Pixel Scroll 2/23/24 (This Is) A Fine Paranormal Romance

(1) PROLOGUE. Daniel Dern is champing at the bit to explain today’s Scroll title “(This Is) A Fine Paranormal Romance”.

Deets: Via the Kern & Fields song “A Fine Romance”, “…written for the musical film, Swing Time, where it was co-introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.”

Here’s that video clip:

And one of my favorite recordings by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong who have several great duets albums/CD/etc’s!

(2) GAIMAN AUCTION. Courtesy of Gary Farber, a gift link to the New York Times story “Neil Gaiman on the Collectibles He’s Auctioning”. Many pictures of comics and other art.

… Gaiman will donate part of the auction proceeds to the Hero Initiative, which is an emergency fund for comics creators, and the Authors League Fund, which benefits writers in financial hardship; he will also give living artists whose work sells part of the proceeds. The items are on display at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, and bidding starts on Friday.

More than 100 pieces are up for sale, and Gaiman pointed to some highlights….

The whole shooting match can be seen at Heritage Auctions. The card uses a piece of art by Mike Kaluta.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to snack on sushi with Ray Nayler in Episode 219 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ray Nayler

Nayler is the author of the Locus Award-winning debut novel The Mountain in the Sea, which was also a finalist for the Nebula Award and the L.A. Times Book Awards’ Ray Bradbury Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. He began publishing speculative fiction in 2015 in Asimov’s, and since then, his stories have appeared in ClarkesworldAnalogThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ViceNightmare, and other magazines. His story “Yesterday’s Wolf” won the 2022 Clarkesworld Readers’ poll, and the same year, his story “Muallim” won the Asimov’s Readers’ Award, his story “Father”, in French translation, won the Bifrost readers’ award, and his novelette “Sarcophagus” was a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award.

In addition to his speculative fiction, Ray has published in many other genres, from mainstream literary fiction to comics. Those have appeared in Ellery QueenCrimewaveHardboiledCemetery DanceDeathrealmQueen’s Quarterly, the Berkeley Fiction Review, and other journals. He’s also a widely published poet, with work in the Atlanta Review, the Beloit Poetry JournalWeaveJukedAble MuseSentence, and many more. He is currently Diplomatic Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at The George Washington University.

We discussed how his time living outside the U.S. helped him become a better science fiction writer, why he feels the greatest effect of having written The Mountain in the Sea was a culinary one, the reason we agree our favorite part of writing is rewriting, the sad results of his accidental Facebook experiment, whether his mammoth memory behavior is based on scientific facts or is purely speculative, why we’ll likely never be able to truly resurrect extinct species, how changes in culture can affect evolution, the train trip where he received career advice from a stranger he didn’t realize was Neil Gaiman, why we aren’t totally in control of our writing destines, how he’s haunted by the ghost of an alternate version of himself, plus much more.

(4) RADIO FREE FANDOM. Chris Barkley must feel like he’s reached the top of Mt. Olympus – he and Jason Sanford were interviewed for NPR’s “Morning Edition”. Listen here: “The Hugo Awards scandal has shaken the sci-fi community”.

And the dynamic duo were interviewed for the Retro Rockets podcast “RetroRockets With Chris Barkley & Jason Sanford”.

(5) SHOCKED THAT ‘YEET’ IS NOT IN MY ARCHAIC LANGUAGE DICTIONARY. [Item by Anne Marble.] We all need some lighter discourse. Here is a great response (from author Moniza Hossain) to another “hot take.”

The book in question “That Time I Got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion at a Werewolf” by Kimberly Lemming. She is a Black author who has been building her brand. And clearly has a great sense of humor.

She is aware of the recent posts and has a fun response here. It turns out that the “Yeet” title is actually the fault of people who criticized her for using modern language in her fantasy novels.

Another reaction:

(6) MY LITTLE PONY UNDER SUSPICION IN RUSSIA. “Moscow Police Investigated a ‘My Little Pony’ Convention for Alleged LGBTQ+ Propaganda”Them.us has the story.

This past weekend, the organizers of a My Little Pony convention in Moscow shut down the festivities early after police were called to investigate the event for alleged “LGBTQ propaganda.”

As the Associated Press reported, the organizers of Mi Amore Fest posted to the Russia social media site VK on Sunday, writing that police had received a complaint about the event promoting “non-traditional relationships and related symbols, adult content for minors, and general horror and darkness.”

Police were unable to find any confirmation of these allegations, but asked for the convention to be shut down a few hours early on Saturday, according to the post. The organizers additionally chose to end the event even earlier than the police asked, after hearing unconfirmed reports of additional officers heading to the venue, per the Associated Press. Both attendees and organizers were able to leave without incident.

My Little Pony has minimal canonical LGBTQ+ representation, but the franchise has been the subject of some scrutiny in Russia, especially in the wake of the country’s recent ruling against anti-LGBTQ+ “propaganda.” In November, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the “international public LGBT movement” is an “extremist organization,” and banned all forms of related activism (which includes displaying LGBTQ+ “paraphernalia or symbols”). Shortly after the ruling was issued, the Russian streaming service Kinopoisk changed its age rating for My Little Pony to 18+, according to Pink News. (There has been speculation that the change was due to the character Rainbow Dash, who has a rainbow-colored mane and tail. )…

(7) MORE ON MARK MERLINO. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr is “Remembering Mark Merlino (1952-2024), a founder and soul of furry fandom” with a well-researched tribute.

…After 5 decades at the heart of it all, Mark’s elder health problems led to hospitalization at the new year in 2024. He was lovingly supported by friends and partners and a crowdfund until he passed away on February 20. Anime, furry, and brony networks lit up with condolences from around the world while the name Mark Merlino trended on social media next to mainstream celebrities.

He is survived by partners including Rod, and Changa who joined them for 28 years. They were united by love and creativity, but as queer people, their relationship was fundamental to the acceptance and expression that aligns many furries with queer culture. Fandom may be a hobby, but it’s also a way to show identity, and theirs was the soul of what furries are.

Mark contributed stories to Dogpatch Press. With eyes on the future, his 2022 look at Furality featured its hugely successful 15,000 attendance. He also wrote 2020’s A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club. Then there were meetings in person….

(8) NIKLAUS WIRTH (1934-2024). The New York Times pays tribute to the creator of the Pascal programming language, who died January 1: “Niklaus Wirth, Visionary Software Architect, Dies at 89”.

…In 1970, while teaching at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, Dr. Wirth released Pascal, the programming language that powered early Apple computers and initial versions of applications like Skype and Adobe Photoshop. He also built one of the first personal computers and was instrumental in helping a Swiss start-up commercialize the mouse. (The start-up, Logitech, became one of the world’s largest makers of computer accessories.)

The Association for Computing Machinery honored Dr. Wirth in 1984 with the Turing Award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing. Other recipients have included Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Vinton G. Cerf, who wrote the code that powers communication on the internet.

For Dr. Wirth, simplicity was paramount in computing, and he created Pascal — named after Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century French mathematician and calculator inventor — as a simpler alternative to languages like BASIC, which he deemed too cumbersome.

BASIC forced programmers to “jump all over the place, writing spaghetti code,” Philippe Kahn, a former student of Dr. Wirth’s who later founded several tech companies, told the New York Times reporter Steve Lohr in an interview for his book “Go To” (2001), a history of software.

“Pascal forced people to think clearly about things and in terms of data structures,” Mr. Kahn said. He added: “Wirth’s influence is extremely deep because so many of the people who were taught in real computer science programs learned Pascal. It was the language of classical thinking in computing.”…

(9) PAMELA SALEM (1944-2024). Actress Pamela Salem, who had James Bond film and Doctor Who roles on her resume, died February 21 reports Deadline.

… She played Bond’s secretary Miss Moneypenny in Sean Connery’s 1983 film Never Say Never Again

Salem made guest appearances in Doctor Who as Professor Rachel Jensen, first appearing in 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks episodes with Sylvester McCoy’s seventh Doctor.

She reprised the character in Counter-Measures, a Big Finish audio spin-off series. The more recent story in the series, The Dalek Gambit, was released in 2020.

She also guest starred in Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures (reunited with Tom Baker) and then reprised the role of Toos in The Robots.

Other screen roles included 1978 crime film The Great Train Robbery and The West Wing, in which she featured as fictional UK prime minister Maureen Graty. ER and Blake’s 7 were also notable credits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett Roddenberry. (Died 2008.) Majel Barrett. Number One.  Nurse Chapel. Computer. Betazoid. Widow of a Centauri emperor. 

She first appeared in the initial Trek pilot, “The Cage” as the Enterprise’s first officer. Number One, as she was called, is a title that was from there forwarded through the Trek universes, though not as their only name usually. 

Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel

Even before she was cast in this role, she was already involved with Roddenberry. So every reliable Trek source agrees that the network executives were extremely, well, pissed off that the girlfriend of a married man was cast in a series they were going to be broadcasting. So she had to go. And hence we got Spock instead.

So instead she was cast as Christine Chapel, a nurse, one assumes more to the least grumbling acceptance of the network bosses. (Though some Trek sources claimed they were still extremely annoyed at her presence in the series. Idiots.) Chapel made her first appearance the revised script of “The Naked Time.” Of the seventy-nine episodes, she would appear in twenty-five of them. I think she was in some of the films but I can’t confirm that and it’s been too long for me to remember if that’s true.

I said Computer above, and yes she provided the voice of the computer system starting off with the original series, but it continued on from there to include the computers of Next Generation and Voyagers ships, the Deep Space Nine station and the ships in these films — GenerationsFirst Contact, InsurrectionNemesis, and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, Star Trek. She also reprised her role as a shipboard computer’s voice in two episodes of the prequel series Enterprise

Then there’s Lwaxana Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed who is also, Goddess help us, the Betazoid ambassador to the Federation. I’ll admit that I never warmed to her character, but then Picard didn’t really either. Mother of Deanna (who I felt they never played right), it’s a role that just never sat right with me.

She made just six appearances here and three on Deep Space Nine.

She appeared, live or animated, in her lifetime in nearly all series that were produced.

She got cast in other Roddenberry productions, too. She appeared as Primus Dominic in Genesis II pilot; as Dr. Bradley in The Questor Tapes and as Lilith the housekeeper in the Spectre pilot. 

She also appeared in Michael Crichton’s Westworld as Miss Carrie.

Remember Earth: Final Conflict?  She played the character Dr. Julianne Belman in it. Well she stitched it together from notes that Roddenberry left after his death and she executive produced it. 

Finally in a role I thought was pitch perfect she was in the Babylon 5 “Point of No Return” as Lady Morella, the widow of the Centauri emperor and she was psychic. Her role which was used to set-up a major story line.

I could go on, but I don’t think I will. 

So what’s your favorite story about her?

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! suggests I was wrong when I assumed superhero sidekicks were independent contractors.

Tom Gauld has new cartoons.

(12) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] Today’s first round of the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions had a whole category in the Double Jeopardy round.

First, in the Jeopardy round, there was this:

1960’s Fiction, $200: The Mrs. W’s (Whatsit, Who, and Which) are guides through the universe in this Madeleine L’Engle classic

Suresh Krishnan asked: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

Then in Double Jeopardy we had Pop Culture Dragons. Introducing the category, Ken Jennings quipped, “Not like the real ones.” I’ll present the clues in the order the contestants encountered them.

$1600: In a series of books by Cressida Cowell, this son of Stoick the Vast can speak Dragons & learns to train a dragon

Triple stumper: nobody knew this was Hiccup.

$2000: A Daily Double, found by Suresh, who wagered $3000. (All his money).

Falkor the white Luck Dragon helps Atreyu in this epic fantasy film from Wolfgang Petersen

Suresh did not come up with “The Neverending Story”.

The contestants then went through every clue in every other category before coming back to this one.

$400: Stuff the Magic Dragon is the name of the mascot for the NBA team that plays home games in this city

Emily Sands said, “What is Orlando?” (The team would be the Orlando Magic.)

$800: After killing the Ender Dragon in this “blockbuster” video game, players receive a dragon egg as a trophy

Matthew Marcus: “What is Minecraft?”

$1200: Instead of a standard written clue, we saw a picture of a group of musicians standing in front of a backdrop labeled with logos, reading things like “Golden Gods”, “Fireball”, and “Hammer”. Ken read the clue: 

Where Dragons Dwell” is a swell song from this band that took its name from the Japanese word for Godzilla.

Suresh tried, “What is Gorillaz?” but this was wrong. Matthew got it right with, “What is Gojira?”

(13) WHEN ZINES WALKED THE EARTH. [Item by Daniel Dern.]  Warning: There are no sff fanzines in exhibit. “When Zines Walked the Earth” at the New York Times. “An extraordinary exhibition of dissident and countercultural takes at the Brooklyn Museum shows the power of the copy machine….”

The curators of “Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines” at the Brooklyn Museum, the art historians Branden Joseph and Drew Sawyer, define them as low-budget, limited-circulation publications (short for “magazine” or “fanzine”) that are not political pamphlets or countercultural newspapers.

The show’s territory starts in 1969, coinciding with the widening availability of photocopy machines, and runs to the present.

Daniel Dernnotes the obvious: SF fanzines clearly predate all this. Aside from the obvious — “starts in 1969” — I’m not seeing any mention of (mimeo or spirit) duplicators, enchanted or otherwise. IIRC, I was introduced to (sf) fanzines early ’60s, by a friend/fan from camp, Ed Reed.

Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines. Through March 31, Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, 718-501-6354, brooklynmuseum.org.

(14) CHINA SCHEME FOR HARASSING DISSIDENTS. “Leaked document trove shows a Chinese hacking scheme focused on harassing dissidents”NPR has the story.

A large trove of more than 500 sensitive technical documents posted online anonymously last week details one Chinese technology company’s hacking operations, target lists and marketing materials for the Chinese government.

The majority of the operations appear to be focused on surveilling and harassing dissidents who publicly criticize the Chinese government, including on global social media platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter.

Target lists reveal victims from at least 14 governments from Pakistan to Australia, as well as academic institutions, pro-democracy organizations in places like Hong Kong, as well as the military alliance NATO. The company was also bidding for work to surveil the minority Uyghur population in Xinxiang, a broader Chinese government program that major global human rights’ organizations around the world have heavily criticized. There are even pictures of custom devices used for spying, such as a recording device disguised as a power bank….

(15) BENNU BITS. “First Look at Asteroid Hints It’s a Fragment of a Lost Ocean World” says Science Alert.

NASA scientists are just getting started in their analysis of fragments brought back from the Bennu asteroid, and the early indications are that the material it contains originated from an ancient ocean world.

That assumption is based on the phosphate crust detected on the asteroid. The calcium and magnesium-rich phosphate mineral has never been seen before on meteorites – those small space rocks that make it through our atmosphere and down to Earth.

The mineral’s chemistry bears an eerie resemblance to that found in vapor shooting from beneath the icy crust of Saturn‘s moon, Enceladus….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/24 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO HUGO AWARDS CENSORSHIP REPORT. Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford’s report “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion” (also available at Genre Grapevine and as an e-book epub file and as a PDF) has sparked the attention of mass media: .

The Guardian: “Authors ‘excluded from Hugo awards over China concerns’”. In addition to covering the report, the article includes an excellent quote from Chinese social media:

…The incident prompted discussion among the science fiction community in China. One commenter on Weibo wrote: “Diane Lacey’s courage to disclose the truth makes people feel that there is still hope in the world, and not everyone is so shameless … I can understand the concerns of the Hugo award staff, but ‘I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards.’”…

BBC Radio 4: Last night’s arts programme Front Row’s third quarter looked at the Hugo Awards debacle. “Ukraine drama A Small Stubborn Town, Emma Rice, The Hugo Awards”. Jonathan Cowie says, “It was a superficial dive. For example, it did not note that the nominating stats literally did not add up, so clear fraud, nor that Glasgow also is ignoring WSFS rules.” (Cowie adds, “Remember to skip to the programme’s final third quarter.”)

In the wake of the Hugo Awards scandal, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, culture critic and Hugo awards finalist, Han Zhang, editor-at-large at Riverhead Books, focussed on finding works in the Chinese language for translation and publication in the US, and Megan Walsh, author of The Subplot: What China is reading and why it matters, discuss the fallout and what is reveals about the popularity of Sci-Fi in China.

There’s also a paywalled article in New Scientist: “Amid (more) Hugo awards controversy, let’s remember some past greats”.

IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that all awards are total bunk except for the ones you personally have lifted into the air in triumph. That rule doesn’t hold, however, if your prize is in some way sullied later on. This, sadly, is the situation for the winners of the 2023 Hugo awards….

Slashdot has an excerpt of 404 Media’s paywalled article: “Leaked Emails Show Hugo Awards Self-Censoring To Appease China”.

And here are some highlights from the vast social media discussion.

John Scalzi: “The 2023 Hugo Fraud and Where We Go From Here” at Whatever

Cora Buhlert: “The 2023 Hugo Nomination Scandal Gets Worse”

Mary Robinette Kowal’s thread on Bluesky starts with this link.

Neil Gaiman commented on Bluesky: “I’m unsure how comfortable I would be participating if anything I was involved in was nominated for a Hugo in 2024, if there were people involved who had been part of what happened in Chengdu.”

Chuck Tingle’s thread on X.com begins, “this report of leaks regarding what actually happened at hugo awards shows a disgusting way. years of buckaroos working in and around hugo awards popularizing phrases like ‘chuck tingle made the hugos illegitimate’ when the rot was starting with them.”

Courtney Milan, on Bluesky, offers a series of short scripts for how censorship could have been deflected. The first is: “Ways to handle censorship if someone asks you on the DL to censor your award. 1. ‘No, this isn’t in our rules. Is this going to be a problem? I can let the community know that the Hugo rules aren’t going to be applied if so.’”

(2) IT ONLY GETS VERSE. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] A brilliant poem by TrishEM about the Hugo mess: “A Vanilla Villain’s Variant Villanelle” at What’s the Word Now. The first stanza is:

It’s wrong to allege we were mere censors’ tools;
If you knew all the facts, you’d condone our behavior.
I grok Chinese fans, and was their White Savior.
I maintain the Committee just followed the rules.

(3) HOW CENSORSHIP WORKS.  Ada Palmer’s post about censorship and self-censorship comes highly recommended: “Tools for Thinking About Censorship”. It begins:

“Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?”

This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks that any expressive work (a book, film, news story, blog post etc.) has been censored or suppressed by the company or group trusted with it (a publisher, a film studio, a newspaper, an awards organization etc.)

This is not a direct analysis of the current 2023 Chengdu Hugo Awards controversy. But since I am a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates, I want to put at the service of those thinking about the situation this zoomed-out portrait of a few important features of how censorship tends to work, drawn from my examination of examples from dozens of countries and over many centuries….

(4) ELIGIBILITY UPDATE FOR US NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. “US National Book Awards: Opening to Non-US Citizens”Publishing Perspectives has the story.

In recent years, as readers of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of book and publishing awards know, there have been several cases in which higher-profile book and publishing awards programs have decided to broaden their eligibility requirements for authors whose work is submitted.

Today’s (February 15) announcement from the National Book Foundation about the United States’ National Book Awards‘ change in eligibility opens the program to submissions of work by authors who are not citizens of the United States, as long as they “maintain their primary, long-term home in the United States, US territories, or Tribal lands.”

These new updated criteria will be in effect as of March 13, when submissions for the 75th National Book Awards open….

(5) WAYWARD WORMHOLE. Two workshops will be available at “The Rambo Academy Wayward Wormhole – New Mexico 2024”.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is pleased to announce the second annual Wayward Wormhole, this time in New Mexico. Join us for the short story workshop to study with Arley Sorg and Minister Faust, or the novel workshop with Donald Maass, C.C. Finlay, and Cat Rambo.

Both intensive workshops will be hosted at the Painted Pony ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. The short story workshop runs November 4-12, 2024, and the novel workshop runs November 15 through 24, 2024.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers has been in existence for thirteen years, serving hundreds of students who have gone on to win awards, honors, and accolades, including Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. “I attended Clarion West, and have taught at multiple workshops now,” says Academy founder Cat Rambo. “While others have delivered the gold standard, I decided to stretch to the platinum level and deliver amazing workshops in equally amazing settings. Last year’s was a castle in Spain, this year a fabulous location in southwestern America. And wait till you hear what we’ve got cooked up for 2025!”

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

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

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

The Chengdu SF Museum reopened to the public a few weeks ago, after an event a few days earlier involving Hai Ya and other authors.  The images I’ve selected here are primarily because of their potential interest to MPC types, but you can click on the following links to see the Xiaohongshu galleries these came from.

As far as I can tell, all of these photos have been taken in the past few weeks; there are none from when the Worldcon was running.

Gallery 1Gallery 2Gallery 3Gallery 4Gallery 5Gallery 6Gallery 7Gallery 8Gallery 9

(7) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 103 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Just This Guy, Y’know?”, is available for listening. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty say:

Octothorpe 103 is here! We discuss a bunch of stuff which isn’t Hugo Award-related before moving onto the bits of the kerfuffle that we couldn’t fit into 102 and hadn’t come out when we recorded.

The words “Octothorpe 103 Hugo Regalia Shop” appear above a selection of costumes. There are small depictions of a clown, a pirate, a panda and a banana above full-length depictions of a member of the Catholic church (with Hugos on their mitre and crosier), a gangster (labelled “boss”, holding a Hugo), Zaphod Beeblebrox (holding three Hugos) and Jesus (with a crown of thorns but made with Hugos).

(8) MOURNING MUSIC. “Matthew” (at Bandcamp) is a tribute song about Matthew Pavletich by his sister, Jo Morgan. Matthew died in January. The lyrics are heart-wrenching – see them at the link.

‘Matthew’ is a touching tribute dedicated to Jo’s beloved brother who passed away after a courageous battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Tenderly capturing the power of familial love, serving as an anthem honouring all the qualities defining him.

Jo says “I wrote this song to celebrate my brother Matthew who passed away from Motor Neurone Disease in January 2024. There are so many wonderful qualities about this beautiful man and I am so blessed to have had him as my brother. He lost so much to this illness, and I want the world to know about this sweet and humble gentle man.”

Jo will be making a donation from some of the proceeds from the song to support MND NZ and animal welfare charities.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 79. It’s been awhile since we’ve done an Australian resident writer, so let’s do Jack Dann tonight. Yes, I know he’s American-born but he’s lived there for the past forty years and yes he’s citizen there.

In 1994 he had moved to Melbourne to join Janeen Webb, a Melbourne based academic, SF critic, and writer, whom he had met at a conference in San Francisco and who he married a year later. Thirty years later they’re still married. 

They would edit together In the Field of Fire, a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories relating to the horrors of the Vietnam War. I’m not aware who anyone else has done one on this subject, so go ahead and tell who else has. 

Jack Dann

He published his first book as an editor, Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction forty years ago, (later followed up by More Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction) and his first novel, Starhiker, several years later. 

His Dreaming Again and Dreaming down-under are excellent anthologies of Australian genre short fiction. The latter, edited with his wife, would win a Ditmar and a World Fantasy Award. Dreaming Again, again edited with his wife, also won a Ditmar. 

With Nick Gever, he won a Shirley Jackson Award for one of my favorite reads, Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense.

He’s written roughly a hundred pieces of shorter fiction.  I’ve read enough of it to say that he’s quite excellent in that length of fiction.  Recently Centipede Press released in their Masters of Science Fiction, a volume devoted to him. Thirty stories, all quite excellent.

So what is worth reading for novels beyond Starhiker which I like a lot? Well if you’ve not read it, do read The Memory Cathedral: A Secret History of Leonardo da Vinci in which de Vinci actually constructs his creations as it is indeed an amazing story. 

The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean is extraordinary. All I’ll say here is Dean lived, had an amazing life and yes it’s genre. I see PS Publishing filled out the story when they gave us Promised Land.

Those are the three novels of his that I really, really like. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) EVIL GENIUS GAMES. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Morrus, the owner of ENWorld, posted an article on “The Rise And Fall Of Evil Genius Games” that may be of interest to the gaming contingent of File770’s readership: EGG has produced games for a number of licensed genre properties, including Pacific Rim, Escape from New York, and The Crow. “DriveThruRPG – Evil Genius Games”

How does a company go from over twenty core staff to just six in the space of a few weeks?

In the summer of 2023, Evil Genius Games appeared to be riding high. They’d made about half a million dollars over two Kickstarter campaigns and had raised $1M from several rich investors in the form of technology companies. The company boasted 25-30 core staff, an official tabletop role-playing game for a movie franchise called Rebel Moon was well under development, and EGG standees and window clings representing characters from the d20 Modern-inspired Everyday Heroes could be seen in game stores across America.

By the end of the year, the Rebel Moon game was dead, staff had been asked to work without pay for periods of up to three months, freelancers were struggling to get paid, people were being laid off, and the company’s tech company investors seemed to be having cold feet in the face of escalating expenditure and dwindling resources….

(12) SFF FROM LAGOS. “’Iwájú’ trailer: Disney’s enticing limited series is set in a futuristic Nigeria” says Mashable. Available February 28 on Disney+.

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos.

(13) NSFF770? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Star Zendaya walked the red carpet at the Dune Part Two premiere wearing a formfitting silver and translucent robot-inspired outfit. Friendly warning: anyone inclined to over-agitation at such a sight might want to make sure they’ve taken their heart medication before checking out the video. “Zendaya’s Robotic Outfit For The ‘Dune: Part Two’ Premiere Has To Be Seen To Be Believed” at Uproxx. Article includes a roundup of X.com posts with video.

(14) WHAT REALLY MATTERS. “This new map of the Universe suggests dark matter shaped the cosmos” at Nature. See the compilation photo at the link.

Astronomers have reconstructed nearly nine billion years of cosmic evolution by tracing the X-ray glow of distant clusters of galaxies. The analysis supports the standard model of cosmology, according to which the gravitational pull of dark matter — a still-mysterious substance — is the main factor shaping the Universe’s structure.

“We do not see any departures from the standard model of cosmology,” says Esra Bulbul, a senior member of the team and an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany. The results are described1 in a preprint posted online on 14 February.

The galactic clusters were spotted in the most detailed picture ever taken of the sky using X-rays, which was published late last month. This image revealed around 900,000 X-ray sources, from black holes to the relics of supernova explosions.

The picture was the result of the first six months of operation of eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array), one of two X-ray telescopes that were launched into space in July 2019 aboard the Russian spacecraft SRG (Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma). eROSITA scans the sky as the spacecraft spins, and collects data over wider angles than are possible for most other X-ray observatories. This enables it to slowly sweep the entire sky every six months….

(15) VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE TARDIS. How can you not click when Radio Times offers to tell about “Doctor Who’s four greatest love stories – and why they make the cut”?

The love stories definitely aren’t the main focus in Doctor Who… but they certainly don’t hurt.

From David Tennant’s Ten and Billie Piper’s Rose being ripped away from each other in Doomsday, to Matt Smith’s Eleven and Alex Kingston’s River Song finding their way back to each other through time, some of them are love stories for the ages.

Some of them, perhaps, deserved a little more time (looking at Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteen and Mandip Gill’s Yaz), and some don’t even feature the Doctor at all, with Karen Gillan’s Amy and Arthur Darvill’s Rory melting our hearts….

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

The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion

This report is being released simultaneously on File770 and Genre Grapevine and is also available to download as an e-book epub file and as a PDF.


By Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford

“You acquire information and you convey the information. That’s the job.”

++ National Public Radio News Director, Editor and Reporter Emeritus Linda Wertheimer, February 7, 2024

INTRODUCTION

By Chris M. Barkley: The earliest documentation of the phrase, “News is only the first rough draft of history,” is attributed to a 1943 New Republic book review written by Alan Barth. The phrase quickly caught on with other writers and journalists at the time and for many decades, the late Washington Post president and publisher Philip L. Graham was wrongly given credit for the phrase.

For journalists, such as myself for example, the phrase rings true on a very basic and emotional level. And while what you are about to read here will be considered shocking and a seismic event in the history of SF fandom and the World Science Fiction Society in particular, it is my hope that it is just the beginning of a greater story yet to be told.   

What my colleague and co-author Jason Sanford and I are going to outline in this lengthy report will most certainly not be the final word on the extraordinary events and actions surrounding the 2023 Hugo Awards that were adjudicated and presented by the 81st World Science Fiction Convention held in the city of Chengdu in China in October of 2023.

To understand how extraordinary these events were, I refer back to the 79th Worldcon held in Washington D.C. in December of 2021; a bid from fans based in The People’s Republic of China won the bid for the 81st Worldcon over the bid from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada by a wide margin.

This in itself was not unusual, except that there was a considerable amount of consternation on the method and accounting of the Chinese ballots. A majority of the ballots from China had email addresses and not the traditional street addresses that fans in other parts of the world usually provide.

The DisCon III committee allowed the contested votes and the Chengdu bid was declared the winner.

Almost immediately there were signs that the Chengdu convention committee may not have expected to win; the one-sheet announcement had no guests of honor, hotel information or membership rates listed. Most alarmingly, several vital convention committee spots were either vacant or non-existent. 

In the intervening twenty-one months, there were long periods of silence from the concom, which caused a great deal of concern among many SF fans and convention organizers as well. 

This period was followed up by a frenzy of activity. First came the announcement of the author Guests of Honor, the Hugo Award winning novelists ‎Liu Cixin from China and Canadian Robert J. Sawyer and Russian SF author Sergey Lukianenko.

Lukianenko, who was mostly unknown to readers and fans in the West, turned out to be an ardent supporter of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and subsequently made inflammatory comments about his support for the unprovoked war against Ukraine, which began in February of 2022.

In addition, the Chengdu Worldcon was heavily criticized because it was being held under the auspices of an authoritarian regime which regularly spied on, discriminated against or jailed political dissenters, religious minorities, writers, artists, booksellers and publishers. There were also allegations that the government was colluding with business interests to build the venue the convention would be held in. The delays in the construction of the facility moved the date of the start of the Worldcon from early August to mid-October.

But, against all odds, the Chengdu Worldcon was staged successfully and was widely acclaimed by all those who attended, including myself.

I was invited by the Worldcon Convention Committee and its hosting organization, the Chengdu Science Fiction Society as a finalist in the Best Fan Writer category. (Full Disclosure: My airfare, lodgings and meals were paid for by the convention. I gave no considerations to the Worldcon in return for my attendance).

The Science Fiction Museum turned out to be a fabulous site for the proceedings, the panels were well attended, presentation areas were spectacular and the Hugo Awards Ceremony came off without a hitch.

But, having attended thirty-one previous Worldcons, there is no such thing as a convention without some problems or complications; the main one was that I heard first hand of complaints by attendees that there were a limited number of tickets for the main events, the opening ceremonies, the Hugo Awards ceremony and closing ceremonies.

The only curious thing I noticed was that the long list of nominations and the voting results, which are usually out soon after the ceremony, were not released. In fact, that was still the case by the time I left China, which was two days later.

The final voting results were finally published on December 3, 2023, forty-six days after the end of the Chengdu Worldcon. There was no explanation for the delay.

And on January 20th, ninety-one days from the opening of the convention, the Long List of nominees was published on TheHugoAwards.org.

There was a firestorm of outrage, condemnation, speculation and rumors of malfeasance surrounding the absence of the works of novelist R.F. Kuang (Babel), screenwriter and producer Neil Gaiman (The Sandman), fan writer Paul Weimer, and Xiran Jay Zhao — who would have been an Astounding Award nominee for Best New Writer — despite having enough nominations to make the Final Ballot.

At the time of its release, no further explanation was given by the Chengdu Worldcon Convention Committee or Hugo Award Administrators, other than the works in question were ruled not eligible.

Both Jason and I have taken care to diligently gather evidence to answer the following questions:

  • Who was responsible for the “not eligible” rulings?
  • Was there evidence to support marking these particular works “not eligible”?
  • Why were these particular works chosen?
  • To what extent was the Chinese Communist Party and business interests involved?
  • What measures should be taken to ensure that the disenfranchisement of future nominees is never repeated?

This report, prepared by myself and Jason Sanford, is not meant to be the final word on what happened at this Worldcon. We are hoping that others, both here and abroad, will follow in our journalistic footsteps and come forward with more information and details about these events.

We hope that this is not the last inquiry into the curious, shocking and ultimately devastating story that we hope will bring about changes in how Worldcons are run and how the Hugo Awards are administered. We also acknowledge that this report will be quite upsetting to the fannish community but we hope that exposing the truth will also lead to the first steps in healing these social and political wounds ailing us.

As journalists, we are dedicated to be fair, accurate, and equitable in our pursuit of the truth. We are lucky that we live in an open society where inquiries like this are not only legal, but possible.

Jason, I, and other dedicated journalists like the recently retired Linda Wertheimer (whom I quoted above) know that we carry a sacred responsibility to get it right and convey it directly to you, factually and without bias.

++ Chris M. Barkley — 14 February 2024

LEAKED EMAILS AND FILES REVEAL POLITICAL CONCERNS RESULTED IN INELIGIBILITY ISSUES WITH 2023 HUGO AWARDS

By Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford: Emails and files released by one of the administrators of the 2023 Hugo Awards indicate that authors and works deemed “not eligible” for the awards were removed due to political considerations. In particular, administrators of the awards from the United States and Canada researched political concerns related to Hugo-eligible authors and works and discussed removing certain ones from the ballot for those reasons, revealing they were active participants in the censorship that took place.

When the Hugo Award voting and nomination statistics were released, no detailed explanation was given for why multiple authors and works were deemed “not eligible” even though they had enough nominations to make the award’s final ballot. The only official explanation came from overall Hugo Awards administrator Dave McCarty, who said “After reviewing the Constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible.”

However, emails and files released by another member of that Hugo administration team, Diane Lacey, shows that the rules “we must follow” were in relation to Chinese laws related to content and censorship.

Lacey previously served as an administrator for the Hugo Awards in 2009, 2011, and 2016, and was the lead Hugo administrator for Chicon 7 in 2012. The 2023 Hugo Award Administration Team for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu were comprised of the following people according to the official Hugo Awards website: Dave McCarty, Ben Yalow, Ann Marie Rudolph, Diane Lacey, Shi Chen, Joe Yao, Tina Wang, Dongsheng Guo, and Bo Pang.

While the official Hugo Awards website doesn’t list Kat Jones as an administrator, the emails Lacey shared show Jones was involved in working on the awards. Lacey also confirmed this in an interview, as did Jones who said in an email exchange that “I did a small amount of work in the margins of the 2023 Hugo process, but was nowhere near any decisions.”

In an apology letter released to this report’s authors, Diane Lacey wrote “Let me start by saying that I am NOT making excuses, there are no adequate excuses. I am thoroughly ashamed of my part in this debacle, and I will likely never forgive myself. But the fans that have supported the Hugos, the nominees, and those that were unfairly and erroneously deemed ineligible in particular, deserve an explanation. Perhaps the only way I can even begin to ease my conscience is to provide one.”

The emails Lacey shared are extremely illuminating about the entire controversy. In an email from Dave McCarty dated June 5, 2023, he announced to the Hugo Award administration group that “This is us, the group of folks that are validating the Hugo finalists.”

None of the Chinese members of the administration team were listed as recipients in any of the emails examined for this report, only administrators who were from Western countries.

After discussing technical details of the work in the June 5th email, McCarty wrote “In addition to the regular technical review, as we are happening in China and the *laws* we operate under are different…we need to highlight anything of a sensitive political nature in the work. It’s not necessary to read everything, but if the work focuses on China, taiwan, tibet, or other topics that may be an issue *in* China…that needs to be highlighted so that we can determine if it is safe to put it on the ballot (or) if the law will require us to make an administrative decision about it.”

On June 5, Kat Jones asked McCarty for a “list or a resource you can point us to that elaborates on ‘other topics that may be an issue *in* China’?”

McCarty responded on June 5 at 7:18 pm saying “At the moment, the best guidance I have is ‘mentions of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, negatives of China’. I will try to get better guidance when I have a chance to dig into this deeper with the Chinese folks on the committee.”

On June 6, Kat Jones wrote an email to the administration group titled “Best Novel potential issues.” In the email, Jones raised concerns about the novels Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Jones wrote that Babel “has a lot about China. I haven’t read it, and am not up on Chinese politics, so cannot say whether it would be viewed as ‘negatives of China’” while adding that The Daughter of Doctor Moreau talked “about importing hacienda workers from China. I have not read the book, and do not know whether this would be considered ‘negative.’”

Babel, which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, ended up being deemed “not eligible” for the Hugo Awards despite having 810 nominations, more than enough to make the final ballot. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau was not removed from the ballot.

When the authors of this report reached out to Kuang for comment, her publicist said by email that due to her academic schedule and writing deadlines Kuang was unavailable for an interview.

In addition to being involved in work on last year’s Hugos, Kat Jones is the current overall Hugo Awards administrator for the 2024 Worldcon in Glasgow, Scotland.

In an emailed statement in response to a request for comment, Jones said she was concerned that the “confidential Hugo Award eligibility research work product that was ‘leaked’” may be incomplete or modified, and that she was “shocked that this extremely extremely confidential material was shared in the first place.”

“In relation to my involvement with Chengdu,” she added, “as the previous Hugo administrator from Chicon8, there is a necessary handover aspect from administrator-to-administrator. Then in addition, at the request of the Chengdu team I assisted with eligibility research for some of the English language works/creators in June 2023. I performed some of the 2023 Hugo Awards eligibility research on some of the English-language potential finalists. …

“For Chengdu, I conducted the eligibility research as instructed by the 2023 Hugo Award Administrator, and asked for clarifications where instructions were not clear. I did have concerns, and I shared them with the Administrator. Those concerns you should have evidence of if you have access to all communications. I was not involved in the evaluation of the data we flagged – and you’ll note in those emails we all expressed confusion over the vague instructions and had no idea whether anything we were mentioning was an actual problem. I had serious concerns at this point about this process. I then stepped back and did no further work for the Chengdu Worldcon after the first pass of eligibility research. I only had visibility into that first step as a Hugo researcher. I did not ever and do not have visibility into why the choices that were made, were made.”

At the end of her statement, Jones said “I would not be willing to participate in any way in the administration of an award under such circumstances again.  I don’t think we, as a community, should put our Hugo Award administration teams in this kind of no-win situation. The safety, wellbeing, and freedom of our community members is a whole different kind of consideration.”

The entire statement from Jones can be downloaded here.

The American and Canadian Hugo Award administrators also examined political concerns around the finalists for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In an email dated June 7, 2023, Lacey raised possible issues with regards to Xiran Jay Zhao, Naseem Jamnia and Sue Lynn Tan. Xiran Jay Zhao ended up being deemed “not eligible” despite being a finalist in that same category the year before. Naseem Jamnia made the final ballot while Tan appears to have not had enough nominations to make the final ballot.

The Hugo Awards category that received the most concerns in the email chain was Best Fan Writer. As Kat Jones wrote in an email dated June 7, 2023, “This category has the potential to be problematic, under the constraints you’ve listed, for most non-Chinese fan writers.” Jones then detailed items of possible concern for numerous fan writers including the two authors of this report along with Paul Weimer, Bitter Karella and several writers who subsequently did not receive enough nominations to qualify for the 2023 final ballot such as Alex Brown (a 2022 Hugo finalist in this category), Camestros Felapton (a 2018 Hugo finalist) and Alasdair Stuart (a three-time Hugo finalist).

Paul Weimer would eventually be deemed “not eligible” for the award despite meeting eligibility requirements in the constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, which lists the rules governing the Hugo Awards. Among the concerns Jones raised about Weimer’s writings were him having traveled to Tibet, him having a Twitter discussion with Jeannette Ng about Hong Kong along with mentioning Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square on that social media platform, expressing support for the Chengdu Worldcon while also sharing negatives about the Chinese government in a Patreon article, and writing a review of S.L. Huang’s The Water Outlaws where Jones said Weimer praises Huang for “tak[ing] one of the pillars of Chinese literature and reinvent[ing] it as a queer, feminist retelling of an important and nation-defining story.”

It should be noted that Mr. Weimer was nominated for the Hugo Award as fan writer on the 2020-2022 Hugo Award final ballots and last year for Best Fanzine as one of the editors of Nerds of a Feather.

In an interview on February 11, 2024, Weimer said he only found out he was declared “not eligible” for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer when the complete Hugo nomination and voting statistics were released. He confirmed he was eligible for the Best Fan Writer Award by virtue of publishing more than 60 works in various places.

“I had more ‘fan writer’ somethings than you can shake a stick at … by any definition of the word,” he said.

Weimer also confirmed that, despite the research done on him by the Hugo administrators, he has never visited Tibet. Instead, he had previously traveled to Nepal and Vietnam.

When told about the political research the Hugo administrators did on him, Weimer’s initial response was very pointed: “Well fuck,” he said, noting that he doesn’t curse that often but a precision f-bomb seemed appropriate here.

“I was afraid that in the end this was going to come down to soft or hard or some kind of censorship once things started leaking out,” Weimer said. “I mean, they came up with a dossier on all of us and went through stuff from 10 years ago? I mean, I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards. I would like to hope that if I was in the position of Dave McCarty and the others I’d have simply said we can’t hold the awards under these conditions and just cancel the fucking things rather than going through political dossiers. This is the worst possible outcome.”

Strangely, neither the emails nor other supporting files shared with the authors explain why the episode “The Sound of Her Wings” from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman TV series was ruled ineligible. When asked about this, Diane Lacey said she wasn’t sure who reviewed finalists for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation but it wasn’t her, Kat Jones or any other associate administrators.

At the time of publication, Gaiman has not responded to a request for an interview. A request for comment with Xiran Jay Zhao is also still pending.

The emails provided by Diane Lacey can be downloaded here.All emails examined by the authors are included in that document. Personal email addresses of the people on the Hugo Award administration team have been redacted. In addition, the name of one Hugo administrator who was cc’d on the shared emails but didn’t respond to any of the emails was redacted. Otherwise the emails haven’t been altered or edited in any way. The authors of this report initially received these emails in a printed format. Some of the emails in the combined PDF are from a scanned version of the print copies.

In addition to the emails, Lacey also shared other supporting documents, including a “validation” spreadsheet where comments were shared by the Western Hugo administrators about different Hugo finalists and potential finalists. Comments on the finalists ranged from “possible issues” to “minor possible issues” to “no issues.”

One interesting aspect of the “validation” spreadsheet is it appears to show a number of Chinese works that may have been removed from the final ballot. For example, in the Best Novel category, four Chinese novels are listed including We Live in Nanjing by Tianrui Shuofu. None of these novels made the final ballot.

In both Diane Lacey’s apology letter and an interview, she said some of these Chinese works were removed due to “collusion in a Chinese publication that had published a nominations list, a slate as it were, and so those ballots were identified and eliminated.”

However, the Hugo administrators from the United States and Canada appear to have only examined works and authors who were from the Western world and who mainly published in English. The “validation” spreadsheet shows that the Western administrators did not raise concerns about any of the Chinese authors or works on that spreadsheet, only about Western-based authors and works originally published in English.

Because of this, it is possible some of these Chinese works were removed for other reasons than slating.

While the emails from the Hugo administrators don’t reference overall Hugo Awards committee decisions or any specific orders from the Chinese government, a post reported to be from a Sichuan government website discusses work done to censor works related to last year’s Worldcon.

In the post, the Propaganda Department of the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China stated that “Three special groups reviewed the content of 1,512 works in five categories, including cultural and creative, literary, and artistic, that were shortlisted in the preliminary examination of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, conducting strict checks on works suspected of being related to politics and ethnicity and religion, and putting forward proposals for the disposal of 12 controversial works related to LGBT issues.”

The post was later deleted.

Because the post was deleted, it is difficult to prove its authenticity. However, the post does tie in with language from the Chengdu Worldcon’s second progress report that was shared by ErsatzCulture on X-Twitter on January 20 and by Nibedita Sen on Bluesky on January 23. That language stated “Eligible members vote according to the ‘one person, one vote’ rule to select Hugo Award works and individuals that comply with local laws and regulations.” [emphasis added]

It’s also possible self-censorship was undertaken due to fears of what might happen if certain finalists made the final ballot, or due to pressure from financial interests and businesses in China not wanting to upset a major investment opportunity. As reported by China.org.cn, “Investment deals valued at approximately $1.09 billion were signed during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) held in Chengdu.”

As Lacey said in an interview, “The things that were marked ineligible, was it local pressure from the government or was it business interests? I can’t answer that. From my knowledge, I would probably say business interests.”

In an interview conducted on February 4 in Chicago, Dave McCarty said that the Chinese government was not indirectly involved in the Hugo Awards “except insofar as the government says what the laws are in the country. … So the government of China says what’s cool in China and the people just operate inside of the bounds of what’s cool, which is exactly the same way that you and I work here.”

What McCarty appears to be referring to is self-censorship. As discussed in the academic article “The Cost of Humour: Political Satire on Social Media and Censorship in China,” there is a “red line” around certain forbidden topics in the country. Because people don’t know exactly what the red line is, and because the punishment for crossing the line can be so severe, “self-censorship is the only way to protect themselves and lower the risk.”

In recent years, this practice of self-censoring has spread to numerous Western organizations and groups that work in or have dealings with China, including Hollywood studios, technology companies, and Ivy-League schools.

Regardless of whether official government censorship took place or if it was self-censorship, what is certain is that the Hugo Award administrators from outside of China were actively involved in researching issues that enabled this censorship.

In an email dated June 7, 2023 at 6:18 PM and sent to the Western Hugo administrators, Dave McCarty said “Tomorrow I have a 4 hour meeting with my chinese counterpart to look at ballot detail and determine if any ballots are to be voided (which happens with frequency so that it’s not *really* that controversial if we determine we need to do it) as well as what things we need to move categories.” The identity of this Chinese counterpart remains unknown at this time.

McCarty then added “The chairs and the administrators will review the items we’ve highlighted in research Friday evening if we have enough time after the ballot review…otherwise we’ll be looking at it on Saturday (China time, of course, so we’re about 13 hours ahead of you).”

This statement, along with McCarty’s earlier email saying the administrators will “determine if it is safe” to put finalists on the ballot or “if the law will require us to make an administrative decision about it,” shows that the research the Western administrators did on Hugo Award finalists was used by the Chengdu convention chairs and administrators to determine who would be on the final ballot.

Lacey confirmed in an interview that this is what happened. “We were supposed to identify any issues and pass them on,” she said. “The decisions were above our heads.”

As Lacey explained in more detail in her apology letter, “We were told to vet nominees for work focusing on China, Taiwan, Tibet, or other topics that may be an issue in China and, to my shame, I did so. Understand that I signed up fully aware that there were going to be issues. I am not that naïve regarding the Chinese political system, but I wanted the Hugos to happen, and not have them completely crash and burn.”

Since the release of the Hugo Award nomination statistics on January 20, Western fandom has been outraged over what happened while multiple mainstream media outlets including The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and Esquire have covered the story. In addition, there have been unverified reports of fans in China who are also angry at having their first Worldcon tainted by this affair.

In the initial week after the release of the statistics, multiple posts by Chinese fans were translated and shared in the Western world, such as a thread of comments in a Bluesky thread shared by Angie Wang. And Zimozi Natsuco, a genre fan from China, published an essay on File770 describing shock and anger at what happened while also giving a glimpse behind the scenes at what might have gone down.

However, in recent weeks posts like these from Chinese fans have been harder to find. According to a report by Ersatz Culture on File770 released on January 27 (see item #8 at link), posts related to the Hugo Awards controversy in China began disappearing around this time.

This report’s authors attempted to reach out to Chinese genre fans for comment, but did not receive any responses in time to include in this report.

An explanation for what might be happening came from Pablo Vazquez, a traveling genre fan and co-chair of the 12th North American Science Fiction Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Vazquez is also well known for his connections with genre fans around the world.

When Vazquez was asked if he could help connect the authors with any fans in China who might comment for this report, he said “I’m sorry. They do not want to speak to the media even anonymously.”

As Vazquez stated in a follow-up comment, “I have a lot of love for Chinese fandom and my friendships and connections there run deep. That’s a real and vibrant fandom there that is, like us, wanting very little to do with their government being involved in their fandom. They definitely don’t think it’s their government and instead think its corporate interests or, even worse, a fan/pro organization. Honestly, they seem more scared by that than anything else which saddens me to see and despite multiple attempts to get them to share their story they seem really hesitant.”

He elaborated further: “They don’t seem to fear official reprisal (the CPC seems to want to find who’s responsible for embarrassing them on the world stage actually) but rather ostracization from their community or its outright destruction. If I were to hazard a guess, the way we blew up this affair in the international media has now put this fandom in very serious trouble. Previously, it was one of the few major avenues of free speech left in China. Now, after all this, the continuation of that freedom seems highly unlikely.”

In the days following the January 20th release of the nomination Long List, several forums have been created online and all of them are calling for the Hugo Awards to be separated from the control of the sitting Worldcon and amending the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) to accomplish this.

In Dave McCarty’s February 4th interview, he said he was opposed to separating the Hugos from Worldcon, calling it “entirely wrong headed.”

“Even though I am certain that every administration decision I made was correct, I don’t think that anybody would ever give me this job again,” McCarty said in the interview. “The answers that I’ve got for the administration decisions, all I can say is again, after reviewing this Constitution and all the other rules we must follow, the administration team ruled that these works were ineligible, which absolutely, categorically is our right to do, you know, that’s right there in the WSFS Constitution.”

A full transcript of the File 770 interview with Dave McCarty can be found here.

When Paul Weimer was asked if he supported separating the Hugos from each local Worldcon, he said, “I was already moderately inclined toward that idea and now I’m more inclined. Clearly we need third-party auditing of the ballot and the whole process as a standard practice. Custom is not strong enough. Custom failed here. It wasn’t a failure in Chengdu, it was a failure here. We need guardrails of multiple types. Because otherwise people are going to stop trusting the Hugo results and that will be the death of the awards.”


OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

By Jason Sanford: In a recent article in Esquire about the Hugo Awards controversy, I talked about how the science fiction and fantasy genre saved my life. I still remember how as a kid certain SF/F novels and stories gave me an escape from horrific days while also opening my mind to new possibilities. These stories also revealed to me that other people saw the world in similar ways to myself.

All of this gave me the drive to not give up and to continue moving forward. And in a major way, I found the stories that illuminated and saved my life through the Hugo Awards. Back then I read every Hugo winner and finalist I could find. While I didn’t agree with or even like many of them, they were still the standard by which I approached the SF/F genre.

When I grew up and began writing my own SF/F stories, I realized the idealized version of the Hugos from my youth didn’t exist. The Hugo Awards, like all awards, were flawed. Some stories that deserved to be finalists never made the ballot. Other works that did likely shouldn’t have been there. And that’s before getting into the political infighting, lack of diversity, lack of inclusion, and other issues that have plagued the awards for decades.

No, the Hugo Awards aren’t perfect. However, what I still love about the Hugos is how they result from thousands of people across fandom working together to honor stories and authors. I love how readers continue to discover new authors and stories thanks to the words “Hugo Award finalist” or “Hugo Award winner.” I love seeing the excitement in an author’s face when they’re nominated for or win a Hugo.

I also respect how each problem that pops up with the awards is examined and dissected by the genre as a whole until maybe, eventually, possibly, a solution is found.

Now the Hugos are facing the biggest crisis in their history.

Make no mistake; the 2023 Hugo Awards were censored because certain authors and works were deemed to have too many political liabilities, at least from the viewpoint of the Chinese government. While it’s unclear if this was official censorship from the Chinese government or self-censorship by those afraid of offending governmental or business interests, we can now be certain that censorship indeed took place.

However, what also disturbs me is that the administrators of the Hugo Awards from the United States and Canada, countries that supposedly support and value free speech, appear to have been active participants in this censorship.

Let me say that again because there are too many people who believe all this happened solely because of the Chinese government: The administrators from the United States and Canada appear to have helped censor the Hugo Awards!

As detailed in the emails and files examined by myself and Chris Barkley, these Western administrators took it upon themselves to research political concerns about many of the finalists. I was one of those finalists they researched and let me tell you, this is the first time I’ve seen what amounts to a political dossier being created on what I’ve said and done. It’s not a good feeling.

That this happened in conjunction with the Hugo Awards sickens me even more.

I know the Hugo Award administrators from the United States and Canada were in a tough spot. They deeply cared about both Worldcon and the Hugos and wanted both to be successful. But in their attempt to do that, they took actions that go against the very heart of what the awards should represent.

This didn’t have to happen. The administrators could have refused to research the political issues around various award finalists. They could have spoken out when these issues first emerged. They could have told the entire SF/F genre what was happening before the awards were held.

Instead, the true story is only now coming out.

Ironically, while the Western Hugo administrators appear to have taken these actions in an attempt to protect both the Hugos and Worldcon, the result has been the exact opposite. This controversy has deeply hurt fandom in both the Western world and in China.

In the leadup to the Chengdu Worldcon, I wrote about speaking with many of the SF/F fans from China who went to the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago. I noted that we all love science fiction and fantasy and how, despite my disagreements with many actions of the Chinese government, I hoped the Chengdu Worldcon would help bring together our shared international fandoms.

Instead, as Chris and I documented in this report, it now appears SF/F fans in China are fearful of possible repression resulting from the Hugos controversy.

It’s my sincere hope that in the years to come we all remember that the regular SF/F fans in China didn’t want this to happen. They are as horrified as Western fans are by all of this. Instead of blaming China’s genre fans, we should work to ensure this issue with the Hugo Awards never happens again.

I want to thank Diane Lacey for providing these emails and files to Chris and myself. This is an amazing act of bravery and was undertaken because Lacey deeply cares about the Hugo Awards. I highly commend her for her work in revealing all this to the world. I also urge everyone to read her apology letter.

The SF/F genre has a lot of work in the coming months and years. We must ensure nothing like this ever happens again. The first opportunity for change will happen this year at the Worldcon in Glasgow. During the business meeting, proposals to decouple the Hugos from Worldcon will be raised and must be approved. You can read the beginning of proposals to do this in these posts by Chris Barkley and Cheryl Morgan.

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) must also start the process of incorporating so they have the actual power to deal with issues like this in the future. If we want Worldcon to exist a decade from now, the WSFS must change.

The Hugo Awards remain one of the most prominent and visible worldwide icons of the science fiction and fantasy genre. The awards must be saved. The good news is the genre has the power to do just that.


Jason Sanford is a science fiction and fantasy writer who’s also a passionate advocate for fellow authors, creators, and fans, in particular through reporting in his Genre Grapevine column. His first novel Plague Birds was a finalist for both the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.


OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

By Chris M. Barkley: When I received the documents that are included in this report on February 3rd at Capricon 44, I did not look at them immediately. In fact, I waited until I got home in Cincinnati the next evening.

I did not read that material that day because I was attending a party honoring a very ill friend, who, as it turns out, couldn’t attend because of a medical emergency. I did not want anything to detract from my enjoying the celebration.

But once I read the first two pages of the emails provided by Diane Lacey, I was stunned, anxious, confused and finally, very angry about what I was seeing. And, as I read the remaining pages, I became even more upset to the point of being violently ill.

The Chengdu Hugo Administrators compiled what a casual observer could reasonably consider to be dossiers of the works of possible nominees, including myself and my co-author, Jason Sanford.

As you can see, these lists contain what the admins thought the People’s Republic of China’s government officials and censors may consider to be politically offensive or subversive in our works, both in the recent past and up through the year of our eligibility.

After I got over my initial shock, I realized I had a dilemma; when pursuing a story, the journalists who are chronicling the events usually do not find themselves as the subject of the inquiry. But these documents, and the truth behind them, were entrusted to me. So, as far as I was concerned, there was no way I could avoid being involved.

I also realized I could not do a report on this story alone. For a brief while, I considered enlisting the help of mainstream reporters. But after reading several recent news articles about the Hugo controversy, I found that they lacked the insight about SF fandom that was needed to bring in a sense of context to what was happening.

I decided that whomever I chose I had to have an insider’s knowledge of fandom and be a very good writer in their own right as well. So, I called in my fellow nominee and professional journalist Jason Sanford.

Once he was apprised of the evidence I had in hand, he did not hesitate to jump in and provide an invaluable perspective of what we should write. In fact, Jason provided the bulk of the third person narrative of this report.    

And as we wrote, we knew that the truth we were revealing would have immediate and lasting consequences for everyone in science fiction fandom, here in North America and internationally.

I have remarked to my partner that I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe that everything that happened, from my surprise nomination last year, the offer of attending the Chengdu Worldcon, winning a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer and being personally embroiled in the controversy that followed in its wake was not fated to happen.

Everything that did happen could have been avoided if the government of China, their associated business interests and those involved in the running of the Worldcon had not tried to “do the right thing”, culturally speaking. 

By western standards, we generally believe that suppressing the truth and then covering up the attempt to do so is considered abhorrent and should be rightly condemned. But in the People’s Republic of China, and in other totalitarian nations, speaking out and having a differing opinion can lead to being ostracized by the community, imprisonment, homelessness, becoming a refugee or death.    

For decades, each individual and independent Worldcon convention committee has had complete jurisdiction and control over the administration of the Hugo Awards. And now that we have seen the disastrous results of what might happen in repressive countries like Turkey, Hungary, Russia and Uganda, which have every right to bid under the current Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, we can well imagine what would happen if they hosted a Worldcon.

And if that were to come to pass, would the members of the Worldcon be bound to nominate and vote on their ballots according to the “local laws and regulations” of an oppressive host country. Moreover, are the Hugo administrators beholden to assist them?

It is my opinion that Mr. McCarty and his fellow western based administrators felt by ingratiating themselves with the Chengdu Worldcon Committee and other Chinese administrators working with them, they could to interdict any direct actions of censorship by the Chinese Communist Party officials, members of the censorship board or the security services by researching and ruling on potential nominees themselves.

The resounding answer should be a very loud NO.

I think that people in fandom, including the Chengdu Hugo Award admins, seem to have forgotten that the Hugos are not supposed to be a popularity contest but a merits-based award that is a judgment of the year’s best works of fiction and non-fiction. As such, it is up to the fans, who I might add, paid out of their own pockets for the privilege to nominate and vote on an annual basis, who should have the final word on who is honored.,

Not the Hugo administrators, not the hosting convention committee and certainly not a group of government bureaucrats and censors with their own non-consensual political agenda. 

In his interview with me, Dave McCarty was adamant that the Hugo Awards should remain under the direct auspices of the Worldcon hosting the proceedings. But this debacle and the Hugo administrators role in interdicting the nominations of four participants who should have been included on the Final Ballot practically ensures that the next two WSFS Business Meetings will seriously consider severing this traditional and long standing relationship, and, at the very least, enact amendments that safeguard the nomination and voting process from any geo-political influences, here in North America and the rest of the world as well.

The firestorm of speculation and outrage that followed the release of the nomination Long List engendered a frenzied demand for the truth of what really happened, a furious yearning that could not and would not be denied by pronouncements of obfuscation, half truths or attempts at subterfuge.

Which brings us to Diane Lacey, who is the hero of this story.

Ms. Lacey, whom I have also known for many years through socializing and working on SF conventions, is very distraught about her role in what happened. What she feared the most was that when this story was released to the public, she would become a pariah in the fannish community.

It is my fervent contention, and I think that my colleague Jason would agree, that what Diane Lacey has done was brave, conscientious and ultimately, the right thing to do for herself and for the community at large.

The omissions of the works of R.F. Kuang, Neil Gaiman, Paul Weimer and Xiran Jay Zhao formed the outline of the puzzle that has been confounding all of us since January 20th. The emails, spreadsheets and Lacey’s personal reminiscences provided a great number of the pieces that provided most of the answers fans have been asking for, at least for now. As far as our investigation is concerned there was no reason to exclude the works of Kuang, Gaiman, Weimer or Xiran Jay Zhao, save for being viewed as being undesirable in the view of the the Hugo Award admins which had the effect of being the proxies Chinese government.

What remains unknown at this time is what was the extent of the involvement of the Chinese government or the business interests that surrounded the development of the Science Fiction Museum, if the business deals that emerged from the convention were orchestrated in conjunction with the convention organizers, a more detailed knowledge of the reaction from the SF fans in China, and whether or not there have been repercussions for them from this shameful incident.

I fully acknowledge the complete truth may never be known. But with the publication of this report, we now know more than we did on the morning of January 20, 2024.

And I can assure anyone reading this that the search for more explanations and answers will continue.

And so must the Hugo Awards.

The purpose of this report goes beyond a clarion call for truth and transparency, it is also a plea for healing and transformation.

The Hugo Awards have been in existence for seventy one years. It has strived to honor the best SF, fantasy, horror and works of related interest during those years. I consider it to be, as several astute critics have called it, “the literature of change”.

What has happened is a test of our will to ask the right questions, find the right answers, heal our wounds and be resilient in the face of adversity.

Because reacting out of fear is not the answer. Facing down that fear is…

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown, only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

-Captain James Kirk, from Star Trek, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, written by Jerry Sohl, 1966.


Chris M. Barkley has been a contributor to File 770 since 1997. He is currently a correspondent and a news editor for the daily newszine The Pixel Scroll.


This report is Dedicated to the Memory of author and former National Public Radio host Bob Edwards (1947-2024); a journalist’s journalist and the morning voice to three generations of radio listeners.

Pixel Scroll 2/5/24 To Boldly Scroll Where No Fan Has Scrolled Before

(1) MCCARTY Q&A. Chris Barkley’s audio interview with Dave McCarty was published here overnight: “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81”. The audio recording is at Soundcloud. A transcript is here.

(2) SPARE CHANGE? The New Zealand Mint has a line of The Lord Of The Rings™ Collectible coins.

Set in the mythical world of Middle-earth, The Lord of The Rings fantasy saga follows hobbit Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and a fellowship of characters as they embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring. Considered one of the greatest works of the 21st century, its popularity has spawned numerous adaptions.

Return to Middle-earth with our limited-edition THE LORD OF THE RINGS™ coins. Made from pure gold or silver, they feature characters and landscapes from the epic fantasy adventure films. Crafted in fine detail with themed packaging, they make the perfect memento for any fan!

Famed Middle-Earth locations feature in these gold coins.

And the silver series includes one with Gollum. Heads he wins, tails you lose!

(3) LEST GRIMDARKNESS FALL. [Item by Anne Marble.] Sebastian Milbank, in an article for the British magazine The Critic (called a “contrarian conservative magazine”) refers to “grimdark” as “Grimdull” — and seems to think they are both “liberal” and “leftist.” (Umm, those are not the same thing.) The article also flings darts at Michael Moorcock and Phillip Pullman. And it calls Breaking Bad grimdark?! Boy, does this article ever make a lot of assumptions about the writers (and readers) of grimdark! And it uses a lot of words in which to do so.

For those unblessed (or uncursed) with an interest in contemporary fantasy, the phrase “Grimdark” may suggest the name of some 2000s era Goth club. It’s a recent coinage for an ongoing craze in “gritty” and dark fantasy settings, epitomised and popularised by George RR Martin, becoming the default tone for a whole range of feted fantasy offerings from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series featuring a dark, brooding protagonist who kills a lot of people — and occasionally feels bad about it — to Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy featuring a dark, brooding protagonist who kills a lot of people — and occasionally feels bad about it.

It’s a genre with a number of consistent features. It’s generally in a mediaeval fantasy setting, but shorn of any romance. Characters are overwhelmingly cynical, and those few who exhibit nobility are treated as foolish or naive. Generally a chaotic war is happening, or about to happen. Religion features, but largely as a tool of social control, often portrayed (usually with some real effort given the baseline awfulness) as even more cruel and cynical than the secular world around it. Dark observations about human nature substitute for any moral drama, with characters seeking to outwit, manipulate or overpower one another in a kind of Darwinian struggle for dominance.

It’s a script born of vaguely liberal, vaguely radical, vaguely anarchic sentiments common to most contemporary creative “industries”. But fantasy, with its over escapism and heroic aristocratic setting, presents something of a problem. This is the inner tension of left wing fantasy — how can a genre defined by apparent escapism not end up serving reactionary ends?…

Grimdark author Joe Abercrombie has a very concise takedown:

(4) ALERT FOR CONVENTION EMAIL RUNNERS. Andrew Trembley shared this alert on Facebook.

For y’all running conventions and running convention email, if you haven’t set up SPF, DKIM and DMARC, you need to do it yesterday. If you’re reading this on Monday, February 5, literally yesterday, because today is the day Google and Yahoo started refusing mail from many email services that have failed to implement SPF, DKIM and DMARC.

(ETA long version, did not include in the share)

I’m seeing people saying “Google is starting to block more non-Gmail senders.” Now they’re right from the perspective they’re looking at this from, but they’re not seeing the whole picture.

It’s not non-Gmail senders. It’s also not just Gmail.

So what is happening? Bear with me, this is long…

(5) MARY SOON LEE Q&A. Space Cowboy Books hosts an “Online Reading and Interview with Mary Soon Lee” on Tuesday, February 6 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free HERE.

How-to astronomy poetry to answer vexing questions such as How to Surprise Saturn, How to Blush Like Betelgeuse, and How to Survive a Black Hole.

“Unraveling meaning from partial glimpses of the universe has preoccupied astronomers for thousands of years. Mary Soon Lee’s remarkable collection of poetry traces this journey, capturing the wonder of the celestial bodies that comprise our universe, the elegance of the rules that guide its evolution and the humanity of those who search to better our understanding.” -Andy Connolly, Professor of Astronomy, University of Washington

Mary Soon Lee is a Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and has won the Rhysling Award, the Elgin Award, and the AnLab Readers’ Award. Her work has appeared in Science, American Scholar, Spillway, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons. This is her second collection of science poetry, following on from Elemental Haiku: Poems to honor the periodic table three lines at a time. Born and raised in London, she now lives in Pittsburgh.

(6) FAN FALLOUT. The Seattle 2025 Worldcon committee answered a query on Facebook by saying that neither Dave McCarty nor anyone else from the Chengdu Worldcon team will be involved with their Hugo Awards.

(7) SALAM AWARD OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. The Salam Award, which promotes imaginative fiction in and about Pakistan, reminds Pakistani writers they have until midnight July 31 to submit entries for the award. See full guidelines at this link. Participants must either be currently residing in Pakistan, or be of Pakistani birth/descent.

(8) DANISH COMPLETIST. “Modstand og håb” at Superkultur is written in Danish, however, Lise Andreasen has provided an English translation in the first comment.

Niels Dalgaard is a patient man – not only in his persistent attempt to collect all the science fiction that has been published in odd corners of the Danish publishing world, but more specifically in this case in his project: to read through the approximately 250 novels that has been published in Danish, which can be placed in the category “youth dystopias”….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. I have come this Scroll to talk of not cabbages and kings but a man who as a mystery writer showed up regularly playing poker as himself in the Castle series with Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle — Stephen J. Cannell. James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Dennis Lehane were the other such writers here. I’ll talk about his work as a novelist later. 

Nathan Fillion as mystery writer Richard Castle, playing poker with real-life authors Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Stephen J Cannell.

The Zorro rip-off, scripted in its one season by him, The Night Rider, described by IMDB this way, “A refined New Orleans gentleman becomes a masked crimefighter by night, both to uphold law and order and to find the men who murdered his family in order to get their silver mine” is genre the same The Shadow or Doc Savage is in that it’s pulp.

Between that series and what I’m about to note next, scripting shows, the good, the bad and the truly awful made him very wealthy. So he got to produce a series that he said was one he’d to do a very long time ago — The Greatest American Hero.  You know the story of it so I want go into deep detail here, but suffice it to say that he was very happy with its success.

Veering way out of genre, I’m going to note he created Baa Baa Black Sheep (which was renamed Black Sheep Squadron for the second season for reasons unknown by the Powers That Be), a series I really liked.

I’ll note next 21 Jump Street which he created with Patrick Hasburgh which was about the cases of an undercover police unit composed of really great looking young officers specializing in youth crime. Definitely not genre, so why mention it? Because that featured Johnny Depp who would later do so many genre performances. And yes, he’d done one before this series as Greg Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

He loved making low budget horror films such as The Demon HunterThe Fairy and Left in Darkness. All shot on all cheap budgets (and this is after he became very wealthy), shot on locations you wouldn’t go without security in armor and shot fast enough you’d suspect use of interesting drugs to keep everyone alert, there’s more than makes sense of these in his IMDB listings. Stephen, you devil. Possibly literally.

Now about that poker game on Castle. All four of those players are there because they are mystery writers. Cannell wrote a series of novels about Shane Scully who was a detective in the LAPD force. I don’t know if they actually played poker in those scenes but I suspect they did. 

(10) SATISFIED FAN. Cora Buhlert heaps praise on a He-Man adaptation: “The Revolution Will Be Televised: Some Thoughts on Masters of the Universe Revolution”.

…So I watched Revelation and it turned out to be not just some nostalgic fun, but so much more. Here was the He-Man story I always wanted to see, a series which took the characters seriously in all their beautiful absurdity and found new depths in them and even managed to make me cry (something western animation in general very rarely does – crying is for anime), while also harkening back to the early 20th SFF which had inspired Masters of the Universe in the first place. Plus, the animation was gorgeous and finally looked as good as the Filmation cartoon looked in my memory, but never in reality, and the voice cast was stellar….

(11) GROUNDHOG DAY CAST REUNION. “Bill Murray celebrates ‘Harold Ramis Day’ Groundhog Day” at CBS Chicago.

This Groundhog Day, Woodstock Willie did not see his shadow — and thus said we should expect an early spring this year.

But at a ceremony in Chicago on Friday, a groundhog named Chicago Harry did not agree.

But first off, why is there a groundhog prognosticating on the trajectory of winter in Woodstock, Illinois? The answer, of course, is that in the 1993 film “Groundhog Day,” Woodstock stood in for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — home of Groundhog Day celebrations since the 1880s.

Ever since the movie came out 31 years ago, Woodstock Willie has been up there with Punxsutawney Phil in the real Punxsutawney among large-rodent long-range winter forecasters.

Members of the cast of the iconic film reunited for the first time at Navy Pier Friday, marking 31 years since the film was released. But Friday was also about honoring Harold Ramis and commemorating 10 years since his death….

…”I think it’s great that we’re here and, I don’t want to be too Irish, but it’s very nice of Harold to make it a very nice, mild day for today,” Murray said. “He’s up there stirring the clouds around, making that low pressure move out to Indiana and just drenching, ruining those people’s lives over there in Indiana.”

Ramis’ wife, Erica, was in attendance, beaming with pride as many spoke wonders about her husband. She even read a letter from former President Barack Obama encouraging people to enjoy the day as Ramis would. 

The ceremony included re-enactments of Punxsutawney festival emcee Buster Green (Brian Doyle-Murray) knocking at the tree stump with his cane, where a groundhog named Chicago Harry made his prediction.

Ken Hudson Campbell (“man in hallway”), Robin Duke (Doris the waitress), Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor), Richard Henzel (the DJ), Don Rio McNichols (drum player), David Pasquesi (the psychiatrist), and Peggy Roeder (the piano teacher) were also in attendance.

And unlike Woodstock Willie, and Punxsutawney Phil, Chicago Harry saw his shadow — and predicted six more weeks of winter after all.

(12) GOING ROGUE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Just learned that the 2000AD strip Rogue Trooper film is at last moving forward. Director Duncan (Moon, Source Code) Jones teased about this back in 2018 and it now looks like a cast is being pulled together. “Duncan Jones’ Rogue Trooper Movie Cast Announced, Including Hayley Atwell, Sean Bean, and Matt Berry” at IGN.

The cast for Rogue Trooper, the upcoming movie from Moon and Warcraft director Duncan Jones, has been announced. The animated adaptation of the classic 2000 AD comic will be headlined by Aneurin Barnard, Hayley Atwell, and Jack Lowden, and will also feature a number of other well-known British stars such as Sean Bean.

Aneurin Barnard, who previously starred in The Goldfinch and Dunkirk, plays the titular Rogue Trooper, a blue-skinned, genetically-engineered soldier fighting on the toxic battlefields of a seemingly never-ending war. The sole survivor of a massacre that killed his squadmates, he’s on the hunt for the traitor that arranged their deaths. He does this with the aid of three of his killed-in-action squadmates, whose digital personalities still remain conscious after death and are uploaded into Rogue’s gun, helmet, and backpack….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Science Futurism with Isaac Arthur this week took a look at Death Worlds. These are planets on which, once you land, they set out to kill you.  Unlike most of Isaac Arthur’s episodes (other than his monthly ‘Sci-Fi Sundays’) which have a (highly speculative) science take, this one has as much a science fictional approach, starting as it does with the legendary Harry Harrison’s DeathWorld series of the 1960s. Along the way, he gives us a number of SFnal examples… So, pour a mug of builders and sit back for a half-hour episode (it won’t kill you)…

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

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81

An Audio Interview With Dave McCarty by Chris M. Barkley

Dave McCarty. Photo by Chris M. Barkley.

Yesterday, Saturday February 3rd, my partner Juli Marr and I drove from Cincinnati to attend Capricon 44 in downtown Chicago.

We went because we were cordially invited by Helen Montgomery for a semi-surprise party in support of Leane Verhulst, a beloved Chicago area fan. The Facebook Invitation read as follows:

In September 2023, Leane posted that she had a brain tumor. Since then she had surgery to remove it, and the tumor was biopsied. As some of you may have heard, Leane has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma. She has completed chemo and radiation, but this cancer is aggressive and unfortunately has a low survival rate.

As some of us discussed this, Dave had the idea that we would much rather celebrate her *with* her now instead of later. (I mean, we’ll celebrate her later too. Probably often. Because we embrace the power of “and” here.)

Please come join us at Capricon 44 on Saturday night at 8pm Central for our Celebration of Leane. Capricon 44 is held at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. 

Juli and I have known Leane for many years and have socialized and worked with her at other sf conventions, including several Chicago Worldcons. 

Leane had been in remission and was expected to be there but unfortunately, she had a rather sudden relapse on Friday that required her to be hospitalized for immediate treatment.

As of this post, she is conscious and in stable condition but tires easily. 

As a consolation, Helen Montgomery set up a laptop and people attending the party spent a few minutes chatting with and to lift her spirits up. Juli and I were among the last to speak with her and I must remark that she was bearing up very well despite the difficult circumstances. In one way or another, we all told her that we loved her, wished her well with the hope of a speedy recovery…

Leane Verhulst

The other less important reason was that I was also there to receive my Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer from Dave McCarty, who was until recently the head of the Hugo Award Administrators for the Chengdu Worldcon. (He was also a co-host of Ms. Verhulst’s party.)

The party was a success and a literal Who’s Who in fandom was there including Don and Jill Eastlake, Ben Yalow, Alex von Thorn, Marah Seale-Kovacevic, Laurie and Jim Mann, Steven H and Elaine Silver, Stephen Boucher, Tammy Coxen, James Bacon, Jesi Lipp, Greg Ketter, Geri Sullivan, Janice Gelb, Ann Totusek and Kathy and Paul Lehman.

(Although many photographs were taken, I refrained from doing so for personal reasons.)

As all of you are probably aware of by now, these Administrators, and Mr. McCarty in particular, have been under fire for the shocking and unexplained disqualifications of the works of fan writer Paul Weimer, Chinese-born Canadian sff writer Xiran Jay Zhao, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman mini-series on Netflix and the novel Babel by novelist R.F. Kuang from the Long List of Nominations that was released on January 20.

Mr. McCarty, who has been involved in sf fandom for decades, was bombarded with inquiries from most of the ineligibles (save for Ms. Kuang, who issued a brief statement of her own on Instagram), from outraged sff fans on social media and from curious factions of the mainstream press as well. 

(Full Disclosure: I have not stated this recently but I must make it known that I have known and worked with Mr. McCarty for several decades. I have worked with him on many conventions in a subordinate role and clashed with him on many occasions involving contentious issues that I have brought before the World Science Fiction Fiction Business Meeting. Despite this, I have maintained a cordial and respectful relationship with him over the years.)

As a journalist, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum; being the recipient of the Hugo in Best Fan Writer category this year, I am in the uncomfortable position of being a part of the story I am reporting on.  

But, since I am in the eye of the hurricane so to speak, I am also in the unique position to observe and report on the situation. Keeping my bias in check, I extended an invitation to interview Mr. McCarty several days before I left for Chicago. A day before I left, I receives a text from him accepting the offer, something he did not do when asked by Adam Morgan,  a reporter from Esquire Magazine, which ran the following story this past Thursday, the first day of Capricon 44, much to Mr. Carty’s chagrin: “Hugo Awards 2024: What Really Happened at the Sci-Fi Awards in China?”

On Sunday morning, Mr. McCarty and I sat down in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand Riverwalk Hotel for an extensive talk about his experiences as the Chengdu Hugo Administrator, the Chinese colleagues, he worked with, his future in fandom and the mysterious origins of and his reactions to being named, “the Hugo Pope”.

[Here is a transcript of the interview produced by consulting two different AI-generated transcripts, and lightly copyedited by Mike Glyer. https://file770.com/wp-content/uploads/Dave-McCarty-Interview-Audio-file-cleaned-up.pdf.]

One question I neglected to ask at the time was whether or not he, or anyone on the Chengdu Hugo Awards Administration team, were required to sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement by the Chinese government or any other entity involved with the convention. I sent Dave McCarty a text message asking the question after I arrived home Sunday evening. His response:

“Nobody on the administration team signed any kind of agreement like that, we’re just bound by our regular WSFS confidential customs.”

And finally, there was the matter of my Best Fan Writer Hugo Award:

I was informed via text by Mr. McCarty that the six or so Hugo Awards shipped from the People’s Republic of China to the United States for distribution arrived at his house this past Monday.

Unfortunately for all involved, all of the awards had been damaged in transit; while he did not detail the damage to the other awards, Mr. McCarty told me that mine had suffered the most damage in that the panda had chipped paint and had also become completely detached from the stargate. He theorized that this happened because the cases did not have any cushioning material inside to insulate it, so that any practically any motion during transport would cause the awards to rock and bounce against the case.

Mr. McCarty reported that all of the custom cases were for all practical purposes, unusable. 

He did tell me that he thinks that the awards can be either fully repaired or possibly even replaced in the next month or so. 

He did offer to give my award as is and have it repaired on my own but I declined and said that anything that he could do to have it restored would be fine with me.

This turn of events will mean that my daughter Laura and her family, my bookstore and library friends and all of ardent admirers at my local Kroger’s supermarket will have to wait just a little while longer to take their selfies with one of the most iconic symbols in literature… 

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #80

Chengdu 2023: A Bittersweet Symphony of a Worldcon

I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down
Been down
Ever been down
Ever been down
Ever been down
Ever been down
Have you ever been down?
Have you ever been down?
Have you ever been down?

++ “Bittersweet Symphony” by Richard Ashcroft of The Verve, with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

By Chris M. Barkley: January 20th, 2024: A Day that will live in Fannish Infamy.

What was that day like? It was like racing down the stairs on Christmas Day and spotting a large package containing the LARGEST chocolate bar you have ever seen, ripping the wrapping and packaging unheeded and sinking your teeth into it for a BIG bite…only to find out an instant later and much to your horror, that your dear, elderly, nearsighted grandparents had bought a gigantic bar of bitter, very untasty, dark baking chocolate.  

Yes, THAT kind of day. And every single day since then…

My partner Juli and I were taking a midmorning break after a panel and a late breakfast in our hotel room last Saturday at the 49th edition of the ConFusion sf convention in Novi, Michigan, when she noticed a Facebook post from a well known Chicago area sf fan, Dave McCarty:

· January 20 at 11:48 am
“For those following at home, the release is out.”

As many of you may now know, Mr. McCarty was one of the lead Hugo Award Administrators for the 81st World Science Fiction convention that took place in the People’s Republic of China’s fourth largest city, Chengdu. It also happens to be the capital of China’s sff community.

We, along with a lot of people in the fannish community, had been eagerly awaiting the release of the 2023 Hugo Awards Long List of Nominations. 

You may also be aware that I attended the convention, too; not only in the capacity of File 770’s foreign correspondent, but as a Hugo Award Finalist in the Best Fan Writer Category.

During my stay I did not encounter any problems with anyone on the Convention Committee, congoing staff or fans, or any of the police or security services who were (heavily) present. I, in turn, was very polite and circumspect in my behavior and attitude while I was there, since I considered myself as a diplomat for my country AND for the international fannish community as well. 

Full Disclosure: I was an invited guest of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Committee and the host fan group, the Chengdu Science Fiction Society. I did so of my own free will, knowing that the People’s Republic of China is a totalitarian regime with a very vigorous system of surveillance and social intimidation. I went to Chengdu, with airfare and expenses paid, without any prior restraints on what I could say, do or go. I went because: 

(a) I was invited by the hosts of the convention and I wanted to represent the sf community on a world stage. 

(b) I was a Hugo Award nominee for fan writing and, most importantly —

(c) I am 67 freaking years old and exactly WHEN THE HELL was I going to get another chance to visit Asia, much less the People’s Republic of China?

So, I went all in, with my eyes, and ears wide open. I was on the lookout for anything unusual. I even took a “dumb phone” which had a very limited connectivity and functions just in case the Chinese security services became a little too interested in me. (This rather foolish and overly paranoiac move actually caused more problems than it actually solved. 

(Note: I am currently at work transcribing a diary I kept during the period of my nomination and my stay at the convention where this blunder and other fascinating things will be revealed. It will be published on File770 later this year.) 

Onward…

[Chris Barkley’s column continues after the jump.]

Continue reading

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #79

THIS IS AN ACTUAL INTELLECTUAL EMERGENCY! PLEASE STAND BY… A Critical Review of Leave The World Behind   

By Chris M. Barkley:

Leave The World Behind (4 out of 4 stars ****), with Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Myha’la, Ethan Hawke, Farrah Mackenzie, Charlie Evans and Kevin Bacon. Adapted for the screen and directed by Sam Esmail, based on the 2020 National Book Award nominated novel Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam. 

(Author’s Note: I had originally planned on presenting you a very different column on a very different subject. But, due to the recent popularity and subsequent controversy surrounding the recent release of Netflix’s apocalyptic thriller Leave The World Behind, I felt compelled to write this rather terse (for me) review of the film, based on the incredulous responses I have seen and read by friends and acquaintances online. And, for the record, I do not use the term “incredulous” lightly, because at times I found myself wondering if they saw the same film I did.

In any event, the column I meant to write will be shelved until next year. The following film review is being offered as a public service…CMB)  

This past summer, I had the misfortune of having to travel to New York City by Greyhound bus in order to pick up my approved visa to travel to China for this year’s Worldcon. An airline ticket at current market prices was definitely out of the question and driving to and into Manhattan (and finding a parking space) was equally unattractive. 

Fortunately for me, the Chinese Consulate was just a six block walk on 42nd Street from the New York-New Jersey Port Authority Bus Terminal. I booked a return trip home that was scheduled to leave four hours after I arrived.

Picking up the visa turned out to be a breeze. I returned to the Port Authority well ahead of the departure time, descended to the lowest level and lined up in a spot near the front of the line. 

Other people quickly sauntered in behind me and the line began to snake around the stanchions marking the gate entrance. And that’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that I was being observed. 

The man was white, around my age with a full white beard and a single suitcase. He was also wearing a red and white baseball cap festooned with a Confederate flag. What he seemed to be staring at was my National Public Radio promotional cap. 

I turned and returned the stare for just a few moments.

What I saw was an angry man who probably was forced to wear his Confederate hat instead of his Make America Great Again cap because the dry cleaners had “lost” it but he NEEDED to represent his political brand somehow today.

But I most definitely noted his disapproval and displeasure at my presence there.

We boarded the bus. We did not sit near each other or interact any further.

I doubt that person has given me a single thought since then. I can’t say that; I think about him, who he supports and what sort of hellish landscape he would like to inflict on people like myself, all the time.

These thoughts keep me up at night.

And if you had looked into his eyes that day, you’d be sleepless as well…

******

This past week, my partner Juli and I watched, Leave the World Behind. We decided to do so after hearing about the praise, wonderment, and vehement condemnation it has garnered since its limited run in theaters (on November 22nd, the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy) and its streaming debut on Netflix on December 8th (which is, coincidentally, is the day after America memorializes the loss of life in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor).

Subtle? Maybe not. Onward…

One fine summer day, Amanda Sanford (Julia Roberts) surprises her husband Clay (Ethan Hawke) and their children, teenaged Archie (Charlie Evans) and pre-teen Rose (Farrah Mackenzi) with a trip to Long Island for a weekend retreat at a high end Airbnb rental.

Their arrival is far from tranquil; Amanda spies a hard bitten looking local (Kevin Bacon) loading bottled water into his pickup truck and giving her an evil eye, the kids experience intermittent internet blackouts on their devices and a trip to the beach is ruined when an enormous oil tanker runs aground exactly where they camped and they barely escape being killed.

By the time they get back to the house, everyone’s phones have stopped working and all the television and radio stations have stopped broadcasting.

Late that evening, two people show up at the front door; an elegantly dressed man, G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his teen daughter Ruth (Myha’la). G.H. apologizes profusely for intruding but he claims that he is the homeowner who has been corresponding with Amanda. They have returned unexpectedly because of an emergency situation in the city.

Amanda is immediately suspicious of the pair, as G.H. claims to have left his wallet in the city in the rush to come back. However, he does produce the key to the locked liquor cabinet, which is (more than) enough proof for Clay. The drawer also holds a great deal of cash which he offers as a partial refund to the couple.

What they don’t see is that the drawer also contains a large caliber pistol, which G.H. eyes with some apprehension before closing it.

And, despite the pleasantries they exchange from that moment forward, there are gnawing suspicions and simmering tensions between the Sanfords, who are white and the Scotts, who are black. 

And as the weekend progresses, many more inexplicable actions occur; herds of deer begin to congregate on the property’s edge to stare at them for uncomfortable periods of time, a strange, agonizing sound disorients them, a drone litters the countryside with flyers in an Islamic language and unmanned self-driving cars wreck themselves and clog the main highway leading to the city.

And then, things get worse. Much, much worse.

I consider myself a well-informed person. I am not only aware of the darker skeletons in America’s closet, I am also fully cognizant that in light of history over the past fifty years, we stand at the crossroads of either upholding our democratic values or descending headlong into becoming an autocratic cesspool of recriminations and violence.

And frankly, after seeing Leave The World Behind, I am scared shitless. And I am very dismayed that some of the negative reviews and criticisms I have read, only want to point out what they consider “plot holes” or “that doesn’t happen in real life” and “I hate it when the filmmakers don’t just come out and tell us what’s going on”.

Oh. Really?

Screenwriter and director Sam Esmail isn’t here to merely dole out “the truth” of what’s happening. It’s NOT that kind of film. Visually, in masterful strokes, he is using allegory, symbolism and ambiguity throughout the narrative (and if you look hard enough, the images jump right out at you) to creep you out and unsettle the hell out of you. 

And, when the implications of what you’ve seen finally sink in, scare the fuck out of you. 

We Americans take too many things in American society for granted; our freedom, security, privileges and, most importantly, the Rule of Law. And right now, at this very moment, there are people out there, secretly and stealthily, hacking away at America’s four pillars of civilization, with small, powerful, microscopic blows being administered every single day.

And it’s only a matter of time before those pillars will give way, fail and topple at some random and inopportune time.

And as we stand looking at the wreckage of what’s left of our republic, dazed, confused, emotionally and spiritually broken, we shouldn’t wonder how this could have happened. 

Because we did it to ourselves. 

Submitted for your consideration:

  • In just the past few days, the leading presidential candidate of the Republican Party has been spewing rhetoric echoing the core beliefs of Hitler, Putin and Mussolini with the confidence of a would-be dictator.
  • People in the leadership positions and the rank and file of the GOP have been either too reluctant or cowardly to openly criticize him, lest they piss him off or, even worse, the base of supporters that keep them in power.
  • Those millions of supporters of the candidate and the party are all too eager to  embrace the lies, conspiracy theories and misinformation being peddled as the truth by cynical provocateurs.
  • Right wing political and legal groups, like “Moms For Liberty” and the Federalist Society are hard at work trying to bend and subjugate the country to their decidedly conservative or theological will.
  • White nationalists who want to “save” America (for themselves, of course) are not only recruiting people to their cause, they are actively attacking our societal norms  and vital portions of infrastructure through carefully planned acts of intimidation, violence and hacking over the internet, every day. 

Yes, at this moment, there can be no doubt America is still a first world superpower. But, as this film most pointedly shows, we are only also a few perilous steps from descending into an open civil war of our own making, which would swiftly be followed by mass chaos and armed anarchy.    

Some outside the United States have clearly gotten the message. One of the best reviews can be summed up in the following observation by UK film critic Clarisse Loughrey of the Independent from December 11th:

Esmail goes big and bold with his Hitchcock allusions and showy camera work… Yet nothing quite shows Esmail’s hand more than Rose’s chemical-like reliance on Friends, a show which Ruth describes as ‘nostalgic for a time that never existed’. Yes, it’s ironic that the series is currently available on Netflix – but that’s exactly the kind of thoroughly modern hypocrisy Leave the World Behind revels in.

The author of the novel, Rumaan Alam, who also served as an executive producer on the film (along with Julia Roberts), has not only signed off on the changes Esmail made to the narrative, but also praised how he ended the film, calling it “so satisfying”.

“To end with the particular jolt of humor that [Esmail] does is so satisfying and so rewarding,” he said. “It’s sort of self-reflective because he’s a filmmaker. He’s also worked in television, and he’s sort of asserting something about the power of that medium, and its hold over this one character. 

(The television show Mr. Alam is referring to is the critically acclaimed psychological techno thriller series, Mr. Robot, which ran on the USA Network between 2015-2019.) 

And it is Rose’s fixation on seeing the last episode of the long-running NBC sitcom that serves as the key to all the things this film is trying to convey to you, the viewer. And it’s not with a spoonful of soothing medicine labeled “The End – You Can Relax Now”.

Leave the World Behind is an openly pointed invitation to critically think about what’s happening around you as you go about your life every day, especially here in America, although it may equally apply to other nations that regard themselves as democracies. 

Because out there, unseen, but definitely humming in the background, is institutional and systemic racism, misogyny and religious intolerance which, in turn, is feeding the generational hate of the queer community, people of color and immigrants.


Tyranny Never Sleeps. Neither Should Democracy.

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” ~ Gloria Steinem ~

My Most Memorable Moment at the Chengdu Worldcon

Chris M. Barkley and RiverFlow. Photo taken at the Chengdu Worldcon Program Item: Records and Maps of Human’s Imaginary: Examining, Cataloging and the History of Chinese Science Fiction on Friday October 20th, 2023, the photographer is unknown.

By Chris M. Barkley: When I was cordially invited to attend the 81st World Science Fiction Convention by the Chengdu Science Fiction Society and its Worldcon Committee this past summer, I made a decision to keep a diary of the events leading up to and during the convention.

And now, two weeks after this historic event, I am in the process of transcribing (and deciphering) all of the notes and pages of observations that I have compiled over the past four months.

Last week, I heard that RiverFlow, my fellow Hugo Finalist in the Best Fan Writer category and the recipient of this year’s award in the Best Fanzine category (with his fellow editor, Ling Shizen), put out a call for convention reports and memorable moments.

Well, considering that I was publicly seen hoisting this year’s Best Fan Writer award, many people might consider that to be my moment of choice.

But I would beg to differ.

What I consider to be my top three moments all happened at the Hugo Awards Ceremony but not necessarily in the order you might think.

In third place would be the incredible moment I felt when my name was announced, in English. Because when it was announced in Chinese by Wang Hongwei, the Executive Producer of The Wandering Earth, Vice President of Chinese Directors Association and President of Science Fiction Film Work Committee of China Film Association, I was certain that either RiverFlow or Arthur Liu had won.

But…no…

THAT WAS MY NAME THAT WAS JUST READ OUT LOUD!

 My second memorable moment was the reading of my speech, which I somehow made it through without crying, especially after reading the names of my late parents, family members and friends.

But the MOST memorable moment of the convention came in between those two moments.

As I stumbled across the narrow aisle of the second row of seats towards the stage, the person at the end of the row stood up and gave me a strong, all encompassing bear hug.

That person was my peer and fellow Hugo Award Finalist, RiverFlow.

That sign of solidarity almost burst into tears right then and there. I had just a few moments to pull myself together before I grasped the hand of the lovely child astronaut and ascended to the stage to accept.

In reality, I may have the award for Best Fan Writer of 2023, but traditionally, the award does not go solely to me personally, it is for the work itself.

Mind you, I was quite happy to be named a Hugo Award winning author… But I would have been just as joyful had any of the other finalists had been announced. Because I do not consider RiverFlow, Arthur, Bitter, Jason and Örjan as my rivals or competition, they are my peers and fellow travelers in writing.

The tremendous hug from RiverFlow through, was an unforgettable and invaluable reward in itself. And I am the humble and grateful recipient of it.

Thank You, RiverFlow.

A File 770 Chengdu Worldcon Special: Jody Lynn Nye and Chris M. Barkley In Conversation – The “Ask A US Fan” Panel

Chris Barkley

By Chris M. Barkley: Soon after I received my surprise invitation to attend the Chengdu Worldcon in person last summer, I also received a request soon after from their Programming Division to participate in and suggest panel ideas for the convention.

Needless to say, I was both somewhat chuffed and surprised that they would seek my input. After giving it only a few minutes of thought, I made only one suggestion; a panel completely devoted to any questions Chinese fans would like to ask an sf fan (or fans) from the United States.

You can imagine my utter surprise when I was informed that the panel had been placed on the schedule! 

I did not make the suggestion lightly or to be overly provocative (well, maybe JUST a little, heh) because I know that relations between our respective governments at this moment in time are probably at or near an all time low. 

But, knowing what I have read about fans in China, they are incredibly curious about our fandom and I wanted to give them an honest and unvarnished opinion of who we are and what we’re all about.

Also, knowing that whatever was said at this panel would probably be reviewed by either Communist Party officials or members of the security services, I had planned in advance to make a point of saying that I was not a foreign policy expert nor was I there to criticize the government or policies of the People’s Republic of China. 

I was there to facilitate their questions about western fandom and listen to any observations they may have about us.

While I had originally thought of doing this by myself as sort of a TED Talk, I became a little apprehensive as I traveled to Chengdu, thinking that I may have bitten off more than I can chew this time around. I mean, I had no doubt that I could actually pull the panel off by myself; I have had years of experience as a solo speaker, a radio talk show host, a convention moderator/panelist and improvisational theater. But I have found that more often than not, I have a better time collaborating with others than I do by myself.

Well apparently, the programmers, not being very familiar with me, thought I should have some company. Originally, I was set to do the panel with Alan Bond, one of the prominent members of the Seattle in 2025 bid.

Funny Story: When Alan told me he was going to be on the panel with me, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. So, on Friday, when we both went over to the Venue to do the panel, we were puzzled when we arrived at our designated room and found a panel already in progress. When we checked in at the Information Desk, we were both chagrined to learn we were A FULL DAY EARLY! Which posed a big problem for Alan since he had to be present for the Seattle bid’s announcement of their Guests of Honor at the Business Meeting at the same time on Saturday.

Jody Lynn Nye

But, my despair was short lived; the eminent sf novelist (and my fannish contemporary) Jody Lynn Nye had also been asked to serve on the panel and readily accepted the assignment on short notice.

As you will hear from the audio, Jody and I tried to be as engaging and informative as possible, for our audience and hopefully for you as well.

Download the recording here. [Recorded in Chengdu, China at the Science Fiction Museum venue on October 21, 2023. Photos by Chris M. Barkley.]

(NOTE: I had moderated another Chengdu Worldcon panel, “The Joy of Being a First Time Hugo Award Nominee” with Novelette Finalists Marie Vibbert, Wole Talabi and Artist Finalist Kuri Huang. Unfortunately, our lively discussion may or may not have been recorded by the convention; I FORGOT to bring my recording device so I want to extend my apologies to the panelists and you out there for omission. If a recording is available, it will be posted…CMB)

Pixel Scroll 10/26/23 It Was An Early Evening Pixel And The Scroll Had Just Opened Up

(1) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Charlie Jane Anders asks “Why Is It So Hard For Hollywood To Create Brand New Heroes?” at Happy Dancing.

…I actually have no idea why Hollywood’s heaviest hitters keep coming back to the same characters. To find out more, I asked Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the creator of The Middleman (which I praised in last week’s newsletter.) Javi recently pitched a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV show that wouldn’t include Arthur Dent, so I was curious to find out what he thought about this topic. Here’s what he told me.

Star Wars has arguably had a hard time moving away from the Skywalkers — every Star Wars TV show or movie up to now features characters who are at most two Kevin Bacons away from Luke. The Wizarding World has stumbled when it tries to move too far away from Harry Potter — the Fantastic Beasts movies very quickly pivoted to being about Harry’s mentor Dumbledore. The only Hunger Games spinoff is a prequel that focuses on a guy who spent a lot of time with Katniss. Why is it so hard to move away from characters we already know, or the familiar version of the saga?

Having worked on one or two franchise projects, I would add the caveat that it’s easy to armchair quarterback some of these decisions when one is not aware of the parameters under which they were made. That said, the biggest issue is always money. Every single project you mentioned above is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars that has to be recuperated — not to mention that these projects also have to buttress entire empires of merchandising, theme park attractions, and publishing across all media. It’s not a business model that rewards risk.

There’s also what I call “The Fog of War,” by which I mean the often desperate need to make things work for no reason other than being committed to a something like the availability of a piece of talent, or setting a release date before having a robust concept, or a weird contractual obligation (like Sony needing to produce a Spider-Man movie every six years on pain of losing the rights to the characters), or having too many powerful producers who disagree about everything, and needing something — anything — to put before the camera. Those sorts of artificial constraints lead directly to the lowest-hanging fruit, and often to decisions that make little sense when examined with the benefit of a greater perspective….

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

113 recommended short SF stories

I’m not sure what – if any – connection this list of stories has to the Worldcon – possibly it’s related to the reaction to Hai Ya’s Hugo win, as covered in yesterday’s Scroll?  It seems to have been crowd-sourced, and is a mix of Chinese and non-Chinese works.  Hopefully most of the Western authors and works are still recognizable after the “Translate content” link does its work; whilst it doesn’t always successfully reverse-engineer the correct original titles from their translated titles, it should be close enough for them to be identified.

“Celebrity” and other photos from Xiaohongshu

I was mildly amused when the algorithm behind the Xiaohongshu app started categorizing some photos of people who will be recognizable to Filers – or who are actually Filers – as “celebrities”.  Most if not all of the following links contain a variety of photos, but I’ve highlighted the names of people who appear in some of those photos.

A couple of other photos and videos:

A couple more con reports from Chinese fans

(via Zimozi Natsuco on Twitter).  A slight word of warning: I think this pair of con reports don’t fare as well with machine translation (well, Google Translate at least) as does a lot of non-fiction material.  Part of this is that Google Translate doesn’t seem to have been trained on fannish materials.  For example “二次元” becomes “second dimension” or”two-dimensional”, which is correct in a literal sense, but would be more understandable as “anime”, “anime-styled” or “animation”.

The first is from an anime fan, and probably covers the overall Chinese speculative fiction and media scene more than the con itself.  A couple of extracts via Google Translate, with minor cleanup edits:

Compared with the dazzling array of two-dimensional products, looking at Chinese science fiction, what products have been developed over the years that are well-known to the public?

“The Three-Body Problem”!  Anything else?

“The Wandering Earth”!  Anything else?

Um, “Sun of China“?  Are there any works other than those of Liu Cixin?

…Umm, “Shanghai Fortress“?

When science fiction was introduced to China by Lu Xun, Liang Qichao and others in the early 20th century, it was included in a utilitarian direction as soon as it was involved. Of course, this was also due to the ambiguity of the meaning of “science fiction” proposed by Hugo Gernsback. Most people now equate “speculative fiction” with “fiction about science”, and the “fantasy” aspect of speculative fiction is ignored. lThis makes more sense in Chinese: “科幻” is translated as “science fiction”, but it is actually an abbreviation of “科学幻想”, which are the words “科学” science and “幻想” fantasy.)]

This definition deeply influenced Chinese science fiction literature in the 1970s and 1980s. Even now, many people still believe that science fiction should be scientific, and the fantasy part is excluded. This situation was particularly serious when “The Three-Body Problem” first became popular. At that time, the Internet was full of comments such as “hard science fiction is science fiction, soft science fiction is not as good”

Our old friend Game Grape also published an article on the last day of the Chengdu Science Fiction Conference called “The second dimension is getting colder. Is science fiction the next trend in the gaming industry?” In the article, a game company boss revealed to Putao that “the next trend may be science fiction.”

Nowadays, more and more two-dimensional mobile games are beginning to put on the skin of science fiction. In the second trailer for Honkai Impact 3 released in September, it is not difficult to see the dominance of science fiction: the stage is placed in the universe.

The second is by Zimozi himself.  Again, via Google Translate with minor edits

But the conference was a real success. Please read the news reports: We have received the highest attendance in the decades-long history of the World Science Fiction Convention. The foreign guests present are sincerely praising the venue and services. Chinese writers have gained a lot from the Hugo Awards and even [appeared on the TV news], Bai Yansong enthusiastically discusses with the audience, “Where is China’s science fiction going?”…

So, do I have a problem?

….

Science fiction is also an industry. The industry is not child’s play, nor is it a few science fiction fans who want to start a science fiction fanzine…  There are carefully arranged corporate exhibitions, grand and enthusiastic talent introduction, and the intensive construction of talent housing — opposite the venue are several new talent apartments and new real estate projects that are in full swing, attracting science fiction talents from all over the world to settle down in Chengdu. In industry summits one after another, we have seen one after another novel support plans and science fiction awards, as well as countless new institutions integrating industry, academia and research. 

(3) HUGO WINNERS ON TV. Chris Barkley sent a link to video of “the press conference Neil Clarke and I were a part of after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.” — here.

(4) SIXTIES PARANORMAL SERIES. Todd Allen made a discovery – “Martin Landau’s Lost Occult Detective TV Show”. It will probably be news to you, too.

…I stumbled into Martin Landau’s lost occult detective TV show a couple weeks ago.

His what?!? Yes, that was my reaction, too. I later asked a few people I’d expect to have heard of such a thing and none of them had, so now I’ll tell you about it.

I’d been watching The Brides of Dracula on Prime and was flipping through the list of films people who watched that also watched, I came across what appeared to be an old Martin Landau horror movie called The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre. I hadn’t heard of this or associated Landau with horror, so I looked it up and proceeded to be shocked.

It seems that back in 1964, James Aubrey (the president of CBS) commissioned Joseph Stefano to produce a pilot called “The Haunted.” Does the name “Stefano” sound familiar? He wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and was one of the writer/producers on the first season of The Outer Limits.

The Haunted would have starred Martin Landau – two years before Mission: Impossible – as Nelson Orion, an architect who moonlights as a paranormal investigator….

(5) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 95 of the Octothorpe podcast – “Hugo, Girl!”John Coxon is playing a game, Alison Scott is in New Zealand, and Liz Batty’s head is on fire.

We discuss the Hugo Award winners, Anna Karenina, what the word “semiprofessional” means, and what continent/timezone/day of the week Alison is in. Art by the very talented España Sheriff.

(6) APPLE+$. “Apple TV+ Price Increase: Apple Raises Monthly Fee to $10” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Apple is hiking the price of Apple TV+ significantly, raising the monthly subscription fee to $9.99 per month from its current $6.99 per month price point. The cost of an annual plan is going from $69 to $99.

(7) OTHER SERVICES TOO. Reuters adds to its Apple+ coverage this info about Disney+ and Netflix.

Netflix increased subscription prices for some streaming plans in the United States, Britain and France when it reported results last week. Disney said in August it would raise by 27% the price of the ad-free tier of the Disney+ service to $13.99 and hike by 20% the no-ad version of Hulu. 

(8) DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS. “Doctor Who confirms air dates for 3 specials with David Tennant”Radio Times has the schedule – and the publicity posters.

The BBC has announced that David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor will officially be bursting back onto our screens on Saturday 25th November, with the second and third specials following on Saturday 2nd December and Saturday 9th December respectively.

(9) HUNGARIAN SFF AUTHOR TRANSLATED. [Item by Bence Pintér.] One of the best contemporary Hungarian sci-fi writers, Botond Markovics (AKA Brandon Hackett) had his Zsoldos Award-winning book Disposable Bodies translated into English. He also set up an English-language Facebook page on which he wrote about this.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1934 Dan McCarthy. The grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and color graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice. (Died 2013.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 78. Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”. She’s garnered four Mythopoetic Award nominations but no wins to date.
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson,69. Writer of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 51. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 60. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 52. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 

(11) FRANKENSTEIN. [Item by Steven French.] With Halloween almost upon us, Leeds Central Library has a nice blog piece about its 3rd edition copy of Mary Shelley’s classic which includes the first illustration of the monster, looking quite different from the movie version! “Mary Shelley – The First Science Fiction Author” at Secret Library.

…Leeds Central Library has a third edition copy of this novel, published in 1831 by Richard Bentley and Henry Colburn and the first illustration of Frankenstein’s monster can be found on the first page. This stunning and slightly disturbing drawing was drawn by Theodor von Holst, a student of Henry Fuseli. The image is a visualisation of an extract from the text that is written at the bottom of the page. The quote reads;

‘By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull, yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive agitation seized its limbs…I rushed out of the room.’

At the right side of the illustration, you can see Victor Frankenstein fleeing the room, the look of pure fear on his features. However, the main focus of the image is the ‘monster’ who is on the floor with an agonised look on his face as he takes his first breaths. The Gothic meets romantic style of the image as well as the symbols of both death and science perfectly capture the themes that Shelley conveyed in this novel.

This edition was edited from the original version that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote in 1816 when she was only 18 years old. This version contains an introduction from Shelly in which she answers the question “How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea”….

(12) THE “TRANSPORTER” BEFORE THE TRANSPORTER. “Read Gene Roddenberry’s First Sci-Fi TV Show Pitch in Its Original Doc” at IndieWire.

…In 1955, Roddenberry had begun writing for Ziv TV, a production company for TV shows in syndication, specifically for the titles “Mr. District Attorney” and “Highway Patrol.” He had gotten into television writing by acting as a liaison for the LAPD, when he worked as a police officer in the early 1950s, to the show “Dragnet.” In that capacity he helped condense actual case files into story treatments that the show’s writers could turn into teleplays.

“Science Fiction Theatre” was a Ziv TV production as well. Hence why at the top of this document you see the company listed, before Roddenberry crossed that out in favor of the name of a production executive he’d be pitching. Here’s the document, and give it a closer look in PDF format here….

…The description of his pitch for the episode reads:

The proposed story is of the invention of the “Transporter” — a device which is television, smellovision, soundovision, all rolled into one. A device which creates an artificial world for the user, capable of duplicating delight, sensation, contentment, adventure–all beyond the reach of the ordinary person living the ordinary life. With it you can voyage to far-off lands, argue with Socrates, earn and spend a million dollars, or lay Marilyn Monroe. Take your choice.

And this is the story of the inventor who, after achieving this miracle, suddenly realizes that a commercial, greedy, sometimes inhuman world would take over his miracle. And it might be used as they have used the miracle of radio, television, the motion pictures–with much more devastating results. It could become the most powerful totalitarian enslaving device; it could become the most powerful opiate; it could create wants and desires for which the world would destroy itself–a dying race sitting at their “transporters.”

(13) TAIKONAUTS. “China’s youngest-ever crew of astronauts heads to space station”Reuters has the story.

The youngest-ever crew of Chinese astronauts departed for China’s space station on Thursday, paving the way for a new generation of “taikonauts” to advance the country’s space ambitions in the future.

The spacecraft Shenzhou-17, or “Divine Vessel”, and its three passengers lifted off atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China.

Leading the six-month mission was former air force pilot Tang Hongbo, 48, who was on the first crewed mission to the space station in 2021.

His return to the orbiting outpost Tiangong, or “Celestial Palace” in Chinese, also set a new record for the shortest interval between two spaceflight missions by taikonauts – coined from the Chinese word for space – suggesting a faster rotation of taikonauts in coming years.

Tang, from China’s second batch of astronauts in 2010, had to wait more than a decade before he was picked for his inaugural spaceflight in 2021.

By contrast, his fellow Shenzhou-17 crew members Tang Shengjie, 33, and Jiang Xinlin, 35, both travelling to space for the first time, joined China’s third batch of astronauts in September 2020….

(14) POISONING PIXELS IN THE PARK. [Item by Jim Janney.] There’s an article in MIT Technology Review about a tool that lets artists “poison” their images in ways that mess with generative AI: “This new data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against generative AI”. It seems to work by manipulating pixels in ways that the human eye doesn’t notice, so wouldn’t be directly applicable to large language models.

…The tool, called Nightshade, is intended as a way to fight back against AI companies that use artists’ work to train their models without the creator’s permission. Using it to “poison” this training data could damage future iterations of image-generating AI models, such as DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, by rendering some of their outputs useless—dogs become cats, cars become cows, and so forth. MIT Technology Review got an exclusive preview of the research, which has been submitted for peer review at computer security conference Usenix.   

AI companies such as OpenAI, Meta, Google, and Stability AI are facing a slew of lawsuits from artists who claim that their copyrighted material and personal information was scraped without consent or compensation. Ben Zhao, a professor at the University of Chicago, who led the team that created Nightshade, says the hope is that it will help tip the power balance back from AI companies towards artists, by creating a powerful deterrent against disrespecting artists’ copyright and intellectual property. Meta, Google, Stability AI, and OpenAI did not respond to MIT Technology Review’s request for comment on how they might respond. 

Zhao’s team also developed Glaze, a tool that allows artists to “mask” their own personal style to prevent it from being scraped by AI companies. It works in a similar way to Nightshade: by changing the pixels of images in subtle ways that are invisible to the human eye but manipulate machine-learning models to interpret the image as something different from what it actually shows…. 

(15) SMALLER ON THE INSIDE. [Item by Mark Roth-Whitworth.] Nature reports“Mars has a surprise layer of molten rock inside”. “Fresh investigations find that the red planet’s liquid-metal core is smaller than scientists thought.”

A meteorite that slammed into Mars in September 2021 has rewritten what scientists know about the planet’s interior.

By analysing the seismic energy that vibrated through the planet after the impact, researchers have discovered a layer of molten rock that envelops Mars’s liquid-metal core. The finding, reported today in two papers in Nature1,2, means that the Martian core is smaller than previously thought. It also resolves some lingering questions about how the red planet formed and evolved over billions of years.

The discovery comes from NASA’s InSight mission, which landed a craft with a seismometer on Mars’s surface. Between 2018 and 2022, that instrument detected hundreds of ‘marsquakes’ shaking the planet. Seismic waves produced by quakes or impacts can slow down or speed up depending on what types of material they are travelling through, so seismologists can measure the waves’ passage to deduce what the interior of a planet looks like….

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