Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #88, A Column of Unsolicited Opinions

In Search Of…The 2023 Hugo Awards      

By Chris M. Barkley: On February 17, 2024, I received the following email:

Feb 17, 2024, 4:25 AM

Dear Hugo and Related Award Winners,

Many of you are wondering when Hugo Awards, and Finalist pins and certificates will be shipped out to those who did not take possession of them in Chengdu. We could not distribute Finalist pins to Acceptors at the convention as is generally the custom, because we were not yet in possession of a large enough supply. So only attending Finalists received pins, and we missed some of them if they showed up early.

The award materials were shipped in bulk to the US for individual mailing, and arrived just recently. We need you to send us the shipping addresses(es) of the Winner or Winners. This needs to be a facility that can take delivery of a medium sized box. A PO Box will not do, unless you have a really understanding post office or a really large PO box. While we have a list of who got their Hugo Finalist pins in Chengdu, we would appreciate you confirming that you did or didn’t receive yours in your responses so that we can be sure we’re getting everyone handled appropriately.

Even if you have previously sent us an address, we would appreciate it if you could send it to us again to confirm things before we ship items out.

Thank you so much for all your cooperation during the preparations for the Awards Ceremony. Everything went really well, and we were pleased with the participation level of our Finalists and Winners at a Worldcon so far away from many of us. The Chinese fans experiencing all of this for their first time were thrilled to see so many finalists and winners there.

Should you have any questions regarding these instructions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] and [email protected] Because, of course, the HugoTeam email address is still occasionally having hiccups.

Congratulations again to all of you.


Ann Marie Rudolph
Hugo Award Selection Committee
Chengdu Worldcon

Now, after reading this message, I, and everyone else who received this email, had every expectation of the delivery of all of the materials and awards due to the recipients. 

But this is not the case.

On January 20, fandom was rocked by the release of the 2023 Hugo Awards Long List and nominating ballot statistics, which inexplicably excluded a number of nominees and works, from within and outside the People’s Republic of China, and some without any explanation whatsoever.

Thirty-two days later, on Valentine’s Day, matters were confounded even further when my colleague Jason Sanford and I published a revealing investigative report that provided part of the answer; with material provided by award administrator Diane Lacey, it was revealed that the Chengdu Hugo Award Administration team, headed up by Dave McCarty, had ruled that some of works had been ruled “ineligible” because of their alleged or perceived bias against China. 

The Hugo Awards arrived in the United States in late January, but, as I have reported here in an afterword to my interview with Dave McCarty, all of the display cases and some of the awards were damaged in transit from China. As of this writing, there has been no comment from the Chengdu Worldcon Committee how the awards were shipped nor has anyone ascertained how the damage occurred or taken responsibility for their condition.  

Before and during these tumultuous events, I made several inquiries as to when the recipients might expect their awards to arrive. Other than an email asking for my correct mailing address in mid-March (from an administrator not implicated in the scandal), I have not received any other news regarding the awards. 

I must take a moment to commend the work and artistry of Liu Cheng and his team, who designed and manufactured the beautiful and exquisite base of the 2023 Hugo Award. I have often said that I was envious of those who received the 2007 Hugo Award depicting the rocket alongside the Mt. Fuji and the iconic tokusatsu hero, Ultraman (designed by Takashi Kinoshita and KAIYODO). 

2023 Hugo Award by Richard Man

After the ceremony, I couldn’t take a step in any direction as I was besieged by fans for nearly 45 minutes as they clamored to pose for photographs with this magnificent piece of sculpture (and me), a yearning panda, reaching out of a stargate towards the Hugo rocket. I indulged everyone I could that frenzied and crazy evening because who knows when they might have a chance to see and hold such a fine work of art.  

A lot has happened since the end of the Hugo Awards Ceremony nearly eight months ago; most notably an extensive delay in the delivery of a number of Hugo Award trophies won by those residing outside of the People’s Republic of China (estimated to be 29 in total) to the United States to be dispersed by the 2023 Hugo Awards Administrator, Dave McCarty. 

In the past few weeks, as I marked the seventh month since the Hugo Awards Ceremony, I began to wonder if any of the 2023 recipients had either received their awards or have had any other contact regarding their Hugo Awards.

And so, starting on May 15th, I set out to contact all of the twenty-nine recipients via email or social media to conduct a survey of who and who did not receive their Hugo Awards. 

(Note: I did not attempt to contact Samantha Mills (Best Short Story, “Rabbit Test”) or Adrian Tchaikovsky (Best Series, “Children of Time”) since they have publicly declined to accept their awards due to the controversy surrounding their selection. I also did not contact any of the Chinese recipients, for obvious reasons.) 

I made a concerted effort to contact the following people:

T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), Best Novel, Nettle & Bone

Seanan McGuire, Best Novella, Where the Drowned Girls Go

Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov, Krzysztof Ostrowski, Best Graphic Story or Comic, Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams

Rob Wilkins, Best Related Work, Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Naren Shankar and Breck Eisner, Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form, The Expanse: “Babylon’s Ashes”

Neil Clarke, Best Editor – Short Form

Lindsey Hall, Best Editor – Long Form

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, Chimedum Ohaegbu, Monte Lin, Meg Elison, Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Best Semi-Prozine, Uncanny Magazine 

Haley Zapal, Amy Salley, Lori Anderson, and Kevin Anderson, Best Fancast, Hugo, Girl!

Richard Man, Best Fan Artist

Out of all of the queries sent, I received the following responses:

 T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) conveyed to me, via social media, that as of this writing, she had not received her award. She also stated that she was vociferously ambiguous about keeping it, saying that she would decide whether or not to keep it after she received it.

Daniel Abraham’s assistant, Ms. Rogers, reported on May 23rd: 

Nope, no award, no emails, no nothing. I’m just answering for Daniel but I will check with Ty and Naren. Please keep us posted if you hear anything.”

Lindsey Hall, responding on a social media site on May 18th, was surprised; she kept her Hugo Award after the ceremony and had fully intended to have it shipped but never connected again with Mr. McCarty, so she decided to squeeze the case and award into her luggage and she cleared customs in China and the US with no problems at all. She also expressed surprise that none of the other recipients had received their awards yet.  

Lynne M. Thomas commented via social media a few days ago that the Hugo Awards she and her husband Michael Damian Thomas won were dropped off at their Chicago area home by Mr. McCarty at an unspecified date. She also said that both trophies did not show any damage but they were given without the display boxes. She also stated that they did inquire by email in May about the other awards for their staff members but have not received any response as of this writing.  

It turns out Lori Anderson of the Hugo, Girl podcast team was just as curious as I was; my inquiry to her prompted her to email Dave McCarty on May 28th:

Email screenshots with permissions from Lori Anderson

Undeterred, she sent a follow up email on June 6th:

As of this writing, there has been no response from Mr. McCarty.

On May 16th, Richard Man sent this DM response via Facebook:

 “Nope, heh.” And, he followed up by asking, “Have you? Has anyone?”

And I responded, nope.

As for myself, I had a chance to receive my Hugo Award twice; I considered taking it home in my luggage but decided against it on the evening of the ceremony because I did not know what level of bother to expect at customs. So, I can easily attest that my Hugo was the very first to be boxed up. Which I regret to this very day.

Hugo Award in a display box by Chris Barkley, 21 October, 2023

The second time was the weekend of Capricon 44 on February 3rd; when Juli and I arrived, we encountered Mr. McCarty in the upper-level lobby near the dealer’s room and the art show. He told me that the damage to the display box was so bad that it was totally unusable. The Hugo base needed to be tightened up and there was a notable chip in the paint on the panda. He generously offered to bring it to me to take home the next day but also said that he could have it repaired and restored.

After agonizing over it for a few minutes, I told him, yeah, please have it repaired. Which I also regret to this day because not more than an hour later I was taking custody of a flash drive and emails from Diane Lacey that would completely upend Mr. McCarty’s life, and fandom as well.

With the exception of passing along my condolences on the death of a mutual friend, I have not attempted to contact Mr. McCarty. 

On Saturday, June 8th, 2024, I attended the 50th Anniversary celebration of my high school, Purcell-Marian High School, Class of 1974.

I was invited back by the alumni association on the 25th anniversary back in 1999 but I was still feeling a bit resentful and raw from my experiences there; the teasing, fights, bullying and being made to feel as though I was a social outcast still weighed heavily on me. 

But I had grown a lot a quarter century ago and I decided to attend, if anything, to finally put this part of my life behind me for good.

And from the moment my partner Juli and I arrived, we were warmly greeted. Several people personally sought me out and we shared some personal memories that reminded me that not everything was as hellish as I remembered.  

When they asked what I had been doing over the past 50 years, I regaled them with stories about my daughter Laura, my four grandchildren, jobs I held over the decades and my many adventures in fandom.   

Of course, this all culminated with me (repeatedly) whipping out my phone and showing them a photo of myself, holding the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, proudly holding it while being in the People’s Republic of China.

Chris M. Barkley with 2023 Fan Writer Hugo Award by Pablo Vasquez, 21 October 2023

I was delighted to find that there were some sff fans among my classmates and their partners who KNEW what a Hugo Award was and there was much eye-popping and praise.

And when my classmates inevitably ask where I keep it, I cryptically replied that I have a special space reserved in our dining room. 

As of today, June 10th, there has been no response from Mr. McCarty, Ms. Rudolph, Chengdu Worldcon Co-Chairs Chen Shi, Ben Yalow and Hongwei He and convention liaison Joe Yao about this situation. 

What we have at the moment is an astonishing lack of responsibility, accountability and transparency regarding this issue. 

We all know what needs be done:

  • All of the Hugo Award Finalists should be sent their pins and certificates, immediately.
  • If there is a condition or repair issue regarding anyone’s Hugo Award, they should be sent a notice stating what the current situation is and when a delivery can be expected.
  • If an award needs to be replaced in its entirety, the recipient should be notified.
  • If the awards are going to be disbursed to everyone at the same time or as each award has been repaired, recipients should be made aware of that status.  
  • Each and every Finalist should receive a written apology for the convention’s lack of transparency and delay of their materials and awards.  

While I can safely say that no one’s life is at stake here, I can also say that once again, fandom’s black eye from the trials and tribulations of its own making continues to be on public display and, at this point, may actually be festering.

And the silence is absolutely deafening. 

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #87, A Column of Unsolicited Opinions

Susan and Harlan Ellison in 2014. Photo by Steve Barber.

What Harlan Ellison (STILL) Means To Me

By Chris M. Barkley 

“The only thing worth writing about is people. People. Human beings. Men and women whose individuality must be created, line by line, insight by insight. If you do not do it, the story is a failure. […] There is no nobler chore in the universe than holding up the mirror of reality and turning it slightly, so we have a new and different perception of the commonplace, the everyday, the ‘normal’, the obvious. People are reflected in the glass. The fantasy situation into which you thrust them is the mirror itself. And what we are shown should illuminate and alter our perception of the world around us. Failing that, you have failed totally.”

― Harlan Ellison

And what exactly is the art of writing? Because people have been freaking out over the process for many millennia. 

Including myself.

Until I had a near-death experience at the age of forty in October of 1996, I hadn’t really given the matter much thought. But surviving that event, the cataclysmic, coma induced diabetic, bitch slap my body gave me for abusing it so terribly for decades, was enough to give me pause about who I was and what I wanted to do with whatever time I had left on this mortal coil.

Writing, which until that point in my life had been an interesting little sidebar I dabbled in, became an integral and driving force since then.     

The late William H. Gass (1924-2017), who is still regarded in many circles as one of the most highly regarded literary writers who ever lived, compared the process of writing to alchemy, saying, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”

Which brings us to the late Harlan Ellison, whose 90th birthday we celebrate today. He had an entirely different take on the matter: 

“Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven’t been told a million times already – that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.” 

– Harlan Ellison

With all due respect to Mr. Gass, I’m siding with Mr. Ellison on this point.

Harlan Ellison. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

To say that Harlan Jay Ellison was, no, wait, still is, a huge influence in my life would be a huge understatement. In going through my archives of my memories of him, I came across this, one of my favorite anecdotes about him, that directly affected me, can be found in my 2019 Windycon Fan Guest of Honor Speech, which is linked here.

I first met Harlan in 1978 at Kubla Khan 5 in Nashville, Tennessee. Like countless other people, I found him to be a brilliant writer of fiction and essays, a dynamic personality and above nearly all of his other talents, an amazing and brilliant raconteur.

One story he shared with the audience at that convention was burned into my synapses forever, an incident he had experienced at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Harlan had just finished doing his “business” in a washroom when he noticed out of the corner of his eye that a middle-aged patron was leaving without washing his hands.

Now THIS greatly offended Harlan since, if anything, he was a real stickler for health and cleanliness.

“Hey! You”, he said in his loud, nasally, faux-Brooklyn accent. “You forgot to wash your hands!”

The man in question turned and said something incredibly rude about Harlan’s parentage and proceeded to walk out into the terminal.

Enraged at this person’s intransigence, Harlan burst out of the restroom and trailed behind the man screaming at the top of his lungs, “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN! DON’T TOUCH HIM! HE DIDN’T WASH HIS HANDS!”

And he did this. All the way to this person’s departure gate.

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one: For Chicon 2000, I was promoted from my regular duties in the Worldcon Press Office to serve on Chairman Tom Veal’s staff AND as the Fairmont Hotel liaison. It was a very important position, which I shared with my ex-wife, in that both the Masquerade and the Hugo Award Ceremony were being held there.

One afternoon, I was finishing my “business” in the restroom, when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a middle-aged fan was leaving without washing his hands.

My mind immediately flashed back to Harlan’s story. My first thought was, I am NOT Harlan Ellison. And then my second thought was, “What would Harlan do?”

So, within a few seconds, I screwed up my moral courage and, in my even tempered, faux-midwestern black accent, I spoke up and said, “Excuse me, but you forgot to wash your hands.”

The fan whirled around and shouted, “YOU’RE NOT MY DAD!”

Needless to say, I was taken aback. But fortunately, my skills as a radio talk show host and a standup comedian kicked into high gear:

“You see this?” I pointed to the bright blue COMMITTEE ribbon hanging on my convention badge and stated with absolute authority:

“While you’re here at this convention, this ribbon says I AM YOUR DAD!!”

The fan sighed, turned and washed his hands.

“You must never be afraid to go there.”

― Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison. Photo by Jill Bauman.

I have recounted here before that the very first story of his I read was in the summer of 1972 (courtesy of my good friend and fellow File 770 columnist Michaele Jordan), was one his most infamous stories, the 1969 novella “A Boy and His Dog”. It featured in her paperback copy of the 1970 edition of World’s Best Science Fiction edited by Donald Wollheim and Terry Carr. Needless to say, my fifteen-year-old mind was blown wide open.

(I tend to think she gave me this particular story to read ON PURPOSE, like a good friend should. Thanks Again, Michaele…)

Harlan Ellison immediately became, and in many ways still is, my favorite writer. And it was a great time to discover his works; Again, Dangerous Visions and Alone Against Tomorrow (1972), Approaching Oblivion (1974), Deathbird Stories and No Door, No Windows (1975), The Illustrated Harlan Ellison and Strange Wine (1978) and that’s only the fiction published during that period.

After devouring those books, I went back and discovered earlier collections; Ellison Wonderland, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream and The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World amaze me to this day. 

And who am I to argue that “‘Repent, Harlequin!’, Said the Ticktockman” is NOT one of the greatest short stories ever written? 

Harlan’s non-fiction works, such as his fascinating books of essays on television, The Glass Teat (1970) and The Other Glass Teat (1975), gave me some very up close and personal observations of the television industry and the media manipulations of that era that still serve me well to this day.

“The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.”

Harlan Ellison, Strange Wine

Of course, I, like many people before me, tried to imitate his style. And, like those countless other writers, found that this was an incredibly foolish endeavor. Because there was, is, only one Harlan Ellison. You can write as sharply, angry and curmudgeonly as you like but there is no way anyone, myself included, can duplicate Harlan’s life, education, perceptions and experiences into words. 

The lesson that I learned was that I needed to write what I feel, what I have experienced, what I have felt and what I know to be true.

And the hard truth was that for decades, I was afraid to express myself, in my writing or in real life. But, as I grew older, I eventually realized that Harlan also was right in another regard; embracing and wrestling with one’s fears and overcoming them not only led me to be a better writer, but to being a better person as well.

In the numerous times I saw Harlan Ellison in person, either on university tours or at conventions, he frequently claimed, over and over again, that he NEVER wrote ‘science fiction”, per se. Some people, lesser literary minds one might say, just perceived and labeled his fiction that way, much to his frustration:

“What I write is hyperactive magic realism. I take the received world and I reflect it back through the lens of fantasy, turned slightly so you get a different portrait.”

— Harlan Ellison

And Harlan hated, hated, HATED the artificial neologism “sci-fi” and constantly being called a “sci-fi writer” (even up to and, unfortunately, after his death) was one of the worst insults he had to endure. In my earliest encounters with him, he passed along this intense dislike directly to me. To this day, I’d rather eat a raw onion and gummy worm sandwich than have that (alleged) word pass my lips.

Six years ago, a commenter named Joe Adams wrote one of the most succinct and elegant answer as to why Harlan felt that way that I have ever read, excerpted here from Quora:

“Harlan objected to the term because it restricted writers in flexibility and in payscale. Sci-Fi was the cheap spaceships, rayguns, and aliens cranked out for pulps and comic books. It was low-paying and serious authors, like himself or Philip K. Dick, were the Rodney Dangerfields of writing – “No Respect.” And tiny paychecks…I can’t say he single handedly changed the face of 21st Century fiction, but he is closer to that claim than anyone else I can think of. He shepherded new talent, chided the old, and cranked out his own hundred-plus title bibliography at the same time…He brought a simple concept to the Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction arena – be a Mensch. Stand up for what you believe, show up for what you believe, put your money where your mouth is, complete what you start, and take as good as you give. 

Society at large is welcome to use it on a regular basis but, like Harlan, I remain steadfast in my utter revulsion of it.

“Like a wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we were, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.”

― Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison in 1981. Photo by Marsha Traeger for the LA Times.

Here’s something weird; in examining my life, I have found some strange and opposing parallels in my life and Harlan’s:

  • Harlan was white and Jewish, I am black and raised catholic.
  • Harlan was born in Painesville, Ohio (near Cleveland) and I was born almost directly southwest from him in the other corner of Ohio, in Cincinnati.
  • In his youth, Harlan could recite, from memory, the starting lineup of the 1948 World Champion Cleveland Indians of the American League (now, thankfully, the Guardians). I can still name the Great Eight lineup of the 1975-1976 double World Champion Cincinnati Reds (AKA, the Big Red Machine).
  • Harlan was well known as a double threat, writing fiction and non-fiction in great quantities. I am only known for my smaller amount of social activism in fandom and these columns.
  • Harlan earned an enormous amount of money (by my standards) during his lifetime. I have never accepted a dime for anything I’ve written (so far).
  • Harlan has won a ton of awards and accolades, I have (allegedly) won only one Hugo Award. 
  • Harlan relished performing for the public and being in the spotlight and the center of attention. And while I have given speeches and have spoken on both radio and television, I prefer observing than being observed.
  • Harlan ADORED his Olympia typewriters and the way it felt when he was writing. I, on the other hand, am happy and grateful to be using word processors, tablets and laptops.
  • Harlan often wrote in the nude. I, fortunately, never developed this habit.
  • Harlan never had any children. I have a daughter (Hi, Laura!) and have been graced with four grandchildren; Lilly, Atlas, Navia and Bowie.
  • Harlan (and his lovely partner in life, Susan) have left the building. And I remain, mourning their absence.

“The passion for revenge should never blind you to the pragmatics of the situation. There are some people who are so blighted by their past, so warped by experience and the pull of that silken cord, that they never free themselves of the shadows that live in the time machine…

And if there is a kind thought due them, it may be found contained in the words of the late Gerald Kersh, who wrote:”… there are men whom one hates until a certain moment when one sees, through a chink in their armour, the writhing of something nailed down and in torment.”

― Harlan Ellison, from The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective

Susan and Harlan Ellison. Photo by Annie Fishbein.

Harlan Ellison was not a perfect person. I have witnessed and read about his public mistakes and social faux pas. We know now, after the fact, that he suffered from a myriad of various illnesses and maladies. It does not excuse some of his behavior and we don’t need to recount them here. I tend to think he would loathe being called a role model for anyone or any cause. 

I, too, have made mistakes in my life.  I often cringe at the thought of them when I dredge them up out of my memory banks.

But here’s the thing; in the wake of those actions, for good or for ill, he strived to move forward. In the end, it was his will to do that, no matter what the odds, to do better and be better. And I have as well. 

That’s a lesson that’s worth remembering.

“To say more is to say less.”

― Harlan Ellison

I do not consider myself to be a follower, disciple or an acolyte of Harlan Ellison. I am a reader and a writer.

To me, Harlan’s greatest legacy is as a teacher; to write clear and understandable prose, to stand up for what you believe, to give no quarter or comfort to those who would oppress another person’s rights and to rally against censorship, lies and disinformation at every opportunity. 

How should we honor the memory of Harlan Ellison? 

By remembering.

By remembering his countless acts of kindness towards his fans and colleagues.

By remembering his works and keeping them in print for others to discover.

By remembering that while you are alive, each day brings an opportunity to be better AND do better, for yourself, the people in your life and even for random people who need your help, today and every day that follows.  

Remember Harlan Ellison’s epitaph, the very last words that he wanted to be known by:

“For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

-Harlan Jay Ellison, 27 May 1934  –  28 June 2018

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #86, A Column of Unsolicited Opinions


By Chris M. Barkley:

The Second Civil War (*** of 4 stars, HBO Films, 1997, 96 minutes) with Beau Bridges, Phil Hartman, James Earl Jones, Elizabeth Pena, Ron Perlman, James Coburn, Dan Heyada, Joanna Cassidy and Denis Leary. Written by Martyn Burke, Directed by Joe Dante. Bechdel Test: Fail.

Civil War (**** of four stars, A24, 2024, 109 minutes) with Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson and Nick Offerman. Written and Directed by Alex Garland. Bechdel Test: Pass!

Although I saw writer-director Alex Garland’s highly anticipated dystopian thriller Civil War more than a week ago, I decided to hold off on reviewing it until this past week’s real life (and possibly dystopian) events played out in New York City, Washington D.C. and, surprisingly enough, Phoenix Arizona. 

On Monday, April 21 In New York City, the 45th president of the United States entered the second week of a felony trial of submitting false financial documents to cover up hush money payments to two women in order to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. 

At nearby Columbia University, students and faculty continued their clash with the school’s administrators, who are protesting the school’s investments with the state of Israel and that country’s questionable actions which are resulting in rising civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip. The highly publicized acts of harassment and arrests of protesters by the New York Police Department have inspired similar uprisings at many other universities across the country.  

On Wednesday April 24, the nine Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments on whether or not the previous president had an unlimited right of immunity from prosecution from any act, even illegal ones, while in office and afterwards as well. 

Later that same day, a grand jury in Arizona indicted former White House aide Mark Meadows, disbarred attorney Rudi Giuilani and nine others in a scheme to send fraudulent electors to the January 6th verification of Electoral Votes.  

You may be wondering what any of these events have anything to do with Alex Garland’s Civil War or why it is paired with HBO’s 1998 satire on political conflict, The Second Civil War.

And the answer is, in my humble opinion, everything.

For decades, alarmists and fringe political pundits have been predicting that the social, economic, cultural and political divisions plaguing the United States are leading up to an open and active civil conflict between citizens.

And it’s hard to deny that the seed of dissent and discontent were planted in the 1960’s when various factors, such as income inequality, the polarization of the political parties and election cycles, the wide dissemination of lies and disinformation and the rise the internet and social media began to percolate throughout every strata of life.

“Over the years whenever I revisit this film at festivals or retrospectives I’m always amazed how prescient it was. The issues it deals with have never dated (unfortunately). It’s usually just a matter of which ones are outstanding at the moment. And right now the TV images of Americans turning away buses full of immigrant children have their nearly exact counterpart in the movie, although there it’s the military turning “the little ragheads” around. In Europe, where it was released theatrically, TSCW has a higher profile than it has in America, as it premiered on HBO and hasn’t been revived in years. But it’s worth checking out as a movie that can inspire discussion and debate about problems that just won’t go away.”
–The Second Civil War director, Joe Dante, July 5th, 2014, Trailers From

As I was dodging reviews of Civil War the week before, I came across a timely article from (“America’s Reliable Source of Snark”) about a strangely prescient film from 1998, The Second Civil War (A Very Uncivil Comedy):  “The Best Movie About a Modern Civil War is a ‘90s Phil Hartman Comedy”.

Intrigued, I managed to snag a relatively inexpensive DVD online and watched it the evening before my partner Juli and I saw Civil War.

Set in an early 21st century immigrant-heavy America where the Mayor of Los Angeles speaks only in Spanish, Rhode Island is populated mostly by Chinese Americans, and Alabama has a Sikh congressman, the white governor of Idaho, Jim Farley (Beau Bridges) decides that he’s had enough. When refugee children from Pakistan are ordered to be sent there, Farley orders the National Guard to close the border, citing the move as a threat to public safety. His fervent exclamation, “We are being swamped. We are destroying our own way of life,” has been a familiar political talking point, mainly for the Republican Party, for more than two generations now. 

The Second Civil War, l-r, Kevin McCarthy, Phil Hartman and James Coburn, HBO

Meanwhile at NewsNet (a sly amalgamation of CNN and the then year-old Fox News), network manager Mel Burgess (a delightfully obnoxious Dan Hedaya) is frantically trying to browbeat and manipulate his reporters, staff and producers (James Earl Jones, Joanna Cassidy, Ron Perlman, Denis Leary and Dick Miller among many others) to not only get the story but scoop their rivals by any means necessary.

But, beyond the governor’s staff, the media and the public at large don’t knows that Farley is a two-faced populist who not only loves Mexican culture, he’s also is having a passionate affair with a local NewsNet reporter, Christina (Elizabeth Pena), who is ironically enough, a naturalized citizen who was born in Mexico.

If all of this weren’t bad enough, the President, played by Saturday Night Live veteran Phil Hartman (in one of his last screen roles), is an ineffectual sap who’s ignoring the advice from his cabinet and staff and instead is relying on Jack B. Buchan (a smooth and oily James Coburn) a public relations crisis manager.  

When militias from other states join Idaho in opposition to the President, things gradually and eventually go off the rails in a major and tragic way. 

Watching The Second Civil War was like looking into a time portal into the late 1990’s; if you look closely, you will see characters spout some very familiar talking points on immigrants and immigration, racism, blatant sexism and high handed political grandstanding. 

But what makes this twenty-seven year old film highly watchable and entertaining is the  sure handed direction by Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, Innerspace, The ‘Burb) and the whip smart script by Canadian screenwriter Martyn Burke, who, as it happens was also an former reporter, a novelist and a documentary filmmaker. 

If you want to check out this darkly funny farce, you can watch it via streaming on YouTube, Amazon Prime and Apple+.

“There is something in the film which is trying to be protective of [journalists],” says Garland. His father was a longtime newspaper cartoonist, and you can sense an admiration for that old guard of foreign correspondents he grew up around in London. “I think serious journalism needs protecting, because it’s under attack, so I wanted to make those people ‘heroes’ to put them front and center.”

— Screenwriter and Director Alex Garland, The Guardian, March 30th, 2024.

The other end of this double feature, Civil War, has very few laughs and justifiably so.

Writer and director Alex Garland recently stated “I’m not planning to direct again in the foreseeable future… I do actually love film, but filmmaking doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in life and also in a broader context.” He told the The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom that one of his main anxieties was worrying about the safety and sensibilities of his cast and crews saying that it “literally keeps me awake at night.”

This is disheartening news, coming from the creator of some of the most interesting and provocative works of recent years such as 28 Days Later, Dredd, Never Let Me Go, Ex-Machina, Sunshine and Annihilation. 

Garland’s choice of subject in Civil War, the violent unraveling of the country under political and social duress, was a deliberate choice. Its release during America’s presidential election year has raised concerns, doubts and condemnation about his intentions from pundits across the entire political spectrum.

The film begins with the unnamed President of the United States (Nick Offerman) practicing a speech proclaiming a huge victory over the secessionist Western Forces of California, Texas and other state militias who are bearing down on Washington D.C. 

Meanwhile, in New York City, a veteran photojournalist Lee (Kirsten Dunst) takes a neophyte, Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) under her wing after a horrific terrorist attack. Soon after, the duo teams up with two journalists, Joel from Reuters (Wagner Moura) and Sammy from the New York Times (Stephen McKinley Henderson) who scheme to travel to D.C. and scoop their rival journalists by getting an interview with the president before the inevitable fall of the administration.

Civil War, Kirsten Dunst (rear) and Cailee Spaeny (front), A24.

When they hear the more direct route south through Philadelphia has been compromised (read: destroyed) the quartet decides to take a more circuitous route through Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland. 

Along the way, they chronicle, and experience first-hand, the effects of the conflict; looters being strung up, random free fire zones and ambushes, refugee camps and most strangely, an entire town that has decided, by consensus, to “stay out of it.”

Throughout their arduous journey, they must confront their inner demons, hone their survival instincts and struggle to stave off the relentless feelings of dread, fear and post traumatic stress. And as they get closer to their ultimate goal, they begin to question whether their profession, under these dire circumstances, is actually worth doing at all.

One of the main criticisms leveled at Civil War, by critics, reviewers and the public, is that the political situation which caused the war are not specified and it’s hard to pin down who the good guys and the bad guys are.

Alex Garland is one of the rare filmmakers who dares to challenge the audience by not making it easy for you to exactly figure out what’s going on; he’s using the ambiguity of the actions of all of the individuals and groups involved and is leaving the final judgment  about it to each individual viewer.  If you look hard enough, there are clues to be found in the narrative, the biggest one being that the president is acting in a despotic manner and that he is into his third term in office. But you have to weigh that against the clearly lawless actions of the Western Forces, the militias and random vigilantes who are a major part of the narrative.

The events of Civil War clearly don’t take place in our world, but an alternative universe where the “Western Forces” of California and Texas, with the help of other state militias, could be allied in their hate of the federal government. A frightening world that is very similar to our own but with a very advanced case of divisiveness. 

Garland has openly said in interviews that this story is a metaphor about democracy under attack and that he sees reporters as the heroes of this story, especially in these turbulent and contentious times. And in today’s world, a reporter’s good intentions and declarations of neutrality and fairness means nothing to the herd mentality of a lawless mob.

As Garland ably and searingly demonstrates throughout this film, once the belief in that fragile barrier holding our democracy in place is eliminated, the racists, seditionists and MAGA militia members will inevitably appear in the streets, automatic weapons in hand, ready to dispense their own personal brand of “social justice”. 

And make no mistake, the most chilling part of Civil War is that the conflict won’t be regional, the chaos, fear and terror will be taking place in all fifty states and associated territories.

Civil War is a stark and ominous warning for America and its citizens. Hate speech, racial prejudice, misinformation and outright lies, generational, cultural and social differences are fueling a conflagration we may not be able to extinguish.

A Murder at the End of the World (**** of 4 stars, Hulu, 2023, seven episodes) with Emma Corrin, Brit Marling, Harris Dickinson, Alice Braga, Joan Che, Raúl Esparzan, Jermaine Fowler, Ryan J. Haddad, Pegah Ferydoni, Javed Khan, Louis Cancelmi, Edoardo Ballerini, Clive Owen and Kellan Tetlow as Zoomer. Created, Written and Directed by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij.

And while I was wading through the week’s events, Juli and I decided to take a chance on a series I wish we had seen when it premiered last November, A Murder at the End of the World.

When I initially read the premise, a band of people under a mysterious threat in Iceland, I felt as though it was just another neo-Agatha Christie/Knives Out ripoff. Oh, how wrong I was…

A mysterious billionaire, Andy Ronson (Clive Owen) and his philanthropic wife, Lee Andersen (Brit Marling) have invited an odd assortment of entrepreneurs, artists and celebrities to their hotel/retreat in a very remote part of Iceland for a symposium on the current state of the environment. 

Among the guests are memoirist and amateur internet sleuth Darby Hart (Emma Corrin) and her former partner, Bill Farrah (Harris Dickinson). Neither were expecting each to see each other again so their meeting is a shocking and bittersweet surprise.

A Murder at the End of the World, Emma Corrin (left), Harris Dickinson (right), Hulu.

But when Bill dies soon after on that first evening, Darby is reluctantly pressed into service by Ronson to investigate before the local authorities arrive. As she does, she reminisces about how she and Bill met and why they parted ways. She also confronts the other guests, a somewhat shifty group of suspects who all may have a personal grudge against Ronson and evidence of a conspiracy whose motives and objectives are as murky as they are elusive…

The reason I lament seeing this series now is because had I seen it during its initial run, I would have been on my 2024 Hugo ballot in the Long Form category. I will not reveal the sf elements that clearly qualify this drama series because I want those elements to be a surprise to you, the viewer.

I will say this; as those elements are revealed, they do not detract or distract you from getting involved, they enhance the drama and the dire circumstances this group of characters find themselves in, from nature but mostly from the physical and emotional baggage they brought with them to this deadly retreat. 

So, while it is too late to bestow any glory on A Murder at the End of the World via the Hugo Awards, it’s never too late for you to enjoy this fascinating and thrilling series on Hulu.    

Pixel Scroll 4/21/24 Alright, You Heard A Selkie Bark!

Cartoon by Teddy Harvia

(1) FREYDIS MOON IDENTITY CHALLENGED. [Item by Anne Marble.] There are allegations that author Freydis Moon is really an alias for Taylor Barton, Taylor Brooke, and Jupiter Wyse — who were problematic. Freydis Moon is a nonbinary autistic author of horror and fantasy plus paranormal romance. The author was also claiming to be Latine. (The author won an award for Best Latine Representation from Indie Ink.) But the allegations say that this author is actually white — and that they were caught being racist against BIPOC in the past. There is a lengthy and detailed thread by Elle Porter on that begins here: “In this thread you’ll find a walkthrough of evidence that shows a direct link between Freydís Moon and Taylor Barton/Taylor Brooke/Jupiter Wyse.”

There is so much information that there is a Google Docs file.

This document contains evidence that links Jupiter Wyse, one of the many pen names of Taylor Barton, to Freydís Moon, despite Freydís’s frequent claims they do not know Taylor Barton or any of their aliases.

Evidence compiled in this document was a dual effort between a long-time peer of Freydís Moon and someone who was close to Taylor Barton/Taylor Brooke/Jupiter Wyse during their active periods. The latter has chosen to remain anonymous at the time of this document’s creation, so names and emails have been censored to protect that person’s identity.

All screenshots include a link to the image hosted on a public google drive….

For more about earlier accusations against Taylor Barton, there is an article from 2021: “Fake Names & Brownface: Why Queer Fantasy Author ‘Taylor Barton’ Has Been Accused of Catfishing” [at Fanficable].

Freydis Moon was on Twitter, Instagram, etc. But the Twitter account seems to be gone, and their @freydismoon Instagram account is now private.

The author published a number of books under the Freydis Moon name: Freydís Moon (Author of Heart, Haunt, Havoc) at Goodreads.

The author also helped edit Spectrum: An Autistic Horror Anthology. The publisher has responded to this and removed Freydis Moon’s presence from the anthology:

(2) BRAND WISDOM. Here’s Charlie Jane Anders’ advise about “How To Build Your Online ‘Brand’ Without Burning Out” at Happy Dancing.

…I suspect that our ideas of what is possible on social media got heavily skewed by a few outliers who were good at both creative pursuits and also being an influencer. For most of us, I feel like there’s a law of diminishing returns: the more followers you have, the smaller the percentage of those followers will actually support your work instead of just enjoying the free entertainment of your online antics.

So here are some possibly helpful tips for having a personal brand, without burning out

The first of seven tips is:

1) Keep surprising people

The essence of a brand is predictability and consistency — but we love people who surprise us. Don’t let the brand thing force you to get stuck in a rut. You should contain fucking multitudes!

Another tip is:

5) Don’t try to go “viral”

Instead of trying to do whatever the algorithm wants you to do, focus on doing stuff that actually makes your community happy — even if you go less “viral,” people might appreciate you more and be more likely to support you in the future. Oftentimes, “going viral” means amusing people who will never give a shit about you.

(3) THE BOTS ARE ALRIGHT. “How Stories About Human-Robot Relationships Push Our Buttons” in The New Yorker; Annie Bot and Loneliness & Company reviewed.

… As modern dating has evolved into an online-first activity, artificial intelligence has found its match in a generation of users for whom tech-assisted romance is the default mode. The Kinsey Institute revealed in this year’s “Singles in America” survey that fourteen per cent of Gen Z-ers admit to using A.I. to optimize their dating lives. Volar is just the latest company to leverage the new technology in the love space. For help crafting seductive dating-app profiles, love-seekers don’t need Cyrano de Bergerac—they can simply download Cyrano, one of countless “rizz generator” apps (“rizz” being Gen Z slang for charisma). When love dies, there are such apps as Texts from My Ex, which lets A.I. scan messages from a former flame for signs of incompatibility. A woman fresh from a breakup with a jerk named Cesar let A.I. perform an autopsy on their correspondence; she posted her results to Reddit, writing, “I let AI examine our text messages = validation at last.”

Others, tired of kissing frogs like Cesar to find a prince, have started asking A.I. to make them a knight in the shining armor of a titanium-encased smartphone….

(4) THE PAST OF CAPTAIN FUTURE (AND OTHER FUTURES). Alter Ego # 187 has recently gone on sale with Glen Cadigan’s biography of Edmond Hamilton, and it even includes a free preview online which can be read here. Cadigan adds:

As often happens with these things, there was material that didn’t make it into the finished product, and I ran a lot of it in my most recent Substack newsletter. “Is This Thing On? XVIII”. I also included bonus material in previous newsletters, such as quotes from Ray Bradbury about his friend and mentor, as well as a poem by then-seventeen year old Mortimer Weisinger, Hamilton’s future agent and editor, which originally ran in the November, 1932 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, extolling his virtues. All of these can be found (and linked to) at

(5) TOP MEN. Listverse picks “The Ten Greatest Engineers in Science Fiction History” – a list obviously put together by someone who never read a book. Only two women, though they are ranked first and second. (And #9 — “Buckaroo Bonsai”?!)

In first place is —

1 Bulma

Wife of the irritable Saiyan Prince, Vegeta Bulma is quietly the most interesting character in the entire Dragon Ball series. She built a Dragonball detector from scratch. She also invented a portable shrinking machine, a time machine, and a generator that allowed Vegeta the hyper-training necessary to become a Super-Saiyan.

She’s constantly creating cool gadgets and hacking any technology she comes across. She created a universal translator to decipher alien languages and can use it to speak to animals. The list of her accomplishments goes for light years, making her the greatest engineer in all of science fiction

(6) LEANE VERHULST (1969-2024). Conrunner Leane Verhulst died April 20 at the age of 54. Aware that she was in the late stages of cancer, a group of friends gathered at the Chicago-area convention Capricon in February in hopes of encouraging her, as Chris Barkley wrote in “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81”.

The family obituary is here and begins —

Leane Verhulst, 54 of Spring Valley, died Saturday, April 20, 2024 at Rock River Hospice and Home in Sterling.

Leane was born on June 25, 1969 in Sterling, the daughter of John and Phyllis (Gluesing) Verhulst. She graduated from Newman Central Catholic High School in 1987. She then continued her education at North Central College where earned a double Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. Leane worked as a computer programmer for the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs (1991-1994), Northwestern Medical Center (1995-2003), Advocate Health Care (2003-2006), and most currently, as an independent custom programmer for Verhulst Consulting working through Blackhawk Consulting in Chicago. She enjoyed going to Science Fiction Conventions, playing board games, traveling, and reading. She was a part of the Science Fiction Outreach Program and would donate books to those in need….


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 21, 1954 James Morrison, 70. So which cancelled series are on your list that you wish had definitely been finished? On mine is Space Above & Beyond with James Morrison as Lt. Col. Tyrus Cassius “T. C.” McQueen (USMC, In Vitro), whose Birthday is today. As played by Morrison, Lt. Col. McQueen was a completely believable military officer, not a caricature of one as seen in far too many SF shows. He, like every character, was a believable real being.

James Morrison in 2014.

Likewise the series itself was stellar, both the ship and the universe it traveled being quite believable. The Chigs made an interesting enemy being linked to Earth life — something not noted until the last two episodes of the cancelled series. They had small black eyes set deeply in the head, pale pink skin, an almost missing nose, a protruding upper jaw, something that might be gills. As the Chigs got as close in Jupiter, the question is how far out did the War start? Was this a compact war fought with a few star systems?  There’s no way to know as, like all SF series that deal with interstellar flight, it deals with such distances badly. Just my opinion of course.

Ok, so what else is Morrison do? His other long term character was on 24. Is it genre? I think so, or at genre adjacent. Buchanan during the Day 4 story was the Director of CTU Los Angeles. Before taking command of CTU LA, he was a Regional Division Director at CTU. He was initially sent to CTU Los Angeles by Division Command to oversee the exchange of Jack Bauer for Behrooz Araz in that story. He role would develop over a number of stories. He’d be in thirty-five episodes, one of the longest running characters. 

Not surprisingly he had a Twilight Zone appearance, though given his age it was on the new series. He was in “The Blue Scorpion” episode where a strange here now, gone then gun effects an anthropology professor who’s going mad. He is the voice of JEFF. I won’t say more just in case someone here hasn’t seen it. 

He plays a major a role in the X-File episode, “Theef”: Dr. Irving Thalbro is staying the night with his daughter and her family including Dr. Robert Wieder (Morrison) when in the middle of the night, Irving finds a pile of dirt shaped like a man in his bed. Irving is eventually discovered by Robert hanging from the ceiling with the word “theef” painted in Irving’s blood on the wall.’”


  • Tom Gauld – wow, this is like The Hunger!

(9) DOIN’ WHAT COMES NATURALLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] About 2.2 billion years ago, an archaea absorbed a bacteria and eventually “tamed” it as an organelle called a mitochondria. Adding this new capability allowed the evolution of all eukaryotes (cells with membrane-bound sub parts) and eventually multicellular life.

About 1 million years ago, a more advanced cell absorbed a cyanobacteria which eventually became an organelle called a chloroplast. Thus began the evolution of plant life.

Now there’s evidence that about 100,000 years ago, a single-cell algae absorbed a bacteria capable of directly fixing nitrogen from the air. And some of those scientists believe we may be witnessing the creation of an organelle they dub a nitroplast. “For the first time in one billion years, two lifeforms truly merged into one organism” at Popular Science.

… In the paper published in Cella team of scientists show that this process is occurring yet again. They looked at a species of algae called Braarudosphaera bigelowii. The algae engulfed a cyanobacterium gives it a bit of a plant superpower. It can “fix” nitrogen straight from the air and combine it with other elements to form more useful compounds. This is something that plants normally can’t do….

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kathy Sullivan, Anne Marble, Hampus Eckerman, Lise Andreasen, JeffWarner, Glen Cadigan, 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 (reference explained here) Dern.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #85


By Chris M. Barkley: I, like many of you reading this, were absolutely riveted around 11:00 a.m. (Eastern Detested Time, as far as I’m concerned) on March 29th when the 2024 Glasgow World Science Fiction Convention Committee announced the Finalists for the Hugo Awards.

Having (possibly) won a Hugo Award in the Fan Writing category a mere five months and a week ago, I have a vested interest in the proceedings. As many of you may remember, I did recuse myself from future consideration in the category in my (somewhat surprising) acceptance speech on the stage of the 2023 Hugo Awards Ceremony in Chengdu, China. I’ll say more on this later on.

From the safety of our kitchen nook, my partner Juli and I watched the YouTube video presentation of the Finalists: 

Naturally, having been associated with the awards for a full quarter century (WHERE did the time go?), I have a few thoughts about this year’s Finalists:

— The very first thing that jumps out at me is that there are numerous nominees from China. After the debacle over explosive revelations regarding the 2023 Hugo Awards and the numerous calls for accountability and transparency over the past few months, it is heartening to know that despite the fact some of them were legitimately denied their voting rights, fans in China showed that they are still willing, at least for the time being, to being part of this process.  I hope you are as excited as I am about this encouraging sign.  

Before last year, the Hugo Awards had a reputation for being transparent in their processes and publication of voting results, something other prestigious literary awards (the National Book Awards, the Pulitzer, Booker and Nobel Prizes) notoriously do not divulge. 

And, I argue, it is because that tradition was egregiously transgressed and the corruption was thankfully exposed.

Needless to say, I can hardly wait for this year’s Hugo Nominee packet and read entries they chose.

— But, on the other hand, I am disheartened to read that several people, most prominently Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood (in Best Related Works), Natasha Bardon (Best Editor-Long Form) and Camestros Felapton (Best Fan Writer), Hai Ya (Best Novelette, The Far North), Martha Wells (Best Novel, System Collapse) turned down their nominations. Each had their own reasons; while I don’t know why Wolfwood and Hai Ya declined, Martha Wells has previously stated she would not accept any more nominations for her Murderbot stories or novels. On his blog page, Felapton stated that:

2023 looms large here and there were definitely people I would rather see on the Hugo ballot for Best Fan Writer this year than myself. One was obviously Paul Weimer but I was certain he’d be top of most people’s ballots anyway but I was hoping some Chinese fans would make it onto the category. That didn’t happen but it is a decent list of finalists and there is nobody there that I would have wanted to replace.

Closely related to this was also the sense that I was likely to have gathered additional votes from things that I had written in 2024, specifically on the 2023 Hugo Award stats. Even if that wasn’t the case it would have felt like it was the case to me. So, I thought I’d feel happier skipping this year and putting my hat into the ring for next year.

I hope that makes sense. Thank you to everybody who voted for me and apologies for not publicly asking people not to vote for me before the deadline. 2023 stuff sort of got in the way of thinking about 2024 stuff.

I must state for the record that I have the utmost respect for Mr. Felapton and his works, and if I had not totally screwed up my timing on getting my ballot in, his name would have occupied one of my slots. It will definitely happen next year. 

You can read his full statement here:  “Why I Declined a Hugo Spot”.

The biggest news from last Friday was Ms. Bardon’s statement.  On Instagram she explained:

“I’d like to thank everyone who nominated me for Best Editor, Long Form for the #HugoAwards2024.

I’m honoured to have made the final list.

Unfortunately, given the censorship in 2023, and as a professional working within a field that often feels closed off by gatekeepers, I feel unable to accept the nomination. Though I applaud the transparency of this year’s organisers, I do not feel there has been enough to safeguard this from happening again, nor right the wrongs of 2023.

Congratulations to all finalists.”

It should be noted that Ms. Bardon is R.F. Kuang’s editor. Ms. Kuang’s bestselling fantasy novel Babel was notoriously excluded from last year’s Hugo Award Finalist list due to the malfeasance of the Chengdu Hugo Award Administrators. I have to believe that may have been a factor in her decision. My respects to her as well.

Novels, Short Fiction and Series:   Despite being retired with a lot of time on my hands, I must confess that being on a fixed income, I have been woefully behind on reading novels and short fiction over the past decade or so. But, I am looking forward to reading some old favorites like Ann Leckie, Martha Wells, Nghi Vo, T. Kingfisher, Naomi Kritzler and John Scalzi, as well as some who are relatively new to me such as C.L. Polk, P. Djèlí Clark, Emily Tesh and all of the Chinese nominees. Similarly, I am hopelessly behind on every single series on the list; I’ll try to get caught up but if I can’t by the voting deadline I may abstain from voting in this category altogether.

Related Works: I have had a keen interest in history, science and literary criticism since I was in grade school so I am quite pleased with the finalists in this category. In fact, I may splurge and buy hardcover copies of A City on Mars by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith, A Traveler in Time: The Critical Practice of Maureen Kincaid Speller edited by Nina Allan and All These Worlds: Reviews & Essays by Niall Harrison. But I have to admit that the most intriguing entry here is the publication of The Culture: The Drawings, by the late Iain M. Banks, which showcases the drawings and sketches he used as reference points for his acclaimed fictional series. I don’t know if I can afford it but I have one hand on my credit card…

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Among this year’s crop of finalists, the biggest surprises was NOT Greta Gerwig’s Academy Award nominated Barbie (which I knew upon viewing was an automatic shoo-in) but the frothy fantasy/heist movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which delves deeply into the game’s mythos without alienating anyone who knows nothing about the role playing game. 

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was also a slam dunk for a nomination although I was not inclined to nominate (or vote for) it myself because it ends on a cliffhanger and I usually don’t want to award an uncompleted story (and I’m looking at YOU Dune Parts One and Two). 

And while I’m looking forward to watching Nimona and The Wandering Earth II, it’s Poor Things, also a 2024 Best Picture nominee, that interests me most because I see it as a possible dark horse winner in this category. 

You may also be on the lookout for a WSFS Business Meeting petition to extend the nomination period for the critically acclaimed (and a 2024 Oscar Winner for Best Special Effects) Godzilla Minus One, which had a limited theatrical run late last year.

One more thing; I would have nominated this year’s Best Picture winner, Oppenheimer, but I am only slightly disappointed it didn’t make the cut this year seeing that the Long Form category could have been filled with three times as many outstanding films and streaming series from 2023. 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: FINALLY, the nominators are showing some love for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds! And two outstanding episodes got the nod; “Those Old Scientists” is a hilarious crossover with the animated series Below Decks wherein Ensigns Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Boimler (Jack Quaid) get entangled in a time travel accident that has them interacting in the past with their legendary crushes Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck) and Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). The ensuing hijinks made this an instant classic. The other episode, “Subspace Rhapsody” is another fun episode that has the crew of the Enterprise forced to perform in various forms of song AND dance. Fun, fun, fun! 

Doctor Who returned last December, with two of the three being David Tennant-Catherine Tate specials, the trapped on a starship “Wild Blue Yonder’ and “The Giggle” which introduced of the energetic new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa and a terrifying turn by Neil Patrick Harris as the villainous Celestial Toymaker. 

The category is rounded out by what I consider are the two frontrunners; the final episode of Season 2 of Loki, “Glorious Purpose”, which may feature the very last appearance of Tom Hiddleston in his iconic title role and episode 3 of The Last of Us miniseries, “Long, Long Time”, in which guest stars Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett give the most tearful and wrenching performances in the history of television (Offerman won a 2024 Emmy for Guest Actor, Bartlett was nominated as well). 

Best Semiprozine: We could argue all day (and all night as well) about why this outdated and ill-titled category still exists but I think we can agree that all of the nominees are worthy of the Hugo Award. Among them are two previous winners (FIYAH Literary Magazine and Uncanny Magazine) and two perennial nominees (Escape Pod and Strange Horizons) and two newcomers, GigaNotoSaurus and khōréō, of whom I have never heard of before but look forward to sampling.  

Best Fanzine: Let’s all give a BIG welcome to first time Hugo Award nominees Black Nerd Problems (which is proudly based in Columbus, Ohio) and Gerri Sulivan’s Ideas, which was last seen in the year 2000 and saw the light of day again this past year. Being well acquainted with Journey Planet, The Full Lid, Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog and Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, I look forward to reading the best they had to offer from last year.

Best Fan Writer: A VERY necessary aside; when I first started advocating for changes regarding the Hugo Award categories 25 years ago, one of the very first things that some of the more sage members of the Business Meeting crowd drilled into my head was that these awards were not supposed to be popularity contests, but by the merit of the work itself. Officially, as far as they were (and still are) concerned, the award does not go to the creator of the work but to the work itself.   

With that in mind, I thanked those who voted to make the works of a person of color for the very first time in the history of the Hugo Awards. I also made an impassioned and open ended plea to not make me the last POC to win and I pledged to recuse myself from the category for just that purpose.

I should also say that after the revelations about the voting scandal were made public last February, a number of people made it known that they were going to nominate me again this year.  And while I have very little doubt I could have made the ballot, I made the decision not to rescind the recusal and if I had been nominated I would have turned it down.

For better or worse, my name will be permanently affixed to the 2023 Hugo Awards and I am unwavering in my belief that other and more diverse fan writers should have a chance to be spotlighted. 

This year’s finalists, while all being quite worthy of the award (several are folks I consider good friends and peers), that I am slightly disappointed that this group is decidedly less diverse than recent years. However, the nominators, for this year, have spoken. 

Paul Weimer, who was unjustly left off of last year’s ballot is rightfully present, along with my fellow 2023 finalists Jason Sanford, Bitter Karella, Örjan Westin and two nominees from previous years, James Davis Nicoll and Alasdair Stuart. I look forward to reading their packet selections and I wish them all good luck.

If you value this category as I do, advocate for other voices and from different cultures and countries for next year and every year afterwards. 

The Astounding Award for Best New Writer: One of the things I look forward to every year is reading the stories from the writers in this category.

The BIG news in the Astounding Award category this year is the appearance of Xiran Jay Zhao on the ballot. They were excluded as a finalist for Best New Writer of 2023, despite receiving enough votes to place fourth on the nomination long list. 

Dell Magazines, who sponsors the award, granted Zhao an additional year of eligibility. As someone who has advocated making this category (and the Lodestar Award) actual Hugo Award categories, I am glad they are not in this particular case because there are no provisions in the World Science Fiction Convention Constitution to grant this rather immediate and welcome remedy.

I am ecstatic about Zhao’s presence and can hardly wait to read what stories they, and all of the other Finalists, will select for us to read. 

One final note: As of this posting, I have heard that the 2023 Hugo Award Finalists have not received their nomination certificates and souvenir pins. If this is true, I find this omission terribly upsetting. In addition, those who still want their Hugo Award trophies (and I am among them) have not received them yet, nearly six months after the end of the Chengdu Worldcon. And while I realize that some may not want them due to the association with the scandal, I think that the Chengdu Worldcon Committee has an obligation to offer these items to those who wish to have them.

As such, I want to publicly urge the responsible parties involved to fulfill their obligations and reach out and poll all of the 2024 Hugo Award Finalists to see if they want to receive what they rightfully deserve.         

For more opinions on the 2024 Hugo Award Finalists, here are links two more links with commentary by the 2022 Hugo Award winning Fan Writer Cora Buhlert (“Some Thoughts on the 2024 Hugo Finalists”) and my colleague and 2024 Finalist, Jason Sanford (“Genre Grapevine for March 2024”).

So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #84: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions

Chris M. Barkley

Unburdening Myself of Unfinished Business

By Chris M. Barkley: 

ITEM ONE: As we emerge from the cold and cloudless days of January and February, you would think that the prospect of sunny days, baseball, international football (soccer), the open swimming pools and children playing outside would bring some joy to my soul.

Every year for the past forty years or so, the coming of the so-called “Daylight Savings Time” fills me with sadness, anxiety, moodiness and lastly, anger. (Yes, I only appear to be a mild-mannered reporter for a daily metropolitan daily sf news zine.)

Because myself and most of my fellow North Americans have lost an hour’s sleep. And why?

Because the farmers, blah, blah, blah. And the kids getting on the bus in the dark, blah, blah. And commerce and businesses flourish, blah, blah, blah… 

When I was a young lad in the mid-1960’s, the prospect of time travel (in this fashion) was novel and exciting. Forward into the future and then returning back into the past a few months later was a perfectly appealing idea to my young mind.

But, as I got older, my priorities and attitude towards DST gradually changed. Just the thought of the approaching date brought on bouts of gnawing and persisting dread. Changing the clocks forth and back became (and still are) a hassle. And the loss of an hour’s sleep every spring is just plain wrong.

 I’m not going to bore everyone with its history, musings, opinions or statistics about whether we should choose to sat in “standard” or “daylight” time or why the DST should be hunted down with pitchforks and torches, staked through the heart and left burning in the noonday sun. 

Instead, I will leave you with a well known Native American aphorism:

“Only a white man would have you believe you could cut a foot off the top of the blanket, sew it onto the bottom of the blanket, and you’d be left with a longer blanket.”

Contact your congressional representative and Senators; they are the only ones who can kill this stupid and unhealthy abomination once and for all.

Enough. Said. 

ITEM TWO: On the morning of February 5, 2024, my audio interview with Dave McCarty was published here on

As many of you may know, I distribute the daily “Pixel Scroll” and other standalone news items on eight sff Facebook groups and on the Bluesky app. (I have mostly avoided posting on X/Twitter since September 2023.) If there is something more important or pressing at hand, like an exclusive interview with Dave McCarty for example, I post a File 770 link to a more widespread group of forty groups…well, actually, thirty-nine as of today. Let me explain…

That particular morning, I started posting the interview to my usual group but when I came up to the Washington Science Fiction Association, I had to pause because I was served with a notice that stated that my posting privileges had been suspended:

“Your profile been (sic) suspended in this group. The admin has temporarily turned off your ability to post, comment and earn contribution points in the group until February 23, 2024, 10:19 AM.”

I was flabbergasted for several reasons, the first of which was that I had not received any notice of the suspension from any of the administrators, there was no previous indication of any trouble before that day. 

Since I was locked out of the page, there was no way to send a message to an admin, so I decided to shout out on my own page:

To the Washington Science Fiction Association Facebook Page:

While posting my latest File 770 column this morning, I found out that the admins of the Washington Science Fiction Association suspended my posting privileges on their page for three weeks. Apparently they found my most recent dispersing news on a regular basis either offensive and/or disturbing.

I have done my best to pass along vital and accurate information there for some time and I am HIGHLY upset that I was suspended without notification or an adequate explanation. Do I need to point out the parallels to what happened recently regarding the Chengdu Long List nominees?

As a journalist, I resent being effectively censored in this fashion; sf fans have every right to be informed, whether the news is for good or for ill, especially during these tumultuous times in sf fandom.

While I recognize that they have every right to run their page as they see fit, I find this action egregious, unnecessary and a disservice to the other members of the group. As a result of these actions I will be leaving the group later today.

Chris B.

During the course of that day, several friends offered advice and support, which, for the most part, I appreciated. Several suggested I reach out to the administrators to find out what the problem was. I wasn’t very receptive to doing that because I was very upset and the aggrieved party; so why would I do that? 

Two friends intervened on my behalf and made inquiries on my behalf. One reported in a direct message:   

Sent your message to the three admins. I’m guessing what set this off was the piece with the McCarty interview.”

I did not hear back from anyone else about this that day. And so, at a little after 10pm, the Washington Science Fiction Association page had one less member. 

My other friend sent me the following message in the early morning hours of the next day:

“Chris, you were paused by the moderator because they were traveling and could not monitor posts.

I sent back the following message:

Well, that’s a troubling explanation. Was this applied to everyone? Or just me? Because without a notification to me or on the page, it felt like I was being targeted.

Also  the period of time described in the suspension notice wasn’t for a period of days but weeks. 

So yeah, I’m having a hard time believing this.”

As of today, I have not been contacted by any of the admins involved nor have I been given an adequate explanation for their actions or offered an apology.

My reason for airing my grievance here and now is two-fold; this incident has been simmering with me for over five weeks and I felt the need to let loose before I lose my sanity, self esteem or both. Secondly, this is not my first rodeo with unresponsive page admins and frankly I’m becoming more and more disenchanted with social media and Facebook in particular.

And at its best, Facebook is a wonderful tool to keep in touch with friends and share ideas and opinions. But I am beginning to realize that for me, the pervasive and oftentimes intrusive effects of social media may outweigh its benefits. 

Lately, I have been contemplating leaving Facebook for good. Incidents like this just nudge me a little further towards doing that.

ITEM THREE: And then there was the matter of D.G. Valdron’s essay on

On February 18, Mr. Valdron, who describes himself on the website as a “Canadian Speculative Fiction and Pop Culture writer”, published an article that was ominously titled “Moral Compromise and the Lesson of the Hugos”.

Mr. Valdron, in an imperious and somewhat solemn tone, vaguely (and, mind you, without attribution) outlined the problems regarding the Chengdu Worldcon:

In 2023, the World Science Fiction Convention was held in Chengdu, China.

This was a little bit controversial, given the Chinese government’s genocidal actions regarding Ughyers and Tibetans, their authoritarian police state shtick, etc. But everyone went along with it. Why rock the boat?

The problem came with the Hugo Awards.

Now, the thing with the Hugos, is that everyone submits nominations, the Hugo Awards Committee vets the nominations, and a final list gets put out for the fans and convention members to vote on by secret ballot. Now, that’s how I understand it. I might have gotten some detail wrong, but I believe that’s the gist. It doesn’t matter.

Here’s what matters:

The Hugos were corrupted. The Hugo Awards Committee turns out to have been screening out the works of American, English and Chinese creators, on behalf of the Chinese government. Basically, anyone whose novel or background was critical of the Chinese government, or even politically sensitive, like mentioning Tibet, was dropped from the list.

But you know what strikes me?

It’s how trivial this is.

Forgive me, I’m sure it’s important to the people involved. Careers and friendships ended, a community rocked.

But let’s get a grip. Most people in North America have never even heard of the Hugos. Most people in North America are not science fiction writers, or readers. Hell, most people in North America are not readers.

The Hugos aren’t the Nobels, or the Pulitzers. In the larger scheme, they’re a minor award, restricted to a literary/social subculture which might result in a few extra sales and an ego boost.

No one’s life was at risk. No one’s freedom was imperiled. No huge sums of money, no public safety.

This was a small trivial thing.

In my cynical side, I suspect that most times, people would make the wrong moral choice, but hopefully, in the face of more pressure, or intimidation or incentive than this. Maybe I just want people to suffer more.

Anyway, we’ve been down this path before you and I. Sorry to belabour it. How we treat each other is a hobby horse of mine. I’ve had my tests, and I’ll have more. I’ve dealt with them.

What about you?

I’m SO GLAD you asked, sir.

Now, to be fair, Mr. Valdron is entitled to his opinion. And granted, what happened with the Chengdu Worldcon and the 2023 Hugo Awards is definitely not as important as the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, the current battle between democracy and fascism in the United States or our ever increasing concerns over climate change and various environmental crises all over the world.

What really ticked me off about D.G. Valdron’s article is his rather cavalier attitude towards what happened, the Hugo Awards and general air of disapproval of the fandom that supports it.  

Fantasy, science fiction and horror is, despite the bleating of insufferable academics and mainstream literary critics, a vital part of the tree of literature, and whose roots run a millenium or two deep.

Modern sff literature (and fandom) started over a hundred years ago when teenagers in the US and United Kingdom began to correspond, meet, talk and write about their mutual fascination. 

And out of those meetings came conventions, cosplay, and generations of aspiring publishers, writers, editors, artists, game creators, filmmakers, and commentators, like myself.

I have had the privilege of growing up in a period of this history to witness sff grow from being considered a freakish sideshow to becoming a dominant force in world culture.

And the Hugo Awards, for better or worse, have provided all of us with an invaluable anecdotal, year by year snapshot of what people thought about fantastic literature and the visual arts. Readers, writers, editors, artists and publishers look to it as a bellwether of the field’s vitality. 

So, no this is NOT “a small trivial thing,” Mr. Waldron.

And I find it very disappointing to see a member of our own community like yourself thinking so little of the situation as to look down your nose at the sff fandom and its history under the pretense of high handed criticism.

There is a term for this Mr. Waldron. 

It is called “bad form”.

ITEM FOUR: Having a little notoriety in your life can be fun. I have been a fan guest of honor at three conventions (Windycon in 2019, Astronomicon in 2021 and Confusion in 2023), a panelist art auctioneer at local, regional conventions and at Worldcons. I’ve been nominated for a Hugo Award twice (and may have even won one).

But speaking personally, I don’t go out of my way to seek it out. I know myself well enough to know that if my ego were well fed on a regular basis it would be to the detriment of myself and my family and friends.

So, as you can well imagine my quandary as the Chengdu Worldcon story grew exponentially, my name (as well as my co-author, Jason Sanford) popped in all sorts of media outlets like the Guardian (UK), NBC News, the Associated Press and the New York Times among others.

I was even interviewed by Andrew Linbong for National Public Radio, which, as a listener of fifty-plus years, was the thrill of a lifetime as far as I’m concerned.

But, there’s a downside as well. While I and Jason received universal praise for our reporting, we were also reminded that there are a lot of cranks out there who were more than willing to let the air out of tires, so to speak.

There were several that stood out; sff author Larry Correia was irked because of Jason and I had previously reported on and commented negatively against his involvements in the Sad/Angry/Rabid Puppy wars a decade ago. Frankly, having someone like Correia upset with me is a badge of honor as far as I’m concerned. (See my post on Bluesky.)

My partner Juli alerted me that some wag on Reddit had heard my interview with Dave McCarty and had come to the startling conclusion that I was actually in cahoots with him to cover up his complicity in the scandal. To which I replied that he had obviously seen far too many episodes of The Traitors reality competition show to be reasoned with. 

I was very heartened when I read that both Samantha Mills (author of the acclaimed short story “Rabbit Test”) and Adrian Tchaikovsky (who wrote The Children of Time series) had both decided not to acknowledge their Hugo Awards in the wake of the Chengdu scandal. 

Adversely, I received a bit of backlash from some people once I let it be known that I was going to keep my Hugo Award more as a keepsake and family heirloom than a personal achievement. 

I might have felt the same way as Ms. Mills and Mr. Tchaikovsky if I was sitting at home watching the Hugo Awards Ceremony at home and found out later that my presence on the ballot was dubious at best and that many Chinese writers and fans were most likely disenfranchised from the process.    

But, I went to China, had the time of my life, made the speech of my life and felt a close affinity for this award I thought I had rightly won. If anything, I wanted to be reminded of the trip, the people I met and befriended and the devastating revelations that followed.

Well, for a very vocal fringe minority of people, keeping this Hugo Award was tantamount to rooting for Lex Luthor, killing baby seals, helping the Houston Astros win the 2017 World Series or actually being a communist.

I laughed off nearly all of this outrage as either sour grapes, jealousy, pettiness or “virtue signaling”. In the course of all of this sturm and drang, I posted the following on Bluesky:

This generated a (unnecessarily snarky) response from @afab boyfriend:

It’s responses like these, that seemingly come out of the social ether that occasionally bother me, referring back to my general unease about social media. I don’t know this person and they CLEARLY don’t know me and yet it seems my comment struck a nerve that needed a pointed response. And I get it; I admit that in the past, I too, have sought out people I don’t know to comment on how reprehensible I thought their opinions or positions were, but tried to do so from a reasonable point of view and not to make it personal enough to hurt someone’s feelings.

THIS comment was meant to be both condemning AND personal. 

But, I decided to take the high road:

I followed that up with:

Case Closed, @afab boyfriend.

ITEM FIVE: Last week, this happened:

My response was:

Two things happened after I posted this; two days later, on Sunday March 10th, I fumbled my understanding of GMT time and Eastern Daylight Time (DAMN YOU AGAIN, DST) and as a result, both Juli and I logged onto the Glasgow Worldcon site three hours too late to nominate anything for this year’s Hugo Awards for the first time in more than a decade.

Even more ironically, I began to hear from friends and acquaintances who openly stated that despite my recusal of future nominations in my speech at the Chengdu Hugo Award Ceremony and my public statement on March 8th, people were still nominating me in the Best Fan Writer category.

Their reasons ranged from they viewed my “win” in Chengdu as invalid and they wanted me to have another chance or that my works from 2023 were quite worthy of consideration.

I have to admit that the idea of being nominated again in light of what happened last year excites me, but the other side of that coin brings feelings of despair. 

Do I actually deserve another nomination? Would I be depriving someone else of a nomination? And, what if I get that email in the next week or so; am I allowed to change my mind? 

My partner Juli says that she will abide by and support any decision I make, which is one of the many reasons why I love her so much.. The few friends I have asked about this dilemma all said I should take the nomination.

Right now, I have no idea what I should do.

Watch this space, readers…

So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #83: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions

DUNE Part 2: A (Relatively) Spoiler Free Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

DUNE, Part Two (**** out of 4 stars, 165 minutes) with Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Fergeson, Stellan Skarsgård, Javiar Bardem, Dave Bautista, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Léa Seydoux, Charlotte Rampling, Josh Brolin and Chris topher Walken. Screenplay adaptation by Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve from the novel by Frank Herbert, directed by Villeneuve. 

Bechtel Test: PASS.

L-R, Rebecca Fregeson (Jessica Atreides), Zendaya (Chani), Javiar Bardem (Stilgar) and Timothée Chalamet (Paul Atreides). Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

When film reviewers and critics refer to the most successful (English language) movie sequels, they usually cite the two that easily come to mind, The Godfather Part II (1974) and Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

Both films have a lot in common; its predecessors, The Godfather and Star Wars: A New Hope were a smashing opening act, critically and at the box office, both were a visual feast for the eyes and had compelling characters and story arcs that had audiences all over the world thirsting for more.

And, most importantly, once they were announced by their respective studios, they were hotly anticipated by everyone. And if they had fallen flat at the box office, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas would have been practically unhireable and the cinematic landscape you and I know today probably would have been vastly different. Because even in this day and age, there are no sure bets at the box office (as the makers of last December’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom can readily attest to).

But soon, Dune Part 2 may well enter this rarified cinemanic pantheon, as well.

Writer/Director Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 Dune Part One had a bit of a stumble coming out of the gate; his distributing studio, Warner Brothers, decided to release his film simultaneously in theaters and on its streaming platform (then called HBO Max) during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Villeneuve, who had dreamed of adapting Frank Herbert’s classic book for decades, was fearful that a poor box office performance would diminish the chances of finishing the second half of the novel. But, even though Part One grossed an anemic $110 million dollars in North America, it took in almost $325 million in overseas revenue, won six Academy Awards in technical categories and became an instant cultural phenomenon. 

Warner Brothers and its producing partner, Legendary Films, rolled the dice and officially greenlit Part 2 in October 2022, a month and a half after its debut at the Venice Film Festival and one day after it premiered in the United States.

Dune Part 2 picks up almost immediately after the end of Part One, with Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his pregnant mother, Jessica (Rebecca Fergeson) on the run from the forces of their sworn enemies, the House of Harkonnen

Among the indigenous Fremen of Arrakis, Paul forges a political relationship with Stilgar (Javiar Bardem), an influential chief, and a romantic one with Chani (Zendaya), a freedom fighter who teaches him the ways of her people and of the desert.

Meanwhile, forces are coalescing against the survivors; the Emperor Shaddam IV (Christopher Walken) and his daughter Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh) know that their precarious position as the head of the galactic empire depends on the flow of spice used in space navigation and that their treacherous deal with Baron Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) to destroy House Atreides must never see the light of day.

As the Baron and his brutal nephews, Rabban (Dave Bautista) and Feyd-Rautha (Austin Butler) try to bring the Fremen to heel with escalating attacks on their homesteads, Paul tries to grapple with his troubling and fragmented visions of his possible futures and contend with the machinations of his mother, who is using her religious training of the Bene Gesserit to make him their leader.

As with Dune Part 1, Part 2 is a virtual master class in production design, editing, special effects, stunt coordination, acting and execution.

And I can well imagine that there are a lot of people who may not read Frank Herbert’s novel, may view both films as a sweeping, epic story of personal resilience and revenge. And they would be only half right.

Because if they had, they might have realized that Herbert never meant Paul Atreides to be heroic in the traditional sense of more recent well known cultural icons like Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen, Clark Kent or Ellen Ripley, but as a tragic anti-hero in every sense of the word.

Paul starts out as a staunch defender of his adopted Fremen clan and vehemently resists becoming their messianic leader. But, as you will see, he makes a series of choices that will ensure his revenge on the Harkonnens and plunge the galaxy into chaos. Once again, Timothée Chalamet more than proves he‘s up to the task, showing Paul’s descent into a calculated and murderous rage that is quite comparable to Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather films.

The major change screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve made to the narrative was to make Chani the person who sees through Paul’s bullshit instead of his willing concubine. As the climax of the movie unfolds, you can see the shock, anger and betrayal in Chani’s eyes and Zendaya delivers these emotions with devastating effect.

Dune, as Frank Herbert envisioned it, is a huge salad bowl of concerns; a speculative exploration of a made up ecology, war, power mongering, colonialism and, in particular, against religious fundamentalism and toxic mythologies. Written as America was beginning a disastrous military entanglement in Vietnam, Dune endures as a stark warning against all of those things. 

Dune Part 2 is well on its way to becoming the first blockbuster film of the year and it is inevitable that Denis Villeneuve will be making the next book in the series, Dune Messiah

That novel was not well received in 1969 because it highlights the consequences of Paul’s actions. 

But, with the emotional rift between Chani and Paul coupled with the ongoing conflict between the remaining Houses, the Fremen and the Bene Gesserit, there will be plenty of material for Villeneuve and his merry band magic makers to adapt. 

And I can’t wait to see what they do with it. 

Pixel Scroll 3/3/24 And Did Those Filers In Ancient Times Scroll Upon Glyer’s Pixels Green?

(1) SIGN FROM A FELINE. Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Rude Litterbox Space” is a free read at Sunday Morning Transport to encourage people to subscribe. Bonnie McDaniel says it is based on the author’s real-life communication-board-using cat.

… Language was hard. Bending space-time was not….

(2) A HITCH. P. Djèlí Clark’s blog post makes you want to read “The Dead Cat Tail Assassins”, then tells you why you’ll need to wait ’til summer’s end.

…Okay, now for the not so good news. The Dead Cat Tail Assassins was supposed to drop this month, March. But… yadda, yadda, yadda.. we got a new pub date: August, 6 2024.

What happened? Stuff. Stuff happened. Putting a book together requires lots of hands: me the author, editors, copyeditors, publicists, printers, centaurs, goblins, magical creatures from Fillory. And, for a myriad of reasons, sometimes things go pear shaped and stuff gets pushed back. You’re probably like, yeah but from March to August? That’s a big pushback! Hey, what can I tell you… lose your place in line, and you don’t just get a back-cut. There are other books by other authors waiting to be worked on, books coming out that can’t clash with your own, gotta find a new place in the queue at the printing warehouse, and all kinds of arcane alchemy I don’t pretend to understand…

(3) LIVESTOCK BY MAIL. I think the anecdote that starts Brian Keene’s “Letters From the Labyrinth 370” really happened, though I won’t be surprised if it finds its way into a book.

“I’m here about the dead chicks.”

That was what the woman butting in front of me and another customer at the post office said. I turned, intrigued. She was short, thin, blonde hair fading with age to the color of straw. I placed her at older than me — probably mid-sixties but then I remembered the day before when my postal carrier, whom I’d thought was in her seventies, told me she was the same age as me — 56. I can’t gauge age anymore. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see 56. But I’m also smart enough to know that how I see myself isn’t necessarily how others see me. In my mind, I’m still as suave and charming as Diamond David Lee Roth, but I suspect others look at me and think “Look at that silly old man. How sweet.”

But I digress….

Makes me remember when I was surprised to learn you could order live honeybees through the Sears catalog. (Which I wasn’t allowed to do. Just as well.)

(4) HUGO NEWS ROUNDUP AND MORE. Jason Sanford’s “Genre Grapevine for February 2024” on Patreon is free to the public.

In early February, Chris Barkley contacted me and said he’d received emails and documents related to the 2023 Hugo Awards from Diane Lacey, one of the award administrators. I’d seen Chris only two weeks earlier at the ConFusion convention in Detroit, where we sat at the bar discussing that weekend’s release of the Hugo nomination and voting stats. We were both shocked by the works and authors deemed “not eligible” and kept off the final ballot for no stated reason. We also were surprised so few Chinese authors and works made the Hugo longlist.

While talking in Detroit, Chris and I felt shenanigans had likely happened during last year’s Hugos. However, we also feared the truth of what happened might never come out.

Two weeks later, Chris shared the leaked emails and documents and I realized we’d been wrong. The truth would indeed come out….

(5) FAITH. Abigail Nussbaum walks readers through “The 2024 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot” at Asking the Wrong Questions. She says in a preamble to the nominations:

We’ve spent so much of the last six weeks talking about the debacle that was last year’s Hugo awards, that it was easy to forget that another awards season was gearing up at the same time. So here we are, with less than a week left to nominate for this year’s Hugos, and to be honest it feels a bit strange to make this post. I always love to talk about the things I enjoyed in the fantastic genres over the last year, and to encourage my readers to consider them for a Hugo nomination. But doing it this year, with the shadow of an award whose nominations and results we can have no faith in, can feel a bit pointless.

Another way of putting it is that this is an act of faith–in the administrators of this year’s award, who have been doing their utmost to project reliability and distance themselves from last year’s inexcusable actions; in the fandom, which continues to care about this award and try to make it the best it can be; and in the award itself, and the idea that it can overcome this blow to its reputation and start moving back to what it was….

(6) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Christopher Rowe and Moses Ose Utomi on Wednesday, March 13 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Location: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003. (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

Christopher Rowe

Christopher Rowe’s most recent novella, The Navigating Fox, published by Tordotcom was described by The Wall Street Journal as a “modern Aesop’s fable.” His other books include the novella These Prisoning Hills and a collection, Telling the Map. Over the last 25 years, his stories have been published, anthologized, and translated around the world and he has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, Neukom, Seiun, and other awards. He lives in Kentucky.

Moses Ose Utomi

Moses Ose Utomi is a Nigerian-American fantasy writer and nomad currently based out of San Diego, California. He has an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and short fiction publications in Fantasy MagazineSunday Morning Transport, and other venues. He is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Daughters of Oduma and The Forever Desert, the fantasy novella series that includes the acclaimed The Lies of the Ajungo. When he’s not writing, he’s traveling, training martial arts, or doing karaoke—with or without a backing track.

(7) FILM EDITING AWARDS. Deadline has the “ACE Eddie Awards Winners List”.

Oppenheimer took the marquee Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic) honor and The Holdovers landed the top Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy) award at the 74th ACE Eddie Awards Sunday….

Here are all the winners of genre interest:


  • Oppenheimer — Jennifer Lame


  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse — Michael Andrews, ACE


  • The Last of Us: “Long, Long Time”Timothy A. Good, ACE

(8) HERE WE GO AGAIN. “Hollywood Teamsters, IATSE Hold Solidarity Rally Ahead of AMPTP Negotiations”The Hollywood Reporter was there.

A coalition of Hollywood’s below-the-line unions rallied Sunday on the eve of their latest contract negotiations. They threatened a historic strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers if their demands weren’t met. Such a work stoppage would follow a pair of strikes in 2023 by industry writers and actors which crippled the entertainment industry and have left it limping into the new year.

“I hope they’re paying attention right down the road at the AMPTP,” IATSE vice president Michael Miller announced from the stage to the crowd of around a thousand people at Woodley Park in Encino. (Nearly a thousand more watched a live-stream online.) He then invoked a slogan repeated throughout the event: “Nothing moves without the crew.”

For the first time since 1988, the Hollywood Basic Crafts group — which includes Teamsters Local 399, IBEW Local 40, LiUNA! Local 724, OPCMIA Local 755 and UA Local 78 — and the crew union IATSE are joining this year to negotiate their health and pension benefits with the Hollywood trade group the AMPTP, which represents studios and streamers. Those talks begin Monday.

The “Many Crafts, One Fight” rally served mainly as an opportunity for members to express solidarity and hype each other up. So-called “above-the-line” unions SAG-AFTRA and the WGA made strong shows of force with their sign-wielding members and leaders expressing gratitude. (Teamster cooperation was key in the WGA’s production shutdown strategy early in its stoppage.) WGA West vice president Michele Mulroney drew applause when she acknowledged crew support which “sustained us through our own long and arduous fight,” and noted that “without all of you our words would just languish on the page.”…

(9) ARRAKIS DELIVERS BIG B.O. “’Dune 2′ Nears $100 Million Overseas, Surpasses $150 Million Globally” according to Variety.

Dune: Part Two” is turbocharging the international box office.

Director Denis Villeneuve’s otherworldly sequel has generated $97 million from 71 overseas markets, bringing its global tally to a promising $178.5 million. Those worldwide revenues include $81.5 million from North American theaters, where it landed the biggest domestic opening weekend of the year.

The movie, starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, has been embraced in the U.S. and Canada. But the backers of “Dune 2” need overseas audiences to keep the ticket sales flowing as freely as spice on the desert planet of Arrakis. That’s because Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment spent $190 million to produce and roughly $100 million more to promote the film to global audiences. Those hefty fees mean the tentpole will require outsized admissions to turn a profit.

(10) MARK DODSON (1960-2024). The voice actor Mark Dodson died of a heart attack while staying in Evansville, IN to appear at Horror Con. Deadline pays tribute: “Mark Dodson Dies: ‘Star Wars’ And ‘Gremlins’ Voiceover Artist Was 64”.

Mark Dodson, whose unique voice characterizations propelled creatures in the films Star Wars: Return of the Jediand Gremlins, has died at 64.

His daughter told TMZ that he died while in Evansville, Indiana, to attend Horror Con. He checked into a hotel and suffered a “massive heart attack” while sleeping, she said.

Dodson was the voice of Salacious Crumb, the scruffy little creature who was a cackling crony of Jabba the Hut in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.That memorable voice led to a gig in Gremlins, where he became the voice Mogwai, much-imitated in school yards. 

He worked continuously for several decades in film, video games, radio and commercials as a voice artist. . 

His daughter, Ciara, told TMZ that her father “never ceased making me proud.” a 

The Evansville Horror Con, where Dodson was scheduled to appear, posted a tribute to Facebook. 

“We are heartbroken to announce the sudden passing of Mark Dodson last night. Mark was not only a talented voice actor but also a cherished member of the horror community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and fans during this incredibly difficult time. We hope that you can take a moment out of your day to reflect on the joy and laughter that Mark brought into the world. His legacy will live on through his work.”

Survivors include his daughter and several grandchildren.


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 3, 1920 James Doohan. (Died 2005.) James Doohan, a Canadian, is of course remembered best for being the original Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on the first version of the Enterprise. And doesn’t it say something about the franchise that I had to write the sentence that way? 

He played, definitely way too much in my opinion, the archetypal Scotsman. He even had a Dress Uniform Kilt, something I’m dead certain doesn’t exist in the modern Navy, as on display in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” and “The Savage Curtain”. And I forget how many characters he drank literally to the floor. No don’t get me wrong, I loved the character, but the depiction was seriously over the top.

So my favorite episode involving him? That had to be when he defended the honor of the Enterprise in a bar brawl with a Klingon in “The Trouble with Tribbles” after that Klingon called his beloved ship a garbage scow. Perfect, just perfect. 

So what else has he done? His first major genre role (he had previously appeared in one episode of Tales of Tomorrow) was as Paul Mitchell on Space Command, an early Fifties Canadian children’s sf series. It only lasted two years but they did one hundred and fifty episodes!  Shatner would appear there.

A decade later, he entered the Twilight Zone playing Johnson, by no means a major role, in the “Valley of the Shadow”.  Around the same time, on Outer Limits he played Police Lt. Branch in “Expanding Human”, this time a lead role. 

He showed up twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E (in different roles),  BewitchedFantasy IslandMacGyver and Knight Rider 2000.

Need I say Next Generation’s “Relics” was wonderful?  And I’m not talking about Trials and Tribble-ations even though it’s a stellar story as he’s only there in existing footage of him.

Filmwise, Trek was his major gig as I see very little genre undertakings at all. He had an uncredited role in The Satan Bug, an sf thriller. It’s so short that IMDB gives the time that he’s in the film.

His only other genre role that I can see in a film outside of Trek was as Judge Peterson in Skinwalker: Curse of the Shaman. If you’ve not seen it don’t feel bad. It’s obscure enough that no one on Rotten Tomatoes has either. 

I think that covers it for him. Now keep in mind that I did love him, despite my criticism of his portrayal of a Scottish character, on Trek as he’s really likeable. He and Nichelle Nichol’s always seems to be the two most, well, truly warm, likeable individuals there. 

I think I’ll go watch both of the Tribbles episodes on Paramount + now.  Yes, I know there’s the animated episode as well, “More Tribbles, More Trouble”, but it just doesn’t have the charm the actual ones with live actors do. 


(13) CACHING IN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] If my memory serves (and it is not that reliable though I constantly amaze myself in recalling a science paper from years ago out of the recesses of my mind) I have a feeling that File770 covered the demise of Google’s readily available Cache. Then  this piece might interest you — “Why Is Google Hiding Its Cached Search Results?” at Tedium.

I have to imagine that Google did not make a lot of money from people pinging its search engine for cached website results, but making it convenient to access was a service to searchers.

It was also somewhat of a service to society. Often, when information-related scandals broke—such as content with egregious errors, evidence of deleted social media statements, or information at risk of appearing offline in short order—it was a great backstop that worked more effectively than the Internet Archive for capturing fresh information.

And yet, for some reason, Google has treated this feature like it was embarrassed of it. Over the years, it has increasingly come to bury the feature in its search interface, making it harder and harder to find, despite me finding it just as useful as it was the day it launched.

Recently, the company started removing it entirely…

… To be clear, the cache is not gone—it is simply hidden from public view. (I don’t see it on my end, either.) You can access it manually by typing in a specialized URL…

For example, here’s the URL to access the cache for File 770:

(13) A TRUTH NOT YET UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. Would Jane herself have turned thumbs down on this idea? “Winchester plan for £100,000 Jane Austen statue triggers ‘Disneyfication’ fears” reports the Guardian.

The idea was to celebrate one of the greatest British authors with a beautiful statue set up in a cathedral for the 250th anniversary of their birth.

But at a public meeting to discuss the erection of a Jane Austen sculpture close to her final resting place at Winchester Cathedral, concerns were raised that it would lead to the “Disneyfication” of the place of worship and become a magnet for tourists keen to get a selfie.

Elizabeth Proudman, an Austen expert and leading light in the Jane Austen Society, also suggested the author herself would not have approved of the statue and the fuss surrounding it.

She said: “We don’t know what she looked like, but we do know that she was a very private person. She despised publicity.”

Austen is buried in the north nave aisle of Winchester Cathedral under a memorial stone, which mentions “the extraordinary endowments of her mind” but does not provide any more detail about her career.

(15) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. Everyone who’s read the history of the first atomic bomb saw this was missing from the movie. SYFY Wire’s James Grebey gives his opinion “Why Oppenheimer Doesn’t Include the Deadly “Demon Core” Accidents”.

… The ominously named demon core, a sphere of plutonium used in the development of atomic bombs after the success of the Trinity Test, was responsible for the deaths of two scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project. The core, which weighed 14 pounds and measured just 3.5 inches in diameter, was all set to be turned into a third bomb that could have been used against Japan had they not surrendered following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945…. 

(16) THE HILLS ARE UNDEAD WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Mitch Benn mashes up “Gilbert & Sullivan’s Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula” for YouTube viewers.

Now with on-screen libretto, my “restoration” of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta version of Dracula married to the sumptuous visuals of Coppola’s masterful 1992 film adaptation… Have fun with it before someone has it taken down

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In a 2018 video Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, explains “WHY DIDN”T WE GET THIS?! Unreleased Sulu Star Trek Series!”

Star Trek and Deep Space Nine writer Marc Scott Zicree shares the entire Captain Sulu Star Trek pilot he and Emmy winner Michael Reaves wrote, and shares the untold story of why you never got to see that series — despite its Hugo and Nebula Award nominations!

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

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” 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.


[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?


  • 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,

(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 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.


[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. 


(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 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.]