Pixel Scroll 1/24/23 Reverse The Scrollarity Of The Pixel Flow

(1) CHICON 8 SHARES FEEDBACK. Chicon 8 chair Helen Montgomery today published the latest of her “Messages from the Chair” dealing with some postcon housekeeping, and with a long passage apologizing for or explaining some decisions that were made. Here are two of the most significant items.

Credit for Hugo Awards Finalists (Translators and Colorists)

S. Qiouyi Lu brought to our attention the exclusion of translators’ names from the written works in the “long listed” works in the detailed results for the 2022 Hugo Awards, explaining the importance of proper credit for translators in a Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/sqiouyilu/status/1566762259187060736. We have posted a corrected set of detailed results at https://chicon.org/home/whats-happening/hugo-awards/, in which we have included the translators for the written works and colorists for the graphic novels. 

As part of the administration of the Hugo Awards, we endeavor to list all relevant creators on the final ballot presented to voters, and this includes confirming the correct ballot citations with Finalists themselves. The long list in the detailed results released after the Hugo Award ceremony is a different matter: it is required by the WSFS Constitution primarily for transparency into our processes, and has the side benefit of pointing folks to works that garnered significant community interest so they can go seek them out on their own. As noted in the detailed results, we do not vet the long list for eligibility and because the primary function of the long list is transparency into the process (which requires a table that is easy to parse), we do not list out full citations with all associated names, publishers, etc. We truncate references to all the works on the long list, listing authors for the written works, author/artist for the graphic stories, and no names at all for the Best Dramatic Presentations and magazines. 

Taking into account feedback from S. Qiouyi Lu and other members of the community, we have come to understand that the work of translators of written works is as fundamental to the work as the authors, and that where one is listed, both should be. We have made corrections to the translated long list works in the 2022 detailed results accordingly. For similar reasons, we are also adding the colorists and cover artists, where they are cited, to the graphic novel listings in the 2022 long list works. 

Thank you to S. Qiouyi Lu and everyone else in the community who has worked with us on this issue.

Hugo Awards Ceremony

We would like to discuss two incidents that occurred during the Hugo Awards Ceremony.

First, we would like to apologize to Marguerite Kenner, Finalist in the Best Fanzine category for The Full Lid, whose name was not read aloud during the ceremony. This was simply a mis-read by our ceremony hosts, who did immediately reach out personally to Ms. Kenner after the ceremony to apologize as well.

Second, there were concerns raised online during the Best Semiprozine category presentation when the audience laughed at the discrepancy between the slide listing the names of the Strange Horizons team and what was said aloud. While we spoke with all Finalists and agreed upon the language to be used on the slides and in the presentation, we acknowledge that we did not properly explain to the audience the context and conversation around not reading out the names of everyone on the Strange Horizons team. We also did not properly support our hosts by putting them in this situation. We will be speaking to future Worldcons to pass on our advice and experience in the hope to avoid similar situations in the future. 

Other items include: an apology for the original name given to the “Future Worldcon Q&A Session” (“The Fannish Inquisition”), correction of errors in Hugo Awards list in the printed Souvenir Book (names misspelled, Astounding Award 2022 winner name listed); omissions of some credits for  the Hugo Awards Ceremony and Opening Ceremony; follow-up with the Airmeet team; Art Show feedback; complaints about badge lanyards; and reasons for having an electronic-only Pocket Program Guide.

(2) FIFTH SEASON RPG CROWDFUNDING. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Green Ronin has launched a Backerkit campaign for the Fifth Season RPG, using their tried-and-tested AGE system (which was also used in the Expanse RPG). “The Fifth Season Roleplaying Game”.

…You and your fellow players take the roles of members of such a community, working to overcome internal difficulties and external threats, in order to be ready when that inevitable Fifth Season comes. Are you a lifelong native of this place, someone everyone has recognized from childhood? Maybe you’re a more recent addition to the comm, someone who’s come from a distance, contributing something to the comm that makes the possibility of your secrets and past catching up to you worth it. Or perhaps you are an orogene, one who was born to sess the movements of the tectonic plates, gifted with a forbidden power to still the shaking earth and bleed heat in your environs away until frost coats everything in a perfect circle around you….

To let you know how it’s all going to work they’ve created “The Fifth Season Roleplaying Quickstart”, a free 45-page download at the link.

If you’re wondering what The Fifth Season RPG is like, you can find out right now. We’ve got a free PDF Quickstart that has an introduction to the Stillness, basic rules to play, pre-generated characters, and a complete adventure. Reading it, or better yet playing it, will give the best introduction to what The Fifth Season RPG is all about…

(3) WHERE ARE THE WATCHMEN? “Doomsday Clock moves to 90 seconds to midnight, signaling more peril than ever” reports NPR.

The world is closer to catastrophe than ever: the Doomsday Clock, the metaphorical measure of challenges to humanity, was reset to 90 seconds before midnight on Tuesday.

The science and security board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said the move — the closest to widespread calamity humanity has ever been judged to be — was “largely, though not exclusively” due to the war in Ukraine.

The scientific body evaluates the clock each January. This is the first full update since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last February, triggering a war in Europe and a new flood of refugees….

(4) LIVE FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL. Eva Green was cast for A Patriot, a science fiction movie about “a Border Corps captain in an authoritarian futuristic state”, a movie that’s not getting made while she and the producers are suing each other: “‘Evil’, ‘peasants’ and ‘vomit’ – Eva Green’s WhatsApp messages exude star quality” in the Guardian.

A lot of Eva Green’s success is down to her sense of unknowable mystique. This is a woman who steers clear of the celebrity circuit, who isn’t given to blurting her every waking thought on social media. Interviewers perennially struggle to get to her core. Since her breakthrough in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers almost two decades ago, Green has preferred to let her work speak on behalf of her. She is an enigma, an image on a screen upon which we can project our own feelings.

Or at least she was, because loads of Eva Green’s WhatsApp messages have been read out in court, and hoo boy!

Let’s deal with the court case briefly. In 2019, Green signed up for A Patriot, a science fiction movie that would also star Charles Dance and Helen Hunt. The film – about a Border Corps captain in an authoritarian futuristic state – was never made. When the production hit the skids, Green sued producers for her £830,000 fee (almost a quarter of the film’s total budget). And this caused the producers to countersue, claiming that the reason the film was never made was because Eva Green tried to sabotage it. She argues that she did everything that she could to fulfil the terms of her contract and denies “in its entirety” the allegation that she did not want the project to succeed….

(5) ROOM FOR DOUBT. Call Lincoln Michel a skeptic: “Maybe the Book Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Disrupted’ in the First Place?” at Counter Craft.

…In the intervening years, I’ve seen countless versions of enhanced books hyped. Last year, there were articles about how “web 3” and crypto would completely change publishing by [something something string of jargon] block chain! All the magazines publishing daily articles on Web 3 and NFTs have stopped talking about them, seemingly in embarrassment as the crypto space has been exposed as a series of Ponzi schemes. (The crypto crowd is too busy focusing on “disrupting” the legal system to keep themselves out of jail to innovate the novel, I guess.) So naturally everyone who, last year, was declaring crypto would revolutionize every aspect of life have pivoted to saying “A.I.” will revolutionize every aspect of life. And, like the tweet above, that means lots of predictions about how the book will be disrupted. (Commenters to the above tweet also suggested putting books in the “metaverse” so you can “live” books instead of read them, whatever that means…)

I’m on the record as a bit of an “A.I” skeptic. And I’m putting A.I. in scare quotes because a computer program that spits out text it doesn’t understand is not an “intelligence” really. (Renaming “software” as “A.I.” was a very clever marketing coup. People freak out when they hear an “A.I.” did something like win a spelling bee even though no one would be terribly impressed to hear a computer program with a built-in dictionary did that.) …

(6) LIKE A VIRGIN. Leonard Maltin is ecstatic about “My First-Ever Oscar Vote”.

I’ve been watching the Oscars since I was a kid, and writing about them for decades, but this year I did something I never dreamt of during all that time: I cast a vote.

Last year, I was admitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in the At-Large category. (There is no branch representing authors, critics, or preservationists.) As awards season began it dawned on me that I was actually going to participate in this year’s Oscars.

My invitation to vote came about two weeks ago, with a deadline of January 17. As I continued to catch up with foreign-language films, indies, and documentaries I put off voting until Monday, one full day before deadline. The deed didn’t take long, as I was only qualified to cast one vote: for Best Picture.

In the first stage of the awards process, members of the Academy’s branches determine the nominees in each specialized category. Only writers nominate writers, only makeup artists nominate makeup artists, and so on….

(7) FIVE TOP CATS. [Item by Nina Shepardson.] Tor.com has an article about cats in fantasy. Given that File770 has a feature called “Cats Sleep on SFF”, I figured Filers might be interested…. “Admiring Five of Fantasy’s Best Cats” by Cole Rush.

I’ve always thought cats are the perfect companion for the bookish. You never have to put down your book to take a cat for a walk. Instead, our feline friends will curl up on our laps while we dive into our latest fantasy obsessions, as though they’re tiny, fuzzy dragons lounging atop their hoard.

While I have nothing but love and respect for dogs—whether they’re real-life canines or fictional good boys—I feel a special kind of appreciation when a fantasy story contains a cat. Below, I’ll list five of my favorite fantasy felines and briefly discuss whether they’d make good real-world pets….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2004 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Medicine Road by Charles de Lint

Ok, I’ll admit, it is not about food, but it’s a bar which is sort of related to food, isn’t it? Ok I’m stretching things this time. I’ll admit though The Hole does have food and de Lint (with permission of course) borrowed it from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife.

The quote this time is from Charles de Lint’s Medicine Road which involves the grown up versions of the Dillard Sisters who we last encountered in his children’s book, A Circle of Cats. Here they are folk singers touring the Southwest when they encounter the more mythic aspects of that region. 

Medicine Road was one of a series of shorter novels by de Lint that were  illustrated by Charles Vess which published by Subterranean Press. Seven Wild Sisters, in which we first met Bess and Laurel, who are another of his sister characters.  Both are lovely books as objects and damn fine reads as well. 

Here’s my chosen quote. 

We’d just finished playing our first set at the Hole, in Tucson, Arizona, and were getting ready to take our break. The place was properly called the Hole in the Wall, but when we asked directions to the Barrio Historica at the front desk of our hotel, the guy with the purple hair told us everyone just calls it the Hole. He also told us that it’s a pretty much a dive, but he should see the roadhouses back home in the Kickaha Mountains. This old adobe building, right on the edge of the barrio, is like a palace compared to some of the places we’ve played in Tyson County.

And it’s trés cool, as Frenchy’d say.

You come in off the street into a warren of rooms with saguaro rib ceilings, thick adobe walls, beautifully carved oak doors, and weathered wood plank floors. It smells of mesquite and beer, cigarette smoke and salsa. The band posters on the walls advertise everything from Tex-Mex and Cajun to bluegrass, reggae and plain old rock ‘n’ roll.

But the best part is that once you’ve threaded your way through the maze of little inner rooms you come out into a central courtyard, open to the sky. Clematis vines crawl up the walls. Mismatched tables are scattered across a cracked tile floor. And there, under the spreading branches of a mesquite tree, is the stage where we’ve been playing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911 C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaboration resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of SugarfootMaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking the usual suspects, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years late, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1937 Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of GenieBewitchedThe Flying NunMission: ImpossibleKolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 24, 1941 Gary K. Wolf, 82. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful. 
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 79. Let’s see… He of course scripted the Hugo nominated “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1949 John Belushi. No, he was not in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 24, 1984 Remi Ryan, 39. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room a decade ago and she retired from acting not long after.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Tom Gauld.

(11) JUST A SECOND. “Guns and Nonsense: Part 2” is today’s installment of Camestros Felapton’s analysis of Larry Correia’s newly released nonfiction book In Defense of the 2nd Amendment.

… It is reasonable to say that Larry Correia uses biting sarcasm, opinions differ on whether his wit is incisive and I’ve always found that what logic he uses is supremely vincible. Maybe that’s me. However, [Nick] Searcy [author of the Foreword] does focus on the central quality of Correia’s approach to examining topics of the day: mockery. Michael Moore is a large man and hence somebody who can be mocked and once mocked his opinions can be dismissed. In reality, Moore is far from infallible and his documentaries are far from flawless but engaging with them takes effort and it is so much easier to make a quick dig about over-eating and be done.

Mockery is a recurring rhetorical device in Correia’s style of argumentation and it is what his readership enjoys. He does attempt some arguments of substance but the overall thrust of his approach is not to show that an opinion is incorrect but that it is an opinion that can be mocked or dismissed. To this extent, Searcy is accurately getting to the guts of this book. The point is not to show gun control adherents as wrong but as foolish and contemptible….

(12) I SING THE LYRIC ELECTRIC. Rich Lynch took ChatGPT for a “test drive” and sent File 770 a screencap of the results.

(13) DOWNLOAD THE BIG BUCKS. Meanwhile, Microsoft has moved from the test drive stage to the heavy investor stage. “Microsoft to Invest $10 Billion in OpenAI, the Creator of ChatGPT” reports the New York Times.

Microsoft said on Monday that it was making a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar” investment in OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind the experimental online chatbot ChatGPT.

The companies did not disclose the specific financial terms of the deal, but a person familiar with the matter said Microsoft would invest $10 billion in OpenAI.

Microsoft had already invested more than $3 billion in OpenAI, and the new deal is a clear indication of the importance of OpenAI’s technology to the future of Microsoft and its competition with other big tech companies like Google, Meta and Apple.

With Microsoft’s deep pockets and OpenAI’s cutting-edge artificial intelligence, the companies hope to remain at the forefront of generative artificial intelligence — technologies that can generate text, images and other media in response to short prompts. After its surprise release at the end of November, ChatGPT — a chatbot that answers questions in clear, well-punctuated prose — became the symbol of a new and more powerful wave of A.I….

(14) DRONES SHOT DOWN? “Amazon drone unit hit with layoffs as long-awaited program launches”CNBC has the story.

In 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” to reveal a futuristic plan his company had been secretly pursuing to deliver packages by drone in 30 minutes. 

A pre-recorded demo showed an Amazon-branded “octocopter” carrying a small package off a conveyor belt and into the skies to a customer’s home, landing smoothly in the backyard, dropping off the item and then whizzing away. Bezos predicted a fleet of Amazon drones could take to the skies within five years and said, “it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

A decade later, Amazon is finally starting to launch drone deliveries in two small markets through a program called Prime Air. But just as it’s finally getting off the ground, the drone program is running squarely into a sputtering economy and CEO Andy Jassy’s widespread cost-cutting efforts.

CNBC has learned that, as part of Amazon’s plan to slash 18,000 jobs, its biggest headcount reduction in history, Prime Air is losing a significant number of employees…. 

(15) GOOD DEED FOR THE DAY. Ready to move on from fandom? This sounds like a great substitute. “A ‘Big Night’ for Newts, and for a California Newt Brigade” in the New York Times.

…What the newts need now is a safe way to get to their rendezvous points. In many places, busy roads lie between newts and their breeding grounds. In Petaluma and other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, thousands of newts are killed by cars each year as they try to cross these roads. The carnage in Petaluma is so severe that a group of local residents has taken it upon themselves to stop it.

For the past four years, volunteers have spent their winter nights shepherding newts across a one-mile stretch of Chileno Valley Road, a winding country road in the hills of Petaluma. They call themselves the Chileno Valley Newt Brigade, and their founder, Sally Gale, says they will keep showing up until the newts no longer need them.

On a warm, wet evening in early December, Ms. Gale and her fellow brigaders gathered to do what they do best: save newts. Wearing reflective vests and armed with flashlights and buckets, Ms. Gale and her brigaders split up into groups and began scouring Chileno Valley Road. The conditions were perfect for newts. It had just rained and the temperature was a brisk 55 degrees.

“That’s their sweet spot,” Ms. Gale said.

…On busy nights, as many as 24 volunteers gather on the road to spend their evening shepherding newts to safety.

“It’s such a huge cross-section of people, and we haven’t met a bad one yet,” said Katie Brammer, a graphic designer and newt brigade captain. Among her fellow volunteers are schoolteachers, students, naturalists, business owners and retirees.

Ms. Brammer and her husband, Rick Stubblefield, have been newt brigade captains for just over a year. They say it’s the charisma of the newts that got them hooked on helping.

“California newts are quite endearing,” Ms. Brammer said. “They hold onto your hand as you’re carrying them across the road.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This has been out for awhile, however, it may not have been linked here before. “Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania”. To be released February 17.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Amdrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/22 The Filezentian Gate

(1) PRESIDENT’S DAY WEEKEND.  Get ready for Boskone 60, coming February 17-19, 2023 in Boston – and via the internet. The convention’s guests are Nalo Hopkinson – Guest of Honor; Victo Ngai – Official Artist; Tui T. Sutherland – Special Guest; and Dave Clement – Musical Guest. Full information at the link.

Boskone 60 will be held in person at The Westin Boston Seaport District hotel, 425 Summer Street, Boston, MA. You can also attend in person at our incredible 3-day convention, starting in the afternoon on Friday, February 17, 2023, at 2:00 pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and running through Sunday, February 19. We are also planning to make a portion of our programming available for virtual members and virtual program participants.

You can experience Boskone virtually for only $24.60!

(2) MEDICAL STRUGGLE. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Kelly Barnhill, winner of the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, is marking one year since she missed a step, hit her head, fell down a flight of stairs, and was unconscious for 15 minutes.Recovery from concussion is slow; as a result, she says, writing fiction is not currently possible. Thread starts here. Some excerpts:

(3) AI YI YI. Alyssa Shotwell brings readers up to date about why “Tor Faces Major Backlash for AI Art for Upcoming Novel From Bestselling Author” in The Mary Sue.

…The comments accusing Tor of using AI art in Christopher Paolini‘s follow-up to To Sleep in a Sea of StarsFractal Noise, came as early as November (when the cover was revealed), but it wasn’t until December when more people realized what happened. Around December 9, pressure had built up, and those concerned demanded an answer from Tor and Paolini. On December 15, Tor released this statement on their social media:

“Tor Books designed the cover for Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini. During the process of creating this cover, we licensed an image from a reputable stock house. We were not aware that the image may have been created by AI. Our in-house designer used the licensed image to create the cover, which was presented to Christopher for approval. Due to production constraints, we have decided to move ahead with our current cover. Tor Publishing Group has championed creators in the SFF community since our founding and will continue to do so.”

At first glance, it’s easy to take at least the first part of this as truth. As far back as September, stock websites and individuals began to host AI art for licensing purposes. Since then, it’s only grown, with Adobe Stock and the portfolio site Artstation catering to AI art. Shutterstock even inked a deal with AI generators in October. Between the sites hosting the images and the companies (like Tor) using them, there are no guidelines for even labeling AI art. It’s being mixed in with human-made art. The AI image created (from stolen images) for the base of Fractal Noise is not even labeled as AI created on Shutterstock.

… Tor knew they would continue to get backlash because, in that tweet, they turned off replies. Most of the people talking about it are retweets, and the conversation continues in those replies….

… Paolini has given mixed responses to the whole situation and has been tweeting (and replying) a lot. He spoke about the value of an artist in the book illustration process and how he’s always shared fan art of his works. Paolini commissioned work from artists and illustrated many elements of his Inheritance Saga (Eragon, etc.), including the map of Alagaësia. He also stated that this AI art situation is not ideal. Most other comments from the author remain neutral.

This is disappointing, as a reader of his books and as an artist, not to see him take a stronger stance on this, at least in a professional setting….

(4) CRICHTON, POURNELLE, AND BENFORD IN 2005. Camestros Felapton resumes following strands of right-wing and reactionary thought within science fiction in a new series “Contrarian Cli-Fi” about sff writers who took a contrarian view of climate change. The latest chapter, “Contrarian Cli-Fi 0.07: Aftermath 2005”, makes a real effort at fairness, it seemed to me, at a time when the internet gives no cookies for such efforts.  

…A great deal about science communication had changed over the intervening time between Fallen Angels and State of Fear. Whereas in past decades science magazines and hybrid sci-fi/science magazines like Analog or OMNI were a key part of science communication to a broader audience of people interested but not experts in science, in the 2000s science blogging was a growing channel between actual scientists and the public.

Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear also helped spur actual climate scientists to counter Crichton’s views (and doubts about global warming more generally) directly on the web. One of the most interesting exchanges in the wake of State of Fear was, unsurprisingly, on Pournelle’s own blog in 2005.

I’ve cast Pournelle as a right-wing ideologue pushing the contrarian view on climate change but he also manifestly had a genuine interest in climate science. He absolutely wanted to understand the scientific debate if only to refute it on its own terms. In the wake of the State of Fear discussion about global warming and global cooling would be a major topic on his blog. In part that debate was fuelled by reactions to Crichton’s novel in science and science fiction communities.

One obvious overlap between State of Fear, scientists and science fiction writers was author and physicist Gregory Benford. In a 2003 speech by Crichton that presaged the sceptical position of his novel, Crichton had quoted a paper by a panel that included Benford published in Science[1]: …

…Benford responded in a column in the San Diego Tribune published in 2005 taking apart many of Crichton’s claims and misleading statements. Benford unequivocally stated that Crichton was getting his science wrong, relying on secondary sources and misunderstanding those sources….

(5) TRYING TO PREDICT THE PRESENT. “Bezos appears to lose interest in the Washington Post as its tech ambitions wither” reports Semafor.

THE SCOOP

Earlier this month, Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan and a handful of executives traveled to Seattle for a budget meeting with owner Jeff Bezos. The paper’s executive editor Sally Buzbee was not in attendance, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

Turmoil back in Washington, DC has followed. Ryan abruptly announced a round of layoffs. Buzbee appeared to distance herself from her publisher. The Post and Buzbee did not respond to requests for comment.

And employees and observers of the Post alike were left wondering what Bezos is doing with the publication….

(6) AMAZON CURBED IN EU ACTION. A European Union press release announced the final “commitments” made by Amazon to avoid further enforcement action, including fines. “Antitrust: Commission accepts commitments by Amazon barring it from using marketplace seller data, and ensuring equal access to Buy Box and Prime”.

To address the Commission’s competition concerns in relation to both investigations, Amazon initially offered the following commitments:

– To address the data use concern, Amazon proposed to commit:

      • not to use non-public data relating to, or derived from, the independent sellers’ activities on its marketplace, for its retail business. This applies to both Amazon’s automated tools and employees that could cross-use the data from Amazon Marketplace, for retail decisions;
      • not to use such data for the purposes of selling branded goods as well as its private label products.

– To address the Buy Box concern, Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • treat all sellers equally when ranking the offers for the purposes of the selection of the Buy Box winner;
      • display a second competing offer to the Buy Box winner if there is a second offer from a different seller that is sufficiently differentiated from the first one on price and/or delivery. Both offers will display the same descriptive information and provide the same purchasing experience.

– To address the Prime concerns Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • set non-discriminatory conditions and criteria for the qualification of marketplace sellers and offers to Prime;
      • allow Prime sellers to freely choose any carrier for their logistics and delivery services and negotiate terms directly with the carrier of their choice;
      • not use any information obtained through Prime about the terms and performance of third-party carriers, for its own logistics services.

Between 14 July 2022 and 9 September 2022, the Commission market tested Amazon’s commitments and consulted all interested third parties to verify whether they would remove its competition concerns. In light of the outcome of this market test, Amazon amended the initial proposal and committed to:

      • Improve the presentation of the second competing Buy Box offer by making it more prominent and to include a review mechanism in case the presentation is not attracting adequate consumer attention;
      • Increase the transparency and early information flows to sellers and carriers about the commitments and their newly acquired rights, enabling, amongst others, early switching of sellers to independent carriers;
      • Lay out the means for independent carriers to directly contact their Amazon customers, in line with data-protection rules, enabling them to provide equivalent delivery services to those offered by Amazon;
      • Improve carrier data protection from use by Amazon’s competing logistics services, in particular concerning cargo profile information;
      • Increase the powers of the monitoring trustee by introducing further notification obligations;
      • Introduce a centralised complaint mechanism, open to all sellers and carriers in case of suspected non-compliance with the commitments.
      • Increase to seven years, instead of the initially proposed five years, the duration of the commitments relating to Prime and the second competing Buy Box offer.

The Commission found that Amazon’s final commitments will ensure that Amazon does not use marketplace seller data for its own retail operations and that it grants non-discriminatory access to Buy Box and Prime. 

(7) HENRY MORRISON OBIT. Literary agent Henry Morrison died November 2 at the age of 86. The Publishers Weekly noted his sff connections.

…Morrison struck out on his own before he turned 30.

For the next 55 years, characters and storylines in the books and films whose rights Morrison sold became household American names, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and David Morrell’s Rambo among them. A particularly prolific agent in the crime and thriller genres, other authors in the space Morrison represented included Brian Garfield, Dean Koontz, Eric van Lustbader, Matt Scudder, and Donald E. Westlake. He also represented the science fiction writers Samuel R. Delany (one of his earliest clients) and Roger Zelazny. His well-rewarded midlist writers won multiple Edgars and served as Mystery Writers of America presidents, Grandmasters, and International ThrillerMasters….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2014 [By Cat Eldridge.] Frankenstein in Geneva 

Tonight’s creature is one that y’all will now very well, that of  Frankenstein’s monster, though almost everyone now calls it Frankenstein. Philistines. 

While the writer was English, the story was written and takes place in Geneva, Switzerland where this statue is placed in the spot where it goes on a rampage and kills his creator’s brother. 

KLAT, a Geneva artist collective, so there was no individual sculptor listed for this work, created this nearly eight-foot-tall cast bronze sculpture. “Franc” as they call him,  is dressed in ragged clothes, which represents not the character from the novel, but “the figure of the vagrant or the marginal”. With his hunchback, his scars including those of face and hooded sweatshirt and old jeans cut at the knees, it is not at all in keeping with Shelley’s original description of the monster in her novel, but more in line with the modern interpretation of a zombie-like creature. 

The statue was unveiled in May 2014, and is part of the collection of the Contemporary Art Fund of the City of Geneva. That unveiling was — shall we say? — quite electrifying?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maurey. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can’t find proof anywhere else that it is… (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1951 Kate Atkinson, 71. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on usual suspects.
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 70. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fave films which is Darkman and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 62. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out the Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. 
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 52. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine, and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. Well maybe not the latter I’ll admit. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian?
  • Born December 20, 1984 Ilean Almaguer, 38. Here for her role as Illa on the most excellent Counterpart series. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it. To my knowledge, none of many the Spanish-language Mexican telenovelas she appeared in had the slightest genre element. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) TUNE IN. The BBC World Service is airing a production of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising”.

A young boy’s time-travelling fight against ancient evil. When the Dark comes rising, who will hold it back? This dramatisation of Susan Cooper’s cult novel is a magical journey into the supernatural.

There currently are three episodes available with 26 to come.

(12) IRON MAN BACK TO THE PRESS. Gene Wolfe said in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech that the difference between a professional publisher and a fanzine publisher is that if a fanzine sells out, the editor will print more. So what are we to make of Marvel’s enthusiastic announcement that Iron Man #1 is getting a second printing?

This past Wednesday, fans witnessed the beginning of an all-new era for Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man #1! Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Juan Frigeri have taken over the armored Avenger’s adventures and didn’t pull any punches in their explosive first issue, which sold out and will return in February with a second printing!

 Invincible Iron #1 will receive two new second printing covers, both of which celebrate the character’s iconic legacy by showcasing the many armors Tony has suited up in over the years: A brand-new piece by superstar artist Mark Bagley and definitive Iron Man artist Bob Layton’s showstopping connecting piece in all its glory.

 Invincible Iron Man #1 ended with Tony Stark hitting rock bottom, having lost it all: his wealth…his fame…his friends. But don’t count Stark out just yet. In upcoming issues, Stark will navigate his new status in the Marvel Universe in surprising ways. Readers will see Iron Man court new allies, embrace bold solutions, and make startling moves that will affect his relationships with the Avengers and mutantkind. Is he building towards a brighter future or will he be the architect of further destruction? 

 (13) OH SNAP! SNAP! [Item by Daniel Dern.] If (movie version) Thanos sang or hummed along to the Addams Family theme song, would that quantumize 2x 50% or 50% of 50%?

(14) SOMETHING TO READ. Ted Gioia posted his picks for “The Best Online Essays & Articles of 2022”.

…Most of these are longform essays on music, arts, and culture—because those are matters I think about (and worry about) every day. But I don’t impose any arbitrary limits here. If the article is good enough, I include it, no matter what the subject….

First on the list – “A few things to know before stealing my 914” by Norman Garrett,

Dear Thief,

Welcome to my Porsche 914. I imagine that at this point (having found the door unlocked) your intention is to steal my car. Don’t be encouraged by this; the tumblers sheared off in 1978. I would have locked it up if I could, so don’t think you’re too clever or that I’m too lazy. However, now that you’re in the car, there are a few things you’re going to need to know. First, the battery is disconnected, so slide-hammering my ignition switch is not your first step. I leave the battery disconnected, not to foil hoodlums such as yourself, but because there is a mysterious current drain from the 40-year-old German wiring harness that I can’t locate and/or fix….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Game Trailers: The Game Awards” sends up an awards show which finds it impossible to live up to its pretentions, saying it’s “an award show that wants to be taken as seriously as the Oscars except that every single year something absolutely ridiculous happens.” Mistakes were made, birds were flipped.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Todd Mason, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/22 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) BAD NEWS FOR SFF MAGAZINES. [Item by rcade.] Neil Clarke posted on Mastodon that Amazon has informed Clarkesworld that it is ending Kindle Subscriptions in 2023 and trying to get magazines to move to Kindle Unlimited:

In an absolutely devastating announcement (right before the holidays) Amazon has informed us that they are ending their Kindle Subscription program in 2023 and trying to get magazines to switch to Kindle Unlimited. Asking for more details, but this is bad. Magazine subscriptions are guaranteed revenue from each subscriber. KU is not like that. It will effectively cancel thousands of subscriptions since there’s no migration path.

It’s hard to even say how much we’d get from a single subscriber. This completely removes our ability to control our price if we want to be in the dominant ebook ecosystem.
I’ve scheduled an appointment to talk with Amazon later this afternoon. Have many questions. Fellow editors of mags on Amazon: feel free to DM/email me. We should be talking.

(2) LOTS OF BUZZ. Cora Buhlert returns with a new “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Honeypot’”.

This story is called “Honeypot” and the star is not He-Man for once, but another member of the Masters of the Universe (which was originally just the name of the toyline, until the 2002 cartoon made it the name of the heroic warrior team, something most subsequent versions kept), namely Buzz-Off.

(3) AN INTERVIEW WITH MATT RUFF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An interview with Matt Ruff by Moid over at Media Death Cult. Despite discouragement Matt Ruff has always been a writer, it’s what he was born to do. His novel Lovecraft Country was adapted into a HBO TV show.

Matt Ruff, as he says at the start of the interview, is largely unknown in Great Britain, unlike his native US, but originally was most popular in Germany. I certainly never heard of him (though was aware of the show Lovecraft Country) so I did a word search on SF2 Concatenation’s news section on the basis that the majority of the specialist genre imprints – and a few ancillary ones – send their catalogues for their titles to be added to its news pages’ forthcoming books sections. I only found the novel Lovecraft Country listed in awards news as well as the book listings. It is published over here by Picador. Picador is a respected imprint in the UK but not especially noted for having an SF/F focus (despite having published some very worthy SF/F – they have a broader ‘literary’ camp). Picador’s PR folk don’t normally proactively reach out to us, though they are good at responding when we hear of relevant news and get in touch with them. Picador belongs to the Macmillan group and Matt Ruff might want to consider moving to Macmillan’s Tor (UK) if he wants more attention from Britain’s SF/F reading community…? (Just saying.) (Don’t know who publishes him in the US.)

(4) EXCELSIOR AWARD NOMINEES. Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden are shortlisted for Excelsior Awards for Hellboy: The Bones of Giants, and Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran are shortlisted for Chivalry, both published by Dark Horse Comics. “Excelsior Award Red 2023”.

The Excelsior Awards are chosen by students in over 200 schools in the UK. The Excelsior Award is split up into four different shortlists: Access the entire range of Excelsior Award shortlists 2023 at the link.

  • Excelsior Award White, for students aged 9 and over (Key Stage 2)
  • Excelsior Award Blue, for students aged 11 and over (Key Stage 3)
  • Excelsior Award Red, for students aged 14 and over (Key Stage 4)
  • Excelsior Award Black, for students aged 16 and over (Sixth Form)

Each shortlist consists of five books (graphic novels and/or manga) that will cost no more than £65. 

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dive into dim sum with Randee Dawn in episode 187 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Randee Dawn

Randee Dawn’s debut novel, the humorous pop culture fantasy Tune in Tomorrow, was released in August by Rebellion Publishing. She’s a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Soap Opera Digest, and these days covers show business for VarietyThe Los Angeles TimesEmmy Magazine, and Today.com. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and online publications such as Stories We Tell After MidnightEven in the GraveAnother World: Stories of Portal Fantasy, and more.

She co-edited the anthology Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles. Her love of all things Law & Order led her to appear in one episode and later co-author The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion. Once a month she hosts Rooftop Readings at Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn.

We discussed the way her soap opera and gaming backgrounds led to the creation of her fantasy debut novel Tune in Tomorrow, what made her decide it was time for her to write funny, why her first instinct is always to turn her ideas into novels rather than short stories, how Law & Order fan fiction conquered her fears of showing her writing to others (and eventually led to her appearing as extra on the franchise), the reason she doesn’t read her reviews, and much more.

(6) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books’ Simultaneous Times podcast episode 58 features these stories:

“The Hand, The Face” by Megan Engelhardt
music by Fall Precauxions

“Cave Art” by Xauri’EL Zwaan
music by Phog Masheeen

Find the podcast here.

(6) RECOMMENDED. “Avatar: On The Cutting Edge” – movie critic Leonard Maltin is very positive about the sequel.

I surrender. It’s easy to poke holes in James Cameron’s films because of awkward dialogue or glib characterizations or his propensity for staging climaxes to his climaxes. But I was completely taken in by Avatar: The Way of Water and overwhelmed by its fluid, kinetic action scenes, eye-popping production design and propulsive storytelling….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] Eeyore, Piglet, Winnie the Pooh and the Hunny Pot, Newton Free Library, Newton, Massachusetts 

You didn’t think we’d pass this up, did you? It’s a most stellar group of statues of Eeyore, Piglet, Winnie the Pooh and the Hunny Pot at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Massachusetts.

They were sculpted by Nancy Schön who is best known for the  “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture in the Boston Public Garden (which has had two stolen since it was first installed — bad people! Yes, she sculpted new ducklings to replace them.)

All are in honor of young children who have departed us. Piglet was commissioned by a woman who wanted us to celebrate the quite short life of her much-loved brother. She thought her brother was very much just like Piglet. He was timid, yet brave and he was quite able to conquer his fears, according to her, facing the reality of dying. 

Nancy notes of Pooh and the Hunny Pot that, “Sarah died on February 14, 2001. Her parents asked me to design a sculpture of Winnie-the-Pooh in her memory. I added a hunny pot for children to sit on, possibly to cheer Eeyore up. The sculpture was installed on May 12, 2002 with a plaque reading “For The Children of Newton From Sarah Oliver”.

Eyeore was the original statue that she did and was there alone for almost a decade as he was cast in bronze as they all were in 1991, and Pooh and the Hunny Pot in 2002. Piglet would join them eleven years later.

These are based the original illustrations in the A. A. Milne’s books which were illustrated by E. H. Shepard. They are closer in appearance to stuffed animals than the awful Disney version of these characters. For one, Pooh doesn’t have a shirt in the statue. (And of course those were Disney copyright.) 

Here they are with sculptor Nancy.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome.  I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there and I passed by his residence one day. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama  and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’ve read a lot of short fiction including of course Tales from The White Hart which I’ve read over and over. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say that saying he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. I was surprised his only Hugo win for his fiction was for The Man in The High Castle at Discon though Blade Runner would pick up one at ConStellation.  (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley. He had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 — Mel Odom, 65. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the BuffyverseOutlandersTime PoliceRogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1961 — Jon Tenney, 61. He’s best known as Special Agent Fritz Howard on The Closer and continued in its spinoff Major Crimes, but he does have genre creds. He played Jimmy Wells in The Phantom, Martin Jordon in Green Lantern, and Lt. Ching in two episodes in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. He also showed up on Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits and neXt
  • Born December 16, 1967 — Miranda Otto, 55. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. (I stopped watching after The Fellowship of The Rings.) She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an amazing cast even if the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a five percent rating meaning the critics really didn’t like it.

(9) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the December 14, 2022 gathering of the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series where Richard Kadrey and Cassandra Khaw each read sections of the forthcoming collaborative novel The Dead Take the A Train coming out from Nightfire.

(10) YIPPIE-AI-OH. David D. Levine has been making this sound pretty interesting – “Die Hard the Musical Parody” which will be a Funhouse Lounge streaming event on Christmas weekend.

In 2017, Funhouse Lounge presented its first original work of its kind, Die Hard the Musical Parody. It was a live stage version of the 1988 Willis/Rickman action classic, re-imagined as a musical. During its 3-year sold out run, it became a holiday tradition for many who came to see it.

We are happy to say it has returned this year, live on stage, for another sold-out run. However, we understand that given the current situation, many of you may not be comfortable gathering to see it. Or, you waited too long and didn’t get tickets. Or you don’t live nearby, but still like stuff that kicks ass. Or maybe you want to enjoy it with friends and family on that big screen TV at home. If any of these describe you, we have what you need.

We will have a recording of this year’s performance and it will be available to view streaming Christmas weekend. Showtimes are December 24th, 25th and 26th,

So, treat yourself to a present you deserve after another long hard year. Gather your family around the TV. Make your favorite hot drink, remembering that the drunker you are the funnier we are.

Levine also got a kind of onstage credit for donating to the production.

(11) TIME VS. GRAVITY. “Time rules everything around you. It’s also an illusion” explains NPR.

… The best-known force that stretches time is gravity. The more gravity somebody experiences, the slower time passes for them when compared to someone in a lower gravitational field.

The effect is miniscule compared to a human lifespan, but it is real and measurable. Boulder, Colo. is a mile above sea level. That means the gravitational field is slightly weaker, and time ticks by a little faster.

But modern technology can’t deal with flowy time like this. As a result, the timekeepers at Boulder and elsewhere make corrections to ensure these different flows of time look like they’re ticking in lock-step….

(12) ALSO SPRACH MATTEL. The Barbie teaser trailer is a hilarious take on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Margot Robbie is Barbie, Ryan Gosling is Ken in the new film.

(13) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Perhaps the sequel to the Avatar skit we ran yesterday from The Late Late Show With James Corden: “Zoe Saldaña Is Crazy About Anything Blue”.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Dariensync, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Scott Edelman, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/22 Scroll And Deliver, Your Pixels Or Your Life!

(1) GREG BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. File 770 has been receiving copies of Astrid Bear’s FB friends-locked updates about Greg Bear’s decline during the past week, the kind of thing I ordinarily run only with permission of the author. However, today a great many writers publicly shared his latest status, and I will too.

To catch everyone up, here is Robert J. Sawyer’s concise explanation of what has happened:

“Greg Bear had heart surgery eleven days ago on November 8, to redo his aortic arch replacement and repair the proximal descending thoracic aorta work done in a previous heart surgery in 2014. The current operation seemed to go well.

“As of eight days ago, on November 11, he still hadn’t woken up from the anesthetic. A CT scan showed multiple strokes, caused by clots that had been hiding in a false lumen of the anterior artery to the brain ever since Greg’s original surgery eight years ago.”

Today it was announced Bear will soon be taken off life support. This screencap is being shared by many, including Charles Stross, and obviously with the greatest sympathy and regard.

(2) CORFLU FIFTY WINNERS FOR 2023. [Item by Rob Jackson] Rich Coad and I, as US (including Canada) and UK (including Europe) Administrators for the Corflu Fifty fan fund, are delighted to announce that we have picked, and got enthusiastic acceptances from, two Corflu Fifty winners for Corflu Craic, the 40th Corflu which is being held at the end of March in Belfast: Sue Mason (fan artist from London), and Pascal Thomas (fan editor from Toulouse).

(3) SUPERSTAR CHEN. Tordotcom editor Ruoxi Chen carried away the prize at Publisher Weekly’s Star Watch event. “PW Star Watch Finalist Ruoxi Chen Named ‘Superstar’ Winner”  — Publishers Weekly has details, including a list of all the other finalists.

More than 100 people came out on November 15 to celebrate some of the best and brightest names in publishing at PW’s annual Star Watch event, held this year at the Monarch Rooftop in New York City.

In an evening punctuated by food and fanfare, Tordotcom Publishing editor Rouxi Chen became the toast of the town when she took away the $2,500 Superstar prize and used her moment to call attention to the ongoing HarperCollins union strike.

In a short speech, the room erupted into applause as Chen dedicated her win to her family and her “colleagues at HarperCollins who are fighting for workers rights.”

“This industry is sometimes not the easiest one to be in, but it wouldn’t be possible without all of you,” she said. “To my incredible authors, an editor isn’t anything without the books. And I am so grateful that I get to work on editing your stuff.”…

(4) ANOTHER GIANT SHRINKS STAFF. “Amazon Announces Layoffs in Books, Devices” reports Publishers Lunch.

Amazon ceo Andy Jassy told employees on Thursday that the company would “eliminate a number of positions” in the Devices and Books divisions. In a memo to staff, he said that this year’s operating planning review “is more difficult due to the fact that the economy remains in a challenging spot and we’ve hired rapidly the last several years.”

They have not yet announced which roles have been cut or how many, or how the changes will affect the functioning of the Books division. (Unlike Books, Devices has been a drag on the company, reportedly losing over $5 billion a year.)

… Other divisions will be given the option of taking voluntary buyouts, and additional reductions are planned for early 2023.

(5) WOOSTER MOURNED. National Review columnist John Miller has written a tribute to his friend: “Martin Morse Wooster, R.I.P.”

Martin Morse Wooster started a peculiar tradition years ago: Whenever he spotted a “John Miller” in the news, he let me know. Early on, he sent clips by regular mail, cut from the pages of his prodigious reading. At some point, the emails outnumbered the stamped envelopes. Along the way, I learned about hordes of people with whom I share a name. They included loads of criminals and at least one person who attended a Star Trek convention as a Klingon.

I’m sorry to say that I’ll never again receive one of these notices: Martin died on November 12, killed in a hit-and-run accident in Virginia….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1967 [By Cat Eldridge.] Casino Royale 

Ahhhh spoofs. A long tradition they’ve had in all forms of entertainment and it’s no surprise that the Bond films got a delightful one in the Casino Royale film. It premiered fifty-five years ago, the same year as You Only Live Twice, the fifth Sean Connery Bond film.

So why so? 

Well, it turns out that Casino Royale was the only Ian Fleming book not sold to producers Saltzman and Broccoli for the official James Bond series. Because of the popularity of Sean Connery’s Bond, and because of Connery’s considered expensive million dollars per film price, Charles Feldman decided to make the film a spoof. After production troubles and budget overruns that I’ll detail below, Feldman later told Connery it would have been considerably cheaper to pay him his salary.

It was very, very loosely based upon the 1953 novel of the same name.

TIME TO GO GET A COCKTAIL OR TWO AS FILM SECRETS FOLLOW.

The film stars David Niven as the “original” Bond, Sir James Bond 007, forced out of retirement to investigate the deaths and disappearances of a number of spies. In doing so, he soon is matching wits with Dr. Noah of the not very evil SMERSH. Remember this is a parody. 

Now we come to the really fun part of the film, the matter of multiple, might-be Bonds.

Remember the film’s tagline: Casino Royale is too much… for one James Bond!

Bond’s plan is to mislead SMERSH by having six other agents be him  — baccarat master Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers); Bond’s daughter with Mata Hari, Mata Bond (Joanna Pettet); Bond’s secretary Miss Moneypenny (Barbara Bouchet); British agents Coop (Terence Cooper) and The Detainer (Daliah Lavi); and even a millionaire spy Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress).

Need I say that Bond’s plan, and the film, really did go awry. I’ll discuss that below.

NO MORE SECRETS ALAS WILL BE REVEALED.

The film was a horrid affair with nearly everyone hating being involved as the ensemble cast thought each other was getting more lines than they were, everyone thought each other was getting a better salary and everyone grumbled bitterly about their accommodations. 

Sellers it is said took the role of Bond to heart, and was quite annoyed at the decision to make Casino Royale a comedy, as he wanted to play Bond straight. 

It had five directors, three writers (credited, though it is said legions would work on it) and five producers. It was constantly being rewritten and reshot. The studio never like what they saw in the dailies and demanded constant changes. 

Despite all of that and the critics wanting to drive a stake through its heart, it made forty-seven million against a budget of twelve million, twice what the studio originally budgeted. Time has been kind to it — current critics like it a lot better. 

The success of the film in part was attributed to a marketing strategy that featured a naked tattooed woman on the film’s posters and print ads. You can see that poster below. I personally think calling her naked is really, ready a stretch, isn’t it? 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1887 Boris Karloff. Where do I start? Well, consider the Thirties. He portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in FrankensteinBride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, and Imhotep in The Mummy. And he played a great pulp character in Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu too! Now let’s jump forward to the Sixties and the matter of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! which featured him as both the voice of The Grinch and the narrator of the story. I know I’ve skipped four decades — that means not a word about such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he was the latter. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 19, 1914 Wilson Tucker. Author and very well-known member of fandom. I’m going to just direct you here to “A Century of Tucker”  by Mike as I couldn’t say anything about him that was this good. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 19, 1916 Michael Gough. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifities and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black MuseumThe Phantom of the OperaThe Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. Speaking of Doctor Who, Gough appeared there, as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councilor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Burton again in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. He would mostly retire that year from performing though he would voice later that Corpse Bride role and the Dodo in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 19, 1955 Steven Brust, 67. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing reviewing of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille and he told us at Green Man that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, is stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, “’Songs From The Gypsy’ is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing! And yes, he is on my chocolate gifting list. He’s another dark chocolate lover. 
  • Born November 19, 1967 Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 55. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which can be seen on Peacock as can Warehouse 13. I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but she charmingly voiced Eliza Mazda, the main human character, on the Gargoyles series!  She shows up as the character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. 
  • Born November 19, 1970 Oded Fehr, 52. Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: ApocalypseExtinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, StitchersV, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series. He appeared in the third season of Star Trek: Discovery as Fleet Admiral Charles Vance.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld did a cartoon about the great Twitter exodus for the Guardian.

(9) GUNN Q&A. Deadline profiles “James Gunn On Leaving Marvel, DC Plans, & ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special’”.

James Gunn revealed on Twitter today in response to a fan’s question that he and new DC Studios co-head Peter Safran are planning to reveal their new DC plan to the Warner Discovery team in the next two months.

“Yes, that is true (revealing it to the WBD team)” wrote Gunn on Twitter.

Safran and Gunn were appointed the heads of DC Studios, a separate silo that Warner Discovery Boss David Zaslav wanted under the studio’s motion picture umbrella, on Oct. 25. Gunn going forward remains exclusive to WarnerDiscovery and can’t do any Marvel projects, his last ones for the Disney studio being The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special which drops on Black Friday, Nov. 25, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 which hits theaters on May 5, 2023.

When asked by Deadline recently how he felt about leaving the Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy sandbox behind for DC, Gunn responded “I feel really comfortable. I feel really good. We did this. I think this is a bit of goofy fun that the Guardians needed as an aperitif for Volume 3, which is an enormous film. I had a plan from the beginning.”

“The reason why I needed to finish this is because I love the character of Rocket more than any character I’ve ever dealt with before, and I needed to finish his story and that is what Volume 3 is about. I absolutely needed to do it, and I think we’ve done it in a spectacular way that I can’t wait for people to see.”

(10) PEEKING DISCOURAGED. The owner of the subject Area 51 website/blog currently has their tail in a wringer: “Air Force, FBI raid Nevada homes in probe of Area 51 website” reports Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Agents from the U.S. Air Force and FBI recently raided homes in Clark and Lincoln counties in an investigation of a man who operates a website about the top-secret military base known as Area 51, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and FBI entered homes owned by Joerg Arnu in Las Vegas and the tiny town of Rachel on Nov. 3 and seized potential evidence for an undisclosed joint agency probe, according to Lt. Col. Bryon McGarry, spokesman for Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

“This is an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation between the Las Vegas FBI and Air Force OSI,” McGarry said in a statement.

He declined to elaborate on the basis for the investigation, but Arnu, of Las Vegas, is the webmaster of a site titled Dreamland Resort, focusing on Area 51, an Air Force base in Lincoln County about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas where testing is conducted on new and classified U.S. military aircraft.

Dreamland Resort, at dreamlandresort.com, started by Arnu in 1999, features YouTube videos taken from drones flown over places around Area 51, satellite images of the base, a discussion forum with posts on the topic, articles on test flights, “black projects” and UFOs, and what it says are photos of new vehicles such as the so-called “super secret” Northrop Grumman RQ-180 unmanned stealth aircraft shown flying in 2021.

Arnu, reached by email Wednesday, declined comment until he can speak to his attorney. But he forwarded a news release posted on his web page last week telling his side of the story….

As an example of what you find at Dreamland Resort, this 2006 post is old but might be news to you, about an innovative aircraft named for a spaceship from Star Trek: “Bird of Prey – An Innovative Technology Demonstration”.

(11) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. The Onion informs us “Facebook HQ On Lockdown After Mark Zuckerberg’s Avatar Breaks Out Of Metaverse”.

Amid grim reports that several engineers working in the virtual reality server room had been violently dismembered, Facebook’s headquarters were on lockdown Friday after Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar reportedly broke out of the metaverse….

(12) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. “Space Cowboy Books Presents: Simultaneous Times podcast Ep.57 – Jeff C. Carter & Noah Lloyd”.

Stories featured in this episode:
Hive Songs – by Jeff C. Carter (with music by Phog Masheeen)
In September – Noah Lloyd (with music by Johnny O’Donnell)

(13) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. [Compiled by John King Tarpinian.] L. Frank Baum and his wife purchased a lot one block in Hollywood north of Hollywood Boulevard on the corner of Cherokee and Yucca, which today is the block behind the restaurant Musso & Frank’s. There in 1910 they built Ozcot, a two-story frame home featuring a large library, an attic where Baum stored his manuscripts and props from various plays, and a solarium. The dining room is described as having “light fixtures of cut copper sheets and thick pieces of emerald glass” casting “intricate patterns of green light” in the evenings – his own personal emerald city.

Ozcot

Ozcot’s grounds were as impressive as the house. A large Aviary housed a collection of exotic birds, and a chicken yard was home to a flock of Rhode Island Reds. Baum spent hours in his garden, where the southern California climate allowed him to grow numerous blooms, especially dahlias and chrysanthemums. A goldfish pond was also located in the garden. 

Baum felt right at home in Hollywood – he won many awards for his flowers at the Hollywood Woman’s Club shows and was a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s exclusive Uplifters. He also spent the last nine years of his life writing children’s books under six different pen names and he founded the ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful Oz Film Manufacturing Company.

L. Frank Baum passed away at Ozcot in 1919. His widow Maud lived long enough to witness the success of The Wizard of Oz, which premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, just down the street from Ozcot.

Ozcot was demolished in 1953 and today a plain two-story apartment stands, and is slated to be demolished for a larger complex. There is nothing about the site that would suggest its association with one of America’s most beloved writers.

The story continues that after he passed away his widow started to burn his papers, since his books were already on the book shelf.  A nephew came over one day and stopped her.   Back in those days it was not uncommon for a house to have an incinerator in the backyard to burn your garbage.  My parents’ home had one.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Danny Sichel, Jeffrey Jones, Rob Jackson, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 11/14/22 One Scroll Makes You Pixel, The Other Makes You Smaug

(1) DESTINATION FOR THE STARS? The New York Times’ Blake Gopnik reports that last week Christie’s auction house broke records by selling more than $1.5 billion in art from the estate of Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who died in 2018. Although a lot of high art went under the hammer, his pop culture holdings, including sf art, did not and may have a different fate.  

… It all made me think of Allen as the kind of person who might have enjoyed buying, and owning, a $15 million Stradivarius violin and a $12 million Mickey Mantle baseball card and a $10 million stamp from British Guiana.

But there was one work in the sale — a real outlier — that meshed with stronger, more focused feelings that I seemed to glimpse when I met with Allen. Hanging among pieces by the certified geniuses of Western “high” art at Christie’s sat a dreamy, sunset scene of teen-girls-in-nature, painted in 1926 by the American Maxfield Parrish, best known for his truly great work in commercial illustration. It called to mind the tremendous excitement that Allen showed, a decade ago, when he had me look at a series of paintings that had been used, sometime in the 1950s or ’60s, I’d guess, for reproduction on the cover of science-fiction novels or magazines: I remember seeing weird Martian landscapes, galactic skies and maybe a rocket ship or two.

I can’t confirm those memories, right off the bat, because none of those pictures ended up at Christie’s. (Even though you could say that Allen’s Botticelli has some extraterrestrial strangeness to it, if only because of its distance from today’s culture, and that his paintings by Salvador Dalí and Jacob Hendrik Pierneef might work with stories by Philip K. Dick.) But I do remember that in our interview Allen’s enthusiasm for those objects from so-called “popular” culture seemed much more intense, and heartfelt, than the feelings he expressed for masterpieces that had cost him thousands of times more.

And that may be born out in the future that seems in store for those sci-fi objects, different from the fate of the ones sold into private hands at Christie’s. Last month, a spokesperson for Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, founded by Allen in 2000 — his sister Jody Allen is its current chair — told The Times that more than 4,000 objects of un-fine art and culture from the Allen estate, valued at some $20 million, were due to end up among its holdings, and I can only hope that the sci-fi paintings will be among them. (A representative from Vulcan, the Allen company in charge of his estate, later weighed in to say that the bequest to MoPOP was not final and that Vulcan could not confirm the exact number or type of objects in it. As when their boss was alive, his Vulcans play their cards close to their chests.)…

(2) AO3’S FANZINE SCAN HOSTING PROJECT. “AO3’s fanfiction preservation project: Archivists are digitizing zines to save fan history” reports Slate.

Archive of Our Own is probably best known as the place to read fans’ carefully crafted Harry Potter prequels or Lord of the Rings stories millions of words long. But the fanfiction website also has a lesser known, though no less important mission: to save older fanfic that’s at risk of disappearing. A new initiative, the Fanzine Scan Hosting Project, aims to make fan stories and art from physical fanzines accessible through the Archive, preserving pieces of history previously confined to university libraries, scattered eBay sales, and forgotten corners of attics….

Over the last year or so, however, Open Doors’ Fan Culture Preservation Project has expanded, finally giving them room to launch the Fanzine Scan Hosting Project. So far, they’re making their way through the backlog of scans that Zinedom has already accumulated, which Dawn estimates is “a couple thousand.”

These came from various sources, with Dawn doing a lot of outreach herself simply by searching Facebook for names she came across in zines and making phone calls. Janet Quarton, a Scottish Star Trek zine publisher and preservationist, scanned about 500 zines herself in 2013. But even Zinedom’s digital collection is only a fragment of what’s out there. One Zinedom participant has a collection of around 8,000 physical zines from the Star Trek fandom alone, and digs out the appropriate copies if Dawn is contacted by someone looking to save something in particular.

Open Doors is now preparing to post on the Archive those zines from Zinedom’s backlog which they already have permission to share. Some of these overlap with online zine archives that they’ve been previously importing, like the Kirk/Spock archive. But new requests and permissions have also been coming in since the announcement, and it will be an ongoing process, with volunteers working hard to convert and edit each individual zine.

(3) THE RIGHT WORD? Nisi Shawl was still in search of an answer that hits the spot when I looked at Facebook this afternoon:

What’s the word for the kind of apology you get that blames you for what went wrong?

(4) HORROR WRITING VETERANS. The Horror Writers Association blog has been running a “Veterans in Horror Spotlight” series. Here’s an example: “Veterans in Horror: Interview with Jonathan Gensler”.

What role, if any, did reading and writing play during your military service?

I still have stacks of my journals from the whole nine-year period sitting on my bookshelf, unread to this day.  I had written poetry and journaled most of my teenage years up to that point, but when I got out of the service I stopped journaling and writing almost completely for reasons I haven’t quite grasped.  That was over 15 years ago.  Reading, on the other hand is something I have never stopped doing.  These combat deployments were well before I had anything like an e-reader, so it was physical books all the way.  I must have lugged around a ridiculous amount of books with me. The big ones that hit me the hardest while deployed are still some of my favorites: Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, Epictetus’ The Enchiridion, my first readings of Ender’s Game and that series. I got my first copy of House of Leaves while deployed to Iraq and that copy is scrawled with my own footnotes and reflections, and is falling apart at the seams.  And then of course, King finished out The Dark Tower while I was deployed so I had those tomes sent to me and to tote around as well. So, yeah, I filled my spare hours with both reading and writing, quite a bit of both.

Here are the links to the rest of the series.

(5) BOOKSTORE REBOUNDS FROM ARSON ATTACK. “L.A. book emporium the Iliad recovering from mysterious fire” reports the Los Angeles Times. The bookstore’s GoFundMe has been an enormous success. The owner asked for $5,000 to cover his insurance deductible. “The response has topped $34,000, sparing him the need to file a claim at all.”

…The cause of the blaze remains unknown. Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said it has been ruled undetermined.

[Iliad owner] Weinstein said he believes an arsonist started the fire. It appeared that books the store leaves outside for the community to browse were stacked in a pyramidal shape next to the entry door and lit, he said.

An inscrutable motive was suggested by 15 to 20 copies of a flyer Weinstein said he found taped to the sides of the building. It was a collage of conspiratorial references — the Irish and South African flags, a photo of the burned-out cabin where policeman-turned-killer Christopher Dorner died, an address of a nearby home, and a handwritten letter attributed to Alex Cox, a deceased figure in a complex family homicide case depicted in a Netflix documentary….

(6) AMAZON WORKFORCE CUTS COMING. Reuters has learned “Amazon to lay off thousands of employees”. (And last week, Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc said it would cut more than 11,000 jobs, or 13% of its workforce.)

… The cuts, earlier reported by the New York Times, would represent about 3% of Amazon’s corporate staff. The exact number may vary as businesses within Amazon review their priorities, the source told Reuters.

The online retailer plans to eliminate jobs in its devices organization, which makes voice-controlled “Alexa” gadgets and home-security cameras, as well as in its human-resources and retail divisions, the person said. Amazon’s time frame for informing staff remained unclear….

(7) THE ART OF FANHISTORY. Garth Spencer’s name was chosen from the hat to be Corflu Pangloss’ Guest of Honour. He has published the speech he gave “revealing the hideous basic truths of fandom” in Obdurate Eye #21.

…There was a time when I thought every other country seems to have a published fanhistory; why shouldn’t a Canadian fanhistory be published? Maybe I could compile it, from any information I could gather. Then I got strange responses like “Who are you? Why are you asking me questions? Who sent you? I’m not responsible!” So, I learned that There Are Things Fans Must Not Put on Record. More to the point, my search to find out what people can be expected to do, when to expect it, and how to defend yourself, is not the first thing people think of when they think of fanhistory….

(8) A MEMORY PROMPT. Daytonian in Manhattan’s “The Lost ‘Furness House’ — 34 Whitehall Street” is an article about the NYC headquarters building for the steamship line A. Bertram Chandler once worked for.

In 1891, Christopher Furness, owner of the Furness Line of steamships, and Henry Withy, head of the shipbuilding firm Edward Withy & Co., merged their businesses to form Furness, Withy & Co., Ltd.  Starting out with 18 vessels, by the outbreak of World War I, it sailed more than 200–and it was ready for a new New York City branch office building….

Andrew Porter reminds readers that he published Chandler’s autobiographical “Around the World in 23,741 Days” in Algol 31. You can read it here.

…One very early—but remarkably vivid—memory I have is of a Zeppelin raid on London during World War I. can still see the probing searchlights, like the questing antennae of giant insects and, sailing serenely overhead, high in the night sky, that slim, silvery cigar. I can’t remember any bombs; I suppose that none fell anywhere near where I was. It is worth remarking that in those distant days, with aerial warfare in its infancy, civilians had not yet learned to run for cover on the approach of raiders but stood in the streets, with their children, to watch the show….

(9) READ COMPLETE MOORE REMARKS ON KEVIN O’NEILL. [Item by Danny Sichel.] At the request of the New York Times, Alan Moore wrote an obit for Kevin O’Neill which was too long to publish. Jeet Heer posted it to Twitter.(O’Neill did the art for Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)

(10) WOOSTER EULOGY. Philanthropy Daily, where he was a contributor, paid tribute to him in “Martin Morse Wooster, RIP”.

…In addition to writing for Philanthropy Daily, Martin was a senior fellow at the Capital Research Center, and contributed significantly to research on philanthropy and especially the issue of donor intent. Martin’s contributions to questions around philanthropy, charity, and donor intent can scarcely be overstated. How Great Philanthropists Failed remains the leading book on donor intent and the history of failed philanthropic legacies.

Martin’s work has appeared everywhere from the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post to the Chronicle of PhilanthropyReason, and numerous other publications.

Martin will be sorely missed by all of us at Philanthropy Daily and countless others who have benefited from his important work.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1985 [By Cat Eldridge.] Shadow Chasers 

Before we get started on talking about today’s essay, may I note that this was the day fifty-eight years ago that Santa Claus Conquers The Martians premiered was well? It was considered one of the worst genre films ever released, bar none.

Thirty-seven years ago this evening a series premiered on ABC, receiving almost no notice: Shadow Chasers. Let’s talk about the show before we turn to a brief autopsy on its numbers.

LOOK— I SEE BIGFOOT COMING WITH SPOILERS!

British anthropologist Jonathan MacKensie (Trevor Eve who played Peter Boyd in the excellent Waking the Dead forensic series) works for the fictional Georgetown Institute Paranormal Research Unit (PRU). MacKenzie’s department head, Dr. Julianna Moorhouse (Nina Foch), withholds a research grant to force him into investigating what she says is a haunting involving a teenage boy. He is paired with flamboyant tabloid reporter Edgar “Benny” Benedek.

Benny and Jonathan do not get along, but manage to solve the case without killing each other. The episodes continued in this vein, with Jonathan and Benny grudgingly learning to respect and admire each other, in the fashion of American cop shows.

LOOK IT WASN’T REALLY BIGFOOT, WAS IT? 

Now for the rating autopsy I promised.

So understand that it was on ABC as I said for just ten episodes of its sad existence with the last four shows being broadcast solely on the Armed Forces network. Just how bad was its existence? It was the lowest-rated of a one hundred and six programs during the 1985-1986 TV season.

Why so, you ask? Well that’s easy. It was broadcast against NBC’s The Cosby Show and Family Ties and CBS’s Magnum P.I. and, later on, Simon & Simon on CBS. It didn’t stand a chance. 

Indeed, local ABC affiliates within a few weeks in started preempting the series for other programming.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i LönnebergaKarlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s eighteenth most translated author, and the fourth most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.  There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter was an animated series in Japan recently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 14, 1932 Alex Ebel. He did the poster for the first Friday the 13th film, and his cover illustration for The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin published by Ace Books in 1975 is considered one of the best such illustrations done. I’m also very impressed with The Dispossessed cover he did as well as his Planet of Exile cover too. His work for magazines includes Heavy MetalSpace Science Fiction and Fantastic Story Magazine. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 14, 1950 Elliot S. Maggin, 72. A writer for DC Comics during the Bronze and early Modern ages of comics where he helped shaped the Superman character. Most of his work was on Action Comics and Superman titles though he did extensive work elsewhere including, of course, on the Batman titles.
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 71. In 1984, she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor which she just retired from.  She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction.  A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy that she co-wrote wrote Michael Franklin and Baird Searles was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II. She has been nominated for six Hugos as Best Professional Editor or Best Editor Long Form.
  • Born November 14, 1959 Paul McGann, 63. Yes, he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who: The Television Movie, but he has reprised that role in numerous audio dramas, and the 2013 short film entitled The Night of the Doctor.  He also appeared in “The Five(ish) Doctors” reboot. Other genre appearances include The Pit and the Pendulum: A Study in TortureAlien 3, the excellent FairyTale: A True StoryQueen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers.
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 59 . All around great person. Past President of SFWA.  She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 nomination in the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional category. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a 2020 Nebula, and her short story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” was a 2013 Nebula Award finalist.  Her impressive fantasy Tabat Quartet quartet begins withBeasts of Tabat, Hearts of Tabat, and Exiles of Tabat, and will soon be completed by Gods of Tabat. She also writes amazing short fiction as well.  The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills through live and on demand classes about a range of topics. You can get details here.  Her latest, You Sexy Thing, was a stellar listen indeed and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.
  • Born November 14, 1969 Daniel Abraham, 53. Co-author with Ty Franck of The Expanse series which won a Hugo at CoNZealand. Under the pseudonym M. L. N. Hanover, he is the author of the Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series.  Abraham collaborated with George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to write the Hunter’s Run. Abraham also has adapted several of Martin’s works into comic books and graphic novels, such as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, and has contributed to Wild Cards anthologies. By himself, he picked up a Hugo nomination at Denvention 3 for his “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” novelette. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump knows of one effect that’s not special at all!

(14) HAPPY NEW YEAR. Lois McMaster Bujold pointed out to her Goodreads followers that the next Penric book Knot of Shadows garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly. The Subterranean Press hardcover is due to be released on January 1. [Update: Bujold’s author page shows the Kindle edition of Knot of Shadows came out last year in October, so this will be a new hardcover edition, but not a new release per se.]

Temple sorcerer Penric and demon Desdemona return in this page-turner fantasy mystery from Bujold, the 11th in the series (after The Assassins of Thasalon) and possibly the best yet. Penric and Desdemona, the chaos elemental who shares his body, are joined by Alixtra and her own demon, Arra, to help the healers of the Mother’s Order in Vilnoc with an unusual case: a corpse has revived and is now shouting gibberish. Penric discovers that the victim is not one but two dead people—a man slain by death magic and a ghost that has begun animating his body. Death magic is so rare that even Desdemona has never witnessed it performed. A supplicant offers their own life to ensure that the Bastard, Penric’s god, will kill their target. This ritual opens multiple quandaries: Who is the corpse? Were they the supplicant or the target? And where is the other party to the death prayer? Penric remarks that “this case is bound to get ugly and sad”—and indeed it does, in the most creative of ways. Bujold has her protagonists combine mundane and mystical investigative methods to unravel the questions at hand, creating a truly enticing mystery. Series fans and new readers alike will want to savor this intricate , unusual case.

(15) WORLD MUSIC. “Ludwig Göransson Discusses His Globe-Trotting ‘Wakanda Forever’ Score” in Variety.

… The challenge, Göransson says, was to find a new sound for the African kingdom of Wakanda and its grief-stricken people while also trying to imagine the sound of Prince Namor’s undersea kingdom of Talokan, whose origins lay in Mexico’s ancient Mayan civilization.

Göransson consulted musical archaeologists and spent two weeks in Mexico City collaborating with Mexican musicians. He auditioned “hundreds of ancient instruments,” from clay flutes to unusual percussion instruments, and saw paintings of Mayans playing on turtle shells, among dozens of similar musically inspirational moments. He discovered the “flute of truth,” a high-pitched whistle-like woodwind instrument, and vowed to incorporate the “death whistle,” which has a piecing sound like a human scream.

By day, Göransson recorded with Mexican musicians, and by night, he was recording with Mexican singers and rappers. “I was using the morning sessions to put together beats and songs that we would use later that day with the artists,” the composer reports….

(16) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. Leaflock™ The Ent™ from WETA Workshop is only fifteen hundred dollars… The image of this veteran of the attack on Isengard “Contains two (and a half) Orcs, squashed, pinned and/or crushed by the Ent’s wrath.”

(17) MAKE IT GO. And if you have any money left after buying the Ent, you can order the Volkswagen-built Star Trek captain’s chair that goes 12mph – assuming it truly exists, which the Verge says should not be taken for granted.

…Assuming all of this is real, of course. Volkswagen has a recent history of lying to people. This time, the company seems to be fairly transparent that it’s a one-off marketing stunt, while also suggesting that “it will be available for test drives at various locations.” Hopefully that means citizens of Norway will soon be able to prove its capabilities….

(18) COMING FROM DUST. The short film Jettison will be released online December 7 by DUST & Film Shortage.

A restless young woman ships off to fight an interstellar war, only to struggle with the effects of being cut off from her home by both time and space.

(19) BELA WINS. “The 20 best horror villains of all time”, according to Entertainment Weekly.

…But for every icon of the macabre, there are a much larger number of deranged dentists, serial-killing Santa Clauses, and sorority house murderers who don’t quite rank as highly in the frightening food chain. In fact, it’s been a while since a character came along and asserted his or herself as the next count of the Carpathians or chainsaw-wielding maniac. Whoever steps up next has some big shoes to fill, because these are the crème de la crème when it comes to history-making evildoers….

1. Dracula

Dracula is the most influential horror villain of all time. The Count stalks like a slasher, murders in droves like a serial killer, and is the inspiration for every single vampire movie made after 1931. Dracula’s vast powers, and his immortality, make him the most formidable of any killer on this list, and while Bela Lugosi is most often associated with the character, it was Sir Christopher Lee who made the Count the vile, sadistic creature of the night.

Lee gave the character a grandiose feel thanks to his imposing height, and there was a sexuality the villain exuded which made him irresistible to women. Unlike his colleague and friend, Peter Cushing, Lee loathed reprising the role because Hammer wasn’t faithful to Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. “I wanted to play Stoker’s character,” Lee explained. “It wasn’t remotely like the book.”

You’ll also enjoy Horror of Dracula (1958).

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dream Foundry has released the video of “Fantasy? On MY Spaceship?! Blending Science and Sorcery” on their YouTube channel. Features panelists Valerie Valdes, Tobias Buckell, and Bogi Takács.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Danny Sichel, David Doering, Andrew (not Werdna), Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Amazon Changing Its Ebook Return Policy

In response to pressure from the Society of Authors, the Authors Guild, and individuals, Amazon plans to change its ebook return policy, most notably de-activating self-service returns for any book read past 10%. This comes after viral TikTok videos encouraged refunds which harmed many authors’ earnings. The return policy reform is expected to take effect by the end of the year.

Amazon’s returns policy for ebooks currently allows readers to receive a full refund for up to seven days, even if they have read the full work. The Society of Authors says the use of this refund loophole has been encouraged by users on the social media platform TikTok, with videos on how to return books being viewed over 17 million times.

Amazon has informed the Authors Guild it plans to change its ebook return policy to restrict automatic returns to purchases where no more than 10 percent of the book has been read. The planned change will go into effect by the end of the year. Any customer who wishes to return an ebook after reading more than 10 percent will need to send in a customer service request, which will be reviewed by a representative to ensure that the return request is genuine and complies with Amazon’s policies against abuse. This process will create a strong deterrent against buying, reading, and returning ebooks within seven days, and readers who attempt to abuse the return policy will be penalized under Amazon’s policies. The Authors Guild and the Society of Authors, its counterpart organization in the U.K., had taken up this issue with Amazon’s senior executives earlier this year.

Scores of indie authors also advocated for this change. This was echoed by a petition on Change.org which attracted more than 78,000 signatures.

In an email to the SoA and the Authors’ Guild on September 21 David Naggar – Amazon’s Vice President of Books & Kindle Content – said, “we do hear all you have said over the course of our conversations on this topic and are planning to make meaningful changes … Most notably, we will de-activate self-service returns for any book read past 10%, adding substantial friction to the process.”

While stressing that in Amazon’s view returns on Kindle products continue to be low, with “no discernible spikes”, Naggar confirmed that the company will introduce the change to all the platforms that support Kindle, including eReaders, computers and smartphones. He said their developers have, “reprioritized existing product roadmaps … and believe this improvement can be implemented by the end of the year”.

[Based on press releases.]

Pixel Scroll 9/14/22 Scroll Is The Mind-Killer. Scroll Is The Little File That Brings Total Pixelation

(1) WARNER BROS. BARS SHOWING OF ‘THE PEOPLE’S JOKER’. Polygon is there when “The People’s Joker, a hilarious trans riff on DC characters, shut down over ‘rights issues’” after a single screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, following a copyright and trademark infringement complaint by Warner Bros.

“This movie is not illegal. I just said that to get you to come.” So says Vera Drew, the writer-director-star-effects artist behind the queer Batman movie The People’s Joker. But before the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Warner Bros. served a cease-and-desist order against the film anyway. Subsequent festival screenings have been canceled, leaving the future of The People’s Joker in doubt.

…Fanfiction might seem like an unlikely vehicle for real-life autobiography. But given how personal the relationship can get between fans and the pop culture they love, it makes sense that Vera, a passionate fan of the Bat-verse, would use the Joker’s character and lore to tell the story of her own transformation from a failed improv comedian into a gloriously unhinged trans agent of comedic chaos. The People’s Joker might even be called an act of comedic terrorism, if it wasn’t so damn sincere….

Here’s a video promoting the project: “Welcome to The People’s Joker”.

And here’s the teaser trailer:

(2) AMAZON SUED. “California sues Amazon over antitrust concerns” – the Washington Post has the story.

California sued Amazon on Wednesday, alleging that the company caused higher prices across the state and “stifled competition.”

Amazon penalizes sellers on its site if they offer products elsewhere for lowerprices, the state alleged. That makes it harder for others to compete, therefore entrenching Amazon’s market power, the state said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.

“For years, California consumers have paid more for their online purchases because of Amazon’s anticompetitive contracting practices,” state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said in a statement.

Amazon spokesman Alex Haurek said in a statement that the California attorney general “has it exactly backwards” and that “sellers set their own prices” on the website.

“Amazon takes pride in the fact that we offer low prices across the broadest selection, and like any store we reserve the right not to highlight offers to customers that are not priced competitively,” Haurek said in a statement. “The relief the AG seeks would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers, oddly going against core objectives of antitrust law.”…

(3) FOR THOSE SCORING AT HOME. Kevin Standlee has posted a concise scorecard listing what happened to every Worldcon Business Meeting agenda item in “2022 WSFS Business Meeting Summary”.

Because people have asked for it multiple times, here is the shorter version of the 2022 Business Meeting Summary. You must have the 2022 WSFS Business Meeting Agenda in order for anything here to make sense, because I’m not going to list titles or try to summarize what each item is. If I did that (which I did already in my day-by-day summaries), this would be so long that people would complain that they wanted a summary of the summary.

(4) TOLKIEN DOWNCHECKED AGAIN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Stephen Bush discusses the legacy of JRR Tolkien and responds to criticism made by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker.

…It is certainly true that any court seeking to convict Tolkien of great literature would struggle.  Unlike other fantasy authors, such as Michael Moorcock or Ursula Le Guin, his work provides little in the way of social or political commentary.  Nor will readers find characters in whom they see themselves or their own experiences, such as the schoolchildren in the Harry Potter books.  Or, indeed, much in the way of deep character work at all:  for the most part, existential doubt, moral complexity, sexual desire and ambiguous inter-personal relationships are in short supply in The Lord of the Rings.

But that same court would also struggle to convict Tolkien for devising the formula that Gopnik imputes to him.  The concept of a chosen one travelling through a ‘vaguely medieval’ world, aided and abetted by fantastical creatures, in search of some cosmic doodad (or, as the screenwriter and frequent Hitchcock collaborator Angus MacPhail called it, ‘a MacGuffin’) predates Tolkien.  The ‘Tolkien formula’ may be found in various retellings of the story of the Holy Grail.  To the extent that Tolkien deviates from that story, it is in the introduction of the dark lord Sauron.  But, given that in The Lord of the Rings we never hear Sauron speak, he never engages the heroes directly and his motivations are, in essence that he does evil things because he’s evil Sauron alone can hardly be seen as great innovation on the old story of the Holy Grail….

(5) STILL TALKING ABOUT TOLKIEN. Queer Lodgings: A Tolkien Podcast launched this week. Episode 1 is about “Intros”.

Grace hosts our ‘official’ first episodes with Alicia, Leah, and Tim, as they properly introduce themselves to the audience. Everyone recounts their history with Tolkien’s legendarium, and shares personal experiences and interactions with Tolkien fandom & scholarship. We wrap up with a summary of why ‘Queer Lodgings’ exists, some of our goals for the podcast, and tease some future episode topics – some intense, some decidedly more ‘fluffy’!

(6) FURRY SITE BANS AI ART. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Website Fur Affinity puts its foot (paw?) down regarding AI-generated art. Such works are now lumped in with other artwork judged to be lacking artistic merit and banned from the site. The furry site is not the first website to enact such a ban, though not all the prior ones are as strict. “Furry Fandom Site Bans All AI Art” reports Vice.

In a Sept. 5 policy update first spotted by journalist Andy Baio, Fur Affinity announced that artwork lacking “artistic merit,” which is banned from the site, now includes “submissions created through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) or similar image generators.” …

The update states: “AI and machine learning applications (DALL-E, Craiyon) sample other artists’ work to create content. That content generated can reference hundreds, even thousands of pieces of work from other artists to create derivative images. Our goal is to support artists and their content. We don’t believe it’s in our community’s best interests to allow AI generated content on the site.”

… As Baio also noted, several social art gallery sites have taken a stand against this groundswell of AI-generated art by banning it outright: Inkblot, a new site that just launched in open beta, has a zero tolerance policy on AI artworks, and Newgrounds, a social site for sharing animations and art that’s been around since 1995, banned AI art from its Art Portal feed, specifically forbidding anything made with ​​Midjourney, DALL-E, CrAIyon (formerly DALL-E Mini) and ArtBreeder. 

Newgrounds makes interesting concessions to allow it elsewhere on the platform, like on one’s own blog, but not on the Art Portal, where a flood of AI art could drown out other works….

(7) HEAR FROM THE LEGISLATOR OF STURGEON’S LAW. Fanac.org has posted a restored version of Scott Imes’ video of “Minicon 15 (1979)-Theodore Sturgeon Guest of Honor Speech, with intro by Toastmaster Bob Vardeman”.

Minicon 15 was held April 13-15, 1979 in Minneapolis, with Guests of Honor Theodore Sturgeon, Rick Sternbach and Tom Digby.

In this brief 16+ minute Guest of Honor speech, Sturgeon speaks about his experience at the “Jupiter Encounter” at JPL, seeing photos of Ganymede and Callisto for the first time. This is followed by a rumination on humanity, interwoven with his shaping of “Sturgeon’s Law,” and an exposition on his favored “Ask the Next Question” philosophy.  In this recording, you get a sense of the man himself. A lovely (and knowledgeable) intro by Bob Vardeman sets the stage.

Thanks to Geri Sullivan and the Video Archeology project for providing the recording.

(8) JEAN-LUC GODARD (1930-2022) French director Jean-Luc Godard died September 13 at age 91. One of his movies, Alphaville, is SF and coincidentally the only genre film ever to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival: “Jean-Luc Godard, giant of the French New Wave, dies at 91” in the Guardian. An excerpt:

…Godard went on to make a string of seminal films in the 1960s at a furious rate. His next film, Le Petit Soldat, suggested the French government condoned torture, and it was banned until 1963, but it was also the film on which Godard met his future wife, Anna Karina, as well as coining his most famous aphorism, “Cinema is truth at 24 frames a second.” Other highlights included A Woman Is a Woman, a self-referential homage to the Hollywood musical, which again starred Karina, along with Belmondo and won more Berlin awards; the extravagant, epic film-about-film-making Contempt, with Michel Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance and Fritz Lang; and Alphaville, a bizarre hybrid of film noir and science fiction….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1968 [By Cat Eldridge.] Doctor Who’s “The Mind Robber” (The Second Doctor). I’ve not essayed a story of the Second Doctor before so this will be interesting to do. Let’s get at it. 

It was first broadcast in five weekly parts from September 14 to October 12, 1968 on BBC.  

The Second Doctor who was played by Patrick Troughton who, yes, was The Doctor for three seasons. He had two Companions here, Frazer Hines who played Jamie McCrimmon and Wendy Padbury who was Zoe Heriot. 

In a place where fiction is real, creatures such as Medusa and the Minotaur exist. The Master tries to have the Doctor replace him as the Storyteller there as he dying. Of course nothing is that simple… 

BBC says that this is indeed the first incarnation of The Master. Though their office timeline disputes that. 

Reception was decidedly mixed for it, but years later Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger to the first episode — in which the TARDIS breaks apart — as one of the greatest cliffhangers in the history of Doctor Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14, 1941 Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them as Dr. Jeff Brenner.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty-four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 14, 1944 Rowena Morrill. Well-known for her genre illustration, she is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (French publication only), Imagination (German publication only), and The Art of Rowena.  Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she never won, but garnered the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. OGH’s obituary for her is here. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 14, 1947 Sam Neill, 75. Best known for role of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park which he reprised in Jurassic Park III. He was also in Omen III: The Final ConflictPossession, Memoirs of an Invisible ManSnow White: A Tale of TerrorBicentennial ManLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’HooleThe Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas BoxThor: Ragnarok and Peter Rabbit. 
  • Born September 14, 1950 Michael Reaves, 72. A scriptwriter and story editor to a number of Eighties and Nineties animated television series, including Batman: The Animated SeriesDisney’s Gargoyles He-Man and the Masters of the UniverseSmurfs Space Sentinels, Star Wars: Droids and The Transformers. Live action wise, he worked on Next GenerationSlidersSwamp Thing, original Flash and Young Hercules.  He also worked on two of my favorite animated Batman films, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.
  • Born September 14, 1959 Mary Crosby, 63. One major role that I’ll get to at the end, and she certainly is present in genre series. First in Freddy’s Nightmares, twice as Greta Moss, then in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as Monique, in the Trek universe on Deep Space Nine as Natima Lang in the “Profit and Loss” episode, and the major role was on The Ice Pirates as Princess Karina.
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 61. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. And he has other series going as well! Another nineteen novels written, and then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  He writes mainly Doctor Who novels with thirteen, so from the Eighth through the Thirteenth Doctor so far, and  Creative Consultant for the BBC Books range of Doctor Who novels. He’s written novels with Professor Bernice Summerfield as the protagonist as well. And written more SF that aren’t Whovian than I possibly list here. One such series is, as EoSF notes is “the Invisible Detective sequence, beginning with The Paranormal Puppet Show (2003; vt Double Life 2004), consists in each case of two stories: one set in the 1930s, where the four young protagonists solve sf and fantasy mysteries; the other set in the contemporary world, where a parallel tale is told.”
  • Born September 14, 1972 Jenny T. Colgan, 50. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date, several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City. She contributed a story to the historical adventures inspired by Jodie Whittaker’s first series as The Doctor.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side knows how a man’s ideas about driving can get out of hand.

(12) THE ANSWER IS NOT NECESSARILY 42. Ars Technica chats with xkcd creator Randall Munroe about his next book: “What If? 2 is here with even more serious answers to your weird questions”.

Forget debating the airspeed velocity of an unladen African versus a European swallow. How many pigeons would it take to lift a person seated in a launch chair to the top of the Q1 skyscraper in Australia? Answer: You could probably manage this with a few tens of thousands of pigeons, as long as they don’t get spooked by a passing falcon or distracted by someone with a bag of seeds. That’s just one of many fascinating (and amusing) tidbits to be gleaned from What If? 2, the latest book from cartoonist and author Randall Munroe and the sequel to 2014’s bestselling What If?...

Ars Technica: Somehow people got into the habit of asking you these really weird, silly, sometimes impossible, implausible questions. And you started answering them. How exactly did that happen?

Randall Munroe: When I started drawing comics, I was surprised to learn there were so many people who were entertained by the same niche science ideas or funny applications of math to different problems—stuff I laughed at but I didn’t expect anyone else to. Then I put up these comics and found there are a whole bunch of people out there who think about stuff the way I do. That was really cool. But I definitely didn’t expect that people would start thinking of me as the person to settle arguments. I’d get these emails: “Hey, me and my friend have been arguing about this for a while now, and we don’t know how to answer the question. It feels like it’s not a good enough question to bother a real scientist with. But we both agreed you seemed like a great person to send it to.”

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter clicked off his TV long enough to report that on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! – “There was an entire category, ‘Cons,’ dealing with SF, gaming and media cons, but I didn’t note any of the mistakes, except one contestant wrongly answered with a mispronunciation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s name before correcting it, too late.”

(14) STARSHIP TROPERS. “58 years ago, Star Trek created its worst trope — now, one character is fixing it” says Inverse.

In Star Trek: Lower Decks, the show’s upbeat Orion character — D’Vana Tendi — is often hit with in-universe prejudices informed by the earliest of Star Trek canon. (The green-skinned alien race appeared in the very first episode of Trek ever: the original pilot, “The Cage,” filmed way back in 1964.) In 2020, Noël Wells — the voice actress who helps bring Tendi’s character to animated life — admitted that some of these jokes went over her head. But not anymore. Now, she’s further into a performance that is bringing new life to one of Star Trek’s worst tropes: the seductive alien slave….

“We don’t always get to choose our mentors.”

Because Lower Decks is ostensibly focused on the activities of the lower-level crew members in Starfleet, it stands to reason that the careers of these underdogs can only go so far. And yet, this season is focused on Tendi training to become a legit science officer in the mold of Jadzia Dax or Spock. In Season 3 Episode 3, “Mining the Mind’s Mines,” Tendi is evaluated by the ship’s bird-like counselor, Dr. Migleemo (Paul F. Tompkins), about her ability to assert herself in big, high-stakes situations.

It’s the kind of personal growth storyline that pervades much of Star Trek, with echoes of TNG episodes like “Coming of Age,” and “Thine Own Self.” Eventually, Tendi draws strength not from Migleemo’s advice, but from her cankerous former boss, Dr. T’Ana (Gillian Vigman), who is literally a cranky cat….

(15) MORE GOOD STUFF. We linked to another post about this artist recently, however, Colossal’s photo gallery of Greg Olijnyk’s work is highly impressive: “A Cast of Articulate Cardboard Robots Populate a Growing Sci-Fi Universe Crafted by Greg Olijnyk”.

Detail of “Escher Cube,” cardboard, 50 square centimeters

(16) MISTAKES WERE MADE. “Asking the Public to Name Probe to Uranus May Have Been a Mistake” says Futurism.

A space exploration enthusiast account on Twitter asked the internet to name an upcoming mission to the planet Uranus, in what almost feels like a setup for a punch line, considering the public’s endless interest in potty humor and butt-related puns….

There’s actually no Uranus mission on the boards at this time. ScienceAlert explains why names were solicited, and why they think it didn’t go all that badly: “The Internet Was Asked to Name A Probe For Uranus. Here’s How That Went Down”.

Asking the internet to name a scientific mission has become something of a tradition, but we think even the bravest might quail at a recent ask on Twitter.

An unofficial Twitter account promoting future missions to our Solar System’s ice giants, Ice Giant Missions, requested suggestions for what to name a probe sent to Uranus.

Given the potential puns that are inevitably attached to Uranus, this is dangerous territory, even beyond the expected “Something McSomethingface”. That, of course, was among the top answers, but with ground as fertile as Uranus, why flog a dead horse?

Surprisingly, however, the butt jokes appear to be in the minority, with many respondents taking the question in good faith, and answering accordingly.

A mission to Uranus is not currently in development, but nor is it entirely a pipe dream. Missions have been sent, by now, to most planets in the Solar System. MercuryVenusMarsJupiter, and Saturn have all been visited and surveyed by dedicated probes. Even Jupiter’s moons are getting a mission.

The ice giants, on the other hand, have been somewhat neglected. Earlier this year, this led a panel of experts from the US National Academies to recommend a mission to Uranus in its decadal report to NASA.

(17) WHO ANIMATIONS SUSPENDED AS MONEY RUNS OUT. “Doctor Who director addresses animations hiatus: ‘This is it for us’” at RadioTimes.

Doctor Who animation director Gary Russell has addressed the looming hiatus for reconstructions of lost stories, following news that BBC America will no longer co-finance these projects.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the loss of funding would mean that no further animated projects would be commissioned – though RadioTimes.com understands that future productions could yet go ahead if BBC Studios secures another partner.

Since 2006, a number of Doctor Who stories that are either entirely or partially missing from the archives have been recreated with new animated visuals being matched to the existing soundtracks. The work has been completed by a number of different teams, most recently Big Finish Creative….

(18) LEARNING CURVE. This YA fantasy adaptation, directed by Paul Feig, is coming to Netflix in October: “The School for Good and Evil”.

Do you ever wonder where every great fairytale begins? Welcome to the School for Good and Evil…

(19) A LOT TO THINK ABOUT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Math-loving fans should know about this Netflix documentary “A Trip to Infinity”.

Eminent mathematicians, particle physicists and cosmologists dive into infinity and its mind-bending implications for the universe.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/31/22 “How Many Files To Scrollbylon? Can I Get There By Pixel-Light?”

(1) FREE READ. The final free story in The Sunday Morning Transport’s month-long adventure of free reading is John Wiswell’s “Demonic Invasion or Placebo Effect?” “which shares a unique perspective on an experiment of sorts, gone very, very wrong.”

The Sunday Morning Transport is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work and our authors, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

(2) HOME COOKING. Media Death Cult posted two videos of conversations with author Claire North. First, “Meeting Claire North”.

I made myself comfortable in Catherine Webb’s kitchen, otherwise known as the Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated author, Claire North.

Then, “Claire North Recommends Some Books”.

I hung around with Catherine Webb (Claire North), we talked about books.

(3) LIKE MOTHS TO A CANDLE. “Does Twitch Fame Have to Come With a Stalker?” The New York Times shows this is not a rhetorical question.

…Twitch, more than Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, is an intimate platform, designed to make its stars seem like actual friends of their fans, hanging out virtually with them. Those cozy relationships are a core part of the site’s business model. But they sometimes turn unhealthy.

“In livestreams, they see into your home, into your bedroom, and it feels very personal with them,” Ms. Siragusa said. “I think that is what contributes to a lot of the stalking: They feel like they know you.”

Streamers on Twitch and other platforms have had stalkers show up at their homes and at fan conventions, been targeted by armed and violent viewers or dealt with swatting, a sometimes deadly stunt in which someone calls the local police to report a fake crime at a streamer’s home, hoping the raid will be caught live on camera.

In response to the harassment, threats and stalkers she has endured since joining Twitch in 2016, Ms. Siragusa has bought guns, installed security cameras and gotten a Caucasian shepherd, a breed of guard dog, named Bear. She has been swatted so often that law enforcement agencies in her area know to check her Twitch stream when they get a call. Last year, when a trash can outside Ms. Siragusa’s house caught on fire, police suspected arson….

(4) ORIGIN STORY. George Jetson was born today, July 31, 2022. Don’t ask me where – I only know that in The Jetsons he lived in Orbit City. But NPR can tell you why the date is a logical inference.

…Here’s how the math works: The show first aired in 1962, but was set 100 years in the future. That would be 2062.

During the first season of the show, George reveals that he’s 40 years old. So 2062 minus 40, and there you go.

The fact-checking website Snopes looked into the claim and concluded it is, in fact, a “reasonable estimation of his birth year.”…

(5) TONOPAH TALES. You can read “John Hertz’s Westercon Notebook” at Cheryl Morgan’s Salon Futura.

… Holding a Westercon there was Lisa Hayes’ idea. The Tonopah Convention Center had been a USO hall (United Services Organization; entertainment, hospitality for armed-forces personnel and their families) when armed forces had bases nearby. The Belvada Hotel 100 yards (90 m) away, and the Mizpah Hotel 150 yards (140 m) away, are historic buildings. A 2,000-person Westercon wouldn’t fit there, but a 200-person Westercon, about what could be expected even with COVID-19 easing, would. Hayes was vindicated. 278 attending memberships were sold (and 59 supporting memberships); 159 people arrived. This was an intimate con. It was also hybrid, with some programming available virtually via Zoom. The Convention Center was its hub, like a great Hospitality Suite….

(6) CLARION NEWS. The Clarion Write-a-Thon ended July 30. They raised $4,232.00, which is not as much as they hoped. However, they are still accepting donations.

As it is the last day of our annual Write-a-Thon, there’s still time to squeeze in some writing towards your goal or help us get closer to our fundraising goal! A huge thank you to all of the participants, cheerleaders, signal-boosters, and donors who have helped us with the Write-a-Thon this summer. This annual fundraiser is an essential source of scholarships that provide opportunities for future students.

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Robert Bloch was a very prolific genre writer and among those writings were three scripts for the original Trek series. (IMDb says that he wrote fifty-five tv and film scripts in total.) I would argue that his three Trek episodes were among the best episodes done. So let’s look at them

The first of them was the one I was least aware that he’d done, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” A season one undertaking, this is a straight SF story involving androids, one of whom of is played by Ted Cassidy as Ruk. I’d rate it a decent story. The make-up on Cassidy is quite wonderfully done. And yes, we get a bit of eye candy as well, something Trek did in its female androids more than once. 

Now the next Trek story, “Wolf in the Fold”, from the second season, with its take off the Ripper mythos is delightful indeed. Bloch does horror very, very well and within the restrictions of Sixties television governing what can be shown for blood and violence, he does quite a bit here. I’ll single out the acting of the nebbish like killer Administrator Hengist as played by John Fiedler. 

Now I admit that I had to go back and rewatch “Catspaw”, another second season episode, as I sort of remembered it but not quite though I knew Bloch had scripted it. Fortunately I subscribe to Paramount+, home of everything Trek. Ahhh, now I remember the All Hallows episode with the delightful Antoinette Bower as Sylvia and Theo Marcuse as Korob. And let’s not forget the cat as where would All Hallows’ Eve be without a cat. All in all a most wonderful tale. 

Bloch I’d say acquitted himself most admirably in these three scripts. 

Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. If you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek which is mentioned above in today’s featured essay and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the “The Corbomite Maneuver” episode and the Gorn in the “Arena” episode. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair” episode, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. And failed magnificently.  I watched a few months back. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1939 France Nuyen, 83. She showed up in the original Trek as “Elaan of Troyius” as Elaan and was on the new Outer Limits in the “Ripper” episode.  She was in the original Fantasy Island series, also the Battle for the Planet of the ApesAutoman, and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
  • Born July 31, 1950 Steve Miller, 72. He is married to Sharon Lee, and they are the creators of the vast and throughly entertaining Liaden universe. I was surprised though they’ve won both a Golden Duck and Skylark that they have never been nominated for a Hugo. 
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 71. Though best known as a most excellent British crime fiction novelist, she has three SF novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain and A Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but I wasn’t at all aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first though y’all corrected me when I first ran this Birthday note several years back. 
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 66. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He was also The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. Though not even genre adjacent, he was Johnny Ringo in the magnificent Tombstone film. Likewise he was in The Magnificent Seven series as Chris Larabee.
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 62. Though best known for his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten. He’s also a prolific genre writer and his first published novel, The Night Mayor, sounds very intriguing. 
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 60. The first actor to be Blade in the Blade film franchise where I thought he made the perfect Blade. (There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. Most likely deservedly.) I also like him a lot as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. And he was Aman in Gallowwalkers, a Western horror film.
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 46. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond. He did The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed Magazine since the early part of the previous decade. He is the series editor of The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Nominated for the Hugo many times, he won for the Lightspeed prozine at Loncon 3 (2014) with Rich Horton and Stefan Rudnicki and at Sasquan (2015) with Horton, Rudnicki, Wendy N. Wagner and Christie Yant. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a plan for a more powerful monster.
  • Off the Mark reveals the original French name of the movie Jaws.
  • Calvin and Hobbes is about Calvin’s science fiction story.

(10) SPLISH, SPLASH. Amazon is taking a bath. “Amazon reports $2B net loss in Q2” reports Becker’s Health IT.

Amazon reported a $2 billion net loss in the second quarter ending June 30, a blow to the company that reported net income of $7.8 billion in the same period last year.

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon, blamed inflation among other issues for the disappointing quarter.

“Despite continued inflationary pressures in fuel, energy, and transportation costs, we’re making progress on the more controllable costs we referenced last quarter, particularly improving the productivity of our fulfillment network,” Mr. Jassy said.

The announcement comes on the heels of Amazon’s plans to purchase One Medical for $3.9 billion last week.

(11) FOR YOUR MT. TBR. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes recommendations in “New And Notable Film Books July 2022 – Part One”. For example —

THE DISNEY REVOLT: THE GREAT LABOR WAR OF ANIMATION’S GOLDEN AGE by Jake S. Friedman (Chicago Review Press)

This deeply researched book tells the backstory of the notorious strike that occurred at the Walt Disney studio in 1941. It was a life-altering event for Walt and its aftereffects were still felt decades later. One of its many ironies is that it pitted Disney against the man he once regarded as his star animator, Art Babbitt. They would become blood enemies as a result of Babbitt’s passionate unionism—and his strident nature.

Students and followers of Disney know his side of the story by now, but may not recall that his father Elias was an active socialist. His upbringing wasn’t so very different from that of Arthur Babitsky, the son of Russian immigrants, who was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Fate brought these two gifted and strong-willed individuals together as Disney was envisioning new horizons for animation in the early 1930s….

(12) BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE. CNN’s reviewer Brian Lowry finds “‘DC League of Super-Pets’ goes to the dogs in more ways than one”.

Who’s a good movie? Not “DC League of Super-Pets,” a big colorful idea that proves promising in theory – tailor-made for a two-minute trailer – but a rather tedious slog as a full-length animated film. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart’s “Jumanji” reunion as the central voices and an intriguing start to serve up a few bones fun-wise, but not nearly as much as there should be….

(13) PREPARE TO DIE. Paul Weimer tells us what he heard while listening to The Killing Machine, second in the audio reissue of Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series: “Microreview: The Killing Machine by Jack Vance” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Something I didn’t appreciate when I first read (and re-read) these novels previously but is now clear to me know is the role of serendipitous luck in how these novels kick off. It is luck and chance in both volumes that puts Gersen in the path of this latest foe, quite by chance and accident, and he spends the rest of the novel trying to force a decisive confrontation with the Demon Prince. Also in both novels, there is a sense of “I want you to know it was me” Olenna Tyrell sort of feel to Gersen’s revenge. Shooting the Demon Prince out of the sky is not quite satisfactory enough for Gersen  The Prince must face his avenger…. 

(14) ARTIFICIAL INNUENDO. On The Tonight Show artificial intelligence doesn’t sound any smarter than the ordinary kind. So should I admit that I listened ’til the end? “Bruce the Robot Performs a Freestyle Rap About Hot Dogs and Taylor Swift”.

The world’s first autonomous AI-powered robot, Bruce the Robot, talks about his desire to fly first class, tells Jimmy his best pickup line and shows off his rapping skills.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage’s Tested looks at an animatronic Baby Yoda at Comi-Con built by Garner Holt Productions.  The price of this “bespoke” object isn’t mentioned, because, if you have to ask you can’t afford him! “Lifelike Animatronic Grogu Puppet at Comic-Con 2022!”

The highlight of Comic-Con 2022 so far is this fully animatronic Grogu from EFX Collectibles, designed by the engineers and artists at Garner Holt Productions. We get up close with this incredible animated puppet, which uses 15 servos to recreate all of the character’s joyful expressions seen in The Mandalorian. Star Wars fans at San Diego Comic-Con have to check this out!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Rich Lynch, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Joey Eschrich, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 4/24/22 Story Day, Sweepin’ Boredom Away, On My Way To Where Genre Fans Meet, Can You Tell Me How To Get? How To Get To Pixel Scroll Street?

(1) WRITING ADVICE. Cat Rambo advises “Write What You Love” in a guest post at Stone Soup.

…Write what you love is one of those pieces of writing advice that gets trotted around and may even seem the equivalent of the LIVE LOVE LAUGH plaque hanging in some existential AirBnb of the soul. It’s a piece of advice that is so basic, so simple that people ignore it, think it purely decorative.

But the thing about that sort of advice is that often it’s worth taking the time to look again. Sometimes they’re more like zen koans, or puzzle boxes that yield increasing levels of secrets the more you know about unlocking their depths.

Absolutely, write what you love, and know that there are a multitude of reasons for doing so….

(2) VIDEO GAME REVIEW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Tunic.

…There are many games that keep their secrets hidden, but few are brave enough to refuse to tell you how to play. In Tunic you will have to work out for yourself how to run or level up your skills, often learning that you had an ability or an access to a shortcut that you could have been using all along, had you known it was there. There is something profound about a game that doesn’t expect you constantly to acquire new moves, but asks you to look within and discover the true extent of your abilities.

This thoughtful ethos is threaded through every layer of Tunic, a passion project by Canadian developer Andrew Shouldice, who spent seven years making it, mostly alone. The result feels singular yet also indebted to gaming history. Its top-down perspective and endless waves of slashable monsters recall recent indie games such as Hades and Death’s Door, but deeper in this game’s DNA are more ambitious references: to the way Elden Ring plays with death and combat, the sophisticated meta-puzzles of Fez and the obscure secrets in classic Mario and Zelda….

(3) COULDN’T SPARE TIME TO BE TIME TRAVELER. Slashfilm remembers this lost opportunity: “The Star Trek Role That Was Actually Written For Robin Williams”.

…[Whoopi] Goldberg is also, it turns out, old friends with comedian Robin Williams, as she, Williams, and Billy Crystal were the three headliners of the comedy charity event Comic Relief. And this is where we talk about how Williams wanted to follow Goldberg and make an appearance on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In 1991, when “Next Generation” was in its fifth season, the show’s writers wanted to include Robin Williams. Williams was always an outspoken Trekkie — he even made a reference to killing off Spock in an episode of “Mork & Mindy” — and the “Trek” writers were, in turn, big Robin Williams fans. Williams’ fast-talking, manic comedy wasn’t necessarily a good match for the normally staid, composed, mature tone of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” so the writers would have to create a new role — likely not a Starfleet officer — for Williams…

(4) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2014 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction. — Nathan, the programmer

Just eight years ago, Ex Machina premiered written and directed by Alex Garland in his directorial debut. He previously wrote and produced Dredd but let’s not hold that against him. Too much. This is a story that follows a programmer who is invited by his CEO to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid robot.

It had a core cast of Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac. 

It was made on a budget of just fifteen million, and it grossed thirty-six worldwide. Not bad at all. 

The reception was quite good. The critic at The Reader liked and said, “What’s amazing about Ex Machina is Garland’s precise control over the audience both visually and through a singularly perfect script. The characters and the audience are both captive, processing the slightest information as fast as they can.” Whereas Sunday People commented “Precision-tooled to perfection with sumptuously seductive design,it combines the brains of Blade Runner, the gloss of James Bond, and the sly satire of cult comic 2000AD.” Finally I’ll let NOW Toronto have the last word: “The film is at its best when the characters are simply talking to each other, creating a delicate, hypnotic back-and-forth between the humans and the new creature in their midst.”

Released on the US in 2015, it was nominated for a Hugo for MidAmericaCon which was the year The Martian won.

And yes, the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really do like it giving an eighty-six percent rating. 

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1910 Albert Zugsmith. American film producer, film director and screenwriter who specialized in really low-budget exploitation films such as Sex Kittens Go to College and Female on the Beach through the Fifties and Sixties. So why am I giving him a Birthday, you ask?  Why it’s because he produced The Incredible Shrinking Man which won a Hugo at Solacon (1958). (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 24, 1925 Virginia Huston. Not a long genre history but an interesting one. Her first role was as Jane in Tarzan and the Jungle Queen (which was originally released as Tarzan’s Peril) and was advertised as being filmed on location in Africa. Next she was Lady Ellen Douglas in The Highwayman which is just genre adjacent, before being Carol Stratford in Flight to Mars. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner. He’s credited in directing Superman which is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb. (Died 2021.)
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she appeared in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery, My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1939 David L. Ross, 83. He appeared on Trek as mostly Lt. Galloway eight times though occasionally as Security Guard or Guard. Since one of his appearances was on “Trouble with Tribbles”, he also appeared on “Trials and Tribble-ations”.  His only other genre appearance was a one-one off on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair”. 
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 75. Author of, with Michael Moorcock naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor8 magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 

(6) SPECIAL DELIVERY. Cat Eldridge wrote about Ray Bradbury’s special citation from the Pulitzer Board in the April 16 Pixel Scroll (item #9). We ran a photo of his agent accepting the plaque, but I just rediscovered the video of it being delivered to Ray Bradbury during his 2007 birthday celebration at a Glendale bookstore.

Unable to travel to the East-coast to accept the special Pulitzer in person, author Ray Bradbury accepts it on a special 87th birthday celebration held on August 25, 2007, at “Mystery and Imagination Bookstore”, in Glendale, California. ‘Logan’s Run’ author, William Nolan, presents the award, and ‘Ocean’s 11’ author, George Clayton Johnson, waxes eloquently around the fond memories of Bradbury, his influences, and his work.

(7) DON’T LOOK. Moira Weigel, an assistant professor of communication studies at Northeastern University, tells readers “What You Don’t Know About Amazon” in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

…If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you’re an Amazon customer. And if you feel guilty about that, it is probably because you are thinking about the warehouse and delivery workers whose labor Amazon exploits, the small merchants whose successful products Amazon copies, the beloved local bookstores whose bottom lines they undercut. Or maybe you just think about all the boxes piling up by your door.

You should feel guilty. I do, anyway. Convenience is not a good reason to participate in exploitation or waste. But guilt is a weak political emotion. In my experience, it can easily lose out to the 3 a.m. realization that Baby Two has soaked through her sleepsack and we need more Huggies Overnites ASAP.

But a series of product safety cases that have been brought against Amazon over the past few years makes clear that its rewiring of retail poses risks to customers as well. Above all, the cases highlight a significant gap between how most people understand the world’s largest e-commerce company and what that company actually does.

Conversations about Amazon tend to emphasize the company’s omniscience — the cutting-edge technologies that it uses to gather data on its competitors and customers and to discipline its workers. But in reality, as the scholar Miriam Posner has written, supply chains that drive global capitalism depend on “partial sight.” Companies are able to get customers so many things so cheap and fast because they know only what they have to; toward everything else, they often turn a blind eye….

(8) SPACE CASE. In “Judge John Hodgman on a Deathbed Request”, the New York Times columnist arbitrates an issue with a Martian twist.

(9) SCI-FI IDEA FOR LA SMOG. [Item by David Doering.] I can go months without finding anything off the wall, now I find several in a week! 

Here’s a sci-fi idea to clean up the air of LA in 1954. Big tubes would suck in bad air and expel it in the mountains. Wow. I love the phrase “…would be discharged harmlessly…” 

(10) BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] These two renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody aren’t new – though they may be to you.

Via Open Culture: “1910 Fairground Organ Plays Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and It Works Like a Charm”.

First built in Paris by Charles Marenghi in 1910, the organ above quickly found a home in a Belgian restaurant. And there it remained for many years … until 1967, when it traveled abroad, to a Texas fairground. Imagine the culture shock it must have felt. But that’s not where it ends.

Nowadays, you can watch the 81-key organ play Queen’s 1975 hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” quite different than whatever it was playing in Antwerp a century ago. Alexey Rom wrote the arrangement for the song, and programmed it using the strip of cards being fed through the instrument. Hopefully this isn’t the last stop on this organ’s grand journey.

“Literal Bohemian Rhapsody” visualized as a short live-action video via Uncrate:

You’ve belted it out in your car. Sang along during Wayne’s World. But have you ever really listened to the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Corridor turned the Queen classic into a shot film, resulting in a dark tale of drugs, crime, and a poor boy.

(11) DASHCON. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] The convention in question is from quite a few years ago, but this post-mortem video is recent and might be interesting to the Filers. You could call it “How to NOT run a convention.” “Tumblr’s Failed Convention: The Story of Dashcon” as told by Sarah Z.

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