Pixel Scroll 1/17/24 Send Pixels, Scrolls And Files, The Fifth Has Hit The Fan

(1) SEATTLE 2025 WORLDCON MEMBERSHIP RATES RISE TOMORROW. At least for a few more hours the cost of a WSFS Membership + Attending Membership Supplement for an adult over the age of 25 is $175. The other permutations are explained at the Memberships – Seattle Worldcon 2025 page.

Mark Roth-Whitworth sent a few editorial comments along with the foregoing reminder:

I just got our memberships for Seattle in ’25. Ouch. This far out, $175 each, and I think it goes up after tomorrow.

Was the same demographic going as did back in the Sixties and Seventies, it would be a *lot* smaller. Most of us were working class. Hell, my late wife and I together maybe made the median income, or maybe just under. In 1993 it would have been hard to pay for this.

Forget the graying of fandom, how about the economic stratification of fandom? Where are the folks who are making a living working construction, or flipping burgers, or barista, or drive a cab, or working in a thousand other jobs that we need, but make crap wages? Or people on SSI or other welfare?

I know I ghosted a con or two in my mid-twenties, when I just did not have the money. I don’t know a lot of folks who go to other than their local cons, and work them to afford it.

Have we become elite?

(2) EMMY AWARDS. Genre TV was shut out at the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony which aired on January 15. The complete list of winners – largely repeated wins by Succession, The Bear, and Beef — is here.

(3) HISTORIC MOMENTS IN TELEVISION. There are, however, plenty of genre highlights in the Television Academy’s anniversary list of 75 “Top TV Moments”.

Arguably the first one on the list is genre, because fans voted the Hugo Award to TV coverage of the Apollo 11 mission. Beyond that, you have to wait ‘til way down the list before there’s another.  

1. The Moon Landing. After Apollo 11 landed on the moon, astronaut Neil Armstrong proclaims “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. 1969.

40. The Twilight Zone. “Time Enough at Last” After a nuclear catastrophe, loner Harry Bemis (Burgess Meredith) is left with all the time in the world to read his beloved books, only to shatter his glasses, leaving him virtually blind. 1950.

50. Star Trek – Kirk and Uhura kiss, 1968

51. Game of Thrones — “The Rains of Castamere” At Robb’s (Richard Madden) wedding, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) reveals chain mail under Bolton’s (Michael McElhatton) clothes just as Robb’s wife is murdered, Robb is shot with arrows, and his men’s throats are cut.

And there are several more beyond that, from The Last of Us, Lost, another from Game of Thrones, and the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan.

(4) DEEP IMPACT. Animation World Network’s Kevin Geiger anticipates “The Impact of AI on Hollywood in 2024: 12 Predictions”. Short version: AI will take away a bunch of existing jobs. Here’s an excerpt of what he forsees.

4. Deepfake filmmaking has become the new paradigm.

The continued evolution of deepfake technology enables filmmakers of all resource levels to create younger versions of living actors or bring deceased actors back to the screen. This has already been used to tell stories that span different periods. While the technology offers exciting creative opportunities, it raises significant ethical concerns regarding consent and the potential misuse of digital likenesses. Seeing is no longer believing.

5. Rise of the AI-driven extras and stunt doubles.

The use of AI-generated virtual extras and stunt doubles will be a game-changer in reducing production costs and logistical complexities, particularly in scenes requiring large crowds or dangerous stunts. However, the application of AI technology will accelerate the reduced employment opportunities for human extras and stunt performers.

6. The visual effects industry becomes more director-driven.

AI’s ability to produce sophisticated visual effects quickly and cost-effectively is set to enhance the visual storytelling in films. The prospect of generating visual effects via “prompting” (otherwise known as “directing”) will make VFX more director-driven, and encourage greater creative expression and experimentation. The number of “technical directors” required on a film will be reduced: a benefit to major studios and indie producers, but a threat to hired guns.

7. AI-assisted editing is now the default starting point.

AI-assisted editing is revolutionizing work reels and post-production by autonomously selecting takes, suggesting edits, and assembling rough cuts. This can significantly speed up the editing process and reduce costs, but over-reliance on AI could reduce the editor’s creative control, lead

(5) AAFCA AWARDS. The 15th Annual African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) Award Winners include Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Best Drama: Origin
Best Comedy: American Fiction
Best Musical: The Color Purple
Best Director: Ava DuVernay (Origin)
Best Screenplay: American Fiction
Best Actor: Colman Domingo (Rustin)
Best Actress: Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor (Origin)
Best Supporting Actor: Sterling K. Brown (American Fiction)
Best Supporting Actress: *TIE* Da’Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers), Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple)
Best Ensemble: The Color Purple
Breakout Performance: Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon)
Emerging Filmmaker: Cord Jefferson (American Fiction)
Best Independent Feature: A Thousand and One
Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Best Documentary: Stamped From The Beginning
Best Music: The Color Purple
Best International Film: Io Capitano
Best Short Film: The After

(6) EKPEKI Q&A. Paul Semel interviews “’The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction 2022’ Co-Editor Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”.

While other Best Of type anthologies only consider short stories, The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction 2022 also includes poems. I recently interviewed Stephen Kotowych, the editor of Year’s Best Canadian Fantasy And Science Fiction: Volume One, which also includes poetry. Is there something going on in the speculative realm where poetry is becoming more popular or respected?

Speculative poetry is such a wide and important form that we decided to include this year to make the book separate from last year’s. Hopefully, it’s something that matches up with the vibrancy the speculative poetry world exudes [and this is a] chance to showcase some of that speculative poetry vibrancy going on

(7) THE METERS OF MIDDLE-EARTH. And CBR.com studies “How The Lord of the Rings Made Poetry Exciting”.

…The characters of The Lord of the Rings used poetry as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions. Shortly after leaving the Shire, the hobbits were overwhelmed with uncertainty and weariness about the journey ahead. To raise their spirits, Frodo recited “The Road goes ever on and on,” a poem that Bilbo had taught him. In Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf and Bilbo both sang sections of this same poem. As the hobbits rested at Weathertop, poetry again assuaged their worries. In the chapter “A Knife in the Dark” from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the RingAragorn “began to tell them tales to keep their minds from fear.” These tales came in the form of poems, such as the song of Beren and Lúthien….

(8) FREE READ. Entries in the Quantum Shorts flash fiction contest are available to read at the link. The shortlist will be announced in March.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 93. This Scroll you’re getting James Earl Jones, most notably known in our circles as the voice of a certain Sith Lord whose voice he did up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but he’s got much more, and sometimes surprisingly diverse career here. So let’s see what he’s done…

His film debut was as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, the B-52’s bombardier  in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

In 1969, Jones participated in making short films for what became Sesame Street. These were combined with animated segments, then were shown to groups of children to see if the format appealed to children. As cited by production notes included in the Sesame Street: Old School 1969–1974 DVD, the short that had the greatest impact with test audiences was one showing a bald-headed Jones counting slowly to ten. And yes, it was shown on the show when it aired.

I truly love him in Conan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom, an antagonist for the character Kull of Atlantis. Thulsa Doom was created by Robert E. Howard in the “Delcardes’ Cat” story. Neat character for him, I’d say. 

He’s in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold withthe name of Umslopogaas, a fearless warrior and old friend of Allan Quatermain. I looked him up in the original novel, Allan Quatermain. Please don’t make me do that again. Really. Don’t. 

Ahhh, Field of Dreams: “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.” Great role. To say more would involve spoilers, right? 

He voices Mufusa, the lion murdered by his brother in The Lion King and its sequel, who death does not stop from being present. Really present. Extraordinary performing by him. 

Did you know that he narrated Stallone’s Judge Dredd? Well he did. He was uncredited at time but as is with these things, it didn’t stay a secret permanently, did it? 

He had series appearances on Faerie Tale Theatre (as, and I simply love it, Genie of the Lamp, Genie of the Ring), Highway to HeavenShelley Duvall’s Bedtime StoriesPicket FencesLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, (he was the uncredited narrator of 3rd Rock from the Sun (maybe he’s the nameless narrator for all of the multiverse?), Touched by an Angel in which he’s the Angel of Angels, cool name, Stargate SG-1 , Merlin and finally as himself on The Big Bang Theory.

He hosted Long Ago and Far Away, a children’s series that lasted thirty-five episodes with each of them based on a folk or fairy tale. Stop motion animation, live actors and traditional animation were all used.

That’s it, folks.

Carrie Fisher, James Earl Jones and Jim Parsons in a scene from Big Bang Theory.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) PAYDAY FOR COMIC OWNER. “Rare copy of The Amazing Spider-Man No 1 sells for more than £1m” – the Guardian wanted you to know. And weep if you ever owned a copy in your youth.

A rare copy of the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man has sold for more than £1m.

The comic, published in March 1963, reached a record-setting $1.38m (£1.1m) at auction. It is one of only two copies of The Amazing Spider-Man No 1 rated “near mint/mint” by comic book grading service Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

“It was obvious this Spider-Man was an opportunity not likely to come around, and the final price reflected that,” said Barry Sandoval, vice president at Heritage Auctions, the company that ran the auction, according to Fine Books magazine.

The copy sold for nearly three times as much as a CGC-rated “near mint” version sold in July last year for $520,380 (£410,184)….

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. The lede is the most interesting part of Variety’s article “When Superman and Batman Copyrights Expire in a Decade, Will It Be Kryptonite for DC?”.

About a decade ago, Zack Snyder developed a storyline for the DC Extended Universe that involved Bruce Wayne impregnating Lois Lane.

The subplot in which Batman cuckolds Superman was poised to unfold in “Justice League,” with Batman dying in the sequel and Lois raising their spawn with Superman. Snyder’s vision for Wonder Woman was equally unorthodox, with visuals featuring a superheroine who brandished the decapitated heads of her conquered enemies like an ISIS jihadi.

Warner Bros. and DC Studios — which hold a firm grip on their intellectual property — rejected Snyder’s ideas, which were deemed “super creepy,” according to a source familiar with the back and forth. (DC declined to comment for this story. A representative for Snyder did not respond to a request for comment.) But in the next decade, artists and rival studios won’t need permission to create their own take on the characters.

A sad fact of Hollywood is that while superheroes never truly die, all copyrights do. On Jan. 1, Disney lost control of “Steamboat Willie,” and within 24 hours two horror-comedies starring Mickey Mouse were announced. The DC characters are the next major expirations looming on the horizon. Superman and Lois Lane will enter the public domain in 2034, followed by Batman in 2035, the Joker in 2036 and Wonder Woman in 2037….

(13) FIREFLY ON THE CHEAP. SYFY Wire admires “How Serenity Slashed Its Budget from $100 Million to $39 Million” and was able to get greenlighted.

…In a 2005 interview with the Los Angeles Times, the effects crew and film’s creators opened up about the ways they shaved tens of millions off the film’s cost. Basically, they shot it like a TV show, creating only what was necessary and meticulously storyboarding things out so no resources were wasted.

One of the movie’s most ambitious set pieces, a wild chase scene early in the film, was projected to be one of the costliest segments in the film. So instead of trying to build out a massive CGI chase, they built a trailer with a cantilevered arm big enough to hold the on-screen hovercraft and actors. Then they just shot the scene on Templin Highway around Santa Clarita. For the Reaver vehicle chasing the crew, they hacked an old pick-up truck together with some CGI overlays for final effects. In the end, a scene expected to take 30 days was finished up in five.

To create the spaceship models in the space-set scenes, they used a common cost-cutting approach called “kit bashing,” where you combine several different ship models and kits and mix them all together to create something new. It’s a cheap alternative to full-on spaceship design, and it saved time and money for plenty of those space scenes.

They even had to rebuild the Serenity ship itself for sets, using old blueprints and DVD screen grabs for reference, a process they knocked out in a brief 14 weeks and under budget. All the explosions and pyrotechnics in the film were also done on a tight schedule, filmed across three nights at Mystery Mesa near Valencia. Traditionally, that level of sci-fi action pyro work for a blockbuster movie would’ve taken around two weeks….

(14) KLINGONS DON’T DRINK MERLOT. TrekMovie.com invites as to watch as “Paul Giamatti Auditions For Star Trek, Recreates His Iconic ‘Merlot’ Moment In Klingon”.

Danish movie journalist and friend of TrekMovie Johan Albrechtsen has once again used a non-Star Trek promotional junket to recreate a Star Trek moment. As Paul Giamatti was promoting his award-winning role in The Holdovers Albrechtsen brought up the actor’s previously expressed interest in playing a Klingon in Star Trek. And he persuaded the Giamatti to recreate his famous “I am not drinking any f###ing Merlot!” moment from the 2004 wine-themed film Sideways, but this time in Klingon. The moment was then edited to create a new Star Trek “audition tape” with Giamatti as a Klingon captain, cut into a scene from The Next Generation….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/4/24 It’s 2024, Are Those Godstalks Distimmed Yet?

(1) THE MUSIC OF HEAVY METAL. Maya St. Clair remembers “When Heavy Metal Magazine Made Playlists” at News from the Orb.

When I worked at Heavy Metal magazine, people in my life inevitably assumed it was a publication about heavy metal music. My usual response was “not really,” and I’d describe how Heavy Metal was a comics magazine focused on experimental, adult-rated sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve since realized that a better response would have been “fuck it, probably” — since Heavy Metal, like cosmic background radiation, seemed to presuppose and pervade everything, including music. Name a thing, and Heavy Metal had it: yellow, cyan, black, magenta, rectangles, circles, pterodactyls, Homer, Shakespeare, love, death, superheroes, hamburgers, Jane Fonda, H. P. Lovecraft, boobs, dicks, God, jazz, rockabilly, and (inevitably) heavy metal music, lower case….

St. Clair has compiled playlists at Spotify that emulate some Heavy Metal writers’ Eighties recommendation lists. Including two by my old friend Lou Stathis! Here’s the first —

In 1980, as it reached the height of its influence and circulation, Heavy Metal introduced music criticism by SFF editor/music nerd Lou Stathis and others, in the “Dossier” section. The contrarian Stathis was a fearless advocate for the experimental over the conventional (he hated the fucking Eagles, man, and Bruce Springsteen’s normie-ism was a running joke). Alternative icons like Brian Eno, Genesis, the Cure, Grace Jones, Gary Numan, Laurie Anderson, and Tangerine Dream got their recognition in Heavy Metal, plus uncountable niche bands.

Anyway, the HM squad would occasionally throw together a DJ set, album recs, or mixtape. I’ve consolidated them into playlists on Spotify, linked below….

The Metal Box: Lou Stathis’ 1983 Singles Picks

Stathis sometimes compiled lists of his “heavy rotation” singles and albums. In April 1984, he listed his top picks for the previous year. Some, like Michael Jackson and Eurythmics, are recognizable. Others are supremely obscure.

The Metal Box 1983 on Spotify

(2) ON A TANGENT. Dave Truesdale introduces the “Tangent Online 2023 Recommended Reading List”, once again targeting SFWA as the reason “real world politics” have intruded on the science fiction field. Not because Truesdale is unaware of the history of sf, but because he argues that somehow the Thirties political activism of young sff writers and editors didn’t really count.

For the most part, the literary aspect of the science fiction field proceeded as usual in 2023; the general machinery operated well enough to keep the magazines and books appearing on reasonable schedules, and SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, formerly for decades since its 1965 inception the Science Fiction Writers of America) the field’s one and only member-funded 501(c)(3) tax exempt administrative organization, was still alive and kicking, though to my mind and due to external “real world” politics, took a wrong turn that gave the outside world an entirely misleading picture of the organization as a literary organization, but instead revealed its political advocacy (or lack thereof) on any given issue.…. 

…Politics has entered the SF field directly but sporadically over the past 97 years, since its official birth as a genre began with the April 1926 issue of Amazing Stories. Early readers became fans when they corresponded with others through letter columns, and small SF fan clubs began to sprout all over the country. The first SF worldcon was held July 1-4, 1939 in New York City, to coincide with the World’s Fair in the same city. Attendance was in the dozens and many of the members were in their teens. Sam Moskowitz (later to become SF’s premiere historian) chaired, with a few of his friends, this first worldcon at the ripe old age of 19. A group of SF fans known by their club name of the Futurians, led by Donald A. Wollheim (later founder of DAW Books), Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth, Doc Lowndes, and a few others were at odds with Moskowitz’s group and wanted to attend the worldcon. Many of these young SF fans were fashionably members of the local socialist or communist branches; it was the cool thing to do at the time. Without getting into the details (there were many different accounts given from both sides) the Moskowitz faction turned the Wollheim, Pohl, faction (the Futurians) away and were thus excluded from the convention. This became known in fandom and the early fan press as “The Great Exclusion Act.” Wollheim and Pohl, among others were either in their teens (C.M. Kornbluth 14 or 15, Pohl 19) or early twenties (Wollheim 24, Doc Lowndes 22) and full of headstrong piss and vinegar. That the feud between fan groups and the turning away of some from the worldcon was primarily because of politics was downplayed by Pohl when he wrote in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, “We pretty nearly had it coming,” and then, “What we Futurians made very clear to the rest of New York fandom was that we thought we were better than they were. For some reason that annoyed them.”

So in essence what amounted to an early fan feud between SF fan clubs whose members were still in their teens or early twenties and had little to do with politics, has somehow become the one size fits all go-to argument that supposedly proves politics has always been a part of SF and SF fandom and is thus nothing new….

(3) STAY OR GO? Catherynne M. Valente’s post “On Recent Developments at Substack” at Welcome to Garbagetown analyzes the dilemma of persisting in using that platform.

Many people have reached out to me to discuss Substack’s not-always-stellar history of managing a diverse breadth of opinions and/or policies on monetization.

Let me make it clear: This was always an issue, and I have always been aware of it. It’s gotten worse of late. And now I just feel like Marc Maron trying to figure out what to do with his friends who voted for Trump….

…Yes, Substack has and does allow dipshit fascist transphobic and otherwise morally-cancerous fuckgiblets to post freely and make money from their platform. They also allow a lot of marginalized creators to flourish and make a livelihood here. Like every other site I’ve ever known, all of whom have been incredibly reluctant to crack down on extreme right-wing content despite that very policy allowing it to proliferate wildly and bring us to a very bad historical place. Do I want them to kick out anyone making money on hate? Yep. Do I understand the slippery slope argument about free speech? That it’s much easier to take no stance and allow everything, trusting the users to sort it out, than to take the step of defining what opinions can be allowed to be heard? Yep.

I do not know if I’m going to stay here. I just don’t know. I came to Substack because of the Twitter diaspora. I managed to build a small audience, built mostly on hating fascism and idiocy. I like the community I and all of you have built here and I’m reluctant to migrate and lose people. But I don’t want to support the Badness by being here. And yet, if I go, does that not just abandon another space because bad people are also here, handing them control of yet another hugely-recognized platform, control they could never achieve on their own just on numbers and popularity, while the people who have any moral compass whatsoever have to continually start over from scratch?…

(4) AWARD-WORTHY APPAREL. The “Costume Designers Guild Awards 2024 Nominations” include two sff-specific categories. (See the full list of finalists at the link.)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

  • Barbie – Jacqueline Durran
  • Haunted Mansion – Jeffrey Kurland
  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes – Trish Summerville
  • The Little Mermaid – Colleen Atwood & Christine Cantella
  • Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire – Stephanie Porter

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television

  • Ahsoka: Part Eight: The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord – Shawna Trpcic
  • Loki: 1893 – Christine Wada
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 22: Guns for Hire – Shawna Trpcic
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Pride Parade – Laura Montgomery
  • The Witcher: The Art of the Illusion – Lucinda Wright

(5) OCCIDENTAL OCCULT. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton will teach a three-part online course “Confronting the Spectral: A History of Ghosts in the Western World With Lisa Morton” beginning January 22 through Atlas Obscura Experiences. Full details including schedule and prices at the link.

What We’ll Do

In this three-part lecture series, explore how people have thought about ghosts through time in the Western world.

Course Description

In this course, we’ll trace the history of ghostly encounters reported across the Western world, both friendly and nefarious. We’ll begin with ghosts from the classical world who haunted heroes like Gilgamesh and Odysseus, and look at the Biblical story of Saul and the Witch of Endor. We’ll meet medieval necromancers, Victorian spiritualists, and finally, the modern ghost-hunter. By the end of our time together, you’ll not only have a deep understanding of how cultures have conceived of the most common supernatural entity throughout history, but also ideas and suggestions for engaging in your own supernatural investigations.…

(6) SEA DEVILS SPINOFF? “Doctor Who Spinoff Series Seemingly Confirmed, Will Feature Classic Villains” says CBR.com.

A production listing on the Film and Television Industry Alliance website confirmed pre-production has begun on a spinoff series of the massively popular sci-fi series Doctor Who, which is scheduled to begin filming in March. The listing also provides a brief summary of the project, describing it as a fantasy-action adventure featuring the Sea Devils, an old villain from the classic Doctor Who series.

The listing does not provide any further details about the show’s plot, but it does reveal some of the crew members involved in the project, such as Doctor Who showrunner Russel T Davies set to return as the series’ writer. Other names include producers Phill Collinson, Vicki Delow, Julie Gardner and Lord of the Rings TV series producer Jane Tranter….

…As for when the spinoff series may see a premiere, the listing does not provide any concrete information, though it does confirm the projected filming date of March 4, 2024. …

(7) NEEDS WORK. The Mary Sue’s Charlotte Simmons would like to be a Zack Snyder fan if only the auteur would make that a little easier: “’Rebel Moon’ Proves That Zack Snyder Needs To Grow Up, and I Say That With Love”.

…Sure, it would have given the infamously obnoxious Snyder cult some more ammunition, but more good movies is a win for everybody. Sadly, whatever remotely interesting set dressing Zack Snyder cooked up here was woefully undermined by incoherent storytelling at its most relentless and suffocating character development—nay, the bare essentials of characterization—behind a mountain of formulaic sci-fi battles and dialogue that not even an amateur could be proud of.

Indeed, Rebel Moon is proof in the pudding that Snyder has some serious work to do, and that’s a damn shame, because the nature of his raw creative pursuits is stupendously important in the genres he occupies, which perhaps makes his failures all the more depressing….

(8) OCTOTHORPE CENTURY. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Lis Batty receive a telegram in episode 100 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I Don’t Have Show Notes or Alcohol”.

We celebrate with a bevy of special segments, including ”letters of comment”, “talking about the Glasgow Worldcon”, and “aftershow involving games”. PRETTY ADVANCED STUFF. 

(9) GLYNIS JOHNS (1923-2024). Actress Glynis Johns, best known to fans as Mrs. Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) and as a forest maiden who assists Danny Kaye’s character in The Court Jester (1955), died January 4 at the age of 100. She also appeared in several episodes of Sixties TV’s Batman as Lady Penelope Peasoup.

…Johns won a Tony for her role as Desiree Armfeldt in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” introducing the song “Send in the Clowns” — written for her by Sondheim. In addition she was Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in 1960’s “The Sundowners.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 66. I encountered Matt Frewer the same way that I suspect most of you did when he was unrecognizable as Max Headroom almost forty years ago. That character debuted in April 1985 in the Channel 4 film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. It’s virtually identical to the premiere of the American television series, though there might be a bit of foul language if I remember correctly. Or not. 

Two days after it was broadcast, Max hosted on the same channel The Max Headroom Show, a program where he introduced music videos, made pointed comments on various topics, and conducted rather off the wall interviews with guests before a live studio audience. These would eventually be aired in the States on Cinemax.

Max would become a global spokesperson for New Coke, appearing on way too many TV commercials with the catchphrase “Catch the wave!”.  You can see one of those commercials here

Now we come to the Max Headroom series which on ABC from just March 31, 1987, to May 5, 1988 with just a total of fifteen episodes. Damn it seemed like it lasted longer than that. He, like everyone on the series, was spot on in creating a believable future. I consider it one of the best SF series ever done.

He’s got way too many genre roles to list them all here so let me focus on a few of my favorite ones.

He was Dr. Jim Taggart on Eureka. On screen for a total of eighteen episodes, his Aussie character was the Eureka’s veterinarian and “biological containment specialist”, which means he catches whatever needs to be caught. If it moved and it did something weird, he was after it.

And then he was Dr. Aldous Leekie, the primary Big Bad on the first season of Orphan Black. He was in charge of the handling the clones as if anyone should trust him.

Though I find it hard to believe, the Hallmark Channel produced the Hallmark Sherlock Holmes films. And he was Sherlock Holmes in four of these films — The Sign of FourThe Hound of BaskervillesThe Royal Scandal and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire.

My final role for him a silly one indeed, it’s in In Search of Dr. Seuss where he is the Cat in The Hat. This thirty-nine-year-old film is a delightful romp  — Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Hunch, Patrick Stewart is Sgt. Mulvaney, and the list goes on far too long to give in full here. 

And yes, he’s been in a lot of genre films, go ahead and tell me your favorite. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHO IS YOUR HOST. All you Tennant fans pay attention: “David Tennant To Host 2024 BAFTA Film Awards” reports Deadline.

Former Doctor Who actor David Tennant has been set as the host of the 2024 BAFTA Film Awards, which take place February 18 at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in London….

…Jane Millichip, CEO of BAFTA, added: “We are over the moon that David Tennant will be our host for the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards. He is deservedly beloved by British and international audiences, alike. His warmth, charm, and mischievous wit will make it a must-watch show next month for our guests at the Royal Festival Hall and the millions of people watching at home….

(13) SEMI-MANDATORY VIEWING. Dylan sang “Everyone Must Get Stoned” but never mind that, CBR.com insists you see these 10 “Must-Watch Sci-Fi Movies For Fans of The Genre”. Or heck, maybe you already have! In the middle of the list comes the film that gave us Ripley.

5. Alien Combined Science and Horror Perfectly

Alien (1979)

The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission….

Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s biomechanical designs for the alien artifacts and creatures helped turn a great movie into an incredible one. With a story that starts out similarly to Forbidden Planet, in which a space crew investigates a distress signal, the film is transformed into an intense thriller with a horrifying Alien Xenophorph stalking and killing the crew. With stunning visuals and a premise too good for just one movie, Alien spawned a multi-media franchise that has entertained for more than four decades.

(14) MORE PICKUP. And it’s arguably appropriate to follow a mention of the Alien series (“Get away from her you bitch!”) with Giant Freakin Robot’s news item “Exoskeletons Take Huge Step Toward Becoming Common”.

Science fiction would appear to be becoming nonfiction in Europe. Indeed, in Italy, a groundbreaking pilot project involving real-life exoskeletons achieved exciting results. The Port System Authority of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea and the Livorno Port Company reported marked advantages using the exoskeletal tech, developed by IUVO and Comau (a subsidiary of Stellantis)….

…The workers regularly undertook strenuous tasks: loading and unloading goods, relocating heavy loads, and securing containers onto ships. Without the sci-fi-reminiscent exoskeletons, these activities are notoriously exhausting. They also pose genuine risks of introducing musculoskeletal disorders.

The initial evaluations conducted by IUVO and Comau involved measuring muscle activity and gathering feedback through questionnaires–all to assess the perceived drop in fatigue. The findings were overwhelmingly positive. Laborers reportedly adjusted well to the novel technology, additionally recognizing the exoskeleton’s significant impact on their efficiency and physical well-being. 

Based on the data, utilizing MATE XT and MATE XB technologies can potentially lessen the effort required by workers.

By how much? As much as thirty percent….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended crew knows “How Batman Should Have Ended” – meaning the version where Michael Keaton is Batman and Jack Nicholson is The Joker.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/24 Yippie-i-ay (Yippie-i-ay), Yippie-i-oh (Yippie-i-oh), Ghost Pixels In The Sky

(1) EMSH REVIVAL FOR AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers about the work he’s doing to get the second Ellison anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions, ready for publication. It involves the interior art and graphics.

Now that Harlan’s first Dangerous Visions is locked for print, we’re now moving to getting a proper galley for Again, Dangerous Visions. The main problem, in my eyes, with that process is that many of the later editions used the same Ed Emshwiller graphics/stats made for the original book (second generation images), or worse still, simply copied/reproduced the graphics from the printed pages themselves (third generation images).

This needs to be the most pristine version of the book done since the original print run, so after an exhaustive search, Ed’s original stats/graphics were discovered, and despite being sick as a dog (long story) I’ve spent every night for the past several days, going until dawn in most cases, carefully scanning every one of those eighty-plus images at high res, using air-blowers to remove dust, and gloves to avoid getting finger oil on anything.

I’ve just finished the last of the scans, and these images are just gorgeous, in astonishing detail and clarity. Honestly, so many of them could have been book covers all by themselves. Thinking that assembling these along the lines we see in the book, joined by ECG like pulses, might make a really cool promotional poster (but that’s just a thought for the moment, haven’t discussed it with anyone yet).

(2) ON THE NOSE. Philip Athans describes the use of an evocative fiction technique in “Smells Like Vivid Description” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

…I was surprised to hear in this video that, “Smell is apparently the strongest inducer of memories—of early memories. And the beauty is, even people suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia, never lose their olfactory memory.”

If you look back to last week’s post about How to Tell, it’s all about triggering memories. So a particular smell can help introduce some further detail about either or both of the world and the character. For instance, I find the smell of old books particularly delightful. This is my childhood love of the old books in the library coming to the forefront, and helping to propel my own love of collecting vintage books decades and decades later. If I were a character in a novel the smell of an old book could trigger a two-paragraph mini info dump about my childhood spent primarily in books, which turned into an adulthood spent primarily in books….

… Smells can also poke certain emotional triggers in your POV character, and go a long way to establishing the atmosphere of a scene….

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB speculative fiction reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present P. Djéli Clark and Eric Schaller on Wednesday, January 10. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

P. DJÉLI CLARK

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novels Abeni’s Song and A Master of Djinn, and the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com and in print anthologies including, Hidden Youth and Black Boy Joy. His upcoming novella, The Dead Cat Tail Assassins, will be out in 2024.

ERIC SCHALLER

Eric Schaller’s latest collection of dark fiction, Voice of the Stranger contains stories selected for Fantasy: Best of the Year, Best of the Rest, and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction. His fiction can also be found in his collection Meet Me in the Middle of the Air and in many anthologies and magazines. His stories are influenced in part by his studies in the biological sciences and the uneasy relationship humans have with each other and the world around them.

(4) WHAT TECH FORESEES IN 2024. Tech.co’s post “Experts’ Predictions for the Future of Tech in 2024” begins with a survey of sff:

2024 is about to dawn on the world. But in one of the most precient novels of the science fiction genre, it already has: Octavia Butler’s decades-old novel Parable of the Sower opens in Los Angeles in 2024.

Butler’s fictional world dealt with many of the social and environmental pressures that we’ll definitely be seeing a lot of in the real 2024. Climate change has boosted sea levels and increased droughts, increased privatization from greedy corporations is threatening schools, police forces are militarized, and a Presidential candidate is literally saying he’ll “make American great again.”

It’s hard to beat Butler’s entry when it comes to predicting what’s coming down the pike in the new year, and no one has really come close. Honorable mention goes to a 1995 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featuring a time-travelling social-commentary jaunt to 2024 San Francisco that deals with revolutionaries and homelessness encampments. A distant finalist is a grim tale by Harlan Ellison, A Boy and His Dog, which features a dystopian 2024 set among post-nuclear war mutated cannibals.

Things aren’t looking quite as bad for the real 2024, however. None of the dozens of industry experts and tech leaders that we’ve looked to for opinions about the future predicted a single incident of cannibalism….

(5) NOMINATE FOR THE REH AWARDS. “The 2024 Robert E. Howard Awards Are Open for Nominations!” announces the Robert E. Howard Foundation. You do not need to be a Foundation member to nominate.

…Under the new rules, nominations are due in to the Awards committee by February 15, 2024, with the Awards committee selecting the top nominees in each category for the final ballot by March 1, 2024….

(6) CRITTERS READERS’ POLL. Meanwhile, the “26th Annual Critters Readers’ Poll” is open through January 14. The Readers’ Poll honors print & electronic publications published during 2023. Its newest categories are Magical Realism, and Positive Future Fiction (novel & short story).

(7) MAYOR SERLING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Slashfilm reminds us of the time that Jack Benny took a detour through the Twilight Zone. No, not any of The Twilight Zone TV series nor the theatrical nor TV films. Not even the radio dramas. It all happened inside Jack Benny‘s own eponymous TV show. “Rod Serling Played The Mayor Of The Twilight Zone On The Jack Benny Program”.

…Serling’s episode aired on January 15, 1963, and, as was the show’s custom, he also played himself. In the fictionalized universe of the series, Benny hires Serling to help his struggling writers smarten up their material. Though Serling acknowledges he has little experience with comedy (before “The Twilight Zone,” he was probably best known as the Emmy-winning writer of “Requiem for a Heavyweight”), he’s excited to collaborate with Benny’s two-man staff.

This does not go well.

After repeated clashes with Benny’s writers, Serling gives up, citing his desire to tell stories with deeply considered characterizations and thought-provoking themes. Benny takes issue with Serling’s dismissive opinion of his style of comedy and fires back that “The Twilight Zone” can’t possibly tell stories of significance because the Twilight Zone does not actually exist. And you can probably guess what happens next.

After quarreling with Serling, Benny decides to take a leisurely walk home. On the way there, he gets lost in a thick fog and finds himself in an area of town he doesn’t recognize. Eventually, he encounters a road sign which tells him exactly where he is. It reads: “Welcome to Twilight Zone, Population: Unlimited.” Below this is an arrow pointing left to “Subconscious 27 Mi,” and one pointing right to “Reality 35 Mi.”

This is when matters take a distressingly surreal turn….

(8) JUST SEWN THAT WAY. Camestros Felapton gives the film a thorough critique in “Review: Poor Things”. Beware spoilers.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2023 film starring Emma Stone is a dark comedy fantasy set in an unreal, stylised world suggestive of the late 19th century. Based on the novel by Alisdair Gray (which I haven’t read) but stripped of its Scottish setting and metatextual elements, the film follows the strange life of Bella Baxter.

Dr. Godwin Baxter is a surgeon and a mad-scientist like figure who resembles Victor Frankenstein in his obsession to reanimate corpses surgically but who also resembles Frankenstein’s monster physically due to experiments conducted on him by his own father…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1990 — Isaac Asimov’s “The Fourth Homonym” story is the source of our Beginning this time. His Black Widowers stories of which this is one I think are some of the cleverest bar style stories ever done even if they weren’t set in a bar like Clarke’s White Hart tales.  

These stories which were based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders.  The Widowers were based on real-life Spiders, some of them well known writers in their own right such as Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison and Lester del Rey.

This story was first published thirty-four years ago in The Asimov Chronicles: Fifty Years of Isaac Asimov. It may be the only Black Widower story not collected in the volumes that collect the other stories. 

There were sixty-six stories over the six volumes that were released. So far only one volume, Banquets of the Black Widowers, has been released as an ePub. And yes, I’ve got a copy on my iPad as they are well worth re-reading.

And now for one of the best Beginnings done I think in the Black Widowers stories…

“Homonyms!” said Nicholas Brant. He was Thomas Trumbull’s guest at the monthly banquet of the Black Widowers. He was rather tall, and had surprisingly prominent bags under his eyes, despite the comparative youthfulness of his appearance otherwise. His face was thin and smooth-shaven, and his brown hair showed, as yet, no signs of gray. “Homonyms,” he said.

“What?” said Mario Gonzalo blankly.

“The words you call ‘sound-alikes.’ The proper name for them is ‘homonyms.’ “

“That so?” said Gonzalo. “How do you spell it?”

Brant spelled it.

Emmanuel Rubin looked at Brant owlishly through the thick lenses of his glasses. He said, “You’ll have to excuse Mario, Mr. Brant. He is a stranger to our language.”

Gonzalo brushed some specks of dust from his jacket sleeve and said, “Manny is corroded with envy because I’ve invented a word game. He knows the words but he lacks any spark of inventiveness, and that kills him.”

“Surely Mr. Rubin does not lack inventiveness,” said Brant, soothingly. “I’ve read some of his books.”

“I rest my case,” said Gonzalo. “Anyway, I’m willing to call my game ‘homonyms’ instead of ‘sound-alikes.’ The thing is to make up some short situation which can be described by two words that are sound-alikes – that are homonyms. I’ll give you an example: If the sky is perfectly clear, it is easy to decide to go on a picnic in the open. If it is raining cats and dogs, it is easy to decide not to go on a picnic. But what if it is cloudy, and the forecast is for possible showers, but there seem to be patches of blue here and there, so you can’t make up your mind about the picnic. What would you call that?”

“A stupid story,” said Trumbull tartly, passing his hand over his crisply waved white hair.

“Come on,” said Gonzalo, “play the game. The answer is two words that sound alike.”

There was a general silence and Gonzalo said, “The answer is ‘whether weather.’ It’s the kind of weather where you wonder whether to go on a picnic or not. ‘Whether weather,’ don’t you get it?”

James Drake stubbed out his cigarette and said, “We get it. The question is, how do we get rid of it?”

Roger Halsted said, in his soft voice, “Pay no attention, Mario. It’s a reasonable parlor game, except that there don’t seem to be many combinations you can use.”

Geoffrey Avalon looked down austerely from his seventy-four-inch height and said, “More than you might think. Suppose you owned a castrated ram that was frisky on clear days and miserable on rainy days. If it were merely cloudy, however, you might wonder whether that ram would be frisky or miserable. That would be ‘whether wether weather.’ “

There came a chorus of outraged What!’s.

Avalon said, ponderously. “The first word is w-h-e-t-h-e-r, meaning if. The last word is w-e-a-t-h-e-r, which refers to atmospheric conditions. The middle word is w-e-t-h-e-r, meaning a castrated ram. Look it up if you don’t believe me.”

“Don’t bother,” said Rubin. “He’s right.”

“I repeat,” growled Trumbull, “this is a stupid game.”

“It doesn’t have to be a game,” said Brant. “Lawyers are but too aware of the ambiguities built into the language, and homonyms can cause trouble.”

The gentle voice of Henry, that waiter for all seasons, made itself heard over the hubbub by some alchemy that worked only for him.

“Gentlemen,” he said. “I regret the necessity of interrupting a warm discussion, but dinner is being served.”

(10) TEA FOR 2(ND). Before reading Cat’s birthday, pour yourself a cup of “Second Breakfast – Chapters Tea”.

Small batch hand blended English breakfast tea with Marigold petals. Perfect for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, and afternoon tea. Enter our fan drawn rendition of a realm where friendship, nature, and the simple pleasures of life come first. Inspired by, but not affiliated with, our favorite series with a ring.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. (Died 1973.) Obligatory preface — this is my personal encounters with Tolkien, so if I’ve not been up close with something say The Silmarillion than it isn’t here. And I haven’t with that work. Some works I haven’t read get included anyways as they passed through Green Man and have a Story attached to them. 

Tolkien in 1972.

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the individuals who I always picture in the photo of him that must be of in his seventies with his pipe with that twinkle in his eye. He looks like he could be akin to a hobbit himself about to set down to elevenses. 

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again which was published by George Allen & Unwin  eighty-six years ago written for his children but obviously we adults enjoy as much, and so it is my favorite work by him.  Dragons, hobbits, epic quests, wizards, dwarves — oh my!  

I’ve lost count of the number of time I’ve read over the years, and the recent time, just several back as a listening experience showed the Suck Fairy enjoys it as much as I do.

I hadn’t realized until putting together this Birthday that all three volumes of the Lord of The Rings were published at the same time. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers in 1954, The Return of The King the following year. I’m so used to trilogies being spread out over a longer period of time. 

Though I’ve not read the trilogy nearly as much I’ve read The Hobbit, and that shouldn’t surprise you, I do enjoy it though I will confess that The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite of the three novels here. 

It was nominated at Tricon for a Best All-Time Series Hugo. Asimov’s Foundation series won that year. It did garner an International Fantasy Award first Best Series and the same for a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. I’m more than a bit surprised that it didn’t get nominated for a Retro Hugo.

Now unto a work that I like just as much as the sister of Kate Baker, Kathleen Bartholomew, does. That being Farmer Giles of Ham. Kathleen, who now has Harry, Kage’s Space Pirate of a parrot, says “Farmer Giles is a clever, solid, shrewd fellow, clearly cut from the same cloth as the most resourceful hobbits elsewhere in Tolkien’s most famous universe.” It’s a wonderful story indeed.

We got in a custom bag from the United Kingdom that the USPS made me sign for so that HarperCollins UK could sure that all twelve volumes of The History of Middle-Earth got here. No, I didn’t read it, but I did skim it. Liz reviewed it for Green Man and here’s that review thisaway. A hobbit sitting down and having elevenses is shorter than it is. 

A much, much shorter work is The Road Goes Ever On is a song cycle and much more first published in 1967. It’s a book of sheet music and as an audio recording. It is largely based off poems in The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien approved of the songs here. 

Why it’s important is that side one of this record consisted of has him reading six poems from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, than the first track on side two has him reading part of the Elvish prayer of “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” from The Lord of the Rings

I love Letters from Father Christmas which were originally written for his children. I see Allen and Unwin gave what I think was the better title of The Father Christmas Letters when they first published then collectively in 1976 which was more declarative. A local theatre group dud a reading of them some twenty years back — it was a wonderful experience as it was snowing gently outside the bookstore windows where they were doing it as we had hot chocolate and cookies.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something by him that I like but I think that I’ve prattled on long enough this time… 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nonsequitur has a nice variation on the old Hans Christian Andersen tale.
  • Carpe Diem is a vision of the future.
  • Dog Eat Doug shows when the bark(er) is as fierce as the bite.

(13) BEGUILE THE DIAL. [Item by Steven French.] A call for more weirdness on U.K. TV: “Britain is plagued by bland, box-ticking television. Bring back weird TV” in the Guardian.

…Schedules from the 60s and 70s – the height of Britain’s TV weirdness –contained nuclear attacks, ghosts, war stories, brutal public safety films and intellectually demanding folk horror dramas such as Robin Redbreast, Penda’s Fen and Artemis 81….

(14) WOULD YOU BELIEVE…IRISH REUNIFICATION? Gizmodo reminds fans that “2024 Is a Hell of a Year in Star Trek History” with a slideshow that starts at the link.

A lot—a lot—happens historically in Star Trek’s 2024, crucially important events that go on to not just shape Earth as it is in the early 21st century, but form foundational pillars for the contemporary Star Trek timeline. It’s a year we’ve heard about, and visited, multiple times across several Trek shows. So what’s exactly wild about it? Well, let us take a look through Trek’s past to find out… and perhaps, our future?

(15) AI IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. “’Proceed with caution:’ AI poses issues of discrimination, surveillance” at WBUR.

There are many uses for AI as the technology becomes more accessible and normalized, but not everyone is excited about that premise. AI scholar and activist Joy Buolamwini is one of those critics. She’s the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and author of the book “Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines.”

She started her journey as a scholar enamored by the promise of AI. But her views changed when she tried face-tracking software and it didn’t work well on her dark skin. However, the software registered her when she put on a white mask.

Buolamwini questioned whether her problem was unique or would happen to others with dark skin. And she found that the data was skewed.

“The data sets we often found were largely male and largely pale individuals,” Buolamwini says.

This poses problems especially when AI is used by law enforcement agencies to identify suspects, assess whether a defendant will commit another crime, and assign bond limits or flight risk status. Buolamwini uses Porcha Woodruff’s story as an example. Woodruff was 8 months pregnant when she was mistakenly arrested for carjacking after being misidentified by Detroit police’s facial recognition software.

“We’re creating tools for mass surveillance,” Buolamwini says, “that in the hands of an authoritarian state can be used in very devastating ways.”

Buolamwini stresses that even if data set bias was addressed, accurate artificial intelligence could still pose problems and be abused….

(16) UNFORGETTABLE IMAGES. This Yardbarker slideshow might just live up to its title: “The 20 most epic moments in sci-fi movies”. At least, there’s a bunch of my favorites here.

Science fiction excels at pushing the boundaries of the possible, both in terms of the stories it tells and the methods by which it brings those stories to life. People often go to sci-fi films to see the world brought to life in ways new, strange, and sometimes terrifying, precisely because the genre is so adept at taking things in the present and exploring what they might look like in the future. Some of the best scenes in sci-fi films take the viewer out of themselves, allowing them to encounter something akin to the sublime.

In sixteenth place:

The assembling of the Avengers during the battle against Thanos in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Throughout much of the 2010s, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the franchise that couldn’t be beaten, and it had its fair share of epic moments. The pinnacle, however, was during the climactic battle against the genocidal Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, when at last, the Avengers and all of those who have been restored appear to strike back against the Titan. It evokes the moment in the first Avengers film where the beloved characters first united, and it is also a climactic moment for those devastated when so many were killed with the Snap. In the world of comic book movies, no one ever remains truly dead.

(17) ‘TIL THEN HE’S COPYRIGHT KRYPTONITE. Someday you may ask “When Do Superman & Batman Enter the Public Domain?” Yahoo! has anticipated your interest. First on the list:

When does Superman enter the public domain?

As per US law, 2034 is the year when Superman would be joining the public domain.

In 2034, fans of Man of Steel and a few other DC characters will be able to use Superman in their content up to a certain extent without being afraid of copyright, trademark, or patent laws as that’s when Superman will be joining the public domain (PD).

According to US law, a property introduced before 1978 makes its way into the public domain if 95 years have passed after its first publication. So, because Superman made his debut on April 18, 1938, in Action Comics #1, he will be joining the public domain in 2034.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/25/23 It’s Not My Pixel, Monkey Boy!

(1) SCROLL LITE. I’m spending Christmas with my brother and his wife today, so this will be a short edition of the Scroll. I wish a happy holiday season to all of you!

(2) ‘TIL NEXT YEAR. Santa’s finished his rounds and can relax at his favorite intergalactic watering hole. (An Emsh cover for Galaxy Magazine.)

(3) DOCTOR BARBIE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It’s Christmas and some science journals have festive light-heartedness…

The cover of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) relates to the fantasy film hit of the year Barbie. “Christmas 2023: Ideas for a new world”.

The cover of The BMJ’s Christmas issue this year shows a Barbie that challenges sexist and racist norms. Richard Hurley describes the other new ideas this Christmas issue presents.

See also: “This Barbie is a surgeon”.

In her elegant qualitative study, Katherine Klamer dares the reader to dream bigger for a rising generation of girls.1 In an analysis of nearly 90 Barbies, Klamer found that Barbie brand medical professional dolls largely treated children (63%, n=48/76), with only three dolls (4%, n=3/76) working with adults. 59% of the Barbie brand dolls were white, 28% black, and 6% East Asian, and none had any physical disabilities. All Barbie brand doctors appeared to have either no specialization or were paediatricians with no apparent sub-specialization. Analysis showed that the dolls’ personal safety accessories were inadequate for standard practice; 98% of the Barbie brand dolls came with stethoscopes yet only 4% had face masks. Overall, the group of Barbies showed only a very limited range of medical careers.1 As surgeons in decidedly male dominated fields, we support Klamer’s conclusion that Barbies should represent a more diverse field of medical and scientific professions and that safety comes before fashion. Surely, personal protective equipment (known as PPE) should be commonplace accessories in medical and scientist Barbies’ wardrobes. While the evolution of Barbie’s career options has expanded in recent decades, there is clearly still room for improvement….

The issue also includes an article about  “The space doctors”

Few doctors get to go on real space missions, but they do conduct space research, often in extreme…

What do you actually do on a mission?

SR: “You’re trying to simulate the conditions in an environment like the Moon or Mars or anywhere in space so that you can test out technologies and see how they stand up and whether they’re appropriate to be used by a group of isolated people. But you also train future astronauts.”

RV: “When I started in analogue missions (where researchers carry out field tests in places with physical similarities to space environments1 ) there was me and two other doctors in the whole discipline and that was it. Now analogue space medicine has grown into a bigger specialty, and I think that may be because of the Lunar Gateway (the planned extraterrestrial space station to orbit the Moon) plus multiagency/international collaboration planning an extraterrestrial space station on Mars. For that we need to have more testbeds for doing what we call ‘quick, fast, and fail’ to learn what works. To do that you need analogues.”…

(4) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1980 — I assume most of you are familiar with the M*A*S*H series that ran eleven seasons starting in 1972. Based off of the Robert Altman film of the same name, it was supposed to be a comedy but a lot of very dark humor, pathos, tragedy and even quite moving deaths got in it as well. 

It did three Christmas-centered episodes of which I think only “Death Takes A Holiday” from the ninth season stands up as a truly interesting story. 

The secondary story which I’ll detail first has Charles Emerson Winchester the Third, our insufferable Bostonian surgeon, refusing to help salvage things after a party for orphans is cancelled. Everyone else digs into their rations from home and puts together a true military style Christmas party, but him. 

It turn out that Emersons don’t do public charity and he had given expensive chocolate that he got from his parents to that orphanage instead. Thus he’s understandably angry when he discovers the chocolate had made its way to the black market. So he takes the director aside and shouts at him, but the director says the candy was better used to purchase rice and cabbage, which the kids needed far more than candy.

So now for the main story.

A soldier shot by a sniper is choppered in on Christmas. It’s clear that there’s absolutely no hope of saving him as the surgeons know he is brain dead and will die no matter what they do. Just as they’re dropping life saving measures, they find a photograph of his family.

So Hawkeye, B.J., and Margaret decide to keep him alive, not indefinitely as not cannot happen even as a Christmas miracle, just until December 26th, so his family will never have to think of Christmas as the day their husband and father died. They succeed until after late evening, but he doesn’t make it to midnight. Finally, Hawkeye makes the decision to push the hands past midnight, and they agree to the list his time of death as early the next morning. 

So no Christmas miracles, just a lie that will help a family be just a little more happy come the next Christmas. Maybe. 

As our medical staff leave the dead behind and Father Mulcahy has administer the Last Rites, they are greeted by Potter as Santa. Potter says Santa knows they’ve “been very good boys and girls today” and has an elf, one of the orphans, give them the last four pieces of nurse Peg’s mother’s fudge from California.

Snow begins falling as they each take a piece and toast each other with it, wishing each other a Merry Christmas while the M*A*S*H staff  in the Mess Tent sing the last lines of “Silent Night”. 

Writing episodes was never a solitary enterprise for the series, so this episode was written by Mike Farrell, John Rappaport, Dennis Koenig, Thad Mumford, Dan Wilcox, and Burt Metcalfe and directed by Farrell. Mike Farrell played Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on the series. 

Colonel Potter here became the third and final member of the 4077th to play Santa Claus, after Hawkeye in “Dear Dad”, and B.J. in “Dear Sis”.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 25, 1924 Rod Serling. (Died 1975.) Rod Serling is best remembered for the original and certainly extraordinary Twilight Zone series and its sequel series of sorts Night Gallery, with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He was involved at some stage in Seven Days in May, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeUFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes.

So let’s look at that work I listed above which is other than Twilight Zone and Night Gallery and what Serling had to do with them, if anything. 

Let’s start Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, which first in released in 1964. Director John Frankenheimer hired Serling to write the script off the novel of the same name by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. It’s a solid piece of alternative history.

The New People series isn’t really anything he was involved in despite many websites listing him as being so. He was given the idea by Aaron Spelling about a group of young people who crash-land on a remote island and with everyone thinking they’re dead, they set out to form a new society.   

He said in a later interview that “He brought me the idea and I wrote the pilot script. Beyond that, I have nothing to do with it. The show is somewhere between Gilligan’s Island and San Francisco State. It may work. But not with me.” The original never-aired fifty-one minute pilot was screened at UCLA Film & Television Archive with a full Serling credit eleven years ago.

Now Serling again had nothingwith the final aired version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film. He was hired to write the script when it was to film in London but Jason Robards was unhappy with his script so it was moved because of a strike to Toronto and a new script by a new writer done. No idea what happened to that script. A pity as it might’ve been interesting.

UFOs: Past, Present, and Future was narrated by Rod Serling, Burgess Meredith, and José Ferrer who had been involved in The Twilight Zone. A documentary purportedly proving they were real. It is various claimed that officials at California’s Norton Air Force Base, the U.S. Department of Defense or the National Republican Party asked for this film. Serling had no role in it beyond narrating part of it. 

Planet of the Apes is an interesting story as the script he wrote was then modified by subsequent screenwriters. Even Serling himself disputes that much of his script remains in the final shooting script saying “The original script that I wrote was considerably different than the one they ultimately used” and whether iconic visual aspects of the film such as the hand of The Statue of Liberty were solely his idea. 

So The Twilight Zone and The Night Gallery which I just checked to make sure and yes Paramount + is still streaming the original Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone as created, largely written by and presented by Rod Serling premiered on CBS with the “Where is Everybody?” episode sixty-four years ago. An earlier pilot was developed but it ended up airing on a different show, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and was later adapted as a radio play. Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote ninety-two of the show’s one hundred and fifty-six episodes. 

The series would run four seasons in total. It would win the Hugo at Pittcon and then again the next year at Seacon for Best Dramatic Presentation repeating that for a third year straight at Chicon III. It didn’t do that for a fourth year running at DisCon I as no Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo was awarded. 

Some of my favorite episodes? “Five Characters In Search of an Exit” for its minimalistic approach to, well, everything; “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with Shatner of course which was actually written not by Serling but by Richard Mathewson; “The Mighty Casey” and “I Sing The Body Electric”, an episode based on a story by Ray Bradbury. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. 

Now for The Night Gallery. Unlike The Twilight Zone which has seeped into my consciousness and into my bones as well, I’ll willingly admit that although I’ve watched bits and pieces of it down the decades that I won’t say that’s it has gotten a firm hold on my consciousness like its predecessor. I think it’s that I’m just not interested in horror and suspense which was its focus, so what I saw just didn’t interest me the way the stories on The Twilight Zone always did.  It’s not just as pure a storytelling experience for me as that series is. Oh well. 

(6) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld brings back a couple of his Good King Wenceslas variations.

(7) WHO WAS THAT MASKED DOG? CBR.com tells how “Batman: Ace the Bat-Hound Received an Award-Winning New Christmas Origin”.

It’s our yearly Comics Should Be Good Advent Calendar! This year, the theme is the Greatest Christmas Comic Book Stories Ever Told! I had you all vote for your all-time favorite comic book Christmas stories and I collected all the votes, and now I am counting down the results! Each day will spotlight the next story on the list as we count down from #24 all the way to #1!

Every day until Christmas Eve, you can click on the current day’s Advent Calendar post, and it will show the Advent Calendar with the door for that given day opened, and you can see what the “treat” for that day will be! You can click here to see the previous Advent Calendar entries.

And now, we open the sixteenth door on the calendar…

Who was the original Ace the Bat-Hound?

The best thing about Ace the Bat-Hound (created by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris) is that originally he wasn’t even Batman and Robin’s DOG!

When he debuted in 1955’s Batman #92, he was just a dog that they found with a distinctive mark on his forehead and Bruce Wayne advertised in the local newspaper that he found the dog. The dog then jumped into the Batmobile while Batman and Robin were on the way to a crime scene, and since Batman and Robin couldn’t very well be seen hanging around with the same dog that Bruce Wayne just advertised that he had found, Robin made him a mask to cover the distinctive mark, and so Ace the Bat-Hound made his debut!…

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/23 Earth Scrolls Are Easy

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to feast on crab fried rice with Nina Kiriki Hoffman in Episode 214 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Nina Kiriki Hoffman, who aside from having sung the earworm “Feelings” with me more times than I can count, has either won or been a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the HOMer award from CompuServe, the Endeavour Award, the Mythopoeic Society Award, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

She won the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “Trophy Wives,” and her novel The Thread That Binds the Bones won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to The Thread That Binds the Bones), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. Her novella ‘”Unmasking,” published in 1992 by Axolotl Press, was a finalist for the 1993 World Fantasy Award. Her novella “Haunted Humans” was a finalist for the 1995 Nebula Award for Best Novella and on the same ballot as her novelette”The Skeleton Key,” shortlisted for Best Novelette.

We discussed the way a ghost story which left her wanting more led to her taking her writing more seriously, her early reactions to reading Robert A. Heinlein and Ursula K. Le Guin, how the Clarion workshop convinced her she could have a career as a writer, the way she wanted to grow up to be a combination of Ray Bradbury and Zenna Henderson, what she learned about characterization from Samuel R. Delany while at Clarion, the major difference she saw between the horror and science fiction communities during the early days of the Internet, how my perception of the arc her career was affected not by what she wrote but by what she sold, the lesson Ellen Datlow taught her which she passes on to her students, and much more.

(2) DEFENSE BUDGET DIVIDEND? SYFY Wire gets us ready for holiday conversations with these Seussian factoids: “5 Things to Know About How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

WWII training cartoons led the way for special to get made

During WWII, a lot of talented artists were enlisted to create materials that would help the war effort, or help train troops heading overseas. Two of those talents were animator Chuck Jones and [Theodore] Geisel, who met and worked together on the U.S. Military commissioned animated short films produced by Warner Bros. Studio. The Private Snafu series helped educate G.I.s on a range of subjects in an easy and entertaining way. 

Having worked well together, Jones approached Geisel about adapting the book into an animated holiday special in the same vein as the hit 1965 animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Unhappy with previous adaptations of his books, Geisel agreed to give Jones the rights because of their previous personal collaborations. 

(3) CLIMATE ACTION ALMANAC. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the ClimateWorks Foundation will launch their new book, The Climate Action Almanac, with a free virtual event on January 16, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. The event will feature, among its speakers, the SF authors Kim Stanley Robinson, Libia Brenda, and Vandana Singh. They’ll explore how to craft narratives about hopeful climate futures that catalyze real-world action and resonate with policy realities, especially in the wake of the recent COP28 UN climate summit.

When we think of climate, the stories we tell about the future are bad: megastorms, crop failures, and heat waves loom over us. These narratives are compelling, but can leave us feeling hopeless, helpless, and disillusioned.

To motivate broad-based change in the present, we need visions of positive climate futures grounded both in science and in local geographical and cultural particularities. We need stories that bridge the imperative for global coordination with values, resources, and community action, envisioning transformation that grows bottom-up and bottom-out, rather than top-down.

In the wake of the COP28 climate summit, join us for the launch of a collection of such stories: The Climate Action Almanac, presented by CSI and the ClimateWorks Foundation. We’ll hear from contributors from across the globe who have charted pathways toward a vibrant, decarbonized future.

The event is free and open to everyone. Register today!

This event will take place in English, with simultaneous interpretation into Spanish. It is presented by CSI and Future Tense in collaboration with the ClimateWorks Foundation and ASU’s Convergence Lab.

(4) DRIVEN. “Famous Cars: The Most Memorable & Expensive Cars to Ever Grace Our Screens”Investing Magazine has a list. Many are from sff productions. Here’s one that wasn’t cheap to begin with, and now is worth a fortune:

9. The Original Batmobile

As Seen In: Batman the Movie
Year: 1966 
Estimated Value: $4.6 million*

Built by famous designer George Barris, the original Batmobile was based off a 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura. This concept car was worth $250,000 at the time. But by the time it had become an iconic part of pop culture, the Batmobile was worth $4.6 million. 

(5) CURBING A HABIT. Charlie Jane Anders shares a technique for keeping doomscrolling from interfering with writing in “A Productivity Hack That’s Been Helping Me Lately” at Happy Dancing.

I used to be way better at staying focused on pouring words into a word processor, which would puree them gently into a delicious word slurry that I would send to my publisher. (At which point the publisher takes the word slurry, mixes it with gravel and limestone to turn it into decorative bricks for your garden, or so I’m assuming.) Anyway, in recent years it’s gotten harder to tear my gaze away from the sussurating horrors gathering in the desolate crevices of the collective unconscious.

Basically, the doomscrolling has gotten harder and harder to resist. It’s bad for my concentration — and, frankly, for my mental health.

(To be clear, I support staying informed about the state of the world! But not to the point where you’re just marinating in learned helplessness. And I really believe what I wrote in that book, that creativity is a worthwhile and valid way to deal with awful times. And as I keep saying, daydreaming is the opposite of doomscrolling — and daydreams are powerful.)

So I’ve come up with a productivity hack to keep myself from staring at news sites and social media all day. I recently told a friend about this method, and she seemed to find it useful too. So here it is.

Basically, my main problem is social media and news sites, plus emails to some extent. All of this stuff lives on my browser on my computer at home, and I experimented for a few years with installing browser extensions to block certain sites during daytime hours — but they usually wanted to invade my privacy, and they weren’t super reliable.

Then I discovered a way to just make my browser inaccessible during work hours, using my Mac’s settings. (I’m running the latest version, Sonoma 14.1.1.)…

(6) MAJOR SF+F EVENTS IN EUROPE IN 2024. [Item by Dave Lally.]  Now that Chengdu Worldcon 2023 is over… The year 2024 has a number of major SF+F events, in Europe, approaching (and all dates given herein are inclusive).  And this data is primarily for those from outside the area (to help).

Mid April 2024 sees another major SF+F event (herein numbered No 2 :  Eastercon/UK  (in late March-early April) being No 1):   

Luxcon (Luxembourg National SF+F Con): —

Fri 12 (unofficial for early arrivals), Sat 13-Sun 14 April

Venue: Forum Geesseknappchen, Hollerich, (western) Central Luxembourg City, L-1430, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. 

Everyone in Luxembourg speaks English fluently (and many therein also speak many other languages).

The Grand Duchy (in the EU) has one of the highest standards of living in Europe.   Currency: Euro.

Luxcon held a very successful Eurocon –with that year’s Luxcon– in 2022.

Their website: Official Luxcon. Also double check other media re updates.

Nearest Airport : Luxembourg [ IATA :  LUX ] – fast connecting express bus from the airport to the Luxembourg City Central Rail Station. Thence and FREE (*) local buses (no 10, and no 20) from there to the Con venue.

[* Nota Bene within Luxembourg and at all times, all local public transport (standard class) — incl the Luxembourg City tram (LuxTram), local buses and local CFL (rail) trains– are Free.  Hugo Gernsback (yes him, originally from here) has a street named after him in eastern Luxembourg City.] 

 Luxembourg City Rail Station is served by: 

  1. SNCB (Belgian Rail) trains from Brussels Midi (via Arlon and usually one per hour) tho the cost from Arlon (Luxembourg border) to the Luxembourg Rail Station portion (see * above) is free. And sometimes there is a train change at Arlon. Note this train usually has NO catering thereon (so stock up on food/drink before travelling).  Brussels Midi is of course served by EUROSTAR trains from London St Pancras International Rail Station and from many other places, elsewhere in Europe;
  2. SNCF (French Rail) – TGV (High Speed) trains (with catering) from Paris Gare de L’Est (via Metz, tho there may be a change of train on that route). Paris-Gare de L’Est is right next door to Paris-Gare Du Nord (which itself is well served by EUROSTAR trains from London St Pancras -as above).  

 [No doubt local Luxembourg fen, reading this,  will be able to update/augment this data. ]

And as usual fen from anywhere overseas are very welcome at any SF+F Cons here in Europe, including Luxcon.

(More events to follow.)

(7) MEOWMEOW. The New York Times ran an obituary for “Neil Drossman, Adman Who Sold With a Smile, Is Dead at 83”. Not a genre figure; he just made a big imprint on popular culture with his memorable ads.

Neil Drossman, who brought a cheeky wit and a tireless work ethic to the award-winning print advertisements and television commercials he wrote for clients like Meow Mix cat food, Teacher’s Scotch whisky and 1-800-Flowers, died on Nov. 25 in the Bronx. He was 83….

From the late 1960s until this year, Mr. Drossman was a copywriter and an executive at several agencies, some run by the advertising guru Jerry Della Femina and some he helped run himself….

…One of the most enduring lines Mr. Drossman wrote was for Meow Mix: “Tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.” That came at the end of commercials in which cats appeared to sing (“Meow meow meow meow/Meow meow meow meow”) for their chicken and seafood…

…In 1973 and 1974, Mr. Drossman ghostwrote full-page testimonials for Teacher’s Scotch in the voices of celebrities like Groucho Marx, George Burns and Mel Brooks. The Brooks ad was written as an interview with Mr. Brooks’s character the 2,000 Year Old Man.

“Sir, when was Scotch discovered?”

“It was during the Ice Age. We had so many tons of ice, we didn’t know what to do. So we made drinks, all kinds of drinks.”….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. (Died 2018.) Our community is blessed with many amazing writers of which David Bischoff was one. So let’s talk about him.  

His first writings were in the Thrust fanzine where he did a mix of commentary and criticism. (Thrust got one Hugo nomination as a fanzine and four as semi-prozine.)  Editor Doug Fratz would later convert it into a prozine for which Bischoff along with John Shirley and Michael Bishop were regular contributors. 

David Bischoff

His first novel, The Seeker, which was co-written with Christopher Lampton was published by Laser Books forty-seven years ago. He was extremely prolific. No, I don’t mean sort of prolific, I mean extremely prolific. He wrote some seventy-five original novels which is to say not within of any of the many media franchises that he wrote within plus another thirty-five or so novels falling within those media franchises.

What franchises? Oh how about these for a start and this is not a full listing by any means — AliensAlien Versus PredatorFarscapeGremlins 2: The New BatchJonny QuestSeaQuest DSV,  Space Precinct and War Games.. And no, I never knew there were Jonny Quest novels. 

Oh, and I must single out that he wrote two Bill, the Galactic Hero novels, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Tasteless Pleasure and Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars which is either a great idea or maybe not. Not having read them I have no idea. 

And he wrote for the Trek universe, two most excellent episodes at that. He co-wrote the ”Tin Man” episode from Next Generation, a Nebula nominee, with Dennis Putman Bailey, and the “First Contact” episode from the same series written with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller. 

Almost none of his extensive fiction has been collected save that which is in Tripping the Dark Fantastic from a quarter of a century ago which collects a few novelettes and some short stories. 

Very little of his fiction is available from the usual suspects, almost none of it his original works. And Tripping the Dark Fantastic is not available. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows a new kind of “Love, American Style.”
  • Free Range found the answer to a super trivia question.

(10) NO LONGER THE ANSWER. Deadline says “Mayim Bialik Out At ‘Jeopardy!’”.

Mayim Bialik will no longer be part of the Jeopardy! hosting team.

The actor posted the news on Instagram on Friday.

The move comes as Ken Jennings has been hosting Season 40 of the syndicated show by himself.

Deadline revealed in May that The Big Bang Theory and Call Me Kat star walked away from hosting the final week of season 39 of the gameshow as a result of the strike.

Mayim Bialik’s Instagram says:

“As the holiday break begins in Hollywood, I have some Jeopardy! news. Sony has informed me that I will no longer be hosting the syndicated version of Jeopardy! I am incredibly honored to have been nominated for a primetime Emmy for hosting this year and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Jeopardy! family. For all of you who have supported me through this incredible journey and to the fans, contestants, writers, staff and crew of America’s Favorite Quiz Show, thank you.”

(11) HARI HARI SELDON SELDON. “Elon Musk to open a STEM-focused K-12 school, university in Austin” according to the New York Post.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans to launch a STEM-focused primary and secondary school in Texas before debuting a glittering university “dedicated to education at the highest levels,” according to a tax filing.

Musk, who moved from California to the Lone Star State during the pandemic, will build the schools in Austin with a $100 million donation from the billionaire’s charity called The Foundation, according to tax filings first reported by Bloomberg.

The charity’s name appears to be a nod to the science fiction series written by famed author Isaac Asimov that details the collapse of a ruling empire to make way for the birth of an alternate society — fitting considering Musk’s public criticism of the current education system….

… The Foundation’s application to open the schools was initially filed in October 2022 and approved in March, according to Bloomberg, though it’s unclear when the K-12 school will break ground…

(12) DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A GALLIFREYAN ARMY KNIFE. “Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa Shows Off the Fifteenth Doctor’s New Sonic Screwdriver”CBR.com has the story. Somebody might think this is a spoiler, so no image here. Just a link to the video: “Ncuti Gatwa’s New Sonic Screwdriver”.

… In the official video posted to YouTube on the Doctor Who channel, Gatwa talks about the design elements of the newly remodeled sonic screwdriver, which comes with its own unique bells and whistles. As Gatwa demonstrates, the sonic is much larger than most previous iterations and contains several new gadgets, including a connector allowing it to link to other devices like a “USB port,” as the actor describes it….

(13) MARTIAN DOG YEARS. “The Biggest Sci-Fi Show of the Year Challenges Its Star In One Revolutionary Way” –that’s how Inverse describes For All Mankind and its lead, actor Joel Kinnaman.

Since 2019, Kinnaman has played the show’s lead, Ed Baldwin, who begins his journey as an Apollo astronaut in 1969 in Season 1. By Season 4, it’s 2003, and Ed is pushing 80, but still living on the Mars colony Happy Valley. At 44 in real life, Kinnaman is convincingly playing nearly double his age but, as he tells Inverse, this is the moment he has been waiting for since getting cast in the first place.

“The idea of doing this is what initially really appealed to me with this character,” Kinnaman reveals. “But of course, it’s rare that you have to wait five years to do the thing that you really were looking forward to doing with a character.”

As Ed Baldwin leads Helios workers on Mars to a labor strike in the episode “Leningrad,” Inverse caught up with Kinnaman to get a sense of how he took Ed this far, and whether or not he can play the character again in Season 5.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Dave Lally, Kathy Sullivan, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 10/3/23 Midnight At The Oasis

(1) My mother’s mental state was actually back to about normal today. And putting together even this short Scroll will do wonders for mine.

(2) AFROPANTHEOLOGY. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki & Joshua Uchenna Omenga provide an “Introduction to Afropantheology” at Public Books.

African cosmologies recognize two spheres of existence—the physical and the spiritual—between which there is an inseparable link, as well as constant interactions. Each sphere of existence is connected to the other: the living to the dead, the born to the unborn, humans to the deities. “A community develops its mode of relating to its ancestors and the gods, harmonizing the interconnectedness of everything,” according to Dr. K. C. Nweke. “Each community has its spiritual exclusiveness through its relatedness to the ancestors in the underworld who oversee the ephemeral world.”1

Today, many works of African fiction reflecting African cosmology are themselves fictional reflections of these African realities of life. Yet this can make it easy to mislabel such literary fiction as mere fantasy.

The genre of fantasy (part of the broader category of speculative fiction) can simply mean imaginative fictions involving outlandish characters, magical elements, and often set in created worlds. It is often a genre of escapist literature, in which readers must suspend their belief to enjoy. As such, “fantasy” can be an ill-fitting term, when describing many literary works of similar rendering from the African continent. In response, a new term was conceived to capture this gamut of African literary works, which, though having fantasy elements, are additionally imbued with the African spiritual realities: Afropantheology….

(3) ALEX SCHOMBURG ART AUCTION ON OCTOBER 6. Susan Schomburg sends word that artwork by her grandpa, Alex Schomburg, will be auctioning through Heritage this Friday, October 6. Here is a search link to his lots: Search: Alex Schomburg.

And here is a link to his original art for “World at Bay”.

 (4) MY INDIANA BAT HOME. “Your FIRST LOOK at America’s Only Permanent BATMAN ’66 MUSEUM” at 13th Dimension. (The museum’s own website is here: Fiberglass Freaks Batman Museum.)

October will be a helluva month for Batman ’66 fans: It will feature the opening of the only permanent museum dedicated to the 1966 Batman TV show.

The Batman Museum in Logansport, Indiana — which is reminiscent of the popular Hollywood Museum exhibit from several years ago — will be operated by Fiberglass Freaks, Mark Racop’s company that builds the only officially licensed full-scale Batmobile replicas.

But the museum will be more than just about the greatest version of Batman’s ride — it will feature displays of costumes, real and replica; set reconstructions; memorabilia; a theater; props; other vehicles; a gift shop; and more.

… Fiberglass Freaks’ Batman Museum is located at 525 East Market Street, Logansport, Indiana, 46947;

Hours will be 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 1 p.m. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.

(5) ADS SUBTRACT. Cory Doctorow takes readers through “Google’s enshittification memos” at Pluralistic.

…When I think about this enshittification curve, I often think of Google, a company that had its users’ backs for years, which created a genuinely innovative search engine that worked so well it seemed like *magic, a company whose employees often had their pick of jobs, but chose the “don’t be evil” gig because that mattered to them.

People make fun of that “don’t be evil” motto, but if your key employees took the gig because they didn’t want to be evil, and then you ask them to be evil, they might just quit. Hell, they might make a stink on the way out the door, too…

Google is a company whose founders started out by publishing a scientific paper describing their search methodology, in which they said, “Oh, and by the way, ads will inevitably turn your search engine into a pile of shit, so we’re gonna stay the fuck away from them”:

http://infolab.stanford.edu/pub/papers/google.pdf

Those same founders retained a controlling interest in the company after it went IPO, explaining to investors that they were going to run the business without having their elbows jostled by shortsighted Wall Street assholes, so they could keep it from turning into a pile of shit:

https://abc.xyz/investor/founders-letters/ipo-letter/

And yet, it’s turned into a pile of shit. Google search is so bad you might as well ask Jeeves. The company’s big plan to fix it? Replace links to webpages with florid paragraphs of chatbot nonsense filled with a supremely confident lies,,,

How did the company get this bad? In part, this is the “curse of bigness.” The company can’t grow by attracting new users. When you have 90%+ of the market, there are no new customers to sign up. Hypothetically, they could grow by going into new lines of business, but Google is incapable of making a successful product in-house and also kills most of the products it buys from other, more innovative companies…

(6) CAN*CON COULD BE FOR YOU. Derek Künsken recommends:

If you are a writer in some far off place without access to other writers, editors, agents (like my early career), I really recommend you check out the virtual program of

@CanConSF

that will run 14 and 15 October. It’s got a lot for aspiring and leveling-up writers!

CanCon registration is at their website here.

(7) WORD POWER. Steve Erikson did a five part essay on “The Language of Magic and the Magic of Language” on Facebook.

…Oxford Dictionary:

mag·ic

/ˈmajik/

noun

1. the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.

“suddenly, as if by magic, the doors start to open”

Okay, let’s look at this definition. There are three key words here: ‘influencing,’ ‘mysterious’ and ‘supernatural.’ Now, I’m not going to back up still further to define ‘mysterious’ or ‘supernatural,’ and if ‘influencing’ is in any way baffling, I can’t help you.

Anthropology examines ‘magic’ in cultures with an emphasis on the ‘influencing’ aspects, specifically in terms of the material component. Why? Because that is the only component of ‘magic’ that can be explored in a pseudo-scientific sense. The rest is metaphysical. Ethnology can add a narrative element, of course, when, for example, shamans explain stuff to the ethnologist, who in turn records the details. Those explanations may be accurate or entirely made up. They can be well-established (tradition) or invented on the fly. Even shamans can have a sense of humour.

All human cultures possess some ideation of magic, of the miraculous and the unseen. I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t. Large elements of even the Western world hold to these notions in some iteration, whether blanketed under ‘religion,’ ‘faith’ or ‘spiritualism.’ Atheism rejects the whole shebang in favour of a strictly mechanistic universe, but atheism is a minority position dwelling within a larger, global culture of belief.

No, really, it is. …

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 3, 1874 Charles Middleton. He is no doubt best remembered for his role as the Emperor Ming the Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940 which is only genre production he appeared in save three chapters of a Forties Batman serial in which he played Ken Colton. (Died 1949.)
  • Born October 3, 1931 Ray Nelson. SF writer best known for his short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was the basis of John Carpenter’s They Live.  He later collaborated with Philip K. Dick on The Ganymede Takeover. In the 1940s Nelson appropriated the propeller beanie as a symbol of science fiction fandom. His fannish cartoons were recognized with the Rotsler Award in 2003. He was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 2019. (Died 2022.)
  • Born October 3, 1933 Norman Adams. The SF Encyclopaedia says genre wise that “Adams may be best known for his cover for the first edition of Larry’s Niven’s World of Ptavvs” on Ballantine Books in 1966.  I must say having looked at his ISFDB listings that their assessment is absolutely right. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 3, 1935 Madlyn Rhue. She on Trek’s “Space Seed” as Lt. Marla McGivers, Khan Noonien Singh’s (Ricardo Montalbán) love interest. Other genre appearances included being on the original Fantasy Island as Lillie Langtry in “Legends,” and Maria in the “Firefall” episode of Kolchak: The Night. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 3, 1944 Katharine Kerr, 79. Ok I’m going to confess that I’ve not read her Deverry series so please tell me how they are. Usually I do read such Celtic tinged series so I don’t know how I missed them. Her Polar City SF mystery novels (second written with Kate Daniel) sound fascinating. Only the first, Polar City Blues, is available from the usual suspects.
  • Born October 3, 1964 Clive Owen, 59. First role I saw him in was the title role of Stephen Crane in the Chancer series. Not genre, but fascinating none the less. He’s been King Arthur in film of the same name where Keira Knightley was Guinevere. He’s also was in Sin City as Dwight McCarthy, and in The Pink Panther (though weirdly uncredited) as Nigel Boswell/Agent 006. I’ll also single him out for being Commander Arun Filitt in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
  • Born October 3, 1973 Lena Headey, 50. Many of you will know her as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones, but I liked her sociopathic Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal on Dredd better.  She was also Angelika in The Brothers Grimm, a film I’m sure I’ve seen but remember nothing about. 
  • Born October 3, 1988 Alicia Vikander, 35. She was Ava, an artificial intelligence, in Ex Machina, spooky film it was. Several years later, she starred as Lara Croft in the rebooted Tomb Raider. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., she plays Gaby Teller. Finally she’s The Lady / Esel in The Green Knight, a retelling of the story of Sir Gawain.  

(9) DUBAI YANKS THE WELCOME MAT OUT FROM UNDER. The International Association of Library Associations and Institutions announced today that “Invitation to host IFLA WLIC 2024 in Dubai withdrawn”. Bruce Arthurs says, “This reminded me of some of the travails past & ongoing about SF/F cons being held in morally objectionable countries. The big difference here is that it was the host city itself that yanked the rug out, rather than the conference committee.”

IFLA has been informed of the decision to withdraw the invitation to hold the 2024 World Library and Information Congress in Dubai.

The decision was communicated to us by the Emirates Library and Information Association who led the bid to support the development of the field and wider region.

The Association has underlined its ongoing commitment to IFLA, and keenness to find other ways to bring librarians from the country and region closer to the global library field. IFLA is grateful to the Association for the work that it has done, and firmly believes that this provides a strong basis for building engagement in other ways going forwards.

Acknowledging the reservations expressed about holding the Congress in Dubai, we recognise the disappointment that many in the region and beyond will feel. IFLA remains committed to finding ways to engage with and support the librarians in MENA and the surrounding regions who were looking forward to experiencing the vibrancy of a World Library and Information Congress. Continuing our work in this area is vital if we are to be not just an international, but a truly global Federation.

As Dubai was the only viable bid, there will now not be a World Library and Information Conference in 2024.

(10) CHENGDU WORLDCON UPDATE. [By Ersatz Culture.]

  • Worldcon COVID preparations

The Health Bureau of the Pidu District of Chengdu carried out a number of checks and inspections in August and September, and these will continue in the run up to the con.

Photo of a meeting held September 25th, the first four characters on the LED display read “Science Fiction Conference”.  Source: https://weibo.com/3339983832/Nl50S16Up

Photo of what I assume is a ventilation check at the con venue.  Source: here (presumably taken from elsewhere, but I’ve not been able to track it down.)

On September 26th, local media in Sichuan province published an interview (in Chinese) with Ben Yalow.  Here is an extract via Google Translate:

Reporter: What do you think of Chengdu’s bid and preparation process?

Ben Yalow: I first heard about the Chengdu bid when I met a group of Chinese fans at the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin 2019. It’s always fun to meet a new fan base. This group of people in the Chengdu circle have worked hard to present a successful World Science Fiction Convention, and now things are going smoothly.

  • Zhejiang University SF club weekly newsletter

Both of the above stories came from the Zhejiang University SF club newsletter, edited by File 770 commenter Zimozi Natsuco.  Besides items about the Chengdu Worldcon, there are lots of items about other SF activities in China and other parts of the world, and is well worth checking out (via Google Translate or similar tools) if that interests you.  NB: the current issue namechecks the Chengdu coverage that has been published here on File 770, so this is perhaps a biased opinion…

The current issue can be found here, and a list of earlier issues here

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Rob Thornton, Susan Schomburg, Bruce D. Arthurs, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 7/22/23 A Scroll’s As Good As A File To A Blind Pixel

(1) A GREEN THUMB – AND SO IS EVERYTHING ELSE. G. W. Thomas brings us clippings from “Plant Monsters of the 1950s” at Dark Worlds Quarterly.

If you missed the 1940s…

With the Plant Monsters of the 1950s we see the last of the Pulps and the transition to digest-sized SF. We also get the biggest plant monster hit since the days of H. G. Wells. John Wyndham, a Pulp writer, now rebranded a novelist, gave us The Day of the Triffids (1951). This book proved many things besides that Wyndham was fun to read. It proved that plant monsters could be a bestseller. It proved old SF ideas could be re-modeled for new purposes. And it proved that the 1950s was going to be an exciting time for plant stories.

The first example Thomas comes up with is —

“Flowering Evil” by Margaret St. Clair (Planet Stories, Summer 1950) is an unusual tale since Planet Stories’ policy was that their tales take place off planet. St. Clair’s story has a woman back on Earth who has a fantastic menagerie of plants from other planets. One in particular looks like a giant spider, ready to pounce. This is the Venusian Rambler that finally tries to devour Aunt Amy. She takes him out with a bar of soap!

(2) FROM BARBIE TO NARNIA? “Greta Gerwig Says She’s ‘Properly Scared’ To Tackle Netflix ‘Narnia’ Films, Addresses Prospect Of Directing A ‘Bond’ Pic” at Deadline.

…While there have been whispers about Gerwig tackling Narnia for some time, the reality of it solidified in a recent profile of Gerwig and Barbie toymaker Mattel in The New Yorker. News of a Narnia project from Netflix had been awaited for some time, given the streamer’s inking of a multi-year deal for rights to the books back in 2018. The fantasy books tell the story of siblings coming of age during WWII who escape via a wardrobe to a magical realm known as Narnia, where they play a key role in fending off the advances of evil, and were previously adapted into three films from Disney and Fox, which collectively grossed over $1.58B worldwide.

Gerwig’s highly buzzy summer feature Barbie has Margot Robbie playing the iconic doll, with Ryan Gosling as her partner Ken, watching as the pair face an existential crisis when they leave the utopian Barbie Land for the real world. The Warner Bros pic has scored the best preview box office of the year to date, as we told you first, at a total of $22.3M.

(3) VAL LEWTON APPRAISED. Bill Ryan reminds readers there was an artist at work in these little-regarded horror movies: “Death is Good: The Horror Films of Val Lewton” on the Roger Ebert website.

…I first heard about Lewton through Harlan Ellison’s Watching, a collection of the short story writer’s film criticism. In one essay, he describes at length the most suspenseful and beautifully constructed sequence in “The Leopard Man” (1943). Directed by Jacques Tourneur and adapted by Ardel Wray and Edward Dein from the novel Black Alibi by the great pulp writer Cornell Woolrich, the sequence in question features a young girl in a New Mexico town making her way home at night after running an errand for her mother to buy a bag of flour. On the way home, what appears to be a leopard begins stalking her. The scene culminates with a moment of such exquisitely composed horror that Ellison wrote that in The Big Hiring Hall in the Sky that Lewton would definitely be rewarded with a “happy eternity” in an “alabaster palace.”…

…Making horror films was not Lewton’s ambition, it was simply the assignment given to him by RKO Pictures. (He would parlay his success with the job into producing movies closer to his heart, like “Youth Runs Wild” and “Mademoiselle Fifi”). In fact, this bit of his career was loosely dramatized in Vincente Minelli’s “The Bad and the Beautiful,” when we see Kirk Douglas’ producer character Jonathan Shields struggling to make a quality picture out of the pulp horror title, “Doom of the Cat Men,” given to him by the studio. This also happened to Lewton, who was given titles—not actual scripts, mind you—like “Cat People” and told to make those titles into feature films. In “The Bad and the Beautiful” we see Shields and his director (Barry Sullivan) finding art in this cheap job they’d previously not cared about (it’s worth noting that, at least in my opinion, “Doom of the Cat Men” sounds like a much better film than any of the ones Shields is actually passionate about)…. 

(4) CRANK OUT THOSE WIDGETS. The New York Times explores “How TV Writing Became a Dead-End Job”.

For the six years he worked on “The Mentalist,” beginning in 2009, Jordan Harper’s job was far more than a writing gig. He and his colleagues in the writers’ room of the weekly CBS drama were heavily involved in production. They weighed in on costumes and props, lingered on the set, provided feedback to actors and directors. The job lasted most of a year.

But by 2018, when he worked on “Hightown,” a drama for Starz, the business of television writing had changed substantially. The writers spent about 20 weeks cranking out scripts, at which point most of their contracts ended, leaving many to scramble for additional work. The job of overseeing the filming and editing fell largely to the showrunner, the writer-producer in charge of a series.

“On a show like ‘The Mentalist,’ we’d all go to set,” Mr. Harper said. “Now the other writers are cut free. Only the showrunner and possibly one other writer are kept on board.”

The separation between writing and production, increasingly common in the streaming era, is one issue at the heart of the strike begun in May by roughly 11,500 Hollywood writers. They say the new approach requires more frequent job changes, making their work less steady, and has lowered writers’ earnings. Mr. Harper estimated that his income was less than half what it was seven years ago.

While their union, the Writers Guild of America, has sought guarantees that each show will employ a minimum number of writers through the production process, the major studios have said such proposals are “incompatible with the creative nature of our industry.” The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of Hollywood studios, declined to comment further….

(5) SDCC DAY ONE. SYFY Wire has a gallery of cosplay photos from San Diego Comic-Con in “SDCC 2023: Cosplay From Day 1”. Amazing stuff!

(6) SFF SMALL ARMS. ScreenRant admires “10 Hilariously Unconventional Sci-Fi Weapons (That Were Surprisingly Effective)”.

Science fiction media prides itself on its innovative ideas, and nowhere is this more evident than in the creative weapons many favorite characters wield. From the iconic lightsabers from Star Wars to Thor: Love and Thunder’s new and improved Mjölnir hammer, there have been no shortage of unusual armaments in sci-fi history….

For example:

POV Gun, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is absolutely full of outlandish and hilarious technology, like cows that cook themselves, or the ingeniously unique Point of View gun. Appearing only in the 2005 Hitchhiker’s Guide film instead of the books, the POV gun makes whoever is shot by it see things from the perspective of the wielder.

Hilariously, the gun was originally designed in the film to make men finally understand how their wives felt about things. Throughout the movie, the gun is used as a plot device to help the leads understand each other. However, at the end, it is comically weaponized by the famously nihilistic android Marvin to incapacitate a group of Vogons by making them see his worldview.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1986 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Bob Shaw is the writer of our Beginning this Scroll. Shaw was deep within our community to the extent that he won back to back Best Fan Writer Hugos at Seacon ‘79 and Noreascon Two. And as y’all know, he attended Worldcons as often as he could.

My favorite work by him is the Orbitsville trilogy set on a Dyson sphere. I like his short fiction but most critics think it pales in comparison to his novels but given that those critics aren’t generally authors, I’d say we can ignore their comments on this matter, don’t you think? Dark Night in Toyland was his last collection and it’s quite splendid indeed. So there.

We have as our Beginning, The Ragged Astronauts, the first novel of The Land and Overland trilogy. (And yes, it too is a splendid read.)  It was published by Gollancz thirty-seven years ago. The cover illustration is by Alan Brooks. 

It would garner a British Science Fiction Award and would be nominated for a Hugo at Conspiracy ’87 as well as an Arthur C. Clarke Award. 

Should you be interested in reading it, it is a Meredith Moment at the usual suspects right now as are the two other novels in the trilogy, all at three dollars. 

And here it is…

It had become obvious to Toller Maraquine and some others watching on the ground that the airship was heading into danger, but–incredibly–its captain appeared not to notice.

‘What does the fool think he’s doing?’ Toller said, speaking aloud although there was nobody within earshot. 

He shaded his eyes from the sun to harden his perception of what was happening. The background was a familiar one to anybody who lived in those longitudes of Land–flawless indigo sea, a sky of pale blue feathered with white, and the misty vastness of the sister world, Overland, hanging motionless near the zenith, its disk crossed again and again by swathes of cloud. In spite of the foreday glare a number of stars were visible, including the nine brightest which made up the constellation of the Tree.

Against that backdrop the airship was drifting in on a light sea breeze, the commander conserving power crystals. The vessel was heading directly towards the shore, its blue-and-grey envelope foreshortened to a circle, a tiny visual echo of Overland. It was making steady isprogress, but what its captain had apparently failed to appreciate was that the onshore breeze in which he was travelling was very shallow, with a depth of not more than three hundred feet. Above it and moving in the opposite direction was a westerly wind streaming down from the Haffanger Plateau. 

Toller could trace the flow and counter flow of air with precision because the columns of vapour from the pikon reduction pans along the shore were drifting inland only a short distance before rising and being wafted back out to sea. Among those man-made bands of mist were ribbons of cloud from the roof of the plateau–therein lay the danger to the airship

Toller took from his pocket the stubby telescope he had carried since childhood and used it to scan the cloud layers. As he had half expected, he was able within seconds to pick out several blurry specks of blue and magenta suspended in the matrix of white vapour. A casual observer might have failed to notice them at all, or have dismissed the vague motes as an optical effect, but Toller’s sense of alarm grew more intense. The fact that he had been able to spot some ptertha so quickly meant that the entire cloud must be heavily seeded with them, invisibly bearing hundreds of the creatures towards the airship.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1881 — Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best-known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 91. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them on this occasion at least? Well I will. Now Jitterbug Perfumethat’s definitely genre! Cowgirls Get the Blues got made into a rather excellent film by Gus Van Sant and stars Uma Thurman, Lorraine Bracco, and Keanu Reeves. Interesting note: Still Life with Woodpecker made the long list at one point for the Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel. 
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Winner of Best Fan Artist Hugo at St. Louiscon. (He was nominated for Best Professional Artist as well but that honor went to Jack Gaughan.) He has been credited as an influence on Bakshi’s Wizards and Lord of the Rings. Currently there at least three collections of his artwork, Deadbone EroticaCheech Wizard and Cheech Wizard‘s Book of Me in print. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1941 George Clinton, 82. Founder and leader of the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, who incorporated science-fictional themes in his music throughout his career, perhaps most notably with his 1975 hit album, Mothership Connection, which was a huge influence on Afrofuturism. (Xtifr)
  • Born July 22, 1961 Rena Owen, 62. New Zealand native who appeared as Taun We in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as Nee Alavar. She also has minor roles in A.I. Artificial IntelligenceThe Crow: Wicked PrayerThe Iron Man and The Last Witch Hunter. She had a lead role in Siren, a series about merfolk that lasted for three seasons and thirty-six episodes. Set in the state of Washington, it was, no surprise, filmed in British Columbia. 
  • Born July 22, 1964 Bonnie Langford, 59. She was a computer programmer from the 20th century who was a Companion of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. She also appeared in the thirtieth anniversary special Dimensions in Time. If you’re really generous in defining genre, she was in Wombling Free as Felicity Kim Frogmorton. Other than that, Who was all she did for our end of the universe. 
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 51. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on Eureka. I miss that series. Did it win any Hugos? He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the DarkThe HungerThe X-FilesThe Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries. Oh and let’s not forget his Maytag commercials.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld is on the job.

(10) BAT-RARITIES. In “Holy Bat-Toys!”, Heritage Auctions previews offerings from The Ultimate Batman Collection Signature® Auction on August 4-5.

…And one of the modern centerpieces – Hot Toys’ one-of-a-kind 2016 1:6-scale Batcave diorama, with a Batmobile and four “strange costumes” lifted straight from the cover of Detective Comics No. 165 – replicates Adam West’s underground lair down to the Batcomputer, Anti-Crime Eye Checker and Batanalyst. And, of course, West’s Batman and Burt Ward’s Robin are standing alongside that sweet ride.

Holy prototype, indeed.

This diorama was first displayed at the Batman 100 Hot Toys exhibition in Tokyo in September 2016, coinciding with the release of the first Suicide Squad movie. Visitors to the show were overwhelmed, and with good reason: The diorama is 9 feet wide, 5 feet deep and 4 feet tall – room enough to display all the custom-made pieces, including the Batmobile that first roared into the San Diego Comic-Con four years earlier. Hot Toys planned to roll out the iconic vehicle soon thereafter, but this remains the only one….

(11) ALMOST LIKE NEON. “Saturn’s Rings Shine in Webb’s Observations of Ringed Planet” at NASA.gov.

…On June 25, 2023, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope turned to famed ringed world Saturn for its first near-infrared observations of the planet. The initial imagery from Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) is already fascinating researchers.

Saturn itself appears extremely dark at this infrared wavelength observed by the telescope, as methane gas absorbs almost all of the sunlight falling on the atmosphere. However, the icy rings stay relatively bright, leading to the unusual appearance of Saturn in the Webb image….

(12) GOING PROSPECTING. “NASA Prepares for Launch to Golden Asteroid Worth $10 Quintillion” at SYFY Wire. Reminds me a little of Poul Anderson’s economic premise for Satan’s World, though it was a very different celestial body.

… NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, named for the asteroid it intends to visit, has spent the last year at the Astrotech Space Operations facility near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. There, folks from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are working on final assembly and testing in advance of a planned October 5 launch. The spacecraft is headed for the asteroid 16 Psyche, roughly 279 kilometers (173 miles) across and orbiting inside the asteroid belt….

We’ve known that Psyche has existed for centuries, but only recently realized how valuable it might be, both in economic and scientific terms. Previous remote observations have suggested that Psyche might be the leftover core of a failed planet, from the construction phase of our solar system. Astronomers believe that because it appears to be comprised almost entirely of exposed metals like iron, nickel, and gold. If we could get our hands on such a massive piece of space, it would be worth more than the combined global economy, at an estimated $10 quintillion…. 

The spacecraft will be mounted to a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, which will push it to its destination in the asteroid belt. In addition to scoping out one of our system’s treasure hoards, the mission will also serve as a testbed for technologies which could be used for crewed missions in the future. The launch itself will be the first interplanetary mission for the Falcon Heavy, laying the groundwork for future Mars missions. It will also carry an optical deep space communications system, part of NASA’s ongoing work to build an updated space communications network.

After getting into low-Earth orbit, Psyche will blast off toward the asteroid belt using solar electric propulsion. Six years later it will rendezvous with Psyche and set up camp for a 26-month mission. But this is only a prospecting mission. Psyche is going to look, not to touch….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At Media Death Cult, Moid has been continuing his ‘on location’ videos this time with a little rambling about “The Multiverse” in the History of Science Fiction.

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

Toy Review: Batman Utility Belt

Where does he get those wonderful toys! – The Joker, Batman

Review by Ian Delaney: Batman is famous for two possessions: the high-speed, highly armored Batmobile, and the utility belt. The utility belt holds all the tools the world’s greatest detective needs.

Now, NECA has released a replica utility belt based on the 1989 Tim Burton movie starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. It comes with several gadgets seen in the movie, as well as devices you would expect Batman to carry.

The packaging is, as you expect, is all black with simple graphics and the gold and black ’Batman’ logo from the movie. The Batarang comes in a separate box with matching graphics. A black vacuformed tray holds the contents of each box.

The Batarang comes in a separate box because NECA previously made it and sold it as a single item. It is made of hard plastic and hinged in three places so that it collapses. Magnets embedded in the body hold it in the open or closed position until you change it. It’s easy to open the Batarang with a flick of the wrist after a little practice.

Inside the large box you’ll find a two-layer tray, with the grapnel gun on the top layer. The gun detail is movie-accurate from what I can see and has one moving part: a pistol grip that folds out and snaps into place. NECA has already created a grapnel gun with a spring-loaded launcher and battery-powered winch. NECA could have included their existing grapnel gun the same way they added the Batarang, but chose not to, perhaps to keep the cost down.

Removing the top tray reveals the belt itself and the smaller gadgets. The belt is a solid circle of hard plastic. The back of the belt expands with a hinged racket to change the size of the belt without affecting the appearance of the front. This lets the belt fit waists from 31.5 to 50 inches. The front buckle snaps together and is released by a center push button. Four vertical capsule pods surround the belt and break it into sections.

The rest of the tray contains the remaining gadgets for the belt. The “Torch”, “Taser”, “Scanner”, “Micro Camera”, “Rebreather”, and “Gas Pellets” all have matching yellow caps and will fit into the pods on the belt. The oddly shaped “Smoke Bombs” will not fit into the capsules or anywhere else on the belt. The last device is the communicator; mostly plain black rectangle with a painted grill and button.

The communicator has a magnet in it, as does the grapnel gun. This lets them stick to the front of the belt, which also has magnets in the front two sections. Getting the communicator, grapnel gun, and Batarang all attached and arranged on the belt at the same time is tricky, and one or more of them are likely to fall off as soon as you move. Since the Batarang comes with a display stand, it’s probably best to use these pieces as a static display rather than part of a costume.

The other major problem is that the gadgets don’t do anything other than look nice. The “Scanner” has a hinged piece, and a couple of sections of the belt pop off to reveal tiny gadgets fixed inside, but nothing does anything. Everything is a static prop, with almost no moving parts and no effects. As I mentioned before, the grapnel gun is static, the Batarang just folds up, and one device flips open. That’s it. I really wish something in the entire set used batteries, and something made a sound or lit up. At least a little flashlight or something.

To be fair, the utility belt is called a “prop replica” rather than a toy, so it’s best for static display or a reasonably screen accurate costume accessory as long as you know that you’ll be able to flip open a Batarang but not much more.

The Batman Utility Belt costs $135.00 US and is available from https://store.necaonline.com .


Iain Delaney was born in the UK but moved to Canada at an early age. The UK heritage explains his fascination with British TV SciFi, including Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO, and, of course, Dr. Who. After fumbling through high school, he fumbled through university, emerging with a degree in physics. With no desire to pursue graduate studies he discovered that a bachelor’s degree had little to no job prospects, so he took up a career in computer programming. In his off time he reads, watches TV and movies, collects toys, and makes attempts at writing. To that end he has a small number of articles published in role-playing game magazines and won two honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest. He is working on an urban fantasy YA trilogy and entertains delusions of selling it to movies or TV.

Pixel Scroll 7/1/23 Yes, There Be Pixels And Where There Be Pixels There Be Birthdays

(1) WILL FANS ENCOUNTER PICKET LINES AT LA CONVENTION? Anime Expo started today in LA under the cloud of a threatened strike by hotel workers. The union has not said when they will walk off the job: “Anime fans face hotel strike threat” in the Los Angeles Times. (An NBC Los Angeles post updated an hour ago does not show that the strike has begun.)

The largest U.S. hotel workers’ strike in recent memory and the largest anime convention in North America are both set to kick off this weekend in the same downtown Los Angeles spot — with all the attendant agitation playing out on social media.

More than 15,000 union workers are seeking higher pay and better benefits and working conditions at 62 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

They could walk off the job as early as Saturday after their contracts expire.

On Thursday, the largest hotel, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, announced it had reached a tentative deal with the union representing its more than 600 employees.

The deal is the first among many that would be needed to avert the planned strike.

Meanwhile, thousands of fans of Japanese pop culture will gather Saturday for the start of Anime Expo, a four-day convocation of people interested in manga art, cosplay and video games with exhibitions and panels at the Los Angeles Convention Center and nearby hotels. Many have spent months hoarding vacation days and cash to trek to Southern California and commune with like-minded people.

The two passionate interest groups met up virtually in recent days, and the results weren’t pretty.

On Reddit, a union organizer with hotel workers’ Unite Here Local 11 kicked off the Ask-Me-Anything discussion by asking, “Did you know hotel workers at many of the properties you might be staying at for AX, such as the JW Marriott Downtown LA, Westin Bonaventure, Downtown Los Angeles Courtyard, Residence Inn Downtown LA, the Ritz Carlton and more, might be on strike?

“This could mean pickets, protests and other actions at hotels that could impact and potentially disrupt the Anime Expo,” wrote AnimeJustice11, the unnamed organizer.

“When workers go on strike, they stop work and walk off the job. If workers go on strike, there might not be anybody taking out the trash, cooking the food or cleaning the rooms. There also may be loud 24-hour picket lines right outside the property. How do you think this would affect the quality of the Anime Expo if you are attending / planning?”

AnimeJustice11 wrapped up with a plea: “I hope most/all of you will stand in solidarity with the potential striking workers and don’t cross picket lines!” The poster also asked those planning to attend Anime Expo to “contact the management and ask if they would negotiate a new contract that meets what workers are asking for.”

Unite Here Local 11 also has reached out to Anime Expo attendees, as well as other groups, with a targeted anime-style advertisement featuring a pink-haired worker carrying a sign reading: “Anime is cool! Disrespecting workers is not!”

Reddit users had many thoughts, including anger at the union for disrupting an expensive and cherished tradition, anger at hotel owners for not giving raises, and anger at one another for attacking the union organizer. Others debated what it meant to cross the picket line…

(2) LIKE SAND THROUGH THE HOURGLASS. Warner Bros. dropped a second Dune: Part Two Official Trailer.

The saga continues as award-winning filmmaker Denis Villeneuve embarks on “Dune: Part Two,” the next chapter of Frank Herbert’s celebrated novel Dune, with an expanded all-star international ensemble cast. The film, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2021’s six-time Academy Award-winning “Dune.”

(3) GRIST FOR THE RUMOR MILL. “Denis Villeneuve Wants To End His Dune Trilogy With A Dune Messiah Adaptation” according to GameSpot.

Fans got a hearty helping of Dune: Part Two yesterday with a wild new trailer, showing everything from Feyd (Austin Butler) in action, to Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) delivering his iconic speech to the Freman. Even though there are only two parts to the Paul and House Atreides narrative, director Denis Villeneuve wants to fans to get a taste of the larger mythos at play with a third Dune film.

Deadline has reported that Villeneuve intends to cap off his Dune trilogy with a much deeper dive into Frank Herbert’s lore of the world of Dune with an adaptation of Dune Messiah. This film would be co-written by Villeneuve and screenwriter Jon Spaihts. Obviously, Warner Bros. Discovery has not yet officially announced active development for Part Three but should Part Two find success like its predecessor, a conclusion should be a no-brainer.

Dune Messiah was the second novel in the Dune Chronicles released in 1969. The book was adapted in the 2003 miniseries Children of Dune–the name of the actual third novel–which included parts of both “Messiah” and “Children.”…

(4) THE CIRCULAR FILE. Camestros Felapton fails to explain “Why did people read The Wheel of Time?” In that he probably has a lot of company.

… I’m happy to dunk on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books because I too read them, each and every one. I bought some of them as big chunky trade paperbacks as well *AND* I thought they were badly written at the time *AND* realised that the story was going nowhere somewhere around the middle. So really I could rephrase this question as “Why did I read the Wheel of Time?”…

(5) NOT THE SPITTING IMAGE.  [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Since I got some new figures, I also made a new Masters-of-the-Universe toy photo story called “Artistic License” to address the question of why Skeletor and his Evil Warriors created the least convincing He-Man doppelganger ever: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Artistic License’”.

… As for why Faker looks the way he does, the real world reason is that some Mattel designer forty years ago thought a blue and orange He-Man looked cool. As for the in universe reason, well, here is one potential answer…

… “Behold my new robot doppelganger of He-Man, Lord Skeletor. Those accursed Masters of the Universe will never know what hit them, when we plant this Faker in their midst. And now arise, my Faker.”

“I Am He-Man.”

“Is he not glorious, Lord Skeletor? I daresay he is my best invention yet.”

“Why is he blue?”

“Excuse me, boss?”

“He-Man is not a Gar. So why is he blue?”…

(6) GENRE GENESIS. A paper by Helen de Cruz titled “Cosmic Horror and the Philosophical Origins of Science Fiction” is online at Cambridge Universe Press.

We now live in a universe composed of billions of galaxies. And, for the most part, we rarely give this any thought. We go about our lives as people have done in the past. Still, you might have reflected on the vastness of the universe: perhaps when you visited a planetarium, or watched a documentary, or even looked up at the (probably light-polluted) night sky and felt a dizziness, a vertigo. That experience is cosmic horror, a sense of the sublime that makes you feel both small and insignificant and a part of a huge, interconnected whole. Once we realize the universe is enormous, and that we’re but a tiny speck in that vast world, we need to recalibrate ourselves. We need to find meaning and significance in being the tiny speck we are. As I’ll argue here, science fiction helps us to come to terms with cosmic horror, as the history of philosophy shows. As a literary form, science fiction originated in philosophical speculation about the universe and our place within it….

(7) G.O.A.T. FANTASY MOVIES. You might not be surprised by what’s at the very top of TimeOut’s list of “The 50 best fantasy movies of all time”, but I, for one, was surprised to see what made number three:

3. Onward (2020)

A pair of grieving elf brothers turn to magic to reanimate, for 24 emotional hours, the dad they never really knew. But the spell is broken halfway through, leaving them with, well, half a dad. With only the legs operational and the missing top half flopping around under layers of clothes, the three bluff their way through a quest to find a magical gem and finish the job. Set in a fantastical land populated by evolved cyclops, fauns, mages and all manner of mythical fauna who have switched from magic to mod cons, ‘Onward’ is a cometh-of-age tale that makes playful capital from our habit of turning the past into touristy kitsch. 

Magic moment: When Ian listens to a tape of the dad he never knew and you wish you’d remember to bulk-buy tissues.

(8) RR DOES NOT STAND FOR RAILROAD. Dominic Noble is “Talking to George RR Martin About HIS Favorite Book”.

GRRM joins me for this very special episode of Reginald’s Book Club to talk about Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, which is currently being adapted for TV by Robert Kirkman and Stephen Colbert. I was so nervous doing this I got the name of the book, the name of the author and the name of MY OWN PODCAST wrong, but George was so friendly and chill the whole time I think it came out pretty well.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2022 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Mike chose Ray Nayler’s The Mountain in the Sea, which came out last year as our Beginning this Scroll. It’s his only novel, published by MCD. 

He’s published considerably more short fiction, most of it in the past three years, though his first published sff story came out in 1996. And he’s written one wonderfully-titled essay, “Not Prediction, But Predication: The True Power of Science Fiction”, which ran in Asimov’s Science Fiction, the May-June 2023 issue.

Our choice was a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and for the LA Times Book Awards’ Ray Bradbury Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction…

NIGHT. DISTRICT THREE of the Ho Chi Minh Autonomous Trade Zone. 

The plastic awning of the café streamed with rain. Under its shelter, wreathed in kitchen steam and human chatter, waiters wove between tables with steaming bowls of soup, glasses of iced coffee, and bottles of beer. 

Beyond the wall of rain, electric motorbikes swept past like luminescent fish. Better not to think of fish. 

Lawrence concentrated his attention instead on the woman across the table, wiping her chopsticks with a wedge of lime. The color-swarm of the abglanz identity shield masking her face shifted and wavered.

Like something underwater … 

Lawrence dug his nails into his palm. “I’m sorry—does that thing have another setting?” 

The woman made an adjustment. The abglanz settled to a bland construct of a female face. Lawrence could make out the faint outline of her real face, drifting below the surface. 

Drifting …

“I don’t usually use this setting.” The oscillations of the abglanz flattened the woman’s inflection. “The faces are uncanny. Most people prefer the blur.” 

She brought her chopsticks to her mouth. The noodles sank into the glitchy surface of the digital mask’s lips. Inside was the shadow of another set of lips and teeth.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz would believe in it, Lupoff did not. (Died 1946.)
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 89. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1942 Genevieve Bujold, 81. We would have had a rather different look on Voyager if things had played out as the producers wished, for Bujold was their first choice to play Janeway. She quit after a day and a half of shooting, with the public reason being she was unaccustomed to the hectic pace of television filming. What the real reason was we will never know.
  • Born July 1, 1955 Robby the Robot, 68.Yes, this is this official birthday according to studio of the robot in Forbidden Planet which debuted a year later. He would later be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune MenThe Twilight ZoneLost In SpaceThe Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was also featured in a 2006 commercial for 2006 commercial for AT&T.
  • Born July 1, 1964 Charles Coleman Finlay, 59. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in 2001 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where many of his other stories were published, and which he edited for several years. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best-known work.
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 42. Author of the superb Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(11) CAN YOU HEAR THE DRUMS FERNANDO? The Guardian’s Tim Dowling writes, “The board game is back out, and I’m losing again”.

…“We can have a takeaway for supper, but you’ll have to hang around.”

“In that case,” says the youngest, “shall we play this?” He is pointing to a box containing a complicated board game to do with medieval dynasties.

“Yeah, all right,” says the oldest.

“And Dad,” says the youngest, “you’re definitely playing.”

When this box was first opened a few weeks ago, I wrote about two fears: that it may be one of the last times I watched my grown sons sit down to play a board game in our house; and that I had accidentally raised three nerds.

At the time I did not realise the board game would become a Sunday fixture, and that I would be roped into playing against my will. I still don’t know which outcome is preferable.

“I’m new to this,” I say, sitting down. “So this is a practice round.”

“It’s easier if we just play,” says the middle one. “You’ll pick it up.”

I am supplied with a character, Fernando; some territory – the Iberian peninsula; and a number of plastic knights. I am then obliged to select an abiding trait at random.

“Chaste,” I say.

“Chaste is good,” says the middle one, “but it makes it hard to marry.”

He’s not kidding. By the start of the Second Era the middle one has launched a sustained attack on the Papal States – much to the consternation of the youngest one, who reigns there – but, critically, I have still not found a spouse….

(12) THE SMART SET. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This item will be appearing in next season’s (September) SF² Concatenation news page’s science and SF interface section…

Smart clothing – that is, not ‘neat’ but, ‘clever’ clothing – is a minor SF trope.  In terms of SFnal clothing, space-suits are positively mundane, but the genre offers much more from the techno-suits of super-heroes to the stillsuits of Dune.  Now there is a new, electrically-controlled fabric that can vary its heat – infra-red – transmission that could be used to create clothing with abilities not too dissimilar to, say, those found in Iain Banks’ ‘Culture’.  US engineers and applied physicists have created this fabric they call Wearable Variable-Emittance (WeaVE).  To make the material flexible, the authors used kirigami principles, which entail cutting a 2D surface and then folding it into 3D patterns. The polymer can either emit heat or provide insulation depending on the voltage applied to it. Here, the voltage needed is really small, less than one volt, so no large batteries are required.  The material enables wearers to experience the same skin temperature at ambient temperatures from 17.1°C to 22.0°C: that’s almost a 5°C range. No doubt we will get even better smart fabrics in the future… A brief summary of this research appears in Nature and the primary research is Chen, T-H. et al (2023) A kirigami-enabled electrochromic wearable variable-emittance device for energy-efficient adaptive personal thermoregulationPNAS Nexus, vol. 2, p1-10.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From a year ago, the opening scene of The Batman.

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

Batman 2022

Review by Michaele Jordan: I don’t usually write about the big-name stuff. There’s always plenty of people out there discussing the blockbusters. You don’t need yet another opinion (even if it’s mine). But there’s been surprisingly little buzz about the 2022 version of The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, for all that it did well in the official reviews and in the theatres (85/87 on Rotten Tomatoes). Even here on File 770 its only mention is that two of its actors were nominated for Saturn awards in 2022.

So let me tell you about it. Believe me, it’s a strange bird. (Well, a strange winged creature). First and foremost it’s Matt Reeves’ baby – his adopted baby. Originally it was intended to be a Ben Affleck film. Not only was Mr. Affleck going to star in the movie, he was going to direct it, write it—together with Peter Craig, and produce it—together with Dylan Clark. But in 2017, he stepped down from the writing and directing, although he assured us he would still star in the film. Mr. Reeves was hired to replace him in production. And then, in 2019 (fairly last minute by film production standards), Mr. Affleck also quit as star, to be replaced by Robert Pattinson.

It’s difficult to resist speculating on those two years in between. We are told that as soon as he started directing, Mr. Reeves started rewriting. That actually makes sense. The words are there to communicate the vision. Change the vision, and the words will have to follow.

But those rewrites were extensive. Did they perhaps represent a change of vision completely odds with Mr. Affleck’s vision? Nobody likes being rewritten.

Or not – I am probably reveling in my own overactive and drama-hungry imagination. Mr. Affleck has repeatedly stated that he resigned due to the stresses of the disintegration of his marriage to Jennifer Garner and the nightmarish production issues Justice League was suffering. He has never complained that this was not the film he would have made.

Entertaining as the gossip may be, none of that is actually relevant here. A review deals with the finished product, and its impact on the viewer, regardless of what issues may or may not have steered its creation. So let’s talk about the finished film. For me, the biggest problem was that it didn’t feel like a Batman movie.

As a legend grows, it absorbs a great deal of material that was not merely invisible, but genuinely absent from the original. This does not actually mean that the original has been forgotten, just that it has been sublimated. The Batman legend started with a comic book.

I’ve read something of Mr. Reeves’ intent. He felt it was important to explore the psychological trauma that underlies Batman’s existence. Having taken such a realistic approach to the character, he was committed to a realistic presentation of both the re-examined character, and the world that character lives in.

He’s not wrong. Every Batman fan has wondered about those issues and argued about them with their friends. Everything that Mr. Reeves has put on the screen makes sense to us, and echoes many of our own questions. But what the fans argue about is one thing and what they expect to see on the screen is another. I believe that, whatever the clever nuances, they still expect to see some reflection of the canon.

This movie starts – very cleverly, I thought – on a rainy Halloween night, with busy streets thronged with so many costumed revelers that Batman could walk right through them entirely unnoticed. When the costumed Batman confronts his first evil-doer, the guy says, “Who are you supposed to be?”

It’s funny. It’s also a warning of things to come. Batman’s costume is practically the only survival of the original cast, since so much of that cast was defined by the exotic imagery in which it was presented. It’s not that the original characters have been deleted, but they have been rendered so realistic that they are almost unrecognizable.

There is a slinky woman lurking and snooping around the edges of the underworld, but if you didn’t happen to remember the name Selina, you probably wouldn’t identify her as the Catwoman. (Kudos to Zoë Kravitz, for her sensitive presentation of a damaged soul.) Colin Farrell plays a fat and unscrupulous saloon owner named Oz. We accept him as exactly that – until we hear that he really hates it when people call him Penguin.

We don’t really get a chance to decide if we would have recognized Bruce Wayne, since we first see him when the Batman unmasks. So instead of being uncertain, I, for one, was disappointed. I was madly in love with Bruce Wayne as a child – he was rich and beautiful and heroic. But Robert Pattinson is not beautiful. He’s rich, but the money hasn’t made him whole. He’s sallow and sunken-cheeked. He looks like he got beaten up a lot as a kid. He looks like a loser. And, of course, he is. Because he’s never recovered from the crippling emotional damage caused by his father’s violent death. If he weren’t the Batman, he wouldn’t be anything at all.

The only character that retains any semblance of the original conception is the Riddler (played wonderfully by Paul Dano). He doesn’t wear an emerald green leotard, but he does decorate his handiwork with large, bloody question marks, and send the Batman cryptic clues, fully expecting them to be solved. In fact, he’s utterly delighted (laughs and laughs!) when one clue actually goes over the Batman’s head. And because he’s a realistic Riddler, he takes being a psychopathic killer seriously, and becomes so much more evil than any mere cartoon.

I can almost hear some of you muttering to yourselves, “So what’s wrong with that? He brings in a little realism? Treats our beloved characters seriously? Doesn’t sound so awful to me. And it isn’t awful. Just the opposite, The Batman is a fine film. The performances are superb and the plotting is precise – as it has to be, to navigate this convoluted tale of a troubled vigilante pursuing a serial killer through a stew of political corruption. If Mr. Reeves had simply changed all the names, and altered the protagonist’s costume, it might well have been hailed as a neo-noir classic.

It just doesn’t happen to feel like a Batman movie