Pixel Scroll 10/10/22 I Demand Satisfaction. Pixels At Dawn

Illo by Joe Pearson

(1) ASKING ABOUT BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES IN SF. Prof. Brendan Allison has a question, and File 770 has volunteered to try and crowdsource the answer:

I am an academic researcher in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). I’m writing a book chapter about BCIs in science fiction, called BCI-fi. Among other academic pursuits, I’m looking for the first reference to an artificial brain interface. It must involve a device. I’m just writing you as a way to research this question.   

The earliest reference so far was the first X-Men comic in 1963. Professor X can “interface” with psychic power – which doesn’t count – but also uses a brain interface to bolster that ability. Frankenstein does use a device to stimulate the brain, but that’s arguably not an interface.

Prof. Allison also sent links to recordings of two recent workshops about BCI-fi where one of the participants was Andy Weir. (“BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 1” and “BCI Thursdays Next Generations: BCI-fi Part 2”.)

In this two-part event, we will have prominent speakers within the BCI-fi community to discuss their contributions to BCI-fi, their favorite examples of BCI-fi including movies, books, and podcasts, and next steps to develop, foster, or publicize “good” BCI-fi. We will be joined by Dr. Brendan Allison (UCSD), Andy Weir (author of The Martian), Dr. Eric Leuthardt (Washington University in St. Louis), Stephen Hou (host of Neurratives podcast), Dr. Richard Ramchurn (University of Nottingham), Dr. Jane Huggins (University of Michigan) and Dr. Robert Hampson (Wake Forest University).

(2) IS THERE AN IDEAL LENGTH? “Novels versus novellas in Speculative Fiction” are debated at A Deep Look by Dave Hook.

Many argue that the perfect length for speculative fiction is the novella, or short novel. Some believe that this is long enough to tell a successful story while not longer than needed. It is said that this length allows for character development and change, and perhaps multiple plot lines, while short enough to be taut and not meander or bog down.

I don’t know if it’s true that the novella is the perfect length for speculative fiction, but it is certainly true that many great works of speculative fiction are novella length, whether works such as “The Times Machine” by H. G. Wells right up to modern fiction such as “A Spindle Splintered” by Alix E. Harrow….

(3) SFWA SF STORYBUNDLE SUBMISSION CALL. The Independent Authors Committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) is open for submissions for their science fiction StoryBundle to be released next spring. Submissions will be accepted through October 31, 2022, at 11:59pm Eastern Time. The theme for the call is Space is Big. Really Big. They are looking for space opera and “other books that span large swaths of space.” Full guidelines for this submission call can be found here.

StoryBundles are curated collections of books offered at a discounted price. Proceeds go to the participating authors and StoryBundle, and a small cut is donated to SFWA. 

This is a great chance for independent and small press authors to gain more exposure and sell more books! Submissions of indie and traditionally published novels will be accepted, though publishers must give permission in writing. You do not need to be a SFWA member to apply! 

We welcome full-length science fiction novels of over 40,000 words. We ask that authors submit only one novel, and do not submit a novel that has appeared in any previous StoryBundle (SFWA or otherwise.) Please only submit novels that will be for sale by March 1, 2023. You must have full rights to enter your novel in the StoryBundle, and the novel must not be in Amazon’s KDP Select at the time that the StoryBundle is offered.  Participants will be notified by December 1, 2022, so that any books enrolled in KDP will have time to be brought out of exclusivity before the bundle is released on or about March 1, 2023.

Questions may be directed to storybundle@sfwa.org

(4) FUNDRAISING FOR THE THOMASES. The Gofundme for “Lynne and Michael Thomas”, who are facing the loss of their 19-year-old daughter Caitlin to medical complications from Aicardi Syndrome, had raised $58,486 when checked earlier today.  Jim C. Hines, who set up the appeal, explained what it’s for:

…I’ve spoken a bit with Michael. It sounds like the medical costs of Caitlin’s treatment are covered. End-of-life costs are another matter.

The goal of this fundraiser is to cover those end-of-life expenses, and to hopefully provide a financial cushion to allow the Thomases to spend their remaining time with Caitlin – and when the time comes, to grieve – without also having to worry about money. All donations will go directly to Michael and Lynne (with the exception of GoFundMe’s processing fee)….

(5) EKPEKI CROWDFUNDING. The Gofundme to “Send Oghenechovwe Ekpeki World Fantasy Con” has brought in $2,000 of its $4,000 goal as of this afternoon.  Jason Sanford outlined why it’s needed:

…A successful previous fundraiser brought Ekpeki to this year’s Worldcon, where he was a finalist for two Hugo Awards. However, his gruesome battle with the US embassy in Nigeria for a visa and exorbitant fees and repeated payments resulting from that (including last-minute changes to his international flights) resulted in costs far exceeding what that fundraiser brought in. So this new fundraiser would also mop up those expenses as well….

(6) NEVERTHELESS, A BRADBURY AND ASIMOV FAN. “Temple Grandin Is a Visual Thinker Who Hates Graphic Novels” according to a headline in the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt from their interview with Grandin.  

What kind of a reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you?

I was not able to read until I was age 8. Mother tutored me with phonics, and I quickly went from no reading to reading above my age level. My favorite books when I was in fourth grade were “Black Beauty,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and a children’s book about famous inventors. I really related to Black Beauty’s pain when he was forced to pull a heavy carriage with his head held up by a bearing rein. The inventor book appealed to me because I loved to tinker with my kites to make them fly better.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading and which do you avoid?

I avoid romance novels. The books I really enjoy are either about animals or science fiction. I loved “Merle’s Door,” by Ted Kerasote. Many dogs today live really restricted lives and they have no normal dog social life. Another favorite is “The Soul of the Octopus,” by Sy Montgomery. It really made me think about consciousness. When I received a review copy of “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, I could not put it down. In the science fiction genre, I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

(7) PICK SIX. How long has this variation been around? A spinoff from Nerds of a Feather’s “Six Books” interview series is “6 Games With Aidan Moher”.

1. What game are you currently playing?

Appropriately, I’m splitting my time between a couple of JRPGs—one current, one retro.

On the big screen downstairs I’m about 60 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and still mildly obsessed. I really love a lot of creator Tetsuya Takahashi’s older games—especially Xenogears, which I just finished replaying—but bounced hard off Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so I was a little hesitant when they announced the third game. It’s exceeded all of my expectations, though, and is probably my favourite game in the series now—an improvement on the second game in pretty much every way. Vast world, memorable characters, and Takahashi’s typical zany JRPG plot is a drool-worth combination.

Upstairs in my CRT corner, I’m playing Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64 for the first time. I’ve enjoyed many other games in the series—including Sticker Star, which has a bad reputation—but the original slipped past me for a variety of reasons. It’s wild to go back to the very beginning and see all of the series’s trademarks right there, fully formed, polished, and perfectly enjoyable 20 years later. It’s genuinely funny, the combat is simple but engaging thanks to its timing-based mechanics, and it’s got some of the best graphics on the system.

(8) WAS THE ZODIAC KILLER A FAN? [Item by Susan de Guardiola.] There’s a new theory that the Zodiac killer was a fan, Paul Doerr.

The news reports on this are the first time I’ve ever seen fanzines, filk, D&D, SCA, Renfaires, etc. paired with a Zodiac killer theory.

The evidence is circumstantial, but there’s an awful lot of it.

Los Angeles Magazine devoted an article to the question “Has The Zodiac Killer Mystery Been Solved (Again)”, discussing author Jarrett Kobek’s books Motor Spiritabout the misbegotten hunt for Zodiac, and How to Find Zodiacabout Paul Doerr. 

… As he studied Zodiac’s cryptic letters, Kobek brought a writerly attention to bear. He zeroed in on the killer’s habit of quoting forgotten bits of cultural ephemera (the well-known call-outs to The Mikado and to the 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” as well as a telling reference to an obscure 1950s comic book, identified by an anonymous online researcher, Tahoe27, several years back). Running other apparent quotations through Google Books and the Internet Archive, Kobek formed a picture of the killer as a fan of pulp novels, comics, and other nerdy touchstones. Kobek knew a bit about the early years of the sci-fi and fantasy fandoms, how these nascent communities had begun taking shape around an array of obscure self-published zines. On a hunch, he did a quick web search of “fanzines” and “Vallejo.”…

Paul Haynes has published a long Twitter thread about Kobek’s evidence, now collected in three parts at Threadreader: Part I; Part II; Part III.

I don’t know if anyone who knew Paul Doerr is still around.

(9) THE CORFLU AUCTION IS NOW LIVE! The catalog for the Corflu Pangloss auction is now online at Corflu.org and eFanzines.com. Anyone can bid on those 80 lots, including non-members – the catalog has instruction on how to bid. See the Pangloss Fanzine Auction Catalog and Bid Sheet at the links.

Corflu has a long tradition of raising funds to support the convention by selling and auctioning off vintage science fiction fanzines before, during and sometimes after the convention. As Corflu is a convention devoted to fanzines and the fans who create them, it has always been a natural place to buy, sell or trade zines, and the live auction has often raised very impressive sums.

For the 39th issue of the convention, taking place October 21st to 23rd, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, we have taken a new approach…  By creating this catalog of auction items and publishing it some weeks in advance of the convention, we hope to allow fans not attending Corflu Pangloss to participate. Anyone interested in buying is invited to send their bids by email to fanmailaph@aol.com by midnight, Pacific daylight time on October 22nd, 2022.

(10) MEMORY LANE.  

1992 [By Cat Eldridge.] “Relics” was the one hundred and thirtieth episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found it to be one of the more fascinating episodes that series did and I’ll tell why in a minute, but first let’s talk about the usual details. 

Ronald Dowl Moore was the writer of this episode and he was best known fleshing out the Klingons. He also wrote the series finale here, “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo Award at Intersection.  And yes, he’s done a lot more Great Things than that but I have an understanding with OGH that I’ll try to keep things reasonably brief.

So why do I like it? Look there’s a Dyson Sphere being depicted as far as I know for the very first time on a video series! Y’all know what that is so you know why I’m so excited by this.

And then there’s the matter of the idea of the Enterprise in responding to a distress signal having the singular honor of rescuing Capt. Montgomery Scott! 

So how do the two connect? 

Well, the Enterprise, responding to a distress call discovers a Dyson sphere where they the distress call to the USS Jenolan, a Federation transport ship that has been missing for seventy-five years, which they find crashed on the sphere’s outer shell. And in the transporter buffer field, jury rigged to keep working, are two signals, two patterns, one degraded to be saved, the other that of Doohan. 

He bonds with Geordie which is fortunate as together they need to figure out how to get the Enterprise out of that damn Sphere. Afterwards he’s feeling like a relic but Picard cheers him up. As the Enterprise returns to its mission, the crew of the ship give Scott a shuttlecraft “on extended loan” to do whatever he wanted. 

I thought the writers did a nice job of making him a believable character, much more to be honest than the original series often did. And critics agreed as they’ve consistently voted this to be one of the best episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)

Born October 10, 1924 Edward Wood Jr. Though known for Plan 9 from Outer Space, he did a lot of other bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)

Born October 10, 1929 Robin HardyWicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? (Died 2016.)

Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2017.)

Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. Under the pen name Larry Maddock he wrote science fiction and mystery stories in the Fifties and Sixties. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)

Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 81. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.

Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 75. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa“. She’s credited solely for the cover art for the 1993 Easton Press interior art for The Left Hand of Darkness according to ISFDB. 

Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 56. She’s Miss West in Wild West West and the Mysterious Woman in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Annie has turned the “little orphan” into a time traveler!
  • Off the Mark shows “parts is parts” isn’t true if you’re Frankenstein.

(13) DRESSED FOR EXCESS. SYFY Wire shares a load of photos in the NYCC 2022 – Final Day Cosplay Gallery.

New York Comic Con saved some of its coolest news for the weekend this year, as studios dropped loads of fun facts and features surrounding The Winchesters, Marvel’s Moon KnightThe Walking Dead, and Back to the Future — just to name a few.

But the stage wasn’t the only place catching fans’ attention as the four-day event rolled on at the Javitz Convention Center: Down on the ground, the guests themselves kept the cosplay fit tight, lining the halls with creatively killer takes on Mysterio, Red Skull, Buzz Lightyear, Predator, and tons more….

(14) CRILLY Q&A. Stone Soup questions the writer about a new novel: “Exclusive Interview with Brandon Crilly: Catalyst”.

Catalyst features an incredible cast of characters with complicated, overlapping histories. One of these characters is a stage magician who performs illusory tricks in a world where “real” magic is very present. What made you decide to bring these two contrasting approaches to magic central to this character’s identity?

Thank you for that compliment! Catalyst actually went through several serious revision drafts, and originally Mavrin (my street magician) was much more skeptical and almost willfully dismissive of “real” magic. When I added magic-bestowing squid gods (the Aspects) literally in orbit around Aelda, that level of skepticism didn’t make as much sense – so instead, it became obstinance. Mavrin has a lot of issues with the Aspects and their worshippers, so becoming an illusionist is part of how he distances himself from both. “I can make my own magic, I don’t need you!” is probably percolating in his subconscious somewhere (even though he’s fifty and not, like fifteen). But thankfully, he can only stay obstinate and grumpy for so long….

(15) A MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Nerds of a Feather’s Arturo Serrano, in “Review: Wolf at the Door by Joel McKay”, says the book does one thing well.

There’s danger in hosting a big social gathering. People you haven’t seen in years can still make your throat tighten. Various combinations of acquaintances can be in good terms with you but be mortal enemies to each other. You dread the thought of who may knock at the door next. Your pulse quickens and your survival instinct rings alarms urging you to flee. Once the tension reaches critical mass, too much honesty will rip someone’s heart. The exchange of bitter words becomes a series of rounds of mutual eviscerations. Arguments get heated until someone loses their head. A friend’s careless remark under too much alcohol may lead to you never seeing them again. At any moment, the air can get so heavy that some of those present will suddenly depart from your life.

In Wolf at the Door, by Canadian author Joel McKay, these emotions that tear people to pieces are materialized into tooth and claw….

(16) SOLAR POWER. “‘Eye of Sauron’: The Dazzling Solar Tower in the Israeli Desert” – the New York Times sees both sides.

…This is the great solar tower of Ashalim, one of the tallest structures in Israel and, until recently, the tallest solar power plant in the world.

“It’s like a sun,” said Eli Baliti, a shopkeeper in the nearest village. “A second sun.”

To backers, the tower is an impressive feat of engineering, testament to Israeli solar innovation. To critics, it is an expensive folly, dependent on technology that had become outmoded by the time it was operational.

…The tower is more than 800 feet high, one of the tallest structures in Israel. It’s visible even from space.

To some, it’s reminiscent of something out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

“It’s the eye of Sauron,” said Uriya Suued, an engineer who lived in Ashalim until September.

Other times, the tower seems more like a gawky, gentle giant, awkwardly standing on the edge of a group photo. You can even forget it’s there — until you spot it hovering, almost comically, behind a garden wall or incongruously, even apologetically, over the swimmers in the village’s outdoor pool.

“A lighthouse without the sea,” said Ben Malka, who runs the pool….

(17) DEMONIC IMPRESSION. Netflix dropped a trailer for Wendell & Wild, the new film written by Henry Selick and Jordan Peele and directed by Henry Selick.

(18) GIBSON ADAPTATION. This trailer for The Peripheral Season 1 on Prime Video was unveiled at New York Comic Con. “On October 21, the future holds the key to saving the past.”

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Pitch Meeting: Don’t Worry Darling,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, explains that Don’t Worry Darling “feels like a “go to the theatre film” and not something you stay home and stream. But it’s “a string of random occurrences for about 90 minutes with little or no information revealed.”  And then in the third act we learn the film is “like The Matrix with 10,000 times less kung fu.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, SFWA, Jerry Kaufman, Susan de Guardiola, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/22 Scroll Down, You Click Too Fast, You’ve Got To Make The Pixels Last

(1) AI IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR CONTENT THEFT. Malcolm F. Cross wryly begins his email with this link, “I’m sooooort of pleased to announce that discovering another theft of my work inspired me to do a little art project. The theft in question was having some of my work added to the training data for a commercially used AI, and the result was this twitter thread.” The 26-tweet thread starts here. Excerpts follow:

(2) “PEOPLE’S JOKER” NEWS. Variety updated to its report about “’People’s Joker,’ Queer Movie Set in Batman Universe, Pulled From TIFF” with a statement by the filmmaker Vera Drew.

…In a statement shared with Variety on Wednesday evening, Drew promised that “everyone is going to get the chance to see this film.”

“I don’t respond well to bullying or pressure from faceless institutions,” said Drew. “It only emboldens me and what I was saying with this film. We’re looking for buyers and distribution partners who will protect us and make this film accessible to trans people and their families everywhere.”

Drew hinted at potential discord around the movie on Tuesday, ahead of her world premiere, posting a cryptic tweet: “I have no clue how today goes and my team wants me to say nothing of course so I’ll stay vague…but whatever happens in the next few hours, I want you to know…if you’ve been waiting and aching to watch our movie, ur going to get to soon. Stay tuned and stay with me. Need ur help.”…

Just before the movie rolled, The Globe and Mail reported that a title card was displayed stating that the film was protected under “fair use” laws.

“This film is a parody and is at present time completely unauthorized by DC Comics, Warner Brothers or anyone claiming ownership of the trademarks therein (eg. ‘Joker,’ ‘Batman, etc.),” read the title card. “Aside from licensed stock, all video and graphics featured in the film are original materials, often recreations of iconic comic book movie set pieces created by Vera Drew and a team of over 100 independent artists and filmmakers on three separate continents during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Any copyright or trademark infringement was not done intentionally. After consulting with counsel, the director believes in good faith that use of these names and characters in a autobiographical context of her personal coming-out story is protected by Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows ‘fair use’ for purposes such as a relevant criticism, social commentary or education.”

(3) NBA LONGLISTS. The 2022 National Book Awards Longlist for Fiction announced today by the National Book Foundation includes two works of genre interest, a novel and a story collection.

Also announced were the Longlist for Nonfiction and the Longlist for Poetry.

(4) GROAN ABOUT. Dave Hook takes us inside another panel he participated in at the Worldcon in “Titus Groan and Chicon 8”.

…I found out that Chicon 8 (the 80th World Science Fiction Convention) would have a “Titus Groan” panel for their 1946 Project. The 1946 Project was their plan to celebrate 1946 and all things speculative fiction with panel discussions instead of doing a 1947 Retro Hugo.

I applied to be on the panel, telling the Programming Team with substantial fannish enthusiasm how great “Titus Groan” was, how I was prepared to answer the question of whether it was genre or not, and what I was prepared to do to get ready for a panel.

For unknown reasons, they selected me for the panel and made me the moderator. I did not have a problem with this; I thought I could do a great job. I had never been on any SF convention panels before. I thought I could do all of that, but I redoubled my preparations….

(5) RECALLING CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN. “The Worlds of Middle-Earth: The Millions Interviews Richard Ovenden and Catherine McIlwaine”. Their book includes essays by Maxime H. Pascal; Priscilla Tolkien; Vincent Ferré; Verlyn Flieger; John Garth; Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull; Carl F. Hostetter; Stuart D. Lee; Tom Shippey; and Brian Sibley.

In The Great Tales Never End: Essays in Memory of Christopher TolkienRichard Ovenden, who serves as Bodley’s Librarian, the senior Executive position of the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, and Catherine McIlwaine, the Tolkien Archivist at the Bodleian Libraries, have assembled a remarkable anthology about Christopher, who died in 2020…. 

Lenny Picker: What personal memories of Christopher Tolkien are your most vivid?

Richard Ovenden: I had the good fortune of visiting him at least once a year for about 10 years. Staying in the house, having long conversations. He looked quite like his father. I never knew J.R.R. Tolkien, but Christopher’s memory of Oxford really was quite profound. He was born there, grew up there, and lived there for many decades. But his memory of it is really kind of frozen in about the middle of the 1970s, when the family moved to France. And so having a conversation with Christopher about Oxford was like having one about the Oxford of when J.R.R. Tolkien was still alive. So it seemed to me almost like you were talking to J.R.R. Tolkien. And because he had this immense knowledge of his father’s work and his mentality, there was that sort of connection. Christopher also had a very great sense of humor—a very, very dry sense of humor. And he was a very funny human being. He also was a great reader; he loved reading fiction, Victorian fiction, in particular, DickensTrollope, were a great source of pleasure for him. So he was a very literary person, not just in his own field of scholarship.

(6) WHO SHOULD WIN FAN HUGOS? In the Hugo Book Club Blog’s post “The Gordian Knot of Fan Vs. Pro” they’re inclined to think the knot is just fine the way it is and that the current WSFS rules get the balance right. 

…Just three years [sic] after the Scithers constitution was introduced [in 1963], Jack Gaughan showed just how unclear the existing language could be, winning both the fan artist and professional artist Hugo Awards in a single [1967] evening. There was an outcry over this — why have two separate categories if the same body of work could win both? A clause was quickly added to the constitution to prevent this from happening again, but the language did not seek to clarify what was Fan and what was Pro, rather stating that “Anyone whose name appears on the final ballot for a given year under the professional artist category will not be eligible for the fan artist award for that year.”

Over the years, this question has resurfaced fairly regularly. Questions were raised over John Scalzi winning best fan writer in the same year that his novel The Last Colony was on the ballot. Two years later there was some slight grumbling about Fred Pohl — at that time one of only 25 authors to have won three professional prose Hugos — winning for best fan writer.

So in this context, a well-intentioned but problematic proposal (“An Aristotelian Solution to Fan vs Pro”) brought forward to this year’s business meeting provided an attempt to parse out this question….

(7) BROOKLYN SFFF. The Brooklyn SciFi Film Festival returns for its third season October 3-9 presenting 200 independent SciFi films from around the world. 

This year’s festival will feature online and in-person events including an evening of Japanese SciFi hosted at Stuart Cinema Cafe on Tuesday October 4th from 7:00 to 9:00 and selected screenings and recognition on Saturday October 8th from 6:00 to 9:00 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Downtown Brooklyn.  All films streaming online at BrooklynSciFiFilmFest.com starting October 3rd.  Official Selections.

(8) SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM. Literary Hub introduces viewers to a 1982 BBC video about a writer at work: “Roald Dahl’s writing routine involved a shed, a sleeping bag, and cigarettes.”

In 1982, Frank Delaney of the BBC visited Roald Dahl at home for a long conversation that meandered from children’s literature to 18th-century furniture and making orange marmalade. During that visit, Dahl gave Delaney a glimpse at his writing routine, which consisted, at the time, of four hours a day spent in a writing shed on his property.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.  

1963 [By Cat Eldridge.]

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: There is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits. — opening narration. 

Fifty-nine years ago this evening on ABC, The Outer Limits series premiered, created and executive produced by Leslie Stevens who had done nothing of a genre nature before. It was directed by far too many to note here. Steven’s would later do Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. 

In the unaired pilot, it was called Please Stand By, but ABC rejected that title, so the producers renamed it.

Two episodes, “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier”, were written by Harlan Ellison. Clifford Simak wrote “The Duplicate Man” episode. David Duncan penned “The Human Factor”. Eando Binder gets credit for the “I, Robot” episode.  

“Demon with a Glass Hand” won a Writers’ Guild Award. Later, Ellison’s “Soldier” script would allow him to sue Cameron over his Terminator script and win rather nicely. 

Season One combined science fiction and horror, while Season two was shifted focus to being more about what they called hard science fiction stories, dropping the “scary monster” theme of Season One. The network thought the monster were the villains of the week.

The original series lasted a mere forty-nine episodes. The second iteration, which started in 1995, would last much longer, going an amazing one hundred and fifty-two episodes.

It was very popular in the ratings the first season but was competing against Jackie Gleason in the second season and that got it cancelled halfway through. As I noted, it had a second life thirty years on which was quite successful. Variety reported last year that an Outer Limits reboot was in development at a premium cable network though they declined to say which network.

Neat piece of trivia: The “ion storm” from “The Mutant” episode here which was a projector beam shining through a container containing glitter in liquid suspension became the transporter effect in the Trek series. Also, the process used to make pointed ears for David McCallum in “The Sixth Finger” episode here was used to make Spock’s ears, and The black mask from “The Duplicate Man” episode here was used by Dr. Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”. 

It’s streaming on Pluto. Pluto? Huh? 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 16, 1914 William Bernard Ready. Can I include an individual for just one work? Well given it’s my Birthday list, of course. It’s the 1968 work, The Tolkien Relation: A Personal Inquiry, Ready foresaw the cultural value of Tolkien’s writings and, while at Marquette University, he managed to purchase a large selection of original literary manuscripts by Tolkien in 1956-57, including manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. (Died 1981.)
  • Born September 16, 1927 Peter Falk. His best remembered genre role is in The Princess Bride as the Grandfather who narrates the story. (The person who replaced the late Falk in the full cast reading of The Princess Bride for the Wisconsin Democratic fundraiser, Director Rob Reiner, wasn’t nearly as good as he was in that role.) He also plays Ramos Clemente in “The Mirror,” an episode of The Twilight Zone. And he’s Reverend Theo Kerr in the 2001 version of The Lost World. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 16, 1930 Anne Francis. You’ll remember her best as Altaira “Alta” Morbius on Forbidden Planet. She also appeared twice in The Twilight Zone (“The After Hours” and “Jess-Belle”). She also appeared in multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She’d even appear twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and played several roles on Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 16, 1932 Karen Anderson. She co-wrote two series with her husband, Poul Anderson, King of Ys and The Last Viking, and created the delightful The Unicorn Trade collection with him. Fancyclopedia has her extensive fannish history thisaway, and Mike has her obituary here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born September 16, 1952 Lisa Tuttle, 70. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute,” which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection.Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. Her collection, The Dead Hours of the Night was nominated for a Stoker last year — impressive! 
  • Born September 16, 1954 Howard Weinstein, 68. At age 19, he was the youngest person to ever write a Trek script, selling “The Pirates of Orion” for use in the animated series. Though it would be his only script, he would go on to write quite a few Trek novels — thirteen are listed currently at the usual suspects — and comics. He gets a thanks credit in Star Trek: The Voyage Home. He wrote a script, “The Sky Above, the Mudd Below”, for the fanfic affair Star Trek: New Voyages, but it never got made. And it won’t given that there’s a comic book series already made with its plot.  Paramount wasn’t at all pleased. To quote Zevon, “Send lawyers, gun and money / the shit has hit the fan.”
  • Born September 16, 1955 Amanda Hemingway, 67. British author of fantasy novels who’s best known for the Fern Capel series written under the Jan Siegel name — it’s most excellent. I’d also recommend The Sangreal Trilogy penned under her own name. Alas her superb website has gone offline. She is available from the usual suspects — curiously her Hemingway novels are much more costly than her Seigel novels are.
  • Born September 16, 1960 Mike Mignola, 62. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early on ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing “What If” story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, and detest the reboot now that I’ve seen it, while the animated films are excellent.

(11) HEAR ABOUT “HUMAN EXCEPTIONALISM”. “Dean Koontz on His Vocation as an Author, Art and Meaning in Life, and Human Exceptionalism” in a downloadable interview at Humanize. (Note: I haven’t listened to it.)

In episode one of the second season of Humanize, Wesley J. Smith’s guest is the internationally famous novelist Dean Koontz. Dean and Wesley discuss how he came to be an author, how life is filled with meaning, his art, the importance of human exceptionalism, the problem with transhumanism, and how Dean uses humor to further his plots and character development. Dean recalls his upbringing in an impoverished household that did not have running water until he was 11, how a high school English teacher changed his life, and his love for the use of the English language. He and Wesley also discuss the beauty of the human/dog relationship and his philanthropic support for Canine Companions for Independence, a school that trains service dogs to help people with disabilities lead independent lives. Any reader of Dean Koontz and supporter of human exceptionalism will want to listen to this fascinating interview with one of America’s most successful and prolific authors…

(12) READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. The Atlantic wants to know “Why Do So Many Kids Need Glasses Now?”

…In the U.S., 42 percent of 12-to-54-year-olds were nearsighted in the early 2000s—the last time a national survey of myopia was conducted—up from a quarter in the 1970s. Though more recent large-scale surveys are not available, when I asked eye doctors around the U.S. if they were seeing more nearsighted kids, the answers were: “Absolutely.” “Yes.” “No question about it.”

In Europe as well, young adults are more likely to need glasses for distance vision than their parents or grandparents are now. Some of the lowest rates of myopia are in developing countries in Africa and South America. But where Asia was once seen as an outlier, it’s now considered a harbinger. If current trends continue, one study estimates, half of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050.

The consequences of this trend are more dire than a surge in bespectacled kids. Nearsighted eyes become prone to serious problems like glaucoma and retinal detachment in middle age, conditions that can in turn cause permanent blindness. The risks start small but rise exponentially with higher prescriptions. The younger myopia starts, the worse the outlook. In 2019, the American Academy of Ophthalmology convened a task force to recognize myopia as an urgent global-health problem. As Michael Repka, an ophthalmology professor at Johns Hopkins University and the AAO’s medical director for government affairs, told me, “You’re trying to head off an epidemic of blindness that’s decades down the road.”

The cause of this remarkable deterioration in our vision may seem obvious: You need only look around to see countless kids absorbed in phones and tablets and laptops. And you wouldn’t be the first to conclude that staring at something inches from your face is bad for distance vision. Four centuries ago, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler blamed his own poor eyesight, in part, on all the hours he spent studying. Historically, British doctors have found myopia to be much more common among Oxford students than among military recruits, and in “more rigorous” town schools than in rural ones. A late-19th-century ophthalmology handbook even suggested treating myopia with a change of air and avoidance of all work with the eyes—“a sea voyage if possible.”

(13) “IT FLOATS.” Ivory Soap floats on its own. Limestone blocks need a little help. “A Long-Lost Branch of the Nile Helped in Building Egypt’s Pyramids” according to the New York Times.

For 4,500 years, the pyramids of Giza have loomed over the western bank of the Nile River as a geometric mountain chain. The Great Pyramid, built to commemorate the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, the second king of Egypt’s fourth dynasty, covers 13 acres and stood more than 480 feet upon its completion around 2560 B.C. Remarkably, ancient architects somehow transported 2.3 million limestone and granite blocks, each weighing an average of more than two tons, across miles of desert from the banks of the Nile to the pyramid site on the Giza Plateau.

Hauling these stones over land would have been grueling. Scientists have long believed that utilizing a river or channel made the process possible, but today the Nile is miles away from the pyramids. On Monday, however, a team of researchers reported evidence that a lost arm of the Nile once cut through this stretch of desert, and would have greatly simplified transporting the giant slabs to the pyramid complex….

(14) EVOLVING ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Edward Vega of VOX looks at how the success of Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse has shown animators an alternative to the photo-realistic animation of Pixar: “How ‘Spider-Verse’ forced animation to evolve”.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/9/22 The Risk of Repeating Scroll Titles is Real

(1) YOU’RE NOT FOOLING ANYONE EXCEPT YOURSELF. Cat Rambo tells SFWA Blog readers to “Stop Multitasking”.

I am here to say: Stop multitasking. Yes, I understand its appeal. Like many writers, I love the idea of multitasking, the notion that one can be doing two things at once, such as driving to work while dictating one’s novel, or answering e-mails while dialed into a Zoom call and listening to a meeting.

How could we not embrace that notion? It holds the promise of getting more done, with a little edge of “easier.” That’s a seductive promise. Particularly if you suffer from a particular and common form of writer’s guilt: the awareness that even when you are working on one piece, you are not working on some other piece of writing. And like many seductive promises, it is a false one. Humans consistently overestimate their ability to multitask, and you are probably not the exception to that. It’s okay. I’m not either.

Multitasking, for the overwhelming majority of people, is not compatible with writing….

… Multitasking may be more obvious than you realize. I was on a podcast recently while my mother was texting me, and while the host was speaking, I took a second to read those and make sure everything was okay. The host stopped and said, “I feel like I lost you there,” and I realized at that moment that yes, my focus and energy had lessened, and that was pretty uncool. Since then, I try to give podcasts and other recordings 100 percent of my attention….

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to meet Max Gladstone for a Mexican meal in episode 180 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Max Gladstone

I’d like you have lunch with Max Gladstone. Max is perhaps best-known for his Craft Sequence of fantasy novels which began in 2012 with Three Parts Dead, continued in 2013 with Two Serpents Rise, and so far consists of six volumes, which considered as a whole were nominated for a Best Series Hugo Award. His interactive projects include the Choice of the Deathless and Deathless: The City’s Thirst, which both take place in the world of the Craft Sequence. With previous guest of the podcast Amal El-Mohtar, he wrote the internationally bestselling This is How You Lose the Time War, which was published in 2020 and won the Hugo, Nebula, and Ignyte Awards. Gladstone also created the Serial Box series Bookburners, and the interactive television series Wizard School Dropout. His most recent novel, Last Exit, was published in March.

We discussed what a Godzilla movie has to tell us about the way future art will likely deal with the pandemic, our differing ideas over what we mean when we say we’ve written another draft of a story, how we’d be willing to dispense with the art inspired by tragedy if we could only skip the tragedy as well, the differences between his early and final drafts of Last Exit, how to make us care equally when writing from multiple points of view (and how doing so could cause the reader to trust the writer even more), what it is about science fiction that attracts dystopias, how our dreams have changed due to COVID-19, what we get wrong when we write about civilizations lasting thousands of years, and much more.

(3) REAL NUMBER$. Dorothy Grant shares a lot of publishing industry sales data while countering the recent “most books only sell 12 copies” meme in “Lies, Damn lies, and Statistics” at Mad Genius Club.

… Now data is a funny thing. It can be sliced and diced to create different types of views. For instance we could run the same analysis on ALL of those 487K new books published in the last 52 weeks, which includes many small press and independetly published titles, and we would find that about 98% of them sold less that 5,000 copies in the “trade bookstore market” that NPD BookScan covers. (I know this IS a true statistic because that data was produced by us for The New York Times.)

But that data does not include direct sales from publishers. It does not include sales by authors at events, or through their websites. It does not include eBook sales which we track in a separate tool, and it doesn’t include any of the amazing reading going on through platforms like Substack, Wattpad, Webtoons, Kindle Direct, or library lending platforms like OverDrive or Hoopla.

BUT, it does represent the general reality of the ECONOMICS of the publishing market. In general, most of the revenue that keeps publishers in business comes from the very narrow band of publishing successes in the top 8-10% of new books, along with the 70% of overall sales that come from BACKLIST books in the current market….

(4) INTERNET ARCHIVE AND CDL. “Publishers, Internet Archive Trade Reply Briefs in Book Scanning Case” and Publishers Weekly offers analysis.

In a reply filing last week, four major publishers further detailed their claims that the Internet Archive’s long-running program to scan and lend physical library books based is blatant copyright infringement that “ignores established law and undisputed facts.” And in a reply filing of their own, lawyers for the Internet Archive further insisted that the publishers are improperly conflating the market for licensed e-book lending with the IA’s efforts to facilitate traditional library lending.

The briefs come after the parties filed dueling motions for summary judgment on July 7, and more than two years after the publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House, organized by the Association of American Publishers) first filed its copyright infringement lawsuit in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the Internet Archive’s controversial program to scan and lend books under an untested legal theory known as “controlled digital lending” is a massive piracy operation “masquerading as a not-for-profit library.”

In their 41-page reply to the IA’s motion for summary judgment, filed on September 2, lawyers for the publishers attack the Internet Archive’s claims that its scanning and lending of physical library books is merely an extension of traditional library lending, contending that that argument ignores clearly established law—most recently a high profile decision in Capitol Records vs. ReDigi, in which the federal courts forcefully rejected an upstart program to expand the doctrine of first sale (also known as exhaustion) to create a resale market for digital music files.

“IA argues that CDL ‘is fundamentally the same as traditional library lending’ and should be treated as a fair use since it ‘furthers the ends of copyright’s exhaustion doctrine,’” the publisher’s brief states. “This position is a study in blind denial that ignores established law and undisputed facts. Perhaps most astonishing, IA essentially disregards ReDigi, in which the Second Circuit held that (1) unauthorized reproduction is ‘not protected by [First Sale]’”; (2) the fair use doctrine cannot be used to expand the statutory scope of [first sale]; and (3) ReDigi’s actions were unlawful even though it used technology to avoid increasing the number of music files in circulation, a practice akin to CDL’s central principle.”

Under CDL, the Internet Archive and other libraries make and lend out digital scans of physical books in their collection under rules that mimic traditional lending: only one person can borrow a scanned copy at a time; the scans are DRM-protected; and the corresponding print book the scan is derived from is taken out of circulation while the scan is on loan to maintain a one-to-one “own-to-loan” basis.

But not only is CDL a fatally flawed, invented legal theory, the publishers argue, the IA doesn’t even follow the rules of CDL…

(5) AFTER ACTION REPORTS. Dave Hook takes us inside a couple of panels he participated in at the Worldcon.

Epistolary fiction has a long tradition in speculative fiction, starting with “Gulliver’s Travels” (1726) and “Frankenstein” (1818, originally published anonymously!) among others. As was noted on the panel description, some think it is undergoing a resurgence. One aspect of this is clearly the new modes of communication which were envisioned in some ways and which are now actual, such as email, text messages, twitter, etc. We could have equally argued that epistolary fiction never went away.

…The other factor which I observed for the 1944 and 1945 Retro Hugo nomination and voting was a substantial amount of voting based solely on the name of the author and not on the specific work on the ballot. Especially when I looked at the nominations in some categories, the only response I could offer was something like “WTF? I don’t believe they read this.” The 1944 and 1945 Retro Hugo Awards avoided major debacles in the works receiving awards, in my humble opinion, but this aspect of it was not confidence building. I get that we’ll always have some “Wow. I love that author, so I’m voting for them regardless of what they wrote here.”, but this is much more of an issue for the Retro Hugos….

(6) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Time Tunnel. Ahhh, Irwin Allen. A man responsible for a number of interesting genre undertakings, this being one of them. Fifty-six years ago, the same year that Star Trek premiered, The Time Tunnel series launched on ABC.

It was the third of Allen’s genre series, having earlier done Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. His last one would be Land of the Giants.

It starred James Darren, Robert Colbert, Whit Bissell, John Zaremba and Lee Meriwether. I’m convinced that every one of these genre series has to have a beautiful female on them.

It lasted one season of thirty episodes.

Please don’t ask how it stands up nearly sixty years on. Really don’t. I’m a Seven Days devotee.

Like of so many series including Star Trek, it was filmed in and around Southern California so scenes set elsewhere had that hilly landscape desert scrubby look where filming obviously occurred. Didn’t Galaxy Quest deliberately parody this look in several scenes?

The series was dropped because of network politics, as it was doing well in the ratings, in favor of The Legend of Custer. That series bombed in the ratings and only lasted seventeen episodes. 

Time Tunnel is apparently not streaming anywhere, however, episodes can be rented for viewing on Amazon Prime

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 9, 1922 Pauline Baynes. She was the first illustrator of some of J. R. R. Tolkien’s lesser known works such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major and of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. With the help of cartographers from the Bordon military camp in Hampshire, Baynes created a map that Allen & Unwin published as a poster in 1970. Tolkien was generally pleased with it, though he didn’t particularly like her creatures, especially her spider. (Let the disagreements begin…) (Died 2008.)
  • Born September 9, 1929 Joseph Wrzos, 93. He edited Amazing Stories and Fantastic under the name Joseph Ross from August 1965 through early 1967. He was responsible for their move to mostly reprints and a bimonthly schedule while the publisher refused to pay authors for the reprints saying he held the rights to them without needing pay additional renumeration and leading to severe conflict with SFWA. With Hannes Bok, he edited in 2012, Hannes Bok: A Life in Illustration.
  • Born September 9, 1952 Angela Cartwright, 70. Fondly remembered as Penny Robinson on the original Lost in Space. She, like several of her fellow cast members, made an appearance in the Lost in Space film. She appeared in the Logan’s Run series in “The Collectors” episode as Karen, and in Airwolf as Mrs. Cranovich in the “Eruption” episode. 
  • Born September 9, 1954 Jeffrey Combs, 68. No doubt his best known genre role was as Weyoun, a Vorta, on Deep Space Nine. However, his genre portfolio is really, really long. it starts with Frightmare, a horror film in the early Eighties and encompasses some forty films, twenty-six series and ten genre games. He’s appeared on Babylon 5, plus three Trek series, Voyager and Enterprise being the other two, the Enterprise appearance being the only time an actor played two distinct roles in the same episode.  He’s played H.P. Lovecraft and Herbert West, a character by that author. Each multiple times. 
  • Born September 9, 1954 Graham Joyce. Let’s talk about him. The Tooth Fairy which won a British Fantasy Award is one damn scary novel as is Some Kind of Fairy Tale which garnered the Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel. I’m sure the latter kept me up several nights. His short stories are quite delicious which is why I’m recommending his 25 Years in the Word Mines: The Best Short Fiction of Graham Joyce. He stopped genre fiction writing well before his death. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 9, 1953 Janet Fielding, 69. Tegan Jovanka, companion to the Fifth Doctor. The actress had a rather short performing career starting with the Hammer House of Horror series in 1980 where she was Secretary Mandy on the “Charlie Boy” episode” before landing the the Doctor Who gig through 1984 before her career ending in the early Nineties. She was part of the 2013 50th Anniversary The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born September 9, 1960 Hugh Grant, 62. He appeared in The Lair of the White Worm as Lord James D’Ampton and in the remake of The Man from U.N.C.L.E as Mr. Waverly. (I have not seen it. So how is it?) And he was the Handsome Doctor in Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, the 1999 Doctor Who special made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon. I know I’m missing some important genre wise about him, but what is it? 
  • Born September 9, 1971 Henry Thomas, 51. Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Let’s just say that he’s had a busy if mostly undistinguished post-E.T. acting career, though I will single him out for his rather good work in Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House series. He’s playing Doctor Mid-Nite in the Stargirl series on the DCU streaming service. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a crude but effective award joke.

(9) D23 SPIDER-MAN HIGHLIGHT. Marvel celebrates Spider-Man’s 60th anniversary at D23 Expo 2022 with a very special comic giveaway.  Two variants for Amazing Fantasy #1000 will be given to attendees of the “Marvel Comics: Celebrating 60 Years of the Amazing Spider-Man panel.” 

(10) SUBSCRIPTION CANCELED. “Amazon Cancels ‘Paper Girls’ After One Season” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service has canceled the series, based on a comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, after a single season. The decision comes six weeks after the eight-episode season debuted in its entirety.

The show received positive reviews from critics and solid audience scores on review aggregators, but it did not break out with viewers, based on what little data is available. Paper Girls didn’t make Nielsen’s top 10 original streaming rankings for any of the three weeks after its July 29 premiere….

(11) LAST WILL AND TESTAMENTS. However, Handmaid’s Tale will have a sixth season to wind up, and a spinoff. “The Handmaid’s Tale renewed for sixth and final season”.

Since premiering in 2017, The Handmaid’s Tale has received critical praise for its portrayal of Margarett Atwood’s dystopian novel, earning multiple Emmy Awards throughout its run. Now, Elisabeth Moss’ journey as June looks to have an end date. Ahead of the Hulu Original’s fifth season return on September 14, the show has been renewed for a sixth season, which will also be its last.

While this determines the end for the once-never-ending, dark narrative that we’ve gone on with June and other characters throughout the series, there are already spin-offs in the mix. Under the tutelage of The Handmaid’s Tale creator, showrunner, and executive producer Bruce Miller will come the sequel series The Testaments, based on Atwood’s 2019 sequel novel. Set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the book is narrated by three women, including the villainous Aunt Lydia (played by Ann Dowd in the Hulu series).

(12) A LAST MISSION. “Another Star Trek Legend Honored With A Final Space Voyage” and MSN.com has the story.

Last month we learned that a portion of the ashes of Nichelle Nichols–who passed away at the end of July–would be joining the DNA of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Roddenberry’s wife as well as a Trek alum of multiple projects Majel Barrett, actor James Doohan, and visual effects master Douglas Trumbull on United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur mission. Today we learned another name has been added to those whose remains will soon start a fitting journey into deep space. The DNA of Star Trek: The Original Series star DeForest Kelley–who played Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the show and in many subsequent projects such as the first six Trek films–will be joining those of his late colleagues.

(13) WHEN COUSINS AREN’T TWO OF A KIND. “Gene-Edited Organoids Explore Neanderthal Brain Function” at The Scientist Magazine.

A gene called NOVA1, which plays a role in regulating the formation of synapses between neurons, could hold the key to understanding how we differ from our Neanderthal cousins. Researchers created human brain organoids with a Neanderthal and Denisovan variant of the gene, resulting in neurons that matured faster than neurons with a modern sequence did, developing synapses that fired at a higher rate, according to a study published yesterday (February 11) in Science.

“This is amongst the first studies of its kind to investigate how specific changes in the DNA of modern humans influences brain development,” Duke University’s Debra Silver, a developmental neurobiologist who did not participate in the research, tells Science

“It’s an extraordinary paper with some extraordinary claims,” developmental biologist Gray Camp of the University of Basel in Switzerland notes to Nature. Camp was also not involved in the current study but reported with colleagues last year an analysis of Neanderthal gene variants, which modern humans still carry, in human stem cell–derived brain organoids.

In human pluripotent stem cells, University of California, San Diego, neuroscientist Alysson Muotri and his colleagues used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system to change a single base pair in NOVA1, effectively converting the modern gene into an archaic version. The researchers then grew the cells in culture conditions to induce the growth of brain-like organoids up to 5 millimeters in diameter. Comparing them with organoids containing all modern DNA, Muotri tells Nature, the difference was obvious, with the CRISPR’d organoids being smaller with convoluted, rather than smooth, surfaces. “As soon as we saw the shape of the organoids, we knew that we were on to something.”

Muotri and his colleagues chose NOVA1 because they found that it is one of just 61 genes with modern sequences not found in the Neanderthal genome—nor in the genome of Denisovans, another archaic group of hominins—and because it has a prominent regulatory role in neurodevelopment. Dysfunction in the gene and its associated pathways has been linked with neurological conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

In addition to the structural differences in the organoids, the team found that the archaic gene induced significant changes in the expression of 277 genes, including those involved in neurodevelopment. These differences translated into varying levels of synapse proteins and, ultimately, differences in firing patterns. In addition to firing more quickly, the neurons with the archaic variant of NOVA1 had less-orderly patterns of action potentials….

(14) A VERY EXOPLANET. Good old James couldn’t be expected to waste any time discovering boring ordinary planets! “James Webb Telescope Discovers Strange Alien Planet” at MSN.com.

… The alien planet known as VHS 1256 b is what is referred to as a “brown dwarf.” This is given to planets that are not big enough to ignite into the stars but are far too big to be considered a normal planet. In fact, this planet happens to be 20 times the size of Jupiter. Brown dwarfs don’t burn hydrogen like most other planets, but they do produce their own light and heat by burning deuterium. Astronomers believed that the reddish glow of the planet was because of the atmosphere, which has now been determined to be wild and turbulent, as various gases change on the planet. Astronomers have discovered water, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sodium, and potassium all on the planet’s atmosphere….

(15) MEANWHILE, IN ORBIT AROUND RED DWARFS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Science journal reports, “Precise densities of red dwarf exoplanets help distinguish potential ‘water worlds’:  “Three types of planets orbit red dwarfs”.

Small planets orbiting faint red stars less than half the size of the Sun are numerous and could be the best places to search for signatures of life…

Luque and Pallé  present refined compositions of small planets orbiting around red dwarf stars. They find evidence that the planets fall into three main types: rocky, watery (including icy), and gassy. This result differs from most previous studies of small planets that have suggested only rocky and gassy types. Although the presence of watery small exoplanets is particularly enticing, all three types of planets around red dwarfs could present potentially habitable conditions for life.

Primary research paper here: “Density, not radius, separates rocky and water-rich small planets orbiting M dwarf stars”.

(16) BLACK ADAM. DC dropped this trailer for Black Adam. Only in theaters October 21.

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

Barkley: DisCon III, the Fifth Day

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, Discon III – Day Five

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY FIVE: THE LAST DAY

Sunday, the very last day of Discon III, was a VERY busy day.

Juli and I had finished packing the night before.

I was also up early (again) because I had a 10am panel; “Inspired Or Copied, The Ethics of Art”, featuring artists agent Jane Frank, attorney at law Harold Feld, and authors Keith DeCandido, J.T. Greathouse and myself. As I looked in the program book, I did not see anyone listed as a moderator. Which made me wonder why I was on this panel to begin with. Oh well, I thought…  

But first, there were two other issues on my plate that morning. As I got dressed, Juli informed me that I maybe in hot water with our friend, author Jonathan Brazee. Apparently, I misstated his rank in the United States Marine Corps as “Lt. Colonel” instead of his actual rank upon retirement as full Colonel. 

If you think the distinction is rather minor, think again. Consider this; my brain fart is the equivalent of mistaking the rock band Nickelback for The Beatles. I have several friends and relatives who have served in the armed services and nothing upsets them more than civilians like myself getting aspects of their lives dead wrong. So, I got dressed, dreading the prospect of running into the Colonel.

The other thing that caught my attention was a Facebook post by Adam-Troy Castro. In it, Mr. Castro totally eviscerates Jon Del Arroz, a internet provocateur (troll) mostly known for his incredibly egotistical boasts of writing talent and notorious passive-aggressive attacks on progressive writers, women, the LGBTQ community and practically anyone else who casts doubts his on his “greatness”.

Needless to say, I picked up Mr. Castro’s post and spread it all over Facebook (including the DisCon III page) and on my Twitter page with the caption (gleefully borrowed from Game of Thrones): “He who SHOUTS that he is a King, is no king.”  

THAT, dear readers, felt very, VERY satisfying.

On my way to my panel, I decided to grab a quick bite of something in the DisCon III Green Room (located just off to the side of the hotel’s main restaurant) to tide me over until I could eat a fuller breakfast. And guess who was there, having coffee with a friend —

As I started to apologize profusely, he laughed and said that he actually got a kick out of being one of the “luminaries” spotted at the bottom of the first column of this series of DisCon III reports. Totally relieved that I would not be set upon by angry veterans or service members of the armed forces, I grabbed a cup of tea and made my way to my panel. (Subsequently, Col. Brazee contacted me via text and said that no further public apology was necessary but I must disagree. When a mistake of that magnitude is made by a reporter, a correction is not only called for, it’s mandatory as far as I’m concerned.)

As I passed through the lobby, I stopped by the Information Desk for the last newsletter and the traditional hoax parody as well. I also saw that there were several dozen silver colored, Flash Gordon shaped foam rockets on the next table over. Curious, I went over and examined one and saw the red and black label, which is how I found out that the defense contractor Raytheon was an official sponsor of DisCon III. (WHAT? I should have been paying more attention during the con! In my defense, I was unsupervised…)

Thinking that these would make a nice trinket for my four grandchildren, I grabbed several of them. As I passed by Ellen Datlow, who was seated in the East Promenade eating from the grab and go buffet, I gifted her with one as well. She was very appreciative since this rocket was MUCH lighter than the Short Form Editing Hugo Award she had won yesterday evening.

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

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