Pixel Scroll 4/28/24 Pixels Make The World Scroll Down

(1) NO, NO, NOT ROGOV! Annalee Newitz calls Paul Linebarger (aka Cordwainer Smith) “The Sci-Fi Writer Who Invented Conspiracy Theory” in The Atlantic.

…Linebarger, who died of a heart attack in 1966 at age 53, could not have predicted that tropes from his sci-fi stories about mind control and techno-authoritarianism would shape 21st-century American political rhetoric. But the persistence of his ideas is far from accidental, because Linebarger wasn’t just a writer and soldier. He was an anti-communist intelligence operative who helped define U.S. psychological operations, or psyops, during World War II and the Cold War. His essential insight was that the most effective psychological warfare is storytelling. Linebarger saw psyops as an emotionally intense, persuasive form of fiction—and, to him, no genre engaged people’s imagination better than science fiction.

I pored over Linebarger’s personal papers at the Hoover Institution propaganda collection while researching my forthcoming book, Stories Are Weapons: Psychological Warfare and the American Mind. Boxes of his studies on the politics of China and Southeast Asia are filed alongside his fiction manuscripts and unpublished musings on psychology. Here, I realized, was an origin story for modern conspiracy politics, which blur the line between sci-fi plots and American patriotism—they came from a psywar operative. Put another way, an agent of what some would now call the “deep state” had devised the far-out stories that politicians like Greene use to condemn it. Perhaps, if she and others knew this, they might not be so eager to blame space lasers and vaccine microchips for what ails our nation….

(2) WESTERCON 76 UTAH HOTEL RESERVATIONS OPEN. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Westercon 76 has updated their hotel/venue web page with their hotel booking information. I published a post on the Westercon.org site about it{ “Westercon 76 Utah Opens Hotel Reservations”.

The short version is “use the link on the convention hotel/venue page” or “use group code WET when booking through Hilton.com.  

(3) MAKING BOOK. These suspects are from the nation, not the U.S. state — “Georgians arrested over cross-Europe thefts of rare library books”. The Guardian tells how the crime was committed.

Police have arrested nine Georgians suspected of running a sophisticated criminal operation stealing valuable antique books – including an original Alexander Pushkin manuscript – from national libraries across Europe.

Shelves of 19th-century Russian-language literature had been ransacked over two years across several countries and replaced with fakes, Europol, the EU police agency, revealed on Thursday.

The University of Warsaw, which was among the targets, last year reported the theft of first editions of works by the influential authors Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol.

Europol said the suspects allegedly sometimes posed as academics to gain access to the books in order to make counterfeits of “outstanding quality”.

While in the reading rooms “they would meticulously measure the books and take photographs before handing them back” – only to return days, weeks or months later to swap them with near perfect copies.

In other cases they “relied on a more crude approach” and simply staked out the collection in national libraries, decided what was of interest and later broke in and stole the books, police said….

(4) MARK D. BRIGHT (1955-2024). Black comics creator Mark D. Bright died March 27. The Comics Journal’s in-depth tribute begins:

Issue #257 of DC’s House of Mystery wasn’t short on talent when it hit the stands in late 1977. Like all issues of that horror anthology, it had its fair share of clunkers, but you couldn’t fault the art team. Joe Orlando (on the cover), Ernie Chan, Michael Golden, Arthur Suydam… and in between these heavy hitters was a three-pager by a newcomer named Mark D. Bright, raised in Montclair, NJ, and not yet a graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He would have other names in credit boxes throughout the years: M.D. Bright, “Doc” Bright, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Bright would go on to a long and storied career, doing well-regarded work for both Marvel and DC throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He was also the co-creator of Icon with Dwayne McDuffie, one of the cornerstones of Milestone Comics, and co-creator of the oddball superhero comedy series Quantum and Woody with frequent collaborator Christopher Priest. Bright passed away on March 27, 2024, leaving the world of comics a much poorer place….

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. (Died 2015.)

By Paul Weimer: It took a second bite at the apple for me to fall for the works of Terry Pratchett.  My first attempt was in the 90’s, when I had vaguely heard about his work, and picked up The Color/Colour of Magic.  I thought it was fine and I also tried the Light Fantastic and Sourcery.  But it really didn’t gel for me. I thought at the time Pratchett was an okay writer, and maybe the humor wasn’t quite what I was looking for in fantasy at the time.  (To be fair, the humor in those early Discworld novels is a lot broader than the later more refined ones). 

Terry Pratchett in 2011.

It took over a decade and my late friend Scott to get me to try Pratchett again.  Scott was passionate about a number of writers. Zelazny, which we had in common. Lois M. Bujold, which we also had in common. Michael Scott Rohan. And Terry Pratchett.  Scott encouraged me and “talked me through” finding where I would best enjoy Pratchett’s oeuvre.  I found an affinity for Pyramids (and the best Mathematician on all of Discworld), but when it came to The Night Watch, I really started understanding the Discworld Project and what it was doing.  From then on, Pratchett was on auto-buy.  Vimes and company remained my favorite, although The Librarian is probably my single favorite minor character, if only for the fantastic idea of L-Space. 

Beyond Discworld, there is also Good Omens of course, and also the Long Earth series. The latter feels a lot more the work of his co-author Stephen Baxter than Pratchett but there are moments, scenes, images where the utter magic of Terry Pratchett’s work and writing and humanism comes through. 

One of my not-in-a-Pratchett bits that involves Pratchett is a bit in the late Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End. In that novel, in its (now a) alternate history, Pratchett went on to write many many more Discworld novels, and became so popular that people would use VR to cosplay as being from the new area of the Discworld these imaginary novels were set (basically an entrepot more along the lines of Alexandria, Egypt).  I could wish, Zelazny style, to walk into that world and bring home copies of those “lost” Pratchett novels. I would love to read them. 

And, sadly I never got to meet him in person. My loss. 

Happy birthday.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark agrees that there’s always leftovers.
  • Bizarro takes us inside a reactive museum.

(7) DOUBLE FEATURE. The Flights of Fantasy Film Festival will show The War of The Worlds (1953 — 4K Restoration) and ten of the Best George Pal Oscar-Winning Puppetoons (restored in Technicolor®) at the Historic 1931 Regency Westwood Theater in LA on Wednesday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets at the link.

Scheduled to appear are special guests director Joe Dante (Gremlins), Ann Robinson (star of War of the Worlds), and director-producer Arnold Leibovit (The Puppetoon Movie, The Time Machine 2002). These distinguished guests will offer their unique perspectives and insights, sharing behind-the-scenes stories and discussing the lasting impact of George Pal’s work on the world of cinema. Maxwell DeMille (master of ceremonies) is a prominent figure in reviving old Hollywood glamour through vintage-themed events. His commitment to authenticity has made him a leading figure in the vintage entertainment scene, and he also hosts film screenings and lectures on classic Hollywood culture.

(8) PRODUCTS LAUNCH. Gizmodo promises “Lego’s Gorgeous New Space Sets Shoot You Into the Stars”.

…This morning Lego revealed two more entries in its 2024 campaign to bring the ethos of its classic space sets across its various lines: for Lego Art, there’s a beautiful, buildable recreation of the Milky Way, containing 3,091 pieces for you to build into a technicolor spiral galaxy and hang on your wall. For those looking for something a little less macro-scaled, but still high on detail, the new 3,601-piece Artemis Launch System, part of the Lego Icons series, includes a mobile launch tower, a rocket support and crew bridge, and then of course a multistage rocket, complete with 2 solid-fuel boosters. The model also even includes a small brick-built recreation of the ESA Orion spacecraft, which can be put into the rocket or as part of a separate display stand, highlighting Artemis’ mission to further explore the Moon….

See photo galleries of both at the Lego website:

(9) METAL DETECTIVE. “Spacecraft approaches metal object zooming around Earth, snaps footage” – at Mashable.

A spacecraft has carefully approached and imaged a large hunk of metal orbiting Earth — a step in tackling humanity’s mounting space junk woes.

The delicate space mission, undertaken by the Japanese satellite technology company Astroscale, used its ADRAS-J satellite to travel within several hundred meters of an abandoned section of a noncommunicative, derelict rocket, proving it could safely observe in such close proximity…

(10) PIGS NOT QUITE IN SPACE. William Shatner has taken this flight before – a clip from a 1996 Muppets Tonight episode. Watch it on YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/7/24 Files Scroll In Where Pixels Fear To Thread

(1) WILL THE DOCTOR APPROVE WHEN BBC MARKETING DEPARTMENT USES AI TO PROMOTE DOCTOR WHO? [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The BBC media centre published an article by the “Head of Media Inventory: Digital” earlier today, about their plans to use AI to promote Doctor Who.  It leads:

Experimentation is at the heart of how we approach marketing at the BBC. Testing and learning on how we let audiences know what BBC content is most relevant to them and we know they might love underpins our digital marketing strategy. However, experimentation in marketing typically requires more time spent on the creative work to make extra assets. Generative AI offers a great opportunity to speed up making the extra assets to get more experiments live for more content that we are trying to promote.

We’re going to take it one step a time, starting simple and learning as we go. We have chosen to start with Doctor Who, as it is a joint content priority for both BBC Public Service UK and BBC Studios marketing teams. There’s a rich variety of content in the Whoniverse collection on iPlayer to test and learn with, and Doctor Who thematically lends itself to AI which is a bonus.

We will be creating human-written marketing copy for a Doctor Who push notification, email subject line and in the promotional rail on BBC Search – then we will be using generative AI to suggest copy variations which are then reviewed and approved by our marketing team before being shown to the audience. Their success will be measured by click- rates, open-rates, and post-impression conversion-rates across each channel.

The article also provides details about how the BBC proposes to have human oversight and review of this process.

One fan pointed out that the 1979 story “City of Death” had already depicted the Doctor’s attitude towards computer-generated content.

(2) CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHORS SIGN OPEN LETTER ABOUT GAZA. Publishers Weekly reports on an open letter to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators signed by children’s book creators in “SCBWI Addresses the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza”.

… Hundreds of children’s and YA creators including Jason Reynolds, Elizabeth Acevedo, Brendan Kiely, Sabaa Tahir, and Maggie Tokuda-Hall added their names to the petition, which features an illustration—“We Feel Your Silence”—by Egyptian-born picture book artist Hatem Aly….

The full text of the open letter is at the link. The letter begins:

Dear Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators,

Our community of kids’ book creators and readers is calling out for solidarity and transparency.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is the deadliest for children in modern history. UNICEF, among other leading human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, recognized that “there is no safe place for children in Gaza” and that this is a war against children.

As the preeminent global community for children’s book creators whose mission is to, in part, “establish a more imaginative and inclusive world through the power of children’s literature,” many active, past, and prospective members of the community are struggling to feel a sense of inclusion and belonging when SCBWI remains silent.

Currently, over a million children are being actively starved while the Israeli government refuses to permit aid into the Gaza strip. Children are being carpet bombed and sniper-attacked in the Israeli government designated safe zone, Rafah, with nowhere to escape. Thousands of children have been orphaned, wounded, undergone surgeries and amputations without anesthesia, and disabled. Palestinian libraries, schools, universities, and publishing houses have been decimated….

Some signers from the sff community whose names jumped out at me are: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Alex Brown, Alyssa Wong, B. Sharise Moore, Daniel José Older, Jacqueline Woodson, Natalie C. Parker, Olivia A. Cole, Raina Telgemeier, and Tochi Onyebuchi.

SCBWI’s Executive Director has responded with a message on Instagram:

According to Publishers Weekly —

…Responses were mixed, and executive director Sarah Baker engaged with several commenters directly. Various community members thanked SCBWI “for supporting the voices of all authors and illustrators… while acknowledging this horrendous war and humanitarian crisis.” Others called the letter “performative” and “disappointing,” some said they would not renew subscriptions, and one called the approach “genocidal apologism.” SCBWI has more than 22,000 members around the world….

(3) URSA MAJOR AWARDS DITCH MUSIC CATEGORY. The Ursa Major Awards for anthropomorphic literature and arts announced March 6 they have dropped the Music Category.

No further explanation was given. Commenters seem to believe the decision was in response to a specific instance of ballot stuffing, or a finalist’s use of AI to create art.

(4) JACK WILLIAMSON LECTURESHIP. David Sweeten has circulated the schedule for the 47th Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, being held at Eastern New Mexico University from April 11-13 in Portales, NM. The guest of honor is Martha Wells, with emcee Connie Willis.

Below is a brief rundown of the events as they stand, but some items are still in development. Generally, the main events of the Lectureship will take place on Friday, but please let me know if you can make the dinner on Thursday. Also, Connie’s workshop on Saturday is always a delight.

  • Thursday, April 11th: 
    • 3 pm: a forensic talk from Cordelia Willis.
    • 5-7 pm: Opening event in the Greyhound Lounge (CUB basement) with activities run by ENMU student organizations (including the History Guild doing a presentation on Jack Williamson, the Clayhounds [ENMU ceramics club] bringing scifi themed pottery and paint-and-takes, and more)
    • 7-9 pm: Lectureship participant dinner for authors, the committee, and academic presenters (please email me if attending so I can update the catering)
  • Friday, April 12th: 
    • 8:30 am: Academic Panel (CUB, Zia room)
    • 10 am: Guest of Honor Reading from Martha Wells (CUB, Zia room)
    • 12 pm: Keynote lunch with remarks from Connie Willis, keynote address from Martha Wells, and scifi/fantasy trivia 
    • 1:30 pm: Tour of Special Collections, including Jack’s Office and the Science Fiction Special Collection (GSSC, Special Collections)
    • 1:30 pm: Board Game Session (GSSC, Presentation Area)
    • 3-6:30 pm: Author Panels (JWLA)
    • 7 pm: Dinner at Asplunds’ house, Potluck
  • Saturday, April 13th: 
    • 8:30 am: Academic Panel (JWLA)
    • 10 am: Connie’s Writing Workshop (JWLA)

(5) TERRY CARR ON THE DILLONS. In January we reported the sale of Leo and Diane Dillon’s original art for the cover of The Left Hand of Darkness (see Pixel Scroll 1/27/24 item #2). Le Guin’s book was part of the Ace Specials series edited by Terry Carr.

Yesterday I happened upon an article Carr wrote for the fanzine Focal Point in 1971 (see page 6) right after he had to “fire” them because he was told their covers weren’t helping to sell the books. Though he reassured everyone:

…Don’t weep for Leo and Diane. They’re among the most sought-after artists in the book field, and they make a lot more money from the work they do for Time-Life Books or Fawcett Premier than we could ever pay them at Ace. When you visit them and look in on their studio you find incredibly beautiful sketches and partially finished paintings there. ’’That one was due last Tuesday,” says Diane, ’’and we were supposed to have twenty-five double-page spreads done for a history of Hawaii last month.” For the Dillons, the SF Specials were an extra job every month that they didn’t need and which they did for less money than they could get anywhere else. They did them out of friendship and love for the freedom to paint what they wanted….

Carr’s Focal Point column continues with several pages of detailed commentary on the covers they painted for the Ace series.

Ironically, just two issues later, Focal Point reported that Terry Carr himself had been let go by Ace.  However, they said Carr would continue editing the Ace Specials, working from home. The last Ace Special in the first series was released in August 1971. Carr would go on to enjoy a highly honored career as a freelance editor. And, in fact, in the Eighties he came back to Ace and edited a second series of Ace Specials.

(6) HOLY CATS, BATMAN! “Lego unveils 4,200-piece set celebrating 85 years of Batman: See the $300 creation” at Yahoo!

Fans of Lego and “Batman: The Animated Series” will have a chance to own a piece of history as Warner Bros. Discovery and DC celebrate 85 years of the Caped Crusader with a new brick set.

Lego Group on Thursday unveiled the Batman Gotham City Skyline set, an “amazing recreation of Gotham City as it appears in ‘Batman: The Animated Series.'”

The Lego press release adds:

…The 4,210 piece set is a Batman fan’s dream as every tower and building meticulously recreates iconic locations from Warner Bros. Animation’s “Batman: The Animated Series” including the Gotham City Court, Arkham Asylum, the classic Batwing and Bat Signal. The set is also full of Easter eggs and beloved characters including Catwoman, The Joker, Harley Quinn and Batman himself. In addition, parts of the set open up to reveal more intricacies inside.

The perfect set for DC fans, the Gotham City Skyline set is a stunning display piece which can be wall-mounted or placed on a shelf….

(7) GOTHAM AFTER DARK. Get an R-rated look at Gotham when The Gotham Follies of 1939: A Dark Night Parody come to Los Angeles on June 1. Tickets go on sale March 13; waitlist at the link.

Experience the allure of Prohibition-era Gotham City in The Gotham Follies of 1939—a captivating parody blending vaudeville, burlesque, cabaret, and contemporary entertainment from the creator of The Empire Strips Back. Step into a world where the Dark Night’s universe comes alive on stage, promising an unforgettable night of laughter, danger, and pure escapism at The Montalbán this summer.

Read the FAQS, ma’am.

(8) NOTES ON A CAREER. In this video from Variety, “Star Wars & Harry Potter Composer John Williams Reveals How He Came Up With Cinemas Biggest Scores”.

Musical genius, John Williams, takes us through his incredible career and shares how the soundtracks for some of the biggest movie franchises such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and Jurassic Park were brought to life.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 80. This Scroll I come to speak of an editor that I really like, Stanley Schmidt. Starting in 1978, his longest tenure as an editor was at Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine for an extraordinary thirty-four years. I’m reasonably sure that he was nominated a record twenty-nine times before winning a Best Editor, Short Form at LoneStarCon. That Award came just before his retirement from Analog, nice timing indeed.

But let’s go back in time now. 

Stanley Schmidt accepts the Solstice Award. Photo by Kathi Overton.

He started out as a writer with his first short story being “A Flash of Darkness” being published in Analog in September of 1968.  Likewise his first novel, The Sins of the Fathers, serialized in Analog from November 1973 to January 1974. So one could, well I will, say that his editing of Analog was well rooted in his own history with it. 

Now where was I? Oh there. The Sins of The Fathers is an amazing work and would’ve made a stellar series but Schmidt was not, shall I say a prolific writer with just three novels and I count thirty-two short stories, so that didn’t happen. However the Lifeboat Earth collection of nine stories does continue what was started here, so do get it and read them if you enjoyed this novel.

He edited a lot, and I do mean a lot, of Analog anthologies taken from the material he edited in those years he was there. I can’t say which you should read as they’re all likely to have excellent reading in them, aren’t they?  

He only edited four other anthologies of which I’ve only read one, having a decided jones for alternate history of all sorts: Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History, co-edited with Gardner Dozois. Turtledove, Silverberg and Resnick, to name but a few, have stories here… Great stories all of course.

Before I take your leave, I should note that he had the honor of winning the Robert A. Heinlein Award which is given for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space.

(10) THE FEDERATION RETURNS. Camestros Felapton declares “I finally watched Star Trek Discovery Season 4” and delivers a season overview.

…Yes, it is nice that this crew gets to have a season in which they are actually part of a Star Fleet that is not trying to kill them (or is barely functioning) and eventually story elements fall into place that pull things together both thematically and as a genuinely interesting science-fiction story….

(11) FREE GAME. “Indie developer says Warner Bros is “retiring” his game from official platforms, so he’s giving it away for free instead” reports GameRadar+. Download it for free at Fire Face – Games.

Owen Deery, an indie developer behind the puzzle game Small Radios Big Televisions, has stated that Warner Bros. will soon be “retiring” the game from digital storefronts. In response, Deery is giving away the PC version for free to everyone. 

Small Radios Big Televisions released back in 2016 on Steam and PS4, published by the Warner Bros. subsidiary Adult Swim Games. The puzzler has you collect cassette tapes found in abandoned factories and explore the virtual worlds within them. However, Deery says it will soon be unable to buy, and that it will be removed from storefronts “within the next few weeks.”…

(12) MEET THE EMPEROR. Vanity Fair learns why at age 80 “Christopher Walken Still Rules: On ‘Dune: Part Two,’ ‘Star Wars’ and True Power”.

Truly intimidating power, Walken says, doesn’t have to announce itself. That’s his explanation for why the long-ruling emperor doesn’t feel obliged to dazzle with his appearance. “There is something about getting older that you’re sort of not inclined to get out of your pajamas,” he tells Vanity Fair. “He maybe doesn’t take a shower as often as he should. There’s a little bit of ‘the hell with it’ at a certain point.”…

…None of that will help a humble earthling get into the mindset of a galactic overlord. “I can tell you that it’s probably better not to think about it,” Walken says. “When I was young, I had to play a king in something. I was in a Shakespeare play. It was Henry II. And an older actor said to me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He said, ‘If the director sets it up so that people treat you like the king, you don’t have to do much.’ And I sort of trusted that to happen.”

The show of power and wealth is all around Shaddam IV, so Villeneuve and Walken believed it didn’t have to be piled on top of him as well. “The emperor’s got the trappings, he’s got the court, he’s got the costume, he’s got the bodyguards. And so I figured I’d just let them call me the emperor,” Walken says.

This withholding approach to the intimidating power broker is actually foreshadowed in another iconic Walken performance, in which he delivered an intimidating speech about a lion who reigns as “king of the jungle,” but tolerates the other animals nipping at him, taking food from his domain, and encroaching on his territory—“until one day…that lion gets up and tears the shit out of everybody.”…

(13) ARMORER GUILTY IN RUST VERDICT. AP News reports in Santa Fe, NM, “’Rust’ armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed convicted of involuntary manslaughter”.

A jury convicted a movie weapons supervisor of involuntary manslaughter Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal on the set of the Western movie “Rust.”

The verdict against movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed assigned new blame in the October 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after an assistant director last year pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm.

Gutierrez-Reed also had faced a second charge of tampering with evidence, stemming from accusations that she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection. She was found not guilty on that count.

Immediately after the verdict was read in court, the judge ordered the 26-year-old armorer placed into the custody of deputies. Lead attorney Jason Bowles said afterward that Gutierrez-Reed will appeal the conviction, which carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

(14) USE THE CHURCH KEY, LUKE. Stephen Colbert rounded up some more examples of old Cristal beer product placements inserted in Star Wars films for the opening minutes of his Late Show monologue.

(15) PITCH MEETING. It’s an old movie but apparently a new Pitch Meeting – “Ghostbusters (1984)”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The hate monologue” from the I have no mouth and I must scream animation.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Kathy Sullivan, N., Ersatz Culture, Dann, Danny Sichel, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn, with an assist from Braxis.]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/24 Scroll Pixel Very Simple Man, With Big Warm Filey Secret Heart

(1) UNLOAD THE CANON. Rev. Tom Emanuel calls on scholars and students to “Decanonize Tolkien” at Queer and Back Again.

In the fifty years since Tolkien’s death, his work and legacy have irrevocably shaped our understanding of what fantasy even is. This Oxford don, whose seemingly anachronistic, unclassifiable, wildly popular stories of Elves, Hobbits, and magic rings were once dismissed by the self-appointed guardians of Western literature, has now become one of its canonical figures.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends very much on whom you ask. Speaking as a lifelong Tolkien fanatic, my answer is: a bit of both. Either way, we might as well throw in the towel on biblical scholarship as on Tolkien scholarship. Just as the Bible is an inescapable, bone-deep influence on Western culture even for those who do not accord it status as Scripture, Tolkien is an inescapable influence on modern fantasy and, by extension, the study of the fantastic. His canonical status is why we cannot yet write him off; he means too much to too many people, has exerted too great a gravitational pull upon our field of inquiry. Yet that same canonical status is also why Tolkien scholarship must explore new horizons of reception and applicability and grapple responsibly with Tolkien’s complicated legacies both literary as well as cultural, historical as well as contemporary – another feature his work shares with the Bible. In fairness to my colleagues, many exceptional scholars, both established and emerging, are actively breaking new ground in Tolkien studies. More is needed, however, and an active reconsideration of approaches which have held sway in our field for too long….

…Those of us who study the man will always find it edifying (possibly) and entertaining (most certainly) to “interpret every single note Tolkien once wrote on a napkin and subject this analysis to multiple peer review,” to quote from this forum’s prompt. If we seek to continue in a genuinely Tolkienian spirit, however, we would do well to consider more deeply and carefully the effects of Tolkien’s fiction upon his readers and the wider culture in which they are implicated.

Key to this endeavor will be loosening the grip of so-called “authorial intent” over large swaths of Tolkien fandom and scholarship….

(2) HUGO AWARDS MESS REACHES ESQUIRE. [Item by PhilRM.] A not-terrible article that just showed up in Esquire about Chengdu touches, briefly and not terribly accurately, on the Puppies, and is almost entirely about the exclusions rather than the complete lack of believability of the numbers (although Heather Rose Jones’ work gets a link), but at least it delivers a well-deserved drubbing to Dave McCarty. “Hugo Awards 2024: What Really Happened at the Sci-Fi Awards in China?”

…In 2021, the voting process to select the host city for the 2023 convention became a lightning rod for conspiracy theories. Each year, anyone who purchases a membership in the World Science Fiction Society can vote on where WorldCon will be held two years later. In 2021, voters could choose between Chengdu and Winnipeg, Canada for the 2023 convention. “There were concerns that a couple thousand people from China purchased memberships [in the World Science Fiction Society] that year to vote for Chengdu,” says Jason Sanford, a three-time Hugo finalist. “It was unusual, but it was done under the rules.”

While Sanford welcomed the participation of new Chinese fans, other people were alarmed that many of the Chinese votes for Chengdu were written in the same handwriting and posted from the same mailing address. The chair of the convention that year, Mary Robinette Kowal, says some members of the awards committee wanted to mark those votes as invalid. “But if you’re filling out a ballot in English and you don’t speak English, you hand it to a friend who does,” she says. “And the translation we’d put in could be read as ‘where are you from,’ not ‘what is your address.’”

Eventually, a few votes were invalidated by the committee, but most were allowed to stand. “China has the largest science fiction reading audience on the planet by several magnitudes, and they are extremely passionate,” Kowal says….

…When McCarty finally shared last year’s nominating statistics on his Facebook page, authors, fans, and finalists were shocked. In the history of the awards, no works had ever been deemed ineligible like this. Many people who had expected Kuang to win for Babel were now stunned to see she very well could have, and McCarty’s refusal to explain what happened made everything worse. (McCarty did not respond to interview requests for this story.)

“Fandom doesn’t like people fucking with their awards, no matter who does it or why,” says John Scalzi, a three-time Hugo Award winner who was a finalist last year in the Best Novel category: the very same category in which R.F. Kuang should have been nominated for Babel, according to the nomination count on page 20 of McCarty’s document. “The reason people are outraged right now is because they care about the award, in one fashion or another, and this lack of transparency feels like a slap,” Scalzi says….

The article ends:

At the end of my Zoom call with Sanford, I see some emotion in his face around the eyes. “When I was young, science fiction and fantasy books literally saved my life,” he says. “I looked for books that were Hugo finalists or winners, and they showed me a way forward. They showed me there are other people out there who think like me.”

Whatever happens to the Hugos moving forward, one thing is clear: No one should have the power to erase books from the reading lists of future Jason Sanfords.

Jason Sanford disavowed the last paragraph on Bluesky.

Yes, I read the Esquire article I was interviewed for about the Hugo Awards controversy. A good article overall. I liked how the transparency of the Hugos is compared to lack of the same with most literary awards. Then I read the closing paragraph. Oh gods. SMDH. Be nice & know I didn’t write that.

Editor’s Note: The article also says of McCarty, “Within the WorldCon community, he’s nicknamed the ‘Hugo Pope’ for serving on so many awards committees over the years.” It’s a nickname I haven’t heard before. And Ersatz Culture reminds me that the October 26 Scroll carried a photo of a signature book showing McCarty refers to himself as ‘Hugo Boss’.

(3) WE DON’T TALK ABOUT HUGOS. Artist Lar deSouza has done a cartoon inspired by the controversy. See it on Bluesky: “We don’t talk about Hugos….”.

(4) IN THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON, A HEADLINE. “Dungeons & Dragons Publisher Denies Selling Game To Chinese Firm: Here’s What To Know” reports Forbes.

Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division behind tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons, is denying rumors sparked by a Chinese news report that a struggling Hasbro could be selling its Dungeons & Dragons franchise to Chinese video game company Tencent….

…But in a Thursday statement to multiple outlets, including Forbes, Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division that publishes Dungeons & Dragons and games including Magic: the Gathering, denied the rumors, claiming while the company has multiple partnerships with Tencent, “we are not looking to sell our D&D [intellectual property],” and the company would not comment any further on “speculation or rumors about potential M&A or licensing deals.”…

(5) FIGHT GOES INTO THE SECOND ROUND. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] “Disney To Appeal Ron DeSantis Legal Loss As The Empire Strikes Back” reports Deadline. Of course they are. It’s The Mouse. They have far more lawyers than there are pirates in The Pirates of The Caribbean Ride at Walt Disney World. And those lawyers know more about fighting dirty than those pirates ever did. Hmmm…. Mickey with an eye patch and cutlass…

The lines at Disney World may be long, but the Mouse House isn’t standing around to let Ron DeSantis savor his win yesterday in the company’s First Amendment lawsuit against the failed presidential candidate.

Less than 24 hours after a federal judge agreed with the Florida Governor and deep-sixed Disney’s nearly year long legal action, the Bob Iger-run entertainment giant and Sunshine State mega-employer gave official notice they plan to challenge Wednesday’s dismissal.

“Notice is given that Plaintiff Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S., Inc. (“Disney”) hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit from the Order Granting Motions to Dismiss and the final judgment entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on January 31, 2024,” said outside Disney counsel Daniel Petrocelli and a small legion of lawyers in a filing this morning.

No word yet when the actual appeal will be filed, but it could be within the next week or so, I hear.

In a Florida knife fight that started with Disney’s slow but eventual opposition to the state’s parental rights bill, known by detractors AKA the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and then turned to DeSantis’ throwing overboard the long standing governance the company had over the region around Orlando’s Disney World and appointing his own Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board. As the dust-up escalated, Disney filed its suit in April, as past and now present CEO Iger and the so-called “woke” battling DeSantis, who was eyeing what became a face plant of a primary campaign, hurled missives at each other in public…

(6) URSA MAJOR. Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards, Annual Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Award, are open and will continue until February 17.

To nominate online, all people must first enroll. Go here to ENROLL FOR ONLINE NOMINATIONS or to LOGIN if you have already enrolled.

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series
Best Anthropomorphic Novel
Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
Best Anthropomorphic Non-Fiction Work
Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
Best Anthropomorphic Game
Best Anthropomorphic Website
Best Anthropomorphic Costume (Fursuit)
Best Anthropomorphic Music

(7) CALL FOR ‘WEIRD HOLLYWOOD’ SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia, Chuck Serface, and Alissa Wales are planning an issue of The Drink Tank about Weird Hollywood. “Weird,” however you define that term, can apply to Hollywood as the city itself or as the entertainment industry. The editors are interested in fiction, art, history, poetry, photography, or anything printable you want to contribute. Send submissions to Chris at [email protected] or to Chuck at [email protected]. The deadline is March 1, 2024.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 2, 1990 Sarah Gailey, 33. Sarah Gailey comes to our attention with their Best Related Work Hugo at Worldcon 75 with their Women of Harry Potter posts. Fascinating look at some other commenters mostly. Here is the “Women of Harry Potter: Ginny Weasley Is Not Impressed” post at Reactor.

Their alternate history “River of Teeth” novella, the first work in that series, was nominated for  a Hugo Award for Best Novella at Worldcon 76 and a Nebula. It’s also the first work in their American Hippo duology, the other being the novella “Taste of Marrow”. 

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, art by Will Staehle
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, art by Will Staehle

Upright Women Wanted is set in the a fantasy of a Wild West of a twenty minutes into the future dystopian hyper heterosexual America which is all I can say about giving away spoilers about it. Major trigger warnings for any conservative readers here. 

Their Magic for Liars, is quite excellent I would say. It’s a murder mystery set in school for young wizards but it’s nothing like those books.  They discuss their book here in a YouTube video.

The Echo Wife is a thriller with some very adult questions about the nature of what being human actually means. To say anymore would be spoiling it. It’s damn good. I’d say that it’s their best work to date. 

Their latest novel, Just Like Home, is not one I’ve read. Let’s just say that I don’t do serial killers and leave it at that. 

They also scripted The Vampire Slayer series on Boom! Comics from the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

They have done a double, double handful of short fiction, almost so far collected though the American Hippo collects the “River of Teeth” novella and the “Taste of Marrow” novella, and two short stories, “Worth Her Weight in Gold” and “Nine and a Half”, all part of the River of Teeth storytelling. 

Finally they have a magical, in the best way magic is, newsletter called Stone Soup. “It’s about the things we cook, the things we read, the things we write. It’s about the things we care about, together and separately; it’s about everything we add to the pot, in little bits and pieces, to make something great. It’s about community.” You can sign up for the free level, or the paid which I do and is well worth the cup of coffee a month it’ll cost you. (My Patreon fees collectively are larger than any of my streaming services by far.) Mike has from to time included material from it here. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz ponders the power of story.

(10) ARE WRITERS GETTING PAID? The Society of Authors is skeptical. According to the Guardian, “Spotify claims to have paid audiobook publishers ‘tens of millions’ in royalties”.

Spotify has said that it has paid audiobook publishers “tens of millions” since allowing users 15 hours of audiobook listening in its Premium subscription package last autumn.

The company said that the figure, reported by trade magazine the Bookseller, is “100% royalties” and that it expects to “continue growing” royalty payouts in future. It would not give a more precise amount for payouts made so far, but said that the “tens of millions” figure applies in both pounds and dollars.

However, the Society of Authors (SoA) said they “remain concerned at the lack of clarity about the deals”. The industry body said it is “still waiting to see the effect on author incomes and whether these are real additional sales or simply take market share from Amazon”….

(11) JEOPARDY! [Item by Andrew Porter.] A Tolkien category featured on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! Some contestants stumbled.

Category: Talking About Tolkien

Answer: Humphrey Carpenter’s bio of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis & like-minded friends has this title, like their literary circle.

Wrong question: What is the Oxford group?

Right question: What is the Inklings?

Answer: To his family and close friends, Tolkien was known by this name, the first “R” in his initials.

Wrong questions: What is Rael? and What is Robert?

Right question: What is Ronald?

(12) CSI SKILL TREE. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree is “Game Localization with Siyang Gao and Emily Xueni Jin”. The series examines how video games envision possible futures and build thought-provoking worlds. In this episode, the participants discuss the process of video game localization, which encompasses both translation and deeper work, even up to adapting a game’s mechanics, cultural references and allusions, and more to better resonate with players who encounter the game outside of its initial linguistic and cultural context.

Siyang Gao is a writer, translator, and video game localizer who specializes in narrative-heavy games, and Emily Xueni Jin is an essayist, researcher, and fantastic translator of science fiction who translates both from Chinese to English and the other way around. Also, here’s a YouTube playlist with all 14 of the Skill Tree episodes thus far.

(13) K5 WAS NO K9; RETIRED. The New York Times says “Goodbye for Now to the Robot That (Sort Of) Patrolled New York’s Subway”.

The New York Police Department robot sat motionless like a sad Wall-E on Friday morning, gathering dust inside an empty storefront within New York City’s busiest subway station.

No longer were its cameras scanning straphangers traversing Times Square. No longer were subway riders pressing its help button, if ever they had.

New York City has retired the robot, known as the Knightscope K5, from service inside the Times Square station. The Police Department had been forced to assign officers to chaperone the robot, which is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 400 pounds. It could not use the stairs. Some straphangers wanted to abuse it.

“The K5 Knightscope has completed its pilot in the NYC subway system,” a spokesman for the department said in an email.

On Friday, the white contraption in N.Y.P.D. livery sat amid a mountain of cardboard boxes, separated from the commuting masses by a plate-glass window. People streaming by said they had often been mystified by the robot.

“I thought it was a toy,” said Derek Dennis, 56, a signal engineer.

It was an ignominious end for an experiment that Mayor Eric Adams, a self-described tech geek, hoped would help bring safety and order to the subways, at a time when crime remained a pressing concern for many New Yorkers….

(14) TUNES INSPIRED BY LOVECRAFT STORY. Another musical discovery that might be of interest: “The Music of Erich Zann” from Half Deaf Clatch via Speak Up Recordings at Bandcamp.

‘The Music of Erich Zann’ is one of my favourite short stories by H.P Lovecraft, and I’ve been wanting to do a musical adaptation for a long while now. This EP started out as a few short atmospheric instrumentals, but very quickly turned into a full blown musical work with lots of lyrics!

The words are an abridged version of the story and detail the salient points, rather than providing a blow by blow account, if you haven’t read the actual story I highly recommend it.

I kept the instrumentation relatively simple, just an acoustic guitar, electric cello, pipe organ, percussion and atmospheric soundscapes. The majority of the sounds are made by acoustic or electro-acoustic instruments, the electric cello was played through an Orange ‘Crush’ acoustic amp and EHX Soul Food pedal, any ‘otherworldly’ effects were created with instruments put through octavers and auto filters.

In the original story Lovecraft says that Eric Zann plays a ‘viol’, it is widely accepted that he meant a viol da gamba, a Baroque era instrument which closely resembles the cello, but has five to seven strings, and frets. Since these are rare and very expensive, I obviously decided to use my electric cello for this EP, as buying a viol da gamba seemed an unnecessary extravagance.

(15) OUT OF THE JUG. The Guardian visits with “The man who owes Nintendo $14m: Gary Bowser and gaming’s most infamous piracy case”.

In April 2023, a 54-year-old programmer named Gary Bowser was released from prison having served 14 months of a 40-month sentence. Good behaviour reduced his time behind bars, but now his options are limited. For a while he was crashing on a friend’s couch in Toronto. The weekly physical therapy sessions, which he needs to ease chronic pain, were costing hundreds of dollars every week, and he didn’t have a job. And soon, he would need to start sending cheques to Nintendo. Bowser owes the makers of Super Mario $14.5m (£11.5m), and he’s probably going to spend the rest of his life paying it back….

…In the late 00s he made contact with Team Xecuter, a group that produces dongles used to bypass anti-piracy measures on Nintendo Switch and other consoles, letting them illegally download, modify and play games. While he says he was only paid a few hundred dollars a month to update their websites, Bowser says the people he worked with weren’t very social and he helped “testers” troubleshoot devices.

“I started becoming a middleman in between the people doing the development work, and the people actually owning the mod chips, playing the games,” he says. “I would get feedback from the testers, and then I would send it to the developers … I can handle people, and that’s why I ended up getting more involved.”

In September 2020, he was arrested in a sting so unusual that the US Department of Justice released a press release boasting about the indictment, in which acting assistant attorney general Brian C Rabbitt called Bowser and his co-defendants “leaders of a notorious international criminal group that reaped illegal profits for years by pirating video game technology of US companies”.

“The day that it happened, I was sleeping in my bed, it was four in the morning, I’d been drinking all night,” Bowser says. “And suddenly I wake up and see three people surrounding my bed with rifles aimed at my head … they dragged me out of the place, put me in the back of a pickup truck and drove me to the Interpol office.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George’s “Echo Pitch Meeting” invites everyone to step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Echo! Beware what you step in, though, because there are spoiler warnings.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Kathy Sullivan, Joey Eschrich, PhilRM, Jason Sanford, Robin Anne Reid, Ersatz Culture, Chuck Serface, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/27/24 Qual Piuma Pixel?

(1) CREEPING. [Item by Anne Marble.] Author J.D. Barker has been called out for sending e-mails to young women book reviewers asking them to make and send risqué videos he could use in promoting his book. He also offered to pay for the videos once he’d “approved” them. There are reaction videos on TikTok and Xitter. Here is one:

You can see screencaps of the message he sent here:

In addition, he didn’t verify anyone’s age before sending out these e-mails which might cause him legal trouble.

Barker’s upcoming book is Behind a Closed Door, an erotic thriller novel, but he is known in sff circles for having co-authored the Dracula prequel Dracul with Dacre Stoker (Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew).

He posted an apology — but it made eyes roll. The apology blames his publicity firm, but people have pointed out that he co-founded the publicity firm.

https://twitter.com/jdbarker/status/1750958811236491700

He has been dropped by his agent says Publishers Weekly, and it has been reported that he also stepped down from his position on the board of International Thriller Writers. His book is being distributed by Simon & Schuster — but it’s through Hampton Creek Press, which Barker founded. NBC News has more coverage: “Bestselling author faces fallout after BookTok creators call out ‘racy’ promotion request”.

He’s no relation to Clive Barker or R. J. Barker, by the way.

(2) ICONIC SFF ART ACQUIRED BY UC RIVERSIDE. The Dillons’ cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness has been sold to the Eaton Collection: “UC Riverside buys Le Guin sci-fi novel cover art”Bay Area Reporter has the story.

A renowned science fiction collection at UC Riverside has purchased the original cover art for Ursula Le Guin’s award-winning 1969 novel “The Left Hand of Darkness.” The artwork is joining the state university’s Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy and should be on display in the college library’s special collections reading room by the summer…

…”I am absolutely over the moon,” Phoenix Alexander, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian at UC Riverside, told the Bay Area Reporter about being able to buy the 17 1/4 by 13 inch acrylic painting used for the cover of the debut edition of Le Guin’s novel, which was released in paperback by Ace Books.

As the B.A.R. first reported in December, publisher Ace Books hired award-winning artists and biracial couple Leo and Diane Dillon to create the cover art. Highlighting the novel’s plot centered on a gender-nonconforming and ambisexual race of humanoids, the Dillons featured profiles of the book’s nonbinary protagonists in the left bottom corner looking off into the distance. Surrounding the pair is a blue and white celestial-like scene with what appears to be a brown planet and a spaceship hovering above.

(Leo Dillon, of Trinidadian descent, died in 2012. He was the first African American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustrators of children’s books, while the Dillons were the only consecutive winners of the award, having received the honor in 1976 and 1977.)

“Their artwork draws on African folk art, Japanese block printing, and medieval illumination,” noted Alexander, who has been in his position at UC Riverside since August 2022….

(3) SWATTER BUSTED. On Facebook Patrick Tomlinson cheered WIRED’s report: “Police Arrest Teen Said to Be Linked to Hundreds of Swatting Attacks”.

For more than a year, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has been hunting the person whom experts say is one of the most prolific swatters in American history. Law enforcement now believes they have finally arrested the person responsible.

A 17-year-old from California is allegedly the swatter known as Torswats, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The teenager is currently in custody and awaiting extradition from California to Seminole County, Florida. The Florida State Attorney’s Office tells WIRED that he faces four felony counts.

Seminole County, located in central Florida, had two high-profile swatting incidents within the last 12 months, including one targeting a mosque and another targeting a courthouse. Todd Brown, a spokesperson for Florida’s Office of the State Attorney in the 18th Circuit, confirmed the charges against the teen and his extradition. Brown says he will be prosecuted as an adult under Florida law. WIRED is withholding the 17-year-old’s name because he is a minor….

…According to the Florida State Attorney’s Office, the charges against the California teenager include making false reports concerning the planting of a bomb or the use of firearms, causing a law enforcement response. All charges are described as related to acts of terrorism and showing prejudice based on race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, or religion.

In private Telegram chats witnessed by WIRED over the past year, a person operating the Torswats handle claimed responsibility for hundreds of false reports of bomb threats and active shootings called into schools, politicians’ homes, courthouses, and religious institutions around the US….

…Other messages [private investigator] Dennis shared with WIRED suggest that the FBI has known the identity of Torswats, whose swatting activities were first revealed by Motherboard last April, since at least July 2023, when the agency executed a search warrant and seized Torswats’ devices. The FBI’s Seattle field office, which oversaw the investigation into Torswats, declined WIRED’s request to comment…

…It is unclear whether a single person operated under the Torswats name. On January 20, two days after Dennis, the private investigator, said that Torswats had been arrested, a person using the Torswats’ Telegram handle who had knowledge of previous conversations with WIRED reached out.

“I am pretty sure I’ll never be arrested,” the individual wrote in a direct message on Telegram. “Seems ridiculous that a few bucks a month can allow someone to do crazy shit and never go to jail.”

(4) LETTERS FROM THE PAST. Pulp Librarian reminds readers about a product that wildly expanded choices for desktop publishers. I remember it well. Thread starts here.

(5) HOW IT WORKS. Chris Rose invites users of his Glasgow 2024 Hugo nominating software behind the scenes in a post on Mastodon’s The Wandering Shop. I really do like its name: “Nomnom”.

(6) ANNIVERSARY OF BABYLON 5 LAUNCH. In “30 Years Ago, the Most Pivotal Sci-Fi Show of all Time was Almost Killed by a Rival Franchise” Inverse refreshes our memories about the way Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 were developed.  

In the beginning, Babylon 5 was almost murdered by Star Trek. Back in 1987, the same year Star Trek: The Next Generation brought space-based sci-fi back to mainstream TV, writer J. Michael Straczynski took his pitch for a sci-fi “novel for television” to studios and networks.

Today, Straczynski is best known for co-writing the first Thor movie in 2011 and co-creating Sense8 with the Wachowskis. But in 1987, his big credits were writing for Masters of the Universe and being a story editor on The Real Ghostbusters. His pitch for Babylon 5 was a unique and radical departure.

… In the late ’80s and early ’90s, serialized TV didn’t really exist outside of soap operas. But on January 26, 1994, the first episode of Babylon 5 debuted and insisted on a new kind of viewing habit: fans had to catch nearly every episode to understand the story, which was set to last for five years….

… Ultimately, the two shows became very different, but the specter of Star Trek loomed over B5. There is also evidence that Paramount and Warner Bros were considering launching a joint network, which wouldn’t have had room for two space station sci-fi shows…. 

(7) GHOSTS AND DOLLS. The list of 2024 Family Film & TV Awards winners includes these genre works:

  • Outstanding Actors in a Feature Film: Margot Robbie (Barbie)
  • Best Iconic Family FilmGhostbusters
  • Best Ensemble Feature FilmBarbie
  • Best Animated Family FilmLeo

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

Many Hugo and Worldcon posts across multiple Chinese internet platforms are being removed

This is a developing item.

Whilst Chinese coverage of events following the release of the Hugo statistics report has been much spottier than in the west — I’m not aware of any coverage from mainstream media — there have been posts on public platforms such as Weibo, WeChat/Weixin and Zhihu (comparable to Quora/Stack Overflow).

Within the past day, several posts across these various platforms, and posted by various users have disappeared.  In some cases, the post is visible to the post’s author, but no other users.

For example, as of 01:15 UTC on Sunday 28th, if you went to the Baidu search engine and entered 雨果 别塔 (Hugo Awards / Babel) you would see as the first result a post on Zhihu with an English language cover of R. F. Kuang’s novel.  If you clicked on the link however, Zhihu would serve you an error page.  However, shortly afterwards, the Baidu result disappeared; this in itself isn’t suspicious, it’s probably due to the search engine realizing the page is no longer any good.

Error page when you click on that link

Google Search for 雨果 别塔 zhihu was still finding the deleted page in the results the last time I checked, but I imagine it will disappear from the results sooner or later.

Search results on Google for 雨果奖 把别塔 zhihu (Hugo Awards / Babel zhihu)

Luckily, I’d previously seen this particular post on Friday 26th, and thanks to some self-made browser extensions, I have a copy of the raw text/HTML.  Due to that webpage relying on JavaScript, it needed a bit of jiggery pokery to bring that saved content back into a semi-usable form, but you can see the original Chinese text, and the Google Translate rendition of part of it here.

Part of the original Chinese text
Part of the text put through Google Translate

As I expected, it was a summary of the controversies following the release of the Hugo nominations report.  I haven’t read it closely, but I’m pretty certain it’s just a recycling of information that had already been posted by other users on other platforms previously.  There’s nothing new to File 770 readers, but it’s the sort of thing that would serve as a useful explainer to people who had not been following the story.

(9) FOR THOSE KEEPING SCORE AT HOME, OR TRYING TO. Charles Stross’ “Worldcon in the news” at Antipope offers an extensive and well-informed discussion of how Worldcons and Hugos work which will be helpful to help those trying to catch up.

…The world science fiction convention coevolved with fan-run volunteer conventions in societies where there’s a general expectation of the rule of law and most people abide by social norms irrespective of enforcement. The WSFS constitution isn’t enforceable except insofar as normally fans see no reason not to abide by the rules. So it works okay in the USA, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other western-style democracies it’s been held in … but broke badly when a group of enthusiasts living in an authoritarian state won the bid then realized too late that by doing so they’d come to the attention of Very Important People who didn’t care about their society’s rulebook.

Immediate consequences:

For the first fifty or so worldcons, worldcon was exclusively a North American phenomenon except for occasional sorties to the UK. Then it began to open up as cheap air travel became a thing. In the 21st century about 50% of worldcons are held outside North America, and until 2016 there was an expectation that it would become truly international.

But the Chengdu fubar has created shockwaves. There’s no immediate way to fix this, any more than you’ll be able to fix Donald Trump declaring himself dictator-for-life on the Ides of March in 2025 if he gets back into the White House with a majority in the House and Senate. It needs a WSFS constitutional amendment at least (so pay attention to the motions and voting in Glasgow, and then next year, in Seattle) just to stop it happening again. And nobody has ever tried to retroactively invalidate the Hugo awards. While there’s a mechanism for running Hugo voting and handing out awards for a year in which there was no worldcon (the Retrospective Hugo awards—for example, the 1945 Hugo Awards were voted on in 2020—nobody considered the need to re-run the Hugos for a year in which the vote was rigged. So there’s no mechanism….

(10) HOW TO SAVE A FEW BUCKS IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE. SYFY Wire tells “The Weird Story of the Twilight Zone Episode That Won an Oscar”.

…So, how does an award-winning French short film make its way to American television as part of a beloved sci-fi program? Well, according to producer William Froug, it came down to budget concerns. At the time, CBS was pushing the show to save money as it worked to complete its Season 5 order, and that meant that producing a whole new episode to complete the order was going to make money extremely tight. In an effort to appease the network while still meeting the tone of the show, Froug suggested they license “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which he’d already seen, and simply make it part of The Twilight Zone

“It was almost entirely silent,” Froug said in The Twilight Zone Companion. “There were maybe a half-dozen lines in it, and there was one brief ballad –– in English, of all things. CBS was very reluctant –– ‘A French film on television? Who ever heard of such a thing?’ –– but I convinced them, because we bought all the TV rights for $10,000. With that one airing, we immediately took care of the whole year’s overage. It brought us out at the end of the year under budget.”…

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 67. So this Scroll we have artist and writer Frank Miller, a fascinating writer indeed.

Although some Miller fan sites want to credit him with writing two stories for the Twilight Zone comic, there is no actual proof he did, so his first credited artistic endeavor was he as the artist on Wyatt Gwyon’s “Deliver Me From D-Day” which ran in Weird War Tales #64 in June 1978. Fascinating comic it was. 

He was that rare versatile artist who did everything so his first job for Marvel was penciling John Carter, Warlord of Mars, Part 3’s “The Master Assassin of Mars”. 

Frank Miller

Shortly afterwards, he was the artist for Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man where was Daredevil also present. This is important as Miller would eventually become the writer on Daredevil after successfully pursuing the job: “My secret is to do crime comics with a superhero in them. And so I lobbied for the title and got it.” I consider his work the highlight of this comic.

He’d return to the Daredevil story later and, like so many writers, either brilliantly do something new, or mangle it beyond recognition.

Now we have a brief but noteworthy stay at DC. That produced Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One.  The first, like oh many of the animated films that came out of it, was far better than any of live film which saw a screen. Needless to say both series were stellar in their own right.

Elektra Lives Again is one seriously weird story. Saying anything more is a Major Spoiler. And whatever you do, if you’ve not read it, don’t go anywhere near the Wikipedia article. I’m serious. Just don’t. 

I’m not even going to talk about Sin City as it’s either brilliant or — let me use German to describe it, die Scheiße.

Not at all going to talk about The Dark Knight IIIThe Master Race, as I’ve not read it. Opinions? 

His film work includes writing the less sterling RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 scripts, sharing directing duties with Robert Rodriguez on Sin City and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, producing 300 which is by far not my cup of anything, and directing The Spirit which got a 25% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, though having seen it I think that’s being kind.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) PIONEERING WOMAN SFF WRITER. “Winona McClintic – ‘Who?’” at A Deep Look by Dave Hook.

…In Atlantic November 1956, her non-genre story “A Heart of Furious Fancies” was published. The editors noted,

WINONA MCCLINTIC was a radioman second class in the United States Navy during World War II and the Korean War. She graduated from Mills College, contributed poems to the Atlantic, and was at work on her Ph.D. (under the G.I. Bill) when matrimony intervened. She married an engineer and while he, she says, “fiddles with things on airplanes,” she finds time to raise guinea pigs and write….

(14) GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS. The New York Times is there when “Ghostwriters Emerge From the Shadows”.

So it was unusual for a group of around 140 ghostwriters to gather, as they did in Manhattan on Monday, to schmooze and celebrate their work with awards, panel discussions and keynote speeches. The one-day conference, called the Gathering of the Ghosts, took place at a moment when ghostwriting is in high demand and gaining recognition as an art form of its own, after years of operating largely in the shadows.

“There’s great value in building this community because of the nature of what we do,” said Daniel Paisner, who hosts a podcast about ghostwriting called “As Told To” and has collaborated on 17 New York Times best-sellers. “We do it in a vacuum, sitting alone in our underwear in our offices. We don’t get out much. So I think it’s helpful to be able to compare notes.”

Held at the New York Academy of Medicine, in a room lined with old, leather-bound medical books overlooking a snowy Central Park, the event included panels about finding the right publisher for a project, whether A.I. might render ghostwriters irrelevant and conversations about how much a ghostwriter can charge (the consensus: more). The profession has a history of being undervalued, and one panelist advised everyone in the audience to double their rates and add 20 percent.

“Is it good to be a ghostwriter?” Madeleine Morel, an agent who specializes in matchmaking book projects with ghostwriters, said at the event. “I’ll paraphrase Dickens: It’s the best of times and the worst of times. It’s the best of times because there’s never been so much work out there. It’s the worst of times because it’s become so competitive.”…

(15) ROBERTO THE BUILDER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is an animated film about building stuff that doesn’t fly between the stars or shoot lasers genre? Who knows. But we can hope that Jenny from the block will make it so. “Jennifer Lopez Producing Bob the Builder Movie Reboot Starring Anthony Ramos” at Comicbook.com.

Bob the Builder is getting a brand-new movie produced by Jennifer Lopez. Transformers series star Anthony Ramos will play the titular handyman. Mattel Films teamed with the international music superstar to build this project from the ground up. Bob the Builder‘s new movie will be animated with Ramos providing the voice for the character. As per a description for the project, Bob the Builder sees Roberto travel to Puerto Rico for a major construction job. As issues affect the island, Bob will have to dig deep to bring the project to life. Felipe Vargas has been attached as a writer. Ramos sounds absolutely elated about playing the popular character in the press release put out today.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Ingenuity has officially ended its mission after an incredible 72 flights on Mars” after being damaged on its last flight. The National Air and Space Museum pays tribute.

Ingenuity in flight.

This week, NASA announced that Mars helicopter Ingenuity‘s 72nd flight was the final flight of its mission. The helicopter sustained damage to one or more of its rotor blades during landing on January 18 and is no longer capable of flight.  

Ingenuity landed on the Red Planet with Mars rover Perseverance in February 2021 and achieved the first powered flight on another planet in April 2021.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/24 Encounter at Fargo

(1) KUANG ON BABEL’S HUGO INELIGIBILITY. Rebecca F. Kuang decided that saying nothing isn’t an option. “Rebecca F. Kuang: ‘statement’” at Bluesky.

(2) ANOTHER WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD. Answering some writers’ renewed cry that the Hugo Awards be taken away from the Worldcon, Cheryl Morgan has drafted a proposal. It’s explained in “Decoupling the Hugos” at Cheryl’s Mewsings. Morgan’s draft can be downloaded at “Independent-Hugo-Administration.pdf”.

In amongst all of the discussion as to what to do about the Chengdu Hugo issue has been one suggestion that can actually be implemented, albeit over a number of years. That is decoupling Hugo Award Administration from the host Worldcon, so that the laws of the host country cannot interfere with the voting process….

… WSFS already has an organization called the Mark Protection Committee (MPC), which is responsible for maintaining the service marks that WSFS owns (in particular “Hugo Award” and the logo). I suggest renaming this the Independent Hugo Award Administration Committee (IHAAC) and giving it, rather than Worldcon, the job of administering the voting process. The IHAAC would recruit experienced administrators in much the same way that Worldcon does, but there would be a lot more consistency from year to year.

Worldcon would still have the option of staging a Hugo Award ceremony, and creating a distinctive trophy base, but equally it could decline to do that and pass the job back to the IHAAC.

Kevin [Standlee] and I cannot take this proposal forward ourselves. Kevin is a member of the MPC, and I effectively work for them in maintaining the WSFS websites, so we both have a vested interest. Our involvement could easily be portrayed as a power grab. But we are happy to provide help and advice to anyone who does want to take this forward at Glasgow….

(3) DON’T MAKE CHANGES THAT TAKE VOLUNTEERS FOR GRANTED. Abigail Nussbaum has a remarkably insightful post about the current crisis: “The 2023 Hugo Awards: Now With an Asterisk” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

… Even taking this most charitable view of events, however, there comes a point where honest mistakes corrupt a result too thoroughly to be distinguishable from malice, and that’s before we even get into those three still-unexplained ineligibility rulings. Unless Chengdu steps forward with more information, there is, unfortunately, no avoiding the conclusion that the 2023 Hugo results are irreparably tainted.

On the matter of those three disqualifications, the assumption that many people are making—and which, again, seems like the most plausible conclusion until and unless Chengdu starts answering questions—is that all three were struck off for political reasons. This might mean outright government interference, or someone on the Hugo team complying in advance, or an independent but politically-motivated actor among the award’s administrators striking off work they don’t approve of. This may also explain the silence from the Hugo team, who may fear reprisals towards themselves or their teammates. At this point it is possible that we will never know the whole story of what happened to the 2023 Hugo Awards. Which means the important question before us is how to move forward.

That question is complicated by the erratic, increasingly rickety superstructure of the Hugos and the Worldcon as a whole. Put simply, there is no Worldcon organization. Each convention is its own corporate entity charged with holding the convention and administering the Hugos, and bound only by the WSFS constitution. Said constitution is discussed and amended in the annual Business Meeting, a sclerotic, multi-day affair administered under rules that seem designed to baffle new participants and slow change to a creeping pace. What this means, among other things, is that there is no actual oversight over any individual Worldcon’s behavior, and no mechanism to claw back either the convention or the Hugos if it appears that they are being mismanaged.

It’s not at all surprising that the reaction of many people upon learning these facts, and especially in the present context, is to immediately leap to the conclusion that this entire system should be scrapped and replaced with a centralized authority. This, I think, is to ignore some very basic facts: the Worldcon is a fully volunteer-run organization. The free labor that goes into administering it, and the Hugos specifically, probably runs to tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars in value. The idea that one can simply erect a super-organization under those same conditions is hard to imagine….

(4) LECKIE ON THE HUGOS. If you happen to be on Bluesky, Ann Leckie has a thread with a lively discussion. It begins:

(5) MORE CHINESE SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSES. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Some more anonymized online reactions to social media posts about the Hugo nomination report, some of which are based on coverage of the continued Anglosphere reactions, such as John Scalzi’s blog post about Babel.

English translations are all via Google Translate unless otherwise indicated, with minor edits or commentary in square parentheses.  Some of the smileys haven’t come through, so bear in mind that some of these should be read in a sarcastic tone.

怎么感觉雨果奖次次都有瓜

Why does it feel like the Hugo’s have a melon every time? [Note: “melon” is Chinese slang – maybe “drama” is a reasonable translation in this context?  Also, this translation is via DeepL; Google Translate comes up with a less literal result, but which I think is incorrect]

2023这次应该是“中国雨果奖”吧。

This time in 2023 it should be the “China Hugo Award”. 

雨果奖到底怎么了

What happened to the Hugo Awards?

看到这新闻心里没有一丝波澜,甚至觉的这事发生在这里太正常辣,出现正面新闻才令人惊讶呢。外国人对真实的种花家还是了解太少

When I saw this news, I didn’t feel any emotion at all. I even thought it was too normal for this to happen here. It was surprising to see positive news. Foreigners still know too little about real flower growers [Note: “flower growers” = China]

太可惜了

What a pity

然而巴别塔还在国内出中译了,就很神奇 很迷惑

However, [Tower of] Babel has been translated into Chinese in China, which is amazing and confusing

到底为什么呀怎么感觉这么大的事情国内平台都没几个声??

Why on earth do you feel that there are not many domestic platforms talking about such a big thing? ?

因为雨果奖怎么样并不算大事,国内的雨果奖获奖作品能给媒体带来多少收入才是大事

[replying to previous comment] Because it’s not a big deal how the Hugo Award is, but how much income the domestic Hugo Award-winning works can bring to the media is a big deal

真实了,我记得之前国内作者获得雨果奖的时候大小媒体都在采访

[A further reply] It’s real. I remember when a domestic author won the Hugo Award, all the media were interviewing him.

我推测并不是CN康的审查而是主办方自身某种私心(虽然我不知道具体是什么动机),要知道《巴别塔》本身有一种强烈的“早产的列宁主义”的意味,在这边不要太正确。当然,我坚决拥护斯卡尔齐老师对办会章程的建议!

I speculate that it is not CN Kang’s censorship but some selfish motives of the organizer (although I don’t know the specific motivation). You must know that “[Tower of] Babel” itself has a strong sense of “premature Leninism”. Don’t be too correct. Of course, I firmly support Mr. Scalzi’s suggestion on the rules of the conference!  [I’m not sure what “CN康” is, Wikipedia says “CN” is “virgin”, but that doesn’t seem to make any sense in this context.]

????所以呢?在其他地方举办世界科幻大会没有按国外的审美标准就是存在疑问及不适合的?

????So what? Is it questionable and inappropriate to hold the World Science Fiction Convention elsewhere if it does not follow foreign aesthetic standards?

毕竟是有关国家信誉的大事,别只写获奖不写争议吧咱就说

After all, it is a major matter related to the credibility of the country. Don’t just write about the awards and not the controversies. Let’s just say  [This comment cced in half-a-dozen news organizations, some of which are ones that I recognize from earlier coverage of the con, I think some of which was linked in prior Scrolls]

《巴别塔》批判殖民主义,还以英国为背景,咋不猜是英国通过某些手段干预了提名[smiley]

“[Tower of] Babel” criticizes colonialism and is set in the United Kingdom. Why don’t you guess that the United Kingdom interfered with the nomination through certain means [smiley]

去年看的巴别塔,前不久看的Yellowface,Rebecca F. Kuang就是很灵秀啊,23年雨果奖怎么搞的评委最清楚啦

I [read] [Tower of] Babel last year and Yellowface not long ago. Rebecca F. Kuang is so smart. The judges of the [2023] Hugo Awards know best

《巴别塔》明明是歌颂中国人民反殖民主义的努力的啊,被雨果奖错过太可惜了

“[Tower of] Babel” obviously praises the Chinese people’s anti-colonial efforts. It would be a pity to miss out on the Hugo Award.

这,别人也倒罢了,她不是参与过联名抵制成都科幻大会吗?现在觉得自己被除名还应该给个具体原因了?

[Re. Xiran Jay Zhao] This is just for others. Didn’t [they] participate in a joint boycott of the Chengdu Science Fiction Conference? Now you feel like you should [be given] a specific reason for being removed?

赵希然,写武则天开机甲的那个华裔女科幻作家。她说唐代是中国的荡妇时代。

Zhao Xiran, the Chinese science fiction writer who wrote about Wu Zetian’s mecha. [They] said that the Tang Dynasty was the era of sluts in China. [referring to this Tweet]

Kuang特别棒 熬夜读完了1/4的巴别塔

Kuang is awesome. I stayed up late and read 1/4 of Tower of Babel.

(6) MAP CANNON. Yesterday’s China roundup by Ersatz Culture included the term “map cannon”, for which made an approximate English translation. Thanks to Gareth Jelley for finding a Baidu Encylopedia article that explains it in detail.

The map cannon originally refers to a map attack type weapon in the “Super Robot Wars” series. It first appeared in the “Second Super Robot Wars” in the Magic Machine God’s Sebastian , and was later used to refer to some mass destruction weapons. weapons or magic. On the Internet, the extended meaning of “map cannon” is the act of verbally attacking a certain group. On the Internet, it often refers to geographical attackers , or the behavior of a few people is used to deny the behavior of a certain group.

Since in many anime works, the map cannon exists as a weapon with great power and large area of ​​destruction, so in some forums (such as NGA), the map cannon is extended to large-scale indiscriminate deletion of posts, banning IDs, and punishing users. Behaviors such as this also often refer to some moderators who often delete and ban people on a large scale and indiscriminately.

It can also express prejudice against certain things. There is often a label that summarizes the whole based on the characteristics of the part. Prejudice against different groups of people will always exist. However, there are also some “facialization” who are willing to be accepted by others – if they think they are at the top of the discrimination chain. The rise of the Internet has redefined the standards of “us” and “them” for the first time.

(7) COMIC RELIEF KERFUFFLE. Doctor Who fandom blew up yesterday. The first one got almost 300K views. The second is one of the more entertaining replies.

(8) YOUR SF TAXONOMY. Horst Smokowski lists “All the Types of Science Fiction”: at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. There are fifty of them. The first three are:

1. Check this place out, it’s dope

2. Technology solves problems ???? (future good)

3. Technology creates problems ???? (future bad)

(9) EXTREME SUFFRAGE. Looking for more sff awards you can vote for? (Oh, you glutton for punishment!) Rocket Stack Rank has a roundup here: “SF/F Ballots For Stories From 2023”.

Here are links to ballots for various SF/F awards, 5 that are open to all, and 4 that are open to members of a convention or association. Highlighted awards are currently open for voting.

The magazine-specific awards come with a longlist link to all stories published by each magazine, with blurbs to help you remember the ones you’ve read and scores to guide further reading….

(10) FREE READ. Marie Brennan’s “Embers Burning in the Night” is a free-to-read story at Sunday Morning Transport, offered to encourage new subscriptions.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 22, 1970 Alex Ross, 54. So Alex Ross, eh? A fantastic, in all senses of that word, comic book illustrator and writer whose first work with comic book writer Kurt Busiek, the four-issue The Marvels for, er, Marvel Comics would been a highlight of anyone else’s career.

Not Ross though.  Another four-issue run, Kingdom Come, this time for DC, under their Elseworlds imprint, told of an aleternate DC  universe that might have happened. One of my favorite DC stories. It was written by Mark Waid and him. 

Yes, he can do pulp as he illustrated the John Layman written series, Red Sonja/Claw:  the Unconquered Devil’s Hands,  that  was co-published with Dynamite Entertainment where Red Sonja and Claw, a  cursed warrior I had never heard of before this, had a series of adventures that showed Red Sonja’s assets very well. 

He’s just not interested in the costumed superheroes. Over at his website, you’ll find the prints he’s done for the Universal Monsters – Dracula, Wolf Man and so forth, they’re all there. The prints look fantastic bad they can be yours if your pocket change is deep. 

Here’s my favorite piece of art by him. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz is for editors.
  • Last Kiss breaks the fourth wall.
  • Annie mentions science fiction, and also might be a reference to this B.C. strip.

(13) THE SGT. MAJOR’S MARSCON REPORT. [Item by Dann.] Mike Burke is a retired US Marine Corps Sergeant Major.  Mike operated under the nom de plume (or perhaps nom de guerre) of “America’s Sergeant Major” for several years.  He has led Marines in peace and in war.  Since his retirement, he has written fiction and nonfiction for the US Naval Institute.  The USNI is a non-profit organization with the purpose of providing an “independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to global security.”

Sgt. Maj. Burke has started writing on Substack as Spearman Burke and is a self-professed “noob” at the profession of writing.

He recently attended Marscon in Norfolk, VA and has a report from the con.  He was able to meet Ben Yalow, David Weber, Kacey Ezell, and a few other notable authors.  One of Kacey’s stories was what inspired Mike to pursue his next career as a genre author.  He scored a contract to submit a short story for an anthology at the con.

(14) CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. AP News says “Reformed mobster who stole Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from ‘Oz’ wanted one last score”. Now they’re about to drop the big house on him.

The aging reformed mobster who has admitted stealing a pair of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz” gave into the temptation of “one last score” after an old mob associate led him to believe the famous shoes must be adorned with real jewels to justify their $1 million insured value.

Terry Jon Martin’s defense attorney finally revealed the 76-year-old’s motive for the 2005 theft from the Judy Garland Museum in the late actor’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in a new memo filed ahead of his Jan. 29 sentencing in Duluth, Minnesota.

The FBI recovered the shoes in 2018 when someone else tried to claim an insurance reward on them, but Martin wasn’t charged with stealing them until last year….

(15) ROBERT BLOCH WEBSITE UPDATE. Jim Nemeth of the Robert Bloch Official Website announced a major update.

At the (fantastic) suggestion and immense help of Mr. David J Schow (DJS) we now have a new Gallery page, showing just about every/all sides of our beloved Bob.

(16) THE REMNANT OF HUMANITY IS COMING HOME. Friends of Fred Lerner will be excited to hear that his book In Memoriam will be released by Fantastic Books And Gray Rabbit Publications on July 2.

David Bernstein is a 17-year-old member of the Remnant of Terra, the descendants of the 2,000 people who survived the Cataclysm that destroyed human life on Earth. For two centuries the Remnant has lived among the Wyneri, who rescued the few survivors and brought them to their world. Although the Wyneri are physically and psychologically very similar to Terrans, the two species interact only when they must. The Remnant earn their keep among their alien hosts, but otherwise remain apart, devoting themselves to preserving the cultural heritage of Terra.

David, however, is fascinated with the Wyneri and their culture, an interest shared by none of his contemporaries. Attending a Wyneri performance he meets a Wyneri girl his own age, and he and Harari strike up a taboo friendship.

While David learns about his Terran heritage, he feels very much alone in trying to also learn about the history of the Terran-Wyneri relationship. Violent Wyneri xenophobia drives David to intensify his studies, and to dig into the mysteries surrounding the Cataclysm, the rescue, and the ensuing two centuries of cover-ups. He begins to suspect a long-lived cabal that has spent the years working in secret, preparing for a return to Earth.

Harari’s murder crystallizes David’s need to explore the Terran-Wyneri history. Her posthumous message proving that the Cataclysm was caused by rogue Wyneri military personnel leads David to the Remnant’s leaders, who confirm it as genuine. Their conclusion? The time has come for Terrans to separate from the Wyneri. They enlist David’s help to persuade the Remnant to return to Earth, and to encourage the Wyneri to help them.

(17) RED PLANET WINGS. “Nasa plans to fly giant solar-powered Mars plane to look for water on Red Planet” reports The Independent.

Nasa has received its first set of funding to develop a giant airplane that could fly high in the planet’s atmosphere and look for signs of water on the Red Planet.

The solar-powered vehicle, called Mars Aerial and Ground Intelligent Explorer or Maggie, is expected to fly in the Martian atmosphere with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability similar to Nasa’s pioneering Ingenuity Mars helicopter.

With fully charged batteries, the Mars airplane could fly at an altitude of 1,000m for about 180km with its total range over a year on Mars expected to be over 16,000 km, the space agency said earlier this month.

Using the aircraft, Nasa hopes to conduct three studies on the Red Planet’s atmosphere and geophysical features, including the hunt for water, research on the origin of the planet’s weak magnetic field as well as tracing the elusive source of methane signals on Mars….

(18) HIDDEN HISTORY. Constellation comes to Apple TV+ on February 21.

“Constellation” stars Noomi Rapace as Jo — an astronaut who returns to Earth after a disaster in space — only to discover that key pieces of her life seem to be missing. The action-packed space adventure is an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology, and one woman’s desperate quest to expose the truth about the hidden history of space travel and recover all that she has lost.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Isaac Arthurs has just had his monthly sci-fi weekend and asks who would win: robot or alien?

We often worry that humanity might be attacked by Aliens or AI, but which is worse and which would win in a battle between them?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/6/24 10 Pixels To Scroll, Number 9 Will SHOCK You

(1) 2024 IS LAST YEAR KRESS AND WILLIAMS RUNNING TAOS TOOLBOX. Taos Toolbox, a two-week master class in writing science fiction and fantasy helmed by authors Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, is open for submissions.

And as part of the announcement Williams told Facebook readers, “This will be the last year that Nancy and I will be doing this. Taos Toolbox may continue under new management (it’s under discussion), but Nancy and I won’t be running things.”

This year’s Taos Toolobox workshop will take place June 2-15, 2024, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Special Guest for 2024 is the creator of The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, in reality the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank…

Special lecturers this year include Jeffe Kennedy, who currently holds the office of President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s been widely published and has special expertise in indiepub, and owns her own press.

The second special lecturer is Diana Rowland, who at various times been an Air Force pilot, a Las Vegas card dealer, a detective for a sheriff’s office in Louisiana, and a morgue assistant, occupations that contributed to writing her Demon and White Trash Zombie series.

(2) MISSING ROYALTIES. Authors are the hidden victims of the cyber-attack on the British Library, which has prevented them receiving an annual rights payment. The Guardian explains: “Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library”.

…In February 2023, those authors would have been paid thousands of pounds each from Public Lending Right (PLR) payments – money earned by writers, illustrators and translators each time a book is borrowed. But not this year.

Ongoing fallout from a massive cyber-attack means that PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.

Every time an author’s book is borrowed from a library, they get about 13p, capped at £6,600 a year. To authors like Osman and JK Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was also on last year’s top read list, this might be a drop in the ocean, but for many authors whose books are library favourites it is a different matter….

The British Library was hit by a cyber-attack at the end of October. At the time, its chief executive, Sir Roly Keating, said that access to even basic communication tools such as email was initially lost. “We took immediate action to isolate and protect our network but significant damage was already done.

“Having breached our systems, the attackers had destroyed their route of entry and much else besides, encrypting or deleting parts of our IT estate.”…

(3) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb was briefly hospitalized after suffering a mini-stroke on January 4. He told Facebook friends:

Well, there’s good news and bad news early in the new year. The bad news is, that while at needed physical therapy for my balance on Thursday afternoon, I began babbling unintelligibly. I knew what I wanted to say to my trainers but, when it physically left my lips, it became distorted beyond recognition, rather like mumbling incoherently in my sleep.

They called an ambulance and rushed me to nearby Nazareth Hospital where I spent the next twenty-four hours.

I continued complaining, while in the ambulance, that I simply wanted to go home but they drove me, instead, to the Emergency Room.

I began recovering once we reached the waiting hospital. However, to be on the safe side, they kept me overnight in a hospital room. I knew that I must have been returning to “normal,” however, when I began cracking jokes.

It appears that I must have suffered a “T.I.A,” or what’s called a “mini-stroke.” However, following that isolated assault on my sensory nerves, the seemingly isolated attack that apparently came out of nowhere somehow abated and I’ve recovered.

I had a single previous occurrence some eighteen months earlier on what was to have been my last night in Los Angeles. It’s frightening. I can tell you that. The wiring in your brain goes … you should excuse the expression … “haywire.”

I asked the doctors what I can do to keep this from happening again. They said “You’re doing it. You’re taking all the right medications. Just keep an eye out for trouble signs in future.”

What’s the good news, you may well ask?????????? Well, the simple answer is that I’m Home once more!!!!!!!!!! Unlike the esteemed Mr. Bond, I’m “shaken, yet stirred.” “Toto, We’re home …. We’re Home.”

(4) SFWA’S COPYRIGHT OFFICE RESPONSE. Following up SFWA’s October 30th comments to the Copyright Office, they had the opportunity to respond to some of the many other comments received. With over 9,000 responses, SFWA “focused on specific aspects of the conversation around fair use that we felt were not given due attention, as well as to raise concerns that are unique to our community.” Their 10-page response document can be downloaded from Regulations.gov at the link.

One topic SFWA discussed is the scraping of content that is offered free to readers by online sff magazines.

…SFWA acknowledges the problem of generative AI scraping pirated material published as copy-protected ebooks by professional publishers, but SFWA additionally has the unique position of representing many authors who have fought to make their work available for free for human readers. Over the last twenty years, many science fiction and fantasy authors of short fiction have embraced the open Internet, believing that it is good for society and for a flourishing culture that art be available to their fellow human beings regardless of ability to pay. That availability is not without cost; it is quite difficult to bring an online magazine to market, and being freely available has never meant abandoning the moral and legal rights of the authors, nor the obligation to enter into legal contracts to compensate authors for their work and spell out how it may and may not be used. But on balance, many writers and fans believe that freely sharing stories is a good thing that enriches us all.

The current content-scraping regime preys on that good-faith sharing of art as a connection between human minds and the hard work of building a common culture. The decision to publish creative work online to read and share for free is not guaranteed; it is a trade-off of many factors including piracy, audience, and the simple (albeit elusive) ability to make a living. In too many comments to enumerate here, individual authors have made clear that they regard the use of their work for training AI to be another important factor in that mix, and the ultimate effect on the short fiction marketplace and its role in our culture is far from certain. Bluntly, many authors do not want their work taken for this purpose, and that cannot be ignored.

“If my work is just going to get stolen, and if some company’s shareholders are going to get the benefit of my labor and skill without compensating me, I see no reason to continue sharing my work with the public — and a lot of other artists will make the same choice.” (N. K. Jemisin, COLC-2023-0006- 0521)

The developers of AI systems seem to believe that a green light to use scraped copyrighted work will result in a clear field for them to continue freeloading forever; we fear rather that it will result in large swathes of artistic work removed from the commons, locked behind paywalls and passwords to the detriment of all….

(5) AURORA AWARDS. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Eligibility Lists for this year’s Aurora Awards are open. If you’re aware of any genre work produced by Canadians, submit it. (CSFFA membership required — $10 – to make an addition to the lists.)

(6) WESTERCON 2025 UP FOR ADOPTION. Kevin Standlee announced a “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2025 Westercon” at Westercon.org.

Because no bid filed to host Westercon 77, selection of the site of the 2025 Westercon devolved upon the 2023 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 75 (in conjunction with Loscon 49) in Los Angeles on November 25, 2023. The Westercon 75 Business Meeting voted to award Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Vice Chair Lisa Hayes with the understanding that they would attempt to select a site and committee to run Westercon 77 and transfer the convention to that committee.

Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75. There are no other restrictions other than the bid has to be for dates in calendar year 2025. All other restrictions in the Westercon Bylaws are suspended, per section 3.16 of the Westercon Bylaws.

To submit a bid to the 2025 Caretaker Committee to host Westercon 77, contact Kevin Standlee at [email protected], or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee. The Caretaker Committee asks that groups interested in hosting Westercon 77 contact them by the end of February 2024.

Should the Caretaker Committee be unable to make a determination for a site for Westercon 77 by Westercon 76 in Salt Lake City (July 4-7, 2024), and assuming that no bid files to host Westercon 77, the Caretaker Committee will ask the Business Meeting of Westercon 76 for additional guidance on how to handle Westercon Site Selection.

(7) MOVING FORWARD – AT OLD MAN SPEED. Tor.com notified those not reading Bluesky that “Netflix’s Adaptation of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War Is Still In The Works”.

We first found out that Netflix optioned the rights to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War over six years ago, back in December 2017. It’s not uncommon for things to get optioned but never get made (Old Man’s War, in fact, had been previously optioned by Paramount and Syfy without making it to the production stage), but it sounds like the Netflix movie adaptation is still moving forward.

Scalzi gave an update on the project over on Bluesky yesterday, where he said that work on it is “slowly but surely moving along.”…

(8) COPPOLA’S NEXT APOCALYPSE. Another long-awaited sff project finished filming last year and should actually get released sometime: “Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘Megalopolis’ Is Coming Soon” at Collider.

Francis Ford Coppola is renowned as the mastermind behind some of the greatest pieces of cinema in history but as all legends do, he refuses to rest on his laurels and he’s preparing to release his first film in over a decade with his self-funded star-studded sci-fi drama, Megalopolis. The film has been mired by a number of setbacks, but filming wrapped on the project back in March. And now, we won’t have much longer to wait for it to arrive, as Coppola revealed on the latest episode of The Accutron Show.

The film has an eye-watering array of talent attached, including Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, DB Sweeney, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Bailey Ives, Grace Vanderwaal, James Remar, and Giancarlo Esposito.

All that’s known so far about the film so far is that it has a futuristic setting and that it will revolve around the idea of humanity attempting to build some sort of utopian society in the wake of a natural disaster. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess, and Coppola isn’t up for explaining more quite yet.

(9) WAS THIS THE BEST SF OF 2023? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Every January the SF2 Concatenation have an informal survey as to the best SF novels and films of the previous year. It is strictly informal and a bit of fun, enabling team members see what more than one of the others rate. The years have shown that this informal survey has form in that invariably some of the chosen works go on to be short-listed, and sometimes even win, major SF awards later in the year. SF² Concatenation have just advance-posted their selection for 2023 as part of the “Best Science Fiction of the Year Possibly?” post. Scroll down to see how previous years’ choices fared…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. (Died 1978.) So let’s talk about the British writer Eric Frank Russell. His first published piece of fiction was in the first issue of Tales of Wonder called “The Prr-r-eet” (1937). (Please don’t tell me it was about cats.) He also had a letter of comment in Astounding Stories that year. He wrote a lot of such comments down the years. 

Eric Frank Russell

Just two years later, his first novel, Sinister Barrier, would be published as the cover story as the first issue of Unknown. His second novel, Dreadful Sanctuary, would be serialized in AstoundingUnknown’s sister periodical, in 1948.

At Clevention, “Allamagoosa” would win a Short Story Hugo.  The Great Explosion novel garnered  a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Now let’s note some reworkings he did as I like them a lot. Men, Martians and Machines published in 1955 is four related novellas of space adventures at their very best. 

The 1956 Three to Conquer, nominated for a Hugo at NY Con II is a reworking of the earlier Call Him Dead magazine serial that deals with an alien telepath and very well at that. Finally Next of Kin, also known as The Space Willies, shows him being comic, something he does oh so well. It was a novella-length work in Astounding first.

And then there’s the Design for Great-Day novel which was written by Alan Dean Foster. It’s an expansion by him based off a 1953 short story of the same name by Russell. I’m pretty familiar with Foster has done but this isn’t ringing even the faintest of bells. Who’s read it? 

He wrote an extraordinary amount of short stories, around seventy by my guess. 

(My head trauma means numbers and I have at best a tenuous relationship. I once counted the turkeys left over after we distributed them at a food pantry I staffed pre-knee injury. Three times I counted. I got, if I remember correctly now, twelve, fifteen and eighteen birds. I had someone else do it.)

Short Stories Collection is the only one available at the usual suspects. He’s an author who needs a definitive short story collection done for him. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows there are always lines.
  • Edith Pritchett’s cartoon for the Guardian recalls how “I climbed the tube station steps and entered another dimension.” Steven French adds, “Of marginal genre interest but having walked up those steps, this made me laugh!”

(12) PIONEERING WOMAN COMICS ARTIST RETIRES. BoingBoing pays tribute as “Aquaman, Metamorpho, and Brenda Starr cartoonist Ramona Fradon retires”.

Famed cartoonist Ramona Fradon is retiring at the age of 97, according to a January 3 announcement from her comic art dealer Catskill Comics….

An extremely long run, indeed. Her comic book career started in 1950, and her career highlights include a 1959 revamp and long run on Aquaman, the co-creation of DC’s offbeat superhero Metamorpho with writer Bob Haney in 1965, a run on Super Friends in the 1970s, and the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter from 1980-1995.

She also was a pioneer, as one of the only women working in comics during the first decades of her career.

Cartoonist and curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco Andrew Farago wrote on BlueSky, “Ramona Fradon retires today at the age of 97, just a little shy of Al Jaffee’s retirement age of 99. Not sure if that means that cartooning keeps you young or if it just means that cartooning keeps you broke, but what a body of work she’s produced over the past eight decades!”…

(13) WHAT THEY WILL READ IN 2024. “’I want some light in my life’: eight writers make their new year reading resolutions “ – the Guardian’s collection of quotes includes a declaration from Sheena Patel.

‘I’m turning to sci-fi and dystopia’
Sheena Patel

I have a fascination with sci-fi that is purely theoretical. I often think about reading it but never make any attempt to go near such books because I am afraid of the imagination I will find there. Perhaps I haven’t felt I can really access the genre because sci-fi feels like what Black and Brown people can go through on a daily basis. We’re still in an age of empire, even though we are distracted from this knowledge.

I do love sci-fi films though. I had a true epiphany when I saw Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin at the cinema. It was so strange, the alien mixed with the mundane, documentary spliced with fantastical set pieces. Next year I think I will read the Michel Faber book from which the movie was adapted.

In 2024 I also want to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune books. Earlier this year, I watched the film on my laptop maybe 50 times. At first, I hated it, but then I totally fell in love with it – the visual representation of different worlds opened my mind. Throat singing and nomadic desert tribes could be used as a mood board for the future, but this is already happening now in communities that are regarded as “primitive”. It is the future because it is eternal – such a beautiful thought.

We are fed so much dystopia that reading it in fiction feels hard – but, as the world burns, maybe it is a good idea to hear from artists about where we might be heading. So the other three titles I will try are classics: Octavia E Butler’s KindredStanisław Lem’s Solaris and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. The present feels so bleak, and our vision of the future so foreshortened, it almost seems like tempting fate – but, without science fiction, how can we dream?

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel is published in paperback by Granta

(14) HOOFING IT TO MOUNT DOOM. They say “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but apparently they exaggerated. The Conqueror Virtual Challenges is a thematic program to encourage you to exercise by walking, running, and biking, with solo variations costing from $49.95 to bundles costing $299.95 and up. This link takes you to All 8 LOTR Conqueror Virtual Challenges.

Follow Frodo and Aragorn on an epic journey across Middle-earth with the ULTIMATE THE LORD OF THE RINGS Virtual Challenge Series.

Walk, run or cycle all the way from The Shire to Mount Doom in an epic adventure with one goal – destroying the One Ring. Complete this unforgettable saga by following Aragorn into battle and restoring peace to Middle-earth.

(15) CITY OF HEROES. “11 years after this cult classic superhero MMO was shut down, the original publisher has given its blessing to the community’s custom servers” reports GamesRadar+.

Despite the shutdown of the beloved superhero MMO City of Heroes over a decade ago, fans have been keeping it alive for years with a variety of custom server efforts. Now, one of those projects has just gotten the blessing of the game’s original publisher and license holder, NCSoft.

City of Heroes: Homecoming made the surprising announcement earlier today that “Homecoming has been granted a license to operate a City of Heroes server and further develop the game – subject to conditions and limitations under the contract.” The Homecoming project will remain free and donation-funded, and while there are a few changes to how the project is being managed, it doesn’t look like players will see any meaningful differences in the game itself.

“NCSoft has always had (and will continue to have) the right to demand that Homecoming shuts down,” as the announcement notes. “This agreement provides a framework under which Homecoming can operate the game in a way that complies with NCSoft’s wishes in hopes of minimizing the chances of that happening. We’ve had a really positive and productive relationship with NCSoft for over four years now, so we do not anticipate there being any issues.”…

…The question mark that currently weighs over the license for Homecoming is what this means for other custom server projects, like City of Heroes Rebirth. Today’s announcement notes that “other servers are out of scope” for this license, and the devs say that “our hope is that our license will help us consolidate our userbase with City of Heroes fans from other servers.” There’s already a bit of fear in the community that other private servers might start to disappear following this news, but only time will tell what will happen on that front….

(16) RECORDS BROKEN. Gizmodo tells why “Doctor Who’s New Streaming Home Has Been a Huge Success” – that is, for viewers who can accesss the BBC platform.

To celebrate Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary last year, the BBC made a huge, unprecedented move: for the first time, almost the entirety of Doctor Who, from episodes from 1963 all the way up to the then-airing anniversary specials, would be made available to stream in the UK in one place, on the BBC’s own streaming platform iPlayer. And it turns out doing so has helped the BBC break streaming records over the festive period.

The corporation has announced that Doctor Who—and most specifically Doctor Who episodes from 2005 onwards—were streamed 10.01 million times over the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, helping the platform break a previous record for streamed content for the week between January 2 and January 8, 2023, with 177 million programs being streamed in total….

It’s hard to say just how that success has panned out internationally, however. The BBC’s new deal with Disney to stream Doctor Who on Disney+ everywhere but the UK and Ireland only covers new episodes from the 60th anniversary onwards—other contemporary and classic Doctor Who access is spread out on various platforms elsewhere, such as Britbox for classic Doctor Who and Max for post-2005 Doctor Who.

(17) MY BLUE HEAVEN(S). [Item by Mike Kennedy.] So you know how astronomers are always using false color images to show this detail or that detail or what something would look like if it was only in the visible spectrum or some such? well, those can leave lasting misimpression.

New images showing color-corrected true-color likenesses of Uranus and Neptune show the latter ice giant—rather than being a dark blue—is only slightly darker than the former.  “True blue: Neptune only slightly deeper colour than Uranus, say Oxford scientists” in the Guardian.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/22/23 Lot 97! One Child’s Space Suit, Never Travelled In

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2023 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Rigland,” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. The story is about oil rigs and what we owe to our communities.

It was published along with a response essay by journalist Mia Armstrong-López: “What if Oil Platforms Belonged to the People Who Worked on Them?”.

…When I set out to report on Mexican women working offshore, I expected to focus on harassment, discrimination, and abuse and the grueling labor conditions that facilitate them. Women are in the minority on platforms—one interviewee was the only woman among dozens of men; others recounted being in groups of only five or 10 women on an entire platform, outnumbered 1 to 10 or 20. The conditions they face are often punishing: In Mexico, platforms are isolated with limited communication, living situations are dorm-style and sometimes coed, and many workers have short-term contracts with little protection. The work is dangerous—they’re exposed to heavy machinery, harsh weather, and hazardous chemicals.

I heard plenty of stories of these precarious conditions—women who were spied on while they showered or changed, discriminated against due to pregnancy, and verbally abused. But more often, women shared experiences like the fishing story. They wanted to tell me about spending hours carving tomatoes to look like flowers to make a meal feel more special; about coordinating workers to bring their favorite candies to stuff holiday piñatas so they would all feel less alone; about learning to teach yoga, helping their colleagues relieve the years of work-related pain and exhaustion their bodies had come to carry. They told me these stories not to excuse or brush over the other, darker realities of working offshore but to show me, Look what we’ve built, despite it all….

(2) ANOTHER DAY IN COURT. Michele Lundgren, charged as a Michigan fake Trump elector in July, was back in court on December 13 along with five other defendants to hear testimony before a judge who will eventually rule whether the Michigan Attorney General’s office has established probable cause for the felony charges to proceed to trial. “Michigan elections director says he contacted AG on false electors” in the Detroit News. Michele Lundgren is the wife of Carl Lundgren, a well-known sff artist.

Michigan elections director Jonathan Brater testified in court Wednesday that he contacted the Attorney General’s office after finding out about a certificate state Republicans signed falsely claiming Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

Brater’s revelation highlighted the first day of preliminary examinations in the criminal cases of six of the 16 Republicans whose names appeared on the certificate, which was part of an attempt to flip Michigan’s 16 electoral votes to Trump although Democrat Joe Biden won Michigan in November 2020.

Over about seven hours of testimony in Ingham County District Court, prosecutors from Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office and defense lawyers repeatedly clashed over what the importance of the false certificate was, Michigan election law and even who could be in the courtroom.

The examinations will continue Thursday with Ingham County District Court Judge Kristen Simmons eventually having to decide whether the Attorney General’s office has established probable cause for the eight felony charges it’s brought against each of the Republicans to proceed to trial….

(3) KEEP A HANKY READY. Camestros Felapton’s “Smith Rewatch: Vincent and the Doctor”. Maybe cue Judy Garland singing, “You made me love you / I didn’t want to do it….”

…Let’s make it potentially worse by adding in a writer against which Moffat’s attraction to twee Britishisms and romcoms looks positively restrained. Richard Curtis getting to write floppy haired Matt Smith as a surrogate Hugh Grant sounds like a recipe for disaster.

And yet, this is one of the most beloved episodes of Doctor Who — perhaps more with its general normy audience rather than die-hard Who fans but still one that is often pointed at. I think I went into this episode feeling cynical, I’ll concede the ending touched me but it felt messy to me at the time. On rewatch? I’ll confess that I started tearing up much earlier than the plot demanded. It is very sentimental but a good rule for Who is to always go a little bit extra with whatever direction the story is heading….

(4) THE NEW DOCTOR. [Item by Steven French.] In the run up to the Xmas special, Ncuti Gatwa on Xmas, family and Dr Who: “Ncuti Gatwa: ‘I know many a gay man who’s exactly like the Doctor’” in the Guardian.

 “We choose our families. And the Doctor is a lonely wanderer, looking for their next adventure … I know many a gay man, MANY a gay man, I could describe that way!” He laughs. “I think that’s a beautiful, beautiful theme Doctor Who has, because chosen family can be more meaningful, more supportive. That really can be the case, and it’s a theme that absolutely runs through the show.”

(5) ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES. “Can the Oompa-Loompas Be Saved?” The New York Times seriously doubts it, if the answer depends on finding a way to make them politically correct.  

What do we do with the Oompa-Loompas?

That’s a question filmmakers and writers have tangled with ever since the 1964 debut of the tiny, largely unpaid laborers in Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

In Dahl’s original, the Oompa-Loompas were starving African pygmies, subsisting largely on a mash of green caterpillars and tree bark until “rescued” by Willy Wonka. He smuggled the entire tribe out of Africa in packing crates to live and work, and sing and goof and dance, in the chocolatier’s plantation, er, factory.

“It didn’t occur to me that my depiction of the Oompa-Loompas was racist,” Dahl said in a 1988 interview. “But it did occur to the N.A.A.C.P. and others.”

In the five decades since their literary debut, the Oompa-Loompas have undergone a series of transformations to shake their story from its colonialist roots. Some fixes have been transparently cosmetic (in subsequent editions of the book, illustrators simply made the tribesmen white). Others weren’t fixes at all: In the 2005 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the director, Tim Burton, just shifted continents, moving the Oompa-Loompas out of Africa to someplace that vaguely resembles South America, as imagined by an adventure film director from the 1950s.

In the Warner Bros. prequel “Wonka,” which opens Dec. 15, the filmmakers address the colonialist aspects head on…

(6) WESTERCON. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] The official papers of Westercon as of the end of Westercon 75 (Loscon 49) have been updated and are available at Bylaws & Business – Westercon

This document includes:

  • Minutes of the Westercon 75 Business Meeting
  • Links to video of the Business Meeting and the Committee of the Whole on Site Selection held thereat
  • Bylaws and Standing Rules as of the end of Westercon 75 and the Draft Agenda for the Westercon 76 Business Meeting.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 72. Need I say this is just my personal choices by an author I’ve known personally for over thirty years now? I think not.

Let’s start with Moonheart, the novel that Tamson House at its heart, a most amazing architectural wonder which may be at center of the universe. It amazes me with every page. I know that’s why readers I’ve talked to pick it as their favorite of his considerable writings. The sequel, Spiritwalk, is a patch-up novel and in someways a deeper, more interesting story, mainly because the characters are more flawed.

Moonheart is set in home city of Ottawa as are these three novels. Yarrow is an autumnal tale of a woman who has stopped dreaming, and the two Jack of Kinrowan novels, Jack, the Giant-Killer and Drink Down the Moon, involve the fey courts in Ottawa. If you like War for the Oaks, I think that you will like these novels. 

Charles deLint at 1980 World Fantasy Con. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Memory and Dream is his take on artists and their work with the usual magic thrown in. Lots of pre-Raphaelite influence here, I think if I remember correctly that he has an artist named Ruskin. Very interesting. 

Someplace to Be Flying is the first of two novels set in his city of Newford that I deeply, madly love. This one introduces the Crow Girls, immortal shape shifters who just want to have fun and eat sugar. Really they do. It’s got great characters, wonderful settings and a fantastic story as does Forests of The Heart which adds a large dollop of Irish music and the green man to boot to the Newford setting.

The Mystery of Grace which was his last novel for Tor for reasons that were interesting to say the least is a fantastic story of a motorcycle riding female mechanic who may have crossed over to the other side when the veils on Día de los Muertos grew too thin in the right, or if you prefer, wrong place. Stellar writing by him. 

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest as infused with lavish illustrations by his friend Charles Vess should be read by anyone who loves cats, Appalachian folklore or just a great story. Need I say the book itself is stunningly gorgeous?  Lillian here was the girl in A Circle of Cats, the children book done by him and again illustrated by Vess. Again recommended. Medicine Road will feature a grown up Lillian. 

His newest undertaking, in which Junniper Wiles is the central character, is a mystery series and a lot of fun. More light heated than some of his fiction has been, not a bad tack to take.

So how are his short stories you say? Extraordinarily good. For over a decade before he stopped publishing them, he sent me his annual Winter chapbook on Triskell Press, a perfect treat from him. 

If I was going to recommend but one collection to read by him, it would be an easy pick and that would be Dreams Underfoot. It has “The Moon is Drownimg While I Sleep”, maybe his best story ever, and other excellent stories such as “The Sacred Fire” which was produced as an episode of the The Hunger anthology television series hosted first by Terrence Stamp and then by David Bowie  and was first shown I some twenty-five years ago. 

He did a later collection as well on his new publisher, Tachyon Press, The Best of Charles de Lint. I’ll admit I’ve not looked at its content so let me do that now. Huh, it’s up but Tachyon Press didn’t do an epub edition so he did it himself.  I will recommend it as the stories in The Very Best of Charles de Lint are those of Dreams Underfoot plus a whole more of his later work.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Carpe Diem continues its Star Wars and pets imitating their owners theme.
  • Eek! has the worst gift.
  • Eek! also has a silly demonstration of a bit of monster trivia many get wrong.

(9) TO DYE FOR. The Guardian pages back to the 19th century to explain “How a European colour revolution brought us the humble Christmas card”.

What would Christmas be without the humble Christmas card? It’s hard to think of a more quintessentially British seasonal tradition than propping up colourful bits of stiff paper on your mantelpiece, but in fact we wouldn’t be sending each other bits of stiff paper were it not for a feat of pan-European collaboration – and competition – cooked up in the mid-19th century. Many of our most familiar traditions percolated down from Britain’s royal and aristocratic families, who themselves had imported many of them from their German forebears. But it wasn’t until the widespread adoption of colour printing in the 1860s that Christmas cards, first commissioned as high-status, handcrafted items in the 1840s, became cheap enough for the middle and lower classes to get their hands on them.

Some of these early mass-produced cards are on show at the Ashmolean in Oxford, as part of their Colour Revolution exhibition. To the modern eye they are pretty elaborate affairs, dating from the 1880s, with beautifully coloured floral images, silk tassels and fringes, dyed vibrant shades of purple and orange. The cards may be small but they are part of an important story, one that the exhibition aims to tell in a detailed way. It concerns the almost incalculably formative influence of the mid-19th century “chromatic turn”, in which the Victorians’ obsession with admiring, analysing and then manufacturing colour in all sorts of areas – fashion, art, design, advertising – made itself felt across Britain, France and Germany, and indeed the rest of the world.

The Ashmolean exhibition is a brilliant and fascinating show, re-creating elements of the 1862 International Exhibition in London’s South Kensington, which showcased 19th-century attempts to reconstruct the original colours of ancient Greek sculpture (including Alma-Tadema’s fabulous painting Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends), and some elaborate late-Victorian fashions, including a gruesome necklace made from dead hummingbirds.

The show’s key element may appear slightly dusty by comparison: a section outlining the development of synthetic aniline dyes, starting in 1856 with the invention of the strident purple known as “mauveine” by young British chemist William Henry Perkin, while studying under German professor August Wilhelm von Hofmann. Discovered accidentally as Perkin was trying to produce a malaria treatment from coal tar, mauveine – and its subsequent counterparts such as fuchsine (reddish-purple), and induline (bluish red) – were cheap to produce and had enormous commercial success as, for the first time, brightly coloured fabric became affordable for large swathes of the European lower and middle classes, allowing them to indulge in fancy dresses, hats, upholstery and, yes, Christmas card tassels….

(10) SECOND TO NONE. What is the exact time? Tom Vanderbilt learned why it’s hard to tell: “In Search of Lost Time” at Harper’s.

…The night before my visit, I’d opened time.gov, the very official-looking page—headlined official u.s. time—run by NIST and the U.S. Naval Observatory. The site features a map of the United States, divided into time zones, as well as a variety of subsidiary clock displays (Chamorro Standard Time, Aleutian Standard Time) that ticked, at the second level, in seeming synchrony. I noticed that my own watch—the Garmin Forerunner 935, a “premium running watch,” which generally gets its time from four of the thirty-one operational GPS satellites encircling the globe—looked to be a second behind. Why?

This was one of the first questions I put to Judah Levine, an eighty-two-year-old JILA physicist and one of “America’s timekeepers.” “The handheld guys are typically wrong by a second or a half-second,” Levine said. “That’s because the device’s display is not fast enough.” He said this with weary resignation. White-haired, with gold-rimmed glasses, wearing a blue flannel shirt, gray work pants, and sturdy black shoes, Levine reminded me of one of those somewhat cantankerous master craftsmen you still find in certain old quarters of Brooklyn. The shelves of his office were lined with physics textbooks, and an Oregon Scientific clock—which gets a radio signal from NIST—displayed the time in blocky liquid-crystal numbers.

In fairness to my watch, Levine explained that time.gov (which had informed me that the laptop I was using had strayed “+0.012 s”) was itself off by a noticeable amount. “It takes a while for the signal to transfer across the network, which we don’t control,” he explained. The actual correct time was on display in a laboratory adjacent to Levine’s office. It appeared as a string of red digits on a device that looked like a high-end stereo amplifier. This was a display of the official time, which is kept by a series of cesium fountain atomic clocks a few miles away, at NIST’s Boulder campus, and sent via satellite to JILA. Here was the seat of temporal power, the nation’s pulsing metronome. I watched the red LED seconds tick away, bathing in their implacable authority. It was then, however, that Levine introduced another complication. The time we were looking at might actually, a month from now, be deemed incorrect….

(11) THE DOORS, NOT THE DALEKS, WERE THE REAL NIGHTMARE. “Doctor Who: TV crew member recalls genesis of the Daleks” at BBC.com.

On 21 December 1963, some of the most feared characters in science fiction first appeared on screen.

The first episode of Doctor Who in which the dreaded Daleks appeared – The Dead Planet – was broadcast on BBC television.

While the rest of the country watched from behind their sofas, Sue Webb, from Winchester, was working as a producer’s assistant at the BBC’s Lime Grove studios in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.

Sixty years on, she has been recalling the recording of this landmark moment in TV sci-fi.

Ms Webb admits to being initially unimpressed about working on the BBC’s new science fiction drama for Saturday teatimes, based on an eccentric alien, played by William Hartnell, who time travelled in a police phone box.

“It was really just another programme and not what we were used to – we’re drama darling – we do play,” she says.

She recalls the studio being “actually a bit too small”.

“We had to fit in a petrified forest and a metal city for the Daleks,” she says, adding: “It looks like cardboard boxes covered in sheets.”

As for the metallic pepperpot-shaped aliens, created by designer Raymond Cusick, Ms Webb remembers rehearsals with actors “trolleying” around on castors in just the bottom halves of the characters that would become The Doctor’s nemesis.

She says: “Daleks were difficult creatures to move around. They got very hot and the actors were very uncomfortable inside.”

Actor David Graham, along with Peter Hawkins, spoke the Daleks’ lines in a booth off-screen. Graham later worked on Thunderbirds and Hawkins was the voice of Captain Pugwash….

…”The whole episode creaks – it just doesn’t look real at all – the actual surroundings would look terribly amateur.

“The real nightmare was the set with all those sliding doors – they were supposed to rise and sometimes they didn’t.

“You have got to rise above it and accept some things are dodgy, keep fingers crossed and hope for the best.”…

(12) LITERARY MOONS. “See the James Webb Telescope’s Stunning New Image of Uranus With Its Rings and Moons Clearer Than Ever” at Smithsonian Magazine.

…Nine of Uranus’s 27 moons can be seen surrounding the planet in the new image, shining like pearls. Individual astronomers discovered the ice giant’s five largest moons between 1787 and 1948. When Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in 1986, it discovered ten more natural satellites. Since then, the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observations have brought the total to what it is today.

The ice giant’s moons are sometimes referred to as the “literary moons,” because they’re named for characters in Shakespeare’s plays, along with a few from the works of Alexander Pope. Those in Webb’s close-up image, moving clockwise from 2 o’clock, are called Rosalind, Puck, Belinda, Desdemona, Cressida, Bianca, Portia, Juliet and Perdita. (A second, wide-view image shows 14 moons.)…

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Kathy Sullivan, Kevin Standlee, 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.]

Author Diana Paxson Attacked At Home

On December 8, Diana Paxson and her son Ian were stabbed by extended family member Bryon DeCles after he broke through the front door of their home. Immediately after the attack was reported Berkeley police warned residents to shelter in place – a warning lifted three hours later. They are still looking for the assailant.

Diana Paxson said in a public Facebook post:

First, my son Ian and I are back from the hospital and sore but functional.

As many of you already know, on Friday evening Ian and I were both wounded when Byron DeCles, a member of our extended family, broke through the front door, slashing wildly with a small knife. Ian had 8 or 9 cuts, 5 needing sutures, requiring a few sutures. The most dangerous hit his left ear but did not touch the ear drum. I got 2 needing a few sutures, a shallow slice on my neck and one that nicked the left temporal artery, resulting in a remarkable amount of blood on the floor.I am now coming to terms with the fact that although my wounds are shallow, they were in very vulnerable places, and am very grateful for Divine Protection.

Ians shoulder was injured when Byron threw a 2×4 we had been using to brace the door at him. He then ran off. The police put out an alert and there are warrants for his arrest. Also phots from our security camera. While Ian grappled with Byron, I held a wad of paper towels to my head with my left hand I managed to dial 911 with my right. The police came quickly, and I got my first ambulance ride.

The CBS News report added:

…Police identified a suspect, Byron DeCles, who is described as a 5-foot-8, 23-year-old white male with blonde hair. He was last seen wearing a brown or red hoodie, black pants, a black hat and a large black backpack….

…Police advise anyone who sees DeCles not to approach him as he is suspected to be armed with a cutting device, and to call 911….

Diana Paxson and Jerry Pournelle at the 1993 World SF Convention, Confrancisco. Photo by © Andrew I. Porter.

UPDATE 12/12/2023: Byron DeCles was arrested by Oakland police on December 12 and charged with attempted murder. More information in item #1 here.

Pixel Scroll 12/9/23 To Seek Out New Files And New Pixelations

(1) NEWS FROM ‘THE SECRET LIBRARY’. [Item by Steven French.] For those Filer folk who might be around Yorkshire over Xmas here’s a piece on the Leeds Library blog about their current exhibition, Fantasy Realms of Imagination, scheduled to run in parallel with the much grander affair at the British Library.

Having said that last bit, the British Library for all its architectural style, doesn’t have the Victorian grandeur of Leeds Central Library:

Our new exhibition, inspired by Fantasy: Realms of Imagination at the British Library opened in November and aims to bring a bit of magic to Leeds Central Library over the cold winter months, before touring to community libraries across the city.

The beautiful grade II* listed building with its winding staircases and heraldic beasts lends itself perfectly to the fantasy theme and this exhibition encourages visitors to embark on their own quest to explore parts of the library they may not have ventured to before.

(2) STEVEN BARNES PENS STAR WARS NOVEL. “’Star Wars: The Glass Abyss’ Revealed; New Novel by Steven Barnes Finds Mace Windu Honoring Qui-Gon’s Legacy” at StarWarsNews.net.

The Phantom Menace is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. Therefore, cue Lucasfilm’s foolproof promotional strategy of new books. StarWars.com has announced that Mace Windu will headline a new novel titled Star Wars: The Glass Abyss. Coming August 6, 2024, the novel will be written by Steven Barnes, returning to the Star Wars-fold for the first time since 2004’s The Cestus Deception.

Taking place immediately after The Phantom MenaceThe Glass Abyss will send Mace Windu on a mission to fulfill Qui-Gon Jinn’s final request. The twist? This request is specifically for Mace, only to be received after the fallen Jedi Master’s death….

(3) LAW TACKLES A.I. RISKS. “E.U. Agrees on Landmark Artificial Intelligence Rules” reports the New York Times.

European Union policymakers agreed on Friday to a sweeping new law to regulate artificial intelligence, one of the world’s first comprehensive attempts to limit the use of a rapidly evolving technology that has wide-ranging societal and economic implications.

The law, called the A.I. Act, sets a new global benchmark for countries seeking to harness the potential benefits of the technology, while trying to protect against its possible risks, like automating jobs, spreading misinformation online and endangering national security. The law still needs to go through a few final steps for approval, but the political agreement means its key outlines have been set.

European policymakers focused on A.I.’s riskiest uses by companies and governments, including those for law enforcement and the operation of crucial services like water and energy. Makers of the largest general-purpose A.I. systems, like those powering the ChatGPT chatbot, would face new transparency requirements. Chatbots and software that creates manipulated images such as “deepfakes” would have to make clear that what people were seeing was generated by A.I., according to E.U. officials and earlier drafts of the law.

Use of facial recognition software by police and governments would be restricted outside of certain safety and national security exemptions. Companies that violated the regulations could face fines of up to 7 percent of global sales….

(4) PODCAST-PALOOZA. [Item by Dann.] bonus episode of The Reason Podcast recently featured Reason Editor Peter Suderman interviewing former Reason Editor-in-Chief Virginia Postrel and American Enterprise Institute Fellow James Pethoukoukis about the future and how we might get a better future. Mr. Pethoukoukis is the author of the recently released The Conservative Futurist—How to Create the Sci-Fi World We Were Promised.

The interview included a discussion of works by Isaac Asimov, Neal Stephenson, and Ian Banks. It also included some thoughts on whether sci-fi has changed modes from an optimistic vision of a future enabled by technology to a pessimistic vision of the future.


Author and Podcaster Paul J. Hale recently concluded his 7-part series comparing JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit with the Rankin/Bass animated movie as well as the recent trilogy of movies from New Line Cinema. The series starts here.

He has begun a new series comparing Robert Bloch’s Psycho with the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. No idea about how many episodes there will be in the Psycho series. Thus far, two episodes have been released.

(5) OSCAR WORTHY BIRD AND BOT. Variety says these are “10 Movies Oscars Voters Should Watch”. They include The Boy and the Heron and Robot Dreams.

The Boy and the Heron

Animator Hayao Miyazaki is renowned for conjuring up dazzling cinematic worlds. And at 82, he hasn’t lost a step. His latest movie is a visual feast, filled with magical lands and creatures only he could dream up. It’s also a deeply personal tale, one that unfolds against the backdrop of World War II Japan, as a boy undertakes a perilous journey that helps him come to terms with the death of his mother. The first best picture nomination for a non-Disney animated movie would be worthy recognition for Miyazaki’s contributions to the medium.

(6) DOWN THESE FAE STREETS. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Douglas A. Anderson posts about Raymond Chandler’s few published fantasy stories, and his (unfulfilled) desire to write more in their vein. “Raymond Chandler’s Fantasies” at Wormwoodiana.

…In a letter written on 19 June 1956, Chandler wrote:

“I love fantastic stories and have sketches of perhaps a dozen that I should love to see in print. They are not science fiction. My idea of the fantastic story–possibly a little out of date–is that everything is completely realistic except for the basic impossible premise. Both of those I have mentioned are concerned with vanishing or invisibility. I have one about a man who got into fairyland but they wouldn’t let him stay. Another about a princess who traded her tongue for a ruby and then was sorry and it had to be retrieved. One about a young society novelist whose father was a magician and kept making a duke disappear so his son could make love to the duchess. I may add that the duke took it with good grace (a joke) although he was rather annoyed. That sort of thing. Quite rare nowadays.”

(7) GAIMAN Q&A. “Neil Gaiman’s Son Thinks His Dad Is in Charge of ‘Doctor Who’” – excerpts of the New York Times’ conversation with the author.

‘Doctor Who’

I loved “Doctor Who” growing up. In fact, the moment that I felt probably most like God was in 2009, getting to write my first episode. But the trouble with me having written a couple of episodes is that my 8-year-old is now convinced that I must be in charge of “Doctor Who.” He’ll come over to me and say, “Dad, this needs to happen.”…

Charles Addams at the New York Public Library

I remember discovering that if you went up to the third floor on the way to the men’s toilets there was a little room with Charles Addams cartoons on display. I would go there four times a year and the cartoons would be changed out. Then one day they were putting them away. It was explained to me that the artwork had been a loan by his ex-wife. But the agreement was that as soon as everything had been displayed, it was over. I still think that’s heartbreaking….

(8) THE TRUTH WAS OUT THERE. “Internet sleuths identify lost ‘X-Files’ song, solving 25-year mystery” reports the Washington Post. (Gift link to article.)

Lauren Ancona wasn’t really paying attention to the “X-Files” episode she had on her TV on Monday night. Then she heard the song. It played as a character walked into a rural bar, a lilting country track that set a soothing tone as a singer crooned: “In my memory you are moonlight, starlight …”

Ancona liked it. She paused the episode, rewound it and opened Shazam, an app that identifies songs, but it couldn’t find a match. Details about the track weren’t on an IMDb page about the episode either. Perplexed, Ancona searched for the lyrics online and found nothing — except forum posts from other “X-Files” fans asking the same question. Some said they’d been searching since 1998, when the episode first aired.

It was a mystery fit for Mulder and Scully themselves. Who was the songwriter behind the mysterious country tune with no name and no credit? And how had legions of “X-Files” fans failed to identify it in 25 years?…

(9) MARK SAMUELS (1967-2023). Four-time British Fantasy Award nominee Mark Samuels died December 3. The first pair of nomination came in 2004 for his short story “The White Hands” and for the collection in which it appeared, The White Hands and Other Weird Tales.

R.B. Russell has written a tribute for Wormwoodiana: “RIP Mark Samuels”.

…Mark was a member of the original Arthur Machen Society in the 1990s, and would later become active in its successor, the Friends of Arthur Machen, becoming Secretary for two different terms. He will be remembered from many meetings of the Friends (from annual dinners, to more ad hoc pub crawls), as great company; he was a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for writers such as Machen, Lovecraft and Ligotti, as well as enjoying, like Machen, good conversation, drink, food and tobacco….

…From the outset, Mark’s stories take place in a strange and decaying world—one that is often blighted, if not diseased. This gives his fiction a bleak vision and an intensity that has been admired by many readers as well as fellow-authors, since the first magazine appearances of his stories in the 1980s. Apart from in his own books, his stories have been published in such prestigious anthologies as The Mammoth Book of Best New HorrorYear’s Best Fantasy and HorrorA Mountain Walks, and The Weird….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 89. Need I say Judi Dench is one of my favorite performers? So let’s look at her work in this genre, both as a stage and onscreen thespian. 

Judi Dench in 2007

So let’s look at her theatrical work.  Her first professional role was as Ophelia in Hamlet . Not sure if we consider Hamlet to be genre or not, but her first genre role was a West African tour as Lady Macbeth for the British Council in the early Sixties. 

In the Sixties, she was in a small role in a Sherlock Holmes A Study in Terror play. 

She’d reprise Lady Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Company with Ian McKellen posing Macbeth. Now there’s a play I’d have liked very much to have seen! 

In the early Eighties, she was to play Grizabella in the first production of Cats, but had to pull out due to a torn Achilles tendon. Even cats injure themselves. Don’t worry, she’ll get to be in the Cats film where she’ll play Old Deuteronomy where unfortunately she’ll get to play the very rare embarrassing performance of her life. 

Now to her work in genre films. Her first was the Sherlock Holmes A Study in Terror in which she was Sally. 

That was followed by the much better A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream where she was Titania. The one which also had as performers Ian Holm, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg and David Warner! 

She was cast as M in GoldenEye, a role she continued to play in the Bond films through to Spectre.

She’s Queen Elizabeth the First in Shakespeare in Love, one of my all time comfort films. 

And she’s in Chocolat as Armande Voizin, Caroline’s mother. Sure that’s film is touched by magic as it’s about chocolate affecting an entire French village, no?  

Back in the SF realm, she’s in The Chronicles of Riddick as Aereon, but verging back to fantasy, she’s a society lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I see she’s in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express as Princess Natalia Dragomiroff. Speaking of Brannagh, he directed Artemis Fowl, where she’s Commander Julius Root. 

She’s the medium Madame Arcati In Blithe Spirit.

So I was going to include Spirited here which a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol and a satire of the various adaptations since, but I don’t think she has much of a role in it as she appears it as herself. Who’s seen it? 

That’s her for now. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss is an attempt at topical humor. Haven’t made up my mind if it’s actually funny.
  • Free Range however, is definitely funny.

(12) GREATCOATS. Sebastien de Castell’s next Greatcoats novel, Crucible of Chaos: A Novel of The Court Of Shadows, arrives February 6, 2024.

A mortally wounded magistrate faces his deadliest trial inside an ancient abbey where the monks are going mad and the gods themselves may be to blame!

Estevar Borros, one of the legendary sword-fighting magistrates know as the Greatcoats and the king’s personal investigator of the supernatural, is no stranger to tales of ghosts and demons.  When the fractious monks of the abbey rumored to be the birthplace of the gods begin warring over claims of a new pantheon arising, the frantic abbot summons him to settle the dispute.

But Estevar has his own problems: a near-fatal sword wound from his last judicial duel, a sworn knight who claims he has proof the monks are consorting with demons, a diabolical inquisitor with no love for the Greatcoats, and a mysterious young woman claiming to be Estevar’s ally but who may well be his deadliest enemy.

Armed only with his famed investigative talents, his faltering skill with a blade and Imperious, his ornery mule, Estevar must root out the source of the madness lurking inside the once-sacred walls of Isola Sombra before its chaos spreads to the country he’s sworn to protect.

Pre-order from —

(13) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. “Thief in Australia Steals Truck With 10,000 Krispy Kreme Doughnuts” – a crime that made news in the New York Times.  

…  I’ve heard of stealing some dough, but this is ridiculous….

…The tale began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday in Carlingford, Australia, near Sydney, when a delivery driver working the night shift stopped his van to make a quick stop at a 7-Eleven.

Closed circuit footage of the scene shows a woman milling around the gas pumps at the attached service station — or “servo” to Australians — and then climbing into the unattended van and driving away.

What makes the story more compelling than a typical opportunistic vehicle theft is the van’s contents: 10,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The treats were bound for shops in Newcastle, but instead have now disappeared to parts unknown.

As of Friday, the New South Wales police had not made any arrests, although they are, well, hungry to. The department posted an appeal for help from the public, next to items about a brawl in Warrawong and a missing man from Wagga Wagga….

(14) NUMBER PLUCKERS. “Quantum-computing approach uses single molecules as qubits for first time” in Nature.

Physicists have taken the first step towards building quantum computers out of individual molecules trapped with laser devices called optical tweezers. Two teams report their results in Science on 7 December, in both cases making pairs of calcium monofluoride molecules interact so that they became entangled — a crucial effect for quantum computing….

… Both studies used arrays of optical tweezers with one molecule trapped in each tweezer unit. Through laser techniques, they cooled the molecules to temperatures of tens of microkelvin, just millionths of a degree above absolute zero. In this state, the molecules were close to being completely still. Their rotation could be stopped, or they could be made to rotate with just one quantum of angular momentum, called ħ — the smallest rotational frequency they can possibly have. Both teams used non-rotating molecules to represent the ‘0’ state of their qubits, and rotating ones to represent the ‘1’….

Which makes me think of Tom Digby’s filksong “Little Teeny Eyes” (1966):

Oh we got a new computer but it’s quite a disappointment
‘Cause it always gave this same insane advice:
“OH YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT
LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY HANDS FOR MILKING MICE.”

(15) TOMATOMETER: FRESH OR NOT? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Holy leaping Dr. Smith! This saga gives a whole new meaning to Lost in Space. “Tomato lost in space by history-making astronaut has been found” on CNN.

Perhaps nowhere in the universe is a fresh, ripe tomato more valuable than on the International Space Station, where astronauts live for months at a time subsisting mainly on prepackaged, shelf-stable goods.

That’s why astronaut Frank Rubio became the central figure in a lighthearted whodunnit that has taken months to solve.

After Rubio harvested one of the first tomatoes ever grown in space earlier this year, according to the astronaut, he admitted he misplaced it.

“I put it in a little bag, and one of my crewmates was doing a (public) event with some schoolkids, and I thought it’d be kind of cool to show the kids — ‘Hey guys this is the first tomato harvested in space,’” Rubio said during an October media event. “I was pretty confident that I Velcroed it where I was supposed to Velcro it … and then I came back and it was gone.”

In the microgravity environment of space, anything not anchored to a wall is at risk of floating away — destined to spend eternity hidden behind a nook or cranny within the football field-size orbiting laboratory and its labyrinthian passageways.

Rubio said he probably spent eight to 20 hours of his own free time just searching for that tomato.

“Unfortunately — because that’s just human nature — a lot of people are like, ‘He probably ate the tomato,’” Rubio said. “And I wanted to find it mostly so I could prove like I did not eat the tomato.”

But he never found it.

Rubio returned to Earth on September 27 with the precious produce still lost aboard the space station.

It remained lost — until now.

During a Wednesday news conference, members of the seven-person crew remaining on the space station revealed they had finally located the tomato.

Rubio had “been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato,” NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli said. “But we can exonerate him.”…

However, they don’t say where on the ISS it was found.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The PBS Space Time YouTube channel is primarily all about physics. However, occasionally they do physics-adjacent science and sometimes stray into genre adjacent territory, this week being one such occasion when Matt O’Dowd asks whether our human civilisation could be the first technological civilisation on Earth or even visit our planet…

We’re almost certainly the first technological civilisation on Earth. But what if we’re not? We are. Although how sure are we, really? The Silurian hypothesis, which asks whether pre-human industrial civilizations might have existed…

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

Pixel Scroll 10/13/23 The NP-Complete Enchanter

(1) HWA 2023 OFFICER AND TRUSTEE ELECTION RESULTS. The Horror Writers Association (HWA) held its annual election in September. The offices of Vice President and Treasurer ran unopposed. 

HWA’s new Vice President is Lisa Wood, and their new Treasurer is Michael Knost.

Lisa Kröger, Brian Matthews, and Angela Yuriko Smith were re-elected as Trustees; Brian Keene is a newly-elected Trustee.

The elected officers hold their respective offices for terms of two years, beginning on October 31 at midnight. (It’s HWA – what other date would they choose than Halloween?)

(2) INTERZONE GOES ON HIATUS. Gareth Jelley, Editor & Publisher of Interzone and IZ Digital, today sent readers an announcement that Interzone will be suspending publication for a period.

Unfortunately, Interzone is going to be on a (hopefully temporary) hiatus for the next few months. I do not know when I will be able to publish Interzone #296.

I have seen some resubscriptions come in, but the vast majority of subscriptions that lapsed with IZ 294 and IZ 295 have not been renewed, yet. I am optimistic in the long-term, and I intend to get Interzone to #300 and beyond. I am optimistic about the future of IZ. But at the moment, looking at the numbers, it simply isn’t possible for me to say when the next 5 to 10 issues will be published.

Many people made huge contributions in July this year, and these contributions helped to get Interzone #295 out into the world. Thank you for that help. The enthusiasm and passion for Interzone I saw then was staggering. Thank you very much, to each and every subscriber.

Interzone #296 will come out, and it will be a brilliant issue. And I hope that Interzones #297, #298, #299, and #300 will follow at roughly two-month intervals. As soon as I have a date for IZ 296, I will let you know.

If you would like to make a one-off donation to Interzone, the IZ Digital Ko-fi is here:

– https://ko-fi.com/izd

You can renew or extend your subscription, or convert your lifetime subscription to a regular subscription) here:

– https://interzone.press

(3) BIGGEST SCANDINAVIAN BOOK FAIR TO SPACE IN 2024. [Item by Ahrvid Engholm.] The yearly Gothenburg book fair is the biggest in Scandinavia and a major one in Europe. Every year has a theme, and in 2024 the fair goes into space! Having space as theme will surely give science fiction a lot of attention. (Most books dealing with space are undoubtedly sf.) Next year’s fair run from September 26-29, 2024. The site is what is called the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre.

Secondary 2024 theme is Sapmi. That is the northernmost part of Scandinavia with roaming reindeer herders, known as Sami, who call the land Sapmi.

As if they were anticipating this the cultural section of the major newspaper Aftonbladet just published a “literary manifesto” of interest. Through Google Translate: “Now we are changing our way of monitoring the literature”.

Even if the manifesto wasn’t exactly an A-bomb, it hit culture defense lines like a heavy mortar shell. Competing papers and even TV pundits exploded in comments against the manifesto’s message about reviewing more of what people actually read. It mentions science fiction several times. The critics who are not amused peek over the trenches in fear, as the bunker complexes of the traditional highbrow authors now are threatened. One critic even threw away his arms and retreated from Aftonbadet in protest. This saber-rattling adds an extra spice to the 2024 book fair.

There’s also a natural connection between space and Sapmi. The Swedish Space Corporation has upgraded the launch pads — used for sounding rockets, so far — of the Esrange research base for satellite launches. Esrange is in northern Lapland, a part of Sapmi. It may be the first satellite launch from European soil, not counting Russia. Esrange Space Center, Swedish Space Corporation. The first Sapmi sputniks are expected next year, probably well ahead of the book fair.

There’s a lot happening around space right now! Even the cultural sphere enters orbit.

(4) RUBY SLIPPERS. AP News says the person who stole the ruby slippers changed his plea to guilty today: “Man admits stealing ‘Wizard of Oz’ ruby slippers from museum in 2005, but details remain a mystery”.

A man charged in the museum heist of a pair of ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in the “The Wizard of Oz” pleaded guilty Friday in a deal that could keep him out of prison due to his failing health, but only cleared up some of the mystery that dates back 18 years.

Terry Jon Martin, 76, pleaded guilty to a single count of theft of a major artwork. The shoes were stolen in 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in the late actor’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and recovered by the FBI in 2018….

…“Terry has no idea where they were and how they were recovered,” Martin’s attorney, Dane DeKrey, said afterward. “His involvement was that two-day period in 2005.”

Under the plea agreement, DeKrey and federal prosecutor Matt Greenley recommended that Martin not face any time behind bars because of his age and poor health. Martin, who appeared in court in a wheelchair with supplemental oxygen, has advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and struggles to breathe, DeKrey said. The proposed sentence would let Martin die at home, the attorney said….

(5) SANDWORM TEMPO. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Pitchfork did an interview-type article with Toto about doing the soundtrack for Lynch’s adaptation of Dune.

… With A Masterpiece in Disarray, [Max] Evry reevaluates the movie by telling its full story with the help of those who were there, including stars Kyle MacLachlan and Sean Young, and even Lynch himself. Every aspect of Dune is put under the microscope, including its surprisingly quiet and moody score courtesy of the 1980s rock band Toto, best known for their No. 1 hit “Africa.” In the following excerpt, members of Toto recount their experience working with Lynch, Brian Eno’s involvement in the soundtrack, and why they maybe should have just written a song for Footloose instead….

David Paich: I was able to play my main theme for David Lynch. They loved it and hired us on the spot. He had a Walkman, and put this set of phones on me and said, “Tell me if you can make this kind of music for my movie?” He put on two Shostakovich symphonies. He made me listen and said: “I want this music low, and I want it slow.” I thought, Well, I can handle that. This isn’t Star Wars. He’s making the anti-Star Wars movie. He wanted me to avoid anything that’s uplifting, that’s happy, that’s joyous, that’s compelling. He hates popular movies that make people come and eat popcorn and stuff. Super-nice guy, though. He wanted it low and slow….

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

Worldcon train launch, and photos of stations and travel card

The Weibo account of the Chengdu train system has posted several Worldcon-related updates.

A couple of videos and photo galleries showing the local area

In this 4-minute Bilibili video, a local from another district of Chengdu has a walk around the main road to (I think) the south of the con venue.  Amongst other things, you can see Worldcon signage on the block across the road (0’27”) and the school that was mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll (3’00”).  From around 2’40” you can get a feel for the distance between the museum and the Sheraton hotel.

Urban blogger skyxiang1991 posted a new set of photos to Weibo, showing the construction of a sculpture across the lake from the museum.  The post’s text says they have a Three-Body Problem theme; I think they refer to (vague spoilers) something that happens in The Dark Forest, the second book?

This Xiaohongshu video opens with a different view of the topiary that was in a recent Scroll; there seems to be a clock incorporated into the design.  It then moves on to various footage of the interior of the museum.

Miscellaneous videos

Ben Yalow and Carolina Gomez Lagerlof visit the Hua’ai school (video subtitled in English and Chinese)

A six-and-a-half-minute unboxing and taste-test video on Bilibili of the SF World bean paste box-set tie-in that was featured in a Scroll a week or two ago.

(7) CHANGE-UPS. Amal El-Mohtar reviews three new books by Malon Edwards, Melinda Taub and Karen Lord for the New York Times: “P.O.V.: You’re a Jane Austen Character in an Alternate Universe”.

The point-of-view meme has had a steady presence in our social media landscape over the past few years. You’ve probably scrolled past posts that read “P.O.V.: You’re [a specific character doing something wacky],” accompanied by images or videos that supposedly capture said perspective. P.O.V.: You’re a spotted lanternfly sunbathing. (Close-up of shoe tread.) P.O.V.: It’s 1996 and you’re trying to teach kids about irony when Alanis Morissette drops a new single. (Video of cartoon heads exploding.)

In fiction, of course, tinkering with point of view has a long history, as different narration styles have gone in and out of fashion. Here are some recent books where perspective is a site of experiment, subversion and play….

(8) OCTOBER COUNTRY. Meanwhile, Lisa Tuttle reviews Out There Screaming edited by Jordan Peele; A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand; Lamb by Matt Hill; and My Brother’s Keeper by Tim Powers for the Guardian: “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup”.

“I view horror as catharsis through entertainment,” says writer-director Peele (Nope, Get Out) in the foreword to this impressive American anthology. The 19 contributing Black authors offer a wide range of literary nightmares, varying in subject from the horrors of slavery and segregation to ancient evil spirits and newly minted monsters…. 

(9) GREG CRONAU DIES. Past ConFusion ConChair Greg Cronau has passed away. Michael McDowell reported on Facebook:

Greg’s mother called me this afternoon to tell me that Greg passed away last weekend in hospital near his home in Irwin, Pennsylvania. He’d been hospitalized for less than a week, but had been ill much longer. The cause of death was complications from an unchecked bone infection.

(10) TIM UNDERWOOD (1948-2023). Publisher Tim Underwood died October 11 from malignant melanoma. Underwood, then a book and art dealer, and used book dealer Chuck Miller, founded the Underwood–Miller small press in 1976. They published works by Jack Vance, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and Roger Zelazny. In several such cases, the books in question printed recently done stories that either appeared only in magazine form or only in paperback, with no previous hardcover edition. They dissolved the partnership in 1994. That same year Underwood-Miller received a World Fantasy Special Award.

Tim Underwood

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 13, 1906 Joseph Samachson. In 1955, he co-created with artist Joe Certa the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics #225. Earlier he penned a couple of Captain Future pulp novels around 1940 under a house name. (House names often blur who did what.) He also wrote scripts for Captain Video and His Video Rangers, a late Forties to mid Fifties series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born October 13, 1923 Meyer Dolinsky.  He wrote the script for Star Trek’s “Plato’s Children” plus for Mission: ImpossibleScience Fiction TheaterWorld of Giants (which I never heard of), Men into Space, Invaders, Mission: Impossible and The Outer Limits. (Died 1984.)
  • Born October 13, 1936 Robert Ingpen, 87. Australian graphic designer, illustrator, and writer. Winner of the Ditmar Award for the charmingly named Australian Gnomes. His other work in that series was The Poppykettle Papers with Michael Lawrence.
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 67. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium which I think is far better than X-Files was, but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled. The Lone Gunmen which was a good concept poorly executed managed to last thirteen episodes before poor ratings made them bite the bullet. He retired from doing anything creative after The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
  • Born October 13, 1969 Aaron Rosenberg, 54. Children’s books author and games designer according to Siri. He’s written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, Warcraft, Exalted, Stargate Atlantis, and Warhammer, as well as other franchises. He’s even written a novel set In the Eureka ‘verse, Eureka: Roads Less Traveled, under the house name of Cris Ramsay. The Eureka novels sound fascinating. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mostly Harmless prompts Lise Andreasen to question: “This shows a universal problem? Do we have to change Drake’s equation now?”
  • Bizarro uses ancient art to make a horrible modern pun.
  • Bliss shows what can happen when you least expect it.

(13) THE PROTO-PRO. At Bradbury 100, Phil Nichols looks at an early year of the author’s career: “Chronological Bradbury, 1939”.

Here’s a new episode of my Bradbury 100 podcast – and it’s another in my occasional series, “Chronological Bradbury”. Last time I covered 1938, so this time it’s onward to 1939.

1939 finds Ray Bradbury writing under a variety of names:

(14) NBA SUBSTITUTION. “LeVar Burton replaces Drew Barrymore as National Book Awards host” NPR explains why.

Actor, podcaster, and reading advocate LeVar Burton will be the host of this year’s National Book Awards ceremony.

In a statement Friday, Burton, who also hosted the ceremony in 2019, said, “It’s an honor to return as host of the biggest night for books, especially in a moment when the freedom to read is at risk.”

Drew Barrymore was originally slated to host the awards show – commonly referred to as the Academy Awards for literature. That offer was rescinded by the National Book Foundation after she announced she’d return to doing her talk show during the Writers Guild of America’s strike. She eventually reversed that position after strike supporters picketed her show, but not before losing out on the hosting job….

(15) THEY SNAPPED. “‘Goosebumps’ Is Back on TV. Here’s What to Know” says the New York Times.

“Say cheese!” a boy shouts in the first episode of “Goosebumps,” a new series on Disney+ and Hulu, jumping out of a closet as he snaps a Polaroid photo of his friend’s startled face.

The image is familiar to anyone who has read — or just seen the cover — of “Say Cheese and Die!,” one of the most beloved of R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books. The best-selling children’s horror book series, first published in 1992 and still regularly rolling out, follows the adventures of tweens and teens who find themselves in supernatural circumstances.

But now there are a few differences: Unlike in the novels, in which almost every single essential character is white, the boy is Black. The characters are in high school, not middle school. The series is set in the present, not the 1990s. (There’s a “Hamilton” reference in the pilot.)

“We want to make sure the show appeals to the widest audience possible,” said Rob Letterman, who directed the 2015 “Goosebumps” film and created the new show with Nicholas Stoller. (They previously collaborated on the film adaptation of “Captain Underpants.”) The first half of the new 10-episode series premieres, appropriately, on Friday the 13th. (New episodes will arrive every Friday through Nov. 17.)

The first season is based largely on five of the books, including “Say Cheese and Die!”Scholastic Inc….

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rob Thornton, Arnie Fenner, Kathy Sullivan, Ahrvid Engholm, Lise Andreasen, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]