Pixel Scroll 12/30/21 “Say, Sky-Farmer, Can I Take this Wormhole To Tau Ceti?” “You Could, But I Don’t Know Why, They Already Have One.”

(1) SCALING MOUNT TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Book blogger Runalong Womble has shared his TBR Reduction Challenge for 2022 in a fun little blog post that may help those of us whose bedside tables are creaking under the weight of unread tomes. “Your TBR Reduction Book Challenge – Let Me Help You!”

So I usually like to increase your pile of books to be read and yes I admit a warm glow of satisfaction when I hear that you’ve been tempted. But spoilers I am just as liable to a good temptation. Pass a bookshop; sale or good review and magically books soon enter my house or e-reader (the latter a place where many books go to die unread as no one really knows what lives within them). So let your kind womble share their own TBR challenge and I hope this helps you too!

Here’s an example from Womble’s calendar:

March – New Beginnings

5 – For the beginning of Spring I want you to open a book in the TBR pile by an author you’ve never read before

Stretch Goal – March is named after Mars, so genre fans find a book that very likely has a big battle in it be it in space, our world or a secondary world.  Non-genre fans look for a book about a conflict be that a dilemma, family feud etc

(2) THE FOLKS AT HOME. Today Cora Buhlert posted “The 2021 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award” (companion piece to yesterday’s highly entertaining “2021 Darth Vader Parenthood Award”). The Kent ceremony got a little out of hand, as the various characters started interacting. But first, Cora discusses some candidates who didn’t make the finals.

…Everybody’s favourite gay couple, Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber from Star Trek Discovery became parents last year, when they formed a beautiful little rainbow family with Adira, teenaged genius with a Trill symbiont, and their boyfriend Gray, who’s a disembodied ghost for much of season 3 before finally getting a body in season 4. Through it all, Stamets and Culber have done an excellent job parenting their untraditional family and would certainly be deserving winners. But as I said above, the competition was stiff this year….

(3) UNEXPECTED LOVE LETTER. Évelyne Lachance says “Worldcon is the place to call home” in an essay for Medium.

Who is WorldCon for?

It’s for you, the science fiction fan. And by fan, I mean, at any level, any age, any level of fandom, knowledge, and experience. Whether you’ve read a single novel about space travel or thousands, whether you’re a Star Trek fan, a Star Wars Fan, both, or none, it doesn’t matter. Worldcon is a place of acceptance for all fans. There is no gatekeeping, no “true Scotsman”, no required reading or watching. You could walk into your first con with absolutely zero knowledge of anything Sci-Fi and still be welcomed with open arms. Because if you’re there, it means you belong there.

(4) LOOKING AT RERUNS. Olav Rokne notes at the Hugo Book Club Blog, “A small group of us are slowly working our way through all the Hugo-shortlisted Dramatic Presentations year-by-year. Some years have been more of a slog than others, but 1967 had an excellent shortlist, and the contemporaneous fanzines are filled with debate about the movies and shows. Seems like the year that the Best Dramatic Presentation category really came into its own at the Hugos.” “Best Dramatic Presentation Boldly Goes Forward (1967)”.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems only natural that Star Trek should win a Hugo Award in its first season.

At the time, however, this decision was not without controversy.

The Worldcon chair for 1967, Ted White, published a screed against the show calling its writers patronizing and ill-informed. Hugo-winning fan writer Alexei Panshin opined that Star Trek was filled with cliches and facile plots.

But for every voice criticizing the new show, there were several voicing their support. Big-name authors like Harlan Ellison and A.E. Van Vogt campaigned for the television series to win a Hugo, hoping that the recognition might buy it a second season….

(5) A SLIPPERY SLOPE TO A ROCKY ROAD. In “Pluto should be reclassified as a planet, scientists argue” NBC is picking up a bit of science news that I saw a couple weeks ago but originally left alone because it’s not as much fun saying Pluto should be a planet if it means adding a whole bunch of other rocks I never heard of to the category, too!

A team of scientists wants Pluto classified as a planet again — along with dozens of similar bodies in the solar system and any found around distant stars.

The call goes against a controversial resolution from 2006 by the International Astronomical Union that decided Pluto is only a “dwarf planet” — but the researchers say a rethink will put science back on the right path.

Pluto had been considered the ninth planet since its discovery in 1930, but the IAU — which names astronomical objects — decided in 2006 that a planet must be spherical, orbit the sun and have gravitationally “cleared” its orbit of other objects.

Pluto meets two of those requirements — it’s round and it orbits the sun. But because it shares its orbit with objects called “plutinos” it didn’t qualify under the new definition.

As a result, the IAU resolved the solar system only had eight major planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — and Pluto was relegated from the list.

But a study announced in December from a team of researchers in the journal Icarus now claims the IAU’s definition was based on astrology — a type of folklore, not science — and that it’s harming both scientific research and the popular understanding of the solar system….

(6) A SHORTER SENTENCE. The Scroll began following this case after Courtney Milan revealed she had been one of the jurors. The original, stunningly-long sentence now has been reduced by the governor: “Trucker Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence reduced from 110 to 10 years”.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has commuted the sentence of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to 10 years with eligibility for parole in five. The 26-year-old was originally given a 110 year sentence for a 2019 crash that killed four people, but had his sentence reduced after public outcry over Colorado’s mandatory sentencing laws…. 

(7) SIDE BY SIDE. Karlo Yeager Rodríguez and Kurt compare their predictions (Episode  145 – Hugo Predictions Beer Run) against what won. . . as well as one pesky sponsor stealing the show in Podside Picnic Episode #149 “Beauty Of Our Weapons @ WorldCon”.

There’s also a recent episode hosted by Karlo where Kurt, Chris and Pete discuss the Thomas Godwin classic story The Cold Equations: Episode 148: “The Cold Beer Equations”.


2003 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Eighteen years ago, Patricia McKillip won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the World Fantasy Award for Ombria in Shadow. It was also on the long list for the Nebula Award. It had been published the previous year by Ace Books. The jacket illustration is by Kinuko Y. Craft who did almost all of the Ace covers for the author. I reviewed Kinuko Craft‘s Kinuko Craft: Drawings & Paintings over at Green Man which is a most excellent look at her art.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yes, Kipling. He’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “The Cat that Walked By Himself“, wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic. Of course there’s always The Jungle Books which run to far more stories than I thought they did. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once in way that was sometimes xenophobic but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 71. Damn his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I saw was on the DC Universe app, so I read it and it was fantastic. Nice! Anyone here that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on usual suspects with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 70. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund who went to Albacon II in Glasgow. And she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3. She writes an active blog at Avedon’s Sideshow.
  • Born December 30, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 64. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, begore going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Born December 30, 1958 Eugie Foster. She was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 for one of the most wonderfully titled novelettes I’ve ever heard of, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”. It won a Nebula and was nominated for a BSFA as well. I’ve not read it, who here has read it? She was managing editor for Tangent Online and The Fix.  She was also a director for Dragon Con and edited their onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas A. Anderson, 62. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. 
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 45. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her late father. She was with Simon Green the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They of course helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot.
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 41. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching.   She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out as of note. One is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies. The other role is fascinating — The Lady In Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story: “IM Global Television Developing ‘The Black Company’; Eliza Dushku To Star”.


  • Lio’s big idea might be shocking at first, but it may grow on you.

(11) ZOOMING TO THE HUGOS. Cora Buhlert, a finalist who attended virtually from Germany, posted her commentary on the 2021 Hugo winners, but says her full con report will have to wait until the new year: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Award Winners and the Ceremony in general”.

…The Zoom party was beamed into the main party via a tablet or laptop, so we could see our fellow finalists in Washington DC and could talk to them. Plenty of people came over to say hello and good luck. Outfits were admired – and honestly, the Hugos have the best range of outfits. It’s like the Oscars, only crazier. After all, we had two of Santa’s elves there, otherwise known as John and Krissy Scalzi. And best of all, you have a lot of people with realistic bodies at the Hugos. The masks made it a bit difficult to recognise people, even if I knew them, though thankfully Sarah was really good at recognising people under their masks. The noise level in the ballroom also made it difficult to talk, so we made signs to hold up saying things like “Good luck!”, “Great dress/suit/outfit” and – this was John Wiswell’s – “I’m rooting for you and only you, I promise.” I enjoyed the whole set-up a lot and hope that future Worldcons adopt this idea, so even finalists who cannot be present in person get a taste of the ceremony….

(12) THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Galactic Journey awards Galactic Stars to the best of 1966: “[December 26, 1966] Harvesting the Starfields (1966’s Galactic Stars!)”

There are many outlets that cover new releases in science fiction and fantasy.  But to my knowledge, only one attempts to review every English language publication in the world (not to mention stuff published beyond the U.S. and U.K.!) We are proud of the coverage we provide.

And this is the time of year when the bounty is tallied.  From all the books, magazines, comic strips, movies, tv shows, we separate the wheat from the chaff, and then sift again until only the very best is left.

These, then, are the Galactic Stars for 1966!

Here are the star-takers in Best Novelettes:

Riverworld, by Philip José Farmer

All of humanity is ressurrected on the banks of the world-river.  Including Tom Mix and a certain carpenter from Nazareth…

For a Breath I Tarry, by Roger Zelazny

Two computer brains endeavor to know long-dead humanity.  Beautiful.  Powerful.

A Two-Timer, by David I. Masson

A 17th Century scholar sojourns for a time in Our Modern Times.  Delightful.

Angels Unawares, by Zenna Henderson

An early tale of The People.  Kin can be adopted as well as born.

(13) SHAME ON YOU! For the Win reports a “Dead By Daylight fan gives up chase following stern talking-to” – the clip is at the link.

Sometimes, a good old-fashioned finger wag is enough to put someone in their place — at least it was in a particularly knee-slap worthy match of Dead By Daylight.

Over on Reddit, user Borotroth shared a cute clip of them fending off a killer in the most bizarre way possible: by scolding them via finger-pointing emotes. After a few good pokes, the killer decides to turn tail and run, like a child that’s received a stern talking-to from a parent. Typically, something like this would result in the survivor player getting clotheslined, yet that wasn’t the case. What a power move….

(14) SHIELDS UP. Space.com says the tricky part is just beginning: “James Webb Space Telescope begins unfolding delicate, massive sunshield”.

NASA’s massive new space observatory has entered its most perilous phase yet as it begins the careful process of unfurling its delicate sunshield.

The James Webb Space Telescope launched on Saturday (Dec. 25) and will be a revolutionary new observatory focused on studying the universe in infrared light. But first, it has to survive a monthlong trek out to its final post and a carefully choreographed deployment process. On Tuesday (Dec. 28), the spacecraft notched another key step in that deployment as it unfolded the Forward Unitized Pallet Structure (UPS) of its vast sunshield, according to a NASA statement… 

(15) HEAD IN THE CLOUDS. CBR.com knows where you can “Watch Japan’s Latest Massive Gundam Statue Being Assembled”.

…Japanese news organizations NHK and the Mainichi Shimbun were on hand to film the new statue’s head being attached. The statue is being constructed in the center of a shopping center located in Fukuoka, Japan. The Gundam’s head piece was pre-built and had to be lifted in place using a construction crane. As shown in the NHK’s video, just the head alone dwarfs the height of the workers who are putting the massive mecha together.


(16) YOU DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE LOST? PBS’ Space Time with Matt O’Dowd offers advice about “How to Find ALIEN Dyson Spheres”.

On our search for alien lifeforms we scan for primitive biosignatures, and wait and hope for their errant signals to happen by the Earth. But that may not be the best way. Any energy-hungry civilization more advanced than our own may leave an indisputable technological mark on the galaxy. And yes, we’re very actively searching for those also. Time to update you on the hunt for galactic empires.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” the Screen Junkies say you’ll probably get entertainment coal in your stocking if you watch this 2000 film with Jim Carrey as the third of his “menacing green characters who will probably kill you,” after the Riddler and the Mask.  “The film’s quite exhausting, like a cake made out of frosting,” the Junkies say, and is so dark that director Ron Howard is trying to be a “ginger Tim Burton.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, Chris Barkley, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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34 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/30/21 “Say, Sky-Farmer, Can I Take this Wormhole To Tau Ceti?” “You Could, But I Don’t Know Why, They Already Have One.”

  1. 8) For some reason, Patricia McKillip has not acquired the extraordinary reputation that she has so richly earned. I think she is one of the best fantasy prose stylists around. If you haven’t read her, try A Song For The Basilisk, Alphabet Of Thorn, or the Riddle-Master trilogy.

  2. Michael J. Lowrey: I better not try playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” tonight if this is any indication.

  3. (9) Kipling wrote a couple of SF stories about the Aerial Board of Control – an organization using airplanes to impose peace rather like Heinlein’s Space Patrol.

    Dushko’s early role in True Lies is SF adjacent.

  4. @Rob Thornton
    Several of McKillip’s books are on sale at Kobo, and maybe the Other Usual Suspects.

  5. (9) The two Kipling stories about the Aerial Board of Control are “With the Night Mail” and “As Easy as A.B.C.” The former is a slice of life story with notes on damaged airships, routing reports and the like. (They use airships; heavier-than-air craft are experimental and not very capable.) The latter is about the suppression of a riot in Chicago — very dark. It also includes “McDonough’s Song” and that’s all that’s to be said.

  6. Rob Thornton days For some reason, Patricia McKillip has not acquired the extraordinary reputation that she has so richly earned. I think she is one of the best fantasy prose stylists around. If you haven’t read her, try A Song For The Basilisk, Alphabet Of Thorn, or the Riddle-Master trilogy.

    One of her very best affairs was Solstice Wood which is also one of her more quiet novels fantasy wise. It’s sort of a sequel to Winter Rose. It won a Mythopoeic Award.

  7. 8) Ombria in Shadow is one of my very most favorite McKillips (or at least favorite stand-alones, since very little can best the Riddlemaster trilogy). I adore forever that in addition to being breathtakingly beautiful, it is also a shaggy dog story with a punch-line. But elegantly so.

    And that is probably my most favorite Kinuko Craft cover, too. I love all the elements from the story that she includes, some ways subtle, some overt (and some both, as with the fan). She is not a cover artist who can be accused of never having read the book, that’s for sure.

  8. @Joseph T. Major: I first read “As Easy as A.B.C.” when I was 12; it was in Groff Conklin’s anthology 17XInfinity. Like most of the other stories, the Kipling piece was disturbing. Perhaps the most frightening was E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops.” This was, I think, in early 1963 when I read these.

  9. (9) Kipling: The framing story for Puck of Pook’s Hill is as genre as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and so are a couple of the stories.

  10. What do you mean, a bunch of rocks you’ve never heard of? Who doesn’t know Ceres, the only dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, or Eris, Makemake, and Haumea? And Sedna and Gonggong and Orcus may officially become dwarf planets any time, they just haven’t been known or confirmed as long.

    (More seriously, this is the stuff you pick up when you have small kids. Often to mildly annoying music. )

  11. Lenora Rose: You mean there’s a song? I need that link for the Scroll!

    Or if there’s not a song, I bet somebody reading this could turn those names into one pretty quick, and I hope they will!

  12. @P J Evans – yes, thank you! We are on the north east end of Boulder, and have had pretty much the entirety of town between us and both the fires. If you look at an evacuation map, we are about 3 miles north of where the red zone stops. We have friends who evacuated and have let us know they’re safe but obviously are worried about their homes. Been kind of glued to Twitter all day, esp. to the various emergency management feeds (e.g. @BoulderOEM).

    Will have to peel myself away so I can sleep. Stick my brain in a book. Speaking of McKillip, her novels are always a soothing reread.

  13. 8) I recently read Patricia McKillip’s early YA ghost story, The House on Parchment Street, and while it can’t touch her later fantasies, it was certainly an enjoyable experience.

  14. (5) I recommend “How I killed Pluto and why it had it coming” by Mike Brown. He does explain why the decision came to pass and why it doesnt really matter what planets the kids learn in school.

  15. I’ve never grasped the dislike of extra planets. “But if Pluto is a plenty then be Eris is as well, and we won’t know for many planets there are” goes the complaint. Which is cool. It means there more science to do.

  16. Second the recommendation of Mike Brown’s book. And regarding Ceres, there was a period after its discovery when it was called a planet, just like all the rest that were known at that time.

  17. Sophie Jane on December 31, 2021 at 5:34 am said: I just wish the mi-go would make up their minds, really

    Fungi, you got to let me know
    Should mi-stay or should mi-go?
    Won’t you say that you are mine
    A horror from the depths of time
    So you got to let me know
    Should mi-stay or should mi-go?


    Should mi-stay or should mi-go now?
    Should mi-stay or should mi-go now?
    Burn my sanity like tinder
    Put my brain in a cylinder
    Fungi, you got to let me know
    Should mi-stay or should mi-go?

  18. McKillip is my roommate’s favorite author. She named her first cat Morgon after the Riddlemaster of Hed. We just wish she wrote faster!

  19. Fans of Doctor Who remember Richard E. Grant as the Great Intelligence in 2012/3 (Clara’s early adventures with Matt Smith’s Doctor). More notably, Grant has also played the Doctor—twice! He had a cameo in the late ’90s comedy sketch “The Curse of the Fatal Death,” then played an alternate Ninth Doctor in an early ’00s web-animation put out by the BBC.

  20. Another McKillip fan here. The Riddle-Master trilogy is a good entry point. A Song for the Basilisk is a personal favourite, The Cygnet books haven’t had a mention yet, and they’re good too.

  21. I agree with those who say McKillip is underrated! In a world full of extruded fantasy product, she routinely puts out amazingly original, creative, and unique stories. Her world-building is astonishing and wild, and her prose is gorgeous! She’s easily in my top five favorite fantasy authors, and might even be top three!

    As far as planets go, my preferred solution is to promote Ceres, and then divide the nine inner planets (up to Neptune) from the outer, Kuiper-belt planets (starting with Pluto). But it’s worth remembering that astronomers are only in charge of technical jargon, not common English.

  22. Xtifr says I agree with those who say McKillip is underrated! In a world full of extruded fantasy product, she routinely puts out amazingly original, creative, and unique stories. Her world-building is astonishing and wild, and her prose is gorgeous! She’s easily in my top five favorite fantasy authors, and might even be top three!

    I never read anything by her that was anything less than stellar. There’s actually a very nice non-fiction look at her, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s superb Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building. She also gets her due in Stefan Ekman’s rather excellent Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings.

  23. (1) SCALING MOUNT TSUNDOKU. I’m going to make a list and see how far I get. Probably not far, but I like the ideas in this list and I’ve never tried one of these challenges. I’m still working on identifying qualifying books. Maybe this challenge will help me focus on reading more.

    (2) THE FOLKS AT HOME. Heh, great pair of awards, @Cora Buhlert!

    (6) A SHORTER SENTENCE. Good; mandatory sentencing laws ignore context.

    (15) HEAD IN THE CLOUDS. Sent to a friend who IIRC likes Gundam. 😉

    . . . . .

    @Matthew Johson: “Should mi-stay or should mi-go?” (etc.) – Bravo! 😀

  24. Mike:

    Lenora Rose: You mean there’s a song? I need that link for the Scroll!

    If you say that, you haven’t been around kids’ educational videos enough. The one by hopscotch linked below is probably the least painful. Or type in Dwarf Planet songs on youtube if you really feel a glutton for punishment… (And if you search Dwarf planet candidates, they have their own rash of videos.)

  25. @Lenora Rose: Oh no, I watched the whole thing and while it’s not a great song, now the refrain’s stuck in my head a bit! Quick, time to listen to something else so I can knock it loose. 😉

    (Thanks for the link!)

  26. There needs to be a story where the villain, possibly a crazed descendant of Clyde Tombaugh, threatens to move some large rocks into Earth’s orbit, causing it to be declassified as a planet. Take that, IAU!

    I freely admit to being irrational on the subject. It seems a harmless thing to be irrational about. Besides, what are they supposed to do with Nine Planets Symphony? Just chop off the last movement? Think, people, think!

    On second thought, the last movement is kind of depressing anyway, what with the soprano trailing off all by herself. Wait, that’s the Vaughan Williams. I may be a little confused here.

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