Pixel Scroll 12/8/22 By The Scrolling Of My Thumbs, Something Pixeled This Way Comes

(1) PETER WATTS Q&A. Media Death Cult’s Moid Moidelhoff hosts Peter Watts in “The Big Interview”.

Peter Watts is a Canadian marine biologist who also writes awesome science fiction stories. We talked for about three hours, we will do it again.

(2) KNOW YOUR COMICS. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The most recent LearnedLeague match day had a question that was at least SF-adjacent. 

The DC Comics superheroes Kid Flash, Robin, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl were the four original members of what superhero team, which has included countless other members over the years including (recently) Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy?

The answer is “the Teen Titans”. Get rate was 50%, with the most common wrong answer (7% of answers) being “the Justice League”.

(3) OCTOTHORPE. The confession “I’m Not A Fan In The Way John Is” is the title of the Octothorpe podcast’s 72nd episode. But who’s confessing?

John Coxon isn’t gambling, Alison Scott isn’t reading, and Liz Batty doesn’t care. We discuss semiprozines quite a lot, mostly by accident (we might have to revisit that again sometime.) Oh, and we briefly touch on Andor, but we don’t say much.

(4) THE GAME’S AFOOT. ‘Sherlock Holmes in Oz’ and others’: The Sherlockian Writings of Ruth Berman, published by the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota (December 2022, 110 pages) is available from the Norwegian Explorers, c/o Phil Bergen, 3829 179 Ave NW, Andover MN 55304-1820. $11.00, which includes postage.

The Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota is a “scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, dedicated to keeping green the memory of the Master, Sherlock Holmes, and honoring his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

Berman, an award-winning sff poet, was also a 1968 nominee for Best Fan Writer.

(5) MAJOR STATHOPOULOS PORTRAIT EXHIBIT. Blue Mountains Cultural Center in Australia has put up a webpage for its forthcoming exhibit “The Semblance of Things: portraits by Nick Stathopoulos”, running from February 4-April 2, 2023. It’s always exciting to see his achievements recognized, since along the way Nick’s work for sff publications has garnered 10 Ditmar Awards and a Hugo nomination.

The Semblance of Things is a comprehensive survey of Nick Stathopoulos’ portraits from the past 30 years documenting the evolution of his hyper-real style. The artist delves beneath the painted surface to reveal psychological insights into the subject, beyond the superficial likeness often expected of portraiture.  As well as the curated selection of portraits, the exhibition includes archival photographs, sketchbooks, and video clips. Subjects include celebrities Isla Fisher, David Stratton, Barry Crocker, Shaun Tan, Grahame Bond (Aunty Jack), Mr. Squiggle, and many more. This is the first time these portraits have been exhibited together, with works ranging in scale from the blockbuster Archibald finalists to more intimate and personal work.

(6) RALPH ROBERTS (1945-2021). [Item by Steven H Silver.] Ralph Roberts (b.1945) died on June 24, 2021. Roberts was the author of The Hundred-Acre Spaceship and from 1995-2012 ran Farthest Star Publishing (which mostly seems to have published works by Mike Resnick).

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1952 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robin Hood statue, Castle Place, Nottingham

Continuing our look at statues of fantasy characters, we now have the Robin Hood statue at Castle Place.

The statue was commissioned by local businessman, Philip E. F. Clay to provide a landmark that recognized Nottingham’s connection with the world-famous folk hero. Nottingham-born and resident Royal Academy sculptor James Woodford was chosen to design and cast the statue at a cost of a rather princely sum of five thousand pounds. 

Though it’s not visible to the eye, Robin Hood is actually in eight pieces as a single piece statue would have been way too exorbitant to cast. 

As I just noted, the figure was cast in eight pieces of half-inch thick bronze like the Rudyard Kipling statue we were talking about last Scroll,  and stands in a traditional archer’s pose on a two-and-half ton block of white Clipsham stone.

Extensive research was done by Woodford to understand what historians believed the stocky-built medieval foresters of the period would look like, but he made one change that upset a Hell of a lot of individuals. And still does seventy years later.

They expected Robin Hood to have the triangular pointed hat with a long feather which Errol Flynn had in his film role, so the statue’s authentic headgear of a woodsman’s leather skull cap did not go down well at all. 

They originally planned to place it in the roadway at the top of Castle Road but the realization dawned that that traffic and congestion would be a nightmare as everyone stopped to look at it. 

The statue was officially presented to the city to commemorate the visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on June 28, 1949, during Nottingham’s quincentenary celebrations. Keep in mind that actually it wasn’t actually completed and installed until three years later.

The statue was finally unveiled on July 24, 1952, by the Duchess of Portland on the specially-prepared lawn beneath the walls of Nottingham Castle. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Director of A Trip To The Moon which I know was one of Kage Baker’s most-liked films. It surely must be one of the earliest genre films and also one of the most visually iconic with the rocket ship stuck in the face of the moon. He did some other genre shorts such as Baron Munchausen’s Dreamand The Legend of Rip Van Winkle. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E.C.Segar. Creator of Popeye who of course is genre. Who could not watch Altman’s film and not know that? Segar created the character who first appeared in 1929 in his comic strip Thimble Theatre. Fantagraphics has published a six-volume book set reprinting all Thimble Theatre daily and Sunday strips from 1928–38. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker,72. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London. So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The ExorcistStar WarsThe Howling which I love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the Beauty and the Beast series and Hellboy. 
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 71. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. He won a World Fantasy Award for his editing of Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Stories about Stories: Fantasy & the Remaking of Myth.
  • Born December 8, 1954 Rebecca Neason. She wrote a Next Generation novel, Guises of The Mind, plus several Highlander novels, and two fantasy novels; her widower says one novel went unpublished. She was a regular panelist at conventions in the Pacific Northwest. Jim Fiscus has a remembrance here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 8, 1957 Laura J. Mixon, 65. She won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer at Sasquan. She has written a number of excellent novels including Glass Houses and Up Against It which got an Otherwise nomination. She is married to SF writer Steven Gould, with whom she co-wrote the novel Greenwar.
  • Born December 8, 1965 David Harewood57. First genre appearance is the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North (Billie Piper plays the lead). He played Tuck in the BBC’s Robin Hood series and showed up as Joshua Naismith in Doctor Who’s ‘The End of Time’ episode. He played two separate characters on Supergirl, J’onnJ’onzz/Martian Manhunter / Hank Henshaw and Cyborg Superman. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Least I Could Do suspects a skill you’re using right now will become extinct.
  • Bizarro has another example of fans getting ahead of creators.  
  • Candorville has a romantic “miss you more” exchange, couched in sff terms.

(10) THREE, NOT FIVE. Camestros Felapton shares his “Review: Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky”. Beware mild spoilers.

Tchaikovsky’s third book in the Children of Time series continues to build up the series about deep time and sapience with another tale of mysterious planets, lost colonies and nature of intelligence and identity.

As with the previous novels, the story is technically a stand-alone story but the depth of the background to the events sits within the previous two stories. Each novel adds to and expands the evolving space-faring culture around whom these stories take place….

(11) BLAST OFF! Dreams of Space takes us back to a Fifties magazine’s answer to “Will your child visit the Moon?” in Women’s Day -August (1953) Part 1”. The article is reproduced at the link.

Women’s Day magazine also got involved in the spaceflight fad in the early 1950s. This 1953 (August) issue had a number of space related articles including: Will Your Child Visit The Moon? The article makes the case to the mothers of America that travel into space and the Moon is possible. It lays out the current development of spaceflight and how it will evolve. Not a lot of illustrations for all this text but a most interesting article in an unlikely place….

(12) OR MAYBE ALIVE IN A DIFFERENT FORM. “Wonder Woman 3 Dead: Patty Jenkins Script Rejected” reports Cosmic Book News.

…The report comes from THR who reports how Wonder Woman 3 is not moving forward as the DC movies have hit a turning point.

Worth a mention is that just yesterday saw Gal Gadot tweet about playing Wonder Woman, which was liked on Twitter by the new co-head of the DCU, James Gunn.

“A few years ago it was announced that I was going to play Wonder Woman. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to play such an incredible, iconic character and more than anything I’m grateful for YOU. The fans. Can’t wait to share her next chapter with you,” tweeted Gadot.

It’s unknown if Gal Gadot knew about Wonder Woman 3 not moving forward prior to tweeting what she said, but it probably does seem likely that she knew about it as did James Gunn, so maybe Gadot is sticking around, as Gadot is rumored to appear in The Flash; however, more on that below….

(13) IN MEMORY YET GREENLAND. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] No, not an SF classic but this week’s Nature cover story.

The cover shows an artist’s impression of the rich ecosystem that existed in parts of northern Greenland some 2 million years ago. The ecosystem is reconstructed from ancient DNA in this week’s issue by Eske Willerslev and colleagues. Working at the Kap København Formation in Peary Land, the researchers gathered sediment samples rich in organic material from 5 different geological sites. By extracting and sequencing DNA from these samples, they were able to piece together a picture of the flora and fauna present around 2 million years ago. The team found evidence of open boreal forest mixed with Arctic species such as cedar, spruce and birch, as well as signs of animals including hares, mastodons, reindeer and geese. The evidence affirms that this part of Greenland, now a polar desert, was 11–17 °C warmer than it is today and suggests it was home to an ecosystem composition that no longer exists anywhere in the world.

 Research paper here. (Open access). 

(14) URGE TO MERGE. “Strange flashes linked to stars merging rather than dying” discussed in Nature.

Brief, intense flashes known as γ-ray bursts appear every day at random locations in the sky. These bursts are classified according to their duration. Short γ-ray bursts, lasting less than one second, are thought to derive from the merging of two neutron stars in a binary system, whereas long γ-ray bursts are active for a few seconds or more, and result from the collapse of a massive star. Four papers published in this issue of Nature by Troja et al.1Rastinejad et al.2Mei et al.3 and Yang et al.4 now challenge this long-standing paradigm, by providing evidence of a long γ-ray burst that seems to have been produced by the merger of a compact binary system.

One of the papers is open access here.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another sff short released this week by DUST, “Eureka!” starring Karen Gillan.

A lazy, uninspired woman is visited by an otherworldly being responsible for giving humanity all its great ideas.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, John A Arkansawyer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 11/12/22 I See A Pixel Pulling A Scroll Out Of A Magician’s Hat. Why Is The Rabbit Unhappy?

(1) DREAMSCRAPES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] DeviantArt has launched a new AI-based text-to-art tool. The training set? Everything on DeviantArt. Of course, artists are allowed to opt out, but the default is opt in. More than a few artists are unhappy about that choice. “DeviantArt upsets artists with its new AI art generator, DreamUp” at Ars Technica.

On Friday, the online art community DeviantArt announced DreamUp, an AI-powered text-to-image generator service powered by Stable Diffusion. Simultaneously, DeviantArt launched an initiative that ostensibly lets artists opt out of AI image training but also made everyone’s art opt in by default, which angered many members.

DreamUp creates novel AI-generated art based on text prompts. Due to its Stable Diffusion roots, DreamUp learned how to generate images by analyzing hundreds of millions of images scraped off sites like DeviantArt and collected into LAION datasets without artists’ permission, a potential irony that some DeviantArt members find problematic….

(2) JUST A LITTLE RADIOACTIVE. In “Low-hostility reviews”, Camestros Felapton thinks out loud about a potential rubric for online reviews.

…Why not “no hostility”? Partly because then you can only review what was good and yes, sometimes you can write a good review of a story you like (I like this one I wrote) but typically it is a lot meaty to get into things you dislike. To stick with the dinosaur theme, I like this review I wrote of Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly. In both those cases, I know the authors have read those reviews because they gave me positive feedback about them. (Should authors read their reviews? That’s a silly question, they are going to regardless, but no, they should avoid disputing reviews or letting bad reviews get to them. Easier said than done though.) Also, some writers really are hypersensitive to criticism and may take offence at very innocuous discussions of their books. You can’t guarantee nobody will get upset with you.

In addition, superficially “no hostility” can simply be a disguise for patronisation or passive-aggressive writing. Effusive praise in a review that intentionally misses the point of the story is still hostile, as in intended to aggravate the author or fans….

(3) NOW A BIG Z-ERO. “Feds Seize One of the Largest Sites for Pirated Books and Articles, Z-Library” reports Vice.

Last week, one of the largest repositories of pirated books and articles available on the Internet went dark—seemingly for good. As first reported by Torrentfreak, a series of Z-Library domain names were seized by the FBI and the main pages now have the stamped seals of the Department of Justice to prove it. 

Z-Library was a shadow library project that offered file-sharing access to scholarly journal articles, academic texts, and trade books. The sites enabled access to otherwise paywalled content including more than 11 million books and over 80 million articles. 

The FBI’s New York press office declined to comment. However, the seizure comes shortly after authors and publishers began to call out TikTok for giving torrenters a platform to publicize their book piracy hacks. 

“The hashtag #zlibrary on popular social media platform TikTok has 19 million views, in reference to the countless videos posted by college and high school students and others across the world promoting it as the go-to place for free ebooks,” the Authors Guild wrote in a complaint to the Office of U.S. Trade Representative on October 7…. 

(4) BOB’S HIS UNCLE. Some heirlooms from Robert Bloch’s wife have made their way to another generation, items from separate golden ages of Hollywood and science fiction: “Manitoba man inherits trove of famous author Robert Bloch’s belongings”CBC News also has some pictures.

… But to Unik, Bloch was just his great-uncle Bob, who he remembers visiting in Los Angeles as a young boy. Bloch introduced Unik to celebrity friends like Barbara Eden, who starred in I Dream of Jeannie, and George Kennedy, from movies like Earthquake.

Unik said his mother, Myrna Unik, inherited the items from her Aunt Elly, who was born Eleanor Zelisko in Manitoba. She later became a model, moved to Los Angeles and married Bloch.

“That’s how I ended up … having a famous great uncle who’s a writer,” said Unik, who lives in the city of Selkirk, just north of Winnipeg.

The items Unik is still going through include two bookcases filled with autographed books and photographs of Bloch with actors including Boris Karloff, Joan Crawford, Christopher Lee and Buster Keaton — and even Hitchcock himself, he said.

Then there’s a Christmas poem to his great-aunt and uncle from the author Ray Bradbury, who wrote the novel Fahrenheit 451….

(5) ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY JOINS AMAZING STORIES SPECIAL ISSUE: SOL SYSTEM. Publisher Kermit Woodall says one of the goals for the “Amazing Stories Annual Special: SOL SYSTEM” Kickstarter has been a special chapbook to be first handed out to AmazingCon II attendees. Today he announced that the story which will be so published has been commissioned from award-winning British author Adrian Tchaikovsky.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [By Cat Eldridge.] Everything it seems get rebooted and so it was on this night twenty-seven years ago that The Invaders which ran twenty-eight years previously on ABC for two seasons saw itself rebooted.

James Parriot, who executive produced this series, went on to executive produce Dark Skies and Forever Knight. He previously did the same for Misfits of Science as well. Very impressive indeed.

Ray Thinnes was the lead in the original series which I admit I really loved, whereas Scott Bakula got the nod for the role here.  He was Nolan Wood, who discovers the alien conspiracy, and Roy Thinnes rather briefly appeared as David Vincent, now an old man handing the matter of dealing with the aliens over to Wood.

This is not, repeat not, a full blown series, but rather a two-part movie, though it’s promoted as a miniseries.

VERY BRIEF SPOILERS ARE HERE.

The story is remarkably similar to the original Invaders and no one should expect to be otherwise. 

Nolan Wood who is a former Air Force officer  Man inmate in prison for manslaughter charges, meets David Vincent while both are in prison. Vincent tells Nolan a fantastic story about the alien conspiracy to control the world. 

Shortly after that, Wood begins to have visions about aliens and UFOs. Are they real, or is he going crazy? 

Wood falls under the mental control of the aliens but eventually breaks free so he can save the President from certain death on a runaway train. 

OK, YOU CAN COME BACK.

It was supposed to be a pilot for a series but the ratings and internal politics at Fox made it not happen. Thinnes was supposed to have a larger role if it went to series however interestingly enough Bakula was supposed to be recast or in a much more limited role. 

In the FOX TV movie, the aliens were never shown even though digital footage of them existed. They do appear in the later airing on SYFY and on the DVD.

It is not streaming legally anywhere now.  That means you may not offer up links to the YouTube copies as they are pirated as it is still under copyright. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 12, 1917 Dahlov Ipcar. Though primarily an artist and you really should go visit her website, she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978 which are The Warlock of Night, The Queen of Spells and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1922 Kim Hunter. She portrayed the chimpanzee scientist Zira in the Planet of the Apes films. Her first genre role was her debut as Mary Gibson in the early Forties film The Seventh Victim. She’s June in A Matter of Life and Death, and Amanda Hollins in The Kindred. She has one-offs on Project U.F.O.Night GalleryMission Impossible and even appeared on The Evil Touch, an Australian horror anthology series. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film. Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time. The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, which I’ve encountered, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Valerie Leon, 79. She appeared in two Bond films, Never Say Never Again and The Spy Who Loved Me. She was in the horror flick Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb as Margaret Fuchs / Queen Tera. She was also Tanya in Revenge of the Pink Panther, and had one-offs in The AvengersSpace:1999 and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 79. Probably best remembered as the ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film. He also was the voice of Rex in the Toy Story franchise. 
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 77. David Pringle included his Who Made Stevie Crye? novel in Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1946-1987, high praise indeed. Though slightly dated feeling now, I’m fond of his Urban Nucleus of Atlanta series. And Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas is simply amazing.
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodenchik, 70. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The RocketeerHere Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskinStar Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted, alas), Tales from The CryptSlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 40. She starred as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in The Dark Knight trilogy. More impressive she was The White Queen In Alice Through the Looking Glass, and she was Agent 99 in the remake of Get Smart! No, not as good as the original but fun nonetheless.

(8) GHIBLI AND GROGU. “Studio Ghibli’s Star Wars Short ‘Zen – Grogu and Dust Bunnies’ is Out” and FirstShowing.net gives a description of the short now available on Disney+.

…Zen – Grogu and Dust Bunnies is a hand drawn animated short by Studio Ghibli. The short film is written and directed by and animated by filmmaker Katsuya Kondo, who was worked as a key animator for Studio Ghibli on every single film ever since Castle in the Sky (in 1986) through The Wind Rises (2013) and When Marnie Was There (2014). Featuring digital ink & paint & camera & composite by Yoichi Senzui. Produced by Tomohiko Ishii. Including a zen circle by iconic Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki. With music by Ludwig Göransson…. 

(9) AIR SHOW TRAGEDY. “Texas: Vintage military aircraft collide mid-air at Dallas air show” and perhaps as many as half a dozen pilots and crew are dead, although specific details have yet to be released.

A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra collided and crashed at the Wings Over Dallas airshow around 1:20 p.m. on Saturday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Authorities responded to the incident at Dallas Executive Airport, Jason Evans with Dallas Fire-Rescue told CNN on Saturday.

The number of casualties in the crash was still not confirmed later on Saturday afternoon, according to Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson….

The B-17 was part of the collection of the Commemorative Air Force, nicknamed “Texas Raiders,” and had been hangered in Conroe, Texas near Houston. It was one of about 45 complete surviving examples of the model, only nine of which were airworthy.

The P-63 was even rarer. Some 14 examples are known to survive, four of which in the United States were airworthy, including one owned by the Commemorative Air Force.

More than 12,000 B-17s were produced by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft and Lockheed between 1936 and 1945, with nearly 5,000 lost during the war, and most of the rest scrapped by the early 1960s. About 3,300 P-63’s were produced by Bell Aircraft between 1943 and 1945, and were principally used by the Soviet Air Force in World War II….

(10) DID YOU MISS ME? “Unmanned, solar-powered US space plane back after 908 days” at MSN.com. I guess we’re not supposed to ask what it was doing. (Waiting for the results of the midterms before deciding to come back to the US?)

An unmanned U.S. military space plane landed early Saturday after spending a record 908 days in orbit for its sixth mission and conducting science experiments.

The solar-powered vehicle, which looks like a miniature space shuttle, landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Its previous mission lasted 780 days.

“Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies,” said Jim Chilton, a senior vice president for Boeing, its developer….

(11) STANISŁAW LEM IN SCIENCE PAPER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Stanisław Lem’s Solaris has become a model for Gaian evolution.

The Earth’s biosphere consists of many sub-systems such as tropical rain forest biomes and peri-Arctic boreal land. These subsystems also undertake what is called ecosystem function such as the storage of carbon, management of water flow and so forth. Gaia theory has it that systems work together to provide stable states for the biosphere (such as creating greenhouse levels for either a glacial or interglacial planetary mode).  A paper, ’Gaia as Solaris: An Alternative Default Evolutionary Trajectory’, in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres has been published that suggests that ultimately all these sub-systems could become so closely integrated that they effectively become a super-organism. The researchers say: ‘The blueprint for a possible outcome of this scenario has been masterfully provided by the great Polish novelist Stanisław Lem in his 1961 novel Solaris. In fact, Solaris offers such a persuasive and powerful case for an “extremely strong” Gaia hypothesis that it is, arguably, high time to investigate it in a discursive astrobiological and philosophical context.

(12) HAVE I REACHED THE PARTY TO WHOM I AM SPEAKING? “Scientists Preparing for Alien Contact” says Futurism.

The University of St. Andrews in Scotland has announced the formation of a new research hub last week, bringing together the brightest minds to prepare humanity for the day we might make first contact with an intelligent extraterrestrial civilization.

The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Post Detection-Hub is meant to be a meeting point for experts to devise a unified way to respond to aliens — in case they do get in touch with us, or vice versa.

… So far, the only commonly agreed upon rules have been set out by the SETI community, as laid out in the SETI Institute’s “Declaration of Principles Concerning the Conduct of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.”

But those rules are very vague. The SETI Post-Detection Hub is planning to overhaul and expand upon them significantly….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/25/22 Eats, Scrolls And Athelas

(1) RHYSLING REVAMP SURVEY REPORT. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) surveyed members about potential changes to their Rhysling Award. See their feedback here: “Rhysling Revamp” at the SPECPO blog. From the introduction:

The Rhysling Awards are in their 45th year of recognizing excellent speculative poetry, presented by The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Leaders have been monitoring the Rhysling Anthology as it grew along with membership numbers. The anthology has ballooned from 42 poems in 2002 to 180 poems in 2022. Continued growth would result in an anthology that is not feasible to print or read.

Here’s an excerpt from the survey results.

CATEGORIES

A continual discussion point among members is the question of “double dipping” on awards. Most respondents support that Elgin-length poems not be considered for the Rhysling (64%). A slight majority agree at setting a maximum line length for the Rhysling (53%), which would be consistent with considering extra-long poems being only eligible for the Elgins. On the other side of the spectrum, there is generally support (49%) for Dwarf Stars to be the only award that can catch the 1-10 line poems. Only 25% of respondents disagreed about keeping Dwarf-Stars-eligible poems out of the Rhyslings.

There was very little support for adjusting the length definitions, but lots of ambivalence showing in the swell of neutral responses (44%).

(2) CHICON 8 POCKET PROGRAM. In a manner of speaking. The 392-page Pocket Program is now available on the Chicon 8 website. There are two versions, (1) a single page version best viewed on phones and tablets, and (2) a two-page version which is best for printing.

(3) ALERT: FAUX CHICON 8 MERCHANDISE. The Worldcon committee issued a heads up that some t-shirt sites are selling Chicon 8 branded merchandise and saying they are official. They are not.

“Our only official site for Chicon 8 merchandise at this time is Redbubble. If you buy from anywhere else, it does not benefit the convention. Please shop wisely!”

(4) THE OTHER WORLD. This World Fantasy Award winner’s new book isn’t genre, but when speaking about her research she says things like this — “So I went on this fantastic two-week trip into a time and place that doesn’t really exist now.” “Sofia Samatar Brings a Second Coming” at Publishers Weekly.

Sofia Samatar has a way with a sentence. No matter what she’s writing—whether it’s short stories, like her quietly devastating Nebula- and Hugo-nominated “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” or novels, like her World Fantasy Award–winning debut, A Stranger in Olondria—her work has a way of pairing the mundane and sublime with casual aplomb.

Her latest, The White Mosque (Catapult, Oct.), is a mosaic memoir that juxtaposes history, culture, religion and regionalism, tracing the journey of a group of German-speaking Mennonites into the heart of Khiva in Central Asia—now modern-day Uzbekistan—on a quest that promised no less than the second coming of Christ.

Samatar’s own journey to the site where the group’s church once stood started in 2016, when her father-in-law gave her a book titled The Great Trek of the Russian Mennonites, by Frank Belk. “This guy, who’s sort of a cult leader, predicts Christ is returning, and these people just uproot their lives to follow him,” she says, speaking via Zoom from her office at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where she’s an associate professor of English. “Of course, nothing happens. But they stayed for 50 years, until they were deported by the Bolsheviks.”

Samatar, the child of a Black Somali Muslim and a white Mennonite, became obsessed with the story…. 

(5) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry, which previously announced that Con or Bust is “folding into our (dragon) wing,” shared the program’s new logo designed by Dream Foundry contest winner Yue Feng.

Applications for grants are open, and they’ve already begun reviewing and issuing grants. If you want to help creatives and fans of color have access to conventions and other opportunities, donate here. To stay in the loop on Con or Bust news, sign up for the program’s quarterly newsletter.     

(6) BACK TO THE MOON. This NASA promo about the Artemis mission dropped yesterday. “Artemis I: We Are Ready”.

The journey of half a million miles – the first flight of the Artemis Generation – is about to begin. The uncrewed Artemis I mission will jump-start humanity’s return to the Moon with the thunderous liftoff of NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This critical flight test will send Orion farther than any human-rated spacecraft has ever flown, putting new systems and processes to the test and lighting the way for the crew missions to come. Artemis I is ready for departure – and, together with our partners around the world, we are ready to return to the Moon, with our sights on Mars and beyond.

(7) WHERE’S THE LOOT? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber looks at the problems game designers have giving users rewards.

Most games interface short, mid- and long-term rewards that trigger at different times.  the short-term rewards often take the form of sensory feedback; the bright ‘ding’ when you get a coin in Super Mario, an enemy’s head exploding in a shower of gore in Grand Theft Auto.  These get boring after a while–behavioural psychologists learned that repeating the same rewards generates diminishing returns.  So developers offer midterm rewards:  new levels, items, skills, characters, locations or narrative beats.  The longterm rewards are often related to social competition and prestige, such as difficult high-level team challenges or rare cosmetic items which players can show off to their friends.

Loot boxes lean into several of these techniques.  They have been employed in all manner of games ranging from FIFA to Star Wars, and they’re very profitable.  Yet they have also faced a backlash:  a recent report from consumer bodies in 18 European countries called them ‘exploitative.’  Although they have been banned in Belgium since 2018, most governments have been wary of legislation–the UK recently decided not to ban loot boxes after a 22-month consultation.  Still, some developers have heard gamers are unhappy–loot boxes were removed from Star Wars Battlefront 2 after an outcry and Blizzard recently announced they won’t feature in upcoming shooter Overwatch  2.”

(8) AGAINST ALL ODDS. The New York Times drills deep into one writer’s experience in “How to Get Published: A Book’s Journey From ‘Very Messy’ Draft to Best Seller”. The author’s novel The School for Good Mothers is set in the near future.

…“I’d like people to know that it’s possible for a debut author in her 40s, a woman of color, a mom, who led a quiet life offline with no brand building whatsoever to have this experience,” said Jessamine Chan.

And yet Chan’s “The School for Good Mothers” was published in January 2022 — and soared to the best-seller list, catapulting her to literary stardom. Last month, former President Barack Obama featured it on his summer reading list.

How does a debut novel go from a “very messy” draft on a writer’s desk to a published book, on display in bookstores around the country?

Here, we take you behind the scenes to see how a book is born — the winding path it takes, the many hands that touch it, the near-misses and the lucky breaks that help determine its fate.

(9) WHEATON SIGNING SCHEDULED. “Wil Wheaton presents and signs Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA on August 31 at 7:00 p.m.

From starring in Stand by Me to playing Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation to playing himself, in his second (third?) iconic role of Evil Wil Wheaton in The Big Bang Theory, to becoming a social media supernova, Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well respected names in science fiction, fantasy and pop culture.

Back in 2001, Wil began blogging on wilwheaton.net. Believing himself to have fallen victim to the curse of the child actor, Wil felt relegated to the convention circuit, and didn’t expect many would want to read about his random experiences and personal philosophies.

Yet, much to his surprise, people were reading. He still blogs, and now has an enormous following on social media with well over 3 million followers.

In Still Just a Geek, Wil revisits his 2004 collection of blog posts, Just a Geek, filled with insightful and often laugh-out-loud annotated comments, additional later writings, and all new material written for this publication. The result is an incredibly raw and honest memoir, in which Wil opens up about his life, about falling in love, about coming to grips with his past work, choices, and family, and finding fulfillment in the new phases of his career. From his times on the Enterprise to his struggles with depression to his starting a family and finding his passion–writing–Wil Wheaton is someone whose life is both a cautionary tale and a story of finding one’s true purpose that should resonate with fans and aspiring artists alike. (William Morrow & Company)

(10) VIKING FUNERAL FOR BATGIRL? The Guardian hears “‘Secret’ screenings of cancelled Batgirl movie being held by studio – reports”.

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed with multiple sources that a select few who worked on the film, including cast, crew and studio executives, would be attending the screenings this week on the Warner Bros lot in California. One source described them as “funeral screenings”, as it is likely the footage will be stored forever and never shown to the public.

…The Hollywood Reporter reported there was a chance Warner Bros would make “the drastic move of actually destroying its Batgirl footage as a way to demonstrate to the IRS that there will never be any revenue from the project, and thus it should be entitled to the full write-down immediately.”

On Tuesday, in an interview with French outlet Skript, Batgirl directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah said they no longer had any copy of the film, recalling the moment they found they could not longer access the servers that held the footage.

…El Arbi said it was unlikely they’d have the studio’s support to release it in the future or that there could be an equivalent of “the Snyder cut” – Zack Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of the DC film Justice League, which added an extra $70m to a $300m budget film.

“It cannot be released in its current state,” said El Arbi. “There’s no VFX … we still had some scenes to shoot. So if one day they want us to release the Batgirl movie, they’d have to give us the means to do it. To finish it properly with our vision.”

(11) TRANSFORMATIVE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Seekingferret posted a “Panel Report” from Fanworks where the topic was “Ethical Norms in Fanworks Fandom”.

… I presented three models for fandom’s approach to copyright- the It’s All Transformative model, the It’s Illegal but I Do It Anyway model, and the It’s Not Illegal Because the Copyright Holders’ Inaction is an Implicit License model, and then the audience argued with me for a while about whether the second two models are essentially the same, which was a good, clarifying argument to have….

Also of interest is the panel’s accompanying slideshow.

(12) WARNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Since, fan-wise, many cons use Discord… “Roblox and Discord Become Virus Vectors for New PyPI Malware” at The New Stack.

If you can communicate on it, you can abuse it. This was proven again recently when a hacker using the name “scarycoder” uploaded a dozen malicious Python packages to PyPI, the popular Python code repository. These bits of code pretended to provide useful functions for Roblox gaming community developers, but all they really did was steal users’ information. So far, so typical. Where it got interesting is it used the Discord messaging app to download malicious executable files.

(13) BOOK PORN. [Item by Bill.] Whenever I see a photograph on the web that has a bookshelf in the background, I spend way too much time trying to figure out what the books are.  For example: 

Blogger Lawrence Person has posted photos of his SF book shelves, and there are a lot of titles I’d love to have in my own collection.  A few years old, but perhaps worth a look ….  “Overview of Lawrence Person’s Library: 2017 Edition”. He provides regular updates to the collection (see the “books” tag).  

(14) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1989 [By Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-three years ago, the first installment of the Bill & Ted franchise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure premiered.

Starring William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, portrayed by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves as, and not giving a frell about spoilers here, time travelling slacker high schoolers assembling the ultimate history report. And let’s not forget Rufus as portrayed by George Carlin. I met him some forty years ago — a really neat gentleman. 

Stephen Herek directed here. He had previously written and directed the horror/SF Critters film. Nasty film it was. Chris Matheson who wrote all three of the franchise films co-wrote this with Ed Solomon who co-wrote the third with him and, more importantly, was the Men in Black writer.

By late Eighties standards, it was cheap to produce costing only ten million and making forty in return. Critics for the most part were hostile —- the Washington Post said “if Stephen Herek has any talent for comedy, it’s not visible here.” And the Los Angeles Times added, “it’s unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness’ sake.” 

It spawned not one but two television series named – oh, guess what they were named. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, an animated series that started out on CBS and ended on Fox, lasted twenty-one episodes over two seasons, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the live version, lasted but seven episodes on Fox. Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy played Bill and Ted.

DC did the comic for the first film, Marvel for the second. It did well enough that it led to the Marvel series Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book which lasted for just twelve issues. And there was a sort of adaptation of the animated series that lasted for a year by Britain’s now gone Look-In Magazine.

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most bodacious seventy-five percent rating.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 25, 1909 Michael Rennie. Definitely best remembered as Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He would show up a few years later on one of The Lost World films as Lord John Roxton, and he’s got an extensive genre series resume which counts Lost in Space as The Keeper in two episodes, The Batman as The Sandman, The Time TunnelThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. (Died 1972.)
  • Born August 25, 1913 Walt Kelly. If you can get them, Fantagraphics has released the complete Pogo in twelve stunning hardcover editions covering up to 1973. Did you know Kelly began his career as animator at Walt Disney Studios, working on DumboPinocchio and Fantasia? Well he did. (Died 1973.)
  • Born August 25, 1930 Sean Connery. Worst film? Zardoz. Best film? From Russia with Love very, very definitely. Best SF film? Outland. Or Time Bandits you want to go for silly. Now remember these are my personal choices. I almost guarantee that you will have different ones. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 25, 1940 Marilyn Niven, 82. She was a Boston-area fan who now lives in LA and is married to writer Larry Niven. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons.  In college, she was a member of the MITSFS and was one of the founding members of NESFA. She’s also a member of Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism.
  • Born August 25, 1947 Michael Kaluta, 75. He’s best known for his 1970s take on The Shadow with writer Dennis O’Neil for DC in 1973–1974. He’d reprise his work on The Shadow for Dark Horse a generation later. And Kaluta and O’Neil reunited on The Shadow: 1941 – Hitler’s Astrologer graphic novel published in 1988. If you can find them, the M. W. Kaluta: Sketchbook Series are well worth having.
  • Born August 25, 1955 Simon R. Green, 67. I’ll confess that I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written except that damn Robin Hood novel that made a NYT Best Seller. Favorite series? The NightsideHawk & Fisher and Secret History were my favorite ones until the Ismael Jones series came along and I must say it’s a hell of a lot of fun as well.  Drinking Midnight Wine and Shadows Fall are the novels I’ve re-read the most. 
  • Born August 25, 1958 Tim Burton, 64. Beetlejuice is by far my favorite film by him. His Batman was, errr, interesting. Read that comment as you will. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is definitely more Dahlish than the first take was which I think is a far better look at the source material, and Sleepy Hollow is just too damn weird for my pedestrian tastes. (Snarf.)
  • Born August 25, 1970 Chris Roberson, 52. Brilliant writer. I strongly recommend his Recondito series, Firewalk and Firewalkers. The Spencer Finch series is also worth reading. He won two Sidewise Awards, first for his “O One” story and later for The Dragon’s Nine Sons novel. He’s had five Sidewise nominations. 

(16) COMICS SECTION.

(17) HORROR WRITERS HAVE OPINIONS. Midnight Pals did a sendup of John Scalzi and his purchase of a church building. And his burritos. Can’t overlook those. Thread starts here.

(18) SPACE OPERA. “Friday’s Rag Tag Crew: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky”, a review by Camestros Felapton.

… I found myself in the mood for a big space opera the other day and with the novel also being a Dragon Award finalist, it seemed like a natural choice. I wasn’t wrong in my initial assessment. It is in many ways a more conventional space opera than the books I’d read. Humanity is a spacefaring species with its own factions, in a galactic society with a range of aliens. There’s hyperspace (or rather “unspace”), a cosmic threat, mysteriously vanished advanced civilisations, space spies, space gangsters, badass warriors and epic space battles. This is all good but if you are hoping for the millennia-long deep dive into the evolution of a sapient spider civilisation this book doesn’t have anything like that. Which is fine because that gives Tchaikovsky more space and time to attend to a cast of characters….

(19) A CITY ON A HILL. Paul Weimer reviews Stephen Fry’s Troy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Troy, by Stephen Fry”. There may be surprises in store for some readers – at least there were for Paul.

…In any event, Fry is here to help you. He starts at the beginning, as to how Troy was founded, and why, and brings its history up to date as it were. The delight in the depth of research and scholarship he brings is tha there is a fair chunk here I didn’t know about. Fun fact, the Trojan War is not the first time that Troy gets attacked in its mythological history, and you will never guess who did it before the Greeks got it into their heads to take back Helen, nor why…. 

(20) GOING PUBLIC. “Tom Lehrer: The Public Domain Tango”, a Plagiarism Today post from 2020.

…However, it seems likely that Lehrer may be set for yet another major revival as news spread yesterday that Lehrer, now 92, had released his lyrics and much of his music into the public domain. This has already sparked a great deal of interest in possible covers and recreations of his most famous songs.

Note: It’s worth stating that the declaration deals with his compositions and his lyrics, not the recordings. Those are most likely not owned by Lehrer.

However, the statement isn’t wholly true. Tom Lehrer didn’t actually release his songs into the public domain. While it may be pedantry given that there is no practical difference, the lengths Lehrer had to go to release what he did in the way that he did only further highlights Lehrer’s genius and is well worth exploring.

If this is truly to be Lehrer’s final musical act, it makes sense to see it for both the effort it took and the intellect required to conceive of it….

(21) AI GIVES ASSIST TO MUSIC VIDEO. [Item by Dann.] Someone recently made a video using the lyrics to “Renegade” by Styx.  The lyrics were fed, line by line, into AI art software to create the images used in the video.

While the lyrics aren’t explicitly genre centered, the AI created several images that evoked sci-fi/fantasy themes.  The rhetorical progeny of Edgar Allen Poe shows up a few times as well. “Renegade – Styx – But the lyrics are Ai generated images”.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part I Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says the producer in the seventh Harry Potter film mourns when several beloved minor characters die.  He is bored by the very long camping scenes (where the characters camp and camp and camp some more” but gets excited when Harry Potter gets to duke it out with Voldemort only to discover that this is the end of Part I and we have to wait for Part II.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/18/22 I’ve Been Scrolling On The Fileroad, All The Pixelled Day

(1) TOLKIEN MANUSCRIPT EXHIBIT. [Item by Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey.] “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” opens August 19 in Milwaukee, with material not just from Marquette University’s collection but items on loan from England which will probably not be seen again in North America in our lifetimes. The exhibit runs through December 23. Ticket information here.

Marquette University’s Raynor Memorial Libraries and the Haggerty Museum of Art collaboratively present this exhibition focused on the work of celebrated author and artist J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), best known for his literary classics The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The exhibition considers Tolkien’s work through the lens of manuscripts, in terms of both the materials that Tolkien studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts that he created while developing his collected writings on Middle-earth. Professor Tolkien was deeply immersed in the complexities of manuscripts, and this exhibition will illustrate how different aspects of the manuscript tradition found expression within Tolkien’s scholarly life and in his creative writing. Founded on Marquette’s J.R.R. Tolkien Collection, the exhibition also includes items borrowed from other repositories, including a significant number of Tolkien manuscripts and artwork from the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. Many of the 147 items in the exhibition have not previously been exhibited or published. 

(2) CROWDFUNDING FOR DE LINT AND HARRIS. Charles de Lint had to step down as Chicon 8 GoH last fall after his wife contracted a severe illness. And for reasons explained below, a family friend now has launched a “Fundraiser for Charles de Lint” on Gofundme. (De Lint has also opened a Patreon: “Charles de Lint is creating stories, music, art”.)

MaryAnn Harris has been in the hospital since September 6, 2021. She is recovering from Powassan virus, an extremely rare tick-bourne illness, but is still dependent on a ventilator to breathe, and paralyzed except for a toe. In order to make a full recovery and go home (which her doctor believes is possible), she needs significantly more therapy than the Canadian healthcare system can provide. In addition, due to the severity and long term nature of her condition, Charles & MaryAnn will start being assessed a co-pay for MaryAnn’s room and board that could be as high as $4k per month, an impossible figure at this time. Charles & MaryAnn have spent their lives reaching out to all of us through words and music and conversation and acts of kindness, through their creativity and heart, their generous spirits, and their dedication to putting light out into the world. Together we can help build the resources needed to help MaryAnn make a full recovery and to bring her home. Thank you.

(3) DREAM INTERRUPTED. Suffering a heartbreaking disappointment, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki was denied a visa to attend Chicon 8. His appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Lagos was this morning, and he now has distilled his Twitter thread about what happened into a Facebook post. (See also File 770’s post and the comments: “US Embassy in Nigeria Denies Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Visa Application; Won’t Get to Attend Worldcon”.)

… If I had been considered & denied I wouldn’t even have worried as much. But I don’t feel I was even considered at all. It didn’t look like. Despite all I did (seperate from being ultra excellent at what I do.

After I undertook to attend the Hugo, I did a GoFundMe drive ran for me by Jason Sanford l. We raised over $7000 in a day. I started trying to get a visa interview appointment. Nigerians reading this know how nerve wracking that is.

This was in June. Btw then and August, like 2 months, I got an interview date. I battered my soul to pieces for that. Nigerians understand. Immigration firm I went to refused to talk to me. Said no one was going to US from Nigeria now cuz no dates. Everyone said it was impossible. But I got it.

That’s how many layers of impossible I have had to beat. How many miracles. But this is Nigeria. Everything needs a miracle. The most basic ish. Miracle after miracle till you are one short….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 64 of the Octothorpe podcast, “John Coxon is crying, Alison Scott is lounging, and Liz Batty is crocheting. We go through our entire Hugo Award ballots in 30% the time it took us to go through one category, before talking about our schedules for Chicon 8 and then doing some picks.”

Listen here — “Best Commemorative Plate”.

(5) OCTOPUS. Nautilus takes readers down “Another Path to Intelligence”, with help along the way from Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of Children of Time.

It turns out there are many ways of “doing” intelligence, and this is evident even in the apes and monkeys who perch close to us on the evolutionary tree. This awareness takes on a whole new character when we think about those non-human intelligences which are very different to us. Because there are other highly evolved, intelligent, and boisterous creatures on this planet that are so distant and so different from us that researchers consider them to be the closest things to aliens we have ever encountered: cephalopods.

Cephalopods—the family of creatures which contains octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish—are one of nature’s most intriguing creations. They are all soft-­bodied, containing no skeleton, only a hardened beak. They are aquatic, although they can survive for some time in the air; some are even capable of short flight, propelled by the same jets of water that move them through the ocean. They do strange things with their limbs. And they are highly intelligent, easily the most intel­ligent of the invertebrates, by any measure.

… Perhaps one of the fullest expressions of this difference is to be found, not in the work of scientists, but in a novel. In his book Children of Time, science-fiction writer Adrien Tchaikovsky conceptualizes octopus intelligence as a kind of multi­threaded processing system. For the space­faring octopuses in Children of Time, their awareness—their consciousness—is tripartite. Their higher functions, which Tchaikovsky calls the “crown,” are embedded in their head-­brain, but their “reach,” the “arm­-driven undermind,” is capable of solving prob­lems independently—sourcing food, opening locks, fighting, or fleeing from danger. Meanwhile, a third mode of thinking and communicat­ing, the “guise,” controls the strobing and spotting of the octopuses’ “skin, ‘the chalkboard of the brain,’” where it doodles its thoughts from moment to moment. In this way, the octopuses freewheel through space, constructing ships, habitats, and whole societies which owe as much to bursts of emotion, flights of fancy, acts of curiosity and bore­dom, as they do to conscious intent. Tchaikovsky’s octopuses are lively, frantic, bored, creative, distracted, and poetic—all at the same time: a product of the constant dialogue and conflict within their own nervous systems. As Tchaikovsky tells it, octopuses are multiple intel­ligences in singular bodies….

(6) AND THEN THERE ARE VIRTUAL TENTACLES. Steve Davidson contemplates “The Coming Death of Commercialized Art” at the hands (figuratively speaking) of artificial intelligence in a post for Amazing Stories.

…Eventually, things will sort themselves out (if global warming doesn’t get us first) and commercial art will become the province of AI programs:  Need some paintings for your hotel lobby?  An AI will no doubt already have tens of thousands of possibilities available at relatively low cost (maybe large corporations will simply buy an art-enabled AI outright, for ALL of their commercial art needs – report covers, company retreat t-shirt designs, product illustrations, etc.).  Amazon will no doubt be the first to offer “get the story you want to read” services…completely custom fiction (written in the style of – and boy, won’t that “style copyfight” be an interesting one);  franchises will become perpetual, versions can be offered for different reading ages, the saga need never end….

Human beings will NOT be able to compete effectively in those environments.  They need food and water and shelter, sleep, physical exercise and can’t memorize the writing styles or painting styles of any artist or author who ever produced something.

We’re not talking about the “death of artistic expression”, but we are almost certainly talking about the death of the midlist author and the commercial graphic artist….

(7) CALL IT A FANACALENDAR. First Fandom Experience’s latest post in support of Project 1946 at Chicon 8 tracks “A Year in Fandom: 1946” practically day-by-day.

What was it like to be a science fiction fan in 1946?

There was a lot of new material to read. With the end of the war, Science fiction and fantasy pulps had proliferated. Classics genre novels from pulps of prior years were issued in book form. Just keeping up was a challenge.

Fan activity was also resurgent. The club scene remained most active in Los Angeles and New York, but fans from other corners also made their voices heard. Several clubs formed prior to the war resumed meeting in 1946, often attracting a mix of old and new members.

The timeline presented here is drawn from a variety of sources. Primary among them is Joe Kennedy’s 1946-1947 Fantasy Review, the second in his series of yearbooks covering the field. Eleven pages were dedicated to the doings of fans….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1950 [By Cat Eldridge.] Seventy-two years ago on this date, Destination Moon, produced by George Pal and an uncredited Walter Lantz premiered in the United Kingdom. 

It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. 

It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson, Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. 

Mainstream critics were mixed with a Bob Thomas of the Associated Press saying, “Destination Moon is good hocus-pocus stuff about interplanetary travel.” Asimov meanwhile not surprisingly said in In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating. It however did rather well at the box office returning ten times its half million-dollar production budget. 

It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. 

It is not in the public domain, but the trailers are and here is one for you.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 18, 1925 Brian Aldiss. I’ll single out his Helliconia series, Hothouse and The Malacia Tapestry as my favorites. He won a Hugo at Chicon III for “The Long Afternoon of The Earth”, another at Conspiracy ’87 for Trillion Year Spree which he co-authored with David Wingrove. He’s edited far too many collections to know which one to single out, but I’m sure that the collective wisdom here can make recommendations. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 18, 1932 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he will have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course, he shows in Outer Limits, he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.)
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence by writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement. And while you’re at it, explain what the New Weird movement was as I never quite did figure that out. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 18, 1954 Russell Blackford, 68. Writer resident in Australia for awhile but now in Wales. Author of Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles, and editor of the Australian Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. With Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, he wrote Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction. And he wrote Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics.
  • Born August 18, 1958 Madeleine Stowe, 64. She’s in the Twelve Monkeys film as Kathryn Railly, and she’s in the Twelve Monkeys series as Lillian in the “Memory of Tomorrow” episode. Her only other genre work was a one-off in The Amazing Spider-Man which ran for thirteen episodes nearly forty years ago. She was Maria Calderon in “Escort to Danger” in that series, and she also played Mia Olham in Impostor which was scripted off Philip K. Dick’s “Impostor” story.
  • Born August 18, 1966 Alison Goodman, 56. Australian writer who’s won three Aurealis Awards for Excellence in Speculative Fiction for Singing the Dogstar BluesThe Two Pearls of Wisdom and Lady Helen and the Dark Days PactThe Two Pearls of Wisdom was nominated for an Otherwise Award. 
  • Born August 18, 1967 Brian Michael Bendis, 55. He’s both writer and artist, a still uncommon occurrence. Did you know he’s garnered five Eisner Awards for both his creator-owned work and Marvel Comics? Very impressive! He’s the primary force behind the creation of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, launching Ultimate Spider-Man which is an amazing series which I read on the Marvel Unlimited app. 

(10) COMIC SECTION.

  • Ordinarily, I wouldn’t expect to hear a character in Funky Winkerbean holding forth about psychohistory.

(11) PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE. N. K. Jemisin tweeted a reminder.

(12) SOYLENT GREEN IS BALONEY! This being the year in which the movie is hypothetically set, Slate’s Andrew Maynard could not resist pointing out “Why Soylent Green got 2022 so wrong”.

All of this may have remained as a footnote in the annals of dystopian 1970’s sci-fi movies, were it not for the fact that Soylent Green was set in a year we’re all very familiar with: 2022. Predictably, there’s been a flurry of journalistic interest this year in what was predicted back in 1973, and how it compares to where we are now. The good news is that we haven’t yet resorted to eating people (although based on recent trends in fiction we may be closer than we think!). But this isn’t the only thing that the film gets wrong.

Despite being underpinned by very real issues, the extrapolated future that Soylent Green portrays is deeply out of step with present-day reality. Overpopulation is not the issue it was perceived to be in the 1970s—rather, the prospect of static and declining populations is now raising concerns. The productivity of agricultural systems has been vastly extended through technologies ranging from high yield crops and advances in irrigation techniques, to innovations in agrochemicals and genetic engineering. And rather than the dystopic single-noted social, political, and culinary narratives portrayed in the film, many—including me—would argue that the world we live in has never been more diverse and full of potential (even if some of us do have a tendency to reject this in favor of our own manufactured monotoned bubbles)….

(13) DOES THIS RING TRUE FOR YOU? Here’s a compilation of anecdotes in support of Tolkien’s reputation as a funny guy: “JRR Tolkien: academic, philologist – and prankster extraordinaire”.

…Humphrey Carpenter put it well in his authorised biography of Tolkien: “He could laugh at anybody, but most of all at himself, and his complete lack of any sense of dignity could and often did make him behave like a riotous schoolboy.” He catalogues incidents where Tolkien dressed up as a polar bear in sheepskin rug, as an Anglo-Saxon axeman (he chased a neighbour down the street), and gave shopkeepers his false teeth in a handful of change.

But it was the late Hugh Brogan, eminent professor of history at the University of East Anglia, who showed me the lengths Tolkien would go to in his quest for a laugh. As a child, Brogan lived in a late Regency house with a tall, elegant, winding staircase. Tolkien, visiting the family, “went up to the first-floor landing and fell all the way down quite spectacularly – about a dozen steps, I guess – arms and legs splaying about in all directions, and an immense clatter. We were literally breathtaken.” The elderly Brogan regretted that he couldn’t remember for sure whether Tolkien gave an encore….

(14) HEAVY METAL NEWS. [Item by Dann.] Heavy Metal Entertainment is taking another plunge into the video market. Its studio division, Heavy Metal Studios, will produce live-action video content from Heavy Metal’s library of properties. (TaarnaCold Dead War, Dark Wing, Arena Mode, etc.)

A sizzle reel accompanied the announcement at this year’s San Diego Comic-Contm. Curiously, the sizzle reel includes snippets from movies that have already been released. (I swore that the rhinos came from Jumanji. There were others.)

“Just as Heavy Metal Magazine changed the way the world looked at comic books, and how the ‘81 animated film Heavy Metal changed animation forever, Heavy Metal Studios is about to take the reins on live action content and push it far past its current stagnation and into new heights. Things will never be the same again, again,” said Tommy Coriale, Heavy Metal’s President and Head of Studio.

(15) JUMP ABOARD. Marc Scott Zicree is “Riding Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Carousel!”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Games Trailers:  Madison,” Fandom Games says “Madison,” even though it appears to be named after a really annoying Valley Girl, delivers an oldschool horror experience:  so old-school messages come on cassette tapes and clues come from snapping Polaroids. But can you take enough Polaroids to find the ghosts?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Bonnie McDaniel, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John Coxon, Dann, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bonnie McDaniel.]

Jordan: 2022 Hugo Finalists for Best Novella

[Introduction: In Michaele Jordan’s overview, she comments on the novellas by Aliette de Bodard, Becky Chambers, Alix E. Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and Catherynne M. Valente that are up for the 2022 Hugo.]

By Michaele Jordan:

Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom) is a high fantasy. You’ve probably noticed that fantasy has become such a broad field that it can be broken down into subtypes, such as urban fantasy, Tolkienesque fantasy, dragon stories or fairy tales. High fantasy, in particular, has a specific format. It’s always set in a low-tech world – often here on earth, within a particular historical era. It always focuses on the adventures of the ruling class, usually royalty. The magic is often minimal compared to other types of fantasy, as it must be woven into the political or military struggles, and the court intrigues, with which the high-born characters are preoccupied.

High fantasy tends to further subdivide into two types: costume romances (usually of the forbidden kind) overlaid with magic, or political thrillers, also overlaid with magic, but with a great deal of plotting, backstabbing, and poison. In both cases, the characters are hugely constrained by their class obligations, and a lot of attention is paid to their expensive clothing, their plush living conditions, and the loyalty (or lack thereof) of servants.

If you are a fan of high fantasy – and many of us are – then you will love Fireheart Tiger. The protagonist is a young princess, caught up in a turbulent, and possibly treasonous, affair with another princess, even as their two countries circle each other, looking for attack points. The setting is highly original –an analog of pre-Colonial Viet Nam, (around 18th century). The magic is also well handled. There are no spells or amulets. But one of the three major characters is a fire elemental – and a VERY interesting character.

Next we come to A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom), I loved it! First and foremost: I was struck by the tale’s charm. The characters are charming. Their culture is charming. Their tea monks are charming. Even the opening, where Sibling Dex notices the absence of crickets is charming. Most of all, the voice in which the story is told charming, full of love and attention to captivating details.

The story seems to take place on earth, in a way-past-the-apocalypse future. Not that the author ever said as much! It may not even be intentional. She may only have wanted it to be earthlike enough to make us feel at home. In which case, she succeeded.

They have a lush ecology, with plants that are not just generic but species that seem familiar to us (especially herbs). The animals seem familiar, too (especially the insects, and not just crickets). There is a complex history of over-industrialization leading to collapse, followed by recovery.

But the place where all those charming things live is actually Pangan (named after one of the local gods). It’s a moon orbiting Motan (also named after a god) which appears to be a gas giant. (For me, the discovery that this is not Earth was genuinely startling. The place feels so homelike it’s almost deja vu.)

Naturally, this means that the inhabitants are not human, per se, but they, too, are so vividly evoked that it’s hard to believe. Sibling Dex does not merely seem to be someone we might know. They feel like . . . well, a sibling. Even Splendid Speckled Mosscap – who could not be mistaken for a human , no matter how quickly the reader is skimming – feels friendly and comfortable.

The story is soft and simple. (If you’re looking for epic battles, go elsewhere.) There is a quest, which involves some very hard travelling into the wilderness. Some of the creatures in the wilderness are more dangerous than charming.

While on the road, Dex and Speckled Mosscap have a lot of time to talk. Speckled Mosscap wants to know why Dex is engaging in their strange and whimsical quest. Dex wants to know where Speckled Mosscap has come from, and why nobody has seen any of their people before. Both are wondering if it is time for Speckled Mosscap and their people to re-emerge into Pangan life.

Their conversation – along with the ending – is philosophical, revolving around such eternal questions as “life, the universe and everything.” The conclusion does not offer any answers, but leaves us very content, just the same.

A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom) starts with an excellent concept. We’ve all seen tales – many, many tales – of young women entering Fairyland, by a variety of means and with a variety of motives. This time, the traveler is propelled by soul-crushing need. She was born with a genetic disorder that invariably kills its victim before the age of twenty-two, at the very latest, and usually much younger. The story opens on the protagonist’s twenty-first birthday.

All her life, Zinnia has been obsessed by the story of Sleeping Beauty. She knows that it’s a terrible story in many ways – most notably in that it makes its heroine a virtual walk-on (or should I say a sleep-on?) in her own story. She knows there are versions of the story much darker and crueler than Disney’s. But nonetheless, she identifies desperately with Sleeping Beauty, who has spent her entire short life watching and waiting for the inevitable curse to strike her down.

Zinnia’s best friend wants her twenty-first birthday to be special, and arranges a Sleeping Beauty birthday party smothered in roses, and complete with a haunted tower and an antique spinning wheel. In a moment of dark whimsy and drunken bravado, Zinnia deliberately presses her finger to the spindle.

In an ineffable moment of spinning within the multiverse, she sees a thousand cursed princesses reaching for the spindle. But only one protests, softly whispering, “Help.” So Zinnia reaches out towards her. The universe goes dark, and she wakes in a fairy tale castle, in the plush royal bed of Princess Primrose of Perceforest.

If this tale has a flaw it starts now. After a truly compelling opening, Ms. Harrow has no place left to go. She has a point that she cares about, and wants very much to make. She has already intervened in the original story before the end, which she wants to change – that being her whole purpose in writing this novella. But fairy tales are not strong on complex plot lines, and now she has no guideposts as to where to go next, or how to get there.

In this place and time, the only alternative to the spindle is a political marriage. So if there is to be any story at all, it must now decry its new ending and find a way to avert it.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that loveless political marriages are a good thing. But I do not think that was Ms. Harrow’s original point. And they are a far cry from a terrible curse. They were normal in the Middle Ages, where large households were as close as woman could get to a safe refuge in a dangerous world. The only reasonably acceptable alternative was the nunnery, (which apparently was not an option in fairy tale worlds.)

I fully acknowledge that Primrose’s position is not a happy one. But she has been dropped into a much weaker story than the one she started out in, which is disappointing to the reader. And it is still a story that can only be resolved by magic.

Lastly, I am sorry to say, I found the ending even weaker. Primrose is (magically) rescued. Zinnia emerges from her adventure with a few years added to her potential lifeline, and some personal lessons learned. But lessons learned are not the same thing as skills acquired, and she would need some serious skills when embarking on her next life choice – which mostly looks like a bid for a sequel.

Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom), is also a tale of a young girl entering Fairyland. The similarities end there. Regan is only ten. Unlike a number of her classmates, she’s still definitely pre-teen. (Allow me to interject that Ms. McGuire’s portraiture of young girls is uncanny in its accuracy.) But as long Regan’s best friend is Laurel, the class queen bee, she is sheltered from social consequences, and no matter that Laurel is a rigid, domineering bully.

That is, until Regan’s parents have to warn her that there is a genetic reason why she is not maturing as fast as her classmates. That discovery was the end of her world. The end of her friendship with Laurel—and the end of the social safety Laurel provided. She runs away from home. And in a nearby wooded plot she finds . . . a door.

It doesn’t lead to a fairyland of castles and princesses. Rather, it’s simply a place where the residents are all mythological beings, and there are no humans. She stumbles almost immediately upon a unicorn, (which is not a person, it’s a dumb beast) and shortly afterwards, the centaurs who herd the unicorns. The centaurs are all astonished and thrilled to meet a genuine human. They know the legends. Humans only show up when the serious trouble is coming and they’re needed to save the world, after which they disappear. Which may bode ill, but it’s still thrilling to meet a creature out of legend.

The centaurs offer to take Regan to see the queen, right away, since she will have to be presented to Her SunLit Majesty sooner or later anyway. But Regan would rather stay with the centaurs, at least until the Fair. She becomes best friends (true best friends!) with Chicory, a centaur child, and studies herbal medicine with Daisy, the herd’s healer. She learns centaur customs, and how to herd unicorns and, weave grass beds. She grows tall and strong, and doesn’t bother to worry about the absence of puberty. She does worry how her parents are coping, but there’s nothing she can do about that. This continues for years.

The story here is deceptively simple. Regan runs away and arrives in another world.  She learns many lessons about herself – most importantly, how to be happy insider her own skin – and in the end, she must go to the Fair to meet the queen. The Fair is not as safe and kindly a place as a centaur longhouse. And the queen is not what Regan has been told. I am struggling here to avoid spoilers while warning you that the ending is startling unique: smaller and subtler – and sharper – than you’d expect, but quite wonderful.

In Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tordotcom), Mr. Tchaikovsky applies well known trope: an abandoned colony reduced of millennia to pre-industrial barbarism, but with one lingering outpost, inhabited by one lone anthropologist named Nyrgoth, who long since abandoned hope of his people ever coming back.

The last time Nyr ventured out of his tower, he was persuaded to accompany a warrior princess named Astresse in her pursuit of a monster/sorcerer/warlord Ulmoth. Ulmoth was defeated and Nyr has filled the centuries since with long naps. Our story opens with Lynesse, the great-granddaughter of Astresse, deciding that it is time to solicit more ‘sorcerous’ assistance against an apparently magical menace.

The story shifts focus back and forth between Nyr and Lyn. I found this format a little troubling, largely because the two parties didn’t balance. The Nyr passages are a deeply intimate first-person memoir.

He cannot look at Lyn without remembering Astresse, and grieving that she is so long gone. He agonizes over the endless struggle to communicate with her, since she interprets all technical terms as magical ones. (He must have had the same problem with Astresse, but apparently never got used to it.)

He flagellates himself over his failure as an anthropologist, in that he has intervened (twice now!) in the culture he is supposed to be studying, while simultaneously denouncing the pointlessness of anthropological study. Psychologically, he is a clinically depressed mess.

But  Lynn, on the other hand, is presented in a brisk third person. She is a fairly standard heroic fantasy protagonist, an unappreciated younger heir, raised on tales of her heroic ancestress, questing in the hope of proving herself to her family, and gaining renown. Her emotions and responses are plain, and undetailed.

The monster is interesting  –  although not much attention is paid to it. No one who has not seen it believes in it, largely because it is truly weird, well beyond the normal bounds of either SF or fantasy. The pair painfully but successfully defeat it, seeming at great cost. But of course, a happy ending is tacked on, and all is joy in Mudville.

The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom), is complicated. In fact, it’s so complicated that I had a lot of trouble following it. And, therefore, I can’t really say I enjoyed it. It breaks my heart to say that. Ms. Valente is one of my favorite authors. Radiance (Tom Doherty Associates, 2015) and Deathless (Tordotcom, 2011) are two of the best books I have ever, EVER read.

But . . .  for starters, she uses a very convoluted sequence of events. She jumps around in her story line so vigorously that I spent a good half of my reading time going back to reread previous passages in a frequently unsuccessful attempt to find out where I was in the story. On top of that, she used what may have been the most unreliable ‘unreliable narrator’ I have ever encountered.

Usually I don’t mind an unreliable narrator. It adds verisimilitude. Mind you I’m quite comfortable with the impersonal third person narrator, but using one of the characters as the narrator can bring warmth into a story. In real life, a lot of people don’t know much, and usually don’t want to admit that. Why should a well-drawn character be any different?

But . . . on three separate occasions, the protagonist announced, “None of that is true. I just made it all up because I like it better than what really happened.” There was no knowing how much was covered under “that” and “it all.” Maybe everything? I’m still not sure what (if anything) happened in The Past is Red.

Maybe I was just feverish or sleep deprived. Maybe you’ll do better with it. I hope so. I do so love her.

Pixel Scroll 4/18/22 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) NEXT YEAR’S EASTERCON COMMITTEE PICKED. Conversation is the 2023 Eastercon – it will be held April 7-10. Where? “We don’t have a confirmed site yet,” they say. But somewhere in England. The convention website is here: Conversation 2023. And the guests of honor will be —

  • Zen Cho
  • Niall Harrison
  • Jennell Jaquays
  • Kari Sperring
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Ursula Vernon (T Kingfisher).

(2) EUROCON REPORT. Polish fan Marcin Klak writes about “Luxcon Eurocon 2022 – Convention From Behind the Mask” – a report that includes a photo of TAFF delegate “Orange Mike” Lowrey.

It was so good to see the people. I haven’t seen some friends for two and more years. Being able to greet them differently than on Zoom was great. Meeting some new people was also awesome. And last, but not least I had the opportunity to meet in person people whom I met online but haven’t yet seen in the real world – this was so cool. I had no idea how strongly I missed all of that. Don’t understand me wrong – virtual conventions are awesome. I appreciate them and think they were a blessing for those of us who attended them. Yet getting back to in-person conventioning was magical….

(3) SEPTEMBER SONG. Allen Steele told Facebook followers his email contained “A ROTTEN EASTER EGG”, and after being turned down as a Chicon 8 program participant he had much to say about the application process. He says he was “uninvited” after answering the questionnaire — because he claims they initiated the contact thus, in his view, issued an invitation. However, Chicon 8’s head of program says it was Steele who initiated things by filling in the form on the website requesting to be contacted.

When I opened my email this morning, here was what I found, printed verbatim. It came from a staff member for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, an annual event I’ve attended — albeit infrequently in recent years — as a fan since 1973 and as a professional SF writer since 1989. I hadn’t yet decided whether to attend this year’s worldcon, but if I had, it would’ve been the fourth time I’ve been to one in Chicago (including once as a writer with a story on that year’s Hugo ballot).

“Dear Allen Steele.

“Thank you for reaching out to us with your interest in being on Program at Chicon 8: The 80th World Science Fiction Convention. We’re sending this email to inform you that we will not be extending you an invitation to participate as a panelist for the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago.

“Deciding who to invite as panelists is an ongoing multistep process that includes reviewing your program survey answers and the input of many members of the Chicon Program Team. As we have received requests from well over 1500 people, we cannot accept everyone, and so some difficult choices have to be made.

“Best,

“[NAME DELETED}

Head of Program for Chicon 8

My Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs”

This has really floored me, in a number of ways and for a number of reasons. First: I didn’t “reach out” to them. Instead, they reached out to me, in email I received in early March asking whether I would be interested in attending this year’s worldcon. Perhaps it was not technically an invitation, but in the past when I’ve received letters of this nature from worldcon committees, I’ve always felt it safe to assume that I was being asked to attend (for those who don’t know: this kind of invitation doesn’t include a free membership or having any of my hotel or travel expenses paid; it simply asks whether you would like to participate in panels, book signings, readings, etc.). So when I received it, I gave a positive response, assuming this was another worldcon invitation, something I’ve done dozens of times for dozens of years….

Steele also “joked” about pronoun preferences such as they/them/theirs.

Artist Bob Eggleton, in comments, made a suggestion in the spirit of Jon Del Arroz:

Chicon 8’s process for becoming a program participant is explained in detail here. After someone contacts the committee, this is the first of several things that happen —

    • Within a few weeks we will send you the program participant survey. This tells us who you are, and gives us an overview of what you hope to contribute to the program. Among other things, this survey will include the opportunity to (optionally): Suggest panel topics that you would like to see run at the convention. Propose workshops and presentations that you would like to conduct as solo or duo presenters.
    • Potential participants will be put through a vetting process to make sure that they are aligned with the values and principles set out in the convention code of conduct and anti-racism statement….

(4) THAT’S NOT STREAMING, IT’S A FLOOD. Ask.com wants to know “When Did It Become a Job to Be a Fan?” You might wonder after reading the previous item. But conrunning is not the focus of this article.

I never watched episodes three and four of Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett. I read recaps and just tuned in for the juicy Mando-and-Baby-Yoda-filled episodes of the Star Wars show. I didn’t bother with HBO Max’s Peacemaker; James Gunn’s brand of humor and the absurdist violence in the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) The Suicide Squad wasn’t exactly my thing. And even though I have a soft spot for Oscar Isaac, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Moon Knight. 

There’s way too much stuff to watch to be able to stay on top of everything — just take a look at our selection of movie and TV releases for April — and yet I can’t help but feel like a failed pop culture writer and media critic for all the things I’m skipping. I should be watching — and probably enjoying — all of it. But, most of the time, these serialized shows and movies that are part of a larger universe feel like homework….

(5) CHINESE SF. The Shimmer Program has released New Voices in Chinese Science Fiction, a collaboration between Clarkesworld and Storycom, edited by Neil Clarke, Xia Jia and Regina Kanyu Wang , including eight stories from Chinese sf writers. Early bird copies of the anthology have been sent out to the Kickstarter backers and it will be made available for purchase in June.

Writers: Shuang Chimu, Liu Xiao, Yang Wanqing, Hui Hu, Congyun “Mu Ming” Gu, Liang Qingsan, Shi Heiyao, Liao Shubo

Translators: Carmen Yiling Yan, Andy Dudak, Rebecca Kuang, Judith Huang, Emily Jin

(6) LONG REMEMBERED THUNDER. “Prehistoric Planet” is a five-night documentary event coming to Apple TV+ May 23.

…This series is produced by the world-renowned team at BBC Studios Natural History Unit with support from the photorealistic visual effects of MPC (“The Lion King,” “The Jungle Book”). “Prehistoric Planet” presents little-known and surprising facts of dinosaur life set against the backdrop of the environments of Cretaceous times, including coasts, deserts, freshwater, ice worlds and forests. From revealing eye-opening parenting techniques of Tyrannosaurus rex to exploring the mysterious depths of the oceans and the deadly dangers in the sky, “Prehistoric Planet” brings Earth’s history to life like never before. 

(7) HALF A CENTURY OF SIMULTANEITY. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA has released the 50th episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast.

Stories featured in this episode are:

  • “RealView”- by Liam Hogan (music by RedBlueBlackSilver), read by Jean-Paul Garnier & Robin Rose Graves
  • “Psionic Thread” by Sam Fletcher (music by Phog Masheeen), read by Jean-Paul Garnier

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1997 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] On this date a quarter of a century ago on Canada’s Citytv (which is sometimes just called City), Lexx (also known as LEXX: The Dark Zone Stories and Tales from a Parallel Universe) premiered as a series of four films. The series follows a group of rather unique and sometimes dysfunctional individuals aboard the living craft Lexx as they travel through two universes and encounter various planets including an Earth that is decidedly not ours. 

It was created by Paul Donovan, Lex Gigeroff and Jeffrey Hirschfield, none of which had a background in the genre in any meaningful sense before this. Hirschfield wrote for three of the four seasons Lexx ran and voiced the character of the robot head 790. 

Now Lexx had a large cast including Brian Downey, Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Should you be so inclined, and I’m not saying saying that you should be, go ask Google for the uncensored versions of the City broadcast Lexx as regards Eva Habermann and Xenia Seeberg. Let’s just say that when it hit Syfy that network reduced it from a hard “R” to a very friendly “PG” rating in terms of both language and nudity. I’ve also heard that quite a bit of violence was also removed as well. Remember that I’ve mentioned previously that Syfy emasculated Fifties SF series when they ran there too.

It would run, including the original four films of ninety-three minutes in length, for five seasons with the four actual seasons ending with a total of sixty-one episodes with a conventional running time of between forty-five and forty-eight minutes. SyFy trimmed three to five minutes out of each of these episodes. 

Though the series was primarily filmed in Canada and Germany befitting it being a Canadian and German co-production, additional filming done on location in the British Virgin Islands. Iceland, Namibia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. I need a guide to which scenes were filmed where. Seriously I do. 

Reception was decidedly mixed. The New York Daily News reviewer said she “can only imagine that the great SciFi channel must have been captured by idiot monsters from outer space and Germany” but the Independent got it spot-on when they noted that it is “extremely gory, not a little nasty and rather fun”.  Finally the TV Guide summed it up by noting it is “a siren of distinction for its black comedy, skewed take on the human condition and open sexuality.” 

It currently has a ninety-two percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 Frank R. Paul. Illustrator who graced the covers of Amazing Stories beginning with this cover for April 1926, as well as Science Wonder Stories and Air Wonder Stories from June 1929 to October 1940 and a number of others.  He also illustrated the cover of Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Stratford Company, 1925), published first as a 1911–1912 serial in Modern Electrics. He was the Guest of Honor at the very first WorldCon, Nycon, in July 1939. He was inducted into Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2009. Stephen D. Korshak and Frank R. Paul’s From the Pen of Paul: The Fantastic Images of Frank R. Paul published in 2010 is the only work I found that looks at him. (Died 1963.)
  • Born April 18, 1930 Clive Revill, 92. His first genre role was as Ambrose Dudley in The Headless Ghost, a late Fifties British film. He then was in Modesty Blaise in the dual roles of McWhirter / Sheik Abu Tahir followed by The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes playing Rogozhin. A choice role follows as he’s The Voice of The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back.  As for one-offs, he shows up in The Adventures of Robin HoodThe New AvengersWizards and Warriors in a recurring role as Wizard Vector, Dragon’s Lair, the second version of The Twilight ZoneBatman: The Animated Series in recurring role as as Alfred Pennyworth, Babylon 5Freakazoid in a number of roles, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Pinky and The Brain… that’s not even close to a full listing! 
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. Another one who died way too young, damn it. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Baen Books and is available from the usual digital suspects as everything else by her.  (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 57. Some Birthday honor folks are elusive. What I did find is awesome as he’s deep in the Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh, but that’s just a mere small taste of all he’s done, He also did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally, he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money.
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 53. I found him working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, AndromedaFarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek in its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. Now I will admit that his Farscape: House of Cards novel is quite fantastic, and it’s available from the usual suspects. He’s also written quite a bit of non-tie-in fiction.
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 51. The Tenth Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly and even reviewed over at Green Man.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe.
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 49. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and was a finalist for Best Fan Writer Hugo at CoNZealand and DisCon III, and has been nominated this year again at Chicon 8. Very impressive indeed! And of course she’s a member of our community here. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMICS FOR UKRAINE. Kurt Busiek is among the many stellar contributors to Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds, a benefit anthology edited by multi-Eisner Award-winner Scott Dunbier. The book will be full-color, 96 pages, 8×12 inches, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions.

Mark Evanier will be in the book, too:

Among the many writers and artists contributing to this effort are Sergio Aragonés and myself. We’re doing a new Groo story that will be included. You can see the whole list of contributors here and you can get your order in for a copy of this historic volume on this page.

There have been $28,808 of pre-orders, with 30 days to go. Order here.

A benefit anthology featuring an all-star lineup of comic book creators, with all proceeds being donated to Ukrainian refugees. Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds features an incredible roster of comics talent united under the mission of providing relief to the war-torn Ukraine, which has suffered attacks from neighboring Russia since late February. With the exception of hard costs (printing, credit-card fees, marketing) all of the funds raised by Comics for Ukraine: Sunflower Seeds will benefit the relief efforts in Ukraine in partnership with Operation USA. Since time of of the essence, if the campaign is successful, right after the campaign is over and payments have been collected by Zoop, all funds will be sent to Operation USA immediately.

(12) NO BRAINER? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s apparently been a burning question for almost 2 decades. Is 28 Days Later a zombie movie or not? I mean, the revening hordes are not technically undead – type zombies, but they do act pretty much like one & spread the infection by biting their victims.

So, what does screenwriter Alex Garland say? But what about director Danny Boyle?  “28 Days Later writer settles long-running debate” at Digital Spy.

…The premise of 28 Days Later follows a pandemic caused by the accidental release of a contagious virus named The Rage, but the infected don’t die and then come back to life like a typical zombie.

However, they do exhibit zombie-like aggressive behaviour and spread the disease by biting victims, though, so that’s where the debate comes in….

(13) HE’S A BLOCKHEAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] News has broken that Jason Momoa will be trading in the ripped physiques of Aquaman and Duncan Idaho for the squared off physique of a lead character in a movie based on Minecraft. Or, at least, negotiations to that effect are nearing completion. “Jason Momoa to Star in ‘Minecraft’ Movie for Warner Bros.” says The Hollywood Reporter.

… Gaming movies have been on a hot streak in recent years, with 20th Century launching a hit franchise with Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy last year, and Paramount finding success with its Sonic sequel earlier this month.

Momoa and Warners have Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom due out in March 2023. The film is the sequel to the $1 billion-grossing 2018 film Aquaman

(14) DROPPING THE HAMMER. Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder opens in theaters July 8, 2022.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced – a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who – to Thor’s surprise – inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes discuss “Why Magical Realism is a Global Phenomenon”.

Blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, magical realism in literature and other media combines fantasy elements with concrete realities to make statements about the world we live in. In this episode, we explore its roots, lay out the tenets of the genre, and discuss how it has flourished in Latin American Literature. Hosted by Lindsay Ellis and Princess Weekes, It’s Lit! is a show about our favorite books, genres, and why we love to read.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Bill, Will R., Nickpheas, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

2021 BSFA Awards

The British Science Fiction Association today announced the winners of the 2021 BSFA Awards.

The awards are voted on by members of the British Science Fiction Association and by the members of the year’s Eastercon, the national science fiction convention, held since 1955.

The BSFA Awards have been presented annually since 1970. This year marks the launch of a new category, the Best Book for Younger Readers.

 BEST BOOK FOR YOUNGER READERS

  • Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao, Rock the Boat

BEST NOVEL

  • Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tor

BEST SHORTER FICTION

  • ‘Fireheart Tiger’ by Aliette de Bodard, Tor.com

BEST NON-FICTION

  • Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Francesca T. Barbini, Luna Publishing

BEST ARTWORK

  • Glasgow Green Woman by Iain Clark, Glasgow2024
Aliette de Bodard with BSFA Award

Pixel Scroll 4/5/22 Now That’s A Pixel I’ve Not Scrolled In A Long Time. A Long Time

(1) BEARING IT ALL. John Scalzi gives his fans a gift in “A New Story For You: Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager” at Whatever.

Whenever I go on book tour, I like to write up a short story to read at the events; a thank you, as it were, to the people who show up, who get to hear me read something no one else has gotten to yet. …

… This year, the short story I wrote (which I performed first on the 2022 edition of the JoCo Cruise) is called “Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager,” and it comes with a backstory, which is, there’s an actual job with the US National Park Service called a Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager. This job was pointed out to me by a friend who works with the park service; they were going to go into detail about the job actually entailed, but I stopped them before they could do so. “No, no,” I said. “I want to write a story about this job, and I do not want it sullied by mere facts.”

Thus, this story is a fanciful interpretation of what I imagine a Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager does, which I am almost entirely certain has nothing to do with what someone with this job actually does…

(2) PRECIOUS MOMENTS. Andy Serkis returns as Gollum in the new audiobook of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Award-winning actor Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) returns to Middle-earth this September in the brand new unabridged audiobook of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. In this scene, he reprises his role as Gollum.

 (3) DO KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY. Scott Oden talks about “The Landscape of Historical Fiction, Circa Now”.

…Certain topics are perennial. The Tudors, for example, seem always in fashion. So, too, the Romans. The latter are split into two camps: the pulpier sword-and-sandal novels of war and great deeds, emperors and kings, and the “quieter” histories that also bear some resemblance to romance novels. Scottish books are still holding steady, with their shirtless Highlanders and fiery gingers. Civil War novels have all but vanished, and there are a few Revolutionary era out there. I’ve seen more set in medieval India that I’d previously noticed.

Discordant to me, the Sixties have edged into historical fiction. The 1960s. The decade of my birth. This reminds me I’m slowly fossilizing ….

(4) WRAP ARTIST. At CrimeReads, Lisa Tuttle says “Forget Frankenstein. It’s Time To Read The Mummy!”, about a little known early science fiction novel from 1827.

FRANKENSTEIN, published in 1818, established Mary Shelley’s monster as a permanent icon of horror, and is considered by many to be the first true science fiction novel. Yet The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century, published nine years later, has a much stronger claim to that position. It was also the first work of fiction to feature an Egyptian mummy restored to life, but it was too far ahead of its time to become the foundational text for the later wave of horror featuring vengeful mummies.

Despite some Gothic flourishes, The Mummy! is not strictly a tale of horror. It does not deal in ancient curses or dark magic, and if at first the mummy of Cheops appears as a grim, imposing figure with flashing eyes and an eerie laugh, striking terror into the hearts of all who see him, he turns out to be a strangely helpful Machiavellian operator as he swiftly involves himself in political machinations following the death of Queen Claudia in twenty-second century London….

(5) IF YOU WANT OGRES. The Hugo Book Club Blog reviews Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Ogres in “Monstrously Wealthy”. Maybe you’d like to read it, too? They have three copies to give away. Here’s what you need to do.

(6) Q&A WITH NOMMO NOMINEES. The BSFA interviews past nominees for the Nommo Awards: Innocent Chizaram Ilo; Tlotlo Tsamaase; Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki; Tochi Onyebuchi; NIkhil Singh; Stephen Embleton.

(7) THAT OLD GANG OF MINE. “Star Trek: Picard to Reunite Next Generation Cast for Season 3”Variety tells who’ll be aboard.

Star Trek: The Next Generation” stars LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner will join Patrick Stewart for the third and final season of the Paramount Plus series “Star Trek: Picard.”

Spiner has played several characters on “Picard” in Season 1 and 2 (which is currently streaming), including his original role of the android Data; Frakes and Sirtis appeared in one memorable episode of “Picard” in Season 1 as William T. Riker and Deanna Troi. And Whoopi Goldberg reprised her role as Guinan in the Season 2 premiere. But this will be the first time the main “TNG” cast — including Burton as Geordi La Forge, Dorn as Worf, and McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher — has performed on screen together since the 2002 feature film “Star Trek: Nemesis.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-six years ago, the Golden Voyage of Sinbad premiered in the United States on this day. It was based as these things are somewhat loosely upon on Sinbad the Sailor from One Thousand and One Nights, better known as the Arabian Nights

It was directed by Gordon Hessler, previously known for his long association with the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. It was scripted by him from a story by himself and Ray Harryhausen who of course did the special effects here. Harryhausen and Charles Schneer, whose career was spent mostly working with Hartyhausen, produced it. 

It has a cast of John Phillip Law, Tom Baker, Takis Emmanuel, Caroline Munro, Douglas Wilmer and Martin Shaw. Munro was given the female lead, though they had to hew to a G rating here. And it is said that Baker’s performance in this film was what landed him the role of the Fourth Doctor, because the show’s producer, Barry Letts, was impressed with his performance here.

So how was the reception at the time for it? 

Well, Time magazine (remember them?) rather liked it though Baker they did not: “The movie is short on talk, except for the windbag wizard (Tom Baker) who plays the villain, and long on action, quite the proper proportion for entertainments like this. Sinbad is light, silly fun, and kids will probably appreciate both the skillful technique of the fantasy and the fact that the film makers have had the good sense not to include a single—yecchh!—kissing scene.” 

And Variety was likewise impressed: “As with producer Charles H. Schneer’s Jason and the Argonauts, Ray Harryhausen encores as coproducer and special effects collaborator. Among his creations: an animated ship’s figurehead, a grotesque centaur, a many-armed religious idol and swordplay adversary, and a couple of small bat-like creatures performing intelligence duty for the black artsy heavy of the piece. Good enough conjuring tricks to impress the kids.  Neither story nor running time are belabored under Gordon Hessler’s capable direction. And the play-acting is up to snuff for this kind of throwback, in which John Phillip Law impersonates Sinbad with appealing understatement.”

Currently it holds decent though not outstanding sixty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can purchase or rent it pretty much anywhere.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 5, 1909 Albert Broccoli. American film producer responsible for all the Bond films up to Licence to Kill, either by himself or in conjunction with others. He also was the producer of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and executive produced The Gamma People which is in the public domain, so you can see it here. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 5, 1916 Bernard Baily. A comics writer, editor and publisher. Best remembered as co-creator of The Spectre and Hourman. For DC Comics precursor National Comics, Baily co-created and drew the adventure feature “Tex Thomson” in Action Comics #1 (June 1938), the landmark comic book that introduced Superman. In 1943, he founded his own studio. Among the artists who started out in the industry there were Frank Frazetta, Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode, one of three Trek episodes he did. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended. And I know “That Hellbound Train” which won him first Hugo at Detention is the piece by him that I’ve read the most. He received a special committee award at L.A. Con II, where they were honored him for fifty years as SF professional. Impressive indeed. And yes, he’s a member of First Fandom as he should be. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 96. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for what I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Death Race: Beyond Anarchy was his final film just a few years back. He’s a man who even produced a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996. A very, very long career. 
  • Born April 5, 1933 Frank Gorshin. To my amazement, I’ve not written him up before! He of course played The Riddler eleven times on The Batman counting the film. And he appeared on Star Trek  playing Bele in “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, though I’ll be damn if I remember which of the two he was. He had one-offs on The MunstersWonder WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th Century (well a two-parter there), MonstersAre You Afraid of the DarkThe Ren & Stimpy Show (voice role), Black Scorpion and coming full circle finally voicing Professor Hugo Strange on The Batman. One of the figure companies is doing a one-sixth scale figure of his Riddler this Autumn. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 5, 1950 Anthony Horowitz, 72. He wrote five episodes of Robin of Sherwood, and he was both creator and writer of Crime Traveller. He’s also written both Bond and Holmes novels. If you can find a copy, Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood: The Hooded Man is a very nice fleshing out of that series in literary form.
  • Born April 5, 1950 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 57. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here with lots of Library-related material. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels.

(10) SPOT ON. Cora Buhlert has posted another Fanzine Spotlight for “Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations” by Joachim Boaz.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations maps the varied landscape of SF produced during the turbulence of the post-WWII to the mid-1980s world. I am fascinated by the ways authors responded to the advent of nuclear weapons, the rise of 50s suburbia and commercialism, the Civil Rights movement, the Counterculture and radical student politics, the Vietnam War, and the 1970s political backlash. I chart what’s produced in a specific time and territory to understand the people who dwelled at that moment—their dreams for the future, their fears of the present, and all the manifestations of estrangement and elation generated by a rapidly transforming world. Science fiction is a fantastic way to get at the zeitgeist of an era.

I am particularly receptive to New Wave science fiction of the late 60s and early 70s that attempted to tackle our oblique interiors via radical structure/politics, non-standard characters and perspectives, and experimental prose. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But it’s all fascinating.

(11) 2021 HUGO SWAG. Also, congratulations to Cora Buhlert who is celebrating the arrival of her DisCon III Hugo finalist goodies.

(12) UP YOUR LIBRARY I WILL PROP. The “Yoda Illusion Bookend” seems like an entertaining idea.

(13) CUT-AND-PAST. The 2014 trailer for graduate film student Ricky Kennedy’s feature length film “The History of Time Travel” is news to me!

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Ghost Rider 1 and 2,” the Screen Junkies say the two Ghost Rider movies “Feel like going on a 48-hour Coke bender with Nick Cage. They’re a bad idea, but still pretty fun.”  The two films are “loud, fun, and barely make sense. They’re dumb, but comic books are dumb.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Sidewise Award Winners for 2019 and 2020

The winners of the 2019 and 2020 Sidewise Awards were announced this afternoon at DisCon III.  The awards have been presented annually since 1995 to recognize excellence in alternate historical fiction.

2019 Short Form: Harry Turtledove. “Christmas Truce” Asimov’s, November 2019.

2019 Long Form: Annalee Newitz. The Future of Another Timeline. Tor, 2019.

2020 Short Form: Matthew Kresal. “Moonshot”. Alternate Australias (ed. Jared Kavanagh), Sea Lion Press, 2020.

2020 Long Form: Adrian Tchaikovsky. The Doors of Eden. Pan McMillan, 2020.

The judging panel consisted of Karen Hellekson, Matt Mitrovich, Olav Rokne, Kurt Sidaway, and Steven H Silver.

The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were conceived in late 1995 to honor the best allohistorical genre publications of the year. The first awards were announced in summer 1996 and honored works from 1995. The award takes its name from Murray Leinster’s 1934 short story “Sidewise in Time,” in which a strange storm causes portions of Earth to swap places with their analogs from other timelines.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 7/21/21 No Gods Were Stalked In the Making Of This Scroll Title

(1) HAUNTED. At Horrified: The British Horror Website, Sarah Jackson discusses the objects that become haunted in classic ghost stories written by women: “Haunted objects in women’s weird fiction”.

Like hermit crabs, ghosts and demonic forces are extremely adaptable when it comes to finding a new home. Especially fond of portraits, mirrors, and dolls, they have also been known to inhabit more mundane items. A saucepan. A fur boa. A pair of gloves. A snuff box.

Household items charged with supernatural power are a common motif in the large body of weird fiction written by British women in the first half of the twentieth century. Sometimes the effect is darkly comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes terrifying. As Melissa Edmundson notes in her introduction to Women’s Weird: Strange Stories by Women, 1890-1940 (Handheld Press, Melissa Edmundson, 2019) many of these haunted objects are ‘traditionally feminine’, and almost all have some connection to women’s changing roles and complicated relationship with domesticity and sexuality in this period.

(2) HE’LL RETIRE THE SERIES WITH THE RECORD. Stephen Jones reminded Andrew Porter about ending his Best New Horror anthology series in 2022. He wrote:

“I quietly announced it nearly two years ago.

“It was always the plan that when — or if! — I ever reached volume #31 (one more volume than THE PAN BOOK OF HORROR STORIES) then I would probably retire it. It’s an annual anthology that now takes nearly two years to compile!

“The final volume (in this format at least) will be published by PS Publishing towards the end of the year.

“It will hopefully set the record for the longest-running horror anthology series from the same editor.

“I decided to let Gardner Dozois’ record with THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION stand.”

(3) NEXT GAIMAN BOOK TO TV.  “Neil Gaiman’s ‘Anansi Boys’ to Get Amazon Series Adaptation” reports Variety.

…The streamer has given the limited series a six-episode order with plans in place to begin shooting in Scotland later this year. First published in 2005, “Anansi Boys” follows Charlie Nancy, a young man who is used to being embarrassed by his estranged father, Mr. Nancy. But when his father dies, Charlie discovers that his father was Anansi: trickster god of stories. And he learns that he has a brother. Now his brother, Spider, is entering Charlie’s life, determined to make it more interesting but making it a lot more dangerous.

The character of Mr. Nancy appears in both “Anansi Boys” and the Gaiman novel “American Gods,” the latter of which is currently airing a series adaptation on Starz. However, there is no connection between the two projects and “Anansi Boys” will serve as a stand-alone story.

The author tells how it happened in “The Other Half of the Secret” at Neil Gaiman’s Journal.

I mentioned that making Good Omens two is half of what I’ve been working on, and will be working on for next eighteen months, and I said I’d tell you soon enough what the other secret project I’ve been working on is.

It’s this

…And I cannot tell you how happy I am to be making it, and making it in the way that we’re making it.

Anansi Boys started in about 1996. I was working on the original Neverwhere TV series for Lenny Henry’s film company, Crucial Films.

I loved a lot of what we were doing in Neverwhere. 25 years ago, it felt like we were doing something ahead of its time. 

Lenny and I went for a walk. Lenny grumbled about horror films. “You’ll never get people who look like me starring in horror films,” he said. “We’re the hero’s friend who dies third.”

And I thought and blinked. He was right. “I’ll write you a horror movie you could star in,” I told him.

I plotted one. I tried writing the first half-dozen pages of the movie, but it didn’t seem to be right as a movie. And I was beginning to suspect that the story I was imagining, about two brothers whose father had been a God, wasn’t really horror, either.

… A top Hollywood director wanted to buy the rights to Anansi Boys, but when he told me that he planned to make all the characters white, I declined to sell it. It was going to be done properly or not at all.

And then, about ten years ago, two things happened at the same time. Hilary Bevan Jones, a producer who had made a short film I had directed (called Statuesque) mentioned she’d love to make Anansi Boys as a TV series, and a man named Richard Fee, who worked for a company called RED, spotted me eating noodles in a London noodle bar, waited outside so he didn’t seem like a stalker, and told me how much he loved Anansi Boys and that he’d love to make it into television.

I loved the TV that RED had made, loved Hilary and her team at Endor, and, unable to decide between them, suggested that they might be willing to work together. They both thought this was a good idea. …

(4) WORD. SFFANZ found a couple of noteworthy sff items on the Christchurch Word Festival program. New Zealand’s Christchurch Word Festival is on August 25-29.

Our attention has been drawn to two specfic items on the programme:

Speed Date a Speculative Fiction Author“, featuring Graci Kim, Cassie Hart, Sascha Stronach, and Karen Healey

The Stardust Cabaret“, including Sascha Stronach and AJ Fitzwater, with “star-stuff infused performances”

(5) CONLANG. BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth program for July 20 was on invented languages such as for Game of Thrones: Word of Mouth – “The Art of Inventing Languages”.

How does one go about inventing a language? David J. Peterson is the creator of the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for fantasy series Game of Thrones, as well as many others. He joins Michael Rosen for a playful discussion about all things conlang, and Michael tries his luck at inventing a new language for bacteria.

(6) VISUAL EFFECTS. Yesterday BBC Radio 4 also ran the third of three episodes in its series Unreal: The VFX Revolution, called  “The New Flesh”.

Oscar winner Paul Franklin tells how visual effects changed and how they changed cinema. By the mid 1990s, Industrial Light & Magic, the VFX house at the heart of the rebirth of photochemical illusions, was home to a small but growing band of digerati convinced that the next breakthrough was at their fingertips. Jurassic Park not only proved their point but showed audiences and filmmakers that nothing could be the same again. The quest for the illusion of life, for the subtlety of performance would eventually lead back to Middle Earth and the evolution of Gollum – the perfect fusion of man and digits. Meanwhile the illusory world of The Matrix put its extraordinary moments of Bullet Time at the heart of its story and ideas. This was visual effects as both story and metaphor. Christopher Nolan’s Inception took that warping of reality to a different, hyper-real realm as Paul Franklin and his team folded the streetscapes of Paris upon each other. And now? What does the future hold for storytelling and visual effects?

(7) VERDANT ARTHURIANA. A second trailer has dropped for The Green Knight, to be released July 30.

An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, THE GREEN KNIGHT tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1995 – Twenty-six years ago, Patricia McKillip’s Something Rich and Strange won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. The book was first published in hardcover by Bantam Spectra in November 1994.  It was originally published as part of Brian Freud’s Faerielands series, a collaborative series of novels where the writer could choose from a set of illustrations that Froud did and write their novels around those pieces of art. Only two of the four planned books were published with the intended artwork, this one and The Wild Wood by Charles de Lint. A third illustration would be used but not as part of this series but rather as the U.K. edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife which was intended to be part of this series but instead got a Susan Seddon Boulet cover.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 21, 1929 John Woodvine, 92. He’s first shows up genre wise in An American Werewolf in London as Dr J. S. Hirsch, but shortly thereafter he’s Master West 468 in The Tripods and Prior Mordrin in the Knights of God children’s SF serial. Finally he’s Justice Dimkind in A Perfect State which is at least genre adjacent. 
  • Born July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales); A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death in a motorcycle accident, is a ghost story. OGH says he remembers Gardner’s short fiction collection The King’s Indian (1974) very fondly. It made a big impression on him when he was in college and still thought he might become an sf writer. (Died 1982.)
  • Born July 21, 1944 David Feintuch. Astounding Award winner for best new writer. He wrote one science fiction series, the Seafort Saga, and a fantasy series, Rodrigo of Caledon. An eighth novel in his SF series, Galahad’s Hope, was apparently completed but never published. (Died 2006.)
  • Born July 21, 1948 Garry Trudeau, 73. Best remembered for creating the Doonesbury franchise which I’m not pretending is genre but I wanted to note his birthday.  The first daily strip was published Oct. 26, 1970 (he does new ones only on Sundays now) which means he’s been at it for over fifty years. 
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook which I adore, The Fisher KingBicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 21, 1969 Christopher Shea, 52. Someone at casting likes him as he showed up in three Trek series, VoyagerDeep Space Nine and Enterprise playing a total of four roles. His only other genre was on Charmed
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 45. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood

(10) THE EARLY BIRD. San Diego Comic-Con International has posted the Program Schedule for [email protected], running July 23-25 – there are also some pre-con items on the schedule for today and tomorrow.  

(11) IT’S A MYSTERY TO HIM. James Davis Nicoll has picked out some really good ones: “Five Captivating SFF Mystery Novels” at Tor.com. I want to read all of them.

The Apothecary Diaries 01 by Natsu Hyuuga (2020)

Kidnapped and sold as a maid to the rear palace, the sprawling residence for the emperor’s many wives and consorts, Maomao is determined to keep a low profile until her term of service is over and she can return to her old life as a would-be apprentice to her apothecary foster-father in a nearby red light district. Bright, pragmatic, and aloof, Maomao sees little to covet in the endless squabbles of the rear palace.

Sadly for this plan, Maomao’s observant nature, unusual skills, and inability to restrain from interfering in potentially lethal misadventures draw the attention of powerful eunuch Jinshi. Maomao has committed an error even riskier than offending one of the court’s most powerful functionaries. She has inadvertently shown that her deductive prowess could be useful. Which means, of course, when confronted with seemingly inexplicable mysteries—or even just the need for a toxin-resistant food taster—it is to Maomao that Jinshi turns. And if things go horribly wrong? Well, that probably won’t affect Jinshi.

(12) LEND ME YOUR EARS. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer takes “A second look at N.K. Jemisin’s 2020 Hugo Finalist novel, THE CITY WE BECAME” – which is actually a first listen.

…With the novel now a Hugo Finalist, and me, as the author, as a native New Yorker having re-read the book recently in audio, I thought a second look  at the book was in order to explore other facets of the novel, and the audiobook in particular….

While I had highly enjoyed reading the book in ebook last year, my choice of re-reading it audio, first a way to fill some loose hours in my listening schedule and a way to tag back into the book in order to rank it as a Hugo Finalist on my ballot. I was, however, riveted from the beginning for a number of reasons.

The choice of narrator, Robin Miles, is an excellent choice. Miles has worked with Jemisin before (notably on the Broken Earth trilogy) and has a very good voice for Jemisin’s word choice and sentence style. It’s a wonderfully immersive performance on her part, and her voice kept me listening, to the point of NPR style “Driveway moments” throughout the production. This is a book I could have done even better listening to it on a long driving trip.

The use of sound in the audiobook was inspired. While this is not a full cast production, and just has the aforementioned Miles as narrator, the production is not content to just use her considerable vocal talents. The audiobook employs some sound effects and tricks to help immerse the reader into, particularly, the cosmic horror of the novel in a way that the print novel doesn’t quite manage….

(13) SPACE OPERATICS. And last week Paul Weimer looked at this book for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview: Assassin’s Orbit by John Appel”.

… With the recent publication of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shards of Earth, and now this, John Appel’s debut into novels, Assassin’s Orbit, there appears to be a mini boomlet in space opera stories set in a verse where Earth, the center, has been removed from the equation, and in point of fact, the power that ended Earth is one that might return in full force and flower and destroy what has been built in the meantime. And, also, the theme of how expatriates, if not outright refugees, try to build a new life far away from a home they cannot return to is one that is very much of this moment….

(14) ESSENCE OF WONDER. Author Jenn Lyons will be on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on July 24 at 3:00 P.M. Eastern: “Dragons, Demons, Gods: Astounding Award Finalist Jenn Lyons on Her Series A Chorus of Dragons”.

This is now a streaming show that you connect with using one of these platforms: YouTube; Facebook Live; or Twitch.

(15) DUNE CAST POSTERS. Warner Bros. has released a series of character posters from Dune, the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel directed by Denis Villeneuve. Its world premiere will happen at the Venice Film Festival in September before its October 22 release. See the character posters on Twitter. Thread starts here. Poster of Timothée Chalamet, who stars as Paul Atreides; Zendaya (Chani); Rebecca Ferguson (Lady Jessica); Jason Momoa (Duncan Idaho); Oscar Isaac (Duke Leto Atreides); Javier Bardem (Stilgar); Josh Brolin (Gurney Halleck); and Stellan Skarsgård (Baron Vladimir Harkonnen). Also Dave Bautista, Sharon Duncan Brewster, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Chang Chen and David Dastmalchian and Charlotte Rampling.

(16) PRO TIP. Larry Correia gave everyone a free lesson about “How To Write Your Author Bio” [Internet Archive link] at Monster Hunter Nation. The TL:DR version is: write a straight bio with your credits, then take the curse off by writing a blog post that belittles whatever you humblebragged about. For example:

And —

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Scarlet Nexus,” Fandom Games says this game is “one of the most anime-friendly games ever” but not based on any actual anime, so you don’t have to prep before playing the game.

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