Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #69

Fandom and the Pendulum: The Astronomicon 13 Fan Guest of Honor Speech

By Chris M. Barkley:

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”  — Anais Nin 

I was resetting a cuckoo clock the other day when I became transfixed with the motion of the pendulum. Back and forth, in a hypnotic, rhythmic action.   

Looking at it, I think that it is the best visual representation of the passage of time.

In doing so, I was also reminded of several conversations I had with friends at Chicon 8 several weeks earlier.

Separately, without prompting or encouragement, each of them described how in the current state of sf fandom the pendulum had taken a strong, hard excessive turn and in a direction that they did not particularly like very much.

All of them had similar complaints and, oddly, all of them mentioned the same metaphor; that it seemed that the pendulum of change had taken a hard swing and it was in a direction that they didn’t like.

To wit, that recently, fandom seems to be a not a very inviting place unless they strictly adhered to a particular ideology.

And I concur.

Because, like the pendulum, the recent social and political shifts in sf fandom, particularly the branch I know well, literary fandom, can be observed and measured. 

Chris M. Barkley

In order to understand where we are now, we must examine the origins of sf fandom. Even today, the general public believes a very persistent myth that conventions and fandom began after the cancellation of Star Trek and the gathering of fans that started taking place in the early 1970’s. In truth, it began over forty years before then… 

In the early 1930’s, Amazing Stories and several other pulp magazines in the United States, began running letter of comment columns. The published letters included the addresses of the fans who sent them. These letter writers, who were nearly all white and male, began to correspond with each other. Local fans found each other and began to form clubs dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. A similar movement was also underway in the United Kingdom as well. By late 1936, they began to call some of these larger meetups conventions.

In the US, the New York contingent of fans decided to hold a World Science Fiction Convention (NyCon 1) in New York City, in conjunction with the futuristic theme of the World’s Fair being held in the nearby borough of Queens.

(BTW, fandom’s first significant feud began at that convention, as several well known members of First Fandom were excluded from attending, mainly because of personality conflicts but at the time, their political differences were played up. More on this later in this speech).

The progenitors of fandom began a whole host of fannish traditions; fanzines and fan writing, literary serious criticism of genre fiction, small press publishing, cos-play, filk singing, convention panels and ‘dead dog’ parties.

As the decades flew by, the marginal popularity of sf, fantasy and horror with the public came and went but remained constant in that initial group of fans, some of whom eventually became well known authors, editors, artists and convention runners. 

In the early years, the first two main genre fiction awards, the Hugo (in 1953) and the Nebula (in 1965) were established. 

Women authors and editors (Andre Norton, C.L. Moore, Cele Goldsmith, Leigh Brackett and Judith Merril) paved the way for the next generation of better known and renowned writers of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Vonda McIntrye, Joanna Russ and Octavia Butler among others.

I entered fandom in June 1976. I was a witness to and a participant in a lot of the pendulum swing in fandom; the slow but persistent emergence of women and the LGBTQ+ community, the calling out of sexism and harassment and the inclusion of more people of color in fandom.

In other words, the fandom of the early days is as far removed from today’s fandom as the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne is from N. K. Jemisin, the art of Rembrandt from Jon-Michel Basquiat, the musical Oklahoma! is to Hamilton and the swinging moves of Benny Goodman are from the grooves of Rihanna.

And I want to be quite clear about this, as an African-American citizen of the United States of America, I applaud, encourage and welcome all of these changes in fandom. Because in 2022, representation, in the face of an increasing societal turmoil and partisan division, matters even more than ever.

But, as a close observer (and an active participant) in some of these changes, I can tell you that none of this came very quickly or very easily.

As the pendulum swung, other factors and effects came into play; personal computers, cell and smartphones, social media sites and the internet became a double edged sword. Technological advances made it easier to call out toxic fans and their behavior but it also enabled bad actors to disrupt fannish activities and the lives of fans on an incredibly personal level.

Fandom is subject to the same major sources of social change, including population growth and composition, culture and technology, the natural environment, and social conflict as any other artistic movement. 

Here’s the thing; these changes, shifts and, if you will, the swings of the pendulum are not only true and observable, they are unavoidable and inevitable.

Because, as history has shown us again and again, in every movement of substance, whether it be music, art, literature, science, sports and (especially) politics undergo the change on a regular and inevitable basis.

A sizable portion of the fans attending genre conventions are female, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. The people who are a part of the sf/f community today are more diverse, more knowledgeable, technically adroit, and, for the most part, they’re unafraid to let you know how they feel. And, as much as their right-wing adversaries would like them to go away, this newly emerging segment of fandom is not likely because they are the new majority, which was mainly brought on by the Puppies’ overt and militant actions against fandom.

And inevitably, with the advances came some pushback, in the form of harassment and trolling, by privileged individuals, who are mostly white, are either frightened by an otherness of others outside of their own experiences or their own racist upbringing and xenophobic tendencies.

In the early to mid-2010’s, this all came to head with is now known as the “Puppy Wars” (Sad/Angry/Rabid) which were expertly chronicled by Camestros Felapton in his Hugo Award nominated non-fiction work, Debarkle

The fannish backlash against this reprehensible group of egocentric bullies played out over several years; the Puppies may have disrupted the Hugo Award nomination process for a few years but they eventually lost the war when nearly all of their gamed nominees lost and the World Science Fiction Convention Constitution was sufficiently amended to stop it being successfully attempted again.

But this wasn’t to say there were no lasting effects from this conflict; while diversity has become even more celebrated (at least more so in this branch of fandom), there were several troubling, high profile incidents in the past few years:

  • Conservative provocateur Jon Del Arroz filed a lawsuit against Worldcon 76 (which was held in San Jose. California) when it banned him (rightfully so) from attending the convention due to his overtly inflammatory statements about fandom. But Del Arroz filed a lawsuit in response to the convention committee’s public announcement of that decision, which claimed he made racist statements. Worldcon 76 and Del Arroz announced in June 2021 they had settled the suit shortly before it was scheduled to go to trial. Four of the five claims had been dismissed by the judge, but the charge of defamation, of him being a “racist”, would have been the bone of contention if a trial had gone forward. The convention ceded a $4000 settlement to Del Arroz and a public apology, which can still be seen on the Worldcon 76 website. It is believed that the legal fees incurred by the convention committee were around $100,000.
  • In 2019 and 2020, sf writer Adam-Troy Castro and his late wife Judi were beset by a series of increasingly vicious cyber identity thefts that drained their bank accounts, ruined their credit rating and forced them to move out of their longtime home. Go-Fund Me campaigns saved them from being homeless but the culprits of these attacks remain unknown and at large.
  • A few months ago, white supremacist trolls somehow arranged the suspension of the Twitter accounts of authors Harry Turtledove and Patrick Tomlinson. Both accounts were eventually restored but Twitter has no explanation of how this occurred nor have they offered an explanation of how it happened or any whether they are investigating the breach.
  • Patrick Tomlinson and Hugo Award nominated Nigerian sf author and editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki received death threats as they attended Chicon 8. In the four years preceding the convention, Tomlinson and his family members were the constant and frequent targets of identity theft, trolling and death threats. 

To counter these reactionary fans, many convention committees enacted Codes of Conduct over the past decade. The trouble was that in the years since they were first introduced, some of these CoC’s were either not very well defined, not very transparent on how they were implemented or, in the worst case scenario, poorly enforced. The most recent examples include:

  • At the 2022 Nebula Award Conference in Los Angeles, newly minted Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association Grandmaster Mercedes Lackey, during a panel titled “Romancing Sci-Fi and Fantasy”, was alleged to have uttered a racial slur. Author of color Jen Brown, complained about the incident on Twitter and Lackey, without the benefit of an investigation or a hearing, was summarily dismissed (along with her husband Larry Dixon, who vociferously defended her on social media) from further participation in the Conference. Lackey fully apologized two days later and said she had not intentionally said anything racist, but had fumbled saying “person of color”. While friends and colleagues (such as authors of color Samuel R. Delany and Steven Barnes) rallied to her defense, Jen Brown and a legion of others continued to condemn her and boycott her works. As of this writing, SWFA has not offered a full explanation, any indication that an investigation was conducted or an apology for their actions.
  • Almost exactly a week later on Memorial Day weekend at Balticon 56, local author and conrunner Stephanie Burke found herself in a strikingly similar situation; she was accused by the Programming staff of racist statements and behavior. To compound matters, Burke was accused of never responding to an email about the incident, but it was discovered later that the email was never sent. On top of all of that, Ms. Burke suffered the embarrassment of being removed from an ongoing panel she was on and then was verbally abused by a “senior staffer” of Balticon, who was found in violation of the Code of Conduct. The very next day,Yakira Heistand, the Chair of Balticon 56, publicly apologized for Ms. Burke’s treatment but also stated that the allegations would be fully investigated. 
  • On September 1, 2022, 105 days after the alleged incident, Balticon 56 issued this statement:

Of the complaints against Ms. Burke, our Investigation Team determined there were no Code of Conduct violations. Witnesses confirmed that she was speaking of her own experiences and not making general statements about another individual or class of people. Speaking one’s own truth is not a violation of our Code of Conduct. Ms. Burke is welcome to be a program participant in the future. Again, we apologize for the manner in which the reports were communicated.

“The BSFS Investigation Team and Board of Directors have found that Senior Staffer 1 who approached Stephanie Burke prior to her panel and asked her to step away acted courteously and in accordance with our policy. Senior Staffer 2’s behavior during the discussion violated our Code of Conduct. The Board has determined that Senior Staffer 2 will be barred from volunteering for Balticon for a period of 2 years and from serving as a Department Head for an additional 2 years.”

  • In researching this speech, I have read many Codes of Conduct from other conventions. My partner was reading one and they came across a line in one upcoming convention that really stood out:

(Convention X) prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort.”

To me, there is nothing ordinary about this statement. 

While it is all good and well to try to be welcoming to marginalized fans, Convention X’s committee would do well to focus on the safety of EVERY fan attending their convention.

The Code of Conduct should be a group’s fail safe to deal with fans and participants who commit unseemly and disruptive behavior but it must be done as fairly, equitably and transparently as possible.


These incidents I have outlined have exposed some of the more serious divisions within our fannish community. My feeling is that fandom, in my estimation, is rapidly approaching a societal impasse; it seems it cannot go towards any sort of future without reconciling with its present set of circumstances. 

I take no joy in pointing out these deficiencies in fandom. I am also saddened that there will be those in fandom who will see this speech as a personal attack on the very progressive wing of fandom.

To them I say this; no one, including myself, is above criticism. And that constructive and earnest criticism can only be helpful. 

Because together, we can change the direction and velocity of the pendulum in a more useful direction.

For the record, I will make the following confession; when stating one’s preferred pronouns or gender preference became an ongoing issue at the beginning of the last decade, I was very confused about the point of doing so. Gradually, I came to understand that it was a matter of personal acknowledgement, empowerment and respect for the trans community. And if asked, I show the same respect that is offered to me.

I also think that while I support this affirming stance, I am not in favor of anyone being forced, coerced or being required to do so in order to participate in an activity or social event.

Because when diversity is coerced in such a manner, it ceases to be that. It is perceived, rightly, as a matter of control. And when the cost of diversity is a rigid, inflexible set of standards that is almost impossible for anyone to meet, it disallows those who may have differing opinions. That’s the moment it becomes oppression and we become the sort of people we have come to loathe and fear.

Again, I refer to the pendulum of history, which has shown, time after time, that the exclusion or purging of members of the aforementioned groups I referred to earlier in this speech. 

In many of those historical instances, in order for the movement to improve and become more just, those being excluded were involved in heinous, insidious and vile beliefs. 

Robert Silverberg, who had attended an unbroken string of Worldcon appearances dating back to the early 1950’s, said that he would not attend Chicon 8 because he did not want to be subjected to any abuse because of his past statements that have been considered, even by me, as insensitive and ill advised. (You want to know what he said? Google it.)   

George R.R. Martin, the creator of Game of Thrones and a multiple winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, said he wasn’t attending this year’s Worldcon, either. Although he is quite busy writing the last two novels in the Westeros series and overseeing several television projects for HBO, he may have an entirely different reason for not attending. After hosting and producing a disastrously long winded and nostalgia tinged 2020 Hugo Award Ceremony, many think that he has worn out his welcome at Worldcons. 

I know both of them quite well and I, for one, would tell either one of them that they would be welcomed at any convention I was running. Why?

Because neither of them are our enemies. Our enemies are fear, hate and prejudice in the absence of understanding.

My good friend David Gerrold has repeatedly stated over the years that when you attend Worldcon, it is like an annual family gathering. Fathers and mothers, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and so on. And, like all families, there are rivalries, grudges, simmering resentments, educational, class and political differences as well.

But despite those differences, we all unite because of our mutual love of science fiction, fantasy, films, television shows, art, comics, manga, graphic stories and much, much more.

Any imposition of a lock-step set of ideological beliefs, no matter on which extreme of the political spectrum it comes from, are dividing fandom right now and fandom, particularly this progenitor of all the others, will eventually, and tragically, become unsustainable. 

The first mention of a “graying of fandom” came to my attention around the turn of this century. In short, the people who are currently attending, running and administering conventions and other fannish activities are getting older. 

I have observed that there are a number of younger fans attending Chicon 8, they were far outnumbered by older fans. Collectively, we need to attract a legion of younger, more diverse fans, who are not only interested in merely extending our existing traditions, but creating new ones as well.

Being one of those older fans, I can see that my time in fandom will someday be coming to an end. I have already announced (to anyone who will listen) that I will be attending conventions and other events into the near future, I will no longer be actively working on any future local conventions or Worldcons.  

I am not doing this because I am tired or unenthusiastic, I am doing so because I have other, more pressing pursuits such as remaining healthy and active, seeing to the safety and well being of my four adorable grandchildren and other family members and, of course, more writing.

I wrote this speech not just as a warning (although it can be read that way), but as a cry into the abyss that we need not act against our own best interests and be seen as the overseer of the death of fandom.

As I see it, the pendulum has already swung to an extreme position. And the direction it swings next may cleave fandom into many, many pieces that cannot be made whole again. We must not let this happen.

My final words of advice to everyone consists of the following:

As a family, we should treat each other as peers, not rivals with agendas.

And in this family, there will be arguments and disagreements. And when we have these arguments,  we’ll argue ferociously. But let’s argue with facts, logic, evidence, and most of all respect for the person you are arguing with. Argue with empathy.

Act towards others as you would act towards yourself. People who are unable to do that will become evident and will soon find themselves on the outside of our social circles, looking in.  

Let’s show kindness, even in the face of hate and adversity.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

And finally, ask not what fandom can do for you, but what you can do for fandom.

“Never seen a true statement, a wise statement, that existed in only one culture or tradition. Truth isn’t created, it is observed.”

– Steven Barnes

Pixel Scroll 9/3/22 I Have Come To Praise Your Furries, Not To Scroll Them

(1) CHICON 8 ATTENDANCE UPDATE. Registration Area Head Elayne Pelz reported on Facebook that as of 11:15 a.m. Saturday there were 3,308 attendees present at Chicon 8.

(2) HUGO LIVESTREAM. Chicon 8 announced that the Hugo Awards ceremony will begin livestreaming September 4 at 7:45 Central on YouTube. This is the link: Chicon 8 Hugo Awards Ceremony – YouTube. (The ceremony will not be streamed on Airmeet.)

(3) IN GLORIOUS B&W. The Eaton Collection rounded up some of Jay Kay Klein’s photos from Chicon III, the 1962 Worldcon:

(4) KEEPING THEM DOWN ON THE FARM. Cloudflare.com has done a 180 and kicked Kiwi Farms off the service: “Blocking Kiwifarms”. Kiwi Farms is a forum for discussing figures it deems “lolcows” (people who can be “milked for laughs”), and the targets of threads are often subject to doxing and other forms of organized group trolling, harassment, and stalking, including real-life harassment by users.

We have blocked Kiwifarms. Visitors to any of the Kiwifarms sites that use any of Cloudflare’s services will see a Cloudflare block page and a link to this post. Kiwifarms may move their sites to other providers and, in doing so, come back online, but we have taken steps to block their content from being accessed through our infrastructure.

This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and, given Cloudflare’s role as an Internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with. However, the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and specific, targeted threats have escalated over the last 48 hours to the point that we believe there is an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life unlike we have previously seen from Kiwifarms or any other customer before….

Vice explains the decision more fully in “Kiwi Farms is Down After Cloudflare Boots The Site As a Customer”.

…This comes just one week after Cloudflare defended the choice to keep the site as a customer.

In August, Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti, known as Keffals, was the target of transphobic raiding and swatting—the dangerous internet harassment tactic involving prank calls to authorities that prompt police to send a SWAT team to someone’s home. Sorrenti alleges that Kiwi Farms members organized this attack, and has been campaigning for Cloudflare, the internet infrastructure company that protects Kiwi Farms from DDoS attacks among other services, to drop the website as a customer….

(5) BURKE RESPONDS TO B56 COC REPORT. Stephanie Burke posted to Facebook her reaction to the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s Reports of the Results of the Code of Conduct Investigation Concerning Balticon 56.

I have been exonerated by Balticon for all of the bullshit that just happened. I feel that this letter to me is … I don’t know…more about them covering their asses and there still is no real apology to me or to the people who have been dealt with in this manner by the con before… It may be a bit of a reach but this is how I feel.

They say I can come back as a program participant but I am never going back. The thought of going back gives me the shakes and the start of panic attacks. I can never go back. I will miss a lot of my friends and family who are there, but I have to think about my mental health, the lies that were spread about me, and how I was treated. This could happen to anyone at any given time so I say everyone proceed with caution at cons. This was a life-changing experience for me and not in a positive way….

(6) NEW JMS B5 COMMENTARY. After J. Michael Straczynski’s full-length sync-up Babylon 5 commentaries have been offered exclusively on his Patreon page for a while, he releases them on YouTube. Here’s the latest, for “Point of No Return”, the middle of the Messages from Earth trilogy.

(7) ANTICI-PATION. JMS also revealed there is a completed Babylon 5 project that will debut next year at San Diego Comic-Con. Wait for it.

(8) THE HONORVERSE: WHAT’S AHEAD? David Weber has written a long post looking to the future of the Honorverse.

…So, by my calculations, that’s another 22 books I need to get written [with various collaborators] to wrap up my current series plans.

I’m 70 this October. I sold the first novel thirty-three years ago. Since then, I have published (or have currently turned in, awaiting production) 74 solo and collaborative novels, which works out to roughly 2.24 per year. That doesn’t count the anthologies, of course.

I lost roughly 2 years to the concussion, and about a year and a half to the Covid, so let’s call it 30 years, not 33, which brings the production up to 2.5 per year. And let’s assume that I write for another ten years, which (at the moment, and barring any anticipated encounters with mortality) seems entirely plausible. By my calculations, that comes to another TWENTY-FIVE solo and collaborative novels, in the process of which I will be working with some of my collaborators to establish them firmly in the existing universes going forward.

People, like the characters in Richard Adams’ PLAGUE DOGS, I’ll probably still be writing “when the dark comes down.” That means, obviously, that I won’t be “finished” when I leave, but don’t go around thinking that you’re getting rid of me next week!

(9) TAKEI. Look who’s reading the Unofficial Hugo Book Club twitter feed.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1977 [By Cat Eldridge.] Doctor Who’s “Horror Of Fang Rock” (1977)

Doctor Who: “Why am I standing here wasting my time trying to work out its size? If Reuben’s seen it, he can tell us.’”

Leela: “That is what I thought, but of course I am only a savage.’”

Doctor Who: “Come on, savage!”

BritBox streams these so naturally I watched before writing this up. It was every bit as great as I remembered it. Ahhh the sacrifices I make for all of you here! 

This Fourth Doctor story with the much loved Tom Baker in that role, obviously, and Louise Jameson as Leela the barbarian. (See quote above if you think I’m disparaging her.) It was first broadcast in four weekly twenty-five minute episodes on BBC1 from the third to twenty-fourth of September forty-five years ago.

It was directed by Paddy Russell, she also did those honors for another favorite of mine, “Pyramids of Mars”. (Paddy, by the way, was a well-known and much beloved SJW.) In all, she directed parts or the entire of six Who serials.  It was written by Terrence Dicks, not at all surprisingly as this was the period in which he was heavily involved in the series.

HERE IN THE FOG BE SPOILERS! GO AWAY! 

The Doctor and His Companion land along the coast of England, find a dead body and a erratic light in, errr, a Lighthouse. He being he decides to investigate. One of the Keepers, Reuben, tells them about the Beast of Fang Rock (Britain is lousy with such folktales. Really it is.) 

Ahh but being the Doctor soon Aliens abound as they always do, don’t they? And more humans will die. What will the Doctor do? Well he will prevail in the end of course.

END OF SPOILERS. I THINK. MAYBE.

Now this serial was the only one of the original series to have been produced at any BBC studios outside of London.  

Dicks based his script off a poem, “Flannan Isle” written by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, which The Doctor quotes from at the end of the Story.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1810 Theodor von Holst. He was the first artist to illustrate Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1831. The interior illustrations consist of a frontispiece and title page engraved illustrations.  To my knowledge, this is his only genre work. (Died 1844.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Mick Farren. Punk musician who was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants. He also wrote lyrics for Hawkwind. His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire.  The Renquist Quartet is available at the usual suspects.  Not at all genre, he wrote The Black Leather Jacket which details the history of the that jacket over a seventy-year span up to the mid-eighties, taking in all aspects of its cultural, political and social impact. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Valerie Perrine, 79. She has uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick is Diamonds Are Forever in her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Sluaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. 
  • Born September 3, 1954 Stephen Gregg. Editor and publisher of Eternity Science Fiction which ran 1972 to 1975 and 1979 to 1980. It had early work by Glen Cook, Ed Bryant, Barry N Malzberg, andrew j offutt and Roger Zelazny. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 3, 1959 Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of AIDS. Well, he died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Died 1989.)
  • Born September 3, 1969 John Picacio, 53. Illustrator who in 2005 won both the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and the Chesley Award for Best Paperback Cover for James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. He’s also won eight other Chesley Awards. He was the winner of the Best Professional Artist Hugo in 2012, 2013, and 2020.
  • Born September 3, 1971 D. Harlan Wilson, 51. Author of Modern Masters of Science Fiction: J.G. BallardCultographies: They Live (a study of John Carpenter) and Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction. No, I’ve no idea what the last book is about.
  • Born September 3, 1974 Clare Kramer, 48. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god, or perhaps demon, from a hell dimension that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls III, The GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to HellBig Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • La Cucaracha listens in as a character tells Trump why he needs to return a box of classified stuff.
  • Tom Gauld helps you enrich your vocabulary.

(13) SNAPSHOT. JJ sent along this photo of Cora Buhlert from her Table Talk yesterday at Chicon 8.

(14) THE BORED OF AVON. Mental Floss would like to acquaint you with “5 Writers Who Really Hated Shakespeare”. On the list is —

4. J.R.R. TOLKIEN

While a member of a school debating society in the early 1900s, a teenage J.R.R. Tolkien reportedly delivered a lengthy speech in which, according to his biographer Humphrey Carpenter, he “poured a sudden flood of unqualified abuse upon Shakespeare, upon his filthy birthplace, his squalid surroundings, and his sordid character.” Opinion is divided over whether or not Tolkien upheld these opinions as an adult, but his letters offer up a number of clues: In one, dated 1944, he dismissed reading and analyzing Shakespeare’s works as “folly,” while in another from 1955, he recalls that he “disliked cordially” studying his work at school. 

… In a 1951 letter to his editor Milton Waldman, Tolkien wrote that he had recently invented two new languages to be spoken by the elves in his novels, before adding in a footnote that he intends “the word [elves] to be understood in its ancient meanings, which continued as late as Spenser—a murrain on Will Shakespeare and his damned cobwebs.” 

(15) ELVISH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING. [Item by Soon Lee.] Mike Godwin (yes, *that* Godwin) tweeted an Elvis/h filk. And it is delicious. Thread starts here.

(16) INCURABLE. Anthony Lane confesses to having “The Hobbit Habit: Reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’” in a 2001 article from The New Yorker.

…I first took on “The Lord of the Rings” at the age of eleven or twelve; to be precise, I began it at the age of eleven and finished at the age of twelve. It was, and remains, not a book that you happen to read, like any other, but a book that happens to you: a chunk bitten out of your life….

(17) THE RINGS, OH LORD! Vice reports “Astronomers Are Freaking Out Over Bizarre Rectangle-Shaped Rings in Space”. Images at the link.

… In a photograph of the star WR140, as pointed out by citizen scientist Judy Schmidt who reposted the image from the automated @JWSTPhotoBot on Twitter, a spiral of rings and rays fan out from the star’s bright white center. The rings aren’t perfectly circular, but look more like rounded squares, and not even astronomers seem to know what to do with it….

(18) HELPING JOHN WILLIAMS CONDUCT. Some of my daughter’s relatives were at the Hollywood Bowl waving along! And they say during last night’s concert Williams even debuted a piece from the upcoming Indiana Jones movie.

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

BSFS Reports Results of the Code of Conduct Investigation Concerning Balticon 56

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) Board of Directors today issued a statement about their investigation into “Stephanie Burke’s comments at Balticon 56 and our senior staff’s treatment of Stephanie Burke.”

They determined Burke’s statements on Balticon 56 program did not violate the Code of Conduct. They also looked at the actions of two “Senior Staffers” and determined one “acted courteously” but the other violated the Code of Conduct and “will be barred from volunteering for Balticon for a period of 2 years and from serving as a Department Head for an additional 2 years.”

The full text of the press release follows:


The BSFS (Baltimore Science Fiction Society) Board of Directors (Board) Investigation Team, (consisting of Paul O’Neil and Leona Thompson) have concluded their investigation into Stephanie Burke’s comments at Balticon 56 and our senior staff’s treatment of Stephanie Burke. The Board has reviewed their findings and recommendations and made the following decisions:

Of the complaints against Ms. Burke, our Investigation Team determined there were no Code of Conduct violations. Witnesses confirmed that she was speaking of her own experiences and not making general statements about another individual or class of people. Speaking one’s own truth is not a violation of our Code of Conduct. Ms. Burke is welcome to be a program participant in the future. Again, we apologize for the manner in which the reports were communicated. 

The BSFS Investigation Team and Board of Directors have found that Senior Staffer 1 who approached Stephanie Burke prior to her panel and asked her to step away acted courteously and in accordance with our policy. Senior Staffer 2’s behavior during the discussion violated our Code of Conduct. The Board has determined that Senior Staffer 2 will be barred from volunteering for Balticon for a period of 2 years and from serving as a Department Head for an additional 2 years.

BSFS gives every complaint equal attention and will not tolerate inappropriate behavior at any BSFS-related event, including Balticon. All members and guests are encouraged to bring such matters to the Board’s attention at any time, without fear of any adverse action being taken against them for doing so.

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1963. BSFS holds an annual convention, Balticon, during Memorial Day weekends in Baltimore, MD. In addition, BSFS offers a 14,000+ lending library at its building in eastern Baltimore City, as well as ongoing events featuring book discussions, movies, anime, and gaming. The calendar of events is available at www.bsfs.org.


File 770’s previous coverage of the events and issues is here:

Pixel Scroll 7/3/22 Oh No, Not I, I Will Be Five; But As Long As I Know How To Read, I Know I’ll Stay Alive

(1) MARCHING WITH SHERMAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with songwriter Richard Sherman, which they did in 2016 but recently reposted because Richard Sherman turned 92. Maltin on Movies: “Revisiting Richard Sherman”.

Leonard Maltin knows a lot about all aspects of cinema but what he really knows a great deal about is the history of animation and Disney films.  Much of this podcast is devoted to the idea that Walt Disney really was as nice as he presented himself on Sunday nights on “The Wonderful World of Disney.”  Sherman says Disney liked being called “Walt” and if he liked an idea said, “That’ll work!”  He also said that P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins novels, was as fiercely protective of her intellectual property as portrayed in Saving Mr. Banks, and he has 16 hours of tapes with Travers to prove it.  She insisted the tapes be made as a record of her conversations.

Most of the conversation here is about Mary Poppins, which earned Sherman and his brother Robert Sherman two Oscars.  He only briefly mentions Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, which had songs by Sherman and his brother and was in effect the James Bond people trying to do a Disney musical.  He does mention that he was working on an album containing songs for two unmade fantasy films:  Sir Puss-N-Boots and The 13 Clocks, based on the James Thurber novel.  These songs were released in 2016 by castalbums.org.

Fun fact: Voice actor Paul Winchell not only voiced Tigger, but also invented an artificial heart valve.

Disney fans will enjoy this hour.

(2) THE STRANGER THINGS EXPERIENCE. Delish brags, “We Tried All The Food At Stranger Things: The Experience”.

We’re beyond excited for part 2 of Stranger Things season 4. To get into the spirit, Team Delish traveled to the new Stranger Things: The Experience in Brooklyn. With locations in New York, San Francisco, and London, the hour-long immersive adventure transports visitors straight to Hawkins, Indiana.

As much as we loved fighting Demogorgons with Eleven and the gang, our favorite part was obviously the food! Once you finish the experience, you enter Mix-Tape, an ’80s-themed area with some of the show’s iconic locations. Guests can play vintage arcade games, sit in the Byers’ living room, and snack on the character’s favorite treats.

… If you need a drink to wash everything down, head to the Upside Bar for some cocktails inspired by the show. Our favorite is the Demogorgon, which Agbuya describes as “smoky-sweet version of an Old Fashioned with a twist.” The drink is made with bourbon, maple syrup, and Angostura Bitters, but the main attraction is when the bartender uses a flavor blaster gun to blow a giant bubble. Then you puncture it with a stroopwafel and it releases citrus-scented smoke over the drink.

(3) MEDALIST. At The Heinlein Society blog (where “Right click is disabled!”) you can read a “Balticon 56 Report” that’s focused on personally presenting David Gerrold with his Heinlein Award.

(4) AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES. Bill sends along a clipping of something by Robert A. Heinlein’s second wife, Leslyn.  This was after she had divorced Robert and remarried, but refers to the place they had lived on Lookout Mountain Ave.  It’s from the July 1956 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

(5) THE SMITHSONIAN RECOMMENDS OCTAVIA BUTLER. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] In the June issue of the Smithsonian, in the column “Ask Smithsonian”, a reader asked “Who is a science fiction writer you hold in high esteem?” Their answer:

Octavia Butler was an Afrofuturist author who was born in 1947 and died in 2006. In her “Patternist” novels, published during the 1970s and ’80s, she foresaw many aspects of our current era–climate change, pandemics, ethical questions about genetic engineering, struggles for racial justice–yet she struck a chord of hopefulness, especially for Black and women readers, her body of work, which is featured in Smithsonian’s current FUTURES exhibit, grapples deeply with what it means to be human and inspires us to build a more equitable future, no matter what obstacles lie in the way.”

(6) A LOT ON HIS PLATE. “What Makes Taika Waititi Run and Run and Run?” The New York Times asks, but the subject isn’t sure!

Even when your job is to dream up the interplanetary adventures of a Norse god, you might still want to run off and play pirates.

So during the weeks he was editing “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the Marvel movie that opens on July 8, Taika Waititi, its director and co-writer, would occasionally take weekends off for a different journey.

He would get outfitted in a flowing gray wig, matching facial hair and temporary tattoos, and don deliciously fetishistic leather gear to portray Blackbeard, the swashbuckling, loin-kindling buccaneer of the HBO Max comedy series “Our Flag Means Death.”

This is admittedly not a bad way to spend your spare time, though Waititi did occasionally fret over the trade-offs. As he explained recently, “Sometimes you’re pissed off at life and you’re like, ‘Why did I say yes to everything? I don’t have a social life — I’m just working.’ But then the thing comes out, you see where the hard work goes and it’s really worth it.”

On TV, Waititi, 46, has had a hand in the FX comedies “Reservation Dogs” (as a co-creator) and “What We Do in the Shadows” (a series based on a movie he co-wrote and co-directed), as well as a “Shadows” spinoff, “Wellington Paranormal.” At the movies, you can hear him voice a good guy in “Lightyear” or see him play a bad guy in “Free Guy.”

Waititi is also editing “Next Goal Wins,” a soccer comedy-drama that he co-wrote and directed for Searchlight. He’s writing a new “Star Wars” movie for Lucasfilm, a “Time Bandits” series for Apple TV+. He’s preparing two Roald Dahl projects for Netflix and adapting a graphic novel by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius for a feature film.

(7) HIDDEN BEAUTY. Book Riot probes beneath the surface in its article “Underneath It All: Books Where The Hardcover Has a Clever Design Beneath Its Dust Jacket”.

WHAT MAKES THE BEST DESIGN UNDER THE DUST JACKET?

Let me tell you, YA really shines in this category of book beauty. While many adult hardcovers had wonderful color combinations, I was looking for them to have a design under the dust jacket that stood out. The science fiction and fantasy section did a bit better with their designs under the dust jacket, but proportionally, did not hold a candle to the sheer number of books in YA with interesting reveals. I wanted to cast a broad net and hoped to reel in a fine set of books across genres. These are the final 15 books.

Three main categories drew my eye when it came to the design under the dust jacket. First, we have the embossed stamp design, where designers created a clever design pressed into the hardcover and perhaps added some foil to enhance the contrast. Next, we have the flat graphic design, where the cover has some kind of drawn, painted, or printed image that lays flat on an almost silky cover underneath the dust jacket. Finally, we have a small but visually impressive group, the repeating print design, with a pattern that creates a textile-like pattern.

One example is the cover of this novel by the redoubtable T. Kingfisher.

NETTLE & BONE BY T. KINGFISHER

Jacket art by Sasha Vinogradova

When you wait long enough for someone to save you and no one comes, you learn how to save yourself. Marra, the third-born daughter, has seen the way the prince abuses her older sisters and is determined to kill him, once and for all. A series of legendary companions help her perform the three tasks that will free everyone from a prince too cruel to live. The golden embossed skeleton creature pops against the vibrant green cover, daring you to read the first page.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1956 [By Cat Eldridge.] “Presumably I’m the condemned man and obviously you’re the hearty breakfast.” —from Diamonds are Forever

Let’s us talk about Fleming’s Diamonds are Forever novel whose first part was published in the Daily Express on April 12, 1956 and heralded by an article by Ian Fleming on how he wrote the novel and that readers were invited to “meet James Bond, secret agent, meet M, his boss, and get ready to meet the girl you won’t forget”.  It was the first novel that the Daily Express did but hardly the last as they would go to do all of them.

Fleming wrote the story at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, inspired by a Sunday Times article on diamond smuggling. 

The book was first published by Jonathan Cape in the United Kingdom on March 26, 1956. It was the fourth novel featuring Bond. 

The Daily Express publication was in abridged firm, and interestingly, they followed it, by adapting into as a graphic comic series. 

As you all know, it would be adapted into the seventh Bond film which was the last Eon Productions film to star Sean Connery as Bond. Both the novel and the film were considered to be very good. That is not that all British critics loved it as Julian Symons of The Times Literary Supplement thought it was the “weakest book so far”. On the other hand, Raymond Chandler, yes that writer, said for the Sunday Times said “Mr. Fleming writes a journalistic style, neat, clean, spare and never pretentious”. 

It has, like all Bond novels, been in-print ever since it was first published. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 3, 1898 — E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.)
  • Born July 3, 1926 — William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a many time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist for 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He is responsible for giving Uhura her first name. He wrote “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 — Tim O’Connor. He was Dr. Elias Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for much of its run.  (I really, really liked that series.) Other genre appearances were on The Six Million Dollar ManThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsWonder WomanKnight Rider, Next Gen and The Burning Zone. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 — Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay is certainly his best remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm which he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part off The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.)
  • Born July 3, 1937 — Tom Stoppard, 85. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  • Born July 3, 1943 — Kurtwood Smith, 79. Clarence Boddicker in Robocop which was nominated for a Hugo atNolacon II, Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and voiced Kanjar Ro in the most excellent Green Lantern: First Flight. He’s got series appearances on Blue ThunderThe Terrible Thunderlizards (no, I’ve no idea what it is), The X-FilesStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: VoyagerMen in Black: The Series which I got wrote up, 3rd Rock from the SunTodd McFarlane’s SpawnJustice LeagueBatman BeyondGreen Lantern, Beware the Batman, Agent Carter and Star Trek: Lower Decks. His last genre role is Dr. Joseph Wanless on the Netflix remake of Firestarter.   

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Junk Drawer shows that when it comes to alien abduction, many are called but few are chosen.
  • Bizarro shows an exasperated jury foreman who can’t deliver a verdict.

(11) BACK IN THE USSR. From the Sidewise Award-winning author of the acclaimed Clash of Eagles trilogy comes an alternate 1979 where the US and the Soviets have permanent Moon bases, orbiting space stations, and crewed spy satellites supported by frequent rocket launches. Hot Moon: Apollo Rising Book One by Alan Smale will be released July 26.

Apollo 32, commanded by career astronaut Vivian Carter, docks at NASA’s Columbia space station en route to its main mission: exploring the volcanic Marius Hills region of the Moon. Vivian is caught in the crossfire as four Soviet Soyuz craft appear without warning to assault the orbiting station. In an unplanned and desperate move, Vivian spacewalks through hard vacuum back to her Lunar Module and crew and escapes right before the station falls into Soviet hands.

Their original mission scrubbed, Vivian and her crew are redirected to land at Hadley Base, a NASA scientific outpost with a crew of eighteen. But soon Hadley, too, will come under Soviet attack, forcing its unarmed astronauts to daring acts of ingenuity and improvisation.

With multiple viewpoints, shifting from American to Soviet perspective, from occupied space station to American Moon base under siege, to a covert and blistering US Air Force military response, Hot Moon tells the gripping story of a war in space that very nearly might have been.

Available for preorder at Amazon and Amazon.ca.

Larry Niven says, “I loved it. Great ‘hard’ science fiction with convincing space battles.” Robert J. Sawyer declared, “Alan Smale is one of the brightest stars in the hard-SF firmament, and Hot Moon is his best novel yet. Enjoy!”

Alan Smale writes alternate and twisted history, and hard SF. His novella of a Roman invasion of ancient America, A Clash of Eagles, won the Sidewise Award. Alan grew up in Yorkshire, England, and earned degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from Oxford University. By day he performs astronomical research into black holes and neutron stars at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, with over a hundred published academic papers; by night he sings bass with high-energy vocal band The Chromatics.

(12) WET WORK. “Filmmakers of Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Vesper’ on Finding Hope in Grim Future” in Variety.

…The sci-fi-fantasy thriller, which takes place after the collapse of the earth’s eco-system and centers on a 13-year-old girl caring for her paralyzed father, who must use her wits and bio-hacking abilities to fight for survival and the possibility of a future, has proved a popular item for sales agent Anton. They have announced distribution deals in the U.S. (IFC Films), UK (Signature Entertainment), Germany (Koch Media), Italy (Leone Film) and Japan (Klockworx). IFC plans to release the film in U.S. theaters and VOD on Sept. 30….

The live-action scenes were shot in natural locations, mainly around Vilnius. Finding the fairytale forest that they wanted took nearly a year. But shooting outdoors came with its own set of problems. Samper confesses that one of the most challenging elements of the shoot was the spring weather in Lithuania. He says, “One day we had snow, storm, rain, hail and finally sunshine in the same shooting day.”…

(13) HIS AUDITION WAS A BUST. Didn’t he hear, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”? “Florida Man Posing as Disney Worker Charged in Removal of R2-D2 at Hotel” in the New York Times.

A Florida man who said he applied for a security job at Walt Disney World in Florida wanted to impress his would-be bosses.

So, to highlight what he said was the company’s lax oversight, the man, David Proudfoot, donned the gray T-shirt, beige pants and Disney name tag worn by employees of a Disney resort, the Swan Reserve, and removed an R2-D2 “Star Wars” droid as well as an unidentified game machine, the authorities said.

R2-D2 might have been the droid he was looking for, but Mr. Proudfoot’s test of Disney’s security backfired: He was charged with grand theft and obstruction by false information, according to an arrest report dated May 31.

Mr. Proudfoot, 44, of Kissimmee, Fla., admitted to investigators that he moved the droid, which was valued up to $10,000, and the game machine, Deputy Christopher Wrzesien of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office wrote in the report.

Deputy Wrzesien wrote that Mr. Proudfoot had “temporarily moved” the droid from the third floor of the hotel to an unknown location. As for the game machine, Mr. Proudfoot told deputies that he had no intention of moving it off the property, according to the report.

He told investigators “he had an application for Walt Disney World Security pending and was moving the items to show weaknesses in the security of the resorts in the hope of securing a better-paying job at WDW,” the report said….

(14) HOME IS WHERE YOU HANG YOUR HAT. “Resident Alien: Season Two Return Date Announced” at SYFY Wire.

Resident Alien fans don’t have long to wait for the return of the science fiction comedy-drama series. Season two kicked off on Syfy in January and ran for eight episodes before going on hiatus. The remaining eight installments of the season will begin airing on August 10th.

Based on the Dark Horse comics, the Resident Alien series stars Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Corey Reynolds, Elizabeth Bowen, Alice Wetterlund, Levi Fiehler, and Judah Prehn. The story follows an alien (Tudyk) who has come to Earth with a mission to kill humans, but he finds life on this planet is more than he planned.

(15) CURIOSITY. BBC knows you can’t resist watching video of the “World’s smallest cat”.

A rusty spotted cat, the world’s smallest cat, explores his forest home in Sri Lanka, but his natural curiosity is destined to get him into a spot of trouble.

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

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”.