Pixel Scroll 2/10/24 No, That’s Not A Pixel, It’s A Cat Dreaming It’s A Pixel

(1) 2027 WORLDCON RACE HEATS UP. A Montréal in 2027 Worldcon bid was announced this weekend. The committee is led by Worldcon-running veteran Terry Fong, who lives there. Montréal previously hosted the 2009 Worldcon.

Terry Fong and Rebecca Downey were at Boskone today running a bid table – thanks to Lisa Hertel for this photo.

Terry Fong and Rebecca Downey at Boskone. Photo by Lisa Hertel.

According to Kevin Standlee their proposed site, the Palais des Congrès, is scheduled for a major renovation in 2028, so a bid for that year would not be practical.

The other announced bid for 2027 is WorldCon 2027 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Kaja Foglio has returned home from the hospital. Phil Foglio posted the good news.

(3) CHTORR GAME IN OUR FUTURE. David Gerrold has told Facebook readers that Dan Verssen Games has licensed the use of one of his Chtorr novels for a version of DVG’s Warfighter games series.

(4) VERSE WANTS TO BE FREE. Bobby Derie in “’A Dracula of the Hills’ (1923) by Amy Lowell” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein looks at the Lowell novel, what Lovecraft thought of Lowell, and how both were influenced by Bram Stoker’s novel.

… Time and experience somewhat mellowed Lovecraft’s attitudes towards free verse and Amy Lowell. While the 1922 publication of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” prompted Lovecraft to write his own satire in free verse, “Waste Paper.” For all that Lovecraft remained a lifelong devotee of traditional meters and rhyme schemes, continued interaction with poets that used free verse such as Hart Crane and Edith Miniter seems to have led him to a begrudging acceptance of the practice. When Amy Lowell died 12 May 1925, Lovecraft wrote:

“When I say that Miſs Lowell wrote poetry, I refer only to the essential contents—the isolated images which prove her to have seen the world transfigured with poetic glamour. I do not mean to say that the compleat results are to be judg’d as poems in any finish’d sense—but merely that there is poetical vision in the broken & rhythmical prose & disconnected pictorial presentations which she gave us. She is also, of course, the author of much genuine poetry in the most perfect metres—sonnets & the like—which most have forgotten because of the greater publicity attending her eccentric emanations.”

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 8 Aug 1925, Letters to Family and Family Friends 1.340

(5) BUT THE GROUND’S GETTING CLOSER. The Coyote may still be up in the air, however, his destiny seems certain: “’Coyote Vs. Acme’: With Pic’s Fate In Limbo At Warners, Phil Lord Observes, ‘How Funny It Would Be For This To End With A Congressional Hearing’” reports Deadline.

Warners Bros has screened their axed Coyote vs. Acme to around 12 buyers we hear with a rigid buy price of $70M+; which is how much the animated live-action hybrid movie cost.

Netflix and Paramount put forth bids, which we told you about, but they were lower than the $70M asking price (between $30M-$50M), therefore in Warner’s eyes, rivals didn’t want the feature for what it cost.

What Deadline has received clarity on is that Warner Bros took a $70M writedown on Q3 earnings, not the upcoming Q4. Nonetheless, the movie, which the Burbank, CA lot decided back in early November not to release — remains in purgatory. That said, we hear the door isn’t officially closed on Coyote vs. Acme‘s prospects yet — it’s just that the Coyote could wind up in the cave with Batgirl.

Phil Lord, whose Lego Movie made Warner Bros. over $471M in addition to spuring a feature franchise, took umbrage with the David Zaslav-run conglomerate on Twitter tonight exclaiming, “Is it anticompetitive if one of the biggest movie studios in the worlds shuns the marketplace in order to use a tax loophole to write off an entire movie so they can more easily merge with one of the bigger movie studios in the world? Cause it SEEMS anticompetitive.”

Lord is among those with Chris Miller, Michael Chaves, Daniel Scheinert and Deadline who’ve seen the movie.

Lord further added in reference to the climax of Coyote vs. Acme, “If you could see Coyote vs. Acme, you’d know how funny it would be for this to end with a congressional hearing.”…

(6) YOU AND YOU AND YOU AND THE MULTIVERSE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We at SF2 Concatenation enjoy diving into the really important questions of life, the Universe and everything, especially those on that fertile boundary between science fact and science fiction, feeling that there are more useful answers there than just a two-digit figure… And so is Becky Smethurst, who has used Rick and Morty as a starting point to explore the concept of the multiverse.

Is there really a parallel universe with an identical you in it? And which multiverse theory does Rick and Morty subscribe to? Indeed, how broad is SF’s approach to the multiverse concept?

Here, Brit Cit astrophysicist Dr. Becky would like to know of any SF story or film that employs the ‘bubble universe’ theory of the multiverse. If you have an example, put it in the comments beneath her 15-minute YouTube video. There’s a challenge for Filers. (Sadly, the end of video the good doctor displays worries that some (just some) of her science colleagues will object vehemently for her use of SF to explore science… There are trolls everywhere, even in science alas.)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 10, 1953 John Shirley, 71. Did you know that John Shirley has written n historical novel, a western about Wyatt Earp — Wyatt in Wichita? I wonder how many of our sff writers beside him and Emma Bull (whose novel Territory was decidedly not historical) have written novels on this incident and the individuals there? 

John Shirley. Photo by Sunni Brock.

I really enjoyed his first novel City Come A-Walkin which I think is a brilliant rendering of a City come to life. 

I’ll admit I’m not much at all for grim dystopian SF but I did find his A Song Called Youth trilogy of EclipseEclipse Penumbra and Eclipse Corona fascinating if in a horrifying manner.

His best known script work is The Crow film, for which he was the initial writer, before David Schow reworked the script. I’m not sure he got actually any credit at all. He also wrote scripts for Poltergeist: The Legacy.

I see that to my surprise he wrote an episode of Deep Space Nine, “Visionary” and also wrote three episodes of the ‘12 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. 

He wrote novels in the AliensDoomHaloResident EvilPredators franchise, Borderlands video gaming DC metaverse and Grimm series.

His latest novel which I’ve not read so do tell me about it is SubOrbital 7.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has an update about Peter and Wendy.
  • Tom Gauld has been busy since we last checked in.

(9) THE FUNGUS AMONG US. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Could The Last Of Us fungi be a real risk? The all-party Science Innovation & Technology Committee of the House of Commons Select Committee has held a special one-off session on fungi.

The session explored some of the risks and drawbacks of fungi, which can cause disease in plants and animals including humans. We know that one fungus, cordyceps, can infect and completely “take over” the life functions of insects like ants. But could they really start the zombie apocalypse as depicted in the video game and TV series The Last Of Us? The Daily Mail reported on the meeting

 A fungus called cordyceps, or zombie-ant fungus, is able to control insects’ minds using psychoactive chemicals. It drains their bodies of nutrients before directing them to a high place and releasing spores to infect others. Emmy Award-winning The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic drama based on a hit video game, shows a world in which cordyceps has spread to humans and wiped out most of humanity. Alarmingly, Professor Fisher said rising global temperatures are causing fungi like cordyceps to evolve and adapt to warmer conditions – which could enable them to colonise human bodies. Dawn Butler MP asked: ‘Is a zombie apocalypse driven by fungal infections a possibility? Professor Fisher said: ‘Well, all the bits exist, don’t they? ‘Fungi can produce strongly psychoactive chemicals, which can influence our behaviour dramatically, and they can also spread and invade humans. 

However, don’t take the Daily Mail too seriously, it is not the best of British newspapers.

The meeting also noted that few fungi can flourish in the warmth of the human body, nonetheless with a changing climate there will be more fungi about.

(10) YEAR OF THE DRAGON ON LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Filers might be interested in this One-Day Special quiz: Year of the Dragon at LearnedLeague. It actually has surprisingly little SFF content for a dragon-themed quiz.

(11) JABBA Q&A. Can you guess why this is topical?

(12) PHANTOM RETURNING. And this might be a good place to announce “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 25th Anniversary Cinema Release Confirmed For May The 4th Weekend” at Empire Online.

The epic Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn duel. The thunderous Boonta Eve Podrace. The battle of Naboo. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is packed with moments best witnessed on the big screen, spooling back to the very beginning of the Skywalker Saga to depict Anakin Skywalker’s first encounter with the Jedi, the beginnings of the galactic civil war, and the menacing meddling of Palpatine. Well, good news: to mark 25 years since the film first hit cinemas in 1999, it’s coming back to cinemas later this year. Cue the fanfare!

This May the 4th weekend (so, from Friday 3 May), The Phantom Menace will be re-released in cinemas for a limited time, meaning you can revisit all your favourite moments as large and loud as George Lucas intended….

 (13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At first I thought he made this up.

But no! I’m stunned to learn this is a real product.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/1/24 Scroll Pixel Like Fritos, Scroll Pixel Like Tab And Mountain Dew

(1) 2024 HUGO VOTING STALLED. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon paused Hugo nomination voting on January 28, announcing in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” Their January 30 update said, “We committed to update you on the temporary pause of Hugo Award nominations. Our UK software provider is still working on a solution. We will provide you with our next status update no later than the 6th February.” At this time they do not expect to extend the nomination voting deadline.

(2) NEW STAR IN THE FIRMAMENT. Margaret Atwood appears as a guest star on the CBC series Murdoch Mysteries this coming Monday, February 5. She plays Loren Quinnell, Amateur Ornithologist. “Her and her feathered friends help crack the case…”

(3) NEW CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIPS. The Salam Award and Clarion West Week One Instructor Usman T. Malik (CW ‘14) have offered two new scholarships for 2024 Students: “The Salam Award and the Malik Family Sponsor Scholarships for Pakistani and Palestinian Students”.

The Salam Award Scholarship: For the year 2024, The Salam Award has agreed to sponsor a student of Pakistani origin, whether a Pakistani resident of any ethnicity, or a Pakistani-origin student anywhere in the world up to USD $1,000. 

The Malik Sharif-Fehmida Anwar Scholarship: Usman T. Malik and his parents Malik Tanveer Ali and Shabnam Tanveer Malik have offered an annual travel scholarship to help fund travel up to USD $2,500 for a student of Palestinian-origin. The applicant should be Palestinian Arab-Muslim or Arab-Christian from Gaza, West Bank, or Golan Heights, or may be Palestinian diaspora located anywhere in the world. 

Through the generosity of our donors, Clarion West provides a number of scholarships for writers every year. Approximately 60-90% of our Six-Week Workshop participants receive full and partial-tuition scholarships. You must indicate your need for financial aid when you apply to the six-week workshop. Your application is reviewed without regard to your financial aid request.

You can learn more about scholarships for the Six-Week Workshop here

(4) WHAT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT. RedWombat took inspiration from the continuing Hugo controversy to pen these lyrics, shared in ha comment on File 770 today.

This only works if you pronounce it “Wisfuss,” but…

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

But!

It was Hugo nom day
(It was Hugo nom day)
We were running numbers
and there wasn’t much good to be found
Standlee stops by with a glint in his eye
(Trademark!)
You filking this thing or am I?
(Sorry, sorry, please go on)

Standlee says, “we can’t enforce…”
(Why did he say it?)
The lawyers are aghast, of course
(That’s not how you play it)
And MPC did not endorse
(Had to resign but nevermind…)

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

Hey, grew to live in fear of what the lawyers might find next
Feeling like the whole organization’s been hexed
I associate it with the sight of scathing posts
(Tsk tsk tsk)
It’s a heavy job sieving through this murk
Implicit contract no longer seems to work
Can’t rely on the Old SMOFs Network
Who’s gonna do the work?

M-P-C, taken aback
People still mad about the AO3 attack
How can you enforce this implicit contract?
Yeah, the lawyers scream and break into teams
(Hey)
We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

We never should have asked about WSFS, no no no
Why did we talk about WSFS?

(I put that song in my head for the next year doing this, so if you’re going to complain, believe me, I have already been punished.)

(5) WRITERS AT GEN CON. The 2024 Gen Con Writers’ Symposium guests will include Linda D. Addison, Mikki Kendall, and quite a few featured speakers who are sff authors. Gen Con 2024 will be held August 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Gen Con Writers’ Symposium is a semi-independent event hosted by Gen Con and intended for both new and experienced writers of speculative fiction. All registration is handled through the Gen Con website.

(6) WHO ELSE HAD A STAKE IN DRACULA? Bobby Derie tells readers that H. P. Lovecraft claimed his friend Edith Miniter was offered the chance to revise Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What do we know about this claim? Find out! “Lovecraft, Miniter, Stoker: the Dracula Revision” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

In The Essential Dracula (1979), Bram Stoker scholars Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu revealed a letter (H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 10 Dec 1932) that had been drawn to their attention by horror anthologist and scholar Les Daniels, where H. P. Lovecraft claimed that an old woman he knew had turned down the chance to revise Stoker’s Dracula. The letter had not been published before this. Although Lovecraft’s claim had been made in print as early as 1938, and a letter with the anecdote was published in the first volume of Lovecraft’s Selected Letters from Arkham House in 1965, this seems to be the first time the Stoker scholar community became generally aware of the claim. The authors were intrigued by the possibilities…

(7) LDV NEWS. J. Michael Straczynski shared that Blackstone Indie has unveiled a webpage for The Last Dangerous Visions. It does not take preorders yet.

In 1973, celebrated writer and editor Harlan Ellison announced the third and final volume of his unprecedented anthology series, which began with Dangerous Visions and continued with Again Dangerous Visions. But for reasons undisclosed, The Last Dangerous Visions was never completed.

Now, six years after Ellison’s passing, science fiction’s most famous unpublished book is here. And with it, the heartbreaking true story of the troubled genius behind it.

Provocative and controversial, socially conscious and politically charged, wildly imaginative yet deeply grounded, the thirty-two never-before published stories, essays, and poems in The Last Dangerous Visions stand as a testament to Ellison’s lifelong pursuit of art, representing voices both well-known and entirely new, including: David Brin, Max Brooks, James S. A. Corey, Dan Simmons, Cory Doctorow, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, among others.

With an introduction and exegesis by J. Michael Straczynski, and a story introduction by Ellison himself, The Last Dangerous Visions is an extraordinary addition to an incredible literary legacy.

(8) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR THE CAPTAIN’S LOG. The Visual Effects Society will honor Actor-Producer-Director William Shatner as the recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence in recognition of his valuable contributions to visual arts and filmed entertainment at its annual ceremony on February 21. “William Shatner Named as Recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence”.

(9) ST:TNG GETTING SATURN HONORS. “The Cast Of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ To Receive Special Lifetime Achievement Saturn Award” at TrekMovie.com.

…The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation will receive The Lifetime Achievement Award at the 51st Annual Saturn Awards, being held in Los Angeles this Sunday. For 2024 the Academy is doing something different for the TNG cast with this award. A statement from the Academy to TrekMovie explains:

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is usually presented to an individual for their contributions to genre entertainment. Top luminaries like Stan Lee and Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, have received this top honor. It’s not new, but we extended this award to cover the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to its continued influence on the face of general television. It was originally doomed to failure since it was following in the footsteps of the original Star Trek, yet it carved its own identity, and its diverse cast was light years ahead of its time!”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 1, 1954 Bill Mumy, 70. Bill Mumy is best remembered of course for being on Lost in Space for three seasons (“Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”) though he has a much more extensive performance resume.

At the rather tender age of seven, he makes his genre acting debut on The Twilight Zone as Billy Bayles in “Long Distance Call”.  He’d appear in two Twilight Zone episodes, “It’s A Good Life” as Anthony Fremont, a child with godlike powers and finally as the young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”.

He’d show up much later on in Twilight Zone: The Movie in one of the segments, not unsurprisingly a remake of “It’s A Good Life” which here is listed as being from a screenplay by Richard Matheson. Here he’s Tim. Whoever that is. 

He’d be on the reboot of the Twilight Zone in “It’s Still A Good Life” as the Adult Anthony Fremont.

Photo of Billy Mumy in 2013
Billy Mumy in 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He next had three appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, none genre. His next genre outing would be playing two different characters on BewitchedI Dream of Jeannie and the Munsters followed.

Then of course was the eighty-three episode, three season run on Lost in Space. He’d be eleven years old when it started. I know I’ve seen all of it at least once. No idea how the Suck Fairy would treat it nearly this long on, but I really liked it when I saw it at the time. 

Remember the 1990 Captain America? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In this WW II version, he plays a young boy, Tom Kimball, who photographs Captain America over the Capital building kicking a missile off after batting Red Skull so crashes in Alaska, burying itself and Steve Rogers under the ice. 12%, repeat 12%, is the rating audience reviewers gave it on Rotten Tomatoes. 

He showed up once in the first iteration of a Flash series, and then has three appearances as Tommy Puck in the Nineties Superboy series. The first I saw and quite like, the latter not a single episode have I encountered. 

The next thing that is quite worthy of note is his stellar role on Babylon 5 as Mimbari warrior monk, I think that’s the proper term,  Lennier. Of one hundred and ten episodes, he was in all but two. That’s right, just two. Or at least credited as being so. What an amazing role that was. I’ve watch this series including the six films at least twice straight through. No Suck Fairy dares comes near it. 

The last thing of note, and I’m not seen the series, was him playing Dr. Zachary Smith on the reboot of the Lost in Space series that came out just a few years ago for two episodes. Please, please don’t ask who he’s playing as my continuous headache got even worse when I tried to figure out who he really was. Really I did. What they with that series was a crime. 

(11) PUTTING THE BITE ON TOURISTS. [Item by Steven French.] If you’re ever in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Atlas Obscura recommends a visit to “Vampa: Vampire & Paranormal Museum”.

TUCKED AWAY IN THE SAME building as an antiques store in a small Pensylvania town lies a shockingly large collection of antique vampire-killing sets.

Covering the walls are the standard tools of the vampire hunter: the stake, the crucifix, the holy water bottle. But the stakes are far more than pointy, wooden sticks. Believed to date back centuries, all the weapons have been beautifully decorated with a variety of religious and allegorical carvings. They are spectacular objets d’art from every corner of the world, including several personal collections from actors who played Dracula in films. One wooden “traveling vampire hunter kit,” from around 1870 was owned by actor Carlos Villarias, who portrayed the famous count in a Spanish language Dracula….

(12) EARTH FARTS? Space reports that the “Mystery of Siberia’s giant exploding craters may finally be solved”.

The craters are unique to Russia’s northern Yamal and Gydan peninsulas and are not known to exist elsewhere in the Arctic, suggesting the key to this puzzle lies in the landscape, according to a preprint paper published Jan. 12 to the EarthArXiv database.

Researchers have proposed several explanations for the gaping holes over the years, ranging from meteor impacts to natural-gas explosions. One theory suggests the craters formed in the place of historic lakes that once bubbled with natural gas rising from the permafrost below. These lakes may have dried up, exposing the ground beneath to freezing temperatures that sealed the vents through which gas escaped. The resulting buildup of gas in the permafrost may eventually have been released through explosions that created the giant craters.

… But the historic-lake model fails to account for the fact that these “giant escape craters” (GECs) are found in a variety of geological settings across the peninsulas, not all of which were once covered by lakes, according to the new preprint, which has not been peer reviewed….

… Permafrost on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas varies widely in its thickness, ranging from a few hundred feet to 1,600 feet (500 m). The soil likely froze solid more than 40,000 years ago, imprisoning ancient marine sediments rich in methane that gradually transformed into vast natural gas reserves. These reserves produce heat that melts the permafrost from below, leaving pockets of gas at its base.

Permafrost in Russia and elsewhere is also thawing at the surface due to climate change. In places where it is already thin on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, melting from both ends and the pressure from the gas may eventually cause the remaining permafrost to collapse, triggering an explosion.

This “champagne effect” would explain the presence of smaller craters around the eight giant craters, as huge chunks of ice propelled out by the explosions may have severely dented the ground, according to the preprint….

(13) HUNT TO EXTINCTION. The stories you hear from Brian Keene.

(14) NEW HEADSHOT. Scott Lynch introduced his new photo with a wry comment.

(15) COMING ATTRACTIONS. The “Next on Netflix 2024: The Series & Films Preview” sizzle reel includes clips from Bridgerton, Squid Game, Umbrella Academy and Rebel Moon.

(16) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty respond to a letter of comment from Tobes Valois in episode 102 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I fully comprehend the mysteries”.  

Octothorpe 102 is here! We discuss the Hugo Awards debacle in some depth and SOLVE ALL THE ISSUES (no, really) but we book-end it with letters of comment and picks for those who need a bit of respite. Artwork by Alison Scott. Listen here!  

Alt text: Scooby, Velma and Daphne unmask the panda from last week’s cover art, and the person wearing the panda suit looks a lot like Dave McCarty. They say “It was old Mister McCarty all along!” and he says “And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling Hugo finalists!” He is tied up with rope. The words “Octothorpe! 102” appear at the top of the image.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/24 The Pixels Will Continue Until Morale Improves

(1) SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE. Malcolm F. Cross takes a deeply skeptical look at “AI, the Algorithm, and the Attention Economy” at Sin Is Beautiful.

…People using AI, even this theoretical ‘good’ kind, are shooting themselves in the foot and don’t know it.

Why? Most generative AI users are trying to participate in the attention economy – attempting to get eyes on their work, to get appreciative comments, sales, to build an audience for content that they produce.

When a generative AI user posts their image on social media, when they use it for their profile, for their website, for all the things art gets used for, they are competing for attention. And they are competing with everything else generated by AI. The same AI everyone else gets to use.

Generative AI for creating images has been big news since DALL-E’s first iteration was released in early 2021. By October 2022 it was generating two million images a day. DALL-E is only one player in the generative AI space for art.  It is estimated that in August 2023, 34 million images were being generated every day across the major generative AI art tools. 15 billion pieces of art, and that was about six months ago.

Assuming you only looked at the most excellent top 0.001% of those 15 billion images, that is still a hundred and fifty thousand images to look at….

… The best the AI artist can hope for in this ideal situation is to be a brief flicker in a constant feed of content we can barely remember.

If the ideas you were trying to express mattered, you wouldn’t have needed AI to win at the attention economy – you could have expressed them with stick figures and still won.

If your ideas actually are that good, then why obscure them by using generative AI?…

(2) AI AND THE FTC. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission today announced it has launched an “Inquiry into Generative AI Investments and Partnerships”. However, apparently is the beginning of a study, not an action in response to a law violation.

…The FTC issued its orders under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which authorizes the Commission to conduct studies that allow enforcers to gain a deeper understanding of market trends and business practices. Findings stemming from such orders can help inform future Commission actions.

Companies are deploying a range of strategies in developing and using AI, including pursuing partnerships and direct investments with AI developers to get access to key technologies and inputs needed for AI development. The orders issued today were sent to companies involved in three separate multi-billion-dollar investments: Microsoft and OpenAIAmazon and Anthropic, and Google and Anthropic. The FTC’s inquiry will help the agency deepen enforcers understanding of the investments and partnerships formed between generative AI developers and cloud service providers….

(3) TOC OF ELLISON COLLECTION. J. Michael Straczynski had announced the table of contents for Harlan Ellison’s Greatest Hits.

  • “Repent, Harlequin,” Said the TickTockman
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
  • The Deathbird
  • Chatting with Anubis
  • The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
  • Jeffty is Five
  • Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes
  • Shatterday
  • Mefisto in Onyx
  • On the Downhill Side
  • Paladin of the Lost Hour
  • The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World
  • I’m Looking for Kadak
  • How Interesting: A Tiny Man
  • Djinn, No Chaser
  • How’s the Night Life on Cissalda?
  • From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet
  • Eidolons All the Lies That Are My Life
  • With a Preface by me.
  • Foreword by Neil Gaiman
  • Intro by Cassandra Khaw

Straczynski also drew attention to a Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of the book.

(4) ANOTHER SFF FILM SHELVED. “Netflix Axes Halle Berry’s Sci-Fi Film ‘The Mothership’” reports Variety.

Netflix has scrapped the release of “The Mothership,” a science-fiction film starring Halle Berry.

The movie finished filming in 2021, but it couldn’t be completed after multiple delays in post-production, Variety has confirmed.

“The Mothership” is the latest Hollywood movie to disappear even though filming had wrapped. Since 2022, Warner Bros. has axed three movies — John Cena’s “Coyote vs. Acme,” the $90 million budgeted DC adventure “Batgirl” and the animated “Scoob! Holiday Haunt” — for the purpose of tax write-offs….

(5) LOVECRAFT’S MAIL. Bobby Derie explores “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Edith May Dowe Miniter” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

The details of Mrs. Miniter’s long career—a career inseparable from amateur journalism after her sixteenth year—will doubtless be covered by writers well qualified to treat of them. Reared in Worcester, taught by her poet-mother and at a private school, and given to solid reading and literary attempts from early childhood onward, the erstwhile Edith May Dowe entered amateurdom in 1883 and was almost immediately famous in our small world as a fictional realist. Controversies raged over her stories—so different from the saccharine froth of the period—but very few failed to recognize her importance. After 1890 she was engaged in newspaper and magazine work in the larger outside world, though her interest in amateur matters increased rather than diminished.

H. P. Lovecraft, “Mrs. Miniter—Estimates and Recollections” (written 1934) in Collected Essays 1.380

(6) REASONS TO READ. “25th Century Five and Dime #2: You Should Be Reading Judith Merril!” says columnist David Agranoff at Amazing Stories.

…One of the reasons I started this column is to share these discoveries. Early in the process of doing the show, I discovered the book The Future is Female edited by one of our most popular guests Lisa Yaszek. A few stories into the anthology I knew I had to have her on the show. That book has a similar mission to this column. While women like Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Leguin are famous now but The Future is Female as a book more importantly will introduce you to more obscure authors like Katherine Maclean and well known in her day Judith Merril. Her name was always a respected one in SF.

In that collection which collected the best of the pulp era SF ranging from the 20s to the end of the 60s was a story from the 40s by Merril that really stood out for me. “That Only a Mother.” The story of fall-out sickened children of atomic wars was a brutal and powerful stand-out. When Lisa gave us background on the story and author it was clear that JM was an important figure in the community and I needed to know more.

Since then, reading several histories from Fredrik Pohl, Damon Knight, Boucher, and Malzberg further made the point Judith Merril is an important voice in SF. Her role as a founding member of two major NYC clubs The Futurians and the Hydra club predates her publishing that began in 1948…. 

(7) RUBY SUNDAY MAYBE NOT GONE? RadioTimes’ Louise Griffin claims “Millie Gibson’s future on Doctor Who is still very bright”. Gibson plays Doctor Who companion Ruby Sunday.

Emotions have, understandably, been high as reports about Millie Gibson ‘being replaced’ in Doctor Who have rolled in.

First, let’s get the facts right. It’s been reported that Varada Sethu has been cast as the companion in season 15. Great news! Millie Gibson has not been “dropped” or “axed” – actually, the opposite as she’ll still be in season 15, just in a smaller role. But I think this is actually incredibly exciting….

(8) IN THE BEGINNING.  He wasn’t in it, he’s just telling the story: “Sylvester McCoy reminisces about first ever Doctor Who broadcast” in RadioTimes.

Sylvester McCoy has spoken of his fond memories of Doctor Who and reflected on the sci-fi’s first ever episode….

…He said: “It’s been 60 years now. I know where I was when it first came out, partly because I know where I was when John F Kennedy was shot, which happened the day before Doctor Who was broadcast.

“The BBC had to repeat the first episode of Doctor Who the following week because no one had watched it. They were all glued to the news about the Kennedy assassination and Doctor Who got pushed out. But when Doctor Who started, we had no concept it would go on forever and ever and ever.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 25, 1926 Bob Clarke. (Died 2013.) Stepping not quite outside of genre, or maybe not at all, we have Bob Clarke. 

Clarke started at the age of seventeen according to the stories he tells as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! comic strip. Ripley himself traveled the world collecting his fantastic trivia tidbits and sent them back to Clarke who drew them, captioned them and circulated them. There’s no way to prove or disprove this story.

(It’s most likely true because years later, he illustrated MAD‘s occasional “Believe It or Nuts!” parody in that style.) 

Quite a few sources, briefly and without attribution, say he designed the label of the Cutty Sark bottle.

After two years with Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Clarke joined the army, where he worked for the European edition of Stars and Stripes and met his wife. Clarke remained with Stars and Stripes after being discharged as a civilian contributor, before eventually returning to America and joining the Geyer, Newell, and Ganger (GNG) advertising firm. He was among the artists there who designed the box for the children’s game Candyland

Now to MAD Magazine. Clarke was one of the artists who took up the slack he after original MAD editor Harvey Kurtzman left MAD in an absolute rage, taking two of its three main artists Will Elder and Jack Davis, with him. He claimed working at GNG with its design needs was his best training for this endeavor —“I learned about typefaces and layouts, how to prepare comps in the styles of many artists and cartoonists.” 

In his first year alone there, he illustrated twenty-four separate articles; he would eventually draw more than six hundred. Yes, six hundred.  Here’s one of those illustrations from MAD magazine # 156.

And that doesn’t count myriad covers such as the one below. He was a principal artist of the magazine as it rose fast in circulation, being one of four general-purpose artists who took MAD through the late Fifties and early Sixties, arguably the best years of the magazine. 

(10) OH NO! File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb had a close call but fortunately sustained just a small injury. He explained what happened on Facebook.

This has been a week from Hell. At approximately two o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, January 22nd, the proverbial “Kracken” was released onto the highway. I was driving to the post office, going North on Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, on “a wing and a prayer,” when an elderly woman of Russian descent, driving her car going South, took a dangerous left hand turn into opposing traffic in order to gain entrance to her apartment complex.

I was on the inside lane, and so my vision was obstructed by cars to my left. Suddenly, out of nowhere, her vehicle appeared directly in front of me, less than a car length ahead. I screamed in panic, and jammed my foot on the brakes, but it was too late. I crashed into the side of her vehicle with a sickening crunch that I’ll not soon forget.

My vehicle’s airbags deployed upon impact, hitting me in the chest, and grazing my right hand which was clutched on the steering wheel. Smoke filled my car, and fluid drained onto the street all around me.

It could have been worse, I suppose. I could have been seriously injured or killed. A bloody gash adorns the torn skin of my injured hand. My car was totaled. It was paid off, and running in fine condition. I’d taken it in for a four thousand mile checkup only several days earlier.

Now I’m facing an expensive search for a replacement vehicle, while literally stranded in my apartment for the better part of a week. I’m picking up a rental on Friday.

I’m grateful to be alive, yet wondering why my recent mini-stroke, or T.I.A., was followed in rapid succession with a nearly deadly car crash. I seem to be on a roll of late in health threatening catastrophies.

(11) ECHO OVERCOMES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Prepare for the cries that “wokeness is out of control.“ This despite the fact that the Marvel character’s description (female, indigenous, deaf) is pretty darn well matched by the actor’s description (female, indigenous, deaf, amputee). Echo, starring Alaqua Cox, is on Disney+ and Hulu. “Alaqua Cox Was Bullied for Being Deaf and an Amputee, Now the Marvel Star Is ‘Proud’ to Prove She ‘Can Do Anything’” in People.

Preparing to play a formidable Marvel character is a notoriously demanding process that pushes actors to the pinnacle of physical fitness.

For Alaqua Cox, who’s making history as the first Native American star to lead a Marvel series in the new Disney+ show Echo, it meant training five days a week with a stunt team to learn a slew of butt-kicking moves.

“I grew up playing different kinds of sports — I would play one-on-one basketball with my older brother — so I love doing those kinds of physical things,” the actress, who, like her character Maya Lopez, is an amputee and has been deaf all her life, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

Cox, 26, originated the ruthless role with her breakthrough performance opposite Jeremy Renner in the series Hawkeye. Echo, who debuted in Marvel comics in 1999, is a gifted fighter with superhuman strength and a thirst for vengeance.

(12) CALLING WOLF. Sam Sykes on X. I laughed.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. 2023 Hugo Award finalist O. Westin has started a MicroSFF YouTube channel where a selection of their stories are read and presented in a simple format. For example:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/11/23 Pixelmancer

(1) BOTTOM FALLS OUT OF THE CORRAIN MARKET. Cait Corrain, a debut author who was on Goodreads dropping one-star reviews on several others’ debut novels (see Pixel Scroll 12/7/23 item #1 and Pixel Scroll 12/8/23 item #4) has lost her agent, her publisher has pulled the book, and Ilumicrate has dropped her book from the upcoming crate.

The story even made NBC News today: “Author Cait Corrain loses book deal after accusations of review bombing on Goodreads”.

A first-time author has been dropped by her U.S. publisher and her agent after readers and fellow authors accused her of posting fake negative reviews to a popular book recommendation website.

Many within the book community last week appeared to publicly turn against Cait Corrain, the author of the coming sci-fi fantasy novel “Crown of Starlight,” after allegations surfaced that she made fake accounts on the Amazon-owned book review platform Goodreads to post negative user reviews online about fellow authors — a practice known as review-bombing….

(2) WORLDCONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has interviewed the writer of “Worldconned: How China Co-Opted Sci-Fi’s Crown Jewel Amidst the Uyghur Genocide”, recently linked in the Scroll: “Human Rights & Worldcon: An Interview with Danielle Ranucci of the Human Rights Foundation”.

ASM:  In moving forward, do you think that WSFS and its members should be taking a host country’s politics and human rights into consideration when accepting bids for host countries?

D.R.: It’s essential for WSFS and its members to take a host country’s politics and human rights into consideration when accepting bids. There are many reasons for this. First, self-protection. How safe would it be for an attending member to publicly criticize China for its genocide at the 2023 Worldcon? For reference, when China hosted the 2022 Olympics, it warned Olympic athletes not to criticize the regime or they would face consequences. Given how China had handled protestors during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the consequences for speaking out against the regime are all too evident: intimidation, arrests, and killings.

It would be downright perilous for anyone to criticize China while at Worldcon. Now, I doubt that state repression is a common conversation topic at Worldcon, but the extreme danger that members would face for even broaching this topic means that they are never truly secure. For every second they spend in a dictatorship like China, their safety is always jeopardized. Clearly, it is unconscionable to ignore a country’s human rights record and so jeopardize the safety of attending members in this way.

Considering human rights also helps protect Worldcon from being twisted into a tool of totalitarian repression. Hosting events like Worldcon helps dictatorships distract from, and legitimize, ongoing repression. I wrote about the effect such reputation-laundering has on outside countries, but it also has an important effect on those living within the dictatorship: It isolates them. Americans praise China’s futuristic-looking sci-fi museum while Chinese citizens can’t even find employment. Yet their lived experiences become invalidated. Their reality is made unimportant. And for people being persecuted by the regime, to diminish their suffering in this way is to forsake them. In a sense, it’s to render their pasts, presents, and futures meaningless….

(3) A CONFEDERATE HELICOPTER? An Alabama inventor tried to design a helicopter for military use during the Civil War. What could be steampunk-ier than that? “Helicopters During the Civil War? Almost” at Historynet.

…What if Confederates had invented a helicopter capable of dropping bombs?

It came closer to happening than many people realize. An innovative inventor in Alabama saw the potential for such an aircraft and actually drew up plans for how it might fly. Those drawings are preserved today in the archives of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

By January 20, 1862, Union ships had managed to prevent most vessels from entering or leaving the major Confederate port of Mobile Bay. While certainly not a complete cordon, the blockade cut off delivery of supplies and, more important, the export of cotton to other nations—a much-needed source of income for the Southern war effort.

William C. Powers believed he had the answer to breaking the blockade: a motorized airship capable of bombing the Northern fleet. Known today as the Confederate helicopter, his idea offered a revolutionary look at solving a bothersome military problem….

…And to many historians as well. Powers’ plans and a small-scale model he built were donated by his family to the Smithsonian Institution in 1941. Since then, researchers and aeronautical engineers have pored over his design to determine the scope and feasibility of his idea….

(4) GETTING IT RIGHT AND GETTING IT WRONG. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This weekend’s Infinite Monkey Cage on BBC Radio 4 looked at the depiction of space in SF film compared to reality.

Infinite Monkey Cage is a light-hearted look at science co-hosted by a comedian and a physicist (other sciences are available). This week they were accompanied by an Oscar winning SFX person and three astronauts.

There was much covered during the course of the show including how one aspect of space craft SFX they deliberately got wrong for Interstellar because it looked right.  And in Gravity Sandra Bullock would not have worn those undies as nappies are the order of the day…You can listen to the 25-minute programme here.

Brian Cox and Robin Ince put Hollywood under the microscope to unpick the science fact versus science fiction of some of the biggest movies set in space. They are joined by a truly out of this world panel of space experts including astronauts Tim Peake, Nicole Stott and Susan Kilrain alongside Oscar winning Special FX director Paul Franklin, whose movies include Interstellar and First Man. Tim, Nicole and Susan fact check how space travel and astronauts are portrayed in movies such as Gravity and The Martian, whilst Brian and Robin argue about Robin’s lack of enthusiasm for Star Wars. They look back at some of the greatest Space movies including Alien and 2001 A Space Odyssey and ask whether some fictional aspects of these blockbusters may not be so far from our future reality?

(5) BLACKLOCK Q&A. The Arthur C. Clarke Award blog has a piece about “The Nonfiction of J.G. Ballard: An interview with editor Mark Blacklock” at Medium. Blacklock’s new book is The Selected Nonfiction of J. G. Ballard.

MARK: … Once it was all gathered, my first instinct was to include everything, but wiser counsel prevailed: it would have been unmanageable. I made sure to include anything significant that had been ignored for A User’s Guide or turned up since — the Introduction to the French Edition of Crash, for example, which I think he felt was not for a general audience; all the commentaries on his own work that had appeared in forewords and introductory glosses; and a sample of the reviews he wrote for Chemistry & Industry at the start of his career. I cut the number of book reviews that make up the majority of A User’s Guide too, in favour of showing a greater range of his work — the lists and glossaries, the “capsule commentaries.” The major decisions then were over which of the book reviews to include, because he was so prolific as a reviewer. I have about 30 of some 180. I printed them all off, read them several times and gave them all star ratings and then selected from the top-starred for a representative range across dates and publications. This felt like quite a heavy responsibility, but all the reviews are included in the bibliography so geeks like us can go and find those that aren’t in the book….  

(6) CHENGDU WORLDCON COVERAGE CONTINUES. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] There have been several con reports and related news items since the last update in a Scroll; the following are a fairly arbitrary selection of recent and older items, with more to follow at some point.

Sylvia Hildr con report

This is a unique – I think – report, in that it’s written in English by a Chinese person.  Given that this report isn’t subject to the vagaries of machine translation, I’ll just include a short extract here

Did I have a good time? Well, I met with fans and writers who share the same deep passion for science fiction and it was fascinating experiences. I learned of lots of sci-fi magazines and databases where organizers put their best efforts to make it easier for Chinese fans to open their eyes. I will always cherish these memories. But, the difficulties that these people had to overcome truly blew my mind. Not a single conversation could end without any reasonable complaints. I could not take the stance for them but as I checked WeChat groups and Moments, or talked with friends, the situation was the same.

Hugo finalist Yang Feng receives WSJ magazine award

On Saturday, Best Editor (Short Form) and Best Related Work Hugo finalist Yang Feng received an award from the Chinese edition of the Wall Street Journal magazine; relevant Weibo posts are herehere and here.  I’m not sure exactly what relevance is of the guy with the shamisen-esque stringed instrument, but traditional music seems to have been a running theme of the awards ceremony.

I don’t think this is directly Worldcon/Hugo related, as the award seems to have been for business innovation, so it was possibly more due to her being CEO of the 8 Light Minutes publishing company?

Chengdu kids write about their Worldcon experiences

In early November, Character Weekly – which seems to be a magazine aimed at a young audience – published several short write-ups and photos (alternative link) from Chengdu children documenting their thoughts about attending the Worldcon.  A couple of examples (via Google Translate, with manual edits):

I felt very honored to visit the World Science Fiction Convention that was held in Chengdu. In the science fiction museum, I communicated with an intelligent robot dog, walked through a fantasy universe, and saw various science fiction works that I had never heard of before. I was particularly fortunate to have a brief exchange, and to take a photo with, Mr. Ben Yalow, Chairman of the Worldcon. Through this event, I truly felt the infinite imagination of human beings and the charm of science fiction.

_________________

A few days ago, my mother and I participated in the 81st World Science Fiction Conference held in my hometown of Chengdu. In the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, which is like a vast nebula, we experienced The Wandering Earth, Benben [the giant robot/vehicle structure], Kemeng [aka Kormo, the mascot), and the Hugo Awards with science fiction fans from all over the world, wonderful lectures by science fiction celebrities, etc., I also collected a book full of autographs, and took photos next to the beautiful Hugo Hall. This is the closest experience I have to science fiction, and I hope that one day I can do follow the same path, winning the Hugo Award for writing good science fiction works.  I will meet the future with my scientific dreams.

Lukyanenko ends China tour

This Weibo post from his Chinese publisher covers the final event in Shanghai on Sunday 10th.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 64. Tonight’s Birthday is that of M. Rickert who I must say never disappoints me. I loved her writing ever since I read her very first short story nearly a quarter of a century ago, “The Girl Who Ate Butterflies”. It’s certainly a wonderful story. 

I’d say that two-thirds of her nearly fifty pieces of short fiction were published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Very impressive indeed. Some picked up well deserved awards— “Journey into the Kingdom” won a World Fantasy Award, and “The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece” a Shirley Jackson Award.  Many more were nominated for Awards. 

There are three collections of her short fictions, both well worth your time on these cold nights. The first, Map of Dreams, covers a wide spread of her stories, and won a World Fantasy Award and the Crawford Award. The “Map of Dreams” novella herein was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award.  

The second, Holiday, showing how prolific she is as a short fiction writer as it is filled with just stories from 2006 and 2007. You can find “Journey into the Kingdom” here. 

The third, You Have Never Been Here: New and Selected Stories, to a certain extent is less necessary than the first two as a large part of it is already in the first two. If you’re a fan of hers, by all means pick it up.

Now her novels, her interesting novels. Both are very impressive with my favorite being The Memory Garden which sort of tangentially reminds me of McKillip’s The Solstice Wood in tone if not story.  I’ll say The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie is one quirky novel. Really quirky novel. Not quite what to make of it. 

Since this is the Christmas season, I should note her “Lucky Girl: How I Became a Horror Writer” is a Krampus story. It’s available as an actual paperback book or an epub. 

(8) SPIRIT OF THE SEASON. Bobby Derie looks at what remains of Lovecraft’s Christmas verses to his correspondents: “Her Letters To Lovecraft: Christmas Greetings” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

H. P. Lovecraft spent most of his adult life in genteel poverty, slowly diminishing the modest inheritance that had come down to him from his parents and grandparents. He had no cash to spare on expensive gifts for his many friends and loved ones. So Lovecraft was generous with what he had—time, energy, and creativity. While not religious or given to mawkish displays, when it came to Christmas, Lovecraft poured his time and energies into writing small verses to his many correspondents, a body of poems collectively known as his “Christmas Greetings.”…

… In looking at Lovecraft’s Christmas Greetings to his women correspondents, we catch a glimpse at Lovecraft’s thoughtfulness. Their response, unfortunately, is often lost to us; though some few of them certainly responded in kind. We know Elizabeth Toldridge, for example, wrote her own Christmas poems to Lovecraft, because at least one survives….

(9) RAYMOND CHANDLER POEM REVEALED. Apparently located in the Bodleian, it may be a poetic response to the loss of his wife: “’A moment after death when the face is beautiful’: rare Raymond Chandler poem discovered by US editor”, a news item in the Guardian.

… Published on Monday in the 25th-anniversary issue of the Strand magazine, the poem, titled Requiem, dates back to 1955 and was discovered by the magazine’s managing editor, Andrew Gulli….

Grappling with loss, grief and what it describes as the “long innocence of love”, Requiem opens with: “There is a moment after death when the face is beautiful / When the soft, tired eyes are closed and the pain is over.”

For two stanzas, Requiem describes the moments after death when the “long innocence of love comes gently in / For a moment more, in quiet to hover”, as well as the fading of “bright clothes” and a “lost dream”. It adds that “silver bottles”, “three long hairs in a brush” and “fresh plump pillows / On which no head will lie/ Are all that is left of the long, wild dream”….

(10) MAKING A LIST AND CHECKING IT TWICE. “Big Bang observatory tops wish list for big US physics projects” reports Nature.

The United States should fund proposed projects to dramatically scale up its efforts in five areas of high-energy physics, an influential panel of scientists has concluded.

Topping the ranking is the Cosmic Microwave Background–Stage 4 project, or CMB-S4, which is envisioned as an array of 12 radio telescopes split between Chile’s Atacama Desert and the South Pole. It is designed to look for indirect evidence of physical processes in the instants after the Big Bang — processes that have been mostly speculative so far.

The other four priorities are experiments to study the elementary particles called neutrinos, both coming from space and made in the laboratory; the largest-ever dark-matter detector; and strong US participation in a future overseas particle collider to study the Higgs boson.

An ad hoc group called the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5) presented the recommendations on 7 December. The committee, which is convened roughly once a decade, was charged to make recommendations for the two main US agencies that fund research in high-energy physics, the Department of Energy (DoE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)….

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark me as one of Today’s 10,000. I just learned there’s a Roblox game based on the Hamilton musical. “Hamilton X Roblox”.

Enhanced battle, squad upgrades, and a new rebirth mode to keep the adventure going. Check out the newest Hamilton Roblox update now!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4/23 Cool Carbonite Hand Luke 

(1) POWELL ARRESTED. Longtime fan Rickland Powell was arrested December 1 in connection with “assaulting a female child who is known to him” according to the Middlesex (MA) District Attorney.  Their press release follows.

Powell is on the list of people who have been banned from Arisia. Prior to that he worked on Arisia over the past couple of decades in positions ranging from Division Head to logistics and art show help.

(2) UNCATCHABLE. Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ “Maybe We Already Have Runaway Machines”, a discussion of David Runciman’s The Handover: How We Gave Control of Our Lives to Corporations, States, and AIs,  is a rather Strossian article in The New Yorker.

…Yet we citizens of modern states have always labored under the shadow of a partly mitigated alignment problem—a “mismatch between the drives of these artificial persons and the needs of the planet,” as Runciman describes it—that provides a frame, a vocabulary, and a sense of foreboding as we seek to process the automation on the horizon. The concern about unaligned machines is that even if we can program, so to speak, their ultimate ends, we can’t necessarily anticipate the instrumental subgoals they might pursue as an intermediate measure. If you instruct a machine to complete a task, the likeliest instrumental subgoal is to “gain control.” If the danger of the alignment problem seems indistinct or preposterous, Runciman suggests, you haven’t been paying attention….

“… States and corporations reflect two different sides of our contemporary fear of machines that have escaped human control. One is that we will build machines that we don’t know how to switch off, either because we have become too dependent on them or because we can’t find the off switch. That’s states. The other is that we build machines that self-replicate in ways that we can no longer regulate. They start spewing our versions of themselves to the point where we are swamped by them. That’s corporations….”

(3) FOLLOW-UP ON ALASKAN MUDSLIDE. Max Florschutz wrote in November that his mother survived the mudslide in his hometown of Wrangell, Alaska but at that time he did not know the fate of his father. Unfortunately, his father passed on. He has an update in “Emergency News and Classic Being a Better Writer: Horizontal and Vertical Storytelling” at Unusual Things.

(4) BEST XX. Esquire’s list of “The 20 Best Books of 2023” is topped by a genre work.

…Our selections range from debut works by emerging voices to new outings for canonical writers. They delve into everything from prisons to shipwrecks, ghost stories to extraterrestrials, American dreaming to American failures. Whether you’re into novels, short stories, memoirs, or nonfiction, we’ve covered the whole waterfront here with a bumper crop of incredible books. They’re all worth their weight in gold (believe us, we know exactly how much they weigh).

Below, here are Esquire’s 20 best books of the year…

Ranked number one:

Chain-Gang All-Stars, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Ever since his breakout debut, Friday Black, we’ve been eagerly awaiting Adjei-Brenyah’s sophomore outing. Nearly five years later, it arrived this past spring, and it surpassed all expectations. In a dystopian United States, the prison-industrial complex has gone private, leaving incarcerated people with no choice but to compete for their freedom in the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment system. Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker have traveled together for years as Links in the same Chain-Gang, but as Thurwar nears her freedom, she contemplates how to bring dignity to her multi-racial and multi-gendered coalition of fellow gladiators. Reading Chain-Gang All-Stars in a nation addicted to violent sports that brutalize athletes of color, Adjei-Brenyah’s acerbic vision lands like a lightning bolt of truth.

Read an exclusive excerpt here at Esquire.

(5) WILKINS GOFUNDME. Cory Doctorow signal boosted an appeal to help Pacific Northwest bookseller Duane Wilkins.

Nearly every sf writer who’s ever toured the west coast knows Duane – he’s the encyclopedically knowledgeable sf buyer for the U Washington Bookseller, who has organized some of the best sf signings in Seattle history. He’s a force of nature.

He’s also broke. A two-week hospital stay left him drowning in medical debt – despite being insured! – and now he’s being threatened by a collection agency.

Now, Duane is forced into participating in one of the most barbaric of contemporary American rituals, fundraising to cover his medical debt. He’s raised $6k of the $10k he needs (I just pitched in $100).

If you can afford to help out someone who’s done so much for our community, please kick Duane whatever you can spare.

Shawn Speakman, who set up the GoFundMe (“Please Help Duane Wilkins Pay His Medical Debt”) says there are reward for certain levels of donation. (Also note – as of this writing the appeal has brought in $15,567).

I told him that I’d help him relieve that debt and raise some extra funds for any future situation that might require aid.

That’s where you come in.

If you donate $10 or more, Grim Oak Press will email you free ebooks of our amazing anthologies UnfetteredUnfettered IIUnfettered IIIUnbound, and Unbound II. These are filled with amazing SF&F short stories. Google them to view their incredible author line-ups.

And if you donate more than $20 to Duane’s GoFund Me, several of these writers are willing to give free ebooks of some of their novels. Starting with me and my newly-edited edition of The Dark Thorn.

I hope you will consider donating to Duane’s GoFundMe and help spread word about it. Together, we can help one of our best SF&F booksellers….

(6) MONSTER MASH. They’re at it again: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Official Trailer is coming to theaters April 12, 2024.

(7) FAITHFUL EEYORE. John Boston reviews the latest (in 1968) issue of Amazing at Galactic Journey. “[December 4, 1968] Sign Me Up (January 1969 Amazing)”.

In this January’s Amazing, on page 138, there is an editorial—A Word from the Editor, it says, bylined Barry N. Malzberg—which suggests a different direction (or maybe I should just say “a direction”) for this magazine.  First is some news.  There will be no letter column; Malzberg would rather use the space for a story.  Second, “the reprint policy of these magazines will continue for the foreseeable future,” per the publisher, but “A large and increasing percentage of space however will be used for new stories.”

Pointedly, the editor adds, “it is my contention that the majority of modern magazine science-fiction is ill-written, ill-characterized, ill-conceived and so excruciatingly dull as to make me question the ability of the writers to stay awake during its composition, much less the readers during its absorption.  Tied to an older tradition and nailed down stylistically to the worst hack cliches of three decades past, science-fiction has only within the past five or six years begun to emerge from its category trap only because certain intelligent and dedicated people have had the courage to wreck it so that it could crawl free. . . .  I propose that within its editorial limits and budget, Amazing and Fantastic will do what they can to assist this rebirth—one would rather call it transmutation—of the category and we will try to be hospitable to a kind of story which is still having difficulty finding publication in this country.”

As far as I know fifty years later Malzberg is still disappointed in science fiction. G.W. Thomas took inventory of some of his past predictions for the genre in “The Fate of Science Fiction According to Barry N. Malzberg” at Dark Worlds Quarterly.

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss, who fell down some stairs at Smofcon thie weekend, suffered a broken wrist and was taken to New England Hospital, wrote Kevin Standlee yesterday. “They expect to keep him at least one more night. Sufford and Tony Lewis will retrieve him from the hospital when he is released.”

(9) TIM DORSEY (1961-2023). Crime novelist Tim Dorsey, who wrote about the eccentricities of Floridians long before Florida Man became a meme, died November 26. The New York Times obituary is here: “Tim Dorsey, Who Turned Florida’s Quirks Into Comic Gold, Dies at 62”.

…Mr. Dorsey gave his books comic titles that reflected the blend of Jimmy Buffett and Raymond Chandler that filled their interiors.

“The Maltese Iguana,” published this year, was Mr. Dorsey’s most recent book.via HarperCollins

He reveled in the diversity of Florida — the dog tracks and swamps around Miami, the Redneck Riviera along the Panhandle, the morass of state politics in Tallahassee, the nostalgic weirdness of the Keys.

His novel “Atomic Lobster” (2008), Mr. Dorsey said in an interview with Powell’s Books, was “the dissection of a Florida neighborhood populated almost entirely by degenerates, con men, the terminally dysfunctional, golf freaks, trophy wives, and prescription-abusing retirees in Buicks tying up traffic. In other words, a documentary.”

Some people considered Serge to be Mr. Dorsey’s alter ego, but he corrected them. Serge was, he said, his ego, living the kind of life and doing the sorts of things he would love to do if not constrained by conscience and the law….

(10) TODAY’S WISDOM.

From Wole Talabi:

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys wondered how to get hold of Batman if the Batlight went out.
  • Tom Gauld decodes some highly technical terminology so the layperson can understand it.

(12) LEGACY. Bobby Derie looks at an example of the Japanese Cthulhu Mythos in “The Cthulhu Helix (2023) by Umehara Katsufumi (梅原克文)” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

… Which is why The Cthulhu Helix works as a Lovecraftian novel. The characters are all conscious of Lovecraft’s legacy, but for them it’s all shorthand and metaphor, a way to frame and discuss these complex ideas and relationships without getting bogged down in Elder Signs and other minutiae. The particular approach Umehara took is fairly Derlethian, but that’s not surprising considering when and where it was published….

(13) SEEKING SUBSCRIBERS. Sunday Morning Transport’s free-to-read story for December is “Deconstruction in the Form of a Cat God” by LaShawn Wanak.

LaShawn Wanak opens with talking cats; then the tale only grows more wondrous — and we can think of nothing better

(14) CASTING CALL. Slashfilm tells readers “How David Tennant Ended Up Playing Huyang In Star Wars”.

… It’s brilliant casting, if I may gush for a moment. I love him in both franchises. I think part of the appeal is that David Tennant’s voice is pretty recognizable; “Doctor Who” fans have a built-in feeling that this is a wise person who has centuries of universal knowledge behind whatever he’s saying. I suppose you could say the same thing for fans of “Good Omens” (where he plays a fallen angel who has been around for all of time) who only discovered Tennant’s Huyang in “Ahsoka.” Of course, his performances are great across the board, but there is something to be said for many audience members having immediate feelings about him from his past work…. 

(15) IT’S GOOD FOR YOU. “Neuroscience Says 1 Rather Brainless Activity Can Lower Your Stress and Make You More Productive” says Inc.com. And we’re all into brainless activities, right?

…The activities included coloring in a mandala, doodling within or around a circle marked on a paper, and having a free-drawing session, each for three minutes, with rest periods in between. During all three activities, there was an increase in blood flow in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which forms a part of the wiring for our brain’s reward circuit. 

“This shows that there might be inherent pleasure in doing art activities independent of the end results,” said the study’s lead author.

The advantages of creating art go beyond just the pleasure of the activity itself. According to surveys before and after the art-making activities, participants who engaged in art-making felt more creative and were better able to solve problems….

(16) AI CON GAME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s documentary programme File on Four has taken a fascinating look at how artificial intelligence (A.I.) is being used by criminals to con victims. A crime that, if written as a story a decade ago, would be decidedly SFnal.  A.I.-generated deep fakes are no longer restricted to images but also to voices and even video.  In the programme, the presenter gets a researcher to train an A.I. to simulate the presenter’s voice and then gets the A. I. to phone his mother: someone who arguably best knows what his voice sounds like. His mother is completely taken in by the A.I. voice.

The programme reveals that the banks, which have been using voice identification as an added security measure, are in an arms race with criminals. One A.I. researcher has even refused to let his bank use voice identification on his account!

Artificial intelligence, or AI, makes it possible for machines to learn – and in the future it will perform many tasks now done by humans. But are criminals and bad actors ahead of the curve? AI is already being used to commit fraud and other crimes by generating fake videos and audio; fast emerging threats that form just part of a potential new crime wave. File on 4 investigates.

You can listen to the half-hour programme here: File on 4, Artificial Intelligence: The Criminal Threat”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended, strangely enough, has an opinion about how Transformers: Rise of the Beasts should have ended.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/20/23 A Pierson’s Puppeteer And A Pushmi-Pullyu Walk Into A Bar

(1) X FILES. Deadline covers the courthouse as “Elon Musk Files Lawsuit Over White Supremacist Ads Placement On X/Twitter”.

It wasn’t exactly the “split second” the courthouse opened this morning as promised, but Elon Musk has now filed his self-described “thermonuclear lawsuit” against Media Matters.

“Defendant Media Matters for America is a self-proclaimed media watchdog that decided it would not let the truth get in the way of a story it wanted to publish about X Corp,” proclaimed the jury trial seeking complaint filed in federal court in Texas.  Musk and X’s three-claim disparagement suit primarily wants a preliminary and permanent injunction against Media Matters’ report on the alleged placing of corporate ads next “Pro-Nazi Content.” (Read Elon Musk’s lawsuit over the pro-Nazi ad placement allegations here)

Enraged about studies by the media watchdog that claimed X/Twitter is placing the advertising of major brands and big corporations aside such vile material, Musk lashed put with his legal threats late on November 17. As there was more fallout from the Media Matters study, AppleDisney Comcast, Paramount Global, Warner Bros Discovery and others suspend their ad buys and presence on X/Twitter.

It is worth noting that none of the media companies and others actual given a reason why they paused their ad campaigns on X/Twitter – and certainly one could speculate it had to do with Musk’s personal online amplification of antisemitic screech as much as the Pro-Nazi ad placement accusations….

(2) GETTING PAID. Publishers Weekly covers a lot of ground in “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey 2023”. But here’s an excerpt about the money people are making.

… There was little change in the gender pay gap, even as more women moved into management ranks; the survey found women in management had a median income of $120,000. Men in management had a median income of $110,000. Overall, however, median compensation for men was $89,000 in 2022, while median compensation for women was $70,000.

The reasons for the disparity haven’t changed: while 56% of managers who responded were women, women have an even greater presence in the lower-paying areas of editorial, sales and marketing, and operations. And the median length of time in the industry from male respondents was 21 years, compared to 10 years for women….

(3) WORM VS. MEATBALL. “NASA Celebrates the Worm Logo Designer, Richard Danne” in PRINT Magazine.

Do you remember the moment the core concept of the Worm Logo came to you? How did it develop? Did you immediately know that you’d created something brilliant, or was that more of a surprise?

This logotype and its evolution in our Danne & Blackburn studio was arduous and definitely not a quick-hitting surprise.

Back in 1974, the mountain of current visual material supplied to us by NASA was almost overwhelming. And, by any standard, poor! There were no designers at Headquarters or any of the Centers. So Bruce and I went back and forth and kept simplifying our symbols and logotypes as we tried to make them work in all two and 3-dimensional applications: from publications to signs to rockets and space vehicles! We even designed to survive the mediocre printing from GPO back then.

We just kept refining until we had a strong, progressive mark that spoke for aeronautics and space exploration. We had decided early on to present only one solution and back it up with multiple applications to show it was a real Program, not just a badge. It was the analog age, so Bruce (the lead designer) rendered the final logotype solution in a Pentel pen, and we were airborne!

(4) THE MARVELS. Finally, someone reviews the movie and not just its box office. Camestros Felapton also notes interesting parallels between the film and current events in “Review: The Marvels”.

…. There are a few missteps but there is a decent plot, an interesting antagonist and some innovative action scenes. Iman Vellani steals the show as Ms. Marvel, with an infectious charm as the starstruck teen with bizarre superpowers but Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris give more grounded performances as Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau. Also, there are cats….

(5) MEMORIES. “‘I got to have an affair with Kylie!’ Stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part one” in the Guardian.

Simon Callow (played Charles Dickens, 2005-2011)

I was one of the very few children who had no time for Doctor Who. I saw the very first episode and said in scornful falsetto, “Science fiction? Ugh!” So when I appeared as Chas Dickens, I was a Doctor Who virgin. But I remember I was moved to tears, as was Christopher Eccleston, by our exchange at the end: “You seem to know a lot about the future,” says Dickens to the Doctor. “May I ask you a question?” “Go ahead.” “Will my books be read?” “Yes.” “How long for?” “For ever.” Exquisite.

(6) UNWRAPPED. Slashfilm is still traumatized by “Sci-Fi TV Shows That Were Canceled After A Cliffhanger”.

… With the stakes often so high for sci-fi television, that makes these unresolved plot threads all the more frustrating for fans following a series and invested in the characters. From being stranded across time and space to fan-favorite characters faced with mortal peril, these cliffhangers threaten to overshadow a show’s legacy. Here are the biggest television cliffhangers in the sci-fi genre that were left unresolved by cancelations from the studios or networks producing them….

One of those shows was —

Quantum Leap (1989)

Premiering in 1989, the original “Quantum Leap” rates as something of a television cult classic, running for five seasons on NBC until 1993. While conducting time travel experiments, scientist Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) is flung through the space-time continuum, temporarily possessing figures throughout history. In each leap, Sam corrects different anomalies in the past, hoping to one day return to his own body and time period.

This hope is never fulfilled, with a title card in the series finale declaring that “Sam Becket never returned home.” The suddenness and finality of this statement, along with the show misspelling the last name of its own protagonist, gave “Quantum Leap” a laughably abrupt sendoff. A revival series, set in the same continuity as the original “Quantum Leap,” premiered in 2022, renewing hopes of closure for Sam Beckett. Unfortunately, series star Scott Bakula passed on an offer to return, with Sam described as lost in time at the beginning of the revival instead.

(7) WILLIAM B. ELLERN (1933-2023). Author, engineer and longtime LASFS member William B. Ellern died November 18. His daughter Jill made the announcement on Facebook.

With the permission of E. E. “Doc” Smith he extended the Lensman series. His first published story was “Moon Prospector” in Analog (1966). Later, “New Lensman” was serialized in 14 parts in Perry Rhodan #61-74 (1975) and “Triplanetary Agent” was serialized in 6 parts in Perry Rhodan #100-105 (1978).

Ellern worked as an engineer for JPL, Raytheon, Boeing, Hughes Aircraft and Northrop Corporation.

He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society board of directors for decades, ending his service in 2009.

He was married to Anne Morrel for 30 years; she predeceased him in 2015.

William Ellern and Anne Morrel in 2001. Photo by Dik Daniels.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 20, 1923 Nadine Gordimer. South African writer and political activist. Her one genre novel was July’s People which was banned in her native country under both governments. Her three stories are collected in Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black and Other Stories. She received the Nobel Prize in Literature, recognized as a writer “who through her magnificent epic writing has been of very great benefit to humanity”. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 20, 1923 Len Moffatt. He was a member of First Fandom. Len and his second wife June helped organize many of the early Bouchercons, for which he and June received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bouchercon staff. He was a member of LASFS. He wrote far too many zines to list here. Mike has an excellent look at his memorial here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Edmund Gardner. No, not the one that wrote that Grendel novel, and author of more Bond novels than one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films, License to Kill and GoldenEye. He’d also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed due to a lack of funding. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 20, 1932 Soma Vira. Indian-born British citizen mostly remembered for her Planet Keepers space opera series began with Checkmating Aliens. She’s unusual in that she started writing late in life, in her sixties to be precise. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 79. Her novel Wild Life won the 2000 James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She has two more SF novels, The Dazzle of Day and Outside the Gates. Her “Lambing season” short story was nominated for a Hugo at Torcon 3, and “The Grinnell Method” won a Sturgeon.  She’s available at the usual suspects. 

(9) WORLDS OF IF BONUS MATERIAL. [Item by Jean-Paul Garnier.] In anticipation of the relaunch of Worlds of IF Magazine in February 2024, over the next several months the editorial staff is regularly rolling out free online bonus materials on the IF site.

Recent additions include a new YouTube channel and video, History of IF through Cover Art, featuring all 176 covers throughout the entire run of IF, plus an interview with Jeremy Brett, curator of the Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, Texas A&M University about the role that pulp magazines play in one of the largest SF archives in the world, and audio adaptations of classic Worlds of IF stories, most recently Time Enough at Last by Lynn Venable from the January 1953 issue (famously adapted into a Twilight Zone episode in 1959).  Find out more at Worlds of IF Magazine.

Jeremy Brett

(10) DON’T PANIC. Yesterday there reportedly were “Fears for Wallace and Gromit after clay manufacturer shuts up shop”

With innovative animation films featuring characters such as Wallace, Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, it was the production company that turned humble modelling clay into cinematic art.

But the closure of Aardman Animations’ only supplier of modelling clay has raised question marks over the future of the studio’s output, prompting drastic measures.

When Newclay Products announced it was closing its factory in Newton Abbot, near Torquay, in March this year, Aardman’s staff moved quickly to buy up all remaining stock of the clay, a specific type that is not made elsewhere, ensuring they could finish work in the studio’s production pipeline.

The Telegraph understands that the last remaining stock of “Newplast” clay was enough to allow Aardman’s animators to create one more film, a new Wallace and Gromit animation due to hit the screens next year….

But today Aardman told people not to worry:

(11) WERTHAM AGAINST THE COMICS. Bobby Derie looks at “’Beyond the Past’ (1953) by Lou Morales” and ruminates on the Necronomicon, Frederic Wertham, and the Fifties anti-comics crusade in a post on Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

… Wertham used the leading question about the Necronomicon more than once; a 1954 article titled “The curse of the comic books” appeared in the journal Religious Education Vol. 49, No. 6 a few months prior with essentially the same opening, and Wertham may have reused it elsewhere.

There is no surprise in this case that Wertham got the details wrong; there are numerous examples in Seduction of the Innocent where his apparent encyclopedic knowledge of comic characters and plots is shown to be superficial at best. What’s surprising is how he got ahold of a British newspaper article—possibly through a clipping service—and how swiftly and avidly he seized on the word Necronomicon, apparently in complete ignorance of its provenance….

(12) FRICKIN’ SPACECRAFT, WITH FRICKIN’ LASERS ON THEIR HEADS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is headed to the main asteroid belt to visit a metal rich body of the same name. While the journey will take about 3.5 years and cover over a quarter-billion miles, the craft has already started working on an interim task.

Psyche is being used to test deep space communication using near infrared lasers for both up- and downlink. These should prove to be more efficient than radio communications and provide 1-2 orders of magnitude improvement in bandwidth.

The narrower beam path of the laser (versus radio communications) does mean that the transmitting systems will need to more precisely predict where the receiver (spacecraft or Earth) will be when the beam arrives. Kind of like kicking a soccer ball to where the other player will be when the ball gets there rather than to where they are now. “NASA’s Psyche wins first deep space laser relay” at Popular Science.

… NASA also noted that, while similar infrared communications has been successfully achieved in low Earth orbit as well as to-and-from the moon, this week’s DSOC milestone marks the first test through deep space. This is more difficult thanks to the comparatively vast, growing distance between Earth and Psyche. During the November 14 test, data took roughly 50 seconds to travel from the spacecraft to researchers in California. At its farthest distance from home, Psyche’s data-encoded photons will take around 20 minutes to relay. That’s more than enough time for both Earth and Psyche to drift further along their own respective cosmic paths, so laser arrays on the craft and at NASA will need to adjust for the changes. Future testing will ensure the terrestrial and deep space tech is up to the task….

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

Pixel Scroll 10/8/22 To Say Nothing Of The Balrog

(0) HAPPY 96TH BIRTHDAY. To my mother today – amazing.

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder revealed the cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2022 issue. The cover art is by Mondolithic Studios.

(2) RICKY DID LOSE THESE NUMBERS. Public Books asks why book sales figures remain such a deep dark secret. “Where Is All the Book Data?”

After the first lockdown in March 2020, I went looking for book sales data. I’m a data scientist and a literary scholar, and I wanted to know what books people were turning to in the early days of the pandemic for comfort, distraction, hope, guidance. How many copies of Emily St. John Mandel’s pandemic novel Station Eleven were being sold in COVID-19 times compared to when the novel debuted in 2014? And what about Giovanni Boccaccio’s much older—14th-century—plague stories, The Decameron? Were people clinging to or fleeing from pandemic tales during peak coronavirus panic? You might think, as I naively did, that a researcher would be able to find out exactly how many copies of a book were sold in certain months or years. But you, like me, would be wrong.

I went looking for book sales data, only to find that most of it is proprietary and purposefully locked away. What I learned was that the single most influential data in the publishing industry—which, every day, determines book contracts and authors’ lives—is basically inaccessible to anyone beyond the industry. And I learned that this is a big problem.

The problem with book sales data may not, at first, be apparent. Every week, the New York Times of course releases its famous list of “bestselling” books, but this list does not include individual sales numbers. Moreover, select book sales figures are often reported to journalists—like the fact that Station Eleven has sold more than 1.5 million copies overall—and also shared through outlets like Publishers Weekly. However, the underlying source for all these sales figures is typically an exclusive subscription service called BookScan: the most granular, comprehensive, and influential book sales data in the industry (though it still has significant holes—more on that to come)….

(3) SOME AMAZING STORIES. Cora Buhlert has posted another “Non-Fiction Spotlight.” This one is for Cents of Wonder: Science Fiction’s First Award Winners, edited by Steve Davidson and Kermit Woodall”. Buhlert notes that it’s a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but there have been similar works on the Best Related longlist before.

 Tell us about your book.

Kermit Woodall (KW) Cents of Wonder is a unique collection of the first science-fiction stories to win an award.

Steve Davidson (SD) It’s an anthology of all of the stories to win, place or receive honorable mention from the very first two writing contests ever held in the field of science fiction.

The stories represent the first attempts by new, previously unpublished authors to understand the requirements of the new genre of “scientifiction” and try their hands at delivering on concepts that had not yet been articulated – creating the suspension of disbelief and rewarding that with a sense of wonder.

As such, we regard it not just as an anthology, but as a tool, useful for SF historians, academics in the field and a no-pressure way to introduce new readers in the field to some of its important developmental history. These are the stories that would inspire following generations of famous SF writers, who would themselves go on to write works that excited, inspired and informed the authors we read today….

(4) LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER. Bobby Derie discusses H.P. Lovecraft’s adventures in various Chinatowns in “Lovecraft in Chinatown” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

…For his first thirty years, H. P. Lovecraft seldom left his native Providence, Rhode Island. All of his travels, his visits with friends, and to ethnic enclaves in different cities—as well as his marriage and all of his professionally-published fiction—happened in the last seventeen years of his life. The vast majority of character growth, exposure to different cultures, and challenges to Lovecraft’s prejudices happened in the final third of his existence. Which is why it is interesting to see what Lovecraft writes about various ethnic neighborhoods and enclaves he visited, including the few Chinatowns he visited on his travels….

(5) FELLOWSHIP AVAILABLE FOR LOVECRAFT RESEARCH. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2023 S. T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship in H. P. Lovecraft for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is November 1, 2022.

…The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library during the 2023 calendar year. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.

For more information and to apply, please visit https://library.brown.edu/joshi/.

Please direct questions to Heather Cole, Curator, Literary & Popular Culture Collections, [email protected].

(6) EXTRA MOONS. The Guardian interviews Sri Lankan author and Booker Prize finalist Shehan Karunatilaka. His Booker nominated novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is about a war photographer trying to solve his own murder after death and therefore genre: “Shehan Karunatilaka: ‘There’s a Sri Lankan gallows humour… we’ve been through a lot of catastrophes’”.

Was it important for you that such a violent story should also be funny?
I don’t know if that was intentional. There’s a Sri Lankan gallows humour, because we’ve been through a hell of a lot of catastrophes. The place isn’t as volatile as it was even a month or two ago; there’s still uncertainty, but there’s a lot of people cracking jokes. I think I could never write a straight-out-horror ghost story, maybe it’s just my sensibility. Even in the 1989 situation, there was a lot of farce and it was quite ridiculous.

(7) FOREIGN AGENT MAN. Science fiction author Dmitry Glukhovsky has been declared a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian government because of his opposition to the invasion of Ukraine: “Russia declares popular rapper and writer ‘foreign agents’” reports the Guardian.

…The author of a 2002 post-apocalyptic fiction novel, “Metro 2033”, was put on the list after a Russian court ordered his arrest in absentia for his criticism of the offensive….

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1955 [By Cat Eldridge.] On this date in 1955, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe came to an end after just twelve episodes. You know there are certain series, be they video or written that you just know lasted much longer than they actually did. For me, this is one of them. 

This black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures originally began life as a proposed syndicated television series. I’ve no idea why that never came to be, but it didn’t, mores the pity. 

It was written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman, and was directed by Harry Keller,  Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon. A year later Davidson would script the The Adventures of Dr. Fu Manchu series, and Shipman scripted more Westerns than is really healthy to think about including, and I kid you not, Hi-Yo Silver. It was created by condensing the fifteen chapters of the 1938 Lone Ranger film serial.

The cast was Judd Holdren as Commando Cody, Aline Towne as Joan Gilbert, William Schallert as Ted Richards and Richard Crane as Dick Preston. There are as I said above but twelve episodes. You can see the first episode, ‘Enemies of the Universe” here. Before you ask, yes it is out of copyright.

The Commando Cody character was actually first introduced three years earlier in Republic’s Radar Men from the Moon serial (1952) with actor George Wallace in the title role. In the sequel, Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) Judd Holdren also played the rocket man, but his character was renamed Larry Martin for reasons.

Do I like it? Oh very much so. It’s SF pulp at its very, very finest. I just wish it was really as long as my mind’s eye remembers it being. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank HerbertDune, of course, which won a Hugo at Tricon. (I’ve read it myriad times.) I’ll admit I only like the series through Dune Messiah. And no, I’ve not see the new Dune. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing. I’m also fond of Under Pressure. Beyond that, there’s not much that I’m fond of. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 73. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and Lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film Best Dramatic Presentation Award after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. And yes, I know Conspiracy ‘87 gave Aliens a Best Dramatic Presentation Award as well but I’m really not a fan of that franchise. 
  • Born October 8, 1949 Richard Hescox, 73. Though he does a lot of comics work , you most likely to know him for his film poster work. He did this poster for Swamp Thing, over here you can this stellar work he did for The Dark Crystal, and his movie poster concept art for Escape From New York.
  • Born October 8, 1974 Lynne M. Thomas, 48. Librarian, podcaster and award-winning editor. She has won ten Hugo Awards for, among other things, her work on the SF Squeecast fancast and editing Uncanny magazine with and husband Michael Damian Thomas. She and her husband are fanatical Whovians, so it’s no surprise that with Tara O’Shea, she edited the superb Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly C. Quinn, 29. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Arthurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date.

(10) SHORT AND FREE. Space Cowboy Books will host “Online Flash Science Fiction Night” on October 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. The evening of short science fiction readings will feature authors Jenna Hanchey, Taylor Rae, and Tara Campbell. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less. Register for free here: here.

This event is in collaboration with If There’s Anyone Left series of flash fiction anthologies
Get Vol.1 here & Vol.2 here

(11) STRANGE VIBRATIONS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Not remotely science fiction, but something in my brain forced me to send this item from Gizmodo. On behalf of my brain, I am truly truly sorry. “Build Your Own Undetectable Chess Cheating Vibrator”.

The professional chess world is in chaos after accusations that master Hans Niemann has been cheating in official play, including some wild theories about how he might be getting outside help. But are vibrating anal beads that wirelessly communicate with the outside world even possible? It turns out the technology can work, and Adafruit will teach you how to build your own….

The DIY project starts with a plastic soda bottle preform (these are heated and expanded through a molding process to create the larger soda bottles you’ll find on store shelves), which is waterproof and nearly indestructible: an important feature depending on where you plan to use your Cheekmate (yes, that’s really what it’s called) device. From there, it’s stuffed with a small assortment of various electronics, including a haptic buzzer, a battery, an ESP32-S2 board with built-in wifi, and some wires and soldering.

The tutorial also includes all the code needed for the device to receive wireless text messages through the Adafruit IO cloud service and then translate them into Morse Code, which is transmitted to the user by pulses of its haptic buzzer. To successfully learn to cheat at chess, if that’s how you intend to use your Cheekmate, you’ll need to learn Morse Code first, but that’s probably a lot easier than the actual game….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King dropped this video parody of films like The Wicker Man and Midsommar.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Michael “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Lloyd Penney, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 9/11/22 Once Is Pixel Scrolls. Twice Is Files. Three Times Is Fannish Activity

(1) INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING AT ITS MOST. The news media covered the London Worldcon of 1957. They asked, “Do extraterrestrial things have much of a sex life?” Here’s a clip of the report:

ITN’s Lynne Reid Banks spoke to various creatures at the 15th World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon. Held in London, that year’s meet was dubbed “Loncon”. It was the first Worldcon to bring the global sci-fi community together outside the US.

Rob Hansen identified the fans in the video:

0.00 Jean Bogert with gun at start.
0.05 Guy with glasses looks like Sandy Sandfield 
0.06 Norman Shorrock over shoulder of guy in mask
0.12 Eric Jones interviewed
0.25 Ron Buckmaster interviewed
0.50 Frank & Belle Dietz interviewed in alien costumes. Round-faced teenager in the background is Mike Moorcock.
1.18 Guy with moustache, right rear is Ken McIntyre

Postscript: Rob Hansen: “David Pringle has pointed out that the most famous writer in that video clip is actually the interviewer, Lynne Reid Banks, and that she’s still with us.”

(2) EMERGENCY BACKUP SCROLL TITLE. I thought it was too long for the headline because long titles are one suspected reason why subscriber notifications don’t generate. However, I rather like Daniel Dern’s suggestion:

Seventy-Six Tron Clones Led The Masquerade, With 104 Lady Thors Close Behind, Followed By Rows And Rows Of Freshly-Polished 3CPO’s…

(3) CHICON 8 FINAL COVID REPORT. The Chicon 8 committee sent a wrapup email to attending members reporting a final total of 60 people who voluntarily reported they tested positive for Covid during or shortly after the Worldcon.

(4) CORA BUHLERT IN THE PAPER. “I did get at least one of the local newspapers to bite and report about my Hugo win,” says Cora. “The article isn’t online, but I included a photo of the article itself and the front page, which mentions me.” In German, of course.

 You can also see it in the online electronic edition. She’s on page 5: Aktuelle Ausgabe.

 (5) GUARDIAN’S OPINION ON FANTASY. Strangely enough, the Guardian has taken an editorial position on J.R.R. Tolkien: “The Guardian view on Tolkien: much more than special effects”.

Back at the dawn of the new millennium, an Oxford don argued, at book length, that fantasy was the most important literature of the 20th century and that the claim rested on the work of JRR Tolkien. Prof Tom Shippey was duly ridiculed by some for his heresy, with this paper describing it as “a belligerently waterwalkerargued piece of fan-magazine polemic”. Among those who Prof Shippey cited as influenced by “the master” was one Alan Garner, author of a series of beloved children’s fantasies.

How much more secure the professor’s claims look today. Garner, now 87, has just been shortlisted for the Booker prize for a novel called Treacle Walker, which, if more folky than fantastic, certainly displays its fantasy pedigree. Meanwhile, Tolkien delivered more than 25 million global viewers to Amazon Prime on the first day of its splashy new prequel to The Lord of the Rings.

…Fantasy suits the era of film and television because it is infinitely grandiose while sidestepping the need to grapple with the effect on plot of modern technology: Frodo can’t phone home. However, two decades have passed since Jackson’s films landed, so the enduring popularity of The Lord of the Rings isn’t simply tie-in fever.

From the off, Tolkien was caught in the crossfire between those who dismissed his work as escapism and others who saw in it a moral purpose forged on the killing fields of the Somme. It’s a pointless binary. “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory,” wrote the master himself. “If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”…

(6) A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE. Bobby Derie is not so accepting as the Guardian when he considers the racism in the fantasy written by two icons in “Deeper Cut: The Two Masters: H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, & Racism in Fantasy” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

Lovecraft and Tolkien both held the image of the traditional English rural gentry as a kind of ideal.

Yet Lovecraft was no hobbit. While Lovecraft had an antiquarian yearning for old buildings and a rose-tinted vision of British Colonial period, his fiction was mostly set in the current day and focused on themes of degeneration, hoary survivals from the past, ancient aliens, and cults rather than a celebration or exultation of the small joys in life. While Lovcraft regretted what he called the coming “Machine Culture,” he did not ignore or decry the advancement of technology and industrialization, or exalt a rural state that had fallen into decay. Dunwich is no Shire, for all the rural trappings; it is kind of an anti-Shire, a place where old ways and habits have turned inward and strange….

(7) MAIL CALL. In another Deeper Cuts post, Bobby Derie looks at the letters exchanged between Robert E. Howard and Novalyne Price: “Her Letters To Robert E. Howard: Novalyne Price”

 …Novalyne had been aware of Bob Howard through their mutual friends in Brownwood; she had dated Howard’s good friend Tevis Clyde Smith, and he had introduced the two in 1932. Like Robert E. Howard, she was interested in becoming a writer. Now that they were both in Cross Plains, the two renewed their acquaintance…and began what would be a tumultuous on-again, off-again romance. The two dated, argued, exchanged gifts, flirted, met each other’s families, went on long drives in the country, debated, criticized each other’s fiction, quarreled and made up and quarreled again…a story chronicled in her memoir One Who Walked Alone, later made into the motion picture The Whole Wide World….

(8) IT’S FINALLY LEAP YEAR AGAIN. The time has come – Quantum Leap premieres Monday, September 19 at 10/9c on NBC, streaming next day on Peacock. “Quantum Leap: Official Trailer”.

(9) SOON TO LAUNCH. Here’s an interview with Oliver Brackenbury of the forthcoming New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine. (Cora Buhlert will have an essay in its first issue.) “Editor Spotlight: Interview with Oliver Brackenbury of New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

 In your guest post on Scott Oden’s blog discussing New Edge as a mode or evolution of Sword & Sorcery fiction, you emphasize “inclusivity.” What does that mean in the context of the stories and writers you’re looking to publish?

OB: What inclusivity means to me is making sure that people outside my own demographic—white, cishet, neurotypical, able-bodied males, or just “white guys” as, for the sake of brevity, I’ll use going forward—can see themselves in both the stories and the authors creating them, ideally making them feel welcome within the community. This is key for expanding the audience of our beloved fantasy sub-genre, as well as its pool of authors.

I’ve gained firsthand experience with this in my six years volunteering with a group dedicated to promoting the western Hemisphere’s largest publicly accessible speculative fiction genre archive—The Merril Collection. Through no malice of anyone involved, in the time I’ve been with them, our group has been made up almost or entirely of white people. Our selling old paperbacks to help raise funds would often combine with 20th century publishing trends to create the scene of a couple of white people sitting behind event tables coated in covers featuring white characters written by white authors, trying to encourage the full breadth of humanity to spend a few dollars in support of the collection, while hearing our pitch for it.

All that sameness was a significant obstacle to achieving our goals, as more than one non-white individual made clear when—quite reasonably—saying “I only see white faces here.” or “I don’t see myself in what you are doing.”

Even coming back to myself, I don’t hate my fellow white guys any more than I hate IPAs, but I get frustrated when the vast majority of shelf space is filled with the same thing, whether it’s beer or writerly perspectives. All of this has informed the approach I’m taking with the stories and authors I’m looking to publish.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1964 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ok, I confess. I really, really loved the original Mary Poppins which came out fifty-eight years ago. No I didn’t see it until (I think) a decade or so later but I immediately loved it.

Mike Glyer notes that “She doesn’t only fly. At least in the 1964 movie she has a suitcase that must be related to the TARDIS, all the stuff she pulls out of it. And her boyfriend has the ‘luck’ superpower!”

It was directed by Robert Stevenson from the screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi as based off P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series. It was produced by Walt Disney and starred Julie Andrews in her first acting role. Principal other cast were Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. The film was shot entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, using painted London background scenes.

It won’t surprise you that the film received universal acclaim from film critics, and that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke got lavish praise. Box office wise, it earned some forty-five million dollars on an estimated budget of four or so million dollars (Disney never released the budget officially, something they do quite often) and it’s had at least another hundred million in box office rentals since then. Not to mention DVD and such sales.

It was the only one of his films which earned Disney a Best Picture nomination during his lifetime.

In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

A biographical drama on the making of the film, Saving Mr. Banks, was released nine years ago. It was well received with The Hollywood Reporter saying the film was an “affecting if somewhat soft-soaped comedy drama, elevated by excellent performances.”

But that’s not where this story ends. As Charles de Lint once said, “There are no happy endings… There are no endings, happy or otherwise. We all have our own stories which are just part of the one Story that binds both this world and Faerie. Sometimes we step into each others’ stories – perhaps just for a few minutes, perhaps for years – and then we step out of them again. But all the while, the Story just goes on.” And so it is with the Mary Poppins story. 

Did I mention that P.L.Travers loathed this film with all her heart save Andrews as Poppins? Well she really did. Which complicated making a sequel. When Disney personally went to her a year later seeking rights to a sequel, she rejected it vehemently. Twenty years on did not at all mellow her, so she rejected them yet again save Andrews playing Poppins. And the use of the color red. Don’t ask. 

With approval from Travers’ estate (see death helps clear rights as does offering presumably offering up the estate large sums of money), Disney greenlit the project with the film taking place twenty-five years after the first one was set and having a stand alone narrative that was based on the remaining seven books in the series. 

That sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, was released four years ago. It was well received too. Dick Van Dyke, a cast member of the original film, appears in the film as Mr. Dawes Jr., a role originated by Arthur Malet in the previous film. 

And Angela Lansbury is the Balloon Lady. The part was written as a cameo role for Julie Andrews who portrayed Mary Poppins in the original film, but she turned the role down as she felt her presence would unfairly take attention away from Emily Blunt who plays Mary Poppins here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 11, 1856 Richard Ganthony. OK, this is going to a little bit explaining. Imagine that an author decided to riff off Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. With Martians. Seriously. A Message from Mars is a play primarily written by him, first performed at London’s Avenue Theatre in November 1899. The play is about Horace Parker, a Grinch-like man. Horace refuses go with Minnie, his fiancé, to a ball because he wants to stay home reading about new discoveries about the planet Mars. He falls asleep and dreams that he is visited by a Messenger from Mars. The Messenger trys to cure Horace of his selfishness. After a series of visions, the Messenger in the last Visio has him as a beggar in rags. Having realized the error of his ways, he awakens a changed man. It was filmed twice, both times as A Message from Mars (1913 and 1921, and I’m assuming as silent movies given their dates). It would be novelized by Lester Lurgan. (Died 1924)
  • Born September 11, 1929 Björn Nyberg. A Swedish writer known largely for his Conan stories which given that he wrote just one non-Conan story makes sense. His first book in the series was The Return of Conan which was revised for publication by L. Sprague de Camp. Likewise, they later did Conan the AvengerConan the VictoriousConan the Swordsman and Sagas of Conan. The latter two are available on iBooks and Kindle. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 11, 1928 Earl Holliman, 94. He’s in the cook in Forbidden Planet and he shares a scene with Robbie the Robot. A few short years later, he’s Conrad in Visit to a Small Planet though it’ll be nearly fifteen before his next genre role as Harry Donner in the Six Million Dollar Man’s Wine, Women and War TV film. He shows up as Frank Domino in the Night Man series, an adaptation of a Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse character. What the Frell is that publisher?!? Surprisingly he’s done no other genre series beyond being in the original Twilight Zone series premiere as Mick Ferris in the “Where Is Everybody?” episode. 
  • Born September 11, 1930 Jean-Claude Forest. Forest became famous when he created Barbarella, which was originally published in France in V Magazine in 1962.  In 1967 it was adapted by Terry Southern and Roger Vadim and made into 1968 film of that name with Jane Fonda in the lead role, with him acting as design consultant.  It was considered an adult comic by the standards of the time. An animated Barbarella series was booted around in the Sixties but never made. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 11, 1941 Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor, who as the former represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 11, 1965 Catriona (Cat) Sparks, 57. Winner of an astounding eighteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent in 2021 for her Dark Harvest story collection. She won two in the same year in 2014 when her short story “Scarp” was awarded a Ditmar for Best Short Story and The Bride Price a Ditmar for Best Collected Work.  She has just one novel to date, Lotus Blue, but has an amazing amount of short stories which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price are both available on the usual suspects.
  • Born September 11, 1970 Colson Whitehead, 52. Winner of the Arthur Clarke C. Award for The Underground Railroad. Genre wise, he’s not a prolific writer, he’s written but two other such works, The Intuitionists and Zone One. He’s written but one piece of short genre fiction, “The Wooden Mallet”.  However he’s written seven other works including John Henry Days which is a really interesting look at that legend, mostly set at a contemporary festival about that legend. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Popeye vs Credential. Guess who wins?
  • Crankshaft has a crossover from the Hi and Lois strip.

(13) WHEN CONAN RESCUED TED WHITE. Brian Murphy celebrated the magazine Fantastic and its contribution to the sword and sorcery boom of the 1960s and 1970s: “A Fantastic Chapter for Conan and Sword-and-Sorcery” at DMR Books.

The late 1960s and early ‘70s were peak sword-and-sorcery. The Lancer Conan Saga was at its zenith of popularity, eventually selling by some estimates upwards of 10 million copies. Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock were seeing broad mass market paperback publication, Leiber with Swords and Deviltry and Swords Against Death (Ace, 1970) and Moorcock with the likes of the first Corum trilogy (Berkley Medallion, 1971). And as the ‘60s gave way to the ‘70s a struggling magazine was about to get a signal boost from S&S’s mightiest hero.

As Ted White found out during his tenure as editor of the digest-sized Fantastic Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories/Fantastic Science-Fiction/Fantastic Stories of Imagination, best known as Fantastic, the public appetite for Conan ran deep, and was not slaked by the Lancers.…

Circulation remained flat, but White finally got the boost he was looking for when he began publishing stories of S&S’ mightiest hero: Conan, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, was about to tread the digest size pages of Fantastic under his sandalled feet, in the form of four new stories by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp….

(14) FAKE NEWS. The New York Times recounts how “Galileo Forgery’s Trail Leads to Web of Mistresses and Manuscripts”.

When the University of Michigan Library announced last month that one of its most prized possessions, a manuscript said to have been written by Galileo around 1610, was in fact a 20th-century fake, it brought renewed attention to the checkered, colorful career of the man named as the likely culprit: Tobia Nicotra, a notorious forger from Milan.

Nicotra hoodwinked the U.S. Library of Congress into buying a fake Mozart manuscript in 1928. He wrote an early biography of the conductor Arturo Toscanini that became better known for its fictions than its facts. He traveled under the name of another famous conductor who had recently died. And in 1934 he was convicted of forgery in Milan after the police were tipped off by Toscanini’s son Walter, who had bought a fake Mozart from him.

His explanation of what had motivated his many forgeries, which were said to number in the hundreds, was somewhat unusual, at least according to an account of his trial that appeared in The American Weekly, a Hearst publication, in early 1935.

“I did it,” the article quoted him as saying, “to support my seven loves.”

When the police raided Nicotra’s apartment in Milan, several news outlets reported, they found a virtual forgery factory, strewn with counterfeit documents that appeared to bear the signatures of Columbus, Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Martin Luther, Warren G. Harding and other famous figures.

Investigators had also found a sort of shrine to his seven mistresses, at least according to The American Weekly. …

(15) POSTSCRIPT FOR PAT CADIGAN’S 9/10 BIRTHDAY. [Item by John Hertz.] When she was Toastmaster at MidAmericon II, I contributed this (acrostic, in 5-7-5-syllable lines) to the newsletter.

Passing all measure,
Ardent, courageous, comic,
Taking each moment

(16) PURE COMMERCIAL IMAGINATION. Mashed gives its pitch for “Discontinued Wonka Candy That Needs To Make A Comeback”.

Unfortunately, fans of the fictional-turned-reality candy empire had been watching supplies dwindle over the decades, and the vast majority of Wonka candies have been discontinued as of 2022. In fact, the Wonka brand itself was eventually retired after being acquired by Nestlé in 1988, according to The Christian Science Monitor. The Wonka brand was sold off in 2018, and the remaining candies found a new home with Ferrero (via The Motley Fool).

Surprising, Wonka Candy isn’t entirely extinct.

… While many Wonka candies have completely vanished from store shelves, others can still be found if you know where and what to look for. Back in the days of the Willy Wonka Candy Company, Kazoozles offered a different flavor profile than the iconic chocolate bars. The Twizzler-like sweets had a tart fruity taste starting with the original cherry punch flavor, according to Snack History. In 2015 when the Wonka brand was acquired by Nestlé, Kazoozles was rebranded and re-released under the now-familiar SweeTARTS Ropes candy….

(17) DINOMUMMY. “Quick-dried Lystrosaurus ‘mummy’ holds clues to mass death in the Triassic”Nature explains the research.

The fossilized skin of young mammal-like reptiles hints that drought led to their demise some 250 million years ago, at the start of the Triassic period1.

A few millennia before their deaths, climate change thought to be caused by volcanic eruptions led to the Permian extinction, the largest mass-extinction event in Earth’s history. Among the small number of animals to survive the cataclysm were reptiles in the genus Lystrosaurus.

While looking for clues to what the climate was like after the mass extinction, Roger Smith at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his colleagues uncovered the remains of 170 four-limbed animals in South Africa’s Karoo Basin. Among the tangled remains, the researchers found young Lystrosaurus of two species that had died in clusters around what was once a dry riverbed.

Several of the younglings were in a spreadeagled position seen in some animals when they collapse from heat exhaustion. Two of the fossils also had what appeared to be mummified skin, which probably formed through rapid drying after death.

Together, this evidence points to a mass die-off of young Lystrosaurus owing to heat and water shortages, suggesting that the climate after the Permian extinction underwent periods of drought.

Primary research here.

(18) DAN DARE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The BCC posted this clip in which Patrick Stenson interviews Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson in this clip from 1975.

(19) HE ISN’T SPOCK. (OKAY, HE LIED). [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard Nimoy chats with the BBC’s Terry Wogan in January 1989 about his autobiography I Am Not Spock, how he became a director, and how in classic Star Trek he was so “emotional” “it was like doing Mutiny On The Bounty” in this clip which dropped yesterday.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Rob Thornton, Ersatz Culture, Cora Buhlert, Steven French, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/10/22 And In The Naked Light, I Saw Ten Thousand Pixels, Maybe More

(1) HOW THE BALLOT SHOULD HAVE LOOKED. Rich Horton has posted his latest Hugo nomination ideas, for the 1952 Hugo year (that is, stories from 1951). He makes a “Special recommendation to ‘Beyond Bedlam’, a story I knew of but had not read until just now. It is wonderful, original, wrenching.” “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1952” at Strange at Ecbatan.

The 1952 Worldcon was Chicon II, in Chicago, the tenth World Science Fiction Convention. (This year will be Chicon 8!) As noted, they gave no Hugo awards. The International Fantasy Award went to John Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights, a remarkable book, though as a story collection not eligible for a Hugo in this or any year. There was also a non-fiction award, to The Exploration of Space, by Arthur C. Clarke.

(2) A DOCTOR WHO PRACTICED IN THE SIXTIES. The Guardian shares a gallery of behind the scenes photos from the 1960s Doctor Who movies: “The Daleks invade 60s Surrey: on the set of the classic Doctor Who films – in pictures”.

Dalekmania inspired Amicus films to buy up the cinema rights to the Saturday tea-time television adventures of Dr Who, leading to two films starring Peter Cushing.

(3) GOING POSTAL. At Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Bobby Derie takes a look at the correspondence between Margaret St. Clair and Clark Ashton Smith: “Her Letters To Clark Ashton Smith: Margaret St. Clair”. About a letter written by Smith in 1940:

… A major point of the letter involved the change in editorship at Weird Tales; Farnsworth Wright had been fired and was replaced with Dorothy McIlwraith. There was some hard feelings among the older guard of writers about Wright’s treatment, and Wright himself apparently floated the idea of forming a competing weird magazinebut this would not come to pass, and Wright himself would pass away on 12 June 1940. On a lighter note, Smith also noted that the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy had been established not far away from his cabin. In a postscript to the letter, Smith wrote jocularly:

Can’t we start some sort of coven in opposition to that nunnery?

(4) THE UNKINDEST CUT? Also at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein, Cecelia Hopking-Drewer talks about her experiences reading H.P. Lovecraft: “An Australian Woman Looks At Lovecraft”.

… My involvement with Lovecraft scholarship goes back some twenty-seven years. At one stage I was a huge Stephen King fan, and I found a reference in King’s non-fiction work Danse Macabre to Lovecraft (see King, 1982:132-5). I was studying English literature at Master’s level, around 1992/3, and in the realm of academia, historical writers were more acceptable research subjects than contemporary writers, so I approached the department about a project. The project was approved, but the resident Gothic expert was unable to provide supervision, and I struggled along against a curtain of institutional resistance regarding texts associated with popular culture. My assumption that as a ‘dead white male’ to quote the cliché, Lovecraft would be respected academically was incorrect, and instead he proved to be a controversial and polarizing figure…. 

(5) CREDITS CHECK. K.C. McAbee has an article about Leigh Brackett at Luna Station Quarterly“Her Majesty the Queen of Space Opera: Part One”.

Leigh Brackett will always be a name to conjure with, and not just because she wrote the first draft of a little movie you may have heard of called The Empire Strikes Back. Though she died before it went into production and hers was not the final filmed screenplay, she created many of the story beats that ended up in the movie. City in the clouds: check. Battle of Hoth: check. Deadly trip through an asteroid field: yep, it’s there. Love triangle between Luke, Leia and Han: check, check, and check….

(6) MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I posted another of those Masters-of-the-Universe photo stories that people have been enjoying entitled “Consent Is Sexy, Harassment Stinks”.

The small toy aisle at the German drugstore chain Rossmann has turned out to be an unlikely source of Masters of the Universe toys, because they tend to have even hard-to-find figures like Clawful or the Horde Trooper at regular prices. I didn’t find a Clawful during my last visit to the local Rossmann store, but I did get lucky and snapped up none other than Stinkor, Masters of the Universe‘s very own walking fart joke….

(7) HEAR SF POETRY READINGS. In 2022, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, in an effort to further engage Rhysling Award voters and speculative poetry audiences at large, Akua Lezli Hope organized and hosted three virtual gatherings on Zoom at which poets with work nominated to the short poem category of the Rhyslings read their work aloud. You can watch the recordings on the SFPA YouTube channel; click here for the full playlist.

SFPA is now creating a series of Rhysling Award Readings for the 2022 Long Poem Nominees. There presently are two videos; more will be added.

(8) MEMORY LANE

1970 [By Cat Eldridge.] “This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours: Obey me and live, or disobey and die.”

If you were in West Germany on this date, you could have enjoyed the premiere there of Colossus: The Forbin Project. It was from a screenplay by James Bridges who based it off  Dennis Feltham Jones’ Colossus novel. It would be his only genre movie script. He’d later do one for the Alfred Hitchcock Hour off Ray Bradbury‘s 1944 “The Jar” short story. 

SPOILER ALERT!

Dennis Feltham Jones did a trilogy of Colossus novels, and a lot of other SF as well. Ok the premise here is Colossus is an AI that wakes up, assumes controls of all Earth’s military resources and won’t relinquish control. In time, it fuses with its Soviet counterpart. The film is taken directly off his first novel. 

END SPOILER ALERT!

Critics generally liked it. Victor Canby of the New York Times said it was “no Dr. Strangelove, but it’s full of surprising moments of humor and intelligence”. And David Kher of the Chicago Reader declared that it was “Above-average science fiction”. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-six percent rating. 

It’s been in remake Hell since 2007. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 John Wyndham. His best-known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles though little of his short fiction is available, alas. The Day of the Triffids is currently a buck ninety-nine there. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 10, 1914 Joe Shuster. Comic book artist best remembered for co-creating Superman with Jerry Siegel. It happened in Action Comics #1 which was cover-dated June 1938. Need I mention the long fight with DC over crediting them as the creators and paying them? I think not. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr. Though much better known for writing and producing The Waltons, he wrote eight scripts for the Twilight Zone including “Black Leather Jackets” in which an alien falls in love with a human girl and “The Hunt” where raccoon hunters enter the Twilight Zone. He also wrote the script of the Hanna-Barbera production of Charlotte’s Web.  (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1929 George Clayton Johnson. He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including “A Game of Pool”, “Kick the Can”, “Nothing in the Dark”, and “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap”. (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. At age 21 she chaired TASFiC, the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at the Sasquan Worldcon. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 Susan Seddon Boulet. Another one who died way, way too young after a long struggle with cancer. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 10, 1945 Ron Glass. Probably known best genre wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and the sequel film Serenity. His first genre work was the role of Jerry Merris in Deep Space, a SF horror film, and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it has a very impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nancy prepares to explain two literary terms to a friend.
  • Tom Gauld has a gag about a combat robot workshop at New Scientist.
  • Tom Gauld again on the tradition of “last orders” in the Guardian.
  • Macanudo’s Tolkienesque joke is truly bizarre.

(11) A SLIGHT DELAY. Sunday Morning Transport’s story is “The Daily Commute” by Sarah Gailey.

We love how Sarah Gailey’s story merges magic and public transport with a wonderful, wrenching effect. ~ Fran Wilde, July 10

(12) KELLY’S HEROICS. “Try to remember the kind of September, When you were a tender and callow fellow.” (P.S. This is Scott Kelly in the video, not his twin brother Mark Kelly.)

(13) FOR THOSE WITH DEEP POCKETS. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Getcher Stormtrooper Helmet now (actual person’s head not included): “’Blast ‘Em!’: Heritage Auctions Offers in July Stormtrooper Helmet and Blaster Used in 1977’s ‘Star Wars’”.

A long time ago in a theater probably not too far from your house, Star Wars was released — May 25, 1977, long before the original space opera was rechristened Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. To celebrate that 45th anniversary, Heritage Auctions is thrilled to offer in its July 22-23 Hollywood & Entertainment Signature® Auction two of the rarest and most coveted items featured in the film that spawned a never-ending franchise: a screen-matched stormtrooper helmet and a screen-used hero E-11 blaster shared by stormtroopers, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

….Of these six original sandtrooper helmets, only two are confirmed to exist in private hands. Heritage Auctions is offering one of the two.

In addition to being one of the surviving original first-produced and first-filmed stormtrooper helmets from the original Star Wars, this specific helmet can be conclusively identified on-screen across multiple sequences. It was also worn by one of the few stormtroopers who delivered dialogue — the very one who speaks to the bartender after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, let’s say, disarming encounter in the Mos Eisley cantina….

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

Pixel Scroll 10/25/21 I Am The Pontiff Of Pixel, Scroller Of All I Survey

(1) I’D LIKE TO MEET HIS TAILOR. James Davis Nicoll is “Asking the Tough Questions About Superheroes and Public Nudity” at Tor.com. Don’t tell me this hasn’t troubled you, too!

…If [the superhero is] prone to turning into living flame? Clothes go up in flame. Super-cold? Cloth turns brittle when frozen. Change size? Clothing shreds. Or a teeny-tiny size-changer can slip between the weave of the cloth. Then change back to normal human and oops, no clothes.

In the old days, the Comics Code Authority guaranteed a certain level of protection from power-induced nudity. The Hulk’s pants size might go from M to XXXXXXXL but somehow his trousers always stretched enough to provide him with shorts. Similarly, Doctor Phosphorus’ skin incinerated everything it touched, despite which he somehow always had enough of his trousers left to avoid being charged with indecent exposure (well, in addition to terrorism and murder)….

(2) RECLAMATION 2022 VENUE ANNOUNCEMENT. The Reclamation 2022 committee today announced that next year’s UK Eastercon venue will be the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre London Heathrow. The con will run April 15-18, 2022.

The hotel, formerly known as the Park Inn, is a venue that will be familiar to regular science fiction convention goers and is easily accessed via various transport links. In addition to the hotel, there are local pubs and restaurants and central London is a tube ride away.

The committee would like to thank the community for their enormous patience. The current global situation made the process far more difficult than we’d hoped. It has taken over two years of searching to find a suitable venue for a convention of our size that will accommodate non-corporate gatherings.

We did want to announce the venue much earlier in the year. We had hoped to bring Eastercon to Brighton for 2022. Sadly, the venue required more extensive renovations than they, and we, first anticipated and it’s no longer available at this time. We hope to see an Eastercon there in the future.

To attend Reclamation, the 72nd Eastercon, you need to purchase membership for the convention. All information can be found on the website at https://reclamation2022.co.uk/membership/ . Membership can also be purchased at Eastercon fan tables, which can be found at various forthcoming fan conventions….

(3) MISSING CREDITS. The Irish Times’ John Connolly contends women writers of genre fiction are doubly ignored: “Pulp friction: Irish women’s place in genre writing should be rescued from ignominy”.

… The assault on genre writing in Ireland began as early as 1892, when Douglas Hyde, eventually to become the first president of the Irish Free State, gave a speech to the Irish National Literary Society in Dublin in which he urged his listeners to set their faces “sternly against penny dreadfuls, shilling shockers”. To Hyde, genre writing was not only “garbage” and “vulgar”, it was also “English”, which made it undesirable in the extreme. It had no relevance to his conception of Irishness, which was limited to everything “most smacking of the soil, most Gaelic”. If it was genre fiction, it wasn’t Irish literature. In fact, it probably wasn’t literature at all….

(4) PODCASTER Q&A. Cora Buhlert has posted a new “Fancast Spotlight” for Light On Light Through, a podcast by Paul Levinson: “Fancast Spotlight: Light On Light Through”.

 … Today, I’m pleased to feature Light On Light Through, a podcast run by Paul Levinson, who’s a science fiction author, singer/songwriter, media critic and professor of communications and media studies at Fordham University.

Paul Levinson is clearly a very busy man, so I’m thrilled to welcome him to my blog today to talk about Light On Light Through….

(5) SUBGENRE CHALLENGES. Cora Buhlert, who sent this link, notes she’s not the only one who’s interviewing semiprozine editors. Bobby Derie just interviewed Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris, editors of the new magazine of Starward Shadows Quarterly“Editor Spotlight: Interview with Erica Ciko Campbell and Desmond Rhae Harris of Starward Shadows Quarterly”.

“We’re interested in exploring the wicked, strange places that walk the line between reality and nightmare—the alien, the absurd, and above all else, the weird.” —Starward Shadows Quarterly Submissions page

Aside from Lovecraft, other thematic inspirations cited for Starward Shadows Quarterly include J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. How do you handle the historical racism and colonialist tropes inherent in fantasy and sword & sorcery?

DRH: This is a tricky topic. The best I can explain it is that we always look for ways to bring fresh, modern insight on those topics, and we deliberately seek out authors who provide that. If a story doesn’t have a new, enlightened viewpoint that shatters racism and colonialism and instead falls back on addressing those grief-ridden topics in the same, tired, old ways, then we simply won’t publish the story—no matter how good it is otherwise. It isn’t enough for something to be “not that problematic.” It needs to actively counteract the social impact that previous authors have had in these difficult areas in order for us to accept it….

(6) THE DUNES ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The New York Times tells “How Hans Zimmer Conjured the Otherworldly Sounds of ‘Dune’”.

…For “Dune,” by contrast, Zimmer wanted to conjure sounds that nobody had ever heard before.

“I felt like there was a freedom to get away from a Western orchestra,” he said recently, speaking in the Warner Bros. offices overlooking Hudson Yards in New York. “I can spend days making up sounds.”

The resulting soundtrack might be one of Zimmer’s most unorthodox and most provocative. Along with synthesizers, you can hear scraping metal, Indian bamboo flutes, Irish whistles, a juddering drum phrase that Zimmer calls an “anti-groove,” seismic rumbles of distorted guitar, a war horn that is actually a cello and singing that defies Western musical notation — just to name a few of its disparate elements.

The score combines the gigantic, chest-thumping sound of Zimmer’s best known work of the last decade with the spirit of radical sonic experimentation. The weirdness is entirely befitting the saga of a futuristic, intergalactic civilization whose denizens are stalked by giant sandworms and revere a hallucinogenic substance called spice….

(7) IT’S NOT JUST A SURPRISING IDEA – IT’S THE LAW! “Pablo Escobar’s Cocaine Hippos Are Legally People, Court Rules”Gizmodo has the story.

Pablo Escobar’s hippos have a lawyer. And a good one at that. In a U.S. first, a court recognized the animals as legal persons. That could be the hippos’ salvation in the ongoing fight about what to do with one of the world’s most rotund and dangerous invasive species.

… Now, there are up to 120 hippos roaming around Colombia, and they are considered one of the top invasive species in the world. Authorities have weighed a plan to kill the hippos off and on since 2009, and its recently gained steam.

Last July, Colombian attorney Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed a lawsuit on the hippos’ behalf to save them from being euthanized. Instead, the case recommends sterilization. Colombian officials announced a plan to use a chemical contraceptive developed by the U.S. Agriculture Department to sterilize “the main group” of the hippos, and the region’s environmental agency Cornare began to implement the plan on Friday, darting 24 hippos. 

… “The Colombian legal system can’t compel someone in the U.S. to provide testimony or to produce documents, but we have this federal law that allows interested persons in Colombia to go to the U.S. and obtain that ability to obtain documents and testimony.” Christopher Berry, the attorney overseeing the U.S. case who also serves as managing director at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said. “So we applied for the hippos’ rights to compel their testimony in order to support the Colombian litigation, and now the [U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio] has granted that application, recognizing that the hippos are interested persons.”…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1968 – Fifty-three years this evening on NBC, Star Trek’s “Spectre of the Gun” first aired. It was written by former producer Gene L. Coon (under the name of Lee Cronin) and directed by Vincent McEveety.  It had one of the larger guest casts — Ron Soble  as Wyatt Earp, Bonnie Beecher as  Sylvia,  Charles Maxwell  as Virgil Earp, Rex Holman as Morgan Earp,  Sam Gilman as Doc Holliday,  Charles Seel as Ed the bartender, Bill Zuckert  as Johnny Behan,  Abraham Sofaer as the Melkotian Voice and Ed McCready as Barber. You know the premise, so I won’t detail it here.  I will note that the budget wasn’t available to shoot on location on a full set, so instead a Western street of false building fronts and no sides was used. It’s considered one of the finest episodes of the original though Keith R.A. DeCandido of Tor.com inexplicably decided to criticize the episode for its historical inaccuracies. Huh? And I’ll note that the First Doctor had done an Old West story two years previously, “The Gunfighters” and the Eleventh Doctor will have his own such story as well, “A Town Called Mercy”.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”,  but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The InvadersI Dream of JeannieThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaScience Fiction TheaterThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in the Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also know for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1955 Gale Anne Hurd, 66. Her first genre work was as Corman’s production manager on Battle beyond the Stars. (A decent forty-two percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) From there, we’ve such films as Æon Flux, the Terminator franchise, AliensAlien NationTremorsHulk and two of the Punisher films to name just some of her genre work. We’ll forgive her for the latter. 
  • Born October 25, 1955 Glynis Barber, 66. Soolin on Blake’s 7 for a series. She also appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles (Ian Richard and Donald Churchill were Holmes and Watson) and a Sherlock Holmes series I didn’t know about, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson starring Geoffrey Whitehead and Donald Pickering. 
  • Born October 25, 1963 John Gregory Betancourt, 58. Writer best known most likely for his work In Zelazny’s Amber universe but who has written quite a bit of other franchise fiction including works in the Star TrekHerculesRobert Silverberg’s Time ToursDr. Bones and The New Adventures of Superman. Most of his original fiction was early in his career. He’s also edited in a number of magazines including Weird TalesAmazing StoriesH. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of HorrorAdventure Tales and Cat Tales. He even co-edited with Anne McCaffrey, Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey. His Wildpress Press has been nominated three times for World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 50. Author of two MilSF series, Frontlines and The Palladium Wards. His Lines of Departure was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Novel at Sasquan on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. Four of his books have been Dragon Awards nominees in the Best Military SF or Fantasy category.
  • Born October 25, 1971 Elif Safak, 50. Turkish writer not currently under arrest though considered an opponent of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as she’s lived in the U.K. for eight years. She’s got three genre novels, one written originally in Turkish (Mahrem), The Gaze in its English translation, and two written in English, The Architect’s Apprentice (which was translated into Turkish as Ustam ve Ben)  and 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.
  • Born October 25, 1989 Mia Wasikowska, 32. She’s Alice in Tim Burton’s creepy Alice in Wonderland and equally creepy Alice Through the Looking Glass. Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a fifty-three percent rating and the second a twenty-nine percent rating.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mutts warns us about what can go wrong with your magic spells. (A re-run of an earlier strip, but fans of puns won’t mind seeing it again.)
  • Frank and Ernest find out the Tooth Fairy has issues.
  • Off the Mark shows a truly terrifying Halloween costume for dinosaurs.
  • Batch Rejection demonstrates an efficient pet’s name.
  • And for the record, the current Dick Tracy team did a sign-off strip, as in, the current creative team is (apparently) moving on.

(11) A LEGEND IN HER OWN TIME. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Ruthie Tompson, who met Walt Disney in 1918, worked for Disney animation for nearly 50 years, became a Disney Legend in 2000, and passed away recently at 111. “Ruthie Tompson, who died at age 111, was a Disney trailblazer in ‘a man’s world’”.

Ruthie Tompson, whose hand helped paint early Mickey Mouse, was the very picture of humility — even as she turned 110.

Tompson became an animation trailblazer in 1937, working among the scores of other young women in Disney’s famed Ink & Paint department — for long hours, relatively low pay and no screen credit — on the landmark feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”“We worked into the night, day after day, until we got it exactly right!” she told the Hollywood Reporter last year, from the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s retirement community in Woodland Hills, Calif., while enduring the second global pandemic of her lifetime….

(12) SOMETHING TO DREAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the lasting appeal of Nintendo’s sf game Metroid, whose 2021 extension, Metroid Dread, was recently released.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps in 2021, Metroid has been a victim of its own success.  Back in 1997, a game called Castlevania: Symphony of the Night borrowed elements from Super Metroid and set the mould for a genre unimaginatively dubbed the ‘metroidvania.’  These are titles united by their contiguous 2D maps and gameplay that juggles tense combat with exploration.  In recent years indie developers have followed in Metroid‘s footsteps to create modern classics such as the graceful Ori series, the haunting Hollow Knight, or the pixel art gauntlets of Dead Cells and Axiom Verge….

…These games have innovated to thoughtfully elevate Metroid‘s blueprint.  Hollow Knight and Ori And The Will Of The Wisps are among the most beautiful games I’ve played in years; Metroid Dread doesn’t quite deliver the same charm.  It’s certainly taut, engrossing, and slick, but I can’t help wondering if it might feel more revelatory if the original Metroid not been quite so influential in the first place.

(13) KEEPING UP WITH MILTON DAVIS. Oliver Brackenbury, whose podcast So I’m Writing a Novel… Cora Buhlert featured awhile ago, interviews Milton J. Davis in episode 20:  “Interview with Milton Davis about Sword & Soul”.

Milton J. Davis also has an interesting Kickstarter for an animated movie based on his Steamfunk novel From Here to Timbuktu“From Here to Timbuktu: A Steamfunk Action Adventure by MVmedia, LLC”.

… MVmedia has teamed up with Avaloy Studios to bring you this story as an animated series.  Milton Davis, the novel author, will write the script, with animation duties done by Avaloy Studios. The pledges from this Kickstarter will allow us to create the first five episodes of the series…. 

(14) GET AN EARFUL. The Cromcast posts its annual Halloween episode, where they discuss three vampire stories by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Bram Stoker: “A Weird Fiction Podcast: Cromtober 2021 – A Trio of Vampire Tales”.

Listen here as we discuss ‘Dracula’s Guest’ by Bram Stoker, ‘A Rendezvous in Averoigne’ by Clark Ashton Smith, and ‘The Horror from the Mound’ by Robert E. Howard!

(15) KITCHEN APPLIANCE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] First there is a credential, then there is no credential, then there is. The Schrödinger Drawer, or, the credential that walks through credenzas. (Via Steven J Vaughan-Nichol’s Facebook page.)

(16) WHAT’S UP D&DOC? Boing Boing reminds us “Bugs Bunny’s Official D&D Character Sheet Is A 15th-level Illusionist”.

Dragon Magazine #41 was published in April 1981. And it was in the pages of this official Dungeons & Dragons tome that the immortal deity known as Bugs Bunny was finally given its due as a playable character in the game, along with several other cartoon characters — or rather, “Saturday morning monsters.”…

(17) BLUE SKY. Space.com reports  “Blue Origin unveils plans to build a private space station called Orbital Reef by 2030”.

Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Space and several other partners announced today (Oct. 25) that they plan to build a commercial off-Earth outpost called Orbital Reef, which is scheduled to be up and running by the late 2020s.

Orbital Reef’s envisioned customers include national governments, private industry and space tourists, project team members said. The outpost will initially complement but eventually take the baton from the International Space Station (ISS), which is expected to be retired in the 2028 to 2030 timeframe….

(18) MONEY IS THE CUBE ROOT OF ALL EVIL. “Star Trek beams up 2021 advent calendar themed to iconic villains”Digital Spy tells where you can buy one.

Star Trek is assimilating its 2021 advent calendar.

The iconic sci-fi franchise is turning to the dark side this festive season for an advent calendar designed to look just like the Cube ship used by the Borg alien race.

Any Stark Trek fan knows that a Borg Cube on the radar means serious trouble for the Federation because the cybernetic alien race will stop at nothing to conquer and assimilate their enemies….

Digital Spy will also tell you where to buy the Doctor Who 2021 advent calendar shaped like the TARDIS.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A guy who watched Star Trek IV too many times asks: Can you really fit two humpback whales on a Klingon ship? To answer that, first you have to deduce the size of a Bird of Prey.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Lowrey, Cora Buhlert, Dan’l, Chris Barkley, Darrah Chavey, Rob Thornton, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]