Pixel Scroll 2/20/24 The Scroll Of Theseus

(1) IN THE BEGINNING. Philip Athans asks everyone, “Don’t Be Hatin’ On Prologues (Again)” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

… Anyway, once again we’re being told that all prologues are bad, no books should ever have a prologue, and all authors who write prologues are bad, and anyway, it’s best to just skip over them if one should have the nerve to appear….

…Let’s take this monumental misconception in two parts. First, the notion that prologues are optional and no one reads them.

As both an editor and a reader I have never in my life skipped a prologue or in any way went in thinking it was not necessary to the story. Not one time, not ever. This notion is so alien to me I can’t even begin to understand the origin of it.

Richard Lee Byers, author of Called to Darkness and The Reaver (neither of which happen to have prologues) tried to help: “…the assumption is that the prologue is an info dump. Beyond that, even if it’s exciting in its own right, there’s a feeling that if Chapter 1 switches to different characters or is Ten Years Later, you’ve thrown away whatever narrative momentum you might have built up.”

There should never be an assumption that a prologue is an info dump, because prologues should never be info dumps—not ever, not under any circumstances. And yes, even if your world is really complex and you’ve spent years worldbuilding and you’re sure no one will understand your story unless you “set the scene” or teach them all about your amazing world, and all that nonsense. If this is what your prologue is doing, that’s why your book is being rejected, not because it has a prologue, but because it has a crappy prologue….

(3) HISTORY AND MORAL PHILOSOPHY. Canadian sff author D.G. Valdron writes about “Moral Compromise and the Lesson of the Hugos” on Medium.

… Well, the Hugos Scandal isn’t the battle for Civil Rights. But the sort of moral compromise and coercion that King criticized is on display here, and it’s frightening how unnecessary it was, how shallow virtue turned out to be.

How do we really act, how do we really think or behave, how virtuous are we if we are genuinely tested, if there’s a real push. How often have you bowed your head and simply gone along to get along.

And how brave will you be when there are real consequences? When taking a stand actually can get you arrested, or get you fired from your job, or get you beaten up? How principled are you, when there’s money involved, either to lose or to gain? When principles mean some form of inconvenience? When principles mean going against the crowd?

Sadly, I think that most of us won’t be. We’ll be just like the Hugo folk….

(4) THE FIRST. “’No one had done it before him’: the groundbreaking stories of Black astronauts” – the Guardian discusses the documentary film The Space Race.

…Glover describes the tension of code switching between his professional and personal lives. He is a military officer and Nasa astronaut – he will pilot the upcoming Artemis II mission that will orbit the moon – but also a Black man in America. “Is it really possible to have a double consciousness? No, but you almost have to think of it that way: there’s a bit of me that I am at home and then there’s a bit of me that I am at work, and the overlap is kind of small.”…

(5) STEVE MILLER (1950-2024). Sff author Steve Miller died this afternoon. His wife and co-author Sharon Lee told Facebook readers:

He went downstairs to take a walk at about 4:30. At about 5:30, I thought he’d been awhile and went downstairs to see what was going on.

He was on the floor, unconscious, and not breathing. I called 911, and did CPR until the ambulance and EMTs arrived. They did everything they could, but his heart just wouldn’t beat on its own.

Miller’s health had been failing; he recently wrote his own obituary, which Sharon Lee has allowed File 770 to post (see “Steven Richard Miller (July 31, 1950 – February 20, 2024)”.)

Steve and Sharon Lee declared themselves partners in life and in writing in 1978. They married in November 1980, and moved from Maryland to Skowhegan, Maine, in October 1988 after the publication of their first joint novel, Agent of Change, the first in what was to become a long series of space opera novels and stories set in their original Liaden Universe®. A book in that series, Scout’s Progress, won the 2002 Romantic Times Book Club Reviewers Choice Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Steve was an active member of fandom in earlier years, as Director of Information of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society for some time, and as vice-chair of the bid committee to hold the 1980 Worldcon in Baltimore (they lost to Boston).

The SF Encyclopedia says Steve began publishing work of genre interest with “Shalgiel” for Flux Magazine in 1976, one of his few solo works. He began collaborating with Sharon with “The Naming of Kinzel: The Foolish” (June 1984 Fantasy Book); and all his novels have been with Lee, primarily the Liaden Universe® sequence. 

Steve ran his own small press from 1995 through 2012, specializing in chapbooks containing 2-3 short stories set in the Liaden Universe® and other settings from books by him, Sharon Lee and other authors.

For awhile Steve and Sharon ran Bookcastle & Dreamsgarth, Inc., a genre bookstore with a traveling convention SF art agency component.

Steve and Sharon were honored together in 2012 with NESFA’s Skylark Award, given for contributions to SF in the spirit of E.E. “Doc” Smith.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 20, 1926 Richard Matheson. (Died 2013.) Now we come to Richard Matheson. So where shall I start?  From a genre viewpoint, we should start with the Hugo he would share at Solacon for The Incredible Shrinking Man, directed by Jack Arnold from Matheson’s screenplay based off his novel. 

What next? Well The Twilight Zone, of course. He scripted thirteen episodes of which “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” with William Shatner is certainly the best-known. I’d also single out “Little Girl Lost” for just being out really, really scary, again it’s based off a story of his. Also, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” became part of the Twilight Zone film.

Richard Matheson

Oh, sweet mother, he was prolific! I mean really, really prolific. Just cinema films alone totaled up to at least twenty-eight: television work adds another thirty-four. So no, I’m not covering these in detail, am I? 

Matheson’s famous novel I Am Legend was made into three movies – but he wondered in an interview why it kept being optioned when no one ever made a movie that actually followed the book. He hated The Last Man on Earth, so he’s credited as Logan Swanson instead. It got made twice more, as The Omega Man, and much later as I Am Legend with Will Smith.

Now where was I? (The phone rang from a medical office. Lots of those these days.) Ahhh, series work. 

The Night Stalker was his greatest success. The Night Stalker first aired in January 1972, and garnered the highest ratings of any television movie at that time. Matheson would receive an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Feature or Miniseries Teleplay. 

He scripted but a single episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., “The Atlantis Affair” and none of the other U.N.C.L.E. series. 

He did “The Enemy Within” episode of the Trek series, not one that I consider to be all that great.

Remember in the Jack Palance Birthday I mentioned Dracula, also known as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dan Curtis’ Dracula? Well guess who the scriptwriter was for it?

He’s the scriptwriter of The Martian Chronicles, the good, the bad whatever of that series. Seen it at least three times, still love the original version much more.

He was involved in Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics. The first and much shorter segment, The Theatre, was expanded and scripted by him from a Serling outline. 

Now his fiction. 

Thirty novels which with the exception of the ones of the ones I’ve already noted and The Shrinking Man and The Night Stalker novels, I recognized absolutely nothing. What I found fascinating is that half of the nearly thirty novels had become films. Nearly all with him writing the scripts for them. 

Short stories. Oh yes. And as I’ve mentioned previously, many of them were adapted by him into scripts for such series as The Twilight Zone. He’s got literally dozens of collections but not being one who’s read him deeply, I cannot recommend what ones are the best to acquire.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) HOW EDUCATIONAL! The New York Times declares, “It’s Alive! EC Comics Returns”.

EC Comics, which specialized in tales of horror, crime and suspense, and was shut down in the “moral panic” of the 1950s, is making a comeback.

Oni Press will publish two new anthology series under the EC Comics banner. The first, Epitaphs From the Abyss, coming in July, will be horror focused; Cruel Universe, the second, arrives in August and will tell science fiction stories.

Hunter Gorinson, the president and publisher of Oni Press, said the new stories will interpret the world of today, much as EC Comics explored the American psyche of the 1950s. The cover designs will feel familiar to EC Comics fans: Running down the top left is a label declaring the type of story — “Terror” or “Horror” or “Science-Fiction” — and the logo evokes the bold colors and fonts of past series like “Tales From the Crypt” and “The Vault of Horror.”

The series are a partnership between Oni and the family of William M. Gaines, the original publisher of EC Comics, who died in 1992. Gary Groth, the editor of The Comics Journal, told The New York Times in 2013 that EC Comics was “arguably the best commercial comics company in the history of the medium.”….

 (9) IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. “I Went to Hogwarts for Seven Years and Did Not Learn Math or Spelling, and Now I Can’t Get a Job” is a 2020 humor piece from The New Yorker.

Dear Headmaster McGonagall:

I am a recent Hogwarts graduate, and, although my time with you was a literal fantasy, I unfortunately did not learn a lot of basic skills, like math or spelling, at your skool.

You may say, “Why do you need arithmetic? You’re a wizard. You can do magic!” To which I reply, sure, for some wizard careers that’s great, but other wizards work in middle management and just want a normal nine-to-five gig. When I graduated, I thought that all I would need was my wand and a couple of choice incantations, but these days, without at least a little algebra, you’re not even qualified to work in Bertie Bott’s retail department…

(10) ARTIFICIAL SURE, INTELLIGENT? MAYBE. Not including any copies of the images was an easy choice: “The rat with the big balls and the enormous penis – how Frontiers published a paper with botched AI-generated images” at Science Integrity Digest.

… The authors disclose that the figures were generated by Midjourney, but the images are – ahem – anatomically and scientifically incorrect.

Figure 1 features an illustration of a rat, sitting up like a squirrel, with four enormous testicles and a giant … penis? The figure includes indecipherable labels like ‘testtomcels‘, ‘senctolic‘, ‘dissilced‘, ‘iollotte sserotgomar‘ and ‘diƨlocttal stem ells’. At least the word ‘rat‘ is correct.

One of the insets shows a ‘retat‘, with some ‘sterrn cells‘ in a Petri dish with a serving spoon. Enjoy!…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Lise Andreasen, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John A Arkansawyer, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Steven French for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Chengdu Worldcon Won’t Account for Sponsorships

By Rcade: At the 2021 Worldcon in Washington D.C., a sponsorship by Raytheon caused such a furious backlash that convention chair Mary Robinette Kowal apologized and announced that the con was donating an equal amount to an organization devoted to peace.

Two years later millions of dollars were spent on the Chengdu Worldcon by commercial and Chinese government sponsors, funding expenses that included event promotion, airfare and lodging for all Hugo Awards nominees and convention committee members, shuttles between the hotel and convention center, human translators at events and tourist excursions to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

These sponsorships will not be accounted for in the convention’s financial report, Chengdu Worldcon co-chair Ben Yalow revealed during a panel discussion in December at Smofcon, a conference for convention planners. “None of that appears on our financial report because we didn’t get any money out of the deal. The convention never saw that money. What the convention saw was Hugo finalists who would show up and their plane ticket was taken care of and their hotel room was taken care of. It means that our financial report is completely accurate and totally misleading.”

The panel was titled “What Can We Learn from Chengdu?” and included three members of the convention’s committee: Yalow, advisor Helen Montgomery and business meeting chair Donald Eastlake III. The other panelists were Vincent Docherty, an advisor to the upcoming 2024 Glasgow Worldcon, and Marie Vibbert, a 2023 Hugo nominee who made the trip to China. The moderator was Tammy Coxen, chair of the 2014 Detroit NASFiC convention.

In late January, John S of Ersatz Culture called attention to the Smofcon panel as part of his ongoing reporting about problems with Chengdu. The discussion drew further scrutiny after Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford revealed last week that Chengdu Hugo Awards administrator Dave McCarty manipulated the nominations and final vote, excluding some top vote getters after his team investigated nominees for anything political in their work or life that might cause concerns in the host country.

The hour-long Smofcon panel was a discussion of how future Worldcons could potentially emulate Chengdu, where Yalow said “damn near everything” was funded by sponsors.

When the first audience question began with a comment that sponsor dollars bought “splashy” presentations but communications with members before the con would’ve also been nice, Coxen interjected before any panelists could respond. “What I wanted to focus this panel on was not the tearing down but the building up,” she said. “What can we take away, what can we learn.”

There was a lot of enthusiasm on the panel for Worldcons aggressively pitching their event to sponsors, tempered with the reality that opportunities would be far smaller than they were in China.

Yalow offered this advice: “When we went to sponsors and said are you interested in sponsoring it … the way you had to structure that pitch is not what benefits can the convention can get out of it. The way the pitches were always structured is what benefit does the sponsor — or the government in the case of government sponsorship — what benefit does that person or that organization get out of it. A pitch that says ‘Well we can do all of these really cool things’ is a failed pitch.”

Chengdu sponsors “were not particularly intrusive,” Yalow said, but the con could not change a sponsored panel’s scheduled time or panelists without consulting that sponsor. The only disclosure of the commercial arrangement was in the backdrop of the panel, not in any convention publications. “From the person on the other side of the table, the person sitting in the audience, it looked exactly the same,” he said.

There was one part of Chengdu that disallowed sponsors. “One of our ‘do not break this rule ever under any circumstance’ was no sponsorship in respect to the Hugos,” Yalow said.

The WSFS Constitution, which sets the rules of Worldcon, grants members the right to examine a Worldcon’s “financial records and books of account.”

As the panel was nearing its close, the issue of financial transparency was raised for the first time by a questioner in an online chat visible to the panelists and audience but not shown on video.

The moderator Coxen read the question aloud: “One of the objections to Raytheon as a sponsor for DC 3 was not just who they were but the perceived lack of transparency around it. How do you think we could reconcile that with the effective but relatively subtle sponsorship Chengdu had?”

She responded jocularly. “Nobody knew who the sponsors were, at least from the West, so nobody asked you hard questions about them from the West!”

Yalow dodged the question. “That’s a political question that is in a sense above my pay grade,” he said.

Helen Montgomery answered, “As the chairperson of Chicon 8, coming in right after the whole Raytheon thing at DisCon, we were like, OK here’s our sponsorship policy, which we’d been working on — we had to change it after Raytheon. … I can’t quite get my head around the words, I’m sorry. I think it’s a really tricky balance. The people who come to Worldcon want Worldcon to do more and more and more. And we’ve tried really hard to do the more and more and more. But we are at a point where we can’t do more unless we get more money. So do we charge attendees more so we can do more? We’re going to get all kinds of pushback around that. Our other alternative is sponsorship, right? And like I’m saying about the position Seattle is in. Boeing is right frickin’ there but Boeing does military stuff. That balance is just so hard and I don’t have a good answer to that question.”

In her apology for accepting the Raytheon donation, DisCon III chair Kowal offered three action items for future conrunners to avoid making the same mistake: “Developing a sponsorship policy for your organization that reflects the values and concerns of our community. Creating a robust plan for doing due diligence on potential sponsors. Creating a mission and value statement against which to measure actions.”

A final question at the Smofcon panel was about the Hugo nominee Vibbert, who revealed she was offered an honorarium and turned it down because of concerns about the sponsor. An audience member asked if she would share the company’s name.

“She said that was Huawei,” Coxen responded.

Pixel Scroll 2/4/24 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll And Stumble. File Churn And Cauldron Double

(1) FUNERAL FOR CACHED WEBPAGES. Ars Technica says “Google will no longer back up the Internet: Cached webpages are dead”. That will make reporting controversial social media – where people sometimes take down posts that have attracted attention — rather harder.

Google will no longer be keeping a backup of the entire Internet. Google Search’s “cached” links have long been an alternative way to load a website that was down or had changed, but now the company is killing them off. Google “Search Liaison” Danny Sullivan confirmed the feature removal in an X post, saying the feature “was meant for helping people access pages when way back, you often couldn’t depend on a page loading. These days, things have greatly improved. So, it was decided to retire it.”

The feature has been appearing and disappearing for some people since December, and currently, we don’t see any cache links in Google Search. For now, you can still build your own cache links even without the button, just by going to “https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:” plus a website URL, or by typing “cache:” plus a URL into Google Search. For now, the cached version of Ars Technica seems to still work. All of Google’s support pages about cached sites have been taken down….

(2) GERROLD Q&A. The Roddenberry Archive has released a two-part interview with David Gerrold.

The Roddenberry Archive presents an in-depth two-part conversation with award-winning science fiction novelist and screenwriter David Gerrold. During the conversation, Mr. Gerrold tells how, as a college student he broke into the television industry by writing a script for the original Star Trek, the classic episode, “Trouble With Tribbles.”. Mr. Gerrold speaks candidly of his sometimes-tumultuous relationship with Star Trek’s creator, the late Gene Roddenberry. He delves into his personal experiences in the making of the legendary series and of his pivotal role in the development of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(3) DISCUSSING HUGO REFORM. Brad Templeton has distilled his comments about the Chengdu Worldcon Hugo problems and potential fixes into a single post: “The World Science Fiction convention/awards were attacked again. How can its unusual governance structure deal with this?” at Brad Ideas. Here are the final two sections:

Legal clarity

The organization also needs more legal clarity. The terms of the agreement between WSFS and the conventions it appoints need to be more explicit and clear. The current WSFS constitution says the WorldCon (the local convention entity) does most of what goes on at a convention, but the Hugos and Site Selection are officially the actions of WSFS, though it delegates the logistics and administration to the WorldCon. It’s a bit confusing and might not handle legal scrutiny well.

That WSFS is constitutionally the party that awards the Hugos, using the WorldCon as its agent, has many advantages for trademark law and also if WSFS wants to exercise authority over the Hugos and the people administering them. This should be made more clear.

Recommendations

  • When all is done, there should at least be the appearance that they did not get away with it, to deter future corruption and censorship.
  • The best solution is not a specific one, but a general one that allows the organization to respond quickly to problems and threats, without removing its intentional slow pace of change, and resistance to control by “SMOFs.”
  • Auditing and more transparency are a good start, with an ethos of whistleblowing.
  • Put term limits on all WSFS officials.
  • Clarify and codify the structure of WSFS and the contracts.
  • Pick one way or another to allow WSFS to respond immediately to threats. I like the idea of actions that can be reversed, but some path should be chosen.
  • Do find some way to stop Hugo administration from being under the influence of censorship states, including China.

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

La Zi speaks again

Filers will recall that on January 24th, Mike ran an article by me that included an item about a bizarre Weibo post from Worldcon Vice-Chair and SFW editor La Zi.  I did notice that that Weibo post disappeared not long after it was featured here, but I’d not checked on his account since then, thinking that he might understandably be taking a step back from social media, especially given all the ongoing Hugo stats report controversy.

Reader, I was sorely mistaken.

Amongst some fairly mundane reposts, a couple of his recent posts stood out to me.  The most pertinent to File 770 is this short one from Wednesday January 31st, which is straightforward enough that I could just about understand it all, even with my meagre Chinese language skills.  That text reads:

中国科幻迷应该永远记得本·亚洛这个名字。他是真正的好人,也是真正的国际主义者。

which Google Translate renders as follows (surname error corrected):

Chinese science fiction fans should always remember the name Ben Yalow. He is a truly good man and a true internationalist. 

Here’s a screenshot of the Weibo post – including a similar translation from Alibaba Cloud – just in case it also disappears.

Note to readers: the censuring of Ben Yalow (and Chen Shi, and Dave McCarty) occurred on the previous day, the 30th – although obviously time zone differences make things a bit more complicated with regard to recording what happened when.

The second post that I would like to bring to your attention is a couple of days older, published on Monday the 29th.  The Chinese text reads:

应该要求美国尊重得克萨斯(孤星)共和国人民的民主诉求,承认其独立共和国身份。可以考虑签订《与得克萨斯(孤星)共和国关系法》,并提供防卫目的的武器贸易和军事援助,目的是保护得克萨斯不会因为强大北方邻国的觊觎而被掠夺珍贵的油气资源,任何企图以非和平方式来决定得克萨斯共和国前途之举——包括使用经济抵制及禁运手段在内,将被视为对东太平洋地区和平及安定的威胁,联合国应该介入。

Google Translate renders this as follows (text left unaltered):

The United States should be required to respect the democratic aspirations of the people of the Republic of Texas (Lone Star) and recognize its identity as an independent republic. Consider signing the “Relationships with the Republic of Texas (Lone Star) Act” and provide arms trade and military assistance for defense purposes. The purpose is to protect Texas from being plundered of precious oil and gas resources due to the covetousness of its powerful northern neighbors. Any attempt to use Non-peaceful measures to determine the future of the Republic of Texas, including the use of economic boycotts and embargoes, will be considered a threat to peace and stability in the Eastern Pacific region, and the United Nations should intervene.

Here’s another screenshot for posterity.

Whilst many may presume that this second post indirectly refers to some other place, please note that on January 30th, Newsweek reported that Chinese social media was full of stories about the US being in a state of civil war.  A couple of extracts:

As the battle of wills over immigration continues between the White House and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a parallel debate is happening in China, where trending social media posts are backing the Lone Star State’s right to secede from the United States.

On China’s X-like microblogging site Weibo, accounts with more than a million followers were spreading misinformation this week claiming Texas had entered a “state of war” with the federal government. In the comment sections, Chinese netizens met the news with excitement and glee…

“If the U.S. really pushes Texas back, then it will be great fun,” the user said. “I hope both sides will not be cowardly and that they will fight to the end!”

In a follow-up post on Tuesday, the user said he was inspired to “definitely contribute money and effort” to support the cause against America’s “imperialist oppression” in Texas and elsewhere in the world.

There’s further discussion of this on Reddit’s /r/China, which is where I’d previously heard about this meme.

Note to readers: per Fancyclopedia:

Ben [Yalow] shocked most of fandom when he moved to Texas in 2021.

(5) GLOBETROTTER. Australian fan Robin Johnson has been writing posts for The Little Aviation Museum “Reading Room”. Here’s an example published in 2022: “1997 – A Year of Sightseeing and Science Fiction”.

I have been reminded by a Facebook post by astronomical artist Don Davis of the Hale-Bopp comet of 1997, a year that was a red-letter one for me. As a pensioner of BOAC (now British Airways) I was able to fly on a stand-by basis on their flights (and some other airlines). Flights from Australia to England were operating with one stop using the latest Boeing 747-400s.

I visited my father in England in January for his birthday, and on the way home to Tasmania attended two regional science fiction conventions in the U.S.A. and one in Perth – Arisia in Boston, Chattacon in Chattanooga, and Swancon in Perth.

In late March I set off to England again, attending a Con in Wellington, New Zealand en route, visited friends in the Los Angeles area, and took advantage of the fact that BOAC had recently taken over British Caledonian Airways to fly to London from Dallas-Ft Worth by DC-10.

Comet Hale-Bopp had not yet been easily visible in the Southern hemisphere when I left home, but was spectacular in the Northern Hemisphere. Sitting aboard the flight next to a flight crew member, we talked about the comet – and soon I was invited onto the flight deck. The DC-10 has spectacularly large windows, and standing behind the Captain as we overflew Greenland, on a moonless night: the view was unique. The comet had just passed its closest point to Earth, and the tail was prominently on view to the naked eye, and there could not have been a better viewpoint….

(6) CHRISTOPHER PRIEST OBITUARIES.

John Clute’s “Christopher Priest obituary” ran in the Guardian today.

The novelist Christopher Priest, who has died aged 80 after suffering from cancer, became eminent more than once over the nearly 60 years of his active working life. But while he relished success, he displayed a wry reserve about the ambiguities attending these moments in the limelight.

In 1983 he was included in the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, a 20-strong cohort, most of them – such as Martin Amis, William Boyd, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Graham Swift and AN Wilson – significantly younger than Priest, whose career had begun almost two decades earlier, and who had at least 15 books and 50 stories in print by the early 80s. He clearly felt that it was not so much the quality of his work that delayed his “promotion” to the literary establishment, but his reluctance to deny, when asked, that he wrote science fiction.

His large body of work never fitted easily into any mould. Only in recent years has it become widely understood that the sometimes baffling ingenuity and thrust of his fiction has been of a piece, no more detachable into convenient genres than, say, Amis’s or Ishiguro’s tales of the fantastic….

Paul Kincaid’s reminiscences about “Chris” appear at Through the dark labyrinth.

The 1976 Eastercon was held in the rather grim surroundings of Owen’s Park student accommodation, Manchester. It was my third convention and I still wasn’t used to the fact that mere mortals could mix freely with actual authors. So I was very nervous approaching a small group in the bar. My target was a tall, thin guy wearing blue denim jacket and jeans and smoking with a long cigarette holder (later in the convention, Lee Montgomerie would win the fancy dress for the best costume as an author; she was wearing almost exactly the same outfit). This was Christopher Priest and I had just bought the paperback of his latest novel, The Space Machine. I asked for an autograph. He pointed to someone at the other side of the bar. “See that guy? Andrew Stephenson. He did the illustrations. Why don’t you get him to sign it?” To this day, that paperback is one of the few Chris Priest novels I own that isn’t signed by the author.

Later that day I was standing at the back of a programme item. Chris was on the panel, smoking with that long holder, and I began to notice the wild figure of 8 shape that the glowing end of the cigarette was making, and I realised his hand was shaking. He was more nervous than I had been.

Years go by. A BSFA meeting in London at a pub near Hatton Garden. I’m propping up the bar with Chris. I mention that I’ve just reviewed his latest novel, The Glamour, and I thought it was really good except that the ending didn’t quite work. Two days later I receive a thick envelope in the post. It was the typescript for a revised ending of The Glamour, the first of countless revisions of the novel that was so good but so impossible to end….

black and white photo of Christopher Priest taken in 1983 by Gamma
Christoper Priest outside Forbidden Planet in London in 1983. Photo by Gamma.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1940 The Adventures of Superman on radio

Black and white photo of Superman radio show cast members Jackson Beck (announcer), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane) and Bud Collyer (Superman)
Superman radio show cast members Jackson Beck (announcer), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane) and Bud Collyer (Superman)

The Adventures of Superman is a long-running radio serial. Initially, the show, which aired  from 1940 through to 1951, was  syndicated through the Mutual Broadcasting System’s cornerstone station, WOR in New York, subsequently taken up by the Mutual network, and finally by ABC. In the beginning there were three episodes a week of 15 minutes in length. When in 1941 they began making five episodes a week, some stations stayed with the three-a-week format. Late in the show’s run episodes ran 30 minutes.

The year after the comic strip debuted four audition radio programs were prepared to sell Superman as a syndicated radio series. It took very little time to have WOR sign the contract to do this, so it went on the air less two years after the comic strip launched.

The original pitch was that the audience was going to be predominantly juvenile so the scripts had to be lighthearted with the violence toned down. The performers were chosen with that mind, so they cast Bud Collyer in the Clark Kent / Superman role and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. She also voiced that role in animated Fleischer Superman shorts. 

The continuity of the series is significantly different than the series as Krypton is located on the far side of the sun, and on the journey to Earth,  Kal-el becomes an adult before his ship lands on Earth., so he is never adopted by the Kents but immediately begins his superhero / reporter career. 

This serial is responsible for the introduction of kryptonite to the Superman universe. Daily Planet editor Perry White and Jimmy Olsen who was a copy editor originated in the serial as well. 

As a gimmick that paralleled the Superman comic and which the audience adored, they kept the identity of Collyer as the character a secret for the first six years, until when Superman became the character in a radio campaign for racial and religious tolerance and Collyer did a Time magazine interview about that campaign.

Kellog Company was the sponsor at least initially with the product being its Pep cereal. It was sponsored Tom Corbet, Space Cadet.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side captures a photo op with visitors who aren’t from around here.
  • Pearls Before Swine finds an unexpected angle to library censorship.
  • Six Chix meanwhile shows the challenges of a bookstore customer.  

(9) EUROSTAR. The Guardian looks ahead to issues with cross-Channel train travel. “Eurostar may cap services due to post-Brexit biometric passport checks, says station owner”.

Eurostar could be forced to limit passenger numbers travelling from St Pancras each day under post-Brexit plans to bring in biometric border controls later this year, the owner of the station has warned.

HS1, the owner and operator of the line and stations between London and the Channel tunnel, has raised concerns that planning for new Entry/Exit System (EES) checks at the London rail station are “severely inadequate”, and would lead to long delays and potential capping of services and passenger numbers.

The EES requires citizens from outside the EU or Schengen area to register before entering the zone.

This will replace the stamping of passports for UK travellers, and instead require passengers to enter personal information and details about their trip, as well as submitting fingerprint and facial biometric data.

It has been mooted that the new checks will come into force in October but the implementation has been delayed several times in recent years because the infrastructure was not ready.

HS1 has now raised several concerns to MPs around St Pancras’s ability to accommodate the changes, predicting “unacceptable passenger delays”.

It said only 24 EES kiosks had been allocated by the French government, despite modelling suggesting that nearly 50 would be needed at peak times….

(10) WOULD YOU CARE FOR A BEVERAGE? Comics on Coffee has enlisted this couple to share their “Mad Love for Raspberry Coffee”.

DC & Comics On Coffee have joined forces to make your mornings more action packed with great tasting coffee! It’s time to get crazy in love with this Valentine’s Day Special Edition Coffee. A smooth, raspberry flavored coffee.  

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. George R.R. Martin shares as much as he can about the films they’re making based on the late Howard Waldrop’s stories in “Come to the Pulls” at Not A Blog.

…COOTERS was just the beginning, though.  Only the first of a series of short films — and one full-length feature, we hope — we have been making, based on some of Howard’s astonishing, and unique, stories.   He wrote so many, it was hard to know where to start, but start we did, and I am pleased to say that we have three more Waldrop movies filmed and in the can, in various stages of post production.   Some of you — the lucky ones — will get a chance to see them this year, at a film festival near you.  As with COOTERS, we’re taking them out on the festival circuit.

First one out of the chute will be MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER.   We were able to screen a rough cut for Howard just a few days before his death.  I am so so so glad we did.   And I am thrilled to be able to report that he loved it.

We can’t show it to the world yet.   But here’s a trailer, to give you all a taste.

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

Worldcon Intellectual Property Announces Censure of McCarty, Chen Shi and Yalow; McCarty Resigns; Eastlake Succeeds Standlee as Chair of B.O.D.

Worldcon Intellectual Property (W.I.P.) is the California non-profit corporation that holds the service marks of the World Science Fiction Society (www.wsfs.org) including the mark “Hugo Award”. In the midst of social media discussions about the continued viability of these marks, W.I.P. issued the following press release on January 30.


W.I.P. takes very seriously the recent complaints about the 2023 Hugo Award process and complaints about comments made by persons holding official positions in W.I.P. In connection with these concerns, W.I.P. announces the actions listed below. There may be other actions taken or to be taken that are not in this announcement. 

  • Dave McCarty has resigned as a Director of W.I.P.
  • Kevin Standlee has resigned as Chair of the W.I.P. Board of Directors (BoD).

W.I.P. has censured or reprimanded the following persons, listed in alphabetic order, for the reason given:

  • Dave McCarty – censured for his public comments that have led to harm of the goodwill and value of our marks and for actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon that he presided over.
  • Chen Shi – censured for actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon that he presided over.
  • Kevin Standlee – reprimanded for public comments that mistakenly led people to believe that we are not servicing our marks.
  • Ben Yalow – censured for actions of the Hugo Administration Committee of the Chengdu Worldcon that he presided over.

Donald Eastlake has been elected Chair of the W.I.P. BoD.


The release also asks readers to note:

Each year’s World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) is run by a separate organization which administers the Hugo Awards for that year. The Chengdu 2023 Worldcon has asked that any specific questions about the administration of the 2023 Hugo Awards be sent to [email protected]. (For media enquiries on topics related to W.I.P. other than the specifics of the 2023 Hugo Awards, you may contact [email protected].)

[Based on a press release.]

Update: 01/30/2024: The membership of the WIP Board are the members of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee. Upon Dave McCarty’s resignation, the MPC elected Bruce Farr to fill that now-empty seat (which was up for election at the 2024 WSFS Business Meeting). Bruce was currently already serving as a non-voting Treasurer of the MPC and of WIP.

The members of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee as of January 30, 2024 are: Judith Bemis (Elected until 2026); Alan Bond (Appointed by Seattle 2025 until 2027); Joni Dashoff (Elected until 2026); Linda Deneroff (Secretary, Elected until 2024); Donald E. Eastlake 3rd (Chair Elected until 2024); David Ennis (Appointed by Buffalo NASFiC 2024 until 2026); Bruce Farr (Treasurer, Appointed by Board Resolution to fill vacancy until 2024); Alissa Wales (Appointed by Glasgow 2024 until 2026); Chris Rose (Appointed by Chicon 8 until 2024); Linda Ross-Mansfield (Appointed by Pemmi-Con/2023 NASFiC until 2025); Chen Shi (Appointed by Chengdu Worldcon 2023 until 2025); Kevin Standlee (Elected until 2025); Mike Willmoth (Elected until 2026); Nicholas Whyte (Elected until 2025); and Ben Yalow (Elected until 2025).

Pixel Scroll 10/13/23 The NP-Complete Enchanter

(1) HWA 2023 OFFICER AND TRUSTEE ELECTION RESULTS. The Horror Writers Association (HWA) held its annual election in September. The offices of Vice President and Treasurer ran unopposed. 

HWA’s new Vice President is Lisa Wood, and their new Treasurer is Michael Knost.

Lisa Kröger, Brian Matthews, and Angela Yuriko Smith were re-elected as Trustees; Brian Keene is a newly-elected Trustee.

The elected officers hold their respective offices for terms of two years, beginning on October 31 at midnight. (It’s HWA – what other date would they choose than Halloween?)

(2) INTERZONE GOES ON HIATUS. Gareth Jelley, Editor & Publisher of Interzone and IZ Digital, today sent readers an announcement that Interzone will be suspending publication for a period.

Unfortunately, Interzone is going to be on a (hopefully temporary) hiatus for the next few months. I do not know when I will be able to publish Interzone #296.

I have seen some resubscriptions come in, but the vast majority of subscriptions that lapsed with IZ 294 and IZ 295 have not been renewed, yet. I am optimistic in the long-term, and I intend to get Interzone to #300 and beyond. I am optimistic about the future of IZ. But at the moment, looking at the numbers, it simply isn’t possible for me to say when the next 5 to 10 issues will be published.

Many people made huge contributions in July this year, and these contributions helped to get Interzone #295 out into the world. Thank you for that help. The enthusiasm and passion for Interzone I saw then was staggering. Thank you very much, to each and every subscriber.

Interzone #296 will come out, and it will be a brilliant issue. And I hope that Interzones #297, #298, #299, and #300 will follow at roughly two-month intervals. As soon as I have a date for IZ 296, I will let you know.

If you would like to make a one-off donation to Interzone, the IZ Digital Ko-fi is here:

– https://ko-fi.com/izd

You can renew or extend your subscription, or convert your lifetime subscription to a regular subscription) here:

– https://interzone.press

(3) BIGGEST SCANDINAVIAN BOOK FAIR TO SPACE IN 2024. [Item by Ahrvid Engholm.] The yearly Gothenburg book fair is the biggest in Scandinavia and a major one in Europe. Every year has a theme, and in 2024 the fair goes into space! Having space as theme will surely give science fiction a lot of attention. (Most books dealing with space are undoubtedly sf.) Next year’s fair run from September 26-29, 2024. The site is what is called the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre.

Secondary 2024 theme is Sapmi. That is the northernmost part of Scandinavia with roaming reindeer herders, known as Sami, who call the land Sapmi.

As if they were anticipating this the cultural section of the major newspaper Aftonbladet just published a “literary manifesto” of interest. Through Google Translate: “Now we are changing our way of monitoring the literature”.

Even if the manifesto wasn’t exactly an A-bomb, it hit culture defense lines like a heavy mortar shell. Competing papers and even TV pundits exploded in comments against the manifesto’s message about reviewing more of what people actually read. It mentions science fiction several times. The critics who are not amused peek over the trenches in fear, as the bunker complexes of the traditional highbrow authors now are threatened. One critic even threw away his arms and retreated from Aftonbadet in protest. This saber-rattling adds an extra spice to the 2024 book fair.

There’s also a natural connection between space and Sapmi. The Swedish Space Corporation has upgraded the launch pads — used for sounding rockets, so far — of the Esrange research base for satellite launches. Esrange is in northern Lapland, a part of Sapmi. It may be the first satellite launch from European soil, not counting Russia. Esrange Space Center, Swedish Space Corporation. The first Sapmi sputniks are expected next year, probably well ahead of the book fair.

There’s a lot happening around space right now! Even the cultural sphere enters orbit.

(4) RUBY SLIPPERS. AP News says the person who stole the ruby slippers changed his plea to guilty today: “Man admits stealing ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby slippers from museum in 2005, but details remain a mystery”.

A man charged in the museum heist of a pair of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in the “The Wizard of Oz” pleaded guilty Friday in a deal that could keep him out of prison due to his failing health, but only cleared up some of the mystery that dates back 18 years.

Terry Jon Martin, 76, pleaded guilty to a single count of theft of a major artwork. The shoes were stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in the late actor’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and recovered by the FBI in 2018….

…“Terry has no idea where they were and how they were recovered,” Martin’s attorney, Dane DeKrey, said afterward. “His involvement was that two-day period in 2005.”

Under the plea agreement, DeKrey and federal prosecutor Matt Greenley recommended that Martin not face any time behind bars because of his age and poor health. Martin, who appeared in court in a wheelchair with supplemental oxygen, has advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and struggles to breathe, DeKrey said. The proposed sentence would let Martin die at home, the attorney said….

(5) SANDWORM TEMPO. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Pitchfork did an interview-type article with Toto about doing the soundtrack for Lynch’s adaptation of Dune.

… With A Masterpiece in Disarray, [Max] Evry reevaluates the movie by telling its full story with the help of those who were there, including stars Kyle MacLachlan and Sean Young, and even Lynch himself. Every aspect of Dune is put under the microscope, including its surprisingly quiet and moody score courtesy of the 1980s rock band Toto, best known for their No. 1 hit “Africa.” In the following excerpt, members of Toto recount their experience working with Lynch, Brian Eno’s involvement in the soundtrack, and why they maybe should have just written a song for Footloose instead….

David Paich: I was able to play my main theme for David Lynch. They loved it and hired us on the spot. He had a Walkman, and put this set of phones on me and said, “Tell me if you can make this kind of music for my movie?” He put on two Shostakovich symphonies. He made me listen and said: “I want this music low, and I want it slow.” I thought, Well, I can handle that. This isn’t Star Wars. He’s making the anti-Star Wars movie. He wanted me to avoid anything that’s uplifting, that’s happy, that’s joyous, that’s compelling. He hates popular movies that make people come and eat popcorn and stuff. Super-nice guy, though. He wanted it low and slow….

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

Worldcon train launch, and photos of stations and travel card

The Weibo account of the Chengdu train system has posted several Worldcon-related updates.

A couple of videos and photo galleries showing the local area

In this 4-minute Bilibili video, a local from another district of Chengdu has a walk around the main road to (I think) the south of the con venue.  Amongst other things, you can see Worldcon signage on the block across the road (0’27”) and the school that was mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll (3’00”).  From around 2’40” you can get a feel for the distance between the museum and the Sheraton hotel.

Urban blogger skyxiang1991 posted a new set of photos to Weibo, showing the construction of a sculpture across the lake from the museum.  The post’s text says they have a Three-Body Problem theme; I think they refer to (vague spoilers) something that happens in The Dark Forest, the second book?

This Xiaohongshu video opens with a different view of the topiary that was in a recent Scroll; there seems to be a clock incorporated into the design.  It then moves on to various footage of the interior of the museum.

Miscellaneous videos

Ben Yalow and Carolina Gomez Lagerlof visit the Hua’ai school (video subtitled in English and Chinese)

A six-and-a-half-minute unboxing and taste-test video on Bilibili of the SF World bean paste box-set tie-in that was featured in a Scroll a week or two ago.

(7) CHANGE-UPS. Amal El-Mohtar reviews three new books by Malon Edwards, Melinda Taub and Karen Lord for the New York Times: “P.O.V.: You’re a Jane Austen Character in an Alternate Universe”.

The point-of-view meme has had a steady presence in our social media landscape over the past few years. You’ve probably scrolled past posts that read “P.O.V.: You’re [a specific character doing something wacky],” accompanied by images or videos that supposedly capture said perspective. P.O.V.: You’re a spotted lanternfly sunbathing. (Close-up of shoe tread.) P.O.V.: It’s 1996 and you’re trying to teach kids about irony when Alanis Morissette drops a new single. (Video of cartoon heads exploding.)

In fiction, of course, tinkering with point of view has a long history, as different narration styles have gone in and out of fashion. Here are some recent books where perspective is a site of experiment, subversion and play….

(8) OCTOBER COUNTRY. Meanwhile, Lisa Tuttle reviews Out There Screaming edited by Jordan Peele; A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand; Lamb by Matt Hill; and My Brother’s Keeper by Tim Powers for the Guardian: “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup”.

“I view horror as catharsis through entertainment,” says writer-director Peele (Nope, Get Out) in the foreword to this impressive American anthology. The 19 contributing Black authors offer a wide range of literary nightmares, varying in subject from the horrors of slavery and segregation to ancient evil spirits and newly minted monsters…. 

(9) GREG CRONAU DIES. Past ConFusion ConChair Greg Cronau has passed away. Michael McDowell reported on Facebook:

Greg’s mother called me this afternoon to tell me that Greg passed away last weekend in hospital near his home in Irwin, Pennsylvania. He’d been hospitalized for less than a week, but had been ill much longer. The cause of death was complications from an unchecked bone infection.

(10) TIM UNDERWOOD (1948-2023). Publisher Tim Underwood died October 11 from malignant melanoma. Underwood, then a book and art dealer, and used book dealer Chuck Miller, founded the Underwood–Miller small press in 1976. They published works by Jack Vance, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and Roger Zelazny. In several such cases, the books in question printed recently done stories that either appeared only in magazine form or only in paperback, with no previous hardcover edition. They dissolved the partnership in 1994. That same year Underwood-Miller received a World Fantasy Special Award.

Tim Underwood

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 13, 1906 Joseph Samachson. In 1955, he co-created with artist Joe Certa the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics #225. Earlier he penned a couple of Captain Future pulp novels around 1940 under a house name. (House names often blur who did what.) He also wrote scripts for Captain Video and His Video Rangers, a late Forties to mid Fifties series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born October 13, 1923 Meyer Dolinsky.  He wrote the script for Star Trek’s “Plato’s Children” plus for Mission: ImpossibleScience Fiction TheaterWorld of Giants (which I never heard of), Men into Space, Invaders, Mission: Impossible and The Outer Limits. (Died 1984.)
  • Born October 13, 1936 Robert Ingpen, 87. Australian graphic designer, illustrator, and writer. Winner of the Ditmar Award for the charmingly named Australian Gnomes. His other work in that series was The Poppykettle Papers with Michael Lawrence.
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 67. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium which I think is far better than X-Files was, but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled. The Lone Gunmen which was a good concept poorly executed managed to last thirteen episodes before poor ratings made them bite the bullet. He retired from doing anything creative after The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
  • Born October 13, 1969 Aaron Rosenberg, 54. Children’s books author and games designer according to Siri. He’s written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, Warcraft, Exalted, Stargate Atlantis, and Warhammer, as well as other franchises. He’s even written a novel set In the Eureka ‘verse, Eureka: Roads Less Traveled, under the house name of Cris Ramsay. The Eureka novels sound fascinating. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mostly Harmless prompts Lise Andreasen to question: “This shows a universal problem? Do we have to change Drake’s equation now?”
  • Bizarro uses ancient art to make a horrible modern pun.
  • Bliss shows what can happen when you least expect it.

(13) THE PROTO-PRO. At Bradbury 100, Phil Nichols looks at an early year of the author’s career: “Chronological Bradbury, 1939”.

Here’s a new episode of my Bradbury 100 podcast – and it’s another in my occasional series, “Chronological Bradbury”. Last time I covered 1938, so this time it’s onward to 1939.

1939 finds Ray Bradbury writing under a variety of names:

(14) NBA SUBSTITUTION. “LeVar Burton replaces Drew Barrymore as National Book Awards host” NPR explains why.

Actor, podcaster, and reading advocate LeVar Burton will be the host of this year’s National Book Awards ceremony.

In a statement Friday, Burton, who also hosted the ceremony in 2019, said, “It’s an honor to return as host of the biggest night for books, especially in a moment when the freedom to read is at risk.”

Drew Barrymore was originally slated to host the awards show – commonly referred to as the Academy Awards for literature. That offer was rescinded by the National Book Foundation after she announced she’d return to doing her talk show during the Writers Guild of America’s strike. She eventually reversed that position after strike supporters picketed her show, but not before losing out on the hosting job….

(15) THEY SNAPPED. “‘Goosebumps’ Is Back on TV. Here’s What to Know” says the New York Times.

“Say cheese!” a boy shouts in the first episode of “Goosebumps,” a new series on Disney+ and Hulu, jumping out of a closet as he snaps a Polaroid photo of his friend’s startled face.

The image is familiar to anyone who has read — or just seen the cover — of “Say Cheese and Die!,” one of the most beloved of R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books. The best-selling children’s horror book series, first published in 1992 and still regularly rolling out, follows the adventures of tweens and teens who find themselves in supernatural circumstances.

But now there are a few differences: Unlike in the novels, in which almost every single essential character is white, the boy is Black. The characters are in high school, not middle school. The series is set in the present, not the 1990s. (There’s a “Hamilton” reference in the pilot.)

“We want to make sure the show appeals to the widest audience possible,” said Rob Letterman, who directed the 2015 “Goosebumps” film and created the new show with Nicholas Stoller. (They previously collaborated on the film adaptation of “Captain Underpants.”) The first half of the new 10-episode series premieres, appropriately, on Friday the 13th. (New episodes will arrive every Friday through Nov. 17.)

The first season is based largely on five of the books, including “Say Cheese and Die!”Scholastic Inc….

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rob Thornton, Arnie Fenner, Kathy Sullivan, Ahrvid Engholm, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/9/23 Scrolls Are Truth At 24 Pixels A Second

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON UPDATE. The World Fantasy Convention is in Kansas City, MO from October 26-29 at the Sheraton Crown Center. They are getting very close to the event. 

The deadline for online registration and tickets for the awards banquet is October 12. People can still pay for memberships on the day, but it will be more expensive. More details on their website.

They have also posted the Tentative Schedule (subject to change).

(2) WIKI HELP WANTED. Scott Edelman quite reasonably thinks the Wikipedia page for prolific sff creator Robert Reed (author) should have a photo of Reed, and not him. It once did. Can any editor fix it?

After I accepted a Hugo Award for Robert Reed at the Yokohama Worldcon, someone swiped in my photo on his wikipedia page. It was corrected after I made a public complaint, but checking his page on his birthday today, I see — I’m back! And blurry, too! Could one of your readers who has editing privileges toss in an actual picture of Bob?

And would you know — today is Robert Reed’s birthday. See the listing below.

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

Ben Yalow arrives in China

The Worldcon co-chair’s arrival in China received coverage from Red Star News.  Via Google Translate (with minor manual edits):

At 14:37 noon, Ben Yalow’s plane flew from Hong Kong, China to Chengdu Tianfu International Airport. He specially wore a panda badge from this World Science Fiction Convention on his front. He also received a special gift just after getting off the plane — the mascot “Kemeng” of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention. Ben Yalow couldn’t put it down: “It’s so cute, I love it!”

This is Ben Yalow’s third visit to Chengdu. He said: “When I came to Chengdu before, the plane landed at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, and this time it landed at Tianfu International Airport. The airport is bigger and the facilities are more beautiful. What has[n’t?] changed is that everyone is still so enthusiastic, and so many friends came to pick me up.”

Red Star News also posted a short video to the Bilibili video site.

Test run of the Worldcon-branded train this Friday

Further to the item yesterday, there will be a test run event of the Worldcon branded train this coming Friday (13th) morning.  Applications to be part of the event have to be in by the end of Wednesday the 11th; SF fans, traditional dress wearers and cosplayers are specifically named as being welcome to apply, so I imagine there’ll be plenty of photos taken and published.

Who’s sponsoring the Chengdu Worldcon?

Section B.10 of the recently released Business Meeting Agenda has a short “Sponsorship List” section near the bottom of page 31, listing two sponsors:

  • Chengdu Technology Innovation New City Investment and Development Co., Ltd
  • Chengdu Media Group

This seems inconsistent with reporting on the June 12th Brand Conference, which stated that there would be eight sponsors, although only one was named at that event.  Selected paragraphs via Google Translate:

On June 12, the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention global brand launch conference was held in Chengdu, and invitations were issued to brand partners around the world.

The “2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference Market Development Cooperation Plan” was released on site, and a signing ceremony of intent with the first sponsor company, China Telecom, and the first batch of eight franchise companies was held….

…During the event, Liang Xiaolan, full-time chairman of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference and vice president of the Chengdu Science Fiction Association, and Cheng Hong, deputy secretary of the party committee and deputy general manager of China Telecom Chengdu Branch, signed the first sponsoring enterprise intention contract. Sun, vice chairman of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference Yue signed intention cooperation agreements with representatives of the first eight franchise companies….

…According to the relevant person in charge of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, the World Science Fiction Convention will hold seven high-profile main activities. By fully participating in the activities, companies can fully display their brands at the main venue of the conference and other online and offline official scenes, and use their products. Interact with fans around the world and bring massive exposure to corporate brands through the media communication matrix….

To the best of my knowledge, these sponsorships have never been acknowledged in any of the media released on the Chengdu Worldcon’s various channels (website, social media accounts, etc), in either English or Chinese.  I’m unaware of any of the other sponsors being named since that original announcement in June.  On the positive side, I don’t recall seeing any sponsor logos being displayed on any of the photos I’ve seen of the convention venue or surrounding area, or in any of the magazines that have run features on the con, so maybe some of the things mentioned in that news report never came to pass?

(I’ve attached what I think are the 5 most pertinent images from the linked sina.cn news story.) 

More Xiaohongshu photo posts

A gallery of several photos ; A transit stop ; A bus stop (second photo)

There have been a handful of posts with photos of signage, transit stops, billboards, etc related to the Worldcon.  Part of the text of of the first of the above links says (via Google Translate):

More than 800 sets of science fiction conference road flags are hung on 15 main and secondary roads in the city. With the theme of “Meeting the Future in Chengdu”, 21 themed landscape sketches are set up around the science fiction museum, on the connection and support lines and at major nodes in the city, and use back streets and alleys. The courtyard walls, bus stops and other carriers integrate sci-fi elements such as Nebula and the mascot “Ke Meng” with the characteristics of Pidu City. 

(3) GRRM’S ANSWER. A bit of Chinese advertising researched by Ersatz Culture led me to check with George R.R. Martin whether planned to go to the Worldcon. GRRM replies that he’s neither going nor participating virtually. 

“I am not involved in this year’s Worldcon.  Either in person or via zoom. Have way too much to do here at home.”

(4) COLLECTING PODCAST. Heritage Auctions sponsors The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, a collecting podcast hosted by showrunners and “writer-collectors” David Mandel (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep) and Ryan Condal (House of the Dragon).

Every week, David and Ryan explore the far reaches of the thrilling world of collecting TV and movie memorabilia. They have dedicated much of the current season to covering the once-in-a-lifetime event that is the Greg Jein Collection. They provide everything from a three-part, deep-dive into the auction catalog, going literally page by page through Greg’s incredible collection to an entire episode to finding out who Greg Jein was as a human.

Here are links to episodes of the podcast:

There are also several YouTube videos:

(5) THEY’RE NOT ALL STINKERS. “Every Isaac Asimov Movie & TV Adaptation Ranked (Including Foundation)” at ScreenRant.

…Apple TV+’s Foundation has been a recent success for Asimov adaptations, as TV networks have been working to bring fantasy/sci-fi novels to the screen. The success of Game of Thrones changed the television landscape, and every network has wanted to bring sprawling book universes to life, paving the way for Foundation. The Foundation series, with Robots and Empire books included, is Asimov’s most expansive work. If it can be adapted, anything else is possible too. Attempts have been made at bringing the author’s novels and novellas into feature films, though so far few have been successful or faithful adaptations….

There are seven items on their list – this is the first one they didn’t hate.

5. The End Of Eternity (1987)

The End of Eternity is a 1987 adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s novel of the same name. The sci-fi film has elements of mystery and thriller and actually proves to be a well-made and faithful adaptation of the time travel novel. The film, which was released episodically for television, may have some pretty niche appeal for fans of the novel. For readers who love the story, the film is definitely worth a watch.

(6) FRIENDS, ROMULANS, COUNTRYMEN. The Commandant of Starfleet Academy announces “Due to Falling Enrollments, We Will No Longer Offer Courses in Romulan at Starfleet Academy” at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

… But despite living in a post-scarcity utopia, in which all of our material needs are satisfied by replicators and the infinite energy supplied by dilithium reactors, recent increases in the price of antimatter, declining domestic enrollments, and intensifying competition for intergalactic students mean that we are facing some tough economic headwinds.…

(7) ANTHONY HICKOX (1959-2023). [Item by Steve Green.] British screenwriter, actor, director Anthony Hickox died October 9, 2023, aged 64. Most of his movies were within the horror genre — Waxwork (1988), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Full EclipseWarlock: The Armageddon (both 1993) — but he also adapted the comic strip Prince Valiant for the big screen in 1997. Son of director Douglas Hickox (Theatre of Blood, 1973).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 9, 1900 Harry Bates. Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom. Editor from 1930 to 1933 of the new pulp magazines Astounding Stories of Super-Science (which later became Astounding Stories, then Analog) and Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror. His Retro Hugo finalist novelette “Farewell to the Master” was the source of the classic science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. He wrote a number of other stories under his own name and under various pseudonyms. In 1976 he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 9, 1948 Ciaran Carson. Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist who is here, genre wise at least, for his translation of the early Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which he called simply The Táin. I’m also going to single him out for penning the finest book ever written on Irish traditional music,  Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music. It’s every bit as interesting as Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram is. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 9, 1949 Jim Starlin, 74. Comics artist and illustrator. If you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ve seen the characters Thanos and Drax the Destroyer which he created. He would also work for DC and other companies over the years. Starlin and Bernie Wrightson produced Heroes for Hope, a 1985 one-shot designed to raise money for African famine relief and recovery. Genre writers such as  Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Edward Bryant would contribute to this undertaking. He’s written a number of genre novels co-written with his wife Daina Graziunas. 
  • Born October 9, 1964 Jacqueline Carey, 59. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM-centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) Locus in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”.  She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban.
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 62. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too. Oh, and I’d suggest both issues of House of Mystery Halloween Annual that he did for some appropriate Halloween reading. And let’s not forget his long run on the Sandman Mystery Theatre
  • Born October 9, 1965 Robert Reed, 68. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well such as the superb Marrow series. He won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 for his “A Billion Eves” novella. And he was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer as well.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a monstrous religious experience.
  • Thatababy shows how an ordinary phrase sounds ominous when it’s also a movie reference.

(10) READY TO BE STRANGER AGAIN. “A Georgia Town Where ‘Stranger Things’ Is Shot Yearns for Production to Return” — the New York Times pays a visit.

Liz Bowman, who was a special effects artist for “Stranger Things” before the strikes began, has since been giving tours of locations from the show in Jackson. Ga.Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Before a hole could pierce open a parallel dimension, unleashing murderous creatures like a Demogorgon into the placid existence of Hawkins, Ind., there needed to be another invasion.

Hawkins, the fictional home of “Stranger Things,” had to take over the small town in Georgia where the hit Netflix show has been set since it debuted in 2016.

The old county courthouse in the center of Jackson, Ga., was turned into the Hawkins Library. An empty storefront became Melvald’s General Store. On the other side of the town square, a marquee was added to the front of a restaurant, transforming it into Hawkins’s movie theater.

But lately, Jackson has just been Jackson. “Stranger Things” retreated, along with most of the other movies and television shows filmed in Georgia, as the writers’ strike that began in May and the actors’ strike that followed in July reached far beyond Hollywood. The writers reached a tentative deal with studios in late September, and a ratification vote is underway. But actors are still negotiating with entertainment companies, keeping most TV and film production shut down….

(11) KEEP DRINKING TIL YOU SEE NESSIE. Are you in the market for a “Scotch Ness Critter (Chilling Stone)”?

Looming far into the Scottish Highlands, the Scotch Ness Critter roams around its habitat in secrecy. Its long neck and strong nose are drawn to only the finest scents: toasted oak, dried fruits, or even a wisp of peat. No matter how shallow or deep the glass, you might be the lucky one to keep it sticking around…are you ready?

(12) THE SHADOW KNOWS…DO YOU? One of these three contestants on a 1974 episode of To Tell The Truth is the real Walter Gibson, creatof of The Shadow: “To Tell The Truth (June 6, 1974)”.

(13) FANTASTIC VOYAGERS. “The Future of Medicine: Artificial Life Forms” at SciTechDaily.

Creating artificial life is a recurring theme in both science and popular literature, where it conjures images of creeping slime creatures with malevolent intentions or super-cute designer pets. At the same time, the question arises: What role should artificial life play in our environment here on Earth, where all life forms are created by nature and have their own place and purpose?

Associate professor Chenguang Lou from the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy, University of Southern Denmark, together with Professor Hanbin Mao from Kent State University, is the parent of a special artificial hybrid molecule that could lead to the creation of artificial life forms.

They have now published a review in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science on the state of research in the field behind their creation. The field is called “hybrid peptide-DNA nanostructures,” and it is an emerging field, less than ten years old.

Potential Applications of Artificial Life

Lou’s vision is to create viral vaccines (modified and weakened versions of a virus) and artificial life forms that can be used for diagnosing and treating diseases.

“In nature, most organisms have natural enemies, but some do not. For example, some disease-causing viruses have no natural enemy. It would be a logical step to create an artificial life form that could become an enemy to them,” he says….

(14) POINT NEMO. BBC Future takes you to “The Soviet spacecraft cemetery in the Pacific”.

…The area is not routinely used for any other human activity, such as shipping or fishing – in fact, the nearest humans are often a very different kind of explorer: astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who are just 415km (258 miles) away when they pass overhead. This is known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, otherwise known as Point Nemo.

To find Point Nemo on a globe, you can simply look for the vast swathe of unbroken blue between New Zealand and southern Chile – it’s roughly halfway. For a more exact location, triangulate between an uninhabited atoll, Ducie Island – part of the Pitcairn Islands – in the north, Antarctica’s Maher Island in the south, the Chatham Islands in the west and Chile in the east. This is a place of superlatives: the most lonely, isolated and lifeless part of the ocean … even the seafloor is some 13,000ft (2.5 miles) from the surface.

But there is another link between the icy, empty waters of this desolate place and the void of space besides the ISS: it’s famous as the centre of a spacecraft cemetery – an expansive, scattered rubbish dump for obsolete items in Earth’s orbit.   

Between 1971 and 2018, global space powers, including the United States, Russia, Japan and Europe,  crashed more than 263 space objects in the uninhabited region of the ocean around Point Nemo. The list includes the Soviet-era Mir space station and six craft from the country’s Salyut programme, as well as 140 Russian resupply vehicles, six cargo transfer vehicles launched by Japan, and five from the European Space Agency (Esa). More recently, this oceanic dump is thought to have received part of a SpaceX capsule rocket. And coincidentally, its closest neighbour, the ISS, is expected to splash-land at this remote spot in just eight years.

How do spacecraft end up at Point Nemo? What twisted, broken remains are currently lurking in its inky depths? And what might future archaeologists make of it all?…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, Steve Green, Kathy Sullivan, JeffWarner, Karen Fishwick, Steven French, 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 Bill.]

60-Day Countdown To 2023 Chengdu Worldcon

The 2023 Chengdu Worldcon opens in 60 days. The committee recently released several videos about the latest progress of the convention.


2023 Chengdu Worldcon mascot awaits you to name it

The mascot of the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon is an imaginative and futuristic giant panda. This video presents the first projection of the giant panda in three-dimensional space. With a streamlined style and delicate metallic texture, the “Voyager” mecha on the giant panda pays tribute to the spaceship from the classic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The designs of the “Stellar Energy” and “Sunbeam Neurotransmitter” are derived from the venue of the Chengdu Worldcon and the sun bird totem at Jinsha ruins, respectively. The “Sliver Leaf Vascular Technology Knob” on its head, inspired by the ginkgo leaf, is the core controller of the mecha. The “Staff of Creation” held by the giant panda KORMO is inspired by the golden staff artifact and bamboo from the Sanxingdui Museum. The “Stellar Messenger” on the top of the staff is derived from the bronze bird from Sanxingdui.

It is reported that the tentative name of the giant panda is KORMO. At the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon, a series of KORMO derivatives will be launched, including toys, dolls, bags, stationery, etc. Next, the Committee will collect ideas from sci-fi fans through the official social media to decide on the final name for the mascot.


Experience the Three-Body World at the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon

The Three-Body Problem trilogy is a flagship work of Chinese science fiction literature. In 2015, the first installment of The Three-Body Problem (English version) won the Hugo Award for the Best Novel, representing the global recognition for Chinese science fiction literature. In 2018, the Three-Body Universe (Shanghai) Cultural Development Co., LTD was established, officially starting the systematic development and operation of the Three-Body IP.

With the promotion of the Three-Body Universe, the Three-Body is coming into our life in various fresh forms, such as derivative TV series, animations, variety shows, radio dramas, PC games, VR, and immersive exhibitions. The content products developed by the Three-Body Universe cover film, television, music, pan-culture, interactive entertainment, location-based entertainment, etc. The Three-Body Problem has gone from a novel to an inter-generational cultural symbol with global influence.

The 2023 Chengdu Worldcon has specially invited the Three-Body Universe, the exclusive global copyright holder of the content development and commercial derivative of the Three-Body Problem trilogy, as the “2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Special IP Partner”.

With the support of the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon, the Three-Body Universe plans to hold content-rich theme programs and present a large “Waterdrop” themed art installation at the convention site. The design of the installation blends the concepts of Waterdrop, the Dark Forest Theory, and the Museum of Earth Civilization, combining the amazing imagination and profound philosophy of the Three-Body Problem. An exciting Three-Body World is waiting to be explored by sci-fi fans.



Hear from the sci-fi “heavy hitters” on the talk show “Discover X Interview”

To visit the spiritual homes of sci-fi heavy hitters from China and abroad experience and inherit more than 80 years’ heritage of the World Science Fiction Convention culture, the talk show “Discover X Interview” has been launched on the official website and social media platforms of the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon, and the Bilibili website.

In the first episode, Chengdu Worldcon staff Tina Wong hosts a talkshow with Ben Yalow, co-chair of the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon, Dave McCarty, administrator of the Hugo Awards, and Helen Montgomery, chair of the 2022 Chicon 8, who are invited to talk about the Hugo Awards and World Science Fiction Convention from the experts’ point of view.

Next, the “Discover X Interview” will invite honorary guests of the convention, newly nominated Hugo Award finalists, renowned sci-fi film and TV directors, and sci-fi game producers. In the program, you will see “Sci-Fi Veterans” such as Tan Kai, Dong Renwei, He Xi, and Yin Guang, and new sci-fi stars chatting about science fiction. More guests will participate in the program, stay tuned.


They also posted this clip from local television:

[Based on a press release.]

2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention Global Brand Conference

The Chengdu Worldcon’s Chinese-language website today published five posts about the just-concluded “2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention Global Brand Conference” that are not yet available on its English-language counterpart. Three Chengdu Worldcon committee members from the U.S., Ben Yalow, Dave McCarty, and Helen Montgomery, were among those attending the event.

Excerpts of the five posts follow the jump, produced using computer translations from Chinese to English, and therefore imprecise.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 6/12/23 Pixels Popping Fresh, Scrolls Buttered Just Right

(1) ON THE GROUND IN CHENGDU. The Chengdu Worldcon has posted a gallery of photos on Facebook showing Ben Yalow, Helen Montgomery, Dave McCarty and other team members going “over the preparations work for the convention, covering transportation, accommodation, catering and other security work, and looked into the main site of the conference. They expressed satisfaction with the preparation work in Chengdu and expressed their eagerness to participate in this grand event and enjoy happy times right here with fans from around the world.”

Facing camera: Helen Montgomery, Ben Yalow, and Dave McCarty

(2) ONE TO BEAM DOWN. “Chamber Spock moves to ‘logical’ new home”. The Greater Birmingham (UK) Chamber of Commerce is moving this bear to Millennium Point, which is also the current venue for in-person meetings of the Birmingham SF Group.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s beloved Spock the bear has reached his final frontier.

The Star Trek-inspired sculpture – created in 2017 for public art trail The Big Sleuth – will ‘live long and prosper’ at Birmingham conference and event venue Millennium Point after being donated by the Chamber.

Spock was one of 100 bears on display at museums, parks, libraries and shopping centres across the city throughout The Big Sleuth.

The trail attracted thousands of visitors, before the bears were auctioned off to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity.

While local artists, celebrities and businesses contributed their own bear interpretations, the Chamber decided to ‘boldly go where no-one has gone before’ with a creation inspired by Star Trek character Spock, due to then president Paul Kehoe’s love of the classic science fiction TV series.

Spock’s relocation is ‘highly logical’ for both parties, with the GBCC moving to new premises later this year and Millennium Point championing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education….

(3) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Mort Castle, whose Facebook post demanding an apology for not having been included in HWA’s “Celebrating Our Elders” blog series has now passed 400 comments, and reportedly triggered abusive direct messages to various HWA volunteers, today announced “And that’s all she wrote. I have nothing more to say…”

(4) SOMEBODY IS INTO THREE-BODY. [Item by Steven French.] The Guardian went with this headline for their interview: “Rosamund Pike: ‘We’re all being conned by the wellness industry’”. But here’s the real story:

…My partner and I have been looking for Chinese stories to adapt for TV. Our first project was The Three-Body Problem, an amazing sci-fi trilogy which is one of Barack Obama’s favourite books. We partnered with Netflix and David Benioff and DB Weiss, who did Game of Thrones. In their hands, it’s very exciting. That will be coming out within a year….

(5) MAKING HIS BARK AS GOOD AS HIS BITE. Animation World Network spoke with VFX Supervisor Guy Williams and Animation Supervisor Michael Cozens about Wētā’s FX work: “Wētā FX Brings a ‘Universe’ of Visuals to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’”.

…AWN: What assets were you actually given? You always generate a lot of your own concepts and previs and stuff just because that’s how you determine what’s actually needed to get given sequences done. What did you guys get to work from?

GW: They shared everything they had, so we got a full art package, including whatever previs had been done at that point. The main assets that they wanted to turn over early were for the Arête, because we all knew that that wasn’t a model that you’d be done with over the course of a couple of months. Two or three other models had conflicting details, so we had to rectify all that over time.

Even though Groot was established, we received Groot pretty early on from Framestore. We had a bunch of variations that we had to create, because Groot’s a very dynamic character in that he’s often doing things he hasn’t done before. Because of that, we had to build it in such a way that it can change over the course of a shot. It wasn’t just a matter of modeling something, it’s modeling it so that effects can work with it.

They gave us all the digi-doubles because we knew that we were going to need good high-resolution assets for those. James Gunn has a great production designer, Beth Mickle, he typically works with. She always builds up a fantastic art department. Plus, you have Marvel’s art department. So, we were not ever suffering from lack of good artwork to start with.

AWN: How much time and hassle does it save you when you’re handed such an extensive amount of good artwork, so that you don’t have to figure it all out yourself?

GW: You’re asking an interesting question because it’s not so much about how much does the artwork save you from having to work, it’s how willing is the creative team, whether it’s the director or the producers, to stick to the art that you’re given. What’s painful as hell is to get an amazing art package and start working on it, and then have people come in three months, four months later and say, “Love what you’re doing, but we never really liked those pictures, so can we make it blue and round?” That hurts.

James definitely isn’t that guy. He knows what he wants and he’s willing to commit to it. He’s talented enough that he doesn’t need to second guess himself. What he and his art team come up with is compelling as hell, and you don’t need to throw it all away and start over because it’s going to work….

(6) QUIZ TIME. [Item by Orange Mike Lowrey.] The answer: 42!

The question: how many years ago today did a bunch of fans walk from X-Con 5 [L. Sprague and Catherine De Camp, GoHs] in Brookfield, WI, to a nearby city park, to witness the marriage of “Orange Mike” Lowrey and Cicatrice du Veritas?

She wore a cream satin dress [with hennin] she’d kitbashed herself; he wore a rust-colored tux; the bridesmaids and groomsmen wore matching tuxes courtesy of a lucky draw at a bridal fair. The ceremony was performed by the very fannish Rev. Ted Wagner, ULC Bishop of Madison and allegedly an ex-roommate of Harlan Ellison.

(7) NICK WOOD OBIT. Zambian-born sff author Nick Wood died this month. The cause of death was not given. He was an actor, There’s a great deal of information about his life in the interview he gave Geoff Ryman for Strange Horizons in 2017.

Nick is a clinical psychologist who came to England with his wife and daughters toward the end of 1995, to do a PhD in the cognitive development of deaf children. He had been doing work in townships and deafness was the most common form of disability among children.

He was raised in South Africa. During the 1980’s he worked extensively in South African “black townships” during the transition to democracy “with the liberation struggle from apartheid, and was also on the move at times to avoid Military Police who had turned up at my parents’ home, keen to see me deployed in another no doubt more destructive role in the townships.”

Wood and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki organized DisCon III’s program stream devoted to speculative fiction by Africans.

Wood’s first novel Azanian Bridges was a 2017 finalist for the BSFA Award, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and Sidewise Award. His second novel, Water Must Fall, was a BSFA Award finalist in 2021.

Wood’s last medical update on his blog in 2022 said “I have been disabled (and am now partly deaf) from the ongoing march of right sided Meniere’s Disease.”

(8) ED ZDROJEWSKI (1954-2023). Midwest sf fan and journalist Ed Zdrojewski (“Ed Zed”) died May 4 Leah Zeldes announced on Facebook. She says:

He was most active in fandom during the 1970s and ’80s and became pretty gafiated after he moved to Champaign-Urbana and married. I knew him best when he lived in Michigan, first going to school at MSU and then working as a reporter for the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium, during which time he did a fanzine called the Benton Harbor Rat-Weasel. He was in MiSHAP, too.

He formerly edited the Grain Journal and there’s a professional obituary on Grainnet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1974[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

I think I’ve read more fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin than any other writer. As you know she won a number of Hugos including for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition which is a stellar work that features illustrations by Charles Vess. 

Our Beginning is from Orsinian Tales published forty-nine years ago by Harper & Row with the cover illustration by Muriel Nasser. 

There are eleven stories here, six original to this collection, most of them set in the imaginary country of Orsinia.  The first story is “The Fountains” and here’s the Beginning of it…

THE FOUNTAINS

THEY KNEW, having given him cause, that Dr Kereth might attempt to seek political asylum in Paris. Therefore, on the plane flying Edwest, in the hotel, on the streets, at the meetings, even while he read his paper to the Cytology section, he was distantly accompanied at all times by obscure figures who might be explained as graduate students or Croatian microbiologists, but who had no names, or faces. Since his presence lent not only distinction to his country’s delegation but also a certain luster to his government—See, we let even him come—they had wanted him there; but they kept him in sight. He was used to being in sight. In his small country a man could get out of sight only by not moving at all, by keeping voice, body, brain all quiet. He had always been a restless, visible man. Thus when all at once on the sixth day in the middle of a guided tour in broad daylight he found himself gone, he was confused for a time. Only by walking down a path could one achieve one’s absence?

It was in a very strange place that he did so. A great, desolate, terrible house stood behind him yellow in the yellow sunlight of afternoon. Thousands of many-colored dwarfs milled on terraces, beyond which a pale blue canal ran straight away into the unreal distance of September. The lawns ended in groves of chestnut trees a hundred feet high, noble, somber, shot through with gold. Under the trees they had walked in shadow on the riding-paths of dead kings, but the guide led them out again to sunlight on lawns and marble pavements. And ahead, straight ahead, towering and shining up into the air, fountains ran.

They sprang and sang high above their marble basins in the light. The petty, pretty rooms of the palace as big as a city where no one lived, the indifference of the noble trees that were the only fit inhabitants of a garden too large for men, the dominance of autumn and the past, all this was brought into proportion by the running of water. The phonograph voices of the guides fell silent, the camera eyes of the guided saw. The fountains leapt up, crashed down exulting, and washed death away.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 12, 1940 Mary Turzillo83. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Her first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects. There’s an Analog interview with her here.
  • Born June 12, 1953 Tess Gerritsen, 70. ISFDB lists her as genre so I’ll include her even though I’m ambivalent on her being so.  They’ve got one novel from the Jane Rizzoli series, The Mephisto Club, and three stand-alone novels (GravityPlaying with Fire and The Bone Garden). All save Gravity could be considered conventional thrillers devoid of genre elements.
  • Born June 12, 1954 Melanie Rawn, 69. Author of the Dragon Prince series – Dragon PrinceDragon Prince: Star Scroll and Sunrunner’s Fire, and the sequel, the Dragonstar series, Dragonstar: Stronghold, The Dragon Token and Skybowl.  She was planning an Exlies series but only wrote one novel in it. 
  • Born June 12, 1955 Stephen Pagel, 68. Editor with Nicola Griffith of the genre anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science FictionBending the Landscape: Fantasy, and Bending the Landscape: Horror.
  • Born June 12, 1964 Dave Stone, 59. Writer of media tie-ins including quite a few in the Doctor Who universe which contains the Professor Bernice Summerfield stories, and Judge Dredd as well. He has only the Pandora Delbane series ongoing, plus the Golgotha Run novel, and a handful of short fiction.
  • Born June 12, 1970 Claudia Gray, 53. She’s best known for her Evernight series, but has several more series as well, including the Spellcaster series and the Constellation Trilogy. In addition, she’s written a number of Star Wars novels — Star Wars: Lost StarsStar Wars: Bloodline, Leia, Princess of Alderaan and Star Wars: Master and Aprentice.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio has invented his own kind of time tunnel.

(12) MIDDLE-EARTH CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH. “Tolkien Nearly Had Tom Bombadil Fight the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings” according to CBR.com, working from material in Christopher Tolkien’s 12-volume series containing his father’s drafts.

Another character that’s difficult to rate is Tom Bombadil. He fought off the Barrow-wights with his singing, and he put Old Man Willow in his place. Gandalf even suggested that the One Ring wouldn’t have an effect on him. But it’s hard to know how powerful Bombadil really was because no one knows exactly what he was — he never fought someone of note. Ironically, that wasn’t always the case because The Lord of the Rings author, J. R. R. Tolkien, almost had Tom Bombadil take on the Nazgul….

… A fight between Tom Bombadil and the Nazgul would never really happen because Bombadil didn’t pay any mind to worldly events. Gandalf actually said that if Bombadil was given the One Ring, he might misplace and forget about it. But hypothetically speaking, a fight between him and the Nazgûl would probably be petty complicated. For starters, the Nazgûl live in the spirit world and can’t see very well in the mortal realm. Depending on what Bombadil actually was, he might have been difficult for them to see, which could give him an advantage as he tried to sing the wraiths away….

(13) BOOK REVIEW$. The National Book Critics Circle has a spreadsheet of publications that pay for books coverage: “List of Publications”.

This spreadsheet, developed over the years as a resource for NBCC members and now maintained in partnership with Adam Morgan, lists 80+ publications that publish book coverage (reviews, interviews, essays, etc.), with editor contact information, pay rates, and more. 

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Higher dimensional aliens…  Isaac Arthur’s Futures had this month’s “Sci-fi Sunday” take a look at higher dimensional aliens. Rod Serling says “Hi” from the Twilight Zone

Could there be universes with more than 3 Dimensions? And if so, could life exist there?

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

Chengdu Worldcon Presentation at Smofcon 38

It’s been over a year since the Chengdu Worldcon won the 2023 site selection contest and voters have never heard from the committee. In contrast, Glasgow 2024 emailed members less than three weeks after winning at Chicon 8.

WHERE IS PR#1? Early in December at Smofcon 38, Chengdu Worldcon co-chair Ben Yalow finished his presentation by saying, “Those of you who have worked me with me through many, many decades are aware of the fact that I am of the sort of person who believes that the purpose of silver linings is to bring dark clouds with them.” That sentiment perfectly suits the leadership of a committee that embodies Zeno’s Paradox. Yalow said in September at Chicon 8 that a draft of PR#1 would be ready “within another few days” but at Smofcon, he said that members haven’t gotten PR#1 yet because Chengdu “has not completely finalized hotel arrangements,” nor will they receive it “until everything is locked in to the satisfaction of people who get very nervous.”

Whether the convention will have enough money is evidently the source of that anxiety. Yalow said at Smofcon, “People may or may not realize membership income is a trivial part of this Worldcon, unlike every other Worldcon in the past several decades, we are totally dependent on sponsorships and we are working with various corporate and governmental entities to get sponsorships locked down. Until we get the amount of those dollars and a lot of amounts locked down plans are still very very very much up in the air” and Yalow said securing these sponsorships has been “a significant source of delay.”

2025 SITE SELECTION AND 2023 HUGO VOTING. Questioned about Chengdu’s readiness to run site selection for 2025, Yalow used the committee’s failure to issue PR#1 to justify vague answers about their preparation to carry out basic functions in two major areas. Yalow said, “Until we can get PR1 out we are reluctant to put other specific schedules in. However, we recognize that there are some deadlines that are locked in from either the Constitution or the necessary administration of things. We know that the filing deadline for site selection is 180 days before the Worldcon. There is no choice on hitting that deadline.”

As for the Hugos, Yalow said: “…In order to make the Hugos work we really need to open things over the next couple of months. You do not have a hard deadline there but since, as people are aware, a number of us have been involved in Hugo Administration in the past — specifically Dave [McCarty] has done it several times, I’ve been on the subcommittee several times — we know what the Hugo schedule has to look like. So those are things that are driving. Yet on the other hand we are not going to wait for a progress report to get those kinds of questions and mailings done.”

McCarty, who was sitting next to Yalow during Chengdu’s presentation, added: “Our goal is to have online nominations open by the end of January. The tentative schedule for nomination is January for as much as we have an open February and all of March for nomination, and locked in dates for other things behind.

“Probably the web will come online before PR2 with a paper nominating ballot comes out. The paper nominating ballot will come out in sufficient time to get things in for the end of March.”

Later on, McCarty said members could expect the committee to send them an email with Hugo voting information: “Regarding Hugo voting… there should be an email blast going out to people with all the information about nominating and your information about logging into the website. That should go out slightly before the website opens up for people to nominate, so that should be sometime in mid-January. There’s likely to be an email from Chicon 8 about stuff to remind folks about the upcoming Chengdu [Worldcon] and participating as well. This happens I believe slightly even before that, so there’s a couple of different blasts that we’ll be sending out [about] nominating information to people coming up in the next six weeks or so.”

BUSINESS MEETING. The Smofcon audience, trying to digest what had been said, wondered if Chengdu was prepared to carry out another constitutional requirement, asking “Do you have any contingency plans for the situations where you cannot secure sponsorships or have your convention or do anything else like hold the business meeting?”

Yalow answered, “It takes 12 people to hold a business meeting. Holding a business meeting is not an issue. We will comply with all of the requirements in the constitution. That’s easy to do. That doesn’t require a lot of sponsorship.”


One of the tribal divisions among conrunners is between those who prioritize the convenience of the committee and those who prioritize serving the members (which is not just more work but involves sharing more information publicly and addressing criticism in a productive way). The 2023 site selection voters want to be acknowledged as part of a Worldcon community. Too bad that has not been convenient for the Chengdu Worldcon committee which has chosen to spend a year perfecting their first “progress” report instead of doing a simple act of community-building by contacting its members.

Video of the 2023 Worldcon (Chengdu) Presentation at SMOFCon 38 on December 3 is available at the link. There are also videos of the other presentations online, including the one from Glasgow 2024.