Pixel Scroll 3/16/22 I Had It, But I Traded It For These Magic Beans

(1) PLANETARY SOCIETY GRANTS. The first-ever winners of The Planetary Society’s Science and Technology Empowered by the Public (STEP) Grants were announced today. These are planetary science and/or technology grants that fit within one or more of The Planetary Society’s core enterprises (Explore WorldsFind LifeDefend Earth). “Announcing the First-Ever STEP Grant Winners”. The two winning projects are a radio SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) citizen science project, and a planetary defense project to use a new technique to study near-Earth asteroids. 

Are We Alone?

We have awarded US$49,980 to a team from the University of California Los Angeles led by Professor Jean-Luc Margot for their proposal “Are We Alone? A Citizen-Science-Enabled Search for Technosignatures.”

The search for life elsewhere in the universe seeks to answer one of the most fundamental questions: are we alone? One part of this search involves looking for signals from elsewhere in the universe sent by intelligent life. Looking for signals is like searching for a needle in a very enormous haystack. Over the decades, though no confirmed signal from ET has been found, the technology and the techniques have gotten more and more capable.

Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids

We have awarded US$44,842 to a team from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, led by Professor Bojan Novakovi? for their proposal “Demystifying Near-Earth Asteroids (D-NEAs).”

Tens of thousands of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) have been found, but we only know the physical properties of a small percentage. Asteroids can range from solid rock to collections of boulders to fluff balls. Understanding these characteristics for individual NEAs as well as entire NEA populations is crucial to not only the science of asteroid evolution and variability, but also to considerations of how to deflect a dangerous asteroid in the future.

(2) CARNEGIE AND GREENAWAY MEDAL SHORTLISTS. The shortlists for the Yoto Carnegie and Yoto Kate Greenaway Awards 2022 were announced today. I couldn’t find any genre works in the mix, perhaps you will be more discerning.

The 2022 Yoto Carnegie Medal (alphabetical by author surname):

  • October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding (Bloomsbury)
  • Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle (Andersen Press)
  • Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber)
  • The Crossing by Manjeet Mann (Penguin Children’s Books)
  • Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada (Guppy Books)
  • Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle (Andersen Press)
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

The 2022 Yoto Kate Greenaway Medal (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

  • Drawn Across Borders illustrated and written by George Butler (Walker Books)
  • The Midnight Fair illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio, written by Gideon Sterer (Walker Books)
  • Too Much Stuff illustrated and written by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Long Way Down illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff, written by Jason Reynolds (Faber)
  • Milo Imagines the World illustrated by Christian Robinson, written by Matt de la Pena (Two Hoots, Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • Shu Lin’s Grandpa illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Matt Goodfellow (Otter-Barry Books)
  • I Talk Like a River illustrated by Sydney Smith, written by Jordan Scott (Walker Books)
  • The Wanderer illustrated and written by Peter Van den Ende (Pushkin Children’s Books)

(3) NASFIC SAFETY. The Orlando in 2023 NASFiC Bid defends one city in Florida’s LGBTQIA+ record. This is just the beginning:

We’ve seen some of you ask about how friendly Orlando is to the LGBTQIA+ community and whether you will be safe coming to Orlando for the 2023 NASFiC. Those are excellent questions to ask, and we have answers for you.

The short answer: Orlando is one of the most LGBTQIA+ friendly cities in the entire country. You will be welcomed, and you will be safe.

Period.

Full stop.

Have you noticed how people who like the “Period. Full stop” idiom always have so much to say after it?

(4) OPPOSITION TO 2023 WORLDCON IN CHENGDU. Sarah Mughal Rana, organizer of the Open Letter condemning China as host of the 2023 Worldcon, had two opinion pieces about the issue published today.  

The first, at Winteriscoming.net, “Dear World(con): Don’t host the Hugos amidst Uyghur concentration camps”, fleshes out these arguments:

  • The development of Chengdu as a sci-fi and tech center is contributing to genocide
  • Chengdu Worldcon has problematic Guests of Honor
  • Turkic authors, publishers, and intellectuals are persecuted in China
  • Condemning Worldcon is not the result of Western bias
  • Holding Chengdu Worldcon goes against artistic values

The second, at The Bookseller, “Science fiction’s moral reckoning: why we must block Worldcon Chengdu”, says in part —

…As an activist who, only one month ago, organised a protest over the Beijing Winter Olympics in light of the Uyghur genocide, I was stunned by the writing community’s support of the Chengdu 2023 Worldcon bid. It is not rare for authors to get involved in politics, as evidenced by well-known authors such as Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie, Holly Black, and more announcing their intentions not to renew their releases with Russian publishers in support of Ukraine. However, in the case of Chengdu, China – no one resisted.

…Supporting and attending Worldcon 2023 makes us hypocrites. Writers create characters that oppose entrenched power structures, malicious regimes, status quos and utopias. In science fiction, we use our fiction to draw parallels about reality, unchecked uses of technologies, persecution and surveillancing. Our characters work to overthrow cruel empires; they are the heroes that protect their culture and societies against invasion, injustices and genocide. How can one of the world’s most prestigious writing awards celebrate science fiction’s best stories while millions of Uyghurs are subject to severe persecution? How can we celebrate China’s sci-fi scene when artists, writers and intellectuals of its ethnic minorities are interned in camps or in exile, unable to attend?

Among Chengdu Worldcon’s guests of honour are Sergei Lukyanenko, a bestselling sci-fi writer who has constantly defended Russia’s Ukraine policy, and Liu Cixin, an internationally bestselling Chinese sci-fi writer who was recently hired for SenseTime as a director of Science Fiction Planet Research Center – a tech company that is using sci-fi research to develop immersive artificial intelligence. SenseTime—along with four other firms—is responsible for creating mass surveillance AI systems used to identify and police Uyghurs, Tibetans and other Turkic populations in China. The US has even banned investments into SenseTime for its prominent role in the genocide. The advanced systems include facial and voice recognition, DNA sampling, and racial profiling; these factors are directly responsible for widening the scope of the genocide. But SenseTime is not the only company. Chengdu has invested billions in sci-fi research to attract writers, creators, animation departments, and tech start-ups; these same companies create advanced AI that are is being used to persecute China’s Muslim minorities.

Chengdu is an emerging global sci-fi capital of China, but supporting the sci-fi scene there contributes to the genocide and mass policing of ethnic minorities….

(5) STORY TIME. Simultaneous Times science fiction podcast Special 4 Year Anniversary Episode is a collaboration with Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine: Simultaneous Times Ep.49 – Michael James & J.W. Allen.

Stories featured in this episode:

“Minimum Sage” – by Michael James; music by Phog Masheeen; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

“Systems Strike” – by J.W. Allen; music by RedBlueBlackSilver; read by Jean-Paul Garnier

Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1984 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Thirty-eight years ago today a very silly film called The Ice Pirates premiered. Yes I am editorializing. That’s why my name is on these essays. It was directed by Stewart Raffill, who co-wrote the screenplay with Krull screenwriter Stanford Sherman. Raffill would also direct The Philadelphia Experiment this year. Sherman wrote quite a few Batman episodes and a few of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

The producer was John Foreman who had already done Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and who would later do what was known in the States as The Great Train Robbery which I essayed here on File 770  several weeks back. (Great film and a rather good book as well.)

The primary cast was Robert Urich, Mary Crosby and Michael D. Roberts; but the secondary cast of Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman, Bruce Vilanch, John Carradine was rather notable as well. 

It was supposed to have a rather extravagant budget for a film of its sort at twenty million dollars but MGM had just been slapped quite hard by its bankers as it losing a great deal of money just then and all films then in production were limited by the those bankers to just eight million to spend. So the story goes that Raffill rewrote the script from a hard SF film to a comic SF affair to make less it much dependent on SFX. 

So how did it fare with critics? The New York Times said upon its release that “THE ICE PIRATES,” which opens today at the Warner and other theaters, is a busy, bewildering, exceedingly jokey science-fiction film that looks like a ”Star Wars” spinoff made in an underdeveloped galaxy.” (Raffill for the record denies that it was based off of Star Wars at all.) 

And the Sunday Call-Chronicle said of it that “’The Ice Pirates,’ a cross between ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Monty Python And The Holy Grail,’ is amusingly silly through the first box of popcorn. After that, you’re on your own.” Ouch. 

Box office wise, it likely didn’t make money as it grossed only fourteen million against a budget that eventually hit nine million. So I doubt the bankers were very happy. 

It performs decently but not great at Rotten Tomatoes currently with a score of fifty percent among audience reviewers. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1883 Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. Wiki says she was a president of the United Amateur Press Association but I can’t confirm that elsewhere. And she was married to Lovecraft for two years. Her best-known story is “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” which was revised and edited by Lovecraft and renamed as “The Invisible Monster” when it got published in Weird Tales inNovember 1923. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. He shows up in a recurring role as Number Two on The Prisoner in  “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out”. Other genre appearances include Police Inspector McGill in X the Unknown, Bill Macguire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Professor Moriarty in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Voice of Gwent in “The Infernal Machine” episode of Space: 1999. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard of which she said in interviews that was impressed by Haggard’s novel She at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate her. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 16, 1931 Irene Champlin. Though she was short-lived, she’s remembered most as Dale Arden in the Fifties syndicated Flash Gordon series in which she was both intelligent and resourceful. Her entire acting  career was but three years in length, ending with in appearance on I Spy. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 71. Her best known work is the God Stalker Chronicles series with By Demons Possessed being the current novel. She has dabbled in writing in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague” that was first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. All of the God Stalker Chronicles series are available from the usual suspects. 
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 70. Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. The Rules of Magic was nominated for Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award.
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 51. Hoban “Wash” Washburne  in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.)  He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, he voiced a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on HBO Max, and he was a very irritating Mr. Nobody on the Doom Patrol series also on HBO Max.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville jokes about the multiverse.
  • Bizarro injects a moment of horror into the lives of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man family.

(9) THE SPRING BEFORE THE SUMMER OF LOVE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I’m at Galactic Journey today, reviewing Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman, while my colleague Victoria Silverwolf reviews Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak. Victoria obviously got the better deal: “[March 16, 1967] A Matter of Life and Death (Why Call Them Back From Heaven? by Clifford D. Simak; Tarnsman of Gor, by John Norman)”.

(10) BASEDCON. Robert Kroese is organizing BasedCon 2022, following up last year’s event for alt-right sff authors. That said, I found it hard to resist the honesty of this line in his latest message:

…The biggest challenge once again is going to be money. I’m a moderately successful sci-fi author, which is another way of saying that I am poor…. 

(11) MERCIFUL MAUDE. “Disneyland’s Newest Menu Item Is Its Most Divisive Yet” claims The Takeout.

Though the Disney parks are known for all sorts of innovations, the food continues to be a big draw for many tourists. Some Disney fans go so far as to plan whole trips around sampling as many dishes as possible, and even Florida’s stork population seems to love the food on offer. Disneyland in California, however, has created a dish that might be a little divisive among park guests. I’m having some conflicted feelings about it right now just thinking about it. It’s dessert pasta, and everyone has an opinion.

This peanut butter and jelly pasta is now available at the Nuts About Cheese stand in Disneyland as part of the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival. I want to understand the motivations of whoever created this. Food writer and Takeout contributor Julie Tremaine sampled this new concoction for SFGate and came away with some mixed feelings.

The peanut butter & jelly mac involves macaroni noodles coated in a peanut butter sauce and finished off with a dollop of strawberry jelly, a sprinkle of brown sugar streusel, and a layer of strawberry crackle, which is pretty much just a serving of Pop Rocks….

(12) AFTER HE LANDED. Showtime released a teaser featuring the first five minutes from the new TV series The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on the novel by Walter Tevis and the iconic film starring David Bowie. Deadline reports that the series “will follow a new alien character (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution, and must confront his own past to determine our future.” It debuts April 24 on Showtime.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Free Guy,” the Screen Junkies say the game in Free Guy  is part Grand Theft Auto, part fortnite, and part Nothing at All, because the script was bought in 2016.  And did you know Taika Waititi and Ryan Reynolds worked together in Green Lantern?  Well, they did!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Sarah Mughal Rana, Chris Barkley, Rich Lynch, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/22 Here’s One Weird Trick To Nominate For The Hugos. SMOFS Hate It. Click Here For More

(1) TIME TO PANIC. Nominations for the 2022 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and Astounding Award for Best New Writer close at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7), today, March 15, 2022.

If this was a cooking show, the judges would be yelling, “You should be plating!”

Or you could just panic.

(2) REGISTER FOR NEBULA CONFERENCE. The 2022 SFWA Nebula Conference registration is now open. The online event runs May 20-22.

We know that many of you have been eagerly awaiting the opening of registration for this year’s Nebula Conference, tamping down the anxious space bats fluttering in your stomachs as you waited for news. We are pleased to announce that registration is now open! 

Registration Price: $150.00 for One Year of Access Starting May 1st!

Register Here: https://events.sfwa.org/

This year’s conference is fully online, and filled with all the panels and networking opportunities that we can possibly fit into a three-day weekend! The 2022 Nebula Conference Online will once again host the SFWA Nebula Awards Ceremony. 

(3) A SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Chris Barkley is excited that someone on the Chengdu Worldcon committee acknowledged his message “about the current status of the Committee on whether or not your group will be able to fulfill their duties in administering the 2023 World Science Fiction Convention.”  

This morning, at 9:58 am EDT, I received the following response from that account:

Chengdu Worldcon 2023:

“Hi Chris, thank you for the message and concern over the status of our committee. Since we are fully committed to run a most successful convention, we are working hard with locals for the best possible services for our members, including a very affordable membership package. The plan will be announced soon. Sorry for this delayed reply.”

(4) GAMES HUGO SUPPORT SITE GROWS. Ira Alexandre, proponent of a permanent Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo category, has updated the “Games Hugo – FAQ”. They’ve also written a series of tweets defending watching “playthrough” videos as an alternative way for voters to inform themselves rather than playing the games. Thread starts here. (See also “Games Hugo – Playthroughs”)

And if you don’t agree, well —

The category definition itself has been updated to prevent the possibility of conventions being considered in the category. 

(5) WERE YOU THERE? On Twitter, a cosplay fan pointed out a half-hour news documentary of the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK is available on YouTube. “The Human Factor – World Science Fiction Convention”.

(6) MS. MARVEL. “The future is in her hands.” Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel comes to Disney+ on June 8. Variety remembers where it all began: “’Ms. Marvel’ Trailer: MCU’s First Muslim Superhero Debuts on Disney+”.

In 2013, Marvel Comics introduced Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey who idolizes Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. By 2014, Kamala had superhuman abilities, her own solo series and her own superhero moniker — Ms. Marvel — making her the first Muslim superhero to headline a Marvel comic.

Nine years later, Kamala is making history once again in “Ms. Marvel,” the latest Disney Plus series from Marvel Studios that debuted its first trailer on Tuesday. The series will debut on June 8….

(7) WHO SAID CASH OFFENDS NO ONE? “Do Ya Wanna Taste It? Thoughts on Peacemaker by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

I had no intention of watching HBO Max’s Peacemaker. The whole concept seemed to me indicative of the cynicism and blatant manipulation that characterize this most recent chapter in the lifecycle of the superhero-industrial complex. Superheroes are now the leading product of the increasingly consolidated entertainment empires vying for our money, and each of those empires is now promoting its own streaming platform. Ergo, each superhero property has to function as a launching platform for a spin-off show, be it ever so esoteric and hard to justify artistically. Did you think that The Batman‘s take on the Penguin was weird and over-emphasized, a waste of Colin Farrell under a distracting fat suit in a role that could have been played by any character actor in Hollywood? Well, just sit tight for The Penguin, coming to HBO Max in 2023!

It would be one thing if these shows were bad and easily ignorable. But the same self-correcting mechanism that allows Marvel to keep chugging as the biggest pop culture juggernaut in existence despite the failure of individual movies is clearly informing the production of these shows, which repeatedly forestall the “who asked for this?” reaction with top-notch casting, stratospheric production values, and (up to a certain point) good writing….

(8) MORNING IN THE METAVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the sf origins of the metaverse.

It tells you a lot about the state of the tech industry that much of its terminology is pilfered from dystopian science fiction novels.  Isaac Asimov gave us ‘robotics.’  HG Wells named the atomic bomb, and Neuromancer author  William Gibson came up with “cyberspace.”  Meanwhile in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson popularised the term ‘avatar’ to refer to the digital embellishment of a human in a shared world he called ‘the Metaverse.’  His vision of how humans might behave in a virtual world was quite prescient. ‘If you’re ugly, you can make your avatar beautiful,’ he wrote.  ‘You can look like a gorilla or a dragon or a giant talking penis in the Metaverse.”,,,

…The idea we’re being sold of the metaverse is essentially a video game, and it’s a dreadfully boring one.  All the exciting promises that glitter among the metaverse hype–the ability to socialise in digital spaces, engage in virtual economies, or build genuine friendships online–have existed in games for decades.  See the sophisticated societies in MMORPGS such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, or the virtual universe of Fortnite and Roblox. They are more like a ‘true’ metaverse than anything Meta has to offer:  virtual worlds where you can customise an avatar, spend digital currency, attend concerts and, in what is becoming a metaverse specialty, tolerate obnoxious branding partnerships with your friends.

(9) EASY BIRTH. Goodreads does a brief Q&A with authors Jo Harkin, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Sue Lynn Tan, Olivia Blake, and John Scalzi in “Today’s Hottest Speculative Fiction Authors Answer Our Burning Questions”. Here’s part of what Scalzi has to say about writing The Kaiju Preservation Society.

GR: What sparked the idea for this book?

JS: The complete and utter collapse of an entirely different novel I was writing and the panic that came from knowing I was going to miss a publication date unless I came up with a new idea, fast. To which my brain said, OK, well, how about big monsters? And I said, YES BIG MONSTERS YES, and then my brain dropped the whole plot into my head.

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing your novel?

JS:  Honestly, nothing was challenging about writing this novel. It was a complete and liberating joy from start to finish, and I completed it quickly and easily. I want my next 60 novels at least to be just like this experience. I may be willing to do some unspeakable live sacrifices to achieve this. 

(10) LESLIE LONSDALE-COOPER. Publisher and translator Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper has died at the age of 96 reports the Guardian.

…Following a move to Methuen, where she became a rights specialist, she met [Michael] Turner and with him began translating the Tintin stories, a project that continued for three decades. “Translation” in this context meant rendering Hergé’s Brussels slang into English utterances that could be fitted into the speech bubbles of Hergé’s original drawings. Leslie was especially proud of their invented Tintinian oaths, such as “blistering barnacles!”…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1973 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Some affairs are mostly harmless to use. The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy phrase. So it was with The Girl with Something Extra series that debuted forty-nine years ago. That the lead actress was Sally Field tells you how deep the story was intended to be. She was a wife who had ESP, and her husband never quite understood her. It was intended to be cute, really, really cute. 

Rounding out the cast was Teri Garr, Henry Jones and Zohra Lampert.

One critic noted that “The plot for The Girl With Something Extra TV show immediately brings to mind another show that ended in March of 1972 after a whopping eight seasons on the air! That series of course was “Bewitched” which also featured a young newlywed couple with the wife having super-human powers that caused many problems for her and her husband.” 

The audience apparently didn’t grasp its charms and it was canceled after one season of twenty two half episodes. I believe that it might be streaming on Netflix. (I have four streaming services but not that one. I have Britbox, HBO Max, Peacock and Paramount. That’s quite enough, thank you.) 

Lancer Books published a tie-in novel by Paul Farman, The Girl With Something Extra. 

I see a signed script is for sale on eBay. Huh. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (née Persse). Irish dramatist, folklorist, theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she created the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. She produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Gods and Fighting Men, all seven hundred pages strong, is the best look at her work. It’s available at all the usual digital sources. (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 15, 1911 Desmond  W. Hall. He served as assistant editor of Astounding Stories of Super Science. His writing career is best remembered for his Hawk Carse series which would as Space Hawk: The Greatest of Interplanetary Adventures in the Fifties. These were co-written with Harry Bates, Astounding Editor. Unfortunately, it appears that he never stayed in print, either in paper or digitally. (Died 1982.)
  • Born March 15, 1920 Lawrence Sanders. Mystery writer who wrote several thrillers that according to ISFDB had genre elements, such as The Tomorrow File and The Passion of Molly T. Now I’ve not read them so I cannot comment how just on how obvious the genre elements are, but I assume it’s similar to what one finds in a Bond film. One of these novels btw is described on the dust jacket as an “erotic spine tingler”. Huh. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 15, 1924 Walter Gotell. He’s remembered for being General Gogol, head of the KGB, in the Roger Moore Bond films as well as having played the role of Morzeny, in From Russia With Love, one of Connery’s Bond films. He also appeared as Gogol in The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film. I’m fairly sure that makes him the only actor to be a villain to three different Bonds. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 15, 1926 Rosel George Brown. A talented life cut far too short by cancer. At Detention (1959), she was nominated for the Hugo Award for best new author, but her career was ended when she died of lymphoma at the age of 41. She wrote some twenty stories between 1958 and 1964, with her novels being Sibyl Sue Blue, and its sequel, The Waters of Centaurus about a female detective, plus Earthblood, co-written with Keith Laumer. Sibyl Sue Blue is now available from Kindle. (Died 1967.)
  • Born March 15, 1939 Robert Nye. He did what the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy describes as “bawdy, scatological, richly told, sometimes anachronistic reworkings of the traditional material“ with some of his works being BeowulfTaliesin (which was the name of my last SJW cred), FaustMerlin and Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. His Falstaff novel is considered the best take on that character. Some of his works are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 79. Not a director whose films are at all for the squeamish. His best films? I’d pick VideodromeThe FlyNaked Lunch and The Dead Zone. Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh, and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. And he’s playing a recurring role in Star Trek: Discovery as Federation agent Kovich. 
  • Born March 15, 1967 Isa Dick Hackett, born 1967, 55. Producer and writer for Amazon who helped produce The Man in the High CastlePhilip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based on works by her father, Philip K. Dick.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows a long-time household member having a problem with a new arrival.

(14) PRIDE MONTH. Honoring Pride Month, Marvel’s Voices: Pride returns for its second annual showcase of LGBTQI+ characters and creators in June.

Marvel Comics is proud to highlight its commitment to LGBTQI+ representation with stories that spotlight existing stars AND introduce brand-new characters to the Marvel mythology. Ranging from poignant to action-packed, here are some of the tales that fans can look forward to, each one capturing the joy and promise of PRIDE MONTH!

  • In last year’s MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE, Steve Orlando and Luciano Vecchio introduced the dreamy mutant hero SOMNUS,  who now stars in the ongoing X-Men series MARAUDERS! New York Times-bestselling, multi-award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders continues this tradition with the debut of another new hero to the Marvel Universe – and it won’t be the last you see of them. Stay tuned for more info!
  • IRON MAN scribe and lauded TV showrunner Christopher Cantwell takes on Moondragon’s complex legacy for a heart-bending story across space and time.
  • Shuster and Eisner-winning writer Andrew Wheeler makes his Marvel debut with the Marvel Universe’s real god of love – Hercules! Drawn by PATSY WALKER artist Brittney Williams!
  • Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus-award winner Alyssa Wong reunites the Young Avengers fan-favorite artist Stephen Byrne in a story guaranteed to please fans new and old! Byrne will also depict the team in a vibrant variant cover that you can check out now!
  • Comedy writer Grace Freud (Rick and Morty, the Eric Andre Show) brings her talents to Marvel with a story about the power of responsibility featuring the Marvel Universe’s favorite gay ginger, D-Man! She’s joined by Eisner-nominated artist Scott B. Henderson in his first work for Marvel!
  • Television writer and podcaster Ira Madison III explores the legacy of Pride in his Marvel debut!
  • Champions scribe Danny Lore revisits the legacy of two characters long left in the closet in a tale of love and redemption! 

(15) PUTTING ON THE WRITS. NPR shows that even when you win in court, you don’t necessarily win: “Try as she might, Bram Stoker’s widow couldn’t kill ‘Nosferatu’”.

The world’s first vampire movie premiered 100 years ago. After a long copyright battle, Florence Stoker, widow of the author of Dracula, asked for all copies of Nosferatu to be destroyed. Were they?…

(16) A LARGER CANVAS. Rich Horton spotlights a first novel from a gifted short fiction writer in “Review: On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu” on Strange at Ecbatan.

…On Fragile Waves is a powerful novel on a very contemporary theme, that if anything has become more powerful, more apposite, since it appears. It is the story of an Afghan family, fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan. At one level, it is purely naturalistic fiction, and very effectively so. But there is a fantastical level as well (or “magical realistic” as many reviews would have it) expressed in two ways — the stories the parents of the main character tell, traditional stories (with variations) … and, more obviously, a dead character who returns to haunt — or inspire — the main character….

(17) HOW MANY LIVES WAS THAT? A trailer has dropped for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the upcoming movie that stars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Salma Hayek).

(18) OWLKITTY. NPR profiles the creator of OwlKitty in “Videographer imagines what it would look like if Steven Spielberg made cat videos”.

…MARTIN: In one of Charroppin’s latest videos, Lizzy co-stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in “Titanic.”…

CHARROPPIN: The hardest of it is not adding the cat, it’s removing Kate Winslet. That process takes about three-quarters of how long it takes to do video.

MARTIN: Lizzy has 6 million social media followers, which is something Charroppin and his wife hope that animal shelters actually benefit from. They adopted Lizzy five years ago.

CHARROPPIN: If there’s one reason to do all of this, it’s to mostly raise awareness that adopting cats is way better than going to get full breed cats. Anything that we can do to help makes it all worth it.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Elden Ring,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, notes this new game, designed by George RR Martin, is a world where “every animal, person and plant wants to kill you” and features a dozen different killer swamps.  But the narrator thinks the scariest monsters are the crabs and lobsters. “I haven’t been this frightened by seafood since I got food poisoning at Red Lobster!”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rich Horton, Chris Barkley, N., Martin Easterbrook, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

SFF Authors Release Open Letter Condemning China as Host of 2023 Worldcon

Publishers Weekly today drew attention to an Open Letter signed by over 80 authors calling for the revocation of the choice of Chengdu, China as 2023 Worldcon host: “Speculative Fiction Community Condemns China Hosting 2023 WorldCon Awards”. (The full text of the Open Letter appears at the end of the post.)

The Justice For All Canada site announced the letter on March 2 in its post “80+ Global Science-Fiction Fantasy Authors Condemn China Hosting the 2023 WorldCon Awards In An Open Letter”.

In the midst of the Ukraine invasion, threats to Taiwan, and Uyghur genocide, over 80 award-winning and bestselling writers from across the world as well as Uyghur human rights groups have condemned China’s right to host the 2023 WorldCon awards in an open letter.

The joint letter is addressed to the WorldCon committee and voters, bringing together a coalition of global science-fiction and fantasy writers to condemn the WorldCon committee for allowing Chengdu, China to bid for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) – a bid that they won.

The letter calls on the literary community to appeal to the committee and community in charge of allocating the honour of hosting the world’s most prestigious science-fiction fantasy awards, requesting them to relocate the 2023 event out of China. The author signatories, many of whom are New York Times bestselling authors and Hugo award winners, include members of the WorldCon community. 

WorldCon community members vote on which country’s bid will win the right to host the Con. The vote was taken at DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington DC on December 18, 2021. The four bidders were France, United States, Canada, and China. Despite the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against Uyghur and Turkic Muslim minorities in the Uyghur region (Xinjiang), the bid was won by Chengdu. Prominent signatories include Hugo winners, nominees and bestsellers Angie Thomas, N.K. Jemisin, G. Willow Wilson, S.A. Chakraborty, Zoraida Córdova, Tochi Onyebuchi, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Jeannette Ng, Tracy Deonn, Roseanne Brown, Usman T. Malik, and famous Uyghur writers like Tahir Hamut Izgil.

The people who crafted the letter are Sarah Mughal Rana, a Muslim writer and social outreach member of Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, and Dr. Ausma Khan, author of The Khorasan Archives quartet.

Rana told File 770 today, “It was our idea because we both are Muslim SFF writers but it was also done with Uyghurs who cannot be named for safety reasons. I lived in China, I also work for the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project – so this letter was made also in collaboration with most of the listed Uyghur rights groups that signed the letter to put their perspective, fact-check, and prioritize their opinions.”

The Publishers Weekly article is the effective debut of letter. Rana says she circulated it to potential signers through email and DMs and kept it under wraps until she had enough support from published writers. “I did not publicize the letter until Publishers Weekly wrote their article. …Justice for All Canada offered to publish the news release so journalists would be aware of this letter.”

A copy of the Open Letter has not yet been emailed to the Chengdu committee. Rana indicates she did previously reach out to them to discuss the bid and raise issues about the guests of honor: “I emailed Chengdu my complaints about the guests of honour and did not hear back. I tried to facilitate a discussion and am hoping they reply.” In February the Chengdu committee acknowledged another person’s tweeted complaint about guest of honor Lukianenko, so the potential exists for them to reply.

The Open Letter is not the only step the organizers have in mind. Rana says:

To be frank, I am completely aware that the bids happen via democratic vote. But my objective with the letter is to condemn the bid [the selection of Chengdu] and to draw attention and awareness about the horrific on-going Uyghur genocide — the worst in modern times. Other steps have been taken. I met with Worldcon 2022 to ensure there are plans to avoid Islamophobic rhetoric and to create a safe space for Muslims and Turkic peoples. I also am working on a constitutional amendment. At the very least, I hope for a boycott and for people to be educated on these matters so they do not gaslight and shutdown Muslim voices again. The last discussion about Chengdu’s bid, Muslims were gaslit and accused of being racist, and Western-centric.

The rules governing Worldcons and site selection presently only provide for replacing a seated Worldcon if it is “unable to perform its duties,” therefore the Open Letter’s call for “revoking the 2023 site allocation bid to Chengdu, China” sounds aspirational. File 770 asked Rana if they have advisors about Worldcon governance. She says:

Yes we do. We are aware of the process. We consulted a number of individuals who are part of Worldcon’s organizing teams or were chairs of the business meetings. We know that a bid cannot be revoked. But our purpose is more symbolic than that. We hope this shows the broken-nature of how bids are carried out with regards to human rights crises. Moreover, this emphasizes that 1. bids can be awarded during concentration camps and genocide, and 2. there is no way to undo this.

This is why we have plans to propose a constitutional amendment regardless of Chengdu happening. Any amendment that is passed takes two years through two host cities, so this does not affect Chengdu. We hope to introduce an amendment where bidding cities do not qualify if an on-going genocide is being carried out that is recognized by either an independent verified tribunal or international human rights organizations. Even though this would not affect Chengdu; Chengdu is an example of the broken nature of these bids and how they do not take into account marginalized, persecuted populations.

The full text of the “Open Letter to WorldCon Committee to revoke Chengdu Bid 2023” follows the jump.

Continue reading

Sergei Lukianenko Defends Russian Policy Towards Ukraine

Sergei Lukianenko

Russian sff author Sergei Lukianenko1, selected by the Chengdu 2023 Worldcon as a guest of honor, has been busy in February extending his track record as an apologist for Russian policy toward the Ukraine. This includes a recent interview where he tries to blame the West, and the U.S. in particular, for Russia being “forced to intervene” there.

The author was asked about the crisis by an interviewer from the Russian-language EurAsia Daily (a product of the Jamestown Foundation, a conservative U.S.-based think tank with a board composed of Trump Administration veterans and CPAC speakers) for an article published February 5 with a headline that translates as: “The United States is trying to push Kiev against Moscow militarily: an interview with Sergei Lukyanenko”. (Via Google Translate.)

The famous Russian science fiction writer Sergei Lukyanenko was very excited when Crimea returned to Russia. Moreover, in his early works, this topic repeatedly surfaced. True, the science fiction writer described in his books a real, bloody war between Russia and Ukraine, which he managed to avoid. What he is sincerely happy about. But how to turn things around now, when the situation is tense to the limit?

A Russian writer who is visiting Yerevan in an interview with EADaily said that even now the war can be avoided, although today the situation is more explosive and there is a very active attempt by certain forces and circles, very far from both Russia and Ukraine, to arrange a military conflict. But, as Lukyanenko emphasized, Russian President Vladimir Putin confidently takes the blow.

– Do you think Ukraine needs it, Kiev really wants and, most importantly, is ready for war?

– Moscow does not need a war, I am sure that Ukraine does not need it either. But you need to understand that in Ukraine itself the situation has reached a certain point: the West does not want to sponsor it, and it is not even going to develop it, because the West never creates competitors for itself. Ukraine has always been important for the Western world as a kind of anti-Russia, a springboard against Russia and a source of its problems and headaches. And now they are trying to push Kiev against Moscow militarily, for example, by starting another conflict in the Donbass, where Russia will be forced to intervene. Because, besides the fact that there are many of our citizens there, no one in Russia itself will understand when the cleansing operations will begin there, and we will not intervene. Yes, this is not a military danger for Russia, but it will be a great reason to impose all sorts of sanctions on it to the very top. While we are trying to dodge this dubious honor – we are for peace, we do not need it. But will it succeed? Hope so.

— Sergey Vasilyevich, there is also an opinion that, in fact, the goal of the United States is not so much Russia as Europe, namely, to stuff it with American military bases and control it.

– Europe is one of the competitors of the USA, and the United States has huge problems – internal, political, social, economic. Now the United States is at risk of losing the status of the greatest economic power – China has already ousted them from this Olympus. Therefore, yes, the United States needs someone who can be both taxed and robbed, thus breathing new strength into itself. Russia was clearly planned for this role, but it doesn’t work out: it turned out that it was too dangerous to touch us. China is also not suitable for this role, the European Union remains, which is still under them. So yes, it is quite possible that the purpose of the conflict in Ukraine is to completely quarrel Russia with Europe, and to draw as much juice out of it as possible….

To leave no doubt where EA Daily is coming from, a sidebar survey asks readers, “Do you support the operation of the Russian Armed Forces to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine?”

Lukianenko’s first Facebook post since the war started, dated February 23, does not even hint at any opposition to the invasion, but rather praises Putin’s government for allowing protesters. Following a series of remarks about dissent during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, the First World War, and the Great Patriotic War (WWII), he says:  

…Russia is a unique country. Only we can curse our army during the war, oppose the authorities – and at the same time calmly walk the streets, receive salaries in state institutions and even work in the media and for the defense industry. Do you know any other such country? I don’t. And they say we are bad with democracy.

He has been a go-to source of comment supporting Russian policy toward the Ukraine for some time. In 2014 he gave Komsomolskaya Pravda, a Russian tabloid, an interview published under the colorful headline, “Sergey Lukyanenko about the events in Ukraine: ‘Forced de-Russification is as much a crime as forced sex reassignment’” where he “explained why he banned the translation of his books into Ukrainian.”

More recently, Lukianenko claimed there is no Ukraine, it was created artificially, in a Q&A posted March 3, 2020 in Ukraina, published by an agency of the Russian government: “Science fiction writer Lukyanenko: Russians deserve to enshrine their status in the Constitution of Russia” (Google translation.)

– How do you feel about the statement of Vladislav Surkov from his interview, which he made immediately after his resignation to the site “Actual Comments”: there is no Ukraine, there is only Ukrainianism? He thereby wanted to say that Ukrainians do not exist, and those who are called “Ukrainians” are in fact one people with Russians. Do you agree with Surkov’s thought?

– I partially agree, because the Ukrainian national identity was formed artificially. It was intensively formed both before the revolution, and by the efforts of outside forces, and after the revolution – thanks to the unintelligent national policy under the communist regime. It was formed at that time. It’s a fact, it’s known.

As a result, we got what we got: a nation that is being created before our eyes. It is actually created by artificially severing ties with the Russian people. If earlier it was part of a single people, now it is a separate people, which is now being formed.

– In 2019, you were in Donetsk, where you took part in the festival of literary fiction “Stars over Donetsk”. Will Sergei Lukyanenko continue his creative cooperation and cultural patronage over the DPR in 2020?

“Donbass is the region that has earned its right to self-determination with its blood. Of course, this is a complex process and a long one. It does not depend on Russian writers or even on ordinary ordinary citizens of Russia, but it seems to me that it is necessary to support the people of Donbass at the cultural and national level.

If any events are held in Donetsk, I, of course, will come to a meeting with my readers. People who gathered in Donetsk for this fantastic event and came to meet with science fiction writers, and not only with me, they were happy and really deeply touched that they are not forgotten, including in such cultural events, which Donbass is largely deprived of.

Donbass, an oblast of Ukraine that was recognized as an independent republic by Russia earlier this week, was paid a visit by the author in 2019. The Analytical Service of Donbass, a Russian-language website that reports on such things as the “criminal-oligarchic regime in power in Ukraine”, covered his appearance — “Sergey Lukyanenko visited Donetsk for the first time” — and how he responded to a question from the audience about his prediction of the war in Donbass.

…Donetsk journalist and cameraman Timur Kolesnik asked about references to the modern Ukrainian state in Lukyanenko’s new novels, where the writer subtly, playing with metaphors, ridicules the Ukrainian so-called jingoistic patriots. The writer noted that it is not for nothing that he was included in the lists of enemies of Ukraine on the scandalous website “Peacemaker”.

Lukianenko has over 40 books published and has received 32 literary awards.


1 The spelling of Lukianenko here follows the usage of the author’s official site. However, his name is commonly translated on Amazon and in news articles as Lukyanenko.

Pixel Scroll 12/18/21 It Was Anti-Agathics All Along

I’ve been hammering at the keyboard on one thing and another since this morning’s WSFS business meeting. Thanks to Cat Eldridge, who’s the reason there’s something to read in today’s Scroll!

(1) COVER YOUR EXPANSE. An Expanse-themed ugly sweater (really not a sweater, more of a jersey but anyway) is being raffled off for charity by the authors. Get a $5 ticket here: “The Expanse Ugly Sweater Charity Raffle Ticket”. Tickets will be on sale through December 22, 2021, at 10:00 p.m. US Central Time.

During the most recent Expanse press event in Los Angeles, Wes was given this limited-edition ugly and amazing sweater. In the spirit of the season of giving, Ty and That Guy are raffling it off to give back to the community.

Supporting Families

In honor of the classic Christmas movie Die Hard and the importance it places on family during the holidays, Ty and That Guy are putting all the money raised from this raffle to sponsor a family this year.

Community Brickworks is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers that operates a food pantry and library in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. The Ty & That Guy donation will support one or more families in the area this holiday season.

(2) 2023 WORLDCON DECIDED. Chengdu, China will host the 2023 Worldcon. Kevin Standlee’s photo of their version of Progress Report Zero is below. So is SFW’s congratulatory banner. (Click on either for a larger image.) File 770’s report of the voting and 2023 guests of honor is at the link.  

(3) GETTING READY. Cora Buhlert allowed File 770 to preview the gown she will be wearing as she participates virtually in tonight’s Hugo Awards ceremony as a finalist. Her dad took the photo.

(4) FAN SERVICE. Screen Rant is prepared to tell you “Every Sci-Fi Icon Who Guest Starred On The Big Bang Theory”.

…A good portion of Big Bang Theory‘s millions of fans likely are said geeks, considering just how many sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book icons were brought on to guest star.

This, unsurprisingly, included multiple cast members from both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, generally considered the two champions of mainstream sci-fi. Sadly, Harrison Ford was never among that lot, as seeing him play off his generally grumpy public persona when dealing with Sheldon being annoying would’ve been terrific. Still, the sci-fi icons Big Bang Theory did manage to enlist the services of include some of the biggest genre names ever….

…[Levar] Burton’s Star Trek: The Next Generation colleague Brent Spiner – who played Lieutenant Commander Data – also appeared on Big Bang Theory, in season 5’s “The Russian Rocket Reaction.” Spiner attends a party thrown by another former co-star in Wheaton, and notably, when Sheldon shows up, he and Wheaton finally mend fences. That’s followed by Spiner accidentally putting himself on Sheldon’s enemies list….

(5) SFF AND THE REAL WORLD. Future Tense’s Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club has selected Infomocracy by Malka Older to discuss virtually on February 2, 2022.

Science fiction can have real policy impacts, and comes rife with real-life commentary. For the third gathering of our Science Fiction/Real Policy Book Club, we have selected Malka Older’s Infomocracy. The novel imagines a future where politics has become both simplified and infinitely more complex, thanks to the omniscient Information, which has led the transition from warring nation-states to a seemingly tidy form of corporate-ish global micro-democracy. 

Join Future Tense and Issues in Science and Technology at 6pm ET on February 2nd to discuss the novel and its real-world implications. The book club will feature breakout rooms (they’re fun and stress-free, we promise) where we can all compare notes and share reactions, even if we didn’t finish the book!

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1968 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty three years ago, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang premiered. It was directed by Ken Hughes. The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli of James Bond fame.

The screenplay was co-written by Roald Dahl and  Hughes as rather loosely based on Ian Fleming’s Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car novel. (If you want to read it, it is available at the usual suspects at a quite reasonable price.) The novel was published in 1964 after a few months after his death.The book became one of the best selling children’s books of the year. 

Broccoli was initially not enthusiastic about it but changed his mind after the success of Mary Poppins. The film had a cast of Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, Adrian Hall, Heather Ripley, Lionel Jeffries, Robert Helpmann, Barbara Windsor and Gert Fröbe.

The film’s songs were written by the Sherman Brothers, who had previously composed the music for Mary Poppins

Critics loved with Roger Ebert saying that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang contains about the best two-hour children’s movie you could hope for.” The box office however was an absolute disaster as it only made eight million on the budget of ten million that it cost to produce. Ouch. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent seventy-one percent rating.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair! The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It?  (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 82. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. Interestingly he was a nominated a number of times for a Hugo for Best Professional Magazine for New Worlds SF, his other Hugo nomination was at IguanaCon II for Gloriana, or, The Unfulfill’d Queen.
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. His only Award is a Phoenix Award which is a lifetime achievement award for a SF professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, quite a honor indeed.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 75. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such genre work followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He’d repeate that amazing feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed starting a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority ReportWar of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. And I want one of the better Iron Giant figures on the market! 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 68. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including VThe Twilight ZoneAlien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: VoyagerStar Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 67. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think of it as being an exemplary genre cred? Well I do. On a much sillier note, he’s in two Muppet films, Muppets from Space and Muppets Most Wanted. On a very not silly note, he was Joey in Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 53. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films!  (Hint: the former has a nineteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really CasperAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine.

(8) SIGNING ON. Paul Weimer admired the good taste of people in line for Martha Wells’ autograph.

(9) BIGGEST FAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Tom Holland about Spider-Man:  No Way Home. He notes that Holland will play Fred Astaire in an upcoming film, “a role he thinks he convinced producer Amy Pascal that he was right for when he would tap-dance on the Spider-Man set to stay warm between takes,” “Tom Holland is still a Spider-Man fan at heart”.

… Back then, when the highly anticipated trailer for “Captain America: Civil War” debuted to celebrate Spider-Man’s arrival in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Holland figured nothing would surprise him. Then Spider-Man blinked.

That subtle CGI movement of the eyes on his mask looked like a camera lens zooming in and out.It was inspired by the character’s original look in the comic books — and was designed to show the film was sprinkling the character with a bit of MCU magic. Holland, a lifelong Spider-Man fan who also happened to be Spider-Man, was caught up in the hype….

(10) ANOTHER BRIDGE TO CROSS. Comicbook.com has the photo: “The Orville Season 3 First Look Released”.

Hulu has provided The Orville fans with the first look at the show’s return as The Orville: New Dawn. That new subtitle comes as The Orville becomes a streaming original on Hulu, leaving its broadcast home, FOX, behind. It’s been a long wait, but The Orville fans can finally start counting down the weeks. The new image shows several returning characters: Capt. Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane, series creator), Cmdr. Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki), and Lt. Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), and Isaac (Marc Jackson) at their posts on the ship’s bridge. Recurring guest star Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber) is also present.

(11) FUZZY MEMORY. MeTV asks if you “Ever wonder why the women on ‘Star Trek’ appear out of focus?” Learn more about Classic Trek’s cinematographer at the link.

… The soft focus was often paired with romantic, swooning music. While the crew members were shot heroically in blazing light and sharp focus, love interests, on the other hand, looked more like watercolors. To achieve the effect, thin layers of plastic, or diffusion filters, were placed before the lens for those shots. No, as far as we know, Vaseline was not smeared on the lens. The technique came to be known as “The Gaussian Girl,” named for the Gaussian blur. …

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, Sheila Addison, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who says the key is in this YouTube video.]

Chengdu Wins 2023 Worldcon Site Selection Vote

The 81st Worldcon will be held in Chengdu, China from August 23-29, 2023. The convention’s guests of honor will be Sergey Lukianenko, the author of the Night Watch series, Robert Sawyer author of Hominids, and Liu Cixin, the author of The Three-Body Problem.

(The spelling of Lukianenko here follows the usage of the author’s official site, although the Wikipedia spells it with a “y”.)

Site selection administrator Tim Szczesuil reported the following vote totals to the DisCon III business meeting this morning:

FIRST BALLOTPRE-CONWEDNESDAYTHURSDAYFRIDAYTOTAL
Chengdu in 20231950719302006
Winnipeg in ‘2333297197181807
Memphis in 2023 (withdrawn)21317
Write-ins837218
Total with preference22921082262142838
Needed to win    1420
No preference6024975
Total valid votes23521102302232915
Invalid ballots20057

He also reported that a further 917 tokens were sold for which no matching ballots were received.

Yesterday’s controversial but non-binding resolution about the application of the WSFS Constitution’s site selection rules did not lead to the exclusion of large numbers of votes. Szczesuil reports that included in the Pre-Con total are 1,591 ballots from China missing a street address, but otherwise valid. These ballots consisted of 1,586 for Chengdu and 5 with no preference. Had the lack of a street address caused these ballots to be shifted to “No preference,” Winnipeg would have won.

After the results were announced, Chengdu’s representative Chen Shi addressed the business meeting and shared information about their guests, dates, and other plans.

“After these days of hard work, I’m happy to give you this speech here. It’s been four years since Chengdu started and this has given hope to countless Chinese fans. For Chengdu fans, this is a once in a decade opportunity. This is a special moment for us all. It is a new adventure for all of us. It will be a different kind of Worldcon, but it will still be a Worldcon. That you will still recognize as part of these traditions that started in 1939, when the world was a very different place. I want to thank the efforts of the team in Winnipeg. It has been a long journey, and you gave some good competition, and I will say that we have learned some things from you as well! Such as how to run a good fan table, how to run a good community, give a good presentation, and so on. I hope that many of you will be ready and willing to join our teams. I hope that we can welcome all of you to Chengdu. In fact, we welcome everyone here to Chengdu. We prefer it if you come in person, but for those who can’t, a stream of virtual programming will be part of the accommodation.”

Their membership rates currently are Attending $100, and Virtual $80. He said, “We know that the virtual convention has expanded our ideas of what the Worldcon can be and has given us a great chance to build a global community of science fiction fans.”

A photo of the flyer distributed at the business meeting (courtesy of Chris Barkley) shows the staff that Chengdu already has in place, and the positions they are looking to fill. Chen Shi invited people to apply.

CHICON 8 REPORT. Once the Site Selection portion of the meeting was finished, Chicon 8’s chair Helen Montgomery provided an update about next year’s Worldcon in Chicago, then took questions. She said, “We will definitely have a virtual component. We don’t entirely know what it’s going to look like.”

Montgomery was asked, “I’ve heard rumors that George RR Martin will not be welcomed on program. Is that true?” Her answer was not yes or no. She said, “At this time, we have not picked anyone to be on program. Program applications and surveys have not gone out. It is the answer to the question. We have not picked anybody to be on program. And as far as — I don’t even know if Mr. Martin has filled in an applicant form. So I can’t actually answer that. Our goal for program, though, is to — and this has always been one of our goals — is we want to make sure that folks who have been historically marginalized have a voice in our convention. But that is not at the expense of other people who have been active in this fandom for a long time. So we’re looking to find a balance. But, you know , if folks are interested in being on program, fill out the program form. That’s the first thing that we can tell you to do. — that’s the best thing that we can tell you to do. From then, we have a vetting process and the whole nine yards.”

Room reservations for Chicon 8 will open early in 2022. Montgomery encouraged folks who need ADA rooms to e-mail access@chicon.org and get on the list as soon as possible. ADA rooms will open mid-January. Reservations for everybody else will open in mid-February.

DisCon III Business Meeting Keeps Lodestar, Best Series; Passes Controversial Resolution About Site Selection

The DisCon III business meeting today voted to retain the Lodestar Award and Best Series Hugo category. Both were up for a re-ratification vote before being permanently added to the WSFS Constitution.

The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book passed by an “easy majority”.  

The Best Series Hugo category passed in a close vote.

 The meeting also passed a controversial resolution advising the Site Selection administrator that he reclassify as “No Preference” votes those ballots lacking any of four pieces of information specified in the motion.

The motion was signed by two leaders of the Winnipeg in 2023 bid, bid chair Terry Fong, and vice-chair Jannie Shea.

Short Title: Required Site Selection Information

Resolved, That it is the sense of the WSFS Business Meeting that any Site Selection ballot that does not contain a Membership Number, Name, Signature, and Address that meets the country of origin’s requirements should be counted as “No Preference.”

When it came to the floor, however, Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil said he was requesting the meeting’s guidance. He pointed to the relevant part of the WSFS Constitution, rule 4.4.1, and said it was “somewhat ambiguous with respect to what is required of the voter.” The rule reads —

4.4.1: Site-selection ballots shall include name, signature, address, and membership-number spaces to be filled in by the voter. Each site-selection ballot shall list the options “None of the Above” and “No Preference” and provide for write-in votes, after the bidders and with equal prominence. The supporting membership rate shall be listed on all site-selection ballots.

“The way it, to me, it could be read either as the ballot is required to have four items – I think it’s the name, the address, the signature, and the member number. Or it could be that the member has to include that information on the ballot.”

Potentially, the resolution can lead to ballots lacking any of the four items not having their preference for Chengdu or Winnipeg counted toward determining the winner.

Ben Yalow spoke against the resolution, saying he considered the rule “incredibly clear” that it was about the spaces for certain information which must be on the ballot, not what the voter must fill in.

The business meeting chair Don Eastlake turned over the meeting to another officer so he could go to the floor and speak in favor of the resolution, “I do not believe we should allow anonymous or semi-anonymous people who don’t provide enough information or don’t provide a name or haven’t signed [the ballot] to affect site selection…” Dave McCarty’s comment in support of the motion was that address information is needed “to be able to tell if they are real people.”

The site selection validation process doesn’t ever take time to test voters’ residence/mail address information and make a judgment about it. The two critical factors are that the voter must have a membership in the current Worldcon, and that the payment of the site selection voting fee must clear. However, a person could do everything required to become a member of the current Worldcon, DisCon III, and still fail a 2023 site selection voting requirement. For example, Eastlake pointed out a past practice that people who fail to sign their ballots do not get their votes counted, although they still get a supporting membership in the new convention.  

The business meeting passed the resolution 47-30. Because it is a resolution, it is not binding. However, since he requested it, File 770 has asked Site Selection administrator Tim Szczesuil to comment how he will apply the resolution.

OTHER BUSINESS. Kevin Standlee reports on his LiveJournal that the meeting ratified all nine of the constitutional amendments passed on from last year’s Worldcon. “These amendments were initially passed in Ireland, then technically rejected and then re-passed in New Zealand, in order to evade the problem that hardly any WSFS members could actually get to the meeting in Wellington.”

The nine items are E.3 to E.11 in the business meeting Agenda.

Pixel Scroll 12/15/21 A Pixel Upon The Deep

(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —

The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.

(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.

With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:

1: Anime

The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….

(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large…. 

(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.

… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….

(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.

You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.

Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.

(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.

… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.

The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….

(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.

… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….

(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama”Tor.com has the story.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….

(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.

An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….

(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.

In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.

“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.

Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.

Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn. 

The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).”  It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent. 

Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1952 Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The LostThe Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1953 Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed. 
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the  Supergirl series..   Her other genre appearences include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.

Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly.  Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design.  You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers.  Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on.  Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….

Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world.  This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.

(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.

(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.

‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)

This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….

(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.

… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….

(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question  “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”

…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered… 

(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled.  “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.

Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.

In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….

(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.

…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…

(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Standlee Reports Number of 2023 Site Selection Ballots Validated [Redacted]

[Kevin Standlee was one of Winnipeg’s representatives at the 2023 Worldcon Site Selection vote validation, and he has sent the following information to File 770 as well as posting it to his Livejournal. These figures represent the ballots cast before on-site voting begins today at DisCon III. However, Standlee has since responded to comments on his blog that for reasons “not every ballot was tallied in the country count” he did, so the totals could actually be higher.]

Update 12/15/2021 7:56 p.m. Pacific. Kevin Standlee writes:

Mary Robinette Kowal has fired me as WSFS Business Meeting Chair, and the Winnipeg in 2023 bid committee has released me from the committee. I appear to have acted precipitously and without proper consultation with my management in either my Worldcon or Bid connections. The fault for those decisions was mine and mine alone.

Mary Robinette has asked me to ask you to remove the votes-per-country information and other voter-count information. I told her that I have no control over what you do, but that I would send the request to you.

File 770 has redacted the site selection voting statistics and country table from the post.

By Kevin Standlee: Validating advance site selection ballots took about 10-1/2 hours (from 3 PM Tuesday to 1:30 AM Wednesday). My count shows that we validated [redacted] ballots, of which [redacted] were from China, [redacted] were from the USA, [redacted] from Canada, [redacted] from the UK, and the remainder from other countries.

I was one of Winnipeg’s two representatives at Tuesday’s advance ballot validation. Two people from the Chengdu bid were present as well. Initially, the bidders were doing most of the validation, but as the day wore on and Site Selection drafted in more staff to do validation in multiple “streams,” those of us from the bids were mostly watching the DisCon III team doing the work of checking ballots to confirm that they were from registered members and that they had a valid voting token. (That means that they had paid the Advance Supporting Membership Voting Fee.)

At one point, Site Selection Administrator Tim Szczesuil quoted a figure of [redacted] ballots received; however, as the day wore on, it became clear that there were hundreds of duplicate ballots cast by many members from all around the world, as people submitted their ballots multiple times, probably because they were worried that their ballots had not been received. This did slow down the validation process considerably, because we had to identify duplicates and cull them out of the count.

The Winnipeg bid partially asserted our right under WSFS Constitution section 4.5.1 to extract information from the voter data, but only the country from which the ballot was cast. (We had the right to copy all voter details, but did not assert it.) In practice, this meant that after ballots were validated, we ticked off the country from where they came. This does mean that we might have under-counted.

The following table is what I got. It does not include a small number of ballots that have issues such as we can’t read enough information on the ballot to confirm the voter’s identity and other mechanical problems. Tim Szczesuil says he will make initial rulings on these ballots on Wednesday.

[Table redacted]

Again, the figure of more than [redacted] came from the count of ballots received, and that included a huge number of duplicates that were culled from the final count. We did have to look at all of them, however, which means that we managed to work through the total number of advance ballots more quickly that we did for the 2,107 ballots cast in 1991 in Chicago.

The ballots were folded in such a way that those of us doing the validation could not see how the voter cast their ballots. The only exception were the unsigned ballots, where one of the Administrators opened the ballot and marked it as No Preference, per the rules. I do not have a count of how many such ballots were so marked.

The Winnipeg committee asked the Administrators to not separate the voter information from their ballots until after the adjournment of the Friday WSFS Business Meeting. There are potential issues with many ballots that may need to be adjudicated by the Business Meeting before then. (Of course, I will recuse myself from any Site Selection business that comes before the meeting.)

I initially thought we would have broken the total votes record set in 2015 already, but after eliminating all of those duplicates, we’re not there yet; however, there is still three days of on-site voting to come.

Pixel Scroll 12/14/21 I Scrolled Pixel Rae’s Lawn

(1) A DRIVING FORCE IN LITERATURE. Liza Burns’ artwork for the new Oregon license plate is composed of 127 symbols of cultural importance to the state. The book icon represents Ursula K. Le Guin. An interactive key is here.

From a distance, the “Celebrate Oregon!” Cultural Trust license plate is a vibrant tapestry of Oregon geography. Look closer, and symbols – 127 in all – tell the story of the history, heritage and cultural practices that make our state unique. The marriage of the two in this piece of art speaks to the inextricable link between the physical and cultural diversity of Oregon.

(2) IS IT A RECORD? Early reports of perhaps 3,000 Worldcon site selection ballots being cast pre-con made some fans curious if the Chengdu/Winnipeg race will set a record. In the table of historic Worldcon statistics “Hugo Voting: Let’s Look at the Record Yet Again” there is one column tracking the number of site selection votes, which Jo Van Ekeren says is fully updated.

(3) RUNNING HARD. The Chengdu in 2023 Worldcon bid’s Facebook page reported on a marathon livestream campaign in progress to drum up support as the voting deadline approaches.

After five days of a marathon campaign of online live streaming to promote DisCon III and call for support of Chengdu’23 Bid, we have seen a new wave of support, and some real LAST MINUTE vote from many of our fans, overcoming all sorts of obstacles, including technical, procedural, language, and payment difficulties. Now we can say that in some way we have already won, not necessarily in the Worldcon bid, but in promoting something we all love and enjoy. We have made many new friends. And we have a better understanding of the world.

Here are the posters for the past five days, and screen captures of tonight’s live streaming event hosted by SFW magazine.

(4) SEATTLE IN 2025. The Seattle 2025 Worldcon bid team has published their first newsletter that we’ve sent out. The full newsletter is here. The bid website is here.

Bid Launches Into New Orbit

After almost two years of coasting through online convention bid tables and Zoom parties, the Seattle in 2025 Worldcon bid is accelerating to cruising velocity with the updating of our website, an appearance at DisCon III, creation of support tiers, release of new information, and plenty of metaphors to herald our progress towards hosting the first Worldcon in Seattle in 64 years. The original 1961 Seacon took place before the Seattle World’s Fair and the opening of the Monorail and Space Needle. We believe 64 years is too long an absence from the Emerald City. Does Worldcon still need us? Will you feed us your site selection votes? Science fiction fans—if we build it, will you come?

The bid is co-chaired by Kathy Bond and SunnyJim Morgan.

(5) UNDERTHING PRESS WILL PUBLISH DIGGER OMNIBUS. Grim Oak Press is partnering with bestselling author of The Kingkiller Chronicle Patrick Rothfuss to create the new imprint, Underthing Press.

…The first project Grim Oak Press and Underthing Press will produce is Digger: The Complete Collection by Ursula Vernon. The deal includes new softcover and hardcover editions of the Hugo Award-winning graphic novel as well as signed and limited copies. Rothfuss has written a new foreword for the book and will sign the limited and lettered editions along with Vernon.

“It all started when I gave away my copy of the Digger Omnibus to a friend, then discovered I couldn’t buy another one. It breaks my heart when I learn that a book I love has gone out of print. I’ve always daydreamed about starting my own imprint, and I couldn’t think of a better place to start than by making a brilliant, Hugo Award-winning comic available to the public again.

“We’re in talks with several folks to bring their books back into print, or in other cases, to make a beautiful specialty edition of a book I particularly love. And I’ll have my own projects too, of course. I’m finally ready to publish a project I’ve been working on for years with friend and Illustrator Nate Taylor. It’s an illustrated version of The Boy that Loved the Moon.”

The crowdfunding campaign for Digger: The Complete Collection will launch February 2, 2022.

(6) R.E.S.P.E.C.T. This SFWA Blog post titled with the author’s name, “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”, urges people to spell and say African names correctly.

…One is forced to reconsider the clichéd question: What is in a name? Does the value of a name lie in its familiarity or the simplicity of its pronunciation? So that, alas, Nnamdi and other African names fail to elicit value from the Westerners who mock them for this reason? Does a name, for its being unfamiliar or difficult to pronounce, remove from the skills and abilities of the bearer? And if the mockers believe that names represent the value of a person, do they then think that denying a person their name, or misspelling, mispronouncing, or mangling their names devalues them even further? Is the purpose of this deliberate distortion of identity to devalue the bearer of the name?

Names possess value and power to their bearers. Like misgendering a person, failing to honor what someone chooses to be called disrespects that person’s definition of their own self….

(7) PODCAST PEOPLE. Podside Picnic episode 147 features Karlo Yeager Rodriguez, Chris and Kurt as they discuss the holiday horror-comedy, Krampus (2015). Make your lists (and check them twice) to see who deserves to be beaten with birch branches and who should get carried off by Saint Nick’s shadow… “Krampus, Krampus Time Is Here”.

(8) THAT’S HER, TOO. Everything Everywhere All At Once embroils Michelle Yeoh’s character in a multiverse crisis that only she can solve!

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1984 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Thirty-seven years ago, Starman premiered. It was directed by John Carpenter. The original screenplay was written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, with Dean Riesner making uncredited re-writes. This Starman is not related to the Forties created DC character who is definitely human.  

It starred Jeff Bridges in the lead role which got him an Academy Award nomination. Other principal cast were Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith and Richard Jaeckel. 

It inspired a short-lived television series of the same name several years later that takes place fifteen years after the film’s story and features the return of the alien as a clone of deceased photojournalist Paul Forrester to meet and guide his now-teenage son Scott Hayden Jr.  It lasted lasted for twenty-two episodes.

Critical reception for the film was, with the exception of a few of pre-reform Grinches, overwhelmingly positive. Roger Ebert said it was “one of 1984’s more touching love stories”. One of those Grinches said that Carpenter turned it into an “irritatingly soft-headed love story. What a waste of a promising idea.” However, the box office did not respond as enthusiastically as it made just twenty-nine million against costs of twenty-four million in production costs. Now audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a decent but not great sixty-nine percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. She first gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story which recently was made into a series.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction — who anyone here read it?  And there’s an interesting tale of Hill House, the press that took its name from her novel that came to a bad ending. (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books, particularly her historical fiction which involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1949 David Cherry, 72. Illustrator working mostly in the genre. Amazingly, he has been nominated eleven times for Hugo Awards though no wins to date, and eighteen times for Chesley Awards with an astonishing eight wins! He is a past president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. Oh, and he’s is the brother of the science fiction writer C. J. Cherryh (“Cherry” is the original spelling of the last name of the family) so you won’t be surprised that he’s painted cover art for some of her books as well as for Robert Asprin, Andre Norton, Diane Duane, Lynn Abbey and Piers Anthony to name but a few of his works.
  • Born December 14, 1954 James Horan, 67. One of those actors that had roles across the Trek verse, having appeared on Next GenerationVoyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. He also voiced a character on Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, andshowed up on Highlander, Charmed and Lost.
  • Born December 14, 1959 Debbie Lee Carrington. Actress who was an ardent advocate for performers with disabilities. She was the performer inside the Howard the Duck costume, a Martian rebel named Thumbelina in Total Recall, an Ewok in Return of the Jedi (and in the TV movies that followed), a Drone in Invaders from Mars, Little Bigfoot in Harry and the Hendersons, an Emperor Penguin in Batman Returns and a Chucky double in Curse of Chucky.
  • Born December 14, 1960 Don Franklin, 61. He’s  best known for his roles in seaQuest DSV as Commander Jonathan Ford, Seven Days as Captain Craig Donovan, and as one of The Young Riders  as Noah Dixon). No, the last isn’t remotely genre but it was a great role. 
  • Born December 14, 1964 Rebecca Gibney, 57. She was in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot,, and also in King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes mini-series. She also had one-offs in Time TraxFarscape and The Lost World, all of which were produced either in Australia or New Zealand, convenient as she’s  New Zealand born and resident.
  • Born December 14, 1966 Sarah Zettel, 55. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her Playing God novel which was nominated for an Otherwise Award as a great place to start reading her. 

(11) THE PLAY’S THE THING. Today also is the anniversary of the 1966 broadcast of a well-known Star Trek episode, which Galactic Journey commemorates in this post — “[December 14, 1966] (Star Trek: The Conscience of the King)”.

… …Do you remember Kevin Riley? He caught the alien virus in The Naked Time, locked everyone out of Engineering, and sang Irish songs over the intercom. He’s recently been promoted, but Kirk busts him back down to Engineering alone—presumably, to keep him safe, but nobody tells him that. Kirk doesn’t tell Spock why he’s demoting the Ensign, either.

Spock does put the pieces together and demands to know why Kirk is risking his life. (That’s rich, coming from the man who hijacked the Enterprise to haul it to the one planet with a death penalty for visiting.) Kirk tells Spock to leave his personal life alone. Spock very politely does not point out that 400+ crew members unknowingly traveling with a potential murderer is a bit outside the scope of Kirk’s “personal life.”…

(12) HOWDY, STRANGER! How fascinating to see for sale (at $6,500!) a copy of The Outsider And Others, the first collection of Lovecraft’s writings, published in 1939. Only 1,268 copies were printed, and among 1940s fans, The Outsider was a byword as the most valuable item in the sf collection of anyone who happened to own it. The title is mentioned several times in Rob Hansen’s compilation of Forties LASFS history, Bixelstrasse.

(13) TALKING HEADS. John Scalzi weighed in one of this year’s non-genre additions to the National Film Registry.

(14) MIGHT BE NEWS TO YOU. In this TelevisionAcademy.com interview, the late Leonard Nimoy discusses the Star Trek pilot.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the first Harry Potter movie reveals that the wand store where Hogwarts students get wands operates onthe model of “let kids smash things until they buy” and that at the climax, “a mother’s love is super plot armor.”  But why do wizards celebrate Christmas?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, N., Kathy Bond, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]