincidence, the person in line ahead of me to register at the door was a friend of the comic book store manager in Marysville, California who had encouraged me to make the all-night bus ride to Anaheim to attend Worldcon. I had such an amazing time in Anaheim that I’ve been try to help others have similar experiences with what I and others call our “found family.”

    Chengdu was a different experience that Anaheim 1984, but as I marveled over the scope and scale of Chengdu and that incredible building, I felt a rekindling of that sense of wonder that has kept me coming back to Worldcon and attending every Worldcon from 1989 onward (save 2020 of course).

    If we did talk and I did something to discourage you, please accept my apologies.

  28. Kevin:

    “I do sympathize with being the Youngest Member, as that’s the way I came into fandom almost forty years ago at the 1984 Anaheim Worldcon, my first SF/F convention, where I turned 19 years old”

    Eh, you weren’t the youngest at Anaheim. You were just running with the wrong crowd. You should’ve hung out with the underage drinkers at the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster party in the jacuzzi. 🙂

    (I was 16 at Anaheim. I was not the youngest in my teen posse (or the jacuzzi). And it was our third Worldcon as free-range fan kids. We all survived the experience.)

    (And how lowering to have gotten to the age where I can bore people with “good old days” comments. Ugh.)

  29. (2) A question:

    “Enthusiastic netizens have compiled a complete breakdown of the amount related to the venue construction, tens of millions related to conference preparation and venue. For example, the winning bid amount for the Hugo Trophy, just for the design was as high as 570 thousand yuan [approximately $80,000 USD]…”

    Can anyone here say more about what that means? I’ve heard about Hugo base design competitions, but haven’t heard about bidding in that context. Is the idea that the designer says how much it’ll cost to create the bases? Is US$80,000 a higher amount than usual?

  30. @Jed Hartman I dunno about the Hugo bases, but in the comments of a Scroll several months ago, Zimozi Natsuco mentioned about some of the other contracts, and I saw that there was a Pidu district website where many contracts related to the con and/or museum were listed. It’s possible the base one was listed there.

    Amongst them was one about doing PR for the con, explicitly naming File 770 as one of a few western websites to be monitored, and for questions posed there to be responded to. Given that one of the prime motivations for me to do these daily writeups for nearly two months now was the near total lack of official communication from the con, I’m wondering whether I should submit an invoice for services rendered to whoever won that contract…

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