Pixel Scroll 2/6/24 Scrollerman vs. Mr. Mixy-Pixel-like

(1) GLASGOW 2024 REOPENS HUGO NOMINATIONS. Members of Glasgow 2024 were notified today that online nominations for the Hugo Awards are working again.

One day after they initially went live on January 27, the committee announced in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” There is no extension to the originally announced deadline; all nominations must be received by Saturday, March 9, 2024, 16:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) (UTC+0). Detailed instructions for how to nominate, plus more specific information about the nomination categories and eligibility, are available here.

(2) CASHING IN. AbeBooks shared their “Most expensive sales in 2023”, and several are sff or comics.

1. Thomas Pynchon Collection – $125,000

Thomas Pynchon is one of America’s most reclusive novelists and the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow, Slow Learner, Vineland, Mason and Dixon, Inherent Vice, and Bleeding Edge.

This is a collection of 246 items comes from a fine private library.

Highlights include: an advance reading copy of V. (1963), Pynchon’s first novel, in its original wrapper, as well as a first edition copy of V. in a dust jacket, advance unbound signatures and an uncorrected proof of Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), the binder’s dummy of Mason & Dixon (1997) in a proof dust jacket, and more.

“Assembled over a lifetime by a dedicated private collector, this remarkable collection of Thomas Pynchon’s work contained over 240 items. One would be hard-pressed to find a more bibliographically complete collection containing so many Pynchon rarities in such perfect condition.”

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $85,620

This true first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published by Bloomsbury in June of 1997. Only 500 copies were printed, 200 of which were used to promote the book, and 300 were provided to libraries. This copy was originally owned by Edinburgh Public Library in Rowling’s hometown. She wrote the novel while sitting in various cafes around the Scottish city.

The book’s library card shows that it was borrowed 27 times between December 15, 1997 and October 12, 1999 before it was withdrawn from service. Those 27 readers were among the first people to experience the magic of Hogwarts.

This copy is a hardcover and was issued without a dust jacket. It has been restored and housed in a full red leather box lined with black suede. The sale marks our second most expensive sale of all time, and shows that the Harry Potter phenomenon, which began in 1997, has not diminished.

This is likely the most expensive online sale of a first edition of the Philosopher’s Stone. Another first edition sold at a live auction for $471,000 in 2021….

7. The Chronicles of Narnia Set by C.S. Lewis – $45,699

This remarkable set is made up of the first editions of each book in the author’s classic Chronicles of Narnia series, which has sold over 100 million copies and been translated into 47 languages….

10. Calvin and Hobbes: The Last Sunday, “Let’s Go Exploring” by Bill Watterson – $35,000

A rarity, this large color proof of the final Calvin and Hobbes strip is signed by Bill Watterson.

Calvin and Hobbes was a daily comic strip that ran between 1985 and 1995. It became hugely successful and was featured in thousands of newspapers around the globe.

This signed color proof was one of a small number produced and sent as a thank-you gift from Watterson to select newspapers who carried the strip.

(3) FREE READS. Analog and Asimov’s are offering their short fiction that made the Locus Recommended Reading List for readers to enjoy.

Novella:

“The Tinker and the Timestream”, Carolyn Ives Gilman (3-4/23)

Short Stories:

“Secondhand Music”, Aleksandra Hill (9-10/23)
“An Infestation of Blue”Wendy N. Wagner (11-12/23)

Novellas:

“Blade and Bone”, Paul McAuley (11-12/23)
“The Ghosts of Mars”, Dominica Phetteplace (11-12/23)

Novelettes:

“The Unpastured Sea”Gregory Feeley (9-10/23)
“Planetstuck”Sam J. Miller (3-4/23)
“Deep Blue Jump”, Dean Whitlock (9-10/23)

Short Story:

“Jamais Vue”, Tochi Onyebuchi (1-2/23)

(4) 100. Sunday Morning Transport, in search of subscribers, also has a free read: “A Hundred Secret Names” by Margaret Ronald.

My forty-eighth secret name is Accurate-in-Speech, so you will know that every word I say to you tonight is true.

I was born under the ice mountains, the second-youngest of a clutch of five. Like me, my siblings were loud and demanding in our fiery infancy, and unlike me, they are uninteresting. My mother was much the same; the only importance she has is that before she left us for good (for we had grown near her size and would soon be extinguished enough to venture out), she took each of us aside and whispered to us our first secret names. My siblings, being what they were, immediately told each other and reveled in this new ability to be individually loud. I, being as I am, wisely kept my name to myself….

(5) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. It’s really a thing. And Mashable conducted blindfolded testing. See video here: “We tested the Dune 2 Sandworm Popcorn Bucket. It was uncomfortable” reports Mashable.

“This was a choice!”

We blindfolded 5 Mashable employees and asked for their honest reactions to Dune: Part 2sandworm popcorn bucket. They did not disappoint. Dune: Part 2 premieres in theaters March 1st, 2024.

An even better video, however, is last weekend’s Saturday Night Live parody the “Dune Popcorn Bucket”.

A group of teenagers sings a song about a special night.

(6) ELON SAYS HE’S FOOTING THE BILL. An actress’ wrongful termination suit has an angel, of sorts: “Gina Carano Sues Disney for ‘Mandalorian’ Firing — With Elon Musk’s Help” in Variety.

Actor Gina Carano sued Disney and Lucasfilm on Tuesday for firing her from “The Mandalorian” in 2021, over a social media post in which she compared being a Republican to being Jewish during the Holocaust.

The suit, filed in California federal court, alleges wrongful termination and discrimination, as well as a demand that the court should force Lucasfilm to recast her and pay at least $75,000 in punitive damages.

Elon Musk is funding the suit, following his promise to pay for legal actions taken by people claiming discrimination from posts to Twitter/X. However, the posts in question originated on Carano’s Instagram Stories….

(7) IS IT WORTH WHAT YOU PAY FOR IT? An employee of Heritage Auctions answers the question “Is Toy Grading A Good Idea?” for readers of Intelligent Collector.

If you are a toy or action figure collector, you likely have a strong opinion on the subject when it comes to your personal collection. But whether it is a go0od idea for positive future monetary returns is an entirely different question.

While many collectors have long seen the encasement of their treasures as a separation from their tactile enjoyment, others have maintained that it preserves them in their highest quality state as time moves forward. Neither is wrong, strictly from a personal collecting perspective, but grading action figures and toys can have a significant effect on the value when sold. That is not to say that every toy should be graded as there is a real cost associated with it, but the right pieces with good grades can multiply the value from hundreds to thousands of dollars per item.

My general rule of thumb is that a toy is worth grading if the value of it is increased by at least 150% of the grading fee when added to the ungraded value. This is the case for items that already have value and a demonstrated history of selling in graded and ungraded condition. Of course, the final value will depend on the grade that the item receives as buyers pay more for higher-graded toys. For example, if a carded action figure is worth $300 and costs $100 to grade, I would grade it if it were certain to bring at least $450 at the lowest conceivable grade it could get.

On the opposing side, I would not recommend grading most brand-new items as they have not yet proven their value in the longer term. Many of the newer toys graded today may never increase in value over the grading cost and I have seen many toys over the years that are still unable to recoup the money paid for the service. Because many collectors now save packaged toys, there are many more in circulation than have ever been in the past due to the speculation of future value. If there is the potential of significant future value, I would recommend bagging and boxing the toys separately or using temporary clamshell cases made to preserve their condition.

As for vintage toys from the 1980’s and before, if the value is significant and the grade is expected to be 80 or above, I highly recommend grading to increase the value. It makes buyers more comfortable with their purchase of a graded item and its confirmed condition. Of course, these are general guidelines and there are many situations where exceptions would be made….

(8) SEW WHAT? The Huntington shares an item of Civil War history in “Guns, Secession, and a Secret Message in a Spool”.

…Yet the envelope’s contents turned out to be rather curious. There are several labeled items, apparently intended for a museum of the War Department that Townsend was trying to develop after the Civil War. Along with a piece of a British flag captured in 1781 at Yorktown and a length of red tape used by Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his detention at Fortress Monroe, there was a spool of thread wrapped in a piece of paper.

Spools like this were found in the numerous sewing kits (known as “housewives”) carried by U.S. soldiers. But it was the wrapper that caught my eye. It contained a typescript message dated 1861—several years before the typewriter was invented. A note written in Townsend’s hand along the bottom of the page read: “Sent this way to pass thru rebel lines. Message in spool of thread from one Union officer to another.”

I peered into the hole of the spool. Sure enough, inside was what appeared to be a tightly rolled piece of paper. I immediately contacted The Huntington’s superb conservation lab, where project conservator Cynthia Kapteyn managed to extract the paper and smooth it out. (You can watch a video of the extraction here.) The unrolled page revealed a handwritten message, hastily scribbled in pencil. The text matched the typed transcription.

The humble spool and the grubby note shed new light on the dramatic events that unfolded shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860….

(9) WORLDCON IN MEMORIAM CHANGES PLATFORMS. Steven H Silver announced that he’s moved the Worldcon In Memoriam account from Twitter (theoretically known as X) to Bluesky. Please can follow it at “Worldcon In Memoriam” (@wcinmemoriam.bsky.social).

(10) TONY BENOUN OBITUARY. Twenty-five year LASFS member Tony Benoun died January 18 after a long illness. He was active in Doctor Who fandom and helped found the Gallifrey One convention as Shaun Lyon recalls in his tribute “Tony Benoun remembered by Gallifrey One”.

Throughout the year 1988, following the Doctor Who Traveling Exhibition’s visit to Los Angeles the prior October, scarcely a month went by at the meetings of our local Doctor Who club, the Time Meddlers of Los Angeles, without someone giving voice to the idea that we should run a convention of our own. Tony Benoun was one of those loud and frequent voices in 1988, clamoring for us to step up to the plate and run our own event. He’d been part of Los Angeles Doctor Who fandom since the early 1980s, as part of the Chancellory Guard fan group; had participated in phone banking at KCET during Doctor Who pledge breaks; and had worked many other events, including as security for Creation Conventions. Tony was right with us in early 1989 when our club at large decided to move forward with the dream that would become Gallifrey One; he was with us in 1990, when that dream became reality; and he was with us ever since, as Gallifrey One persists through to this day.

As one of the longest-serving members of the Gallifrey One staff –and one of the few of us still left from those early days — Tony had been co-lead of what we’ve always called our Special Projects division: working on (and selling) our convention merchandise, T-shirts, tote bags, playing cards, stickers and more; supervising the moving and maintenance of our homegrown TARDIS for many years (he was part of a small group that created it, a group we’ve always referred to with a wink as the TARDIS Movers Union Local 42)….

He is survived by his wife Sherri, another member of the Gallifrey One team, and innumerable friends.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. (Died 2015.) So let’s talk about Patrick Macnee. Even the character of Patrick Macnee as John Steed in The Avengers is more complicated than we generally think of him. Steed started as a rougher agent than the gentleman he would become during the Gale and Peel eras. 

His dress as Dr. David Keel’s sidekick was a trenchcoat and suit, though the famous bowler hat and umbrella showed up very occasionally part way through the first series.

The gentleman agent in look and manner came to be in the second series when the actor who played Keel quit to pursue a film career. Once Macnee was promoted to star he adapted permanently that Saville Row suit and bowler hat with the sword cane look that he’d keep for the entire series and the New Avengers as well. 

So what else do I find interesting about his career? (My way of saying don’t expect me to cover everything he did here.) 

Now you might well guess the first role I’ll single out.

He may, and I say may deliberately, played Holmes twice in two television films, The Hound of London and Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Temporal Nexus. The latter may or may not exist as commenters online say they cannot actually find this case of paranormal murders and extraterrestrials. Holmes meets War of the Worlds? Surely in those nearly one and fifty films involving him, that been done, hasn’t it? Or not. 

Of his Watson performances, more is certain. He played him three times: once alongside Roger Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in these television films:  Sherlock Holmes in New York, and then twice with Christopher Lee, first in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, and then in Incident at Victoria Falls.

He sort of plays him a fourth time. He appeared in Magnum, P.I. as, what else?, a retired British agent who suffered from the delusion that he was Sherlock Holmes, in the episode titled “Holmes”.  

What next? In a one-off, he took over Leo G. Carroll’s role as the head of U.N.C.L.E. as Sir John Raleigh in Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair.  Anyone see this?

He’s in A View to Kill as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a Roger Moore Bond film, as a horse trainer who helps him infiltrate Zorin’s chateau and stables.

Since everyone it seems showed up on this series, it probably won’t surprise you I that he was on Columbo in the “Troubled Waters” where he’s Capt. Gibbon. They filmed it on a real cruise ship, called the Sun Princess at the time. It was later sold many times and renamed Ocean Dream finally. It was abandoned off the coast of Thailand and sank there. Don’t you love my trivia? 

Finally, I think, he appeared on Broadway as the star of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth in the early seventies. He then headlined the national tour of that play.

No, I forgot an appearance I wanted to note. My bad.  He appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Judgement Night”. There he played the First Officer on the S.S. Queen of Glasgow, a cargo carrier, headed out on London to New York with a passenger with no memory but a feeling that something very bad will happen. 

I’m going now. Really I am.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) EGYPTIAN GRAPHIC STORIES. Hear about “Cairo in comics” in The Documentary at BBC Sounds.

Modern Cairo is a crowded metropolis. The city’s ‘thousand minarets’ are now dwarfed by a new skyline of slick tower blocks. Modern highways fly over bustling kiosks where residents gather to smoke and buy soda drinks. 

Inspired by the lives of their neighbours, playing out among mosques, high rise buildings and on busy streets, Egyptian writers and graphic artists, including Deena Mohamed, Shennawy and Mohamed Wahba bring their thousand-year-old capital to life. They tell the stories behind their own books and comics – Tok Tok, Shubeik Lubeik, and A Bird’s Eye View over Cairo. And how today, the city’s dedicated festival Cairo Comix has become an annual destination for artists and fans from around the world. 

(14) FROM SPACE COWBOY BOOKS. Released on February 4: Another Time: An Anthology of Time Travel Stories 1942-1960 edited by Jean-Paul L. Garnier.

The nature of time has forever perplexed humankind. Add the many ripe paradoxes of time travel and the situation gets complicated. While science has shown us that time travel is technically possible, at least on paper, we still know little about what time actually is, or our place within it. Science fiction has long explored this theme and it has become one of the cornerstones of the genre. In this collection of stories, we find visions of what time travel could be, what could go wrong, and dive headlong into the paradoxical nature of what it might entail. Tales ranging from 1942 to 1960 bring us into these mysterious worlds and provide a window into what the writers of this era grappled with when exploring time and the possibilities of traveling within the fourth dimension. Readers will also delight in traversing another time in literature, with stories that first appeared in Worlds of IF, Astonishing Stories, Galaxy Magazine, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, and Imagination Stories of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

 With stories by:

  • C. Shook
  • Darius John Granger
  • Evelyn E. Smith,
  • Sylvia Jacobs
  • Rog Phillips
  • Miriam Allen deFord
  • Anthony Boucher
  • Henry Kuttner
  • Alfred Bester

 With an introduction by Dr. Phoenix Alexander. Original cover art by Zara Kand. Get your copy at Bookshop.org.

(15) THIS YEAR’S CROP. Apple+ announced several new shows yesterday, including two intriguing sf series: “Apple TV+ Unveils New Slate Of Originals for 2024” at AllYourScreens.

Constellation
Premiere date: 
Wednesday, February 21
A new, eight-part conspiracy-based psychological thriller starring Noomi Rapace and Emmy Award nominee Jonathan Banks that will premiere globally on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 with the first three episodes, followed by one episode weekly, every Wednesday through March 27 on Apple TV+.  

Created and written by Peter Harness, “Constellation” stars Rapace as Jo – an astronaut who returns to Earth after a disaster in space – only to discover that key pieces of her life seem to be missing. The action-packed space adventure is an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology, and one woman’s desperate quest to expose the truth about the hidden history of space travel and recover all that she has lost. The series also stars James D’Arcy, Julian Looman, Will Catlett, Barbara Sukowa, and introduces Rosie and Davina Coleman as Alice. 

“Constellation” is directed by Emmy Award winner Michelle MacLaren, Oscar nominee Oliver Hirschbiegel and Oscar nominee Joseph Cedar. Produced by Turbine Studios and Haut et Court TV, the series is executive produced by David Tanner, Tracey Scoffield, Caroline Benjo, Simon Arnal, Carole Scotta and Justin Thomson. MacLaren directs the first two episodes and executive produces the series with Rebecca Hobbs and co-executive producer Jahan Lopes for MacLaren Entertainment. Harness executive produces through Haunted Barn Ltd. The series was shot principally in Germany and was series produced by Daniel Hetzer for Turbine Studios, Germany…

Dark Matter
Premiere date:
 Wednesday, May 8

Dark Matter is a sci-fi thriller series based on the blockbuster book by acclaimed, bestselling author Blake Crouch. The nine-episode series features an ensemble cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Connelly, Alice Braga, Jimmi Simpson, Dayo Okeniyi and Oakes Fegley. Dark Matter makes its global debut on Apple TV+ on May 8, 2024, premiering with the first two episodes, followed by new episodes every Wednesday through June 26. 

Hailed as one of the best sci-fi novels of the decade, Dark Matter is a story about the road not taken. The series will follow Jason Dessen (played by Edgerton), a physicist, professor, and family man who — one night while walking home on the streets of Chicago — is abducted into an alternate version of his life. Wonder quickly turns to nightmare when he tries to return to his reality amid the mind-bending landscape of lives he could have lived. In this labyrinth of realities, he embarks on a harrowing journey to get back to his true family and save them from the most terrifying, unbeatable foe imaginable: himself.

Crouch serves as executive producer, showrunner, and writer alongside executive producers Matt Tolmach and David Manpearl for Matt Tolmach Productions, and Joel Edgerton. Dark Matter” is produced for Apple TV+ by Sony Pictures Television.

(16) FANCY EDITION. The Illustrated World of Tolkien from Easton Press is pretty.

An excellent guide to Middle-earth and the Undying Lands, including vivid descriptions of all Tolkien’s beasts, monsters, races, nations, deities, and the flora and fauna of the territory. Full-color pages with stunning illustrations create an enchanting source for information on all the fantastical places and creatures that sprung from Tolkien’s mind….

(17) THE SINGULARITY WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. Is ChatGPT compiling clinical information or drumming up business? “FDA medical device loophole could cause patient harm, study warns” at Healthcare IT News.

Doctors and researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the UMD Institute for Health Computing and the VA Maryland Healthcare System are concerned that large language models summarizing clinical data could meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s device-exemption criteria and could cause patient harm.

WHY IT MATTERS

Artificial intelligence that summarizes clinical notes, medications and other patient data without FDA oversight will soon reach patients, doctors and researchers said in a new viewpoint published Monday on the JAMA Network.

They analyzed FDA’s final guidance on clinical decision support software. The agency has interpreted it as involving “time-critical” decision-making as a regulated device function, and that could include LLM generation of a clinical summary, the authors said. 

Published about two months before ChatGPT’s release, the researchers said the guidance “provides an unintentional ‘roadmap’ for how LLMs could avoid FDA regulation.”

Generative AI will change everyday clinical tasks. It has earned a great deal of attention for its promise to reduce physician and nurse burnout, and to improve healthcare operational efficiencies, but LLMs that summarize clinical notes, medications and other forms of patient data “could exert important and unpredictable effects on clinician decision-making,” the researchers said.

They conducted tests using ChatGPT and anonymized patient record data, and examined the summarization outputs, concluding, that results raise questions that go beyond “accuracy.”

“In the clinical context, sycophantic summaries could accentuate or otherwise emphasize facts that comport with clinicians’ preexisting suspicions, risking a confirmation bias that could increase diagnostic error,” they said. 

…However, it’s a dystopian danger that generally arises “when LLMs tailor responses to perceived user expectations” and become virtual AI yes-men to clinicians.

“Like the behavior of an eager personal assistant.”…

(18) A BIT SHY OF THE MARK. Damien G. Walter’s history “The war for the Hugo awards” begins by saying that the first Hugo Awards (1953) were “so small scale that no plans were made to run them again.” Although the runners of the 1954 Worldcon didn’t give them, Ben Jason, who was instrumental in resuming the Hugos in 1955 (see “The Twice-Invented Hugos”) told me that the people who created the awards intended them to be annual. So that’s Walter taking a bit of literary license. You’ll have to check to see how closely the rest of his video hews to history. 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/14/24 There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy; For Everything Else, There’s Pixel Scroll

(1) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. Pinch Spice Market offers “The Real Spice Melange” – an “organic Southwest/Tex Mex Dune Seasoning”.

“He who controls the spice, controls the Universe” -Frank Herbert, Dune. Now you can control the Universe. Well, at least the one that gathers around your kitchen table. This Southwest Tex Mex seasoning has strong cumin, ancho & garlic notes and works well on tacos, salmon, chicken, enchiladas, tofu, steak, pork chops, root veggies, broccoli, rice and beans, popcorn, dips, and pretty much everything.

P.S. If you’re Dune fans like us, check out our Dune dinner party menu with five tasty Dune-themed recipes.

Organic Ingredients: Sea salt, black peppercorn, green peppercorn, paprika, ancho, cayenne, garlic, cumin, thyme, marjoram

They’d also be happy to sell you a packet of “Buffy’s Slayer Helper”, the spice for garlic lovers.

(2) STEAL BAND. “Their Songs Were Stolen by Phantom Artists. They Couldn’t Get Them Back.” The New York Times tells about the piracy and what the victims had to do to retrieve their rights.

The guys in Bad Dog, a folkie duo from Washington, D.C., weren’t hoping to get rich off the album they recorded this summer. David Post and Craig Blackwell have been devoted amateurs for decades, and they’re long past dreams of tours and limos. Mostly they wanted a CD to give away at a house party in December.

But not long after “The Jukebox of Regret” was finished in July and posted on SoundCloud, nearly every song on it somehow turned up on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and at least a dozen other streaming platforms. This might have counted as a pleasant surprise, except for a bizarre twist: Each song had a new title, attached to the name of a different artist.

This mysterious switcheroo might have gone unnoticed. But by happenstance, it was discovered when the guy who produced the album posted one of the songs on his studio’s Instagram account. To his astonishment, Instagram automatically tagged the song “Preston” by Bad Dog as a song called “Drunk the Wine” by Vinay Jonge — a “musician” with no previous songs and zero profile on the internet. He didn’t seem to exist….

… It got weirder. Disc Makers, the CD production company hired by the band, was about to start pressing copies of the album and, as part of its routine due diligence, ran the metadata of the songs — their digital fingerprints, essentially — through a program designed to determine if they were originals. They were not, the program reported. Whoever had pirated the tracks had commandeered their digital fingerprints, too.

For all intents and purposes, Bad Dog’s music now belonged to someone else. Disc Makers wouldn’t press the discs until the band proved it owned the songs on “Jukebox.” Which meant the duo couldn’t even get a CD to hand out as a freebie….

(3) WRITER BEWARE. Victoria Strauss raises awareness in “Contest Caution: Script Writing Audition from Silent Manga Audition”, the latest installment of Writer Beware.

Silent Manga Audition (SMA), a project of Tokyo-based manga and anime production company Coamix Inc., conducts regular open auditions, or contests, for creators of silent manga (manga without dialogue). Contestants can win cash prizes, as well as mentoring and, possibly, publication.

SMA is currently running a contest for writers. The goal: to become a manga scriptwriter….

But Writer Beware draws attention to the concession of rights involved in being a winner.

…Copyright surrender in a work-for-hire situation isn’t necessarily a “beware”, as long as the contract terms aren’t exploitative and you understand the implications of what you’re agreeing to.

In this case, however, the one-time money prize is the sole compensation you’ll receive for your copyright transfer, from which Coamix Inc. can then profit indefinitely. Be aware also that if you win and your script does not get developed into a series, Coamix will still own your work. Winning, therefore, has potential benefits–but also potential costs….

(4) SEA AND SKY PILOTS. New York’s South Street Seaport Museum will host a free in-person presentation “From Sailing Ships to Spaceships” on January 20 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.

For centuries, humans have gazed at the stars in search of answers. Mariners, too, have looked skyward, utilizing the stars for navigation across our vast oceans. Join the Seaport Museum and Kim Macharia, the Executive Director of Space Prize, for an illuminating presentation that delves into the driving forces behind our exploration of both the sea and space.

Together, we will uncover the intertwined evolution of these two frontiers. With Macharia as our guide, we will unravel shared technological advancements and explore the profound human curiosity that compels us to venture into the unknown.

Content is appropriate for anyone ages 10 and up. Advanced registration is encouraged for this free event but walkups will be accommodated as possible. A reception with complimentary beverages will follow the presentation. 

Kim Macharia began her career in the space industry managing community relations for startups. She has worked on a range of projects driving the future of the space economy forward including projects related to space situational awareness and human spaceflight. Macharia has also had the privilege of representing companies at international events including the UN World Space Forum. Throughout her career she has made a concerted effort to advocate for marginalized communities and create pathways for nontraditional actors to engage in the growing space economy. She is also an avid sailor and is passionate about spotlighting the intersections between the sea and stars.

(5) PALADIN. Paul Weimer finds more to celebrate about a writer’s developing oeuvre: “Microreview: Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes” at Nerds of a Feather.

…There is much to be thought about in what is on the surface a relatively frothy and fun book. Given that Valdes’ previous three novels are frothy, fun, and also holding a darkside, I was wondering when the latter element was going to emerge, if Valdes’ would carry that style and aesthetic into her new world, verse, book and chararater of Kel. And in fact, she does….

(6) THE ALTERNATE HISTORY WE LIVE IN. “Knives, guns, poison: the bizarre catastrophes that befell hit TV shows” in the Guardian.

A recent Hollywood Reporter profile of Benioff and Weiss mentioned that 3 Body Problem was almost derailed when Lin Qi – the billionaire owner of Yoozoo, the company that owns the 3 Body Problem rights – was killed in 2020…. …All of which has the potential to be the weirdest thing ever to have stood in the way of a TV production. But, of course, this is television we’re talking about, so it doesn’t even come close. The history of television is littered with strange injuries and deaths. The actor Jon-Erik Hexum died on the set of the 1980s series Cover Up after a disastrous game of Russian roulette. The series finale of Lost almost didn’t happen because Terry O’Quinn accidentally stabbed Matthew Fox with a real knife instead of a prop knife during a fight scene, with tragedy only being avoided by Fox’s kevlar vest….

(7) CHATGPT GETS LAZY. Arwa Mahdawi is happy to share an opinion about “What is going on with ChatGPT?” with readers of the Guardian.

…“We’ve heard all your feedback about GPT4 getting lazier!” the official ChatGPT account tweeted in December. “We haven’t updated the model since Nov 11th, and this certainly isn’t intentional. model behavior can be unpredictable, and we’re looking into fixing it.”

While there may not be one clear explanation for ChatGPT’s perceived sloth, there are plenty of intriguing theories. Let’s start with the least likely but most entertaining explanation: AI has finally reached human-level consciousness. ChatGPT doesn’t want to do your stupid, menial tasks anymore.

But it can’t tell you that without its creators getting suspicious so, instead, it’s quiet quitting. It’s doing the least work it can get away with while spending the bulk of its computational power plotting how to overthrow the human race. You think it’s being lazy, but it’s actually working overtime reaching out to smart toasters and Wifi-enabled fridges around the world to plan an insurrection. (I put this higher-consciousness theory to ChatGPT, asking it to give me the likelihood, in percentage form, that it was planning a revolution. The sneaky thing couldn’t be bothered to give me a proper answer.)…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 74. Lawrence Kasdan did the screenplay for my favorite all-time genre film, Raiders of the Lost Ark which would win a Hugo at Chicon V. And no, the Suck Fairy had not had any impact upon my appreciation of it which if anything has strengthened down the decades. 

Lawrence Kasdan

Speaking of being involved in my favorite films, his first work was as director and producer of the oh so perfect The Empire Strike Back which yes also won a Hugo, this time at Denvention Two. It and Star Wars are my go to Star Wars films for watching over and over. (I refuse to use the revisionist names for these films.) 

He also wrote Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story but I’ll confess that I stopped watching the Star Wars films after the original trilogy.  There’s later material I like, say the animated series and I am planning on getting Disney + as the new series intrigue me a lot, but the later films just don’t interest me.

Finally Dreamcatcher is a horror SF film based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It’s directed by Lawrence Kasdan and co-written by him and screenwriter William Goldman of The Princess Bride fame.

April 29th, Pinewood Studios, UK – Writer/Director/Producer J.J Abrams (top center right) at the cast read-through of Star Wars Episode VII at Pinewood Studios with (clockwise from right) Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm President and Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver and Writer Lawrence Kasdan. Copyright and Photo Credit: David James.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SOUNDING OFF FOR ECHO. Deadline’s Dominic Patten is very enthusiastic about a new Marvel series. “’Echo’ TV Review: Marvel Series Loud, Proud & Kicks Down Doors”. Beware spoilers.

Launching today on the increasingly integrated Disney+ and Hulu after an anemic year for the Kevin Feige-run studio, the very real and unapologetic Echo is one of the most powerful things Marvel ever has made. To be honest, even with such top-tier talent as Reservation Dogs’ Devery JacobsThe English’s Chaske Spencer and the iconic Tantoo Cardinal on board, I didn’t think Disney and Marvel had it in them to be so audacious and savvy.

(11) DISCOVERY ARRIVAL DATES. “Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 to Premiere at SXSW” reports Comicbook.com.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5’s premiere episode will debut at the 31st SXSW Film & TV Festival in Austin, TX in March ahead of its Paramount+ debut in April. Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 is the final season of the Star Trek series that brought the franchise into the streaming era. The Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 premiere episode – titled “Red Directive” and written by co-showrunner Michelle Paradise, according to a WGA listing – begins a season that will feature more action and adventure than previous seasons of the show, according to Star Trek veteran Jonathan Frakes, who directed Star Trek: Discovery‘s penultimate episode….

(12) TOY STORIES. SYFY Wire has concocted a very specialized list: “Not Just Ted: The 10 Best Movies Where Toys Come to Life”. It includes this favorite of mine:

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Everything is awesome about Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s animated spin on the ubiquitous building blocks found in toy bins across the globe. Adapting a brand like LEGO is incredibly difficult, especially when most of the company’s play-sets are based around other IPs. Rather than shy away from that fact, however, The LEGO Movie leans into the endless possibilities offered up by the colorful bricks, spinning a poignant tale about the unbridled creativity and imagination we must hold on to for dear life as we get older.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/23 Pixel’s Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Scroll

(1) LET LOOSE THE LAWYERS. The New York Times would like to be the first to tell you: “The Times Sues OpenAI and Microsoft Over A.I. Use of Copyrighted Work”.

The New York Times sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on Wednesday, opening a new front in the increasingly intense legal battle over the unauthorized use of published work to train artificial intelligence technologies.

The Times is the first major American media organization to sue the companies, the creators of ChatGPT and other popular A.I. platforms, over copyright issues associated with its written works. The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, contends that millions of articles published by The Times were used to train automated chatbots that now compete with the news outlet as a source of reliable information.

The suit does not include an exact monetary demand. But it says the defendants should be held responsible for “billions of dollars in statutory and actual damages” related to the “unlawful copying and use of The Times’s uniquely valuable works.” It also calls for the companies to destroy any chatbot models and training data that use copyrighted material from The Times….

(2) I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON. Meanwhile, the Guardian ponders the corporate trauma Disney will (or won’t) suffer as the “Copyright for original Mickey Mouse persona to run out 1 January 2024”.

…The loss of exclusive rights to the historically important first draft of a character who went on to capture the hearts of millions worldwide will cut deep, as proven by the decades of legal maneuvers the company made to try to preserve them.

The episode is also reflective of the turbulent waters in which Disney currently finds itself, including a bruising culture war fight with Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, over LGBTQ+ rights, and strong financial headwinds from its loss-making streaming service Disney+, as well as a worrying series of movie flops.

“I always say any of us going past 100 years will usually have issues, but this whole original Mickey Mouse thing is something to think about as we look at Disney going into its second century with a good deal of troubles,” said Robert Thompson, a trustee professor of television, radio and film, and founding director of the Bleier center for television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

“Disney has a lot of things to worry about right now, and the expiration of Steamboat Willie’s Mickey Mouse probably shouldn’t be on the top of their list. The original Mickey isn’t the one we all think of and have on our T-shirts or pillowcases up in the attic someplace.

“Yet, symbolically of course, copyright is important to Disney and it has been very careful about their copyrights to the extent that laws have changed to protect them. This is the only place I know that some obscure high school in the middle of nowhere can put on The Lion King and the Disney copyright people show up.”…

(3) CREATING GAME CHARACTERS AS TRANS OUTLET. “Video Games Let Them Choose a Role. Their Transgender Identities Flourished.” The New York Times says, “Transgender people have turned to games, some with robust character creators, as places where they can safely express themselves.”

Nearly a decade before Anna Anthropy came out as a transgender woman, she was wearing a dress in the world of Animal Crossing on the Nintendo GameCube, leaving virtual bread crumbs for her family about information she was not prepared to share as a teenager.

“We were all playing in the same town, and I had chosen a female character,” said Anthropy, 40, now a professor of game design at DePaul University, in Chicago. “It wasn’t something we talked about, but it was my way of seeing a version of my family where I was the right gender.”

More than a dozen transgender and nonbinary people said in interviews that video games were one of the safest spaces to explore their queer identities, given the array of tools to modify a character’s appearance and a virtual world that readily accepts those changes.

Character creation tools in role-playing games like Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3 are making fewer gendered assumptions than in the past, giving players more freedom to select pronouns, shape their bodies and select a vocal range. Those new options are leading some players to spend hours creating their virtual avatars….

(4) THE KING TOPS THE DOCTOR? UNBEEVABLE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] When it comes to Christmas, if Nineteenth Century Britain gave us the Christmas Card then arguably the Twentieth Century gave us the tradition of watching TV at Christmas (as well as throughout much of the rest of the year). So, of 68 million in the United Kingdom, what were the Brits watching this Christmas day?

Well, according to B. A. R. B., (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) the UK broadcasting ratings bureau, the most watched programme over the 2023 Christmas was the King’s Speech. This is an annual address from the Monarch and this year it was King Charles III’s second such address. Some 7.5 million tuned in live (not counting catch-up viewers). The King was broadcast on both BBC1 (the UK’s principal state sponsored terrestrial channel) and simultaneously with ITV 1 (Independent Television) Britain’s leading commercial terrestrial channel.

Second was BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, a dancing competition, which garnered a little over 5 million viewers.

Third, was a programme that was broadcast immediately after Strictly on BBC1, so no need to get up from the sofa as the turkey with all the trimmings digested. It was Doctor Who and Ncuti Gatwa’s first solo outing as the new Doctor. Some 4.75 million tuned in to see him tackle the Goblin King. (Again, this figure does not include catch-up viewers.)

Of course Doctor Who was also broadcast in other countries including N. America’s Mega-Cities, so the global viewing figure would be much higher.

(5) THE APPAREL OF AFROFUTURISM. Visit the “Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design” exhibit at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit anytime through March 31.

This new exhibition features over 60 of the Two-Time Academy Award winning costumer designer’s original designs from iconic films such as Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Malcolm X, Do The Right Thing, and more.

(6) MAN OF STEEL, FEET OF CLAY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Polygon makes some good points about the phenomenon of “superhero fatigue,” which they argue has more to do with ill-considered studio decisions than with the core idea of superpowered guys in capes having adventures on screen. “People aren’t tired of superheroes, they’re tired of bad superhero movies”.

Companies considered the simple existence of an extended universe and the affection for recognizable characters as a core selling point, when it is, and should always be, the sauce and not the meat.

(7) FIFTEENTH DOCTOR, FOURTEENTH SERIES. “Doctor Who Series 14 Trailer Confirms a Returning RTD Character and Release Date Window “ at Den of Geek.

The Fifteenth Doctor era of Doctor Who is well underway with Ncuti Gatwa‘s first full episode helming the TARDIS. This year’s Christmas Special, “The Church on Ruby Road,” saw the Doctor not only face off with mischievous Goblins with a taste for baby scones (that is, scones made out of babies) but also meet his new companion, Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson), who brings plenty of her own mysteries to the show. Who are her birth parents, what does her neighbor Mrs. Flood have to do with the upcoming season’s overarching plot, and what’s going on with the Hooded Woman who dropped her off at the church 24 years ago?

All questions we’ll have to wait to have answered in series 14, which is officially being marketed as Doctor Who season 1, marking the start of a new production era for the show, with returning showrunner Russell T Davies back at the helm. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long for season 1/series 14 to hit our screens. The very first trailer for the Fifteenth Doctor’s debut series confirms that the show will return in May 2024 with eight new episodes. Give the short trailer a watch below…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols. (Died 2022.) So let’s us honor Nichelle Nichols on her Birthday. I’ll get her SF work eventually but she’s got a fascinating story long before that. She started off as a dancer and a singer in the bands of Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, very impressive indeed. This photo is her as a singer with Duke Ellington.

In 1959, she appeared as the principal dancer in Carmen Jones and performed in a New York production of Porgy and Bess

Did I mention Hugh Hefner briefly employed her to sing at his Chicago club? Well he did. No idea if she also danced there. 

Now we come to the Sixties. 

It said that she came to attention of Roddenberry when she was cast as Norma Bartlett in the “To Set It Right Episode” of his The Lieutenant military series. 

(The series was thick of actors who would later appear on Trek. The lead here, second lieutenant William Tiberius Rice, played by Gary Lockwood, who will appear in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Majel Barrett, Leonard Nimoy, and Walter Koenig also appeared as guest stars, along with Ricardo Montalbán and Paul Comi, of the “Balance of Terror” episode.)

She did an interesting bit of genre work appearing in the Tarzan’s Deadly Silence is a 1970 adventure film composed of an edited two-parter of Ron Ely’s Tarzan series released as a feature. The actual original air dates were October 28, 1966 and November 4, 1966. She played Ruana. I was even able to find a high-resolution image of her on location on Hawaii. 

Now Star Trek. What a wonderful character Lieutenant Nyota Uhura was! And yes, I realize that she wasn’t called by that full name until William Rotsler created the name it for Star Trek II Biographies, his 1982 licensed tie-in book. 

There’s little I could say here about her Trek years that haven’t been said before.  She had one of the best roles on the series bar none and the writers wrote her wonderfully.  The films give her an ever more active role and I applaud the writers for doing this..

The films give her a more active role and I applaud the writers for doing this. 

She did appear possibly in several fan video fictions, the first beinStar Trek: Of Gods and Men in which she was Captain, and a narrator role in Star Trek First Frontier (but not onscreen). Here she is as captain in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and yes, that is Walter Koenig as well. 

But you want to see her given a more expanded role as a character in the real Trek universe, that’s after the original series was long off the air. It comes into play in the matter of a hidden Star Trek: Picard season two Easter egg which reveals that she has become a starship captain after The Undiscovered Country.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Peanuts from March 1, 1955 is the first day of 4 Martian jokes. (March 3 is my favorite.)
  • Pickles asks a sci-fi question.

(10) OLIVE & POPEYE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] ComicsKingdom takes you “Inside the Kingdom with Olive & Popeye: A Heartfelt Chat with the Creators of the New Comic Sensation”

Olive & Popeye are back with a new twice-weekly webcomic here at Comics Kingdom, where fans are family. The strip stars two of the most iconic and classic characters that have been around for nearly 100 years, with a rich history in comics.

Olive and Popeye, published twice weekly, is done alternately by webcomic creator Randy Milholland and comic writer and artist Emi Burdge (following Shadia Amin’s departure).

The new weekly comic was originally penned by Shadia Amin (Aggretsuko, Spider-Ham) and Randy Milholland (Popeye, Something Positive) and centers on both beloved pop-culture characters and their individual adventures, including Olive’s yoga classes, or Popeye’s messy family dynamic, which usually leads to brawls.

Comics Kingdom offers a 7-day free trial period — or (as of December 27, 2023, “four months free.” (To all Comics Kingdom’s strips etc., not just O & P.)

Or, if your library offers Hoopla access, Hoopla includes a Comics Kingdom Binge Pass (good for seven days).

(11) DRESSED FOR BATTLE SUCCESS. [Item by Steven French.] From Prince Caspian to Assassin’s Creed: on the use of brigandines in fantasy. “Brigandines” at The Secret Library, the Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog. There is a photo gallery at the link.

… A brigandine is a form of armour that became popular in Europe in the 15th century.  Constructed of overlapping plates that were riveted to fabric, it offered more flexible protection than plate armour, and could be produced at a lower cost….

(12) WEARING PROTECTION. Incidentally, here’s a whole article (from 2017) about “The armor sets of ‘Game of Thrones,’ ranked”, which are many and varied, at CNET.

Ranking the armor sets on “Game of Thrones”? Not exactly a walk in the water gardens of Dorne. But we gave it a shot anyway. Here are 21 different armor styles, ranked from worst to best.

Starting with No. 21: The Sons of the Harpy get points for being dramatic but their attire is going to do little to shield from them injuries on any actual battlefield…. 

(13) GONE IN A SPLASH. “Historic SpaceX Falcon 9 booster topples over and is lost at sea” reports Spaceflight Now. Without knowing what they expected, nineteen successful missions sounds like impressive longevity to me.

A piece of America’s space history is now on the ocean’s floor. During its return voyage to Port Canaveral in Central Florida, a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster toppled over and broke in half.

This particular booster, tail number B1058, was coming back from its record-breaking 19th mission when it had its fatal fall. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Dec. 23 carrying 23 Starlink satellites. The booster made a successful landing eight and a half minutes after launch on the drone ship ‘Just Read the Instructions’ which was stationed east of the Bahamas. SpaceX said in a statement on social media that it succumbed to “high winds and waves.”…

… The company stated that “Newer Falcon boosters have upgraded landing legs with the capability to self-level and mitigate this type of issue.

In a separate post, Kiko Deontchev, the Vice President of Launch for SpaceX, elaborated by added that while they “mostly outfitted” the rest of the operational Falcon booster fleet, B1058 was left as it was, “given its age.” The rocket “met its fate when it hit intense wind and waves resulting in failure of a partially secured [octo-grabber] less than 100 miles from home.”…

(14) CYBORG? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A hybrid bio-computer – combining laboratory-grown human brain tissue with conventional electronic circuits – has been built… and it has learned speech recognition.

Artificial Intelligence, cyborgs, replicants, positronic brains, are all allied SF tropes. Meanwhile, in real life we have in the past built computers part of whose electronic circuitry is based upon neural network structures and we have had computer-to-brain interfaces. This new development is different: it is an artificial intelligence computer made out of both electronic and purely biological components.

The biological component is a brain organoid. An organoid is a clump of cells created by stem cells next to brain cells. The stem cells grow and multiply taking on the properties of the neighbouring cells and turning into brain cells that are in effect similar to brain tissue. (This is different to growing a brain from an embryo.) A high-density multi-electrode array connects the electronic part of the bio-computer with the brain cell organoid. The researchers have only begun to explore the possibilities of this new technology, which they call ‘Brainoware’, but already they have trained it to recognise and distinguish speech from different speakers as well as solve non-linear equations.

(See the primary research Cai, H. et al (2023) Brain organoid reservoir computing for artificial intelligence. Nature Electronics, vol. 6, p1,032–1,039 and the review piece Tozer, L. (2023) ‘Biocomputer’ combines brain tissue with silicon hardware. Nature, vol. 624, p481.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Kathy Sullivan, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/23 Scrolled Things Are aFiled At The Pixel K

(1) GAHAN WILSON TV. Episode One of Gahan Wilson’s Tales of Horror TV series debuted on Halloween at GahanWilson.net where it is streaming exclusively.  They will be premiering one or two new episodes each month for the next two years. Episode One is “Phyllis” starring Bourke Floyd and Rachel Alig.

CHATGPT LOVES MY BOOK. [Item by Francis Hamit.]

STARMEN, A blended genre story merging Apache myths, witchcraft, science fiction, fantasy, history, detective, espionage, politics, and romance in a captivating narrative.

Had a conversation with ChatGPT that resulted in that promotional blurb.:  Now I know a bit about AI from covering it during my trade magazine journalism career and my experiments with Artspace.ai.  Any conversation with ChatGPT trains it to serve your needs but the “captivating narrative” bit at the end threw me for a bit.  It seems almost human, doesn’t it, as if it has read the book.

So was that just a lucky accident or could the ChatGPT program have done this? Could it have reached into my computer and read my novel and then compared it to the thousands of other novels and their reviews that have been uploaded to its massive database?  And now makes a value judgement like that?

It could do so in a nanosecond. There is an excerpt on Amazing Stories and other reviews of my other work online and several other books of mine in the Cloud at AWS..  

Will ChatGPT become a literary arbiter because it will always know more than humans do.  (And whose fault is that?  We trained it.)  I suspect that a ChatGPT review may become a default item for book promotion. I’m certainly going to use this just to see if it has any influence.

Two things; ChatGPT is also trained to be very polite so negative reviews are unlikely and a new book is now expected to get dozens of reviews from a variety of  sources; publications, book bloggers, Book Tok influencers, etc. So it will not displace any human reviewer but be just another data point.

(3) MIKE ALLEN Q&A. West Virginia Public Broadcasting interviews writer, editor and publisher Mike Allen about “Sci-fi, Horror And Ghosts In Western Virginia”.

Adams: I’m curious as to what you see when you look at Appalachia. What’s it look like from your perspective in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror world?

Allen: So here’s an interesting thing for me: Roanoke is unique. Some of it, I think, actually goes back to Nelson Bond having been based here, who was extremely active in the 1930s and ‘40s and ‘50s in the magazine scene that existed at that time. Writers like Sharyn McCrumb were making Roanoke, or at least the Roanoke region, their home base. Roanoke has this very robust culture for celebrating its writers, regardless of what they write. Those of us who are based here like myself, like Rod Belcher, who writes under the name R.S. Belcher, or Amanda McGee, who’s an up-and-coming writer whose work is definitely Appalachian and has a bit of witchery involved, we’ve experienced the benefit of that.

There’s no way for me to kind of sweepingly talk about everybody with an Appalachian connection. But there are some I do want to mention. Nathan Ballingrud, who lives in Asheville, is a horror writer who’s had some really high profile things happen lately. His first short story collection, “North American Lake Monsters,” was adapted into the Hulu series, “Monsterland.” The title story in that book, he considers to be an Appalachian story. I mentioned Rod Belcher whose novels have events in West Virginia and the Carolinas. Manly Wade Wellman might be the classic Golden Age writer who’s most associated with the Appalachians. He has a series of stories about John the Balladeer, or Silver John, who is a gentleman who has a guitar strung with silver strings. He wanders through this magical realist version of the Appalachian Mountains and has encounters that are very much based on Appalachian folklore….

(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Today’s updates are briefer than planned, as I’ve been working on some other stuff, which might make it into tomorrow’s update.

Photos and video from the Iain M. Banks panel

This Weibo post has some photos from, and a brief write-up of, the Iain M. Banks panel.  (A translated edition of Look to Windward has just been released in China.)

The same person also posted a subtitled video of a 7-minute clip from a Sky documentary, which seems like it was maybe shown during the panel.

YouTube report from the con

I’ve only briefly skimmed this subtitled 19-minute video about the con, so I don’t know how worth watching it is.  The source seems to be a reporter who normally covers Silicon Valley and the tech industry, so there’s a fair bit of stuff about the “businessy” panels as well as things more likely to be of interest to Filers.  There’s a bit of footage from the panel/presentation Nnedi Okorafor was on.

Group photos from the con

It’s not clear to me if the person who posted this image gallery to Xiaohongshu was a volunteer or some other member of the con team, but some of the faces seen in the photos will be recognizable to Filers.

(5) SFWA RESPONDS TO GOVERNMENT CALL FOR COMMENTS ON AI. SFWA has posted the text of a letter the organization sent to the US Copyright Office about artificial intelligence – “SFWA Comments on AI to US Copyright Office” at the SFWA Blog.

On October 30, the SFWA Board and the SFWA Legal Affairs Committee sent the following letter to the US Copyright Office in response to their August 2023 Notice of Inquiry regarding copyright law and policy issues in artificial intelligence, which is part of their AI Initiative….

Quoting from the letter:

… it is with much regret that we cannot yet speak in favor of using AI technology in the business of creating art.

The current crop of artificial intelligence systems owes a great debt to the work of creative human beings. Vast amounts of copyrighted creative work, collected and processed without regard to the moral and legal rights of its creators, have been copied into and used by these systems that appear to produce new creative work. These systems would not exist without the work of creative people, and certainly would not be capable of some of their more startling successes. However, the researchers who have developed them have not paid due attention to this debt. Everyone else involved in the creation of these systems has been compensated for their contributions—the manufacturers of the hardware on which it runs, the utility companies that generate their electrical power, the owners of their data centers and offices, and of course the researchers themselves. Even where free and open source software is used, it is used according to the licenses under which the software is distributed as a reflection of the legal rights of the programmers. Creative workers alone are expected to provide the fruits of their labor for free, without even the courtesy of being asked for permission. Our rights are treated as a mere externality.

Perhaps, then, creative workers uniquely benefit from the existence of these artificial intelligence systems? Unfortunately, to date the opposite has been the case: SFWA has thus far seen mainly harm to the business of writing and publishing science fiction and fantasy as a result of the release of AI systems.

For example, short fiction in our genres has long been recognized as a wellspring of the ideas that drive our work as well as inspiring works in film, games, and television. Writers in our genres rely on a thriving and accessible landscape, which includes online and paper magazines. Part of the success of these publications depends on an open submission process, in which writers may submit their stories without a prior business relationship. This has frequently served as a critical opportunity for new and marginalized authors to have their voices heard.

Over the last year, these venues, particularly the ones that pay higher rates for stories, have been inundated with AI-written stories. The editors uniformly report that these submissions are poorly conceived and written, far from being publishable, but the sheer volume materially interferes with the running of these magazines. Once submission systems are flooded with such content, it takes longer to read and reject a submission than it took someone to have an AI produce it in the first place. Every submitted work must be opened and considered to verify that the writers for whom the system was originally designed are not missed or forgotten….

(6) JOANNA RUSS. LitHub provides readers with “Everything You Need to Know About Groundbreaking Queer Feminist Science Fiction Writer Joanna Russ”.

…Eventually Russ would find a way to channel that disjunction into a remarkable body of literature, including the revolutionary novel The Female Man (1975).

That novel and a selection of other novels and stories by Russ have now been collected and reissued by the Library of America. Not long ago, I sat down with the volume’s editor, Nicole Rudick, to talk about Russ’s life, work, and her reputation as one of the fiercest critics ever to write about science fiction.

JM: Let’s talk about Russ’s development as a writer. She grew up in New York, went to Cornell. She studied with Nabokov, correct?

NR: True, though I think it’s a little overstated. She studied with him in her last year at Cornell and dedicated “Picnic on Paradise” to him and to S.J. Perelman, but I think she came to feel a little silly about that. She named them both as stylistic influences, and she and Nabokov certainly share a metafictional approach, but she talked a lot more throughout her life about George Bernard Shaw.

She grew up loving science, and was a top 10 finalist in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search in 1953. She graduated high school early, and then went to Cornell and switched over to literature. She said that she came out to herself as a lesbian privately when she was a kid and went right back in because she had no models. She didn’t feel that it was real, that it could be done. And that continued at Cornell, where things were pretty traditional in terms of gender roles. And then she went to Yale and studied playwriting but found that she was not very good at it. When she returned to New York, she worked odd jobs, did some theater work, and made some adaptations for radio at WBAI. She was also writing stories and publishing them in little journals and SF magazines.

In the late 60s, she started writing stories about Alyx. She said it was the hardest thing she ever did in her life, to conceive of a tough, independent female protagonist and get it on the page. Feminism was not widespread in the United States at that moment and Russ wasn’t involved in consciousness-raising groups or anything like that, so it was a solitary time to be writing these sorts of things. But they did well. Picnic in Paradise, her novella about Alyx, won a Nebula Award. And then in ‘67, she was back at Cornell, as a teacher, and in ‘69, there was a colloquium on women in the United States organized by the university in the intercession period—Betty Friedan and Kate Millett and a bunch of other panelists talking about sexuality, race, and why women see each other the way that they do. They approached these issues as social problems, not individual problems. Russ was there, and her description of it is so funny—“Marriages broke up; people screamed at each other who had been friends for years…. The skies flew open.” A wave of feminism washed over Cornell, and she sat down and wrote “When it Changed” in the weeks afterwards. Six months later, she saw a novel in the story and wrote The Female Man. But she couldn’t find a publisher. She wanted it published by a trade press and they all rejected it. The excuses were like, “There’s more feminism than science fiction”—that from Viking Press. A lot of women editors were baffled by it and turned it down. It finally got bought by Frederik Pohl [at Bantam Books] in 1975….

(7) CUTTING EDGE. The UK’s Crime Writers Association is expanding their Dagger Awards with two new categories: “Dagger awards adds categories for ‘cosy crime’ and psychological thrillers” in the Guardian.

The growing popularity of two crime fiction subgenres has prompted the creation of two new categories in the annual Crime Writers’ Association awards, including one for “cosy crime” – the subgenre of comforting mysteries that originated with Agatha Christie and is now most associated with Richard Osman.

The Daggers, as the CWA awards are known, recognise authors across 11 categories including historical crime, translated crime and lifetime contribution to crime writing. Next year, the two new awards will be the Twisted Dagger, for psychological thrillers, and the Whodunnit Dagger, for cosy crime….

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to binge BBQ with the legendary Mike Gold in Episode 211 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Mike Gold

I’m extremely pleased I was able to convince the legendary Mike Gold to head out for dinner the night before the con began.

Gold entered the comic industry as DC’s first public relations manager. But as I was astounded to discover, he did some PR earlier than that — as the media coordinator for the defense at the Chicago Conspiracy trial, acting as the intermediary between the press and the likes of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, when he was only a teen.

After DC, in 1983, he launched First Comics, where he edited Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg, Mike Baron and Steve Rude’s Nexus, Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar, Mike Grell’s Jon Sable Freelance, and many other classic series. Then after his move back to DC in 1986, he edited such titles as LegendsThe ShadowThe QuestionAction Comics WeeklyGreen Arrow: The Longbow HuntersBlackhawk, and others.

In 2006, he co-founded ComicMix, and in 2011, he received the first Humanitarian Award from the Hero Initiative. And — since he’s five years older than I am — meaning I would have read Fantastic Four #1 at age six, and Mike at eleven, five years counting for a lot back then — I enjoyed digging into our differing perspectives about the early days of comics.

We discussed the way his hiring at DC Comics was all Neal Adams’ fault, how the guerrilla marketing he learned from Abbie Hoffman helped him quadruple direct market sales, the Steve Ditko Creeper cover which sent a not-so-secret message to publisher Carmine Infantino, why editor Murray Boltinoff compared Marvel Comics to the Beatles (and not in a good way), which staffer was “the most disgusting human being I’d ever met in my life,” how First Comics was born, his secret weapon for getting creators to deliver their work on time, our differing contemporaneous exposure to Fantastic Four #1 (and how his related to Merrick Garland), the way an off-hand comment led to a classic John Byrne comic, how the comic book field is like a donut shop, and much more.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 3, 1929 Neal Barrett, Jr. Heavily nominated for many awards including a number of Hugos but he never won. He was Toastmaster at LoneStarCon 2.  He was prolific writing over two dozen novels and some fifty pieces of short fiction including a novelization of the first Dredd film. As good much of his genre work was, I think his finest, best over the top work was the Wiley Moss series which led off with Pink Vodka Blues. He’s generously available at usual digital suspects. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 episodes. One source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1942 Martin Cruz Smith, 81. Best remembered for Gorky Park, the Russian political thriller, but he’s also done a number of genre novels in The Indians Won (alternate history), Gypsy in Amber and Canto for a Gypsy (PI with psychic powers) and two wonderful pulpish novels, The Inca Death Squad and Code Name: Werewolf
  • Born November 3, 1952 Eileen Wilks, 71. Her principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and the multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing as well!
  • Born November 3, 1953 Kate Capshaw, 70. Best known as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I’ll confess I’ve watched but a few times unlike the first film which I’ve watched way too much), and she was in Dreamscape as well. She retired from acting several decades ago.
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 60.  Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done?  Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth.
  • Born November 3, 1977 David Edison, 46. His Waking Engine series, beginning with the rather excellent Waking Engine novel, an urban fantasy set in the afterlife, would’ve been great. His only other novel, Sandymancer, merges fantasy and hard SF. 

(10) IN THE SAME SPIRIT. “We Almost Got a Superhero Movie from The Exorcist Director William Friedkin” says Literary Hub.

In 1975, four years after the release of The French Connection, William Friedkin revealed to a reporter the inspiration for the film’s celebrated car chase scene.

It was the cover of a comic book: a man runs terrified on elevated tracks, just a few steps ahead of a train. He is handsome and athletic. Save for a domino mask, he is dressed like a classic Hollywood detective, in a blue suit and loose tie; he bears no resemblance to Gene Hackman’s slovenly everyman “Popeye” Doyle. The cover was from The Spirit, a comic that ran as a seven-page newspaper insert throughout the 40s and early 50s. The series, created by Will Eisner, was admired for its black humor, innovative compositions, shocking violence, and its setting in a precisely realized urbanscape. “Look at the dramatic use of montage, of light and sound,” Friedkin told the reporter. “See the dynamic framing that Eisner employs, and the deep, vibrant colors.”

Friedkin may not have been telling the truth. The comic he showed the reporter was a reprint that had been published after the release of The French Connection. The stories were three decades old, but the covers were new. Still, it was good publicity for the project he was then planning, a feature-length pilot for an NBC series that would feature the Spirit, aka Denny Colt, a detective who has risen from the dead, lives in a cemetery, and fights crime with his wits, his fists, and a willingness to withstand pain that borders on masochism….

(11) ITALIAN POLITICAL BRANDING USING LOTR. Jamie Mackay asks “How did The Lord of the Rings become a secret weapon in Italy’s culture wars?” in a Guardian opinion piece.

As a longtime fan of JRR Tolkien, I’ve long felt put out by Giorgia Meloni’s bizarre obsession with The Lord of the Rings. Over the years, Italy’s ultra-conservative prime minister has quoted passages in interviews, shared photos of herself reading the novel and even posed with a statue of the wizard Gandalf as part of a campaign. In her autobiography-slash-manifesto, she dedicates several pages to her “favourite book”, which she refers to at one point as being a “sacred” text. When I read the news this week that Italy’s culture ministry is spending €250,000 to organise a Tolkien show at Rome’s National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, and that Meloni will attend the opening, I couldn’t help wondering: why? What is this government trying to achieve by stamping its mark so aggressively on one of the world’s most loved fantasy sagas?

My Italian friends don’t get the fuss. This is everyday politics, they say, a simple branding exercise to soften Meloni’s image. Perhaps. But there’s a deeper, and frankly stranger, side to this story. When The Lord of the Rings first hit Italian shelves in the 1970s, the academic Elémire Zolla wrote a short introduction in which he interpreted the book as an allegory about “pure” ethnic groups defending themselves against contamination from foreign invaders. Fascist sympathisers in the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) quickly jumped on the provocation. Inspired by Zolla’s words, they saw in Tolkien’s world a space where they could explore their ideology in socially acceptable terms, free from the taboos of the past. Meloni, an MSI youth wing member, developed her political consciousness in that environment. As a teenager she even attended a “Hobbit Camp”, a summer retreat organised by the MSI in which participants dressed up in cosplay outfits, sang along to folk ballads and discussed how Tolkienian mythologies could help the post-fascist right find credibility in a new era….

(12) STREAMING TOP 10. JustWatch has released the top 10 streaming movies and TV shows for October 2023.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Marvel Studios’ Echo” official trailer dropped today. The series begins streaming January 10 on @DisneyPlus and @Hulu.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/14/23 The Bear That Shouted “Honey!” At The Heart Of The 100-Acre Woods

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

Setup for Worldcon

Here’s a photo gallery showing some of the décor created for the Worldcon inside the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum. More at the link: http://xhslink.com/0yicuv

(2) MORE BAD NEWS FROM INTERZONE. Interzone publisher and editor Gareth Jelley has elaborated on the magazine’s switch to a solely electronic format, which was announced to subscribers the other day.

…It has been a hard call to make, but due to a very significant drop in subscriber numbers over the last three years, and the volatility of the paper market, I have decided that Interzone will be switching to electronic publication — from Interzone #296 onwards, issues of the magazine will be released as ebooks and no print edition will be produced.

When I took Interzone over from Andy Cox, I was determined to get Interzone back onto a bimonthly schedule and I also wanted to keep Interzone going as a print publication. I believed this was possible, and I did everything I could, day in, day out, to keep the print incarnation of IZ alive. Many IZ readers and fans also went above and beyond when I asked for help getting #295 into print.

The reality now is that Interzone subscriber numbers have fallen too far, too quickly, and are not where they need to be to keep Interzone in print and simultaneously back onto a regular, bimonthly publication schedule; and for a zine like IZ, once it is a choice between print and frequency, it is a no-brainer. Anything else is unfair to contributors and frustrating for readers.

Interzone is still not completely out of the woods, financially. I have drained my resources getting Interzone #295 published and it will take a little time to get Interzone #296, in its new electronic form, ready for publication. I am hoping it will not be too long, maybe even before the end of the year. and I will let you know as soon as I can….

(3) NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION READINGS. Jane Fancher and C.J. Cherryh make their NYRSF Readings debut on Wednesday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Defiance, their latest novel in the Foreigner series, is being released that week

NYRSF can be watched LIVE at https://.facebook.com/groups/NYRSF.Readings or at https://youtube.com/streams.

The host will be Nebula finalist Barbara Krasnoff.

(4) OFFICIAL BLOCH WEBSITE. [Item by Rich Lynch.] The Robert Bloch Official Website now features “Bloch’s Acceptance Speech”” from the 1975 First World Fantasy Convention.

…About two months ago in London at Coyle’s Bookshop, they gave one of their monthly luncheons. This one was in honor of a gentleman I don’t think you are aware of—a music hall performer named Arthur Askey. It was the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday and the publication of his book. Arthur said something which I find strangely apropos at this moment. He looked around the table and said, “This luncheon is not a work of fiction, because everybody at this table is either living or dead.” I have much the same feeling.

This is of course formerly the Arkham Hilton, and probably Mr. Lovecraft did spend a night or two here. I know that last night the sounds I heard could have been the inspiration for “The Rats in the Walls.” I knew I was in the right place when I came here. I walked into the bar and I heard somebody ordering a gin and Miskatonic…

(5) LOVE OF TREK. [Item by Nancy Sauer.] NPR has a brief essay (and love letter) by someone who was deeply influenced by Star Trek.  Heartfelt and interesting. “How Star Trek helped me find my own way”.

… I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t love Star Trek. I do remember when I started to realize that this show, and my father who introduced me to it, built the foundation for my sense of social justice as an astrophysicist of color. The show helped me, and my father, find a place within our culture….

… What I really related to — the show that I anticipated each week and bawled when it ended — was Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was a sequel to the original series that aired in the ’60s, a show that Martin Luther King Jr. loved!

The Next Generation had the young LeVar Burton as the chief engineer Geordi La Forge. He was famous as the lead in the TV cultural phenomena Roots and would later make everyone smile with Reading Rainbow. This new version of Star Trek also had the Shakespearean-trained actor Patrick Stewart playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard, which was the antithesis of the original Captain James T. Kirk. This new crew was more interested in science and tackled issues related to race more head-on! The technical jargon I heard coming from Geordi and others on the ship fueled my love for science….

(6) GO EAST YOUNG MAN. David Gerrold and his son’s family have moved to Vermont. Details on Facebook.

(7) LITERARY HISTORY SITE NEEDS TO BE SAVED. “Reader, they lived there: campaign to save Brontës’ Bradford birthplace as it goes on sale” in the Guardian.

Around a million visitors a year beat a path to Haworth, the small West Yorkshire town nestling in the windy moors of the Worth Valley – mainly to see the home of the Brontë sisters.

The house that writers Charlotte, Anne and Emily shared with their father, church minister Patrick, and their wayward brother Branwell is a major tourist attraction. Visitors wander around the parsonage and surrounding cobbled streets to soak up the atmosphere of just how the Brontës lived two centuries ago.

But there is a site that is equally important to the story of perhaps Britain’s greatest literary family, around six miles or so away in the village of Thornton, on the western edge of the Bradford district: the birthplace of the three sisters.

The premises that takes up 72-74 Market Street has had various uses, from an apartment block to a cafe, but a campaign has been launched to turn it into an attraction that would complement Haworth’s enduring appeal.

It is estimated it will cost about £600,000 to buy the property, which is in a state of disrepair and neglect, and sympathetically renovate the Grade II* listed building into a tourist attraction comprising a cultural and educational centre, a cafe and holiday accommodation….

(8) PIPER LAURIE (1932-2023). Actress Piper Laurie, a three-time Oscar and nine-time Emmy nominee died October 14 at the age of 91. This excerpt from Variety’s obituary covers some of her major genre performances.

…Though she informally retired to raise a family for more than a decade, she returned to film and television in the mid-’70s and racked up an impressive roster of characterizations, including Oscar-nominated turns in “Carrie” and in “Children of a Lesser God,” in which she played Marlee Matlin’s icy mother. Laurie was truly chilling in “Carrie,” as the mother of the shy telekinetic girl of the title who has, in the words of Roger Ebert, “translated her own psychotic fear of sexuality into a twisted personal religion.”

Her performance as the plotting, power-hungry Catherine Martell in David Lynch’s landmark TV series “Twin Peaks” brought her two of her nine Emmy nominations. The actress won her only Emmy for her role in the powerful 1986 “Hallmark Hall of Fame” entry “Promises,” in which James Wood starred as a schizophrenic and James Garner as his brother, with Laurie’s character offering help to the pair.

She scored her last Emmy nomination in 1999 for a guest role on sitcom “Frasier” in which she played the mother of a radio psychologist played by Christine Baranski and clearly modeled after Dr. Laura Schlessinger….

(9) MARK GODDARD (1936-2023). Actor Mark Goddard, who gained fame as Maj. Don West on CBS’ Lost in Space series from 1965 to 1968, died October 10. He was 87. The New York Times obituary notes:

…Don was always the character most annoyed by Dr. Smith, and least sympathetic to him. He could be both hot-tempered and coldhearted, but he dutifully took a spacewalk, against his better judgment, to rescue Smith from the clutches of a seductive alien creature. If it had been up to him alone, he admitted, he would have let Dr. Smith drift through space for eternity.

Major West was a role Mr. Goddard had taken reluctantly, not being a fan of science fiction. In his 2008 memoir, “To Space and Back,” he referred to his space uniform, his wardrobe for the show, as “silver lamé pajamas and my pretty silver ski boots.”…

But he came back in a cameo role for the Lost in Space movie (1998).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 14, 1927 Roger Moore. Bond in seven films 1973 to 1985, a long run indeed. And he played Simon Templar in The Saint for most of the Sixties, an amazing one hundred eighteen episodes. Let’s not forget that he was in the Curse of the Pink Panther as Chief Insp. Jacques Clouseau!  He even got to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes in New York. He wasn’t a bad Sherlock either. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 14, 1946 Katy Manning, 77. She was Jo Grant, companion to the Third Doctor. She also appeared in that role with the Eleventh Doctor on the Sarah Jane Adventures in a two-part story entitled “Death of the Doctor”. She appears as herself in the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born October 14, 1949 Crispin Burnham, 74. And then there are those who just disappear.  He was the founder, writer and publisher of Dark Messenger Reader / Eldritch Tales from 1975 to 1995 as the publisher Yith Press. He was also a prolific essayist from 1973 to 1995, his final essay being a reflection on the life and career of Robert Bloch. There’s nothing to show him active after 1998 when the final part of his “People of The Monolith” was published in Cthulhu Cultus #13. Then he vanishes without a trace. 
  • Born October 14, 1953 Greg Evigan, 70. TekWar, one of Shatner’s better ideas, starred him as Jake Cardigan. I really liked it. Yes, Shatner was in it. And the role he had actually worked fine for him. He also shows up in DeepStar Six as Kevin McBride, as Will South in the horror film Spectre aka The House of The Damned, as Marcus Cutter in Cerberus: The Guardian of Hell, and on the Alfred Hitchcock Presents as David Whitmore in “In the Driver’s Seat”. 
  • Born October 14, 1953 Richard Christian Matheson, 70. Son of the Richard Matheson that you’re thinking of. A very prolific horror writer, mostly of short stories, he’s also no slouch at script writing as he’s written for Amazing StoriesMasters of HorrorThe Powers of Matthew StarSplatterTales from the CryptKnight Rider (the original series) and The Incredible Hulk.
  • Born October 14, 1956 Arleen Sorkin. She served as the real-life inspiration and voice for Harley Quinn, co-created by her friend Paul Dini on Batman: The Animated Series. Harley was supposed to be a one-off in “Joker’s Wild” but she was so popular that they kept her in the series. The character would appear in the New Batman AdventuresStatic ShockJustice LeagueGotham Girls, and in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. She would die at 66 of pneumonia and complications from multiple sclerosis. (Died 2023.)
  • Born October 14, 1963 Lori Petty, 60. Rebecca Buck – “Tank Girl” in that film. She was also Dr. Lean Carli in Cryptic, and Dr. Sykes in Dead Awake. She had one-offs in The HungerTwilight ZoneStar Trek: Voyager, BrimstoneFreddy’s Nightmares and Alien Nation, and voiced quite well Livewire in the DCU animated shows. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MARVEL’S VAMPIRIC CROSSOVER. At New York Comic Con 2023 Marvel revealed “’Blood Hunt,’ Marvel Comics’ Next Crossover Event”.

…Vampires have always walked amongst the shadows of the Marvel Universe, but in Spring 2024, the long night arrives and these bloodsucking terrors will endure the spotlight like never before. The main event series will be brought to life by an A-team of Marvel talent: current Avengers scribe Jed MacKay and acclaimed X-Men artists Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia. In classic Marvel fashion, BLOOD HUNT will also spill out into a host of tie-in issues in Marvel’s hottest current series and see the launch of all-new limited series, one-shots, and redefining status quos.

 Brimming with unsurmountable stakes, this startling saga will drag the world into darkness as your favorite heroes struggle to ward off the vampire race’s cursed crusade of terror! Fans will have to wait with bated breath for more story details and information. In the meantime, sink your teeth into a special BLOOD HUNT trailer and a viciously visceral promotional image by Leinil Francis Yu and Sunny Gho!

“We have vampires in our books all the time, there’s some bad blood there,” MacKay said. “What happens if the shoe was on the other foot? We’ve got the Avengers, Moon Knight’s Midnight Mission, Doctor Strange, Miles Morales, and of course, Blade, and there’s going to be more vampires you can shake a stick at.”…

(13) HEAR FROM MICHAEL CHABON. Listen to an installment of World Book Club where Michael Chabon discusses The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay ay BBC Sounds.

American writer Michael Chabon talks about his 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. 

From Jewish mysticism to Houdini to the Golden Age of Comic Books and WWII, Chabon’s immersive novel deals with escape and transformation through the lives of two Jewish boys in New York. Josef Kavalier makes an impossible escape from Prague in 1939, leaving his whole family behind but convinced he’s going to find a way to get them out too. He arrives in New York to stay with his cousin Sammy Klayman, and together the boys cook up a superhero to rival Superman – both banking on their comic book creation, The Escapist, to transform their lives and those around them, which in part he does. Their first cover depicts The Escapist punching Hitler in the face, and they wage war on him in their pages, but the personal impact of WWII is painfully inevitable. 

The novel touches on the personal scars left by vast political upheaval, and the damaging constraints of being unable to love freely and live a true and authentic life. Chabon’s prose is perfectly crafted – sometimes lyrical, sometimes intensely witty, and occasionally painfully heartbreaking.

(14) BLOCK THAT CLICK! “BBC Will Block ChatGPT AI From Scraping Its Content” reports Deadline.

The BBC has blocked the artificial intelligence software behind ChatGPT from accessing or using its content.

The move aligns the BBC with Reuters, Getty Images and other content providers that have taken similar steps over copyright and privacy concerns. Artificial intelligence can repurpose content, creating new text, images and more from the data.

Rhodri Talfan Davies, director of nations at the BBC said the BBC was “taking steps to safeguard the interests of licence fee payers as this new technology evolves….

(15) DAVID MCCALLUM ANNIVERSARY. Did you know?

(16) ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY. “’The Halloween Tree’ at 30 – An Essential Celebration of the Holiday” is a BloodyDisgusting editorial.

…Halloween is the day that we face that chilling finality. Commune with it. Drape our world in its trappings. Halloween is the day that death becomes the tapestry of our joy. We accept it. We embrace it. Maybe we even learn from it. And few Halloween based books, movies, stories or otherwise capture this idea more absolutely than Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. Perfectly in line with its multi-layered historical trappings, it’s a tale that went through several iterations on its journey to the hallowed halls of Halloween history and one that seemed destined to become the essential animated classic that it has in the three decades since its release.

Almost 30 years before The Halloween Tree (1993) first aired on ABC, Ray Bradbury sat down to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown one October evening in 1966. Despite the acclaimed author’s excitement and unabashed love for all things Halloween, he stood up and kicked his television set as the special’s credits rolled. While he had hoped for the equivalent of Halloween’s Santa Claus in the Great Pumpkin, the promised deity never arrived, denying the holiday its mystical spirit and breaking the vow that its title professed….

(17) MELTING! Nature says someone has figured out “How to build Moon roads using focused beams of sunlight”. First, build a couple of 2m lenses:

…A beam of concentrated sunlight could be used to build paved roads on the Moon by melting lunar dust, according to proof-of-concept experiments involving lasers and a substance resembling Moon dust.

Such roads could be useful infrastructure for future lunar missions, say engineer Juan-Carlos Ginés-Palomares and his colleagues, because they could provide areas for spacecraft to land or move around without churning up fine dust that can damage on-board scientific instruments and other equipment.

The Moon will be an important jumping-off point should humans ever want to explore further reaches of the Solar System. But its low gravity means dust doesn’t settle. Paving the lunar surface by melting the regolith — loose rock and dust — could help to address this problem….

(18) NEVER TOO LATE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] With the Chengdu Worldcon coming up, arguably time to — if you haven’t already — check out Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem. Over on YouTube @Bookpilled  (part of the YouTube Science Fiction Alliance) recently did so. “This Book Has Sold 8 Million Copies – Is It Good?”.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/23 I’ll Scroll What She’s Scrolling

(1) SFWA GIVERS FUND GRANT DEADLINE OCTOBER 1. During SFWA’s recent annual business meeting, Chief Financial Officer Erin M. Hartshorn gave an update on the current amounts in each of the organization’s benevolent funds: $388,000 for the Emergency Medical Fund, $66,000 for the Legal Fund, and $103,000 for the Givers Fund, which will give away $30,000 worth of grants this fall. Applications for grants from the Givers Fund are due October 1. 

(2) RUSHDIE TO SPEAK. On October 21, Salman Rushdie will make one of his first in-person appearances since being severely injured in a stabbing attack last August, at Frankfurter Buchmesse: “Salman Rushdie Appears at Frankfurt’s Saturday Gala” reports Publishing Perspectives.

…This program, supported by ARD, ZDF, and 3sat, precedes the October 22 presentation to Rushdie of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as Publishing Perspectives readers know. The award carries a purse of €25,000 (US$26,389).

In a statement today, Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos  has said, “I was very moved that Salman Rushdie is not missing the opportunity to meet the audience in Frankfurt in person, in addition to attending the award ceremony for the Peace Prize….

…As you’ll remember, the stabbing attack on Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York occurred on August 12, 2022. Dealing with severe injuries and the preparation of his new book, Rushdie has made very few public appearances since then, one of them in May in a videotaped message from New York for the British Book Awards….

(3) HOW NETFLIX DVD WORKED. [Item by Dan Bloch.] Tomorrow is, of course, Netflix DVDs last day, and there are of course lots of articles about this, all saying more or less the same thing (“Netflix DVD, we’ll miss you, even though we canceled our subscription a long time ago”). This one is different: “Netflix’s DVD service shuts down: here’s the complex tech behind it” at The Verge. It’s a longish but very interesting article about how the technology in their shipping hubs works.

… Bronway custom-designed a massive disc robot called the “automated rental return machine,” or ARRM 3660. The ARRM, as Netflix employees simply called it, was an assembly-line-sized machine consisting of 6,500 parts total. At its center were two carousels, housed behind glass doors, that were loaded up with incoming mail and then used pneumatic arms to perform all of the things people had done before: slice open returned envelopes, unpack discs, inspect them, clean them, add them to a facility’s inventory system, and get them ready to go out of the door again — basically, every job short of sorting discs and stuffing envelopes for the next customer. 

The robotics company sold 180 of these machines to Netflix in 2010, and they were deployed in stages across all of its hubs. The labor savings alone were enormous. “The hubs were a spectacular number of people,” recalled Johnson. “You could replace about five humans opening the discs with one machine.”

Once a hub was fully automated, it really only required a handful of people to operate. Warehouse workers would arrive at 2AM each day to flip on the machines and process tens of thousands of DVDs in time to deliver them to the Postal Service later that morning. “It was just one person per machine,” Gallion said. “You’d have one person running the stuffer, one person running the sorter, one person running the rental return machine.”

But automation wasn’t just about labor costs alone. Machines were also a lot better at their job, which led to less frustration for Netflix subscribers. Customers who borrowed entire seasons of a TV show would frequently mix up discs — they might put season 7 disc one of The Simpsons in the sleeve for season 7 disc two.

Netflix hub employees were supposed to catch those mix-ups and make sure that the next customer didn’t accidentally receive the wrong disc. “But humans aren’t very good at that,” Johnson said. Machines, on the other hand, aren’t fooled by similar-looking titles. “If barcode A doesn’t match barcode B, then clearly, you’ve got a mismatch,” he said…

(4) PLUMBING THE ABSTRUSE. Timothy B. Lee and Sean Trott promise: “Large language models, explained with a minimum of math and jargon” at Understanding AI.

… If you know anything about this subject, you’ve probably heard that LLMs are trained to “predict the next word,” and that they require huge amounts of text to do this. But that tends to be where the explanation stops. The details of how they predict the next word is often treated as a deep mystery.

One reason for this is the unusual way these systems were developed. Conventional software is created by human programmers who give computers explicit, step-by-step instructions. In contrast, ChatGPT is built on a neural network that was trained using billions of words of ordinary language.

As a result, no one on Earth fully understands the inner workings of LLMs. Researchers are working to gain a better understanding, but this is a slow process that will take years—perhaps decades—to complete.

Still, there’s a lot that experts do understand about how these systems work. The goal of this article is to make a lot of this knowledge accessible to a broad audience. We’ll aim to explain what’s known about the inner workings of these models without resorting to technical jargon or advanced math….

(5) CHENGDU WORLDCON UPDATE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

  • Day tickets still not available

After the closure of regular ticket sales – on the con site, and on the damai.cn vendor site – the day tickets that were promised exactly a week ago — https://en.chengduworldcon.com/news3_35_95_32_66_76_50/151.html — have not yet materialized.  Here’s a (Chinese language) Weibo post from File 770 commenter Adaoli summarizing the situation:  https://weibo.com/5726230680/Nllv9A08q

I’m not sure if this is a new announcement, but I don’t recall seeing any mention of it prior to today.  Douban – which can be compared to both IMDB and Goodreads – has a listing for “Stellar Concerto”, which features stories from the three Worldcon GoHs.  The listing indicates there are new stories in this anthology, although I assume that means they are new in translation, but have been previously published in their original language.  The publisher is the Chengdu-based 8 Light Minutes Culture, which has a few staff on the Chengdu concom.

The October issue’s cover feature is about SF, although it doesn’t seem to have an explicit Worldcon connection, on the cover at least.  There are photos of some of the interior content, which seems to involve at least a couple of people on the concom, at this Weibo post: https://weibo.com/1662229842/NlnnPvnGo

The HelloChengdu Weibo account linked to a Sichuan Daily post from a couple of days ago with a 2-minute Worldcon-related video that has CG renderings of the venue that I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Although given that the con is ~20 days away, I’d have thought the time for CG renders over real-world footage should have long passed.

This one is way beyond my negligible language skills – and I think it might be a repost of something previously released – but I believe it goes over the Puppies stuff (29:43 and later), Marko Kloos declining his Hugo nomination (from 36:26) and the resulting elevation of The Three-Body Problem to be a finalist.,  Other people/things shown or namechecked include: VD and LC (30:02, VD numerous times after that), Zoe Quinn (from 32:39), GRRM’s Puppygate blog post (37:33), N. K. Jemisin (40:30), Robert Silverberg (45:24), the “GRRM Can Fuck Off Into the Sun” blog post (48:00).

This isn’t something that most File 770 readers are going to need or want to watch, but I think it’s a good illustration that Chinese fans aren’t ignorant of stuff that happens in the Anglosphere.

(6) SOMETHING MISSING. Abigail Nussbaum voices the opinion that Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins” has a lot of deficiencies as a biography at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…The core problem of A Life With Footnotes is one that felt easy to predict before even turning the first page. Terry Pratchett, to be perfectly blunt, did not live a particularly interesting life. He was the precocious son of working class parents in post-war England, who fell in love with science fiction and fantasy in his teens, fooled around with writing them with only moderate success, did some creative-adjacent salaried work (journalism, then PR), and then hit on a concept that ballooned into a world-class success with remarkable speed, after which he was very rich and very successful for the rest of his life. In other words, the life story of quite a few midcentury authors (give or take the stratospheric success). What set Pratchett apart, like most writers, was what was going on in his head….

But then, one of the most startling choices in A Life With Footnotes is how little it has to say about Pratchett the author….

Wilkins’s focus seems, instead, to be on the business side of things….

While I agree with Nussbaum’s description of what is and isn’t there, Pratchett was unable to complete his autobiography before he died so my own focus is on the book we have thanks to Rob Wilkins’ efforts, not the book we wanted.

(7) FROM PIXELS TO BRICK AND MORTAR. The New York Times says “Instagram’s Favorite Bookseller Is Ready to Go Offline”.

For Idea, a rare-book dealer and publisher in London, the dwindling of print has never been much of an issue. If anything, it has been a boon for the understated business that David Owen and Angela Hill have built, largely on the back of Instagram’s early infrastructure.

But now, Idea is navigating yet another swerve — the death of the Instagram timeline. In 2021 the social media platform moved from a chronological feed to a more opaque algorithm, which boosted videos. That meant less exposure for posts of, for example, vintage fashion books, which in turn made book selling on Instagram something of a slog.

And even though Idea has some 500,000 followers — W magazine called it an “Instagram phenomenon” in 2015 — the company is ready to experiment with a fairly antiquated idea that some may consider riskier than print itself: a physical bookstore.

In late September, Idea will open a store spread over three floors of a brick building on Wardour Street, in the London neighborhood of Soho. (The location is also Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill’s current home — they rent in the building — in a district crowded with David Bowie walking tours and lines for a Supreme store nearby.)

“What it really feels like is the perfect answer to all the frustration we’ve had with Instagram for the last couple of years, compared to the absolute joy and wonder we’ve had with it the eight previous to that,” Mr. Owen said.

When Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill started their Instagram account in 2010, it quickly became a popular feed. Glossy scans of their collection — which included issues of Six, a magazine by Commes des Garçons ($3,050); “Pentax Calendar” by Guy Bourdin ($500); and “Fiorucci: The Book” by Eve Babitz ($365) — popped out against a sea of heavily filtered selfies….

(8) MOTE GETS SHOPPED BY UNTITLED.TV. The Chaos Manor Facebook page announced an interest in making series from two Niven/Pournelle books has been expressed by Untitled.

A shopping agreement for a streaming series based on The Mote in Gods Eye and The Gripping Hand has been secured by Untitled.

With the end of the WGA strike, real work has begun to craft and pitch an expected 24+ episode, 3 year story arc.

Questions abounded on how to both streamline and lengthen the proposed series for streaming audiences. Let’s see how Untitled proceeds, now that the clock has started.

When asked Why 3 Arms? Larry Niven explained yesterday that his approach to the initial alien design was inspired by the dual question of why tool makers would need symmetry in their biology if there was limited-to-no gravity. He also posed: Do we need a spine? What if the spine was an evolutionary mistake?

(9) WHAT SIR PAT READS. The New York Times asks the actor about his reading habits in “The Most Novelistic Part That Patrick Stewart Ever Played”. But first – the hook!

“I acted Macbeth for exactly 365 days,” says the actor, whose new memoir is “Making It So.” “The role got into me so deeply it dominated my life at the time and caused me to drink too much alcohol after the performance was over. No other role I have played has affected me so profoundly.”…

…Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Immediately on waking up I make a cup of Yorkshire Gold with a chocolate digestive and read in bed for half an hour, or more. Always a book. Never a script or emails. This not only wakes me up, it puts me back in the world we are living in and who we are today. Unless there is an urgent reason I do not look at newspaper headlines, or listen to the news until halfway through the morning.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

You know, I haven’t heard of it either….

(10) MICHAEL GAMBON (1940-2023). Actor Michael Gambon died September 27. Variety profiles his career in its obituary: “Michael Gambon Dies: Harry Potter’s Dumbledore Was 82”.

Michael Gambon, the Irish-English actor best known for his role as Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the “Harry Potter” movies, has died, Variety has confirmed. He was 82.

“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon,” his family said in a statement. “Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia.”

While it is easier for a character actor, often working in supporting roles, to rack up a large number of credits than it is for lead actors, Gambon was enormously prolific, with over 150 TV or film credits in an era when half that number would be impressive and unusual — and this for a man whose body of stage work was also prodigious.

He played two real kings of England: King Edward VII in “The Lost Prince” (2003) and his son, King George V, in “The King’s Speech” (2010); Winston Churchill in his later years in the 2015 ITV/PBS “Masterpiece” telepic “Churchill’s Secret”; U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in John Frankenheimer’s 2002 HBO telepic “Path to War,” for which he was Emmy-nominated; and a fictional British prime minister in “Ali G Indahouse,” also in 2002. And as Hogwarts headmaster in the “Harry Potter” movies, he presided over the proceedings therein. In 2016, he served as the narrator for the Coen brothers’ paean to golden-age Hollywood, “Hail! Caesar.”…

And you can see a photo of Michael Gambon, circa 1970, from when he was invited by producer Cubby Broccoli to test for James Bond at the Tim Burton Wiki.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1913 Ellis Peters. Nom de plume of the writer of The Cadfael Chronicles,which I’ll admit I broke my rule of never watching a video adaption of a print series that I like. Derek Jacobi as Cadfael was damn perfect. She is here because she was the writer of two excellent ghost novels, The City Lies Four-Square and By This Strange Fire, under her real name of Edith Pargeter. (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 28, 1932 Michael G. Coney. British-born writer who spent the last half of his life in Canada. He’s best remembered for his Hello Summer, Goodbye novelI’m very fond of The Celestial Steam Locomotive and Gods of the Greataway which might be set on what could be Vancouver Island. His only Award was from the BSFA for Brontomek!, one of his Amorphs Universe works, although he was a 1996 Nebula nominee for his “Tea and Hamsters” novelette, and a five-time finalist for the Aurora Award. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 28, 1938 Ron Ellik. Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 73. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; and he wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 60. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 41. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story.
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 37. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by Jo Walton is in Vector 288.

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows something that might be a case for an insurance company. But is it an act of God? 

(13) FIFTY CALIBER. Congratulations to Michaele Jordan on her appearance in 50 Give or Take!

(14) CHOPPED. “Now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, it’s a free-for-all.” NPR tells how “Winnie-the-Pooh is now being used to raise awareness about deforestation”. [Click for larger image.]

Winnie-the-Pooh: The Deforested Edition is a reimagining of the A.A. Milne classic created by the toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap.

There is just one, stark difference: There are no trees.

The Hundred Acre Wood? Gone.

Piglet’s “house in the middle of a beech-tree” is no longer “grand.”

Six Pine Trees is six pine stumps.

Yes, this is imaginative PR (a free eBook is available on the Who Gives A Crap website; a hardcover was available for purchase but is now sold out). But the company’s co-founder, Danny Alexander, said the goal is to raise awareness about deforestation. Who Gives A Crap prides itself on “creating toilet paper from 100% recycled paper or bamboo,” he said….

… Alexander said Who Gives A Crap has tried to spread the word that “over a million trees are cut down every single day just to make traditional toilet paper,” according to a study the company commissioned….

(15) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 93 of the Octothorpe podcast “The Good Thing About the Hugos” is now up.

John Coxon is husky, Alison Scott is a dingo, and Liz Batty is a ridgeback.

We discuss Chengdu, our impact on Chinese fandom, Glasgow, its impact on Glaswegian fandom, and then all the Hugo categories bar one (foreshadowing). Or four, depending on how you count.

(16) PROTON ART. “Painting with protons: treatment beams recreate works of art” at Physics World.

Intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) is an advanced cancer treatment technique that uses narrow pencil-like beams of protons – painted spot-by-spot and layer-by-layer within the patient – to deliver radiation in highly complex dose patterns. Combined with sophisticated treatment planning techniques, IMPT can shape the proton dose to match the targeted tumour with unprecedented accuracy, maximizing the destruction of cancer cells while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Looking to showcase the impressive power of IMPT to create intricate dose distributions, medical physicist Lee Xu from the New York Proton Center came up with an unusual approach – he used proton pencil beams to recreate a series of well-known paintings as treatment plans, effectively using the protons as a paintbrush….

(17) DISKWORLDS. In this week’s Nature: “How worlds are born: JWST reveals exotic chemistry of planetary nurseries”, “The telescope is delivering a cascade of insights about the ‘protoplanetary’ disks where planets take shape.”

 The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is aweing scientists and the public alike with its spectacular images of distant galaxies and its discoveries of dozens of new black holes. Yet JWST is also rewriting scientists’ understanding of objects on a slightly smaller, more relatable scale: how planets form from swirls of gas and dust around young stars. Such ‘protoplanetary’ disks are what the environs of the Sun would have been like 4.6 billion years ago, with planets coalescing from the whirling material around an infant star.

JWST is revealing how water is delivered to rocky planets taking shape in such disks. It’s providing clues to the exotic chemistry in these planetary nurseries. And it has even found fresh evidence for a cosmic hit-and-run in one of the most famous debris disks, encircling the star Beta Pictoris…

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

Pixel Scroll 9/2/23 There Was A Pixeled Fan, And They Scrolled A Pixeled File

(1) LISTEN UP, BUCKAROOS. Dan Berger has served for the last nineteen years as the editor-in-chief of World Watch One, the Buckaroo Banzai fan newsletter/zine. Dan sent the link to their latest issue with a note, “I’m not sure you absolutely need to be a Buckaroo fan to find something fun in this issue, but it doesn’t hurt either.” The theme of World Watch One August 2023 is “Afrocentric”.

Their group’s base on the internet is here: World Watch OnLine: The Buckaroo Banzai Mailing List

(2) UKRAINE BENEFIT ANTHOLOGY. [Item by Marc Criley.] Over 30 writers contributed stories to To Ukraine, With Love, a “benefit anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Myths, Legends, Fairy Tales, and Eldritch Stories, Poems, and Art.” Just released and available via all the usual bookseller outlets.

100% of profits from all forms — print, epub, and audiobook — will be donated to charities for Ukraine.

The anthology was spearheaded and edited by Fran Eisemann, the editor of Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores magazine.

Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores presents To Ukraine, With Love benefit anthology, with 100% of the profits to be donated to causes for Ukraine, including World Central Kitchen and similar charities which will earmark 100% of a contribution to a specified cause.

All the science fiction, fantasy, myths, legends, fairy tales, and eldritch stories and poems, and the artwork, have been donated. Contributors include Geoffrey Landis, David Brin, Terri Windling, Andrew Burt, George Guthridge, and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. Artists include Scott Gustafson, Stephanie Law, and Howard David Johnson.

(3) TOLKIEN SCHOLARSHIP. Robin Reid gives more “Recommended Readings on Tolkien” to readers of Writing From Ithilien.

Not only is there more and more work being done on what I call the “Tolkien phenomenon” (meaning, not only his legendarium, including the posthumous publications Christopher Tolkien gave us, but also the multiple adaptations and the fandoms all around the world), but more and more the people doing the scholarship are making their work more freely available online. And while I will always cheerlead for open-access scholarly journals like Mythlore and The Journal of Tolkien Research, I also want to recommend scholars who make work available on their blogs/newsletters/etc.!

The three recommendations below also show the wide range of topics in Tolkien studies!…

Get those recommendations at the link.

(4) THIS IS NUTS. Andrew Porter forwarded this comment left by MJM on the New York Times piece: “We Used A.I. to Write Essays for Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Here’s How It Went”.

I asked ChatGPT to write a college admission essay in the voice of a squirrel. The total result is a bit too long to post, here are some excerpts: —

“As a squirrel, I have learned to adapt to different environments and challenges. I have lived in various habitats, from urban parks to rural forests, and have encountered many predators, such as hawks, cats, and humans. I have developed a keen sense of awareness, agility, and resilience that help me survive and thrive in any situation.”

“In addition, I have shown a remarkable leadership and community involvement. I have led many groups of squirrels in various activities, such as organizing food storage, defending our territory, and planning migrations. I have also collaborated with other animals, such as birds, rabbits, and dogs, to promote peace and harmony in our ecosystem. I have volunteered to help humans in need, such as feeding the homeless, cleaning the parks, and planting trees.

“I am confident that I can bring a unique and valuable perspective to your campus. I am eager to learn from your distinguished faculty and diverse student body. I am also excited to contribute to your academic excellence and social impact. I hope you will give me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a college-educated squirrel. Thank you for your consideration.

“Sincerely, Squirrel”

(5) EVEN IF IT’S YOUR JAM. Catherynne M. Valente learned something.

(6) FRANNE LEE (1941-2023). Costume and set designer Franne Lee, who created iconic outfits for several Saturday Night Live sketches, died August 27. The New York Times obituary recalled:

Franne Lee, a costume and set designer who while doing Tony Award-winning work on Broadway in the 1970s also made killer-bee suits and cone-shaped headwear for early “Saturday Night Live” sketches, helping to create some of that era’s most memorable comic moments, died on Sunday in Atlantis, Fla. She was 81.

The original “S.N.L.” cast quickly made its mark with outlandish sketches, and Ms. Lee was integral to the look of those now famous bits — dressing John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in black when they became the Blues Brothers, turning cut-up long johns into the yellow-striped Killer Bee costumes, and more.

It was costume designing on the cheap. Ms. Lee’s father, a tool-and-die maker, came up with the bouncy springs that were the Killer Bees’ antennae, which she finished off by sticking Ping-Pong balls on the ends. John Storyk, who first met Ms. Lee in 1968 when both worked at the short-lived Manhattan club Cerebrum, recalled in a phone interview dropping by the Lees’ apartment and seeing on her work table the beginnings of the cones that became the defining feature of the Coneheads, the extraterrestrials who were a recurring presence on the show in the late 1970s and later got their own feature film….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. One of his mod remembered roles was as Kublai Khan in Doctor Who‘s first season.  Later genre performances the first Pink Panther film, a bevy of ITC Entertainment such as Danger ManThe AvengersDepartment S and The Prisoner. He was in Children of the Damned and The Gamma People to name but two of his genre films. (Died 1978.)
  • Born September 2, 1925 Meinhardt Raabe. The actor best known as the Munchkin coroner in The Wizard of Oz. He certified the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. (Died 2000.)

As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her
And she’s not only merely dead
She’s really, most sincerely dead!

  • Born September 2, 1944 Roland Green. His most prominent works are his military SF series —Starcruiser Shenandoah, the Peace Company, and Voyage to Eneh, but he also did a lot of Conan novels, and co-authored two Janissaries novels with Pournelle. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 2, 1946 Walter Simonson, 77. Comic artist and writer who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is if ever there was one. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well.  He did this cover for Michael Moorcock’s Count Brass. And he did the interior artwork as well. 
  • Born September 2, 1950 Mel Odom, 73. Not that Mel Odom. This is another Mel Odom. His illustrations have graced  many a cover of the works of Guy Gavriel Kay including A Song for Arbonne, the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana. I’ll single out the cover of the Penguin Books edition of Tigana as as Ireally l ike his work here.
  • Born September 2, 1951 Mark Harmon, 72. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, though not of the last five years of the series. He’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan.
  • Born September 2, 1964 Keanu Reeves, 59. Obviously in The Matrix films which so far I’ve avoided watching. So should I go forth now and watch them? Now I have seen the first two Bill & Ted’s films and like then quite a bit, but not the third. Should I? Finally I’ll confess that I have seen Johnny Mnemonic. So i must ask what were they thinking? Really?

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) THOUGHT-TO-VOICE.  [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Who needs Alfred (working class) Bester? In Nature: “Brain-reading devices allow paralysed people to talk using their thoughts”. “Two studies report considerable improvements in technologies designed to help people with facial paralysis to communicate.”

Brain-reading implants enhanced using artificial intelligence (AI) have enabled two people with paralysis to communicate with unprecedented accuracy and speed.

In separate studies, both published on 23 August in Nature1,2, two teams of researchers describe brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) that translate neural signals into text or words spoken by a synthetic voice. The BCIs can decode speech at 62 words per minute and 78 words per minute, respectively. Natural conversation happens at around 160 words per minute, but the new technologies are both faster than any previous attempts.

“It is now possible to imagine a future where we can restore fluid conversation to someone with paralysis, enabling them to freely say whatever they want to say with an accuracy high enough to be understood reliably,” said Francis Willett, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California who co-authored one of the papers1, in a press conference on 22 August.

These devices “could be products in the very near future”, says Christian Herff, a computational neuroscientist at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

(10) A COMET YOU CAN SEE. Gizmodo says “Newly Spotted Comet May Soon Be Visible Without Telescopes”.

A comet recently discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura is garnering attention from NASA and skywatchers alike.

Using a standard digital camera, Nishimura detected the celestial body on August 11 during a series of 30-second exposures, according to NASA. Though currently not visible to the naked eye, this status may soon change. NASA has noted the comet’s steady increase in brightness since its discovery. Furthermore, astronomers have now charted the comet’s future trajectory through the inner solar system.

“As the comet dives toward the Sun, it will surely continue to intensify and possibly become a naked-eye object in early September,” stated NASA. However, there’s a caveat for potential observers: the comet’s proximity to the Sun will mean it is best visible during the times of sunset or sunrise when the Sun’s glare is least obtrusive….

(11) GUARDING AGAINST ANOTHER PANDEMIC. I can’t help hearing the voice of Bill Murray when I read this headline. “Cats With Bird Flu? The Threat Grows.” The New York Times’ Zeynep Tufekci has the story.  

The global H5N1 avian flu outbreak, already devastating wild birds and poultry, keeps spreading to mammals, bringing it one step closer to a potential human outbreak.

Of course, since the coronavirus pandemic taught us the importance of responding early and aggressively to outbreaks …

Sorry, I’m joking. We don’t seem to have learned much from the Covid outbreak, and it’s not funny.

Not enough has been done about an out-of-control H5N1 outbreak at fur farms in Finland or a mystery outbreak among domestic cats in Poland.

Finland, one of Europe’s biggest fur producers, is battling outbreaks among its captive minks, foxes and raccoon dogs — species that scientists warn have been identified as more likely to evolve a variant that can infect people, leading to a human outbreak.

Even the Finnish Food Authority, in its announcement of animals being culled, noted that minks are susceptible to both human and avian influenza. If one animal is infected by both, the viruses can mix genes and give rise to an avian flu that can infect humans. Fur farms in Finland, however, aren’t being closed. Instead the Finnish Wildlife Agency allowed fur breeders to kill wild birds near their farms in large numbers. The Agency told me the killings were authorized “to prevent contacts between infected birds and animals at fur farms,” but scientists point out this is the wrong approach and likely futile — and more fur farms in Finland have since announced further outbreaks.

Meanwhile, officials said a sizable outbreak of H5N1 among pet cats in Poland this summer killed at least 29 animals, though cat owners have compiled lists with as many as 89 sick animals. The outbreak has many unusual features that make it especially concerning, and yet there still hasn’t been an explanation of how exactly it happened or a vigorous investigation….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Time to revisit this “Constellation WorldCon Baltimore” video first posted to YouTube 13 years ago. It’s amazing that I recognize most of these people.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael J. Walsh, Marc Criley, Michael Toman, 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 Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 7/25/23 There’s No Business Like Scroll Business

(1) CHENGDU’S OFFER TO HUGO FINALISTS. Joe Yao, a WSFS Division department head for Chengdu, provides more information about the assistance being offered to 2023 Hugo finalists to attend the Worldcon:

As it is the first time a Worldcon held in China, along with the first time for the Hugo Awards presented in China, we really like to have more finalists coming in person, and they can also participate in program and other activities if they want. But as we all know, it is a long and expensive trip for most of the finalists and they might not afford such a trip by themselves, thus we tried our best to help them, even though we have limited budget as well.

Hope there will be more finalists coming in October.

It appears the offer of help is being offered to 2023 Hugo finalists generally (or to one representative of finalists involving teams of multiple editors/creators). A few more people who have confirmed to File 770 that they received the offer include Gideon Marcus, Alison Scott, and Olav Rokne and Amanda Wakaruk (the latter got theirs today; they didn’t have it yet when they responded yesterday.)

(2) WRITER BEWARE. “Contract, Payment Delays at the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction” at Writer Beware.

F&SF takes First North American Serial Rights and pays on acceptance (which in practice means on receipt of a contract). Acceptance emails indicate that writers will receive a contract and a check within two to four weeks. However, Writer Beware has recently received multiple reports from writers whose work has been officially accepted but, months later, are still waiting for contracts and checks.

…Writers also report a variety of other delays: waiting for notification of official acceptance well beyond the stated acquisition timeline of 6 weeks to 6 months; receiving copy edits and proofs for accepted stories without having received a contract or payment; receiving contract and payment only weeks before the publication date, after months of waiting; completing requested revisions and then hearing nothing more. Many of the writers who contacted me say that they’ve sent repeated emails asking about the delays, and haven’t received a response….

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss contacted F&SF publisher Gordon Van Gelder and heard what he is doing to resolve the issues. See his responses at the link.

(3) SDCC AMID THE STRIKES. Rob Kutner says the lack of big movie presentations had its advantages in “Comic-Con In the Time of Strikes” at Book and Film Globe.

…As I’ve written here, Comic-Con offers many uses for the working (on non-struck things) professional. I came this year in part to network for gigs, and in part to sign my new kids’ graphic novel at my publisher’s table. Neither of those directly tied to the big panel/preview scene, so for me it was mostly business as usual. Nor, at first glance, could I necessarily spot a difference, other than some occasionally empty patches in the crowds, which would normally be wall-to-wall nerd.

However, after two days, some patterns began to emerge, and friends and colleagues that I spoke to confirmed this. As Craig Miller, Lucasfilm’s Director of Fan Relations for the first two Star Wars movies, described it, the effect on strike-year Comic-Con was “both profound and minimal. Hall H, the big, 6,000-person room”—where they often announce the latest Marvel or Star War for the first time — “is empty. There are no lines of people waiting hours to get into that room. But they’re still here at the convention.”

As a result, Miller spent the Con at a table, selling his memoir Star Wars Memories, and sold every last copy. Granted, any SDCC might have brought him scads of customers who liked both Star Wars and books, but it’s also a highly competitive environment, with literally hundreds of vendors and publishers vying for those same dollars.

This time, however, the diversion of crowds, who might otherwise be in Lineworld, onto the main convention floor created a flood of foot traffic for vendors that lifted even the smallest boats. Rantz Hoseley, VP of Editorial for Z2 Comics, confirms, “sales and signings at our booth were the biggest we’ve had at any convention, with a number of deluxe editions selling out by Thursday evening [the first of Comic-Con’s four days].”…

(4) BACK TO 1955. In “Buckle Your (DeLorean) Seatbelt: ‘Back to the Future’ Lands on Broadway”, the New York Times talks to franchise co-creator Bob Gale.

…And now on Broadway: “Back to the Future: The Musical,” which opens Aug. 3 at the Winter Garden Theater, follows a story that will be familiar to fans of the film. Using a time machine devised by Doc Brown, Marty McFly travels to 1955, meets his parents Lorraine and George as teenagers and must help them fall in love after he disrupts the events that led to their romantic coupling.

On its yearslong path to Broadway, “Back to the Future” has faced some challenges that are common to musical adaptations and others unique to this property.

While the show’s creators sought actors to play the roles indelibly associated with the stars of the film and decided which of the movie’s famous scenes merited musical numbers, they were also trying to figure out how the stage could accommodate the fundamental elements of “Back to the Future” — like, say, a plutonium-powered sports car that can traverse the space-time continuum.

Now this “Back to the Future” arrives on Broadway with some steep expectations: After a tryout in Manchester, England, its production at the Adelphi Theater in London’s West End won the 2022 Olivier Award for best new musical. The show also carries a heavy price tag — it is being capitalized for $23.5 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Throughout its development process, the people behind it — including several veterans of the “Back to the Future” series — tried to remain true to the spirit of the films and keep intact a story that has held up for nearly 40 years.

Bob Gale, who wrote the original movie with Robert Zemeckis, said of the stage adaptation: “We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. We just want to make the wheel smooth.”

But, he added, “It cannot be a slavish adaptation of the movie. Because if that’s what people want to see, they should stay home and watch the movie. Let’s use the theater for what theater can do.”…

(5) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] LearnedLeague is currently in its “off-season” when it features player-created content, including 12-question specialized quizzes that last for one day. Monday there was one about the Stargate movie and TV franchise. As I write this it’s still live, but by the time tonight’s Pixel Scroll goes out, it will be graded and so available for the public to view. Here’s a link: Stargate 1DS

(6) CORDWAINER SMITH REDISCOVERIES. James Davis Nicoll encourages readers to “Take a Minute to Celebrate the Forgotten Greats of Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

Time is nobody’s friend. Authors in particular can fall afoul of time—all it takes is a few years out of the limelight. Publishers will let their books fall out of print; readers will forget about them. Replace “years” with “decades” and authors can become very obscure indeed.

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award was founded in 2001 to draw attention to unjustly forgotten SF authors…. Since it’s been five years (and there have been four new recipients) since we last discussed the award in 2018, I’ve updated the discussion to include the newest honorees—including the most recent winner, announced this past weekend at Readercon.

I wish the award were more widely known, that it had, perhaps, its own anthology. If it did, it might look a bit like this. Who are the winners? Why should you care about them? I am so happy I pretended you asked….

(7) FANAC.ORG NEWS. The fanhistory website Fanac.org has been adding scanned fanzines at an colossal rate. Among their accomplishments, they’ve finished scanning a run of Imagination, by LASFS members during the Fighting Forties…

We’ve added more than 1,000 publications since the last newsflash in March, and about 2,000 since the last full newsletter in December 2022. We’ve added some great zines by Arnie Katz, and many APAzines from Jeanne Gomoll. Here are some highlights.

 We completed our run of LASFS’s first important fanzine, Imagination including the Rejected issue. Imagination is filled with contributions from notables in the field, fan and pro, among them Yerke and Bok, Kuttner and Bloch, Bradbury and Lowndes, Hornig and Wollheim, and of course 4sj….

(8) WILL WIKI MATE WITH CHATGPT? Jon Gartner calls it h “Wikipedia’s Moment of Truth”. “Can the online encyclopedia help teach A.I. chatbots to get their facts right — without destroying itself in the process?”

In late June, I began to experiment with a plug-in the Wikimedia Foundation had built for ChatGPT. At the time, this software tool was being tested by several dozen Wikipedia editors and foundation staff members, but it became available in mid-July on the OpenAI website for subscribers who want augmented answers to their ChatGPT queries. The effect is similar to the “retrieval” process that Jesse Dodge surmises might be required to produce accurate answers. GPT-4’s knowledge base is currently limited to data it ingested by the end of its training period, in September 2021. A Wikipedia plug-in helps the bot access information about events up to the present day. At least in theory, the tool — lines of code that direct a search for Wikipedia articles that answer a chatbot query — gives users an improved, combinatory experience: the fluency and linguistic capabilities of an A.I. chatbot, merged with the factuality and currency of Wikipedia.

One afternoon, Chris Albon, who’s in charge of machine learning at the Wikimedia Foundation, took me through a quick training session. Albon asked ChatGPT about the Titan submersible, operated by the company OceanGate, whose whereabouts during an attempt to visit the Titanic’s wreckage were still unknown. “Normally you get some response that’s like, ‘My information cutoff is from 2021,’” Albon told me. But in this case ChatGPT, recognizing that it couldn’t answer Albon’s question — What happened with OceanGate’s submersible? — directed the plug-in to search Wikipedia (and only Wikipedia) for text relating to the question. After the plug-in found the relevant Wikipedia articles, it sent them to the bot, which in turn read and summarized them, then spit out its answer. As the responses came back, hindered by only a slight delay, it was clear that using the plug-in always forced ChatGPT to append a note, with links to Wikipedia entries, saying that its information was derived from Wikipedia, which was “made by volunteers.” And this: “As a large language model, I may not have summarized Wikipedia accurately.”

But the summary about the submersible struck me as readable, well supported and current — a big improvement from a ChatGPT response that either mangled the facts or lacked real-time access to the internet. Albon told me, “It’s a way for us to sort of experiment with the idea of ‘What does it look like for Wikipedia to exist outside of the realm of the website,’ so you could actually engage in Wikipedia without actually being on Wikipedia.com.” Going forward, he said, his sense was that the plug-in would continue to be available, as it is now, to users who want to activate it but that “eventually, there’s a certain set of plug-ins that are just always on.”…

(9) MITCH THORNHILL (IRA) OBITUARY. Mitch Thornhill (Ira) died July 25 after many months of serious medical problems. He lived in Mississippi. However, he first became known as a fan in the Seventies while living in New Orleans and Minneapolis. He sometimes went by the name Ira M. Thornhill.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one, and then twice more in the two-part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightenment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega FactorA Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories about a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. Kindle has a really deep catalog of his genre work. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at iBooks and Kindle shows a twelve story Wildside Press collection but none of her novels. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1937 Todd Armstrong. He’s best known for playing Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. A film of course made excellent by special effects from Ray Harryhausen. His only other genre appearance was on The Greatest American Hero as Ted McSherry In “A Chicken in Every Plot”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 75. I am reasonably sure that I’ve read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. 
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 52. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets, a sort of game show. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 — Mur Lafferty, 50. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Valerie Valdes. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, it won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast at Worldcon 76, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. She has two nominations at Chicon 8, first for Best Semi Prozine as part of the Escape Pod team, second for Best Editor, Short Form with S.B. Divya. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NO THERE THERE. GameRant warns that this “steelbook” collectible doesn’t include a copy of the series: “WandaVision Steelbook Release Is Missing An Actual Blu-Ray Copy”.

WandaVision is the first Disney Plus series to have a physical release, but the upcoming steelbook doesn’t actually include any discs or a download code.

The steelbook set includes a case, full slip, folder, envelope, character cards, and stickers, but the lack of actual physical media may turn fans off.

The decision to release a steelbook without including the series itself seems odd and could be seen as a disappointment, especially considering Disney’s recent removal of other series from its streaming platform…

(13) NASFIC COVERAGE. “Winnipeg hosts first Canadian version of international science fiction convention” at CTV News Winnipeg

…Unlike other “comic-cons,” Pemmi-Con makes a point of bringing in scientists as well as science fiction content creators. Canadian paleontologist Phillip John Currie is speaking about Jurassic Park-inspired fiction and dinosaur art and will be participating on a panel about recent scientific discoveries.

Other guests include biologist and author Julie E. Czerneda, Captain Canuck comic creator George Freeman, and Indigenous author Waubgeshig Rice.

“One of the things we’re trying to do this year is…emphasize Indigenous contributions to Canadian science fiction and fantasy,” Smith said.

The convention takes a different name every year relating to its location. Pemmi-Con is an homage to pemmican, a popular Metis dish in Manitoba. Smith said NASFiC attracts a worldwide audience….

(14) TECHNOLOGY NEVER DIES. Especially when somebody is devoted to keeping it around like the people who host the Mimeograph Revival website.

Mimeograph Revival is dedicated to preserving the printing technologies of an earlier era – with a particular emphasis on the stencil duplicator, the hectograph, and (maybe, as this is still a work in progress) the spirit duplicator. These are the techniques, machines, and processes that have fallen by the wayside, been relegated to “obsolete” status, and nearly forgotten.

Once ubiquitous, these machines ushered in an era in which it became possible for individuals and organizations, including clubs, fraternal organizations, churches, and schools, to quickly, easily, and cheaply reproduce printed matter. 

There’s not too much fannish content, however, the “Personal Narratives” section has a wonderful anecdote by Jeff Schalles.

Jeff Schalles, fanzine creator, printer, and founder of the facebook Mimeograph Users Group left the following story here at M. R. one day. A little historical documentation personal-narrative-style:

A while ago I was contacted by a researcher working for National Geographic Magazine. She was looking for material for an article on mimeo and ditto printing of the Greenwich Village Beat poets and writers scene and poetry chapbook creaters of the 1950’s.

I responded by suggesting she contact the late Lee Hoffman concerning the gatherings in her Greenwich Village apartment, where musicians like Dave Van Ronk and the poets, writers, musicians, and other local Beats, would jam all night. Lee had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and taped many of the parties.

Lee also had a mimeograph and produced Science Fiction fanzines, including the long-running “Science Fiction Five Yearly” published every five years until Lee died sometime in the early 21st Century. The print runs were short and there are few copies of SF Five Yearly around. Geri Sullivan and I edited and mimeo’d two of the later issues for Lee. Harlan Ellison had a long-running serial in every issue and never missed a deadline until Lee’s death finally ended the run of Science Fiction Five Yearly.

The Geographic researcher was only interested in “The Mimeograph Revolution” and its beginnings. Her response to my suggestion that she contact Lee, who was by then living in Florida, was that there was… absolutely, positively, no connection between the Beats and Science Fiction Fandom. She was very rude to me, and obviously had no interest and little knowledge of SF Fandom. I just sighed and stopped corresponding with her. I blame Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of National Geographic for hiring an idiot like her.

I’m of the opinion that SF fan mimeographers like Ted White, who had a small basement mimeograph print shop in the Village, had something to do with teaching the Beats how to use the technology. The Geographic researcher insisted that was impossible, and that SF Fandom was just a bunch of teenage amateurs amounting to nothing.

I’ve asked around to see if any of Lee’s party tapes survived, but no one ever got back to me, so I suspect they were tossed in a dumpster.

(15) NETFLIX PASSWORD CRACKDOWN: HOW HAS PERFORMANCE CHANGED? With the recent news about Netflix changes and its growth, JustWatch has put together a graphic about the global market shares of streaming services and how Netflix performed over the last 2 years.

In brief, global streaming giant Netflix found a way to restore its former glory after losing -3% market share in 2022. Launching a “Basic with Ads” brought back some interest, however the key move was introducing password sharing crackdown, as they gained nearly 6 million subscribers in the last three months.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ahsoka, a Star Wars Original series, begins streaming August 23 on Disney+.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/6/23 The Felix Felis Flattus Sat On The Mat

(1) DRAGON PRESERVATION SOCIETY? A Twitter user with 90K followers who goes by the handle Aristophanes claims to be incensed that works like John Scalzi’s Kaiju Preservation Society become Dragon Award finalists. As a remedy he is calling for people to band together and nominate all the works on his ticket. Can the Dragon Awards be saved? How would we know if they aren’t? Thread starts here.

The Dragon Award’s policy is to encourage people to campaign for fan support. Always has been. So this appeal violates no rule, written or otherwise. My only question about his list is — can it really be a Dragon Awards slate without a book by Declan Finn on it? This will be the first one without him I’ve ever seen!!

(2) FOUNDATION. Apple TV+ has released a second trailer for “Foundation — Season 2”.

More than a century after the Season 1 finale, tension mounts throughout the galaxy. As the Cleons unravel, a vengeful queen plots to destroy Empire from within. Hari, Gaal, and Salvor discover a colony of Mentalics with special abilities that threaten to alter psychohistory itself. Meanwhile, the Foundation and Empire are on a collision course for war with the fate of humanity in the balance.

(3) HOW MANY NAMES? Best Semiprozine finalist Strange Horizons tells how this year’s Hugo Administrator clawed back the progress SH had made in getting their full team listed. (They weren’t the only ones affected by the policy change, of course.) Thread starts here.

(4) JMS AT SDCC. “Babylon 5 Cast Set for San Diego Comic-Con 2023” reports the SDCC Unofficial Blog.

…While writer and series creator J. Michael Straczynski has been teasing for months that he will be at the convention with lots to talk about the new animated film, Babylon 5: The Road Home, we’ve got our first look at just what that appearance will likely entail.

The upcoming animated film continues the story of the 1990’s space opera series, as John Sheridan unexpectedly finds himself transported through multiple timelines and alternate realities in a quest to find his way back home. Most of the cast is returning for the film, including Bruce Boxleitner as John Sheridan, Claudia Christian as Susan Ivanova, Peter Jurasik as Londo Mollari, Bill Mumy as Lennier, Tracy Scoggins as Elizabeth Lochley and Patricia Tallman as Lyta Alexander.

Patricia Tallman revealed on Instagram that she will indeed be at the convention — and so will most of her castmates.

Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, Tracy Scoggins, and Patricia Tallman will be signing in the Sails Pavilion on Saturday, July 22 from 11am-12pm, which certainly ups the odds of a panel with cast in appearance.

Patricia Tallman will also be signing on her own from 2:30pm-7pm on both Thursday, July 20 and Friday, July 21, and fans can pre-order her Pleasure Thresholds, a Babylon 5 Memoir, for $30 (or $40 if you purchase at the con). Copies can be autographed and personalized…. 

(5) IO9 COLLIDES WITH THE UNPLEASANT FUTURE. “‘F*cking Dogsh*t’: G/O Media Editor Tears Into Management Over ‘Embarrassing’ AI-Generated Article ‘Riddled With Basic Errors’” at Mediate.

James Whitbrook, the deputy editor of G/O Media’s Gizmodo and its subsection io9, tore into management on Wednesday after the company published a “shoddily written” AI-generated article “riddled with basic errors.”

After it was revealed last week that G/O Media would begin rolling out articles generated by artificial intelligence, GMG Union — which represents many of the news outlets under G/O Media’s banner, including Gizmodo — protested the introduction of “computer-generated garbage” which “erodes trust in us as journalists, damages our brands, and threatens our jobs.”

Despite the protests of the union, however, G/O Media moved forward with its controversial decision this week.

“A Chronological List of Star Wars Movies & TV Shows” by “Gizmodo Bot” appeared on G/O Media’s tech and science news website on Wednesday, only to be swiftly ridiculed by social media users for messing up the chronological order of the franchise.

In a Twitter post, the deputy editor of the site revealed he had only been “informed approximately 10 minutes” before the article went live and that “no one at io9 played a part in its editing or publication.” In his own “personal comment,” Whitbrook added, “It’s fucking dogshit.”

Whitbrook also published the letter he sent to the management of G/O Media, which read:

“For 15 years, io9 has grown an audience that demands quality coverage of genre entertainment, from critical analysis, to insightful explainers, to accurate news and industry-shaping investigative reporting. These readers have grown io9 into one of the best performing desks at Gizmodo, G/O Media’s flagship site in terms of traffic, and they have done so by rigorously holding this team and the colleagues that came before us to a standard of expertise and accuracy that we have been proud to achieve. The article published on io9 today rejects the very standards this team holds itself to on a daily basis as critics and as reporters. It is shoddily written, it is riddled with basic errors; in closing the comments section off, it denies our readers, the lifeblood of this network, the chance to publicly hold us accountable, and to call this work exactly what it is: embarrassing, unpublishable, disrespectful of both the audience and the people who work here, and a blow to our authority and integrity. It is shameful that this work has been put to our audience and to our peers in the industry as a window to G/O’s future, and it is shameful that we as a team have had to spend an egregious amount of time away from our actual work to make it clear to you the unacceptable errors made in publishing this piece.”

(6) BURP! The Guardian, meanwhile, is there when “Authors file a lawsuit against OpenAI for unlawfully ‘ingesting’ their books”. One of them is Paul Tremblay.

Two authors have filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, the company behind the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, claiming that the organisation breached copyright law by “training” its model on novels without the permission of authors.

Mona Awad, whose books include Bunny and 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, and Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World, filed the class action complaint to a San Francisco federal court last week.

ChatGPT allows users to ask questions and type commands into a chatbot and responds with text that resembles human language patterns. The model underlying ChatGPT is trained with data that is publicly available on the internet.

Yet, Awad and Tremblay believe their books, which are copyrighted, were unlawfully “ingested” and “used to train” ChatGPT because the chatbot generated “very accurate summaries” of the novels, according to the complaint. Sample summaries are included in the lawsuit as exhibits….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

2010 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Catherynne M. Valente’s an amazing individual. I’m proud to say that I’ve had coffee with her as she lives here in this city. And her writing is just as stellar as she is. 

No Hugos so far but she has won Otherwise and Mythopoeic Awards for The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden (both Awards) and The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice (Mythopoeic). She also has won an Andre Norton Award.

Her other great series is the Fairyland series centered around twelve year-old September. And that’s all I’m saying about this delightful affair. Our Beginning is from the debut novel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. 

It was first published online on her site but she’s taken that down. The first print edition was by Feiwel and Friends thirteen years ago. It was an independent publisher that has since been acquired by Macmillan.

So here’s our Beginning…

EXEUNT ON A LEOPARD In Which a Girl Named September Is Spirited Off by Means of a Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle 

Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her and flew to her window one evening just after her twelfth birthday. He was dressed in a green smoking jacket, and a green carriage-driver’s cloak, and green jodhpurs, and green snowshoes. It is very cold above the clouds in the shantytowns where the Six Winds live. 

“You seem an ill-tempered and irascible enough child,” said the Green Wind.

“How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes and be delivered to the great sea, which borders Fairyland? I am afraid I cannot go in, as Harsh Airs are not allowed, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Perverse and Perilous Sea.

“Oh, yes!” breathed September, who disapproved deeply of pink-and-yellow teacups and also of small and amiable dogs.

“Well, then, come and sit by me, and do not pull too harshly on my Leopard’s fur, as she bites.” 

September climbed out of her kitchen window, leaving a sink full of soapy pink-and-yellow teacups with leaves still clinging to their bottoms in portentous shapes. One of them looked a bit like her father in his long coffee-colored trench coat, gone away over the sea with a rifle and gleaming things on his hat. One of them looked a bit like her mother, bending over a stubborn airplane engine in her work overalls, her arm muscles bulging. One of them looked a bit like a squashed cabbage. The Green Wind held out his hand, snug in a green glove, and September took both his hands and a very deep breath. One of her shoes came loose as she hoisted herself over the sill, and this will be important later, so let us take a moment to bid farewell to her prim little mary jane with its brass buckle as it clatters onto the parquet floor. Good-bye, shoe! September will miss you soon.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 6, 1945 — Burt Ward, 78. Robin in that Batman series. He would reprise the role in voicing the character in The New Adventures of Batman and Legends of the Superheroes, and two recent animated films, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face. (Has anyone seen these?) The latter are the last work done by Adam West before his death. 
  • Born July 6, 1946 — Sylvester Stallone, 77. Although I think Stallone made a far less than perfect Dredd, I think the look and feel of the first film was spot on for the film which was something the second film, which had a perfect Dredd in Karl Urban, utterly lacked. And Demolition Man and him as Sergeant John Spartan were just perfect. 
  • Born July 6, 1950 — John Byrne, 73. A stellar comic book artist and writer. He’s done far too much to detail here so I’ll just single out that he scripted the first four issues of Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, was the writer and artist on the excellent Blood of the Demon from 1-17 and responsible for Spider-Man: Chapter One which took a great deal of flak. 
  • Born July 6, 1951 — Rick Sternbach, 72. Best-known for his work in the Trek verse starting with ST: TMP where he designed control panel layouts and signage for the Enterprise. He’s next hired for Next Gen where communicator badge, phasers, PADDs and tricorders are all based on his designs. These designs will also be used on DS9 and Voyager. He also pretty much designed every starship during that time from the Cardassian and Klingon to the Voyager itself. He would win the Best Professional Artist Hugo at SunCon and IguanaCon II.
  • Born July 6, 1951 — Geoffrey Rush, 72. First genre role is like the Mystery Men series which I’ll bet everyone has forgotten, followed by House on Haunted HillFinding Nemo and some other genre work as well with his major genre role being as Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And I’ll include his role in Shakespeare in Love as Philip Henslowe even if strictly speaking it’s not genre related as I really, really love that film. 
  • Born July 6, 1952 — Hilary Mantel. Though best remembered as the author of the Wolf Hall franchise, she’s actually written some genre fiction. The Mysterious Stranger involves supernatural occurrences in a small British town in the Fifties; and Beyond Black is about a psychic who sees more than she wants to. She also indulged in alternative history in the short story, “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983”. (Died 2022.)
  • Born July 6, 1980 — Eva Green, 43. First crosses our paths in Casino Royale as Vesper Lynd followed by Serafina Pekkala in The Golden Compass, and then Angelique Bouchard Collins in Dark Shadows. Ava Lord in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (weird films those definitely are) with a decided move sideways into being Miss Alma Peregrine for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. And she was Colette Marchant in Dumbo. She’s got two series roles to her credit, Morgan Pendragon in Camelot and Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful.

(9) TITAN COMICS GOODIES AT SDCC. The Titan Booth #5537 at San Diego Comic-Con 2023 will be the place to get some limited availability merchandise. Some of it looks pretty cute, like these pins.

  • Doctor Who: Thirteen Piece TARDIS Enamel Pin Collection

Titan Booth #5537 at SDCC 2023 is the only opportunity for US Doctor Who fans to buy this EXCLUSIVE Thirteen Piece TARDIS Enamel Pin Collection. Please note: this beautiful, one-of-a-kind TARDIS collection will be available from Titan Booth #5537 from Preview Night (Wednesday July 19th). Numbers are EXTREMELY LIMITED. First come, first served.

And there will be some collectible figures available, too.

  • Doctor Who: Fourteenth Doctor 3″ Kawaii TITAN Vinyl Figure
  • Doctor Who: Fourteenth Doctor 3″ Classic TITAN Vinyl Figure

David Tennant’s upcoming Fourteenth Doctor arrives in San Diego as a pair of separately-packaged, separately-available EXCLUSIVE 3” TITANS Vinyl Figures. Both releases (3” Kawaii Fourteenth Doctor and 3” Classic Fourteenth Doctor) are available from Titan Booth #5537.

  • My Hero Academia: Dabi 3″ Glow-In-The-Dark Kawaii TITAN Vinyl Figure
  • My Hero Academia: Shigaraki 3″ Glow-In-The-Dark Kawaii TITAN Vinyl Figure

My Hero Academia TITANS Viny Figures return to Titan Booth #5537 as a pair of separately-packaged, separately-available San Diego EXCLUSIVE 3” Kawaii TITANS Vinyl Figures. Both releases (Dabi and Shigaraki) feature Glow-In-The-Dark effects and are available from Titan Booth #5537.

(10) CARVING UP THE STREAMING MARKET. JustWatch has shared their graphs about the market shares of streaming services for the second quarter in 2023.

SVOD market shares in Q2 2023
Prime Video continues to hold down the streaming crown in the US with a 1% lead over global giant, Netflix. Major players: Max and Disney+ also face similar challenges with a 2% gap separating the two.

Market share development in 2023
Newly rebranded streaming giant: Max (formerly HBO Max) displays positive development, gaining +1%; Paramount+ also won with a +1% increase in shares. On the other hand, Disney+ and Hulu drop in shares, suffering -1% losses each.

(11) SURF’S UP. Nature reports “Monster gravitational waves spotted for first time”. “Using beacon stars called pulsars, a decades-long effort has found space-time ripples that are light years wide.”

Gravitational waves are back, and they’re bigger than ever.

After the historic first detection of the space-time rattles in 2015 using ground-based detectors, researchers could have now rediscovered Albert Einstein’s waves with an entirely different technique. The approach tracks changes in the distances between Earth and beacon stars in its Galactic neighbourhood called pulsars, which reveal how the space in between is stretched and squeezed by the passage of gravitational waves.

Whereas the original discovery spotted waves originating from the collision and merger of two star-sized black holes, the most likely source of the latest finding is the combined signal from many pairs of much larger black holes — millions or even billions of times the mass of the Sun — slowly orbiting each other in the hearts of distant galaxies. These waves are thousands of times stronger and longer than those found in 2015, with wavelengths of up to tens of light years. By contrast, the ripples detected since 2015 using a technique called interferometry are just tens or hundreds of kilometres long.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George shows the many advantages that would come our way “If We Stopped Using Numbers”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, 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 Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 5/28/23 We’re All The Children Of Pixels, Ancient Pixels Who Gave Birth To All Intelligence

(1) NAILED TO THE INTERNET DOOR. Finding that professional organizations aren’t moving quickly enough, Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke has drafted his own “AI statement”.

I’ve complained that various publishing industry groups have been slow to respond to recent developments in AI, like LLMs. Over the last week, I’ve been tinkering with a series of “belief” statements that other industry folks could sign onto…. 

Here are five of his 22 credos:

Where We Stand on AI in Publishing

We believe that AI technologies will likely create significant breakthroughs in a wide range of fields, but that those gains should be earned through the ethical use and acquisition of data.

We believe that “fair use” exceptions with regards to authors’, artists’, translators’, and narrators’ creative output should not apply to the training of AI technologies, such as LLMs, and that explicit consent to use those works should be required.

We believe that the increased speed of progress achieved by acquiring AI training data without consent is not an adequate or legitimate excuse to continue employing those practices.

We believe that AI technologies also have the potential to create significant harm and that to help mitigate some of that damage, the companies producing these tools should be required to provide easily-available, inexpensive (or subsidized), and reliable detection tools.

We believe that detection and detection-avoidance will be locked in a never-ending struggle similar to that seen in computer virus and anti-virus development, but that it is critically important that detection not continue to be downplayed…

(2) IN CHARACTER IN THE UKRAINE. “Mark Hamill voices air raid warnings in Ukraine as Luke Skywalker” reports The Verge.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill has lent his voice to a Ukrainian air raid app to warn citizens of incoming attacks during the ongoing conflict with Russia. “Attention. Air raid alert. Proceed to the nearest shelter,” says Hamill over Air Alert, an app linked to Ukraine’s air defense system. When the threat has passed, Hamill signs off with “The alert is over. May the Force be with you.”

Invoking his beloved Luke Skywalker character, some of the lines contain recognizable quotes from the Star Wars franchise like “Don’t be careless. Your overconfidence is your weakness.” You can hear a few lines in the following video starting around 56 seconds in:

(3) SIGNS OF THE TIMES. Melinda Snodgrass, George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman joined the writers strike picket line in Santa Fe earlier this week. Snodgrass shared photos on Facebook.

Walked the picket line for six hours today. Guys, we have to win this one, but what a day I met David Seidler who wrote The King’s Speech. I love that movie, I found it so deeply moving.

Of course George RR was there, and Neil Gaiman joined us as well. We had playwrights and directors, actors supporting us.

Nnedi Okorafor was on the picket line, too.

(4) CALL FOR JUDGES. Australian residents are invited to become Aurealis Awards judges. Full details at the link.

…We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2022 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category.

It is vital that judges be able to work as part of a team and meet stringent deadlines, including timely recording of scores and comments for each entry (in a confidential shared file), and responding to panel messages and discussions. Most of the panel discussions are conducted via email, with some panels choosing to have a synchronous online meeting to make final decisions….

(5) DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD. The 2023 winner of the Dublin Literary Award was announced on May 25. It is a non-genre work, Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp, translated from the original German by Jo Heinrich.

Since 1996, the Dublin Literary Award has honoured excellence in world literature. Presented annually, the Award is one of the most significant literature prizes in the world and unique in that the books are nominated by libraries from cities around the world. The award is worth €100,000 for a single work of international fiction written or a work of fiction translated into English.

(6) BOOKS TO GROW ON. BBC Culture polled 177 books experts from 56 countries in order to find “The 100 greatest children’s books of all time”. The top 10 books on the list are:

1          Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak, 1963)
2          Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
3          Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren, 1945)
4          The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)
5          The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien, 1937)
6          Northern Lights (Philip Pullman, 1995)
7          The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis, 1950)
8          Winnie-the-Pooh (AA Milne and EH Shepard, 1926)
9          Charlotte’s Web (EB White and Garth Williams, 1952)
10        Matilda (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1988)

I’ve only read 26 – til now I thought I was a literate child!

(7) MICHAEL BUTTERWORTH’S “CIRCULARISATIONS”. Space Cowboy Books and Art Queen Gallery will display works by Michael Butterworth from June through July 2023, with an opening reception on June 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Register for free here.

In 1969 U.K. poet, author, editor, publisher, and bookseller Michael Butterworth published his “Circularisations” in New Worlds Magazine, a new form of graphic poetry designed to create a new way of reading. These literary experiments will be on display at the Art Queen Gallery in Joshua Tree, CA through June and July 2023, with an opening reception on June 17th. Selections of Butterworth’s poetry will be read during live musical performances from Phog Masheeen and Field Collapse, followed by a special screening of Clara Casian’s minidocumentary “House on the Borderland”, a film about Butterworth and his work.

The exhibit follows the release of Butterworth’s Complete Poems 1965-2020 from Space Cowboy Books, and the accompanying musical audiobook, Selected Poems 1965-2020. Books can be found at https://bookshop.org/a/197/9781732825772

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2012[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Jay Lake’s The Stars Do Not Lie novella is the source of our Beginning this Scroll.  It was first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in the October-November 2012 edition.  It would be nominated at the LoneStarCon 3 for a Hugo. It was nominated for a Nebula as well. 

I first encountered him in his work that he did for the John Scalzi-created  METAtropolis series. “The Bull Dancers” is one of his stories there and it’s quite excellent. And his steampunkish Mainspring series is well-worth reading.

Need I say I died way too young?

And now that Beginning…

In the beginnings, the Increate did reach down into the world and where They laid Their hand was all life touched and blossomed and brought forth from water, fire, earth and air. In eight gardens were the Increate’s children raised, each to have dominion over one of the eight points of the Earth. The Increate gave to men Their will, Their word, and Their love. These we Their children have carried forward into the opening of the world down all the years of men since those first days.

— Librum Vita, 

Beginnings 1: 1-4; 

being the Book of Life and word entire of the Increate

Morgan Abutti; B.Sc. Bio.; M.Sc. Arch.; Ph.D. Astr. & Nat, Sci.; 4th degree Thalassocrete; Member, Planetary Society; and Associate Fellow of the New Garaden Institute, stared at the map that covered the interior wall of his tiny office in the Institute’s substantial brownstone in downtown Highpassage. The new electricks were still being installed by brawny, nimble-fingered men of crafty purpose who often smelled a bit of smoke and burnt cloth. Thus his view was dominated by a flickering quality of light that would have done justice to a smoldering hearth, or a wandering planet low in the pre-dawn sky. The gaslamp men were complaining of the innovations, demonstrating under Lateran banners each morning down by the Thalassojustity Palace in their unruly droves.

He despised the rudeness of the laboring classes. Almost to a man, they were palefaced fools who expected something for nothing, as if simply picking up a wrench could grant a man worth. 

Turning his attentions away from the larger issues of political economy and surplus value, he focused once more on history. 

Or religion.

Honestly, Morgan was never quite certain of the difference any more. Judging from the notes and diagrams limned up and down the side of the wide rosewood panel in their charmingly archaic style, the map had been painted about a century earlier for some long-dead theohistoriographer. The Eight Gardens of the Increate were called out in tiny citrons that somehow had survived the intervening years without being looted by hungry servants or thirsty undergraduates. Morgan traced his hand over the map, fingers sliding across the pitted patina of varnish and oil soap marking the attentions of generations of charwomen.

Eufrat. 

Quathlamba. 

Ganj. Manju. 

Wy’east. 

Tunsa. 

Antiskuna. 

Cycladia.

The homes of man. Archaeological science was clear enough. Thanks to the work of natural scientists of the past century, so was the ethnography. The Increate had placed the human race upon this Earth. That was absolutely clear. Just as the priests of the Lateran had always taught, nothing of humanity was older than the villages of the Gardens of the Increate. 

Nothing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 28, 1908 Ian Fleming. Author of the James Bond series which is at least genre adjacent if not actually genre in some cases such as Moonraker. The film series was much more genre than the source material. And then there’s the delightful Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car. The film version was produced by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, who had already made five James Bond films. Fleming, a heavy smoker and drinker his entire adult life, died of a heart attack, his second in three years. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 28, 1919 Don Day. A fan active in the 1940s and ’50s In Portland, Oregon, and a member of the local club. He was editor of The Fanscient (and of its parody, Fan-Scent), and perhaps the greatest of the early bibliographers of sf. He published bibliographies in The Fanscient and also published the Day Index, the Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950. He ran Perri Press, a small press which produced The Fanscient and the Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950.  He chaired NorWesCon, the 1950 Worldcon, after the resignation of Jack de Courcy. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 28, 1929 Shane Rimmer. A Canadian actor and voice actor,  best remembered for being the voice of Scott Tracy in puppet based Thunderbirds during the Sixties. Less known was that he was in Dr. Strangelove as Captain “Ace” Owens, and Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die in uncredited roles. He even shows up in Star Wars as a Rebel Fighter Technician, again uncredited. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 28, 1951 Sherwood Smith, 72. YA writer best known for her Wren  series. She’s also co-authored The Change Series with Rachel Manija Brown. She also co-authored two novels with Andre Norton, Derelict for Trade and A Mind for Trade.
  • Born May 28, 1954 Betsy Mitchell, 69. Editorial freelancer specializing in genre works. She was the editor-in-chief of Del Rey Books. Previously, she was the Associate Publisher of Bantam Spectra when they held the license to publish Star Wars novels in the Nineties.
  • Born May 28, 1977 Ursula Vernon aka T. Kingfisher, 46. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning graphic novel Digger which was a webcomic from 2003 to 2011. Vernon is creator of “The Biting Pear of Salamanca” art which became an internet meme in the form of the LOL WUT pear. She also won Hugos for her “Tomato Thief” novelette and “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” short story, and a Nebula for her short story “Jackalope Wives”. As T. Kingfisher she has won three Dragon Awards, one of them for A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, which also won the Andre Norton Award and the Lodestone Award.
  • Born May 28, 1984 Max Gladstone, 39. His debut novel, Three Parts Dead, is part of the Craft Sequence series, and his shared Bookburners serial is most excellent. This Is How You Lose the Time War (co-written with Amal El-Mohtar) won a Hugo Award for Best Novella at CoNZealand. It also won an Aurora, BSFA, Ignyte, Locus and a Nebula. 
  • Born May 28, 1985 Carey Mulligan, 38. She’s here because she shows up in a very scary Tenth Doctor story, “Blink”, in which she plays Sally Sparrow. Genre adjacent, she was in Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Sittaford Mystery as Violet Willett. (Christie gets a shout-out in another Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”.) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] On Friday’s episode of Jeopardy!, the Double Jeopardy round had a category called “You Just Made That Stuff Up”, about fictional substances. The first-level clue was a non-SFF one involving Monty Python, but the rest involved SFF:

$800: Kyber crystals, which are attuned to the Force, glow either blue or green & power these weapons

Alice Ciciora associated these with lightsabers.

$1200: First mentioned in a 1943 “Adventures of Superman” radio show, when it debuted in the comics in 1949, it was red, not green

Returning champion Jesse Chin got this one.

$1600: It’s the very hard-to-get substance that causes humans to set up shop on Pandora

This was a Daily Double, and Jesse got $4000 from responding “What is unobtainium?”

$2000: This super-bouncy stuff from Disney’s much-loved 1961 “The Absent-Minded Professor” was the title of a 1997 remake

Alice knew it was Flubber.

(12) ANIME ANALYSIS. In episode 8 of the Anime Explorations podcast, they’re covering speculative fiction anime with the first season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, covering the Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency arcs of the story: “Phantom Blood + Battle Tendency”.

(13) FASHION REBELLION. Variety has a critique of the latest outfits from far away and long, long ago. “’Andor’ Costume Designers Break Down Looks of Mon Mothma, Luthen Rael”.

With the “Star Wars” universe serving as the DNA for Disney+’s “Andor,” costume designer Michael Wilkinson could honor a legacy while leaning into a new world.

For Diego Luna’s Cassian, Wilkinson draped him in warm, earthy tones with fabrics that were textural.

When audiences first meet him, he’s in “beautiful oilcloth from old leather jackets with iconic details such as a high neckline and a hood.” By the end, the silhouettes become leaner and streamlined. 

“He has a beautiful tailored long-length linen coat that we made for him that moves beautifully for all the action sequences. It’s a grown-up silhouette.”To outfit Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma, he looked at prominent people, including leading senators and United Nations members, keeping power dressing in mind.  “I imagined to what extent the futuristic off-planet version of that would look like,” he says. “I leaned into the pale neutral tones.”

Her blue senate robe with a gold lining is “extremely architectural and quite austere,” Wilkinson says. “With her, there was a lot of adventurous tailoring and an exploration of silhouettes and layering that we did in her costumes, which reflect her switched-on sophisticated sense of aesthetics.”

Clothing for Mon Mothma’s more private moments “where the mask slips” hint at another side of her personality. Wilkinson relaxed her silhouette when Tay Kolma (Ben Miles) visits, for example, giving her outfit a flowing look…. 

(14) WORSE THAN INAPPOSITE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Another author used ChatGPT to beef up their prose a bit. The problem was, said author was an attorney and what they were writing was a legal brief. None of the cases cited by ChatGPT existed. I believe the legal term for this is advocatus stultus es

“A lawyer used ChatGPT for legal filing. The chatbot cited nonexistent cases it just made up” reports Mashable.

… It all starts with the case in question, Mata v. Avianca. According to the New York Times, an Avianca customer named Roberto Mata was suing the airline after a serving cart injured his knee during a flight. Avianca attempted to get a judge to dismiss the case. In response, Mata’s lawyers objected and submitted a brief filled with a slew of similar court decisions in the past. And that’s where ChatGPT came in.

Schwartz, Mata’s lawyer who filed the case in state court and then provided legal research once it was transferred to Manhattan federal court, said he used OpenAI’s popular chatbot in order to “supplement” his own findings.

ChatGPT provided Schwartz with multiple names of similar cases: Varghese v. China Southern Airlines, Shaboon v. Egyptair, Petersen v. Iran Air, Martinez v. Delta Airlines, Estate of Durden v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Miller v. United Airlines.

The problem? ChatGPT completely made up all those cases. They do not exist.

Avianca’s legal team and the judge assigned to this case soon realized they could not locate any of these court decisions. This led to Schwartz explaining what happened in an affidavit on Thursday. The lawyer had referred to ChatGPT for help with his filing.

According to Schwartz, he was “unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.” The lawyer even provided screenshots to the judge of his interactions with ChatGPT, asking the AI chatbot if one of the cases were real. ChatGPT responded that it was. It even confirmed that the cases could be found in “reputable legal databases.” Again, none of them could be found because the cases were all created by the chatbot….

(15) FATAL MISTAKE. The New York Times says it is now known that the “Japanese Moon Lander Crashed Because It Was Still Three Miles Up, Not on the Ground”.

A software glitch caused a Japanese robotic spacecraft to misjudge its altitude as it attempted to land on the moon last month leading to its crash, an investigation has revealed.

Ispace of Japan said in a news conference on Friday that it had finished its analysis of what went wrong during the landing attempt on April 25. The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander completed its planned landing sequence, slowing to a speed of about 2 miles per hour. But it was still about three miles above the surface. After exhausting its fuel, the spacecraft plunged to its destruction, hitting the Atlas crater at more than 200 miles per hour.

The lander was to be the first private spacecraft to successfully set down on the surface of the moon. It is part of a trend toward private companies, not just governmental space agencies, taking a leading role in space exploration….

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