Pixel Scroll 11/1/23 Eat, Pray, Jaunt

(1) 4 YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF book lovers had an hour of delight on BBC Radio 4 last Sunday with two half-hour programmes.

First up there was Open Book that saw a led discussion of a panel of three authors that looked at artificial intelligence (AI) in their work as well as the possible effects of AI on novels writing.

The overall drift – of what was an interesting conversation – was that AI is not developed enough at the current moment to have a significant impact on (commercial) writing/publishing but there is clearly a trajectory and that in a few years time things could well be different..

One point made was that eventually AI writing might possibly induce a revolution in writing with a new type of novel. The panel took this notion further and said it may be that in the future some AI writing will only be able to be appreciated by AI (non-human) readers.

You can listen to the programme here,

Elizabeth Day and Johny Pitts present a special edition of the programme exploring AI and the novel.

Recorded at the London Literary Festival at the Southbank Centre; novelists Naomi Alderman, Adam Thirlwell and Julianne Pachico join Elizabeth and Johny on stage to discuss depictions of AI in their fiction – and what AI might mean for fiction.

Naomi Alderman’s new novel, The Future, is the tale of a daring heist hatched in the hope of saving the world from the tech giants whose greed threatens life as we know it. Adam Thirlwell’s The Future, Future takes us from the salacious gossip of pre-revolutionary Paris to a utopian lunar commune, and Julianne Pachico tells the story of a young girl raised by artificial intelligence in her novel Jungle House.

The second programme was The Exploding Library that in this episode looked at Angela Carter’s Night at the Circus.

“Am I fact or am I fiction?”

So asks the six-foot-something winged woman, Fevvers, the acclaimed aerialiste at the heart of Angela Carter’s epic, Nights at the Circus. It’s a question that has haunted almost every performer who’s stepped onto a stage and seen their ‘real’ self and ‘stage’ selves blur.

Yet a woman with wings with the world at her feet is almost run-of-the-mill in this extravaganza. There’s dancing tigers, murderous clowns, shamanic visions in the Siberian wilderness, and the odd pair of stinky tights.

Labels and genres are flung around – gothic, magical realism, fantasy – but the book, like Angela Carter’s writing in general, evades categorisation at every turn. Twist the kaleidoscope and another vision emerges, twist again and the human condition is re-revealed.

Kiri Pritchard Maclean runs off with the circus to consider the performer underneath the greasepaint, and find out what happens when the performance comes to an end. (Plus chickens).

You can listen to the programme here.

(2) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Two part convention report by Chengdu fan/business owner

(via SF Light Year)

I’m not exactly sure who Huawen is; I think they are a fan who set up an SF-related company/museum/library (?) based in Chengdu.  (Per the website URL listed in the leaflet image listed in the leaflet image, “[their company] was established in 2021 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. It is a media company dedicated to promoting excellent science fiction culture.”  Per the first part of their report, had some involvement in the early days of the Chengdu bid/con organization, but dropped out.  

Part 1Part 2

Extracts from Part 1 of their report, via Google Translate with manual edits.

I was a little afraid of the World Science Fiction Convention.  Previously, I’d only heard about this science fiction convention which has lasted for more than 80 years, from news reports and a few words from friends. There was always a sour grapes mentality of “looking at what other people’s families were doing”.

But now after experiencing it personally, I feel more or less disenchanted. Let me expand upon this first.

First of all, the Worldcon has a long history and many traditions. This is the 81st edition. With 80 previous events, it has accumulated a lot of experiences and traditions. I had never participated in it before, and felt that it would always be a bit of a mystery to me.

And then there’s the scale. Every time, thousands of science fiction fans and practitioners participate, with hundreds of stalls and hundreds of activities. Such a large scale has never been seen before in China.

Then there is the difficulty of organization. The complexity and organizational difficulty increases exponentially with the increase in scale. What’s more, except for a few members of the organizing committee, almost all of them are involved for just a short time. This level of difficulty is simply hellish. Think about it – it’s scary…

I saw from the WeChat official account of the convention that collections related to the history of science fiction were being solicited. I was originally thinking of doing a big presentation, but I succumbed to procrastination.  However, if I rushed to catch up with my preparations, maybe the visual effect could be good? …

In the end, as an exhibitor, I briefly displayed a small collection in two cabinets, and fortunately everyone reported that they had good impressions of it.

Therefore, my main participation in this conference was as an exhibitor, and secondarily as a guest 1, 3, and 5.   [I think this is a reference to the badge numbering, about what access individual attendee types had?]  I constantly switched between the two identities whilst at the con.

Precisely because of the resource-draining nature of being an exhibitor, I was unable to participate in many activities, and was unable to observe the full picture of this convention, which really was a pity.  If I had been able to attend more events, there would definitely be more [in this report]. However, I can summarize my experiences, to learn from [them in the future]

1. The venue is the basic determining factor for almost any event / Unparalleled, beyond imagination, 900 million yuan [approx $123m USD]  can convince people with reason…

The venue and facilities were so good, but my preparations were so unsatisfactory, and I completely underestimated the scale of this conference.

2. The youth trend is obvious, directly reversing the aging trend of the World Science Fiction Convention

I heard a long time ago that the participants at foreign world science fiction conventions are mainly middle-aged and elderly people, with only a small proportion of young people.  This phenomenon is not recent; it has a history of at least more than 20 years.

The same is true from my observations at my table. The foreign science fiction fans who came to the conference are generally older.  I never saw any children or teenagers, and young people in their twenties and thirties were also relatively rare.  [Note: the default Google Translate output says, “…were relatively preferred”, which didn’t make much sense to me.  I’ve taken the liberty of replacing that with something that makes more sense to me.]

By contrast, the clear main participants of this Chengdu Science Fiction Convention are minors, mainly primary school students, followed by junior high school students, and many high school students. Excluding the parents and adults accompanying children, the proportion of adult science fiction fans attending the conference was a long way down – less than one tenth….

I speculate that the average age of all participants this time was most likely no more than 18 years old.  Science fiction makes people young, if I’m honest.

I bet that no subsequent World Science Fiction Convention in the next fifty years will be able to gather such a group of tens of thousands of primary and secondary school science fiction fans – no, a hundred years.

I think foreign science fiction fans will have received a little shock from Chengdu 🙂

3. We ran out of materials and lacked preparations. We really couldn’t squeeze out another drop …

All the books that I planned to sell were sold out on the first or second day.

The three new commemorative medals made for this science fiction convention were almost completely out of ink the next day, and I had to replenish them twice a day. [Note

Not only were there not enough badges, but the 3,000 ribbons prepared for the previous 2,000 people did not last until the end, even with the restriction that “each person could only choose one.”

The only thing that I still had some inventory of, was a leaflet that had 5,000 copies printed.

I have skim read the second post, but haven’t had time or energy to do a similar write-up; it will probably appear in tomorrow’s Scroll.

The Space-Time Painter and the Hugos being used in school work and tests

I spotted these Xiaohongshu posts earlier today (1)(2).  There are other unusual references to this Hugo winner that I’ll include in a future Scroll.

Photos from Shanghai Halloween

These have absolutely nothing to do with the Worldcon, but they came up in my Xiaohongshu default feed late last night, and I thought they might be of mild interest to Filers.  Sorry that there’s no link to the source post, but I was afraid that if I spent too long looking at that post, the algorithmic feed might determine that this is the sort of content that it should continue to show me in future… There’s more in a short Twitter video from the Chinese news site Sixth Tone, and also a three-minute English-language explainer video on YouTube.

(3) MARVEL’S PROBLEMS. “Crisis at Marvel: Jonathan Majors Back-Up Plans, ‘The Marvels’ Reshoots, Reviving Original Avengers and More Issues Revealed” in Variety.

…[E]veryone at Marvel was reeling from a series of disappointments on-screen, a legal scandal involving one of its biggest stars and questions about the viability of the studio’s ambitious strategy to extend the brand beyond movies into streaming. The most pressing issue to be discussed at the retreat was what to do about Jonathan Majors, the actor who had been poised to carry the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but instead is headed to a high-profile trial in New York later this month on domestic violence charges. The actor insists he is the victim, but the damage to his reputation and the chance he could lose the case has forced Marvel to reconsider its plans to center the next phase of its interlocking slate of sequels, spinoffs and series around Majors’ villainous character, Kang the Conqueror.

At the gathering in Palm Springs, executives discussed backup plans, including pivoting to another comic book adversary, like Dr. Doom. But making any shift would carry its own headaches: Majors was already a big presence in the MCU, including as the scene-stealing antagonist in February’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” And he has been positioned as the franchise’s next big thing in this season of “Loki” — particularly in the finale, which airs on Nov. 9 and sets up Kang as the titular star of a fifth “Avengers” film in 2026.

“Marvel is truly fucked with the whole Kang angle,” says one top dealmaker who has seen the final “Loki” episode. “And they haven’t had an opportunity to rewrite until very recently [because of the WGA strike]. But I don’t see a path to how they move forward with him.”

Beyond the bad press for Majors, the brain trust at Marvel is also grappling with the November release of “The Marvels,” a sequel to 2019’s blockbuster “Captain Marvel” that has been plagued with lengthy reshoots and now appears likely to underwhelm at the box office….

(4) MORE LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Some One-Day Special quizzes that Filers might enjoy:

(Xena has gods and sorceresses; Randall Munroe has won a Hugo Award, so I claim that both of these are at least genre-adjacent.)

(5) HWA SUMMER SCARES SPOKESPERSON IS CLAY MCLEOD CHAPMAN. The Horror Writers Association yesterday announced their Summer Scares Reading Program 2024 Spokesperson and Timeline.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, Booklist, and NoveList®, a division of EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO), is proud to announce the fifth annual Summer Scares Reading Program. Summer Scares is a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. It introduces readers and librarians to new authors and helps start conversations extending beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Summer Scares is proud to announce the 2024 spokesperson, author Clay McLeod Chapman:

“To this day, I still have vivid memories of my grandmother escorting six-year-old me through our local library — Go, Bon Air! — and striking a deal: Pick two books, any two books, one for her to read to me and one for me to read to myself. When we both finished our individual reads, we could always come back and pick another pair. I can still list off practically every book I selected — beginning with “Monsters of North America” by William A. Wise — returning to the library to replenish our endless reservoir of reading every week of my childhood. Now I feel as if I’m returning to the library all over again, thanks to Summer Scares, where the deal this time is to pick those books that continue to make an impact on me and share them with as many readers as humanly possible.”

Chapman is joined by a committee of six library workers who, together, will select three recommended fiction titles in each reading level, totaling nine Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries around the world, and ultimately attract more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also make themselves available at public and school libraries.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14, 2024, Library Lover’s Day. Chapman, along with some of the selected authors, will kick off Summer Scares at the 8th Annual HWA Librarians’ Day, Friday, May 31st, during StokerCon® 2024 at the San Diego Mission Bay Marriott….

(6) HOWARD STATEMEN DEATH LEARNED. [Item by Rick Kovalcik.] Howard “Howeird” Statemen (1950-2022) was a past Boskone participant. In response to an email, his sister informed us that Howard passed away last year on October 5, 2022 of an aneurysm. Here’s the link to his memorial presentation on YouTube. He also had a website which may be of interest to some people: Howeird Dot Com at WMP

(7) SHERRIE R. CRONIN (1954-2023). Author Sherrie R. Cronin died October 23 at the age of 68. The SFWA Blog has posted a tribute.

…A geophysicist by trade and extensive traveler by passion, Cronin lived in seven cities and visited forty-six countries, while staying dedicated to her writing. Cronin wrote 13 works within the “46. Ascending” and “The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters” series. Additionally, she was dedicated to writing and blogging about world peace, empathy, and what she called intra-species harmony. She joked that she’d love to tell these stories, stories of peace—or be Chief Scientist Officer—on the Starship Enterprise, and admitted to occasionally checking her phone for a message from Captain Picard. Just in case….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1939 [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning is not from a genre work this time, but from a mystery, that of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. We do cover mysteries here, so I thought I’d look at Chandler and this work.

He turned to writing mysteries relatively late at age forty four after losing his job as oil company exec during the Great Depression. “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, his first story, was published in 1933 in Black Mask, one of many mystery stories he’d write. The Big Sleep, his first novel, followed six years later. 

The Big Sleep would first be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1939. It is based off of two Black Mask stories, “Killer in the Rain” (published in 1935) and “The Curtain” (published in 1936) as Chandler based his novels off previously written material. Well, he said “cannibalised” those stories. 

It would be made into two films, the 1946 film that Leigh Brackett helped write the screenplay and which co-started Humphrey Bogartand Lauren Bacall,  and a 1978 one that’s remembered mostly, well, for Robert Mitchum being at sixty twice as old as the character he playing, Philip Marlowe. Mitchum had previously been an aging Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely, a 1975 release. 

The 1946 film’s 38-year-old Marlowe played by Bogart who was 44 at the time. Why the script aged him by five years is unknown. 

There was a television adaptation starring Zachary Scott, who had done mostly Westerns, as Marlowe, that was broadcast on September 25, 1950. I can’t find any record of it existing now. 

Oh, and none of Chandler’s novels will move into the public domain until 2034, the year the rights to The Big Sleep are set to expire. 

And now our Beginning…

IT WAS ABOUT ELEVEN O’CLOCK in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars. 

The main hallway of the Sternwood place was two stories high. Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. He didn’t seem to be really trying. 

There were French doors at the back of the hall, beyond them a wide sweep of emerald grass to a white garage, in front of which a slim dark young chauffeur in shiny black leggings was dusting a maroon Packard convertible. Beyond the garage were some decorative trees trimmed as carefully as poodle dogs. Beyond them a large green house with a domed roof. Then more trees and beyond everything the solid, uneven, comfortable line of the foothills.

On the east side of the hall a free staircase, tile-paved, rose to a gallery with a wrought-iron railing and another piece of stained-glass romance. Large hard chairs with rounded red plush seats were backed into the vacant spaces of the wall round about. They didn’t look as if anybody had ever sat in them. In the middle of the west wall there was a big empty fireplace with a brass screen in four hinged panels, and over the fireplace a marble mantel with cupids at the corners. Above the mantel there was a large oil portrait, and above the portrait two bullet-torn or moth-eaten cavalry pennants crossed in a glass frame. The portrait was a stiffly posed job of an officer in full regimentals of about the time of the Mexican war. The officer had a neat black Imperial, black mustachios, hot hard coalblack eyes, and the general look of a man it would pay to get along with. I thought this might be General Sternwood’s grandfather. It could hardly be the General himself, even though I had heard he was pretty far gone in years to have a couple of daughters still in the dangerous twenties. 

I was still staring at the hot black eyes when a door opened far back under the stairs. It wasn’t the butler coming back. It was a girl. 

She was twenty or so, small and delicately put together, but she looked durable. She wore pale blue slacks and they looked well on her. She walked as if she were floating. Her hair was a fine tawny wave cut much shorter than the current fashion of pageboy tresses curled in at the bottom. Her eyes were slategray, and had almost no expression when they looked at me. She came over near me and smiled with her mouth and she had little sharp predatory teeth, as white as fresh orange pits and as shiny as porcelain. They glistened between her thin to taut lips. Her face lacked color and didn’t look too healthy.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 1, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen which Terri Windling called “a lost classic” and The Bull Calves but also SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman. She was also a good friend of Tolkien, and was one of the proofreaders of The Lord of the Rings. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 1, 1917 Zenna Henderson. Her first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951. The People series appeared in magazines and anthologies, as well as the stitched-together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh. Other volumes include The People Collection and Ingathering: The Complete People Stories. She was nominated for a Hugo Award at Detention for her “Captivity” novelette. Her story “Pottage” was made into the 1972 ABC-TV movie, The People.  “Hush” became an episode of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside which first aired in 1988. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 1, 1923 Gordon R. Dickson. Writer, Filker, and Fan who was truly one of the best writers of both science fiction and fantasy. It would require a skald to detail his stellar career in any detail. His first published speculative fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic StoriesChilde Cycle, featuring the Dorsai, is his best known series, and the Hoka are certainly his and Poul Anderson’s silliest creation. I’m very fond of his Dragon Knight series, which I think reflects his interest in medieval history.  His works received a multitude of award nominations, and he won Hugo, Nebula, and British Fantasy Awards. In 1975, he was presented the Skylark Award for achievement in imaginative fiction. He was Guest of Honor at dozens of conventions, including the 1984 Worldcon, and he was named to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the Filk Hall of Fame. The Dorsai Irregulars, an invitation-only fan volunteer security group named after his series, was formed at the 1974 Worldcon in response to the theft of some of Kelly Freas’ work the year before, and has provided security at conventions for the last 34 years. (Died 2001.) (JJ)
  • Born November 1, 1923 Dean A. Grennell. Writer, Editor, Firearms Expert, Conrunner, and Fan who edited numerous fanzines including La Banshee and Grue, which was produced sporadically from 1953 to 1979 and was a finalist for the Hugo Award in 1956. He published several short fiction works, and even dabbled in fanzine art. He ran a small U.S. gathering held the same weekend as the 1956 UK Natcon which was called the Eastercon-DAG, and another called Wiscon, which preceded the current convention of that name by more than twenty years. He is responsible for the long-running fannish joke “Crottled Greeps”. (Died 2004.) (JJ)
  • Born November 1, 1942 Michael Fleisher. A writer best known for his work at  DC Comics of the Seventies and Eighties, particularly for the Spectre and Jonah Hex. He wrote Hex for over a dozen years, both as an Old West and a SF character. Fleisher wrote three volumes of The Encyclopedia of Comic Books Heroes, doing some research on-site at DC Comics. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 1, 1959 Susanna Clarke, 64. Author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I think wins my award for the most-footnoted work in genre literature. It won a World Fantasy, Nebula, Mythopoeic and of course a Hugo Award, that being at Interaction. It was adapted into a BBC series, most likely without the footnotes. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works and is splendid indeed with artwork by Charles Vess. Her Piranesi novel as nominated for a Hugo at Discon III, the year that Martha Wells Network Effect got it.

(10) HWA INDIGENOUS HERITAGE MONTH. “Un-Settling Horrortellers: Introduction to Indigenous Heritage Month 2023” by Shane Hawk kicks off another Horror Writers Association blog series.

…The HWA has put great effort into recognizing the need for diversifying Horror and the association itself over the last few years. It’s been so wonderful to see. Owl Goingback has earned the Lifetime Achievement Award and won two Stokers, Jewelle Gomez also has earned a Lifetime Achievement Award, Stephen Graham Jones has won four Stokers, and the HWA has highlighted Indigenous writers just outside of the Horror genre like Daniel H. Wilson, Darcie Little Badger, and Tim Tingle.

Indigenous Horror is a small space to spill blood on the ground, smell the organ meat slopping out of the clawed-open abdomen, but it is growing at a nice pace. My main mission with Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology was to increase that small percentage and rid ourselves of that pesky “less-than” mathematical symbol when it came to describing Indigenous market share of genre works. The anthology has only been out for six weeks, but its status as an international bestseller since its first week (and every week since) has proven that there is an absolute hunger for Indigenous Horror and dark fiction. Over are the days of the non-Native genre writer killing us off after we help the white folks understand the monster’s weaknesses, exploiting our religions, our traumas, our cultures, our “esoteric” folklore. Also, the days wherein Holt McCallany of Mindhunter fame sported brownface to become Navajo in Creepshow 2 are over (“What the hell was that?” all the Natives asked in unison). Like I wrote in the original proposal sent to Penguin Random House: Now it’s our turn. (Or like Barkhad Abdi sternly told Tom Hanks in that one Boat Movie, “We’re da captain now…”

(11) OFF TO THE RACES. Mark Hamill helps plug the “Star Wars scheme for Bubba Wallace at Phoenix”.

Bubba Wallace will run a special Star Wars X-wing fighter scheme on his No. 23 Toyota this weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.

The scheme is inspired by Columbia Sportswear’s Star Wars collection.

(12) WILEY POST’S EERIE PRESSURE SUIT. The National Air and Space Museum’s podcast AirSpace devotes its latest episode “Jetstream” to an item of history-making pilot wear.

No, this isn’t a spooky Halloween costume. It’s one of the earliest pressure suits.

In the 1930s, aviation icon Wiley Post reached the stratosphere for the first time in his Lockheed Vega Winnie Mae. The aircraft didn’t have a pressurized cabin, so he wore a pressure suit and helmet designed for him by the B.F. Goodrich Company. 

***

We get it—the early days of aviation were full of outlandish characters, and it can be a little exhausting. But trust us on this one—it’ll be worth it. Wiley Post was an oil-worker and armed robber-turned-record breaking pilot who discovered the jet stream while wearing a sweet eye-patch and a suit straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (it was a lewk). That should be enough but wait! There’s more! That steampunk getup, which Wiley designed and built with tire company BF Goodrich, was the very first successful pressure suit. And it did more than unlock the stratosphere, it laid the groundwork for the first spacesuits—and modern spacesuits aren’t much different. This tall tale keeps getting higher, but again—trust us (we’ve got the suit!). Special thanks to Tested’s Adam Savage, whose answer for “history’s most important spacesuit” was both unexpected and absolutely on the mark.

(13) ROBOBOOKS ON THE WAY. According to Publishers Weekly, “Kindle Direct Publishing Will Beta Test Virtual Voice–Narrated Audiobooks”.

In a post today in the Kindle Direct Publishing community forum, the self-publishing giant announced that it has begun a beta test on technology allowing KDP authors to produce audiobook versions of their e-books using virtual voice narration. The ability to create an audiobook using synthetic speech technology is likely to result in a boom in the number of audiobooks produced by KDP authors. According to an Amazon spokesperson, currently only 4% of titles self-published through KDP have an audiobook available.

Under the new initiativeauthors can choose one of their eligible e-books already on the KDP platform, then sample voices, preview the work, and customize the audiobook. After publication, audiobooks will be live within 72 hours, and will distributed wherever Audible titles are sold. Prices can be set between $3.99 and $14.99 and authors will receive a 40% royalty. All audiobooks created by virtual voice, the post says, will be clearly labeled and, as with any audiobook, customers can listen to samples….

(14) A FRIGHTENING COINCIDENCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at the Media Death Cult YouTube Channel has a short, 10-minute video on “The History Of Science Fiction Horror”. Funny that this should come out Halloween week. Spooky or what?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Disney+ Shares ‘LEGO Marvel Avengers: Code Red’ Poster”Animation World Network has the story and a gallery of images from the production.

…In the special, the Avengers assemble to save New York City from the threat of the Red Skull and his Hydra forces. Amid the battle, the Avengers are unexpectedly joined by Black Widow’s father, Red Guardian, which doesn’t go over well with Natasha. 

In the show, after an argument with his daughter about his well-intentioned helicopter parenting, Red Guardian disappears under mysterious circumstances. As Black Widow and the Avengers investigate, they discover that the villainous Collector is kidnapping every character who has “red” in their name. But despite their best efforts, the Avengers are unable to stop the Collector from kidnapping his next victim, their friend Red She-Hulk….

Here’s the trailer:

[Thanks to Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, David Goldfarb, JeffWarner, Rick Kovalcik, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/12/23 My Pixel Threw Out All My Old Scrolls And All That’s Left Is This Godstalk

(1) HELL OF A STORY. Jennifer McMahon discusses nine books where “The Devil Made Me Do It” at CrimeReads.

…I was a child of the late seventies. I grew up watching The Exorcist, The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby. Movies that taught me the nature of true evil and terror. While movies were the gateway to this terrifying genre, books go to deeper and darker places still. So light a candle, get out your crucifix, cast a ring of salt around your favorite reading chair and settle in….

One of McMahon’s selections is:

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

This is a multi-layered literary horror novel that pays homage to the exorcism story genre and explores big questions about possession, mental illness and reality TV. The story follows Merry, at 23, sharing her recollections about her childhood with an author. When she was 8 and her sister Marjorie was 14, Marjorie… changed.  Their parents were split on whether this was a mental health crisis, or the work of the devil. A local priest became involved, and soon, their family became the center of a reality show called The Possession. Was Marjorie actually possessed? Get sucked into this spellbinding story and see what you believe.

(2) THIS MAKES ME THINK OF SNL’S DAVID L. PUMPKINS SKETCH. “Madame Tussauds and the InterContinental New York Times Square host spooky overnight stays in NYC”TimeOut says it will cost a mere $4K!

This might be the scariest Halloween-themed experience out there at the moment: Madame Tussauds and the InterContinetal in Times Square are offerings folks with a flair for the spooky the chance to stay in a room reminiscent of some of the most petrifying movies in history on the nights of Friday, October 13 and Tuesday, October 31.

The chilling experience for two will cost around $4,000 plus taxes—a hefty price for what will likely be a sleepless night but, alas, some of us just can’t enough of the whole sinister vibe. 

Guests will start off enjoying a three-course dinner and drinks menu delivered by the hotel’s room service staff and inspired by four popular movies: The ExorcistThe Nun, Annabelle and IT. …

…The room you’ll actually sleep in will be an eerie one, decorated like a subway station, yet complete with a fully stocked mini bar (clearly, you’ll need to drink to get through this all)….

(3) SURVIVORS. “’Scavengers Reign’ Official Trailer Released”GlobalGrind is on top of the story.

This week (October 11), Max released the official trailer for its new adult animated series Scavengers Reign. Click inside to check it out!

In Scavengers Reign, the brainchild of visionary creators Joe Bennett and Charles Huettner, the remaining crew of a damaged interstellar freighter ship find themselves stranded on a beautiful yet unforgiving alien planet – where they must survive long enough to escape or be rescued. But as the survivors struggle to locate their downed ship and missing crew mates, their new home reveals a hostile world allowed to thrive without human interference. Featuring lush, visually stunning animation, Scavengers Reign presents a wholly unique view of the consequences of unchecked hubris and humanity’s eternal desire to conquer the unknown….

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Students from nearby school post English language video about the event

This is a nice two minute video where some students from the Hua’ai school just across the lake from the Science Museum talk in English about the event, and some of the related activities they are taking part in.

(I’ve attached 4 PNG screengrabs, filenames prefixed school)

8 Light Minutes Culture: book launches, ribbons, Aldiss and Lukyanenko stamps, and more

An incomplete summary of this mp.weixin.com post:

  • CG render of their booth
  • Launch of volumes 2 and 3 of Chinese SF: An Oral History
  • Limited edition of the Sawyer/Lukyanenko/Liu anthology
  • “The Songs of Space Engineers” hard SF anthology edited by Cixin Liu
  • Pick up a luminous bracelet from their booth
  • Get your books stamped by Brian Aldiss and Sergey Lukyanenko stamps
  • 18-different ribbons; different ones to be available each day from (I think) two different booths.  NB: 8LM has the Chinese licence for Doctor Who books, so the DW ribbons are presumably official merch

Video of official “Kormo” figure

I think this toy was covered along with other merchandise in a previous Scroll; there’s now an unboxing video of what looks like the finished item.

Kaiju Preservation Society, Ray Bradbury and The Culture ribbons and merchandise

Xinxing Publishing House are launching three limited edition sets of merchandise at the con, this Xiaohongshu post says that information about buying them online will come later, although whether that includes international purchases remains to be seen.

  • Kaiju Preservation Society canvas bags
  • Culture “Gravitas” bags  (Google Translate calls these “laser bags”; they seem to have some sort of foil/metallic effect?)
  • There are also ribbons for KPS, The Culture and Ray Bradbury

Secondary market tickets being advertised

I’ve no idea how widespread or successful these are, but here’s a Xiaohongshu user posting a screengrab from some other app/site showing a Chengdu resident advertising a single day “youth” (age 13-25) ticket for Saturday  21st for 500 yuan.  For reference: the sale price for the 5-day youth tickets was 200 yuan, and the individual youth day tickets that were sold more recently were 78 yuan.

Per Google Translate (with minor manual edits) the original ad states:

Youth tickets for the Chengdu Science Fiction Convention on the 21st are available at a premium price.  If you are interested in tickets click [the button] and chat with me privately.

The footer text notes:

There are risks in concert products, please follow the transaction process and do not trade outside the site.

(5) OCTOTHORPE PODCAST. Octothorpe 94 “Satisfying Meat” is now up. Listen here.

John Coxon is eating cinnamon rolls, Alison Scott doesn’t think it’s funny, and Liz Batty has two lists. We discuss the Best Novel finalists for the Hugo Awards. Art by the very lovely Sue Mason.  

John is in the bottom-left, sitting in a chair, wearing a blue shirt and purple trousers, holding a can, and reading an ebook. Alison is in the upper-middle, lying down upside down, wearing a purple shirt and stripy trousers, and reading an ebook. Liz is in the bottom-right, wearing a pink shirt with green trousers, holding a mug of a hot beverage, and reading a physical book. They are surrounded by floating beer bottles, books, the Moon, a mug with a moose on it, and two cats. The word “Octothorpe” appears in scattered letters around the artwork, against a pinky-purple background.

(6) ROYAL ARTIST. The New York Times tells “How the Queen of Denmark Shaped the Look of Netflix’s ‘Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction’”.

…Around the time the princess turned 30 — and after she had earned a diploma in prehistoric archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and had studied at Aarhus University in Denmark, the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics — she read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” It inspired her to start drawing again.

Not long after, upon her father’s death in 1972, the princess was crowned as queen: Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, to be specific.

Margrethe, now 83, celebrated 50 years on the throne in 2022. But in assuming the role of queen, she did not abandon her artistic passions. As a monarch she has taken lessons in certain media, has taught herself others and has been asked to bring her eye to projects produced by the Royal Danish Ballet and Tivoli, the world’s oldest amusement park, in Copenhagen.

Her paintings have been shown at museums, including in a recent exhibition at the Musée Henri-Martin in Cahors, France. And her illustrations have been adapted into artwork for a Danish translation of “The Lord of the Rings.” (They were published under the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer, and the book’s publisher approached her about using them after she sent copies to Tolkien as fan mail in 1970.)

Margrethe recently notched another creative accomplishment: serving as the costume and production designer for “Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction,” a feature film that debuted on Netflix in September and has wardrobes and sets based on her drawings and other artworks.

The film is an adaptation of the fairy tale “Ehrengard” by Karen Blixen, a Danish baroness who published under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Set in a fictional kingdom, the story is loosely about a woman named Ehrengard who becomes a lady-in-waiting and foils a royal court painter’s plot to woo her.

(7) IT’S ALL GREEK TO THEM. “Of Snakes and Men: ‘Krapopolis’ Monstrous Transformations”: Animation World Network takes a look (and doesn’t turn to stone.)

While most people find solace in reading fiction novels, Pete Michels gets his kicks from history and archeology books. So, when Dan Harmon, who Michels had worked with previously on Rick and Morty, reached out with a proposal for a parody series on Greek mythology, Michels jumped at the opportunity… 

…In the series, Ayoade voices Tyrannis, the mortal son of a goddess and benevolent King of Krapopolis, who tries to make do in a city that lives up to its name. Waddingham plays Deliria, Tyrannis’ mother, goddess of self-destruction and questionable choices. Deliria is as petty as she is powerful, and only seems interested in defending civilization if it means she’ll get more worshipers out of it than her frenemies up on Mt. Olympus. Berry is Shlub, Tyrannis’ father, a mantitaur (half centaur [horse + human], half manticore [lion + human + scorpion]). He’s the self-described “life of the orgy,” and a true pleasure seeker. Murphy voices Stupendous, Tyrannis’ half-sister, daughter of Deliria and a cyclops. Trussell plays Hippocampus, Tyrannis’ half-brother, offspring of Shlub and a mermaid, and a hot mess, biologically speaking….

(8) PULPFEST. “2023 PulpFest Convention Report, by Martin Walker” at Mystery File.

…This year, though, Walker [Martin] did attend but managed to catch Covid while there, and while he’s doing much better now, it took him a while to recover, and he never did manage to write up a report. As you may have surmised, “Martin Walker,” whose report follows, is a pseudonym, but I can guarantee the facts he relates are 100% accurate. Bill Lampkin, whose photos I used is real, however, and I thank both him and our anonymous reporter for this year’s annual PulpFest report, at last!

Here’s a snippet from the report:

…There was more buying and selling on Friday, August 4. Competing for attendees’ attention were a couple of afternoon presentations. Chris Carey and Win Scott Eckert discussed “Doc Savage — The Man and Myth of Bronze.” Part of PulpFest’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of “The Man of Bronze,” it was also this year’s FarmerCon presentation. Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention that began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Philip José Farmer….

(9) AUDIO ALARM. “Spotify’s new audiobook streaming could have ‘devastating effect’, says Society of Authors” – the Guardian has the story.

The Society of Authors (SoA) has said it is “deeply concerned” about Spotify’s new audiobook provision. The industry body cited “the devastating effect that music streaming has had on artists’ incomes”, and expressed its fear that authors may suffer in a similar way.

“The streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales and is even more damaging than music streaming because books are typically only read once, while music is often streamed many times,” a statement from the SoA read.

At the beginning of October, the Bookseller reported that “all of the major book publishers” had agreed limited streaming deals with Spotify. Since 4 October, Spotify Premium subscribers in the UK and Australia have been able to access to up to 15 hours of audiobook content per month, from a catalogue of more than 150,000 titles.

“As far as we are aware, no authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licences, and authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms,” the SoA said. “Publishing contracts differ but in our view most licences given to publishers for licensing of audio do not include streaming. In fact, it is likely that streaming was not a use that had been invented when many such contracts were entered into.”…

(10) KEITH GIFFEN (1952-2023). Keith Giffen, whose 47 years in the comics business were heavily SF-themed, died  October 9 at the age of 70. The veteran writer and artist’s work included DC’s Lobo and the Jamie Reyes version of the Blue Beetle and Marvel’s Rocket Raccoon. The full details of his career are in his Wikipedia entry.

(11) PHYLLIS COATES (1927-2023) Phyllis Coates, known as TV’s first Lois Lane, died October 11 reports Deadline.

Phyllis Coates, who became television’s first Lois Lane when she was cast in the classic Adventures of Superman series starring George Reeves, died yesterday of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. She was 96.

In 1951, Coates was invited to audition for the role of Lois Lane in the low-budget feature film Superman and the Mole Men. Starring Reeves as Superman, the film was a de facto TV pilot, and by the end of the year both Reeves and Coates were asked to join the upcoming TV series.

Coates stayed with the series for only one season – 1952-53… Until her death, Coates was the last surviving regular cast member of the classic superhero series.

Though best remembered for Superman, Coates would build an extensive roster of TV and film credits in a career that lasted well into the 1990s. She appeared in the now-classic monster movie I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and … later, one 1994 episode of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, in which she played the mother of Teri Hatcher’s Lois Lane.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Mystic. Charlatan possibly. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he later turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1956 Storm Constantine. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (Died 2021.)
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 58. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine, but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1966 Sandra McDonald, 57. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse.  Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. 

(13) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos of last night’s Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with David D. Levin and Matthew Kressel.

(14) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dine on oxtail stew with Lauren Beukes in Episode 209 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lauren Beukes

At this year’s Readercon, my first guest of the weekend was Lauren Beukes, who I first met at the very start of her novel publishing career — at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, where Angry Robot Books held a launch party which included Moxyland. That party also debuted the first novel of previous guest of the podcast Kaaron Warren, who was launching her own book Slights.

In addition to Moxyland, Beukes is also the author of the novels Zoo City (winner of the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award), The Shining GirlsBroken MonstersAfterland, and her newest novel, BridgeThe Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer and the survivor who turns the hunt around is currently an Apple TV+ series with Elisabeth Moss. She’s also the author of the short story collection, Slipping, plus a pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past.

Beukes has worked also in worked in film and TV, as the director of Glitterboys & Ganglands, a documentary which won Best LGBTI Film at the Atlanta Black Film Festival, and as showrunner and head writer on South Africa’s first half hour animated TV show, Pax Afrika, which ran for 104 episodes on SABC. Her comics work includes the original horror series, Survivors’ Club with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly, and the New York Times best-selling Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom, a Japanese horror remix of Rapunzel with artist Inaki, as well as “The Trouble With Cats,” a Wonder Woman short set in Soweto with Mike Maihack.

We discussed why the genre community is like a giant amoeba, how her choice of D&D character is in perfect sync with the way she writes, the reason she only recently realized she has ADHD (and why her new novel Bridge is definitely an ADHD book), why AI can never replace writers, the ways in which the protagonist of her new novel is different from all her other protagonists, the importance of authenticity readers, why acquiring editors at publishing companies are like restaurant critics, the importance of art in helping us find our way through the darkness, the reason you shouldn’t be so hard on your younger self, how she uses the Tarot to get unstuck, and much, much more.

(15) PLANT EXTINCTION RISK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 45% of all flowering species of plant are at risk of extinction, is just one of the sobering statistics in the Royal Botanic Gardens latest State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023 reportThe fifth edition of State of the World’s Plants and Fungi, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), focuses on the latest knowledge on the diversity and geographical distribution of plants and fungi.

Now, for the first time, scientists have used models to predict the extinction risk of every flowering plant species and identify the uncertainty level of each prediction. The report looks back at all the plant species known to us and there threat of extinction classification. Further, it looked at when each species was discovered and its extinction threat. The researchers found that the earlier a species had been discovered, the lower its extinction threat: recently discovered species were more at risk. Extrapolating this into yet-to-be-discovered species, the conclusion is that these would be even more prone to extinction. The report says that there are 77% undescribed plant species are likely threatened with extinction. And there are many species yet to be discovered. Taking flowering plants alone, the report estimates that potentially tens of thousands of flowering plant species have yet to be scientifically named.

Since 2015, a project to have all tree species assessed for the IUCN (the UN’s International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List, has so far found that 31% of tree species are at risk of extinction. And this does not include tree species yet to be discovered for whom the extinction risk is higher.

But there are notable black holes in the data. Given the history of fungal species discovery, it is estimated that 92% and 95% of fungi have yet to be scientifically described. Since the beginning of 2020, more than 10,200 fungal species have been described as new to science.  (See Antonelli, A. et al (2023) State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2023. Royal Botanic Gardens: Kew, Middlesex, Great Britain.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Orphan Black: Echoes Teaser Trailer”.

#OrphanBlackEchoes, starring Krysten Ritter and Keeley Hawes, premieres in 2024 on AMC, BBC America, and AMC+.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge Scott Edelman, John Coxon, Danny Sichel, Ellen Datlow, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Ersatz Culture  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/7/23 For All Fankind

(1) WAYS IN WHICH PRATCHETT IS STILL WITH US. Sam Jordison discusses “Pratchett power: from lost stories to new adaptations, how the late Discworld author lives on” in the Guardian.

“Of all the dead authors in the world, Terry Pratchett is the most alive,” said John Lloyd at the author’s memorial in 2015. This sentiment remains as true now, 40 years after the publication of Pratchett’s first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic. The anniversary has been commemorated in a set of illustrated Royal Mail stamps. There’s been a show dedicated to Pratchett at the Edinburgh fringe. A Kickstarter for a graphic novel adaptation of Good Omens, the book he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman, became the number one comics campaign in Kickstarter history, bringing in more than £2.4m; a second series of the TV adaptation was also released.

All this would make 2023 an impressive year by any writer’s standards – but happened in the month of August alone. The big event comes this month, with the publication of A Stroke of the Pen, a collection of rediscovered early stories. This past year also brought an animated adaptation of Pratchett’s children’s novel The Amazing Maurice, and a new set of Discworld audiobooks….

Naturally, the best paragraphs are the ones that quote Pratchett:

…Not that Pratchett was universally disparaged: the critics who actually read his books tended to like them. When AS Byatt reviewed Thief of Time, she said it deserved to win the Booker prize. Of course, Pratchett never got a look in. “Thank goodness,” he said, “because I think my earnings would have gone down considerably if I suddenly got literary credibility.” He also joked that when he was given an OBE for services to literature, those services “consisted of refraining from trying to write any”…

(2) BEARS DISCOVER TYPING. Margaret Grebowicz traces “Terry Bisson’s History of the Future” in The New Yorker.

… In 1969, Bisson quit writing for a decade and left New York for “hippie commune” work in the South and Southwest. He met his wife, Judy Jensen, in a commune, and they became involved in the May 19th Communist Organization, a group created by former members of the Weather Underground. In 1975, the couple moved back to New York to organize for May 19th, and Bisson worked as an auto mechanic in taxi garages and a copywriter. He sold his first science-fiction novel, “Wylrdmaker,” to the publisher David Hartwell in 1981, for fifteen hundred dollars. The novel was pulp: it told the story of Kemen of Pastryn, a satirical futuristic version of Conan the Barbarian. It wasn’t the book Bisson wanted to write, he told me, but “it was the smartest thing I ever did. That’s when I discovered you didn’t have to be fucking Hemingway or Fitzgerald to write a novel.” His second novel, “The Talking Man,” was more of a passion project—it was a fantasy novel set in the rural South, with junkyards instead of castles. “There was a sense of science fiction as a very urban literature and the future as a very urban place,” the writer Karen Joy Fowler told me. “Terry’s perspective was more land-based, regional, and populist.”

If May 19th had asked him to do anything risky, Bisson would have. But he was always suspected of being a “petit-bourgeois intellectual” and thus was kept on the sidelines. In 1985, he was subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury, to identify friends who had gone into hiding, and who were suspected for bombings at the Capitol and three military bases nearby. He refused to comply, and spent three months in prison—a short stint, he notes, compared with those of his friends. There, Bisson started his third novel, “Fire on The Mountain,” an alternative history in which the abolitionist John Brown’s revolt at Harper’s Ferry succeeded. When it was published, in 1988, Bisson dedicated the book to Kuwasi Balagoon and the Black Liberation Army….

(3) THE 1440 MINUTE HATE. Sandra Newman, author of 1984 turnabout Julia, tells “What I learned about today’s rage culture from rewriting 1984” in the Guardian.

…Nowadays, the language of Nineteen Eighty-Four is used by rightwingers to indict “wokeism”. Any new coinage from the left is called “Newspeak”; any attempt to acknowledge moral ambiguity is dismissed as “doublethink”. With the single word “Orwellian”, a college’s overreaching speech policy, for example, is framed as an existential threat to the free world. But Nineteen Eighty-Four wasn’t a warning against a university’s inclusivity statement. It was a warning about men like Trump and Putin and the violent mass movements they inspire….

… When my Nineteen Eighty-Four book was announced, described as a “feminist retelling”, I was treated to a personal experience of how far things had gone. The news attracted a storm of misogynist and antisemitic abuse in rightwing tweets, blogs, YouTube videos, even newspaper articles. This was long before the novel was available to be read – before I’d barely written a few chapters. Still, all the attackers were sure what would be in it: a full-throated endorsement of Big Brother. …

(4) OHAYOCON MELTDOWN. Nerd & Tie is following the controvery between the owner and volunteers of a commercial sff con: “Ohayocon Senior Leadership and Volunteers on Strike After Removal of Con Chair Cody Marcum [Updated 10/6]”. A long post at the link.

…From what we’ve been able to gather, it appears that a group of Ohayocon staffers and volunteers had formed an informal union called Convention of Ohio Volunteer Network (COVEN) and presented a document of demands to Phelps and other members of the board of Cultural Exchange Society, Inc on March 4th, 2023. You can read a full version of that document here. …

Update 10/6/2023 (8:50pm CDT): Ohayocon has put out a statement regarding the current situation which is, frankly, confusing. In the statement, Ohayocon says “Contrary to misinformation swirling online, NO volunteers or members of the Senior Leadership Team have been fired from Ohayocon…” which is at odds with Phelp’s repeated, explicit statements that the con chair and marketing head had been fired….

(5) SMALL WONDERS 4. Co-editors Cislyn Smith and Stephen Granade are proud to bring a mix of flash fiction and poetry for the spooky month in Small Wonders Issue 4, now available on virtual newsstands here. Subscriptions are available at the magazine’s store and on Patreon.

The Issue 4 Table of Contents and release dates on the Small Wonders website:

  • Cover Art: “Rebuilding” by Carrie Alyson
  • “Katya’s Microscope” (fiction) by Monica Joyce Evans (2 Oct)
  • “Five Easy Hairstyles for Snake-Haired Girls” (poem) by Jelena Dunato (4 Oct)
  • “Granny’s Spider” (fiction) by Wen Wen Yang (6 Oct)
  • “On the bare unwelcoming shore” (fiction) by Zohar Jacobs (9 Oct)
  • “Drunken Supernova” (poem) by Keira Perkins (11 Oct)
  • “Faith That Builds Worlds” (fiction) by Eric A. Clayton (16 Oct)
  • “If We Live to Be Giants” (fiction) by Allison Mulder (13 Oct)
  • “Sever” (poem) by Lora Gray (18 Oct)
  • “Five Functions of Your Bionosaur” (fiction) by Rachael K. Jones (20 Oct)

(6) GOAL: DISRUPTION. “Spotify Gave Subscribers Music and Podcasts. Next: Audiobooks.” – in the New York Times.

Four years ago, Spotify’s business was stagnating. Apple had overtaken it as the top paid music service in the United States, losses were mounting and customer growth was slowing.

Daniel Ek, the company’s chief executive, decided that Spotify needed to transform from a music service into the everything store for audio. The first missing piece was podcasts, a business that has helped boost ad sales.

Now Mr. Ek has set his sights on another rapidly growing medium: audiobooks.

On Tuesday, Spotify said that it would begin offering 15 hours of audiobooks each month as part of its streaming service for premium subscribers in Britain and Australia. This winter, it will expand the offering to subscribers in the United States.

Spotify’s expansion into books has the potential to shake up the retail landscape for audiobooks, a fast-growing segment of publishing that has long been dominated by the Amazon-owned audio retailer Audible.

(7) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Single day tickets now available

Announcement on Weibo ; Chinese-language announcement on the official site ; Damai.cn sales page . There is no corresponding English-language item on the official site, and I don’t think there were FB or Twitter posts either.

Just over two weeks after attending tickets/memberships for the con were halted without notice, the promised single day tickets have finally gone on sale.  Key points:

  • Adult (over-25) tickets are 128 yuan per day (around $18 USD)
  • “Teenager” (13-25) tickets are 78 yuan per day (around $11 USD)
  • For reference, the original 5-day ticket prices were 320 and 200 yuan ($44 and $28 USD) respectively
  • Tickets are only available for Thursday 19th through Sunday 22nd, i.e. not the opening day
  • Ticket sales will close at the end of Saturday 14th (presumably Beijing-time, but this isn’t explicitly stated)

Translations of some of the reply comments on the Weibo post reflect the above:

  • I bought three single-day tickets, which are more expensive than the pass, and I can’t participate in the lottery
  • Why is there no 18-day single-day ticket opening ceremony at 8pm。This day is a variety of activities, and by then there will be almost no one during the day。

Chengdu magazine cover feature on the Worldcon and SF generally –  https://weibo.com/1615055180/NmLaY6rLI

File 770 contributor Feng Zhang posted photos of the October issue of Chengdu Culture/Tianfu Culture, in which the Worldcon is a cover feature, and in which he is interviewed.

A couple of Xiaohongshu posts about the interior decor

  • The Wandering Earth 2 exhibit has progressed a bit since the video included in a Scroll a couple of days ago.  http://xhslink.com/KAbNfv  (I’ve attached the image, as there’s not much else to that post)
  • A company making large lamps seems to be making replicas of the planets to be displayed at the con. http://xhslink.com/739Mfv  The text of the post refers to “10 major planets”, so maybe Pluto-diehards will be in luck?

(8) CAN’T SLIP ONE BY HIM. A scholar suspects the language of Watership Down is spreading to English. “Lapine Lingo in American English: Silflay”.  

Lapine Lingo in American English: Silflay; Author(s): Thomas E. Murray; Source: American Speech , Winter, 1985, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Winter, 1985), pp. 372-375; Published by: Duke University Press

“The general conclusion concerning silflay and its infiltration into American speech, then, is clear: whereas the Russians may or may not be coming, the rabbits have definitely already come and gone, and in their short stay have left a significant linguistic imprint on a sizable portion of the American population. As for the future of silflay, I think it may warrant further attention. Will its popularity die a slow and inconsequential death, as is the case with so many nonce creations, or will it spread, either geo-graphically or socioeconomically, to other English-speaking peoples?  Moreover, what of the other terms that Adams created (over forty are listed in the Glossary at the end of the novel)? Will one or more of them charm some innocent lover of bunnies into increasing his or her vocabulary and thus propagating other aspects of the lapine lingo? Perhaps not, but given the current, unexpected popularity of silflay, the entire rabbit language phenomenon certainly bears watching.”

(9) NM-AZ BOOK AWARD WINNERS. The New Mexico Book Co-op has announced the 2023 winners of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.

The winner in the Sci-Fi category is Avery Christy for Mountain Knight.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 7, 1938 Jane Gallion (Ellern). Writer, Poet, and Fan who was one of the members of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society subgroup The Blackguards, which hosted many parties and tournaments. She edited the fanzines Karuna, and Topaze (etc.), contributed to many other fanzines over the years, and was known for her three post-apocalyptic novels which were very early examples of feminist works involving explicit sex. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 7, 1942 Lee Gold, 81. She’s a member of LAFA and a writer and editor in the role-playing game and filk music communities. She published Xenofilkia, a bi-monthly compilation of filk songs which has been published since 1988, four issues of the Filker Up anthology; and has published for forty-four years, Alarums and Excursions, a monthly gaming zine. She’s edited more fanzines than I care to list here, and is a member of the Filk Hall of Fame along with Barry Gold, her husband. 
  • Born October 7, 1945 Hal Colebatch. Lawyer, Journalist, Editor, and Writer from Australia who has written, singly or in collaboration, two novels and at least two dozen shorter pieces set in Larry Niven’s The Man-Kzin Wars series. However, his main body of work is non-genre, including six books of poetry, short stories, and radio dramas and adaptations. His non-fiction books include social commentary, biography and history, and he has published many hundreds of articles and reviews in various news and critical venues. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 7, 1946 Chris Foss, 79. UK Illustrator known for the Seventies UK paperback covers for Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series among many that he did. He also did design work for the Jodorowsky version of Dune. Alien has his Spaceship design, and he did redesign of Gordon’s rocket cycle for the 1980 Flash Gordon film. 
  • Born October 7, 1947 John Brosnan. Australian writer who died way too young of acute pancreatitis. He used at least seven pseudonyms, and wrote scripts for a number of what I’ll generously call horror films including one I know that somehow I saw — Carnosaur.  If you like your SF with a larger dose of pulp, his Sky Lords trilogy (The Sky LordsThe War of the Sky Lords and The Fall of the Sky Lords) is damn good. Airships, airships! (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 7, 1950 Howard Chaykin, 73. Comic book artist and writer. His first major work was for DC Comics, drawing “The Price of Pain” which was an adaptation of author Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword of Sorcery #1. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk and Iron-Man for Marvel (to name but two series) but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg! series.
  • Born October 7, 1956 Rick Foss, 67. Historian, Writer, Food Connoisseur, Conrunner, and Fan who has had around a dozen short fiction works published, mostly in Analog, some of which are in his Probability Zero universe. He is also a food writer, maintains a blog of interesting and little-known stories about food and cooking, has published the book Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies about the history of airline food, and has had occasional food-related contributions on File 770. He is a member of LASFS and SCIFI, has worked many Loscons and other conventions, and chaired Loscon Sixteen in 1990. Along with his twin brother Wolf Foss, he was Fan Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at Windycon 19 in 1992.
  • Born October 7, 1959 Steven Erikson, 64. He’s definitely most known for his Malazan Book of the Fallen series, which began with the publication of Gardens of the Moon and was completed with the publication of The Crippled God, ten novels later. Though I’ve not read it, and didn’t know it existed until now, he’s written the Willful Child trilogy, a spoof on Star Trek and other tropes common in the genre. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville livestreams a generation clash.
  • Candorville finds a reason to be grumpy about the Updated Drake Equation.

(12) FOR ALL MANKIND MISSION ART. Collectspace.com covers an interesting item: “New collectible pin buttons depict ‘For All Mankind’ space mission patches”. (The direct link to the Icon Heroes product page is here.)

As recently announced by Apple TV+, the fourth season of “For All Mankind” is set to debut on Nov. 10. Created by Ronald D. Moore, along with current showrunners Ben Nedivi and Matt Wolpert, “For All Mankind” explores how humanity’s space exploration efforts may have proceeded differently if the Soviet Union had beaten the United States to landing a man on the moon.

One of the ways the show has distinguished its timeline from our own has been the inclusion of altered or entirely new mission patches worn by the astronauts in the series. For the past three seasons, Icon Heroes, a pop culture collectibles company, has sold limited edition replicas of the “For All Mankind” embroidered emblems.

Now, the Irvine, California-based company is offering those same alternate Apollo artworks, space shuttle symbols and Martian marks as collectible pinback buttons….

(13) 2023 LAUREATE AWARD. The National Fantasy Fan Federation has announced the 2023 Laureate Award winners. The Laureate Award was first given in 1941.

Best Fan Writer — Martin Lock
Best Fan Artist — Jose Sanchez
Best Fan Website — Fanac.org from Joe Siclari, Edie Stern, and Mark Olsen
Best Non-N3F Fanzine — Simultaneous Times Newsletter from Jean-Paul L. Garnier
Best N3F Fanzine — Tightbeam
Best Podcast — Simultaneous Times
Best Novel — Lords of Uncreation by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Best Shorter Work or Anthology — Return to Glory by Jack McDevitt
Best Pro Artist — Austin Arthur Hart
Best Editor — Toni Weisskopf
Best SF Poet — Michael Butterworth
Best Comic Book — New Think 1.0
Best Anime — Chainsaw Man
Best Manga — Mindset
Best Television Show, Film, or Video — Heath Row’s Productions
Best None of the Above — Manuscript Press (Rick Norwood) and aruffo.com for reprinting the daily comic strip Alley Oop

(14) RALPH CRAM’S OEURVE. “The University Architect Who Also Wrote About Haunted Buildings” in the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

The architect who created the look of Princeton’s campus wrote ghost stories. Fittingly, Ralph Adams Cram’s stories are about haunted buildings, and what haunts those buildings is the past. In a story collection that he published in 1895, empty houses prove, over and over, to be anything but. In a crumbling castle near Innsbruck, Austria, where a devilish nobleman once set the ballroom on fire while his guests danced inside, two “ghost hunters” get caught up in a danse macabre. In a secluded convent near Palermo, Italy, a visitor follows a beckoning specter to the site where, a century earlier, the nuns bricked up one of their sisters in the convent’s walls, a heartless punishment for a sin of the heart. In an abandoned old manse in the Latin Quarter of Paris, rumored to have once been a favorite haunt of the city’s witches, a gang of young “rake-hell” students spends the night on a dare, with predictably ghastly results.

The thesis is straightforward: We inhabit buildings, and they inhabit us, in a larger sense than we might think. In 1907, a group of archaeologists who planned to do excavations in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey performed séances to get advice from the former inhabitants on where to dig. Cram wrote a defense of their methods, arguing not that they dialed up literal ghosts but that buildings are a deep well of memory that outlasts their inhabitants. (The archaeologists found what they were looking for, but England is so crowded with historical odds and sods that they find kings under parking lots, so their chances were already good.)…

(15) TAKE TWO. The solar system has no suspenders but it may have two belts. “Puzzling objects found far beyond Neptune hint at second Kuiper belt” in Science.

Beyond Neptune’s orbit lie thousands of small icy objects in the Kuiper belt, with Pluto its most famous resident. But after 50 astronomical units (AU)—50 times the distance between Earth and the Sun—the belt ends suddenly and the number of objects drops to zero. Meanwhile, in other solar systems, similar belts stretch outward across hundreds of AU….

A new discovery is challenging that picture. While using ground-based telescopes to hunt for fresh targets for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, now past Pluto on a course out of the Solar System, Fraser and his colleagues have made a tantalizing, though preliminary, discovery: about a dozen objects that lie beyond 60 AU—nearly as far from Pluto as Pluto is from the Sun. The finding, if real, could suggest that the Kuiper belt either extends much farther than once thought or—given the seeming 10-AU gap between these bodies and the known Kuiper belt—that a “second” belt exists…

(16) ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH. “NASA rover makes adventurous trip, then snaps stunning Mars picture” at Mashable.

It was a long slog. But NASA‘s Curiosity rover did it.

The space agency’s car-sized robot, which has ventured up Mars’ Mount Sharp for nearly a decade, successfully traversed rocky terrain to arrive at a scientifically-intriguing site made by ancient avalanches of boulders, debris, and water. Today, this place, Gediz Vallis Ridge, exists as a prominent hill blanketed with large rocks.

After making the arduous trek (scientists worked to find a passable route to this area for three years), the Curiosity rover turned around and snapped an expansive image of the Martian landscape beyond, which NASA released on Oct. 5.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Juli Marr, Andrew (not Werdna), Mark Roth-Whitroth, Steven French, John-Paul L. Garnier, JeffWarner, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/23 Waiting For Hugot

(1) HALL H EMPTIES OUT. “The last few big Hollywood blockbusters have now dropped out of Comic-Con” reports Yahoo!

The weirdest Comic-Con in years continues to get weirder, today: Legendary has announced that its upcoming sci-fi sequel Dune: Part Two, one of the last live-action blockbusters scheduled for a panel at this year’s version of the long-running convention, has now dropped out. (Ditto the glimpse the studio was planning at the next installment of its Monsterverse franchise of films.) At the same time, at least three TV shows that were still holding out hope for the convention—Amazon’s Wheel Of Time, Freevee’s Jury Duty, and ABC’s Abbott Elementary—have all confirmed that they’re canceling their panels.

The reason, obviously, is the SAG-AFTRA actors strike: There’s not a lot of point in paying for an expensive panel in the Con’s famed Hall H if you don’t have any stars on hand to fill it out and pump up the crowds. 

(2) SPEAKING OF MURDERBOT. NPR taps into the Nerdette podcast to learn “How audiobooks are made”.

GRETA JOHNSEN, BYLINE: Meet Sarah Jaffe. She’s an executive producer at Penguin Random House Audio.

SARAH JAFFE: What that actually means is mostly – I think my 10-year-old self would be thrilled – I get paid to read books all day, talk to really brilliant authors and then do sort of the dream casting that I think we all do in our heads of like, OK, what kind of voice would I need to play this character? And then I get to find and hire that voice.

JOHNSEN: One of my favorite voices is this guy.

KEVIN R FREE: I am Kevin R. Free. I am a multi-hyphenate artist, and I suppose I’m on the Nerdette podcast because I am an audiobook narrator. That is the hat for which you are interviewing me.

JOHNSEN: Kevin has been wearing that hat since 2000. I love him because he narrates Martha Wells’ “Murderbot Diaries”…

(3) RESISTING OUR AI OVERLORDS. “‘Not for Machines to Harvest’: Data Revolts Break Out Against A.I.” reports the New York Times.

For more than 20 years, Kit Loffstadt has written fan fiction exploring alternate universes for “Star Wars” heroes and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” villains, sharing her stories free online.

But in May, Ms. Loffstadt stopped posting her creations after she learned that a data company had copied her stories and fed them into the artificial intelligence technology underlying ChatGPT, the viral chatbot. Dismayed, she hid her writing behind a locked account.

Ms. Loffstadt also helped organize an act of rebellion last month against A.I. systems. Along with dozens of other fan fiction writers, she published a flood of irreverent stories online to overwhelm and confuse the data-collection services that feed writers’ work into A.I. technology.

“We each have to do whatever we can to show them the output of our creativity is not for machines to harvest as they like,” said Ms. Loffstadt, a 42-year-old voice actor from South Yorkshire in Britain.

… At Archive of Our Own, a fan fiction database with more than 11 million stories, writers have increasingly pressured the site to ban data-scraping and A.I.-generated stories.

In May, when some Twitter accounts shared examples of ChatGPT mimicking the style of popular fan fiction posted on Archive of Our Own, dozens of writers rose up in arms. They blocked their stories and wrote subversive content to mislead the A.I. scrapers. They also pushed Archive of Our Own’s leaders to stop allowing A.I.-generated content.

Betsy Rosenblatt, who provides legal advice to Archive of Our Own and is a professor at University of Tulsa College of Law, said the site had a policy of “maximum inclusivity” and did not want to be in the position of discerning which stories were written with A.I.

For Ms. Loffstadt, the fan fiction writer, the fight against A.I. came as she was writing a story about “Horizon Zero Dawn,” a video game where humans fight A.I.-powered robots in a postapocalyptic world. In the game, she said, some of the robots were good and others were bad.

But in the real world, she said, “thanks to hubris and corporate greed, they are being twisted to do bad things.”

(4) YOUR CHRIS BARKLEY HUGO PACKET. Chris M. Barkley has put links to the columns that will make up his entry in the packet here on Facebook.

I have submitted my selections of columns from File 770 for the 2023 Hugo Award Packet in the Best Fan Writer category. Although it will be a few weeks before the complete packet is released to members of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention to consider, I am pinning links to my columns from today until the close of voting period, September 30th.

(5) BUSINESS IS BOOMING. [Item by Steven French.] In advance of Oppenheimer hitting the cinemas, the Guardian presents its latest list, this time of ‘best’ films about the atomic bomb. Sadly there’s no mention of 1950 Brit movie Seven Days Until Noon (which recently appeared on TV here in the U.K.) About a scientist whose moral qualms about the atomic bomb lead him to threaten the destruction of half of London, it won an Academy Award for writers Paul Dehn and James Bernard. Dehn was a well regarded poet and referred to by John LeCarre as an ‘assassin’ following his war service in the SOE. He went on to co-author not only the movie version of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold but also several of the Planet of the Apes sequels. “Streaming: the best films about the atomic bomb”.

…But the legacy of the atom bomb, from its development to its impact to its all-round political aura, is a rich one, spanning everything from esoteric arthouse films to genre B-movies. For decades after the horrifying outcome of the Manhattan Project, through the long-lingering chill of the cold war, anxiety over nuclear warfare was the driving force behind any number of thrillers and war films. Comedies, sci-fi and even the odd film noir – see Robert Aldrich’s blistering Kiss Me Deadly (1955; Internet Archive), which culminates in a literally explosive allegory – got in on the paranoia….

(6) GREGG T. TREND OBITUARY. Longtime fanzine fan Gregg T. Trend passed away in hospice this morning Sunday, July 16 his wife Audrey announced on Facebook.

A Detroit fan active since at least the early 1960s, Gregg attended the 1963 Worldcon, Discon 1. He was a member of the Wayne Third Foundation and edited some issues of its clubzine Seldon’s Plan. He was a member and one of the OEs of MiSHAP.

The last time I saw him was during Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon, at the Faneds’ Feast in the Purple Parrot coffee shop, attended by Ed and Sandra Meskys, Katrina Templeton, Andrew Porter, Cathy Lister-Palmer, Murray Moore, Mary Ann Moore, Gregg and Audrey Trend, me, Milt Stevens, Alan Stewart, Marcy Maliniewicz, Jerry Kaufman, Mike Ward.

Andrew Porter adds, “I bought a piece of his artwork on the sketch table at Discon 1 in 1963, my first Worldcon, and knew him for many decades.”

Gregg Trend in 2003. Photo by Mike Glyer.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1971 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

R. A. Lafferty is the writer of our Beginning, so let’s talk about him. A much loved writer in fandom with almost fifty Award nominations in over his fifty-year career (though only three Awards resulted — a Hugo at Torcon II for his “Eurema’s Dam” along with a Phoenix Award and a World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement.

I personally think that all of his fiction is worth a read but I’ll single out The Devil is Dead trilogy as one of his better works. Also worth noting is that he was a first rate writer of short fiction as noted by his having thirty-five collections published. Yes, thirty-five. 

Mike picked his Past Master novel.  It was published by Rapp & Whiting fifty-five years ago. It was nominated at St. Louiscon for a Hugo and garnered Ditmar and Nebula nominations as well. 

AT THE TWENTY-FIFTH HOUR

THE THREE big men were met together in a private building of one of them. There was a clattering thunder in the street outside, but the sun was shining. It was the clashing thunder of the mechanical killers, ravening and raging. They shook the building and were on the verge of pulling it down. They required the life and the blood of one of the three men and they required it immediately, now, within the hour, within the minute. 

The three men gathered in the building were large physically, they were important and powerful, they were intelligent and interesting. There was a peculiar linkage between them: each believed that he controlled the other two, that he was the puppeteer and they were the puppets. And each was partly right in this belief. It made them an interlocking nexus, taut and resilient, the most intricate on Astrobe. 

Cosmos Kingmaker, who was too rich. The Heraldic Lion. 

Peter Proctor, who was too lucky. The Sleek Fox.

Fabian Foreman, who was too smart. The Worried Hawk.

“This is Mankind’s third chance,” said Kingmaker. “Ah, they’re breaking the doors down again. How can we talk with it all going on?” 

He took the speaking tube. “Colonel,” he called out. “You have sufficient human guards. It is imperative that you disperse the riot. It is absolutely forbidden that they murder this man at this time and place. He is with us and is one of us as he has always been.” 

“The colonel is dead,” a voice came back. “I am Captain John Chezem the Third, next in command.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in “The Deadly Years” episode. 0ther genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man, The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The MunstersHouse of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley.  I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. He had two Hugo nominations, at NYCon II for his “Spy Story” short story, and at Detention for his Time Killer novel. His Seventh Victim novel was nominated for a Hugo at the 1954 Retro Hugos at Noreascon 4. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri S. Tepper. I think I’m going to start with her Marianne Trilogy (Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore; Marianne, the Madam and the Momentary Gods; Marianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse) as her best work. Both the setting and the characters are unique, the story fascinating.  Nominated for an Astounding Award way back when, she had a long career, so I’m going to note  BeautyThe Gate to Women’s CountrySix Moon Dance and The Companions as my favorites knowing very well that yours won’t be the same. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one was depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 72. She’s won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She won the 1994 Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, for lifetime contributions to science fiction, “both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him,” presented by the New England Science Fiction Association. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 60. Ok, her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. (Well and romantic fantasy Date with an Angel.) It’s two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon. She retired from film acting as she said there were no good roles and is doing theatre work. 

(9) SOLDIER’S ICON. [Item by Susan de Guardiola.] Apparently Baby Yoda on body armor is becoming a thing in Ukraine, as shown on this volunteer of the Georgian Legion.

Also: “may feathers grow in the throats of our enemies” is a really excellent curse.  No idea whether it’s a Georgian thing or a cultural reference I’m just oblivious to.

(10) ACTRESS PROTESTS BODY SCAN TECH. “Snowpiercer Star Breaks Silence Over Body Scan Tech Used in Season 4” at MovieWeb.

In an industry where the boundary between reality and virtualization is increasingly blurred, a recent wave of controversy has hit the Hollywood sphere. A central figure in this ongoing discourse is none other than Lena Hall, the illustrious Tony Award winner and Grammy nominee, best known for her role in TNT’s Snowpiercer.

On the cusp of the show’s fourth season, Hall took a public stand on Twitter, lambasting the opaque nature of the utilization of full-body scan technology. The thespian recounted her experiences with the procedure, expressing her dismay at the lack of transparency and her perceived violation of consent.

Hall shared,

“So… Snowpiercer season 4 did a full body scan and full range of emotion capture of all the series regulars on the show not ever telling us the real reason why. NOW I know why and it’s really disturbing because I didn’t consent.”

“P.S. they told us it was for special effects but were very vague!”

(11) SOUVENIR FROM SPACE. “French Woman Allegedly Hit By Meteorite While Having Coffee With Friends” at HotHardware. Daniel Dern sent the link with the quip, “I’m Not Having What She’s Having.”

… It’s not every day that someone is hit by a meteorite while trying to enjoy a cup of coffee with friends. In fact, it is an extraordinarily rare occurrence for someone to be struck by a meteorite anywhere on their body. But such was the case for the woman in France recently, and if confirmed would be the first person on record to be struck by a meteorite in nearly 70 years.

“I heard a big ‘Poom’ coming from the roof next to us. In the second that followed, I felt a shock on the ribs. I thought it was an animal, a bat!” the lady proclaimed in an interview with the French newspaper Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace (DNA). She continued, “We thought it was a piece of cement, the one we apply to the ridge tiles. But it didn’t have the color.”…

(12) WHAT HARM COULD AI DO? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Over at BBC Radio 4, there has been a series of short (14-minute) episodes on artificial intelligence.  The latest episode concerns whether or not we can control AI? and has some SFnal references. “Can we control AI?”

When so-called “generative” Artificial Intelligences like Chat GPT and Google’s Bard were made available to the public, they made headlines around the world and raised fears about how fast this type of AI was developing. But realistically, what harm could AI do to people? Is it an existential threat, or could it become one? And if things got really bad, couldn’t we just switch it off or smash it up with a hammer?

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Here’s a trailer for a trailer for the new Beauty and the Beast adaptation: Belle.

Belle would do anything to save her ailing father. She journeys in search of a mythical rose believed to be a cure. As payment for the rose, she must surrender herself to a vicious beast and battle his spell.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Joyce Scrivner, Daniel Dern, Susan de Guardiola, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Update 07/17/2023: Replaced a photo of Gregg Trend. The one originally provided by Andrew Porter was of someone else.

Pixel Scroll 5/12/23 I’m A Citizens For Boisenberry Space Jam Of The Galaxy Fan

(1) UNDERSTANDING A SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS STORY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Grace P. Fong explains how Twitter’s algorithm caused that Bigolas Dickolas tweet to go viral: “This is How Bigolas Dickolas Won the Twitter”.

…Basically, I think this not a case of lightning striking but more a case of two long-term successes colliding in a way that was socially unlikely (although algorithmically possible), followed by a snowball effect in part of the sheer novelty of these two social groups.

So first, you need to understand the social media algorithm…

We know that the algorithm groups people based off who they follow and who follows them back. This is why ‘top’ people in a particular circle will actually have similar follower counts give or take a few K. For example, pop stars will have followings in the 100Ks, visual artists at 20Kish, and writers at 10Kish. Posts that do well are first elevated to members of the same circle.

That’s the key to success here: the post by Bigolas Dickolas (who I’ll call BD to save space) hopped circles. A much bigger circle than the speculative fiction circle: the Trigun circle….

(2) TOLKIEN SCHOLARSHIP. Robin Anne Reid has published “My Presentation for the ‘Tolkien and Medieval Constructions of Race’ Roundtable” at Writing from Ithilien.

…I would like to thank Kris and Mariana for organizing this roundtable. I second their call to foreground work by medievalists of colour and to expand scholarship on Tolkien that draws on critical race, intersectional, postcolonial, and neo-colonial theories. However, my focus today is not on what Tolkien wrote. Instead, I argue that Tolkien studies is dominated by white scholars who too often defend their beloved author with the shield of authorial intentionality, and that we need to turn an analytical gaze on ourselves and the systemic racism that is the foundation of our field (and of Anglophone academia). What follows is an overview of that process in my own work.

My 2017 bibliographic essay on “Race and Tolkien” in Christopher Vaccaro and Yvette Kisor’s Tolkien and Alterity analyzes twenty-three essays and two books on the topic that were published between 2003-2013. The essays include a handful of entries in Michael Drout’s Tolkien Encyclopedia, but most are peer-reviewed publications. The conflict between those who defend what are held to be the author’s personal beliefs and those who analyze the texts is clear. My conclusion is that it is futile to frame the research question as “Is Tolkien racist or not?” as opposed to the question of “how does Tolkien’s work criticize and reproduce the racist/imperialistic/colonialist systems of the world in which he lived?” My bibliographic essay is the only one of the eleven chapters in the first collection on “Alterity” that engages with the topic of race and racisms as opposed to the other types of alterity which, by the unstated default, are primarily White: queerness; women; femininity; language, and identities….

(3) A WINDOW ON PUBLISHING ISSUES. The New York Times profiles R. F. Kuang, author of Yellowface, in “She Wrote a Blistering Satire About Publishing. The Publishing Industry Loves It.”

Everything about R.F. Kuang’s novel “Yellowface” feels engineered to make readers uncomfortable. There’s the title, which is awkward to say out loud, and the cover, which features a garish racial stereotype — cartoonish slanted eyes imposed on a block of yellow.

Then there’s the story itself. In the opening chapters, a white author steals a manuscript from the home of a Chinese American novelist who has died in a bizarre accident, and plots to pass it off as her own. What follows is a twisty thriller and a scorching indictment of the publishing industry’s pervasive whiteness and racial blind spots.

If people in the literary world bristle at Kuang’s withering depiction of the book business — or cringe in recognition — well, that’s exactly the point, she said.

“Reading about racism should not be a feel-good experience,” she said. “I do want people to be uncomfortable with the way that they’re trained to write about and market and sell books, and be uncomfortable with who’s in the room, and how they’re talking about who’s in the room.

“And it’s also functioning on a different level for writers of color,” she added, “to think about how we are moving through those spaces, and the traps that are set for us.”…

(4) AUDIOBOOKS MAKING NOISE. Publishing Perspectives shows that in February in the U.S. “Audio in Adult Titles Surpasses Ebooks”.

… The AAP’s report points to February as the first time that digital audio has surpassed ebooks in books for adults. We emphasize the “for adults” element only to stress that the handy lead taken by digital audio over ebooks in February is no across the board, but limited to adult content….

(5) SHOOTING THE MOON. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Andrew McCarthy used two telescopes for five years and stitched together +280,000 individual photos of the Moon to produce the “Gigamoon”, the most detailed image of the Moon on record. It’s over a billion pixels large, and he’s made an interactive version available.

Try zooming in — at EasyZoom.

(6) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings on May 10, 2023 which featured guests Paul Tremblay and John Langan.

(7) SURVIVOR MARS — OR — THROW SHAT FROM THE HABITAT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Just when you thought every stupid “celebrity“ elimination show had been made, along comes Stars on Mars. Hosted by William Shatner on Fox, a dozen B-, C-, and mostly D-List celebrities will be gathered in a simulated Mars habitat and compete with each other to prevent being “sent back to Earth.“

Speaking for themselves, the Futurism article says, “We’ll probably be tuning in — even if it’s just so you don’t have to.” In any case, you’ve been warned. “New Show Traps Lance Armstrong and Ariel Winter in Simulated Mars Base”

…The show, set to premiere next month, will be hosted by none other than “Star Trek” legend and depressed space tourist William Shatner.

“Thanks to lower gravity on Mars, you’ll weigh 62 percent less,” Shatner quipped during a promo video. “Bad news: the air is unbreathable, so if you’re from LA, it’ll remind you of home.”

The guest list is a bizarre mashup of VIPs, from UFC champion Ronda Rousey and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” reality star Porsha Williams Guobadia to actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who you might remember as McLovin’ from the comedy “Superbad.”

The show will vaguely mimic a NASA analog mission, with contestants living and working inside a mockup of a Martian colony, though it’s unclear for how long.

They will also compete with each other during several challenges set by Shatner and vote each other off of the show — “send them back to Earth” — until a single “space invader” is left standing, according to a press release….

(8) LIVE STAGE EFFECTS. The New York Times continues its periodic series with “5 Tony-Nominated Broadway Shows, 5 Stagecraft Secrets”. Includes the very bloody Sweeney Todd.

…Theater, at its best, is a form of magic — it enchants us, transforms us and often makes us wonder, “How do they do that?”

On Broadway, where craft is polished and spectacle is heightened, there is much at which to marvel. So this spring, now that all the 2022-23 plays and musicals have opened, we have once again asked a few of the Tony-nominated shows to let us peek behind the metaphorical curtain, exploring how they came up with, and pulled off, some of the sensational stagecraft that caught our attention this season.

Warning: Spoilers ahead….

(9) JERRY LAPIDUS (1948-2023). Fanzine fan Jerry Lapidus died about April 19 in his home in Ormond Beach, Florida announced D. Gary Grady.

I remember Jerry’s genzine Tomorrow and… which was published in a slightly exotic format on legal length paper (see issues at Fanac.org.) From 1968-1972 he also did an annual compilation of the current Worldcon constitution in The Legal Rules which identified the latest changes and published notes on the actions of the business meeting.   

Outside of fandom, recalls Grady, “For many years Jerry worked with Actors Equity in New York, negotiating Equity contracts with regional theaters all over the country. Later he took a position helping run a large performing arts center in Daytona Beach, the Seaside Music Theater, and more recently he was a volunteer at a small nonprofit theater in Palm Coast.”

Jerry’s wife Anita died in 2015. He is survived by his daughter, Kim.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2012[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

May I start off by saying we are so blessed to have Pat Cadigan among as both an individual and as a writer? Truly blessed? She’s an amazing person that has been honored with multiple Hugo nominations but only one win which was for “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, the source of our Beginning this time. 

It was published in Jonathan Strahan’s Edge of Infinity anthology in 2012.

And now Cadigan demonstrates her most excellent wordsmithing in this Beginning…

Nine decs into her second hitch, Fry hit a berg in the Main ring and broke her leg. And she didn’t just splinter the bone—compound fracture! Yow! What a mess! Fortunately, we’d finished servicing most of the eyes, a job that I thought was more busywork than work-work. But those were the last decs before Okeke-Hightower hit and everybody had comet fever.

There hadn’t been an observable impact on the Big J for almost three hundred (Dirt) years—Shoemaker-Somethingorother—and no one was close enough to get a good look back then. Now every news channel, research institute, and moneybags everywhere in the solar system was paying Jovian Operations for a ringside view. Every JovOp crew was on the case, putting cameras on cameras and backup cameras on the backup cameras—visible, infrared, X-ray, and everything else. Fry was pretty excited about it herself, talking about how great it was she would get to see it live. Girl-thing should have been watching where she wasn’t supposed to be going.

I was coated and I knew Fry’s suit would hold, but featherless bipeds are prone to vertigo when they’re injured. So I blew a bubble big enough for both of us, cocooned her leg, pumped her full of drugs, and called an ambulance. The jellie with the rest of the crew was already on the other side of the Big J. I let them know we’d scrubbed and someone would have to finish the last few eyes in the radian for us. Girl-thing was one hell of a stiff two-stepper, staying just as calm as if we were unwinding end-of-shift. The only thing she seemed to have a little trouble with was the O. Fry picked up consensus orientation faster than any other two-stepper I’d ever worked with but she’d never done it on drugs. I tried to keep her distracted by telling her all the gossip I knew and when I ran out, I made shit up.

Then all of a sudden, she said, “Well, Arkae, that’s it for me.”

Her voice was so damned final, I thought she was quitting. And I deflated because I had taken quite a liking to our girl-thing. I said, “Aw, honey, we’ll all miss you out here.”

But she laughed. “No, no, no, I’m not leaving. I’m going out for sushi.”

I gave her a pat on the shoulder, thinking it was the junk in her system talking. Fry was no ordinary girl-thing—she was great out here but she’d always been special. Back in the Dirt, she’d been a brain-box, top-level scholar and a beauty queen. That’s right—a featherless biped genius beauty queen. Believe it or leave it, as Sheerluck says.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 12, 1907 Leslie Charteris. I really hadn’t thought of the Simon Templar aka The Saint series as being genre but both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 12, 1928 Robert Coulson. Writer, well-known fan, filk songwriter and fanzine editor. He and his wife, writer and fellow filker Juanita Coulson, edited the fanzine Yandro which they produced on a mimeograph machine, and which was nominated for the Hugo Award ten years running right through 1968, and won in 1965. Yandro was particularly strong on reviewing other fanzines. Characters modeled on and named after him appear in two novels by Wilson Tucker, Resurrection Days and To the Tombaugh Station. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 12, 1937 George Carlin. Rufus in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. He also showed up in Scary Movie 3 and Tarzan II. I once met him many decades ago at a Maine summer resort. He was really personable and nice. (Died 2008.)
  • Born May 12, 1938 David Pelham, 85. Artist and Art Director at Penguin Books from 1968 to 1979, who was responsible for some of the most recognizable cover art in genre books to date. He did the cog-eyed droog for Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange in 1972.
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 81. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series.
  • Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 73. His greatest genre role was obviously Captain John Sheridan on Babylon 5. (Yes, I loved the show.) Other genre appearances being Alan T. Bradley in Tron and Tron: Legacy, and voicing that character in the Tron: Uprising series. He has a recurring role on Supergirl as President Baker.
  • Born May 12, 1958 Heather Rose Jones, 65. Part of our File 770 community.  She received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for the Mother of Souls, the third novel in her Alpennia series which has now seen four novels published, quite an accomplishment. For six years now, she has presented the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast subseries of the Lesbian Talk Show.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz explains some indiocyncratic English pluralization(s).

(13) PIONEERING THE COMIC STORE BUSINESS. The Comics Journal interviews the current owner of L.A.’s famed “Golden Apple Comics” who inherited in from his father.

Just to step back historically for a moment, Golden Apple was one of the earliest comic stores in L.A., and became one of the most important stores nationally for comic retail. So, to your mind, what led to that influence? What was the key to your dad’s strategy?

First and foremost, his passion, his creativity, his drive, his vision. He was a retail pioneer for comic books. There were comic book stores in the 1970s, but they were run by fans, and they weren’t even legitimate businesses. My dad is actually the one who really pushed for cash registers, for example. Everybody else was using cigar boxes or whatever, and they weren’t paying their taxes, they weren’t doing inventory or anything. 

And selection was always a big thing for us. It was a really big store, the original store. We probably carried more new titles and deeper stock than anybody. We would just have hundreds of copies of every major Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Image title. Because here’s the thing about Golden Apple: we didn’t do subscriptions, like pull lists or traditional subscription boxes, which are sort of the backbone of the industry. My dad didn’t believe in it. He felt that it took away from the shopping aspect of [the store]: that they would come in, and buy [their holds], and walk out the door and not even look around. And he was wrong. There are a small handful who do that, and I always look at them and go, “Oh, you’re the ones my dad was fearing.” But it’s a very small amount of regulars.

Obviously, one of the main keys was, [Golden Apple] is a place to meet your heroes, whether it’s a comic creator, a celebrity, a movie star, a musician. If you had a comic book that you were trying to promote, you came through Golden Apple. So Wizard magazine did an article called “Comic Shop to the Stars” – we basically [had] kept it under wraps for years, as a sign of respect, and I didn’t want to publicly call out these celebrities that had been shopping in our store. And then one day, Wizard magazine said, “Hey, I heard X, Y and Z shop here.” And my dad said, “You know what? I think it’s time to tell the world.” And we did, and ever since then, our star has just risen: more celebrities come in, I think, because of it. Michael Jackson was famously a customer. It was the only comic store he went to, and we would close the place down for him. And he brought his kids and everything – we’re the last documented store where photographers took pictures of Michael and his three children before he died.

Have you ever felt there’s a downside to that – whether adding that level of glitz detracts from your identity as a comic shop in any way?

It’s a pure plus. I can’t tell you the countless amount of customers who have been in the store when a big celebrity comes in. It makes their day….

(14) BITE ME. “Soap can make humans more attractive to mosquitoes, study finds” reports the Guardian.

Lathering up with soap might seem a reasonable mosquito-evasion strategy on the basis that if they can’t smell you, they can’t bite you.

However, a study suggests that rather than helping you go incognito, soapy fragrances could make you a more attractive target, with mosquitoes favouring the scent of volunteers who washed with three out of four popular soap brands tested.

The scientists behind the research said mosquitoes may be attracted to soap because, when they are not feeding on blood, they supplement their sugar intake with plant nectars.

“The fact we are taking those flowery, fruity smells and putting them on our bodies means that now the same object smells like a flower and a person at the same time,” said Clément Vinauger, who led the work at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “It would be like waking up and smelling something that was like both coffee and muffins. Very appealing.”…

(15) HAMILTONIAN HUMOR. [Curated by Daniel Dern.]

At the 30th annual Easter Bonnet Competition, the company of Hamilton took top honors for transforming their opening number into an homage to Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Lin-Manuel Miranda chillingly portrayed the “demon barber of Fleet Street” as his fellow cast members retold the dark, twisted tale.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The faux “Lord of the Rings by Wes Anderson Trailer” is a big hit online. Jennifer Hawthorne says, “If you’ve seen any Wes Anderson movies this is hilarious, and if you haven’t it’s still pretty fun (and also, you should go see some Wes Anderson movies.)”

It was made using AI – the maker has posted an explanation about how they did it: “AI Filmmaking”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jennifer Hawthorne, Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, Danny Sichel, Ellen Datlow, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Audie Awards 2023 Finalists

Finalists in 26 competitive categories for the 2023 Audie Awards were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on February 23.

The Audie Awards® recognize excellence in audiobook and spoken word entertainment. The winners will be revealed on March 28.

The complete list of finalists is here. Categories of genre interest include:

SCIENCE-FICTION

How High We Go in the Dark

  • By Sequoia Nagamatsu
  • Narrated by Julia Whelan, Brian Nishii, Keisuke Hoashi, MacLeod Andrews, Jeanne Sakata, Greg Watanabe, Kurt Kanazawa, Matthew Bridges, Kotaro Watanabe, Brianna Ishibashi, Joe Knezevich, Micky Shiloah, Stephanie Komure, and Jason Culp
  • Published by HarperAudio

Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc

  • By Ash Bishop
  • Narrated by Scott Brick and Suzanne Elise Freeman
  • Published by CamCat Books

No Kindness Too Soon

  • By Sylvain Neuvel
  • Narrated by Melanie Nicholls-King, Deepti Gupta, Neil Hellegers, Gabriel Vaughan, Kathy Searle, Imani Jade Powers, Nicolette Chin, Gopal Divan, and Garrett Michael Brown
  • Published by Audible Originals

Noor

  • By Nnedi Okorafor
  • Narrated by Délé Ogundiran
  • Published by Tantor Audio, a division of RBmedia

YMIR

  • By Rich Larson
  • Narrated by Alan Medcroft
  • Published by Hachette Audio

FANTASY

The Art of Prophecy

  • By Wesley Chu
  • Narrated by Natalie Naudus
  • Published by Penguin Random House Audio

Cold as Hell

  • By Rhett C. Bruno and Jaime Castle
  • Narrated by Roger Clark
  • Published by Blackstone Publishing

Good Omens

  • By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Performed by Rebecca Front, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Katherine Kingsley, Arthur Darvill, Peter Forbes, Gabrielle Glaister, Louis Davison, Pixie Davis, Chris Nelson, Ferdinand Frisby Williams, Adjoa Andoh, Allan Corduner, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Josh Hopkins, Lorelei King, Matt Reeves, and Lemn Sissay
  • Published by HarperAudio

Legends & Lattes

  • Written and narrated by Travis Baldree
  • Published by Macmillan Audio

The Monsters We Defy

  • By Leslye Penelope
  • Narrated by Shayna Small
  • Published by Hachette Audio

AUDIO DRAMA

1984

  • By George Orwell
  • Adapted by Anna Lea
  • Performed by Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Rhianne Barreto, Michael Maloney, Clare Corbett, Homer Todiwala, Jonathan Keeble, Rupert Holliday Evans, Sarah Paul, Simon Shepherd, Theo Solomon, Wayne Forester, Finnigan Morris, Hugo Whysall, Jake Turner, Jo Ashe, Katrina Cooke, Linton Tulloch, Morgan Denman, Bronwen Denman, Muriel Abehsera, and Rob Wilson
  • Published by Storytel Original

Clean Sweep

  • By Ilona Andrews
  • Performed by Alejandro Ruiz, Christopher Walker, Holly Adams, James Lewis, Karen Novack, Ken Jackson, Nora Achrati, Peter Holdway, Elias Khalil, Ryan Reid, and Alex Hill-Knight
  • Published by GraphicAudio, a division of RBmedia

Coraline

  • By Neil Gaiman
  • Performed by Julian Rhind-Tutt, Pixie Davies, Katherine Kingsley, Julian Clary, Jacqueline Boatswain, Kevin McNally, Adjoa Andoh, Adrian Schiller, Heather Nicol, William Parker, and Nicole Davis
  • Published by HarperAudio

Good Omens

  • By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Performed by Rebecca Front, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Katherine Kingsley, Arthur Darvill, Peter Forbes, Gabrielle Glaister, Louis Davison, Pixie Davis, Chris Nelson, Ferdinand Frisby Williams, Adjoa Andoh, Allan Corduner, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Josh Hopkins, Lorelei King, Matt Reeves, and Lemn Sissay
  • Published by HarperAudio

Pipeline

  • By Dominique Morisseau
  • Performed by Sophina Brown, Eugene Byrd, Demetrius Grosse, Sharon Lawrence, X Mayo, Uyoata Udi, and Karen Malina White
  • Published by LA Theatre Works

Pixel Scroll 2/22/23 The Scrolled, Or Pixelaceous Backson

(1) ART AND THE ARTIST, SEPARABLE? J. P. Brammer’s ¡HOLA PAPI! column gets a letter from someone signed “The Monster” who says, ‘I Hate My Writing Group’.

At that same meeting, I shared some details about the story I’m writing. It’s a horror story, so some bad things happen to good people. Sometimes the nice intern is going to get murdered by the satanic cult at the office. That’s just how it works. The feedback that I got was pretty weird, and a lot of it was about how I shouldn’t write something that encourages people to do bad things and how writing about that reflects on me. It felt like I was getting dressed down from my mom again after the first time she saw me in all black with eyeliner on. I just nodded and took some notes and didn’t share anything else.

This kind of thing seems to happen a lot with this group. I want to make sure I’m doing good and I’m a good person, and some of what they bring up is very valid, but a lot of it doesn’t feel like it’s offered with helpful intent….

Papi’s reply, in part —

…Incuriosity is thriving at the moment. People seem incredibly proud of publicly renouncing critical thinking in favor of asserting a frustratingly simplistic “thing good or thing bad” mind-set. I think this is due to a confluence of factors, many of them corporate. Identity has been so totally enmeshed with consumer habits that we’ve arrived at the misguided belief that the media we consume should perfectly align with our good politics or else it is evil and an endorsement of our enemies….

(2) DAHL REVISIONS. A Twitter thread based on the paywalled Telegraph article “Roald Dahl rewritten: the hundreds of changes made to suit a new ‘sensitive’ generation” provides tables comparing the original and latest texts for many changes. The thread starts here. A few examples follow.

(3) SCROOGE MCDUCK, TOO. The Walt Disney Company is removing a chapter from a Scrooge McDuck collection that has black caricatures “as part of its ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.”In “The Expurgated Life of Scrooge McDuck”, The Daily Cartoonist’s D. D. Degg associates the decision with the protested changes made to Roald Dahl.

Forget Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, even Mark Twain, now they are messing with a true classic of literature. Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Uncle $crooge is having an entire chapter of his biography deleted….

In that chapter, Uncle Scrooge encounters Bombie the Zombie and Foola Zoola in Africa; both are black caricatures.

Bleeding Fool, not to be confused with Bleeding Cool even if that’s the hope, and which says its mission “may even include pushing back against what we deem as creeping political propaganda, or calling-out cringe-worthy, virtue-signaling that is becoming more and more prevalent in the market and in the medium these days”, also ran an article by Chris Braly who says:

…Obviously the depiction of the zombie is what bothers Disney’s woke-scolds, despite it arguably being less shocking than true life photos of Haitian voodoo priests and houngans that the BBC recently published….

Both articles published examples of the images being removed by Disney. Because of course they did.

(4) START THE BANDWAGON ROLLING. Rich Horton advocates for a potential SFWA Grand Master choice in this Facebook post:

… I’ve previously, in various posts and venues, advocated for the likes of John Crowley, Karen Joy Fowler, Christopher Priest, and M. John Harrison. And there are many further choices (Kim Stanley Robinson, Michael Bishop, Elizabeth Hand … and I could go on.) But today, I’d like to advocate for Nancy Kress. (Please note too that I’m only considering people of, er, a certain age — there are people like, say, N. K. Jemisin, who I consider to be certain Grand Masters — but they aren’t old enough yet. For reference, I believe the youngest person ever named Grand Master was 60 — perhaps that’s a nice round benchmark, though there are no formal rules.)

Nancy Kress turned 75 last month, so she is surely of an age at which she should be considered. She began publishing fiction with “The Earth Dwellers” in the December 1976 Galaxy, and her first novel, The Prince of Morning Bells, appeared in 1981. She has published about 25 novels, plus a Young Adult trilogy as by “Anna Kendall”, and well over a hundred short stories. She has won five Nebulas and two Hugos for her short fiction, and one Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel; and her stories have been shortlisted for those awards countless times. (Not technically countless, but I’m too lazy to count them!)

But prolific publication and awards are hints of greatness, but not at all proof. The proof is in the reading. I’m tempted to argue that Nancy Kress proved herself a Grand Master with a single story, “Out of All Them Bright Stars” (F&SF, March 1985), which I think is one of the very best SF short stories of all time, about a waitress in a diner who serves an alien visitor, and her boss’s meanness and the alien’s niceness and, most of all, the waitress’s reaction to the whole situation, which is utterly heartbreaking. But of course she’s written many more brilliant stories — “Trinity”, “The Price of Oranges”, “And Wild for to Hold”, “Beggars in Spain”, “The Flowers of Aulit Prison”, “Steamship Soldier on the Information Front”, “End Game”, “Art of War”, “When Nano Came to Clifford Falls” … just to name a few….

(5) A KNOT IN THIS STRAND. At the Writer Beware blog Victoria Strauss has put out a “Scam Alert”: “Scammers Impersonating the Strand Bookstore”. She begins –

Impersonation is an increasingly common tactic employed by the Philippines-based scams that have been taking up so much space on this blog for the past few years.

Impersonating literary agents. Impersonating publishers. Impersonating film producersdirectors, and production companies. Impersonation scams extort anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars from unwary writers, and damage the reputations of the individuals and companies whose names they falsely use.

A new impersonation scam doing the rounds appropriates the name of a famous bookseller: the Strand Bookstore in New York City.

As is typical with impersonation scams, first contact is via an email that uses a fake address (@thestrandbooks.org) and borrows the real website URL and the names of real people (in this case, current and former Strand staffers) in hopes of tricking the recipient into believing they are really being contacted by the Strand. The claim: the Strand wants to print and stock thousands of copies of your book and give you 80% of sales! All that’s needed to take advantage of this amazing offer is to “contribute” the cost of shipping and handling. The Strand will front the expense of printing….

(6) FREE READ. Baen Books Free Stories 2022 can be downloaded at the link.

In January of 2011 we started posting free short stories we thought might be of interest to Baen readers…. This is our compilation of short stories for 2022….

Flops by Michael Mersault
The Barcadian Wild by Tim Akers
Monsters in Our Midst by Wen Spencer
Window on Samovar by D.J. Butler
See the Fairville Oddity! by David Afsharirad
Man on the Moon by Elaine Midcoh
Trouble Is My Business by Mike Kupari
Dark Angel by David Carrico
On Cultivating a Chosen One by Christopher Baxter
The Bloody Dentist by Jacob Holo
Fire-breathing Dragon by Dan Koboldt
Xmas at ESL1 by Wil McCarthy

(7) “SF INDUSTRY” GROWING IN CHINA. ​“China’s sci-fi industry reports 82.96B yuan revenue in 2021” reports China.org.cn, a state-run web portal of the PRC’s State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group. The Chengdu Worldcon told Facebook readers that 82.96B yuan is the equivalent of $12 billion dollars.

China’s sci-fi industry experienced steady growth in 2021, with total revenue reaching 82.96 billion yuan ($12 billion), a 50.5% year-on-year increase, according to the 2022 report released at the 2023 annual conference of the China Science Fiction Research Center on Feb. 18.

The report analyzes the development of the industry in four major areas: reading, film and television, games, and merchandise. It was compiled by the China Science Fiction Research Center, a Beijing-based sci-fi think tank established in 2020, and the Research Center for Science and Human Imagination at the Southern University of Science and Technology.

The sci-fi publishing industry generated overall revenue of 2.7 billion yuan, up 15.4% year on year, while digital reading revenue rose to 1.01 billion yuan, up 34.7% year on year.

Meanwhile, the sci-fi film and television industry saw total revenue of 7.19 billion yuan, up 171.4% year on year, and the sci-fi game industry saw revenue of 67 billion yuan, up 39.6% year on year. The most impressive growth, however, was in the sci-fi derivative products industry, which achieved total revenue of 6.07 billion yuan, up 186.3% year on year.

“The level of accumulation, development, and transformation of original Chinese sci-fi intellectual properties continues to improve, and the market share keeps increasing,” remarked Wu Yan, a sci-fi writer, scholar, professor, and director of the Research Center for Science and Human Imagination at the Southern University of Science and Technology. Wu led the team responsible for compiling the report….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1958[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time won a Hugo at Solacon. If it hadn’t I’d have been damn disappointed as it’s one of the best novels ever written. 

Now I’ll admit that it does read more like a theatre piece than novel which isn’t at all surprising as the setting and the way the novel is done is such that it could perfectly well make a play. I wouldn’t be surprised if fans at a Worldcon did this…

It was published originally in Galaxy Magazine’s March and April 1958 issues, illustrated by Virgil Finlay, and with the Ace Books edition coming out in 1961. It’s been in print ever since. 

I like both reading and listening to it. The best audio version is narrated by Suzanne Tore. It also happens to be the only one that doesn’t cut chunks out of it. The version runs nearly five hours, some run two hours and change. Huh.

And here is the Beginning…

When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly’s done. When the battle’s lost and won.—Macbeth ENTER THREE HUSSARS 

MY name is Greta Forzane. Twenty-nine and a party girl would describe me. I was born in Chicago, of Scandinavian parents, but now I operate chiefly outside space and time—not in Heaven or Hell, if there are such places, but not in the cosmos or universe you know either. 

I am not as romantically entrancing as the immortal film star who also bears my first name, but I have a rough-and-ready charm of my own. I need it, for my job is to nurse back to health and kid back to sanity Soldiers badly roughed up in the biggest war going. This war is the Change War, a war of time travelers—in fact, our private name for being in this war is being on the Big Time. Our Soldiers fight by going back to change the past, or even ahead to change the future, in ways to help our side win the final victory a billion or more years from now. A long killing business, believe me.

You don’t know about the Change War, but it’s influencing your lives all the time and maybe you’ve had hints of it without realizing. 

Have you ever worried about your memory, because it doesn’t seem to be bringing you exactly the same picture of the past from one day to the next? Have you ever been afraid that your personality was changing because of forces beyond your knowledge or control? Have you ever felt sure that sudden death was about to jump you from nowhere? Have you ever been scared of Ghosts—not the story-book kind, but the billions of beings who were once so real and strong it’s hard to believe they’ll just sleep harmlessly forever? Have you ever wondered about those things you may call devils or Demons—spirits able to range through all time and space, through the hot hearts of stars and the cold skeleton of space between the galaxies? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream? If you have, you’ve had hints of the Change War. 

How I got recruited into the Change War, how it’s conducted, what the two sides are, why you don’t consciously know about it, what I really think about it—you’ll learn in due course.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1917 Reed Crandall. Illustrator and penciller best known for the Forties Quality Comics‘ Blackhawk (later a DC property) and for stories in myriad EC Comics during the 1950s.  In the late Sixties, he did the illustration work on King Features Syndicate’s King Comics comic-book version of the syndicate’s Flash Gordon strip. He’s been inducted into Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I’m reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok he’s not genre but he’s fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929 James Hong, 94. Though not quite genre, he became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee in Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project where he’s Dr. Chin but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. It’s back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1930 Edward Hoch. The lines between detective fiction and genre fiction can be awfully blurry at times. ISFDB listed him but I was damned if I could figure out why considering he’s known as a writer of detective fiction who wrote several novels and close to a thousand short stories. It was his Simon Ark character who was the protagonist of Hoch’s first published story and who was ultimately featured in thirty-nine of his stories that made him a genre writer as Ark is the cursed by God immortal doomed to wander forevermore and solved crimes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best-known work suggests my question really isn’t relevant. She was for a long time an influential reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 22, 1953 Genny Dazzo, 70. She attended the first Star Trek Convention in New York. She was later involved in the local SF con, Lunacon. Moving out to LA, she was on the committee for all of the LA Worldcons as well as many Westercons, Loscons, and AnimeLA. Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 31 and Loscon 27 (with husband Craig Miller).
  • Born February 22, 1956 Philip Kerr. Though better known for his Bernie Gunther series of historical thrillers set in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930s, he wrote several genre friendly works. A Philosophical Investigation is set in a near future UK where it is possible to test for violent sociopathy and the consequences of that. The other is Children of the Lamp, a more upbeat YA series set in London involving djinns and rather obviously young children. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 22, 1972 Duane Swierczynski, 51. Though a mystery writer by trade, he’s also worked as a writer at both DC and Marvel on some very impressive projects. He did writing duties on the second volume of time traveling soldier Cable, penned the Birds of Prey as part of The New 52 relaunch and wrote an excellent Punisher one-off, “Force of Nature”.

(10) LITIGATION INCHING FORWARD. “Oral Argument Set in Internet Archive Copyright Case” reports Publishers Weekly.

Months after a final round of reply briefs was filed, a federal judge is now ready to hear oral arguments for summary judgment in a closely watched copyright case filed by four major publishers against the Internet Archive over its program to scan and lend library books.

In a brief order filed late last week, Judge John G. Koeltl set March 20 at 1 p.m. to hear arguments, which will be heard over the phone rather than in a Manhattan courtroom….

(11) A LOOK BACK AT EMSHWILLER. S. Elizabeth reminds readers about “The Prolific Pioneering Pulp Art Of Ed Emshwiller” at Unquiet Things – with quite a gallery of examples.

I first saw the art of Ed Emshwiller–though I didn’t know it was Ed Emshwiller–on the cover of William Hope Hodgson’s The House On The Borderland, a book described by a friend and kindred lover of weird writing as “a found manuscript, swine creatures and the swift passing of the universe…is the narrator sane or not?”

As a matter of fact, if you are keen to compile a list of strange stories and terrifying tales, see their list of suggestions in this oldie-but-goodie blog post.

I don’t know if I loved the book, but I was absolutely obsessed with the cover art. And I don’t know what your idea of fun looks like, but for me, I derive fantastic enjoyment in trying to figure out who creates the art that I love–whether that takes the form of hunting down the source of annoying uncredited artwork on Instagram or Facebook, or, in this case, tracking down the artist responsible for decade’s old marvelously lurid cover. 

(12) VENDING BOOKS. Boing Boing celebrates as “Sistah Scifi bookstore launches vending machines with titles by Black and Indigenous authors”.

Sistah Scifi is an indie bookstore based in Oakland, California that wants to connect readers to sci-fi and fantasy titles authored by Black and Indigenous writers. To do this, they’ve started to place book vending machines in different cities….

(13) PRAISE FOR NEWITZ. Rich Horton makes a recommendation to Strange at Ecbatan readers: “The Terraformers, by Annalee Newitz”.

The Terraformers is an endlessly fascinating, deeply thoughtful, provocative hard SF novel set in the deep future, some 60,000 years from now. It interrogates or speculates on intelligence, governance, animal rights (and the definition of animal!), public transit, and of course the process of terraforming. It’s also a sometimes frustrating novel, with a rather broken-backed plot (partly for good reasons), with plenty of built-in assumptions that invite argument, and with an ending that approaches deus ex machina. So what did I think over all? Gosh — you should read it, is what I think!…

(14) SOUND OFF. “Audiobook Narrators Fear Apple Used Their Voices to Train AI” they tell WIRED.

Gary Furlong, a Texas-based audiobook narrator, had worried for a while that synthetic voices created by algorithms could steal work from artists like himself. Early this month, he felt his worst fears had been realized.

Furlong was among the narrators and authors who became outraged after learning of a clause in contracts between authors and leading audiobook distributor Findaway Voices, which gave Apple the right to “use audiobooks files for machine learning training and models.” Findaway was acquired by Spotify last June.

Some authors and narrators say they were not clearly informed about the clause and feared it may have allowed their work or voices to contribute to Apple’s development of synthetic voices for audiobooks. Apple launched its first books narrated by algorithms last month. “It was very disheartening,” says Furlong, who has narrated over 300 audiobooks and is one of more than a dozen narrators and authors who told WIRED of their concerns with Findaway’s agreement. “It feels like a violation to have our voices being used to train something for which the purpose is to take our place,” says Andy Garcia-Ruse, a narrator from Kansas City.

The dispute led to a reversal this week from Apple and Findaway, according to labor union SAG-AFTRA, which represents recording artists as well as actors and other creatives. An email to members seen by WIRED said that the two companies had agreed to immediately stop all “use of files for machine learning purposes” for union members affected and that the halt covers “all files dating back to the beginning of this practice.”…

(15) AIR APPARENT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An unprecedented glimpse of a distant planet reveals clues about how it might have formed is discussed in five primary research papers in this week’s Nature along with an article “JWST opens a window on exoplanet skies”. The planet is WASP-39b which is in the constellation Virgo, and is about 700 light-years from Earth.

The five teams of researchers used three different instruments on board James Webb Space Telescope — each with its own advantages and shortcomings — but reported largely complementary results on the  atmospheric chemistry of WASP-39b, a hot exoplanet with a Saturn-like mass.

In all five investigations, the teams found that elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are more abundant in the atmosphere of WASP-39b than they are in the Sun, whereas the ratio of carbon to oxygen is lower than that of the Sun and commensurate with that of Saturn. These findings offer crucial information about the planet’s formation, the basic composition of its atmosphere and its potential to host life.

If we are now studying the atmospheres of exo-planets 700 light years away, then how long before we detect a bio-signature in an exoplanet’s atmosphere?

New observations of WASP-39b with the James Webb Space Telescope have provided a clearer picture of the exoplanet, showing the presence of sodium, potassium, water, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere. This artist’s illustration also displays newly detected patches of clouds scattered across the planet. Credit: Melissa Weiss/Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/23 Jetpack Failing, Must Attempt To Pixel To A Safe Scrolling

(1) VINTAGE OR VINEGAR? At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll tasked the panel to read Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson. Click through to hear what they thought about it.

Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists focuses on Spider Robinson’s 1982 Hugo-winning ​“Melancholy Elephants”. Readers of my vintage might remember Robinson as the author of the once-popular Callahan’s stories (to which series ​“Melancholy Elephants” does not belong) as well as a prolific reviewer whose pieces appeared in Galaxy, Analog, and Destinies Magazine and no doubt elsewhere. ​“Melancholy Elephants” is a stand-alone focusing on the issue of perpetual copyright. It’s a subject still relevant today. I am curious what the Young People make of Robinson’s story….

(2) IT’S A RISKY BUSINESS. And at Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll picks out “Five SF Stories About Space Scouts and Cosmic Exploration”.

Of all the career paths offered to player characters in the venerable tabletop roleplaying game Traveller, few were as memorable as that of the scout. Stalwart explorers of empire’s hinterlands, scouts could expect a charmingly informal command structure, a good chance of a loaner starship on retirement, and, oh yes, the life expectancy of a newborn puppy in a crocodile-filled swamp. Classic Traveller was notorious for its character generation system: player characters could and often did expire during the process. Few careers offered the harrowing mortality rate of the scout class.

Traveller author Marc Miller drew inspiration from classic science fiction, whose authors delighted in dropping explorers into situations for which the explorers soon discovered they were insufficiently prepared. Here are five tales of the sort  that inspired Traveller….

(3) UNION AND HARPERCOLLINS ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT. Vox’s overview “What the hard-won HarperCollins union contract means for the future of books” actually does little to answer its own question. But it does supply this snapshot of how the strike ended.

…On January 26, HarperCollins management agreed to enter federal mediation with the union. Five days later, it announced that it would be laying off 5 percent of its workforce. A HarperCollins spokesperson attributed the layoffs to supply chain pressures and declining revenue, saying, “The timing had nothing to do with mediation.”

Because HarperCollins is the only union shop among the Big Five, the stakes here are high. It is pushed by necessity to set the labor standards for the rest of the industry: when it raises its wages, Penguin Random House raises its wages too. The hope among supporters both in and out of the union was that the new agreement would spark similar structural changes at the other Big Five houses, and maybe even inspire other houses to unionize.

Finally, at 8 pm on February 9, the union and HarperCollins together announced they had reached a tentative agreement. “The tentative agreement includes increases to minimum salaries across levels throughout the term of the agreement, as well as a one-time $1,500 lump sum bonus to be paid to bargaining unit employees following ratification,” said HarperCollins in a statement. Currently, there’s no word on whether the union also succeeded in bringing in new diversity initiatives or in getting a union security clause. The contract doesn’t become official until it’s ratified….

Publishers Weekly’s coverage put the agreement in perspective with HarperCollins’ recent business reverses: “Deal Reached in HarperCollins Strike as Publisher Has Another Bad Quarter”.

…News of the tentative agreement came shortly after HC parent company News Corp. released financial results for the quarter ended December 31, 2022. The company reported that earnings tumbled 52% at HC, falling to $51 million, from $107 million in the comparable quarter a year ago. Sales dropped 14%, to $531 million.

News Corp. attributed the revenue decline to slowing consumer demand for books, difficult comparisons to a strong frontlist performance a year ago, and “some logistical constraints at Amazon.” In the first quarter of the 2023 fiscal year, HC attributed the decline in sales and earnings largely to a steep drop in orders from Amazon, and in a conference call, News Corp. executives said the negative impact of Amazon on second quarter sales was less than in the first quarter. Sales were down in both print and digital formats.

In addition to lower sales, News attributed the plunge in profits primarily to “ongoing supply chain, inventory, and inflationary pressures on manufacturing, freight, and distribution costs.” A change in the product mix also depressed earnings, with the share of e-book sales falling in the second quarter as that of the the less-profitable print books rose.

With financial results also down in the first quarter, in the first six months of fiscal 2023, profits declined 53%, to $90 million, and sales fell 12%, to $1.02 billion.

Last month, HC began implementing a program to cut its North American workforce by 5% by the end of the fiscal year ending June 30. In a conference call announcing results, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson said News is making a 5% workforce cut in all its businesses, which will result in the elimination of about 1,250 positions….

(4) KGB. Ellen Datlow shared her photos from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series event on February 8 at Flickr. Jeff Ford and Marie Vibbert were the evening’s readers.

(5) SKY HIGH DINING. The Torrance (CA) Public Library hosts a Zoom presentation by Richard Foss, “Food in Space in Science Fiction and Reality”, on February 15 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific. Email [email protected] for the invitation link.

Early science fiction stories about space travel ignored the most basic need of any pioneer – what did they eat, and how? The science fiction authors did get around to addressing this question, their solutions were sometimes novel but impractical.

How do their fantasies match up with reality, and are authors getting it right now? Join Richard Foss, author, culinary expert and lecturer as we explore this fascinating subject.

Please email [email protected] for the invitation link to join this discussion on Zoom.

(6) START YOUR OWN INKLINGS. “Writers Need Writers: In the Footsteps of the Inklings” at Inspire Christian Writers.

… Writing is a solitary pursuit. Only the writer understands the intent. Hunched alone over our notepads and computers, we snaggle our words and graft them onto the page, prayerfully hopeful they will touch hearts. But we can’t know the true strength of our writing unless we are willing to share those words with another who will render kind and honest feedback. Our mothers don’t count. Neither does a stranger. One lacks honesty, the other an understanding of the writer’s heart.

Twelve members of the Inklings steadfastly met for almost twenty years. Weathering war and broken friendships, they left us with poetry, Christian essays, and stories that delight and instruct to this day. That’s what I want. I want their journey. How? Here’s some gleanings from Bandersnatch.

[Dr. Diana] Glyer believes it’s possible to have what the Inklings had. Start small but keep at it, she says. The Inklings began with just two, Tolkien and Lewis….

(7) MANTELL OBITUARY. The New York Times marks the passing of the co-creator of a spoken word record business: “Marianne Mantell, Who Helped Pave the Way for Audiobooks, Dies at 93”.

Marianne Mantell, who in her early 20s helped start the audiobook revolution by co-founding a record company [Caedmon] that turned recordings of countless literary giants, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Dylan Thomas, into mass-market entertainment, died on Jan. 22 at her home in Princeton, N.J. She was 93….

… In an era when American business was dominated by Fortune 500 companies, it was rare enough for two recent college graduates to create what was in essence a tech start-up aimed at disrupting two industries, book publishing and the record business. And in an era when those corporate giants were run largely by men in Brooks Brothers suits, it was even more unusual for two women to do so.

“Caedmon was the era’s only female-owned record company, and its remarkable success stood out in a male-dominated record industry,” Mr. Rubery said. “At the time, only around 5 percent of record industry employees were women, and those women were almost all in marketing and retail roles. The rise to the top by two female entrepreneurs represented a remarkable exception.”

As Ms. Mantell wrote in a 2004 remembrance for AudioFile magazine, “Although poets had been recorded before as vanity efforts, it was Barbara and I who realized that there was an audience of literate people and made a business out of it.”

… The labels had no interest, so Ms. Mantell and Ms. Holdridge scratched together $1,800 to start a label of their own, which they christened Caedmon after the seventh-century cowherd considered the first recognized English poet. The company’s slogan: A third dimension for the printed page.”

…“We were not just out to preserve celebrity voices (to the extent that a poet is a celebrity),” she wrote. “Our purpose was literary: to capture on tape as nearly as possible what the poet heard in his head as he wrote.”

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1974[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I think I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed in University when a classmate recommended it. I had a keen interest in politics, particularly those on the Left, so the politics of the novel interested me. 

I think it works much better for its politics than it does for the strength of the character therein. The politics and the set-up of two planets was fascinating though I admit that it’s not a novel by her I’ve re-read, unlike her exemplary Earthsea series. 

It won both a Hugo and a Nebula, and deserved them. 

And with that, here’s the Beginning…

THERE was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall. 

Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on. 

Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. On the field there were a couple of large gantry cranes, a rocket pad, three warehouses, a truck garage, and a dormitory. The dormitory looked durable, grimy, and mournful; it had no gardens, no children; plainly nobody lived there or was even meant to stay there long. It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free. 

Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 10, 1904 Lurton Blassingame. Literary agent for Heinlein. He makes the birthday list because Grumbles from the Grave has more letters to Blassingame than to any other correspondent. And even some of Blassingames’s letters to Heinlein are included. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 10, 1906 Lon Chaney Jr., 1906 – 1973. I certainly best remember him as  playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man but he has a lot of other roles as well: The Ghost of Frankenstein as The Monster (hey, correct billing!), The Mummy’s Tomb as The Mummy Kharis or Son of Dracula as Count Dracula, he played all the great monsters, often multiple times. (Died 1973.)
  • Born February 10, 1920 Robert Park Mills. He was the managing editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine beginning in 1948 and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction the following year. He also edited Venture Science Fiction for several years. Under him, F&SF won an impressive three Hugo Awards for best magazine in 1959, 1960 and 1963. (Died 1986.)
  • Born February 10, 1929 Jerry Goldsmith. Composer whose music graces many a genre undertaking including, and this is not complete listing, AlienStar Trek: The Motion PicturePoltergeistPlanet of the ApesThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. series, Star Trek: VoyagerThe MummyThe Twilight Zone (need I say the original series?) and he even did the music for Damnation Alley! (Died 2004.)
  • Born February 10, 1953 John Shirley, 70. I not going to even attempt a complete précis of his career. I read and much enjoyed his first novel City Come A-Walkin and oddly enough his Grimm: The Icy Touch is damn good too in way many of those sharecropped novels aren’t. I see that to my surprise he wrote a episode of Deep Space Nine, “Visionary” and also wrote three episodes of the ‘12 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His latest novel which I’ve not read so do tell me about it is A Sorcerer of Atlantis.
  • Born February 10, 1967 Laura Dern, 56. I’m going to note she’s in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet as Sandy Williams which is not genre but which is one weird film. Jurassic Park where she is Dr. Ellie Sattler is her first SF film followed by Jurassic Park III and a name change to Dr. Ellie Degler.  Such are the things movie trivia is made of. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has her showing as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.  I think her first genre appearance was on Shelley Duvall’s Nightmare Classic.
  • Born February 10, 1970 Robert Shearman, 53. He wrote the episode of Who called “Dalek” which was nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at L.A. Con IV. (There were three Who entries that year and “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” won.) His first book, a collection of short stories called Tiny Deaths was a World Fantasy Award winner. He’s written a lot of short fiction since then, collected helpfully into two collections, Remember Why You Fear Me: The Best Dark Fiction of Robert Shearman and They Do the Same Things Different There: The Best Weird Fantasy of Robert Shearman. Some, but by no means all, of his works are up at the usual suspects.
  • Born February 10, 1976 Keeley Hawes, 47. Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos in my favorite Twelfth Doctor story “Time Heist”.  She also played Zoe Reynolds in MI5 which is at least genre adjacent given where the story went. She has also provided the voice of Lara Croft in a series of Tomb Raider video games. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side is present at the Creation.
  • Edge City tries to figure out what all the remotes are for.
  • Sheldon predicts who will be AI art’s mortal enemy.
  • Sheldon also illustrates the limits of dog science.

(11) SHORT REVIEWS. Lisa Tuttle supplies “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup” for the Guardian. The four titles covered this time are Hopeland by Ian McDonald; Ten Planets by Yuri Herrera; Observer by Robert Lanza and Nancy Kress; and Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett.

(12) PLAYING GAMES. Them is reporting that “Hogwarts Legacy Features the Harry Potter Franchise’s First Trans Character”.

Now that the review embargo for Hogwarts Legacy is up, more details about the forthcoming Harry Potter role-playing game, set to release on Friday, are surfacing. One particularly noteworthy new fact? The inclusion of a transgender non-playable character (or NPC) named Sirona Ryan, whom players can find at the Three Broomsticks pub.

The news came courtesy of a gameplay clip shared by YouTuber Doctor Gramma, in which Sirona serves a pair of characters Butterbeer and remarks upon a recent, unspecified attack on Hogwarts. Although Sirona was not confirmed as trans in the clip itself, Entertainment Weekly and other outlets have since reported on in-game dialogue referencing her transition. Speaking about her former classmates, the barkeep reportedly says,  “Took them a second to realize I was actually a witch, not a wizard.”

Given Potter author J.K. Rowling’s well-documented transphobia, Sirona’s presence is unexpected, to say the least. Some in the video game world are even claiming the character was included in hopes of quelling a boycott from gamers who have chosen not to play the game based on Rowling’s dangerous anti-trans platform.

“An old acquaintance did some work on that Hogwarts game,” YouTuber Stephanie Sterling tweeted early Monday morning. “I’m told they added a token trans NPC to pivot the conversation away from JKR. They’re barely in it.”

“Did You Know Gaming” contributor and video game historian Liam Robertson backed up Sterling’s account, writing, “I was also told this. There was apparently some trans representation added after some of the initial controversy. I don’t know how it appears in the final product but one of the sources I talked to described it as ‘performative bullshit.’”…

(13) YOU’RE FIRED. While Elon Musk was making news for firing a Twitter engineer, his SpaceX was getting attention for test-firing an engine: “SpaceX Test Fires 31 Engines on the Most Powerful Rocket Ever” in the New York Times.

SpaceX moved one step closer to its future on Thursday with a successful ground test of the engines of the most powerful rocket ever built.

The company, founded by the entrepreneur Elon Musk, conducted what is known as a static fire of Super Heavy, a massive rocket booster. Super Heavy was made to send SpaceX’s next-generation Starship vehicle toward orbit before returning to Earth.

More than 110,000 people watched a livestream broadcast by NASASpaceFlight.com, an independent space media company that has cameras monitoring the Starship test site in Boca Chica, Texas. The video feed showed clouds of vapor enveloping the launch stand when propellants started flowing into the rocket, and rings of frost forming around the rocket as the tanks filled with ultracold propellants.

Then the clouds mostly vanished when the fueling was complete — for the brief test, the tanks were not filled to the brim.

At 4:14 p.m. Eastern time, on a video feed provided by SpaceX, the engines roared to life for a few seconds and shut down, kicking up that rose clouds above the rocket and prompting masses of birds to flee the area. An update on Twitter from SpaceX indicated the test was a success, lasting as long as intended. The booster and launch stand appeared to be in good shape afterward.

(14) APOLOGIES. JUPITER-SIZED ERROR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I have to correct a stupid error I made in yesterday’s piece about one of the most distant exo-planet detected and first space-based detection of an exo-planet using gravitational lensing. It was not the close to smallest theoretical-sized Jupiter — close to the host mass threshold below which Jupiters are not expected to form.  Instead, it was somewhat surprising to find a Jupiter-sized exoplanet around such a small star (a little over half the mass of the Sun).  It is thought that the planetary mass around small stars is smaller than the planetary mass around larger stars. So to have a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting such a small star is a little unusual and close to the theoretical limit.

The error came about because I only quickly scan/read the abstracts of papers of interest at a cybercafé and then blat an e-mail off to Mike, and I only subsequently read papers in detail when I get home.  Also, since we (SF2 Concatenation) lost our much missed physics and space science editor, I have taken over that coverage in addition to that of the bio- and geosciences about which I am more sure-footed.

See Specht, D. et al, (2023) “Kepler K2 Campaign 9: II. First space-based discovery of an exoplanet using microlensing”. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, stad212.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Honest Game Trailers gives its brutally frank opinion of “Fire Emblem Engage”.

…Discover yet another fantasy Kingdom on the brink of inevitable War as you take control of a protagonist so anime that they are actually a dragon, an amnesiac, and also a God who looks like a deviantART character where you took two cheesy anime protagonists and smashed them together in a hydraulic press…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Ellen Datlow, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Dann, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day by Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/10/23 Scrolls Are Here, Scrolls Are Here, Life Is Pixels And Life Is Bheer

(1) SPEAK MEMORY. The Guardian wonders, “Death of the narrator? Apple unveils suite of AI-voiced audiobooks”.

Apple has quietly launched a catalogue of books narrated by artificial intelligence in a move that may mark the beginning of the end for human narrators. The strategy marks an attempt to upend the lucrative and fast-growing audiobook market – but it also promises to intensify scrutiny over allegations of Apple’s anti-competitive behaviour.

The popularity of the audiobook market has exploded in recent years, with technology companies scrambling to gain a foothold. Sales last year jumped 25%, bringing in more than $1.5bn. Industry insiders believe the global market could be worth more than $35bn by 2030.

… Before the launch, one Canadian literary agent told the Guardian she did not see the value from both a literary or customer perspective.

“Companies see the audiobooks market and that there’s money to be made. They want to make content. But that’s all it is. It’s not what customers want to listen to. There’s so much value in the narration and the storytelling,” said Carly Watters….

(2) KELLY LINK Q&A. At Publishers Weekly: “Flights of Fancy: PW Talks with Kelly Link”.

What can contemporary fiction inject into the fairy tale?

Maybe psychological depth. Fairy tales depend on what the reader brings to them. The difference between fairy tales and myth is that Disney hardened our idea of certain stories so that a particular version of them becomes so codified that it replaces other possibilities of how that story could exist. I don’t think it’s great to let those stories exist in one form. People are constantly retelling them, and I think you need the rigid, popular version everyone knows for the weirder versions to have any power….

(3) DEADLINE EXTENDED. L.A. County high school students now have until January 23, 2023 to submit their sff short stories to The Tomorrow Prize & The Green Feather Award.

The Omega Sci-Fi Awards invites Los Angeles County high school students to submit their short science fiction stories to The Tomorrow Prize. The Tomorrow Prize encourages young writers to use sci-fi to explore the diverse issues humanity wrestles with, spark creative solutions, and unite the worlds of art and science.

The Green Feather Award co-presented by the Nature Nexus Institute, highlights an environmentally focused sci-fi story. We are seeking stories that integrate creative solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises.

For more details please see submission guidelines.

Selected finalists will be chosen to have their stories read in their honor by celebrity guests during the May 2023 Culminating Event.

First, Second, and Third place Tomorrow Prize winners will receive $250, $150, and $100 USD cash prizes.

The First place Tomorrow Prize winner will be published in L.A. Parent Magazine.

The Green Feather Award is a special prize for an environmentally focused sci-fi story. The winner will receive $250 USD & online publication by the Nature Nexus Institute.

(4) IN THE BEGINNING? Whatever presents “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress” about the premise to Observer, the novel she’s co-written with Robert Lanza.

…On the one hand, could science support the idea that consciousness creates the universe?  On the other hand, wasn’t this just recycled philosophy 101 according to Irish philosopher George Berkeley, among others?…

(5) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. English-language prozine Interzone is being published in Poland by MYY Press.

(6) A GREEN MAN, BUT NOT A LITTLE ONE. MeTV remembers the time “Ted Cassidy helped Gene Roddenberry play a prank behind the scenes on Star Trek”. Here’s the first part of the story:

The first-season Star Trek episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” has a few memorable things that stand out. It gives us our second evil duplicate Kirk of the series, we get some backstory for Majel Barrett’s nurse Chapel… but arguably what sticks in the minds of fans the most is Ted Cassidy as ominous android Ruk.

At this time, Ted Cassidy was fresh off the ending of The Addams Family where he enjoyed a regular role as Lurch, the family butler. In his book Star Trek Memories, William Shatner talks about how Cassidy was cast as the seven-foot-tall, menacing android. Prior to filming, Star Trek‘s makeup artist, Freddie Phillips asked Cassidy to come in for a makeup test.

“Cassidy sat down in Phillips’ undersized makeup chair and allowed the artist to transform him from a smiling young actor to an evil, hulking monster,” Shatner writes. “First Freddie covered Ted’s head with a latex skinhead wig; then he applied a sort of greyish-green base coat over Cassidy’s entire face. Once all that was done, Phillips darkened the area around each of the actor’s eyes and employed a black grease pencil to sharpen the angles of Ted’s cheekbones, forehead and chin. The end result was quite frightening and really served to drain all the humanity from Cassidy’s face.”…

(7) BOOK KEEPING. “Floods, Fires and Humidity: How Climate Change Affects Book Preservation” in the New York Times.

…Both immediate and long-term strategies are needed to keep books secure in changing environments, experts say, but some threats are more insidious than wildfires or hurricanes.

Shifts in temperature and humidity from climate change can have large consequences. Archivists and conservators in Cincinnati, for example, are worried about big temperature swings in a single day. Humidity is on the rise in Southern California, where the climate is historically dry; most preservation systems in the area aren’t designed to manage precipitation.

“The higher the humidity, the higher the temperature, the quicker they will break down their organic materials,” said Holly Prochaska, the interim head of the Archives and Rare Books Library at the University of Cincinnati. “Leather will wet rot. Collagen fibers in vellum will tighten and shrink.”…

Institutions like U.C.L.A. are developing ways to combat humidity to work in tandem with their climate-controlled stacks and collections rooms. Now, because of climate change, Metzger thinks twice before loaning out materials, which can keep history and knowledge under lock and key.

“Books gain meaning by use — use is exhibit, use is research — and there’s a beauty in use,” Metzger said. “If we just isolate things and keep them in these little, perfectly controlled environments with guards around them, what is their meaning anymore?”

One solution is digitization — scanning pages and storing them online. The process is not only an answer to climate change; it also allows for documents to be easily accessible and shared, broadening a collection’s reach. Adding documents to a server or the cloud, though, presents its own set of obstacles, both practical and environmental.

(8) SYLVIA RUCKER (1943-2023). Sylvia Bogsch Rucker, Rudy Rucker’s wife, died January 6. He pays tribute to her in “Sylvia’s Life”.

…Her curiosity never ended, even in her final days she wanted to know the details of everyone’s lives. This special attention made everyone feel loved. Her loving, warm, beautiful spirit will be deeply missed by all….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1926 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Pooh and food

We shall talk about Pooh and food. Well actually I believe that A.E. Milne only had one food that his round little bear found interesting to the point of obsession and that was honey. Honey, often spelled Hunny by Pooh, is as you know the ever so sweet food made by bees. 

It’s easily the most important food in the Winnie-the-Pooh works, being loved by pooh bears, heffalumps and woozles and also enjoyed by rabbits and piglets. 

Pooh even called it smackerel , which is to say a snack of a small amount of honey. Indeed In the very first chapter, Pooh tells us, “the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it”.

And yes, actual bears do love honey. They’ll break open a tree to get at a wild hive inside a dead trunk eating the honey and bees alike. They particularly like the bee larvae. 

““When you wake up in the morning, Pooh” said piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.”

The illustration is from the 1926 first edition with the art by E.A. Shepherd.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 10, 1904 Ray Bolger. The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, the villainous Barnaby in Babes in Toyland, two appearances on Fantasy Island, andVector In “Greetings from Earth” on the Seventies version of Battlestar Galactica. He made a Dr. Pepper ad which you can see here. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 10, 1937 Elizabeth Anne Hull. She served as the President of the Science Fiction Research Association and editor of its newsletter. She was a member of the panel for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel since 1986. With her husband Frederik Pohl, Hull edited the Tales from the Planet Earth anthology. She was also the editor of the Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl anthology. She has co-authored three short stories with him, “Author Plus”, “The Middle Kingdom” and “Second Best Friend”. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 10, 1944 William Sanderson, 79. I remember him best as J. F. Sebastian, the possibly insane genetic designer working for Tyrell in Blade Runner, but he’s had a career obviously after that film including appearing as Skeets in The Rocketeer, voicing Dr. Karl Rossum on Batman: The Animated Series, playing the character Deuce on Babylon 5 (a series I’ve watched through at least three times), E. B. Farnum on Deadwood (ok, it’s not genre, but it’s Will and Emma’s favorite show so let’s let it slide) and Sheriff Bud Dearborne on True Blood
  • Born January 10, 1944 Jeffrey Catherine JonesShe was an artist providing more than a hundred and fifty covers for many different types of genre books through mid seventies including the Ace paperback editions of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series including Swords Against Death. Among her work was also Flash Gordon for Charlton Comics in the Sixties and the Conan Saga for Marvel Comics in the late Eighties.  (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 10, 1947 George Alec Effinger. I’ve read his Marîd Audran series at least twice as it’s an amazing series in both the characters and the setting. I never read the short stories set in this setting until Golden Gryphon Press sent me Budayeen Nights for Green Man to review.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any of his other works. (Died 2002.)
  • Born January 10, 1959 Jeff Kaake, 64. He’s on the Birthday Honors list as he was Captain John Boon on the Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. That was a fun show! He was also Thomas Cole on Viper which lasted four seasons. And he showed up in the Stormageddon film (which sounds like the name a Filer would give to a beloved  SJW Cred) as well. 
  • Born January 10, 1959 Fran Walsh, 64. Partner of Peter Jackson, she has contributed to all of his films since the late Eighties when she started out as co-writer of Meet the Feebles, and as producer since The Fellowship of the Ring which won a Hugo. Need I note the next two films won Hugos as well? The Hobbit films did not win Hugos.  The first one was nominated at LoneStarCon 3 but lost out to The Avengers; the other two were not nominated.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TOTOPOTUS. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Miranda Parkin (@mparkinb) did this piece based on Season 2 of the HBO sci-fi comedy television series Avenue 5 (2020-):

(13) LOOK CLOSER. [Item by Jo Van.] Something tonight reminded me of the Deep Space Nine Documentary What We Left Behind, which I helped to crowd-fund back in 2017, and I was thinking, wait a minute, wasn’t there something about a posted acknowledgement of the contributors?

It took a foray into the Wayback Machine, but I found it… and there’s my name, down about where Sisko’s communicator would be.

(14) GAINING CREDENTIALS. Annalisa Barbieri tells the Guardian “What the love of cats taught me about myself”.

I never thought I’d kiss a cat. Or like them, or be in a room with them. Cats, to me, were evil and unpredictable. A classic projection, if ever I saw one, of fear manifesting as dislike. Intense fear. Intense dislike.

But then I became a mother and, as we all know, maternal love makes you do strange, selfless things occasionally. My children started asking for a cat. I said no, of course. My home was my safe place. No cats allowed. For some years they asked for a cat, on and off. Eventually, the “why we should get a cat” lists started getting toilet-roll long and I started thinking, maybe we can get a kitten. Kittens are cute. I started watching videos. Kittens were cute….

(15) BIG SIXTIES FINISH. Victoria Silverwolf wraps up a review of a famous anthology: “[January 10, 1968] Saving the Best For Last (Dangerous Visions, Part Three)” at Galactic Journey.

Welcome to the last of our three discussions about an anthology of original fantasy and science fiction that’s drawing a lot of attention. Love it or hate it, or maybe a little of both, it’s impossible to ignore….

(16) ALAS, POOR UNIVAC. Arturo Serrano brings us “Microreview [book]: Hamlet, Prince of Robots by M. Darusha Wehm” at Nerds of a Feather.

No longer the seat of Danish monarchy, Elsinore is now a corporation, a leading manufacturer of human-like robots. The murdered Hamlet senior was the Humanoid Artificial Mind (Learned Emotive Type), a model that represented a huge leap ahead in robotic innovation. Instead of a queen, Gertrude is a CEO, whose hopes for Elsinore’s bottom line now depend on the success of her latest creation, the Hamlet v.2. If the company doesn’t maintain dominance of the robot market, its (figurative) throne will be snatched by its main competitor, which is aggressively promoting a rival model, the Fortinbras. But one night, a portion of old code from Hamlet v.1 copies itself into the hard drive of Hamlet v.2, and a quest for revenge begins to take shape.

Everything’s better with robots, and a retelling of one of the biggest classics in the Western canon is a sure attention grabber….

(17) ON THE SHELF. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimeralso asked the Hamlet author for recommendations in “Six Books with M. Darusha Wehm”.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’ve had it on my shelf since it came out, but only just started The Book of Flora by Meg Elison. It’s the third and final book in the “Road to Nowhere” series, which starts with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. The whole series is an incredible, post-apocalyptic saga of the struggles of communities in dark times. I’ve loved the two previous books in the series, but while the books offer stories of human resilience, they are also harrowing to read, so I’ve had to space them out in my reading time…. 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In case you missed the Sixties we offer “The Complete 14 Batman Window Cameos”.

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

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: An Audiobook Review

By Lis Carey: Snuff is our narrator, here, and he’s a smart, interesting, likable dog. He’s the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event. Jack has a very sharp knife, which he and Snuff use in gathering the necessary ingredients for the ancient and deadly ritual that will be performed on Halloween.

But Jack and Snuff aren’t the only participants preparing for what they call “The Game.”  Crazy Jill and her cat, Greymalk, The Count and his bat, Dr.Frankenstein, Rasputin, The Wolfman, and others — all (except The Wolfman) with their animal companions. Sherlock Holmes is very interested, but not, himself, a player.

As Snuff narrates events, we learn that there are “openers” and “closers,” and it’s a secret, or supposed to be, who is which until the night itself. We gradually realize what the significance of those terms is.

Until the night itself, as everyone gathers their necessary ingredients, and everyone works to figure out what the location of the ritual will be, players form temporary alliances sometimes with those who will be on the other side when the time comes. The animal companions don’t necessarily ally with the animal companions of their human/humanlike partners.

And there is a great deal of intrigue going on.

We see the story through Snuff’s eyes, and therefore the other animals more than the human partners. We nevertheless also learn a great deal about the humans involved, even as the animals are engaged in their parallel intrigues and efforts to prevent disaster.

But what’s disaster? Is it better for the openers or the closers to prevail?

It’s a fascinating story, with interesting and enjoyable characters. Matt Godfrey as narrator absolutely makes me believe Snuff’s voice, and makes the other voices distinct and individual. 

Highly recommended.                

I received a free copy of this audiobook, and I am reviewing it voluntarily.

  • A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny (author), Matt Godfrey (narrator) Recorded Books, ISBN 9781705061329, August 2022