Pixel Scroll 12/23/20 It Was The Alfred Bester Of Times, It Was The Bertie Wooster Of Times

Note: A bit light today because I’m off helping celebrate my brother’s birthday.

(1) OUT OF COURT. Mike Dunford of Questionable Authority makes some interesting comments on the decision against ComicMix (see “Dr. Seuss Enterprises Wins Appeal to Ninth Circuit; Seuss-Trek Mashup Violates Copyright”) and promises more on his next QuestAuthority at Twitch. Twitter thread starts here.

(2) A SCAM, BUT WHY? At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss warns that a “Spooky Phishing Scam Targets Traditionally-Published Writers”.

…The phisher, or phishers, employ clever tactics like transposing letters in official-looking email addresses (like “penguinrandornhouse.com” instead of “penguinrandomhouse.com“) and masking the addresses so they only show when the recipient hits “Reply”. They know how publishing works and appear to have access to inside information, utilizing not just public sources like acquisition announcements in trade publications, but details that are harder to uncover: writers’ email addresses, their relationships with agents and editors, delivery and deadline dates, even details of the manuscripts themselves. 

And they are ramping up their operations. According to the Times, the scam began appearing “at least” three years ago, but in the past year “the volume of these emails has exploded in the United States.”

So what’s the endgame? Publishing people are stumped. Manuscripts by high-profile authors have been targeted, but also less obviously commercial works: debut novels by unknowns, short story collections, experimental fiction. The manuscripts don’t wind up on the black market, as far as anyone can tell, and don’t seem to be published online. There have been no ransom demands or other attempts at monetization. 

[From a New York Times article:] “One of the leading theories in the publishing world, which is rife with speculation over the thefts, is that they are the work of someone in the literary scouting community. Scouts arrange for the sale of book rights to international publishers as well as to film and television producers, and what their clients pay for is early access to information — so an unedited manuscript, for example, would have value to them.”

(3) A CAT WITH A DESK. Timothy the Talking Cat makes “Tim’s Last Minute Gift Suggestions” at Camestros Felapton.

… You worthless and ungrateful humans have probably left all your shopping to the last minute. Well let me help out. Here are some quick and easy gifts you can get together even on a tight budget.

…Surprises. Everybody loves surprises! Go out into the garden. Find a dead bird. Sniff it and maybe wack it about a bit with your paws. Bring it home and drop it somewhere surprising….

(4) LUKER OBIT. A phantom’s beloved and a garden ghost:“Rebecca Luker, a Broadway Star for Three Decades, Dies at 59” reports the New York Times.

Rebecca Luker, the actress and singer who in a lauded three-decade career on the New York stage embodied the essence of the Broadway musical ingénue in hit revivals of “Show Boat,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man,” died on Wednesday in a hospital in Manhattan. She was 59. … she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as A.L.S. or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

…Just five years after college, she was on the Broadway stage, assuming the lead female role in “The Phantom of the Opera”— Christine, the chorus girl who is the object of the phantom’s affections.

“Phantom” was her Broadway debut; she began as the understudy to the original star, Sarah Brightman; became an alternate; and took over as Christine in 1989. She remained with the show until 1991.

Ms. Luker moved on immediately to another Broadway show: She played a ghost, the little orphan girl’s dead Aunt Lily, in “The Secret Garden.” 


  • December 23, 1963 — On this night in 1963, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas-themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script which was written by Rod Serling would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”, but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 23, 1896 Máiréad Ní Ghráda. She’s the author of Manannán, a 1940 novel which is regarded as the first such science fiction work in Irish. Several years previously, she translated Peter Pan into Irish, Tír na Deo, the first time it had been so done. (Died 1971.) (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1927 – Chuch Harris.  (“Chuch” from ChucHarris.)  Englander who became an adjunct (at least) of Irish Fandom with a letter to Walt Willis of Slant beginning “Dear Mr. Ellis”.  CH submitted a story about a family of werewolves beginning “The family were changing for dinner”.  Persuaded to visit Vin¢ Clarke and Ken Bulmer at their flat the Epicentre (mistaking this for the center, or centre, of an earthquake, has a long history) he helped generate Sixth Fandom, was shot with a water-pistol by James White, wrote for Hyphen, and formed Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell.  Much later Spike published the Chuck Harris Appreciation Magazine, which only a Johnson fan like me would call the Great Cham, hello Spike.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1928 – George Heap.  Long-time secretary of the Philadelphia SF Society, filker, Tolkien fan before the paperback Lord of the Rings arrived, he moved to Rochester, joined The Cult, and died at the horrid age of 41 just before Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon.  You can see four 1960 issues of his SF Viewsletter here.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1929 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature. Somehow it seems appropriate on Christmas for me to share that stamp here. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 75. Best known for the Riftwar series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. His only Award to date is a HOMer Award for Servant of the Empire which he co-wrote with Janny Wurts. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1978 Estella Warren, 42. Deena on the Planet of The Apes. She also shows up in Ghost Whisper, the Beauty and the Beast film as Belle the Beauty, TaphephobiaFeel the Dead and Age of the Living Dead. (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1954 – Susan Grant, age 66.  U.S. Air Force veteran, then commercial pilot; 18,000 hours flight time.  RITA Award – for Contact, an SF romance; there’s cross-genre action for you.  A score of novels, a few shorter stories, several Booklist and Library Journal Books of the Year.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1960 – Miyabe Miyuki, age 60.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Six novels, ten shorter stories so far available in English.  Yamamoto Shûgorô Prize, Naoki Prize, two Yoshikawa Eiji Prizes, Nihon SF Taishô Award.  Mystery Writers of Japan Award.  Batchelder Award for the English translation of her Brave Story.  Film, television, manga, video games.  All She Was Worth (English title) called a watershed in the history of women’s detective fiction.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1970 – Natalie Damschroder, age 50.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told, many shorter stories.  Loves the New England Patriots more than anything except her family, writing, reading, and popcorn.  I omit what she thinks her teen fiction kicks.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1984 Alison Sudol, 36. She’s known for her role as Queenie Goldstein on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I do so like those titles. She’s also has a recurring role as Kaya in Transparent, a series which is at least genre adjacent for its genre content and certainly SJW in content. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1985 – Marta Dahlig, age 35.  Digital artist, mostly.  Here is the Jun 05 Revelation.  Here is The Shifter (German edition, translated as The Healer).  Here is Sloth.  In a different vein, here is Mimi and the Brave Magic.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1986 Noël Wells, 34. Voice actor on Star Trek: Below Decks where she voices the green-colored Ensign D’Vana Tendi. I so wanted to love this series but was actually repelled by it. I said a year ago that “It should a rather fun time.” Well I was wrong.  So what do y’all think of it? (CE) 


  • “Shoe” might have this same reaction to some of the book lists I run.
  • “Get Fuzzy” doesn’t treat a famous mathematician with the gravity his deserves.

(8) HIGH CALIBER CANON. Sff gets a fillip of genre recognition in The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story edited by John Freeman, to be released May 4, 2021.

…Beginning in 1970, it culls together a half century of powerful American short stories from all genres, including–for the first time in a literary anthology–science fiction, horror, and fantasy, placing writers such as Usula Le Guin, Ken Liu and Stephen King next to some of the often-taught geniuses of the form–Grace Paley, Toni Cade Bambara, Sandra Cisneros, and Denis Johnson. Culling widely, Freeman, the former editor of Granta and now of his own literary annual, brings forward some astonishing work to be regarded in a new light. Often overlooked tales by Dorothy Allison, Charles Johnson, and Toni Morrison will recast the shape and texture of today’s enlarging atmosphere of literary dialogue.

(9) BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Jason Scott retells a story he says happened in the 1990s. Thread starts here.

(10) REGIME CHANGE. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri finds another leader who has their own reality:“I, the White Witch, am disgusted by anyone who would try to make it always winter and never Christmas” .

Here in Narnia, it is so, so important that we have seasons, as I, the White Witch, have always been the absolute first to say. Lots of seasons, one leading to the next, leading to Christmas. I have always cared the most about seasons, and the second most about being absolutely sure that there will be Christmas. “More Seasons for Narnia!” was actually my slogan, although it was on a bumper sticker covered in ice crystals and hidden on my sledge under a big heap of Turkish delight. But I knew that it was there….

[Thanks to Chris Rose, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

30 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/23/20 It Was The Alfred Bester Of Times, It Was The Bertie Wooster Of Times

  1. (9) I am not a lawyer, but the only way I would think copyright would apply would be if the art were actually copying specific book covers, but replacing the original dragonriders with new people. After several decades, we probably can’t know the details of what happened.

  2. Kudos to Daniel Dern for the title.

    (5) This particular Twilight Zone was from Dec 23 1960, not 1963.

  3. @David Shallcross: the point is that it doesn’t matter whether copyright actually applies– just the act of fighting it involves ruinous lawyers’ fees even if you win, with more money on the line if you lose. People can’t afford that, and so “we will sue you” becomes a stick for corporations or big-time artists to beat small ones with.


    Surely McCaffrey cannot be the first writer to put riders on the back of dragons? And even if she was, I cannot how any copyright law would covered claim of illustrations of the same as, outside of cover art isn’t copyright by her or her estate that might show her dragons and their riders, she holds no copyright on such on artwork.

    Now playing: “Puff, the Magic Dragon”

  5. Kit Harding says the point is that it doesn’t matter whether copyright actually applies– just the act of fighting it involves ruinous lawyers’ fees even if you win, with more money on the line if you lose. People can’t afford that, and so “we will sue you” becomes a stick for corporations or big-time artists to beat small ones with.

    A defendant can ask a Judge to dismiss a case before it goes to trial with prejudice means that Judge decides that there is no merit to the case. This would be an easy one to fall under that provision as the estate of McCaffrey would need to show that they’ve actively defended the concept itself against being used. Which I seriously doubt they done.

    And now I’m being amazed how many covers of “Puff, the Magic Dragon” that there are.

  6. Ok I had noticed that it happened in Nineties. Does anyone know what became of this attempt to durpress fan art that far back?

    The chocolate bars have been claimed. There will be more gifts soon.

    Now playing: Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Light One Candle”

  7. (9) is sad, and the loss of James Gunn is sad, and I think (4), the death of Rebecca Luker, at only 59, of ALS, is maybe the saddest of all. 🙁

  8. Anne McCaffrey was a particularly litigious author – at least as far as threats go – and was well-known for being one of a handful of authors to have considerable suppressive influence on transformative works fandom because of awful stuff like that.

    It doesn’t really matter if you have legal standing if the people you’re going after can’t afford either in money or reputation to fight back – after all, being outed as some sorts of fan came and may still come with a much higher penalty than others. That’s one of the reasons we have the Organization for Transformative Works now. They have a legal advocacy unit to keep us safe from people who would choose to bully their fandom with lawsuits and threats.

  9. Meredith says Anne McCaffrey was a particularly litigious author – at least as far as threats go – and was well-known for being one of a handful of authors to have considerable suppressive influence on transformative works fandom because of awful stuff like that.

    Huh. Interesting and I’ll admit rather disappointing. I was very mildly entertained by maybe the first three or four Pern novels which I read but once a long time ago. That she was an ass is news to me but I never followed that facet of her. I’m not a dragon person.

    Now playing: the music of Zahartar which was influenced by Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel which in turn has a musician whose music riffs a bit off both Cornish and Northumbrian music.

  10. @Cat Eldridge

    I should mention, to be fair, that she was also very supportive of some types of fans and some types of fandom; more so than most. And she should get credit for that. But she had very specific ideas what her fandom should be doing and wasn’t shy about using legal threats to enforce keeping people within the lines – and, clearly, let her son act on her behalf in similar ways. Not the worst by any means, though – Ann Rice’s name will forever be mud in transformative works fandom.

    I loved Anne McCaffrey’s books when I was a kid and still reread them from time to time. (Noooo, really? I’m shocked, shocked! say Filers who recall my fondness for dragons.) But yes, disappointing.

  11. @2
    Quite an intrigue! I hope the explication lives up to the premise. Roving desert monoliths, pilfered manuscripts, Jupiter and Saturn tangoing on the Solstice…an RA Lafferty story, surely.

  12. 2) An AI looking for new material to read maybe.

    Or someone determined to cast an informed vote for Best Editor Long Form by comparing unedited and edited manuscripts.

  13. @Cat Eldridge: Only in a state with an anti-SLAPP statute can it actually be dismissed at such a stage, though, and even then that’s only “if the allegations in this lawsuit were taken as completely true, would it be illegal”. If they’re alleging “he infringed my copyright” and a judge just dismisses that, they’re going to get reversed on appeal because they can’t just dismiss that; it has to go through the legal process. “Show they’ve actively defended” is a finding of fact that can’t happen in pretrial.

  14. (9) — I’m mighty glad my wife’s (Gail Barton’s) occasional Pern-derived pieces never got her into hot water with the McCaffreys. Sometime in the 1980s, I think, she painted, exhibited, and sold a pic of a dragon in flight (no rider, as I recall). Purchaser was Harry Stubbs (Hal Clement), whose comment was, “This dragon really looks like he could fly.” Gail got the beastie aerodynamically correct, as well as depicting physiologically-believable musculature. Both painter and customer are now deceased, so I don’t think there’s any grounds for complaint at this time.

    Another matter: I don’t think McCaffrey invented the idea of people riding on dragons. If I remember aright (Mythopoeics, please correct me if I goofed), in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” at least once there is an instance of someone in the ship’s company riding on a dragon. The dragon was Eustace Scrubb, when he was temporarily stuck in dragon form. This bullying by the McCaffreys reminds me of Wendy Pini and her asinine attempt to monopolize elves.

  15. Cally wrote:

    I know that Steven Silver used to keep the list, but I don’t know if a) he still does, and b) how to contact him.

    a) I do (and will also for Chicon 8).
    b) My contact remains shsilver at sfsite.com.
    c) I’ve added Bruce to the list.

  16. Happy holidays & Happy Christmas from the future! (It’s nearly 10am Christmas morning in New Zealand)

    Hope you all have a lovely day & thank you Mike & Filers for being a neat community in what has been a crappy year.

  17. Michael Moorcock had dragon riders in his Elric series and I’m pretty sure they featured in the first story, The Dreaming City, published in 1961. I can’t say that he was the first (likely not) but that’s still 6 years before the publication of Weyr Search.

  18. Paul King says Michael Moorcock had dragon riders in his Elric series and I’m pretty sure they featured in the first story, The Dreaming City, published in 1961. I can’t say that he was the first (likely not) but that’s still 6 years before the publication of Weyr Search.

    Thanks. They were too obvious a genre trope for McCaffrey to be the first to use them first. One betting they go back a lot further than than the Sixties.

    Now playing: Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Light One Candle”

  19. @Cat: Your mention of Peter, Paul & Mary reminded me: “Jacky kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail.” “Puff the Magic Dragon” was NOT obscure, and antedated “Weyr Search” by several years.

  20. The short stories in E Nesbit’s “Book of Dragons”, written in 1899, nearly a hundred years earlier than this terrible legal bullying, feature various instances of the protagonists riding dragons.
    I read Baum’s “TikTok of Oz” (1914) because it had a cover of people riding a weird dragon.
    And as a small boy in the early 80s I remember numerous TSR covers and illustrations or knight and wizards riding dragons. There was even the animated film “Flight of the Dragons”, which is based on various works by Gordon Dickson dating back to 1957.

  21. Interesting … I knew about the Peter Dickinson connection to Flight of the Dragons, but didn’t know about the Gordon R. Dickson angle.

    And if you ever want to hear Colonel Sherman T. Potter as a wizard, Flight of the Dragons is the movie for you.

  22. Everyone has made use of the dragon riding trope down the years so any idea that MacCaffrey and her estate could make an exclusive claim on it is utter bullshit. Simon R. Green turns it into a literal trope in his Forest Kingdom series which starts with Blue Moon Rising by referring to “a girl and her dragon” instead of “a girl and her pony”. It’s got some of the nicest descriptions of dragon riding I’ve read, and some of the funniest as well.

  23. Cat Eldridge: “I so wanted to love [Star Trek: Below Decks] but was actually repelled by it. I said a year ago that “It should a rather fun time.” Well I was wrong. So what do y’all think of it?”

    The show doesn’t air outside of North America (no one picked it up, which is a bit of a red flag), but the clips I’ve seen looked dreadful: smug, hyperactive and — most deadly for a sitcom — utterly unamusing.

  24. I find Lower Decks worth watching – sometimes a bit annoying, but with enough awesome here and there to keep me watching. But mileage (warpage?) is well known to vary…

  25. I’m going to generally refrain from commenting on IP law, other than to note I was amused by the way Ready Player Two assaulted both Prince’s and Tolkein’s IPs, barely a chapter apart. Wonder if it’ll make it to the silver screen.

Comments are closed.