(1) BARD’S TOWER CLOSES. Bard’s Tower tweeted an announcement today that they have ceased operation. Bard’s Tower was Alexi Vandenberg’s book sales business noted for running autograph sessions at conventions to “provide celebrity experiences with the authors of SciFi and Fantasy.”
Let me begin by thanking all of our amazing authors, creative storytellers, patrons, and fans.
Since 2016 Bard’s Tower has provided a place for authors in the pop culture convention landscape. Unfortunately it has become clear that after 2020 and the subsequent 2021 and 2022 seasons that the financial and personal costs of running Bard’s Tower make its continued operation impossible.
I regret to inform everyone that as of today The Bard’s Tower will not continue in operation.
Thank you for your support and understanding.
For the past few years Bard’s Tower has been dogged by complaints, charges of late pay or no pay, and other forms of business malpractice.
Author Michael Z. Williamson documented his experience trying to facilitate the sale of a deceased friend’s collection in “When Booksellers Go Bad: Alexi Vandenberg, Bard’s Tower, Rabid Fanboy Enterprises”. Published in February 2023, the post begins:
SUMMARY: Alexi Vandenberg was supposed to sell $10,000 worth of rare books from the estate of a multiply decorated combat veteran. The inheritor is the veteran’s disabled niece. Over 17 months later, he has not paid a cent to the estate, nor returned the books.
UPDATE: Two days after this post, after many exchanges on how to pay electronically, he has paid the estate his estimated value of the books.
Early this month at Geeks, Abbas Abbasi wrote a post about allegations made against the Bard’s Tower owner: “Alexi Vandenberg: A Monster In The Geek Community”.
Alexi Vandenberg, owner of Rabid Fanboy, styles himself as “The Merchant Prince of Fandom,” and “Steampunk Jesus,” and claims to be a serial entrepreneur, running Bard’s Tower, Prince of Cats Literary Productions, and the ironically-named Super Villain’s Network. However, aside from Rabid Fanboy, none of these companies actually exist. Alexi Vandenberg has used these as aliases to gain his perennial status as a vendor at science fiction conventions. You have likely seen him selling books as Bard’s Tower or Bard’s Tower Celebrity Experience….
(2) PRACTICUM. “Nuts and Bolts Interview with John Gray” is conducted by Tom Joyce for the Horror Writers Association blog, part of a monthly series of interviews and features dealing with the practical aspects of writing.
What are the different considerations that go into writing a screenplay, vs. writing a novel?
Novels and screenplays are very different animals — with scripts, you are always fighting the clock, especially in television, where there are usually pre-set running times. You are often having to sacrifice backstory and subplots, which can keep the work from rising above the superficial. With novels, there are no such limitations, and while it is still your responsibility as a writer to be economic and entertaining, you have much more freedom to explore your characters and their pasts, their inner lives, their thoughts, and you can complicate your plots in really satisfying ways, not always possible in film and television.
(3) FILM FESTIVAL VENUE SCOTCHED. Edinburgh’s Dead by Dawn Horror Festival has reluctantly announced that their longtime venue, the Filmhouse, is “boarded up and for sale.” Director Adele Hartley wrote on Facebook:
I was, like everyone else, hanging on for a miracle but miracles seem a little thin on the ground these days.
Filmhouse on Lothian Road needed a financial hand to get back on track and could then have continued to support itself going forward. A city which can find bewildering sums of money for bewildering projects apparently could not or would not help.
It’s hard to understand how a government seemingly so passionate about independence appears not to value independent arts on its own doorstep….
…As every horror fan knows, when the beast is lying in the dust, seemingly destroyed so the sun can come up and the final girl can go home, the camera will linger on the hand just long enough that we might see the pinkie give a tiny twitch – a death throes reflex, or a sequel? Only time will tell.
All I ever wanted to do was watch horror films with horror fans and I’m so glad you were there to do that with me for the last 29 years. I had a blast.
(4) LATE ARRIVALS. Publishing Perspectives reports “Tove Jansson’s Moomin Characters Licensed to Barnes & Noble”.
Less than two weeks before almost 29,000 trade visitors and illustrators were walking past a large Moomins R&B display at the 60th Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the United States’ largest bookstore chain, Barnes & Noble, announced a new licensing rights deal with the estate of Tove Jansson (1914-2001), the Swedish-speaking Finnish illustrator and writer best remembered for creating the Moomin books for kids.
Handled by Moomins Characters Oy Ltd. in Helsinki, the official rights holder of all the Moomin characters, the deal is bringing the Moomins to more than 600 Barnes & Noble stores in the United States. And it will surprise many in Europe and the United Kingdom—where Moomins can seem as ubiquitous as Disney characters are in the States—to know that many Americans are seeing these portly white figures for the first time…
(5) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. Have no trepidations! “The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits” says Kevin Dickinson at Big Think.
I love books. If I go to the bookstore to check a price, I walk out with three books I probably didn’t know existed beforehand. I buy second-hand books by the bagful at the Friends of the Library sale, while explaining to my wife that it’s for a good cause. Even the smell of books grips me, that faint aroma of earthy vanilla that wafts up at you when you flip a page.
The problem is that my book-buying habit outpaces my ability to read them. This leads to FOMO and occasional pangs of guilt over the unread volumes spilling across my shelves. Sound familiar?
But it’s possible this guilt is entirely misplaced. According to statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, these unread volumes represent what he calls an “antilibrary,” and he believes our antilibraries aren’t signs of intellectual failings. Quite the opposite.
… [Kevin Mims’] preferred label is a loanword from Japan: tsundoku. Tsundoku is the Japanese word for the stack(s) of books you’ve purchased but haven’t read. Its morphology combines tsunde-oku (letting things pile up) and dokusho (reading books)….
(6) LANCE REDDICK (1963-2023). Although best known for his roles in The Wire, Bosch, and the John Wick movies, actor Lance Reddick, who died March 17 at age 60, also worked in many genre productions.
He was in Godzilla vs. King Kong. He appeared in episodes of TV’s Lost, Fringe, Quantum Break, Young Sheldon, and Resident Evil. He voiced characters in episodes of the animated series The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Tron: Uprising, Beware the Batman, Rick & Morty, Duck Tales, and The Legend of Vox Machina. He also did voice work in many video games.
(7) MEMORY LANE.
1970 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Tony Hillerman’s The Blessing Way: A Leaphorn & Chee Novel is the start of the most excellent series. Published in hardcover by Harper & Row, fifty-three years ago, it was the first of seventeen novels that he wrote involving those two members of the Navajo Tribal Police, separately and together.
The novels are rich in the details of Reservation life and the interaction with larger society around them. This novel delves into the mythology of Navajo culture in ways I can’t discuss here without spoiling the story for you. (Do not read the Wikipedia article, really I mean it.) Hillerman who lived much of his life in the Southwest obviously loved this region and it shows here.
His daughter Annie wrote seven more so far. I’ve read three and they were quite well done. They’re different but still akin to his novels.
It’s not a spoiler to note these novels were made to a series. His novels Skinwalkers, A Thief of Time and Coyote Waits were adapted for television as of the American Mystery! series by the Public Broadcasting Service.
And now here’s our Beginning…
LUIS HORSEMAN LEANED the flat stone very carefully against the piñon twig, adjusted its balance exactly and then cautiously withdrew his hand. The twig bent, but held. Horseman rocked back on his heels and surveyed the deadfall. He should have put a little more blood on the twig, he thought, but it might be enough. He had placed this one just right, with the twig at the edge of the kangaroo rat’s trail. The least nibble and the stone would fall. He reached into his shirt front, pulled out a leather pouch, extracted an odd-shaped lump of turquoise, and placed it on the ground in front of him. Then he started to sing:
“The Sky it talks about it.
The Talking God One he tells about it.
The Darkness to Be One knows about it.
The Talking God is with me.
With the Talking God I kill the male game.”
There was another part of the song, but Horseman couldn’t remember it. He sat very still, thinking. Something about the Black God, but he couldn’t think how it went. The Black God didn’t have anything to do with game, but his uncle had said you have to put it in about him to make the chant come out right. He stared at the turquoise bear. It said nothing. He glanced at his watch. It was almost six. By the time he got back to the rimrock it would be late enough to make a little fire, dark enough to hide the smoke. Now he must finish this.
“The dark horn of the bica,
No matter who would do evil to me,
The evil shall not harm me.
The dark horn is a shield of beaten buckskin.”
Horseman chanted in a barely audible voice, just loud enough to be heard in the minds of the animals.
“That evil which the Ye-i turned toward me cannot reach me through the dark horn, through the shield the bica carries.
It brings me harmony with the male game.
It makes the male game hear my heartbeat.
From four directions they trot toward me.
They step and turn their sides toward me. “
“So my arrow misses bone when I shoot.
The death of male game comes toward me.
The blood of male game will wash my body.
The male game will obey my thoughts.”
He replaced the turquoise bear in the medicine pouch and rose stiffly to his feet. He was pretty sure that wasn’t the right song. It was for deer, he thought. To make the deer come out where you could shoot them. But maybe the kangaroo rats would hear it, too. He looked carefully across the plateau, searching the foreground first, then the mid-distance, finally the great green slopes of the Lukachukai Mountains, which rose to the east. Then he moved away from the shelter of the stunted juniper and walked rapidly northwestward, moving silently and keeping to the bottom of the shallow arroyos when he could. He walked gracefully and silently. Suddenly he stopped. The corner of his eye had caught motion on the floor of the Kam Bimghi Valley. Far below him and a dozen miles to the west, a puff of dust was suddenly visible against a formation of weathered red rocks. It might be a dust devil, kicked up by one of the Hard Flint Boys playing their tricks on the Wind Children. But it was windless now. The stillness of late afternoon had settled over the eroded waste below him.
Must have been a truck, Horseman thought, and the feeling of dread returned. He moved cautiously out of the wash behind a screen of piñons and stood motionless, examining the landscape below him. Far to the west, Bearer of the Sun had moved down the sky and was outlining in brilliant white the form of a thunderhead over Hoskininie Mesa. The plateau where Horseman stood was in its shadow but the slanting sunlight still lit the expanse of the Kam Bimghi. There was no dust by the red rocks now, and Horseman wondered if his eyes had tricked him. Then he saw it again. A puff of dust moving slowly across the valley floor. A truck, Horseman thought, or a car. It would be on that track that came across the slick rocks and branched out toward Horse Fell and Many Ruins Canyon, and now to Tall Poles Butte where the radar station was. It must be a truck, or a jeep. That track wasn’t much even in good weather. Horseman watched intently. In a minute he could tell. And if it turned toward Many Ruins Canyon, he would move east across the plateau and up into the Lukachukais. And that would mean being hungry.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 17, 1846 — Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin. She’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1901).
- Born March 17, 1906 — Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role as an actress, she played two roles, Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well. She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and in particular attacking Jewish financial speculators. (Died 1996.)
- Born March 17, 1945 — Tania Lemani, 78. She played Kara in the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. She first met Shatner when she was offered her a role in the pilot for Alexander the Great which starred him in the title role (although the pilot failed to be picked up as a series). She had parts in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Bionic Woman and she shows up in the fanfic video Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. I assume as Kara, though IMDb lists her as herself.
- Born March 17, 1947 — James K. Morrow, 76. I’m very fond of the Godhead trilogy in which God is Dead and very, very present. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a lot of satisfying satirical fun as is The Madonna and the Starship which is also is a wonderful homage to pulp writers. Lazarus Is Waiting is his forthcoming novel.
- Born March 17, 1948 — William Gibson, 75. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. The works I struggled with are Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History. I’ve tried all of them, none were appealing. Eh?
- Born March 17, 1949 — Patrick Duffy, 74. Surely you’ve seen him on Man from Atlantis? No? Oh, you missed a strange, short-lived show. His other genre credits are a delightfully mixed bag of such things as voicing a Goat on Alice in Wonderland, appearing on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as Duke Angelo Rimini in the “Rockets of the Dead” episode and voicing Steve Trevor in the incredibly excellent “The Savage Time” three-parter on Justice League.
- Born March 17, 1951 — Kurt Russell, 72. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
The Skeleton Man attempts to rewrite history: https://twitter.com/MKupperman/status/1636412766675238912
(10) IN TIMES TO BLEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Star Trek Twitter was apparently was all agog, or perhaps aghast, at a swear word escaping Picard‘s mouth. “’Star Trek’, swear words and TV characters’ changing mores” at AP News.
For nearly four decades, Jean-Luc Picard of “Star Trek” has largely been presented as genteel, erudite and — at times — quite buttoned up. Yes, he loses his temper. Yes, he was reckless as a callow cadet many years ago. Yes, he occasionally gets his hands dirty or falls apart.
But the Enterprise captain-turned-admiral stepped into a different place in last week’s episode of the streaming drama “Star Trek: Picard.” Now, he’s someone who — to the shock of some and the delight of others — has uttered a profanity that never would have come from his mouth in the 1990s: “Ten f—-ing grueling hours,” Patrick Stewart’s character says at one point during an intense conversation in which he expects everyone will die shortly.
…Over the weekend, “Star Trek” Twitter reflected that tension.
“Totally out of character,” said one post, reflecting many others. Some complained that it cheapened the utopia that Gene Roddenberry envisioned, that humans wouldn’t be swearing like that four centuries from now, that someone as polished as Picard wouldn’t need such language….
(11) YOUR MUG HERE. “Disney’s New Customizable Tron Figures Swap Sculpted Faces for Tiny Video Screens” at Yahoo!
…Thanks to innovations in 3D printing, anyone can now get an action figure customized with their own likeness through Hasbro’s Selfie Series program—assuming they’ve got the patience to wait a few months for it to be made. Disney’s new Tron Identity Program promises customized action figures in about 16 minutes by skipping the 3D printing altogether.
In fact, the new collection of Tron action figures don’t feature face sculpts at all. The secret to their speedy customization is hidden inside a slick helmet each figure is wearing. Behind the transparent visor is an LCD screen that displays images of digitally captured faces making different expressions, and when played back in sequence, it can even make the figure look like it’s talking….
Only Available at the Happiest Place on Earth
Creating the customized figures only takes around 16 minutes—plenty of time to browse the rest of the gift shop—and they arrive in packaging that looks like a miniaturized Tron arcade cabinet.
With a $90 price tag, the Tron Identity Program Experience is about $30 more expensive than ordering a customized Hasbro Selfie Series figure, but the price difference is probably due to the added electronics in the Tron figures. However, if you want one, you’ll also have to factor in the cost of a trip to Walt Disney World, because while Hasbro’s Selfie Series figures are available to anyone who can use a smartphone app, the Tron Identity Program Experience is only available at the park, outside the Tron Lightcycle attraction, in Florida.
(12) VIRGIN ORBIT HITS THE PAUSE BUTTON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or is that a full stop? When Virgin Orbit had an unsuccessful launch in early January, some pundits predicted that they would run out of money by sometime in March. It is now sometime in March. “Virgin Orbit pauses all operations” in Ars Technica.
It’s been a rough first quarter of 2023 for Virgin Orbit, Sir Richard Branson’s US-based flagship satellite launch company. First, the company had a disastrous UK launch attempt in January; the launch failed after a problem with the rocket’s second-stage engine. The company’s already precarious financial situation went critical in the wake of that failure. As Ars’ Eric Berger reported at the time, several financial analysts predicted that the company would run out of money sometime in March.
Those analysts proved quite prescient. BBC News reports that the beleaguered company will pause its operations on Thursday and furlough almost all its staff, although the company did not officially confirm the furloughs to BBC News. In a statement, the company merely said, “Virgin Orbit is initiating a company-wide operational pause, effective March 16, 2023, and anticipates providing an update on go-forward operations in the coming weeks.” Shares dropped 18.8 percent to 82 cents (72p) in extended trading in response to the news….
(13) A NEW FRONTIER FOR NOISE POLLUTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I think there are implications (which they don’t say) for SETI. “Are telescopes on the Moon doomed before they’ve even been built?” — an open access article at Nature. “Booming exploration and commercial activity could ruin the quiet environment of the lunar far side.”
For radioastronomers, the far side of the Moon could be the last unspoilt refuge in the Solar System. Planet Earth — and all the human-made electromagnetic noise it spews out into space — stays permanently below the horizon, so that any radio observatories positioned there would be free to observe the cosmos without interference.
But an upcoming boom in lunar exploration could put that at risk. In the next ten years or so, the Moon will be the target of hundreds of orbiters and landers, each of which could create radio noise. Researchers voiced their concerns last month at a conference called Astronomy from the Moon: The Next Decades, which took place at the Royal Society in London….
…Astronomers face an uphill struggle. The same technological advances that promise to make the Moon more accessible for their experiments will also make the environment more crowded. More than 250 Moon missions are expected over the coming decade from the space agencies of the United States, Europe, Russia, South Korea, China, Japan, India, Canada and the United Arab Emirates — as well as a host of private companies. That will add up to a US$100-billion ‘lunar economy’, according to Northern Sky Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are also plans to install a lunar satellite navigation system, which could be a source of noise.
lanna Krolikowski, a political scientist at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, thinks that researchers should push for international treaties to protect the Moon. “There is now widespread recognition that we need governance for this forthcoming lunar renaissance,” she told last month’s conference…
(14) IT’S ALIVE! “Active volcano on Venus shows it’s a living planet” says the journal Science. “Eruption spotted in 30-year-old data from Magellan mission”
Choked by a smog of sulphuric acid and scorched by temperatures hot enough to melt lead, the surface of Venus is sure to be lifeless. For decades, researchers also thought the planet itself was dead, capped by a thick, stagnant lid of crust and unaltered by active rifts or volcanoes. But hints of volcanism have mounted recently, and now comes the best one yet: direct evidence for an eruption. Geologically, at least, Venus is alive.
The discovery comes from NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, which orbited Venus some 30 years ago and used radar to peer through the thick clouds. Images made 8 months apart show a volcano’s circular mouth, or caldera, growing dramatically in a sudden collapse. On Earth, such collapses occur when magma that had supported the caldera vents or drains away, as happened during a 2018 eruption at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano….
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Lee Whiteside, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]