Pixel Scroll 4/28/24 Pixels Make The World Scroll Down

(1) NO, NO, NOT ROGOV! Annalee Newitz calls Paul Linebarger (aka Cordwainer Smith) “The Sci-Fi Writer Who Invented Conspiracy Theory” in The Atlantic.

…Linebarger, who died of a heart attack in 1966 at age 53, could not have predicted that tropes from his sci-fi stories about mind control and techno-authoritarianism would shape 21st-century American political rhetoric. But the persistence of his ideas is far from accidental, because Linebarger wasn’t just a writer and soldier. He was an anti-communist intelligence operative who helped define U.S. psychological operations, or psyops, during World War II and the Cold War. His essential insight was that the most effective psychological warfare is storytelling. Linebarger saw psyops as an emotionally intense, persuasive form of fiction—and, to him, no genre engaged people’s imagination better than science fiction.

I pored over Linebarger’s personal papers at the Hoover Institution propaganda collection while researching my forthcoming book, Stories Are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind. Boxes of his studies on the politics of China and Southeast Asia are filed alongside his fiction manuscripts and unpublished musings on psychology. Here, I realized, was an origin story for modern conspiracy politics, which blur the line between sci-fi plots and American patriotism—they came from a psywar operative. Put another way, an agent of what some would now call the “deep state” had devised the far-out stories that politicians like Greene use to condemn it. Perhaps, if she and others knew this, they might not be so eager to blame space lasers and vaccine microchips for what ails our nation….

(2) WESTERCON 76 UTAH HOTEL RESERVATIONS OPEN. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Westercon 76 has updated their hotel/venue web page with their hotel booking information. I published a post on the Westercon.org site about it{ “Westercon 76 Utah Opens Hotel Reservations”.

The short version is “use the link on the convention hotel/venue page” or “use group code WET when booking through Hilton.com.  

(3) MAKING BOOK. These suspects are from the nation, not the U.S. state — “Georgians arrested over cross-Europe thefts of rare library books”. The Guardian tells how the crime was committed.

Police have arrested nine Georgians suspected of running a sophisticated criminal operation stealing valuable antique books – including an original Alexander Pushkin manuscript – from national libraries across Europe.

Shelves of 19th-century Russian-language literature had been ransacked over two years across several countries and replaced with fakes, Europol, the EU police agency, revealed on Thursday.

The University of Warsaw, which was among the targets, last year reported the theft of first editions of works by the influential authors Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol.

Europol said the suspects allegedly sometimes posed as academics to gain access to the books in order to make counterfeits of “outstanding quality”.

While in the reading rooms “they would meticulously measure the books and take photographs before handing them back” – only to return days, weeks or months later to swap them with near perfect copies.

In other cases they “relied on a more crude approach” and simply staked out the collection in national libraries, decided what was of interest and later broke in and stole the books, police said….

(4) MARK D. BRIGHT (1955-2024). Black comics creator Mark D. Bright died March 27. The Comics Journal’s in-depth tribute begins:

Issue #257 of DC’s House of Mystery wasn’t short on talent when it hit the stands in late 1977. Like all issues of that horror anthology, it had its fair share of clunkers, but you couldn’t fault the art team. Joe Orlando (on the cover), Ernie Chan, Michael Golden, Arthur Suydam… and in between these heavy hitters was a three-pager by a newcomer named Mark D. Bright, raised in Montclair, NJ, and not yet a graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He would have other names in credit boxes throughout the years: M.D. Bright, “Doc” Bright, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Bright would go on to a long and storied career, doing well-regarded work for both Marvel and DC throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He was also the co-creator of Icon with Dwayne McDuffie, one of the cornerstones of Milestone Comics, and co-creator of the oddball superhero comedy series Quantum and Woody with frequent collaborator Christopher Priest. Bright passed away on March 27, 2024, leaving the world of comics a much poorer place….


[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. (Died 2015.)

By Paul Weimer: It took a second bite at the apple for me to fall for the works of Terry Pratchett.  My first attempt was in the 90’s, when I had vaguely heard about his work, and picked up The Color/Colour of Magic.  I thought it was fine and I also tried the Light Fantastic and Sourcery.  But it really didn’t gel for me. I thought at the time Pratchett was an okay writer, and maybe the humor wasn’t quite what I was looking for in fantasy at the time.  (To be fair, the humor in those early Discworld novels is a lot broader than the later more refined ones). 

Terry Pratchett in 2011.

It took over a decade and my late friend Scott to get me to try Pratchett again.  Scott was passionate about a number of writers. Zelazny, which we had in common. Lois M. Bujold, which we also had in common. Michael Scott Rohan. And Terry Pratchett.  Scott encouraged me and “talked me through” finding where I would best enjoy Pratchett’s oeuvre.  I found an affinity for Pyramids (and the best Mathematician on all of Discworld), but when it came to The Night Watch, I really started understanding the Discworld Project and what it was doing.  From then on, Pratchett was on auto-buy.  Vimes and company remained my favorite, although The Librarian is probably my single favorite minor character, if only for the fantastic idea of L-Space. 

Beyond Discworld, there is also Good Omens of course, and also the Long Earth series. The latter feels a lot more the work of his co-author Stephen Baxter than Pratchett but there are moments, scenes, images where the utter magic of Terry Pratchett’s work and writing and humanism comes through. 

One of my not-in-a-Pratchett bits that involves Pratchett is a bit in the late Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End. In that novel, in its (now a) alternate history, Pratchett went on to write many many more Discworld novels, and became so popular that people would use VR to cosplay as being from the new area of the Discworld these imaginary novels were set (basically an entrepot more along the lines of Alexandria, Egypt).  I could wish, Zelazny style, to walk into that world and bring home copies of those “lost” Pratchett novels. I would love to read them. 

And, sadly I never got to meet him in person. My loss. 

Happy birthday.


  • Off the Mark agrees that there’s always leftovers.
  • Bizarro takes us inside a reactive museum.

(7) DOUBLE FEATURE. The Flights of Fantasy Film Festival will show The War of The Worlds (1953 — 4K Restoration) and ten of the Best George Pal Oscar-Winning Puppetoons (restored in Technicolor®) at the Historic 1931 Regency Westwood Theater in LA on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets at the link.

Scheduled to appear are special guests director Joe Dante (Gremlins), Ann Robinson (star of War of the Worlds), and director-producer Arnold Leibovit (The Puppetoon Movie, The Time Machine 2002). These distinguished guests will offer their unique perspectives and insights, sharing behind-the-scenes stories and discussing the lasting impact of George Pal’s work on the world of cinema. Maxwell DeMille (master of ceremonies) is a prominent figure in reviving old Hollywood glamour through vintage-themed events. His commitment to authenticity has made him a leading figure in the vintage entertainment scene, and he also hosts film screenings and lectures on classic Hollywood culture.

(8) PRODUCTS LAUNCH. Gizmodo promises “Lego’s Gorgeous New Space Sets Shoot You Into the Stars”.

…This morning Lego revealed two more entries in its 2024 campaign to bring the ethos of its classic space sets across its various lines: for Lego Art, there’s a beautiful, buildable recreation of the Milky Way, containing 3,091 pieces for you to build into a technicolor spiral galaxy and hang on your wall. For those looking for something a little less macro-scaled, but still high on detail, the new 3,601-piece Artemis Launch System, part of the Lego Icons series, includes a mobile launch tower, a rocket support and crew bridge, and then of course a multistage rocket, complete with 2 solid-fuel boosters. The model also even includes a small brick-built recreation of the ESA Orion spacecraft, which can be put into the rocket or as part of a separate display stand, highlighting Artemis’ mission to further explore the Moon….

See photo galleries of both at the Lego website:

(9) METAL DETECTIVE. “Spacecraft approaches metal object zooming around Earth, snaps footage” – at Mashable.

A spacecraft has carefully approached and imaged a large hunk of metal orbiting Earth — a step in tackling humanity’s mounting space junk woes.

The delicate space mission, undertaken by the Japanese satellite technology company Astroscale, used its ADRAS-J satellite to travel within several hundred meters of an abandoned section of a noncommunicative, derelict rocket, proving it could safely observe in such close proximity…

(10) PIGS NOT QUITE IN SPACE. William Shatner has taken this flight before – a clip from a 1996 Muppets Tonight episode. Watch it on YouTube.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Jeffrey Smith, Kevin Standlee, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

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18 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/28/24 Pixels Make The World Scroll Down

  1. (1) I think he’s too early. Shea and Wilson’s Illuminatus trilogy is dead on for all this. Come on, there are people who think the Necronomicon’s a real thing.
    Birthday: I got to see him live (and exchange a couple words with him) once, a few years back, when he was a surprise guest at Capclave.
    (7) Wonderful War of the Worlds. Great Martians!
    (8) My SO will read this. No. We have no place for the Artemis mission. We barely have the room for the Saturn V….

  2. (4) I definitely read some of those issues. 🙁

    (5) I have to take a second bite at the apple, too. But I have many of the books waiting for me. 🙂

  3. MikeG: sure, Prester John… but if we’re talking about the last 20+ years of conspiracy theories, I think it’s Illuminatus, and the people playing games with newbies on usenet about it being real, and then the suckers carrying it on from there.

  4. Dick Geis published a lot of entertaining fanzines full of conspiracy theories. His bete noire was the Trilateral Commission.

  5. (5) I was slow to get into Pratchett, having read a very negative review of him by Spinrad in Asimov’s but my wife talked me into “Hogfather” and “Guards, Guards” and here we are.

  6. Conspiracy theories are nothing new. And governments have been using conspiracy theories for quite some time. The first one that comes to mind is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  7. One of my lame claims to fame is I shared a car with Terry Pratchett as we ran a friend of his to the airport in Madison, Wisconsin in the mid-’90s.

    Otherwise I’ll repeat here something I wrote after he died: Terry Pratchett wrote books about incompetent wizards and cross-dressing dwarves and orangutan librarians who say “oook.” And reading him made me a better person.

    One thing that comes through in his writing is his belief that everybody has, as he put it, the right to redefine themselves. This shows up most strongly in the character of Cheery/Cheri Littlebottom, the dwarf who ‘comes out’ as female in Feet of Clay, but it’s there in a lot of his books. “You are who you want to be,” he says, over and over, “and nobody has the right to say otherwise.”

    I’ve had friends who have switched names, or careers, or genders on me, and in all the cases where I’ve kept that in mind it’s made everything much smoother than it otherwise could have been.

  8. (2) The hotel booking link on the Westercon 76 site was broken when initially posted, but it’s working now. I was able to make my reservation at the convention rate.

  9. I was unable to get to the Western booking information through their website so I will keep this 770 for a while

  10. In 1950, a U.S. Army psyops officer named Paul Linebarger used a pseudonym to publish a science-fiction story titled “Scanners Live in Vain” in a pulp magazine. It was about a man named Martel who works for the “deep state” in the far future as a mysterious “scanner,” or starship pilot, and whose mind is manipulated by evil bureaucrats. After a new technology called a “cranching wire” restores his true senses, he recognizes that his bosses within the government order a hit on anyone who challenges their control of space travel and the economy. Martel ultimately joins an insurrectionary movement aimed at overthrowing the regime.


    The character of Martel clearly resembles a Propaganda Man; the cranching wire might be the antenna on his radio, tuning in to agitprop vehicles like Voice of America that inspire him to resist his despotic overlords.

    That didn’t sound quite like the story as I remember it, so I dusted off my copy* and read it again, and it still seems like a reach. I can’t say it’s actually wrong, but it’s not a very good fit either: less of an insightful reading and more like taking a preconceived idea and attempting to force the story into it. Martel doesn’t join an insurrectionary movement: there isn’t any movement to join, and he acts entirely on his own. Is the “deep state” meant to be the Instrumentality or the Scanners, who maintain a sweet monopoly on space travel but resemble a fraternity more than a government? The cranching wire is not new technology but has been around long enough to be imbedded into ritual. I could go on.

    * Cartoons like to show people blowing the dust off books but trust me, a microfiber cloth works much better.

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