Pixel Scroll 2/24/24 To Yeet Or Not To Yeet?

(1) HE FALL DOWN BUT NOT GO BOOM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Job #1 — Stick the landing. Oops. “Odysseus: Moon lander tipped over at touchdown, limiting the data it’s sending”.– AP News has the story. (Captain Kirk was not available for comment.)

A private U.S. lunar lander tipped over at touchdown and ended up on its side near the moon’s south pole, hampering communications, company officials said Friday.

Intuitive Machines initially believed its six-footed lander, Odysseus, was upright after Thursday’s touchdown. But CEO Steve Altemus said Friday the craft “caught a foot in the surface,” falling onto its side and, quite possibly, leaning against a rock. He said it was coming in too fast and may have snapped a leg.

“So far, we have quite a bit of operational capability even though we’re tipped over,” he told reporters.

But some antennas were pointed toward the surface, limiting flight controllers’ ability to get data down, Altemus said. The antennas were stationed high on the 14-foot (4.3-meter) lander to facilitate communications at the hilly, cratered and shadowed south polar region….

(2) FAMOUS LA MOVIE THEATER NOW HAS FAMOUS OWNERS. The New York Times learns “Star Directors Buy Los Angeles Cinema With Plan for ‘Coolest AV Club’”.

With the moviegoing experience under threat from streaming services and ever-improving home entertainment options, a group with a passionate interest in its preservation — three dozen filmmakers who create their works for the big screen, to be enjoyed in the company of large audiences — has decided to do something about it.

The group of directors, led by Jason Reitman — whose films include “Juno,” “Up in the Air” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” — announced Wednesday that it had bought the Village Theater in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, which was put up for sale last summer to the concern of film buffs. The group, which also includes Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Lulu Wang and Alfonso Cuarón, among others, plans to restore the 93-year-old movie palace, which features one of the largest screens in Los Angeles.

“I think every director dreams of owning a movie theater,” Reitman said in an interview. “And in this case, I saw an opportunity to not only save one of the greatest movie palaces in the world, but also assembled some of my favorite directors to join in on the coolest AV club of all time.”

The announcement of the directors group buying the Village Theater, which has long been a favorite venue for premieres, follows on the heels of Quentin Tarantino’s recent purchase of the Vista Theater in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz….

(3) TO MESSIAH OR NOT TO MESSIAH, THAT IS THE QUESTION. [By Mike Kennedy.] David Fear, writing for Rolling Stone, seems absolutely agog over Dune: Part Two. And eager for Part Three.

His review is chock full of spoilers if you don’t know the plot already (but I suspect most of you do). It’s easily arguable, though, that there are some spoilers for elements of the movie itself. So, read the review at your own risk. “‘Dune: Part Two’ Is Bigger, Bolder — and Yes, Even Better — Than Part One”. Here’s a non-spoilery excerpt:

… For some, these names may ring bells way, way back in your memory banks; mention that they’re characters played by Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, and a who’s-who of equally recognizable actors, and you’ll see the lights go on in their eyes. For others, the heroes and villains, mentors and monsters that populate Frank Herbert’s 1965 cult novel are old friends, their exploits etched into readers’ brains like gospel. One of the great things about Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 partial adaptation of that original book, was that you could take in its story and swoon over its imagery regardless of where you fell on the scale. It’s a classic hero’s-journey tale of — to paraphrase author/film professor Howard Suber — a kid rescued from his fate and put on the path toward his destiny. And it was the sort of faithful yet bold, properly bonkers realization of the novel for the screen that fans had been dying to see, the perfect melding of artist and material….

(4) CHINESE FAN ANALYZES SOME OF THE CHINESE WORKS ON THE NOMINATION REPORT. An English language blog post by Chinese fan Prograft follows on from the Heather Rose-Jones/Camestros Felapton report, covering the Chinese works that appeared in the prose fiction categories, excluding those in the SF World recommendation list. “More on Other Chinese Hugo Nominations, based on ‘Charting the Cliff’”.

They suggest that perhaps some of the Chinese works that appeared in the “Validation” report for Best Series, but not in the nomination statistics, may not have been eligible according to the Best Series rules. This, of course, would not explain why those works disappeared between the “Validation” spreadsheet and the actual nomination statistics report.

Prograft’s article also links to (Chinese language) Weibo posts from early March 2023, which discuss why there had not been much by way of self-promotion by Chinese authors at that point in time. (The SF World list did not appear until April; another from 8 Light Minutes was published on March 27.)

(5) MEANWHILE, BACK AT 2014. Camestros Felapton says, “Larry is cross that I’m not writing about him”.

… From time to time key Puppy figures would dally with the idea that the way the Hugo vote was administered was rigged against them, particularly when they lost, but the repeated substance of their complaint was that the MEMBERSHIP was rigged against them, i.e. it was cliques of voters and publisher buying memberships for the vast number of employees that they imagined publishers have.

So no, Larry didn’t “warn us” nor has the 2023 Hugo scandal validated the core of his complaints about the Hugo Awards.

(6) CLIFF NOTES. Noreascon II in 1980 was the first Worldcon required by the WSFS Constitution to report the Hugo voting statistics (though not the first to disclose some of them). Kevin Standlee, with the help of The Hugo Award Book Club, discovered File 770 issue 24 published partial 1980 Hugo Award final voting and nominating statistics. He’s uploaded a copy to the Hugo Awards website and added a link to the 1980 Hugo Awards page. This quote about the margin for error caught my eye:

Note on counting procedure. After initial validation of the ballots, the data were keypunched by a commercial firm, (Only in the Gandalf [Award] vote was every ballot proofread against the printout; but nearly all keypunching errors were flagged by the computer, and in any other category the residual errors should be less than about 5 cards.) The votes were then counted by computer, using a counting program written by Dave Anderson.

There were 1788 valid final ballots cast that year. The reason for proofing the Gandalf votes is that it was the only category which ran close enough for a potential five-vote error to change the winner. Ray Bradbury ended up outpolling Anne McCaffrey 747-746.

(7) STAR TREK: DISCOVERY SEASON 5. Paramount+ dropped a trailer for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5.

(8) NOW WE KNOW WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF LOVE. Amal El-Mohtar reviews Kelly Link’s The Book of Love in the New York Times: “Kelly Link Returns with a Dreamlike, Profoundly Beautiful Novel”.

A certain weight of expectation accrues on writers of short fiction who haven’t produced a novel, as if the short story were merely the larval stage of longer work. No matter how celebrated the author and her stories, how garlanded with prizes and grants, the sense persists: She will eventually graduate from the short form to the long. After an adolescence spent munching milkweed in increments of 10,000 words or less, she will come to her senses and build the chrysalis required for a novel to emerge, winged and tender, from within.

Now Kelly Link — an editor and publisher, a recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” and the author of five story collections, one of which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist — has produced a novel. Seven years in the making, “The Book of Love” — long, but never boring — enacts a transformation of a different kind: It is our world that must expand to accommodate it, we who must evolve our understanding of what a fantasy novel can be.

Reviewing “The Book of Love” feels like trying to describe a dream. It’s profoundly beautiful, provokes intense emotion, offers up what feel like rooted, incontrovertible truths — but as soon as one tries to repeat them, all that’s left are shapes and textures, the faint outlines of shifting terrain….

(9) RETURN TO NEW WORLDS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has an advance post up ahead of next season’s edition. An October 1955 edition of New Worlds provides an excuse to explore that magazine’s history and some of the SF professionals of that era.

You never know what is around the corner. There I was, at my local SF group, quietly enjoying a pint, when a friend brings in a copy of New Worlds magazine, issue no. 40 dating from October 1955 and this opened a window into Britain’s SF scene of that time. Let me share…

Click here for the full New Worlds magazine revisited” article.

(10) CHRISTOPHER NOLAN AND KIM STANLEY ROBINSON CONSIDERED. Imaginary Papers Issue 17 is out. The quarterly email newsletter from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University covers science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and the imagination.

In this issue, Erin K. Wagner writes about the interplay between art and science in Christopher Nolan’s films, especially Oppenheimer and Interstellar; Joe Tankersley celebrates the “subtle utopia” of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1990 novel Pacific Edge; and we discuss the Necessary Tomorrows podcast, which pairs original science fiction stories with nonfiction analysis of sociotechnical issues.

Subscriptions are free.

(11) RAMONA FRADON (1926-2024). “Comic Book Creator Ramona Fradon Has Died, Aged 97” reports Bleeding Cool. She only just retired in January!

Comic book creator Ramona Fradon has died at the age of 97. Her agent, Catskill Comics, posted the news earlier today. “It comes with great sadness to announce that Ramona Fradon has passed away just a few moments ago. Ramona was 97 and had a long career in the comic book industry, and was still drawing just a few days ago. She was a remarkable person in so many ways. I will miss all the great conversations and laughs we had. I am blessed that I was able to work with her on a professional level, but also able to call her my friend. If anyone wishes to send a card to the family, Please feel free to send them to Catskill Comics, and I’ll be happy to pass them along. You can send cards to Catskill Comics “Fradon Family”, Po Box 264, Glasco, NY 12432″

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 24, 1957 Edward James Olmos, 67. Where I first experienced the acting of Edward James Olmos was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, a role I see he reprised in Blade Runner 2049.

Edward James Olmos

No, I’ve not seen the latter film, nor do I have any intention in doing so as I consider Blade Runner one of the finest SF films ever done and nothing will sully that for me. We gave it a Hugo at ConStellation, so there later films!

It wasn’t his first genre film as that was the Japanese post-apocalyptic science fiction film Virus (1980), but his first important role came in Wolfen (1981), a fascinating horror film about, possibly, the idea that werewolves are real, or maybe not, in which he was Eddie Holt who claims to a shapeshifter. 

He has an almost cameo appearance in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues as a musician at the barbecue.

It was supposed to have a theatrical release but that was not to be, so Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit was released directly to video. In it Olmas was Vámonos. I’ve not seen it. It sounds, well, intriguing. Who’s seen it? 

Edward James Olmos in The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit

He’s in the debacle that was The Green Hornet in one of the primary roles as Mike Axford, the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel

As you most likely know, he was William Adama on the rebooted Battestar Galactica. At seventy-three episodes, it didn’t even come close to his run on Miami Vice as Lt. Martin Castillo which was one hundred and six episodes. Now there was an interesting character! 

Olmos as Adama in Battlestar Galactica

I’ll end this Birthday note by note noting he had a recurring role on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Robert Gonzales.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SHRINKAGES AND DISAPPEARANCES. [Item by Kathy Sullivan.] Paper newspapers have been dropping comic strips. But the latest cuts are those by women creators. The Daily Cartoonist explains why “The Real Gannett Conspiracy = Chauvinism”.

In one of my answers in the comments section of The Great Gannett Comics Conspiracy I sarcastically said, “It’s like saying Gannett dropped Between Friends because they are misogynistic.”

Further analysis suggests that may not be far from right….

(15) MARVEL MUST-HAVES. Announced at ComicsPRO the Comic Industry Conference, Marvel Comics’ MARVEL MUST-HAVES! These FREE issues collect multiple iconic issues that spotlight the Marvel characters and comic book series currently at the forefront of pop culture. These stories have been handpicked to get fans in-tune with current Marvel adventures, and act as perfect jumping on points for new readers too. That’s more than 80 pages of comic book adventures for free, available at comic shops next month. [Based on a press release.]

 SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL #1 (2016)

It’s action, adventure and just a smattering of romance in this epic teaming up the Webbed Wonder and the Merc with a Mouth! Talk about a REAL dynamic duo! Brought to you by two Marvel superstars—Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness—it’s a perfect tale for those looking forward to the Deadpool’s return to the big screen. 

Dive into the full story in SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL MODERN ERA EPIC COLLECTION: ISN’T IT BROMANTIC? TPB (9781302951641)

 IMMORTAL THOR #2 (2023)

An Elder God of the Utgard-Realm had marked Thor for destruction – and a city with him. Yet the only power that could prevail carried its own terrible price. This is the story of THE IMMORTAL THOR…and the hour of his greatest trial. Following his masterful work on Immortal Hulk, Al Ewing is breaking mythology yet again in this acclaimed new run of the God of Thunder. Featuring breathtaking artwork by superstar Martin Coccolo.

Dive into the full story in IMMORTAL THOR VOL. 1: ALL WEATHER TURNS TO STORM TPB (9781302954185)

 MS. MARVEL: THE NEW MUTANT #1 (2023)

Resurrected back into this world of hate and fear, Kamala Khan has a secret mission to pull off for the X-Men, all the while struggling to acclimate to this new part of her identity! Co-written by the MCU’s own Kamala, Iman Vellani, and Sabir Pirzada of both Dark Web: Ms. Marvel and her Disney+ series! Don’t miss this exciting evolution for one of Marvel’s brightest young heroes!

Dive into the full story in MS. MARVEL: THE NEW MUTANT VOL. 1 TPB (9781302954901)

(16) THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY? Or just a ripoff. Behind a paywall at The Sunday Times: “BBC accused of plagiarising new series from Spanish drama”. Brief excerpt:

The Ministry of Time bears a striking resemblance in title and plot to El Ministerio del Tiempo

The BBC will be asked for “explanations” from the Spanish state broadcaster after allegations of plagiarism over a new British television series.

The commissioning of the BBC’s The Ministry of Time was announced this week, described as an “epic sci-fi, romance and thriller” that is “utterly unique”.

Based on an as yet unpublished debut novel by Kaliane Bradley, it is about a newly established government department, the Ministry of Time, which gathers “expats” from across history to experiment how viable time travel would actually be.

The striking resemblance, however, in title and plot to the Spanish series El Ministerio del Tiempo — The Ministry of Time — created by Javier and Pablo Olivares and broadcast by RTVE between 2015 and 2020, has prompted allegations of plagiarism.

The allegations have been made by Javier Olivares, who said that the BBC “had not changed a hair” of his creation, and also by scores of social media users….

(17) FLORIDA LEGISLATION WOULD RESTRICT SOME TEEN ACCESS. “Florida Passes Sweeping Bill to Keep Young People Off Social Media” – details in the New York Times.

New Florida rules would require social networks to prevent young people under 16 from signing up for accounts — and terminate accounts belonging to underage users.

…Florida’s Legislature has passed a sweeping social media bill that would make the state the first to effectively bar young people under 16 from holding accounts on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

The measure — which Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would “be wrestling with” over the weekend and has not yet signed — could potentially upend the lives of millions of young people in Florida.

It would also probably face constitutional challenges. Federal courts have blocked less-restrictive youth social media laws enacted last year by Arkansas and Ohio. Judges in those cases said the new statutes most likely impinged on social media companies’ free speech rights to distribute information as well as young people’s rights to have access to it.

The new rules in Florida, passed on Thursday, would require social networks to both prevent people under 16 from signing up for accounts and terminate accounts that a platform knew or believed belonged to underage users. It would apply to apps and sites with certain features, most likely including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

Last year, Utah, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio enacted laws that would require social media platforms to get permission from a parent before giving an account to a minor under 18 or under 16.

Florida’s effort would go much further, amounting to a comprehensive ban for young people on some of the most popular social media apps. It would also bar the platforms from showing harmful material to minors, including “patently offensive” sexual conduct….

(18) UP ALL KNIGHT. From The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Game of Thrones’ Spinoff ‘The Hedge Knight’ Gets 2025 Release Date”.

… Dunk and Egg keep journeying closer to their HBO debut.

On Friday, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav gave an update on the next Game of Thrones spinoff series: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight (a title that seems destined to be changed to something that doesn’t have “Knight” twice).

“[Creator and executive producer] George R.R. Martin is in preproduction for the new spinoff, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, which will premiere in late 2025 on Max,” Zaslav said.

The show is expected to begin production sometime this year.

Given that House of the Dragon is launching its second season this summer, the Knight of the Seven Kingdoms date next year raises the possibility of HBO settling into a flow of having a Thrones drama each year (assuming both shows can turn around their next seasons within two years)….

(19) ACADEMIC REPORT ON THE LANGUAGE USED BY THE CHENGDU BUSINESS DAILY. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] As is hopefully well-known by now, the Chengdu Business Daily organization – also known as Chengdu Economic Daily, which I believe is their “official” English name – provided a number of staff for the Chengdu concom in senior roles, including a Co-Chair, an Honorary Co-Chair, and members of the Hugo team.

I don’t want to get into why what is nominally a newspaper was so involved in running a science fiction convention here, but earlier today I came across a piece of academic research from 2017 that investigated how their journalistic output was summarized on Chinese social media.  Although the authors of this report appear to be Chinese nationals from a Chengdu university, the study is in English.

A couple of extracts give examples of how CBD news stories were covered on their social media accounts.  (The text from the study is left unaltered, other than reformatting for readability, and the censoring of an English language swear word.)


In all these samples, there were 23 cases of non-standardization, accounting for 7.7% of the total samples, including 10 cases of using ambiguous words, 6 cases of insufficient sentence composition, 3 cases of vulgar words, 2 cases of exaggerated titles, 1 case of non-standardized proverbs, 1 case of ambiguity. Specific reports are listed below. Such as 

  • “Ball-Hurting! #One Man Tied 7 Cars On His Testis# [sic] And Pulled Cars 8 Meters.” (“@Chengdu Economic Daily” April 1st)
  • “It Is Said That The Relevant Agencies Have Organized The Second Mental Identification Towards The Guilty Driver.” (@Chengdu Economic Daily” on March 1st)
  • “Two Small UAVs Were Artificially Installed Artillery That May Be Firecrackers And Attacked Each Other For Fun.” (“@Chengdu Economic Daily “February 1st).

After combing the entire sample, this article also found that the use of spoken language is very common. “@Chengdu Economic Daily” accounted for 22.2% and “@Chengdu Evening Post” accounted for 30.00% (see Table 3). Such as: 

  • “Easy To Learn: Home-Made Pickle-Fish Is Super Cool.”(@Chengdu Economic Daily January 1st)
  • “F*ck Off. Just Get Off. Why You Not Just Get Off.” (@Chengdu Economic Daily January 1st) 
  • “Old Lady Started Stall Besides Street While City Inspectors Helped Her.” (@Chengdu Evening Post January 1st)
  • “A Lady Shouting At A Naughty Child Was Beat By His Parents.”(“@Chengdu Evening Post” March 1st)

The use of network buzzwords and verbal expressions, with the characteristics of freshness and populism, usually adopts irony, ridicule, exaggeration and populist expressions to report and comment on events or peoples, and the contents conveyed are thoughtful, active and critical.


(20) AI’S ELECTRIC BILL. “Generative AI’s environmental costs are soaring — and mostly secret” reports Kate Crawford in Nature.

Last month, OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman finally admitted what researchers have been saying for years — that the artificial intelligence (AI) industry is heading for an energy crisis. It’s an unusual admission. At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Altman warned that the next wave of generative AI systems will consume vastly more power than expected, and that energy systems will struggle to cope. “There’s no way to get there without a breakthrough,” he said.

I’m glad he said it. I’ve seen consistent downplaying and denial about the AI industry’s environmental costs since I started publishing about them in 2018. Altman’s admission has got researchers, regulators and industry titans talking about the environmental impact of generative AI.

So what energy breakthrough is Altman banking on? Not the design and deployment of more sustainable AI systems — but nuclear fusion. He has skin in that game, too: in 2021, Altman started investing in fusion company Helion Energy in Everett, Washington.

Most experts agree that nuclear fusion won’t contribute significantly to the crucial goal of decarbonizing by mid-century to combat the climate crisis. Helion’s most optimistic estimate is that by 2029 it will produce enough energy to power 40,000 average US households; one assessment suggests that ChatGPT, the chatbot created by OpenAI in San Francisco, California, is already consuming the energy of 33,000 homes. It’s estimated that a search driven by generative AI uses four to five times the energy of a conventional web search. Within years, large AI systems are likely to need as much energy as entire nations….

(21) AN EARLIER ‘GREAT WALL’. “Great ‘Stone Age’ wall discovered in Baltic Sea”. “Megastructure stretching nearly 1 kilometre long is probably one of the oldest known hunting aids on Earth.”

Divers have helped to reveal the remnants of a kilometre-long wall that are submerged in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Rerik, Germany. The rocks (pictured) date back to the Stone Age.

Primary research paper here.

(22) LICENSE PLATE FRAME OF THE DAY.  “Bigfoot doesn’t believe in you either.”

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes arrives in theaters May 10.

Director Wes Ball breathes new life into the global, epic franchise set several generations in the future following Caesar’s reign, in which apes are the dominant species living harmoniously and humans have been reduced to living in the shadows. As a new tyrannical ape leader builds his empire, one young ape undertakes a harrowing journey that will cause him to question all that he has known about the past and to make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Ersatz Culture, Martin Easterbrook, Kathy Sullivan, Joey Eschrich, 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 Kevin Harkness.]

Charting the Cliff: An Investigation Into the 2023 Hugo Nomination Statistics by Camestros Felapton and Heather Rose Jones

Introduction by Camestros Felapton: Since the release of the 2023 Hugo Award nomination statistics on January 20, there have been a plethora of questions about the awards and the process followed. One of the earliest insights into the data was made in a series of graphs drawn by Heather Rose Jones on her Alpennia (“A Comparison of Hugo Nomination Distribution Statistics”.)  The graphs revealed several categories with highly unusual “cliffs” in the number of nominations.

This new report [available here] builds upon that initial analysis and delves further into the unusual features of the 2023 data. By collating data from all of the Hugo nominations from 2017 onward, the report looks at unusual features in the nomination statistics, compares 2023 with previous years in multiple dimensions and looks at additional data such as the recently leaked validation lists.

This report contends that the nomination statistics provided cannot be treated as a reliable presentation of the actual nomination votes by members. The report shows that there are known errors in the listed names of nominees, inconsistencies in the vote totals, inaccuracies in the manner points were calculated in elimination rounds and highly atypical patterns of voting. In particular, there is evidence in the categories of Best Novel and Best Series of a very large number of highly similar votes for the main finalists in these categories, that these votes advantaged English-language works over Chinese-language works and that these votes do not resemble organic voting by members.


The 51-page report can be downloaded from two locations:

File 770: “Charting the Cliff: An Investigation Into the 2023 Hugo Nomination Statistics”

Google Docs: ChartingTheCliff-Hugo2023

Pixel Scroll 1/18/24 Mission Of Impossible Gravity

(1) LETTERS FROM THE EDITOR. C. E. Murphy shares her views about what kind of revision request letters work best: “Process Post: on edit letters” at The Essential Kit.

There was a discussion going on over on Bluesky about dealing with edit letters, and this truth came up: “Editors aren’t always right about the solutions, but they’re nearly always right about the problems.”

That thread went on to discuss how the person quoting it, who happens to be KJ Charles whose books I read all of last year and who is also an editor, approaches edit letters; her approach involves suggesting ideas to fix the problems, because it opens the writer’s mind to the possiblity that the book could have something different happen in that moment, and also it gives them something to reject/bounce off/spitefully correct. Which, like: that seems very valid.

That said, I have recently watched friends get SUPER LONG, to my mind, edit letters, 70%+ of which are ideas & suggestions as how to tackle problems, and I honestly think my brain would explode. My editors have VERY MUCH been of the “this is a problem, pls fix” approach, rather than the “let us brainstorm!” approach, and I think that works for me….

(2) NONSENSE OF TASTE. Camestros Felapton shared a couple of riotous sci-fi themed brew labels in “Thursday’s Sunday Beer”. I won’t steal his thunder – click the link to discover his selections — only thank him for introducing us to New Zealand’s Behemoth Brewing Company where literally dozens more comical labels can be viewed, including tap badges like these:

(3) SEATTLE 2025 STATEMENT ABOUT REGISTRATION. Seattle 2025 Worldcon chair Kathy Bond today made the following statement about their registration software, and a delay in the ability to upgrade to attending membership for Seattle Worldcon bid supporters and site selection voters:

Due to a last-minute change in our registration software, our ability to process registrations and upgrades to attending memberships for site selection voters and bid supporters has been delayed past our originally projected date. We apologize for the delay. Please be assured we will honor our initial registration rates for at least two weeks after we are able to make our registration system go live. 

Thank you for your patience as we iron out the bugs.

(4) BRITISH LIBRARY CONVENES ONLINE PANEL ABOUT LE GUIN. On January 23, join Theo Downes Le Guin, Ursula’s son and literary executor; Julie Phillips, her biographer, and writer Nicola Griffiths (shortlisted for the 2023 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction) for an evening of appreciation and exploration: The British Library Cultural Events – “The Realms of Ursula K. Le Guin Tickets”.

  • Event: 7:00 pm UK/11:00 am Pacific
  • Tickets are £6.50, or £3.25 for Library members

This is an online event streamed on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a viewing link shortly before the event and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

(5) THESE REBOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] This could be good, it could be decidedly not. “’The Avengers’ Reboot Coming; ‘Industry’ Writers Pen StudioCanal Pilot” at Deadline.

There were rumors that the project was in with HBO, but this was denied last year. It is not clear where The Avengers reboot will land. StudioCanal declined to comment as talks continue….

Macnee starred as Steed, who fought off diabolical plots against the state with his trademark bowler hat and umbrella. He had a succession of high-fashion assistants played by the likes of Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman. They broke ground for being Steed’s equal, holding their own in brawls and delivering playful quips….

Steed’s first partner wasn’t a woman at all but medical doctor David H Keel as the series  spun out of Police Surgeon where Keel played the same character who asked Steed to help on a case. It would feel like a uniquely different series than the later series as the tone, Steed’s personality and stories are markedly more grounded. 

Nightclub singer Venus Smith played by Julie Stevens was next, just six episodes in duration. Now we have Cathy Gale played by Honor Blackman, an anthropologist. Of course we finally got the extraordinary Emma Peel as played by Diana Rigg, described as a “talented amateur agent”.  

Linda Thorson ended the series as Tara King. An actual spy, enlisted at an early age in the Intelligence Service as a trainee, under the number 69. Would I kid about that? No, I would not. 

So how do you reboot a beloved classic of British television? Personally I don’t think you can. 

So before you ask, I prefer not to mention that film.

(6) CLIMATE ACTION ALMANAC. The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University has launched The Climate Action Almanac, a free collection of fiction, nonfiction, and art exploring positive climate futures, grounded in real science and in the complexities of diverse human and physical geographies. The book is presented in partnership with the MIT Press and supported by the ClimateWorks Foundation.

The Almanac features 8 individual works of science fiction, with four authors contributing two stories apiece: Vandana Singh, Gu Shi, Hannah Onoguwe, and Libia Brenda. Overall, the collection features contributions from more than 25 writers representing 17 different countries around the globe, from Argentina, Norway, and China to Nigeria, Germany, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and more. On the science fiction front, there is also a dialogue between Kim Stanley Robinson and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(7) NOT OK IN OK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A certain Oklahoma state legislator might want to take advantage of any mental health benefits available in his medical plan. Representative Justin Humphrey apparently has a possibly-unhealthy obsession with Furries. Or, perhaps specifically, with the urban myth that Furries are being provided litter boxes by school systems. According to HuffPost, “An Oklahoma Republican Wants Animal Services To Remove Furries From Schools”.

A Republican legislator in Oklahoma who once said that transgender people have “a mental illness” introduced a bill this week that would allow animal services to remove students who identify as furries from school.

The bill, which was pre-filed ahead of Oklahoma’s legislative session, would bar students who “purport to be an imaginary animal or animal species, or who engage in anthropomorphic behavior commonly referred to as furries,” from school activities.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey, may seem farcical. But the idea that schools accommodate students who identify as animals has its roots in a long-standing — and repeatedly debunked — conservative myth.

Republican legislators and candidates have for years claimed that schools are putting litter boxes in classrooms for students who identify as cats or furries. At least 20 GOP politicians peddled these claims in 2022, and used them as a way to sound the alarm over protections and accommodations for LGBTQ+ students, NBC News reported.

“What’s most provocative about this hoax is how it turns to two key wedge issues for conservatives: educational accommodations and gender nonconformity,” Joan Donovan, a researcher on media and politics at Harvard University, told the outlet at the time…

(8) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Rich Horton sadly reports that “Bad Things Come in Threes: Terry Bisson (February 12, 1942 – January 10, 2024), Howard Waldrop (September 15, 1946 – January 14, 2024), Tom Purdom (April 19, 1936 – January 14, 2024): A Tripartite Obituary” in an obituary notice for Black Gate.

On the heels of Terry Bisson’s death I heard news that Howard Waldrop had died. And this morning I woke up to learn that Tom Purdom had also died. A profound 1-2 punch to the SF community, followed by a knockout. Bisson and Waldrop were two of the most original, indeed weirdest, SF writers; and if Purdom wasn’t as downright weird as those two he was as intriguing in his slightly more traditional fashion. All three writers wrote novels, but it’s fair to say they are all best known for their short fiction….

(9) PURDOM TRIBUTE. Michael Swanwick also salutes the late author in “Tom Purdom, Heart of Philadelphia” at Flogging Babel.

This is very hard for me to write. So please excuse its infelicities. I knew this man for a full fifty years.

Tom Purdom is dead. Not enough people will know what a loss this is. While he was as vivid and eccentric an individual as any of the rest of us, he absolutely refused to promote himself. I think he believed it was ungentlemanly. But those who knew him, cherished him.

Tom was the very heart of Philadelphia science fiction long before I came to town in 1974. He and his socially elegant wife Sara Purdom had monthly open houses where all the SF community was welcome–even rowdies like Gardner Dozois and myself. They two served as role models for Marianne and me. 

His gatherings were as glittery events as our crew ever saw. I recall Milton Rothman discussing the physics of nuclear-powered aircraft, and I most vividly remember Jack McKnight (who machined the first Hugo trophies in  his garage) pretending to steal our then-infant son Sean at one of these soirees….

(10) PETER SCHICKELE (1935-2024). The composer also known as “P.D.Q. Bach”, Peter Schickele, died January 16 at the age of 88.

Schickele won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album four years in a row from 1990-1994. He also won in 2000 for Best Classical Crossover album. Once, he included in a concert program book an airsickness bag, labeled “For Use In Case of Cultural Discomfort.”

His catalogue of more than 100 works includes the score for Silent Running (1972).

He hosted the radio show “Schickele Mix” for Public Radio International. In 168 episodes, produced between 1992 and 1999, he explored the elements, concepts and techniques that make music work, illustrated with classical, jazz and rock recordings, proclaiming in his introductions that “all musics are created equal.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 71. So we come this Scroll to Pamela Dean, one of the writers I consider without equivocation to be one of the best fantasy writers ever. 

She’s a member of two writing groups, of which the first was the Scribblies, with Nate Bucklin, Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey,Will Shetterly and Patricia Wrede.

Then there was Pre-Joycean Fellowship. Love that name!  It was a shared belief that was more or lesser seriously adopted by several writers to indicate that they value 19th-century values of storytelling. Steven Brust wrote that “it is in large part a joke, and in another large part a way to start literary arguments.” 

Pamela Dean

Writers who are members include Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Neil Gaiman, Will Shetterly, Adam Stemple and Jane Yolen. No idea when the Pre-Joycean Fellowship meet up for tea and biscuits, but they must, right? 

Warning: this is my list of favorites, not a comprehensive overview though it comes close. 

Tam Lin, based of course on that Child ballad, and set in the early Seventies at the fictional Blackstock College in Minnesota is just brilliant. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It’s certainly my favorite book by her. 

Another Child Ballad, “Riddles Wisely Expounded”, is the root text of her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. I relish a story with a house that shouldn’t exist and a character who speaks in riddles. Quite delicious indeed.

And for my reading pleasure, the final set of works by her is The Secret Country trilogy consisting of The Secret CountryThe Hidden Land and The Whim of the Dragon. A Royal family in considerable turmoil, witches, unicorns — what’s not to like? Really it’s superb storytelling at its best. 

She’s written but thirteen short stories and a poem, six of which and the poem were published in the Laivek tales that were edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterley who created that franchise. Yes, I’ve read the Laivek tales and they are really great fantasy. Hers are among the best here. (The one here was co-written with Patricia C. Wrede.)

All of the novels I like are now available from the usual suspects. Oh and what I thought but now know having just checked the usual sources was a single Laivek story with Wrede is actually multiple stories as it’s available here as Points of Departure: Liavek Stories, all three hundred sixty-four pages of it! 

I’m very glad to see these nine Laivek stories getting published like this, and I’m hoping more Laivek writers do the same. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WATCH ON THE RHINE. The Governator ran afoul of German customs inspectors says the Guardian: “Arnold Schwarzenegger held at Munich airport over luxury watch”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was briefly held by customs officers at Munich airport on Wednesday after allegedly failing to declare a €26,000 (£22,000) Audemars Piguet watch the Terminator star was planning to sell at an auction in aid of his climate crisis charity.

The Austrian-born actor and former governor of California, 76, was stopped at the airport for about three hours upon arrival from Los Angeles, according to the German tabloid Bild, which quoted customs officials.

Schwarzenegger was taken aside by officers who searched his luggage and found the watch, which the actor had allegedly not declared on his arrivals customs form….

A spokesperson for the main customs office in Munich said: “We have initiated criminal tax proceedings. The watch should have been registered because it is an import.”

(14) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 101 of the Octothorpe podcast “John Has Developed Precognitive Abilities”.

Alison Scott, John Coxon and Liz Batty get the year started off correctly. We give listeners a round-up of forthcoming conventions (mostly in the UK), give Keanu Reeves a frank talking-to, and discuss some hot new SF.

(15) UP AGAINST THE PRIZE WALL. This project is not being marketed as horror for some inexplicable reason: “Chuck E. Cheese Television Series Based on Restaurant Chain Now in Development” at Yahoo!

Chuck E. Cheese reality television series is now in development.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Magical Elves, a production company that’s worked on shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway, is now developing a reality television series based on the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain.

The description of the series reads, “The format will feature stand-alone comedic physical challenges where duos of ‘big kids’ (a.k.a. adults) will compete over supersized arcade games — including pinball, air hockey, alley roller, and the human claw.  The top ticket-earning duo will get the chance to exchange their tickets for prizes off the massive version of the iconic Chuck E. Cheese prize wall.”…

(16) IT’S A GAS! Futurism reports “Astronomers Puzzled by Galaxy With No Stars”.

Astronomers have accidentally found an entire galaxy that appears to have plenty of gas — but no visible stars to speak of.

Their findings, which were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Astronomy Society, may seem paradoxical on their face, but the discovery could provide a rare, possibly never-before-seen insight that challenges our understanding of how stars and galaxies are formed….

… The eerily empty object, called J0613+52, is located 270 million light years away, according to a Big Think writeup on the discovery, and at the very least appears to be a low-surface brightness galaxy (LSB).

As the name suggests, an LSB is significantly less bright than other glimmering objects that populate the night sky because the gasses it contains are so spread out that few stars are formed.

Still, this classification holds that such a galaxy would at least have some stars, and J0613+52, with seemingly none at all, could be something even more rare and elusive: a dark, primordial galaxy.

“This could be our first discovery of a nearby galaxy made up of primordial gas,” Karen O’Neil, a senior scientist of the Green Bank Observatory, said in a statement about the research….

(17) BARBIE’S DREAM HOUSE. Neil DeGrasse Tyson geo-locates Barbieland using visual details in the movie in this clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as adapted by @EnigmaWorldOfficial.

(18) YOU’RE LOCKED INSIDE WITH ME. Isn’t that what Rorschach said was the inmates’ problem? There’s good reason to call this “The Creeptastic ‘Abigail’ Trailer”. The film arrives in theaters on April 19.

Children can be such monsters!. You just can’t ‘dance’ around the subject. If you need convincing, check out Radio Silence’s first trailer for the horror film ‘Abigail,’ featuring a very, very creepy kid. After a group of would-be criminals kidnap the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of a powerful underworld figure, all they have to do to collect a $50 million ransom is watch the girl overnight. In an isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, as they discover that they’re locked inside with no normal little girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P. DJÉLI CLARK

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

ERIC SCHALLER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This does not go well.

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

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

This is when matters take a distressingly surreal turn….

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

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

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

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” said Mario Gonzalo blankly.

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

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

Brant spelled it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There came a chorus of outraged What!’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

Tolkien in 1972.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In sixteenth place:

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

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

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

When does Superman enter the public domain?

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/23 He Was Scrolling Pixels When Scrolling Pixels Wasn’t Cool

(1) FOR ART’S SAKE. If you want to read “Bodily Autonomy in the Murderbot Diaries: Martha Wells Interviews Herself and ART” you need to buy F(r)iction’s “The Bodies Issue (No. 20)” – digital for $12, print & digital for $20. But Murderbot, right?!

(2) GET READY FOR SMOFCON $ALE. Marah Searle-Kovacevic, Chair, Smofcon 41announced they will be having a post holiday membership sale! From December 26-31, attending memberships will be $65! Get yours, they’ll never be any lower! Sign up here starting next week: “Membership – Smofcon 41”

(3) WORLDCON BID Q&A SESSIONS. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] SMOFCon 40 allowed the Worldcon Events YouTube channel to extract the presentations from past and future Worldcons and from those bids who had representatives either in person or remotely.

I tried to trim these down to just the presentations/Q&A, not including the changeover time between presenters or any issues with getting the tech set up.

There were presentations from the following Worldcons and bids:

None of the other bids that have previously announced interest and that are currently listed on our Worldcon bids page (Tel Aviv in 2027, Brisbane in 2028, Texas in 2031, Minneapolis in 2073) had representatives at SMOFCon 40.

(4) TALKING ABOUT TOLKIEN. Tom Emanuel of the University of Glasgow is looking for nonreligious people to interview about Tolkien:

Are you a fan of The Lord of the Rings? Do you identify as nonreligious? Would you be interested in talking to me (Tom Emanuel) for 1-2 hours about why you love Tolkien?

If you answered “yes” I would love it if you filled out this questionnaire for my PhD research at the University of Glasgow!

Robin Anne Reid forwarded the request with a couple of links to Tom’s previous scholarship that is open-access if people are interested in seeing what sort of work he does in Tolkien scholarship. 

(5) GOBLIN SONG FALLING AFTER SPLASH DEBUT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] After climbing to number 12 in its first week in release, Doctor Who’s “The Goblin Song” has now slipped to 52 on UK charts.

There had been a concerted campaign to make it number one.

(6) MIKE NUSSBAUM (1924-2023). [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Actor Mike Nussbaum was The Principal in Field of Dreams, Gentle Rosenberg in Men in Black, Yuri Rosanov in Early Edition, and Mr. Wallace in The Water Engine. Look the last one up, it’s fascinating. No series work at all of a genre nature save a character on the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas called Nathaniel Harris. 

Deadline’s complete tribute is here: “Mike Nussbaum Dies: Veteran Actor In ‘Men In Black’ And ‘Fatal Attraction’ Was 99”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

December 23, 1960 Twilight Zone’s “The Night of The Meek”

On December 23rd in 1960, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. It was one of the six episodes of the second season which was shot on videotape in a failed attempt saved to cut costs. Networks and their bean counters.

This was a Christmas themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. But before we learn that we have this opening scene and narration:

As snow begins to fall, a drunk Henry Corwin ((Carney) wearing his Santa Claus suit, leans against a curbside lamppost. He is approached by two tenement children begging for toys, a Christmas dinner, and “a job for my daddy.” As he begins to sob, the camera turns to Rod Serling standing on the sidewalk:

This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in the uniquely popular American institution, that of the department-store Santa Claus in a road-company version of ‘The Night Before Christmas’. But in just a moment Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found… in the Twilight Zone.

The script would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. 

Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”,  but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties for reasons never made clear and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series. The series runs on Paramount+ now in its original full, uncensored version. The line is still missing from all the DVD versions.

John Fielder who is Mister Dundee here would have a second Twilight Zone appearance in “Cavander is Coming” in which he has the lead as the Angel Harmon Cavender.

Oh, and let’s note that it’s a cat that mysteriously starts off this tale by knocking down a large burlap bag full of empty cans, which when Corwin trips over it, is then filled with gifts. See cats are magical! 

Serling ends with this narration:

A word to the wise to all the children of the Twentieth Century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas and there’s a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek. And a Merry Christmas to each and all.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s Christmas shopping advice.
  • Or maybe the person on your list has dropped a heavy hint?

(9) SNYDERVERSE’S LATEST. Camestros Felapton has a very wry way of telling everyone how little he thinks of Zack Snyder’s new production: “Review: Rebel Moon (Netflix)”. There are three or four lines even funnier than this:

…This is Part 1 of 2. The Seven Samurai haven’t got to the village yet, Thanos knows Gamora is leading them and Darth Vader isn’t actually dead (spoiler), so there is a lot to expect in Part 2 including the whereabouts of the magic space princess….

(10) THE VOICE-CLOCK SANG. The National Review pointed readers to “Ray Bradbury’s ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’” with a commentary by Luther Ray Abel that says in part:

…Something splendid this way comes from “Rains”: its treatment of the works of man. Even the seemingly immortal machines we build — contraptions subservient to our whims and intelligence that can operate without our input — will disappear in time, much faster than one would expect, even.

There’s this idea from the utopianists among us, many of them progressives, that technology will undergird the socialist state — that objects will remove the necessity for man to do and to make, and, ultimately, be answerable for anything. Scruton refuted this irrational optimism as only he could, “[Political optimists] ignore or despise the findings of experience and common sense. The millions dead or enslaved do not refute utopia, but merely give proof of the evil machinations that have stood in its way.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, but with its false promises, we pick through the ruins of Babel and dream of raising her again. Man cannot save himself, even with infinite microprocessors and processes. To think of technology as anything other than a temporary salve — a way to soften the effects of the Fall — is folly; the family vaporized on the wall of their home consider the purported benefits of progress fatally unfulfilling….

(11) TYPE LIKE TOLKIEN. Slashfilm has its Eye on “Cool Stuff: Colorful Lord Of The Rings Custom Keyboards Come In Elvish, The Black Speech & More”.

Taking cues from the various realms of Middle-earth… Drop’s keyboards and keycaps utilize various fantastical languages, including Elvish, Dwarvish, and even the sparsely spoken Black Speech that adorns the Ring of Power, to give your mundane keyboard a beautiful upgrade. Don’t worry if you don’t speak any of those languages fluently; these keyboards still have English where needed to define keys you might not use frequently….

With another green color scheme, you might also be interested in the Elvish keyboard featuring custom artwork by OSHETART depicting the Two Trees of Valinor (because the time of the elves is not over)….

(12) CHECKING IT TWICE. Santa’s feeling the last-minute stress, too, in this old Emsh cover for Galaxy Magazine.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Kathy Sullivan, Robin Anne Reid, 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 Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/23 I Was Watching A Pixel Walk Through A Wall

(1) GET ON BOARD. Join the mission and have your name engraved on NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft as it travels 1.8 billion miles to explore Europa, an ocean world that may support life. Sign your name today to the… “Message in a Bottle”.

NASA’s Message in a Bottle campaign invites people around the world to sign their names to a poem written by the U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. The poem connects the two water worlds — Earth, yearning to reach out and understand what makes a world habitable, and Europa, waiting with secrets yet to be explored. The campaign is a special collaboration, uniting art and science, by NASA, the U.S. Poet Laureate, and the Library of Congress.

The poem is engraved on NASA’s robotic Europa Clipper spacecraft, along with participants’ names that will be stenciled onto microchips mounted on the spacecraft. Together, the poem and names will travel 1.8 billion miles on Europa Clipper’s voyage to the Jupiter system. Europa Clipper is set to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in October 2024, and by 2030, it will be in orbit around Jupiter. Over several years, it will conduct dozens of flybys of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, gathering detailed measurements to determine if the moon has conditions suitable for life….

(2) SURE, BUT DOES IT REALLY HAVE A FUTURE? “Alien nation: will the franchise’s new movie really cut all links to the past?” – the Guardian’s Ben Childtries to read the tea leaves.

…So what do you do when a sci-fi franchise has been poor to average for more than 30 years, yet everyone who has ever seen Ridley Scott’s gloomy yet exhilarating Alien (1979) or its all-American, gonad-swinging sequel Aliens (from James Cameron), is somehow still desperate for more? District 9 film-maker Neill Blomkamp clearly had the right idea in 2015, when without any apparent encouragement from Fox he decided he would make his own Alien film set in the wake of Aliens and before it all went wrong for Fincher. His idea was to bring back Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley (who died in Alien 3 but was restored as about a dozen freaky clones in Resurrection) along with Michael Biehn’s Hicks and potentially even Carrie Henn’s Newt.

It didn’t happen, not just because the original stars would all have been a bit ancient, but because Fox put the kibosh on the whole concept. But somebody somewhere at Disney (which bought Fox and the rights to Alien in 2017) was clearly paying attention. For what’s this we hear from a Variety report this week? The new Alien movie, Fede Alvarez’s Romulus, will be neither a sequel nor a prequel, but rather a new film set between Alien and Aliens.

Speaking at the Gotham awards, star Cailee Spaeny told the trade bible: “It’s supposed to slot in between the first movie and the second movie, adding: “They brought the same team from Aliens, the James Cameron film. The same people who built those xenomorphs actually came on and built ours. So getting to see the original design with the original people who have been working on these films for 45-plus years and has been so much of their life has been really incredible.”

How then, is this going to work? Well, there are 57 years between the events of the two movies, which Ripley spent drifting in space in a state of stasis. What might have happened in the meantime? …

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss fell down 3-5 steps on flight of stairs while at SMOFCon and was taken by paramedics to a local Providence, RI hospital as a precaution.

Kevin Standlee reports, “I was the one on the scene when he fell (I was walking up the interior stairwell between the programming space and the ground floor of the Providence Marriott) while he was walking down the stairs and slipped, piling up in a heap on the landing. He never lost consciousness and remained alert and responsive, but after initially recovering a bid and starting to get up, announced that his neck hurt enough that he wanted me to call 911.”

Kevin has a longer post about it on his Dreamwidth blog. He adds, “I have no further update on his condition, but I’m hopeful that he’ll be okay. He reported nothing that sounded like anything broken, just bruised.”

(4) THEIR ONE DEMAND. “’Gay Furry Hackers’ Breached a Nuclear Lab to Demand Catgirl Research” reports Them.

A collective of self-professed “gay furry hackers” breached databases at a nuclear research laboratory in Idaho this week and released thousands of human resources records. Their only ransom demand? The lab must begin a catgirl research program.

SiegedSec, the hacker collective that attacked government systems in five states earlier this year, claimed responsibility for infiltrating the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in a Telegram post on November 16. According to its website, INL is one of the country’s largest nuclear research facilities and maintains the Advanced Test Reactor, which is used for both medical and military programs.

The records, which contain names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of employees and other users, were released through SiegedSec’s Telegram channel and confirmed to be authentic by the INL and East Idaho News.

“meow meow meow meow meow meow meow […] woah so much crunchy data :3” SiegedSec wrote on Telegram. “we’re willing to make a deal with INL. if they research creating irl catgirls we will take down this post.”

SiegedSec rose to prominence in 2022 with several hacks protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The hacker collective has since claimed responsibility for breaching government and NATO computer systems, as well as those of private companies, including software company Atlassian. They said their attacks on state governments earlier this year were in retaliation to those states’ anti-transgender laws. Since October, the group has also embarked on what it calls #OpIsrael, claiming responsibility for a string of cyber attacks on Israeli satellites, industrial systems, and telecommunications companies….

(5) UPDATED WSFS RULES AVAILABLE. The WSFS website has posted the latest draft of the Rules of the World Science Fiction Society with changes ratified by the Chengdu Worldcon Business Meeting. These include the Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo and its cross-references.

(6) DIAZ Q&A. [Item by Steven French.] From the Guardian’s interview with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist: “Hernan Diaz: ‘The Tintin books were problematic but they were also gorgeous and gripping’”:

The book I am currently reading

Sly Stone’s memoir, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). And today I also read the first chapter of Joanna Russ’s The Female Man.

Good choice!

(7) DOES THIS STORY DRAG ON? No, it apparently flies right along. “’House of the Dragon’: Season 2 Cast & Teaser Trailer Revealed” at Deadline.

House of the Dragon is set 172 years before the events of Game of Thrones and tells the story of House Targaryen. The two released posters for Season 2 are setting up an epic war between the Targaryens and the Hightowers following the crazy Season 1 finale that saw tragedy befall the former (R.I.P Prince Lucerys Velaryon) at the hands of the latter (Prince Aemond Targaryen)….

And according to Gizmodo’s article “House of the Dragon’s Season 2 Trailer Is All-Out Dragon War”:

…The first season ended with Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) getting eaten by Vhagar and his mother Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) swearing revenge for her loss. Thus begins the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of Dragons, which will run throughout the second season as the Green and Black factions of the family go head to head against one another. As the trailer shows us, there shall indeed be dragons and their riders engaging in fiery, bloody warfare, along with the requisite scheming, sex, and glares. And at least one gruesome part of the books is confirmed to be showing up in the new season, so longtime fans have that to look forward to….

(8) HOW NOT TO OPEN MOUTH AND INSERT FOOT. BookRiot knows “What Not To Say to Bookstore Employees”. Soon you will, too.

“Wow, you must love your job; you get to sit around and read all day. I am so jealous.” It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people TELL you that “you must love your job.” Like, it’s a job. I am giving away my free time for money to be here. And people tend to say it to those of us who work in the arts — which, sure, maybe people who work in the arts DO more often love their jobs. But the work is chronically undervalued and underpaid, and so people constantly telling you that “you must love your job” when you work in the arts feels like the collective culture telling you that because you get so much joy from your job, you don’t even really need to be paid for it. You just do it for the passion!!! The more specific response to this sentence is that working in a bookstore is not the “I wish I could just be paid to read all day” utopia that we all imagine it to be. Yes, there are great parts of the job. But most people who work in bookstores don’t sit around and read all day. It’s still customer service, and it’s still inventory, and it’s still packing up returns and orders and creating spreadsheets and data entry and and and. You get it…. 

(9) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the UK presents “Doctor Who’s futuristic Whomobile, Bessie and original Dalek feature in 60th anniversary display” through February 2024. The ClassicCars.com Journal tells more in a post here.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is set to transport visitors through time and space with the unveiling of a new temporary display featuring the most iconic vehicles from the beloved British sci-fi series, Doctor Who. From the sleek and stylish Bessie to the futuristic Whomobile and a menacing Dalek, this collection marks the 60th anniversary of the series and opened to visitors on November 23, 2023.

Heading the line-up is none other than Bessie, the Third Doctor’s trusty yellow roadster. Bessie’s first appearance was in Doctor Who and the Silurians in early 1970 and appeared regularly with the Third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee. It also made single appearances in Fourth, Seventh, Eighth and Eleventh Doctor stories. Familiar to fans of the classic era, Bessie has become synonymous with the Doctor’s adventures….

…Zooming in from the 1970s, the display presents the Whomobile, a custom-designed vehicle created for the Doctor by the brilliant minds at UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. A sleek blend of style and functionality, the Whomobile is a testament to the Doctor’s ability to traverse the cosmos. It made its first appearance in Invasion of the Dinosaurs broadcast in January and February 1974. The vehicle’s only other appearance was in Planet of the Spiders, which was the final adventure for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor and would see him regenerate as Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.

(10) WB RECOGNIZES ANIMATION UNION. Deadline reports “Warner Bros Discovery Welcomes WB Animation & Cartoon Network Unionization”.

David Zaslav has been preaching the gospel of Tinseltown labor peace since the SAG-AFTRA strike ended, and now the Warner Bros Discovery CEO is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to his own backyard.

Almost five months after dozens of Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network production workers began their efforts to unionize with The Animation Guild, WBD this week has recognized the move.

“After months of discussions with the studio, I am proud that we were able to reach an agreement with Warner/Discovery for representation of animation production workers at Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios,” said TAG IATSE Local 839 Business Representative Steve Kaplan to Deadline today.

(11) RETURN TO SENDER. “Never mind returning the Parthenon marbles – Britain wants this lot back!” The Guardian has a little list. “It’s all very well Greece wanting its rightful treasure – but the Brits have left some pretty good artefacts lying around the planet. Surely it’s time they came home?”

 As Rishi Sunak continued his war of words with the Greek government and threw a tantrum at PMQs on Wednesday, what cunning plan might he deploy to appease Tory headbangers and distract the electorate?

The row kicked off when Sunak cancelled a meeting with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after the latter said that Britain’s retention of a portion of the Parthenon marbles was like “cutting the Mona Lisa in half”. Mitsotakis was invited to see Oliver Dowden instead, to which he unsurprisingly replied “óchi efcharistó” (no thanks).

The ensuing furore may just have planted an idea in Sunak’s mind. After all, there are some on the Tory right who probably regret the Stone of Scone going north of the border in 1996 after centuries on display as Plantagenet war booty at Westminster Abbey.

The list of treasures actually stolen from the UK, given our former imperial power, is unsurprisingly small. But there are a number of either lost or stolen items, some entering the realm of mythology, others not. These include Excalibur, the earthly remains of Arthur, Alfred the Great, and Oliver Cromwell, the Three Crowns of East Anglia (immortalised in MR James’s A Warning to the Curious), Joseph of Arimathea’s staff and the Great Seal James II slung in the Thames during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. After his unfortunate death at the hands of Native Hawaiians, Captain Cook was supposedly baked (not to eat) and his bones hidden; also in the Pacific during the same era, The Bounty was scuppered and sunk at Pitcairn by the mutineers.

So what artefacts can the UK government demand the return of – even if we gave them away in the first place?

Here’s one of the items.

11. AA Milne’s actual Winnie-the-Pooh (New York)

Like Paddington Bear (isn’t he Peruvian?) Winnie-the-Pooh is an British icon. So to find the poor fellow and friends Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, and Eeyore on display in New York’s Public Library is nothing short of a disgrace. We say free the Pooh Five – prisoners in Manhattan since 1956!

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 52. And tonight, we have Frank Cho. Surely many of you are familiar with the delightful obviously genre Liberty Meadows strip which he wrote and illustrated with its cast of not quite charming talking beasties and resident therapist to them Brandy Carter who Cho says is artistic crossing between Lynda Carter and Bettie Page. It ran from ‘97 to ‘01 with some additional material for a few years after that.  Here’s a Liberty Meadows strip.

Only in The Dreaming Library does this exist…he stated his comic career working for  Penthouse Comix along with Al Gross and Mark Wheatley. The three of them, likely after a very long weekend, thought up  a six-part “raunchy sci-fi fantasy romp” called The Body, centering on an intergalactic female merchant, Katy Wyndon, who can transfer her mind into any of her “wardrobe bodies”,  mindless vessels that she occupies to best suit her mediations with the local alien races that she encounters while traveling the galaxy trading and trying to become wealthy. 

The story was never published for several reasons. Even Kathy Keeton at Penthouse who published the raunchiest comics I’ve seen this side of The Hustler wasn’t interested. 

And then there’s Jungle Girl Comics which was created by Frank Cho, James Murray, and Adriano Batista. Think a female Tarzan. Cho loves young females in bikinis that barely cover the parts that need covering.

Unlike Marvel, he wrote nothing at all, the cover art work he did there was definitely worth seeing, so at just let’s do just that. His work there, well, other than the Harley Quinn covers which are decidedly on the silly edge of things are traditionally skewed and the Green Arrow one I’ve choose is certainly is too. And here it is. Yes I’m a really big Green Arrow fan, he’s one of my favorite DC characters, particularly the modern take on him.  Here’s a variant cover he did for volume 8, number 1 of that series. 

Name a character, Hulk, Spider-Gwen, Hellboy, Red Sonja, New Avengers, Batman, Harley Quinn, and Cho has likely had a hand in it. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grickle. Bruce D. Arthurs says, “Thought F770 readers might enjoy this cartoon from Graham Annable I came across on Mastodon. He’s also on Instagram & Tumblr. Quite a few genre-related cartoons.”
  • Tom Gauld squeezes in a lot of fun here:

(14) INTELLIGENT SFF ANIMATION. Camestros Felatpton would hate for you to miss “Pluto (Netflix)”.

…It is the future (and arguably an alternative history) and humanity lives side by side with intelligent robots. Some robots are big machines, others very human like and some shift bodies (giant mech at work and human-like body at home). Robots have only recently acquirred civil rights, including the right to have families and bring up robot children. The world in general is just getting over the trauma of a recent (three years prior) war in central asia between the nation of Persia (which is depicted more like Iraq than Iran) and the United States of Thracia (basically the USA).

Inspector Gesicht is a very human-like detective with Europol and is given the task of investigating two recent murders: a famous and popular Swiss robot and a human who was instrumental in securing civil rights for robots. In both cases the killer left the victims heads adorned with horns…

(15) BOOKEND. Cute as the dickens. “Bilbo Baggins Home” from Geometryk.

Refresh your bookshelf, add a charming little world to your room, and also a wonderful collection and decoration. Let’s stop using those old, ordinary bookends, okay?

(16) CELLING POINT. [Item by Steven French.] The beginning of The Rise of the Anthrobots:

Scientists have developed tiny robots made of human cells that are able to repair damaged neural tissue1. The ‘anthrobots’ were made using human tracheal cells and might, in future, be used in personalized medicine….

Levin and his team grew spheroids of human tracheal skin cells in a gel for two weeks, before removing the clusters and growing them for one week in a less viscous solution. This caused tiny hairs on the cells called cilia to move to the outside of the spheroids instead of the inside. These cilia acted as oars, and the researchers found that the resulting anthrobots — each containing a few hundred cells — often swam in one of several patterns. Some swam in straight lines, others swam in circles or arcs, and some moved chaotically.

To test the anthrobots’ therapeutic potential, Levin and his colleagues placed several into a small dish. There, the anthrobots fused together to form a ‘superbot’, which the researchers placed on a layer of neural tissue that had been scratched. Within three days, the sheet of neurons had completely healed under the superbot. This was surprising, says study co-author Gizem Gumuskaya, a developmental biologist also at Tufts, because the anthrobot cells were able to perform this repair function without requiring any genetic modification. “It’s not obvious that you’re going to get that kind of response,” she says….

From “Tiny robots made from human cells heal damaged tissue” in Nature.

(17) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature has a newsy article on space junk and its light pollution. Yes, it’s getting to be a problem, but for the most part the article is the same old, same old. (We at SF2 Concatenation even had a piece on space junk in our first (print) edition way back in 1987.)

However this week’s Nature news piece has a decidedly SFnal conclusion: our species might be trapping itself on Earth! (Behind a paywall.) “Bright satellites are disrupting astronomy research worldwide”.

Any collisions in orbit will release many pieces of debris travelling at several kilometres per second, which can cause further collisions, and could lead to a runaway collisional cascade referred to as the Kessler syndrome. This is the worst-case scenario: the onset of full Kessler syndrome would prevent the use of communication, weather, science and astronautical satellites in low Earth orbit for decades. And it is unclear whether a spacecraft could even be launched successfully through the debris shell to enable travel to other planets. Humans would effectively be trapped on Earth by space junk, with multiple tonnes of vaporised metal being added to the upper atmosphere every day through re-entry.

Below: An astronomical picture of a galaxy marred by satellite trails. The research article which instigated this piece is here.

(18) EYEBALL ATTRACTORS. JustWatch lists the top 10 streaming programs for November 2023.

(19) SPELL CHECKING. “The ‘Agatha: Darkhold Diaries’ Featurette is Online, and It Reveals What’s in Store for Agatha” – all explained at The Mary Sue.

So what does the preview reveal?

First off, we see Agatha in her new costume: an updated, more modern-looking version of her purple dress from WandaVision. However, we also see her in a couple of her Westview looks, including her ’80s-era workout leotard. The sets seem to be new, though, so it’s possible the show may reveal more of Wanda’s hex from WandaVision. After all, when WandaVision ended, Agatha was still caught in Wanda’s spell….

The slug with the video adds:

Emmy-nominee Kathryn Hahn reprises her role as Agatha Harkness for a brand new Disney+ Marvel series launching later in 2024. Agatha: Darkhold Diaries will reveal more about the character first introduced in Marvel Studios’ WandaVision. Jac Schaefer, who served as head writer and executive producer on WandaVision, returns for Agatha: Darkhold Diaries.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Kevin Standlee, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21/23 I Spent A Year Pixeled For Scroll Purposes

(1) WHO HISTORY REMEMBERED. “’Matt Smith and I twiddle knobs. I am 12 again!’ Stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part two” in the Guardian.

Daniel Nettheim (director of episodes featuring the Twelfth Doctor, 2015-17)

The Doctor’s anti-war speech, from 2015’s Zygon two-parter, was a cry from the heart for compassion amid a searing indictment of the futility of war. It has never felt more relevant than it does today. The 10-minute sequence was delivered with considerable emotional heft by Peter Capaldi. It still brings a tear to my eye. When Radio Times readers voted for that year’s greatest TV moment, that came second, beaten only by Poldark scything a field with his shirt off.

Barnaby Edwards (Dalek operator, 1993 onwards)

I first worked as a Dalek in 1993. Three decades later, I’m still working as a Dalek – promotion is slow on the planet Skaro! My favourite moment was on a night shoot in Penarth in March 2008 for The Stolen Earth. It was my task to stop a Nissan Figaro in the street and threaten its occupant with extermination. It was Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, my childhood hero. Here she was, still defending the universe from the Daleks. That’s the magic of Doctor Who. Faces come and go, but the adventure goes on for ever….

(2) EVEN ODDS. [Item by Chris Barkley.] Who will win the 2023 Booker Prize? I looked through the descriptions of the nominated books and two (or three) of them might be genre or adjacent. But, THREE guys named Paul in the ballot? What are the odds of that happening?????

Literary Hub’s Emily Temple says “Here are the bookies’ odds for the 2023 Booker Prize”.

We’re just shy of one week out from the announcement of the UK’s biggest book prize: the Booker. So it’s time to place your bets on who will win the £50,000, a massive spike in book sales, and lifelong bragging rights. (A different question, no doubt, than who should win.) If you need a tip, follow the money, and ask the bookies (they were at least close last year).

For the record: all things being equal, there is a baseline 50% chance of the Booker going to somebody named Paul on Sunday, but given the below odds, in which each Paul is more probable than the next, that number rises to . . . something I cannot calculate because I am an editor at a literary website who put all of my eggs in one basket long ago. But, higher. I think…

(3) IN THIS WORLD, ELWOOD, YOU CAN BE OH SO SMART, OR OH SO UNPLEASANT. Camestros Felapton tries to decide “Does outrage marketing work?”.

…Authors now write in a more crowded market in which even moderately successful writers struggle to make a living. Standing out from the crowd is difficult and name recognition matters….

So some authors may see a possible way forward: pick controversial/trolling-like positions, promote those positions to provoke a backlash, get free publicity and hence (maybe) more sales.

That’s the theory. I think credibly it is a process that works for Larry Correia but I can’t claim that there is any way to check in terms of sales. Correia has the advantage that his controversial stances match the author persona he projects on social media and that persona also fits the style and genre of the books he writes AND those stances (particularly on guns) fit with the audience for his books. If I just consider notable Puppies, the approach has worked less well for Brad Torgersen and notably there are mismatches across the board for Brad, he’s just not as good at projecting a tough guy persona online, and his actual novels are less well-targeted to a specific demographic and there’s not a thematic connection between his culture war topics and his science fiction other than it being vaguely backwards looking….

(4) WHO OWNS CHAOS? Facebook sent a surprising notice about a group I follow now formerly named “Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor”.

And I found this posted to the group:

(5) EX X-USER. Scott Edelman reveals in a public Patreon post “What Twitter (and the leaving of it) means to me”.

…But the first week of September, it all became too much for me, and I shared the status update you see above. In the 11 weeks since then, I’ve returned every 3-4 weeks only to remind visitors I wouldn’t be posting any more and giving links to my other social media presences, in part to prevent my account from going dormant, which might allow another to squat on my name.

What was the affect of this decision on Eating the Fantastic?

Downloads have dropped by a third.

I know correlation isn’t causation, yet I can’t help but believe the loss of serendipitous discovery which would occur on Twitter is the reason.

The subscriber base remains unchanged. I’ve shed none of those regular listeners. But most of my traffic has always come from non-subscribers, and that has dropped.

When I would tweet about an upcoming guest or a new episode or any podcast news at all to my nearly 5,500 followers on Twitter, that would be retweeted many times, and I’d see a corresponding jump in downloads. Part of that, I know, was due to the fact not all listeners were interested in every conversation. Some only wanted the science fiction guests but not the horror guests, or the comic book guests but not the science fiction ones, and so rather than subscribing, they’d wait to see who was appearing and make the decision to download then. And I believe that with no tweet reminding them to check out the content of the latest episode … they’re not.

Then there were the new listeners who, upon seeing one of their friends share about an episode new or old and learning about Eating the Fantastic, would swoop in and download every prior episode. That would happen frequently in the show’s pre-Twitter days, but since September 5th, I don’t believe it’s happened even once.

All of that discoverability is gone, like tears in rain, and seemingly not replaced by the attention I’m getting from my (currently) 788 followers on Bluesky or 561 followers on Mastodon….

(6) KEYS TO SUCCESS. “The True Story of ‘The World’s Greatest Typewriter Collection’” at Heritage Auctions’ Intelligent Collector blog.

Like so many collections, it began with a single purchase made on a whim – in this case, the typewriter used by a Pulitzer-winning sportswriter. The man who bought the machine, Steve Soboroff, was a fan of the man who used it, revered Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray, whose words Soboroff devoured each morning, especially after nights when Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax hurled fastballs using The Left Hand of God. Soboroff wanted the 1940 Remington Model J so desperately that he outdueled two others competing for it at auction in 2005: the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a hell of a score.

Not long after, Soboroff put another typewriter on the shelf beside Murray’s – a 1926 Underwood Standard that belonged to Ernest Hemingway and was used during the author’s legendary sojourns to Cuba. More machines followed in short order, each a typewriter that once belonged to someone who had appeared on the cover of Time. Novelists and playwrights, among them Jack London, Tennessee Williams, George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury, John Updike and Philip Roth. Actors, including Greta Garbo, Shirley Temple, Mae West, Julie Andrews and a typewriter collector named Tom Hanks. Musicians, from crooner Bing Crosby to tenor Andrea Bocelli. Visionaries. Journalists. The famous. The infamous. Playboy creator Hugh Hefner. Samuel T. Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb. And Ted Kaczynski, the man called Unabomber….

(7) RECORD VIEWERSHIP. “When Hollywood Put World War III on Television” – a memory-stirring article, behind a paywall in The Atlantic.

We live in an anxious time. Some days, it can feel like the wheels are coming off and the planet is careening out of control. But at least it’s not 1983, the year that the Cold War seemed to be in its final trajectory toward disaster.

Forty years ago today, it was the morning after The Day After, the ABC TV movie about a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. Roughly 100 million people tuned in on Sunday night, November 20, 1983, and The Day After holds the record as the most-watched made-for-television movie in history.

I remember the movie, and the year, vividly. I was 22 and in graduate school at Columbia University, studying the Soviet Union. It’s hard to explain to people who worry about, say, climate change—a perfectly legitimate concern—what it was like to live with the fear not that many people could die over the course of 20 or 50 or 100 years but that the decision to end life on most of the planet in flames and agony could happen in less time than it would take you to finish reading this article….

(8) WINDOW CAT. Steve Green predicts that this shop in Berkeley, California has a decent stock of sf.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR. His father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. And he won two Mythopoetic Awards for doing so, and was nominated for a Balrog for publishing his father’s work. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 21, 1941 Ellen Asher, 82. Introduced many fans to their favorites as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award, an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Renovation. 
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 78. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965 with an example being this November 1969 cover. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at MagiCon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1946 Tom Veal, 77. He’s a con-running fan who chaired Chicon 2000. He was a member of the Seattle in 1981 Worldcon bid committee. He chaired Windycon X.  In 2016 he married fellow fan Becky Thomson. And he wrote the “1995 Moskva 1995: Igor’s Campaign” which was published in  Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons as edited by Mike Resnick.
  • Born November 21, 1950 Evelyn C. Leeper, 73. Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,302. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon. (JJ)
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 70. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work at her most excellent blog.

(10) COMIXOLOGY APP GOES AWAY 12/4. ZDNET’s Lance Whitney scorns the way “Amazon is killing off its Comixology app in true supervillain fashion”.

Like Thanos, Kang, and Dr. Doom, Amazon seems to be on a mission to destroy superheroes, at least when it comes to providing a user-friendly platform for buying and accessing digital comics. In a new message posted online and in the app, the retail giant announced that as of December 4, its Comixology app will no longer be available and will instead be merged with its Kindle app for iOS, Android, and Fire OS.

After the deadline, you’ll still be able to access and read your existing Comixology comics, graphic novels, and manga titles, but only in the Kindle app. And before the deadline hits, you’ll have to download any Comixology books you were reading into the Kindle app. You may also need to head to your Amazon Digital Content page and send individual comic books to your preferred ebook reader.

On the plus side, any books you’re reading in the Comixology app will sync their progress in the Kindle app, so you can continue where you left off. You’ll be able to read your Comixology books in the Comics section of the Kindle website. And you can continue to buy digital comics from the Comixology area on Amazon’s website.

(11) SORT OF LIKE A MEREDITH MOMENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] There’s an available MAX (HBO) deal: $2.99/month (with ads) for six months (normally $9.99/month) — https://auth.max.com/product. (Offer ends Monday Nov 27)

(12) TWO SHORT CLIPS FROM DOOM PATROL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] DPers imagine themselves in TV trailers.

Cliff Steele (Robotman) imagines himself teaming up with Vic Stone (Cyborg) for Steele & Stone, a Seventies-style cop show.

Rita Farr (“Elasti-Girl” imagines herself teaming up with Cyborg: in Beekeeper & Borg, like Steed and Mrs. Peel. Watch the Beekeeper & Borg trailer on YouTube.

(And a Reddit user edited the second trailer to match timing with the source material! — “I edited ‘Beekeeper & Borg’ to match the ‘The Avengers’ intro”.

(13) STEAMPUNK ART. Atlas Obscura Experiences is offering a four-part lecture series “Exploring Steampunk Art With Bruce Rosenbaum” for $75 a ticket. The promo says “Bruce Rosenbaum has been dubbed the Steampunk Guru by the Wall Street Journal and Steampunk Evangelist by Wired Magazine.”

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting two hours on four Mondays beginning November 27.

Session 1 (Monday, 11/27, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Intro to Steampunk: Defining steampunk and identifying its origins. 

Session 2 (Monday, 12/4, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Designing a Steampunk Life: Exploring the philosophy and concepts of steampunk art, from creative problem solving and collaboration to adaptive reuse.

Session 3 (Monday, 12/11, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Past/Future Art: Taking a closer look at the process of making different kinds of steampunk art and design.

Session 4 (Monday, 12/18, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| The Business of Steampunk: Looking into how to transform your steampunk art practice into a business (with examples from Modvic)

(14) REVISITING THE BROTHERS HILDEBRANDT. In 1994, Marvel Comics’ greatest characters were brought to life by two of science fiction and fantasy’s most renowned illustrators in Greg and Tim Hildebrandt’s unforgettable Marvel Masterpieces III trading card set. To celebrate the 30th anniversary next year, Marvel Comics will proudly showcase the Brothers Hildebrandt’s gorgeous Marvel Masterpieces III artwork in a new collection of variant covers.

Also available as virgin variant covers, the new covers will begin in January and continue all year long. Fans have already seen previews of the January pieces and now can see what’s coming in February, including spotlights on Cable and Night Thrasher for their upcoming new solo series.

Across more than 150 beautifully painted illustrations, comic fans saw the Brothers Hildebrandt’s masterful approach to the Marvel Universe with these timeless depictions of heroes and villains that have stayed with in the hearts and minds of fans ever since. Now, be captivated once more when they adorn the covers of select Marvel titles next year! For more information, visit Marvel.com.

(15) BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WHAT A SAVINGS. Heritage Auctions next Space Exploration Signature Auction on December 14-15 is offering a “Full-Scale McDonnell Aircraft Corporation Manufactured Friendship 7 Mercury Spacecraft Exhibition Model”. All you need is about $50,000 and a place to keep it around the house.

…Painted on the exterior are the Friendship 7 logo, “United States,” and an American flag very similar to what was painted on John Glenn’s capsule, the first mission on which an American orbited the Earth. A 27.5″‘ x 33″ removable hatch can be detached to allow closer inspection of the outstanding interior cabin assembled of a composite of wood and metal that features two fluorescent lights that beautifully illuminate the mannequin and instrument panel when plugged in via a standard plug at the bottom of the capsule. The attention to detail in the cabin is extraordinary. The instrument panel display is similar to the “B” configuration that was used on the Friendship 7 mission. The silver spacesuit has not been removed for inspection. However, the model was donated to the BSA in 1966; therefore, the suit is of the period….

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

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 11/14/23 Give Me Forty Pixels And I’ll Scroll This Rig Around

(1) WON’T BE THE FIRST TIME. The organizers anticipate some accepters will make some political statements from the stage of the National Book Awards ceremony on November 15: “Israel-Hamas War Sows Disruption at the National Book Awards” in the New York Times.

As the cultural fallout from the war in the Middle East continues, several finalists for the National Book Award plan to call for a cease-fire in Gaza during the ceremony on Wednesday. Two sponsors have decided not to attend the ceremony after learning authors were planning a political statement.

“I don’t want to look back on this time,” said Aaliyah Bilal, a finalist in the fiction category and one of the authors planing to speak out, “and say that I was silent while people were suffering.”

Rumors that authors would take a stand regarding the Israel-Gaza conflict during the ceremony were flying in the days leading up to the event, but it was unclear what the statement would include, leaving several sponsors concerned.

One of the sponsors that withdrew after learning that some authors were planning a political statement was Zibby Media. Zibby Owens, the company’s founder, wrote in an essay published on Substack that her company had withdrawn because she was afraid the remarks at the ceremony would take a stance against Israel, noting that “we simply can’t be a part of anything that promotes discrimination, in this case of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Another sponsor, Book of the Month, has also decided not to attend. In a statement, the organization said it continued to support the event.

On Tuesday, the National Book Foundation sent a message to all the sponsors and those who purchased tickets, alerting them to the likelihood that winners were planning to issue political statements from the podium. The letter said that one group had decided to withdraw its sponsorship altogether….

(2) PROTESTORS AT GILLER PRIZE CEREMONY. Last night’s Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto was interrupted twice by protestors: “Three people charged in Giller Prize protest” at CP24.

Toronto police say three people are facing charges after a surprise protest which hijacked a gala for the Scotiabank Giller Prize – one of the biggest nights in Canadian literature.

The glitzy awards ceremony was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville Monday night.

The $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize went to Montreal native Sarah Bernstein for her novel, “Study for Obedience.”

Just as the prize was being announced, a protester posing as a photographer interrupted the ceremony – which was being broadcast live on CBC – with antiwar slogans.

A video of the incident posted to social media shows a woman yelling at the room while several others held up signs accusing Scotiabank of “genocide” for investment in an arm’s company that deals with Israel.

Publishers Lunch reports a Scotiabank asset investment fund holds a five percent stake (worth roughly $500 million) in Elbit Systems, the “largest non-government-owned defense company in Israel.”

(3) NANOWRIMO CONCERN. This report about the NaNoWriMo Youth Forums says the Board of Directors had to step in because of allegations against a moderator. The following is an excerpt from a thread which begins here.

And this tweet links to a 5-minute Rebecca Thorne Tik-Tok video commentary on the situation where she says “Now is the time to change your password, your email, and check your kids if they’ve been on these forums”.

(4) 2024 GRAMMY BALLOT INCLUDES SFF NOTABLES. The “2024 GRAMMY Nominations” were released on November 10, with nearly one hundred categories. William Shatner stands alone in his category, but the next four are almost entirely filled by musical works of genre interest.

68. Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording

Boldly Go: Reflections On A Life Of Awe And Wonder
William Shatner

69. Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media

Award to the principal artist(s) and/or ‘in studio’ producer(s) of a majority of the tracks on the album.  In the absence of both, award to the one or two individuals proactively responsible for the concept and musical direction of the album and for the selection of artists, songs and producers, as applicable. Award also goes to appropriately credited music supervisor(s).

AURORA
(Daisy Jones & The Six)

Barbie The Album
(Various Artists)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By
(Various Artists)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3: Awesome Mix, Vol. 3
(Various Artists)

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Weird Al Yankovic

70. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television)

Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current legitimate motion picture, television show or series, or other visual media.

Barbie
Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, composers

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Ludwig Göransson, composer

The Fabelmans
John Williams, composer

Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny
John Williams, composer

Oppenheimer
Ludwig Göransson, composer

71.  Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media

Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, video games and other interactive media.

Call Of Duty®: Modern Warfare II
Sarah Schachner, composer

God Of War Ragnarök
Bear McCreary, composer

Hogwarts Legacy
Peter Murray, J Scott Rakozy & Chuck E. Myers “Sea”, composers

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Stephen Barton & Gordy Haab, composers

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical
Jess Serro, Tripod & Austin Wintory, composers

72. Best Song Written For Visual Media

A Songwriter(s) award. For a song (melody & lyrics) written specifically for a motion picture, television, video games or other visual media, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

Barbie World [From “Barbie The Album”]
Naija Gaston, Ephrem Louis Lopez Jr. & Onika Maraj, songwriters (Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua)

Dance The Night [From “Barbie The Album”]
Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Dua Lipa)

I’m Just Ken [From “Barbie The Album”]
Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Ryan Gosling)

Lift Me Up [From “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By”]
Ryan Coogler, Ludwig Göransson, Robyn Fenty & Temilade Openiyi, songwriters (Rihanna)

What Was I Made For? [From “Barbie The Album”]
Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)

(5) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The last day of the current LearnedLeague off-season featured a fun quiz on invented religions in a wide range of SF and fantasy. I got 9/12. You can find the questions here: “Fictional Theology”.

(6) SACRIFICIAL RAMMING SPEED. While you may have missed the latest NCIS television spinoff (I certainly did), Camestros Felapton confesses “I watched NCIS Sydney.

…The choice of city is obvious from the opening shots which take in the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House before taking us to the naval base near Woolloomooloo. You really can’t go wrong with filming Sydney Harbour, it is genuinely photogenic and really does have visiting naval vessels in it. Apparently, the real NCIS does have an Australian sub-office but it is in Perth, which is a lovely city but lacks the kind of recognisable landmarks that invading aliens or kaiju like to destroy….

(7) IT TURNS OUT MOUNT DOOM IS FREEWAY CLOSE TO POMPEII. In Italy, where the right wing is trying to appropriate Tolkienesque icons and themes, Politico takes readers “Inside Giorgia Meloni’s Hobbit fantasy world”.

Introducing soon-to-be Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at her final election campaign rally last year, the compère lifted a line from a battle speech in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings: “The day of defeat will come, but not today.”

Meloni has made it no secret that the fantasy epic is her favorite literary work. As a young activist she dressed up as a hobbit; after she became a minister, she posed next to a statue of Gandalf for a magazine photoshoot….

…The Ministry of Culture is funding an exhibition in Rome marking 50 years since the author’s death at a cost of €250,000, according to an official, who said the ministry hopes to recoup the funds from ticket sales. Meloni herself will open the show on November 15 at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art before it moves to other Italian cities.

Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano announced the show to the youth wing of Meloni’s party in July as “a gift.”

On Wednesday, presenting the exhibition, Sangiuliano said the show was “not by accident but deliberate and desired.” In response to a question by POLITICO, he insisted that Meloni had not requested the show but “only found out later.”

In the 1970s the far right would organize “Hobbit camp” festivals; Meloni has recalled that her friends were nicknamed Frodo, Gandalf and Hobbit, after central characters from the books.

She has quoted liberally from Tolkien throughout her career, from one of her first political speeches as a youth leader in 2002, to her autobiography in 2022. In 2015 she called on followers to combat that “sly enemy that Tolkien called the rings of power,” referring to the global financial elite….

(8) A BIG IMPROVEMENT. Christopher Nieman’s cover for The New Yorker shows robots are here to help us. (Click on item to see all panels.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i LönnebergaKarlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s eighteenth most-translated author, and the fourth-most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter was an animated series in Japan recently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 72. In 1984, she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor until her retirement.  She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction.  A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy that she co-wrote wrote with Michael Franklin and Baird Searles was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II. She has been nominated for six Hugos as Best Professional Editor or Best Editor Long Form.
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 60. All around great person. Past President of SFWA.  She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 nomination in the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional category. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a 2020 Nebula, and her short story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” was a 2013 Nebula Award finalist.  Her impressive fantasy Tabat Quartet quartet begins withBeasts of Tabat, Hearts of Tabat, and Exiles of Tabat, and will soon be completed by Gods of Tabat. She also writes amazing short fiction as well.  The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills through live and on demand classes about a range of topics. You can get details here. Her latest, Devil’s, was a stellar listen and an outstanding sequel to You Sexy Thing.
  • Born November 14, 1969 Daniel Abraham, 54. Co-author with Ty Franck of The Expanse series which won a Hugo at CoNZealand. Under the pseudonym M. L. N. Hanover, he is the author of the Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series.  Abraham collaborated with George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to write the Hunter’s Run. Abraham also has adapted several of Martin’s works into comic books and graphic novels, such as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, and has contributed to Wild Cards anthologies. By himself, he picked up a Hugo nomination at Denvention 3 for his “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” novelette. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a grotesque Wolverine joke.

(11) ARMOR MUSEUM EXHIBIT IN HUNTSVILLE. [Item by Marc Criley.] Armor frequently plays a key supporting role in high fantasy and historical fiction set in a certain era.

Pay a visit to the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama to see what really protected those that became the storytellers’ myths and legends. The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum on display now until January 14, 2024.

Far from the ungainly exoskeleton we often imagine today, the suit of armor was made to be sleek and stylish—painstakingly engineered, elegantly designed, and treasured as the expression of its owner’s taste, sophistication, and prowess.

Wolfgang Stäntler, Swept-Hilt Sword for the Munich Town Guard, about 1600,

(12) DISGRACELAND. “Shock of the old: eight abandoned and appalling theme parks” – the Guardian has a little list. Here’s one example:

Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan

Given its wholesome location, nestled up against the Aokigahara “suicide forest” and the Aum Shinrikyo cult headquarters in Japan, it’s impossible to imagine why this Jonathan Swift tribute park didn’t catch on. It’s the kind of thing you could threaten your kids with: “Be good, or we’ll go and see the vast, nightmarish statue of a man in a book you’ve never read.” Did they serve Modest Proposal burgers? It’s been demolished now; probably best for the planet’s collective psychological wellbeing.

(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. [Item by Steven French.] Well, who hasn’t lost a ring at some time or another …?! “Saturn’s Rings Will Temporarily Disappear From View in 2025” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

… In reality, it all has to do with planetary alignment. Saturn’s rings are so thin that they seemingly vanish when viewed edge-on. And as Earth and Saturn travel around the sun on their respective orbital paths, our planet reaches this particular vantage point like clockwork, roughly every 13 to 16 years.

As Saturn completes its orbit over approximately 29.4 Earth years, it leans at an angle of 26.7 degrees. This means that our view of Saturn toggles between the upper side of its rings when it’s tilted toward us and the lower side when it’s tilted away. We get the special, ringless view of the planet when Earth transitions between each of these perspectives and passes through Saturn’s “ring plane,” essentially, any area of space that’s in line with the edge of its rings.

From that angle, “they reflect very little light and are very difficult to see, making them essentially invisible,” Vahe Peroomian, a physicist and astronomer at the University of Southern California, tells CBS News’ Caitlin O’Kane…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Marc Criley, Nicholas Whyte, Steven French, Lise Andreasen, 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 Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 10/4/23 Way Station Deep In The Big Pixel (And The Big Fool Said To Scroll On)

(1) GOOD NEWS. My mother is back to her usual self and physically has regained enough ground for the doctor to send her home to the skilled nursing facility where she lives. She’ll go back tonight. And it’s hard to break the Scroll habit when I have a couple hours left to work on one!

(2) A LEADER WHO LOOKS TO THE FUTURE. [Item by Danny Sichel.] As a result of the October 3 election, Wab Kinew of Manitoba — winner of the 2022 Aurora Award for Best Young Adult Novel, for his Walking in Two Worlds — has joined the late Julius Vogel of New Zealand in a very exclusive club: SFF authors who are also heads of government. “Wab Kinew becomes Canada’s 1st First Nations premier of a province” CBC Kid News.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The September entry in the Future Tense Fiction series: is“Little Assistance,” about the first judge on the Moon, by Stephen Harrison, a Slate columnist and lawyer.

The other homesteaders, mostly engineers and technicians, seemed to enjoy outings in the lunar rover. “Joyrides,” they called them. But for Eugene, this was a grinding chore that frayed his nerves. As he trundled across the powdery surface, he recounted a litany of risks: razor-sharp regolith puncturing the tires, a power failure in his EVA suit, a freak meteor hurtling through the chassis …

 It was published along with a response essay, “Space law: The commercialization of space is here. International law isn’t prepared” by space law expert Saskia Vermeylen.

(4) A YANK AT OXFORD. Connie Willis has been across the Pond again: “England 2023 – Oxford, Part 1”.

Just got back from a research trip to England. It was great, even though Oxford was experiencing a terrible heat wave, so hot the tour guides were telling people NOT to take the walking tours but to instead go inside one of the museums (even though those weren’t air-conditioned either).

We spent a lot of time in the History of Science Museum, which is most famous for having Einstein’s blackboard, but also has Lawrence of Arabia’s camera, Lewis Carroll’s photographic equipment, and the actual penicillin specimen that Florey and his team worked with when developing the drug during World War II.

Alexander Fleming was the one who’d originally discovered penicillin, but he’d never been able to do anything with it, and it was Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, Margaret Jennings, and other Oxford scientists who developed it into a practical medicine and the “miracle drug” that saved millions of lives during the war, using bedpans and every other container they could find to grow the vast quantities of penicillin needed….

(5) GENIUS GRANTS. The 2023 MacArthur Fellows were announced to me. The descriptions did not indicate to me that any of them have genre connections. Perhaps you will have better luck spotting some.

(6) CROWDFUNDING APPEAL. Fan and former Worldcon chair (1983) Michael Walsh has started a GoFundMe for “Car repair and storage”.

Over the weekend my car died. Got it to the dealer. New battery, starter, and alternator need to be replaced. Doing that leaves no money until mid month.

(7) MOSLEY AND OATES. Andrew Porter took these photos of Walter Mosley and Joyce Carol Oates being interviewed at St. Ann’s Church, Brooklyn Heights, during last weekend’s Brooklyn Book Festival. (You can also see more photos in the Brownstoner’s article about “Literary Crowds at the Brooklyn Book Festival”.)

At the Festival, Porter also spotted a copy of this book with its tribute to my friend, the late Fred Patten (1940-2018).

(8) BY KLONO’S BRAZEN BALLS. Did we run this before? Not sure. But no Filer wants to miss a discussion of “How Far Afield Can Sci-Fi and Fantasy ‘Fake Swearing’ Get Before You Feel Uncomfortable?” at The Stopgap.

On the one hand, it is unlikely that three hundred years in the future, a group of space marauders (or six hundred years ago in Ruritania, or on the third 5,000-year resurrection cycle on an alternate Earth that looks suspiciously like the Dalmation Coast) is going to rely on the same profanity as twenty-first-century North Americans. But on the other hand, everything else sounds worse. Unless you’re willing to create an entirely new language with its own complex set of rules, don’t bother coming up with a ten-word vocabulary of invented oaths. The best this can sound is stupid….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1944 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a selection by Mike Glyer.]

Fredric Brown is the writer who offers up our Beginning this time. Despite the story that is told of his wife claiming that he hated to write, he would write four novels and somewhere in excess of a hundred short stories and quite a few poems. That really takes dedication to writing, doesn’t it? 

So what  do I like by him? Martians, Go Home which I think is one of the finest comical SF novels ever done, and I realized that I’d read What Mad Universe a long time ago, it’s quite a fun read. And what I’ve read of his short stories are quite excellent indeed. 

So who has read his mysteries? They look like they could be worth an evening or two. I noticed that his first one, The Fabulous Clipjoint, won the Edgar Award for outstanding first mystery novel. Very impressive! 

Our Beginning this time is that of his “Arena” short story published in the June 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction

The Star Trek episode called “Arena” had similarities to his story.  So who here can tell me what those were? In order to avoid legal entanglements, it was agreed that Brown would receive payment and a story credit.

It is available in the Robert Silverberg edited The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929-1964 which is available from the usual suspects. 

Now our Beginning…

CARSON OPENED HIS EYES, and found himself looking upwards into a flickering blue dimness. 

It was hot, and he was lying on sand, and a rock embedded in the sand was hurting his back. He rolled over to his side, off the rock, and then pushed himself up to a sitting position.

‘I’m crazy,’ he thought. ‘Crazy — or dead — or something.’ The sand was blue, bright blue. And there wasn’t any such thing as bright blue sand on Earth or any of the planets. Blue sand under a blue dome that wasn’t the sky nor yet a room, but a circumscribed area — somehow he knew it was circumscribed and finite even though he couldn’t see to the top of it. 

He picked up some of the sand in his hand and let it run through his fingers. It trickled down on to his bare leg. Bare?

He was stark naked, and already his body was dripping perspiration from the enervating heat, coated blue with sand wherever sand had touched it. Elsewhere his body was white. 

He thought: then this sand is really blue. If it seemed blue only because of the blue light, then I’d be blue also. But I’m white, so the sand is blue. Blue sand: there isn’t any blue sand. There isn’t any place like this place I’m in.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 4, 1860 — Sidney Edward PagetBritish illustrator of the Victorian era,  he’s definitely known for his illustrations that accompanied Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories such as the one in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” which appeared in The Strand Magazine in December 1892, with the caption “Holmes game me a sketch of the events”. He also illustrated Arthur Morrison’s Martin Hewitt, Investigator, a series of short stories featuring the protagonist, Martin Hewitt, and written down by his good friend, the journalist Brett. These came out after Holmes was killed off, like many similar series. (Died 1908.)
  • Born October 4, 1904 — Earl Binder. Under the pen name of Eando Binder, he and his brother Otto published SF stories. One series was about a robot named Adam Link. The first such story, published in 1939, is titled “I, Robot”. A collection by Asimov called I, Robot would be published in 1950. The name was selected by the publisher, despite Asimov’s wishes. As Eando Binder, they wrote three SF novels — Enslaved BrainsDawn to Dusk and Lords of Creation. (Died 1966.)
  • Born October 4, 1928 — Alvin Toffler. Author of Future Shock and a number of other works that almost no one will recall now. John Brunner named a most excellent novel, The Shockwave Rider, after the premise of Future Shock. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 4, 1932 — Ann Thwaite, 91. Author of AA Milne: His Life which won the Whitbread Biography of the Year, as well as The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh, a scrapbook offshoot of the Milne biography. (And yes, Pooh is genre.) In 2017 she updated her 1990 biography of A.A Milne to coincide with Goodbye Christopher Robin for which she was a consultant. 
  • Born October 4, 1956 — Bill Johnson. His writing was strongly influenced by South Dakota origins. This is particularly true of his “We Will Drink a Fish Together” story which won a Hugo for Best Novelette in 1998. (It got a Nebula nomination as well.) His 1999 collection, Dakota Dreamin, is quite superb. (Died 2022.)
  • Born October 4, 1975 — Saladin Ahmed, 48. His Black Bolt series, with Christian Ward as the artist, won an Eisner Award for Best New Series and the graphic novel collection, Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, was a finalist at Worldcon 76 for Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Popeye unexpectedly includes the phrase “pocket dimensions”.
  • Arturo Serrano’s review of the webcomic Strange Planet and the Apple TV+ show adapted from it is titled “Trite Planet”, which is a hint at his opinion. On the other hand, the review includes numerous examples of the comic which you may like more than he does.

With the webcomic Strange Planet, first published on Instagram and then in book format, cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle has become the rare success story where a comedian has proved able to sustain a career based on knowing exactly one joke. His featureless blue aliens lead entirely ordinary lives, doing the same things humans do, but speaking with a degree of technical precision that exposes how abnormal our assumptions of normality truly are. Pyle has discovered how to milk the same gimmick a million times, creating a surprisingly caustic style of humor clothed in pastel. From innocent slice-of-life scenarios, Strange Planet can go into some really dark insights, a remarkable feat of tonal balancing without which it wouldn’t have become so explosively popular….

(12) BREAKTHROUGH UK COMICS LAUREATE. “Bobby Joseph becomes first person of colour appointed UK comics laureate” reports the Guardian.  

The comic book author and graphic novelist Bobby Joseph has become the first person of colour to be appointed the UK’s comics laureate.

Joseph, who was one of the first authors to create a British comic with black characters, was appointed to the role at the Lakes international comic art festival (LICAF) in Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District on Saturday.

He is the fifth person to hold the post, which was created in 2014 to raise awareness of the impact comics can have on increasing literacy and creativity. One of the laureate’s key focuses is to increase the acceptance of comics as a tool for learning in schools and libraries.

Joseph, 51, who grew up in south London, told the Guardian he hoped to spend his two-year stint tackling the lack of diversity in the comics industry.

“This award is a huge achievement. I am very honoured to get it. That said, one of the key things I want to do is change things with regards to diversity, representation and the unheard voices of comics. This is my main focus. There is no point being in this role unless I am able to help others,” he said….

(13) ABOUT THAT DAY JOB. Publishers Weekly has the numbers to prove that “Writing Books Remains a Tough Way to Make a Living”.

A new author income study released by the Authors Guild provides a dizzying array of numbers and breakdowns about how all types of authors—traditionally published and self-published, full-time and part-time—fared financially in 2022. With such a deep trove of statistics, the survey offers something for everyone, but the main takeaway is that most authors have a hard time earning a living from their craft.

The survey, which drew responses from 5,699 published authors, found that in 2022, their median gross pre-tax income from their books was $2,000. When combined with other writing-related income, the total annual median income was $5,000. The median book-related income for survey respondents in 2022 was up 9% from 2018, adjusted for inflation, with all the increase coming from full-time authors, whose income was up 20%, compared to a 4% decline for part-time authors….

(14) SNAPPING THE SUSPENDERS OF DISBELIEF. Camestros Felapton does a pretty entertaining review of the movie in “Review: 65”.

…”But…” you might say and sure there is a lot we could nitpick about the setup but that would be a category error. If you are choosing to watch this film, you are choosing to watch Adam Driver shoot dinosaurs with a hi-tech gun. “But why is he flying into this solar system if he is flying these people to a completely different planet somewhere else?” is not a legitimate question. The film comes pre-exempt from such criticism just as you can’t ask a rom-com to not depend so much on random coincidences or misunderstandings, or why cars are so prone to exploding in an action movie, or what the actual murder rate was among wealthy British people in a period murder mystery….

[Thanks to Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Sean Wallace, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, Danny SIchel, Bill, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]