Pixel Scroll 4/30/24 Hold Your Vibranium

(1) ANGELS IN SPITE OF AMERICA. It’s never too late to read Tobes TAFF Ting for the first time – the report of Tobes Valois’s westbound TAFF trip to the USA and the 2002 San Jose Worldcon (ConJosé) is the latest addition to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s library of free ebooks.

It consists partly of his own confession “extracted by torture” in a dramatic two-hour event at the 2005 UK Eastercon. Also included are campaign details, his online trip notes, eye-witness accounts of his doings in the USA, commentaries, photographs and artwork.

Cover artwork by Sue Mason.

(2) NEW HORROR. Gabino Iglesias’s New York Times review column “Alien Terrors, Vampire Conspiracies and More in 4 New Horror Books” discusses Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Oracle (Tor Nightfire, 376 pp., $29.99); C.J. Tudor’s The Gathering (Ballantine, 336 pp., $29); S.A. Barnes’s Ghost Station (Tor Nightfire, 377 pp., $27.99); and The Black Girl Survives In This One: Horror Stories (Flatiron, 354 pp., $19.99), edited by Desiree S. Evans and Saraciea J. Fennell.

(3) NO NEED TO STAY BETWEEN THE LINES. Hugo finalist The Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog has posted their contribution to the Hugo Voter Packet on Google Drive as a freely available download: UHBC Voter Packet 2024.pdf.

(4) WHEN YOU’RE YA AT HEART. “More than a quarter of readers of YA are over the age of 28 research shows” – the Guardian has details.

Young adult fiction such as The Hunger Games, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and the Heartstopper graphic novels might be aimed at teenagers – but new research has shown that more than a quarter of readers of YA in the UK are over the age of 28.

Research commissioned by publisher HarperCollins, in collaboration with Nielsen Book, the UK book industry’s data provider, suggests that a growing number of adult readers have been reading YA fiction since 2019. According to the report, 74% of YA readers were adults, and 28% were over the age of 28. The research suggests this is due to behavioural changes described as “emerging adulthood”: young people growing up more slowly and delaying “adult” life. The feelings of instability and “in-betweenness” this can cause has led to young adults seeking solace in young adult fiction – and for some these books remain a source of comfort as they grow older….

(5) BEST NEW BOOKS FOR KIDS AND TEENS. And for the rest of us. The Guardian’s Kitty Empire delivers a “Children’s and teens roundup – the best new chapter books”.

Lauren Child brings a light touch to big issues [with Smile], Elle McNicoll explores autism – and a secret society is at work in Paris’s sewers [Keedie],

The column also reviews The Wrong Shoes written and illustrated by Tom Percival,  The Whisperwicks: The Labyrinth of Lost and Found by Jordan Lees, Piu DasGupta’s debut, Secrets of the Snakestone, and Yorick Goldewijk’s Movies Showing Nowhere, translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson.

(6) BSFA’S SF THEATRE COLUMNIST. Kat Kourbeti launches a new column on SF theatre titled Infinite Possibilities in the British Science Fiction Association’s critical journal Vector, starting with the latest issue.

The first iteration of the column tackles the current trends in UK theatre (and to a lesser extent Broadway), which see many well-known film IPs receive the musical treatment to varying degrees of success, and compares these trends to the last decade, during which time the UK had many original and thought provoking speculative theatre productions on the big stages across London and elsewhere.

Vector is available to all BSFA members in digital or print form. Articles and reviews of individual plays will also be appearing on the Vector website.

(7) BUT DID THEY GO IRONICALLY? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Remember the horribly failed Willy Wonka “Chocolate Experience” a while back in Scotland? Well, it has now spread to LA. Sort of. This time, however, there were no disappointed children, since children were not allowed at this THC-infused adult version. “Viral Glasgow Willy Wonka ‘Chocolate Experience’ inspires Los Angeles event” at NBC News.

Two months after a Willy Wonka-inspired “Chocolate Experience” in Scotland failed so spectacularly that it cemented itself in internet meme history, a similar event in Los Angeles attracted dozens of people hoping to take part in a re-creation of the absurd experience.

The original event in Glasgow, Scotland, had promised ticket buyers an immersive candy wonderland only to deliver a sparsely decorated warehouse. Faced with a crowd of crying children and shouting parents, the Fyre Fest-like event shuttered just halfway through the day.

“Willy’s Chocolate Experience LA”— organized by a collective of local artists unaffiliated with those behind the Glasgow event — had a similar vibe. This time, however, attendees knew what they were signing up for.

Held in a worn-down warehouse embellished with a few candy cane props, the one-night only pop-up event stayed true to the underwhelming decor of the Glasgow event, complete with artificial intelligence-generated art. Attendees were even offered two complimentary jellybeans, just like in Glasgow.

… Scottish actor Kirsty Paterson — who became known as “Meth Lab Oompa Loompa” — was a key participant in the event. Also present was a local actor donning the persona of “The Unknown” — the random and slightly unsettling masked character who went viral for scaring the children who attended.

This Los Angeles experience, however, was not catered to children. Attendees, who paid $44 per ticket, mingled and laughed with one another as they consumed THC-infused cotton candy, Oompa Loompa-themed cocktails and some not-so-PG on-stage performances….



[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 86.

By Paul Weimer: One could write a whole book about his early work, but I am here today on his birthday to discuss his later work, what I read of it anyway. Niven, like a number of writers, became less and less aligned with the kinds of SFF I was interested in as time goes by, but he lasted longer than many. 

Take The Burning City.  Years after The Magic Goes Away stories (still some of the best sword and sorcery out there), Niven teamed up with Jerry Pournelle to write a novel set in The Magic Goes Away verse.  It’s set in a version of Los Angeles in the distant prehistoric past, a Los Angeles that occasionally burns down again and again (Fire Gods are so temperamental).  Some of the magic of Niven, and some of the magic of the Niven and Pournelle combination, are here. Other things feel a lot like men shouting at clouds. (A group of antagonists clearly meant to be the IRS, for example, feels like leaden and unwanted political point making).  But the brilliance of Niven sometimes shines through.

Larry Niven, Steve Barnes and Jerry Pournelle at the LA Annual Paperback Show in 2015. Photo by Alex Pournelle. Used by permission.

Rainbow Mars is a book whose contents are published in the wrong order. The titular work is a novella, one of the Svetz series and a capstone to the stories of his time traveler going back in time and winding up tangling with all sorts of supernatural creatures. In Rainbow Mars, he winds up dealing with a number of different SFF Martian landscapes and creatures, and a world-killing Yddgrasil. But this novella is first in the book, and then the rest of the Svetz stories come after it.  It is my opinion that is the absolute wrong way to appreciate what Niven is doing in the Svetz stories and his cleverness is wasted thereby. 

Finally, a few words about Achilles’ Choice. Co Written with Steven Barnes, Achilles’ Choice is the story of Jillian.  In a world where winning Olympic medals means personal power, and where winning Olympic medals means taking a drug that, if not managed afterwards (expensively),  means death, the devil’s choice of the title becomes clear right away and is a Niven novel which runs on theme more than anything. Is it better to have an obscure, low life, safe and cossetted, or to risk greatly, in the hopes of getting great glory. Jillian of course goes for the latter, just as Achilles did, and the unfolding of that choice runs through the novel. It may be a standalone “lesser” Niven, but I think him and Barnes team up here as well as they did in the first couple of Dream Park novels. 

Happy Birthday, Larry Niven!


(11) ALIEN EARTHS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Arguably one of SF’s commonest tropes is alien life.  So this week’s BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week is of interest, it being on Alien Earths. “Book of the Week: Episode 1 – Are we alone in the cosmos?”

Lisa Kaltenegger, the astronomer and world-leading expert in the search for life on faraway worlds takes us on a mind-bending journey through the cosmos, asking, are we alone? Pippa Nixon reads.

Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger’s eye-opening guide to the cosmos uses Earth’s diverse biosphere as a template to search for life on other planets beyond our galaxy. Working with a team of tenacious scientists from a variety of disciplines she has come up with an ingenious toolkit to identify possible life forms on planets far from Earth. Her enthusiasm and her expertise in the newest technological advances reveal the possibilities for whole new worlds. Perhaps, she muses aliens might be out there gazing back at us.

Lisa Kaltenegger is the Founding Director of the Carl Sagan Institute to Search for Life in the Cosmos at Cornell University. She is a pioneer and world-leading expert in modelling potential habitable worlds . She is a Science Team Member of NASA’s TESS mission and the NIRISS instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope. The recipient of numerous international prizes and awards, including a European Commission Role Model for Women of Science and Research, she was named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian Magazine. Asteroid Kaltenegger7734 is named after her.

(12) FALLOUT TV ADAPTATION PERFORMANCE. JustWatch’s new graphic covers TV shows based on popular video games. Amazon Prime is the latest streaming platform to find success with Fallout, their latest production and one of the most anticipated releases of 2024, and JustWatch wanted to see how it stacks up against similar adaptations. 

Developments relevant to this report include Amazon’s release of Fallout, as well as HBO Max’s runaway hit, The Last of Us, and Paramount’s Halo

Key Insights:

  • All 3 adaptations have IMDb scores higher than 7, even though they vary in first week success
  • Even though The Last of Us was a runaway success, “Fallout” has still managed to dominate the global market during its first week of availability 
  • Even though Fallout is more popular, The Last of Us has a higher rating on IMDb 

The report was created by pulling data from the week following the release of Fallout, and compared it to other video game adaptation titles with similar themes. JustWatch Streaming Charts are calculated by user activity, including: clicking on a streaming offer, adding a title to a watchlist, and marking a title as ‘seen’. This data is collected from >40 million movie & TV show fans per month. It is updated daily for 140 countries and 4,500 streaming services.

(13) EVERYBODY MUST GET STONED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Even Rolling Stones (no, not those Stones) can be spaceflight fans. While visiting Houston to kick off their latest tour, the Stones’ Mick Jagger made a visit to the Johnson Space Center. “Mick Jagger visits Johnson Space Center as Rolling Stones kick off nationwide tour” at Good Morning America.

… The collection of photos Jagger shared on Instagram showed the 80-year-old rock star exploring various parts of the station and posing in front of a sign in a control center that read “Welcome to Mission Control Mick Jagger” with his face in the center of the sign.

In another photo, Jagger peers down at his hands using what appears to be a virtual reality headset. The photo collection also includes shots of the music legend posing inside what appears to be an equipped spacecraft….

(14) USING EVERYTHING INCLUDING THE OINK. In the Guardian:  “’We used pig squeals to create their shriek’ … how we made Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (the 1978 version).

… You see a banjo player on the street with his dog a few times – the music was played by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. Later we see the dog has the banjo player’s face – the result of Donald’s character striking the pod they were sleeping next to and causing an organic accident – man and beast have become one. For that effect, the dog was wearing a mask. We smeared something sweet on the front so its tongue came out through the mouth.

Ben Burtt, who had done the sound design for Star Wars, created the shriek made by the pods when they identify someone who’s still human, mixing pig squeals with other organic sounds….

(15) INCIPIENT DINO CHOW. “Jenna Ortega Exit Confirmed In ‘Jurassic World: Chaos Theory’ Trailer” says Deadline.

Netflix has dropped the official trailer for Jurassic World: Chaos Theory, the animated follow-up sequel series to Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, and there’s one name that is conspicuously missing. Jenna Ortega, who voiced Brooklynn in Camp Creatceous, is not listed in the voice cast for Chaos Theory, or seen in the trailer, and we’ve confirmed she will not be returning for the new series. Chaos Theory picks up with Brooklynn seemingly killed by a dinosaur attack. According to Ben (Sean Giambrone), she was targeted, and the other members of the Nublar Six are now in danger…

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Paul Weimer, Kat Kourbeti, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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22 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/30/24 Hold Your Vibranium

  1. And I find having his assistance in doing the Birthdays is most invaluable. Of course, it gets him chocolate, I think the last such gifting was salt dark chocolate truffles if I remember right.

  2. Chocolate is a fine thing to get.

    I have performed magic. Cider actually comes to me when she sees I’m preparing her antibiotic syringe. In lieu of chocolate, she gets a liver treat afterward.

    (9) So, lesser but mostly enjoyable Niven.

  3. (4) Or maybe they read the news, and they’ve read horror, and far too much dystopia that nobody gets out of, and they DON’T WANT ANY MORE. (And maybe they don’t want “character driven”, they want a story with a happy ending.

  4. (4) well, I’m a good deal over 28, but that didn’t stop me really liking Novik’s Scholomance trilogy.
    (6) they’re right; the West End is full of musicals based on movies I saw a long time ago: Dirty Dancing, Sister Act, Mrs Doubtfire … Almost 15 years of cuts to arts funding are definitely felt.

  5. 9) I liked Archilles Choice, mostly because of thepremise, that is still relevant in discussions regarding doping etc. I also learned that there were more tah the two dream parl novels Ive read (probably because Ive read them when I still was reading the translated works and I dont think there are German versions of the others – or maybe I missed them).

  6. Paul Auster died. Im sad, I really loved his books (some of which were clearly genre)

  7. (9) Happy Birthday Larry!

    “Pak up your Pixels in an old Scrith bag and smile, smile, smile”

  8. I read The Burning City and wasn’t entirely impressed… the right-wing political rhetoric was quite obtrusive (apparently, the sinking of Atlantis was down to socialism), but that wasn’t my main problem. My main problem was that the storyline, which is basically “kid from the wrong side of the tracks makes good and winds up running his own road haulage company”, while uplifting and inspirational and all that, seems a little inadequate as the foundation for the myth of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent. In UK terms, it’s like claiming Eddie Stobart is the Second Coming of Christ.

  9. @peer: Paul Auster died. Damn. I also very much admired his fiction.

    @mark: I take it you haven’t read the Hunger Games trilogy; a happy ending it is not.

  10. 4.) Or perhaps the preference for YA is because that’s what is being sold by the big publishers right now.

    (Still muttering about opening the Tordotcom promotional email today to find that all but one book being promoted is a coming-of-age story or featuring early twenty-somethings. I want to read about adults, please, especially older adults, and yes, that means character-driven. Which does not eliminate a happy ending…and if anyone thinks YA means happy endings…)

  11. (4) I’m an adult who has read a lot of YA. (And to those who insult me for that, I respond with a very adult Phhhhhbbbbtttt.)

    On the other hand, the large number of adults reading YA may have created another issue. Many experts (such as librarians, booksellers, and authors) point out that this phenomenon is resulting in too many YA books aimed at adult readers — and it’s driving teens away from reading YA. It’s also making it harder for people to find YA books suitable for relunctant readers — and that means those readers are less likely to get turned on to reading.

    More recently, someone (a teacher IIRC) pointed out on social media that this was happening in middle grade books (books aimed at 8-12 year olds) as well. There are fewer short books that can attract reluctant readers. Also, writing styles in many current middle grade books are less likely to be attractive to new and reluctant readers. She was attacked for saying this, but others later came to her defense.

    (9) Ringworld was one of the most memorable SF books I read in high school. I’m tempted with “Achilles’ Choice” because Steven Barnes is involved. 🙂

  12. WRT #9 and Larry Niven.

    He famously said “There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is “idiot”.”

    I’ve read that soap opera actors who play villains have been accosted in the street because of what their character did.
    I’m also quite sure that Agatha Christie (among many others) probably didn’t test out her poisons on her annoying relatives.

  13. @Teresa Peschel — “Niven’s Law” is quoted by S. M. Stirling in the front matter of Conquistador. I wonder where he got it from.

  14. 4) I was 35 when Harry Potter came out, soooo…

    9) Saw N&P at DragonCon several years ago; Jerry sadly passed away a few days later.

  15. Notice that Niven didn’t say a word about characters set up to be straw men, or other forms of authorial scale-thumbing, not that this is in any way limited to books by Niven and/or Pournelle.

  16. And advancing a point of view, or simply making fun of people you don’t like, is a time-honored privilege of writers everywhere. The trick is not to let it become heavy-handed or get in the way of the story.

    “I’ve got a little list, and they’d none of them be missed.”

  17. Thanks for the title!
    This makes me wonder, is there a filk/sf version of Lehrer’s THE ELEMENTS incorporating (or consisting only of) sf/f/comic elements, eg, off the top of my head,
    (ignoring the possibility that some of these are multi-element alloys, etc):

  18. Bill asks Stirling in the front matter of Conquistador. I wonder where he got it from.

    I’m reasonably it’s in a short story collection and is in response to an individual that asked if he had done something that truly horrible as that was the only way that a character could possibly be written that real.

    I think the story itself was about a man who convinces a carjacker he’s going to crash the car making the person jump out of the car while it’s still moving out at a high rate of speed.

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