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 12/7/23 Warm Smell Of Scrollitas Rising Up Through The Air

(1) OH WHAT A TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE. Two days ago Xiran Jay Zhao cast a spotlight on reports that a debut author was on Goodreads dropping one-star reviews. Initially, they did not plan to name the person. Original thread starts here.

The person’s forthcoming book was reportedly getting good buzz of its own, and they have “a major social media following”.

Xiran Jay Zhao subsequently decided to share documentation supporting the identification of Cait Corrain as the author behind the one-star reviews. Thread starts here. Here are the “Review Bomb Receipts” they made available at Google Docs. Among the questions raised in the Receipts: “Why a Goodreads account confirmed to be theirs upvoted their book on the same ~37 obscure lists the fake accounts did”.

There has been an attempt to lay off these reviews on a different bad actor, saying it’s not Cait Corrain but a fan from her ReyLo fanfic.

Twitter user Natalie Lief did a roundup from the various social media involved. Thread starts here.

An immediate consequence to Cait Corrain is that K.B. Wagers withdrew a blurb provided for Corrain’s upcoming book. Thread starts here.

Meanwhile, @CaitCorrain has taken their Twitter and Instagram account private.

(2) AFI PICKS. The American Film Institute named its top 10 films and television shows of 2023: “AFI Top 10 Awards”.

AFI Top 10 Motion Pictures of the Year

  • American Fiction (MGM)
  • Barbie (Warner Bros.)
  • The Holdovers (Focus Features)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple Original Films/Paramount Pictures)
  • Maestro (Netflix)
  • May December (Netflix)
  • Oppenheimer (Universal Pictures)
  • Past Lives (A24)
  • Poor Things (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony Pictures)

AFI Top 10 Television Programs of the Year

  • Abbott Elementary (ABC)
  • The Bear (FX)
  • Beef (Netflix)
  • Jury Duty (Amazon Freevee)
  • The Last of Us (Max)
  • The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
  • Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
  • Poker Face (Peacock)
  • Reservation Dogs (FX)
  • Succession (Max)

(3) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 98 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Finally, Manitoba”, has “a stunt Liz in the form of Sandra Bond and a stunt lizard adorning Alison’s cover art. We discuss the fan funds, we discuss NASFiC, and we have an excerpt from Sandra’s TAFF report which is most excellent.”

Sandra Bond explains more clearly: “As I foretold, the first piece of my TAFF report is now available, dealing with Canadian adventures immediately after Pemmi-Con. Notably, this marks the first time ever (I’m pretty sure) that such a chapter has made its debut in a podcast rather than a paper fanzine — namely episode #98 of Hugo-nominee Octothorpe. The episode contains much discussion of fan funds, their nature, and their place in modern fandom, too.” Bond says the full chapter will also appear in a fanzine in due course.

(4) HOW DO THEY KNOW? Karen Myers has some interesting ideas about “Spreading the news offstage” in a post at Mad Genius Club.

All sorts of interesting things are happening to your primary characters. But what’s going on with the rest of the cast? How do they hear about the broad events in the lives of the main players? Do they pick it up from gossip? Do they read it in the news and discuss it among themselves?

If you want a bit player to show up on stage to sympathize with your hero in his travails, how does he even know about them? What about the cute shopgirl who’s just realized the hero’s available? Even the villains have to monitor their targets to track the progress of their plots.

Accounting for this offstage knowledge in the story without tedium is an art in its own right. Something as simple as “I heard about it from X” can illuminate the information trail, assuming that the speaker knows X and X has a plausible news source, too. That’s often the method used for groups of bit players, like servants in a household where gossip is presumed to spread….

(5) WHAT ARE SCHOOL LIBRARIES FOR? “Florida AG Says School Libraries Are for “Government Speech,” Not Free Expression”Them/Us analyzes the AG’s amicus brief.

Florida’s attorney general is claiming that the state’s public school libraries are “a forum for government speech” and “not a forum for free expression,” in a chilling argument that appears to be gaining steam on the right.

In May, free speech and literary nonprofit PEN America filed a lawsuit against Florida’s Escambia School District. The additional plaintiffs in the case are Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, writers of And Tango Makes Three, a picture book depicting real-life gay penguins and one of the country’s most banned books over the past two decades. The plaintiffs allege that when Escambia schools removed Richardson and Parnell’s book from shelves this year, administrators were “depriving students of access to a wide range of viewpoints” and engaging in “viewpoint discrimination,” violating the First Amendment.

But Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican who took office alongside Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019, filed an amicus brief in August arguing the opposite. Though the state itself is not a named party in the case, Moody filed the brief on the grounds of “preserving the government’s authority to decide for itself what materials to curate” in school libraries.

“Florida’s public-school libraries are a forum for government, not private, speech,” Moody argues in the brief, comparing the removal of LGBTQ+ books like Tango to school policies against Nazi propaganda. Although Moody admits in the brief that appeals courts have “not yet addressed” the legal argument she makes, she cites semi-related precedents — such as whether a state can refuse to display a religious monument — to conclude that “the compilation of library materials is government speech.” For that reason, she continues, removing any library materials cannot constitute viewpoint discrimination….

(6) DATA CENTERS ARE LOOKING UP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’m curious what the job requirements list for (on-site) support for potential hires would include. (Also whether this is a Bond or other thriller movie waiting to happen…) “Project Cuts Emissions By Putting Data Centers Inside Wind Turbines” – via Slashdot.

CNN reports on a new German-based project called WindCORES that operates data centers inside existing wind turbines, making them almost completely carbon neutral.

Its solution was to bypass the ‘middleman’ (the grid) altogether, and instead, power IT servers from directly inside the large concrete wind turbine towers. Each tower is 13 meters wide and could potentially hold server racks up to 150 meters high.

(7) SIGMUND AND CLIVE. “’Freud’s Last Session’ Screenplay: Read Script Pairing Freud & C.S. Lewis”. Deadline provides comments as well as a direct link to the script: FLSNOV26.

…Both the play and movie are set on September 3, 1939, when the atheist Freud (Hopkins) and devoutly religious Lewis (Matthew Goode), two of the century’s greatest minds, meet and debate the future of mankind and the existence of God. It comes as Freud and his daughter have recently escaped the Nazi regime, and as he is nearing death with cancer.

The imaginary in-person encounter is peppered in the film with dream sequences, flashbacks and notable characters turning up including Freud’s daughter Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) and Lewis pal J.R.R. Tolkein (Stephen Campbell Moore). Jodi Balfour also stars.

“It’s a balance of the psychology of these two men and this thing that I think is within all of us: We’re all struggling with this human experience,” Brown told Deadline at the recent Contenders Film: Los Angeles….

(8) EXPANDED UNIVERSE. Radio Times agrees “Doctor Who’s queer representation is just what the Doctor ordered”.

… And, as we all know, the Doctor is capable of changing sex, having returned to being played by David Tennant from Jodie Whittaker. This becomes the central question of The Star Beast: how does the Doctor’s gender presentation impact his (her? their?) character and behaviour?

When the Fourteenth Doctor introduces himself to Donna’s husband, Shaun Temple, his psychic paper reads “Grand Mistress of the Knowledge” rather than “Grand Master”. “Oh, catch up!” he exclaims, hitting the paper on the wing mirror. It is an acknowledgement of how the Doctor’s gender is no longer presumed to be fixed, but instead something wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey itself….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. (Died 1978.) I find tonight’s Birthday to be one that’s a real treat as I like both the person, Leigh Brackett, and the work that she did down the years. One of those individuals taken from the Universe far too soon, we can start with her writing the screenplays of The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. Keeping in that vein, she worked on an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back, crucial aspects of which are incorporated in the movie; she never saw it as she died before it went into production. The film won a Hugo at Denvention Two.

The Vampire’s Ghost is her first screenplay.  It was written with John K. Butler. The 1945 film is a true horror film as there really is a vampire to be staked and killed in it. It actually gets rated on Rotten Tomatoes with a thirty-three percent rating by audience reviewers.

Brackett was first published as a genre writer at the age of twenty-five when “Martian Quest” appeared in the February 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The Forties were definitely were her best period for short fiction, with nearly half of her roughly forty stories being written then. Her short fiction I think is quite excellent with it appearing in AstoundingThrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories, as well as Planet Stories

Some of it available from the usual suspects such as the Wildside Press collection of Black Amazon of Mars and Other Tales from the Pulps, and Baen Books claims to have published two ebooks of short stories but who know what happened to them as I can’t find them anywhere.

As you might know, her first novel was a mystery, No Good from a Corpse. The 1999 Dennis McMillan Publications reprint of this mystery also collected all of her crime shorts from the pulps in one volume, and included an intro by Bradbury, a young writer she befriended in the early Forties. This edition was limited to two hundred copies, so currently copies are costing over a hundred if you can find one. 

(That publisher also did a limited edition of Frederic Brown’s Sex Life on Planet Mars. Really don’t ask what the price of a copy is currently.)

Speaking of Bradbury, when Brackett married Edmond Hamilton in 1946, he served as the best man. 

Now moving on to her as a novel writer. The Long Tomorrow, her 1956 novel, saw her a finalist on the committee-created shortlist for the Best Novel Hugo Award, the first women who that got that distinction, and deservedly as she was a fine novel writer indeed. She wrote a lot of novels and all of the ones I’ve read were excellent. Shadow Over Mars published in 1944 won a Retro Hugo at CoNZealand. Do tell me which novels you really liked. 

Eric John Stark, did you think I could forget him? Of course not. Brackett created Stark as a pastiche of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ best selling John Carter of Mars and Tarzan characters but gave him a dark skin appearance instead of the light skinned appearance they had.  Not that the illustrators paid attention to that as the heroes of these stories were always blond haired white males of course. 

Stark first appeared in a group of novellas published in Planet Stories which expanded were into the short novels of The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman. Space operas and so much more at their finest, I enjoy them immensely. All of them are available at the usual suspects though figuring out exactly which are available is a bit difficult as far too many publishers, some legal and far too many not, are selling epubs of them now. Haffner Press is the one authorized by the estate of Leigh Brackett. 

A final story, Stark and the Star Kings places Stark into the world of Edmond Hamilton’s Star Kings series, making it a collaboration between the two.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Existential Comics’ Corey Mohler has a lot of pretty strips featuring philosophers. Here are three more:

(11) SKILL TREE. From The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University comes the latest episode of CSI Skill Tree, a series examining how video games envision possible futures and build thought-provoking worlds. This episode discusses Hypnospace Outlaw (2019), a game that plunges you into an alternate-history version of the 1990s internet. 

The guests are Katherine Buse, assistant professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago, and Ranjodh Singh Dhaliwal, the Ruth and Paul Idzik Collegiate Chair in Digital Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame. Buse and Dhaliwal are also co-designers of Foldit: First Contact, a narrative campaign mode for the renowned citizen science game Foldit.

Hypnospace is a compelling piece of alt-history SF, with themes around cyberspace, wearing technology (and its dangers), hacking and subversion.

(12) YEAR’S TOP YA. The Guardian’s picks for “Five of the best young adult books of 2023” include some genre novels. One of them is –

Island of Whispers
Frances Hardinge, illustrated by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots)
On Merlank Island, the Dead are dangerous; if they aren’t carried away by the Ferryman, their ghosts may linger, blighting the land and killing the living. Milo has never made the journey himself, but when his father, the Ferryman, dies suddenly, he must take his first cargo of souls to the Island of the Broken Tower, all the while pursued by the angry parent of a dead girl. Heightened by Gravett’s blue-white expanses and stark black bricks and timbers, Hardinge’s spare coming-of-age parable is laced with her trademark wisdom and subtlety. A grownup gothic fairytale, somewhere between short story and novella, this is ideal for 11+ readers who enjoy highly illustrated storytelling.

(13) RIPOFF ARTISTS. “The dilemma of terrible people” is Camestros Felapton’s analysis of Hbomberguy’s video about plagiarism linked here a few days ago. Here are a couple of his many interesting points:

  • Firstly, that most of the various creators (“creators” being a bit of a generous term) identified will probably still carry on stealing stuff. Some may lay low for a bit, some may rebrand but the underlying reasons why people do this will continue.
  • Secondly, there’s going to people out there who will watch this video and take it as a “how to” guide.

(14) AUSSIES IN SPACE. TechRepublic asks“Is Australia’s Deep Tech Future in Space?” (Cordwainer Smith would have said yes!)

As far as deep tech goes, Australia’s greatest potential might be to look to the stars. Compared to some nations, Australia’s space industry is comparatively small. However, it is not insignificant, and the government anticipates that it will end up employing around 30,000 people by 2030. In 2021, with about half that number, the sector generated $4.5 billion across more than 600 companies. In 2030, it’s expected to deliver $12 billion to the local economy, and that’s not accounting for all of the innovations that tend to spin off from deep tech innovation.

For example, as one academic working in space education noted, the innovations developed by the space industry will be able to assist Australia in managing bushfires, droughts and agriculture; protect endangered species; and develop climate mitigation strategies. It’s a field of STEM expertise that is going to have a larger impact on the country than many might be aware of….

(15) PILED HIGHER AND DEEPER. “A 27,000-year-old pyramid? Controversy hits an extraordinary archaeological claim”. Nature says “The massive buried structures at Gunung Padang in Indonesia would be much older than Egypt’s great pyramids — if they’re even human constructions at all.”

…Gunung Padang comprises five stepped stone terraces, with retaining walls and connecting staircases, that sit atop an extinct volcano. Between 2011 and 2014, Natawidjaja and colleagues investigated the site using several ground-penetrating techniques to determine what lies beneath the terraces.

They identified four layers, which they conclude represent separate phases of construction. The innermost layer is a hardened lava core, which has been “meticulously sculpted”, according to the paper.

Subsequent layers of rocks “arranged like bricks” were built over the top of the oldest layer. The layers were carbon-dated, using soil lodged between rocks obtained from a core drilled out of the hill. The first stage of construction, according to the paper, occurred between 27,000 and 16,000 years ago. Further additions were made between 8,000 and 7,500 years ago, and the final layer, which includes the visible stepped terraces, was put in place between 4,000 and 3,100 years ago.

[Flint Dibble, an archaeologist at Cardiff University, UK] says there is no clear evidence that the buried layers were built by humans and were not the result of natural weathering and the movement of rocks over time. “Material rolling down a hill is going to, on average, orient itself,” he says….

The original research paper is causing much debate… “Geo‐archaeological prospecting of Gunung Padang buried prehistoric pyramid in West Java, Indonesia”.

(16) MEANINGLESS DIFFERENCES.  Also in Nature: “Is AI leading to a reproducibility crisis in science?” “Scientists worry that ill-informed use of artificial intelligence is driving a deluge of unreliable or useless research.”

During the CoVID-19 pandemic in late 2020, testing kits for the viral infection were scant in some countries. So the idea of diagnosing infection with a medical technique that was already widespread — chest X-rays — sounded appealing. Although the human eye can’t reliably discern differences between infected and non-infected individuals, a team in India reported that artificial intelligence (AI) could do it, using machine learning to analyse a set of X-ray images.

The paper — one of dozens of studies on the idea — has been cited more than 900 times. But the following September, computer scientists Sanchari Dhar and Lior Shamir at Kansas State University in Manhattan took a closer look. They trained a machine-learning algorithm on the same images, but used only blank background sections that showed no body parts at all. Yet their AI could still pick out COVID-19 cases at well above chance level.

The problem seemed to be that there were consistent differences in the backgrounds of the medical images in the data set. An AI system could pick up on those artefacts to succeed in the diagnostic task, without learning any clinically relevant features — making it medically useless.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/23 “What Is The Use Of A Scroll,” Thought Alice, “Without Pixels Or Conversation?”

(1) A FINE IDEA. “Fake reviews are illegal and subject to big fines under new FTC rules” says the Washington Post’s article about a Federal Trade Commission notice of proposed rulemaking.

Fake reviews are ruining the web. But there’s some new hope to fight them.

The Federal Trade Commission on Friday proposed new rules to take aim at businesses that buy, sell and manipulate online reviews. If the rules are approved, they’ll carry a big stick: a fine of up to $50,000 for each fake review, for each time a consumer sees it.

That could add up fast.

It’s the biggest step to date by the federal government to deter the insidious market for buying and selling fake reviews, though the FTC’s rules don’t do as much to hold big review sites like Yelp, Google, Tripadvisor and Amazon directly accountable. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim chief executive Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)…

Here’s the FTC press release: “Federal Trade Commission Announces Proposed Rule Banning Fake Reviews and Testimonials”.

…In its notice of proposed rulemaking, the Commission cited examples of clearly deceptive practices involving consumer reviews and testimonials from its past cases, and noted the widespread emergence of generative AI, which is likely to make it easier for bad actors to write fake reviews.

The Commission is seeking comments on proposed measures that would fight these clearly deceptive practices. For example, the proposed rule would prohibit:

  • Selling or Obtaining Fake Consumer Reviews and Testimonials: The proposed rule would prohibit businesses from writing or selling consumer reviews or testimonials by someone who does not exist, who did not have experience with the product or service, or who misrepresented their experiences. It also would prohibit businesses from procuring such reviews or disseminating such testimonials if the businesses knew or should have known that they were fake or false.
  • Review Hijacking: Businesses would be prohibited from using or repurposing a consumer review written for one product so that it appears to have been written for a substantially different product. The FTC recently brought its first review hijacking enforcement action.
  • Buying Positive or Negative Reviews: Businesses would be prohibited from providing compensation or other incentives conditioned on the writing of consumer reviews expressing a particular sentiment, either positive or negative.
  • Insider Reviews and Consumer Testimonials: The proposed rule would prohibit a company’s officers and managers from writing reviews or testimonials of its products or services, without clearly disclosing their relationships. It also would prohibit businesses from disseminating testimonials by insiders without clear disclosures of their relationships, and it would prohibit certain solicitations by officers or managers of reviews from company employees or their relatives, depending on whether the businesses knew or should have known of these relationships.
  • Company Controlled Review Websites: Businesses would be prohibited from creating or controlling a website that claims to provide independent opinions about a category of products or services that includes its own products or services.
  • Illegal Review Suppression: Businesses would be prohibited from using unjustified legal threats, other intimidation, or false accusations to prevent or remove a negative consumer review. The proposed rule also would bar a business from misrepresenting that the reviews on its website represent all reviews submitted when negative reviews have been suppressed.
  • Selling Fake Social Media Indicators: Businesses would be prohibited from selling false indicators of social media influence, like fake followers or views. The proposed rule also would bar anyone from buying such indicators to misrepresent their importance for a commercial purpose.

(2) NICOLA GRIFFITH WINS FIRST ADCI LITERARY PRIZE. The inaugural ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize went to Nicola Griffith for Spear (Tordotcom Publishing), “a lyrical, queer reimagining of Arthurian legend, in which ‘those usually airbrushed from history take centre stage’” (Via Ansible.)

The prize, launched in 2022 to encourage greater positive representation of disability in literature, was announced alongside ten other prizes which make up the annual Society of Authors’ Awards. The SoA Awards is the UK’s biggest literary prize fund, worth over £100,000, this year shared between 30 writers, poets and illustrators.

The ADCI Literary Prize. Sponsored by Arts Council England, ALCS, the Drusilla Harvey Memorial Fund, and the Professional Writing Academy, the ADCI Literary Prize is awarded to a disabled or chronically ill writer, for an outstanding novel containing a disabled or chronically ill character or characters. Judged by Penny Batchelor, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Nydia Hebden, Karl Knights, Julia Lund, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Vikki Patis and Chloe Timms.

(3) CON OR BUST GRANT OPPORTUNITIES. Dream Foundry’s Con or Bust program for creators and fans of color makes direct cash grants to assist with travel, food, registration, and other expenses associated with attending industry events.

If you’re a person of color planning to go to a convention this year and need support, our Con or Bust program is here for you. Right now we have memberships to the following conventions for any Con or Bust qualifying application.

  • Readercon (July 13-16, 2023)
  • Pemmi-con, aka Nasfic (July 20-23, 2023)
  • Capricon (February 1-4, 2024)

If you want one of these memberships, or need other support from this program, you can apply on the Con or Bust page.

(4) DIAL OF DESTINY. Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara joins Harrison Ford on a lap of his marathon promotional tour: “’Indiana Jones’: There will never be another Harrison Ford”.

…That said, his desire for “Dial of Destiny” to succeed feels quite personal.

“I wanted to be ambitious, for those things we have not necessarily done in such measure,” he said. When asked what he means by “those things,” he explains in that instantly recognizable, back-straightening “take this seriously” tone. “I mean take a chance on telling the story of an older character, take a chance on introducing your character in present day in a totally anti-iconic way, reducing him to his underwear and a La-Z-Boy with a glass in his hand.

“That moment in film,” he says, relaxing into a laugh, “may be one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in a movie. That and grabbing a baseball bat and going out to the neighbors’.”

… Mostly, he said, he wanted to see Indy “inveigled into one last adventure. I wanted to see him at the nadir, where we could pick him up and kick him in the ass. I know what age is about. I wanted to bring that into the story. If I was going to be the actor playing this guy, I wanted the reality of my age.”

But first, in the film’s opening scene, he had to play a younger Indy, which made the contrast of past and present more striking. Ford’s face was de-aged through the miracle of artificial intelligence and Lucasfilm’s trove of images from the earlier films, but “the mouth is my mouth, the eyes are my eyes,” he said. “The voice is me talking in a higher register because age lowers the voice, and the body language I had to act. But he moves like I move and I remembered.”…

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to bite into a baconless BLT with Jordan Kurella in Episode 201 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jordan Kurella

This episode’s guest is Jordan Kurella, who was a Nebula Award nominee this year in the category of Best Novella for I Never Liked You Anyway, which was also longlisted for the BSFA award.  His stories have appeared in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesApexMermaid MonthlyGlitter + AshesStrange Horizons, and many other magazines and anthologies. Some of these were gathered in his short story collection, When I Was Lost, published by Trepidatio in December. In his past lives, he was a photographer, radio DJ, and social worker, and he has also taught at Iowa State University and Rambo Academy.

We discussed which ice cream flavor he chose to celebrate his Nebula Award nomination, the way readers can tell which stories writers had the most fun writing, how  all he needs to pants a story is the first line, what caused him to say “it’s not write what you know, it’s write what you’re embarrassed about,” why he doesn’t like to reread his own published work unless he has to, how to avoid getting stuck in rabbit holes of research, the ways writing a book can be like spending time with your best friends, his rule about story titles, why we’re both so attracted to writing love stories, how playing the violin in public prepared him for surviving rejection, why he published only a single piece of literary fiction before realizing the fantastic was where he belonged, and so much more.

(6) SWATTING. NBC News’ report “The FBI has formed a national database to track and prevent ‘swatting’” includes a long Q&A with Patrick Tomlinson.

Author Patrick Tomlinson and his wife, business owner Niki Robinson, have been “swatted” at their home in Milwaukee more than 40 times, often resulting in police pointing guns at their heads. Their tormentors have also called in false bomb threats to venues using their names in three states. Yet law enforcement hasn’t been able to stop the calls.

The couple’s terror comes as these incidents appear to be on the rise in the U.S., at least on college campuses. In less than a single week in April, universities including Clemson, Florida, Boston, Harvard, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Oklahoma, as well as Middlebury College, were targeted by swatters.

To combat the growing problem, the FBI has begun taking formal measures to get a comprehensive picture of the problem on a national level.

Chief Scott Schubert with the bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services headquarters in Clarksburg, West Virginia, told NBC News that the agency formed a national online database in May to facilitate information sharing between hundreds of police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country pertaining to swatting incidents.

… Security expert Lauren R. Shapiro, who is an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said: “Swatting involves people making fraudulent 911 calls reporting serious-level criminal threats or violent situations like bomb threats, hostages, killing, etc. to fool the police into raiding the house or business of somebody who is not actually committing a crime.”…

… Tomlinson’s troubles began after he posted a casual remark on Twitter in 2018 saying he’d never personally found the comedian Norm Macdonald very funny. As The Daily Beast reported, the tweet caught the attention of online trolls who soon began to harass, stalk, impersonate and defame Tomlinson and his wife, using a website of their own along with social media accounts on Reddit, Twitter and YouTube to target the couple and invite others to pile on. 

Their harassers mostly converge on a website that’s cloned elsewhere so participants can migrate rapidly if their forum is ever banned by a service provider. 

 Since The Daily Beast report, the harassment escalated both online and offline.

The couple was mostly recently swatted at their home on Tuesday, bringing the total of swatting incidents to 43. Tomlinson’s parents, who are senior citizens, also suffered swatting at their home about 2 hours outside of Milwaukee this year…

Whether the FBI’s database will lead to any results is open to question based on past performance.

… At a federal level, Tomlinson filed a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center in November 2020. He never saw a reply to that, so in early May 2022, he went to the Milwaukee branch of the FBI in person to file a new one.

An FBI special agent was assigned to evaluate his case. He says the agency already had a file on Tomlinson because of a false bomb threat that swatters had called into a hotel outside of Detroit in April 2022, a few weeks prior to a presentation he was scheduled to give. The presentation, part of PenguiCon, was titled,”Elon Musk is Full of S—.” 

Since then, “There has been nearly zero communication by the FBI,” Tomlinson said. 

One agent has requested more evidence from his family by email on rare occasions. But the agency has not brought him or his wife in for an interview, and have not arrested people who the couple identified as participants in their harassment and swatting…

(7) CALIFORNIA AVENGERS. Critic Todd Martens tells how “Broadway-style ‘Rogers: The Musical’ charms at Disney’s California Adventure” in the Los Angeles Times.

“Rogers: The Musical” started as a joke in the Disney+ series “Hawkeye,” which presented a challenge for the Disneyland Resort’s live-entertainment team. How, in a 30-minute, heavily condensed Broadway-style show, do you bring a little heft to a production in which fans will be clamoring for cheese? Sure, there’s Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow and the Hulk, among others, but these are superheroes who spend more time flexing jazz hands than muscle.

In the show opening today, directed by Disney’s Jordan Peterson with a book from Hunter Bell, known best for Broadway’s “[title of show],” the answer was simple: heartbreak.

The story of Steve Rogers’ transformation into Captain America is framed by longing — for better days, for acceptance and for love. It allows the production, which veers close to overt patriotism in its opening moments, to find a sense of personal grounding. When an actor playing a young Rogers is framed by an Uncle Sam military recruitment poster, he gets all wistful and rejected: “What’s a guy to do when ‘I want you’ doesn’t mean you?”

Don’t worry, the production doesn’t stay down for long. “Hawkeye” introduced fans to the over-the-top corniness of the song “Save the City,” a work written by Broadway vets Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and it pops up multiple times, each one leaning into the showtune parody that it is. When it wants to, “Rogers: The Musical” embraces its silliness….

…The musical features five original songs, not counting the previously heard “Save the City” and “Star Spangled Man,” which dates to the film “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The new works are credited to composer Christopher Lennertz, with lyrics by Peterson, Lennertz and Alex Karukas. None quite reach the heights of “Save the City,” which went all out in its showtune glitz. “Rogers: The Musical” comes off as a series of puzzle pieces constructed around that signature number.

Lennertz, a composer with a lengthy résumé of film and television credits, including Marvel’s “Agent Carter,” plays it more low-key. The new works largely attempt to take “Rogers” out of parody mode, a decision that accounts for a series of tonal shifts and results in a theatrical mood that’s not quite serious yet not fully goofy.

(8) CSI SKILL TREE. The latest episode in the ASU Center for Science and Imagination’s Skill Tree series on video games, possible futures, and worldbuilding is out, featuring the award-winning science fiction roleplaying game Citizen Sleeper (2022). This episode’s guests are Gareth Damian Martin, the game’s developer, and Phoebe Wagner, a speculative fiction author, researcher, and editor of three solarpunk anthologies, including Sunvault. Here’s a link to the entire Skill Tree playlist, with 12 episodes so far.

(9) ALAN ARKIN (1934-2023). Four-time Oscar nominee Alan Arkin, who won Best Supporting Actor for Little Miss Sunshine (2007), died June 30 at the age of 89. He was perhaps best known for playing Yossarian in Catch-22 but his other three Oscar nominations honored his portrayals of deaf-mute Singer in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Russian Lt. Rozanov in one of my favorite movies, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, and the has-been producer Lester Siegel in the genre-adjacent Argo.  

In Argo (2012), Arkin played the fictional producer of a fake sff movie that provided cover for a CIA operation to rescue Americans caught up in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. He acted in collaboration with a character based on real-life Planet of the Apes makeup man John Chambers, played by John Goodman.

Within the sff genre Arkin did a lot of voice work late in his career – including Dumbo (2019) and Minions: Rise of Gru (2022), but early on voiced Schmendrick in The Last Unicorn (1982).

He’s been in a Muppets movie, in The Monitors (1969), in the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night (1996), played Detective Hugo in Gattaca (1997), The Chief in the movie Get Smart (2008). He had parts in The Seven Percent Solution (Dr. Sigmund Freud — 1976) Edward Scissorhands (1990), and The Rocketeer (1991).

Arkin also won a Tony for his Broadway debut in 1963’s Enter Laughing.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1989 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

This time Mike picked one of my favorite writers, Sheri S. Tepper. Her series have too many exemplary books to list them all and her standalone novels such as Singer from the Sea and The Companions are excellent as well.

She’s been nominated for a lot of Awards but garnered only two, one of which is the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. Grass, the source of our Beginning this time, was published by the Doubleday Foundation in 1989 (one of their first books was Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation), and was a Hugo finalist at ConFiction. 

And it has an absolutely stunning Beginning as you can read here…

Millions of square miles of it; numberless wind-whipped tsunamis of grass, a thousand sun-lulled caribbeans of grass, a hundred rippling oceans, every ripple a gleam of scarlet or amber, emerald or turquoise, multicolored as rainbows, the colors shivering over the prairies in stripes and blotches, the grasses—some high, some low, some feathered, some straight—making their own geography as they grow. There are grass hills where the great plumes tower in masses the height of ten tall men; grass valleys where the turf is like moss, soft under the feet, where maidens pillow their heads thinking of their lovers, where husbands lie down and think of their mistresses; grass groves where old men and women sit quiet at the end of the day, dreaming of things that might have been, perhaps once were. Commoners all, of course. No aristocrat would sit in the wild grass to dream. Aristocrats have gardens for that, if they dream at all.

Grass. Ruby ridges, blood-colored highlands, wine-shaded glades. Sapphire seas of grass with dark islands of grass bearing great plumy green trees which are grass again. Interminable meadows of silver hay where the great grazing beasts move in slanted lines like mowing machines, leaving the stubble behind them to spring up again in trackless wildernesses of rippling argent. 

Orange highlands burning against the sunsets. Apricot ranges glowing in the dawns. Seed plumes sparkling like sequin stars. Blossom heads like the fragile lace old women take out of trunks to show their granddaughters.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 30, 1902 Lovat Dickson. Australian-born publisher and author who wrote a biography of H G Wells, H G Wells: His Turbulent Life and Times. He was the first Canadian to have a major publishing role in Britain. (Died 1982.)
  • Born June 30, 1905 Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft-forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adams Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con because they threatened to disrupt it in which was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, He edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 64. His long running-role is Detective Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is in no way genre. He was Kingpin in Wilson Fisk / Kingpin in four television series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film to date and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye.
  • Born June 30, 1963 Rupert S. Graves, 60. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 57. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the terribly underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black and a recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. 
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 51. Maureen Robinson on the Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man as Sister Rose / Sister Thorn. She also was Alma Garret on Deadwood. No, not genre but Emma and Will love the series. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WIDOWMAKER. Sarah Gailey will be writing Marvel’s White Widow comic reports The Mary Sue: “Yelena Belova Fans, Our Time Is Now With This New ‘White Widow’ Comic!”

Being a fan of Yelena Belova keeps getting better and better. The younger sister of Natasha Romanoff, Yelena is also a widow and is everything that a sassy younger sister could be. And now she’s getting her very own time in the spotlight with a new comic series! First appearing in 1998, Belova quickly became a popular character for fans of Nat but she gained a new level of fame when Florence Pugh took on the role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Getting her own comic storyline is just exciting evidence of how popular Yelena Belova has grown throughout the last twenty-five years. As someone who relates to Yelena Belova a lot (and she’s one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters), this comic makes me incredibly excited for the future of her character!

Called White Widow, the series is created by writer Sarah Gailey and they worked along side artist Alessandro Miracolo to bring her to life. David Marquez gave us a perfectly Yelena cover and the entire reveal is a dream come true for fans. Sometimes, you wait a long time to see a character you love get their time in the spotlight and that’s exactly what is happening with White Widow. She’s not the little sister in Nat’s shadow anymore with this series!

(14) AI IN CINEMA. [Item by Steven French.] The Guardian seems to be having a bit of a bout of listmania these days but this one contains some interesting recommendations: “The best films about AI – ranked!”

16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The first Avengers sequel isn’t particularly good, but at least it introduced cinema to the AI lifeform Ultron. Tasked with sparing the Avengers from having to suit up whenever a new baddie rolls into town, Ultron quickly realises that the greatest threat to world peace is humanity and – in time-honoured AI fashion – attempts to eradicate it himself. The moral of Age of Ultron is clear: trust AI less than the irresponsible billionaires who invented it.

(15) FUTURE TENSE. The June story in the Future Tense Fiction monthly series is “The Big Four v. ORWELL,” by Jeff Hewitt, about a copyright lawsuit against a prolific AI author.

The response essay is by sff novelist Ken Liu, “The Imitation Game”.

… But what about ChatGPT-5, ChatGPT-15, or ChatGPT-55? Assuming this goes on, in classic science fiction fashion, the LLMs will surely continue to blur the lines between artificial and “real” authors. That blurriness is the setup for Jeff Hewitt’s “The Big Four v. ORWELL,” a courtroom drama in which a group of publishers sue ORWELL, an A.I. that has become a prolific author, for copyright infringement.

I have my doubts that the current approach to building LLMs, essentially an exercise in statistically predicting the most likely next “token” given a string of tokens, can lead to the holy grail of artificial general intelligence, an imagined state of crafted cognition capable of accomplishing any intellectual task a human can. (ORWELL definitely appears to be an AGI.) Symbol manipulation alone, without more, must plateau at some point short of “true” intelligence—or so I tell myself (using strings of symbols, of course, smug with irony). To be sure, there is reason to be humble here. Decades ago, when I was studying A.I. in college, the idea that anything resembling the current brute-force approach could construct a virtual entity that could tutor you on any subject you liked, compose college essays, and even answer personal ads would have seemed like handwavium sci-fi. And yet, here we are. So, maybe I’m wrong about the future this time too….

(16) SERVING KAIJU CHOW. “Taiwan restaurant launches ‘Godzilla’ crocodile ramen” reports Taiwan News. These days there’s always a suspicion that such a photo is produced with AI, but the ingredient seems plausible.

A restaurant in Douliu City, Yunlin County debuted its “Godzilla” ramen featuring crocodile meat as its main ingredient.

Nu Wu Mao Kuei (女巫貓葵) announced on Facebook the launch of its “Godzilla” ramen, which is prepared by steaming or braising the front leg of a crocodile. In a clip, a young female customer samples both flavors and describes the dish as surprisingly delicious.

She says the steamed version of the dish resembles chicken, while the braised meat has a taste similar to pork feet. The soup contains over 40 spices, and the owner reportedly learned how to make the spicy “witch soup” during a trip to Thailand, SETN reported

The crocodiles used for this dish are sourced from a farm in Taitung. The owner was inspired by the giant isopods ramen, which went viral at another restaurant.

(17) TYPECASTING. [Item by Tom Becker.] Womprat is a bold font, inspired by the classic “STAR WARS” text on the movie poster. But that is just the beginning. There are alternate character sets, ligatures, symbols, and special glyphs galore. It is clearly the work of obsessive font geeks who are also massive Star Wars fans. It is a delight just to browse the glyphs or the free desktop background at http://womprat.xyz

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From Good Omens’ second season: “What’s The Point Of It All? – Season 2 Sneak Peek”.

A brand new Good Omens Season 2 clip from the upcoming return of Amazon Studios’ fantasy comedy series has been released, featuring David Tennant as Crowley. The next installment will be available for streaming on July 28 on Prime Video.

The video confirms Crowley’s current status in Hell as persona non grata, as the fan-favorite demon continues to question the point of Heaven and Hell. It also features Miranda Richardson’s newest character, who has now assumed the role of Hell’s representative in London after previously playing the role of Madame Tracy in Season 1.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Steven French, Juli Marr, Tom Becker, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, 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 6/22/22 Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh

(1) HOW WRITERS GET UNPAID. Quenby Olson shows how a returned book costs her money on Amazon. Thread starts here.

Olson backed up the account with Vice’s article “TikTok Users Are Showing Readers How To Game Amazon’s Ebook Return Policy”.

A TikTok trend where users encourage others to purchase, read, and return Amazon ebooks within the company’s return policy window has irked independent authors, who claim to have seen dramatic spikes in their ebook return rates since the trend went viral.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line. 

“When you buy a digital book, if you read and return it, Amazon just turns around and gets the money back from the author, plus Amazon builds in a digital delivery fee and so Amazon is still getting that delivery fee but we get all the royalties taken back,” Kessler told Motherboard. 

Kessler, who self-publishes several book series, says that before the challenge, she would see on average one or two returns per month. But when she checked her Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales dashboard on June 1st, she says she was shocked to find a negative account balance….

(2) JUST A SECOND. The Fall of Númenor, a collection of Tolkien’s works about the Second Age of Middle-Earth, will be published by HarperCollins in November 2022. The book will appear after Amazon Prime releases the streaming series The Rings of Power, set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, in September 2022. “New Tolkien book: The Fall of Númenor to be published” at The Tolkien Society.

A HarperCollins press release included in the post explains that the volume is edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee.

…Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

(3) BALTICON UPDATE. Balticon’s post-convention email dated June 17 included the following update about the Code of Conduct investigation that is addressing events reported by File 770 here, here, and here.

(4) LIBRARY E-BOOK RELIEF UNCONSTITUTIONAL. “In Final Order, Court Declares Maryland’s Library E-book Law Unconstitutional” reports Publishers Weekly.

In a June 13 opinion and order, Judge Deborah L. Boardman declared Maryland’s library e-book law “unconstitutional and unenforceable” all but ending a successful months-long legal effort by the Association of American Publishers to block the law.

“In its February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court determined that the Maryland Act likely conflicts with the Copyright Act in violation of the Supremacy Clause,” Boardman’s opinion reads. “Although neither AAP nor the State has moved for summary judgment on any claim, they agree a declaratory judgment may be entered… Therefore, for the reasons stated in the February 16, 2022 memorandum opinion, the Court finds that the Maryland Act conflicts with and is preempted by the Copyright Act. The Act ‘stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”

… First introduced in January 2021, the Maryland library e-book law required any publisher offering to license “an electronic literary product” to consumers in the state to also offer to license the content to public libraries “on reasonable terms.” The bill passed the Maryland General Assembly unanimously on March 10, and went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In response, the AAP filed suit on December 9, 2021 arguing that the Maryland law was pre-empted by the federal Copyright Act. Just days after a February 7 hearing, Boardman agreed with the AAP and temporarily enjoined the law. Boardman’s order this week now permanently renders the law enforceable….

(5) CENSORSHIP CASE IN VIRGINIA. Publishers Weekly also reports, “Lawyers Say ‘Defective’ Virginia Obscenity Claims Should Be Tossed”.

First filed in May by lawyer and Republican Virginia assembly delegate Tim Anderson on behalf of plaintiff and Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, the suits allege that the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and A Court of Mist and Fury by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas—are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” On May 18, a retired local judge found there was “probable cause” for the obscenity claims and ordered the authors and publishers to answer the charges, raising the possibility that the court could bar the books from public display and restrict booksellers and librarians from providing the books to minors without parental consent.

But in filings late last week, lawyers for Kobabe and her publisher, Oni Press, and Maas and her publisher Bloomsbury, along with lawyers for Barnes & Noble, told the court the suits as filed are defective and the remedy sought unconstitutional.

“The petition and show cause order are facially defective because [the Virginia law] does not authorize a court to declare that the book is ‘obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors,’” reads a joint filing by Maas and Bloomsbury, explaining that the Virginia law “cannot constitutionally be the basis for the relief sought by petitioner as a matter of law.”

In separate filings, Kobabe and Oni Press also argue the law in question is misapplied and the complaint defective. “The statute permits the challenge of a book on the grounds that it is ‘obscene’ to the entirety of the community of the Commonwealth,” reads the brief from Oni Press lawyers. “Petitioner here attempts to redefine [the Virginia law] to have book declared obscene as it relates to one subset of the Community: minors in the Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach areas.”

Furthermore, lawyers for the authors and publishers argue that the books in question do not come close to meeting the standard for obscenity as established by the Supreme Court, which requires that materials, even if they contain explicit material, be found to lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Thus, the relief requested by the plaintiffs would be “an unconstitutional restraint on free speech,” lawyers argue.

(6) THE MIGHTY NATALIE. “’Thor: Love and Thunder’: How Natalie Portman Grew Nine Inches Taller”Variety divulges the answer at the link.

…“I definitely got as big as I’ve ever been,” Portman explained for Variety‘s cover story. “You realize, ‘Oh, this must be so different, to walk through the world like this.’”

Portman means that quite literally. Along with getting her arms and shoulders as swole as humanly possible, Portman’s Mighty Thor also stands 6 feet tall — nearly 10 inches larger than Portman’s actual height.

… To date, no one has figured out how an actor can safely elongate their body, so director Taika Waititi and his crew needed to figure out how to get Portman to the proper height for scenes in which she walked with her co-stars. Their solution proved to be about as low-tech as a Marvel movie can get….

(7) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series will be changing its schedule to the second Wednesday of the month. The date change begins on September 14, 2022. Both the July and August readings will be on the third Wednesday as originally scheduled.

After more than twenty years of being held on the third Wednesday of every month, the Fantastic Fiction reading series, currently hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel at the KGB Bar in Manhattan, will be switching to the second Wednesday of the month, beginning in September, for the foreseeable future. Previously, the series was held on the third Wednesday of the month.

During the Pandemic, when Covid cases in New York City were dangerously high, hosts Ellen and Matt decided to go virtual (via YouTube) for the safety of all. This virtual period lasted for more than eighteen months, during which time Ellen and Matt were able to bring in guests, many of whom were unable to visit New York in person, from all over the world, including Pakistan, Barbados, the U.K., Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

During this same period a younger crowd less fearful of Covid began to congregate in person at the KGB Bar during the series’ usual third Wednesday. When the Fantastic Fiction series finally returned to the KGB Bar in person in late 2021 and early 2022, the KGB Bar saw a significant drop in income. Because of this, the KGB Bar owner has asked Ellen and Matt to switch weeks for this “big earner/younger generation” that they wish to accommodate on the third Wednesday of each month.

(8) EAR TO THE GROUND. CSI Skill Tree is a series from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University.The latest event in the CSI Skill Tree series on how video games envision possible futures and create thought-provoking experiences will streamed on Thursday, July 7, from 2:00-3:15 p.m. Eastern. The event is free and open to everyone—here is the registration link.

In this event, speculative fiction author Tochi Onyebuchi and composer/sound designer Amos Roddy will discuss how sound and music in games contributes to worldbuilding, storytelling, and immersion. They’ll look closely at Inside (2016), a moody adventure game with environmental puzzles and grim, industrial aesthetics.

Roddy’s other sound work in games is frequently for science fiction titles (most recently, Citizen Sleeper), and Onyebuchi is an incredibly talented SF storyteller. 

(9) AN IDEA THAT WHIFFED. Galactic Journey knows exactly what the public in 2022 wants to hear about the Worldcon – which is nothing good, of course – and presents: “[June 22, 1967] The Stench Arising from the World Convention” by Alison Scott.

…Here we are in 1967, and Ted White, from his lofty position of power as chairman of NyCon 3, this year’s World SF Convention, has decided that the time has come to expand the existing Best Fanzine Hugo. I think that many of we actifans would welcome additional awards for Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist. However, the NyCon 3 committee – and I think we must assume this is mostly Ted – decided to unilaterally create a new class of awards, the Fan Achievement Awards, by analogy to the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and to nickname them the “Pongs”, by analogy to the “Hugos”….

P.S. Even at the time almost everyone said they hated the idea. That’s why in the end the NyCon 3 committee actually did call these added fan awards Hugos.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1925 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s keep in mind that ninety-seven years ago when this first version of The Lost World premiered, A. Conan Doyle was very much alive. This is very important as he was involved in the film including writing the script from his novel and being involved in the production quite personally. Doyle said repeatedly that Challenger, not Holmes, was his favorite creation.

Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, The Lost World featured the amazing stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, the dinosaurs here being a great look at what he would do on King Kong in eight yers. Nine different types of dinosaurs were created including of course Tyrannosaurus. A very crowded plateau it was. Some of the dinosaur models made for this film were collected later by Ackerman.

It cost seven hundred thousand to make and grossed one point three million. Studios being relatively honest in those days, we can say it actually made money. 

Full early prints include an introduction by Doyle. Later prints removed this.  

The New York Times after seeing early reels of the dinosaurs said if these be “monsters of the ancient world, or of the new world which he has discovered in the ether, were extraordinarily lifelike. If fakes, they were masterpieces.” Contemporaneous reviews such as the LIFE one say the same thing: “In The Lost World, as it appears on the screen, the animals have been constructed with amazing skill and fidelity and their movements, though occasionally jerky, are generally convincing.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have a sixty-nine percent rating for it.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 — H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1894 — George Fielding Eliot. ISFDB has scant listings from him and Wiki is not much better but shows “The Copper Bowl”  in Weird Tales in the December 1928 issue and notes that thirty years later he has “The Peacemakers”  in the Fantastic Universe in January 1960 edition. Stitching this together using the EofSF, I’ll note he wrote Purple Legion: A G-Man Thriller, a really pulpish affair. As Robert Wallace, he wrote “The Death Skull Murders”, one of the Phantom Detective stories, a series that came out after The Shadow and ran for a generation. (Died 1971.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 — Kris Kristofferson, 86. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly I’ll note he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes.
  • Born June 22, 1947 — Octavia Butler. I think her Xenogenesis series is her most brilliant work though I’m also very, very impressed by the much shorter Parable series. I’m ambivalent on the Patternist series for reasons I’m not sure about. Her first Hugo was L.A. Con II (1984) for her “Speech Sounds” short story and she also got a Hugo for her “Bloodchild” novelette at Aussiecon Two (1985). DisCon III (2021) saw Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation with text by her obviously as adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings pick up the Best Graphic Story or Comic Hugo. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Edward M Lerner, 73. I’m here today to praise the Ringworld prequels that he co-wrote with Niven, collectively known as Fleet of Worlds which ran to five volumes. Unlike the Ringworld sequels which were terribly uneven, these were well written and great to read. I’ve not read anything else by him.
  • Born June 22, 1949 — Meryl Streep, 73. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it.
  • Born June 22, 1958 — Bruce Campbell, 64. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked him just as much in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and god awful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 — Ian Tregillis, 49. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a  rather good serial fiction narrative (if that’s the proper term), and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I haven’t  checked out. He’s also a contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series which I’m beginning to suspect everyone has been involved in.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Joel Merriner mashes up Gotham with Middle-Earth.

(13) THE READING LIFE. The Critic’s Paul Dean mourns the decline of the second-hand book trade in “Bookshops remaindered”.

At the Oxford Book Fair in April, the presence of a hundred exhibitors from all over Britain suggested that Covid had not killed off the antiquarian book trade. But those who buy antiquarian books are not necessarily interested in reading, any more than those who buy hundreds of cases of rare wines are interested in drinking.

The second-hand market — for immediate consumption rather than laying down — is a different matter, as Oxford itself sadly demonstrates. In the 1970s, Blackwell’s second-hand department occupied the whole of the top floor. By 2000, it occupied most of the third floor. Now it shivers forlornly in a few feet of the first floor.

Will Waterstones, Blackwell’s new owners, bother to keep it? One second-hand bookshop after another has closed in Oxford, leaving two admittedly excellent Oxfams, St Philip’s Books opposite the cathedral, a new small outlet in the Covered Market, and the ominously named The Last Bookshop in Jericho. Thornton’s and Robin Waterfield are much missed. The former still sells online, but, although I plead guilty to online buying, that is not the same. It is like eating the menu instead of the food….

(14) GETTING READY TO INTERACT WITH AI. “Soon, Humanity Won’t Be Alone in the Universe” says David Brin in his opinion piece for Newsweek.

…In 2017 I gave a keynote at IBM’s World of Watson event, predicting that “within five years” we would face the first Robotic Empathy Crisis, when some kind of emulation program would claim individuality and sapience. At the time, I expected — and still expect — these empathy bots to augment their sophisticated conversational skills with visual portrayals that reflexively tug at our hearts, e.g. wearing the face of a child. or a young woman, while pleading for rights… or for cash contributions. Moreover, an empathy-bot would garner support, whether or not there was actually anything conscious “under the hood.”

One trend worries ethicist Giada Pistilli, a growing willingness to make claims based on subjective impression instead of scientific rigor and proof. When it comes to artificial intelligence, expert testimony will be countered by many calling those experts “enslavers of sentient beings.” In fact, what matters most will not be some purported “AI Awakening.” It will be our own reactions, arising out of both culture and human nature.

Human nature, because empathy is one of our most-valued traits, embedded in the same parts of the brain that help us to plan or think ahead. Empathy can be stymied by other emotions, like fear and hate — we’ve seen it happen across history and in our present-day. Still, we are, deep-down, sympathetic apes.

But also culture. As in Hollywood’s century-long campaign to promote—in almost every film — concepts like suspicion-of-authority, appreciation of diversity, rooting for the underdog, and otherness. Expanding the circle of inclusion. Rights for previously marginalized humans. Animal rights. Rights for rivers and ecosystems, or for the planet. I deem these enhancements of empathy to be good, even essential for our own survival! But then, I was raised by all the same Hollywood memes….

(15) SPIDER-REX. “Spider-Rex Makes His Roaring Debut on Leinil Francis Yu’s New ‘Edge of Spider-Verse’ #1 Variant Cover” Marvel announced today.

The future of the Spider-Verse is here! Launching in August, Edge of Spider-Verse will be five-issue limited series that introduces brand-new Spider-heroes and redefines fan-favorites such as Araña, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Man: India! Each thrilling issue will contain three stories crafted by Marvel’s biggest Spider talents including an overarching narrative by Dan Slott who will lay the groundwork for the epic conclusion of the Spider-Verse later this year. Edge of Spider-Verse #1 will see the debut of Spider-Rex in a story by hit Spider-Woman creative team, Karla Pacheco and Pere Perez. Fans can see this awesome and one-of-a-kind Spider-Hero in a brand-new variant cover by Leinil Francis Yu.

(16) WEIRD AL’S SONG FOR STAR WARS. There might actually be a few notes from it in this trailer, I’m not sure. “LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation”, set shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, features the voices of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, and returning cast members from previous LEGO Star Wars specials, and includes “Weird Al’s” new original song, “Scarif Beach Party”.

(17) CAT NOT SLEEPING ON SFF. Enjoy this entertaining trailer for “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”.

This Christmas, everyone’s favorite leche-loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar® nominee Salma Hayek).

(18) SHOULD BE WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This Rube Goldberg machine by Creezy has been viewed nearly 10 million times, but not on File 770! “The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot”.

(19) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! [Item by Daniel Dern.] To help you decipher today’s Scroll title “Heigh-ho, The Battling Throg, The Frog Down In Valhalla, Oh” —

Throg is Frog Thor, The Frog Of Thunder, first introduced by Walt Simonson in 1986 (see “Thor Left Asgard’s Future to Marvel’s Strangest Thunder God”), although, Marvel being Marvel (sigh), there are now several variants and versions…

“Heigh-Ho etc” riffs on the Irish folk song “Heigh-Ho, The Rattlin’ Bog” popularized by The Irish Rovers and done by many others including Seamus Kennedy,

(20) AMATEURS DRIVING THE CHARIOT OF APOLLO. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] James Burke and John Parry tour an Apollo training facility, crash a “scooter” on the Moon and mispronounce “Houston” in this clip from the BBC show Tomorrow’s World in 1968.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This is buzzzzzare! “Best-Case Scenario, Worst-Case Scenario and One with Bees” from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/6/22 This Is The Hour When Moonstruck Faneds Know What Pixels Scroll In Yuggoth

(1) PRESSING ON. Apex Book Company is seeking $6,200 to publish a print compilation anthology of all the original genre short fiction that appeared in their digital publication, Apex Magazine, during the 2021 calendar year. Their Kickstarter project, “Apex Magazine 2021 Compilation Anthology by Apex Publications”, at this writing has raised $2,376. The appeal runs through April 22.

Apex Magazine had an exceptional 2021. Seven of the zine’s stories made the Locus Magazine Suggested Reading List. The zine placed a story on the Nebula finalist list and won a Stabby Award. In October 2021, we published an issue dedicated to Indigenous authors. In December 2021, we dedicated an issue to international authors.

The anthology will include 48 stories from a diverse group of new and established writers and will feature the Apex Magazine Readers’ Choice Award-winning artwork “Entropic Garden” by Marcela Bolívar on the cover.

(2) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has released its newest StoryBundle, Magic Awakens, for a limited time only, from April 6 to April 28. This StoryBundle offers a large selection of ebooks from independent and small press fantasy writers, and can be purchased at https://storybundle.com/fantasy.

If a smooth sea never made a skilled mariner, then a tranquil world never forged a powerful hero: Meet fourteen budding sorceresses, wizards, and magic wielders of all ages and types as they face horrible threats that force them to confront their nascent abilities and to strengthen their powers and themselves. Then join each character on their own thrilling adventure once the Magic Awakens!

SFWA StoryBundles are curated collections of ebooks offered at a steeply discounted price. Readers who purchase Magic Awakens will gain a rich collection of fantasy fiction and can opt to donate part of their purchase price to support SFWA’s ongoing work to promote and support speculative fiction genres and writers.

Readers may choose what price they want to pay for the initial four books, starting at $5. Spending $20 unlocks ten more books that they can receive with their purchase. Once April 28 passes, this particular collection will never be available again! Further details about how StoryBundle operates are available at https://storybundle.com/faq

(3) CSI SPARKLE SALON. The second episode of the Science Fiction Sparkle Salon has been released by the Center for Science and the Imagination. It features sff authors Malka Older, Annalee Newitz, Arkady Martine, Amal El-Mohtar, and Karen Lord, and scientist Katie Mack, discussing a wide range of topics

(4) IN OUR OWN WORDS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4 discusses the lexicography of SF and SF fandom.  Being interviewed is not Jeff Prucher, of the stonkingly brilliant Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, but Jesse Sheidlower of the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. You can access the programme on BBC Sounds – “Word of Mouth – The Language of Sci-Fi”.

Jessie Sheidlower

(5) PRESENTING THE BILL. “Canada Introduces Bill Requiring Online Giants to Share Revenues With Publishers” reports the New York Times.  

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation on Tuesday that would require companies like the parents of Google and Facebook to pay Canadian media outlets for allowing links to news content on their platforms.

Canadian publishers, many of which are struggling financially, have long pushed the government for such a measure, arguing that the advertising revenue that previously was the foundation of their businesses has overwhelmingly migrated to global online giants.

That pressure increased after Australia passed a similar measure in 2021 and Europe revised its copyright laws to compensate publishers.

“The news sector in Canada is in crisis,” Pablo Rodriguez, the minister of Canadian heritage, said at a news conference. “This contributes to the heightened public mistrust and the rise of harmful disinformation in our society.”

Mr. Rodriguez said that 450 media outlets in Canada closed between 2008 and last year….

(6) ASHCANS TO AUCTION. Heritage Auction’s Intelligent Collector give the background as “Historic DC Comics Prototypes Soar to Auction”. (Images at the link.)

Thirty-seven years ago, Gary Colabuono saw his first ashcan. “And I did not know what they were,” he says now, decades after he began collecting, preserving and promoting these cheaply made, stapled-together black-and-white mock-ups made to secure a comic book title’s trademark and meant to be tossed into the trash.

In time, Colabuono became the expert on these lost rarities from the earliest days of the comic-book industry. Now, four of his ashcans – including one of two surviving Superman Comics ashcans from 1939 – head to market for the first time during Heritage Auctions’ history-making April 7-10 Comics & Comic Art Signature® Auction….

(7) THE MASTER’S VOICE. Alan Moore gives an introduction to a BBC writing course which seems the British equivalent of a Masterclass course. “Introducing – Alan Moore – Storytelling – BBC Maestro”.

Step into the world of Alan Moore’s incredible imagination and learn from the mastermind behind comics like From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Swamp Thing, and novels including the modern literary classic Jerusalem. Learn about Alan Moore’s writing process and how he combines character, story, language and world-building to create the tales that have won him fans the world over. Ideal for aspiring fiction writers, this online course includes downloadable course notes to guide you on your own creative journey.

(8) AT BREAK OF DON. Eleanor Morton does hilarious impressions of the two Inklings in “JRR Tolkien tells CS Lewis about his new character”.

(9) NEHEMIAH PERSOFF (1919-2022). A prolific actor with over 200 screen and TV credits, Nehemiah Persoff died April 5 at the age of 102.

His first genre role was playing Ali Baba in an episode of Shirley Temple’s Storybook (1958). He worked constantly, with many appearances in other sff TV series: The Twilight Zone (“Judgment Night”; 1959), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Off to See the Wizard (voice), The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Land of the Giants, The Magical World of Disney, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Invisible Man, Wonder Woman, Logan’s Run, The Bionic Woman, Supertrain, Battlestar Galactica, Fantasy Island, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he voiced Papa Mousekewitz in 1986’s An American Tail and two video sequels.  

Steve Vertlieb wrote about his visit with Persoff in 2019 for File 770.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1922 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]

To John Vine Milne

My dear Father,
Like all really nice people, you have a weakness for detective
stories, and feel that there are not enough of them. So, after
all that you have done for me, the least that I can do for you
is to write you one. Here it is: with more gratitude and
affection than I can well put down here.

— A. A. Milne in his preface to The Red House Mystery

A century ago today, A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery was published by Methuen in the United Kingdom. This is his only mystery and it’s a most splendid Manor House mystery, one of the best ever written if I must so myself which I will.  Milne tells the story of the mysterious death of Robert Ablett inside the house of his brother, Mark Ablett, while there was a party taking place. It’s a whodunit that’s wonderfully told.

That was written prior to Winnie the Pooh and was an immediate success with the reading public and critics alike. Alexander Woollcott of the New Yorker at the time called it “one of the three best mystery stories of all time” though he himself would later be judged harshly by Raymond Chandler who also disliked British mysteries in general. (Ahhh feuds among critics. Lovely things they are.)  It has stood nicely the test of time and is still considered a splendid mystery.

It is now in the public domain so you can find it at the usual suspects for free though there are also copies being sold by publishers as well. Audible has four versions of the novel including a full cast production.  I really should listen to that version. 

If you interested in acquiring a first British edition, dig deep into your bank account as that will set you back, assuming that edition is on the market, at least thirteen thousand dollars currently.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the revamped and stripped-down DC Universe app. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 6, 1935 Douglas Hill. Canadian author, editor and reviewer. For a year, he was assistant editor of Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine. I’m going to admit that I know more of him as a decidedly and to be admired Leftist reviewer than I do as writer, indeed he held the same post of Literary Editor at the socialist weekly Tribune as Orwell earlier did. Who here is familiar with fiction? He was quite prolific indeed. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 85. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/Net and Just/In Time which are available from the usual suspects.
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 84. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Colins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy
  • Born April 6, 1942 Anita Pallenberg. It’s not a long genre resume but she was in Barbarella as, I kid you not, Black Queen, Great Tyrant of Sogo, the chief villainess. Over forty years later, she had a minor role as Diana in a Grade B film 4:44 Last Day on Earth. Now I’m going to expand this Birthday by crediting her as the muse of the Rolling Stones which is surely genre adjacent, isn’t it? She was the lover of Brian Jones, and later, from 1967 to 1980, the partner of Keith Richards, with whom she had three children. Of course she appeared in that documentary about the Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil. (Died 2017.)
  • Born April 6, 1944 Judith McConnell, 78. Here for being in Star Trek’s “Wolf in the Fold” as Yeoman Tankris. Need I say what happened to her? Well you’d be wrong as she survived. (I looked it up to be sure as the body count was high.) She also during this time appeared on Get Smart in “The King Lives” as Princess Marta, and she’d much later be in Sliders for several episodes. 
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 45. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written in Swedish, was translated by the author into English and won a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro really should be more impressed with The Mildly Surprising Spider-Man.

(13) SHINY. Could these be “The 15 Greatest Covers In All Of Comics”? Buzzfeed thinks so.

Mainly featuring heroes and villains in colorful costumes, comic book covers have succeeded in catching readers’ attention, but these covers are truly the best of the best. These are the 15 Greatest Covers in All of Comics.

(14) SKILL TREE. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree series on video games, storytelling, worldbuiding, and futures thinking is now live, with SF author Ken Liu and video game designer Liz Fiacco discussing the 2020 game Cloud Gardens, a 2020 game about using plants to overgrow and transform abandoned post-industrial landscapes. This episode is presented in collaboration with Orion Magazine, a quarterly publication working at the convergence of ecology, art, and social justice. All nine Skill Tree episodes are available to view at this playlist.

(15) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCES. NPR advocates for George O’Connor’s version of the Greek gods: “A graphic novel series for kids that doesn’t leave out gender fluidity”.

…Dionysos: The New God is the last of O’Connor’s Olympians, a series of graphic novels he’s been writing and illustrating for the last 12 years. Each book retells the ancient Greek myths through the lens of one of the gods or goddesses, from Athena, goddess of wisdom, to Hephaistos, god of the forge.

O’Connor’s illustrations are bursting with action, humor and lots of details. He researched the ancient myths in order to get as close as possible to the original stories. That means his gods and goddesses are fierce, but also voluptuous, mischievous and even snarky. To him, the Olympians are a family of distinct individuals. “There’s certain personality traits that come to the fore,” he said….

(16) WILSON HONORED AT BOOKFEST. Author and musician Shane Wilson won two book awards at The BookFest this past weekend for his novel, The Smoke in His Eyes. The book placed second in Contemporary Fiction and third in Coming-of-Age Literary Fiction.

The Bookfest Awards honors authors who create outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction. Books are judged in categories based on genre, theme, and aesthetics. Books published in the past five years are eligible. Entries will be vetted by an initial team, then the final places will be determined by an elite team of experts in the literary and entertainment world.

Here’s what The Smoke in His Eyes is about:

When TJ—a musical prodigy—witnesses a traumatic event as a child, his senses are overrun with intense hallucinations. Over the years, his visions increase in frequency and intensity, but he hides them from those he is closest to, including his best friend and musical partner, Lila, who challenges TJ to reject formulaic creation in order to create something beautiful and unique. But when Lila signs a record deal, TJ feels left behind and alone with his art and his visions.

That’s when TJ meets an artist named Muna. In his eyes and visions, Muna is made of smoke, and as this magical woman helps him learn how to manage his visions and how to translate what he sees and hears into music and lyrics, she begins to disappear. His journey into Muna’s past is a journey to discover where inspiration originates and what happens to an artist when that inspiration is gone.

Available at Amazon.com.

(17) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Paul Weimer praises a sequel in “Microreview [book]: Azura Ghost by Essa Hansen” at Nerds of a Feather.

….Now, ten years later, Caiden and the Azura are legends, a one man, one ship, and one young Nophek crew doing good across the multiverse, staying ahead of the forces of Unity led by Abriss Centre, and dreading what will happen if her equally dangerous brother escapes his imprisonment. It’s getting harder for Caiden to escape Abriss’ traps, especially when Abriss has a trump card up her sleeve, one guaranteed to slow down Caiden enough to capture him and his remarkable ship…his long lost sister.

Welcome to Azura Ghost, the second Graven book from Essa Hansen….

(18) NAVIGATING THE BLOAT. Meanwhile, Arturo Serrano says the sequel he read suffers from a common series-book problem: “Review: Until the Last of Me by Sylvain Neuvel” at Nerds of a Feather.

In the first novel of this series, A History of What Comes Next (which I reviewed for this blog last year), we learned that the progress of science on this planet has always been secretly guided by the Kibsu, a humanlike species of superstrong, supersmart aliens whose genetic line split at some point in antiquity, with the female line dedicated to developing mathematics and teaching it to humans, and the male line sworn to hunting down their female counterparts as punishment for some supposed treason no one remembers anymore. For centuries, these aliens have been spreading both knowledge and death as each lineage pursues their mission while hiding in plain sight among us. The title of the series is Take them to the stars, but in that first novel the full meaning is revealed as Take them to the stars before we come and kill them all.

The newly released continuation, Until the Last of Me, displays the hallmark signs of Middle Book Syndrome: the plot gets a bit repetitive in the early chapters, feels a bit directionless toward the middle, and is suddenly hijacked at the end by the need to put all the pieces in position for the upcoming final confrontation….

(19) FOCUS ON WOMEN CHARACTERS. Minnesota author J. Lynn Else told an Authority Magazine interviewer this week:

Gowing up in the 80s and 90s, while a big fan of sci fi and fantasy, there weren’t a lot of female characters to identify with. The females typically lacked depth, didn’t have a lot of agency, or simply were there as a romantic interest. As I started developing my fantasy trilogy, I wanted to create a cast of female characters who were all different. They made jokes, made mistakes, got angry, got frustrated, weren’t always the ‘bookish smart’ one. I wrote because I wanted greater depth of characters for young girls reading these genres so that they could picture themselves in these worlds without having to be ultrasmart or beautiful or aggressively assertive…

Now through Inklings Publishing, she’s authored Descendants of Avalon (2018), Lost Daughters of Avalon (2019), and Prophecy of Avalon (2021). Her short story “The Girl from the Haunted Woods,” won second place in the “Journey into the Fantastical” Anthology contest.

Here’s the précis about Lost Daughters of Avalon (Awakenings Book 2):

After not hearing anything from their knights in Avalon for weeks, the horrible Questing Beast breaks through into the world and attacks Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit. Their magic stirs to stop the monster, but Beth’s attempts fail. Help from Avalon arrives just in time to remove the curse and reveal a woman inside the beast who claims to be Genie’s biological mother.The four friends learn their knights had gone missing, along with one of Avalon’s queens, Viviane. An ancient evil runs amok in Avalon and the people blame the four friends, claiming they released Merlin to destroy their world. To clear their name and rescue their knights, the four friends must once again risk the dangers of Avalon. Genie, Beth, Mei, and Whit must pull together and learn to combine their powers of air, water, earth, and fire to rebalance the world they might have thrown into chaos. If they fail, the worlds of Avalon and Earth could destabilize and end life as they know it.

Available at Amazon.com and  Amazon.ca.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  In “Honest Game Trailers: Stranger of Paradise:  Final Fantasy Origin,” Fandom Games says that in this Final Fantasy spinoff you play Jack, “a character so edgy that he makes Jared Leto’s Joker seem like a birthday clown.”  Jack’s the sort of character who responds to a demon saying, “I am” and interrupts him to say, “I don’t care who you are,” and starts punching the creature out.  In fact, this game is so edgy that “it’s like a Monster energy drink come to life.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Joey Eschrich, Jason Sizemore, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/22
21 Jaunt Street

(1) RED WOMBAT EXTRA! Ursula Vernon has launched a newsletter: Wombat Droppings – Issue #1.

Hello, friends and subscribers! I’m starting a newsletter, because Twitter is like drinking from a firehose, Patreon costs you money, and I rarely have the braincells to blog these days. (Plus, when all your presence is on someone else’s platform, they can delete you at any time and leave you floundering in the social void.)

I promise that if you subscribe, I will not bother you too much. Also, I have no intention of charging for this thing, although apparently “newsletter” now means “thing you charge money for” and I don’t know what to call a thing that used to be a newsletter but now isn’t? (Free newsletter? I dunno. May need to workshop that.)

Anyway, let’s give this a try and see what happens!

The theme of Issue #1 is “So I’ve Started GMing…”

…Our game hook is that all the players are interns from the Church of the Good Boy, an all-dog temple established in our previous campaign. So they are all dogs, except for the rogue, who has paperwork stating that he is a dog, despite suspiciously cat-like ears…

(2) PUBLISH LIKE A PIRATE DAY. This might be the topic of Red Wombat’s next newsletter:

(3) CSI SKILL TREE. The CSI Skill Tree series examines how video games “envision possible futures, build rich and thought-provoking worlds, and engage people as active participants in unfolding and interpreting stories.”

The next event in the CSI Skill Tree series will be on Wednesday, February 23, from 1:00-2:15 p.m. Eastern and feature Cloud Gardens, a 2020 gardening game about using plants to overgrow and transform abandoned post-industrial landscapes. The guest speakers are SFF author and translator Ken Liu and game designer Liz Fiacco, who has worked on titles including The Last of Us 2 and Pillars of Eternity. The event is virtual, free, and open to everyone. Here is the registration page.

The event is cohosted with Orion Magazine, a quarterly publication working at the convergence of ecology, art, and social justice, and attendees will receive a code for 20% off a subscription to Orion.

Join the Center for Science and the Imagination and Orion Magazine, an ad-free, quarterly print publication at the convergence of ecology, art, and social justice, for our latest event, featuring “Cloud Gardens,” a 2020 gardening game about using plants to overgrow and transform abandoned post-industrial landscapes. At once soothing and cryptic, “Cloud Gardens” uses pastel colors and calming music to raise questions about the boundaries we construct between organic and built environments, the human and the nonhuman, the sublime and the dystopian.

(4) RENEWED AND PRENEWED. “’Star Trek: Discovery,’ ‘Lower Decks’ Renewed at Paramount Plus”Variety has the story.

“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” have all been renewed at Paramount Plus.

For “Discovery,” that means it will return for a fifth season. The show is due to resume its fourth season on Feb. 10. “Lower Decks” will now be back for a fourth season, with Season 3 of the animated comedy set to debut this summer.

“Strange New Worlds” has yet to debut its first season, which will drop on Paramount Plus on May 5. 

(5) MINUTES OF THE WORLD SQUEECORE CONGRESS. Sure, you could run your own Twitter search for the latest “squeecore” tweets – but these are curated tweets. You know, like a cooking show where the chef does marvels by adding pancetta or Calabrian chiles. (People are now looking around, asking, “So why don’t I see anything Mike added?”)

CAT RAMBO

LAURA DIAZ DE ARCE

SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA

NICK MAMATAS

DR. AMANDA DILLON

PAUL M. CRAY

3DPARTYINTERNET

MARIE BRENNAN

ANNA NICGIOLLAMHUIRE

ANDREW NETTE

(6) FOWL BAWL. Was it a slow news week? Having nothing more pressing to do, TIME Magazine ripped Donald Duck as one of the “Top 10 Worst Awards-Show Hosts” for his work on the 1958 Oscars.

We love classic cartoons as much as the next kid disguised as a grownup, but given the star power of the glittering 1950s, Donald Duck probably didn’t need to co-host the 30th Academy Awards. Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, David Niven, Rosalind Russell and James Stewart also ran the 1958 show. Donald appeared on film rather than, as is preferable for most hosts, in person. Still, he wasn’t completely out of his element: 15 years earlier, his short Der Fuehrer’s Face won an Oscar.

(7) CHUCK SHIMADA OBIT. LASFS member Charles Shimada passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 26, 2021, Calvin Ogawa reported on Facebook. LA-area fans remember Chuck for doing a lot of the Audio/Video technical setup for many conventions over the years – including the 1996 Worldcon I chaired.

Much earlier, at the 1975 EquiCon, Chuck let me run the projector as we showed Star Trek episodes. These were Gene Roddenberry’s personal 16mm prints. And while I was rewinding one of them, I noticed to my horror that I had not closed the reel lock — the reel was starting to do a high-frequency wobble. What would happen when it reached the end? OMG! Was it going to fly off and unspool irreplaceable film all over the fans sitting in front of the projection stand? What would happen to my hand if I grabbed the reel to stop it spinning? I found out. Nothing, fortunately; film saved; I lived to volunteer another day.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1973 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-nine years ago, The Six Million Dollar Man premiered this evening on ABC. It was based on Martin Caidin’s Cyborg. Executive Producer was Harve Bennett, who you will recognize from the Star Trek films. It was produced by Kenneth Johnson who would later do The Bionic Woman spin-off and the Alien Nation film. 

Its primary cast was Lee Majors,  Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks. Majors had a successful second series shortly after this series was cancelled, The Fall Guy, about heart-of-gold bounty hunters. The Six Million Dollar Man would run for five seasons consisting of ninety-nine episodes and five films. The Fall Guy would run five seasons as well. 

Reception by media critics is generally positive. Phelim O’Neil of The Guardian says, “He was Superman, James Bond and Neil Armstrong all rolled into one, and $6M was an almost incomprehensibly large amount of money: how could anyone not watch this show?” And Rob Hunter of Film School Reviews states “The story lines run the gamut from semi-believable to outright ludicrous, but even at its most silly the show is an entertaining family friendly mix of drama, humor, action, and science fiction.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. I think I first encountered him in something Richard E. Geis wrote about him in Science Fiction Review in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy co-authored with Robert Shea. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did might be an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 89. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur, and one of the worst, Zardoz. (He wrote the novel for that one as well.)  (I know some Filers like Zardoz. Oh well.)  He also directed the rather nifty Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelizing.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet, 69. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling calls her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. All of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 67. Some of his genre films are Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly, but I really like his Field of Dreams — his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. Bull Durham is one of my go-to films when I want to feel good. He also was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 58. Her first SFF genre role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in the most excellent The Witches, scripted off the Raoul Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) IRISH COMIC NEWS AWARDS SHORTLISTS. Congratulations to James Bacon who has been nominated for the Irish Comic News’ ICN Awards 2021 in the Best Irish Writer (Non-Fiction) category for his work on File 770. (James also edits and writes for Journey Planet.) The complete list of nominees is here.

BEST IRISH WRITER (NON-FICTION)

As I mentioned in a year-end roundup, James uses his descriptive abilities and camera to allow Filers to accompany him to exhibits and events in vivid and enjoyable reports. 

His round table interview with N.K. Jemisin about her work on Green Lantern was great fun to read. And he constantly reviews comics from off the beaten track which deserve our attention. His work last year on File 770 was considerable —

I wish him and all other nominees the best of luck. 

(11) EFFICIENCY EXPERT. I can see that Michael Carroll’s sense of humor is part of his appeal – here’s how he introduces his list of Rusty Staples’ “Most Popular Posts of 2021!”

…As I promised in last year’s look back at the previous year, I ditched my plan to post at least one entry every week: doing so freed up a lot of time that I was able to divide between idly daydreaming about winning imaginary arguments with jerks, and needlessly wallowing in unwarranted self-pity. So, time well-spent, I think….

(12) MOON KNIGHT. Disney+ dropped a trailer for their new streaming series with Oscar Isaac yesterday. The series will premiere on March 30.

(13) THAT’S A LOT OF QUARTERS. “Microsoft acquires gaming giant Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion” reports CNN.

Microsoft on Tuesday announced plans to acquire Activision Blizzard in a blockbuster deal worth nearly $70 billion. It’s one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech industry in recent years, one that will boost Microsoft’s standing in the growing gaming industry but could be complicated by recent concerns about Activision’s toxic culture.

The all-cash transaction is valued at $68.7 billion, and Microsoft says it will make the company the third-largest gaming company by revenue, after Tencent and Sony.

Bobby Kotick, the controversial CEO of Activision Blizzard, will continue in his role, according to a press release detailing the announced acquisition. Activision employees had previously staged walkouts and called on Kotick to step down for having allegedly been aware of widespread harassment and discrimination problems at the company for years….

(14) DOCKING MANUVER. Here we are outside 104 E. Providencia Ave in Burbank in 1964. I hope somebody explained parallel parking to Mr. Sulu later!

(15) A ROBERT PICARDO APPEARANCE. Jonathan Cowie reports that at the last Novacon they screened a short film based on a story by Chris Priest – here is a trailer for it: The Stooge.

(16) A REAL INCENTIVE. JDA truly understands the audience for his comics.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Cath Jackel.] Here’s a BBC Reel about How to ride a pterosaur, according to science. Includes a saddle mockup inspired by How to Train Your Dragon.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Jamoche, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chris Barkley, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]