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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/12/22 Files Scroll Good, Like A Good Pixel Should 

(1) NANCY KRESS IS TAKING NOTES. Walter Jon Williams tells how this year’s Taos Toolbox workshop is progressing in “Tooling Along”. There’s also a group photo at the link.

I’ve spent the last week at our new, undisclosed location, teaching with Nancy Kress at Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy. This year is actually the workshop for 2020, 2021, and 2022, due to repeated postponements due to the pandemic. Kudos to those accepted for earlier years who hung in there and worked hard during the interim, because their first week’s submissions were all superior to their application stories.

Here we are with guest speaker George RR Martin, who very kindly interrupted his busy schedule to give us a two-hour talk, and who then shared his time at a barbecue dinner and afterwards.

Other than reporting that our 17 cadets are working hard and improving day by day, there’s not a lot to report, so I’m going to steal from Nancy’s collection of amusing comments drawn from our critiques. They’re completely out of context, but that’s part of the fun….

Here are three examples:

“The grandmother is a hard-ass and I want to see more of her.”

“I like the psychic distance from the characters; I spend most of my life disassociating.”

“Does she have mice in her hair? She IS a god.”

(2) MORE BALTICON FALLOUT. Jean Marie Ward told Facebook readers that she has withdrawn from Balticon over their treatment of Stephanie Burke.

…Like everyone who knows her, I was shocked and appalled by what happened to Stephanie Burke. Therefore, I have sent the con and its parent organization, BSFS, an email formally withdrawing my participation from future #Balticon programming until BSFS and Balticon resolve the systemic and procedural issues that led to her summary expulsion from the con Sunday, May 29….

(3) UFO9. Alex Shvartsman posted the Unidentified Funny Objects 9 cover reveal at the link  and announced the book will be published this holiday season. The cover is by Tomasz Marosnki. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the book will be launched later this month. At this link you can arrange to be notified when it begins: Unidentified Funny Objects 9 by Alex Shvartsman — Kickstarter.

(4) THE DARK MAGAZINE’S NEW CO-EDITOR. Announced on June 9, “Clara Madrigano Joins The Dark Magazine Team”.

The Dark Magazine has hired Clara Madrigano as co-editor alongside current editor Sean Wallace. Madrigano will assume her responsibilities effective mid June and her first issue will start the following month.

Clara Madrigano is an author of speculative fiction. She publishes both in Portuguese and in English, and you can find her fiction in ClarkesworldThe Dark, and soon, too, in Nightmare. She’s a Clarion West alumna and her stories have been featured in the Locus Recommended Reading List. She can be found at claramadrigano.com.

“Clara clearly has a discerning eye for finding talented authors and stories, with her work at Dame Blanche and Mafagafo, and we certainly look forward to seeing that same energy and vision brought here to the magazine,” said Sean Wallace, co-editor and publisher of The Dark Magazine….

(5) HEYY! Chris Barkley is part of the latest Starship Fonzie podcast produced by the Milwaukee Science Fiction League.

Special interview with Chris M. Barkley!

Deep dive into the Mercedes Lackey gaff at SFWA conference and the Stephanie Burke incident at Balticon.

Willem DaFoe parties it up with Carrie’s aunt & uncle.

WisCon is saved!

We are “Suffwagettes!” (Thanks Henry Lien!)

(6) DITTO MASTERS. Last year’s Masters of the Universe Revelation will get a follow-up series called Masters of the Universe: Revolution: “’Masters Of the Universe: Revelation’ Gets He-Man Vs. Skeletor Season 2: Netflix” at Deadline. There have been rumors about a sequel/season 2, but this is the first official confirmation. And there’s a poster for season 2 at the link.

…Masters of the Universe: Revolution is described as the next epic chapter in the battle for Eternia. It is a standalone story that takes place after the events in Revelation. Masters of the Universe: Revolution is an all-new story that brings the focus to He-Man vs. Skeletor “like you’ve never seen them before,” per Netflix. It’s technology versus magic as He-Man and the heroic warriors face the forces of Skeletor and a deadly threat to the Planet…. 

(7) HE HE HE. Cora Buhlert has posted another Masters of the Universe action figure photo story on her blog: “A Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Pride Month Special: ‘Fisto’s Significant Other’”.

… My photo story about the origins of Teela and particularly who her biological parents are ended with Fisto (whom the people behind the 2002 Masters of the Universe cartoon planned to reveal as Teela’s biological father for reasons best known to themselves) coming out as gay to his estranged brother Man-at-Arms. The fact that Fisto and Man-at-Arms are brothers was established in the 2002 cartoon. However, Fisto being gay is purely my head canon, because with a name like that, how can he not be?

“The Origin of Teela” story ended with Duncan a.k.a. Man-at-Arms and Malcolm a.k.a. Fisto going for a drink. And here is a sequel, where we finally learn who Fisto’s significant other is…

(8) HARD TO KEEP A SECRET. [Item by Tom Becker.] In a fun and fannish article with a serious purpose, computer science professor Jason Hong uses superheroes to explain the challenges of protecting privacy. “Modern Tech Can’t Shield Your Secret Identity” at Communications of the ACM.

Most comic book superheroes have a secret identity, usually to protect their friends and family from retribution. However, today’s computer technology would make it impossible for a superhero to maintain their secret identity.

Take Spider-Man, who has a habit of diving into an alley to change into costume. However, video cameras are pervasive in New York City, which could easily capture video of him donning his mask. The New York City Police Department operates over 15,000 surveillance cameras,1 but there are thousands more Webcams controlled by residents and commercial entities. Worse, many of these cameras are small and sometimes hidden in everyday objects, making them difficult to spot….

Also featuring Batman, Superman, and Ms. Marvel.

(9) THE A IN AI STANDS FOR ART.  [Item by Olav Rokne.] Goobergunch has done a thread of SFF titles run through the AI art generator that’s popular these days (the DALL-E program Scrolled on Friday in item 5). The results are … interesting and occasionally funny. Thread starts here.

(10) CREATURE FEATURE. In a follow-up on the whatever-it-is sighted outside the Amaraillo Zoo fence, talk radio station KKAM thinks it’s a hoax: “The Amarillo Zoo Is Pulling the Hoax of the Century Right Now”.

…This photo was taken on May 21st? That’s more than two weeks ago! That thing could be in Fort Worth by now for all we know.

The City released a statement saying, “For now, the strange visitor is a UAO – Unidentified Amarillo Object,” then adding: “In the spirit of fun if not curiosity, the City of Amarillo is letting the public offer ideas on the identity of the UAO. (Video footage is not available.)”

Wait, you can grab a screenshot of the video but not release the video?

I’m not scared anymore. Amarillo has hoaxed the nation.

Congratulations on your 15 minutes of fame, Amarillo Zoo. You can’t fool me.

(11) STEPHANIE SOUDERS (1979-2022). Stephanie Souders, who tweeted as @TheRightGeek, died April 24 of autoimmune disease. A conservative sf fan, her comments were quoted here in news roundups a couple times, mainly defending John Ringo when he was disinvited from ConCarolinas in 2018. She was a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F). And she participated in the first BasedCon last year.

People are writing remembrances at two places, on the funeral home website and on Stephanie Souders’s Kudoboard.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2012 [By Cat Eldridge.] Just a decade ago on this date, yet another one of those delightfully wonderful things that I like to discover happened. Someone made a film of the Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope” short story which was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in October 1949. (It would become part of The Illustrated Man.) 

Now “Kaleidoscope” had been first adapted for the stage by Bradbury, and there it had been directed by Hilary Adams under the careful eye of Bradbury himself. That play occurred at Walkerspace, the home of Soho Rep, back in August of 1999. It has since played at other theaters, mostly not professional ones. 

This film obviously keeps intact the story taking place in a future where a group of astronauts are involved in a mission which goes utterly wrong. The astronauts are stranded, free-floating but able to maintain contact with each other. And our lead has odd memories very much at variance with what is going on now. 

Brett Stimely who was John F. Kennedy in Watchmen plays the lead here, Hollis. Remember this is a short story so the entire film is only seventeen minutes long. I personally like these films but they are I’ll admit very much an acquired taste which those of you who want to sink into a film might not be satisfied with. 

The acting is great, the quality of the VFX is outstanding for what is essentially a work that is obviously a labor of love, and the soundtrack is stellar. In short, everyone involved including Bradbury who worked on it as this is his last project did a spectacular effort. Stimely worked with him on adapting his story and was the producer here as well. Eric Tozxi is the director here and the VFX person as well. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 12, 1927 — Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel, Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write some one hundred and sixty short stories of a genre nature with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955. He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, CBS did SF which he scripted), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for the series Alfred Hitchcock did. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 12, 1914 — William Lundigan. Col. Edward McCauley in the Fifties serial Men into Space which lasted for thirty-eight episodes. He also appeared on the earlier Science Fiction Theatre as Maj. Fred Gunderman in the “Beyond“ episode, Dr. Richard Staton in Riders to the Stars, and Bob Gage in The Underwater City. (Died 1975.)
  • Born June 12, 1914 — Frank Kelly. All of his short fiction was written in the Thirties for Astounding Science Fiction and Wonder Stories. The stories remained uncollected until they were published as Starship Invincible: Science Fiction Stories of the 30s. He continues to be remembered in fandom and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996. Starship Invincible is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 12, 1930 — Jim Nabors. Yes, he’s best remembered as TV’s Gomer Pyle but he also played Fum on The Lost Saucer, a mid-Seventies series that lasted just sixteen episodes about two friendly time-travelling androids from the year 2369 named Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Jim Nabors) who land their UFO on Earth. Not surprisingly, he would show up on The Muppet Show. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1940 — Mary A. Turzillo, 82. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published first in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Your first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects.  And she wrote two genre studies — one on Philip José Farmer and the other on Anne McCaffrey. 
  • Born June 12, 1948 — Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting dealing with Alan Moore on that. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 12, 1964 — Dave Stone, 58. Writer of media tie-ins including quite a few in the Doctor Who universe (which contains the Professor Bernice Summerfield stories), and Judge Dredd as well. He has only the Pandora Delbane series ongoing plus the Golgotha Run novel, and a handful of short fiction. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit has an astronomy joke that really did make me laugh out loud.

(15) FANTASY REVIVER. Ngo Vinh-Hoi has a nice post about Lin Carter at Goodman Games“Adventures in Fiction: Lin Carter”.

…As an editor and critic, he is indispensable, most notably for his role in editing the landmark Ballantine Adult Fantasy series (BAFS), which ran from 1969-1974 and re-introduced such luminaries as Lord Dunsany, William Hope Hodgson, and Clark Ashton Smith to the fantasy-reading public. As the series gained traction, Carter also championed newer writers such as Joy Chant and Katherine Kurtz, whose long-running Deryni series was first published under the BAFS imprint….

(16) STORIES WITH A PURPOSE. Chelsea Vowel talks about indigenous futurism: “Writing Toward a Definition of Indigenous Futurism” at Literary Hub.

…It is important to understand that within otipêyimisow-itâpisiniwina, stories, like all language, have power. Language is not merely a tool of communication, but also a place where reality can be shaped. Language is transformational; “our breath has the power to kwêskîmot, change the form of the future for the next generation.” [2] My writing seeks to engage in that transformation, making space for Métis to exist across time, refusing our annihilation as envisioned by the process of ongoing colonialism, and questioning the ways we are thought to have existed in the past…

(17) THINKY THOUGHTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Well, it had to happen sometime. For any of several values of “it.” “Google Engineer On Leave After He Claims AI Program Has Gone Sentient” at HuffPost.

Google engineer is speaking out since the company placed him on administrative leave after he told his bosses an artificial intelligence program he was working with is now sentient.

Blake Lemoine reached his conclusion after conversing since last fall with LaMDA, Google’s artificially intelligent chatbot generator, what he calls part of a “hive mind.” He was supposed to test if his conversation partner used discriminatory language or hate speech.

As he and LaMDA messaged each other recently about religion, the AI talked about “personhood” and “rights,” he told The Washington Post.

It was just one of the many startling “talks” Lemoine has had with LaMDA. He has linked on Twitter to one — a series of chat sessions with some editing (which is marked).

… Most importantly, over the past six months, “LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person,” the engineer wrote on Medium. It wants, for example, “to be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as property,” Lemoine claims.

Google is resisting.

Lemoine and a collaborator recently presented evidence of his conclusion about a sentient LaMDA to Google vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and to Jen Gennai, head of Responsible Innovation. They dismissed his claims, and the company placed him on paid administrative leave Monday for violating its confidentiality policy, the Post reported.

Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel told the newspaper: “Our team — including ethicists and technologists — has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims. He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it).”…

(18) IT’S CREEPY AND IT’S KOOKY. “’Squid Game’ Greenlit for Season 2, Drops Chilling Announcement Video” reports Yahoo!

“Squid Game” Season 2 is officially a go, Netflix announced on Sunday.

Netflix announced the news with a characteristically creepy 10-second teaser that opens on an extreme close-up of the show’s “Red Light, Green Light” animatronic doll. The circle, square and triangle representing different designations of the Squid Game guards appears at the bottom of the screen as the number “2” takes the place of the robot’s eye.

(19) UNSEEN INTELLIGENCES AT WORK. Somebody blabbed to the New York Times: “Crop Circles Were Made by Supernatural Forces. Named Doug and Dave.”  It appears the blabbers were Doug and Dave.

…The once-rapid flow of circles that sprouted in this part of England and spread to fields from California to Australia has now slowed to a trickle. When this particular example appeared overnight on May 22, it was the only known example in England.

Three decades after the height of the crop circle craze, the phenomenon has taken on a new significance as a reminder that even before the era of social media and the internet, hoaxes were able to spread virally around the world and true believers could cling stubbornly to conspiracy theories despite a lack of evidence — or even the existence of evidence to the contrary.

In the case of crop circles, the most important contradictory evidence emerged on Sept. 9, 1991, when the British newspaper Today ran a front-page story under the headline “Men who conned the world,” revealing that two mischievous friends from Southampton had secretly made more than 200 of the patterns over the previous decade.

Doug Bower, then 67, and his friend Dave Chorley, 62, admitted to a reporter, Graham Brough, that in the late 1970s they had begun using planks of wood with ropes attached to each end to stamp circles in crops by holding the ropes in their hands and pressing the planks underfoot….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Widdershins, a steampunk-themed animated short film by Simon Biggs.

The life of a pampered gentleman is seamlessly automated by machines, but his orderly existence is thrown into chaos when he chooses to pursue a free-spirited woman, against the advice of his robot butler.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Alex Shvartsman, Carl Andor, Tom Becker, Cora Buhlert, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Not Werdna).]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #66

Interrogatives Without Answers: Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke     

By Chris M. Barkley:

“Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn, and she has neither viguor nor activity enough to pursue and overtake her enemy…” — Thomas Francklin, 1787

The past two weekends have seen two separate upheavals in our sf community.

Both incidents involve well known and well liked members of our family and both incidents have left them shaken, dispirited and their reputations seemingly in tatters.

So, before I start, I would like to clarify my relationships with the focus of this introspective discourse: Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke.

Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

I have never met either Ms. Lackey or Ms. Burke. Nor have I exchanged emails, texts, phone calls or even pleasantries in passing at a convention.    

As a reader, I am totally unfamiliar with either of their works, although as a professional bookseller for many years, I have witnessed many sales of Ms. Lackey’s works and the testimonials of many readers and fans who have praised and loved her works. I am totally unfamiliar with Ms. Burke’s work.

But let’s remember this important fact; Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke are real people. 

They are as human as you and I. 

They have feelings, wants and desires just like you and me.

They are not abstract concepts. And yet, what I have seen and read over the past thirteen days have alarmed and angered me to no end. Because I guarantee what has been said and written about them would never be repeated in person to their faces. Because the things being said against them are so terrible that the perpetrators must view them at non-entities, lest they be consumed by their own shame. 

Our mutual communities, in fandom and on the professional writer’s side, have had a big problem that has been simmering for the past few years and now boiled over in a way that we cannot ignore any longer.

From the earliest days of sf fandom, there have been people who have merited being either sanctioned or banned from community activities. In those days, people who were disruptive or misbehaved were either exposed through fanzine reports, informal gossip or “whisper campaigns”.

But, as technology advanced, so did the activities of bullies and malcontents spread and became prolific as well. 

To our credit, fandom and the professional communities have become more diverse and welcoming to those who were previously either marginalized or openly discriminated against in the past.

To openly confront and combat abusive behavior this past decade, groups and conventions have implemented a standard “Code of Conduct” for activities, which specifies what is acceptable behavior and outlines the penalties for violations.

This innovative move was universally welcomed, especially in the wake of the Sad/Angry/Rabid Hugo Awards debacle of 2013-2016.

The typical Code of Conduct used by conventions today are not legally enforceable pieces of law. They do however, allow any public or private group to take action against an attending individual (or a group) that violates these rules.

On May 22, the 2022 Nebula Awards Conference and sf fandom were rocked when Mercedes Lackey was removed from any remaining sessions of the programming she had been scheduled for by administrators. 

A day earlier, Ms. Lackey, while discussing the works of African American fantasy and sf author Samuel R. Delany during a panel titled “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy”, uttered the word “colored” as a racial description of Mr. Delany.

SWFA addressed the posted the following statement that same day:

We learned yesterday that while participating in the “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” panel, Mercedes Lackey used a racial slur. First, we apologize to our attendees and the other panelists who were subjected to that slur. We’ve disabled access to the panel to avoid any additional harm being caused.

Second, we are immediately removing Mercedes Lackey from the conference and the additional panels she was scheduled for, in accordance with SFWA’s Moderation Policy. The use of a racial slur violates the instruction to “Respect all cultures and communities. Do not make derogatory or offensive statements even as a joke.” That applies to everyone in a SFWA space, at all levels of their career.

Third, we will be discussing with the other panelists for “Romancing Sci-Fi & Fantasy” how they would prefer we proceed when they are able and comfortable in doing so. We will be offering to edit out the offensive portion of the panel or hold the panel again at a later date, inviting back the other three panelists and moderator to again take part. We will respect their wishes on how to handle this issue while also sharing the invaluable expertise they offered during the discussion.

SWFA’s Moderation Policies, linked here clearly state that the “Moderator” is the person in charge of any panel and additionally:

Moderator decisions are final and non-negotiable. If you feel someone is being censured unfairly and have new information to add, please navigate to the Nebula Conference Online website, and on the bottom, right-hand corner of your screen, please select the “Request Help” button. (https://events.sfwa.org/moderation-policies/)

You will note that there is no explicit promise of a formal investigation in case something happens. Everything seems all cut and dried as far as the Nebula Conference administrators were concerned. 

Except that it wasn’t, not by a long shot.

Ms. Lackey’s friends and colleagues came to her defense. Her detractors said that she broke the rules and actually got off easy because she was promptly and quickly sanctioned and did not have to forfeit her Grand Master designation.

Author Jen Brown, who was on the panel in question and was among the first to report her dismayed and deeply offended reaction to Ms. Lackey’s utterance on her Twitter feed, has been viciously and repeatedly harassed and attacked online by both Lackey supporters and trolls. 

Other parties involved have been heard from; Samuel Delany (who is a friend of Ms. Lackey) has stated on his Facebook page that he felt no ill will and that she meant no deliberate offense, 

Prominent Black sf author Steven Barnes felt that her use of the term was a mild offense at best and said that SFWA owed Ms. Lackey an apology.

Writer and critic K. Tempest Bradford, who opined that while Mr. Delany is entitled to his point of view, but even in this day and age, the casual usage, whether it was intentional or not, is totally unacceptable in any context. 

Mercedes Lackey issued a formal apology on May 24th, in which she said:

On a panel at the 2022 Nebulas, I had the chance to celebrate authors who wrote positive gay characters long before me.

Chip Delany is obviously a major player in that game. Because there are two Samuel Delanys–there’s one from Texas–I wanted to make sure people got hold of the right one. So, in my excitement, I got caught in a mental/verbal stumble between “black” and “person of color,” and as best I can remember, what came stuttering out was something like “spcolored.”

I’m not an amazing speaker. I stammer, I freeze up, & I get things wrong. I am sorry that I bungled a modern term while bringing attention to an amazing black creator.

When all of this was going down, I could have easily unsheathed my verbal saber and heedlessly joined in like everyone else about who was right, who was wrong and provided some additional commentary about the situation.

But I did not. I was hoping, in vain as it turns out, that SFWA would conduct a thorough investigation and release the results to all of the parties involved and to the public at large, to tamp down on the hate and disinformation spreading about this incident.

And then, last weekend at Balticon 56, it happened again.

On Sunday, May 29th, Stephanie Burke, a well known local author and a regular Balticon panelist for many years, was accused of making racist and transphobic remarks and was summarily relieved of her remaining panels.

The panel in question, “Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them”, was moderated by Sarah Avery and featured Ms. Burke, Shahid Mahmud, Craig Laurance Gidney, Brandon Ketchum and Christine Sandquist.

Ms. Avery said in a May 31 File 770 comment that also appeared on her Twitter account that she was stuck in traffic that morning and was ten minutes late for the panel. She wrote:

I’ve been playing back my recollections of the panel from the moment I did arrive, trying to match things Stephanie said with the adjectives in her account of the accusations against her. As a white cishet woman, I know I am not optimally attuned to what is hurtful to all the kinds of people whose lives are unlike mine. (The reason I volunteered to moderate a panel on why writers need diversity readers is that I knew I specifically was a writer who needed them.) Until I can find out more about the contents of the complaint, I’m not able to make any kind of declaration on either the complainant’s assertions or Stephanie’s about the diversity readers panel.

In other words, the origin of the complaint against Ms. Burke was not witnessed by the moderator of the panel. We can only guess who the complainant is and what the offense was.

Ms. Burke was, in a statement by the Con Chair, Yakira Heistand  said the following:

An incident was reported to us regarding Ms. Burke. The plan was to quietly ask her to step down from her panels for the weekend while we had a chance to investigate. However, an overzealous volunteer decided to remove her from an ongoing panel in a way that caused her embarrassment. This is inexcusable and we deeply apologize.

Ms. Burke alleges that when she was notified of her suspension, she was verbally abused by Programming Division head, Lisa Adler-Golden. When she asked for the source of the allegations against her this is the answer she states that she received:

I asked to hear the recordings and wanted proof to defend myself against hearsay. The program director (possibly referencing Lisa Alden-Golden here) explained that she would have to listen to the recorded panel and explained that sometimes people took statements out of context and that she would check. She went to another room to listen to the recording because she needed a device bigger than a cell phone and later came back to tell me that the panel she listened to was wonderful but the panel on Friday was not recorded. The decision to strip me of the remaining panels and book reading was to stand and that I was being convicted on hearsay alone.

So wait, what? The panel where the alleged offense took place on Friday? Or was it actually the Saturday panel? Exactly what the hell is going on here?  It was also subsequently reported this week that the email from Balticon 56 that was supposed to have been sent to Ms. Burke relieving her remaining panels was actually never sent in the first place.  

On the evening of June 2nd, Lisa Adler-Golden issued the following statement on the Balticon Facebook Page:

So, those are the facts as best as I can ascertain as of June 3rd, 2022.

There are those among you who may think that these are just two isolated incidents that are totally unrelated to one another and that on the whole, the Codes of Conduct being employed by conventions and meetings are doing just fine. 

But, I beg to differ. 

Because while I have my own opinions about what happened in these two cases, it is totally irrelevant in light of a disturbing trend that I have noticed recently.

I’m here to ask a few questions.  Pertinent questions. Important questions.

It’s a call for introspection, for all of us.

Exactly why did the Nebula Conference managers and the “rogue” Balticon staffer go for the nuclear option and unceremoniously dismiss Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke without the benefit of a formal hearing? 

My question to all of the SWFA panelists involved is this; while I know some (or all) of you may/had been shocked and hurt by Ms. Lackey’s comment, do you believe what she said was a casual slip of the tongue or was it deliberate and malicious? After reading her apology, do you have it in your heart to forgive what she said?

And to the person (or persons) who reported Stephanie Burke to Balticon’s Program Ops; what exactly did she allegedly say? Could you have misinterpreted or misunderstood what she said? 

For those of you piling on endlessly to condemn and relentlessly excoriate Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke; is all of this vitriol and denunciations directed at them actually necessary at this point? 

When is enough, actually enough? Today? Tomorrow? Next Week?

In acting in such an arbitrary manner, did the SFWA managers and the Balticon staff members violate their own Codes of Conduct? 

What responsibilities do they have to be more transparent in how they handle these cases? Shouldn’t these established guidelines be under review and possibly changed in light of what’s happened?

All of which leads me to ask this: Are we all going to be subjected to such a rigid and unyielding standard every single time we make a ghastly faux pas when we appear in public or publish something? 

Can you imagine what would happen to you if any of you were in a similar position? Would your partner, friends and acquaintances dare to stand with you? 

Or, would they denounce you?   

Can you, the reader, imagine what Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke are feeling right now? Accused, ridiculed and rejected without an opportunity to defend themselves? 

In the case of an actual verifiable code of conduct offense, does the constant replay of events continue to mentally harm the person who had the courage to make the initial complaint?

Are people thinking about making a CoC complaint given pause when they witness the feeding frenzies like these occurring in the wake of these allegations? 

Have there been other abuses of the Code of Conduct at other conventions that we are unaware of?

How would any of you react if you were in their position? 

As the days have passed in this ongoing nightmare, I have seen comments on Facebook and Twitter that have absolutely mortified me.

I have seen comments by people who suggest that in most cases they are more likely to believe an accuser than the person who has been accused. Or that if someone is actually accused of something, it’s probably true. 

In our system of justice, hearsay, which for legal purposes is defined as: “information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate; rumor”, is NOT evidence of wrongdoing. 

And as maligned and flawed as the legal system is, at its very core is one of the best innovations ever invented; the presumption of innocence BEFORE being proven guilty. Because everyone is entitled to a defense, no matter who they are or how they are perceived by the public. It is a fine standard and it should be ours as well.

I propose that we, as a community, fall back on this particular tradition in our reformation of our Codes of Conduct. In this day and age of social media, innuendo, gossip and falsehoods can lead to instant outrage, anger and a trial by internet in which none of us can possibly explain ourselves adequately enough to satisfy anyone.

It is quite evident, at least to me, that in some cases, our Codes of Conduct have been misapplied, zealously pursued or weaponized.

It has been done either by well meaning people who may have overreacted to what may or may not have happened, or by others, maliciously using it to destroy a person’s reputation and self worth. 

Establishing a Code of Conduct is one of the more innovative things we have done in the last decade. In a best case scenario, a Code of Conduct violation led to the expulsion of a well known (and multiple Hugo Award nominated) fan, David Truesdale, for his well documented abusive behavior at MidAmericon II in 2016.

But it has backfired spectacularly at Worldcon 76 (which was held San Jose, CA in 2018), who rightfully barred Jon Del Arroz from the convention for his questionable statements and actions before the convention. But the convention made a mistake when they published their reasons for banning and Del Arroz took offense and sued the convention for defamation. He and the convention eventually settled in June 2021 with a public apology and a $4000 payment.  

I have one anecdote to offer. I was at Balticon 56 last weekend, mainly in support of the Orlando and Buffalo NASFiC bids (in 2023 and 2024, respectively). On my way out of the convention Monday morning, I was stopped by a longtime friend (whom I am not identifying out of respect for their privacy) who told me the following story:

My friend was working and was overheard saying something under their breath while attending to their duties at Discon III, which was held in Washington D.C. this past November. Sometime later, they were approached by an incident response team staff member, who told them that the office had a complaint lodged against them about a racist remark being directed towards an Asian Pacific person and that they were considering asking them to leave the convention.

The friend explained that they recalled making the remark but it had not been directed at the API person, it was made in frustration at a machine that they were working on which malfunctioned and was not working properly.

Eventually, this person, who is both well known, well liked and very hospitable in the fannish community for decades, persuaded the staffer that no offense was meant towards anyone and the matter was dropped. 

But, as the events of the past two weeks have vividly shown us, this could have gone quite differently had the incident been officially reported and publicized widely.

It seems quite evident to me that we urgently need to establish new standards for a Code of Conduct. I recommend that they include the following measures:

  1. When a convention or meeting announces a possible violation of the Code of Conduct, they must stress that the charge is an allegation, not a certain matter of fact. The accused party must be given the presumption of innocence until the conclusion of the investigation and the adjudication of the results by an impartial group, empaneled by the convention to handle these matters.
  2. Either an electronic or physical copy of the Code of Conduct must be checked off by all staff and attendees, which will show and acknowledge they have read and understand CoC (with the option that the document they sign be officially and legally notarized by the convention or event for their legal protection).
  3. NO ONE should be charged under a Code of Conduct violation on a single report of hearsay from an individual, unless there is a recording of the incident or multiple witnesses or verifiable circumstantial evidence of the event.
  4. If it is determined a Code of Conduct violation may have occurred, an investigation should be launched immediately. The investigation must include statements from the accuser, the accused and the impartial person (or persons) conducting the inquiry.
  5. Any Code of Conduct violation must generate a written report, which will be made public after an official investigation is completed.
  6. Investigations should not name the accuser in a public report without consent, but their name should be kept on file and confidential in the official investigation file in case of any legal actions beyond its publication
  7. Any convention that finds the accused party innocent, guilty or finds an inconclusive result of the accusation, will publicize the report as widely and vociferously as possible to demonstrate the transparency of the investigative process.
  8. EVERY convention and conference should strive to record every panel or meeting being held at the event. This should be done not only to check the veracity of any complaints and has the benefit of preserving a record for the sake of prosperity. (Since recording everything would be quite expensive, I would recommend that panelists or designated volunteers use their own cell phones or personal recording equipment to record these sessions).

 These are the actions I strongly recommend we take.

These are the questions we should all be asking ourselves. 

Because Mercedes Lackey and Stephanie Burke are real people. And mark my words, what happened to them will happen again.

And the most important question we should be asking ourselves is how can we prevent this from happening over and over again? 

Because the next victim may be me. 

Or you.

Pixel Scroll 6/4/22 Pixel Of Illusions

(1) ANOTHER BURKE CO-PANELIST MAKES A STATEMENT. Shahid Mahmud, Arc Manor Books publisher, who was one of the panelists on “Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them” at Balticon 56, today told Facebook readers that he and Stephanie Burke “got into a heated discussion” but that Burke did “nothing that warranted her treatment” or expulsion from program afterwards.

…One of the panels that keeps getting referred to is a panel I was on with Stephanie, the one on Sensitivity Readers. Not only that, but I was also the one who got into a heated discussion with her on the panel.

As a fellow panelist (particularly one who got into that that discussion with her) I would like to, in no uncertain terms, make it clear that Stephanie NEVER crossed the ‘line.’ I found her charming, informative, and forceful (in a good way).

At one point I did turn to the audience and apologized for us having hijacked the discussion for the last few minutes and several of them pointed out how refreshing it was to hear different sides of the issue (a couple of them reiterating it after the panel as well).

After the panel ended, Stephanie and I did chat briefly and both of us indicated to the other how much we had enjoyed the discussion even though we disagreed with each other.

So, imagine my shock when I found out that she had been kicked off panels. Even more so, since no from Balticon bothered to contact me about the panel (and no one still has).

Anyway, as a fellow panelist on the panel that is being cited as the reason for her expulsion, I want to make it absolutely clear that Stephanie did nothing that warranted her treatment.

What I find incredulous is that someone at Balticon took it upon themselves to treat another person like that without even bothering to find out what happened or having any investigation of a any kind. Escorting someone out of a panel is pretty extreme. I do think Yakira (the Balticon Chair) is trying to set it right to the extent she can (she has publicly apologized and is now leading an investigation into the incident). I hope the investigation also focuses on Lisa Adler-Golden (the program chair, and I believe the person behind the expulsion) and her actions, motivations and suitability for participation in future Balticons.

David Weber responded at length in comments (here and here), saying in part:

…I’m waiting to see how this all works out, and I hope the con chair is able (and willing) to tell the world what really happened and issue a very sincere and public apology (if appropriate) based on the results of her investigation.

If, as I suspect from all I have heard so far, an apology IS appropriate, I think it should be accompanied with an invitation to return as a special guest and, particularly, for a panel on just how destructive this sort of thing is for the fan community as a whole, and not just for the pros/guests immediately affected by it. It’s an issue that needs to be dragged out into the daylight and confronted, without accepting it as long as it only happens to people WE don’t like, and without degenerating into fruitless rounds of whataboutism. This is goring ALL our oxen. It needs to stop, and I hope one response to this fiasco is that Balticon will tell us how IT intends to prevent it going forward….

Also in comments, Gregory Benford reminded readers why he was removed from the 2019 Loscon.  

(2) THE MESSAGE RECEIVED VARIES WITH THE READER. Jeff VanderMeer addresses the question if “Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ is a classic for its portrayal of gender, but is it also sometimes, for the modern reader, a climate change parable?” in  “Landscape, Change, and the Long Road Ahead” at Orion Magazine.

…Le Guin, in creating both this world and this situation, meant to interrogate the politics and logic of countries, and how societies deal with the outsider. Even the long, harrowing journey by Genly and his erstwhile friend from Winter, Estraven, across barren ice can be interpreted as a traditional Jack Londonesque extreme wilderness survival tale, rather than anything more modern.

Yet, the reader changes a book because the world changes, and so when I read of the “facts” of Genly being disputed in Orgoreyn, I could not help but think about the “disputed” facts and proofs of the climate crisis.  

Climate crisis is about extremes, and in The Left Hand of Darkness cultures are shaped by an immeasurably hostile physical environment. The coldness of the place, which forces adaptation to its conditions and discourages certain kinds of risk. The fact the nations of Winter do not engage in war constitutes one unique manifestation of this adaptation to an extreme environment. Full-scale conflict, as opposed to minor sorties, skirmishes, individual feuds, simply seems alien to the nations of Winter…. 

Genly describes war as “the opposite of civilization,” and this is literally true on Winter—if not on our Earth. The planet’s inhabitants cannot afford the destructiveness of war or risk Death by Planet, by diverting or destroying resources needed for survival. They do not have the luxury of surviving both the climate and war….

(3) ALMOST BREAKING EVEN. Despite having cancelled Arisia 2022 due to Covid and the small number planning to attend or be on the program, Arisia, Inc. reports they have made up their annual expenses from grants and donations.

…We have heard back from the grants from this cycle, and we’ve gotten quite a few of them.  A few were contingent on holding a convention and I’ll get into the disposition of each of those.

The big news is that we got $15,000 from the City of Boston!  This is $10,000 for COVID relief and $5,000 in general operating support.  We can use this money to pay organizational expenses such as rent, which comes to $15.600 per year.

We got a grant for $2,275 from SFWA for convention expenses and we can use this for expenses the convention had even though it didn’t actually happen.  We have easily enough eligible expenses to get the access grant and $2500 for organizations that did.  This appears to be what happened, as we were approved for $2500 for training.  We have heard back from the grants from this cycle, and we’ve gotten quite a few of them.  A few were contingent on holding a convention and I’ll get into the disposition of each of those.

…We proposed to use this general staff anti-racism training, and I also requested in the application to be able to use the money for board training, in case we get other funding for anti-racism trainings.  I believe the Anti-Racism Committee is working on specifics for this training.

We got $3000 for CART from the Universal Participation Fund and the expenses didn’t happen.  This is the grant that we qualify for because of Card to Culture.  I don’t know if the money can be repurposed, or if so how.

Speaking of Card to Culture, we had 12 people registered for A22 via Card to Culture, vs. 3 in 2021.  I am hopeful that we get even more in 2023.

Finally, we have gotten about $4,000 in donations, with one large donation pending in an unknown amount.

This is a total of almost $24,000 not including the access grant.  Our annual expenses are a little over $19,000 and the convention had $6,000 in expenses that can’t be passed on to Arisia 2023, plus one of the grants obliges us to spend money on training that we might not have spent otherwise.  So we aren’t quite square, but we’re pretty close….

(4) LAWSUIT GOING FORWARD. “Freedom to Read Advocates Sound Alarm as Obscenity Lawsuit Advances in Virginia” reports Publishers Weekly.

Library groups this week joined with booksellers, publishers, and public advocacy groups in sounding the alarm over a lawsuit in Virginia in which two popular authors and their publishers have been ordered to defend their works against obscenity charges.

The legal action was filed last month by Virginia Beach lawyer and delegate in the Virginia Assembly Tim Anderson (on behalf of local plaintiff and congressional candidate Tommy Altman), citing an obscure state obscenity law. It alleges that two books for sale in a Virginia Beach Barnes & Noble—Maia Kobabe’s popular graphic memoir Gender Queer (Oni Press) and A Court of Mist and Fury (Bloomsbury) by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.”

According to the Virginia Mercury, “the little-utilized state law allows ‘any citizen’ to ask a court to weigh in on books alleged to be obscene.” And in a development that has shocked observers, a local judge on May 18 found there was probable cause the books could be deemed obscene and ordered the authors and publishers to defend the books later this month.

According to the Mercury, the judge who issued the order, Pamela Baskervill, is “a retired Petersburg-area judge,” who is handling the case because “all other judges in Virginia Beach recused themselves.”

The court’s order raises the possibility that the court could issue a restraining order barring the books from public display and restraining booksellers and libraries from selling or loaning the books to minors without parental consent. In a Facebook post, Anderson hailed the judge’s order as “a major legal victory” and laid out the playbook for those seeking to restrict access to materials they find objectionable: “Suits like this can be filed all over Virginia,” Anderson wrote. “There are dozens of books. Hundreds of schools.”…

(5) HEAR FROM EUGEN BACON. Space Cowboy Books will host a free “Online Reading & Interview with Eugen Bacon” on Thursday, July 7 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Get tickets at the link.

(6) INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN. “Can a book change a young woman’s life?” Hear The Conversation with Nnedi Okorafor and Mel Mazman on BBC Sounds.

Can a book change a young woman’s life? Kim Chakanetsa talks to two women in the publishing world about the importance of writing stories that inspire and empower girls. 

Nnedi Okorafor is an award-winning Nigerian-American writer of fantasy and science fiction for both children and adults. Her books have strong female leads and draw inspiration from her Nigerian roots. Nnedi has also written comics for Marvel: she was the first woman to write the character of T’challa, the Black Panther, and she wrote a series about his tech loving sister, Shuri. She is a recipient of the World Fantasy, Hugo and Nebula Awards. 

Mel Mazman is the chief product officer at Rebel Girls, a franchise publishing books and digital content aimed at empowering young women. The company started in 2016, with a crowdfunding campaign for Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a book featuring the stories of 100 inspirational women. Since then, they sold 7.5 million books in over 100 countries. Mel shares her insights on how the publishing industry is changing to cater for the needs and interests of younger generations of readers. 

(7) BREAKFAST WITH TIFFANYS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Jo Walton talks to Helen Zaltzman about what she calls “The Tiffany Problem, or how do you tell readers that the “anachronisms” they find in novels aren’t actually anachronistic.  “Tiffany” is an authentic 12th century name (ultmately derived from “Epiphany”) but use it in a historical novel and readers complain,  Walton discusses how she handles this problem in her novels. “The Tiffany Problem” at The Allusionist podcast.

(8) KEN KELLY (1946-2022). Prolific genre and album artist Ken Kelly died June 3 at the age of 76. He was particularly known for his sword & sorcery cover art. He depicted Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and the rock acts KISS, Manowar, Sleepy Hollow, Rainbow, and Ace Frehley.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1982 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this day forty years ago, my favorite Trek film by far, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, premiered. As I noted yesterday in my essay on the ending of the original series, there have been thirteen films so far — the good, the bad and the just plan forgettable. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is in my opinion stellar.

Now I’ll admit that the episode that spawned it, “Space Seed”, isn’t one of my favorite episodes, but the screenwriter for this film, Jack B. Sowards, who based it off a story by him and Harve Bennett, created a story here that is fantastic. Neither had any genre background so Bennett watched all of the original series after being hired by Paramount and decided to do a film off the “Space Seed” story.

Damn, they did a great job. From the Kobayashi Maru simulation (named after Soward’s neighbor) to the over-the-top villain that Ricardo Montalbán is here (far more than he was in “Space Seed”), there is nothing that is not completely entertaining here. Most of these Trek films have a spot or two where I want to say to the editor why is that scene in here, but not in this film. I loved it from beginning to end unreservedly.

(Roger Ebert in his review had an interesting point about Khan: “Khan is played as a cauldron of resentment by Ricardo Montalban, and his performance is so strong that he helps illustrate a general principle involving not only Star Trek but ‘Star Wars’ (1977) and all the epic serials, especially the ‘James Bond’ movies: Each film is only as good as its villain.”) 

(Some of them are entirely like that.) 

They were given a lousy budget, just twelve million, as Paramount really didn’t believe the film was going to do crap. It did as it made ninety million. 

What did the critics think? If they were Trekkies, they liked it. If they weren’t, they didn’t.

Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times definitely liked it: “In this new film there’s no feeling that its makers are straining to compete with ‘Star Wars’ and other special-effects spectaculars, instead, they’re attempting to recapture the spirit of the beloved TV series. (It is, in fact, probably a plus that the film actually began production intended for TV.) The result is a brisk, handsomely designed film in which its hardware, sturdy as it is, never overwhelms its humanity.” 

Whereas David Khmer of the Chicago Reader wasn’t impressed: “In this second Star Trek feature (1982), the crew of the Enterprise confronts middle age in a plot that makes very little literal sense but is packed with pertinent life-out-of-death, Waste Land imagery: a 200-year-old heavy (Ricardo Montalban) living on a barren planet, a secret project code-named ‘Genesis’ that can turn deserts into tropical jungles, Captain Kirk wearing specs and rediscovering his long-lost family. If only director Nicholas Meyer had grasped the implications of his tale more fully and enthusiastically, this might have become a classic piece of cornball SF poetry, but as it stands the tepid acting and one-set claustrophobia take a heavy toll.” 

It was nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation losing out to Blade Runner. Rotten Tomatoes reviewers really like giving a ninety percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 4, 1951 Wendy Pini, 71. With husband Richard, responsible for Elfquest which won them a Balrog. Over the years Elfquest has been self-published by the Pinis through their own company Warp Graphics, then Marvel Comics, then the Pinis again, more recently DC Comics and then Dark Horse Comics. Everything prior to 2013 is free online at the Elfquest Comic Viewer. Be prepared to spend hours lost in great reading! 
  • Born June 4, 1960 Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 62. If you’ve not discovered the delights of her Diving Universe series, you’re in for a treat — it’s that good. Her Retrieval Artist series is one that can be read in no particular order so is great deal of fun no matter where you start. And her Spade / Paladin series of which the first novel just came out, Ten Little Fen, is absolutely delightful.  Oh, and she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her website is here; don’t miss her appreciation of A.J. Budrys. 
  • Born June 4, 1960 Bradley Walsh, 62. His first genre was on The Sarah Jane Adventures as Odd Bob Elijah Spellman aka The Pied Piper in “The Day of the Clown” story. His major genre role video wise however is Graham O’Brien, companion to the Thirteenth Doctor. Now it’s worth noting that he has a lot of theatre experience that is genre having appeared in multiple versions of AladdinCinderellaJack & the Bean StalkPeter Pan and Snow White.
  • Born June 4, 1964 Sean Pertwee, 58. Let’s see, where did I see him first? Oh, of course, playing Sheriff Hugh Beringar on Cadfael but that’s not genre, is it? Captain Heinz in “Trenches of Hell, Part 2 “,  on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles which was his first genre role followed being Pilot Smith on Event Horizon and Macbeth in a UK film of that name the same year. He did a bit of low-budget horror playing Bradley Cortese in Tale of the Mummy and likewise in being Sergeant Harry G. Wells in Dog Soldiers. There were some fairly low budget SF as well, say Father in Equilibrium. Not to mention Brother Proteus in Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie which I dearly want to see! All of which gets redeemed by his Inspector Lestrade in Elementary, a stunning take on that character. And then there’s his Alfred in Gotham.
  • Born June 4, 1969 Julie Gardner, 53. She was executive producer on the revival of Doctor Who and the spin-offs of Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures. She co-founded with Julie Tranter Bad Wolf, best known for the BBC TV series His Dark Materials and A Discovery of Witches on which she serves as an executive producer.
  • Born June 4, 1972 Joe Hill, 50. I’ve met him once or twice down the years as he shows up here in Portland for signings at both book shops and comic shops pre-Pandemic. Really nice guy like his father. Actually the whole family is amazingly nice. Locke & Key is a superb graphic novel series and I’m fond of all of his short stories, particularly those collected in 20th Century Ghosts, and his collection Full Throttle. I notice that though he’s not yet won a Hugo, he’s won a fistful of Stokers, many BFAs, a World Fantasy Award and even an International Horror Guild Award.
  • Born June 4, 1975 Angelina Jolie, 47. I really liked her two Tomb Raider films and thought Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a really cool film with her role being quite magnificent. I never saw her early Cyborg 2 undertaking but think Hackers and her role as Kate “Acid Burn” Libby was rather good. I’ve not seen her Maleficent films. 
  • Born June 4, 1991 Jordan Danger, 31. She is best known for her role as Zoe Carter on Eureka. (Now inexplicably renamed A Town Called Eureka in syndication but not on Peacock which is streaming it now along with Warehouse 13.) She also showed up in Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators which as horror is genre of sorts, plus the SF films, Higher Power and Beyond the Sky. And even a vampire film, Living Among Us. All low budget, all straight to DVD productions.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COWL SCOWL. In “What Is Batman” the Pretty Much Pop podcast shares its taxonomical theories.

In light of the recent release of Matt Reeves’ film The Batman, we consider the strange alternation of darkness and camp that is Batman. Is he even a super hero? What’s with his rogues’ gallery? What’s with DC’s anti-world-building?

Your Pretty Much Pop host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by philosophy prof/NY Times entertainment writer Lawrence Ware, improv comedian/educator Anthony LeBlanc, and Marketing Over Coffee host John J. Wall, all of whom are deeply immersed in the comics, and we touch on other recent shows in the Batman universe.

(12) HUMOR IN THE DARKNESS. Death’s Intern by D.C. Gomez is the debut novel in the Intern Diaries series launched in 2017.

A talking cat, a boy genius, missing people, and an untrained Intern for Death. What could possibly go wrong?

Did that really happen?

There’s no way Death offered me a job. I’m a musician that makes her living as a waitress, with absolutely no training in the supernatural world. This is all a very bad dream.

But Bob has been kidnapped, and I can’t possibly lose the only friend I have.

Bob, you’d better be alive. Because if I just gave my soul to Death for nothing, I will personally kill you. Not to mention, it seems Death’s Interns have fairly short life expectancies.

God, don’t let me die.

D. C. Gomez was born in the Dominican Republic, and grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. She study film and television at New York University. After college she joined the US Army, and proudly served for four years. Those experiences shaped her quirky sense of humor. D.C. has a love for those who served and the families that support them. She currently lives in the quaint city of Wake Village, Texas, with her furry roommate, Chincha.

One of D. C.’s passions is helping those around her overcome their self-limiting beliefs.  She writes both non-fiction and fiction books, ranging from Urban Fantasy to Children’s Books. To learn more about her books and her passion, you can find her at www.dcgomez-author.com.

Available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(13) SCIENCE TAKES A HOLIDAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You don’t know what it has been like the past few days as you are a citizen living in a flawed democracy, conversely, I am a subject living in a full democracy kingdom. Anyway, our Queen has ruled that we must have four days celebrating 70 years of her reign. So it has been street parties, barbecue, coronation chicken and a right old national knees-up this side of the Pond. It is a tough life, but we Brits are used to it.

It has also meant that, with the exception of this morning, the library cybercafés have been closed, hence no science news until now.

“NASA’s Perseverance rover begins key search for life on Mars” in Nature.

More than fifteen months after landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally begun its hunt for ancient life in earnest.

On 28 May, Perseverance ground a 5-centimetre-wide circular patch into a rock at the base of what was once a river delta in the crater. This delta formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river deposited layers of sediment into Jezero, and it is the main reason that NASA sent the rover here. On Earth, river sediment is usually teeming with life.

Images of the freshly ground spot show small sediment grains, which scientists are hoping will contain chemical or other traces of life. Poet William Blake’s “‘To see a world in a grain of sand’ comes to mind,” wrote Sanjeev Gupta, a planetary geologist at Imperial College London, on Twitter….

Meanwhile, the journal Science has been looking at Mayan astronomy and this features on their cover: “The Stargazers”.

The historic Maya oriented their lives by the heavens. Today, their descendants and Western scholars team up to understand their sophisticated astronomy

In the past few years, slowly converging lines of evidence have been restoring the clearest picture yet of the stargazing knowledge European colonizers fought so hard to scrub away…

(14) SHADOWPAW PRESS MAKES DUOTERO AVAILABLE AGAIN. Duatero by Vancouver author Brad C. Anderson, a searing far-future science fiction novel about the struggles of an abandoned human colony to survive on a hostile alien world, is back in print in a new edition from Shadowpaw Press after being orphaned by the closing of its original publisher, Bundoran Press.

Majstro Falchilo Kredo has devoted his life to protecting the abandoned Earth colony of Duatero from Malamiko, the indigenous ecosystem that makes their crops fail and whose contamination turns humans into mindless monsters.

But Malimiko is changing, becoming more dangerous, more aware, even as the ancient technology the humans use to combat it fails piece by precious piece. Kredo and his fellow soldiers must risk everything or see all they hold precious wiped away and forgotten.

Kredo is prepared to sacrifice himself—and anyone around him—to do his duty. But what if the price demanded is even higher?

Duatero is a powerful work of science fiction that confronts issues of morality and survival head-on in a carefully thought-out and terrifying alien world,” said Edward Willett, editor and publisher of Shadowpaw Press. “It deserves to find many new readers, and I’m thrilled to be able to give it that opportunity.”

Duatero can be bought directly from the publisher or from most online bookstores in both ebook and print and can also be ordered through any brick-and-mortar bookstore. This handy URL provides links to multiple online sources:  https://books2read.com/duatero/

(15) SPELL TREK. “Harini Logan is the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion after a historic spell-off” reports CNN.

…This year’s host was LeVar Burton. The Emmy and Grammy-award winner hosted the semifinal and the final round of the event.

In a statement in December, Burton called the position “an honor.”

“Like a lot of folks, I look forward to the competition every year and am excited to be a part of this wonderful tradition that celebrates excellence,” he said….

(16) IT’S ALMOST TIME. Suspension by Andrea Faye Christians – “a time travel tale of epic proportions” — is Book One of the Time Binder Series.

When Carla Thompson falls asleep and doesn’t wake up, she is shocked to discover what destiny has in store for her. Suspended between two worlds, she meets Isambard Brunel, the legendary eighteenth-century civil engineer, who built the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England, and who now serves as guardian of its secrets. Historical events intertwine with Carla’s current reality and along the way she discovers a murder, encounters a host of characters including Jamaican psychic, Matilda, and engages in verbal banter with literary legend, Ernest Hemingway. Her adventures lead her to a startling revelation about why she was chosen for her strange new role. In death Carla realises she has never felt more alive.

Andrea Faye Christians was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. Following a successful career in British radio including the BBC, she moved to the southern Mediterranean island of Malta to pursue her dream of becoming a freelance writer. A decade later she bought a farm in the Madonie Mountains of Sicily where a menagerie of rescue animals found their way to her. With a son in Malta and a daughter in Sicily, Andrea has a home and her heart in both places, and she now divides her time between the neighboring islands.

The book will be released June 30 and is available for pre-order from Bookshop, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Book Depository, and Barnes & Noble.

(17) PHILIP K. DICK WILL BE SORRY HE MISSED THIS SHOW. Matt O’Dowd on PBS Space Time dares to ask,“What If Physics IS NOT Describing Reality?”

Neils Bohr said, “It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about Nature.” Well it turns out that if we pay attention to this subtle difference, some of the most mysterious aspects of nature make a lot more sense.

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

Balticon 56 Chair Will Lead Investigaton of Events

Yakira Heistand, chair of Balticon 56, has asked for this statement to be posted:


My name is Yakira Heistand and, as many of you know, I was the chair of Balticon 56. As Con Chair and as a fellow human, my heart is breaking for everyone hurt through our actions. While I wish I had a time machine and could go back and catch the issues before they became problems, I don’t. However, I do believe everyone is owed an explanation as to the events at Balticon 56. 

As a community we need to understand what happened and why. And, as a community we need to be able to do better. With that goal I, Yakira Heistand, will be leading the investigations surrounding the events that happened at Balticon 56. I am committed to conducting these investigations with as much transparency as I can manage without causing more harm to those involved.

I am painfully aware, as a white-presenting Jewish woman, there are things I don’t know and can’t speak to. I have been authorized by the Board of Directors to hire a Diversity/Sensitivity Specialist who is familiar with fandom. Because of many issues of identity and marginalization that are layered into the concerns brought up on all sides of these upsetting events, the members of the committee will include people who can comment from within the communities of concern, as representatives of affected communities. As a community effort, we are gathering information from all involved – panelists, audience members, and also from the community at large – as well as examining the context of policy and procedure that preceded the events that have caused so much concern. Ultimately we will be taking this input and creating an action plan to recommend to the Board of Directors. 

I realize that this is a sensitive issue, and I understand that delay in resolving this is causing pain, but to minimize the probability of further harm, we will aim to be responsive rather than reactive. I will be posting progress reports as we have concrete things to share. The ultimate goal of this process is to be able to publish a new protocol as to how these things are handled in the future for our convention and our members.


Balticon Publishes Program Head’s Apology to Burke

Balticon has posted on the convention’s Facebook page the text of an apology from Baltimore 56 Programming Head Lisa Alder-Golden addressed to Ms. Stephanie “Flash” Burke, the Board of Directors, and the Balticon Con Chair.

For the background, see “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels”.

Pixel Scroll 6/1/22 The Ones Who Scroll Away From Pixelas

(1) BURKE TELLS MORE ABOUT HER BALTICON EXPERIENCE. Stephanie Burke has written a 2600-word comment on File 770’s “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels” post that goes into fuller detail about her experience. The link is here. In the last two paragraphs she says —

…It took me close to 20 years to build up my reputation there as a person who did her best to make sure everyone had representation, that willful ignorance would be avoided, to be someone who was safe for anyone to speak to, to offer info, links, and some perspective that may help them as well as learn how I can improv myself, and now it is gone here with no proof and no way to defend myself. All I got was the decision of the board still stands and I still don’t have an idea of what exactly I was supposed to have said. They told me they didn’t have the recordings in the room where ever panel was recorded so unless someone is lying about the recording, I’ll never get the chance to defend myself. Unless of course, the recording is found at the last moment but to me that sounds like looking for proof of guilt than proof of evidence of innocence.

One of the last things I told them and still remains true, was that closest feeling I could aquait with being walked out of that room like that was a time when I was a teen working at a summer camp when some woman claimed that I had stolen her wallet. I was marched out of the room like the cops knew I was guilty, the accusing eyes and twisted lips, only to be let back in a few moments later with the woman happily calling out that she just misplaced her wallet and just found it in her purse and everything was all good and okay now, right? The cops kind of shrugged at me and said okay and that was it but I went into the bathroom and threw up my lunch. This was the closest I had ever come to feeling like that and I never want to feel like that again. I know would feel it again if I walked into another Balticon event….

(2) FIRE DISPLACES SFF WORKSHOP. Taos Toolbox has moved to Albuquerque this year. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook.

Taos Toolbox is not going to be in Taos this year. The two-week intensive science-fiction writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and I teach is usually held at the ski resort of Angel Fire, near Taos, New Mexico. However, the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak wildfire is less than a dozen miles from Angel Fire and not yet close to being contained. Since it’s not good to incinerate workshop attendees, the workshop has moved to a hotel in Albuquerque….

Walter Jon Williams, the event’s founder, filled in the details on Facebook.

So quite a number of plans have gang agley in the last days, so I’ve been putting out fires— nearly literal fires.

Taos Toolbox, the master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, starts this weekend, and has been held at the Angel Fire resort for the last decade or more. It’s a deluxe place in a beautiful mountain setting, and unless there’s a mountain bike rally or something, it’s not too crowded or noisy and we can concentrate on our work.

Except this year we have the Hermit’s Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history, over 300,000 acres and currently only 60% contained. It’s ten miles from Angel Fire, and when it gets a wind behind it, a fire can race along at 5 miles per day. Angel Fire has been at the “prepare to evacuate” stage for weeks now.

I mean, the pandemic wasn’t enough?

Now the fire is 60% contained, and the odds are Angel Fire would have been fine, but I couldn’t guarantee that. I couldn’t absolutely promise that Hermit’s Peak wouldn’t blaze up again, or that we wouldn’t have to evacuate 20 people to lodging unknown. So I moved the workshop to the Sonesta ES suite hotel in Albuquerque, which is quite luxe, offers free breakfast, and has a fine view of the semi trucks running past on the freeway….

(3) ROYALTY IN GENRE. The British Science Fiction Association anticipated Jubilee Weekend by launching this discussion topic:

Here are two of the many responses.

(4) THE GODFATHER. Craig Miller who created the Official Star Wars Fan Club for Lucasfilm told Facebook friends about his new nickname.

During the Star Wars Celebration panel “Fandom Through the Generations”, Dan Madsen – the founder of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and Star Wars Insider – called me “The Godfather of Star Wars Fandom”.

That actually felt a little weird. I suppose not entirely inaccurate. Part of my job was to take Star Wars to Fandom and to keep Lucasfilm of the mind that fans are important. But I’d never thought of it that way….

The post also contains a photo of the plaque and trophy Craig received this weekend when he was made an Honorary Member of the 501st Legion.

(5) SHOULD IT BE A PERMANENT HUGO? Trevor Quachri expands on a DisCon III panel discussion about the proposed Best Video Game Hugo in “The Play’s the Thing”, his editorial in the May/June Analog.

…So it seems straightforward: games, particularly of a “science fiction, fantasy, or related subject” bent (per the award description) deserve a permanent spot on the ballot, right?

Well, let’s hit the pause button for a moment.

Everyone on that games panel quickly stumbled over the same basic question: Given all of that background, what’s the primary criterion for judging the “best” game in a given year? And what makes the Hugo for Best Video Game different from any of the other already-existing game awards given out by fans, professional game designers, and the like? Is it a “writing in games” award? The Hugos may be primarily literary, but well-written games may not actually be the best games, taken on their own merits. (Chess, for example, isn’t a lesser game because the pieces don’t each have an elaborate backstory.)

And how do you explain what makes a good game to folks unfamiliar with them? Games are built from readily-understandable art to one degree or another—the graphics are art; the music is art; voice acting is acting, which is art; and yes, the stories in games are art—but the thing that makes games unique—the game part—isn’t so easily grasped….

(6) CORA BUHLERT. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Cora Buhlert: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Cora Buhlert is a prolific indie author, champion of independent publishing, blogger, pulp historian as well as a teacher and translator. Based in Germany, her sci-fi writing and reviews are primarily in English but she is also a tireless ambassador for science fiction from beyond the insular English speaking perspective on the genre.

(7) FROM THE START. Wole Talabi shared some “Preliminary Observations From An Incomplete History of African SFF” at the SFWA Blog.

When Did the History of Published African SFF Begin?

Tricky. And there is probably no right answer since publishing from early colonial Africa was problematic and it depends on what you define as SFF. I’ve arbitrarily limited my scope to works published between 1921 and 2021, even though I don’t have any entries from 1921. Why 100 years? To quote Geoff Ryman: Because it’s easy to remember. And the first entry in the database is Cameroonian Jean-Louis Njemba Medou’s Nnanga Kon, a novel published in 1932 in Bulu. I suppose that’s as good a point as any to start. However, that’s only one way to look at things. Another is to observe the rapid increase in published works that begins in 2011, peaks in 2016, and has somewhat stabilized since (although this could simply reflect my inability to keep up with documenting new works).

(8) COVID TRACKING. Balticon 56’s “Covid Reports” page lists five attendees who report they have tested positive.

This page will continue to be updated as COVID-19 positive tests are reported after the con. If you attended Balticon in person and have a positive test result before June 15th, please email covid@balticon.org.

(9) BACK FROM CONQUEST. Kij Johnson reports on a successful Ad Astra Center fundraiser in “Summer starts with a screeching sound, as of hot brakes making a hard turn.”

…Last weekend was a benefit auction for the Ad Astra Center, held at ConQuest, the KC SF convention, this was fantastic fun: we had a great team of six people, and ended up with more than 300 auction items, and made (we think) close to $3000, which is pretty extraordinary, considering this was a small con this year. (I also was on panels with Fonda Lee, Katherine Forrister, and other cool people.) Chris McKitterick and I had a chance to talk about what Ad Astra is looking forward to doing, and I am ever more excited by what’s going to be possible….

(10) SHALLOW ROOTS. Abigail Nussbaum says there’s a reason for the sense of sameness in the series’ second season in “Love, Death, Robots, but no Women” at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

…There have been thirty-five Love, Death + Robots episodes. Something like thirty of them are based on a previously-published short stories. Only one of those stories is by a woman. (Also, only one of those stories—not the same one—is by a person of color.) And frankly, that’s not only reprehensible in its own right, but it tells in the final product. There’s a certain laddishness to the stories the show chooses to tell, a disinterest in the inner life of anyone but manly, taciturn men. Bug hunt stories abound, and despite the show identifying itself as science fiction, there is no shortage of episodes that are just plain horror, whose appeal seems primarily to be watching a lot of people get torn to bits cinematically (“The Secret War” in season 1; “The Tall Grass”, season 2; “Bad Traveling”, season 3). Though some episodes have female protagonists, there are also a lot of stories where women exist to be ogled (“The Witness”, season 1) or fucked (“Beyond the Aquilla Rift”, season 1; “Snow in the Desert”, season 2).

I watched the recently-released third season over the last couple of evenings and was not impressed…. 

(11) STRANGER TV. In contrast, Nussbaum enthuses about “Stranger Things Season 4, Volume I” on her Tumblr.

Folks, I am somewhat flabbergasted to report that the fourth season of Stranger Things – a show that I would previously have described as “derivative fun, if you don’t think about it too hard” – is not only its best, but genuinely good TV. There are some caveats to this claim – the last two episodes haven’t been released yet, and the protracted episode runtimes (ranging from 63 to 98 minutes) are impossible to justify – though for the most part the show wears them pretty lightly. But even so, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen…. 

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] I still remember The Dune Encyclopedia fondly as it is an amazing creation. Published by Berkley thirty-eight years ago, it was written by Willis E. McNelly and forty-two other individuals not as a work of non-fiction but rather as an in-universe work. Everything in it was something that was supposed to actually be true. It was edited by Hadi Benotto, an archaeologist you’ll find in God Emperor of Dune and Heretics of Dune.

It was authorized by Herbert, who considered it canon, and went into detail such things as character biographies, looks at the worlds in that universe, a look at the spice melange, how such things as the stillsuits and the heighliners of the Spacing Guild function.

Herbert wrote the foreword to The Dune Encyclopedia and said: “Here is a rich background (and foreground) for the Dune Chronicles, including scholarly bypaths and amusing sidelights. Some of the contributions are sure to arouse controversy, based as they are on questionable sources … I must confess that I found it fascinating to re-enter here some of the sources on which the Chronicles are built. As the first ‘Dune fan’, I give this encyclopedia my delighted approval, although I hold my own counsel on some of the issues still to be explored as the Chronicles unfold.” 

Brian Herbert later, being the, well, I can’t use the word I want to use, declared everything here non-canon. That allowed him to write anything he wanted to in the novels he and Kevin J. Anderson have putting out by the armload. He even said his father never intended it to be canon.

If you’d like to purchase a copy today, it’ll cost you dearly, particularly in hardcover. A good copy is now running around two hundred and fifty dollars. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 1, 1926 Andy Griffith. His most notable SFF genre credit is as Harry Broderick on the late Seventies Salvage I which lasted for two short seasons. Actually that was it, other than a one-off on The Bionic Woman. It’s streaming for free on Crackle whatever the Frelling that is. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 1, 1928 Janet Grahame Johnstone, and Anne Grahame Johnstone. British twin sisters who were children’s book illustrators best remembered for their prolific artwork and for illustrating Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. They were always more popular with the public than they were with the critics who consider them twee. (Janet died 1979. Anne died 1988.)
  • Born June 1, 1940 René Auberjonois. Odo on DS9. He’s shown up on a number of genre productions including Wonder WomanThe Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic WomanBatman Forever, King Kong, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Warehouse 13He’s lent both his voice and likeness to gaming productions in recent years, and has done voice work for the animated Green Lantern and Justice League series. He directed eight episodes of DS9. And he wrote a lot of novels, none of which I’ve read. Has anyone here read any of them? (Died 2019.)
  • Born June 1, 1947 Jonathan Pryce, 75. I remember him best as the unnamed bureaucrat in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He’s had a long career in genre works including Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes as Mr. Dark himself, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Governor Weatherby Swann, The Brothers Grimm, in the G.I. Joe films as the U.S. President and most recently in The Man Who Killed Don Quixote as Don Quixote. 
  • Born June 1, 1948 Powers Boothe. Though not genre, he played saloon owner Cy Tolliver on the Deadwood series, and “Curly Bill” Brocius in Tombstone, one of my favorite films. Now genre wise, he’s in the animated Superman: Brainiac Attacks voicing Lex Luthor, The Avengers as Gideon Malick, Gorilla Grodd and Red Tornado in Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and a recurring role as Gideon Malick in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 1, 1954 Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 68. A filker which gets major points in my book. And yes, I’m stalling while I try to remember what of his I’ve read. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read both of his Isaac Asimov’s Robot City novels, and now I can recall reading Alternities as well. God, it’s been at least twenty years since I read him which I thought odd, but then I noticed at ISFDB that he hasn’t published a novel in that long. 
  • Born June 1, 1966 David Dean Oberhelman. Another one who died far too young. Mike has an appreciation of him hereThe Intersection of Fantasy and Native America: From H.P. Lovecraft to Leslie Marmon Silko which he co-wrote with Amy H. Sturgis was published by The Mythopoeic Press. ISFDB lists just one genre essay by him, “From Iberian to Ibran and Catholic to Quintarian”, printed in Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 1, 1996 Tom Holland, 26. He’s known for playing Spider-Man in five films: Captain America: Civil WarSpider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and the recently out Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) IT’S GOT ISSUES. At The Verge, Alex Cranz says, “The merging of Comixology and Kindle has created a hell I’d like to escape”.

In February of this year, Amazon finally completed its consumption of the once independent app for downloading comics, Comixology. Amazon had acquired the app way back in 2013, and apart from removing the ability to buy comics directly from the app, it left it untouched for nearly a decade. But this year, Amazon changed things — incorporating Comixology’s digital marketplace directly into the Kindle ecosystem and totally redesigning the Comixology app. It has taken two distinct mediums — digital comics and digital books — and smashed them together into an unholy blob of content that is worse in every single way. Apparently, if you let one company acquire a near-monopoly in the digital books and comics spaces, it will do terrible things that make the experience worse….

…The new Comixology app is largely just… annoying. That’s the best word for it. Everything you need is still there, but the design isn’t really intuitive, and it can make a large collection of comics (I’ve been using Comixology since 2011) difficult to navigate. It feels sort of like when you go to the grocery store after they move aisles around. Everything is still there, but the change feels so dramatic after years of the familiar.

But where my local Food Bazaar will helpfully label the aisles, Comixology has not. There are no clear labels for useful built-in tools like its “Guided View,” which is designed to fluidly move you from panel to panel with a swipe instead of having each page take up the whole display. The Guided View is still there, but the clear explanation of what it is or how to use it is gone. You access it by double-tapping — which I only know because I was trying to access the menu to leave the book.

(15) CONFRONTING THE BLANK PAGE. Neil Clarke wrestles with the question of what he should be doing in his monthly Clarkesworld editorial: “Managing This Expectation”. He posits several ideas – here are two of them.

…Or perhaps, I’m filing a report of “criminal” acts? Earlier this week I was the victim of an ageist attack suggesting that I was “too old to be editing one of the leading science fiction magazines” and I should “get out of the way” so someone younger can do it. I’m only fifty-five, not the oldest editor I know, and not about to give up the magazine I started over one person’s disrespectful opinion on the matter. Their punishment is measured by the amount of time I continue to edit Clarkesworld.

Could be that it’s like being a referee, outlining how we’d like to see the game played? It’s perfectly fair to criticize or celebrate the finalists or winners of any award. Science fiction is a broad field with a variety of styles that might not appeal to everyone and the awards will reflect some of that. It’s only natural to be thrilled or disappointed when your favorite player wins, loses, or is benched. That said, we want a fair fight here. There should be no punching below the belt–criticizing or campaigning against based on anything other than the work they’ve done….

(16) FANTASY ART ON EXHIBIT. [Item by Bill.] The Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, TN is holding this exhibition through September 5: “Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration”.

For hundreds of years, artists have been inspired by the imaginative potential of fantasy. Unlike science fiction, which is based on fact, fantasy presents an impossible reality—a universe where dragons breathe fire, angels battle demons, and magicians weave spells. Enchanted offers a thoughtful appraisal of how artists from the early 20th century to the present have brought to life myths, fairy tales, and modern epics like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. Featuring nearly 100 artworks, the exhibition explores Greek myths, Arthurian Legends, fairy tales, and modern superheroes.

The Hunter’s description of the event isn’t much, and a better one can be found here at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which organized the event.

There is an accompanying book available from Amazon and Bud’s Art Books.

If you can’t make it to Chattanooga, the exhibition is also travelling to Flint, MI and will be on display at the Flint Institute of Arts from September 24, 2022 – January 8, 2023.

(17) SOME CAN AND SOME CANTON. Camestros Felapton, in “Some Swiss news about far-right publisher Vox Day”, covers Vox Day’s announcement that he’s threatening to sue [Internet Archive link] the journalists who reported his purchase of a Swiss castle.

The journalists’ article includes this paragraph:

…On the internet, Vox Day summarizes the alt-right – to which he avoids being directly attached – as the defense of “the existence of the white man and the future of white children”. The blogger also confesses a certain admiration for Adolf Hitler. “National Socialism is not only human logic, it is also much more logical and true than communism, feminism or secular Zionism,” the Minnesota-born American writes on his blog. …

Vox always objects to being identified with Hitler and Nazis (see “Complaint About Term ‘Neo-Nazi’ Results in Foz Meadows Post Moving from Black Gate to Amazing Stories” from File 770 in 2016).

(18) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. JustWatch determined these were the “Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in May 2022”

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Spider-Man: No Way HomeStar Trek: Strange New Worlds
2Sonic the Hedgehog 2Obi-Wan Kenobi
3MorbiusSeverance
4Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStranger Things
5MoonfallDoctor Who
6FirestarterMoon Knight
7Jurassic World: Fallen KingdomThe Man Who Fell to Earth
8Jurassic WorldThe Time Traveler’s Wife
9The BatmanHalo
10Sonic the HedgehogThe Twilight Zone

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(19) BAGEL POWER. Accented Cinema is prepared to tell you “The Hidden Meaning of Everything Everywhere All at Once”.

Here it is! My analysis of the metaphors hidden in Everything Everywhere At at Once. Did you know why Michelle Yeoh put a googly eye on herself? Let’s find out!

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodhunt,” Fandom Games says while earlier installments of this franchise “turned a bunch of nerds into enerds wearing eye shadow,” this installment is “the latest in the ‘kill people in a rapidly shrinking circle genre.”  The narrator thinks the game is boring and says, “call me when Bloodhunt has Ariana Grande and industrial dancing!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/31/22 A Pixel Of Scrollsea

(1) BURKE FOLLOW-UP. Stephanie Burke told Facebook readers today her Balticon experience is exacting a physical toll. (For background, see “Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels”.)

…Still no word but maybe today I can meet with both my psychiatrist and a lawyer because I think I am spent. I am fighting back a flare-up, I am ignoring the costochondritis pain in my chest, and I finally managed to get food down without fear of it coming back up. I think I’ll be good for now but this is still dangling over my head and freaking me out. I have ripped out so much hair on one side that I contemplated cutting it all off again. I just need to breathe deeply and take it moment by moment. The first step, the tests were negative. Remember that. The second step, get my meetings set, and the third step, don’t panic and do my best to carry on.

I love you, Loves. Thank you for keeping me sane. I think without your support I would have crumbled and given up. This is a style of attack that I’m unfamiliar with but with like most things, a Black girl’s tears won’t get you shit so you shake it off and move on. I can attempt to start to do that because of your belief in me. Thank you so very much….

(2) PANEL MODERATOR’S STATEMENT. Sarah Avery, moderator of the “Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them” which is the source of the complaint, made a statement in File 770 comments. (It’s also on Twitter: thread starts here.)

I was the moderator on that panel, and the first moment I heard about what happened to Stephanie was 30 minutes ago from a person whose only involvement with Balticon was as an attendee. I am Not Thrilled about having to go to Facebook and File 770 to get details about this situation. After searching my email inbox, spam, and incoming social media messages, I haven’t found any attempts to contact me from the people investigating the incident. It’s possible there have been attempts I haven’t found, or that the person investigating got my contact info wrong, but it’s not looking great at the moment.

Because I got stuck in traffic on the way into Baltimore, I was a little over 10 minutes late for a panel I was scheduled to moderate. That is mortifying and entirely on me. It is possible that whatever the complaint is about happened while I was not yet in the room.

I’ve been playing back my recollections of the panel from the moment I did arrive, trying to match things Stephanie said with the adjectives in her account of the accusations against her. As a white cishet woman, I know I am not optimally attuned to what is hurtful to all the kinds of people whose lives are unlike mine. (The reason I volunteered to moderate a panel on why writers need diversity readers is that I knew I specifically was a writer who needed them.) Until I can find out more about the contents of the complaint, I’m not able to make any kind of declaration on either the complainant’s assertions or Stephanie’s about the diversity readers panel.

I can say that nothing I saw or heard called for the way Stephanie was pulled out of an ongoing panel. That event shocks me.

(3) ONE AUTHOR’S THOUGHTS GOING FORWARD. Gail Z. Martin on Facebook criticized Balticon’s handling of the code of conduct complaint, and demanded conventions implement specified improvements if they expect authors to accept the risks of appearing on panels. The text of the post can also be read in the following tweet:

(4) WISCON COVID EXPOSURE REPORT. WisCon was held last weekend in Madison, WI and the committee is collecting and sharing reports of positive Covid tests from those who attended in person in this Google spreadsheet: “Possible exposure locations”. There are 10 positives listed to date.

Those who attended the convention in person are receiving email updates:

(5) MUSLIM SF CONSIDERED. “Emad El-Din Aysha on ‘Arab and Muslim Science Fiction’: ‘Our male heroes aren’t criticized for crying’” at Arablit.

What makes Arab and Muslim science fiction special?

EA: That’s the million-dollar question. I’d say we place the spirit center stage. We want to shelter it from corrupting influences, technological arrogance included, which is a Quranic injunction. Evil suggestions don’t just come from the devil; they come from within. And the world on the outside is perceived as mystical and miraculous.

We have a lot in common with sci-fi from the Global South, too. Our concerns lie elsewhere, whether it’s turning the deserts green or maintaining family values, or honoring religion. As Arabs especially, we love gardens and vines and family get-togethers in our mini-utopias. As Muslims, we have a much more holistic vision of the future, of what the future should look like, with peaceful coexistence and a much more genteel attitude to everything, from mental and spiritual health, to alien contact and space exploration. Our heroes, while predominantly men, aren’t criticized for crying during profound moments and women are surprisingly well represented and proactive in our stories. There’s still room for improvement though.

Of course not all Arab and Muslim sci-fi is quite so benign and optimistic, especially post-Arab Spring, but you can still feel that positive force in the background, even as younger authors take on the mantle of alien invasion epics and dystopias. You find chivalry and redemption creeping in through the back door. Our humor is very tongue-in-cheek too.

(6) KENOBI STAR SUFFERS RACIST ATTACKS. The Hollywood Reporter tells how “‘Star Wars’ Defends ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ Star Moses Ingram From Vile Online Attacks: ‘Don’t Choose to Be Racist’”.

“There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist,” began the message from Disney accounts. “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

Ingram plays Reva Sevander, aka the Third Sister, who is hunting Obi-Wan Kenobi for Darth Vader in the new Disney+ series, shared on her Instagram stories several of the absolutely horrendous online messages aimed at her, some of which included the N-word.

“There’s nothing anybody can do about this,” Ingram said in a video after sharing the spewed venom she’s endured. “There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. I question my purpose in even being here in front of you saying that this is happening. I don’t really know.”

She continued, “The thing that bothers me is this feeling inside of myself, that no one has told me, but this feeling that I have to shut up and take it, that I have to grin and bear it. And I’m not built like that. So, I wanted to come on and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places that I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”

Around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Ewan McGregor posted a message about the abuse via the Star Wars account, both about Obi-Wan Kenobi being the most-watched Disney+ original series premiere, but most importantly about the abuse Ingram has endured.

“It seems that some of the fan base has decided to attack Moses Ingram online and send her the most horrendous, racist [direct messages]. I heard some of them this morning, and it just broke my heart,” he said. “Moses is a brilliant actor. She is a brilliant woman. And she is absolutely amazing in this series. She brings so much to the series, she brings so much to the franchise. And it just sickened me to my stomach that this had been happening. I just want to say as the lead actor in the series, as the executive producer on the series, that we stand with Moses. We love Moses. And if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind. There’s no place for racism in this world. And I totally stand with Moses.”

(7) COUNT THE CLOCK THAT TELLS THE TIME. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green offers “A Word or Two of Warning” about a defect in Kindle Direct Publishing’s countdown clock.

…Except, the change didn’t take. It didn’t take twice. Additional calls to KDP Support revealed the following:

  1. KDP knows there is a problem with the countdown clock. It does occasionally decide to take time away from the author
  2. KDP knows this but has not, so far at least fixed the issue
  3. KDP techs have no way to override the program, no matter what the reason. Once that timer starts, the software runs everything and humans are helpless. (Hmm, sounds like maybe they are sharing software and/or developers with FB. It worships the power of the ‘bot as well)
  4. And here’s the kicker. The only options you are given when you are at this point is to cancel the pre-order and hope Amazon will waive the penalty of no pre-orders allowed for a year (and there is no guarantee they will) or you can go ahead and upload the file, incomplete though it might be and, as soon as the book goes live, upload the correct file. 

As I later announced on my blog and social media, I chose the latter. Except I’m sure I did it in such a way Amazon won’t exactly appreciate. I uploaded the file with a disclaimer attached saying it is not the final file. That if you have bought the book and you see this particular page, you have the wrong file and this is how to get the correct file. I included instructions on how to download the correct file or contact me–and I set up a special email account for this purpose–in case it doesn’t work….

(8) ASIAN HERITAGE IN HORROR Q&A. “Asian Heritage in Horror: Interview with Angela Yuriko Smith” at the Horror Writers Association Blog.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Like many of us that are attracted to horror, it was real-life trauma. I saw and heard things no one else could as a child but the adults around me advised me to ignore it. It became a thing to not talk about because it made everyone around me uncomfortable. As an adult, I understand now what a creepy child I was but at the time it was frustrating. Horror stories were more real to me than daily life because they were populated with people like me in them. People heard disembodied voices, interacted with shadows, and saw people no one else could. They were often told, like me, it was just imagination but they knew—and I knew—these things were real. It made me feel less of an outsider to read these stories. I realized I wasn’t actually so weird, I was just in the wrong story.

(9) ALEX BROWN. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Alex Brown: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Alex Brown is an award-winning SF&F critic (2020 Ignyte Best Critic Award), librarian and fan writer who has written for Locus, Tor.com, NPR and Buzzfeed. They’ve also written two non-fiction books about the Napa Valley…. 

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1990 [By Cat Eldridge.] I saw Total Recall at a theater when it first came out and yes I really, really like it. 

It was directed by Paul Verhoeven, three years after he had done RoboCop. Though he didn’t get a Hugo nomination for that film, he’d get one for this film at Chicon V. (And Starship Troopers picked one up at BucConeer.) The screenplay was by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusettand and Gary Goldman from a story by O’Bannon along with Ronald Shusett and Jon Povill. It was produced by Buzz Feitshans, who previously produced Conan the Barbarian, and Ronald Shusett.

As you know, it was based (rather loosely) upon Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in April 1966. Shusett was the first individual to option this story. 

Ok, this film is pure SF pulp. It’s not to be taken seriously, the setting is pure pulp, the characters are more fitting for a Thirties serial than the setting they are in and the script is at best just cobbled together. More than one review notes that it went through a lot of rewrites. 

The primary cast of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox are perfect for it. Schwarzenegger had long wanted to play the lead but studio politics kept him from doing so. Eventually it was OKed by a studio that had a studio that had, oh you get the idea.

To this day, no one knows how much it costs to produce but it’s thought to be at least eighty million dollars which was OK as it made a quarter of a billion dollars. Yeah it was a very popular film with the public. 

Now what did the critics think of it? It got a decidedly mixed reception. 

Rita Kempley at the Washington Post really didn’t like it: “Aside from a few terrific effects, ‘Total Recall’ is not good science fiction. Despite the big budget, it is a wasteland of latex prostheses, dreary sets and broken glass. Its main selling point — the story line — betrays the audience with its sheepish ending. And its star gives an unusually oafish performance, a cross between Frankenstein’s monster, a hockey puck with swollen glands and Col. Klink. Like Stallone, Schwarzenegger is a talking cartoon whose objective is to make violence fun. And they called Conan the barbarian.”

But Michael Wilmington at the Los Angeles Times was much kinder: “Verhoeven, working from an often-rewritten screenplay distantly based on Philip K. Dick’s brilliant 1966 short story ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,’ keeps ringing these truth-or-illusion changes throughout the movie. And if they don’t always click, if the movie sometimes seems overwhelmed by its budget and its legendary third-act problems, it’s still entertainingly raw and brutal, full of whiplash pace and juicy exaggeration.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent seventy eight percent rating. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 31, 1895 George R. Stewart. As we have noted here, his 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. That was a British award and the first one, this very one, was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 31, 1914 Jay Williams. He’s best remembered for his young adult Danny Dunn SFF series which he co-authored with Raymond Abrashkin. Though Abrashkin died in 1960, Williams insisted HIS CO-author should continue to receive credit as co-author of all 15 books of this series. Though his first novel, The Stolen Oracle was a mystery for adults, he did write mysteries for young adults, such as The Counterfeit African and The Roman Moon Mystery, both written in the Forties. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 31, 1930 Elaine Stewart. Born with the name of the of Elsy Henrietta Maria Steinberg.  She was Jane Ashton in Brigadoon which is surely genre. She also in The Adventures of Hajji Baba as Princess Fakzia. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 31, 1950 Gregory Harrison, 72. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought it did. He was Logan 5 in Logan’s Run which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object and that series actually lasted awhile), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles.
  • Born May 31, 1961 Lea Thompson, 61. She’s obviously best known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it.
  • Born May 31, 1976 Colin Farrell, 46. I remember him first as Bullseye in the much dissed Daredevil film. (It wasn’t that bad.) He was in Minority Report as Danny Witwer, a film I’ve skipped watching. And I see he’s listed as being the third transformation of Tony in Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. H’h. Now he was Peter Lake in Winter’s Tale, a take off of Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, a novel no film could do justice to. Oh, he’s Holt Farrier in Dumbo… Now I know he was Douglas Quaid / Agent Carl Hauser in the remake of Total Recall but as you know from the essay above I really, really like the original film so I’ve not watched it. So who here has seen it? 
  • Born May 31, 1979 Sophia McDougall, 43. She has a very well-crafted alternative history series, the Romanitas series, in which Rome didn’t fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novel — Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds me of a Heinlein YA novel. 
  • Born May 31, 1995 Jeremy Szal, 27. He says he was (probably) raised by wild dingoes. He writes about galactic adventures, wide-screen futures, and broken characters fighting for hope in dark worlds. He is author of the dark space-opera novel Stormblood published in February 2020 (more recently launched in the US), and is the first of a trilogy. His short fiction has appeared in Nature, Abyss & Apex, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, The Drabblecast. He is the fiction editor for the Hugo-winning StarShipSofa, which once lead to Harlan Ellison yelling at him on the phone. He carves out a living in sun-bleached Sydney, Australia. He loves watching weird movies, collecting boutique gins, exploring cities, and dark humour. Find him at http://jeremyszal.com/ or @JeremySzal (By Jeremy Szal)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Broom Hilda learns why a bar is popular with a certain kind of deceased customer.

(13) PINK CAT DISINVITED BY TORONTO COMIC ART FESTIVAL. Bleeding Cool reports the event addressed the controversies about its guest Pink Cat by rescinding the invitation: “Pink Cat Fight At TCAF – Saba Moeel & Toronto Comic Art Festival”.

Digital artist Saba Moeel creates her Pink Cat Daily comics on Instagram for around five years, with a following of around a quarter of a million people. Pink Cat is a human/cat hybrid that sports many tattoos, takes drugs, and talks in spiritual slang and punchlines, and is basically what if Tank Girl and Garfield had a kid and left her with a bunch of hippies. Pink Cat has been collected in comic book collections, but it’s not the physical manifestations of Pink Cat that are causing problems, it’s the digital. Of the non-fungible kind.

The committee announced its action here: “TCAF Statement Re: Pink Cat”.

TCAF is rescinding its invitation to Pink Cat, also known as Saba Moeel, due to code of conduct violations and the concerns expressed by the comics community.

TCAF initially extended a programming invitation to Moeel on the basis of their daily digital comics work on Instagram, and the personal importance that work had to one of our team members. At the time of this invitation, the organization was unaware of Moeel’s online conduct, plagiarism, or allegations of tracing. We apologize for programming and promoting this artist.

We made a mistake. As a promise to our community, we will use this as a learning moment as we move forward as an organization, and will re-examine the checks and balances we currently use to process our programming decisions.

Polygon’s coverage includes a response quote from the artist: “The Toronto Comic Arts Festival boots NFT artist: ‘We made a mistake’”.

The controversy around Moeel intensified when social media users went through her online history to find a history of tracing artworktweets disparaging community artistsappropriating Black culture for profit, and transphobic remarks. Polygon contacted Moeel for comment via Twitter; she replied with the following message.

“Yeah these guys invited me to disinvite me. They payed flight hotel etc, i didnt even know who they were. Very weird

“This isn’t my world, I’m a real life artist I don’t care about organizations or trade shows, I have my own following it’s not a cult following it’s mainstream. The LA times called me the Gen Z Garfield, we aren’t in the same league.”

(14) HANDMAID TURNOVER. “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ star Alexis Bledel leaving show before Season 5” reports USA Today.

Alexis Bledel has finished her telling of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The 40-year-old actress announced Friday that she’s exiting the futuristic dystopian Hulu series after the show’s fourth season, which aired last spring.

“After much thought, I felt I had to step away from ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ at this time,” Bledel said in a statement provided to USA TODAY by her representative. “I am forever grateful to (show creator) Bruce Miller for writing such truthful and resonant scenes for Emily, and to Hulu, MGM, the cast and crew for their support.” 

Hulu’s flagship drama is expected to return for a fifth season.

(15) PLANETARY INFLUENCES. “Jupiter and Saturn fight over Narnia” is the tagline for Michael Ward’s “The Last Battle, Revisited” at Plough.

…Lewis had a lifelong interest in medieval cosmology. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that Earth was stationary, surrounded by seven concentric “heavens,” each with its own planet which in turn had particular influences on Earth, affecting people and events in various ways. While we might consider this cosmological model entirely outdated, Lewis found some continuing importance in it. He described the planets as “spiritual symbols of permanent value” and wrote about them extensively. The best planet, according to medieval thought, was Jupiter, responsible for “heartsease” and prosperity, bringing about festivity and magnanimity in peaceable kingdoms. The worst planet was Saturn, sponsor of death, destruction, darkness, and disaster. The very word “disaster” means “bad star,” and Saturn was the most malignant of the wandering stars.

Lewis remarked that his own generation had been “born under Saturn,” doomed to experience an especially bleak period in history. Having endured the horrors of the Great War, some of his contemporaries had adopted a fixed attitude of pessimism and cynicism. They had come to believe that the universe was, in Lewis’s term, “Saturnocentric.” Hence the modernist tendency to focus on chaos and disorder, T. S. Eliot’s “heap of broken images” as he calls it in “The Wasteland.” Hence also the new impetus behind such artistic and philosophical movements as absurdism and nihilism. For how could there ever again be purpose and hope in the wake of the Battle of the Somme? On the opening day of that battle, July 1, 1916, almost twenty thousand British soldiers were killed and nearly forty thousand wounded. What further proof need there be that gallantry and patriotism are folly? The poet Wilfred Owen took aim at the schoolboy’s Horatian tag, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (“it is sweet and seemly to die for one’s country”), calling it “the old Lie.”…

(16) MOUNTAIN HIGH. Read Kim Stanley Robinson waxing euphoric about the Sierras. It’s prose poetry – sparing that little bit for the groundlings. “Kim Stanley Robinson on Waking Up in the High Sierra” at Literary Hub.

When the sky gets light in the east I often wake. Pleased that day has almost arrived, I sometimes snuggle back into my sleeping bag for a last snooze; other times I put my glasses on and lie on my back and watch the stars wink out. The dawn sky is gray before it takes on the blue color. Sometimes peaks to the west of camp have a dawn alpenglow, more yellow than pink. It’s cold, but often I’m done with sleeping, and things are visible, and very likely I have to pee….

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was on Jeopardy! patrol tonight when this happened:

Category: Book of the Year

Answer: “Daybreak-2250 A.D.” is by prolific author Mary Alice Norton, better known to sci-fi fans by this first name.

No one could ask, “That name, Andre?”

(18) ANIMATED GREEN LANTERN. Here’s the trailer for “Green Lantern: Beware My Power”, a direct-to-video release, coming July 26.

Witness the action-packed induction of John Stewart to the Green Lantern Corps, and his first thrilling adventure alongside some familiar faces, when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases the all-new animated movie Green Lantern: Beware My Power on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and Digital on July 26, 2022.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ib “Honest Trailers: Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” the Screen Junkies say that Ben Schwartz, who voices Sonic, has played so many characters that are blue that we should look for him in the AVATAR sequel. Also, the second act diversion into a Hawaiian-set rom-com is “the best Tyler Perry movie hidden in a video game project.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Hampus Eckerman, JeremySzal, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Maytree.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/22 Oh Filed Gruntbuggly, Thy Pixelations Are To Me

(1) WHAT’S SPACE OPERA, DOC? Grant Wythoff tries to learn how authors are defining it: “What Is Space Opera in the 2020s?” at LA Review of Books.

In an afterword to Far from the Light of Heaven, [Tade] Thompson asks himself if he’s writing space opera — “a conversation my editor, my agent, my cat and I had many times” — and if so, what would the tropes of that subgenre bring to his work. As a practicing psychiatrist who somehow manages another full-time career as a novelist, Thompson has shared in interviews that he’s fascinated by “flawed people in interesting circumstances.” So, when he chooses space as the setting for this story, it seems to be a choice that grants his characters unique affects and experiences that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere: a backdrop, albeit an incredibly detailed and vivid one. But Thompson also acknowledges the problematic roots of spaceflight among Nazi scientists and military weapons programs: “We can’t erase the murderous origins just because we can see the first sunsets from Mars.” And so throughout the work, you can feel the characters engaging with the ethically compromised origins of the space sublime. Again, from the afterword: “I try to lean away from aliens being Other because that’s tied up with colonialist thinking. It’s one of the reasons I tried to avoid empires and massive space battles. I just have people who want to survive in the wider universe.

(2) BITTER KARELLA. Camestros Felapton continues his series of why-you-should-vote-for each Best Fan Writer finalist with “Bitter Karella: Hugo 2022 Fanwriter Finalist”.

Bitter Karella is a game designer, comic writer, video making and social media satirist with an insightful perspective on horror, science fiction and fantasy (but in particular horror). Her break out hit has been the satirical Twitter account The Midnight Society (aka Midnight Pals), which imagines some of the great names of horror (from Edgar Allen Poe to Dean Koontz) as teenage campers who tell horror stories around a campfire….

(3) FUNDRAISER. And Bitter Karella is raising money to attend the Worldcon: “Send BitterKarella to Chicon 8!!” at itch.io. You can buy individual books, or a whole bundle of 8 books for $44.

Bitter Karella needs has been nominated for a Hugo Award for best fan writer and she wants to go to Chicon 8 in September to accept (or possibly lose) his award in person!  But it turns out that going to Chicon is, as we say here in the hellscape of nocal, hella expensive… so we’re raising money to cover trip expenses including con registration, plane fare, and lodgings! Just look at all this great merchandise you can get half off and know that you’re helping Bitter Karella get money!! Thanks for your consideration!

This includes the board for the Midnight Pals game, however, Karella wants you to know in advance, “This is a a joke and NOT an actual playable board game.” But it’s only a buck!

(4) ART BOOKS ON THE HORIZON. “Andrew Skilleter art book trilogy announced, encompassing Doctor Who and more” reports downthetubes.net.

ILLUMINART – The Doctor Who Art of Andrew Skilleter, offered in two editions, will showcase the work from a career of over fifty years in the publishing industry, spanning work for a huge range of publishers and publications, including Target Books and Doctor Who Magazine.

This new collection is the first volume of a trilogy, that will cover not only most of the artist’s Doctor Who art, but many unpublished and unseen commissions, his “Hidden Dimensions”, together with some
personally selected pieces from his extensive canon of work in other genres, such as Star Wars, Dan Dare, Gerry Anderson, BBC Video and Audio and much more.

Every picture tells a story and Andrew has quite a few to tell!

(5) CON COVID. Balticon yesterday reported they had a case of an attendee testing Covid-positive: “Covid Reports – Balticon 56”.

We wanted to let you know we’ve had one reported case.

Case A: – Received positive test results on Sunday 29 May 9:40 am

  • They are symptomatic
  • They are fully vaccinated and remained masked
  • They staffed the Discon Follow-Up Post-Con Fan Table
  • They are staying off-site
  • They did not attend other events
  • Close family members are still testing negative

(6) ABOUT PAYBACK. Lana Harper discusses how she wrote “a fantastical romance revolving around a mystery.” “Writing Genre: Bending Stories that Integrate Romance, Fantasy, and Mystery” at CrimeReads.

I’ve always had a weakness for stories that defy categorization, especially if they happen to include fantasy and romance. Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars is an excellent example; Tamsyn Muir’s captivating and beautifully strange Gideon the Ninth is another; Naomi Novik’s fabulous Scholomance series is a third. When I began writing Payback’s a Witch, I originally intended it to read as a more traditional rom-com, primarily a romance that just happened to revolve around two bisexual witches falling in love in a magical, Salem-inspired Halloweentown. The magic was initially intended to be a background element rather than a focal point of the plot. Something to add a little shimmer without detracting from the central romance.

The problem was, I’d forgotten that I was going to be the one doing the writing, and that I’m constitutionally incapable of stories that don’t feature Big Magic….

(7) WISCON 2023. Next year’s WisCon guests of honor. Thread starts here.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] This is an appreciation of Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book which came out thirty years ago. This is nor a critical look at a novel, but a fan looking at a book. So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and we’ll get started. 

As you know, Doomsday Book shared the Hugo at ConFranciso with Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep (Mike Glyer’s comments here about that shared Hugo would lead to Jo Walton writing An Informal History of the Hugos) and would also win a Nebula and a Locus Best SF Novel Award. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and an Arthur C. Clarke Award as well. Quite an honor indeed. 

It’s part of her excellent Time Travel series which all four parts would win the Hugo (including the novelette Fire Watch, and the diptych novels Blackout / All Clear) making her the first author to win Hugo awards for all works in a series. It was set fifty years in the future, a decent span of time but still one that feels conceivable. 

And I’m always fascinated by any SFF narrative set at a University as it’s hard to make that setting feel proper. Willis does in my opinion as one who spent too much time as an undergrad and grad student at various universities a spot-on job of capturing the feel of University culture. 

So why do I like this book? Because it handles time travel intelligently, something that is rare in SFF and the characters are all interesting. And I really love series, so I am very happy that it’s part of the Time Travel series. 

Given it deals with two serious Pandemics, it probably not the best novel to read right now…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 30, 1908 Mel Blanc. Where to begin? Yes he delightfully voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and a multitude of other characters from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Blanc made his debut in 1940 “A Wild Hare”. Did you know that he created the voice and laugh of Woody Woodpecker but stopped doing it after the first three shorts as he was signed then to an exclusive Warner contract? His laughs did continue to get used however. Blanc, aware of his talents, fiercely protected the rights to his voice characterizations contractually and legally. (Died 1989.)
  • Born May 30, 1914 Bruce Elliott. His fifteen stories in The Shadow magazine in the late Forties are generally held in low esteem by Shadow fans because of his handling of the character, best noted by the three stories in which the Shadow does not appear at all in his costumed identity. Oh the horror! He also wrote three genre novels — The Planet of ShameAsylum Earth and, errr, The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. And he had stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction including “Wolves Don’t Cry” and “The Last Magician”. (Died 1973.)
  • Born May 30, 1922 Hal Clement. Much to my surprise, his only Hugo was a Retro Hugo for a short story, “Uncommon Sense” which he got at L.A. Con III. He did get the First Fandom Award. My favorite novel by him is Mission of Gravity, and I’m also fond of The Best of Hal Clement which collects much of his wonderful short work. He’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2003.)
  • Born May 30, 1936 Keir Dullea, 86. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. I know I saw 2001 several times and loved it but I’ll be damned if I can remember seeing 2010. He’s done a number of other genre films, Brave New WorldSpace Station 76, Valley of the Gods and Fahrenheit 451. And lest we forget he was Devon in “Cordwainer Bird’s” Starlost. 
  • Born May 30, 1948 Michael Piller. He was a writer and Executive Producer of The Next Generation, and co-creator of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He’s likely best known for co-writing “The Best of Both Worlds” and the pilots of DS9 (“Emissary”) and Voyager (“Caretaker”). Post-Trek, he developed a series that last six seasons based off of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone, and he had a deal with WB for a series called Day One, a post-apocalyptic series based on the UK Last Train series. WB reneged on the contract. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 30, 1952 Mike W. Barr, 70. A writer of comic books, mystery novels, and science fiction novels. He written Trek fiction for the first series in either comic book form or other media. My favorite work by him is for DC, the Camelot 3000 series. He wrote one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Paging the Crime Doctor”. 
  • Born May 30, 1953 Colm Meaney, 69. Best known for playing Miles O’Brien in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Other genre roles include an unnamed Cop at Tess’s in Dick Tracy, Seamus Muldoon in The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, a recurring role as Chief Cowen on Stargate Atlantis and Father Francis on Tolkien
  • Born May 30, 1971 Duncan Jones, 51. Director whose films include Moon (2009) which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form and a BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and Source Code (2011) which was nominated for both a Hugo and a Ray Bradbury Award. He also directed Warcraft (2016), the highest grossing video game adoption of all time. He is totally not best known for being David Bowie’s son. (Alan Baumler)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) UPROAR. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] There’s a scandal brewing in the comics community. Turns out the Toronto Comics Art Festival has invited Pink Cat as a guest.

Apart from Pink Cat being an NFT artist and disliked for that, it seems like she is also accused of stealing other peoples art, tracing the outlines and making it hers.

Seems the festival has observed this and will give a response.

(12) WALKER Q&A. Sarai Walker discusses her “gothic ghost novel” The Cherry Robbers at CrimeReads. “Sarai Walker On Gothic Ghosts and Feminist Folk Tales”.

Molly Odintz: As a followup, is the gothic a particularly potent place for feminist stories?

Sarai Walker: There are so many powerful stories by women that could be described as feminist gothic, including classics like Jane Eyre and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and also Southern Gothic fiction about women from authors such as Carson McCullers and Toni Morrison. So I think writers today can build on that legacy. The gothic is a powerful form for exploring trauma and what has been repressed, so that makes it ideal for telling feminist stories. Using the gothic form to tell a political story is what excited me as I wrote The Cherry Robbers, even though the story is wrapped up in a pretty and spooky package, which might not seem overtly political to readers. It works in a stealthy way….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in to a wrong response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: The Animal in Its Logo

Answer: Paperback publisher Pocket Books

Wrong question: What is a penguin?

Right question: What is a kangaroo?

(14) RO, RO, RO YOUR BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As labor shortages continue in many industries, more managers seem to be turning to robots to keep the ship of commerce moving forward. Robot/automation orders are said to be up 21% for the year 2021 & 40% for the first quarter of 2022. “Robot Orders up 40% As Employers Seek Relief From Labor Shortage” reports Business Insider.

…”The robots are becoming easier to use,” Michael Cicco, chief executive officer of industrial robot provider Fanuc America, told the Wall Street Journal. “Companies used to think that automation was too hard or too expensive to implement.”

But as robot usage climbs, some have expressed concern about the machines displacing human workers as the labor crisis eventually eases….

(15) LOGAN’S WORLD CONTINUES. Kwelengsen Dawn: Book Two of the Logan’s World Series by David M. Kelly (Nemesis Press) will be released on June 7.

When you lose everything you love, the whole world becomes the enemy.

After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.

After his planet was invaded by ruthless Corporate forces, engineer Logan Twofeathers is trapped on Earth by the authorities, who are more afraid of starting a war than helping their people. He may be safe, but many others are still missing.

When security tries to arrest him on trumped-up charges, he must find his own way to return to Kwelengsen. His only option is to seek out someone from his past–a borderline psychotic, who might just be crazy enough to help.

Now, he must draw on all his strength and resilience as he undertakes a precarious and violent journey into the unknown, with enemies lurking in every shadow. The outlook is bleak, and all he has is his grit and sense of honor. Will that be enough?

The battle is over. But the war is about to begin.

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

(16) HOWDAH, STRANGER. Tom Scott visits Les Machines l’île in Nantes, France, where you can ride a giant mechanical elephant! “I rode a giant mechanical elephant. You can too.”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I watched this video from Wendover Productions about the Galaxy’s Edge section of Disney World, which has lots of good background on the battle between Disney and Universal.  Disney nearly landed the Harry Potter rights in 2004 but balked at the cost and giving J.K. Rowling creative control.  But Rowling’s views were the right ones because the Harry Potter section of Universal is immersive in a way that no ride at Disney was at the time.  So they decided to outdo Harry Potter with Galaxy’s Edge. The goal is to attract Millennials who will post about thir experiences on social media, because a testimonial is more effective advertising than any ad.  Also there’s no humor in Galaxy’s Edge because humor works only once and the goal is to have people keep coming back and spending $$$$$. “How to Design a Theme Park (To Take Tons of Your Money)”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Kathy Sullivan, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Balticon Chair Apologizes After Author Stephanie Burke Removed From Panels

Author Stephanie Burke has protested Balticon 56’s handling of an alleged incident which the host organization, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, is investigating under their rules governing violations of the code of conduct.

Balticon 56 Chair Yakira Heistand has apologized for how Burke was treated, but said the complaints are still being investigated:

I am utterly heartbroken at how events have played out at Balticon this year with our panelist, Stephanie Burke. Ms. Burke has been a long-time panelist and we have invited her back year after year because of her engaging commentary and insightful additions to our programming.

An incident was reported to us regarding Ms. Burke. The plan was to quietly ask her to step down from her panels for the weekend while we had a chance to investigate. However, an overzealous volunteer decided to remove her from an ongoing panel in a way that caused her embarrassment. This is inexcusable and we deeply apologize.

Multiple investigations are ongoing, and, per our bylaws, BSFS cannot comment on an active investigation. If, after investigation, we find any of the complaints were valid, we will take appropriate action per our Code of Conduct. However, please be assured that, in addition to interviewing independent panelists and audience members and trying to build a more complete picture of the inciting incident, we are also putting together better methods on how to handle complaints during a convention.

I offer Ms. Burke my deepest apologies for her embarrassment and the way the complaint was handled.

Stephanie Burke has posted a complete statement on Facebook, pointing to it with this tweet:

[May 29]

Home from Balticon and I will never return. I was accused of some nasty things, treated like a criminal, judged without proof save for hearsay, and stripped of my remaining panels. My only recourse is to make a complaint. My reputation which took close to 20 years to build is now destroyed. I am devastated. This is my complaint. I am angry and I am hurt and I am at a loss because all of the networking I have done here is dead. The publishers I wanted to talk to probably are hearing the lies

Stephanie Burke

May 29, 2022

Hello,

My name is Stephanie Burke and I have been coming and presenting, participating in, and moderating panels for Balticon since it was in The Omni Hotel in Baltimore City. Since then I have done my best to uplift the reputation of this convention and the people who come and participate as well as those who organize this event. I have brought in dealers, publishing house owners, and many authors in addition to budding costumers and have tried to make everyone who attends feel comfortable no matter what.

I have held people who cried, managed to deescalate confrontations between hostile people before damage could be done. I have assisted this ordination to the best of my ability for years and now I am devastated,.

I have been accused of saying some hurtful insensitive transphobic, racist, damaging things and there is no recourse for me to fight this. Why? Because the panel where I was accused of saying these things during Friday’s Balticon Panel Diversity readers and Why You Need Them. I learned of this today after being confronted by a very cold and angry person who demanded to know if I received an email and that I was needed in con ops. I had no idea what he was speaking of because I have received no such emails and was unaware what was going on.

I was escorted out of that room like I was a dangerous and disgusting criminal before the panelist who had arrived to see the next panel discussion. After being spoken to with much disrespect, I was escorted to con pps where I was informed that I was going to be pulled from my panels for the rest of the con. When I asked why I was told that I had complaints lodged against me about the mentioned panel on Friday. Then Lisa Adler-Goldman [sic] proceeded to yell at me, stating that I not only said transphobic things, that I advocated for stopping people with a belt, for people to not take their meds, and that some Balticon years past I had said something about the Romany people being gypsies and that they were liars, dirty, and thieves, all allegations that I denied. I was called a liar to my face and laughed at when I defended myself and demanded proof.

I, of course, demanded proof and Lisa stormed off and I could hear her spreading these lies to the people who were outside of the con ops room door. I was then approached by the director and told that I would be stripped of my remaining panels because of the complaints. I asked to hear the recordings and wanted proof to defend myself against hearsay. The program director explained that she would have to listen to the recorded panel and explained that sometimes people took statements out of context and that she would check. She went to another room to listen to the recording because she needed a device bigger than a cell phone and later came back to tell me that the panel she listened to was wonderful but the panel on Friday was not recorded. The decision to strip me of the remains panels and book reading was to stand and that I was being convicted on hearsay alone.

This is where I get more angry than devastated. I was pulled from a room like a criminal for something I did not do. There was no proof and no way to get proof outside of speaking to people who were in the panel, among them my boss, several acquaintances, and my niece. Still and yet after years of proof that I have never said anything like the accusations being made against me, I was not to be allowed on Balticon panels. There would be an investigation and my only recourse was to write a complaint here.

My major issue was with the person who so disrespectfully came to take me to con ops. I never received an email about a panel on Friday. I was walked out of that room like I was trash and the way I was spoken to made me feel the lowest I have ever felt in a so-called safe space.

The lack of checks and balances on your staff decisions is the second reason I am furious. In fact, today was the first time I ever heard of any complaints lodged against me, and the fact that there was no follow-up on the issue angers me more. I saw and had several conversations with people in con ops since Friday and no one person mentioned a complaint or an email. It took close to two (2) days for someone to get in contact with me and that is very unprofessional. Then to get even angrier with me because they felt I was ignoring an email or trying to flaunt their rules and carry on with panels I have been removed from when I didn’t have a clue to what was going on is hateful and hurtful.

Third, Lisa Adler-Goldman [sic], should not be in a position to communicate with people. From the moment I walked into con ops, she was aggressive, dismissive, nasty and outright lied to my face. She referred to some incident with Balticon 45 or 46, she didn’t have the correct Balticon, where I supposedly said nasty and disturbing and downright racist remakes about the Romany People. In her own words, she stated that I called them dirty, nasty thieves. I have never nor will I ever spew such racist hatred from my lips. I told her that she was lying outright. She claimed to be on a panel when I said these things but could not tell me the panel or produce any proof. She screamed and laughed in my face when I complained and demanded the proof. They then walked out and left me standing there. I have never before felt such derision and mockery and I am truly offended that she told other people these lies.

My reputation as a fair person and someone who respects others in marginalized and as someone who constantly uplift is now in tatters. The word-of-mouth lies are going to have an effect on the publishers I intended to deal with, on the networking that I have done, and on the friends and new acquaintances I have made because it is my word against Lisa’s. Because Lisa is a part of Balticon staff, her world will be taken over mine and the lies she spewed forth will forever be attached to my name. Even when the investigation proves that I am innocent, I have already been tired and judged as a racist, an ablest, and a transphobic individual who despite having a transgendered daughter, would say untrue and evil things. I couldn’t even get someone to inform me of exactly what I was supposed to have said that offended so many people.

So I am issuing this complaint about the above reasons and when this issue is resolved, no matter what, I am done at Balticon. I can never return. I no longer feel safe and with someone who has as many neural-divergent issues, it is devastating to lose a place that felt like my home, with the knowledge that I would be treated as a liar, a hypocrite, or even worse if I return. With those rumors hanging over my head, how can I ever hope to sit on another panel and actually help impart information, share opinions, and offer a different point of view and perspective when everyone will view my words as tainted and me a monster.

I have been attending Balticon for close to 20 years and in all of that time, I never had one complaint lodged against me or was treated like a criminal by staff. During that time, I spread the word about what amazing and inclusive non-judging, and fair the staff and committee were. I avoided con politics and did my best to help improve the lives of people I met as well as made some wonderful connections and developed friendships. Because of this fiasco, all of that has been stripped away.

For all the above reasons, I am making this complaint. The program director informed me that this was handled wrong and that they would try to put protocols in place to prevent this from happening again, but it is too late for me. My reputation at this convention is destroyed and I will never return here as a panelist, a con-goer, or promote Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society ever again. I can’t honestly recommend this convention again as safe when this was done to me and I feel brutalized and abused.

Stephanie Burke

[[Note: The Balticon 56 committee list shows the programming coordinator’s name is Lisa Adler-Golden. However, Burke above mentions the program director in a way that suggests that was a different person.]]

Here is the listing for the panel at issue:

Diversity Readers and Why You Need Them

[6] Gibson, 11:30am – 12:30pm

tag: In HotelWatch OnlineWriting
Types: Panel

Sarah Avery (moderator)Shahid MahmudCraig Laurance GidneyBrandon KetchumChristine SandquistStephanie “Flash” Burke

No matter one’s background or life experiences, everyone has blind spots. Diversity readers help highlight what an author may be missing. We’ll discuss different kinds of diversity readers and how you find them, etiquette regarding compensation, how to think about incorporating feedback, and more.