Pixel Scroll 1/16/23 Magneto’s Cat Versus The Metal-Munching Moon Mice

(1) AI CONTENT CREATION. Brian Keene makes the argument that “The Machines Already Took Our Jobs”.

…Now, you might not think that’s a big deal, because who is reading those types of clickbait articles anyway? But there used to be a human writer churning out those things. And now that writer is just a little bit more financially insecure and scrambling to find another gig to replace it. 

But stick around, because it gets worse. It is one miniscule step from A.I. writing that sort of content to then writing an article for a magazine or a newspaper. And indeed, I know of magazines and newspapers whose owners are already looking into this possibility. As one person at a fairly decent-sized outlet told me, “From a cost-cutting perspective, it costs as much to pay an editor to look over a machine’s writing as it does to have them look over a human’s writing. But the difference is we don’t have to pay the human who wrote it. Just the editor. It’s a game-changer.”

That’s not the only place you’re reading A.I. generated content. I personally know of three companies that now use A.I. to write their posts for LinkedIn and Facebook. And because that sort of content is usually dry as a Saltine cracker anyway, it’s impossible to tell that a machine wrote it rather than a human….

(2) FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE. Meanwhile, Camestros Felapton finds services are being developed to detect AI-generated text, and uses his own writing to evaluate the results delivered by one of them in “The robot arms race”.

… With the text-generating services, the need to detect the role of these services in academic contexts has become an immediate issue. How does a teacher know that an essay is written by a student or by some GPT-fuelled website?

New online services intended to detect machine-learning generated text are appearing. I tried this one https://gptzero.me/

(3) THE GUNN SF CENTER’S BOOK CLUB. For the month of January, the Center has chosen Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award. Join them on Friday, January 27 at Noon (Central Time). Register for the virtual meeting here

Set in an underwater society built in the horror of the slave trade, the mermaids of this story must rely on their collective memories of the past in order to reimagine their futures. This novel, inspired by a rap song of the same name, is sure to captivate folks interested in the forthcoming live-action The Little Mermaid and other fantastical tales.

(4) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. NPR interviews James Cameron about the movies that are on the way: “Avatar 2 is taking over cinema, but how far away are we from upcoming sequels?”

On upcoming Avatar sequels and what exactly makes a good sequel

The shooting scripts are all written. We’ve already fully captured and fully photographed movie three. So, it’s essentially in post-production.

We’ve done the first act of Movie four, and all we have to do is, you know, kind of add water, so to speak.

The audience want some degree of familiarity. They want to be grounded in that which they liked from the first film. And some sequels change too much. The trick is to find ways to make it pleasantly surprising, unexpected. You know, I feel like I was able to do that with a completely unexpected direction.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1960 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] An excerpt from Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham

As you know by now, you know that I have an inordinate fondness for all thing things Seuss. Indeed in my bedroom on the nightstand sits Horton, Cat in the Hat and The Fish in His Teapot. 

I have also watched the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas so many times that I’m sure I’ve memorized the entire delightful affair. 

I thoroughly despised the twenty minutes I saw of the Jim Carey fronted How the Grinch Stole Christmas crap. But I am told that I should check out the newer Grinch animated film in which Benedict Cumberbatch voiced The Grinch. Any opinions here concerning it? 

Did you know that on the twentieth of September 1991 following Geisel’s death earlier that week, Jesse Jackson read an excerpt of Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live? Well he did. And here it is

Now let’s have the pleasure of an excerpt from it. 

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham.

Would you like them here or there?
I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse?
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death. (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus the wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 75. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to have done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 53 . Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 49. Yes she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 47. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THE HELICON SOCIETY. The 2023 “Helicon Awards” were announced January 14. It’s time again for Richard Paolinelli to give awards to people he publishes through his Tuscany Bay Books imprint, such as his fellow Scrappy-Doo Declan Finn, which now has a distribution deal with Baen, plus a couple of real bestselling sff writers he hopes will pay him attention.

Paolinelli and Finn still relentlessly advertise their Dragon Awards Finalist status, from the first years when the Puppies cornered the market, but they have solved the subsequent problem with the Dragon Awards being voted to other people by starting an award where – the public doesn’t have a vote!

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Linoleum comes to theaters February 24.

Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan), the host of a failing children’s science TV show called “Above & Beyond”, has always had aspirations of being an astronaut. After a mysterious space-race era satellite coincidentally falls from space and lands in his backyard, his midlife crisis manifests in a plan to rebuild the machine into his dream rocket. As his relationship with his wife (Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon) start to strain, surreal events begin unfolding around him — a doppelgänger moving into the house next door, a car falling from the sky, and an unusual teenage boy forging a friendship with him. He slowly starts to piece these events together to ultimately reveal that there’s more to his life story than he once thought.

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

2023 Critics Choice Awards

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) announced the winners of the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards on January 15.

Everything Everywhere All at Once won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Editing, and Best Original Screenplay.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s Angela Bassett won Best Supporting Actress, while Ruth E. Carter received the award for Best Costume Design.

Avatar: The Way of Water took Best Special Effects. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio won Best Animated Feature.

The complete list of winners follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/15/23 Suddenly, There Was A Knock On The Pixel

(1) 2023 HORROR UNIVERSITY ONLINE WINTER SESSION. The Horror Writers Association will run its Winter 2023 Horror University Online session from February 6 to April 3. They will present eight workshops for horror writers interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, or perfecting their manuscript presentation. Full descriptions and registration information is available in the Horror University School on Teachable.  
 
The Winter 2023 Session includes:

February 6: The Master Plotting Crash Course with John Skipp.
February 13: Decoding Screenwriting with L. Marie Wood.
February 27: Writing “Spooky” Stories for Younger Readers (Middle Grade and Young Adult) with Jennifer Brody.
March 6: Behind the Badge: Creating Realistic Law Enforcement Characters with Alicia Hilton.
March 13: What Makes a Good Scary Story with Patricia Marcantonio.
March 20: Graphic Horror: Creating Horror Comics and Graphic Novels with James Chambers.
March 27: Perfecting Your Pitch with Jonathan Maberry.
April 3: Upping Your Anthology Game with Michael Knost.

Registration is $65 for non-HWA-members, $55 for HWA members, and four- and eight-course bundles are available. Discount codes, available to HWA members only, can be found in the next Internet Mailer, which will be sent to all members shortly.

(2) HWA BLACK HERITAGE INTERVIEW ROUNDUP. There’s a “Complete List of 2022 Black Heritage Series Interviewees” at the Horror Writers Association blog. Links to 18 interviews.

As we prepare to roll out the 2023 Black Heritage Month Interview, let’s stop and take a look back at our first year of interviews from 2022

(3) PROVE YOU’RE NOT A ROBOT. David D. Levine has raised a new point of netiquette in this Facebook post.

Context: in a conversation about Y2K bugs, two different friends of mine (definitely real people) chose to post comments which were the output of chatbots. In one case the poster said “I posed your question to a chatbot and it said this,” in the other the poster posted a short story related to the question which was, to my eye, clearly the output of a chatbot, and when asked the poster confirmed that it was.

I do not find chatbot output amusing any more, except in the case where it goes hilariously wrong. And I find posting chatbot output into a conversation with friends, as though it was something you’d actually put any effort into, to be offensive. (I didn’t know this until it happened.)…

More exposition at the link.

(4) THE TIDE GOES OUT. “‘Avatar’: The Way of the Restroom”  — the New York Times

…“It was honestly all the water,” said Mr. Brizard, 29, who works in finance and lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The sea gushes, gurgles and sprays across the screen in James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel, which immerses viewers in the richly textured aquatic world of a clan of reef-dwelling Na’vi. These photorealistic ocean sequences make up the bulk of a lengthy epic that many are watching in theaters with vats of soda in hand, creating a perfect storm for moviegoers to need to take one or more bathroom breaks.

The water scenes are especially vivid in IMAX 3-D, according to Mr. Brizard, who moved to an aisle seat after his first trip to the restroom so he wouldn’t have to step over other audience members on subsequent visits. “All the splashing noises, it’s all a constant reminder,” he said.

Mr. Cameron, who has encouraged fans to see “Avatar” in theaters, saw this coming.

“Here’s the big social paradigm shift that has to happen: It’s OK to get up and go pee,” he said in an interview with Empire magazine. He added that he did not want anyone “whining about length” when people are perfectly willing to watch eight straight hours of television. (Television, it must be said, is easier to pause than a movie in a theater.)

In November, Mr. Cameron told The Hollywood Reporter that moviegoers should go to the bathroom “any time they want” during the movie. “They can see the scene they missed when they come see it again,” the director added….

(5) 2023 WESTERCON. Arlene Busby, chair of Westercon75, sent an update to the SMOFs email list. The con is being held June 30-July 3 at the Clarion Hotel Anaheim at 616 Convention Way, Anaheim, CA 92802. The GoH’s are Fantasy Writer Gail Carriger and Science GoH Dr Kevin Grazier. If anyone needs to reach her she can be emailed at [email protected] 

(6) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport appeals for subscribers by posting the free story “Our Lady of Tomorrow” by Natalie C. Parker.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1948 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Rex Stout’s recipe for his perfect omelet

I was intending to, and I will in this series of essays, go into Nero Wolfe’s rather deep fondness for food and drink. But I found something even better in And Be a Villain (British title, More Deaths Than One) the Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout that was first published by the Viking Press in 1948. 

It is Rex Stout’s recipe for his perfect omelet. Really it is. It’s also in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook as published by Viking Press in 1973 where the Viking editors then credit it to Wolfe a quarter of a century later. If you decide to purchase this cookbook, do not buy the 1981 paperback as it has but a sampling of the 1973 recipes. Boo, hiss! 

And now, here’s Stout’s perfect omelet recipe.

It is better to make two small omelets than a large one. Beat four eggs in a bowl, adding two Tbsps. of milk or cream if you wish; I don’t. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat one scant Tbsp. butter in a skillet over a hot fire. When the butter is hot but before it smokes, add the eggs all at once. Quickly, with a fork, pull the edges of the egg mass toward the center as they thicken. The liquid part will immediately fill the vacant spaces. Repeat until there is no more liquid but the eggs are still very soft. Gently press the handle of the skillet downward and let the omelet slide toward it. When 1/3 of the omelet has slid up the edge of the pan, fold it toward the center with a spatula. Raise the handle to slide the omelet in the opposite direction, and when 1/3 is up the far edge hold a dish (heated) under it. As the rim of the omelet touches the dish, raise the handle until the skillet is upside down. The result should be an oval-shaped light-brown omelet.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed because it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1924 Dennis Lynds. He only wrote two sf novels, probably pulp ones at that, Lukan War and The Planets of Death, but I’m intrigued that he also penned eight titles of The Shadow from 1964 to 1967 under the Shadow’s author by-line of Maxwell Grant. He also, and I count this as genre, under the name of Robert Hart Davis penned a number of Man from U.N.C.L.E. novellas that all ran in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. And over four decades he published some eighty novels and two hundred short stories, in both mystery and literary themes. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulnan Commander Spock gets involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection. (Died 2021.)
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 88.  I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best-known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read has Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 78. One of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.
  • Born January 15, 1965 James Nesbitt, 58. Best genre role was as Tom Jackman and Hyde in Jekyll which was written by Steven Moffat. He’s also appeared in Fairy TalesThe Young Indiana Jones ChroniclesStan Lee’s Lucky Man and Outcast. Yes, I know he played Bofur in the Hobbit films. I still consider Jekyll his better by far genre role. 

(9) LOOTING THE UKRAINE. “As Russians Steal Ukraine’s Art, They Attack Its Identity, Too” explains the New York Times.

…As Russia has ravaged Ukraine with deadly missile strikes and brutal atrocities on civilians, it has also looted the nation’s cultural institutions of some of the most important and intensely protected contributions of Ukraine and its forebears going back thousands of years.

International art experts say the plundering may be the single biggest collective art heist since the Nazis pillaged Europe in World War II.

… In Kherson, in Ukraine’s south, Ukrainian prosecutors and museum administrators say the Russians stole more than 15,000 pieces of fine art and one-of-a-kind artifacts. They dragged bronze statues from parks, lifted books from a riverside scientific library, boxed up the crumbling, 200-year-old bones of Grigory Potemkin, Catherine the Great’s lover, and even stole a raccoon from the zoo, leaving behind a trail of vacant cages, empty pedestals and smashed glass.

Ukrainian officials say that Russian forces have robbed or damaged more than 30 museums — including several in Kherson, which was retaken in November, and others in Mariupol and Melitopol, which remain under Russian occupation. With Ukrainian investigators still cataloging the losses of missing oil paintings, ancient steles, bronze pots, coins, necklaces and busts, the number of reported stolen items is likely to grow….

(10) BOOKSTORES SPOTLIGHTED. Hadassah Magazine’s list of “America’s Distinctive Jewish-Owned Bookstores” includes The Ripped Bodice, a romance specialty bookstore in Los Angeles.

“Books belong in a Jewish home,” affirms Leah Koch, who with her sister, Bea, owns the Los Angeles romance-focused bookstore The Ripped Bodice. Indeed, a section of the bright and enticing store looks like a living room, complete with shabby chic sofas and love seat.

For the Koches, bookselling fulfills a larger mission to promote diversity. While the six- year-old store’s white shelves are stacked with every type of romance book possible, from Regency (Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” series is a favorite) to erotica, the sisters deliberately showcase Jewish, LGBTQ and non-white storylines and authors, all of which are underrepresented in the romance genre.

Toward December, rather than putting up tinsel, the owners mounted a riotous blue-and-white Hanukkah display in the shop windows. Angelenos cruising by the pink Culver City storefront couldn’t miss the oversized dreidels, menorahs and posters of Jewish-themed books like Jean Meltzer’s The Matzah Ball.

(11) CURRENT EVENTS. Today Norman Spinrad reminded readers of his email list where to find a video of his performance at the Electric Circus in Paris. “Norman Spinrad chante sur la piste du Cirque Electrique”.

(12) WET WORK. These California storms have got water on everyone’s brain – which seems to be the source of these ideas from regular contributor Michael Toman.

QUEST TALES OF ATMOSPHERIC RIVERWORLDedited and written by Philip Jose Farmer & “Divers Hands?”

Or maybe another crossover with one of my other favorite PJF series, featuring Paul Janus Finnegan, aka “Kickaha?”

RED ORC’S OMEGA COAST MAKEOVER UNIVERSE?

With a J.M.W. Turner inspired cover by John Schoenherr?

First line?

“Didn’t it rain, Lords, Lords, didn’t it rain?”

Yeah, this Long-Time Farmerphile would buy that book in a Dayworld Nano-Second!

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Mysterious Galaxy bookstore’s YouTube channel includes videos of many virtual events, including the recently posted recording of “Author Seanan McGuire, in discussion with Nghi Vo”.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/23 Plant-Based Baloney Weighed The Solar-Powered Raven Down

(1) OF LANDINGS UNSTUCK. The New York Times’ Carlo Rotella reminds us of the power of words in “Good Fantasy Writing Is Pure Magic”.

As I watched last fall’s showdown of TV’s big-money epic fantasy franchises, I was wincingly reminded that language is the most underrated special effect. Unforced errors of word choice — loose talk of “focus” and “stress” in HBO’s “House of the Dragon,” for example — kept pulling me down from my fantasy high and into the diction of emails from human resources. Case in point: “I have pursued this foe since before the first sunrise bloodied the sky,” says the elf warrior-princess Galadriel in Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” “It would take longer than your lifetime even to speak the names of those they have taken from me.” She’s adrift on a life raft with a mysterious stranger after a sea-monster attack, and certain dark intimations suggest that eldritch evil draws nigh. So far, so OK, but then her speech reaches its climax: “So letting it lie is not an option.”

Clangalang! Descending from a tagline fashioned by writers of the movie “Apollo 13” from something a NASA flight director said, “X is not an option” has become a staple of business-speak and coach-talk. The writers of Galadriel’s speech couldn’t have killed the buzz any deader if they’d followed up with, “I’m all about laserlike focus 24-7 on getting some closure on this whole Sauron thing.” …

(2) INTERZONE NEWS. [Item by Andrew Porter.] The new version of Interzone now has a website — https://interzone.press/ — which has the covers and Tables of Contents for the next three issues (294 to 296) coming in January, March and May 2023. The style of the covers is certainly quite a change.

(3) WHO RULES? James Davis Nicoll puts a claim to the test in “SF and Fantasy Governments: A Semi-Scientific Survey” at Tor.com.

…Are science fiction and fantasy as rife with autocracies as some have implied? Or is this merely an illusion, one to which I might be subject because I am personally rather tired of autocratic settings?

It’s been nearly a year since my project began. The results are not quite as I expected….

(4) MAY I BUY A VOWEL? Apparently from now on I will be saying it was Turkiye where I ate Turkish Delight in 2004. “US changes to Turkey’s preferred spelling at ally’s request” reports MSN.com.

The [State] department has instructed that new official documents refer to Turkiye instead of Turkey, although the pronunciation will not change, officials said. But neither the State Department website nor the Foreign Affairs Manual, which guides U.S. diplomatic practices, had been revised to reflect the change as of midday Thursday.

“The Turkish embassy requested that the U.S. government use the name “Republic of Turkiye” in communications,” the department said. “We will begin to refer to Turkiye and Republic of Turkiye accordingly in most formal, diplomatic, and bilateral contexts, including in public communications.”

The move comes ahead of an expected visit to Washington later this month by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during which Turkey’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its resistance to allowing Finland and Sweden to join NATO will be high on the agenda.

(5) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. It sells tickets whether or not critics love it. Deadline has the numbers: “‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ Tops $1.5B Global, Becomes No. 10 Highest-Grossing Film Of All Time [Worldwide]” .

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, as expected (see below), has exceeded $1.5B globally with Wednesday’s figures included. The running total through yesterday is $1,516.5M, meaning that it has overtaken Top Gun: Maverick as the No. 1 worldwide release of 2022. What’s more, it is now the No. 10 biggest movie ever globally.

The 20th Century Studios/Disney sci-fi epic has also in the past day crossed Furious 7 worldwide. Today, it will pass The Avengers to claim the No. 9 spot on the all-time global chart. 

Internationally, it is the No. 9 biggest movie ever, and, in Europe, is the highest-grosser of the pandemic era (having passed Spider-Man: No Way Home). It is also the No. 5 release of all time for the region…. 

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. Jeremy Renner tweets video update ICU. View it at the link: “A ‘not no great’ ICU DAY, turned to amazing spa day with my sis and mama”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille has the best matzo ball soup in the galaxy. Lots of garlic, matzo balls with just the right consistency to absorb the flavor, big chunks of chicken, and the whole of it seasoned to a biting perfection. One bowl, along with maybe a couple of tamales, will usually do for a meal.

As for entertainment, Feng gets some of the best Irish musicians you’ll ever hear—good instrumental backing, fine singing, some stupendous fiddle playing, and driving energy. Hell, some of the songs are actually Irish.

— Steven Brust’s Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille

Warning: very mild spoilers by inference. H’h

The novel is, to put it charitably, not one of his better efforts though the food and music scenes are wonderful. Think I’m being harsh? Let’s ask the author:

Not one of my better efforts, I think, but there are bits of it I like. It started out to be funny, developed a serious side, and I was never able to get the elements to blend the way I wanted them to. Grumble grumble. It’s always pleasant to run into someone who liked this book; it means that I can still do all right when I’m not on my game.

I wrote a terrible harsh review of it that I’ll not link that I thought Brust would hate but he wrote me an email saying that even he didn’t like the novel. But his scenes of the characters eating are fantastic: 

Cecil’s? It was a small place with a lot of mirrors and chrome and a little bit of an antiseptic feeling. The food was good, though. We had something that tasted like oyster soup and almost was, then she had a small salad and I had something with beef and mushrooms in a sherry sauce. No complaints.

They also drink a lot of coffee and I do mean a lot of it. They must have sacks of beans in this interstellar hopping cafe. And a hell of a roaster. 

So it’s reading for these scenes and the Irish music scenes herein. The SF story? Well, not so much, say me and the author. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1929 Russ Manning. An artist who created and drew the Gold Key comic book character Magnus: Robot Fighter; who drew the Tarzan comic book from 1965–1969 and the Tarzan newspaper comic strip from 1967 – 1972; and the Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979–1980. (Died 1981.) (bill) 
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the King can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1941 Hayao Miyazaki, 82. A masterful storyteller who chose animation as his medium. He co-founded Studio Ghibli in 1985 and has directed some of the best loved films of all time. His films include the Oscar winning film Spirited AwayMy Neighbor Tortoro, and adapting the classic novel Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones for the big screen.  (Matt Russell)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 64. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor in the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive to list here, but I’ll single out his work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan in Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim in Starship Troopers and, one of my favorite weird series, Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 57. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 48. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact he is here just for that role. Mind you he’ll have voiced him six times by that Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 3 comes out, so I’d say he’s got him spot perfect.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 45. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished re-listening to her Sparrow Hill Road stories which was are excellent and earlier I’d read her much of InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and I hope she does more of. 

(9) PROTO WRITING’S EARLIER BEGINNING LEARNED. “Mystery of ancient dots and stripes on Europe’s caves is solved” reports Yahoo!

For decades, researchers had suspected that the seemingly random dots and stripes on cave paintings across Europe contained a hidden meaning, yet they were unable to decipher them.

Now, thanks to the work of a pioneering amateur, the code has been cracked and archaeologists believe that a wave of discoveries is set to tumble forth.

The first great revelation is that ancient humans were using the paintings to track the mating and birthing seasons of wild animals such as cattle, horses and mammoths….

For example, paintings of aurochs, wild ancestors of modern cattle, in Spain had four dots on them. This showed that they were mating four months after “bonne saison” or Paleolithic spring.

Prof Pettitt and Prof Bob Kentridge, also at Durham, helped confirm the findings by proving that there was almost no statistical chance of the results being coincidental.

By showing that the dots were more than just a simple tally, for example of hunting kills, the research has revealed a much higher level of thought among hunter-gatherers said Prof Pettitt…

(10) A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. John L Ford is a lifelong fan turned author of Science Fiction. He hails from a background in Natural Sciences having a degree in Meteorology. His novel Dominion is an escape into the analogy of Artificial Intelligence.

Where the corrosive power of time failed, Dominion begins. Unable to wear down the chains of grief left in the wake of losing her and stuck in the quagmire of postmortem morosity, Colton is on the verge of hanging his legacy upon the gallery walls of dimmed mediocrity in the museum of unknown history. Then, it happens.

A flash of insight, as though spoken from the grave, it becomes the guiding light; one desperately needed to reinvent purpose and meaning. It is so much of what she meant to him shining through, that internal voice from the past, that it strikes him with an idea so profound it could only result in the ensuing research. Is it fiction or reality?

Leonardo da Vinci visualized flying machines, and the essential aspects of that ‘fiction’ became fact. And just as the genetics of his ideas evolved into man-made dragonflies and humming birds, Colton Reinholt, a physicist, with a unique mind for synthesis, drafts an idea, too.

Borrowed by observation of actual physiological biology, he uses solid state physics to reconstruct a natural paradigm only ever achieved by evolution’s miracle, the human mind. Thus, what emerges in this physical and ethereal journey simply must carry more than mere soupcon of riveting plausibility.

So, through accelerating technological forces on the world often charging boldly before compunction, we are compelled by our own evolution to satisfy an unstoppable desire for discovery. What is really meant by the phrase, ‘Artificial Intelligence’? This is what we adventure through experimental exploration into the energy of the mind.

What begins as an innocent thought experiment, frolicsome dabbling fuses with technical knowhow and its synthesis results in a fantastic gestalt. By bridging disparate scientific disciplines, it ultimately gives rise to a power that may either become benevolent or malevolent. For despite all human conceits, the answer to the question of good versus evil is not one we are capable to define.

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(11) ROBORAPTORS. Behind a paywall in Nature, “A robotic bird of prey scares off nuisance flocks in a flash – and they don’t seem to get wise to the deception”. “Plagued by problem birds? Call RobotFalcon!”

Birds that hit aeroplane windscreens or are sucked into jet engines can cause accidents and costly damage, so airfields work to keep birds — particularly flocking birds — away. Trained falcons are more effective than scarecrows, but are expensive to keep and need to rest between patrols.

Rolf Storms at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and his colleagues designed a robotic raptor to take over the task.

Collisions between birds and airplanes can damage aircrafts, resulting in delays and cancellation of flights, costing the international civil aviation industry more than 1.4 billion US dollars annually.

The RobotFalcon is a practical and ethical solution to drive away birdflocks with all advantages of live predators but without their limitations.

Primary research here.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Adam Savage, in this video which dropped Sunday, continues his trip to London examining an original Christopher Reeve Superman suit and how they built such suits before Spandex was invented.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, 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.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #71

Avatar: The Way of Water, A (Spoiler Free) Film Review 

By Chris M. Barkley:

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022, 2 of 4 stars, 192 minutes) with Sam Worthingon, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Britain Dalton, Jaime Flatters, Jack Champion, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss and Giovanni Ribisi. Screenplay by James Cameron, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, Directed by James Cameron.

Bechdel Test: Passes, but just barely.

You don’t tug on superman’s cape;
You don’t spit into the wind;
You don’t pull the mask off that old lone ranger,
And you don’t mess around with Jim…

— “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” — Lyrics by Jim Croce, 1972

 There is a myth surrounding my love of films; my family, close friends, acquaintances, readers of these columns and people in fandom think that I will praise, without reservation, practically EVERY movie I see and review.

 I will say that this is mostly false; I love praising most films that I like because of their artistry of the collaborative process, craft, screenwriting, characters and direction. And I like sharing these discoveries with you readers as well.

Another factor I consider when I appraise a film is how it makes me feel; my movie collection (which looks more like a movie library or a channel at the moment) is filled with stories and images that provoked, startled, challenged and invoked memories and feelings that I happily return to see year after year.

And yes, there are movies that are definitely off my repeat viewing list; The Sting (1973), The Natural (1984), Gattaca, Dark City, Starship Troopers (all from 1997) and WALL-E (2008).

The trouble with the film industry nowadays is that a majority of audiences want to see big, common denominator films and that smaller, more personal and lower budgeted films are becoming harder to finance and becoming more scarce.

I will say, quite pointedly, that if you react to a good movie (or tv series, for that matter) that is a miracle of design, artistry, production values, music, film editing, screenwriting, acting, direction and a million other things going on behind the scenes…

Which brings us to Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Spoiler Alert; I will be a dissenting voice. 

When a film this anticipated comes along I’m usually among the first reviewers to weigh in. Well, this time around, I have to admit that I was in no hurry whatsoever, mainly because of the auteur behind this burgeoning Avatar empire.

The lyrics I quote above from the late Jim Croce’s hit song easily could be applied to the life and career of James Francis Cameron, the creator, writer, director and producer of some of the most successful and iconic films for the past forty years: The Terminator and its sequel, T2, The Abyss, True Lies, the Academy Award winning Titanic and the first Avatar film.

James Cameron’s reputation as being a hard driving, obsessed perfectionist is legendary. His reputation in the film industry is quite binary; either you love him, his process and work ethic OR you loathe him. But either way, he is respected for the level of success he has achieved during his career.

Back in 2009, The New Yorker Magazine profiled Cameron before the release of the first film, and provided what I consider a rather even handed view of the man and his filmmaking process: “Man of Extremes” in The New Yorker.

But no matter how I feel about him as a person (and I definitely have some opinions on the subject), that shouldn’t affect how I might feel about the work he produces. Usually. 

The one thing I can say is that when it comes to Avatar: The Way of Water is that I was somewhat impressed with the look and visual effects of the movie and how hard Cameron was trying to win me over with this film.

The Way of Water takes us back to the moon of Pandora, where Corporal Sully (Sam Worthington), the former human soldier turned Na’vi avatar, has settled down and formed a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) with three native children  Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Tuktirey (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) and adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver).

But the Sully clan, and the rest of Pandora denizens for that matter, have their idyllic lives disrupted for good with the sudden reappearance of “the sky people” (Terrans) whose landings signal a new wave of despoiling of the biosphere and establishing permanent human colonies.

Sully’s deceased antagonist from the first film, Col. Miles Qualritch (Stephen Lang) has been cloned and revived as a Na’vi avatar with most of his memories intact. With a heavily armed squad of similarly reconstituted avatar hybrids, his primary mission is to hunt down and destroy Sully and crush the growing native resistance to the human invaders.

What follows over the next three hours chronicles the Sullys on the run, Qualritch and his mercenaries hot on their trail, encountering new, sea based tribes and various and intermittent views of Pandora’s wonders, all leading up to a deadly and devastating clash. 

The Way of Water’s visual effects are spectacular; the live action actors blend almost seamlessly with the computer generated flora, fauna, sea creatures and alien characters. Everything is vivid and almost lifelike. And I have read elsewhere that it’s even more so in 3-D.

But, and there is no way I can sugarcoat this, is that all of this is just a hollow exercise in spectacle as far as I’m concerned. The Way of Water is nothing more than a rerun of the first film with more bad guys, more guns, more explosions and chases and more children and female characters in dire peril, with some extra teen angst thrown in for extra measure.

 And, I was pleased to see, I was not alone in my assessment. 

While most mainstream critics and reviewers have lavished praise on The Way of Water, others have criticized Cameron for his simplistic and obvious plotline, hackneyed dialog, thin characterizations and his seemingly disingenuous lip service towards the plight of indigenous people and our ongoing environmental crisis. While it’s easy to see the ecological parallels between Pandora and Earth, I wonder if people are flocking to see are just there for the special effects and battles and walk away not even caring about that underlying message.  

I have to admit that I did have a bit of a chip on my shoulder going into this movie. For one, I felt that the first film was thematically an adaptation of the late Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1972 Hugo Award winning novella “The Word For World Is Forest” (which was first published in Harlan Ellison’s landmark sf anthology Again, Dangerous Visions in 1972), a comparison that many observers have noted over the past thirteen years.

(In fact, if Cameron had put his sizable talents to work on adapting Le Guin’s story or her Hainish tales, Cameron could have saved himself a lot of production time and effort than creating Pandora’s backstory and ecology from the ground up.)

Secondly, I’ve seen several thousand films over the past six decades. If I’m not fully into a movie to the point where my suspension of disbelief is disengaged, I start to anticipate plot points, look for bad special effects, acting miscues and editing errors. 

So after two hours and thirty minutes of Cameron’s painting by the numbers sturm und drang, I knew exactly what to expect in the last half hour, including the cliffhanger ending. 

OK movies give their audiences what they want. Great movies confound, astound and upend their expectations. This may be true of some people regarding Avatar: The Way of Water but when I think about it, I was never the intended audience for it.

As of this publication (December 31st, 2022), Avatar – The Way of Water has grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide and there isn’t too much doubt that it may reach twice that amount by the time Lightstorm Entertainment and 20th Century Fox are ready to stream it for home audiences across all media platforms and roll out the deluxe 4K blu rays.    

The profit margin is practically guaranteed because the third Avatar sequel has already been completed (and scheduled for a 2024 release, and pre-production for the last two are well underway.

So like it or not, there’s plenty of adventures on Pandora on the way. And having seen this sequel, I’ll probably be opting out of any more excursions.

Pixel Scroll 12/29/22 What Are Pixels? Ask The Scrollman As He Knows

(1) IS ENOUGH MONEY POURING IN? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] “Avatar: The Way Of Water passes $1bn at the global box office” the BBC reports. Arguably something the studio needed as Avatar: The Way of Water is apparently most expensive film made; Budget $350,000,000 (estimated). 

Remember, this is gross box office, director Cameron needs not just net box office but studio receipt, which means he needs US$2 billion to break even.

Avatar: The Way Of Water has made $1bn (£831m) at the global box office in just 14 days, becoming the fastest film to pass the milestone this year.

The long-delayed sequel has proved a hit with audiences despite wildly varying reviews.

It is one of only three films to surpass $1bn this year, after Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion….

Not seen it myself. Saw the first one. OK story with lots of meaningless but photogenic eye-candy. With a run time of over three hours, I’m not tempted, though I suspect this really needs to be seen on the big screen.

What do others think?

(2) CLARION WEST CALLING. The Clarion West Six-Week Summer Workshop is going virtual. Applications open January 4

Clarion West is returning to a fully virtual workshop in 2023. We will accept a class of 15 students to keep the workload and screen time manageable for all. Tuition is $3,200, and a scholarship section is included in our workshop application, which opens January 4.

The Workshop’s faculty members will be:

  • Week 1: Mary Anne Mohanraj & Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • Week 2: Cat Rambo
  • Week 3: Samit Basu
  • Week 4: Karen Lord
  • Weel 5: Arley Sorg
  • Week 6: N. K. Jemisin

Find full information in “Frequently Asked Questions about the Clarion West Summer Workshop”.

(3) CLAUSES, BUT NO SANTAS. David Steffen’s presentation “How to Read a Short Story Contract” is now available on Dream Foundry’s YouTube channel.

What is the purpose of short story contracts? What clauses do you want to see? What clauses do you want to avoid? What do you do if you see something in a contract that you don’t like?

(4) IT’S SHOW TIME. [Item by Soon Lee.] Adam Roberts does The Silmarillion to the tune of the Muppets Show theme, and others add verses. Thread starts here.

(5) CON OR BUST. Dream Foundry hit the target of raising $10,000 for Con or Bust before year end.

This year our fundraising efforts are focused on our Con or Bust program. If you are still unfamiliar, Con or Bust provides grants to fans and creators of colour who would otherwise be unable to attend industry events due to costs. Thanks to a very generous donation, we’ve met our goal of raising $10k before the end of the year, but we know we can do more! If we raise another $3,000 before the end of the year, that will ensure we can connect even more fans and creatives of color with community. Donate now to be a part of something truly special. If you’d like to learn more about Con or Bust, we have that information also here

(6) PLAY NICE. Let Jo Walton be your guide “In Search of Books in Which Nothing Bad Happens” at Tor.com. After a long search she eventually thinks of one. (This excerpt isn’t it – we wouldn’t want to steal the payoff.)

…Romance. Pretty much all genre romance is “everything is OK at the end” but bad things happen in the meantime. But some Georgette Heyer has plots that work because bad things seem about to happen and are averted—this is different from everything being all right in the end, the bad things never occur, they are no more than threats that pass over safely. Cotillion does this. Two people are separately rescued by the heroine from iffy situations that could potentially become terrible, but they don’t. I think this counts. (It’s funny too.) That makes me think of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in which the worst thing that happens is somebody exaggerates and somebody else has to go home alone on a stagecoach…that’s really not very bad. Right up there with the bear who can’t go to sleep….

(7) DC FINALLY GETS SOME CREDIT. Drumroll, please! “The 2022 ComicBook.com Golden Issue Award for Best Comic Book Movie” goes to….

The Batman

Clocking in at nearly three hours with a pulse-pounding score, intense violence, and a plot inspired by some of DC’s best detective comics, The Batman is a true tour de force for the character. And while it includes echoes of the original Tim Burton franchise, takes influence from Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s trilogy, and even has a bit of the same flavor from Todd Philips’ Joker, The Batman stands out as a wholly unique cinematic entry featuring pop culture’s most unique crime fighter….

(7.5) BEAR REMEMBERED. The Guardian’s “Greg Bear obituary” appeared today and includes a long profile of his career. Plus a credited photo by Andrew Porter (an uncropped version of which appeared here).

The American science fiction writer Greg Bear, who has died aged 71 following heart surgery, was, as he put it “all over the map” as far as interests and subjects were concerned: genetics, starships, politics, artificial constructs and combat in space were among the themes explored in his 35 novels. The work he did to research them with thinkers and institutions made them remarkably prescient, not only scientifically – he is attributed with the first descriptions of nanotechnology – but also politically….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [By Cat Eldridge.] Kermit the Frog Landmark Statue at Henson Studio

Kermit the Frog as Charlie Chaplin in his role as The Little Tramp? Why not?

Let’s start with beginning of the press release the Muppet Studio folk put as they call this they Kermit the Frog Landmark Statue Unveiled at Front Gates of Henson Studio: “In a touching homage to both Jim Henson and Charlie Chaplin, today, The Jim Henson Company unveiled a stately 12 foot tall statue of Kermit the Frog dressed as Charlie Chaplin’s The Little Tramp, which was permanently mounted on the tower of the studio’s front gates. All who enter or pass by will be reminded that the two visionaries contributions to mankind are celebrated on these grounds.”

This twelve-foot-high statue was unveiled on the roof of the main building in July of 2000.

The reason why Kermit is dressed like Chaplin is that this is the original location of Charlie Chaplin Studios. The studio was built in 1917 by silent and sound film star Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin sold the studio in 1957 to Kling Studios and they produced the old Superman television series with George Reeves. And then it was owned by Red Skelton, and CBS who filmed the Perry Mason series. In February 1969 it was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

So did you know that in 2000, the Henson family sold the company to the German media company EM.TV & Merchandising AG, for a rather stunning six hundred and eighty million dollars which included the Sesame Street Workshop? I didn’t. 

Just three years after that German media company lost its behind on other concerns, the Henson family paid just over eighty million to get everything back. Nice, really nice.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H. Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. In 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins.  Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of FireBlaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the usual suspects yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (Died 2022.)
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 59. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 56. Did you know one of Sax Rohmer’s novels was made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Nielsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 53. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 50. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fave role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy in Repo Men and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians.

(10) HELL RAISERS. It’s time to find out who Cora Buhlert has given “The 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”. (Not to mention the “Retro Darth”!) There are so many possibilities…

It’s almost the end of the year, so it’s time to announce the winner of the coveted (not) 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.

Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page to various computer file formats, updated every year. Eventually, I decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner, the 2019 winnerthe 2020 winner and the 2021 winner were announced right here on this blog.

Warning: Spoilers for several things behind the cut!

Before we get to the main event, let’s start with the 2022 Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents. I originally created the Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award as an anaologue to the Retro Hugos in 2020 to honour terrible parents who either did their villainous parenting before the award was a thing or who were overlooked in the past for unfathomable reasons….

(11) A CHRISTMAS CARACOLE. About that story John Scalzi promised if Locus hit its $75K fundraising target? Well, he wrote it: “A Holiday Gift For You: ‘End of the Year PR Missives From Scrooge & Marley’” at Whatever.

… DECEMBER 24 1843

SCROOGE & MARLEY DECRY THE USE OF COAL FOR HEATING, PLEDGE TO “GO GREEN” IN ‘44

When you think of “Ecologically Friendly Companies,” you might not immediately think of Scrooge & Marley (established 1803), but perhaps you should. Co-founder Ebenezer Scrooge has gone on record decrying the use of coal, a carbon-intensive “legacy fuel” for the purposes of heating office buildings in London and elsewhere in Great Britain. “It’s expensive and not what we need for the future of our company,” he proclaimed. 

Scrooge has encouraged employees to seek other options, including personal insulation units composed of natural, sustainable fibers….

(12) CENTENARY SALUTE. “Stan Lee Documentary Coming to Disney+ in 2023” reports Variety.

Marvel Entertainment tweeted a 25-second video on Wednesday confirming the 2023 release of a Disney+ documentary on Stan Lee. The announcement aligns with what would have been the 100th birthday of the late comic creator….

(13) FOR YOUR HOARD. The Royal Mint will be “Celebrating the Life and Work of JRR Tolkien” with the issue of a £2 coin in 2023. The King is on the front, Tolkien is commemorated on the back.

…Tolkien passed away in 1973 although, 50 years later, the father of modern fantasy fiction still has a palpable influence on the genre. His trademark monogram, encircled by a runic pattern skilfully created by the artist David Lawrence (pictured below), will forever grace this commemorative UK £2 coin. ‘NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST’, a quote from the poem ‘The Riddle of Strider’, which features in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, serves as the coin’s edge inscription….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] This library in Jamestown Township, Michigan, has been having serious trouble with politically-based attacks. (“Town votes to defund library after claims it was ‘grooming’ kids”LGBTQ Nation.)

One of their librarians finally had enough. (“Angry librarian tells off conservative Christians protesting library in righteous speech”LGBTQ Nation.)

Here’s a captioned video of her speech.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/22 Although It’s Been Said Many Times, Many Ways, Scrolling Pixels To You

(1) PHILADELPHIA READ’EM. On January 18, 2023 the Galactic Philadelphia Literary Salon, curated by Lawrence M. Schoen and Sally Wiener Grotta, will host Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and C.S.E. Cooney as they read from their latest work, and “converse with them and other guests in an informal and engaging salon-style conversation.” This will be an in-person event at The Rosenbach Museum & Library – full details and registration cost at the link.

(2) KINDRED FOR TV. NPR’s program The 1A tells how “Octavia Butler’s ‘Kindred’ is being discovered by new readers, and now viewers”. At the link, listen to a conversation with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kindred’s executive producer and writer.  

Imagine suddenly being pulled back in time, without warning or explanation. Where is the place you’d least like to go? 

In the 1979 novel “Kindred,” author Octavia Butler sent her main character – a Black woman – back to the antebellum south of the 1800s.  Dana lands amongst her ancestors, who were owned as slaves.  

The sci-fi book is a modern classic – a cornerstone of afro-futurism that made waves in a genre dominated by white men. “Kindred” is still being discovered by new readers today – and by viewers.  

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapted “Kindred” into a new FX series of the same name on Hulu, which premiered Dec. 13. Jacobs-Jenkins is a talented writer in his own right, having received the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for “Appropriate” and “An Octoroon.”

He’s also a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama, and was the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” His previous TV production credits include the 2019 HBO series “Watchmen” and the Prime Video sci-fi series “Outer Range.”

(3) IN A WORLD WHERE. According to Gizmodo, “Court Case Ruling Could Make ‘Deceptive’ Trailers Legally Actionable”.

When two fans of Ana de Armas rented Yesterday after seeing de Armas in the trailer, only to realize at the end of the movie that her part had been cut, they were so unhappy that they went to court over it. And won. In a rather bizarre Free Speech case, a federal judge has ruled in favor of movie-goers over the protests of Universal Studios, saying that studios cannot release “deceptive movie trailers.”

The two de Armas fans, Conor Woulfe and Peter Michael Rosza, each paid $3.99 to rent Yesterdayan alternate-history speculative film about the disappearance of The Beatles, on Amazon Prime. de Armas’ part was cut after filmgoers responded that they didn’t enjoy the fact that the main character’s love interest (played by Lily James) had competition in the form of de Armas’ character. Woulfe and Rosza are seeking “at least $5 million as representatives of a class of movie customers,” according to Variety….

(4) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 73 of the Octothorpe podcast is “A Magic Cave Full of Games”. Listen at the link.

John Coxon is going to Sweden, Alison Scott is going to Australia, and Liz Batty isn’t moving back to Europe. We discuss Smofcon, Eurocon, Mastodon, and bacon lardons. (The last one is a lie.) We also chat about the Fan Funds and do picks (which don’t rhyme).

(5) HEAR FROM KEN MACLEOD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has just interviewed Ken MacLeod

But we over at SF2 Concatenation have Ken’s science heroes… “SF author and zoologist Ken MacLeod cites the scientists and engineers born in the 20th Century who have influenced him.”

 I’m not really a scientist who became a science fiction writer. I’m a science fiction reader who tried to become a scientist, because science fiction made science cool. At school my progress in mathematics hit a brick wall at calculus, and in physics at electronics. So at university I chose biology — then the least mathematical of the sciences — and specialised in Zoology….

(6) WOOSTER MEMORIES. In “Martin Morse Wooster’s Front Row Seat” Reason’s Thomas W. Hazlett delivers an affectionate farewell.

… Martin devoured entire libraries as after-dinner mints, emerging ever more curious about what great work of history, politics, biography, economics, sports, or science fiction (pardon me, “S.F.”) to hoist next. He cherished baseball, exhibits, museums, stage plays, conventions, the science of beer making, free market capitalism, and the United States. He was bogged down neither by car payments nor dependents. He lived richly on a tidy budget, zipped about on public transport, viewed every parade, and devoured each spectacle. When he paid for a movie, he would always—his sister, Ann-Sargent Wooster, informs me—insist on sitting front row…. 

On the epic fall of the Soviet bloc, Wooster wrote frequently. In a 1989 Reason column introduced by Irving Kristol’s observation that “In Washington, people don’t read enough magazines,” it was game on. 

“This may be true in Washington,” noted Martin, “but out here in Silver Spring, we read magazines by the truckload… Once each day, the factory whistles blow, the police officers stop traffic, and the double-wide tractor trailers lumber chez Wooster with the day’s reading matter.”…

(7) CHRIS BOUCHER (1943-2022). Writer and script editor Chris Boucher, who contributed milestone moments to Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, died December 11. The Guardian paid tribute.

… Having quickly made his mark on Doctor Who in 1977, he was recruited the following year as script editor of Blake’s 7, Terry Nation’s series about a gang of outlaws fighting against a corrupt Federation in the future. Responsible for commissioning and then polishing the scripts, Boucher capitalised on the bristling dynamic between the central characters, highlighted by his gift for caustic dialogue, and exploited the programme’s morally grey areas to give it dramatic complexity.

Among the scripts he wrote himself was the shocking 1981 finale, in which he killed off the whole cast, in a manner emblematic of the show’s flawed protagonists, dour outlook and uncompromising tone….

…Braden’s Week (1968), Dave Allen at Large (1971) and That’s Life (1973) used his material, and he secured himself an agent who pitched him to Doctor Who. He was well versed in science-fiction literature, so his first contribution, The Face of Evil (1977), had a bold concept: a misprogrammed spaceship computer thinks it is God, and so embarks on an exercise in eugenics involving its stranded crew. The story (originally entitled The Day God Went Mad: a tad strong for the BBC) also introduced a new companion for Tom Baker’s Doctor: instinctive, intelligent tribal warrior Leela (Louise Jameson) and contains one of Boucher’s great lines: “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common, they don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views.”

Boucher was immediately hired to write the very next story, The Robots of Death. A fusion of Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert, it became more than a sum of its parts thanks to Boucher’s sardonic exchanges (“You’re a classic example of the inverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain”), well-drawn characters, world-building through dialogue and hard sci-fi concepts. Augmented by a strong cast, excellent direction and striking art deco design, the story is still regarded as among Doctor Who’s very best. Image of the Fendahl (1977) is a spooky synthesis of modern technology and ancient horror with some shocking moments and amusing characters (“You must think my head zips up at the back,” says one)….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2000 [By Cat Eldridge.]

Ready for a really happy story? Well we have one for you.

It starts out because J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy,  lived near the hospital, and was well known for donations to charity as he lived rather simply. He is listed as first donating to the hospital in 1908, and became more familiar with the hospital’s work after he hired a personal secretary, Lady Cynthia Asqueth, whose father was the chairman of the hospital board. 

However when the hospital had asked Barrie to help with a fundraising campaign in 1929 by making a generous donation in order to purchase a vacated lot, he declined. That’s not the end of the story as two months later he announced that he would give the copyright of Peter Pan to the hospital. Of course the hospital was rather grateful to say the least. 

(These arrangements should have expired in 1987, fifty years after the death of Sir James Barrie. But special measures were made in the Copyright Designs & Patents Act (1988), so that a single exception was made for the ongoing benefit of the hospital.) 

A year after Great Ormond Street Hospital was given the rights to Peter and Wendy, Barrie asked the hospital to stage it in a ward for the sick children. The production was considered a wonderful affair by all involved and has become a tradition that still continues today. 

There are many Peter Pan tributes within the children’s wing including a cafe and stained windows, some of which we will return to at another time, but today a bronze statue of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell outside the hospital entrance is what were interested in.

A statue of Peter Pan stands at the entrance to the hospital, blowing fairy dust at all visitors, young and old. It was sculpted by Diarmund O’Connor and was unveiled by Lord Callaghan on July 14, 2000. Tinkerbell, who is actually a separate statue, was added to Peter’s uplifted arm in 2005. Tinkerbell is officially London’s smallest statue.

The combined statue bears this inscription:

Peter Pan

In grateful memory of Sir James Barrie (1860 – 1937) for his gift to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and in warm appreciation of the exceptional support of Audrey and James Callaghan.

The Tinker Bell statue once it was carefully attached to the Peter Pan was unveiled by the Countess of Wessex on September 29th, 2005. Although a later addition, it was part of the original conception back in 1999 when Peter was commissioned, but dropped at the time as being too ambitious. It is a credit to Peter’s popularity that the issue was redressed.

Why such a simple addition was considered too ambitious is a mystery. She is a rather simple sculpture after all. Here’s Tinkerbell by herself.

I don’t usually give you two versions of a statue but it’s rare that we get to see the clay version of it. So here is that version in the sculptor’s studio.

And here’s the final bronze state as it is in the garden outside the Hospital. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. (He did not do the voice you heard on film, that was done by Marvin Miller who in-studio replaced what was done originally.) Other than showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 22, 1944 Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So, you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors. Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: ‘We want to test this prototype for maneuverability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.’ Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: ‘When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.’” (Died 2009.)
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 71. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning, who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics who’s played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 71. I’ve personally known him for some twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 60. Perhaps best-known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films that just wrapped up and started with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!
  • Born December 22, 1965 David S. Goyer, 57. His screenwriting credits include the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark CityMan of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well there’s there’s a Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh, he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForwardConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, KryptonBlade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann, 44. Author of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, a steampunk series set in a alternative Victorian England that I’ve read and enthusiastically recommend. He’s also got two Holmesian novels on Titan Books that I need to request for reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box. And yes I see that  he’s written a lot more  fiction than I’ve read by him so do tell me what else is worth reading  by him. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro has the surly version of a childrens’ book hero.

(11) COPYRIGHT OFFICE REVOKES DECISION. “AI-Created Comic Has Been Deemed Ineligible for Copyright Protection” reports CBR.com.

The United States Copyright Office (USCO) reversed an earlier decision to grant a copyright to a comic book that was created using “A.I. art,” and announced that the copyright protection on the comic book will be revoked, stating that copyrighted works must be created by humans to gain official copyright protection.

In September, Kris Kashtanova announced that they had received a U.S. copyright on his comic book, Zarya of the Dawn, a comic book inspired by their late grandmother that she created with the text-to-image engine Midjourney. Kashtanova referred to herself as a “prompt engineer” and explained at the time that she went to get the copyright so that she could “make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI.”…

(12) TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS OF 2022. “Beaton’s ‘Ducks’ Tops PW’s 2022 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” proclaims Publishers Weekly.

Kate Beaton’s widely acclaimed debut graphic memoir Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands (Drawn & Quarterly) has topped PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll for best work of the year by a significant margin, receiving nine votes from PW’s panel of 15 critics. This is Beaton’s second time winning the poll; she won in 2011 for Hark A Vagrant.

Beaton’s adroitly told personal narrative is a bracing exposé of the sexism and misogyny women face working in the nearly all-male oil fields, as well as a plaintive and incisive critique of the industry’s destructive impact on the environment. Nevertheless, Beaton’s personal story is balanced with humor and rich with canny, wry vignettes of her crusty work colleagues, rendered along with breathtaking depictions of the desolate landscape of the oil fields. One of very few women working in the male-dominated work force, Beaton tracks the two years she spent working various jobs (such as handing out wrenches at a tool crib) in Northern Canada’s remote oil fields, while depicting the lives of her co-workers—all of them separated from family and home lives….

…Indie publishers secured top positions overall in this year’s poll, with second place a tie between two titles that received four votes each: Keeping Two by Jordan Crane (Fantagraphics) and the graphic memoir The Third Person by Emma Grove (Drawn & Quarterly).

(13) THE BLUES. “Don’t give up, never surrender,” is not everyone’s motto. “Edie Falco Assumed Avatar 2 Flopped After Filming Part 4 Years Ago” is what People heard.

Edie Falco didn’t realize when her appearance in Avatar: The Way of Water would be hitting movie theaters.

The 59-year-old actress shot her scenes four years ago and just assumed the movie had been released and potentially flopped since she hadn’t heard anything, she admitted while visiting The View on Friday.

The second Avatar, the one that’s coming out, I think I shot four years ago,” she shared at The View roundtable. “And then I’ve been busy, and doing stuff, and somebody mentioned Avatar, and I thought, ‘Oh, I guess it came out and didn’t do very well,’ cause I didn’t hear anything.”

The actress continued: “And then somebody recently said, ‘Avatar is coming out.’ “

“Oh, it hasn’t come out yet?” she remembered asking, getting laughs from the audience. “I haven’t seen the new one, so I’m excited.”

Talking more about the film, in which she plays one of the few human characters, the Nurse Jackie actress admitted she was a little disappointed when she found out who she’d be playing.

“Well, I wanted to be blue,” she said, laughing. “I was excited – I was going to be blue and very tall… I didn’t get either of those things.”

(14) BEST PICTURES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature has open access loads of James Webb pics: “JWST’s best images: spectacular stars and spiralling galaxies” (example attached of Neptune).

Also open access best science pics of the year: “The best science images of 2022”. Example attached of an insect turned into a zombie by fungus. And the Tonga volcanic explosion from space

(15) REST IN DUST. “NASA’s InSight Mission Dies After 4 Years of Listening for Marsquakes” – the New York Times has the “obituary”.

…For months, mission managers have been expecting this as dust accumulated on the lander’s solar panels, blocking the sunlight the stationary spacecraft needs to generate power.

InSight, which arrived on the surface of Mars more than four years ago to measure the red planet’s seismological shaking, was last in touch on Dec. 15. But nothing was heard during the last two communication attempts, and NASA announced on Wednesday that it was unlikely for it ever to hear from InSight again.

“I feel sad, but I also feel pretty good,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview. “We’ve been expecting this to come to an end for some time.”

He added, “I think that it’s been a great run.”

InSight — the name is a compression of the mission’s full name, Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — was a diversion from NASA’s better known rover missions, focusing on the mysteries of Mars’s deep interior instead of searching for signs of water and possible extinct life on the red planet…. 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, SG Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/22 As You Scroll, Bob

(1) CLARION WEST CLASSES. Here are the Spring 2023 classes offered by Clarion West – click the link to read the full description and to register.

The Supporting Tuition rate is shown for each class or workshop for folks who can pay it. Paying the Supporting Tuition rate enables us to continue to pay our staff and instructors equitably, as well as support access to classes for others who may be in a different situation. 

The Helping Hands rate is available to folks under more limited economic circumstances, no matter your background.

Cross-Examining Your Character With Henry Lien

01/21/2023 10:00 AM – 01/28/2023 01:00 PM PT; Online Workshop

  • $130.00  –  Supporting Tuition
  • $100.00  –  Helping Hands Tuition

Use courtroom interrogation techniques to get to the heart of your character.

Finding Creative Truth Through Desire And Fear With Sloane Leong

02/13/2023 05:00 PM – 06:30 PM PT; Online Class

  • $75.00  –  Supporting Tuition
  • $55.00  –  Helping Hands Discounted Tuition

This interactive lecture assists writers in understanding their desires, fears, and creative philosophy in service of clarifying what they truly want out of their writing practice and stories.

The Friend, The Lover, and The Enemy: Mastering Key Relationship Arcs with Piper J. Drake

03/04/2023 10:00 AM – 03/18/2023 11:30 AM PT; Online Class

  • $130.00  –  Supporting Tuition
  • $100.00  –  Helping Hands

Explore the relationships between principal characters and how those relationship arcs can be developed into dynamic and evolving connections to engage readers and drive the plot forward.

Weirdcraft: Writing Horror, Gothic, and the Literary Strange with Ian Muneshwar

03/28/2023 05:00 PM – 05/16/2023 07:00 PM PT; Online Workshop

  • $275.00  –  Supporting Tuition
  • $205.00  –  Helping Hands

This five-session workshop, aimed at beginning and intermediate writers who’ve already produced at least one draft of a horror story, will provide students with actionable feedback on their own fiction while broadening their understanding of craft-based approaches to writing horror.

Who Are You As A Writer? Identifying Your Narrative Building Blocks With Susan J. Morris

03/30/2023 04:30 PM – 05:30 PM PT; Free Class

  • Free

In this 1-hour webinar, learn to identify your core strengths, themes, narrative building blocks, and values, and how to use them to generate new ideas that play to your strengths.

Emergent Structures: How Structure Shapes Your Story On A Macro And Micro Level With Susan J. Morris

04/27/2023 04:30 PM – 06:00 PM PT; Online Class

  • $75.00  –  Supporting Tuition
  • $55.00  –  Helping Hands

Delve beyond Save the Cat to explore different structures—not just of plot, but of every aspect of your story, from scenes to character arcs.

(2) MOVING VOLUMES. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] This article’s header is an illustration of Mount Tsundoku! “We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking” says the Washington Post.

On a recent weekday afternoon, Bruce Albright arrives in the Wonder Book parking lot, pops the trunk of his Camry and unloads two boxes of well-worn books. “It’s sad. Some of these I’ve read numerous times,” he says.

Albright, 70, has been at this for six months, shedding 750 books at his local library and at this Frederick, Md., store. The rub: More than 1,700 volumes remain shelved in the retired government lawyer’s nearby home, his collection lovingly amassed over a half-century.

But Albright is on a mission. “I cleaned out my parents’ home,” he says. “I don’t want to do to my kids what my parents did to me.”

He’s far from alone. Books are precious to their owners. Their worth, emotional and monetary, is comparably less to anyone else.

Humorist and social critic Fran Lebowitz owns 12,000 books, mostly fiction, kept in 19th-century wooden cases with glass doors in her New York apartment. “Constitutionally, I am unable to throw a book away. To me, it’s like seeing a baby thrown in a trash can,” she says. “I am a glutton for print. I love books in every way. I love them more than most human beings.” If there’s a book she doesn’t want, Lebowitz, 72, will spend months deciding whom to give it to….

(3) HOW BLUE WAS THE BOX OFFICE? “’Avatar 2’ makes waves with $134 million domestic debut” and Yahoo! Entertainment thinks that was nothing to be sneezed at.

Avatar: The Way of Water ” didn’t make quite as big of a splash as many assumed it would, but James Cameron’s big budget spectacle still helped breathe life into the box office this weekend. The sequel earned $134 million from North American theaters and $300.5 million internationally for a $434.5 million global debut, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

It tied with “The Batman” as the fourth highest domestic debut of the year, behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ( $187.4 million in May ), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” ( $181 million in November ) and “Thor: Love and Thunder” ($144.2 million in July).

Expectations were enormous for “Avatar 2,” which carried a reported price tag of over $350 million, the pressure of following up the highest grossing film of all time (thanks in part to various re-releases) over a decade later and the daunting task of propping up an exhibition business that’s still far from normal.

(4) MAKES FOR COMPELLING READING. In Joe Stech’s latest Compelling Science Fiction newsletter he picks five of the “Top science fiction short stories published in October”. Leading the way:

The top story for the month of October (and therefore our t-shirt winner!) was The Conflagration at the Museum of You by Adam-Troy Castro. I’ve never read a story quite like it — implausibly bizarre and yet compellingly real. The writing is outstanding, and it really has to be to keep you reading. The story is written in the second person, discussing a museum dedicated to you, the reader. The ‘why’ of it is unimportant and hand-wavy, and the story could have easily been annoying to read, but it wasn’t, and you should read it.

(5) PETRONA AWARD. Maria Adolfsson won the 2022 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year for Fatal Isles, translated from the Swedish by Agnes Broomé. Adolfsson will receive a trophy, and both author and translator get a cash prize.

The judges said: “This captivating winning novel is the first in a proposed trilogy featuring the beautifully flawed protagonist Detective Inspector Karen Eiken Hornby, whose take on life and work make for a strong down-to-earth and modern heroine in the relicts of a man’s world. Set in the fictional yet completely credible location of Doggerland, this three-islands archipelago in the North Sea, reflects Scandinavian, North European and British heritages. Doggerland is shaped and influenced by its geographical position; the atmospheric setting, akin to the wind- and history-swept Faroe and Shetland Islands, and Nordic climes, enhances the suspenseful and intriguing plot of a police procedural that combines detailed observations and thoughts on the human condition….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] FAO Schwartz bronze Teddy Bear, Boston

In Boston, there’s an eight foot teddy bear made of bronze that become homeless for awhile. Let us tell you that tale. 

The bear, eight feet tall and weighing three tons, was done by sculptor Robert Shure of Woburn. Two of his other works are the Joe DiMaggio Memorial at Yankee Stadium and the Massachusetts Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Boston. 

Boston’s bear was the first of many that FAO Schwartz would place around the country. It cost about sixty-five thousand dollars  when it was made in the early Nineties. Three of the teddy bears, the others being in New York and Seattle, were made of bronze while the rest were far less expensive fiberglass works.

Like The Ducklings we profiled in the Scroll last night, he was, as you can see in the image below, in the Back Bay, outside the FAO Schwartz store. Then one day he was gone. Well not quite that dramatically as FAO Schwartz went bankrupt in 2004 as so many of those department store did around that time, so the Boston store was closed, and he went into storage. Poor bear, sitting alone in a dark space, unloved.

The company donated Boston’s bear to the city, but what to do with him? He is a lot of bear and he needed a new place to live, one where children could love him again.

Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino decided that a contest was the best way to find him a home with the city’s children sending in their ideas as to where his home should be. That resulted in some seven thousand letters, with children from thirty-four states and even a few foreign countries submitting ideas for his home, many of them written in crayon. 

So where did he go? Well at least for now, he’s outside the Tufts Medical Center/Floating Hospital for Children, which is appropriate as the children there love him, but it was announced that Tufts Children’s Hospital inpatient pediatric beds will be closed and converted to add forty one adult ICU beds, citing increasing demand from critically ill adults. So he’ll need yet another new home presumably. 

Update: this week, the hospital announced that he’s staying there because they are keeping pediatric primary care services, including the Pediatric and Adolescent Asian Clinic, and the Children with Special Needs Clinic, so he will have lots of children to love him.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1923 Alfred Bester. He is best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook— a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across some scattered references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Who here has read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels other than There is No Darkness that he did with his brother are available in digital form. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 83. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well. Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection, Mother London and The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy. While he was editor, New Worlds got nominated for Best Professional Magazine from 1967-1970. 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 76. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film wasn’t great… He’d repeated that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed along a string of so-so films, A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe BFG is simply wonderful. Haven’t seen Ready Player One so I’ll leave that up to y’all to opine on. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 69. Though he’s best remembered as Dodger in the stellar China Beach series, he’s been in numerous genre series and films including VThe Twilight ZoneAlien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: VoyagerStar Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. On a very not silly note, he was Joey in Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. (Died 2022.)
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 54. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!  (Hint: the former has a nineteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really CasperAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Wheatcomics offers this astronomical view:

(9) FLAT NOTES. For crime novelist Ann Cleeves it was good news and bad news: “Writer recovers laptop containing half-finished novel after Shetland blizzard”, but it had been run over by a car.

… Tweeting an image of a badly misshapen computer, she said it had been found by a “sharp-eyed” young woman as she got off a school bus near to where Cleeves had been staying….

Describing how it was lost, she said she had been working in a library in Lerwick and walked “in a total blizzard” for a meeting at a nearby arts centre, adding that, while she was inside, the weather “just got worse and worse”.

“I needed to get home early and I think I must have either left my laptop there or it fell out of my bag while I was struggling through the wind and the snow to get from the library to the arts centre,” she said.

She added that people had been “amazingly kind” since she first tweeted about the laptop and that she been “getting responses from all over Lerwick”….

(10) THERE’S A SUCKER BORN… According to Yahoo!, “Donald Trump NFT Collection Sells Out, Price Surges”.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s non-fungible token (NFT) digital trading card collection sold out early Friday, the day after its initial release.

According to data from OpenSea, at time of writing, the collection’s trading volume is 900 ETH, or about $1.08 million. Its floor price is about 0.19 ETH, or about $230 – more than double the original price of $99.

Some tokens are selling for much higher prices. The one-of-ones, the rarest of the NFTs, which comprise 2.4% of the 45,000 unit collection (roughly 1,000), are selling for as much as 6 ETH at the time of writing. One of these rare trading cards, of the 45th president standing in front of the Statue of Liberty holding a torch, is currently listed at 20 ETH, or about $24,000.

According to data from Dune Analytics, nearly 13,000 users minted 3.5 tokens upon the release of the collection. Additionally, 115 customers purchased 45 NFTs, which is the minimum number of tokens that guarantees a ticket to a dinner with Trump; 17 people purchased 100 NFTs, which, according to the Trump Trading Card site, was the maximum quantity allowed to mint….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Jennifer Hawthorne, Jeffrey Smith, 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.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/22 Last Night I Had The Strangest Scroll 

By Joe Pearson

(1) NAVIGATING AMAZON. On Neil Clarke’s blog yesterday he posted a fuller version of his news about “Amazon Kindle Subscriptions”, which began with Amazon informing Clarkesworld that it is ending Kindle Subscriptions in 2023 and trying to get magazines to move to Kindle Unlimited:

…Amazon plans to inform subscribers via email in March. I asked if there would be an opportunity for the publishers to be involved in the framing of that language and it was received positively. (Publishers don’t have access to subscriber contact information.) I should have additional information sometime in mid-January on how that will work, but first impression was that it would be some direction towards the publisher’s website for information on how to continue subscribing somewhere else (or even KU should the publisher be willing and able to go that route).

I would rate the likelihood of Amazon changing their mind as very slim. I don’t know precisely why they are doing this, but they are doing so with full knowledge of how many customers it will impact and potentially upset. That doesn’t mean you should refrain from letting them know how you feel about this, particularly if you are a current subscriber.

Each of us has 8-9 months to try to figure out how to work around and adjust to these changes. It’s no small task. Some of us have thousands of subscribers on their platform and even with some cooperation from Amazon to get the word out, migrating subscribers to a new platform will be extremely challenging.

I’m hoping for patience from our readers and followers. I’m going to be pushing subscriptions quite loudly for a while. Because I have to. We’ve also been talking about the need to increase our subscription price. (I’m not sure why magazines are locked at a price from ten years ago, but all other literary content has increased in that time.) This situation may make it a necessity and not just for us.

And finally, if you are an Amazon subscriber, please don’t forget about us. Your subscription will continue well into 2023, but at some point we hope you’ll transition to a new subscription from one of the many places that offer them. Look for information in our January issue or come back here around then. You can also check out our current subscription options, but we’re hoping to add to that. If you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to ask about them. No matter what, thank you. Your support over the years has been crucial and we hope it can continue….

(2) AGENTS BACK HARPERCOLLINS STRIKERS. “HC Union Update: Authors Co-Host Rally at Harper Headquarters; Agents ‘Overwhelmingly’ Support Strike”Publishers Weekly has the story.

…79.1% of literary agents who participated in a survey conducted by the Association of American Literary Agents say that they support the HarperCollins union strike. The union had previously asked agents to refrain from submitting new projects to HarperCollins until an agreement is reached.

Among the supporters, 74.4% back the strike unequivocally, while 4.7% are “positive with caveats.” Meanwhile 9.3% say they are neutral, and 11.1% feel they need more information about the issue to form an opinion. Fewer than 1% of respondents say they do not support the strike at all. A total of 215 members responded to the poll.

A majority of respondents to the poll say they have changed their dealings with HarperCollins in some way as a result of the strike, from delaying deal announcements to only submitting option projects to withholding all business, including meetings, with the publisher. Still, there are some caveats: specifically, some agents noted that they will still submit to the publisher if their clients specifically request it, or if they feel that cutting Harper out of the running will result in lower offers for their clients’ books.

(3) FIFTEENTH DOCTOR. “’Doctor Who’ Reveals First Look at Ncuti Gatwa as New Doctor” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…The show tweeted photos on Saturday of Ncuti Gatwa and Millie Gibson in character, along with a caption proclaiming their big introduction….

(4) FREE ON EARTH. While news of his decision may have been reported here sometime in the past couple of years, since November 1, 2022 there been a statement on the “Tom Lehrer Songs – Songs and Lyrics by Tom Lehrer” website that he has put all his lyrics and music into the public domain.  

I, Tom Lehrer, and the Tom Lehrer Trust 2007, hereby grant the following permissions:

All copyrights to lyrics or music written or composed by me have been relinquished, and therefore such songs are now in the public domain. All of my songs that have never been copyrighted, having been available for free for so long, are now also in the public domain.

The latter includes all lyrics which I have written to music by others, although the music to such parodies, if copyrighted by their composers, are of course not included without permission of their copyright owners. The translated songs on this website may be found on YouTube in their original languages.

Performing and recording rights to all of my songs are included in this permission. Translation rights are also included.

In particular, permission is hereby granted to anyone to set any of these lyrics to their own music, or to set any of this music to their own lyrics, and to publish or perform their parodies or distortions of these songs without payment or fear of legal action.

Some recording, movie, and television rights to songs written by me are merely licensed non-exclusively by me to recording, movie, or TV companies. All such rights are now released herewith and therefore do not require any permission from me or from Maelstrom Music, which is merely me in another hat, nor from the recording, movie, or TV companies involved.

In short, I no longer retain any rights to any of my songs.

So help yourselves, and don’t send me any money.

(5) KINDRED SCREENWRITER. Library of America presents “Adapting Kindred for Television: Highlights from Our Interview with Screenwriter Branden Jacobs-Jenkins”.

This past February, we interviewed Obie-winning playwright and screenwriter Branden Jacobs-Jenkins about the process and the challenges of adapting Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 novel Kindred into the eight-episode TV series that makes its debut later this month. A time-travel thriller that transports its heroine from Southern California in the 1970s to a plantation in antebellum Maryland, the novel is widely acknowledged as a visionary masterpiece.

Below we present some short highlights from the interview…

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] Nancy Schön’s “The Ducklings”

No, these are not some characters out of folklore, but we picked them because, well, they are adorable. Really, really adorable.

The story of starts off with Make Way for Ducklings,  a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, published first in 1941 by the Viking Press. That book tells the story of a pair of mallards who raise their brood of ducklings on an island in the lagoon in the Boston Public Garden. It won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for the charcoal grey illustrations therein.

Boston Public Garden, where the Mallards eventually settled, is series of bronze statues of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings by artist Nancy Schön, the sculptor of Pooh and his companions that we essayed last Scroll.

Let’s have Nancy tell the tale of how these came to be: “Therein lies a long tale of her proposal writing, our meeting and working with Robert McCloskey, of acquiring the sponsorship of the Friends of the Boston Public Garden, of having my design accepted by the Boston Art Commission, the Landmarks Commission and the Parks and Recreation Department. Then there was the problem, as always, of fund raising. 

“It took two years to go through this process but on October 4, 1987 a bronze sculpture of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings was installed on old Boston cobblestones. I treasure time that I spend standing near the sculpture and watching all the children hug, kiss, climb on and feed the ducks. How fortunate I am to have made this sculpture which, thanks to Mr. McCloskey, has given so much pleasure to so many.”

The tallest statue, mother of course, stands only 38 inches tall, and the family of bronze ducks set upon Boston cobblestone spans thirty feet.

Four of the ducks were stolen, one in 1991 and three in February 2000. Thieves were hoping to sell the ducks as scrap metal cut the statues off at the legs. The missing ducks were replaced in September 2000 at a rededication ceremony attended by former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev as another set of these is in Moscow.  Those were happier times in Mother Russia. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995. A number of now-classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton, his wife. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and -enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every Worldcon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. I was surprised that his Hugo nominations were all for not for his fiction, but twice for Best Amateur Magazine for his Mirage zines at Chicon IIII and Discon, and once for Best Non-fiction Book for The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History at MagiCon. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 69. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs. He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot. Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon. He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I have avoided for fear the Suck Fairy got it as soon as it premiered. Was I right, oh Filers? 
  • Born December 17, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 68. Yes, I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid Eighties and her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts.
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 49. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and the superb Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film akin to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 47. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 29. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her work as Iris West in Justice League where all her scenes were deleted. You can see those scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original which I really liked but not this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg that I have not seen. 

(8) LETHEM REACTS TO LAFFERTY. The October 31 issue of The New Yorker published “Narrowing Valley,” by Jonathan Lethem, a short story written in response to R.A. Lafferty’s story “Narrow Valley” which appeared in Robert Silverberg’s 1973 New Dimensions anthology. In an accompanying interview, “Jonathan Lethem on What’s Stuck in His Head”, explains why he wrote it, and tackles the question of whether it may elicit controversy.

In Lafferty’s story, a white family attempts to homestead land that had originally been given to a Pawnee Indian named Clarence Big-Saddle. The land reveals itself to be a spatial anomaly, and, ultimately, shrinks and flattens the family when they attempt to enter it. In your story, a white family is rumbling westward in a Winnebago across “stolen Tongva land.” The narrator, a white male writer, observes that “the story is headed into crisis, because the family must—as in Lafferty’s original—meet an Indian.” Do you think there’ll be readers who’ll object to what you’re doing in this story, and will feel that Native American characters are being used as a prop in a narrative that centers on a white man?

I’m grateful that you put this question directly, rather than leaving it present only by implication. The obvious answer is yes. The tone I struck here—that of nervous guilty riffing in the treacherous realm of “appropriation”—may seem almost to beg a reader’s own anxieties into play. Or a reader’s condemnation. That risk is one of the subjects of the story, really. I hope that saying this doesn’t come off in any way as blasé, let alone defiant. The irreducible historical trauma (and vast collective culpability) that would make the background for such an objection to the story isn’t subject to dismissal.

I was an amazed reader of Zadie Smith’s “Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction” when it was published in the New York Review of Books, in 2019. Despite its subtitle, Smith’s essay isn’t some exercise in intransigent advocacy for fiction’s carte blanche. Instead, she reflects humbly on her own position as a reader and writer trained in expectations and practices that find themselves placed under new pressure by evolving ethical notions, here in the twenty-first century. I can relate. And (unlike “the writer of the present story,” a character who seems to operate in a vacuum of his own despondency) as a full-time college instructor and member of an English department, I’m actually enmeshed in this conversation on a daily basis with students and colleagues. “Narrowing Valley” reflects the dynamism of that conversation, for which I’m grateful. This story’s hesitation, precisely at the limit of a willingness to invent a Native character to advance its cause, is informed by it. I don’t mean that as a defense, but I hope it might be a useful description. As we say in the humanities biz, when you can’t defend what’s plainly disastrous in some canonical text, but you still want to include it in the mix, the best thing is to “teach the problem.”

Many students, I’m happy to say, still yearn to be involved in that indefensible polymorphous sphere of “fiction” that Smith describes so movingly in her essay. Yet they’ve never known anything like the automatic license that my generation of writers tasted—let alone that known (I’m imagining) by someone even older, like R. A. Lafferty. Instead, they have to carve out the space to practice this weird art—which often entails mingling deep integrity with gleeful imposture—on a case-by-case basis. In their willingness to try, they become my teachers.

What’s striking—to bring things full circle—is that many writing students lately appear to find science fiction attractive, as a palette that offers replenishing possibilities for their efforts. This may sound a bit Gene Roddenberryish, but it’s as if the best things about the field I grew up inside—ideas about self-and-other; a lexicon for anxieties about capitalism, technology, and the environment, about our presence as a species on the planet; a resolute unwillingness to take status-quo “reality” as a given, as an end point—help disrupt the bourgeois placidity that can make fiction seem insufficient to our present life.

(9) AMY BLOOM BOOK RECS. The Guardian’s Q&A “Amy Bloom: ‘Nigella Lawson is God (if we’re lucky)’” includes praise of Octavia Butler.

The book I discovered later in life
Kindred by Octavia Butler. I read very little science fiction and had no patience with movies such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon or even ET. I came across Butler’s work in the early 90s and both the substance and style illuminated the world for me.

(10) FINALLY. “How did you spend the past 13 years? They spent it waiting for an ‘Avatar’ sequel.” “Meet the ‘Avatar’ fans who never stopped thinking the movie was cool” at the Washington Post.

…Thirteen years, after all, is an almost-scandalous amount of time to wait for a sequel, both by Hollywood standards and life-expectancy standards: Matt Laing, a 26-year-old fan from Durham, N.C., saw the original half his life ago. In between, he watched the film a few times every year — and this fall, he joined Kelutral, a global organization for fans. Every day, the analytical chemist posts memes and jokes to the group’s Discord, and lately, he has been hyping up the other 2,000 members for the sequel’s release. He and another member he has befriended race to be the first to tag each other every day. “We’re like, ‘Eleven days to go.’ ‘Ten days to go,’” Laing says with a laugh….

(11) THE LAST OF P-22.  Damn. The mountain lion of Griffith Park was euthanized today. His injuries and medical problems meant he couldn’t even be saved for a nature preserve. “P-22, the celebrity mountain lion of Los Angeles, has died” – the Los Angeles Times reports the reasons for the decision, along with an extended profile and numerous photos.

The mountain lion P-22, who lived in the heart of Los Angeles for more than a decade and became the face of an international campaign to save Southern California’s threatened pumas, was euthanized Saturday because of several long-term health concerns and injuries that likely stemmed from being hit by a car, officials said.

In a tearful news conference, wildlife biologists described multiple chronic illnesses that may have contributed to the mountain lion’s recent uncharacteristic behavior. The big cat of Griffith Park was “compassionately euthanized” at about 9 a.m., officials said.

“This really hurts, and I know that,” said Chuck Bonham, director of the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. “It’s been an incredibly difficult several days. And for myself, I’ve felt the entire weight of the city of Los Angeles.”…

(12) POWELL’S PERSEVERES. CBS Mornings devoted a segment to Powell’s Books in Portland, OR – “Portland bookstore adapting with the times”.

Michelle Miller reports from Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, a bookstore doing everything it can, despite online competition, to keep the experience of buying and reading books fresh.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Dariensync, Steven French, Olav Rokne, Jeff Smith, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Randee Dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the podcast here.

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

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

(7) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here they are with sculptor Nancy.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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