Pixel Scroll 6/11/24 A Pixel Is To Be Hugged And Sung Lullabies Lest It Grow Up Feeling Unwanted. And Then It Won’t Want To Be Scrolled

(1) GLASGOW 2024 TOWN HALL ABOUT BUSINESS MEETING ON 6/15. Glasgow 2024 will host a virtual Town Hall Event about the WSFS Business Meeting on Saturday, June 15, at 7:00 p.m. BST (which is 11:00 a.m. Pacific). Sign up for a free ticket at this Eventbrite link.

Key members of the Business Meeting and The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) team from Glasgow 2024 will discuss the Business Meeting that will occur at Glasgow 2024.

The event will be moderated, taking questions in advance. If you wish to submit a question for consideration, please do so below. There may not be enough time to cover all questions, but we will do our best to get to as many as we can. https://forms.gle/goRw9ZGspQ4YE3mA9

(2) SHE’S ON THE FRONT. Nnedi Okorafor is featured in the June 10 issue of Publishers Weekly.

(3) CREDIT FOR HELPING SAVE TREK. Bjo Trimble’s daughter Lora reports on Facebook she “again went to the Peabody awards last night to watch Star Trek be honored with the Peabody Institutional Award. What Bjo didn’t know was Alex Kurtzman paid tribute to her and My father John Trimble and all the work they did to save Star Trek and keep it going! It was a lovely evening.” More photos at the link.

Bjo Trimble attends the 2024 Peabody Awards at Beverly Wilshire on June 9. Photo by Jon Kopaloff.

Below you can see J. J. Abrams and Alex Kurtzman accepting Star Trek’s Peabody Award, including Kurtzman’s mention of Bjo.

(4) A STELLAR VILLAIN. “Paul Giamatti Joins ‘Star Trek: Starfleet Academy’ as Main Villain” reports Variety. (Does Starfleet Academy have holiday holdovers?)

Set phasers to stunned. In another casting coup, the upcoming Paramount+ series “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy” has cast Emmy winner and multiple Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti in a recurring guest role as the first season’s main villain, who has a sinister connection to the past of one of the (yet to be cast) cadets.

Giamatti joins Holly Hunter, who Variety exclusively reported in May is boarding “Starfleet Academy” as the Academy’s captain and chancellor.

“Sometimes you’re lucky enough to discover that one of the greatest actors alive is also a huge ‘Star Trek’ fan, and meeting Paul was one of those miraculous moments for us,” said co-showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Noga Landau in a statement. “The sheer delight with which he dove in on ‘Starfleet Academy’ is only surpassed by the gratitude we feel about him joining our incredible cast.”…

(5) HOW MANY VIEW WHO. Steven Moffat told Facebook readers today:

According to Russell T Davies, the ratings for Doctor Who are “far above expectations.”

While he admits that the figures “aren’t where we want them. We always want higher”, an independent BBC review has revealed that it is the most watched show for under 30s in the world.

The series has “reached and exceeded every target, so we are showing no signs of slowing down.”

(6) NO VROOM AT THE INN. New York Times critic Esther Zuckerman recommends “A Four-Hour-Long Hotel Review That Is Actually About So Much More” – Jenny Nicholson’s report on Disney’s Star Wars-themed Galactic Starcruiser hotel, now shut down, which she deems a spectacular failure.

…One of the most captivating pieces of entertainment I’ve seen so far this year is a four-hour-long YouTube video in which one woman describes her stay at a Disney World hotel. I’m as shocked by this as anyone.

To be clear: I was initially resistant when my partner encouraged me to watch Jenny Nicholson’s epic “The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel,” which breaks down in microscopic detail her visit to Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. During the experience, now closed, guests on vacation were encouraged to live out their George Lucas dreams by participating in a role-playing game while staying in a structure on the outskirts of the park near Orlando, Fla.

Nicholson’s monologue, which runs longer than “Lawrence of Arabia,” has been viewed more than seven million times since it was uploaded last month and has been the talk of social media, yet I was still unprepared for how absolutely riveting it was. While it highlights a litany of problems with the hotel itself, the video can also be viewed as a diagnosis of the entertainment industry’s current ills writ large. In her frustration, Nicholson becomes a valiant truth teller, clearly articulating how corporate greed betrays loyal fans to sell a cheaper and less emotionally enriching product. And she does this against a backdrop of stuffed animals and while wearing various costumes, including, at one point, a giant suit resembling a Porg, the puffin-like creature in “The Last Jedi.”…

…The great irony is that Nicholson herself produced what Disney couldn’t: a comprehensive, entrancing experience that held my attention.

(7) PLEASE DON’T FEED THE BOTS. Clarkesworld’s Neil Clarke has updated his blog post “Block the Bots that Feed ‘AI’ Models by Scraping Your Website” to warn about another offender: “If you haven’t updated your robots.txt to protect your work from scraping for ‘AI’ training recently, there’s probably a few bots you aren’t blocking. Added Applebot-Extended this morning.”

Applebot-Extended does not directly crawl webpages. It is used to determine whether or not pages crawled by the Applebot user agent will be used to train Apple’s models powering generative AI features across Apple products, including Apple Intelligence, Services, and Developer Tools….

(8) ANOTHER SCURRILOUS TACTIC. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] I was listening to a favorite law podcast of mine, Law and Chaos, (“PA Dad Takes On Moms For Liberty”) and they were  interviewing a Pennsylvania father who discovered books were quietly going missing from his kid’s local school library and decided to figure out why. Turns out it was a “shadowban” campaign against books that Moms for Liberty hates and included such lovely behavior as the school creating fake student library accounts, checking out the books to those accounts for an entire year, and then adding the books to the list of items to be removed from the library on the grounds that they weren’t being checked out (!). It’s a fascinating story about just how far Culture Warriors will go to ban books! The titles secretly removed included the entire “A Court of Thorns and Roses” (ACOTAR) fantasy series, which, while not my cup of tea where fantasy is concerned, are very popular with teenage girls who deserve to have the right to check out the books if they want.

The Bucks County Beacon wrote about the Dad who discovered what was going on: “Uncovering the Cover-up: How Republican Pennridge School Board Directors Secretly Banned Books”.

…Frustrated by the lack of answers, I submitted a Right-To-Know request seeking a report that listed the books checked out of the high school library by non-students.  To my surprise, the report furnished by the district was discernibly inaccurate. It did not contain any of the targeted titles that had recently gone missing.

I hired an open records attorney, Joy Ramsingh, to negotiate with the district’s law firm, Eckert Seamans. I was simply requesting the production of a good faith public record. My goal was to learn which books were being censored.  

I wanted to give the community a fair opportunity to read, defend, and debate the merit of literature before it was permanently removed from the library. My lawyer sought to reach a quick and amicable resolution, but the negotiations were unsuccessful. We appealed to the Court of Common Pleas.

After a year of litigation, my attorney was able to prove that the RTK report furnished by the district was illegally manipulated. Faced with overwhelming evidence, the district eventually conceded that an employee had deleted records from the report. It was a clear attempt to hide the removal of books from public scrutiny….

(9) MEDICAL UPDATE. Adam-Troy Castro, in a public Facebook post, has announced he is battling cancer again – but it should be survivable. Full details at the link.

…They remove this and give me another round of chemo and it is pretty survivable. Which is a lot different than this would be if the Colon Cancer had metastasized in any other organ. Anywhere else would have been a case of, “okay, we’re bailing water to keep the boat afloat until it sinks.”

On the scale of having Stage 4 any kind of Cancer, this kind of cancer is not as bad as most. Okay? It’s survivable.

Does this suck?

Yes.

Does it suck a lot less than it could suck if it has to suck?

Yes….

(10) WHAT THE SCROLL SHOULD HAVE ADDED ABOUT H. BRUCE FRANKLIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Pixel Scroll 5-23-24 item #9’s mini-obit of H. Bruce Franklin, while acknowledging him as “author of numerous books, essays, and exhibitions related to science fiction.” fails to cite what (to me at least) are the obvious suspects (titles) Future Perfect (an antho that I read decades ago; my memory burped the title up instantly when I saw the NYTimes obit a few weeks ago) and it looks like he also wrote a book about Heinlein, Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction, and, along with political/historical non-fiction, this one of interest no doubt to SJW credentials: The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America.  

And thanks to Scott Edelman, here’s an unlocked copy of the New York Times obituary: “H. Bruce Franklin, Scholar Fired for His Antiwar Views, Is Dead at 90”.

(11) WORKING THROUGH LOSS. Sharon Lee writes about her experiences while grieving the death of her husband, Steve Miller, in “While one lives, both stand”. Here are the opening paragraphs.

Grief puts funny ideas into your head.

For instance, for awhile back in March, I was convinced that Steve had left me — walked out of our partnership and left no forwarding address.  I couldn’t imagine why, and spent way too much time minutely reviewing our past, looking for my error.

Then I became convinced that we had gotten done at this house, and were moving on.  As has been the case in previous moves, Steve had gone on ahead, leaving me to clean up these last few things before I joined him.  This delusion is particularly pernicious because for those of us who speak Metaphor, it’s true.   Only it’s not.

Anyhow, it’s been my goal for some while now to find or create for myself a place of gratitude for having been privileged to share so much time, love, and magic; for having had Steve in my life.  While it’s certainly a very lonely, hard, and scary thing to no longer have him for back-up, for taking the lead, for producing surprising — and occasionally infuriating — insights — surely unrelenting misery was not the best lesson I could take from our life together.

So, I started looking for ways to achieve, at first, equilibrium.  I didn’t expect to leap from misery to gratitude.  I expected there to be a process, and backsliding, and all the things that attend the pursuit of any mighty goal.

Steve and I not only shared our mundane lives, but we shared an active and beguiling fantasy life.  The worlds we built, the people who live there, the lessons, the philosophies — those also fed the richness of our partnership and informed our mundane lives…

(12) DOUG LEWIS (1955-2024). Thomas Kellogg, in a Centipede Press newsletter, paid tribute to bookseller and publisher Doug Lews, who died May 20.

Doug Lewis who with his wife Tomi, owned and operated the Little Bookshop of Horror/Roadkill Press in Arvada, Colorado and won a World Fantasy Award in the Nonprofessional category in the 1990s, died on May 20, 2024 of complications of diabetes. 

Doug started their bookstore when he was unable to find a copy of Joe Lansdale’s The Night Runners to purchase locally. The Lewis’ store primarily featured horror, fantasy, science fiction and crime fiction. Soon they were sponsoring readings by Joe R. Lansdale, along with Edward Bryant, Harlan Ellison, Dan Simmons, Connie Willis, Nancy Collins, Norm Partridge, Steve Rasnic Tem, Melanie Tem and many others. 

The Night Voices series of readings spawned a long friendship between Doug, Tomi and Ed Bryant. Ed was in many ways their mentor. Ed was the MC for the readings and his introductions were memorable by themselves. The readings spawned a publishing venture Roadkill Press. The initial idea was to publish chapbooks of the writers featured in readings. At that time chapbooks were a rarity. The concept was a quality item using high quality paper, with illustrations, signed by the writers that were incredibly affordable. The line of chapbooks was a big success. A collectible that was affordable was unusual in a time dominated by costly limited editions.

…It all came to a crashing end when Tomi became ill and was diagnosed with cancer. Although she fought bravely, she was gone in less than eight months. A farewell auto tour across the county to see all their friends was thwarted by the ravages of the chemotherapy. Doug was crushed by Tomi’s passing. Nothing mattered anymore. Tomi was the extrovert of the pair. With her gone, Doug fell into an abyss of despair that would last the rest of his life.

Adrift in that despair, his physical health deteriorated. He became a type 1 diabetic almost overnight. I remember at the time he told me that he wasn’t going to let diabetes run his life. Caring about nothing, he failed to take care of himself. The disease ultimately destroyed life. 

My 30 year plus friendship with Doug spanned both his highs and his lows of his life. It as a tragedy that he couldn’t overcome the loss of Tomi. As with us all, he had his demons. Many friends reached out multiple times in the years after Tomi’s passing, only to be rebuffed or ignored. I like to think he avoid responding because it only deepened his sense of loss….

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Compiled by Paul Weimer.]

Born June 11, 1971 P. Djeli Clark, 53.

By Paul Weimer. By day, he is a historian of slavery in history and popular culture. By night. P. Djèlí Clark is a ferocious new talent in science fiction and fantasy.  It took me a bit to come across his work, a friend of mine practically pushed his novella, The Haunting of Tram Car 015 into my hands, telling me that this was going to be my jam.  And an alternate historical late 19th century Egypt with magic, becoming a world power? Djinn, magic, spirits and a strong sense of place in this alternate Cairo?  It most certainly was, and is. 

P. Djèlí Clark

His A Master of Djinn continues in that same world as the novella, and builds and extends and grows that world in a very satisfactory manner. Like the first novella, it builds and works with themes of colonialism, race and gender relations, and magical worldbuilding in exploring the consequences of “The magic returns” and making Egypt a powerhouse. I would so love to physically visit this alternate Cairo and photograph its wonders, but for the moment, can only hope for more books set in this world.

 I have not yet read the copy of Ring Shout on my Kindle although, given his day job, it is probably the work of his thus far that is closest to his day job and his academic research interests. I am confident that it will be excellent, but it remains buried in Mount TBR. For now.

However, as part of my Hugo Reading for 2024, I read and enjoyed “How to Raise a Kraken in Your Bathtub”. It’s a clever little story that takes its worldbuilding as a matter of fact sort of approach to add Krakens, and merpeople, to a 19th century Britain not really equipped or ready to deal with the consequences of racism and colonialism and sexism.

As of the writing of this, I have started reading an ARC of his forthcoming work, The Dead Cat Tail Assassins. This story, unlike his others, is firmly set in a secondary world, and reminds me, as of this moment, of the secondary world fantasy of N K Jemisin, in particular the Dreamblood novels. The setting is an entrepot city, and indeed, the main character is one of the titular Dead Cat Tail Assassins. Shenanigans have already ensued.  It’s a new and different mode for Clark, and I look forward to seeing how he continues with it. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) THE GAME’S AFOOT. Inverse’s Ryan Brittthinks “’Indiana Jones and the Great Circle’ Could be the Best Indy Adventure in 35 Years”.

…But for the most ideal Indy results, perhaps it’s still best if the entire adventure happens in the 1930s or 1940s, with Dr. Jones looking and sounding like he’s in between the events of the first three movies. And with the release of a new trailer for the upcoming Bethesda game Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, it seems the franchise is getting back to its roots in an unexpected medium.

Set in 1937, The Great Circle takes place right in between Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade and pairs Indy with a new character named Gina Lombardi. As revealed in the new trailer, the primary mystery in this story is centered on various spiritual sites of great importance — from the Vatican to the Great Pyramids — that form a kind of invisible circle. A madman named Voss is after this power, and it’s up to Gina and Indy to stop him while they race to unlock the secrets of the circle.

Indy is voiced by Troy Baker, but you can barely tell this isn’t Harrison Ford uttering the lines. The mystical and religious overtones of the story also feel very aligned with the tone of The Last Crusade. In other words, this feels authentically Indy in a way that aspects of Dial of Destiny and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn’t.

(15) BAIT FOR YOUR CLICK. “’Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim’ Debuts Epic First Footage”Variety has the reaction. (But no video!)

Warner Bros. Animation, New Line Cinema and Sola Entertainment previewed 20 minutes of its upcoming anime feature “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” receiving thunderous applause during the packed presentation on Tuesday at the Annecy Animation Festival.

Director Kenji Kamiyana said he was inspired by not just J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” books, but by the films of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who were confirmed as exec producers of the movie during the session.

The new story is set nearly 200 years before Bilbo Baggins comes into contact with the ring of power, and centers on the House of Helm Hammerhand, the King of Rohan (voiced by Brian Cox), with a focus on his daughter, the strong willed Princess Héra (voiced by Gaia Wise). In the clip, a dispute erupts during a council meeting, leaving Wulf, a ruthless Dunlending lord, seeking vengeance. Miranda Otto reprises her “Lord of the Rings” role as Éowyn, this time as the movie’s narrator….

(16) BYE, BOYS. “’The Boys’ Is Ending With Season 5 on Amazon” says The Hollywood Reporter.

The Boys will have their final fight in the near future.

Eric Kripke, the showrunner of Prime Video‘s super(anti)hero series, said on social media Tuesday that the show’s fifth season — which the streamer ordered in May — will be its last.

“Season 4 premiere week is a good time to announce: Season 5 will be the final season!” Kripke wrote on X. “Always my plan, I just had to be cagey till I got the final OK from Vought. Thrilled to bring the story to a gory, epic, moist climax.”…

(17) NO SCRAPING UNLESS IT’S MY SCRAPING. Gizmodo tells us “Elon Musk Just Cancelled iPhones”.

Apple and OpenAI’s partnership is only a few hours old, and Elon Musk is already going to war over it. The owner of Tesla, X, SpaceX, and xAI said he would ban Apple devices at his companies if Apple integrated ChatGPT at the operating system level, which the companies are very much planning to do. Musk, a founder of OpenAI who is now suing the present owners, said ChatGPT integrated iPhones present an “unacceptable security violation.”

“If Apple integrates OpenAI at the OS level, then Apple devices will be banned at my companies,” said Musk in a tweet on Monday. “And visitors will have to check their Apple devices at the door, where they will be stored in a Faraday cage,” said Musk in a follow-up tweet

(18) STEVE HEADROOM? “Brighton general election candidate aims to be UK’s first ‘AI MP’” reports the Guardian. Candidate Steve Endacott tells journalists how it’s supposed to work.

‘Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians’, so the saying goes.

This may be why a businessman in the south of England is proposing a novel solution: putting himself forward as a candidate in the UK general election as the first “AI MP”.

AI Steve is a nominee on the list of candidates for the 4 July general election in Brighton Pavilion, last held by the Green party’s Caroline Lucas, who is stepping down.

The man behind AI Steve is Steve Endacott, a self-described entrepreneur who lives in Rochdale, but “maintains a house in Brighton”.

Endacott, who is the chair of an artificial intelligence company called Neural Voice but “made his fortune” in the travel sector, claims he will attend parliament to vote on policies as guided by AI Steve’s feedback from his constituents.

He claims the AI representative would answer constituents’ concerns and questions using a rendition of Endacott’s voice and an avatar.’…

(19) SMALL BANG THEORY. “Webb telescope reveals asteroid collision in neighboring star system” at Hub.

Astronomers have captured what appears to be a snapshot of a massive collision of giant asteroids in Beta Pictoris, a neighboring star system known for its early age and tumultuous planet-forming activity.

The observations spotlight the volatile processes that shape star systems like our own, offering a unique glimpse into the primordial stages of planetary formation.

“Beta Pictoris is at an age when planet formation in the terrestrial planet zone is still ongoing through giant asteroid collisions, so what we could be seeing here is basically how rocky planets and other bodies are forming in real time,” said Christine Chen, a Johns Hopkins University astronomer who led the research.

The insights will be presented today at the 244th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, Wisconsin.

Chen’s team spotted significant changes in the energy signatures emitted by dust grains around Beta Pictoris by comparing new data from the James Webb Space Telescope with observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope from 2004 and 2005. With Webb’s detailed measurements, the team tracked the dust particles’ composition and size in the exact area previously analyzed by Spitzer.

Focusing on heat emitted by crystalline silicates—minerals commonly found around young stars as well as on Earth and other celestial bodies—the scientists found no traces of the particles previously seen in 2004–05. This suggests a cataclysmic collision occurred among asteroids and other objects about 20 years ago, pulverizing the bodies into fine dust particles smaller than pollen or powdered sugar, Chen said.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. PRINT Magazine praises “Design Army’s Out of This World Campaign for the Hong Kong Ballet”.

The Hong Kong Ballet is celebrating its 45th anniversary with a groundbreaking campaign in collaboration with Design Army and Dean Alexander Productions. The production brings the ethereal beauty of ballet to the masses, transforming it from a symbol of privilege to a universal cultural experience. This inventive campaign, inspired by Degas’ ballerina portraits, the Renaissance, and artistic hip-hop, redefines ballet in a uniquely Hong Kong context. From the witty “Tutu Academy” to sci-fi extraterrestrial scenes, the film captures the essence of dance as a universal language, connecting everyone, even aliens, to its unearthly magic. With vibrant settings ranging from university halls to iconic plazas, the campaign showcases the troupe’s artistry against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s cultural landmarks, making ballet accessible, relatable, and joyfully unconventional….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/3/24 Rikki Don’t Lose That Pixel, You Don’t Want To Scroll Nobody Else

(1) THE NO BODY PROBLEM. The other day File 770 linked to a report with the good news that Netflix confirmed 3 Body Problem will have a second and third season. Today, Giant Freakin’ Robot took the same story and turned it into a reason for panic: “Huge Netflix Sci-Fi Hit Gets Canceled After Season 3”. Got to get those clicks somehow!

Netflix has long had a reputation for canceling great shows right as they become mainstream hits, and it looks like that won’t be changing anytime soon. The streamer recently revealed that 3 Body Problem will be canceled after season 3.

That means that fans still have two more seasons to look forward to, but it’s not entirely clear how much of the original novels will ultimately be adapted by the show.

At first glance, the news that Netflix has canceled 3 Body Problem after season 3 comes as something of a shock.

After all, the first season was a genuine hit: it currently has a 79 percent critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 78 percent audience score….

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Grady Hendrix & Bracken MacLeod on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. The event begins 7:00 p.m. Eastern at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003; Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix is the New York Times-bestselling author of How To Sell a Haunted HouseThe Final Girl Support GroupMy Best Friend’s Exorcism, and many more. His history of the horror paperback boom of the ’70s and ’80s, Paperbacks from Hell, won the Stoker Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction. His books have been translated into 23 languages and sold over a million copies, which means he is guaranteed a seat on the space ark when the earth becomes uninhabitable. You can learn more useless facts about him at www.gradyhendrix.com.

Bracken MacLeod

Bracken MacLeod is a Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and two-time Splatterpunk Award finalist and the author of several books including Closing Costs and 13 Views of the Suicide Woods, which the New York Times Book Review called, “Superb,” though he imagines the reviewer pronouncing that, “supOIB.” Before devoting himself to full-time writing, he’s survived car crashes, a near drowning, being shot at, a parachute malfunction, and the bar exam. So far, the only incident that has resulted in persistent nightmares is the bar exam. So, please don’t mention it.

(3) PHILLY SUMMER AUTHOR EVENTS SCRATCHED. Michael Swanwick alerted Facebook fans that the summer Author Events at the Free Library of Philadelphia have been cancelled. Apparently, the entire staff quit this morning. Here’s the announcement in its totality:

Dear Friends,

The entire lineup of scheduled Author Events is cancelled. The Author Events team is no longer with the Free Library Foundation.

With sincere thanks for your support over these many years of our program, “the big, beating heart of literature in Philadelphia,” (Philadelphia Inquirer),

Andy Kahan, Laura Kovacs, Jason Freeman, and Nell Mittelstead

Reasons for their quitting have yet to be reported.

UPDATE: The Philadelpha Free Library has followed up the earlier email with another saying that despite the resignations no Author Events have been cancelled. See the complete text of that email in Todd Dashoff’s comment below.

Here is the later message:

(4) MARK YOUR CALENDAR – AND MAP. Lev Grossman will be taking to the skies on “The Bright Sword Tour”. The full schedule is at the link. The journey starts in Brooklyn and ends at the San Diego Comic-Con

The Bright Sword is coming out on July 16th. I’m going on tour to promote it.

Not in any virtual or zoomy sense, I am actually going to transport my physical corporeal cells all around the USA. And to bits of the UK as well. Any other anglophone nations want a piece of this—Canada, Australia, New Zealand—you just let me know.

I’m really, really looking forward to it. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to travel around and talk to people about books.

There are definitely aspects of it that make me nervous. Like most writers I am a poorly distributed mix of intro- and extro-vert and I’m never quite sure which of these aspects is going to be outward-facing at any given moment.

But mostly I’m just unbelievably excited. My extrovert-face actually loves talking to crowds, especially about books and King Arthur and The Bright Sword, which I have been working on for ten years, and my family got sick of me talking about it about one year into that process, so you can imagine how much stuff I’ve got pent up. I love new places, and food, I don’t mind planes, and I actively, immoderately adore hotels of all kinds….

(5) SECOND FIFTH. “55 Years Ago, Star Trek Delivered Its Worst Finale — And Accidentally Saved the Fandom” claims Inverse’s Ryan Britt. It was the last aired episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. One of Kirk’s revenge-seeking ex-girlfriends engineers a way to swap bodies with him.

…The episode also accidentally fueled an emergent fan phenomenon: slash fiction. As fanfic readers know, the concept of slash fiction, in which fans pair one character with another, derives its name from Kirk/Spock fanfic, which imagined the famous duo as lovers. In “Turnabout Intruder,” after Spock mind-melds with Janet Lester and realizes Kirk is in her body, he holds their hand, treating Kirk like his girlfriend. It’s not subtle. Supposedly, even the actors were aware the story’s gender-role-switching elements prompted all kinds of questions about Kirk and Spock’s true feelings. In a famous outtake, William Shatner jokingly reworked his line to say, “Spock, it’s always been you, you know it’s always been you. Say you love me too.”

We know this because super-fan Joan Winston got herself onto the “Turnabout Intruder” set. In the fan-made essay collection Star Trek Lives! Winston recounted the experience in great detail, including the anecdote about Shatner jokingly professing his love to Spock. By 1972, Joan Winston would become one of the key organizers of the world’s first Star Trek conventions.

In 1970, only 300 people attended the first San Diego Comic-Con. In 1972, Winston brought 3,000 people to the first Star Trek convention. By 1974, Winston’s fourth Star Trek Lives! convention attracted at least 15,000 attendees. Star Trek conventions helped create large-scale genre-themed conventions in general, which is partially why today’s geek landscape even exists. Small fantasy and sci-fi conventions existed before Star Trek, but Trek made the idea of having a big convention possible, and Joan Winston was one of the movement’s key pioneers….

(6) SOUND INVESTMENT. “U.S. Audiobook Sales Hit $2 Billion in 2024” reports Publishers Weekly.

The audiobook market in the United States continues steadily growing, with revenue increasing by 9%, to $2 billion, in 2023, according to the Audio Publishers Association, which published data from its annual sales survey today. The sales survey, conducted by Toluna Harris Interactive, incorporates data from 27 publishers, including Audible, Hachette Audio, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster, among others.

In addition, the APA has released highlights from its 2024 consumer survey, carried out by Edison Research, which showed that 52% of U.S. adults, or nearly 149 million Americans, have listened to an audiobook. The survey also found that 38% of American adults listened to an audiobook in the last year, up from 35% reported in 2023….

(7) STOKERCON 2025. The StokerCon 2025 Guests of Honor are:

  • Paula Guran
  • Graham Masterson
  • Gaby Triana
  • Tim Waggoner

(8) SMALL WONDER KICKSTARTER FUNDS.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 60. James Purefoy has an interesting genre history though I’m going to start with his role in Hap and Leonard based off that series created by Joe R. Lansdale. There he was Hap Collins who was imprisoned for refusing to be drafted during the Vietnam War.  He and Leonard Pine are rather eccentric private investigators for Hap’s girlfriend Brett Sawyer. 

Remember A Knight’s Tale, a film that the Suck Fairy tells me that they don’t even have in their database. He played the dual role of Edward, the Black Prince of Wales and Sir Thomas Colville. It currently not surprisingly has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of eighty percent. It’s one of my favorite films. 

James Purefoy at San Diego Comic-Con in 2012.

Next on his genre work is Solomon Kane where he played that character. Based on the Robert E. Howard character, he made a stellar Kane. It currently has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of seventy-one percent. 

He was Kantos Kan, the Odwar, the commanding officer, of the ship Xavarian in the John Carter film. It currently has a much better rating than I was expecting at Rotten Tomatoes rating — sixty percent. Huh.

He is cast in a main role as Captain Gulliver “Gully” Troy / Captain Blighty in the second and third seasons of the Pennyworth series, the prequel to the Gotham series. I like it a lot better than the latter series. 

He’s Philippe de Clermont  in A Discovery of Witches series based off on Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, and it’s named after the first book in the trilogy.  I read and really loved these novels. 

Almost on my list is his performance as Laurens Bancroft in the Altered Carbon series. Yes I read the Richard Morgan trilogy. I thought it was excellently well written story with great characters and a fascinating story. He’s a ruthless billionaire who cares for nothing but what he wants. 

What is finally on my list is something I never knew had been done. BBC Radio 4 as part of their Dangerous Visions series broadcast a two-part adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Off the Philip K. Dick work. It stars James Purefoy as Rick Deckard and Jessica Raine as Rachael Rosen.  No other cast is credited, a bit odd I think. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MUSEUM STARTED WITH SALVAGED SETS CAN’T OPEN ITS DOORS. Santa Monica’s SciFi World isn’t open despite a “gala opening” on Memorial Day – the LA Times says in its story “A child porn conviction and angry ‘Star Trek’ fans: Inside the drama around a new sci-fi museum” that “The museum’s public opening is delayed indefinitely due to permitting issues with the city”. The full article is behind a paywall.

Sci-Fi World, a new “museum” that promises fans real and replica props, costumes and sets from popular films and TV shows, hosted its opening “gala” on Memorial Day in the historic former Sears building just a couple of blocks from the Santa Monica Pier.

More than a decade in the making, the museum has drawn the interest of “Star Trek” fans worldwide thanks to its genesis story: Superfan Huston Huddleston said he salvaged a replica of the bridge from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from a discard pile outside of a Long Beach warehouse in 2011. Huddleston, known for his fanatical devotion to science fiction and horror, launched Kickstarter campaigns to restore the prop and open a museum to house it, raising nearly $163,000 in less than two years.

But now Huddleston, 54, has emerged as the nexus of questions swirling around the museum, which, despite the recent gala, did not actually open as scheduled. Some of those same sci-fi fans who were enthralled by the museum’s origin story have since learned that in 2018, Huddleston was convicted of misdemeanor possession of child pornography. He was required to serve 126 days in jail and three years of summary probation, complete 52 weeks of sex offender counseling and pay fines.

In an interview with The Times, Huddleston said he knew that any association with the museum after his conviction would be toxic for an organization that hopes to attract young fans, so he gave up control of the nonprofit and its collection of film and TV ephemera to the museum’s chief executive.

But several Sci-Fi World volunteers past and present told The Times that Huddleston remains active — if not central — in museum operations and preparations for opening. Lee Grimwade, one of the museum’s lead volunteers who quit a day before the gala, said Huddleston is “definitely 100% involved.”…

(12) AI AND SHOW BIZ. “State of Generative AI in Hollywood”Variety has a roundup. The complete report is behind a paywall.

… It further examines the advancement and potential of video generation models that have gripped the industry, including OpenAI’s Sora and Google DeepMind’s Veo, which were announced in the first half of 2024.

Yet to understand how the tech is actively being used today also requires an understanding of its limitations and challenges. VIP+ digs into the specific factors holding back gen AI implementation as tools used to make the highest production-value content. Ethical use is now central and critical to gen AI decision making for media and entertainment companies, and it is the final focus area of this report.

Research for this special report partly draws from 28 independent interviews conducted on background from February to May 2024 with leaders at generative AI tech and service providers, those in VFX and content localization networks, film and TV concept and storyboard artists, independent filmmakers experimenting with generative AI, ethical technologists and lawyers specializing in entertainment and cybersecurity….

(13) VOICE ACTOR Q&A. “Star Wars Bad Batch: Dee Bradley Baker on Voices, Clones, Show Ending” at The Hollywood Reporter.

If The Bad Batch were a live-action series, it’d most certainly be considered an ensemble show. But given that one actor voiced 22 (!) characters in the final season of the animated series, that term might not quite fit in this case. It’s a point that the voice actor himself, Dee Bradley Baker, humbly acknowledges.

The Bad Batch is a very different creative ask of an actor, to bring all of these full-fledged, full-bodied characters together in a scene as an ensemble, not as disconnected or one-offs,” says Baker. “This is an ensemble story in the same way that The Clone Wars was originally an ensemble story. It’s just in this particular ensemble, I’m most of the ensemble,” he adds, laughing.

The Disney+ series, which ended its three-season run on May 1, follows Clone Force 99, a special forces squad comprising clone solders who were enhanced with special abilities, in the aftermath of Order 66 (whereby Emperor Palpatine ordered the clones to kill all Jedi). The group is led by stellar tracker Hunter and includes the abnormally strong Wrecker, brilliant Tech and uber marksman Crosshair. The quintet is rounded out with Echo, a regular clone who, after cybernetic modifications, joined up with the Bad Batch. All five of those characters are voiced by Baker, who is an Emmy contender this awards season for his role as Crosshair….

Speaking of fans, what is the voice you get asked to do most often?

[In Wrecker’s voice] They want to hear Wrecker all the time. I always say Wrecker wrecks my voice, but I’ll talk like Wrecker anyway. [Switching to Crosshair’s voice] Also, Crosshair because he meant a lot to many of the fans. He was probably the most interesting character of all of the Bad Batch [switching back to his real voice] because Crosshair really had the arc, the transformational redemption arc, that was his story, and what started out to seem to be sort of an adversarial counter-character ends up being the character that you’re rooting for. And that is finally redeemed with that hug that he gets from Omega. It’s a really beautiful story, it’s an inspiring story, and people are really locked into that. But it’s a lot of fun [in Hunter’s voice] just to switch from character to character [in Tech’s voice] because each one is very different from the other [back to his real voice], and they’re all just different people, and they’re here within me.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/31/24 Scroll Dol! Pixel Dol! File A Dong Dillo!

(1) ARISTOTLE! In 2017 The New Yorker considered “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them” Aristotle isn’t the only one who had an opinion.

Consider the yeti. Reputed to live in the mountainous regions of Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal. Also known by the alias Abominable Snowman. Overgrown, in both senses: eight or ten or twelve feet tall; shaggy. Shy. Possibly a remnant of an otherwise extinct species. More possibly an elaborate hoax, or an inextinguishable hope. Closely related to the Australian Yowie, the Canadian Nuk-luk, the Missouri Momo, the Louisiana Swamp Ape, and Bigfoot. O.K., then: on a scale not of zero to ten but of, say, leprechaun to zombie, how likely do you think it is that the yeti exists?

One of the strangest things about the human mind is that it can reason about unreasonable things. It is possible, for example, to calculate the speed at which the sleigh would have to travel for Santa Claus to deliver all those gifts on Christmas Eve. It is possible to assess the ratio of a dragon’s wings to its body to determine if it could fly. And it is possible to decide that a yeti is more likely to exist than a leprechaun, even if you think that the likelihood of either of them existing is precisely zero….

(2) IGLESIAS REVIEW COLUMN. Gabino Iglesias reviews four new horror books in the New York Times, Stephen King’s You Like It Darker: Stories (Scribner), Layla Martínez’s debut novel, Woodworm (Two Lines Press), Christina Henry’s The House That Horror Built (Berkley) and Pemi Aguda’s Ghostroots: Stories (Norton).

(3) SOME PIG! [Item by Dann.] Author Paul Hale has released the first episode of his next series for the Cinema Story Origins podcast.  This time around, he will be comparing and contrasting the book and movie versions of “Charlotte’s Web”. “Charlotte’s Web Part 1”.

(4) SPEED UPDATING. The latest in Joe Vasicek’s continuing series at One Thousand and One Parsecs is “How I would vote now: 2018 Hugo Award (Best Novel)” – a decision made easier by the fact that he didn’t read three of the books at all, and only read “the first couple pages” of a fourth.

How I Would Have Voted

  1. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
  2. No Award

Everything else from this year is pretty much terrible, in my opinion. I skipped The Stone Sky, Provenance, and Raven Strategem because those were all series that I had already DNFed….

A fourth finalist that he actually started was Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2140.

(5) CCB CASE ANALYZED. At Writer Beware a guest post looks over a case involving “Disney, Books, and the Copyright Claims Board”.

Writer Beware has been covering the Copyright Claims Board since it started accepting cases in 2022. A small claims court for copyright matters, the CCB offers an alternative to the expensive court battles that previously were the only path to resolving copyright disputes, providing creators with a streamlined, inexpensive method of adjudicating cases of infringement, misuse, and other alleged malfeasance…..

Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today says:

…Overall, the CCB did a good job. Though it cited the most recent Supreme Court ruling, which was handed down just four days before this final determination was published, the CCB didn’t get bogged down needlessly in the injury rule/discovery rule debate. Instead, it turned to the Raging Bull case, allowing the case to move forward but only looking back three years.

That filing delay deeply hurt the claimant. Not only did the vast majority of the alleged infringement take place during the excluded time, but much of the relevant evidence was also from then. Key pieces of that evidence were simply gone.

As the CCB pointed out, the burden of proof is on the claimant. While Disney may have some responsibility, there wasn’t enough (or any) evidence to prove it. If the case had been filed before 2018, things might have progressed very differently.

It is a frustrating case. As small as the infringement may have been, it feels like someone should be held responsible for it. However, the evidence simply didn’t support holding Disney accountable. If this case had been filed earlier or targeted Hoopla directly, there might have been a different outcome.

Ultimately, I think the CCB made the right call, even if my sympathies lie with the author and her publisher….

(6) FANS B.C. Atlas Obscura finds that “Before ‘Fans,’ There Were ‘Kranks,’ ‘Longhairs,’ and ‘Lions’” – a study that encompasses sports, theater, and finally, science fiction.

THE EXACT ORIGINS OF THE modern term “fan” are disputed, but most look to the 1880s, where it was first used by American newspapers to describe particularly invested baseball enthusiasts. But “fan” was just one of the words the press, leagues, clubs, and baseball enthusiasts themselves were using at the time. They were called “enthusiasts,” but also a whole host of other names, from “rooters” to “bugs” to “fiends” to “cranks,” sometimes spelled—as in the German word for “sick”—as “krank.”…

… This, of course, stretches across the history of fandom: Differences like age, geography, approach, and values can lead to different groups forming around the same thing. Trekkies versus Trekkers, for instance, or Holmesians versus Sherlockians. “How you name yourself says a lot about what you think of yourself and your very intense passions,” Cavicchi says. “But at the same time, another name or variation on the name, or another use of your name, maybe in a derogatory sense, may say something about what the culture thinks about you.” Modern fandom terms like “stan” and “fangirl” can connote very different things depending on the speaker—overly emotional and uncontrollable to a critic, or a term of in-group recognition to fellow fans….

(7) TAKING POPCORN OUT OF THE MOUTH OF A SUPERHERO. Does this popcorn bucket need a trigger warning? Consider it given. “Ryan Reynolds unveils hilarious ‘Deadpool and Wolverine’ popcorn bucket” at Entertainment Weekly.

Dune began this war, but Ryan Reynolds isn’t backing down from it. Following the popularity of the Dune: Part Two custom popcorn bucket (which was shaped like the gaping jaws of a sandworm), Reynolds unveiled Deadpool and Wolverine‘s own bucket on Thursday….

…Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige teased that the bucket would be “intentionally crude and lewd” at CinemaCon, and now we get to see it for ourselves.

Similar to the Dune bucket, the top of the Deadpool and Wolverine popcorn container is shaped like a mouth — Wolverine’s mouth, that is. If you’ve ever wanted to shove your hand down the clawed mutant’s throat…well, now’s your chance….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

May 31, 1993 Total Recall, the one and only true Total Recall, premiered on this date in Los Angeles thirty-four years ago. So let’s talk about it.

As you most likely know, it’s based off Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” which not surprisingly can be found in the We Can Remember It for You Wholesale collection. 

Ronald Shusett who wrote the original script for Alien, not the one that was filmed, bought the film rights to it fourteen years prior to it making it to the screen. It went through at least four studios over sixteen years, some forty script drafts, seven different directors and a potential cast of what seemed like hundreds. In other words, what is called development hell. 

It didn’t get better as it was being film when the De Laurentiis company went bankrupt. Oh well. 

Schwarzenegger wanted to play that role but had been dismissed as inappropriate for the lead role by, well, everyone including the De Laurentiis company, but he convinced the Carolco Pictures to purchase the rights and develop the film with him as the star.

In 2024 terms, the film cost two hundred million dollars.  Quite a bit given that Foundation is only costing Apple five point five million an episode for the current season.  Cost overruns were so common that the bankers gave up trying to figure out what it’d cost to make it. No, none jumped out windows but I bet they thought about it… 

Shusett was the co-director here along with Frederick Feitshans. Why him? Because he’d directed Schwarzenegger on Conan the Barbarian and he wanted him here. If you’re getting the idea, that is a vanity project of Schwarzenegger, you’re not far off as the shooting script was also approved by him. 

Setting him aside, it had a lead cast that you’ll (mostly) recognize— Rachel Ticotin,  Sharon Stone,  Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox. Each went to be a major star save Rachel Ticotin. The other three you’ll know as being in any number of genre films though Stone is best known for Basic Instinct which cannot ever be stretched under any circumstances to be genre adjacent and shouldn’t even be really considered for its police procedural angle really. Seriously no one went to see it for that. 

It’s an entertaining film that I like. I’m amazed Gary Goldman, a film producer, director, animator, writer and even voice actor, was able to make sense of the nearly forty scripts that everyone had a hand in – even Dan O’Bannon at one point. But he did. He even went back to the original script based off the Dick work. Verhoeven read each one of these, bless him, and highlighted those he wanted Goldman to reference.

Yes, the specials effects by Industrial Light & Magic were extraordinary, as is the actual physical work that had to done like The Earth train station which was filmed in the Mexico City Metro and all of the exterior Mars scenes took place at the Valley of Fire State Park in Overton, Nevada. 

The critics were mostly either unfavorable or meh on it with a few impressed. Even when they praised the production values and Schwarzenegger’s performance, they really, really criticized the violent content. 

It turned to be one of the year’s most successful films. On its release, the film earned approximately $261.4 million worldwide, making it the fifth-highest-grossing film of the year.

I rewatched it a few years back. Does it hold up well? The Suck Fairy says yes and I agree. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit reports there are some things everyone must watch.
  • Non Sequitur demonstrates a problem that might be unfamiliar today.

(10) TEDDY HARVIA CARTOON.

(11) DON’T LOSE YOUR WAY WHEN YOU CHOOSE YOUR WAY. “These Maps Reveal the Hidden Structures of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books”Atlas Obscura unveils an example.

Reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book can feel like being lost in a maze and running through twists and turns only to find dead ends, switchbacks, and disappointment. In the books—for those not familiar with them—you read until you come to a decision point, which prompts you to flip to another page, backward or forward. The early books in the series, which began in 1979, have dozens of endings, reached through branching storylines so complex that that trying to keep track of your path can seem hopeless—no matter how many fingers you stick into the book in order to find your way back to the key, fateful choice. You might end up back at an early fork again, surprised at how far you traveled only to reemerge at a simple decision, weighted with consequences that you couldn’t have imagined at the beginning.

The last installment of the original “Choose Your Own Adventure” series came out in 1998, but since 2004, Chooseco, founded by one of the series’ original authors, R.A. Montgomery, has been republishing classic volumes, as well as new riffs on the form of interactive fiction that seemed ubiquitous in the 1980s and ’90s. The new editions also carry an additional feature—maps of the hidden structure of each book….

…The meat of “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories are gender-neutral romps in worlds where there are no obviously right or wrong moral choices. There’s danger around bend, usually in the form of something like space monkeys, malicious ghosts, or conniving grown-ups. Even with a map, there’s no way to find out what really comes next without making a choice and flipping to another page….

(12) BROOKER Q&A. “Black Mirror Season 7: Charlie Brooker Talks AI, USS Callister Sequel” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…In the conversation below, Brooker reveals what inspired him to create the episode (while musing about what a sequel could look like) and weighs in on the AI conversation now, while also discussing the upcoming seventh season of Black Mirror and the show’s first-ever (and highly anticipated) sequel to the Emmy-winning season four “USS Callister” episode.

***

The timing of the release of “Joan Is Awful” may be the most Charlie Brooker thing that has ever happened. What was it like to watch that play out as the AI conversation began to explode?

It was really odd. So, I must have written it in June-July in 2022. When we shot it, it was September-October. It was just before ChatGPT launched. I think it was about a week later that ChatGPT came out and suddenly, everyone was talking about generative AI and how all creative jobs were going to be replaced, pushed out or automated. There’s also a lot of raw animal panic that takes over as a writer as soon as you see some of that generative AI output. I’d seen some of [AI chatbot app] Midjourney, the image generating stuff.

For a while I had wanted to do a story about a news network that bills itself as satire that isn’t showing news but is showing satirical content, which is photorealistic imagery of political figures either being humiliated or looking heroic. And the idea that was a strange way of doing propaganda that they could claim was satirical, but that was ridiculous and absurd. It was a funny and disturbing idea, but I couldn’t work out quite what the story was.

Then I was watching The Dropout, the Hulu drama about the Theranos scandal starring Amanda Seyfried, with my wife and we were discussing how weird it would be — because it was dramatizing very recent events — if you were Elizabeth Holmes watching this and it’s getting so up to date that in a minute, she’s going to put the TV on and see The Dropout. And so those two ideas kind of glommed together: of AI-generated imagery starring real figures — and a dramatization of somebody’s life that’s depicting them in a terrible light. (Laughs.)

As “Joan” came out, I knew it was timely. That season was originally going to be a season of all horror stories called Red Mirror. I was part way into the season and then I had this idea and I thought: It’s not horror. I mean, it’s existentially terrifying, but it’s not horror. It’s definitely a very Black Mirror idea. So I thought, “Fuck it, OK” [about the Red Mirror idea]. I felt like it had to be done now. I definitely couldn’t wait for another season to do it. So when the ChatGPT conversation caught fire and when it became a huge issue because of the strikes, I was slightly wiping my brow with relief that we got the episode out before. The timing of it was surreal. Hopefully, it added to the conversation….

(13) ANOTHER ENTRY RAMP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] …On the infinite helical slide into the bottomless pit. “Hollywood Nightmare? New Streaming Service Lets Viewers Create Their Own Shows Using AI” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Fable, the studio behind the viral AI-generated ‘South Park’ clips, has announced a streaming platform that allows users to create their own content.

Generative artificial intelligence is coming for streaming, with the release of a platform dedicated to AI content that allows users to create episodes with a prompt of just a couple of words.

Fable Studio, an Emmy-winning San Francisco startup, on Thursday announced Showrunner, a platform the company says can write, voice and animate episodes of shows it carries. Under the initial release, users will be able to watch AI-generated series and create their own content — complete with the ability to control dialogue, characters and shot types, among other controls.

The endeavor marks the tech industry’s further encroachment onto Hollywood as it eyes the exploitation of AI tools embroiled in controversy over their potential to streamline production and the possibility they were created using copyrighted materials from creators they could eventually displace. Amid the industry’s historic dual strikes last year, in which the use of AI emerged as a contentious negotiating point, Fable released an AI-generated episode of South Park to showcase its tech. While some mocked it for its comedic misses, others pointed to the video as a leap forward in the tech and proof of concept that AI tools will soon allow viewers to more actively engage with content, possibly by creating their own. It also demonstrated the threat the tech poses to creators whose labor could be undermined if it’s adopted into the production pipeline.

“The vision is to be the Netflix of AI,” says chief executive Edward Saatchi. “Maybe you finish all of the episodes of a show you’re watching and you click the button to make another episode. You can say what it should be about or you can let the AI make it itself.”…

(14) CAN THE NEXT MUMMY BE A WHALE OF A TALE? World of Reel reports “’The Mummy’ Sequel in the Works, Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz to Return”.

According to Daniel Richtman, “The Mummy” franchise has a new sequel in development over at Universal — Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz set to return in their respective roles. If you remember, the franchise abruptly ended after 2008’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” — budgeted at $175 million— barely made a profit.

The 1999 original was written and directed by Stephen Sommers and was a remake of the 1932 film of the same name. Despite mixed reviews, it was a commercial success and grossed over $416 million worldwide. The film’s success spawned two direct sequels, 2001’s “The Mummy Returns,” and 2008’s “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

“The Mummy” was an incredible success for Universal on home video, selling 7 million units on VHS and 1 million on DVD, making it that year’s best-selling live-action VHS and second best-selling DVD. This all resulted in Universal grossing over $1 billion in home video sales. It seemed as though everyone you knew owned a copy of this movie.

Fraser is hot right now and is in the comeback phase of his career. In 2023, he won an Oscar for “The Whale” and has been piling up projects ever since….

(15) VOYAGER NOW. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science journal there is a look at the Voyager probe, its recovery from computer failure and the mystery region of space it is now entering.  It appears that pulses of Solar plasma are hitting the interstellar medium boundary causing reverberations or it could be plasma clouds from another star…. “Voyager 1 science resumes after interstellar crisis”.

Before a computer crash, venerable NASA probe entered mysterious new region of space Voyager 1, the first earthly object to exit the Solar System may be traversing a plasma cloud from another star.

[Thanks to Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Chris Rose, Andrew (not Werdna), Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Steven French for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

SFPA Announces Generative AI Policy

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) membership has voted a complete ban against using AI-produced work in their publications, and will treat such work as ineligible for its awards.

The organization will not accept or publish poetry, art, or other works created using a generative tool, either wholly or in part, and that published works created using a generative tool will not be eligible for SFPA awards, including the Rhysling, Elgin, and SFPA Poetry Awards.

Earlier this month the SFPA Executive Committee presented members two options for the SFPA to adopt as its policy regarding works derived from generative tools (including AI, large language models, etc). With 168 members voting, the outcome was as follows:

  • 69%: I support a complete AI ban.
  • 25%: I support a limited AI ban.
  • 7%: I support neither statement.

The statement SFPA adopted follows.


SFPA’S STATEMENT ON GENERATIVE AI

SFPA Statement on Generative AI[1]: Introduction

The SFPA recognizes and supports the creative talent of human beings. While the organization encourages creative exploration of new tools, we can not support the use of tools built on the exploitation of other people’s creative work without their consent or compensation.

While the terms “AI,” “LLM,” and “generative media” (which we will call “generative tools” for this statement) are being used for many applications, these technologies are part of a rapidly changing environment and no two are designed the same way. There have been cases of proven and alleged copyright infringement with many such tools, however, as well as arguments that they exploit creative work.

The allegations of copyright infringement in generative tools typically rests on the fact that these tools are “trained” on datasets made of other artists’ and authors’ work without their consent[2]. These training materials are how generative tools create “new” works, which may or may not resemble the original creator’s work. However, not all generative tools are necessarily exploitative or plagiaristic, with some companies looking to create ethical alternatives trained on datasets that are made up solely of creator-submitted and compensated materials.

As an organization that supports creators, the SFPA will not accept or publish poetry, art, or other works created using a generative tool, either wholly or in part.

Published works created using a generative tool will not be eligible for SFPA awards.

The SFPA will also not use generative works in any of its official publications, including Star*Line, Eye to the Telescope, the SpecPo Blog, and the SFPA website.


[1] Generative AI can be thought of as a machine-learning model that is trained to create new data, rather than making a prediction about a specific dataset. A generative AI system is one that learns to generate more objects that look like the data it was trained on.” (Zewe, 2023)

[2] “In a case filed in late 2022, Andersen v. Stability AI et al., three artists formed a class to sue multiple generative AI platforms on the basis of the AI using their original works without license to train their AI in their styles, allowing users to generate works that … would be unauthorized derivative works.” (Appel, Neelbauer, and Schweidel, 2023)


Pixel Scroll 5/25/24 If A Pixel Scrolls In A File And No Notification Goes Out, Is Yngvi Still A Louse?

(1) ANTHRO NEW ENGLAND LEADERSHIP TURNOVER. Anthro New England, a furry convention held in Boston, issued statements yesterday and today about the removal of two top officers, Remy and Scales. The specific reasons are not given. Comments in social media are speculative.

Statement May 24

Statement May 25

Remy, one of the officers, replied online:

The account identified with Scales also made comments.

An individual whose X.com account is @psykhedelos announced they have also resigned their position with the con.

(2) CARTOON BY TEDDY HARVIA. Here’s a character who can have it both ways.

(3) SHATNER TO RECEIVE ROBERT HEINLEIN MEMORIAL AWARD. William Shatner accepted the National Space Society’s Robert Heinlein Memorial Award last night at the ISDC: “International Space Development Conference 2024 beams up Star Trek’s William Shatner and more in Los Angeles” reports Space.com.

The stars of Star Trek are about to get a taste of real-life space exploration when they beam into the 2024 International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles this weekend, and you have a chance join them to get your space fix. 

On Friday (May 24), actor William Shatner, who originated the role of Captain James T. Kirk and launched into space on a Blue Origin rocket in 2021, will receive the Robert Heinlein Memorial Award “for his deep impact on public perception of the human expansion into space, which boldly highlighted diversity and inclusion previously unseen on television,” conference officials said in a statement. The award, which is given annually by the nonprofit National Space Society at ISDC, is just one event featuring Star Trek actors. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can learn how to attend the ISDC conference at the at isdc.nss.org.

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” actor Melissa Navia, who portrays helm pilot Lt. Erica Ortegas, will host the 2024 ISDC conference. NSS officials have also recruited her fellow Trek alums in a May 26 panel “Science Fiction to Science Fact” featuring Nana Visitor (Major Kira Nerys on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), John Billingsley (Doctor Flox on “Star Trek: Enterprise”) and other Trek and sci-fi veterans to discuss “how science fiction has, and will continue to, transition into our everyday lives, and ultimately, the exploration of space.” 

But real science fact is the main draw for ISDC, which is expected to draw over 1,000 attendees to its talks at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.

“ISDC 2024 talks will cover the exploration, development, and settlement of the Moon, Mars, and cislunar space; deep space exploration; innovative spaceflight technology; the commercialization of space and space infrastructure; life support systems; collaboration in space; living in space; space solar power; space debris mediation solutions; planetary defense; space law; and both national and international space policy, among others,” organizers wrote in an overview.

This year, the conference’s theme of “No Limits” has drawn in retired astronauts Susan Kilrain and Jose Hernandez, as well as Alan Stern (who leads the New Horizon mission to Pluto and beyond, as well as Vast Space CEO Max Haot, Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin and YouTube creators Isaac Arthur and Brian McManus….

(3) RETCON OF THE RINGS. Inverse compares J.R.R. Tolkien to George Lucas in “73 Years Ago, J.R.R. Tolkien Changed Gollum Canon Forever — It’s About to Happen Again”. – It burns! It burns!

…Published in 1937, The Hobbit transformed fantasy literature like no other book before or since. Presented as an intricate middle-grade children’s chapter book, The Hobbit tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins, the titular Hobbit, as he is pulled into a great journey beyond his cozy home in the Shire. Along with a company of Dwarves, and Gandalf the Wizard, this proto-fellowship encounters various threats, which all get scarier and scarier as the book progresses. The world-building of The Hobbit is shockingly vivid, and, nearly thirty years later, in 1954, when Tolkien decided to expand his world of Middle-earth into a larger epic with his trilogy of novels — The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King — very little adjustment to his landscape was needed. Only two elements had to be heavily revised to make the setting of The Hobbit click: The Ring of Power itself, and its bedraggled former owner, Gollum. And so, in 1951, three years before The Lord of the Rings was published, Tolkien published a new version of The Hobbit.

As extensively revealed by Bonniejean Christensen in the 1975 nonfiction book A Tolkien Compass, “Gollum’s function differs in the two works. In The Hobbit, he is one in a series of fallen creatures on a rising scale of terror. In The Lord of the Rings, he is an example of the damned individual who loses his own soul because of devotion to evil…”

Gollum is not the big bad of The Hobbit and is left behind by Bilbo roughly midway through the book. Crucially, in the original 1937 and 1938 editions of The Hobbit, Gollum is not a depraved maniac addicted to the Ring’s power. Nor is the Ring suggested to be sentient in the original Hobbit. All of those details were altered by Tolkien by 1951 when he changed the text and meaning of Chapter 5: “Riddles in the Dark.”

There are several examples of these changes, but the most relevant alteration is the later suggestion to the reader that Gollum is a crazed murderer and can’t be trusted to be bound by the rules of the riddle game. In the 1937 version, Gollum is just a weird creature.

From the original Hobbit (1937):

“But funnily enough he [Bilbo] need not have been alarmed. For one thing Gollum had learned long ago was to never cheat at the riddle-game, which is a sacred one and of immense antiquity.”

From the revised Hobbit (1951, 1965, et al.):

“He knew of course, the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played it. But he [Bilbo] felt he could not trust this slimy thing [Gollum] to keep any promise at a pinch. Any excuse would do for him to slide out of it. And after all that last question had not been a genuine riddle according to the ancient laws.”

Tolkien tinkered with “Riddles in the Dark” up until 1966, making him something of a George Lucas; continually modifying his story to fit with his other books. This retcon of Gollum’s character was so entirely successful that if you read The Hobbit now, you will only find the latter text. The 75th anniversary of The Hobbit, published in 2012, acknowledges the changes to “Riddles in the Dark,” briefly, in a section toward the front of the book, but the only way to get your hands on the first version of “Riddles in the Dark” — short of buying an extremely expensive 1937 or 1938 Hobbit — is to read Douglas A. Anderson’s The Annotated Hobbit, where he elucidates some these changes.

(4) DEEP DICTIONARY DIVE. Greg Cwik reviews a new Ellison compilation edited by J. Michael Straczynski: “Beamed from Within: On Harlan Ellison’s ‘Greatest Hits’” in the LA Review of Books. Harlan’s polysyllabic vocabulary is contagious but not fatal.

…In 1996, the year he won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, Ellison defined his writing for us: “What I write is hyperactive magic realism. I take the received world and I reflect it back through the lens of fantasy, turned slightly so you get a different portrait.” Ellison wrote like a man suffering from perpetual fever hallucinations, his stories governed by an inimitable eerie logic….

… Ellison’s writing has the electric shock of a malfunctioning machine, words like sparks spraying out. Yet there is humanity—bitter, yes, and often mean, with lust for life unrequited by the vicissitudes of fate, but Ellison’s best work is endowed with the spirit of man with a big, bruised, beating heart. He was a man fascinated by and disappointed with the society roiling around him, and thus his characters are also often denied penance and peace. Ellison is that rare beast, a writer who suffuses his work with smart-man musings without the boring, masturbatory listing of dead philosophers to boost intellectual credit. Except when he did do that (I’m not judging—I’m doing the same thing). In his nonfiction, he bemoans, with avidity, elitists’ tendency to intellectualize everything, while doing so himself, which he undoubtedly knows, just another layer of irony in the madman’s spiritual coils. He was a complicated, even hypocritical man of singular style and insoluble beliefs. (He also dressed real snazzy.)…

(5) RICHARD M. SHERMAN (1928-2024). “Richard M. Sherman, who fueled Disney charm in ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘It’s a Small World,’ dies at 95”. The AP News profile lists many of his credits, work done with his late brother Robert.

…Sherman, together with his late brother Robert, won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney’s 1964 smash “Mary Poppins” — best score and best song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” They also picked up a Grammy for best movie or TV score. Robert Sherman died in London at age 86 in 2012….

…Their hundreds of credits as joint lyricist and composer also include the films “Winnie the Pooh,” “The Slipper and the Rose,” “Snoopy Come Home,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Magic of Lassie.” Their Broadway musicals included 1974’s “Over Here!” and stagings of “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in the mid-2000s.

…They wrote over 150 songs at Disney, including the soundtracks for such films as “The Sword and the Stone,” “The Parent Trap,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Aristocrats” and “The Tigger Movie.”

“It’s a Small World” — which accompanies visitors to Disney theme parks’ boat ride sung by animatronic dolls representing world cultures — is believed to be the most performed composition in the world. It was first debuted at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair pavilion ride….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 85. Now remember that the following are roles are the ones that I like, not all the roles that he’s done. 

For me, that’d be him playing a nearly ninety-year-old retired detective who’s a beekeeper in Mr. Holmes who given the title of the film is obviously intended to that Holmes. He’s played as an individual who is struggling to recall the details of his final case because his mind is slowly deteriorating. He plays this with considerable dignity. 

Ian McKellen at San Diego Comic-Con 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Yes, I think he made a magnificent Gandalf the White in Jackson’s telling of Tolkien’s story. Note I didn’t say Tolkien’s story as it’s Jackson’s story. Now McKellen pulled off that role as he did not wear a wig or any prosthetics at all. His website detailing the shooting The Fellowship of The Ring says he had very little make-up time either. 

A film that I think that doesn’t get as much love as it should get is The Shadow which I’m very, very fond of. He played Dr. Reinhardt Lane there and did a very nice job of doing it. 

Now he was the narrator of Stardust based somewhat loosely off Gaiman’s novel. And he made a truly magnificent narrator here. Now him narrating an audiobook of that novel would be as delightful as the one Gaiman did which yes I wholeheartedly recommend. 

I’ve not seen it, though I very much want to, but forty-five years ago, the Royal Shakespeare Company production of MacBeth was filmed by Thames Television, and it featured Ian McKellen as Macbeth and Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth. That sounds awesome. It’s available on DVD. 

Well those are my favorite roles by him. What are yours? 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) AI LEAVES EGG ON GOOGLE’S FACE.  Or would if Google had a face. “Google AI Overviews Search Errors Cause Furor Online”. (This is an unlocked New York Times article.)

Last week, Google unveiled its biggest change to search in years, showcasing new artificial intelligence capabilities that answer people’s questions in the company’s attempt to catch up to rivals Microsoft and OpenAI….

…The incorrect answers in the feature, called AI Overview, have undermined trust in a search engine that more than two billion people turn to for authoritative information. And while other A.I. chatbots tell lies and act weird, the backlash demonstrated that Google is under more pressure to safely incorporate A.I. into its search engine….

… [T]hings quickly went awry, and users posted screenshots of problematic examples to social media platforms like X.

AI Overview instructed some users to mix nontoxic glue into their pizza sauce to prevent the cheese from sliding off, a fake recipe it seemed to borrow from an 11-year-old Reddit post meant to be a joke. The A.I. told other users to ingest at least one rock a day for vitamins and minerals — advice that originated in a satirical post from The Onion….

(9) ONE WRITER’S FAVE. Chowhound is going to tell you “Why Peanut Butter And Onion Sandwiches Are Named After Ernest Hemingway”.

… Ernest felt onion sandwiches were the perfect meal to enjoy while fishing. Exactly when he began adding peanut butter to the mix is uncertain, but the writer memorialized the PB&O in his novel “Islands in the Stream,” which came out after his death….

…During the Great Depression of the 1930s, an onion stuffed with peanut butter was just one of many fascinating foods, along with dandelion salad and water pie, that was commonly eaten. So a variation on these food combinations isn’t all that out of the ordinary. And, as it turns out, science is on the side of this sandwich. As Marie Wright, chief global flavorist for American food processing giant ADM, told The Takeout, peanut butter and onion complement each other because they both have sulfur-containing compounds…

(10) THE MUNSTERS’ LUCKY NUMBER. SYFY Wire reports “James Wan Eyeing New Take on The Munsters Titled 1313 From Universal”.

The Munsters might be moving back to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Variety reports that Universal Studio Group is developing a reboot of the iconic monstrous (but friendly!) family from the 1960s sitcom. 

The Munsters, which premiered in 1964 and ran for two seasons, followed the titular family. There was Herman Munster (a Frankenstein’s Monster-type), his wife Lily (a vampire), Grandpa (elderly Count Dracula), daughter Merilyn (a normal-looking young woman), and little Eddie (a werewolf). Despite their monstrous appearances, the Munsters were just as normal as any other red-blooded American family… well, almost as normal. 

The new series — which is still in the works with no details announced yet — is being developed by James Wan of SawThe Conjuring, Aquaman, Furious 7, and M3GAN fame. Lindsey Anderson Beer and Ingrid Bisu are also listed as developers, per Variety, and Beer will serve as the showrunner and executive producer along with Wan. 

According to the official logline, the upcoming take is described as a horror series that “lives and breathes within the Universal Monsterverse” — suggesting that these new Munsters might not be as cuddly as the original ‘60s incarnation. 

The tentative name for the reboot is 1313, after the family’s address at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. …

(11) THEY’RE THE TOPS. “NASA Earns Best Place to Work in Government for 12 Straight Years”.

For the 12th year in a row, the Partnership for Public Service named NASA the best place to work among large agencies in the federal government. “Once again, NASA has shown that with the world’s finest workforce, we can reach the stars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Through space exploration, advances in aviation, groundbreaking science, new technologies, and more, the team of wizards at NASA do what is hard to achieve what is great. That’s the pioneer spirit that makes NASA the best place to work in the federal government. With this ingenuity and passion, we will continue to innovate for the benefit of all and inspire the world.” The Partnership for Public Service began to compile the Best Places to Work rankings in 2003 to analyze federal employees’ viewpoints on leadership, work-life balance, and other factors of their job.

… Read about the Best Places to Work for 2023 online.

(12) MIGHTY MAKEUP. Paul Williams paralyzes Johnny Carson when he arrives straight from filming “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” in this clip from a 1973 episode of The Tonight Show.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This week How It Should Have Ended reposted “MAD MAX Fury Road”. It may be news to you!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/21/24 Cotton Candy Pixels, What Flavor Is Your Favorite?

(1) COUNTERFEIT CHARACTERS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We all now know that A.I. threatens creativity… something we seemed to have missed in SF where A/I. was oft portrayed more as a physical threat. BBC Radio 4 (the BBC’s national news and magazine station that replaced the Home Service) is airing a half-hour programme on A.I. replacing actors…. “Counterfeit Characters”.

What do Artificial Intelligence and digital technology mean for actors and their relationship with audiences?

Leading acting coach Geoffrey Colman, who has spent his working life on the sets of Hollywood movies, in theatrical rehearsal spaces, and teaching in the UK’s most prestigious classrooms, wants to find out.

AI, he says, may represent the most profound change to the acting business since the move from silent films to talkies. But does it, and if so how are actors dealing with it? What does that mean for the connection between actors and audiences?

Geoffrey’s concern is rooted in acting process: the idea that the construction of a complex inner thinking architecture resonates with audiences in an authentic almost magical way. But if performance capture and AI just creates the outer facial or physical expression, what happens to the inner joy or pain of a character’s thinking? The implications for the actor’s technique are profound.

To get to the bottom of these questions Geoffrey visits some of those at the cutting edge of developing this new technology. On the storied Pinewood lot he visits Imaginarium Studios, and is shown around their ‘volume’, where actors’ every movement is captured. In East London he talks to the head of another studio about his new AI actor – made up from different actors’ body parts. And at a leading acting school he speaks to students and teachers about what this new digital era means for them. He discusses concerns about ethical questions, hears from an actor fresh from the set of a major new movie, quizzes a tech expert already using AI to create avatars of herself, and speaks to Star Wars fans about how this technology has allowed beloved characters to be rejuvenated, and even resuscitated.

You can access the programme at this link.

(2) VOICEJACKING. Meanwhile, back in the litigious real world… “Scarlett Johansson Said No, but OpenAI’s Virtual Assistant Sounds Just Like Her” says the New York Times.

Days before OpenAI demonstrated its new, flirty voice assistant last week, the actress Scarlett Johansson said, Sam Altman, the company’s chief executive, called her agent and asked that she consider licensing her voice for a virtual assistant.

It was his second request to the actress in the past year, Ms. Johannson said in a statement on Monday, adding that the reply both times was no.

Despite those refusals, Ms. Johansson said, OpenAI used a voice that sounded “eerily similar to mine.” She has hired a lawyer and asked OpenAI to stop using a voice it called “Sky.”

OpenAI suspended its release of “Sky” over the weekend. The company said in a blog post on Sunday that “AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.”

For Ms. Johansson, the episode has been a surreal case of life-imitating art. In 2013, she provided the voice for an A.I. system in the Spike Jonze movie “Her.” The film told the story of a lonely introvert seduced by a virtual assistant named Samantha, a tragic commentary on the potential pitfalls of technology as it becomes more realistic.

Last week, Mr. Altman appeared to nod to the similarity between OpenAI’s virtual assistant and the film in a post on X with the single word “her.”…

(3) WHISKY TASTING EVENT CONCURRENT WITH WORLDCON. [Item by Sandra Childress.] This is an invitation to those attending Worldcon this summer to venture outside of the convention space for a couple of hours and taste some local history and whisky at the Clydeside Distillery Tour & Tasting. This event is a venue takeover being hosted by Joel Phillips’ Friday Night Weekly Whisky Zoom that has been running nearly non-stop since April 2020. This group has hosted parties at Discon 3 and Chicon 8 — all in the name of friendship and whisky. 

The Clydeside Distillery

This time around, the group is doing something different. The Clydeside Distillery is across the parking lot from the convention center. Joel and the Zoom members knew this was not to be passed up. So, on August 9 (Friday) starting at 7:00 p.m. there will be a tour and tastings for up to 150 pre-paid attendees. The cost of $103USD includes the following:

  • 2 tickets for welcome drinks (1 of which can be used at the blind Scotch tasting station if you choose)
  • Welcome drinks are Prosecco, Beer or mixed whisky drink
  • 6 canapes per person
  • 4 wee drams of single malts (your choice) from Clydeside Distillery including a bourbon cask finish and sherry cask finish only available at the distillery and a third single malt yet to be determined.

Additionally, a cash bar will also be available and a station where you may buy a bottle for £68 and create your own personalized label.

Deadline to register and pay is Thursday July 25th or when the count hits 150. There will be no onsite registrations available. Please register via the Google Form (https://forms.gle/QnGmmhTN58Xe76un6) and follow the instructions there for payment. As of May 20, there are 62 registered…so there is still room for you and your friends to join the tour and tasting.

(4) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE 2024. The non-genre novel Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Michael Hofmann, has been named the winner of the International Booker Prize 2024. The winner was announced by Eleanor Wachtel, Chair of the 2024 judges, at a ceremony sponsored by Maison Valentino and held at London’s Tate Modern today. 

The £50,000 prize is split equally between author Jenny Erpenbeck and translator Michael Hofmann, giving each equal recognition. 

Erpenbeck’s novel, which was originally written in German, follows a destructive affair between a young woman and an older man in 1980s East Berlin, with the two lovers seemingly embodying East Germany’s crushed idealism. A meditation on hope and disappointment, Kairos poses complex questions about freedom, loyalty, love and power. 

(5) SHE’S THE CAPTAIN. “’Star Trek: Starfleet Academy’ Series Casts Holly Hunter in Main Role”Variety has details about the actor and the series. If you wondered, this Hunter is no relation to the Hunter who played Star Trek’s first Captain.

The “Star Trek: Starfleet Academy” series at Paramount+ has cast Holly Hunter in a lead role, Variety has learned.

Hunter’s character will serve as the captain and chancellor of the Academy, presiding over both the faculty and a new class of Starfleet cadets as they learn to navigate the galaxy in the 32nd century….

(6) DON’T PANIC. Not that you were anyway… “’3 Body Problem’ Creators Clarify Netflix’s Mysterious Renewal Plan” for The Hollywood Reporter.

One of the biggest 3 Body Problem mysteries since the show ended has been: What did Netflix‘s renewal announcement mean, exactly?

During the streamer’s upfront presentation last week, Netflix promised “additional episodes” of the acclaimed sci-fi drama to “finish the story.”

Of course, “additional episodes” could mean anything from two episodes to five seasons and, naturally, many fans worried that the ultimate answer would be too close to the former for comfort.

But showrunners David Benioff, Dan Weiss and Alexander Woo assure things are going to be just fine (for the show, at least, if not for their ensemble drama’s characters facing an alien invasion). While the trio didn’t reveal the exact number of episodes in their new deal, they emphasized it was for “seasons” — plural — and that the number of hours aligns with their original plan to adapt author Liu Cixin’s two remaining novels in his Hugo-winning trilogy.

“We knew going into this how many hours we need to tell the rest of the story because we’ve got a roadmap through to the end,” Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter. “And we have what we need to get to the end as intended from when we started.”

“By the time we finish with the show, it will be seven years we’ve devoted to it,” Benioff added. “We’re now at a place where we get to tell the rest of the story, and, yes, we have enough time to tell the rest of the story the way we want to and that’s immensely gratifying.”…

(7) LECKIE Q&A. The Mountain View (CA) Public Library hosted an online event with author Ann Leckie as part of Sci-Fi September last year.

Critically acclaimed science fiction author Ann Leckie joined us for an exclusive conversation about her new novel Translation State and answered questions from the audience.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. (Died 1993.) Surely you know Raymond Burr, the man whose Birthday it is today. So let’s get started.

I must of course start with his long running role as Perry Mason which is decidedly not genre. CBS paid Gardener for the rights to two hundred and seventy-two of his stories, a good idea given that Perry Mason would run nine seasons. Many early episodes were based off his stories and novels.  

The role of Perry Mason proved the hardest to cast. Richard Carlson, Mike Connors, Richard Egan, and William Holden were considered. None at all suited the casting team. Burr initially read for the role of district attorney Hamilton Burger, but he told them that he was more interested in the Perry Mason role. They had seen him being a lawyer, and said he could play the role provided he lose at least sixty pounds. He did and got the role.

Raymond Burr, right, Frank Iwanaga, left, in Godzilla, King of the Monsters

What a magnificent Perry Mason he made. Burr’s coolness, control and reserved sense of humor were such that he became so identified with the character that, for the television audience, that meant there was no other Mason but Burr. He was not the Mason that had existed, there were four before him, all on film, and the producers tried reviving the series after CBS cancelled it, but it utterly failed. And HBO has a new series that looks at early years of his life. 

In the late Eighties he reprised his Mason role in twenty-six tv movies. The first has the title of Perry Mason Returns.

Now for his genre work.  Mike joked with me when I said when I was doing him that he was the lawyer for Godzilla. Well, he was Steven Martin in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! It is a re-edited for American audiences of the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla which in its original wasn’t available outside Japan for fifty years. He would reprise this role in Godzilla 1985.

He was the Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet. Evil viziers! Dungeons! Magic carpets! Princesses! 

He’s Cy Mill, hulking villain in Gorilla at Large. Remember what was said about his weight in his Burr casting. Well, this film was done just previous to this series and he was quoted as saying there, “I was just a fat heavy.” Burr told journalist James Bawden, “I split the heavy parts with Bill Conrad. We were both in our twenties playing much older men. I never got the girl but I once got the gorilla in a 3-D picture called Gorilla at Large.”

He was Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil , the seventeenth film of the Tarzan film series that began with 1932’s Tarzan the Ape Man, twenty years earlier.

Television wise, he appeared on Tales on Tomorrow in “The Masks of Medusa” and in the horror film Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, he’s Jonash Sebastian. I thought there’d be more but there aren’t. 

(9) ARMED SURVIVOR. In “Rocket Man No More”, Heritage Auctions introduces one of the headline lots from the May 31 Star Wars Signature Auction: “Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted”.

Star Wars Prototype Rocket-Firing Boba Fett L-Slot / Hand-Painted AFA 60 (Kenner, 1979). The Rocket Firing Boba Fett has been called the “Crown Jewel of Unproduced Toys” It’s become legendary as an iconic Star Wars “Mandela Effect,” (far better termed “Rocket Fett Syndrome.”) The figure everyone thought they had, but didn’t. Offered as a mail-away premium, the Rocket Firing Boba Fett was highly promoted by Kenner, lodging it in everyone’s imaginations. For four proof-of-purchase seals cut from any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure card back it could be yours. It seemed a cruel trick, when the Boba Fett figures that shipped, arrived with their plastic missiles sonically welded in place. It was a clear letdown. Helping along this disappointment was a small polite letter explaining Kenner’s safety concerns over the toy necessitating the change. It offered in substitution any Star Wars 3 ¾” action figure of choice if the consumer wasn’t satisfied with the redesign. Looking back, the removal of the rocket launching mechanism should have been no surprise. Almost immediately anything to do with it was being mysteriously obscured by stickers ignoring the feature. Kenner’s legal department already had concerns over the toy’s safety, but the company’s outgoing President Bernie Loomis was highly in favor of the project. As Kenner engineer’s struggled to make the toy safe, another ominous event was happening in the toy world. Rival toy company Mattel was experiencing their own problems with their popular Battlestar Galactica toy spaceships, which fired a similar sized projectile. If accidentally shot into the mouth, the choking potential for children was becoming clear. Already, there were several aspiration induced injuries, and one child’s death. The culmination of these two events ultimately doomed the Rocket Firing Boba Fett. Painfully most would agree Kenner made the right decision, erroring on the side of safety. It’s uncertain exactly how many Rocket Firing Boba Fetts were created before Kenner abandoned the concept for a safer non-firing figure. What survives today in the hobby generally comes from ex-Kenner employees who took examples home. All others are believed destroyed with none (despite urban legends) ever getting distributed to the public. Surviving populations featuring the original reverse “L-slot” latch configuration number about seventy. Mostly injection molded in blue-gray, these “first-shot” figures are generally unpainted and were created to test the mold cavity functions before general production. As such these unpainted “first-shots” lack all copyright and point of origin stamps to the back of the legs. Of the seventy examples believed in collector’s hands today, only five have been found hand painted – two in production paint scheme as this example, and three in unique alternate paint schemes. One of only two examples known to exist…

(10) DOCTOR MEWLITTLE. An SJW credential with credentials! “Meet Max, the cat receiving an (honorary) doctorate from Vermont State University this weekend”Vermont Public has the story.

As Vermont State University Castleton graduates receive their degrees this weekend, so too will a tabby cat. The cat, named Max, is getting an honorary degree as a “Doctor in Litter-ature.”

Once a feral kitten in the town of Fair Haven, Max has lived with his human mom, Ashley Dow, on Seminary Street in Castleton for the past five years. And for most of those years, he’s been venturing up to the university campus….

(11) ANOTHER SPACE CAT. Captain Kirk also picked up an honorary sheepskin on May 20. Forbes reports, “William Shatner Among Geniuses Honored At Liberty Science Center Gala, Underscoring Intrinsic Bond Of Art And Science”.

William Shatner beamed up into the Liberty Science Center (LSC) last night to accept the 2024 Icon Award at the sold-out 12th Annual Liberty Science Center Genius Gala.

“On October 13, 2021, William Shatner, age 90, boldly went where no one else had gone before: into space,” said LSC President and CEO Paul Hoffman. “At 93, Will remains incredibly active.”

Shatner was filming in Los Angeles, so Hoffman interviewed him in his Studio City office.

“I saw a great deal that made me cry, and I didn’t know why I was crying, literally crying. I was weeping uncontrollably when I landed,” said Shatner. “I realized, oh my God, I’m in grief! For what I’ve seen of the world, you look at your telescopes, it’s fantastic, it’s magical. Space is magical. I’m looking at space from the spaceship and all it is is palpable blackness, it’s black death. I look back and I see blue, beige, and white. The planet is calling to us. You can’t believe how small this rock we’re living on is. You can’t believe how thin the fertile earth is. … That’s how precious our topsoil is. And then there’s the air. I’m a pilot. I know you can’t go above 3,500 feet for oxygen. Two miles of oxygen, a handful of dirt that we’re going to live on, and live on with increasing numbers. We now know everything is connected, interconnected. Everything is part of each other. All of nature is alive and vibrant with intelligence and life.”…

(12) SPACEPLANE MISSION TO ISS. “World’s first commercial spaceplane in final stages before debut ISS flight” reports New Atlas.

The world’s first winged commercial spaceplane has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, its final destination before its first mission to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

Following rigorous testing at Ohio’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility, the Dream Chaser DC-100 spaceplane named Tenacity got the green light to commence final pre-launch preparations, such as finishing its thermal protection system and payload integration, before it hitches a ride on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket to deliver 7,800 pounds (3,540 kg) of food, water and science experiments to the ISS….

(13) MILKY WAY. [Item by Steven French.] A collection of absolutely stunning photographs: “Milky Way photographer of the year 2024 – in pictures” in the Guardian. Photo at the link —

The vanity of life | Wadi Rum desert, Jordan

Photographer Mihail Minkov: ‘The concept behind this shot is to highlight the stark contrast between the vastness of the cosmos and the minuscule nature of humanity. The composition intentionally draws the viewer’s focus to a small figure, underscoring our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, while the majestic Milky Way core dominates the background’

Photograph: Mihail Minkov/2024 Milky Way photographer of the year

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Heritage Auctions has an interview with Former Kenner Engineer Jacob Miles about the Boba Fett – Star Wars action figure pulled from production.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/14/24 Down The Seven Pixels Scroll

(1) BUTLER CONFERENCE AT HUNTINGTON THIS MONTH. The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA will host a two-day conference, “Futurity as Praxis: Learning from Octavia E. Butler” on May 23-24.

Octavia Butler.

The year 2024 marks the beginning of the critical dystopian future Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) envisioned in her groundbreaking novel Parable of the Sower. Her fiction and the story of her life compel us to reckon with power, leadership, creativity, the Earth, human relationships, and the unknown possibilities that await us in the stars. Now, intellectuals from different communities will gather to contemplate her legacy. This conference asks how we have learned from Butler’s writing and what her archive at The Huntington—a short distance from where the author spent her formative years in Pasadena, California—can help future generations discover.

One of the panels will feature well-known sff creators.

Session 1: Creativity as Praxis

  • Moderator: Sage Ni’Ja Whitson
    Queer & Trans anti-disciplinary artist and writer, Department of Dance and Department of Black Study at UC Riverside
  • Damian Duffy
    Author of the graphic novel adaptations of Kindred and Parable of the Sower
  • Steven Barnes
    Author of The Eightfold PathMarvel’s Black Panther: Sins of the King podcast series, and Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror on Shudder
  • Sheree Renée Thomas
    Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and the Dark Matter anthologies, poet, author of Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future

Tickets for the two-day conference are available here. General: $25 (Students free). Optional lunch: $20 (each day)

(2) ROMAN AROUND. “’Megalopolis’: New Teaser Trailer Drops Ahead of Cannes Premiere” reports Deadline.

Ahead of its world premiere here at Cannes, Francis Ford Coppola has dropped a teaser trailer for his master epic Meglopolis. While the first trailer showed Adam Driver’s ambitious architectural idealist Cesar attempting suicide atop a skyscraper, yet stopping time, here we see a montage of the pic’s action: a devastated city indulged in neon and noir infused Bacchanal.

Coppola’s latest is billed as a Roman Epic fable set in an imagined Modern America. The City of New Rome must change, causing conflict between Cesar Catilina (Driver), a genius artist who seeks to leap into a utopian, idealistic future, and his opposition, Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who remains committed to a regressive status quo, perpetuating greed, special interests, and partisan warfare.  Torn between them is socialite Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel), the mayor’s daughter, whose love for Cesar has divided her loyalties, forcing her to discover what she truly believes humanity deserves.

(3) FROM SOUP TO NUTS. The Guardian has a long feature on the history of Coppola’s efforts to make this film: “’Has this guy ever made a movie before?’ Francis Ford Coppola’s 40-year battle to film Megalopolis”.

Early reactions to Megalopolis have been mixed. After a private screening in Los Angeles last month, one executive described it as “batshit crazy”….

…Others, however, were fulsome in their praise. “I feel I was a part of history. Megalopolis is a brilliant, visionary masterpiece,” said the director Gregory Nava after the screening. “I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day.” An anonymous viewer at a London screening went even further: “This film is like Einstein and relativity in 1905, Picasso and Guernica in 1937 – it’s a date in the history of cinema.”…

(4) CAROL SHIELDS PRIZE. The 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, which provides $150,000USD to the winner, is the largest English-language literary prize in the world for women and non-binary authors. So the announcement of the winner may be of interest to you even if the book is not genre.

V. V. Ganeshananthan has been named the winner for her novel Brotherless Night, published by Random House.

(5) COMPUSERVE GETS A PLAQUE. It didn’t take as long as you might have expected for one of the building blocks of personal computing to earn its own historic marker. Alex Krislov shared a photo of Ohio’s salute to CompuServe.

(6) LATEST ITERATION OF FANHISTORIC CLIFTON’S. Boing Boing says “Legendary L.A. eatery Clifton’s Cafeteria is back! (but is called Clifton’s Republic now)”.

…To say Clifton’s is kitschy doesn’t begin to capture it. It’s more like if uber-kitschy, ur-kitschy and mondo-kitschy had a baby….

We’re interested because LASFS used to meet at Clifton’s in the late 1930s. And consequently, Discover Los Angeles’ article “Clifton’s Republic: The Story of an LA Icon” has the tidbit of greatest interest to fans:

…The third floor is home to the Gothic Bar, which features a booth named after sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, a patron of the original Clifton’s who became a pal of Meieran’s. The back bar is a repurposed 19th-century gothic altar. The third floor also features Clinton Hall, a live performance and private event space, and lots of taxidermy dioramas created in consultation with experts from the Natural History Museum….

(7) HE’S ON THE COVER. Fantasy author Lev Grossman in on the front of Publishers Weekly.

(8) DON’T REIGN ON THEIR PARADE. Scavenger’s Reign may get a second chance on another platform. “Netflix Just Saved 2023’s Most Underrated Sci-Fi Show From Cancelation” reports Inverse:

Scavengers Reign, the remarkable but underseen sci-fi series that premiered on Max in late 2023. Scavengers Reign was widely regarded as one of the year’s best shows, and one of many projects that heralded a golden age for indie animation. Unfortunately, the series was canceled on May 10… but that development has a silver lining.

Per VarietyScavengers Reign will remain on Max (a rare concession for WB’s canceled shows), but its first season will also stream on Netflix. The rival streamer is reportedly interested in picking up the show for more seasons, but continuation is contingent on Scavengers’ success on the platform.

… Given Netflix’s growing interest in adult animation, the streamer might be an ideal destination. Scavengers Reign follows the crew of a deep space freighter after they crash on a hostile alien planet. Across 12 episodes, the crew works to find their way back to their ship, and survive a world trying to annihilate them. The series doesn’t shy away from dark themes, so it should feel at home alongside Netflix originals like Blue Eyed Samurai….

(9) TEDDY HARVIA CARTOON.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 80. I can say without doubt George Lucas was a director whose first work I encountered was THX 1138. What a damn strange film that is. Upon rewatching it twenty or so years later, the Suck Fairy wasn’t pleased by it as I’ll say she holds that it just feels really dated now which I agree with her. 

Ahhh but then was Star Wars, and no I won’t accept the renaming it. Simply didn’t happen. The film itself which I’ve seen at the theater and watched a number of times since is extraordinary. That it garnered a Hugo at IguanaCon II shouldn’t surprise anyone here. 

George Lucas in 2009.

Confession time. I’ve not watched any of Star Wars films past the first three. I adore The Empire Strikes Back, a Hugo winner at Denvention Two, actually my favorite of the first three films. I don’t dislike the final film, Return of the Jedi, Hugo of course, this time at L.A. Con II, but I really do think the story is better in The Empire Strikes Back. Also, Lucas gave his screenwriting credit to Leigh Brackett for that film after her death from cancer.

So, what’s my next film that he did that I really like? Oh guess. It was when he was story writer and executive producer on the first four Indiana Jones films, which his colleague and good friend Steven Spielberg directed, so it is Raiders of The Lost Ark is my favorite film here (with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom being almost as good), and the last should been not have been done. So not surprisingly Raiders of The Lost Ark would win him and Spielberg a Hugo, this time at Chicon IV.

Need I say that The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was wonderful? Yes, it stretched probability to the breaking point and way beyond continuously in terms of who young Indy met, but that was the sheer fun of the series. No Hugo nomination, why, oh why?

Did you know he wrote the story for Willow? (Not the screenplay.) Well, he did. Cool. I mean really cool. Noreascon 3 nominated it for a Hugo but a rabbit from Toon Town won that year. Speaking of really cool films, he was executive producer and co-edited Labyrinth with director Jim Henson. Yes, you nominated it for a Hugo, this time at Conspiracy ’87. 

He produced Howard the Duck, which the French had the gall to name on the one-sheets Howard Une nouvelle race de héros (Howard: A New Breed of Hero) was considered his worst film by far. It’s not a film I like but I feel that it should be noted here. No, you did not nominate Howard Une nouvelle race de héros for a Hugo. Nor did French give it any Awards either.

Finally for me, he also was the creator and executive producer of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series which premiered with a feature film of the same name that aired just before its first episode. 

I know he’s done a lot more including some new material now on Disney+ but I’m not taking that streaming service now. At some point, I’ll gorge myself over there but not yet. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro depicts the benefits of home delivery.
  • UFO lets a great line go astray.

(12) SPEAKING OF GEORGE. “’Grow up. These are my movies, not yours’: George Lucas Won’t be Happy How Star Wars Fan Group is Illegally Saving the Original Trilogy” Fandomwire says confidently.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away began George Lucas’ epic space opera tale that eventually grew into the pop culture phenomenon we know today as Star Wars. The original trilogy of films Lucas made during the 70s and 80s, became beloved across the globe, but the theatrical cuts of the movies have neared the brink of extinction following Lucas’ special edition re-releases.

As a result, a group of rebel Star Wars fans have taken it upon themselves to not only preserve but also digitally restore the original cuts so that the fanbase can enjoy the version of the films they first fell in love with. However, the group’s activities directly clash with Lucas’ vision for his franchise and border on a legal grey area. Here is why George Lucas won’t be happy with the rebel fans trying to preserve the original cuts of the original trilogy.

The original trilogy of Star Wars films, spearheaded by George Lucas were critical and commercial successes. However, in 1997 Lucas released the “Special Edition” of the films for the trilogy’s 20th anniversary, which featured extensive changes to the original theatrical cuts.

The original cuts have since become scarce. However, a group of Star Wars fans, known as Team Negative One have reportedly almost completely digitally restored the original cuts in 4K using 35-millimeter prints of the original trilogy….

To show how serious Lucas is about his later cuts —

…Similarly, when the National Film Registry aimed to preserve 1977’s Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope), Lucas reportedly refused to provide them with a copy of the original theatrical release…

(13) Q&A ABOUT FUNDRAISING ANTHOLOGY. Broken Olive Branches is a charity anthology; over 30 authors in the horror community donated stories to help the civilians of Palestine. The proceeds from the anthology go to ANERA and the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. Roseanna interviews the editor and some of the authors involved in “Roundtable Interview: Broken Olive Branches” at Nerds of a Feather.

(14) WHERE’S THE BEEF? AI raises the dead: “It was a classic rap beef. Then Drake revived Tupac with AI and Congress got involved” on NPR’s “Planet Money”.

In late April, Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) began his testimony before a Senate subcommittee hearing by doing something unusual for a stuffy institution like Congress: He played a new song from the rapper Drake.

But it wasn’t Drake’s rap verse that Tillis felt was important for Congress to hear. Rather it was a verse in the song featuring the voice of the legendary — and long dead — rapper Tupac Shakur.

In a kind of uniquely modern sorcery, the song uses artificial intelligence to resurrect Tupac from the dead and manufacture a completely new — and synthetic — verse delivered in the late rapper’s voice. The song, titled “Taylor Made Freestyle,” is one in a barrage of brutal diss tracks exchanged between Drake and Kendrick Lamar in a chart-topping rap battle. Kendrick is from California, where Tupac is like a god among rap fans, so weaponizing the West Coast rap legend’s voice in the feud had some strategic value for Drake, who is from Toronto.

Drake, apparently, thought it’d be okay to use Tupac’s synthetic voice in his song without asking permission from the late rapper’s estate. But, soon after the song’s release, Tupac’s estate sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Drake take the song down, which he did. However — given the murky legal landscape regulating AI creations — it’s unclear whether Tupac’s estate actually has the law on their side.

And so the beef between Drake and Kendrick Lamar has become not only one of the most brilliant — and most vicious — battles in the history of rap. It’s also become a historic flashpoint for the issues posed by what you might call AI necromancy — resurrecting traits of the dead using AI technology.

We’ve entered a new world where anyone can conjure the voice or visual likeness of a dead celebrity — or really anyone, dead or alive — with a few clicks using AI software.

(15) JEOPARDY! SFF. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Catching up on Jeopardy Masters and also watching tonight’s episode, here’s the SFF content I saw:

Jeopardy Masters, Wednesday 5/8/2024

Game 1:

Literature: Who Said It? $2000: “I freewheel a lot…I reckon I’ll become president of the galaxy, and it just happens, it’s easy”

Matt Amodio got the right book but the wrong character: “What’s Dent?”

(One of his quirks is that he never bothers to change his question words but just always says “What’s…?”)

Amy Schneider gave us, “Who is Beeblebrox?”

Most Filers I assume know this, but just in case I’ll fill in that the book was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the characters Arthur Dent and Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Literature: Who Said It? $1600: “For if he is still with the quick un-dead, your death would make you even as he is. No, you must live!”

Yogesh Raut knew or correctly guessed, “Who is Van Helsing?”

Literature: Who Said It? $1200: A Daily Double for Yogesh, who wagered all of his 15,400 points. “She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately — unreservedly. I have seldom seen anyone come over to us so promptly”.

Yogesh hesitated a bit, then tried, “Who is…O’Brien?” And this was correct, the inquisitor from 1984.

Literature: Who Said It? $400: “What’s taters, precious, eh, what’s taters?”

Matt got it: “What’s Gollum?”

Game 2:

On the Director’s Résumé, $2000: He spoke the silent language of horror in 1922’s “Nosferatu”

Victoria Groce got it: “Who is Murnau?”

Regular Jeopardy!, Monday 5/13/2024

In the Double Jeopardy round:

TV’s Fantastical Places, $1200: This undersea abode of cartoon fame is based on an actual atoll used for atomic testing between 1946 and 1958

Michael Richter tried, “What is SpongeBob Squarepants?” but this was the name of the show, not the place.

Returning champ Will Stewart knew, “What is Bikini Bottom?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $2000: First seen in 1969, this planet on “Doctor Who” was caught up in a time war with the Daleks

Will knew it: “What is Gallifrey?”

Literary Title Occupations, $800: In a special edition, J.K. Rowling did her own illustrations for the story collection title “The Tales of Beedle the” this

Michael got it: “What is a bard?”

Literary Title Occupations, $400: Emily Chambers is one of these spiritual intermediaries in a C.J. Archer novel, hunting a demon & talking to a ghost

Will: “What is a medium?”

Literary Title Occupations, $1200: In “The Magician’s Nephew”, animals talk like humans & Jadis, an evil witch, flees from Charn & reaches this fantasy land

Will got this one too: “What is Narnia?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $800: This castle was the ancestral home of Ned Stark & family on “Game of Thrones”

Will, evidently an SFF watcher, knew “What is Winterfell?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $800: Mystic Falls is the locale for blood-sucking brothers Damon & Stefan on this long-running CW show

Joyce Yang got in for “What’s The Vampire Diaries?”

Jeopardy Masters, Friday 5/10/2024

Game 1, Double Jeopardy round:

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $1600: For this 2015 film, Lesley Vanderwalt got the idea for Furiosa’s look from an image of a girl with clay across her forehead

Mattea Roach got it: “What’s Mad Max: Fury Road?”

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $1200: This man has won 7 Academy Awards for makeup, including one for his work on “An American Werewolf in London”

Amy Schneider responded, “Who is Baker?” And Rick Baker was correct.

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $400: Makeup artist Ve Neill used moss to make Michael Keaton look like he crawled out from underneath a rock for this 1988 film.

Mattea asked us, “What’s ‘Beetlejuice’?”

Game 2, Single Jeopardy round

A Literary Tipple, $600: It takes a lot of flowers (weeds, some say) to make a batch of this stuff, the title of a Ray Bradbury novel

James Holzhauer knew it was dandelion wine.

Made You Say It, $1000: Compelled by his people’s naiveté, this Trojan said, “Don’t trust the horse…even when they bring gifts, I fear the Greeks”

Victoria Groce gave us, “Who is Laocöon?”

(16) ALIEN EMBASSIES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It was the monthly  ‘Sci-Fi Sunday’ over at Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur with a look at the SF trope of alien embassies.

Because it was a Sci-Fi Sunday episode, Isaac assumed some sort of FTL travel but not instantaneous communication. He takes a (he himself says) simple assumption of all civilizations arising together and expanding their sphere of influence, which in 3-dimensions would give each 12 neighbors.

With regards to SF, he draws mainly on cinema and TV looking at embassies Babylon V, Star Trek and Stargate.  However Niven and Pournelle’s A Mote in God’s Eye,  and Dune do get a look in.

He also points to flaws in many SF shows’ plot arising out of mis-understandings making a fairly plausible case against such actually taking place.

He opines that the embassy would be in space for control biological contaminants (both ways) and here, it is bacteria rather than viruses are the major problem. He also notes that assuming an advanced planetary system might be colonized out to the equivalent of it Kuiper belt, such is the distance between stars that any traveler passing through a stellar empire would likely come no closer than many thousands of times the Kuiper orbit distance to a single star’s civilization and so no need or practicality to control travelers simply passing through.

“We often imagine encountering many alien civilizations, and establishing trade and relationships with them, but what would being an alien ambassador be like?”

35-minute episode below…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/24 Ansible And Grendel

(1) TOMLINSON AND ROBINSON SUE MILWAUKEE. In February, Patrick Tomlinson and his partner, Niki Robinson filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee over the multiple instances of swatting: “Robinson v. City of Milwaukee, 2:24-cv-00264”. At the link you can download (free) the original and amended complaints.

The amended complaint filed May 1 details several experiences with swatting, and in addition to the City of Milwaukee names 10 police officers as defendants. Here is an excerpt:

1. Niki Robinson and Patrick Tomlinson are the targets of a vicious campaign of domestic terrorism, carried out at the hands of a group of bullies who hide behind the anonymity of the internet.

2. The bullies’ main weapon of choice is something called “swatting,” which is when someone who wants to endanger the life and safety of another calls 911 and lies to provoke a dangerous police response to the victim’s home….

…11. Niki and Patrick have tried to work with the City of Milwaukee to stop this, but the City of Milwaukee failed to adopt a policy or train its officers on how to prevent Niki and Patrick’s stalkers from using the police department as a tool of terror.

12. And while many of the police officers who have responded to Patrick and Niki’s home have been kind, understanding, and compassionate, others have not.

13. The worst offender is Sergeant Lyndon Evans.

14. On three occasions, Sergeant Evans responded to a swatting call with abuse and violence.

15. Sergeant Evans told Niki and Patrick that he was “well aware” of the situation, but still demanded to be let inside their home, going so far as to threaten to break down the front door if he was not allowed inside.

16. Niki and Patrick live in a constant state of fear, worried that the next encounter they have with the police will be their last.

17. Every knock on the door or police car that drives by leaves them terrified that they are about to be staring down an officer’s gun or that they will be paraded outside in handcuffs to their further humiliation.

18. This lawsuit seeks to end the madness and vindicate the violation of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. It seeks to effect change through punitive damages by punishing the Defendants for their egregious conduct with the hope that the punishment is significant enough to prevent this from happening again in the future…

(2) SPACE COMMAND ARRIVES. “Crowdfunded ‘Space Command: Redemption’ Released, Features Star Trek’s Doug Jones, Robert Picardo & More” at TrekMovie.com.

A dozen years after its first crowdfunding campaign, the first installment of Marc Scott Zicree’s Space Command has been released, with several Star Trek actors in the cast. “Space Command: Redemption” is out now on Tubi, VOD, and physical media, with more installments from the series in the works.

Space Command is a sci-fi series inspired by Star Trek. The ensemble cast for “Space Command: Redemption” features Star Trek: Discovery’s Doug Jones in a leading role. Other franchise stars include Robert Picardo (Voyager), Armin Shimerman (Deep Space Nine), Faran Tahir (J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek), and the late Nichelle Nichols (TOS). The cast also includes several Babylon 5 stars including Bill Mumy,  Bruce Boxleitner, and the late Mira Furlan….

(3) I, THE JURY. Alec Nevala-Lee shared with Facebook readers that he was part of a Pulitzer Prize jury this year.  

Now that the list of winners has been announced, I can reveal a very cool fact: I served on the jury for the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Biography! I spent much of last year reading through dozens of books with four other jurors, and I’m delighted to finally share the titles we chose: KING by Jonathan Eig, MASTER SLAVE HUSBAND WIFE by Ilyon Woo, and LARRY MCMURTRY by Tracy Daugherty.

(4) SFF POETS TAKE UP AI ISSUE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) Executive Committee and key volunteers have put together two options for the SFPA to adopt as its policy regarding works derived from generative tools (including AI, large language models, etc).

Members have been sent an introductory statement and have until May 22 to vote for one of three options: 

  1. A limited AI ban
  2. A complete AI ban
  3. Neither statement

(5) ADVANCED RELEASE OF NOAF HUGO VOTER PACKET SUBMISSION.  The Nerds of a Feather 2024 Hugo Packet and Introduction can be downloaded at the link. It’s available in PDF and EPUB formats.

The Voter’s Packet for the Hugo Awards will be released shortly and made available to all members of Glasgow Worldcon. As is traditional, Nerds of a Feather has put together a compilation of what we feel represents the best and the breadth of our collective work published in 2023. While the purpose of the Voter’s Packet is to help eligible voters make an informed decision when casting their ballots, we are also making the packet available to all of our readers who may want to take a look back at what we did last year…. 

(6) BLIND LEADING THE BLIND? A highly skeptical Philip Athans says “Beware Of Friends Bearing Feedback” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

…If you have a trusted beta reader, someone who you know knows books, knows story, knows the genre you’re writing in, and you know that person to be smart and creative, capable of giving you solid advice, then wow—congratulations. Hold that person close. Give them gifts of frankincense and myrrh.

But unfortunately, most of the people we know can not reasonably be described in such glowing terms. I wish I could remember who it was, decades ago that, in a documentary about screenwriting, described the focus group as:

The uninformed reporting on the unknowable to the unimaginative.

…but that pretty much nails it. And what are beta readers or our writers group friends but a focus group? In Story Trumps Structure, Steven James wrote on the subject of beta readers:

I can’t think of any other field in which people who aren’t experts critique other people who aren’t experts in the hope of everyone becoming an expert.

Yes, people chosen at random or from a pool of friends and family may have opinions, but do they have informed  opinions? And if they say something akin to “I didn’t get it,” “I liked it, I guess,” “It was really creative!” and so on (you know you’ve seen stuff like this) sans detail or actionable advice, well… does that help?…

(7) FIVE UNEASY PIECES. Maya St. Clair makes a confession and reviews a hard-to-forget New Wave anthology in “FIVE FATES: Sci-Fi’s Nightmare Blunt Rotation”.

I’m in a weird place professionally. To get a job in publishing, it’s pretty much imperative that you stay abreast of recent trends and read voraciously from current frontlist books. And I certainly try. But left to my own devices, I inevitably end up crawling back to New Wave sci-fi like a starving flatworm whose only brain cell yearns for stream-of-consciousness novellas about interdimensional alien sex written fifty years ago by chainsmokers in dagger-collared shirts.

If you share my foibles, or if you’re simply in a reading rut, you’d be hard-pressed to find something more exciting than Five Fates. Not only does it boast a sci-fi supergroup (Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison, Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, and Keith Laumer), it provides a fascinating snapshot of where speculative fiction was “at” during a pivotal moment of the genre’s history….

Five Fates, published in 1970, positions itself firmly in this mindfuck vein of the New Wave. Per the jacket copy, it’s “one of the most bizarre and original fictional concepts ever created,” a showcase opportunity for five of spec fic’s foremost writers to go absolutely wild. Its biggest names are red-hot at the time of publication: Frank Herbert has just finished Dune Messiah, and Harlan Ellison is in the midst of his decade-long, nearly-unbroken Hugo streak (he’s hard at work, the back cover informs us, on Again, Dangerous Visions.)

The central concept of Five Fates is this: all five contributors were sent the same disturbing prompt — in some dystopic world, a man named William Bailey is admitted to a Euthanasia Center and killed. The surrounding questions — how did he get there? how did society descend to this point? is there an afterlife? — are left up to the writers to flesh out. Each of the five resulting novelettes (which average around 30 pages) offers a vastly different concept, style, and literary goal. It’s a literary blunt rotation/samsara, a hallucinogenic journey that produces several great tales and one masterpiece….

(8) AI LIKES MIKE. Reason set the AI program Grok the task of reviewing a Heinlein book: “Review: ‘The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress’ Highlights Technology’s Role in Freedom”. Grok homed in on the book’s supercomputer character. The full two-paragraph review is at the link. Here’s the introduction:

For Reason’s June 2024 special issue on AI, all of our brief reviews involve AI in some form or another. Of course, we decided to ask an AI to write one of the reviews. Since X’s AI is named Grok, after the term coined by sci-fi author Robert Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land, it was only natural that we’d ask Grok to write a review of another Heinlein novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. See what Grok wrote for us below….

(9) RTD ON THE RADIO. The Planetary Society’s Planetary Radio did a “TARDIS Talk: Space, Time, and ‘Doctor Who’ with Russell T. Davies”. Hear the audio on YouTube.

This week on Planetary Radio, we celebrate the longest-running science fiction show in history, “Doctor Who.” We explore how this iconic series has influenced the scientific community and look forward to the new season of the show with Russell T. Davies, the past and present showrunner of “Doctor Who.” Then, space fans from around the world share how the show has impacted their lives and space careers. We close out with Bruce Betts, our chief scientist, as we discuss what we would do with a time machine in What’s Up.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. (Died 2006.) Yes, Peter Benchley, the writer responsible for Jaws. I’ll get to that in a minute. Really I will. Trust me.

Although Jaws is what he’s best remembered for, his work that has been adapted for film and television includes genre: BeastCreatureThe DeepThe Island and White Shark. He has one film work of interest at least to me that’s non-genre, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, about writer Dorothy Parker and the members of the Algonquin Round Table. 

Peter Benchley

So, let’s look at some of his novels other than JawsJaws was his first and his second was a more or less an adventure genre novel, The Deep, of treasure hunters who discover Spanish treasure. Well and drugs. Then it gets complicated. Columbia Pictures purchased the rights to it even before its publication, hiring Benchley to write a screen adaptation. 

The Island, several years later, is effectively genre as it has two elements that are fantastic. One is that is a lost colony of pirates that have remained undetected since the establishment of their pirate enclave by Jean-David Nau, the notorious buccaneer L’Olonnais, in 1671; second is a sort of Logan’s Run premise is that the pirates kill anyone over thirteen that they capture. It too would be filmed.

In Beast — and none of his titles will win awards for originality, will they? — a fishing community in Bermuda is disrupted by a series of mysterious disappearances at sea. Think large sea monster and you wouldn’t be wrong. Yes once again it became a film. 

White Shark does not feature a shark, despite what the title suggests. It has Nazis and biological weapons with nary a shark to bite into anyone, not even a Nazi, the pity. To avoid confusion and to capitalize on the miniseries adaptation, the book was republished as Creature. It was also a film called, errr, White Shark

Which brings us to Jaws. It was published fifty years ago, his first novel. It was an outgrowth of his interest of the experiences of Montauk, New York shark fisherman Frank Mundus. Doubleday gave him a rather nice advance to write the novel while he was he was still a freelance journalist.

Despite critics generally hating it, it did exceptionally well with the reading public as Doubleday undertook an extraordinary publicity campaign including getting it adopted by book clubs everywhere. As a result, it stayed on bestseller lists for nearly a year, and millions of copies of the paperback edition were sold.

Jaws is definitely horror. With Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones. Now that we’ve got that Very Important Fact out of the way, let’s talk about it. 

It premiered forty-seven years ago on this date. It was Spielberg’s first major film after directing such things as episodes of Night Gallery, The Name of the GameColumbo, and the rather excellent Sugarland Express

The screenplay is credited to Peter Benchley. He wrote the first draft here, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb who’s Harry Meadows here and was Ugly John in the MASH series  (and I can still picture him in that role with his rather full mustache), then continuously rewrote the script during principal photography. That must have been an annoying thing to the director! 

It had a kickass cast  of Roy Scheider as Chief Martin, Robert Shaw as Quint, with Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper as the studio didn’t get any Really Big Names that they wanted so badly — which was as Speilberg intended, and he got what he wanted here, for the “the superstar was gonna be the shark of the film” as he stated in interviews. Very Big Teeth. Lots Of  Sharp Pointy Ones was going to be the Superstar. Yes, that did make a very good superstar. Well of multiples these together did as there were lots of mechanical sharks. They broke down a lot. The mechanics of this wasn’t quite there yet. 

It was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean and if something could go wrong, it did. Repeatedly. And of the multitude of mechanical sharks added immensely to the budget woes so the film apparently went four to five million over its eight million budget. Or more. The studio has never actually released accurate production costs.  That really didn’t matter as it made nearly a half billion in its first run at the theatre. Repeat — it made a half billion dollars.

I discovered that there are three sequels, Jaws 2Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge. I can happily admit that I’ve seen none of them. Who here has? I think y’all know my admittedly low opinion of sequels and the idea of a sequel to this perfect film leaves me, well, sea sick. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) PROUDLY LESS NOBLE THAN THE SCA. The University of Maryland’s Maryland Today publication asks “Whatever Happened to … the Maryland Medieval Mercenary Militia?” The truth is out there.

Charging across the hilly terrain, swords raised, shields gripped against their chests, the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons faced off, their bodies protected only by chain mail cobbled together from … wire clothes hangers. Just beyond the grassy battlefield, students strolled by on their way to class.

This was the fall of 1969, when a group of Terps marked the 903rd anniversary of the Battle of Hastings with a re-enactment on South Chapel Lawn. It was the fitting official launch of a new group on the University of Maryland campus called the Maryland Medieval Mercenary Militia (MMMM), in which members gave themselves archaic names, learned English country dances and meticulously studied the military strategies of the Middle Ages so that they could recreate historical battles for kicks.

“Nowadays, re-enactment is a big thing. Back then, it was Confederates, Union, Revolutionary War and that’s it,” said Bruce Blackistone ’72, one of the founders of the group. “This was way off-center for the average re-enactment group.”…

… Blackistone, who by then was the self-designated first warlord, hoped to have a dozen soldiers on each side of the battle, but in the end, it was a six-on-seven fight. (Blackistone came down with a 104-degree fever the night before and had to stay home.) They carried shields made from lids of peach baskets and wore hand-sewn tunics. Nucker also threw on a sheepskin leather jacket borrowed from her mother.

After the Battle of Hastings’ re-enactment, the group grew, doing swordplay demonstrations on campus and branching out to recreating medieval life more broadly with feasts and dances. They began gathering in a small space under the steps of Francis Scott Key Hall, though they’d often “spill out onto the front or back lawns and womp on each other’s shields a bit,” said Blackistone.

Like any warring faction, the group developed rivals. A few years after MMMM’s founding, a chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronisms (SCA), which started in Berkeley, Calif., in 1966, popped up in the area. “They were high medieval upper class, and we were low medieval lower class,” said Blackistone. “Everyone who belonged (to SCA) was some kind of nobility. We had very little nobility, and a lot of Vikings and peasants and riffraff.”…

…As more of the club’s members graduated, an offshoot formed: Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia, which eventually ballooned to some 600 members across the mid-Atlantic. Just as Privé graduated, the university moved the club to a smaller office in a distant corner of campus. These two events, Privé speculated, led to a dwindling of the club’s presence on campus. Sometime in the years following the office move, MMMM died a quiet death at UMD.

For some, though, MMMM was just the beginning of a lifelong madness for the medieval. Nucker and Blackistone still sail Viking ships together through the Longship Company, a nonprofit organization inspired by the vessel they converted out of a Navy Motor Whaleboat in a parking lot behind the North Campus residence halls during their college years. Now, they take the public out on their 39-foot, 12-oarred Sae Hrafn (“sea raven” in Norse) to teach guests about Viking seafaring. (They’ve also commissioned two other boats, the tall ship Fyrdaca, or “fire drake,” and the smaller Gyrfalcon, named after a type of Arctic falcon.)…

(13) LOOKS AWFULLY FAMILIAR. “China Releases CGI Video of Moon Base and It Contains Something Very Strange” says Futurism.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has shown off a CGI video of its vision of a lunar base, a vastly ambitious plan the country is hoping to realize in a matter of decades.

The showy — albeit dated-looking — render shows plans for the International Lunar Research Station, a Chinese and Russian endeavor that was first announced in 2021.

The video is also raising eyebrows for a bizarre cameo: a NASA Space Shuttle taking off from a launch pad in the distance, as spotted by Space.com.

It’s either some next-level humor from the Chinese space program or a hilarious oversight, since the Shuttle has been retired for more than a decade — not to mention that China and NASA aren’t even allowed to talk to each other, nevermind collaborate.

As space reporter Jack Kuhr later spotted, the state-run China Global Television Network came up with an equally hilarious fix to hide the Shuttle taking off in the background.

“Boom problem solved,” Kuhr tweeted. “CGTN went ahead and slapped an ol’ reliable blur bar over the Shuttle.”

The Shuttle (now properly blurred) appears at about the :40 second mark in the video.

(14) PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM FOR FORMER ASTRONAUT. “Ellen Ochoa, Former NASA Astronaut and First Hispanic Woman in Space, Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go to space and one of NASA’s most decorated astronauts and leaders, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday, the country’s highest civilian honor. Across her 30-year career, Ochoa flew on four space shuttle missions and led operations as director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Ochoa is the tenth astronaut, and second female astronaut, to receive the Medal of Freedom. She was presented the award at the White House along with 18 other honorees, including Jane Rigby, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who played a large role in the James Webb Space Telescope’s mission….

(15) AN INFLATED PROJECT. Scientific American invites readers to “Meet HELIX, the High-Altitude Balloon That May Solve a Deep Cosmic Mystery”.

This spring NASA will launch what could become one of this decade’s most transformative missions in astrophysics. But you’ve almost certainly never heard of it—and it’s not even going to space. Dubbed the High-Energy Light Isotope eXperiment (HELIX), the mission seeks to solve a long-standing mystery about just how much antimatter there is in the universe and where it comes from—all from a lofty perch in Earth’s stratosphere, slung beneath a giant balloon set for long-duration flights above each of our planet’s desolate poles.

Led by Scott Wakely, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago, HELIX is designed to study cosmic rays—subatomic particles that pelt our planet from the depths of interstellar and even intergalactic space. These particles include those of ordinary matter’s opposite-charge version, called antimatter. Scientists suspect the sources for the antimatter showering Earth from space could be almost anything, ranging from emissions by conventional astrophysical objects to the esoteric behavior of dark matter, the invisible stuff that seems to govern the large-scale behavior of galaxies. Figuring out which explanation is right may depend on a deceptively simple measurement: gauging how much time each of two specific particles spent hurtling through the galaxy. It’s like carbon-dating cosmic rays. “The models are all over the place. A measurement of this ratio is what everybody wants,” says Nahee Park, an astrophysicist at Queen’s University in Ontario and a member of the HELIX team….

(16) DUBIOUS KICKS. Stephen Graham Jones is a bit skeptical about the footwear in this new Superman publicity photo.

(17) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]  Boston Dynamics has a new humanoid robot, so they say goodbye to the outgoing HD Atlas…

And then say hello to All New Atlas with a freaky lil’ routine…

Maybe to take an edge off of All New Atlas, Boston Dynamics then dresses up Spot as Sparkles…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Bill, Michael J. Walsh, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who says his title “feels like it should be an anthology of ‘future fairy tales’ (perhaps edited by Jane Yolen)”.]

Pixel Scroll 5/1/24 Pak Up Your Pixels In An Old Scrith Bag And Smile, Smile, Smile

(1) A SHAMELESS PLUG FOR “THE AI SONG,” A PARODY BY MY FRIEND (AND COLLEAGUE) PAUL SCHINDLER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] My friend, colleague, and former-boss — briefly (at Byte.com) — Paul Schindler, knowing that I’m a frequent File770 contributor/suggester (from my periodically alerting him to Terry Pratchett and other Scrolls/Items here) asked me to submit as a potential item his recent song parody:

“Inspired by a spate of recent news stories about Artificial Intelligence (including one about a fake Supreme Court decision), I have written (with Clark Smith), “The AI Song” (“P.S. A Column On Things: The AI Song”), including a YouTubing.”

I’m happy to do so, but thought Paul also deserves a (brief-for-me) introduction, particularly since it looks like this will be his first appearance in an Item in a Scroll (as, for the benefit of those coming here via Paul, and other newcomers), File770 posts, and enumerated entries, are irrespectively called):

Paul is (among other things) a (now-former) tech journalist. In terms of AI, Paul notes/recalls, “During the early 1970s, when Daniel and I were fellow undergrads—including working on the student newspapers–at MIT, I interviewed Marvin Minsky several times about AI. This was back when it took very large machines to implement very small models. I remember asking Minsky how many millions of rules it would take to make an AI as smart as a five-year-old.”

While editor of Byte.com, Paul worked with/“managed” the late Jerry Pournelle, notably regarding Jerry’s Chaos Manor column – and post-Byte.com, stayed friends with Jerry. (See Paul’s P.S. A Column On Things post, “My Pal Jerry”). (Note: Byte.com was where Paul was my boss — see my March 2001 “Dern Bids Farewell To Byte.com”).

Additionally, Byte.com-wise, Jerry was the regular, primary guest on the Byte.com Week In Review/Audio Review: The Worldʼs First Podcast, with Paul as the host. (I was involved in a few episodes.) Among other things, Jerry would tell some tales from his variegated past. (It looks like there’s a few episodes on the Internet Archive, per links in Paul’s post.)

More generally, Paul is an sf reader/watcher (among other stuff).  In “My Pal Jerry,” he says, “I read all the science fiction in my childhood branch library and subscribed to the Science Fiction Book Of The Month Club (my premium was The Foundation Trilogy.” Another data point: He cites Joe Haldeman’s The Hemingway Hoax in a footnote to one of his PSaCoTs: “An Open Memo To My Muse”.

(2) GOOD LUCK! When Nick Stathopoulos delivered this year’s Archibald Prize entry to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, they posted a snapshot on Facebook. The 10-time Ditmar Award winner won the prize in 2017.

Nick Stathopoulos holding his portrait of David Stratton.

(3) SMALL WONDERS #11. Issue 11 of Small Wonders, the magazine for science fiction and fantasy flash fiction and poetry, is now available on virtual newsstands here. Co-editors Cislyn Smith and Stephen Granade bring a mix of flash fiction and poetry from authors and poets who are familiar to SFF readers as well as those publishing their first-ever piece with them.

The Issue 11 Table of Contents and release dates on the Small Wonders website:

  • Cover Art:”Meywa Sowen” by M. A. Del Rosario
  • “Celestial Bodies” (fiction) by Mar Vincent (6 May)
  • “Music of the Seraphim” (poem) by Angel Leal (8 May)
  • “What You Sow” (fiction) by Holly Schofield (10 May)
  • “Eloīse” (fiction) by Albert Chu (13 May)
  • “Kannaki Contemplates” (poem) by Tehnuka (15 May)
  • “Up From Out of Clay” (fiction) by Eris Young (17 May)
  • “Unbending My Bones” (fiction) by Sierra Branham (20 May)
  • “Swan’s Song” (poem) by Colleen Anderson (22 May)
  • “The Stars That Fall” (fiction) by Samantha Murray (24 May)

Subscriptions are available at the magazine’s store the magazine’s store, Patreon, and Weightless Books.

(4) SOFT SF. If only reading social media was always this much fun: Premee Mohamed at Bluesky.

(5) AMAZING STORIES WANTS WHAT IT’S OWED. Steve Davidson is trying to get NBC to pay attention – and pay the money they’ve owed Amazing Stories since 2020. He’s asking anyone who’s willing to signal boost the statement he posted on Facebook.

This is VERY important and I would appreciate reader’s doing two things (if they agree and are comfortable doing so):

First – share this as far and wide as you can. You are granted permission to copy the original text, in its entirety and without alteration, in order to share it elsewhere.

Second – if you are a professional in the field and support this effort, I would like to hear from you personally via PM.

OK – here goes:

Last week I was informed by NBC representatives that I would have a communication from them regarding my missing payments on Tuesday (April 30) of this week.

That email was in response to a query I sent to them regarding this non-payment issue.

In the email, I stated that in the past, the only way(s) in which it seemed that I was able to get any action out of them was to go public with the issue.

Twice previously I had to engage in such actions in order to get breaches of the contract cured through renegotiation.

Major Hollywood personalities and production entities were embarrassed, upset and angered at the time by my accurate and truthful statements.

Tuesday has come and gone with nary a whisper.

I (and by extension, Amazing Stories) have been owed contractually negotiated fees since October of 2020.

Read that date carefully. Later this year, non-payment will have gone on for FOUR years.

While the funds owing are not great by Hollywood standards, they are great by Amazing Stories’ standards and affect its ability to pay authors and artists and others appropriate amounts. The absence of those funds has also negatively affected Amazing’s ability to promote and market its offerings as well.

I informed NBC representatives that if I did not hear back from them (with progress) when they had promised to do so, I would be launching a crowd funding campaign to see if we could raise the missing dollars elsewhere.

I also informed them that, out of necessity, that crowd funding effort would have to explain the entire history of my dealings with NBC (since 2015).

Not included in my email to NBC representatives was my additional intention to encourage NBC to voluntarily give up the rights I licensed to them.

When the contract was in breach (and NBC notified of termination – a notice that they also did not respond to until after I had gone public) I contacted several production studios with the idea of licensing them to do a show under that name.

Several responded in the affirmative, even to the point of discussing a production partnership, in which Amazing Stories would have production credit and direct creative input into the show (after I pitched them the idea that I would be seeking Science Fiction authors with script writing experience to create episodes, as well as to script existing classics of the genre), but that they could not move forward until the “legal encumbrances” had been settled.

The point being that, if free, the name could be used to (attempt) to produce a television show that would have great respect for the genre, would involve contemporary authors with proven story telling and script writing chops, would have ties to the magazine version and, obviously, the greater public footprint that a television show would bring.

(Some may be familiar with the radio shows Dimension X and X Minus 1, where episodes were based on short stories drawn from the magazines of the era. This is what we believe we could do with television.)

I will be forwarding a copy of this FB post to my contacts at NBC (again, who promised response by yesterday which was not forthcoming) and will begin putting together the crowd funding effort that I hope my friends and fellow fans here and elsewhere will support, either by contributing or helping to spread the word.

That effort will be seeking funds to support the legal action of terminating the licensing agreement.

Initial filings in pursuit of that goal are expected to cost approximately 15 to 20k. Some or all of those funds may be recoverable, depending upon a legal ruling.

AGAIN. It is important for this statement to gain wide distribution if it going to have the desired effect. The crowd funding campaign will include additional details and suggestions as to how folks can help advance this effort, but starting here on FB will give it a boost.

Thank you.

“I can’t be ignored. I won’t be ghosted. I can no longer be bargained with. I feel no remorse or fear. And I absolutely will not stop, ever, until this matter is settled to my satisfaction!”

(6) TENTACULUM #4 IS A FREE DOWNLOAD. The special Weird West issue of The Tentaculum is now available for all to download for free.

Featuring short fiction from Cedrick MayArthur H. MannersSasha Brown, and Avra Margariti. This issue also includes nonfiction from Cedrick May and returning contributor Bobby Derie.

Edited by Cameron Howard and designed by Braulio Tellez. Cover and story illustrations by Tristan Tolhurst.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 1, 1946 Joanna Lumley, 78. Quick, tell me who appeared as a member of The Avengers, the real Avengers who have class, not the comic ones, was in a Bond film, and was Doctor Who as well. Now that would be the woman with the full name of Dame Joanna Lamond Lumley. 

Her first genre role was a very minor one as it was essentially in the background as an English girl as she would be credited in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

 I certainly don’t remember her there but I confess I’ve only seen it once I think. 

Joanna Lumley in 2015.

(She’ll have a very minor role in the horror film Tam-Lin shock will get repackaged as The Ballad of Tam-LinThe Devil’s Widow and The Devil’s Woman as well. I doubt it bears but the faintest resemblance to the actual ballad. 

Her first significant genre role was on The New Avengers as Purdey, a former Royal Ballet member who said her high kicks were from her training there (a dubious claim). (And yes, Patrick Macnee was back as Steed.) Along with Mike Gambit as played by Gareth Hunt who had appeared in the Doctor Who’s “Planet of the Spiders”, that was the team on the New Avengers

It lasted but two seasons and twenty-six episodes. Yes, I loved it. The chemistry between the three of them was excellent, perhaps better than it had been Steed and some of his solo partners. 

Her second genre role was in Sapphire & Steel. She played Sapphire and David McCallum was Steel. It was considered a supernatural series. I’ve not seen it though I should watch it on YouTube as it legally up there courtesy of Shout Factory which is the company that now has the distribution license for it, so you see the first episode here.

She’s appeared in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther as Marie Jouvet and Curse of the Pink Panther       as Countess Chandra. I’m amazed how many of those films there have been! 

She voiced Aunt Spiker in James and the Giant Peach. Likewise, she’s Madame Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.

Finally, she played Doctor Who in The Curse of Fatal Death, a Doctor Who special made for the 1999 Red Nose Day charity telethon. It was Stephen Moffat’s first Who script. She was simply The Female Doctor.  I’d like to link to the copies on YouTube but I’m absolutely sure they’re all bootlegs so please don’t offer up links to them.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) HE-MAN HAS APPOINTMENT WITH THE BIG SCREEN. “’Masters of the Universe’ Finally Hitting Theaters Summer 2026” reveals Deadline. We predict Cora Buhlert will buy a ticket to see it!

The power of Greyskull is happening on June 5, 2026 when Amazon MGM Studios’ and Mattel Films’ finally bring their live-action reboot of Masters of the Universe to theaters.

As Deadline first told you, Bumblebee filmmaker Travis Knight is directing off Chris Butler’s screenplay (the initial draft written by David Callaham, and Aaron and Adam Nee). Mattel Films’ Robbie Brenner, and Escape Artists’ Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, and Steve Tisch are producing.

The movie follows ten-year-old Prince Adam who crashed to Earth in a spaceship and was separated from his magical Power Sword—the only link to his home on Eternia. After tracking it down almost two decades later, Prince Adam is whisked back across space to defend his home planet against the evil forces of Skeletor. But to defeat such a powerful villain, Prince Adam will first need to uncover the mysteries of his past and become He-Man: the most powerful man in the Universe….

(10) CALL HER AGENT. Inverse is listening as “5 Years Later, Billie Lourd Pitches the Star Wars Spinoff We Need Right Now”.

…Lourd first appeared as Resistance Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix in The Force Awakens, and has only become more involved in the franchise since. Following Fisher’s passing in 2017, Lourd has become the “keeper” of Princess Leia, standing in for a younger version of the character in Rise of Skywalker flashback. Returning to that galaxy far away has been a “difficult” experience for Lourd, but nowadays, the actress is keen to reprise her role as Connix.

“I would do anything to come back to any Star Wars franchise. I am absolutely available,” Lourd tells Inverse. “Getting to play Connix was such a gift, and to get to do it again would just be insane.”…

(11) THREE-BODY SCIENCE. [Item by Steven French.] “The science of 3 Body Problem: what’s fact and what’s fiction?”Nature spoke to the sci-fi program’s adviser and two other researchers about the portrayal of PhD scientists and their technologies.”

…An alien civilization spying on humans using quantum entanglement. A planet chaotically orbiting three stars. Nanofibres capable of slicing through Earth’s hardest substance, diamond. Despite being chock-full of hardcore science, 3 Body Problem, a television series released on 21 March by the streaming service Netflix, has been a hit with audiences. So far, it has spent five weeks straight in Netflix’s list of the top-three programs viewed globally.

The story follows five young scientists who studied together at the University of Oxford, UK, as they grapple with mysterious deaths, particle-physics gone awry and aliens called the San-Ti who have their sights set on Earth. But how much of the science in the sci-fi epic, based on the award-winning book trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past by the Chinese writer Cixin Liu, reflects reality, and how much is wishful thinking? To find out, Nature spoke to three real-world scientists.…

(12) NOT ONLY IN WASHINGTON. “Is Alien Abduction Insurance a Thing in Washington State?” asks KPQ.

…Before we get into Washington’s take on the subject, it’s worth mentioning that this peculiar form of insurance coverage is associated with the Saint Lawrence Agency in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

Founded in 1987, this agency is famous for being the pioneering provider of alien abduction insurance policies. Over the years, the agency has made headlines and garnered both support and skepticism for its alien abduction policy.

The Saint Lawrence Agency reports to have sold thousands of these policies worldwide.

The policy costs $19.99 and pays out 10 million dollars if you get abducted. It’s important to note that, you’ll need an alien signature to verify your claims….

Newsweek read the fine print.

…The alien abduction scheme says it provides $10 million compensation in the event the policyholder is beamed up. It covers medical issues (all outpatient psychiatric care), sarcasm coverage (immediate family members only) and double indemnity coverage to the sum of $20 million in the event aliens insist on conjugal visits or the extraterrestrial encounter results in offspring.

St. Lawrence told WFLA last month his business has sold upwards of 6,000 policies since 1987. He says there have been two claims since the company formation—and only one big payout. The catch is in the fine print: cash is paid in installments of $1 per year for 10 million years….

(13) CALLS X-FILES SCENE “CRINGEY”. File 770 readers may be interested in this thumbnail self-retrospective of Gillian Anderson’s career produced by Vanity Fair. Of particular interest, of course, will be the first segment discussing The X-Files. But one of her other roles covered (as the psychiatrist in Hannibal) is at least genre adjacent. “Gillian Anderson Rewatches The X-Files, Sex Education, Scoop & More”.

(14) SHELL GAMES. Here is a cute stop motion video featuring a crossover of Masters of the Universe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Cora Buhlert, Stephen Granade, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/24 Was Cheops A Very Large Cat? Only The Builders Know

(1) UKRANIAN WOMEN IN SF. Michael Burianyk’s English-language roundtable interview with Ukrainian Science Fiction and Fantasy writers Daria Piskozub, Svitlana Taratorina, Iryna Hrabovska, Natalia Matolinets and Nataliya Dovhopol has just been published in the British Science Fiction Association blog, Vector: “Ukrainian Women in SF: A Roundtable Conversation”. The wide-ranging discussion, on Ukrainian Science Fiction and Fantasy, literature and culture, language and translation, women’s writing, is insightful and often touching and even harrowing at times.

There is a strong trend of more Ukrainian SFF being published. Why did you think this was happening?

Nataliya It’s mainly about escapism. After spending the night in a bomb shelter and doom scrolling all day, one needs something less traumatic. Yet, SFF can also help to cope with feelings, to project one’s own experiences on those in the stories. Then the ban on book imports from Russia and a growing interest in Ukrainian culture has created more of a demand for domestic literature….

(2) HORROR UNIVERSITY OPEN FOR ENROLLMENT. StokerCon has announced the 2024 Horror University Online workshop schedule. From May 30 to June 1, they will present nine live, in-person workshops at StokerCon 2024 in San Diego, CA. See items at the link.

HORROR UNIVERSITY is designed for horror writers interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, exploring new writing formats, or better understanding the genre. These workshops are taught by some of the most experienced voices in horror. Full descriptions and registration information for our STOKERCON 2024 Workshop Schedule is available in the Horror University School on Teachable: https://horror-university.teachable.com/courses/category/stokercon-2024.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN NOW!

Registration for each workshop is $65 for non-HWA-members. HWA members receive a 15% discount on individual courses or a 20% discount on registration for five or more courses. Log into the Members Only area of www.horror.org and check the discounts page for codes. General registration for StokerCon does not include Horror University programming; additional registration is required so that the Con is able to compensate each instructor for their workshop and support the cost of the program.

(3) FIVE FOR YOUR MT TBR. Lisa Tuttle’s roundup of “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror” for the Guardian reviews Calypso by Oliver K. Langmead; Someone You Can Build a Nest In by John Wiswell; The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo; The Underhistory by Kaaron Warren; and The Universe Delivers the Enemy You Need by Adam Marek.

(4) GAY FURRY HACKERS. Them reports“Gay Furry Hacker Group SiegedSec Breached Far-Right Media Outlet Real America’s Voice”.

The gay furry hacker group SiegedSec has done it once again, this time claiming responsibility for leaking the data from a far-right media outlet.

In a Monday post to its Telegram channel, the group announced that it had hacked the app for Real America’s Voice, a right-wing media outlet founded in 2020 that regularly features far-right activists like Steve Bannon and Charlie Kirk. The outlet also frequently platforms conspiracy theories and transphobic rhetoric.

As part of SiegedSec’s ongoing hacktivism campaign OpTransRights, the group said they released the personal information of over 1,200 users on the app, including their full names, phone numbers, and email addresses. The group also said they “went poof on their files,” wiping user data from the app’s API and its cloud storage.

“[T]hroughout our attacks on transphobic entities, we have received concerns that our attacks will be used to label the LGBTQ+ community as ‘terrorists’ and ‘criminals,’” the group wrote in a Telegram message. “[T]he thing is, these types of people will blame the LGBTQ+ community regardless of what we do. they will look for a reason to hate, they won’t listen to reason, they want to spread lies to shun people different than them.”…

(5) COPYRIGHT’S WOBBLY LEGAL LINE. “Author granted copyright over book with AI-generated text—with a twist” reports Ars Technica.

…The novel draws from Shupe’s eventful life, including her advocacy for more inclusive gender recognition. Its registration provides a glimpse of how the [Copyright Office] is grappling with artificial intelligence, especially as more people incorporate AI tools into creative work. It is among the first creative works to receive a copyright for the arrangement [emphasis added] of AI-generated text.

“We’re seeing the Copyright Office struggling with where to draw the line,” intellectual property lawyer Erica Van Loon, a partner at Nixon Peabody, says. Shupe’s case highlights some of the nuances of that struggle—because the approval of her registration comes with a significant caveat.

The USCO’s notice granting Shupe copyright registration of her book does not recognize her as author of the whole text [emphasis added] as is conventional for written works. Instead she is considered the author of the “selection, coordination, and arrangement of text generated by artificial intelligence.” This means no one can copy the book without permission, but the actual sentences and paragraphs themselves are not copyrighted and could theoretically be rearranged and republished as a different book. [emphasis added]

(6) GLASGOW 2024 NEWS. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon “In Memoriam” list is being constantly updated by Steven H Silver. They ask of you know of someone you believe should be included, please let us know.

(7) DUNE MUSICAL AT WORLDCON. Glasgow 2024 also invites members to “Prepare for a unique twist on Frank Herbert’s masterpiece with Dune! The Musical. Solo artist Dan Collins will take you on a whimsical one-hour journey across Arrakis with humour and song.” There will be a performance at the Worldcon.

A memoir in song by the Earl of Caladan, trusted adviser to the Padisha Emperor and beloved troubadour-warrior, the bard Gurney Halleck.

Following the success of his work on “A Child’s History of Muad’Dib” Gurney will perform hits from his back catalogue and introduce never-before-heard songs from his time among the Fremen.

Sing along with little Paul Atreides on his journey to Sietch Tabr; can he tame the worm, save the world and get the girl?

Forget everything you know about Arrakis and get ready for Dune! The Musical…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 85. [By Paul Weimer.] It’s Rankin and Bass’ fault that I got into the work of Peter S. Beagle.  As a voracious young reader, I saw The Last Unicorn in the library and somehow, even given my small “c” catholic tastes in SFF, saw that it was somehow not going to be for me. So I didn’t pick it up. I passed it by.

Fast forward to the mid-1980’s. NYC’s Channel 11, an independent TV station, aka “New York’s movie station”, introduced me to a gigantic swelter of movies.  

One of them, by accident, was the 1982 animated version of The Last Unicorn. I remember not remembering at the time or realizing at the time that it was based on the Beagle novel, but after I was transported and transformed by the adaptation, I went and sought out the original novel.  As fine and charming as the movie is, the novel truly gave me a sense of the power and lyric nature of Beagle’s work.

I was hooked.

Peter S. Beagle

I came across my favorite Beagle, The Innkeeper’s Song, in the mid 90’s. I was in a strong fantasy vein at the time and was interested in a variety of narrative forms. The Innkeeper’s Song, with its multiple first-person narration, was a revelation in escaping the usual multiple third-person points of view that were the norm at the time. Even today, Innkeeper’s Song feels fresh and unique in its approach to narrative, point of view, and literary interest. Even before Gene Wolfe, I think Beagle’s fantasy was my first real immersion into what one might call literary fantasy.

But even more than literary talent or line by line skill, what Beagle’s work does to me, from the Last Unicorn to today, is make me feel. I think his shorter fiction is where the distillation of his skill, craft, mood and the ability to evoke emotion is at its best in the short form.  “Two Hearts”, a sequel to The Last Unicorn, is a particular favorite, because Griffins. His TNG written episode “Sarek” is one of the most moving pieces of Star Trek to this day. And yes, to this day, The Last Unicorn, the movie, brings tears to my eyes.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CLOSING WORDS. GiantFreakinRobot discusses “The Last Essay Ray Bradbury Wrote Before He Died”.

…At points, he describes how his librarian would get upset with him because he’d check out so many books when she didn’t think he’d read them all. But he did, he read every word he could get his hands on. As Bradbury explains, books “are the building blocks, the DNA, if you will, of you.”

Reading fed Ray Bradbury’s appetite for knowledge and his curiosity, which led to his understanding of writing and imagination. He expressed his love for books throughout his work, including, famously, in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, which describes a future world where books and reading is against the law.

Having his last essay be about the art of reading in general is more than a little fitting for Ray Bradbury. It acts as something of a career summation, an explanation for why literature and the act of reading are just so very important for us as humans. There really is no better sendoff for the writer, an inspiration for all us.

(11) BLUEY. Chris Barkley assures me sff fans will want to know this news: “’Bluey’ Drops Surprise New Episode on Disney” at The Hollywood Reporter. I’m guessing Chris knows this show exists because he has kids in his life. When my daughter was young I knew about Blue’s Clues and Mister Rogers Neighborhood in detail. Now kids’ TV is an undiscovered country for me.

… The new episode comes a week after “The Sign,” a special, 28-minute installment of the beloved kids’ show debuted (most Bluey episodes run under 10 minutes). The special drew waves of critical praise for its emotional storyline centering on the Heeler family possibly selling their home and moving to another city where dad Bandit would take a new job, as well as a wedding between the Heelers’ Uncle Rad and Frisky.

Coupled with the preceding episode, “Ghostbasket,” the special spawned widespread speculation that Bluey was ending. While the long-term future of the show, originally commissioned by Australia’s ABC and the BBC in the U.K. hasn’t been decided — “the BBC has asked for me never to talk about the kids’ voices or the future of Bluey,” creator Joe Brumm told The Hollywood Reporter in 2023 — “Surprise” ensures that “The Sign” isn’t the last episode of the series.

Bluey has been a breakout hit for Disney+ in the United States. It’s the most streamed show in the country this year in terms of total viewing time, according to Nielsen’s streaming ratings, after ranking second in 2023 and sixth in 2022….

(12) LESSONS FROM THE UKRAINE. The New York Times asks “Do Tanks Have a Place in 21st-Century Warfare?”

… Despite their power, tanks are not impenetrable, and they are most vulnerable where their heavy plated armor is the thinnest: on the top, the rear engine block and the space between the hull and the turret. For years they were mainly targeted with land mines, improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles, like “shoot and scoot” shoulder-fired systems. These were widely used early in the Ukraine war because they could strike tanks from above and hit them up to 90 percent of the time.

The drones that are now being used against tanks in Ukraine are even more accurate. Known as first-person view drones, or FPVs, they are equipped with a camera that streams real-time images back to their controller, who can direct them to hit tanks in their most vulnerable spots. In several cases, the FPVs have been sent in to “finish off” tanks that had already been damaged by mines or anti-tank missiles so that they could not be retrieved from the battlefield and repaired, Colonel Reisner said.

Depending on their size and technological sophistication, the drones can cost as little as $500 — a paltry investment for taking out a $10 million Abrams tank. And some of them can carry munitions to boost the impact of their blast, said Colonel Reisner. These could be rocket-propelled grenades, he said, or self-forging warheads known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, that were widely used in roadside bombs during the war in Iraq. Colonel Reisner has collected videos of tanks in Ukraine being chased down by the drones or drones flying into their open turrets.

“Welcome to the 21st century — it’s unbelievable, actually,” said Colonel Reisner, a historian and former armor reconnaissance officer who oversees Austrian forces’ training at the Theresian Military Academy….

(13) MILITARY AI. “’Machines set loose to slaughter’: the dangerous rise of military AI” – a 2020 article from the Guardian.

The video is stark. Two menacing men stand next to a white van in a field, holding remote controls. They open the van’s back doors, and the whining sound of quadcopter drones crescendos. They flip a switch, and the drones swarm out like bats from a cave. In a few seconds, we cut to a college classroom. The killer robots flood in through windows and vents. The students scream in terror, trapped inside, as the drones attack with deadly force. The lesson that the film, Slaughterbots, is trying to impart is clear: tiny killer robots are either here or a small technological advance away. Terrorists could easily deploy them. And existing defences are weak or nonexistent.

Some military experts argued that Slaughterbots – which was made by the Future of Life Institute, an organisation researching existential threats to humanity – sensationalised a serious problem, stoking fear where calm reflection was required. But when it comes to the future of war, the line between science fiction and industrial fact is often blurry. The US air force has predicted a future in which “Swat teams will send mechanical insects equipped with video cameras to creep inside a building during a hostage standoff”. One “microsystems collaborative” has already released Octoroach, an “extremely small robot with a camera and radio transmitter that can cover up to 100 metres on the ground”. It is only one of many “biomimetic”, or nature-imitating, weapons that are on the horizon…

(14) NO SIRENS ON TITAN. “Dragonfly: NASA Just Confirmed The Most Exciting Space Mission Of Your Lifetime” enthuses Forbes.

NASA has confirmed that its exciting Dragonfly mission, which will fly a drone-like craft around Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, will cost $3.35 billion and launch in July 2028.

Titan is the only other world in the solar system other than Earth that has weather and liquid on its surface. It has an atmosphere, rain, lakes, oceans, shorelines, valleys, mountain ridges, mesas and dunes—and possibly the building blocks of life itself. It’s been described as both a utopia and as deranged because of its weird chemistry.

Set to reach Titan in 2034, the Dragonfly mission will last for two years once its lander arrives on the surface…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nearly 200,000 views and not even out for two days…. Matt O’Dowd over at PBS Space Time wonders “Why Is The World Rushing Back To The Moon?”

The Moon has been one of the most important theoretical stepping stones to our understanding of the universe. We’ve long understood that it could also be our literal stepping stone: humanity’s first destination beyond our atmosphere.

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