Pixel Scroll 5/13/24 Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Pixel Was In

(1) RAPHAEL HYTHLODAEUS’ UTOPIA. Go back to where Utopia began in “Utopian Realism, a speech by Bruce Sterling”.

…So, Thomas More and Peter Gillis are in this private home, avoiding actual work. They enjoy many free-wheeling, private, intellectual discussions, which are all about law, and justice, and business, and economics, and politics, and the general state of the world.

These two intellectuals agree that the state of the world is pretty terrible. Clearly the real world is quite bad, it’s not a Utopia at all. In fact the first part of the book “Utopia” is pretty much all dystopia. It’s about how bad things are in Europe, and it’s rather realistic too — these are grim assessments.

So, Thomas More and Peter Gillis, while discussing the world together, decide to invent this wandering scholar named Raphael Hythlodaeus. The wise and learned Raphael can speak Latin and Greek, just like they do — but Raphael has been to a country where everything works.

Peter Gillis even invents a Utopian alphabet, and he writes some poetry in the language of Utopia — just to demonstrate that he can play this fun Utopian game with his guest Thomas More.

Peter Gillis is willing to cooperate. He even pretends to personally introduce Thomas More to Raphael Hythlodaeus.

In the book, Raphael appears, and he starts talking. He recites the entire story of Utopia. Raphael speaks the book “Utopia,” aloud. It’s 30,000 words of text, so Raphael recites this book in one long afternoon. It’s a three and a half hour lecture, and Thomas More writes it all down.

However, it’s somehow not boring. It’s a brilliant, world-class lecture, because Raphael Hythlodaeus is quite an amazing guy. Raphael doesn’t look rich or famous. Basically, he looks like a sailor. He’s got a long beard, and he’s kind of weatherbeaten. He’s a long-haired wanderer in beat-up old clothes…

(2) WHO FELL? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired a dramatisation of a mid-twentieth century classic The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963) by Walter Tevis. This was made famous beyond the SF book-reading community with the 1976 UK film starring starman David Bowie as the man himself from a dying world who comes to Earth for help and who uses his knowledge to create a techno-industry to fund his own space mission home, but whom the authorities rumble and capture…

This 1-hour radio play co-stars Doctor Who’s northern incarnation, Christopher Eccleston (also known for the apocalyptic 28 Days Later and a bit-part in the US series Heroes among much else) as Bryce. Harry Treadaway stars as Thomas Newton.

Prior to the radio play there was a separate introductory programme that most interestingly includes an audio clip of an interview with Tevis himself. This reveals that the story is as much about alcoholism: a man struggling to cope in a strange, hostile world, separated from his family.

“The Man Who Fell to Earth by American writer Walter Tevis was published in 1963. Unlike most sci-fi of its time, it’s not about space, far-off galaxies or a distant future, but set only a decade or so from the time of writing.”

I was unaware that a few years later Tevis modified the novel to include a reference to ‘Watergate’ but that (apparently (I’ve not read it)) this was unnecessary for the core of the story. Here’s  the BBC descriptor for the play…

“The classic novel that spawned the acclaimed film starring David Bowie, from the writer of The Queen’s Gambit and The Hustler.

An alien arrives in Kentucky with five years to save the handful of survivors of his dying planet, and to save humanity from itself. Calling himself Thomas Newton, his plan is to use his race’s advanced technology to make millions, and then build a spaceship to bring the last of his people to live on Earth.

But Newton begins to doubt his purpose, and finds himself unable to cope with the emotional weight of being human. He finds solace with two fellow outsiders – cheery functioning alcoholic Betty-Jo, who falls quietly in love with him, and widowed scientist Nathan Bryce, who tracks him down after recognising his tech as impossible.

Little do they realise that the Government are watching…”

You can download the introduction as an MP3 here.

You can download the play as an MP3 here.

(3) BAFTA TV AWARDS 2024. There was only one winner of genre interest in last night’s BAFTA TV Awards 2024.

REALITY

  • Squid Game: The Challenge Production Team – Studio Lambert, The Garden / Netflix

In contrast, there were many genre winners when the 2024 BAFTA Television Craft Awards were previously announced on April 28.

(4) QUIRINO AWARDS. Animation Magazine reports the winners of the “Quirino Awards: ‘Robot Dreams,’ ‘Jasmine & Jambo,’ ‘Lulina and the Moon’”.

The Ibero-American Animation Quirino Awards closed its seventh edition with the awards ceremony on Saturday. Streamed worldwide, the Tenerife event was swept by animation from Spain, which won five of the 10 awards….

7th Quirino Awards Winners

  • Best Feature Film – Robot Dreams by Pablo Berger. Arcadia Motion Pictures, Lokiz Films, Noodles Prod., Les films du Worso (Spain, France).
  • Best Series – Jasmine & Jambo – Season 2 by Sílvia Cortés. Teidees Audiovisuals, Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals, with the participation of IB3 (Televisió de les illes Balears), Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals (Spain).
  • Best Short Film – Lulina and the Moo by Marcus Vinicius Vasconcelos and Alois Di Leo. Estudio Teremim (Brazil).
  • Best Animation School Short Film – The Leak by Paola Cubillos. KASK & Conservatorium Hogeschool Gent, Vrije Universiteit Brussels (Belgium, Colombia).
  • Best Commissioned Animation – In the Stars by Gabriel Osorio. Punkrobot Studio, Lucasfilm (Chile, US).
  • Best Music Video – SIAMÉS “All the Best” by Pablo Roldán. Rudo Company (Argentina).
  • Best Video Game Animation – The Many Pieces of Mr Coo directed by Nacho Rodríguez. Developed by Gammera Nest (Spain).
  • Best Visual Development – Sultana’s Dream by Isabel Herguera. Abano Producións, El Gatoverde Producciones, UniKo Estudio Creativo, Sultana Films, Fabian&Fred (Spain, Germany).
  • Best Animation Design – Cold Soup by Marta Monteiro. Animais AVPL, La Clairière Ouest (Portugal, France).
  • Best Sound Design and Original Music – Robot Dreams by Pablo Berger. Arcadia Motion Pictures, Lokiz Films, Noodles Production, Les films du Worso (Spain, France).

(5) FURRY STEM. “Furries, Neurodivergence, and STEM: Finding Your Path from Zero to One to One Billion” is Furries at Berkeley’s inaugural Furry Masterclass event, the first in a series of talks featuring prominent academic voices from within the furry community.

This talk is hosted by the fantastic Dr. David “Spottacus” Benaron! Spottacus is an inventor, entrepreneur, biochemist, a founding editorial board member of the Journal of Biomedical Optics, and a former professor at Stanford University. Among his achievements are the invention of the green light heart sensor, the first in vivo imaging of light-emitting genes, and the multispectral wearable optical sensor for tracking hemoglobin and hydration levels. Last year, Spottacus won a lifetime achievement award in biomedical optical physics from the International Society for Optics and Photonics. Spottacus is also a furry; a member of a community based upon the appreciation of anthropomorphic animals, featuring all kinds of creative self-expression. While furry has long been the target of misinterpretation and vitriol, folks like Spottacus show that fandom engagement and living outside the box can be boons rather than limitations. Spottacus’ talk explores his personal experiences with; as well as the intersections between; his career in STEM, the furry fandom, and neurodivergence.

(6) SFF FILMS THAT PASS MUSTER. BGR conducts a roll call of “The best sci-fi movies ever, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

Celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has never been shy about expressing his opinion about movies on X/Twitter — and, specifically, weighing in as to whether they got the scientific elements right or not. On a recent episode of his show StarTalk, meanwhile, he decided to actually share a detailed list of the sci-fi movies that he thinks are the best of the best, detailing what they got right, what they missed the mark on, and why some of them are so good that they deserve a “hall pass” for any errors….

These are two of the films on his list:

The Martian (2015): Tyson describes this one, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars, as “the most scientifically accurate movie I’ve ever witnessed.”

The Blob (1958): Reaching deep into the past for this one, Tyson gives this old-school creature feature high marks because of the way it imagines aliens looking amoeba-like — totally different, in other words, from almost every other movie in which you see an alien depicted as something like a little green man.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. (Died 1995.)

By Paul Weimer: The author that got me into Science Fiction and Fantasy? Maybe.  My first science fiction and fantasy was Asimov (I,Robot), Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles) and Tolkien (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings).  But it was Roger Zelazny who really made it stick. Sure, I read more of Asimov, and I tried to read The Silmarillion and failed, but it was reading Nine Princes in Amber and its sequels that really convinced me to get on the endless road through shadow to seek out other science fiction and fantasy. 

It is ironic that for a writer best known for his short stories that I started with, and for a while stuck with, Zelazny’s novels. After Amber came Jack of ShadowsDeus IraeDilvish the DamnedLord of Light and others. 

Roger Zelazny

If I had to point a single novel at a reader for Zelazny, I would go with Jack of ShadowsJack of Shadows does a lot of things that the second Amber series tries to do (and not always successfully) . And I have mentioned before and elsewhere science fantasy IS my jam. How can I resist a novel where the dayside of the Earth is run on science, and the darkside is run on magic? 

 It took me a while to actually find and delve into the short fiction that everyone had raved about.  The Last Defender of Camelot was the first collection of his I read, and then I started hunting his stories in “Best of” collections and other anthologies, and started filling in hjs oeuvre and trying to read all of his work. 

This is a process that continues to this day. 

Reading the NESFA collections of Roger Zelazny, which I have been reviewing here at File 770, I have realized how much of the Zelazny stories I have missed, and how much, for even the author that got me into SF and Fantasy, I still have a lot to learn about. My love for Roger Zelazny and his work is a lifelong journey. I suppose in theory there will come a day where I can say I have read all of Zelazny’s work. Someday. 

There are always surprises. I remember reading and liking a story in an old anthology of “best stories” that, much to my surprise, I only recently learned was a Zelazny story. (“The Game of Blood and Dust”). Zelazny continues to delight me.

But why do I like Zelazny’s work in the first place?  Even long before I picked up a camera, I’ve always been interested in imagery, in capturing moments. Zelazny captures these moments, that imagery, those scenes that resonate in my mind. Those moments captured, that lovely writing demands my attention. From Corwin walking down the stairs to Rebma, to Jack coming back from the death at the eastern pole of the world, to the Tristan and Isolde imagery of The Dream Master, to Hellwell in Lord of Light. And on, and on, and on. 

And such well drawn characters in often very limited space. They are often driven, and yes, the women very often have green eyes and red hair. (Zelazny had a type, you see) but I see that as feature, not bug. And yes, too many of them smoked, and that helped take him from us way way too soon. I never got to meet him, much to my sorrow. (He, Pratchett and Banks are three of my regrets in that regard). Dilvish the Damned, particularly comes across as a character we learn in bursts, in small bits of backstory and worldbuilding. (Also a lot of Zelazny’s characters are driven, almost to obsession.  They are passionate and seize things by the horns, and sometimes get the horns as a result.

But, finally, what other SFF author has written properties that I’ve mined and run roleplaying games out of for three decades, after all? Long live the work of Roger Zelazny.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld has been busy again.

(9) IT’S A WRAP. “’The Mummy’ at 25: Director on Brendan Fraser, Dwayne Johnson, Reboot” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Brendan has talked about doing some of his own stunts, during which he endured some bumps and scrapes.

We had a great stunt team, but Brendan [Fraser] is a big, tough guy, and he was younger back then. We kind of beat the crap out of him. Everybody talks about the scene when he gets hung. Usually when somebody gets hung, it’s a dummy, and that’s why they put bags over people’s heads. Brendan was always gung-ho, and he was like, “Make the noose really tight on me.” Then he decided to let his knees sag a little bit. But what he forgot is that the minute you put that much pressure on your carotid arteries, it knocks you out. We all looked, and he’s completely unconscious. It was fine, and he recovered in 10 seconds. But he woke up like, “What happened?”

(10) AGATHA UPDATE, MAYBE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “What the Heck Is Happening With Marvel Studios’ Agatha Show?” asks Gizmodo. The studio must be telling them it’s “Narnia business!”

The fact that a show about a devious witch has us so confused feels completely on brand. It started back in late 2021 when Marvel revealed it was working on a WandaVision spinoff series focused on Kathryn Hahn’s breakout character, Agatha Harkness. Since then, the show has had at least four publicly announced titles, with a possible fifth revealed in the most Agatha of ways. All of which (witch?) is to say, what the heck is happening?

The first title revealed back in 2021 was Agatha: House of Harkness. A few months later, at Comic-Con 2022, that was changed to AgathaCoven of Chaos. A year or so after that, it became AgathaDarkhold Diaries. Finally, earlier this year, it became just plain Agatha. You’d imagine it couldn’t change again (unless, of course, Marvel finally goes with the always-best choice Agatha All Along) but that may not be the case. Monday morning, the official Marvel Studios account tweeted a new Agatha title which was deleted only minutes later. The title was Agatha: The Lying Witch With Great Wardrobe….

(11) SPACE MINING. Ars Technica tells how “In the race for space metals, companies hope to cash in”. If they can get their tech to work.

…Potential applications of space-mined material abound: Asteroids contain metals like platinum and cobalt, which are used in electronics and electric vehicle batteries, respectively. Although there are plenty of these materials on Earth, they can be more concentrated on asteroids than mountainsides, making them easier to scrape out. And scraping in space, advocates say, could cut down on the damaging impacts that mining has on this planet. Space-resource advocates also want to explore the potential of other substances. What if space ice could be used for spacecraft and rocket propellant? Space dirt for housing structures for astronauts and radiation shielding?…

… To further the company’s goals, AstroForge’s initial mission was loaded with simulated asteroid material and a refinery system designed to extract platinum from the simulant, to show that metal-processing could happen in space.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned. After the small craft got to orbit, it was hard to identify and communicate with among the dozens of other newly launched satellites. The solar panels, which provide the spacecraft with power, wouldn’t deploy at first. And the satellite was initially beset with a wobble that prevented communication. They have not been able to do the simulated extraction.

The company will soon embark on a second mission, with a different goal: to slingshot to an asteroid and take a picture — a surveying project which may help the company understand which valuable materials exist on a particular asteroid….

(12) TO AIR IS HUMAN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This Earth-like exoplanet is the first confirmed to have an atmosphere. “‘Milestone’ discovery as JWST confirms atmosphere on an Earth-like exoplanet” in Nature. This is an important milestone in exo-planet astronomy.  55 Cancri e is too hot to support life as we know it, but could provide clues about Earth’s formation.

 Astronomers say that they have used the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to detect for the first time an atmosphere surrounding a rocky planet outside the Solar System1. Although this planet cannot support life as we know it, in part because it is probably covered by a magma ocean, scientists might learn something from it about the early history of Earth — which is also a rocky planet and was once molten.

Finding a gaseous envelope around an Earth-like planet is a big milestone in exoplanet research, says Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who was not involved with the research. Earth’s thin atmosphere is crucial for sustaining life, and being able to spot atmospheres on similar terrestrial planets is an important step in the search for life beyond the Solar System.

Primary research here (abstract only as rest is behind a pay wall).

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at the Media Death Cult  YouTube channel has had a look at a book by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, who was married to the Duke William Cavendish.  One of her books inspired Alan Moore…

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


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21 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/13/24 Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Pixel Was In

  1. (10) I’m glad someone over at Marvel can still be deliberately funny

  2. First!!! (or Not)

    One of the early Balticon’s was saved by Roger Zelazny. The Hotel needed a Credit Card to hold the function space reservation and no one in BSFS had a Credit Card, except Zelazny who at that time worked for the Social Security Administration in the Baltimore Area, so he used his Credit Card to ensure the reservation of the Hotel Function Space, which was paid for in Cash after the con.

  3. 6) So if Neil DeGrasse Tyson can praise Interstellar, the least he can do for us is to explain the movie’s ending! At least Arrival played fair with its rules.

  4. 7) I grew up going to Bubonicon in Albuquerque, and Zelazny was a regular there, doing readings and appearing on panels and giving one very memorable GOH speech. It was always a delight to hear him.

    On a tangent, when did GOH speeches stop being a thing? Or am I just going to the wrong conventions?

  5. (5) Couldn’t listen – far too fuzzy (furry) voice.
    (6) The ending was pushing it awfully far, for him to jump.
    Birthday: Zelazny. YES. I’m older, so I saw his earlier work first – Doors of His Face, Lamps of His Mouth, and on. Lord of Light, and Creatures of Light and Darkness I like the best, more than Amber. And smoking? Um, Gallup says it peaked in ’54, with 45% of everyone smoking.
    (10) Agatha? Oh, right, someone else than Agatha Heterodyne.
    (11) I still want us to capture Toutatis when it comes by, and put it into Earth orbit, for a real space station.
    (13) That was cool. Thanks for posting.

  6. Birthday — I once had a reading of A Night in the Lonesome October read by him acquired off a site of definitely less than legal standing.

    That file is long gone given that was decades back and was on a Mac computer than that no doubt wasn’t at the time properly backed up. Really great as I remember to hear him giving voice to those characters.

    Some other audiobooks of his were there such as My Name is Legion which are just now getting released on Audible over twenty years later.

  7. @JimJanney: Most of the cons I go to (real SF cons, no commercial crap) still give the GoH a chance to do a GoH speech, whether it’s billed that way or not. WisCons, in particular, have full-blown GoH speeches which haunt your memories for decades to come.

  8. 7) By coincidence, I just today finished reading Threshold, the first NESFA Zelazny short fiction collection (possibly inspired to pick it up by your reviews here, Paul). I read a fair number of his novels back in the day, but somehow had never really gotten into his short fiction; and boy, howdy, was I missing out.

    (And yes, I’ll be continuing on to further volumes, but not right away — this is the sort of thing that’s probably best spaced out some.)

  9. (6) Setting aside all the terrible astrophysics and planetary science in Interstellar, why would you possibly land on a planet where seven years go by on Earth for every hour you spend on the surface? (And why isn’t the ship that is orbiting the planet experiencing the same enormous time dilation factor?)

    (7) If I had to suggest just one Zelazny novel, I think it would be This Immortal (aka And Call Me Conrad), but I discovered Zelazny through his short fiction.

  10. Zelazny’s writing style is totally aces—such a joy to read—and I believe that he was one of the first and best authors to use context clues to communicate background information. Before authors like him, most SF tended to rely on infodumps to tell readers what was what. Using clues allow stories to speed up without infodumps slowing things down.

  11. I think it was in Call Me Conrad that he mentions one of my two favorite law firms: Roger, Wilco, O’Verr, and Aoud (the other, of course, is Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe).

  12. JimJ: don’t remember that, and I reread that last year – I have a novel that’s been through some beta reading, that I’m thinking of as early Zelazny meets Flandry of Terra….

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