Pixel Scroll 5/2/24 Gather Ye Pixels While Ye May, Scrolled Time Is Still A-Filing

(1) HOLY CATS! “Greta Gerwig’s Narnia Confirmed: Production Status & Everything We Know” at ScreenRant.

Acclaimed director Greta Gerwig has been tapped to helm a new reboot of The Chronicles of Narnia, and the upcoming film series is already beginning to take shape. Based on the beloved series of young adult novels by English writer C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia is set within the fantastical realm of fantasy and magic and tells an epic tale of war and peace within the kingdom. The novels first began publishing in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2005’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that Lewis’ vision arrived on the big screen for the first time….

… Even though little news has come regarding casting or a potential release date, Netflix’s Chronicles of Narnia is officially confirmed. Gerwig was attached in mid-2023, but the Netflix and Narnia timeline stretches back to 2018 when the streamer acquired the rights (via Rolling Stone). In the intervening years, Netflix made little mention of their Narnia aspirations until they landed Barbie director Greta Gerwig. The streamer’s long-term goals are also not known, as Gerwig has only signed on to direct the first two movies, which leaves five potential films on the table, assuming Netflix tackles all seven novels….

(2) BBC RADIO 4’S “UNCANNY”. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We over here in Brit Cit do wonder about goings-on the other side of the Black Atlantic in the land of the Mega-Cities and the Cursed Earth. So it has been good that BBC Radio 4 has stepped up with a new series… The truth is out there, or some such…

From ghostly phantoms to UFOs, Danny Robins investigates real-life stories of paranormal encounters. So, are you Team Believer or Team Sceptic?

You can download the first programme here.

(3) BEST OF BRITISH. Ian Whates today posted the table of contents for Donna Scott’s The Best of British Science Fiction 2023.

  • Introduction – Donna Scott
  • Detonation Boulevard – Alastair Reynolds
  • Vermin Control – Tim Lees
  • Personal Satisfaction – Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Scent of Green – Ana Sun
  • Gauguin’s Questions – Stephen Baxter
  • So Close to Home – Andrew Hook
  • Boojum – Angus McIntyre
  • The Station Master – Lavie Tidhar
  • Art App – Chris Beckett
  • The Blou Trein Suborbirail – L.P. Melling
  • Blue Shift Passing By – David Cleden
  • And if Venice is Sinking – Fiona Moore
  • Muse Automatique – Jaine Fenn
  • Little Sprout – E.B. Siu
  • A Change of Direction – Rhiannon Grist
  • Thus With a Kiss I Die – Robert Bagnall
  • Tough Love – Teika Marija Smits
  • The Brazen Head of Westinghouse – Tim Major
  • Skipping – Ian Watson
  • Pearl – Felix Rose Kawitzky

(4) DISNEY CARTOON ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions will run “The Heartbeat of a Cartoon II – The Art of Vintage Disney Animations Drawings” on May 11-12. Preview the lots at the link above. Here’s one example:

Mickey’s Fire Brigade Mickey Mouse, Long-Billed Donald Duck, Goofy, and Clarabelle Cow Animation Drawing (Walt Disney, 1935). Mickey and his fire brigade rush to save an oblivious Clarabelle Cow from a burning building in this 12 field 2-peghole animation drawing from the Ben Sharpsteen-directed short Mickey’s Fire Brigade. The animation premiered on 8/3/1935 and was the first short to feature this iconic trio in color. The three can be found later in the short at around the 6:31 mark as Mickey and Donald use Goofy as a battering ram to charge into Clarabelle’s bathroom. Things don’t go well for them, but they are able to finish their mission and rescue the distressed cow from the surrounding inferno. 

(5) BINDING AND LOOSING. May Haddad shows writers the ropes (literally) in “Tie Up the Loose Ends: A Writer’s Guide to Sailor’s Knots” at the SFWA Blog.

Knot tying (“nodology” in Latin, “kompology” in Greek) is a time-honored skill honed in seafaring for millennia. Its history intertwines with maritime exploration, naval warfare, and the development of trade routes all over the world. Even as synthetic ropes replaced natural fibers, knots used by sailors centuries ago remain in wide use today. Considering the popularity of “faring” in speculative fiction, whether by sea, sky, or space, featuring knot-tying in your writing is a must for authenticity.  Not only are you required to know your knots and how to tie them, but you also need to understand the lingo….

(6) PLAYING IN THE FUTURE. The Center for Science and Imagination has posted a new episode of “CSI Skill Tree: Mass Effect: Andromeda with Souvik Mukherjee and Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay”. The series “examines how video games envision possible futures and build thought-provoking worlds.”

In this episode, we discuss themes and dynamics of colonialism in video games, focusing on Mass Effect: Andromeda, a space opera roleplaying game from 2017.

Our guests are Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, principal investigator and lead for CoFUTURES, an international research group on global futures at the University of Oslo, and coeditor of the book Indian Genre Fiction: Pasts and Future Histories, and Souvik Mukherjee, assistant professor in Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and author of Videogames and Postcolonialism: Empire Plays Back and Videogames in the Indian Subcontinent: Development, Culture(s) and Representations.

Here’s a YouTube playlist with all 15 Skill Tree episodes thus far.

(7) RICK LAI (1955-2024). [Item by Anne Marble.] On April 30, the Lovecraft Ezine reported that pulp historian Rick Lai passed away. He won the 2022 Munsey Award for his “erudite and insightful scholarship” in pulp fiction. “Our dear friend Rick Lai passed away in his sleep last night.”

The family obituary is here:

…Retired software engineer and well-recognized published author, noted for his insightful scholarship, brilliant storytelling, and encyclopedic knowledge in pulp and adventure fiction. While he enjoyed film, reading, and writing, his greatest love was his family. He cherished any time spent with friends and family and was a compassionate and doting father and grandfather….

Rick Lai was interviewed for the PulpFest website in 2021: “The Shadow of Rick Lai”.

Rick Lai:  I became interested in Doc Savage due to the Bantam paperbacks with their stunning artwork by James Bama. I bought my first Doc Savage novel — The Thousand-Headed Man — in October 1967. I was twelve years old. By the time I was fifteen, I was reading paperback editions of the works of such pulp authors as Burroughs, Howard, Lovecraft, Mundy, E. E. “Doc” Smith, and Clark Ashton Smith. I didn’t get interested in The  Shadow until I read Philip Joê Farmer’s The Adventure of the Peerless Peer in 1977. The pulp crimefighter meets Sherlock Holmes in that book…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. (Died 2022.) Anybody here who hasn’t seen John Neville in Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen where he played the title role? Well the ConFiction nominees certainly saw it as it was indeed nominated for a Hugo that year. That was the year that Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade won the Hugo.

John Neville as Baron Munchausen

And what a character he played. The film starts off with the Turkish army laying siege to a European city where a theater production about the extraordinary heroics of famed German aristocrat Baron Münchhausen is underway. A man steps forward to object that the performance is a lie, not what really happened, and that he is the real Baron. So the Baron as portrayed as Neville begins to tell a series of tales, each equally improbable. Really improbable. 

He was a marvelous storyteller telling his tale with a deft hand. But then I expected no less as he’d already been in A Study in Terror back in the Sixties where he made a most excellent Sherlock Holmes. For my viewpoint, this role as The Baron was definitely the best by far of his career.

Later genre roles were including the recurring role in the X-Files as The Well- Manicured Man. He was there for a total of eight episodes but I must confess that I’ve not seen all of the series, and yes it’s on my to be watched in its entirety list, so I’ve not seen this role. Or at least I don’t remember him. 

He had an appearance in the Trek universe on Next Generation as Isaac Newton in “Descent”.  Likewise if you saw The Fifth Element, and I’ve seen it at least four times, he’s General Staedert there. 

That’s I wanted to note although there’s a lot more that he did, so feel free to tell me what I should have noted. I know you want to. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CEASED BUT NOT DECEASED. “Creators Getting Cease And Desists Over Conan And Red Sonja” reports Bleeding Cool.

Earlier this year comic creator of Bad Machinery and Giant DaysJohn Allison, posted to his website about a new webcomic strip. “A new story starts next week, in three parts – CONAN: THE BLOOD EGG. Welcome to my new Hyborian Age, an epoch that lasts 21 weeks, or 22 if I have to have a week off between chapters at some point. While this move into the thrilling, tempestuous, and most importantly, public domain world of Conan may seem jarring, perhaps there is something about this cover image that will hint at a certain familiarity to the cast.”

The cast of Bad Machinery there. But a little while afterwards, it was not to be. The strips were removed and Allison posted, “Following a cease and desist notice filed on behalf of Conan Properties International (CPI) LLC I have taken down my Conan & The Blood Egg comic. While to the best of my understanding, Conan The Barbarian is in the public domain in the UK (where I live and work), I do not have the time or the energy to contest this. I made this story for my own and your amusement and it has – I think understandably – ceased to be amusing. I apologise for the break in updates, and that you won’t get to see the remaining half of the story. I was ten pages (of 66) off finishing drawing it. In retrospect, my mistake was starting to draw it in the first place.”

Conan is in the public domain in the UK. However, posting it online means that it is also considered to be published wherever it is read, including the USA, where it is not public domain until 2028….

(11) USE THE FROSTING, LUKE. [Item by Scott Edelman.] Astro Donuts & Fried Chicken is will be selling Star Wars-themed donuts on May 4th.

(12) GOT PETAFLOPS? “Here’s your chance to own a decommissioned US government supercomputer”Ars Technica tells you how.

On Tuesday, the US General Services Administration began an auction for the decommissioned Cheyenne supercomputer, located in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The 5.34-petaflop supercomputer ranked as the 20th most powerful in the world at the time of its installation in 2016. Bidding started at $2,500, but it’s price is currently $27,643 with the reserve not yet met.

The supercomputer, which officially operated between January 12, 2017, and December 31, 2023, at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center, was a powerful (and once considered energy-efficient) system that significantly advanced atmospheric and Earth system sciences research….

(13) SHADE ON ORION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] An Inspector General’s report at NASA has cast doubt on the readiness of the Orion capsule to support crewed missions. “NASA moon capsule suffered extensive damage during 2022 test flight” in the Washington Post.

The heat shield of the Orion spacecraft intended one day to carry astronauts to the moon under NASA’s Artemis program suffered unexpected damage in more than 100 places as the spacecraft returned to Earth during an uncrewed test flight in 2022, according to a watchdog report released late Wednesday.

While the capsule withstood the fiery tumult of reentry, when temperatures reached 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it plunged through the atmosphere at nearly 25,000 mph, the damage the heat shield suffered was far greater than NASA engineers had expected and more severe than NASA had revealed previously. Photos of the heat shield in the report showed gouges that look like small potholes.

“Should the same issue occur on future Artemis missions, it could lead to the loss of the vehicle or crew,” the report, by NASA’s inspector general, concluded.

Earlier this year, NASA announced that the next flight in its Artemis moon program, which would send a crew of four around the moon in the Artemis II mission, would be delayed to no earlier than September 2025, largely because officials wanted to study the heat shield issue further and understand why it eroded as it did.

The IG report provides the most detailed description of the issue to date. It also highlighted other problems with the spacecraft that could create significant challenges for the space agency as it seeks to return humans to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years.

Portions of the heat shield “wore away differently than NASA engineers predicted, cracking and breaking off the spacecraft in fragments that created a trail of debris rather than melting away as designed,” according to the report. That, in turn, “could have caused enough structural damage to cause one of Orion’s parachutes to fail.”…

(14) WALLY MCWALLFACE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] If you were an astronaut on the Moon, would you want to run around something called the “wall of death“ in order to keep fit for your return to Earth? I’m betting even seasoned professionals would prefer it have a different name. And I bet we all know what it would be called if NASA left it open to a public vote. “Astronauts could run round ‘Wall of Death’ to keep fit on moon, say scientists” in the Guardian.

As humans prepare to return to the moon after an absence of more than half a century, researchers have hit on a radical approach to keeping astronauts fit as they potter around the ball of rock.

To prevent lunar explorers from becoming weak and feeble in the low gravity environment, scientists suggest astronauts go for a run. But, this being space, it’s not just any kind of run – researchers have advised astronauts run several times a day around a “lunar Wall of Death”.

Using a rented Wall of Death – a giant wooden cylinder used by motorcycle stunt performers in their gravity-defying fairground act – a 36m-high telescopic crane, and some bungee cords, researchers showed it was possible for a human to run fast enough in lunar gravity not only to remain on the wall, but to generate sufficient lateral force to combat bone and muscle wasting….

(15) SCREENTIME. JustWatch ranks the most-viewed streaming movies and TV in April 2024.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/24 One Scroll, Furnished In Early Pixelry

(1) IT PAYS TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. The Steampunk Explorer updates fans about the Girl Genius Kickstarter:

Call it mad science or just good storytelling, but Phil and Kaja Foglio are blazing through Kickstarter with their latest Girl Genius graphic novel. The campaign for An Entertainment In Londinium reached its US$50,000 funding goal within 24 hours and is now in six-figure territory. It launched on April 3.

Stretch goal rewards include the “Envelope of Madness” with bookplates, bookmarks, and other printed items. Backers will also get PDF downloads of Volumes 12 through 14. All Girl Genius titles are now available for 50 percent off from DriveThru Comics through May 5.

The campaign itself runs through May 1. See the Kickstarter page for more info.

(2) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 107 of the Octothorpe podcast unpacks“The Significance of the Acorn”.

At Eastercon we welcomed Stunt Liz, Nicholas Whyte, to the podcast for the first time, and he brought an excellent tartan rocket! We discuss Glasgow 2024’s April Fool’s Day joke, before moving onto the Hugo Award finalists, what we think of Telford, and chatting about a lot of British TV.

Transcript here.

John, Alison, and Nicholas Whyte stand in front of a projection of the Octothorpe podcast and behind a panel table. Each of them wears a convention badge, and Nicholas holds the Glasgow Landing Zone Rocket. Nicholas is looking at the camera, while John and Alison are not quite as good at this. The table they stand behind holds beers, coffees, convention newsletters, phone batteries, microphones, and table tents.
Octothorpe at Levitation. Photo by Sue Dawson.

(3) HUGE RESPONSE. “’Joker 2′ Trailer Hits 167 Million Views in First 24 Hours” reports Variety.

The trailer launch for “Joker: Folie à Deux” was no laughing matter for Warner Bros. The marketing for the studio’s upcoming DC sequel, headlined by Joaquin Phoenix and Lady Gaga, got off to a stellar start with 167 million viewers in its first 24 hours. The teaser trailer went online right after it debuted at Warner Bros.’s CinemaCon presentation in Las Vegas.

Sources tell Variety that the “Joker” sequel’s trailer numbers and social engagement surpassed that of the first “Barbie” trailer to become Warner Bros.’ biggest launch in recent years. The release was no doubt bolstered by Lady Gaga’s massive 150 million follower social media footprint. The trailer instantly became the #1 trending video on YouTube on premiere night and currently boasts 15.6 million views and counting on that platform alone, where it remains the #4 trending video nearly two days after its launch…

(4) ANOTHER DISNEY CASTING KERFUFFLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, this has gotten out of hand. It seems like every time there’s a movie remake (especially a Disney remake) somebody has to find way to get all bent out of shape about casting. Much of the time, a racist way.

But this time they jumped the gun extra early. There’s a rumored casting of a live action remake for Disney’s Tangled. But, let’s be clear, there’s no further rumor of the remake itself, just the casting.

So now some people online are jumping all over the actress (Avantika Vandanapu) who happens to be Indian-American. Because reasons. Stupid, racist, reasons. 

As one online commentator said, the haters seriously “still need a hobby.” “Avantika Vandanapu receives backlash for rumored casting as Rapunzel in ‘Tangled’ remake” says Variety.

…Although Avantika’s rumored casting received criticism from some on social media, fans also showed support for the “Senior Year” actress.

“These comments are so awful. I’m so sorry girl you are perfect,” one Instagram user wrote, while another added, “She is my Rapunzel ❤”

“Never Have I Ever” star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan also appeared to weigh in on the online controversy, writing on X Tuesday, “And they finally woke up to realize it was all just rumors and the sources never existed. … And to the racists, y’all still need a hobby (for real)”…

(5) ELUSIVE BRADBURY COLLECTION. Episode 2 of Phil Nichols’ Bradbury 101, first aired in 2021, is devoted to a rare OP anthology.

DARK CARNIVAL is Ray Bradbury’s great “lost” book, one of his finest short story collections. But it’s out of print, and has been for decades! Find out why in this episode..

(6) TRINA ROBBINS (1938-2024). Trina Robbins, artist, writer and editor of comics, died April 10. The New York Times has a biographical tribute.

…In 1970, Ms. Robbins was one of the creators of It Ain’t Me Babe, the first comic book made exclusively by women. In 1985, she was the first woman to draw a full issue of Wonder Woman, and a full run on a Wonder Woman series, after four decades of male hegemony. And in 1994, she was a founder of Friends of Lulu, an advocacy group for female comic-book creators and readers….

…Ms. Robbins was responsible for the first publication of some notable cartoonists in The East Village Other, including Vaughn Bode and Justin Green, but she took particular pride in the women’s anthologies she edited and co-edited, and in their explicitly feminist content: It Ain’t Me Babe Comix, Wimmen’s Comix and the erotic Wet Satin.

She also designed the famously skimpy outfit for Vampirella, a female vampire who appeared in black-and-white comics beginning in 1969 — although her design was not as skimpy as the costume later became. “The costume I originally designed for Vampi was sexy, but not bordering on obscene,” Ms. Robbins told the Fanbase Press website in 2015. “I will not sign a contemporary Vampirella comic. I explain, that is not the costume I designed.”…

Prior to her career in comics, Robbins was a clothing designer and seller, and for awhile a pinup model. She was in contact with fandom in the Fifties and Sixties, and posed for the cover of an issue of Fanac, the fannish newzine, wearing a propellor beanie and with her feminine attributes strategically covered by a copy of Fancyclopedia.

Harlan Ellison and Trina Robbins at the 1955 Midwestcon.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. (Died 2010.) London-born Peter O’Donnell was the creator of the Modesty Blaise comic strip along with illustrator Jim Holdaway sixty-one years ago. She has no past as she doesn’t remember anything about her life before escaping from a displaced persons camp in Greece after WW II at the age of fifteen. She runs a criminal gang called The Network, and takes her last name from Merlin’s tutor. Her sidekick, of course she has one, is Willie Garvin, to give a bit of friendship in her life.

Peter O’Donnell from the rear dustjacket flap of the Archival Press edition of The Silver Mistress. Photo by Robert K. Wiener.

O’Donnell and Holdaway met when they worked together on a strip about Romeo Brown, a dashing private detective and reluctant ladies’ man, that ran in the tabloid Evening Standard for most of the Fifties. Blaise, too, would run here. It was quickly picked up globally running in the US, Australian, Indian, South African, Malaysian and other papers as she had a great appeal.

After Holdaway’s death in 1970, the art was by Spanish artist Enrique Romero. He would leave eight years later with three artists replacing him until he came back until the end of the strip with it still running in the Evening Standard thirty-eight years after it debuted. 

Yes, it became a film which came just three years into the running of the strip. My did it piss O’Donnell off. Why so? Because he was hired to write the script which they then shitcanned and wrote a new one that had almost nothing to do with characters, the storyline or, well, anything else with the strip. Remember that friendship between her and Willie? Here it becomes full blown romance. And that’s just one of many, many changes. 

A later film, Modesty Blaise, would be done as a pilot for a series that never happened and yet another film, My Name is Modesty Blaise, would be done for yet another series that never happened.  The one had O’Donnell as a consultant and he liked it.

My Name is Modesty Blaise would be the only one with a British actress as the first had an Italian actress. Now Modesty wasn’t necessarily British as O’Donnell repeatedly said her nationality was deliberately not revealed. 

I’ve not touched upon the plethora of books, short stories, graphic novels and original audiobooks that came of these characters in the part sixty years, and I’ll skip detailing them here. 

So there you are. I did enjoy the strip when Titan, one of many who did, collected them in trade editions. I think there’s at least fifty trade paper editions available right now on Amazon. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BE KIND TO YOUR WEB-FOOTED FRIENDS. This July, Marvel and Disney honor the 90th anniversary of Donald Duck and the 50th anniversary of Wolverine with an unexpected mashup adventure—Marvel & Disney: What If…? Donald Duck Became Wolverine #1.

Crafted by two acclaimed Disney comic creators, writer Luca Barbieri and artist Giada Perissinotto, MARVEL & DISNEY: WHAT IF…? DONALD BECAME WOLVERINE #1 is the latest comic book collaboration between Marvel and Disney following the What If…? Disney Variant Covers of the last few years and the highly anticipated Uncle Scrooge and the Infinity Dime #1 one-shot comic out this June. Fans can look forward to even more exciting crossovers between Marvel heroes and Disney icons throughout this year and next! 

The comic will introduce Donald-Wolverine along with all sorts of reimagined Disney and Marvel mashups in a wild adventure inspired by one of Wolverine’s most memorable story arcs, Old Man Logan. In addition, the saga will revisit some of the greatest moments in Donald-Wolverine’s history including his time spent with Weapon X and the Uncanny X-Men!  

Travel to the near future where chaos rules as Pete-Skull transforms Duckburg into a super-hero-less wasteland. Only Old Donald Duck can turn the tide, but he’s given up his battling days and prefers naps and his grandma’s apple pie over fighting villains. But when Mickey-Hawkeye comes knocking at the door with Goofy-Hulk at his side, Wolverine-Donald has to make a choice! Will a trip down memory lane change his mind to save the world? Or will the lure of the backyard hammock and a long nap keep him from popping his claws one last time?

(10) FOLLOWING GODZILLA’S ACT. Variety learns, “‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ Renewed, Multiple Spinoffs Set at Apple”.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” has been renewed for Season 2 at Apple TV+Variety has learned.

In addition, Apple has struck a deal with Legendary Entertainment to develop multiple spinoff series set in the so-called Monsterverse….

…The official description for Season 1 states: “Following the thunderous battle between Godzilla and the Titans that leveled San Francisco and the shocking revelation that monsters are real, ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ tracks two siblings (Sawai, Watabe) following in their father’s footsteps to uncover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch. Clues lead them into the world of monsters and ultimately down the rabbit hole to Army officer Lee Shaw (Kurt Russell, Wyatt Russell), taking place in the 1950s and half a century later where Monarch is threatened by what Shaw knows.”…

(11) SO WE’LL WALK UP THE AVENUE. “They Made a Movie About a Pack of Sasquatches. Why?” The New York Times asks the filmmakers.

…An earthquake and an eclipse weren’t the only natural rarities that happened in New York City this past week. Did you hear about the sasquatch in Central Park? The makers of “Sasquatch Sunset” sure hope you did.

That’s because the sasquatch was a costume and his stroll through the park was a publicity push for the new film from the brothers David and Nathan Zellner. Opening in New York on Friday, the movie spends a year in the wild with a sasquatch pack — a male and female (Nathan Zellner and Riley Keough) and two younger sasquatches (Jesse Eisenberg and Christophe Zajac-Denek) — as they eat, have sex, fight predators and reckon with death.

Droll but big-hearted, the movie sits at the intersection of the ad campaign for Jack Link’s beef jerky, the 1987 comedy “Harry and the Hendersons” and a 1970s nature documentary, down to the hippie-vibe soundtrack.

Is it a family-friendly movie?

KEOUGH It depends on the family. [Laughs] I think the audience is everybody. It might be scary for small children.

DAVID ZELLNER It’s rated R for nudity, which is the funniest thing.

(12) CATS AND DOGS LIVING TOGETHER. Meanwhile, Camestros Felapton has fled the country, leaving behind to distract pursuers “McEdifice in: MYCOPHAGE! Part 1”.

Cliff “Edge” McEdifice is MYCOPHAGE the intoxicating new thriller from Timothy the Talking Cat, Straw Puppy and the ghost of Michael Crichton.

It is the Year 1995 and Cliff “Edge” McEdifice (ancestor of future soldier Chiselled McEdifice) is entangled in a web of conspiracy, tendrils and webs.

(13) NEXT TREK. “Star Trek Origin Movie Officially Announced By Paramount For 2025 Release” at ScreenRant.

Paramount Pictures officially announces the next Star Trek movie, which is scheduled to arrive in theaters in 2025. As reported in January, the next Star Trek movie isn’t the long-delayed, Chris Pine-led Star Trek 4 produced by J.J. Abrams, which remains in development at Paramount. Rather, the next Star Trek movie is an origin story directed by Toby Haynes (Star Wars: Andor) and written by Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Arnie Fenner, Kathy Sullivan, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/24 Pixels En Scrollgalia

(1) HOLMES & WATSON. At Brandon O’Brien’s Afternoon Tea the author takes up the Elementary series: “Lapsang Souchong: Two People Who ‘Love’ Each Other”.

I’ve been thinking about this topic idly in my skull for quite some time, and since there are no real good places to put it—less than an essay, more than a tweet—I figured a good test of my discipline would be drafting it for a newsletter. So here’s me rambling about one of my favourite idle obsessions: the 2010s CBS procedural Elementary, in particular why its portrayal of the relationship between Holmes & Watson is one of my favourites. BIG SPOILERS, of course that goes without saying, but you’re already here, so…

(2) TINGLE Q&A. The Geekiary came back from the con with more proof that love is real! “WonderCon 2024: Interview with the Legendary Chuck Tingle”.

… “You don’t hear this so much anymore, but back in the day, conservatives had this sort of slippery slope dang baloney argument about ‘if we let gay people get married then what’s next? You gotta marry a tree? Are you going to marry a dang dinosaur?’ And I think that I always heard those arguments and I always thought why not? What would be wrong with someone marrying whoever, whatever, how many different people, different combinations. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, as long as you’re talking about consenting adults, the world would be a much better place if you took this conservative nightmare to the extreme, it would actually probably be more of a utopia.

“And so the Tingleverse in general, is kind of that conservative nightmare realized in that actually, it would be a really beautiful place full of love, and acceptance. And so, from the very first story, it is an unusual combination of lovers. But you realize if you read the book, ‘Oh, actually, that’s a really wholesome, beautiful, wonderful place that conservatives seem to just be terrified of.’”…

(3) “TRAD PUBLISHING IS LITERALLY FAILING AT DOING ITS JOB”. Lili Saintcrow cuts loose about the current WTF state of traditional publishing — “We Gotta Talk About (Trad) Publishing”. (Saintcrow’s fireworks are inspired by Lorraine Wilson’s analysis, “Is there a book submission arms race”, an article that Saintcrow praises as “perfectly lovely and … a hundred percent accurate”.)

…Publishing has always been an awfully exploitative business. For a long while the level of fuckery in trad pub was low enough for plenty of writers to make a reasonable gamble by submitting by the rules and building a career, but this is no longer the case. Which is not solely or even mostly a function of the pandemic, mind you–the problems were already there well before 2020 rolled around, but conditions since ~2016 have absolutely poured jet fuel on the fire and now we’ve got a multiple-alarm blaze. (You could even trace the problems to Amazon’s strong-arming, or further back to Reagonomics, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

The Big Five/Four have already offloaded the brute work of marketing onto individual authors, hollowing out their own marketing departments in order to line C-suite pockets. Now the crunch has reached editorial departments, where even salaried folk traditionally protected from a lot of industry bullshit are being ruthlessly overworked, underpaid, and just generally mistreated. (No, this is not a “pity the poor editors” screed, just a fact.) Consequently a lot of folk are leaving, and those who remain–or the shiny new ones coming in, thinking they’re going to score a good job–find it impossible to pick up the slack. The article linked above is absolutely correct that editors at the big houses are now being used as draft-horse project managers, which does not work with novels or nonfiction books. It just…doesn’t….

And there’s a lot more at the link.

(4) IN THE YEAR 2025. The 2025 UK Eastercon – named Reconnect — will be held April 18-21, 2025 in Belfast, co-chaired by James Bacon and Tommy Ferguson, with Deputy Chair Jo Zebedee. Get more information at the Eastercon Belfast website.

(5) GLASGOW 2024 PUBLISHES NEW PROGRESS REPORT. Glasgow 2024 today published Progress Report 4 (their fifth; the first was numbered as Progress Report 0). Anyone can download the PDF file from the Glasgow 2024 website.

The cover for Progress Report 4 (PR4), ‘Badger Finds A Charmawow’ is by Chris Baker (a.k.a. Fangorn), one of the Guests of Honour.

PR4 includes news from all areas including:

PR4 also features a look back at the London Worldcon of 2014, the final entry in their history of British Worldcons.

(6) WILL GLASGOW CAP ATTENDING MEMBERSHIPS? Progress Report #4 includes this information:

… Our current projections are for between 6,500 and 8,000 purchased in-person registrant types (including 1- and 2-day tickets). This upper number, if everyone turns up, is probably above the maximum holding capacity for the site. So, there is a chance we may need to cap in-person attending registrant purchases, if we are not to get overcrowded. So, we are advising folk to join as early as possible to avoid this possibility effecting your enjoyment of the convention….

(7) TEXAS-SIZED COLLECTION. Morgan Dawn recommended Bluesky readers watch a 2022 video about the “Huge Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection”, which explores the sff collection at the Texas A&M Library, and takes viewers back to the early days of the university’s Cepheid Variable club and their annual AggieCon.

(8) A BELFAST BOOK. “Michael Magee: ‘There’s a disbelief at how I’ve ended up’”, so he tells a Guardian interviewer.

Michael Magee, 33, won this year’s Nero debut fiction award for Close to Home, now out in paperback, as well as last year’s Rooney prize for Irish literature (previously awarded to Anne Enright and Claire Keegan). Set in west Belfast, where Magee grew up, the book follows Sean, a working-class graduate who falls foul of the law as he struggles to make a life in the shadow of violence both political and domestic….

What did you read growing up?
In my later teens I had a very good English teacher who gave me Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a Knave, which was the first instance where I’d read something that reflected my own reality. I didn’t grow up in a bookish house and didn’t start reading in my spare time outside education till I was about 12 or 13. Lord of the Rings was my gateway drug. As a teenager I wrote a ripoff of it, drawing maps that I dabbed with wet teabags and burned at the edges to age them. But I did all this on the shy! You couldn’t be seen reading books in the company I was keeping. As a young man I felt impelled towards toughness, inexpressiveness, which was at odds with who I was, and who I am. It took me a very long time to disentangle myself from that.

You must run into people who knew you back then.
Of course, all the time. There’s a disbelief at how I’ve ended up – I ask myself the same question – and also a kind of piss-taking, which is completely deserved: “Still writing your wee books, Mick, are ye?”…

(9) IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A BATH. Forbes believes they know “The Real Reason For Disney’s $11 Billion Streaming Losses”.

… For a number of months in 2020, Disney was almost entirely reliant on Disney+ and it came into its own. As people were stuck indoors during lockdown, the popularity of the platform surged and was hailed as Disney’s white knight. It was almost unthinkable that it could actually end up bringing the company to its knees but that is exactly what happened over the following years.

As subscriber numbers soared far beyond Disney’s forecasts, the Mouse got drunk on its own success and ploughed billions of Dollars into exclusive Disney+ content. By the time it was released, there was a vaccine for covid and the pandemic had receded. Consumers were left picking up the tab for blockbuster furlough payments creating a global cost of living crisis that endures to this day. It led to people cutting their streaming subscriptions and left Disney with a loss-making platform….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 7, 1934 Ian Richardson. (Died 2007.) I do these Birthdays by seeing who I recognize and then doing a deep dive to see how interesting a given individual is. It’s not just what they did in our community that interests me but what they’ve done else as well. And Ian Richardson had an interesting career both here and elsewhere.

Ian Richardson

Where to start? He was at the right age, just about fifty, when he played Holmes in The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles, a pair of made for television films. He also starred in BBC’s Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes playing Arthur Conan Doyle’s mentor, Dr. Joseph Bell.

What next? How about him being in Brazil? (I had to watch it three times before I liked it.)  He plays Mr. Warren, works in a rabbit-warren style place, a maze of Endless Corridors. A perfect bureaucrat he was.

He’s the Narrator of Dark City which was nominated for the Hugo Award at Aussiecon Three the year The Truman Show won.

In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, he’s Polonius. In the play by Shakespeare, Polonius is a verbose, faltering and pathetic old man whose servile devotion to Claudius renders him untrustworthy in the eyes of Hamlet. Here he portrays that character perfectly. Yes, I do love the film. 

He’s The Wasp in Alice Through The Looking Glass. You really, really need to see the yellow wig that they gave to represent him being a wasp. 

Ian Richardson as the Wasp in a Wig and Kate Beckinsale in Alice Through the Looking Glass (1998).

He’s in From Hell as Sir Charles Warren, an actual historical figure, an Officer in the British Royal Engineers who was one of the first archaeologists. 

Finally he’s in that Midsummer’s Night Dream. You know the one that Ian Holm, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg, David Warner and Judi Dench in it? He plays Oberon here. 

Wait, though, as I do feel obligated to note his two extraordinary performances outside the genre. He played Tory politician Francis Urquhart in the House of Cards series — oh so magnificently — and he was British spy Bill Haydon in the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy series. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) YES, YOU. Steve Lieber shared an unforgettable memo from Jim Shooter to the staff.

(13) THEY MADE THE SHIP THAT MADE THE KESSEL RUN. [Item by Steven French.] Atlas Obscura tells us the genre connection of Wales’ “Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre”.

THERE WAS SOMETHING DIFFERENT ABOUT the last ship to leave Pembrokeshire’s massive dock complex.

Following the success of the original Star Wars film in 1977, director George Lucas wanted a full-scale model of Han Solo’s fabled spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, for the filming of the next installment in the series, The Empire Strikes Back.

The job of constructing the 88-foot vessel fell to a team working out of the historic maritime dock complex at Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire…

Sadly, the model was sold for scrap.

(14) MAKE YOUR SPEED WORF FACTOR THREE. [Item by Dann.] “From the Starfighter to the Enterprise NCC-1701-D” in FLYING magazine.

From the late 1980s through the 1990s, Klingon Lt. Cmdr. Worf was one of the most visible characters on the popular TV shows Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Actor and pilot Michael Dorn, who was cast as Worf, made the character his own and ended up appearing in 276 episodes, the most of any other cast member in the Star Trek franchise’s history.

To Dorn, morphing into Worf each day was a lengthy process because of the amount of makeup and prosthetics required to bring the character to life. But when the cameras stopped rolling, it wasn’t the starship Enterprise that drew Dorn’s attention, it was a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. But there was a problem.

You see, Michael Dorn likes airplanes that go fast. Really fast. After moving through a few general aviation airplanes, he began buying and flying a long list of former U.S. military fighter jets. This desire to go fast also explains why he drives a Tesla Model X P100D today. “It has ‘Ludicrous’ mode,” Dorn says. “I live for on-ramps!”…

The list of aircraft Michael has owned includes:

Civilian aircraft

  • Cessna 172
  • Cessna 310
  • Cessna 340A
  • Citation 501SP
  • SOCATA Trinidad TB-20
  • Beechcraft Baron 55

Military (or military-grade) aircraft

  • HA200 Saeta  (Spanish and Egyptian Air Forces)
  • Lockheed T-33  (USAF, USN, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, German Air Force)
  • North American F-86C (USAF, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Spanish Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force)
  • North American Sabreliner 40A (USAF, USN, & USMC operated military configurations)
  • Lockheed F-104 Starfighter (USAF, German Air Force, Turkish Air Force, Italian Air Force)

(15) TRUE GRIT. “Life Beyond Earth: What Awaits Humanity on the Moon”Literary Hub makes it sound a lot less fun than Robert A. Heinlein used to.

…Moondust is a huge problem. Apollo astronauts were vexed by the sharp-edged powder, which got under their fingernails and into their noses, lungs, mouths, and eyes. Apollo 12’s Alan Bean said residual dust in the LM cabin “made breathing without the helmet difficult, and enough particles were present… to affect our vision.” The stuff is like “silty sand… [but] sharp and glassy,” according to the Lunar Sourcebook. Coughing and itching are nuisances, but simulated long-term exposure, in one study’s words, revealed “significant cell toxicity in neuronal and lung cell lines in culture, as well as DNA damage.” Mitigating the dust is a significant challenge, but astronauts and their equipment could be protected with invisible electrodes that activate what researcher Carlos Calle calls an “Electrodynamic Dust Shield”—shifting electric fields that keep the dust from sticking to a surface…

(16) NASFiC ECLIPSE. Joseph T. Major reminds us about a previous celestial experience:

 In 2017, too late to do anything about it, Mike Glyer had an interesting thought.  Why not have NASFiC in Nashville, during the August 21 eclipse?  But Ken Moore, the man who could have organized it, had died in 2009.

Nevertheless, there was a possibility.  Bob Embler annually held Outsidecon, where fans got in tent and socialized.  What was so important about that?

Every year, in Kelly, Kentucky, there is Little Green Men Festival, commemorating the close encounter there in 1955.  In 2017, the Festival ran a day over, so the flying saucer people could see the eclipse.  And they stayed in tents, too, because hotel bills were $300 a day and a minimum of three days’ stay.

If Mike and Bob had got together, they could have organized a Kelly Outdoor NASF­iC bid for the 18th through the 21st.  Now that would have been better than the San Juan NASFiC.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Elle Cordova delivers “Real footage of the #eclipse”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/19/24 Ocean’s Elevenses

(1) GAIMAN COLLECTION AUCTION RESULTS. March 15 was “The Day Neil Gaiman Swapped His Original Comic Art, Comic Books and Collectibles for More Than $1 Million”.

[He offered] 125 prized pieces from his collection — everything from original comic artwork to signed books, a Coraline puppet used in the film to limited-edition sculptures, handmade Christmas stories given as gifts, to the awards he received. It was a day well spent: The completely sold-out Neil Gaiman Collection Comics & Comic Art Signature ® Auction, which drew more than 1,200 bidders worldwide, realized $1,029,392.

A portion of the auction’s proceeds will benefit The Hero Initiative, which provides medical and monetary assistance to veteran comics creators, writers and artists needing a helping hand. Some proceeds will also go to the Authors League Fund, which assists professional authors, journalists, critics, poets and dramatists in financial need because of medical or health-related problems, temporary loss of income or other misfortunes.

Gaiman will also share some of the proceeds with the artists who made his imagination tangible enough to put on Bristol board.

“I love the idea of benefitting charities that look after authors who’ve fallen on hard times, that look after the artists and writers and creators of comics who’ve had hard times,” Gaiman told the packed auction gallery Thursday morning. “And I like the idea of normalizing the idea that we who do have art we bought for $50 a page or $100 a page that now sells for tens of thousands of dollars a page get into the idea of giving something back to the artists who originally drew it. That seems to me an important thing to do.”

This single page of art alone went for $132,000: “Dave Gibbons and John Higgins Watchmen #7 Story Page 16 Original Art”.

… Not far behind was the only piece of Sandman-related artwork Gaiman had ever purchased: Jean Giraud’s 1994 painting of Death of the Endless, sister of the titular Sandman whose epic tale spans the universe’s origin through the present day. This painting by the man called Moebius sparked a bidding war that drove its final price to $96,000. That was also the amount realized for John Totleben’s cover of Miracleman No. 16, the last issue written by Moore before Gaiman took the reins.

One of the auction’s most sought-after, fought-over pieces was among its smallest: an on-screen, camera-used puppet of Coraline in her orange polka-dot pajamas accompanied by her ever-present companion, The Cat — “fully posable actors,” as Gaiman explained. He told the audience that Coraline “has been in my bedroom in a glass case since 2009, and I had more qualms about letting her go than I did anything else in this entire auction. She’s there. She smiles at me. She’s special.”

It was so special that a bidding war broke out over Coraline, who eventually went to a new home for $72,000….

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading on March 13, 2024 where Moses Ose Utomi and Richard Butner read.

(3) EVIDENCE THAT SCHOOL TOSSED BOOKS WHICH WERE OBJECTED TO BY STAFF OR PARENTS. “Publishers Issue Letter to NYC DOE Over Discarded Books”Publishers Weekly has details.

Candlewick Press, Charlesbridge Press, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Sourcebooks, and the organization Authors Against Book Bans have issued a letter to the New York City Department of Education over reports that hundreds of books were discarded by a Staten Island elementary school on ideological grounds.

On March 11, Gothamist reported that hundreds of new books featuring characters of color and LGBTQ themes were found near the garbage at PS 55. Some of the books, pictured in the report, were marked by sticky notes that marked certain titles “not approved,” with reasons such as “Boy questions gender,” “teenage girls having a crush on another girl in class,” and “Witchcraft? Human skulls.”

The discarded books included copies of My Two Border Towns by David Bowle, illustrated by Erika Meza; Kenzy Kickstarts a Team (The Derby Daredevils #1) by Kit Rosewater, illustrated by Sophie Escabasse; Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald Smith; We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac; and Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Gothamist reporter Jessica Gold found that no formal challenge to the books had been raised through official channels and that “the removal of the books resulted from an objection raised by staff or parents.” The NYC DOE has reportedly announced it is conducting an investigation into the incident.

In response, a coalition of publishers whose books were discarded teamed with Authors Against Book Bans to pen a letter to New York City’s DOE over the report about the book removal, stating, “If true, such action amounts to unlawful censorship and violates authors’ and students’ First Amendment rights.”…

(4) SENDAK FELLOWS. “2024 Sendak Fellows Announced”Publishers Weekly has the names.

The Maurice Sendak Foundation has announced this year’s Sendak Fellows: Charlotte Ager, Rocío Araya, and Cozbi A. Cabrera.

The four-week fellowship will take place May 13 through June 9 at Milkwood Farm in South Kortright, N.Y., and comes with a prize of $5,000. During the residency, artists will focus on a project of their choosing, meet with visiting artists and professionals in the field, and explore Sendak’s house and archives in Ridgefield, Conn.

Originally from the Isle of Wight, Ager is a freelance illustrator based in London. Her clients have included the New York Times, Google Design, Penguin Random House, and Flying Eye Books. Araya is an illustrator from Bilbao, Spain, currently living in France. Rocío’s first English-language translation of her book Head in the Clouds will be published by Elsewhere Editions in 2024. And Cabrera is the author-illustrator of Me & Mama, which received a Coretta Scott King Honor and Caldecott Honor, and My Hair Is a Garden.

(5) NOT QUITE INFINITE COMBINATIONS. Den of Geek says “It’s Official: TV Shows Have Run Out of Titles”. (Fanzines have run into the same problem – how else to explain “File 770”?)

Back when it was all fields around here, TV show titles were in abundance. In the days when television used to be hand-stretched and sun-dried and made at a gentlemanly pace by artisanal methods, there were titles galore. Worzel GummidgeStarsky and HutchLast of the Summer Wine. Distinct and descriptive titles milled around drinking holes, and all writers had to do was toss in a lasso and drag out a Sapphire & Steel or a Knight Rider.

But thanks to streaming, nowadays TV is made in windowless factories and injected with antibiotics and e-numbers. There can never be enough. Every streamer requires a chunky flow of television shows they can release all on the same day, not tell anybody about, and quickly delete for tax purposes before anybody watches them. And the first casualty (aside from the livelihoods of the writers, directors, crew, cast and the collective human spirit)? The titles.

The problem is, the glut has dried up the supply. Abstract nouns. Character names. Place names. Common phrases. “Fun” puns. Creepy lines from nursery rhymes for psychological thrillers. Every combination of words in the English language has already been used to name a TV show. ITV got lucky with Mr Bates Vs the Post Office, but it’s hardly a long-term solution.

Neither is it a uniquely new problem, but it is getting worse. Time was that two competing TV shows with the same title would be released a good many years apart, by which point, who could really remember the first one? When HBO brought out android interplanetary sci-fi Raised by Wolves in 2020, it was several years after the Channel 4 comedy Raised by Wolves set on a Wolverhampton council estate, and fairly difficult to confuse the two….

(6) DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME? “George Lucas Backs Bob Iger in Disney Proxy Fight with Nelson Peltz: ‘Creating Magic Is Not for Amateurs’” – a quote in The Hollywood Reporter.

… The Star Wars and Indiana Jones filmmaker is weighing in on The Walt Disney Company’s ongoing proxy fight with activist investors, and he is throwing his support firmly behind CEO Bob Iger and Disney’s board.

“Creating magic is not for amateurs. When I sold Lucasfilm just over a decade ago, I was delighted to become a Disney shareholder because of my long-time admiration for its iconic brand and Bob Iger’s leadership,” Lucas said in a statement Tuesday. “When Bob recently returned to the company during a difficult time, I was relieved. No one knows Disney better. I remain a significant shareholder because I have full faith and confidence in the power of Disney and Bob’s track record of driving long-term value. I have voted all of my shares for Disney’s 12 directors and urge other shareholders to do the same.”…

… Disney is facing a proxy fight against two activists: The corporate raider Nelson Peltz, and Blackwells Capital. Notably, Peltz has billions of dollars in shares pledged by Ike Perlmutter, who, like Lucas, sold his company (Marvel) to Disney and became a major shareholder. Perlmutter remained with Disney until being laid off last year….

(7) ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE YOUR LYIN’ EYES? Meanwhile, Variety reports Disney’s Star Wars cash register has rung up another sale: “’The Acolyte’ Trailer: New Star Wars Show Gets First Look on Disney+”.  

…Disney has released the trailer for its newest “Star Wars” series “The Acolyte,” which is set to stream on Disney+ June 4.

The series takes place 100 years before the franchise’s prequel trilogy during the High Republic era of the “Star Wars” universe, which is the furthest back in the timeline “Star Wars” has gone in a live-action production. An official logline for the series reveals, “An investigation into a shocking crime spree pits a respected Jedi Master (Lee Jung-jae) against a dangerous warrior from his past (Amandla Stenberg). As more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where sinister forces reveal all is not what it seems.”…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. (Died 2009.) I don’t how times I’ve seen the opening of The Prisoner series as it’s been separately shown from the episodes online pretty much since The Prisoner series first aired. Not sure in what context I watching it but that it was. It was, without doubt, one of the the best openings I’ve seen.

Then there was the series. Weird, thrilling, mysterious. Eminently watchable over and over and over again. Was it SF? Or was it a spy series set in the very near future? Who knew? And then there was Number Six, the never named intelligence agent played by Patrick McGoohan. He seemed destined to play this role.

He was an American-born Irish actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. Now it turns out that The Prisoner was his creation. He was also one of the writers – there were five in fact — and he was one of four directors. In other words, he had his hand in every facet of the series and its sixteen episodes. 

Before he was that unnamed intelligence agent he was, and I’m not at all convinced that McGoohan meant this to be a coincidence, secret agent John Drake in the Danger Man espionage series. I’ve seen a few episodes, it’s well crafted.  

Danger Man (retitled Secret Agent in the United States for the revived series) was a British television series broadcast between 1960 and 1962, and again between 1964 and 1968. (A neat bit of history here: Ian Fleming was brought in to work on series development, but left before that was complete. Apparently he didn’t like the way the secret service was to be portrayed.) 

After The Prisoner, McGoohan’s next genre endeavor was as the narrator of Journey into Darkness is a British television horror film stitching together two episodes derived from late sixties anthology television series Journey to the Unknown.

We are now leaving genre and headed for, well the Colombo series. Why so? Because he was good friends with Peter Falk and directed five episodes of the series, four of which he appeared in, winning two Emmys in the process. McGoohan was involved with the series in some way from 1974 to 2000. 

He was said that his first appearance on Columbo was probably his favorite American role. He had top billing as Col. Lyle C. Rum, fired from a military academy, in “By Dawn’s Early Light”, one of the  Colombo films that preceded the series.

His daughter Catherine McGoohan appeared with him in the episode “Ashes To Ashes” The other two Columbo episodes in which he appeared are “Identity Crisis” and “Agenda For Murder”.  

Yes, he reprised his role as Number Six for The Simpsons in “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes”.  Homer Simpson fakes a news story to make his website more popular, and he wakes up in a prison that is a holiday resort. As Number Five, he meets Number Six. 

McGoohan’s last movie role was as the voice of Billy Bones in the animated Treasure Planet.

He received the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for The Prisoner.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] On last night’s Jeopardy! episode, the Double Jeopardy round had a category, “Horrors!”

$1200: This horror master turned director to translate his own novella “The Hellhound Heart” to the screen as “Hellraiser”

Yogesh Raut knew this was Clive Barker.

$1600: H.P. Lovecraft wrote that the “U”s in the name of this “hellish entity” should sound “about like that in ‘full’ “

Ben Chan stumbled over the pronunciation a bit but gave “Cthulhu”.

$2000 – Daily Double. Yogesh: “I’ve wanted to say this ever since I was a child. Alex, I’ll make it a true Daily Double.” His bet: $15,200.

The title of this 1962 Ray Bradbury novel is a Shakespeare line that rhymes with “By the pricking of my thumbs”.

Very unsurprisingly, Yogesh got this right, parlaying this into a runaway win for the round.

$800: His Christmas ghost story “The Haunted Man” sold 18,000 copies on its first day of publication in 1848

Yogesh picked it as Dickens.

$400: Catriona Ward’s “The Last House on Needless Street” is partly narrated by Olivia, one of these animals, & that can’t be good luck

Troy Meyer tried, “What is a pig?”

Yogesh said, “What’s a cat?” and on prompting added “black” and was scored right.

Catriona Ward squeed about being a clue.

(11) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. “Researchers Name Ancient Species of Giant Turtle After a Universe-Vomiting Stephen King Character”IGN unravels the references.

Researchers have named a newly discovered species of giant prehistoric turtle after a universe-creating character that features in Stephen King’s novel It, alongside the Dark Tower series of books.

The monstrous armoured reptile was thought to have lived between 40,000 to 9,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene period, during which time it may have lived alongside and potentially been hunted as a source of food by early humans in the Amazon….

…The fossil’s gigantic proportions lead the scientists to name the species Peltocephalus Maturinin reference to the fictional, god-like turtle Maturin, which vomited out the universe that serves as the setting for Stephen King’s novel It. The benevolent turtle also appears as one of the guardians of the beams featured in King’s eight-part Dark Tower book series, which, like It, has been adapted into a live-action movie, though perhaps the less said about that the better.

As noted in the paper published in the scientific journal Biology Letters – and by the author himself on X after reading the news – King’s character was itself named in reference to the fictional doctor Stephen Maturin, who, in the course of Patrick O’Brian’s seagoing novel H.M.S. Surprise, names a giant tortoise….

(12) LIFE IS SHORT, ART IS LONG. ShortCon2024, “the Premiere Conference for Short Crime Fiction Writers”, takes place Saturday, June 22, and Michael Bracken and Brendan DuBois – familiar around here – are among the presenters.

Join acclaimed crime fiction professionals for an immersive, one-day event and learn how to write short crime fiction, get your stories published, and develop and sustain a long-term career writing short. 

(13) THUMBS UP. Camestros Felapton gives us his eyewitness account in “Review: Zombie the Musical”.

… The show starts off with the hapless cast rehearsing their production of “It’s a Musical! (The Musical!)” with requisite sailors singing about the wonders of New York. In reality, the cast is a mix of a not-so-bright leading man whose acting career is magically failing upwards, a leading woman sick of playing two-dimensional characters, an ageing actress whose career is effectively over and a perpetual understudy with genuine talent but no chance of ever becoming a professional. Outside it is Sydney 1999 and people are worried about Y2K and excited about the Olympics coming in 2000. The tone is set with broad parodies about musicals and the sexism of the theatre industry (especially circa the 1990s).

The world of musicals begins breaking down when the leading man quits and the news on the radio warns of a rapidly spreading infection. Will there even be an audience for their opening night?…

Here’s a “sneak preview” from last fall.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Kathy Sullivan, David Goldfarb, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/24 He Who Controls The Pixels Controls The Scroll

(1) HUGO, GIRL! REVERSES PERMANENT RECUSAL DECISION. The Hugo, Girl! the Podcast team tells why they have changed their minds about permanently recusing themselves from the Best Fancast category in “Statement on the 2023 Hugo Awards”. The complete explanation is at the link.

Following the Chengdu Hugo Awards, we believed in good faith that we were the legitimate winners of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fancast. We subsequently announced Hugo, Girl’s permanent recusal from the Best Fancast category. We were honored and delighted by the win, and we wanted to make room for others to experience the same.

However, with each recent revelation about the administration of the Hugo Awards, we have become increasingly uncomfortable thinking of ourselves as legitimate winners. Viewing the nomination and voting data that others have meticulously combed through, analyzed, and presented in a thorough and digestible way, it initially seemed that Fancast was one of the less obviously suspicious categories. It did not appear that any of our Fancast co-finalists or entries on the long list had been mysteriously disqualified, as was the case in several other categories. That being said, Fancast is not free from strange numbers.

We became even more dubious once we learned that the Hugo Administrators had investigated and disqualified potential finalists* on the basis of assumed politics, queer and trans identity, and an imaginary trip to Tibet. We ourselves likely should have been disqualified under the same criteria. It does not escape our notice that as four white people, we may have been scrutinized less closely….

… For the foregoing reasons, we have decided to withdraw our recusal from Hugo eligibility, effective in 2025. We hope to have a future opportunity to participate in a fair, transparent Hugo Awards process, if voters decide to honor us again with a place on the ballot. 

(2) FALSE GRIT. Heard too much about Dune lately? Then your brain will probably explode in the middle of reading “Charles Bukowski’s Dune” at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

It had been a long day. The hot-shit new supervisor, who looked about sixteen and probably hadn’t even started shaving yet, had written me up twice. I’d crumpled both slips in front of him, thrown them in the trash.

On the way home, the 48-Arrakeen worm died at the base of the hill, and we all had to hop off into the sand. The thing was already starting to stink as I began the trudge uphill, bone-tired and thirsty….

(3) NO ARMY IS SO POWERFUL AS AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Variety reports, “SAG-AFTRA Chief: Chance of Strike Against Game Producers is ’50-50’”.

Issues around the use of AI in the production process is the big sticking point in SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations with the largest video game companies, SAG-AFTRA chief Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said Saturday during a wide-ranging Q&A at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Crabtree-Ireland, who is national executive director and chief negotiator of the performers union, said he put the chances of union members striking against key game companies is “50-50, or more likely than that we will go on strike in the next four to six weeks because of our inability to get past these issues,” Crabtree-Ireland told Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, during a conversation focused on AI….

… Some pushed the union to demand an outright ban on the use of AI in union-covered productions. Crabtree-Ireland said he know that was a nonstarter.

“We would not have succeeded, any more than any union ever in history has been able to stop technology,” he said. “Unions that try that approach, they fail and they give up the chance to influence how those technologies are implemented. “The fact of matter is, we’re going to have AI.”

Crabtree-Ireland emphasized repeatedly that the union’s position on AI revolves around “consent and compensation” for its members when AI engines use their work. “We want to make sure the implementation is human-centered and focused on augmentation [of production], not replacement of people,” he said….

(4) SFF WINS CANADIAN COMPETITION. The Québecois author Catherine Leroux’s The Future, in a translation by Susan Ouriou, has won the 2024 Canada Reads national competition. (Canada Reads is a television show. ) “’Canada Reads’ 2024 Winner: Catherine Leroux’s ‘The Future’” at Publishing Perspectives.

The Future by Catherine Leroux, published by Biblioasis in Windsor, was named the winner of the weeklong series of elimination programs  from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s CBCbooks. The book is translated from French by Susan Ouriou and is a dystopian history of Detroit, a book the program refers to as, “a plea for persistence in the face of our uncertain future.”

(5) REID Q&A. Sff gets two callouts in this Guardian interview: “Taylor Jenkins Reid: ‘Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy are unbeatable’”. Taylor Jenkins Reid will be international author of the day at the London Book Fair on March 12.

The writer who changed my mind
I thought I didn’t like sci-fi until I discovered Octavia Butler. Kindred defies genre, but it taught me that I’ll go anywhere in a story if I trust the writer….

My comfort read
Whenever I want to read a book I know will be good, I go to Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Her genres are ever changing, her ability to take on a wild story each time is incredible. You never know what she’s going to do, but you know it will be a page-turner. I cannot wait for her next book, The Seventh Veil of Salome. Fifties Hollywood, two starlets, the role of a lifetime … what more could you want?

(6) FLATIRON STILL AWAITS ITS FUTURE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] In a news item today on the BBC about America’s office market, there’s a passing reference to the former Tor offices:

The famous triangular Flatiron building nearby has been vacant since 2019. Last autumn, the owners said it would be turned into condos.

Way back in January 2009, File 770 reported that the owners originally had different plans:

However, the offices of Tor Books are housed in New York’s Flatiron Building, which an Italian investor has announced plans to convert into a luxury hotel. Reports say hotels take so long to construct that it might be a decade before the Flatiron Building comes online in its new capacity.

The departure of Tor and the wider Macmillan publishing organization was reported in the June 5th, 2019 Pixel Scroll.

(7) TEENAGE BROADBAND. “New Emotions Move in for ‘Inside Out 2’” – and Animation Magazine makes the introductions:

Disney and Pixar today unveiled the official trailer plus new images and poster for Inside Out 2, which welcomes new Emotions to now-teenager Riley’s mind. Joining Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Tony Hale) and Disgust (Liza Lapira) is a group of Emotions perfectly suited for the teenage years: 

Maya Hawke voices Anxiety, the previously announced new arrival bound to shake up everything in headquarters and beyond. A bundle of frazzled energy, Anxiety enthusiastically ensures Riley’s prepared for every possible negative outcome.

Envy, voice of Ayo Edebiri, may be small but she sure knows what she wants. She’s perpetually jealous of everything everyone else has, and she’s not afraid to pine over it. 

Ennui, who’s voiced by Adèle Exarchopoulos, couldn’t care less. Bored and lethargic with a well-practiced eye-roll, Ennui adds the perfect amount of teenage apathy to Riley’s personality, when she feels like it.

Embarrassment, voiced by Paul Walter Hauser, likes to lay low, which isn’t easy for this burly guy with a bright blush-pink complexion….

(8) BILL WAHL TRIBUTE. Brian Keene is overwhelmed by the loss of another friend – Bill Wahl died March 6 — as he told readers of “Letters From the Labyrinth 371”.

…Bill, like me, was always blunt and spoke his mind. And he did indeed give Mary and I a TON of pointers and help in the setting up of Vortex Books & Comics. It is Saturday as I write this, in the bookstore, and it is not lost on me that he had planned on coming in here today, right about the time I’m typing this (2:31pm).

I guess maybe I wrote a eulogy after all. Maybe half-assed, but that’s still pretty good considering that I’m typing it amidst a car crash of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion from which I may not be able to beat this time.

After 56 years on this planet, I finally know what it means to be tired…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Rose Cogswell. (Died 1987.) Let’s consider Theodore Rose Cogswell. He was a member of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society and later noted that fellow members Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson said that he should he should be a writer. 

He was in his thirties before his first work, “The Spectre General” novella was published in the June 1952 issue of Astounding. SWFA considers it one of our best novellas. 

He would co-write with Charles A. Spano, Jr., Spock, Messiah. Prior to this novel, only one Star Trek tie-in novel intended for adult readers instead of YA readers had been published, Spock Must Die!, written by James Blish. Blish was supposed to do a Mudd novel but his death obviously prevented that. A real pity that. Though Mudd’s Angels would be written by J.A. Lawrence, Blish’s wife.

Back to Cogswell.

He wrote a fair amount of short fiction, some forty works, collected in The Wall Around the World, the title novelette here was nominated for a Retro Hugo, and The Third Eye.

Perhaps, his most interesting work was as editor of Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies where such individuals as Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Algis Budrys, Arthur C. Clarke, Avram Davidson, Gordon Dickson, Fritz Leiber engaged in what is best described as a very long running written bull session. A copious amount of these writings was published as PITFCS: Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies. Though NESFA distributed it, it was published by Advent Publishing. It was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian for Best Related Non-Fiction Book. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NEW MARVEL UNLIMITED PROGRAM LETS YOU ACCESS INFINITY COMICS FOR FREE.  Marvel’s Infinity Comics: Start Scrolling became available starting March 7.  

It’s time to Start Scrolling! Today, comic fans will have even more access to their favorite stories spanning the Marvel Universe with the all-new Marvel’s Infinity Comics: Start Scrolling digital program. The new program, exclusively from Marvel Unlimited, allows readers to access select Infinity Comics for free.   
 
Marvel’s Infinity Comics: Start Scrollingwill provide instant access to select free comics, with no login required. Readers can experience over 100 issues of bingeable Marvel stories starring fan-favorites including the X-Men, Spider-Man, Jeff the Land Shark, and many more, by visiting Marvel’s Infinity Comics: Start Scrolling. With an extensive library of over 30,000 comics on Marvel Unlimited, fans can expect other free Infinity Comics to be rotated in throughout the year.  
 
Marvel’s Infinity Comics are a vertical format designed for phones and tablets exclusive to Marvel Unlimited. Since launching in September 2021, Marvel Unlimited has published over 1,000 Infinity Comics to date from over 300 top Marvel creators.  

(12) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Or the spice. The economic engine that drives Dune’s universe isn’t explained in the movie, but GameRant has volunteered for the job: “Dune: CHOAM, Explained”.

…The Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles is a monopolistic conglomerate that controls all commerce throughout the Dune universe. All material goods flow through CHOAM. All substantial wealth comes through interests in CHOAM. The CHOAM network runs through every other seat of power. CHOAM is under the Corrino Empire, the highest station in the universe, which oversees CHOAM’s board of directors. CHOAM was a publicly traded company. Shareholder profits could make any participant fabulously wealthy. Only the noble patriarchs of the Great Houses could become shareholders in CHOAM. The Houses fought for directorship positions, seeking to earn dividends and skim profit from their impossibly vast businesses. The Emperor reserved the right to revoke or hand out director positions, giving him the final say in any profit-seeking venture….

(13) CALLING SOLOMON! Space tells “Why astronomers are worried about 2 major telescopes right now”.

There’s a bit of tension right now in the U.S. astronomy community and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it has to do with telescopes — extremely large telescopes, in fact. Here’s what’s going on.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), a source of public funding that two powerful next-gen observatories have been banking on for financial support, is facing pressure to go forward with only one telescope. This is because last month, the National Science Board — which is basically an advisory committee for the NSF — recommended that it cap its giant telescope budget at $1.6 billion. This is a lot of money, but it’s just not enough for both. The board even says the NSF will have until only May of this year to decide which telescope gets the go-ahead.Yet, both telescopes are already in the middle of construction, both are equally important and both are actually supposed to work together to fulfill a wide-eyed dream for astronomers. Because of how utterly huge they’re meant to be, they’re expected to one-up even the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in many ways. That’s the gold-mirrored, silvery-shielded trailblazer sitting a million miles from Earth right now, finding deep space gems so quickly it’s normalizing us to seeing things humanity once couldn’t fathom seeing. Imagine something better….

… One of the big scopes is the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). It’s taking shape as you read this in the clear-skied deserts of Chile, and it’s projected to cost something like $2.54 billion as a whole. The other is called The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). That one’s location is a bit more controversial. It’s planned to decorate a mountain in Hawaii called Mauna Kea, but locals have protested the decision because this stunning volcanic peak that boasts low humidity and gentle winds (perfect conditions for astronomy) is extremely meaningful in native Hawaiian culture. It’s a fraught situation, as 13 other telescopes already live in the area and some local people say the facilities are  impacting the natural environment. In terms of cost, however, the projected amount is just about symmetrical to the GMT’s….

(14) WHAT’S THE MATTER? “Controversial new theory of gravity rules out need for dark matter” – and the Guardian tries to explain it to us. However, the last time I heard a doctor use the word “wobbly” in connection with anything about spacetime, his last name was “Who”.

…There are multiple lines of evidence for dark matter, but its nature has remained mysterious and searches by the Large Hadron Collider have come up empty-handed. Last year, the European Space Agency launched a mission, Euclid, aiming to produce a cosmic map of dark matter.

The latest paper, published on the Arxiv website and yet to be peer-reviewed, raises the question of whether it even exists, drawing parallels between dark matter and flawed concepts of the past, such as “the ether”, an invisible substance that was thought to permeate all of space.

“In the absence of any direct evidence for dark energy or dark matter it is natural to wonder whether they may be unnecessary scientific constructs like celestial spheres, ether, or the planet Vulcan, all of which were superseded by simpler explanations,” it states. “Gravity has a long history of being a trickster.”

In this case, the simpler explanation being proposed is Oppenheim’s “postquantum theory of classical gravity”. The UCL professor has spent the past five years developing the approach, which aims to unite the two pillars of modern physics: quantum theory and Einstein’s general relativity, which are fundamentally incompatible.

Oppenheim’s theory envisages the fabric of space-time as smooth and continuous (classical), but inherently wobbly. The rate at which time flows would randomly fluctuate, like a burbling stream, space would be haphazardly warped and time would diverge in different patches of the universe. The theory also envisions an intrinsic breakdown in predictability….

(15) GIANT SQUID. [Item by Lise Andreasen.] This is the last place I would look for characters from 20000 Leagues Under The Sea.

(16) NO PLANET FOR OLD MEN. Dan Monroe is determined to find out “What Happened to THE BOMB from BENEATH the PLANET of the APES?”

(17) WITH AND WITHOUT STRINGS ATTACHED. [Item by Carl.] “Here Come The Puppets” was a PBS special produced by KQED at the International Puppet Festival in Washington DC. It was hosted by Jim Henson and the Muppets, and features internationally known puppeteers. It’s NEVER been offered in DVD form. It can now be seen on YouTube.

(18) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “Watch: Rare Footage Of Leonard Nimoy Hosting 1975 Special Presentation Of Star Trek’s ‘The Menagerie’” at TrekMovie.com.

In 1975, Paramount produced a special movie presentation for syndication of the two-part Star Trek episode “The Menagerie,” hosted by TOS star Leonard Nimoy. The original Spock recorded introductions for each part of the episode as well as closing remarks for the special presentation. In the special, Nimoy explains how “The Menagerie” uses footage from the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage” and more….

There’s a nod to its Hugo win at the 4:51 mark.

…This morning, WJAR Channel 10 in Rhode Island posted a clip from their morning show with guest Leonard Nimoy from what appears to be around the end of the first season of the series. The actor talks about concerns the show will be canceled and the fan campaign to keep it on the air along with the origins of his signature Vulcan ears….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kathy Sullivan, JJ, Lori, Carl, Ersatz Culture, Lise Andreasen, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joseph Hurtgen.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/24 Yeets of Eden

(1) HUGO NOMINATIONS CLOSE IN ONE WEEK. Nicholas Whyte, Glasgow 2024 Hugo Administrator and WSFS Division Head reminds members that they have until March 9 to submit nominations for this year’s Hugo Awards. Full information at “Hugo Awards – Nomination Ballot”.

They also are offering Chinese translation for the 2024 Hugo Award nomination process as a courtesy to the Chinese-speaking 2023 Chengdu WSFS members who have nomination rights for the 2024 Hugo Awards.

(2) HWA: MARUYAMA Q&A. The Horror Writers Association continues “Women in Horror Month 2024” in “An Interview with Kate Maruyama”.

Kate Maruyama. Photo by Rachael Warecki.

Do you make a conscious effort to include female characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

I write all characters, but I am always trying to get inside women characters in a complex way that blows out the walls of archetypes. The old woman who is complex and funny and real (and swears! All the older women I admire swear), the ingenue aged woman who is brilliant, unpredictable, problem solving, and forward moving, the mother whose entire existence is not mothering, but is a whole person who happens to have kids, the little girl who is smart and weird and does not give a crap about boys.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

We all have darkness in us, and if we can get inside it and open up our fears and where they come from, it can help people manage their very real lives.

(3) CHUCK TINGLE ON CAMP DAMASCUS CATEGORY. The Horror Writers Association moved Chuck Tingle’s novel Camp Damascus out of the YA category into the main Novel category. One of the responses earned this callout. (Whoever’s blog this is, I see there also were other comments supportive of Tingle’s book.)

(4) IWÁJÚ. Eddie Louise calls Iwájú on Disney+ — “Amazing science fiction for kids with deep cultural and societal commentary.” See trailer at the link.

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos. The series is produced by Disney Animation’s Christina Chen with a screenplay by Adeola and Halima Hudson. “Iwájú” features the voices of Simisola Gbadamosi, Dayo Okeniyi, Femi Branch, Siji Soetan and Weruche Opia.

(5) LIKE SAND THROUGH AN HOURGLASS. Maya St. Clair finds what time has done to the first Dune movie – not that a lot of time needed to have passed before the results were known: “Make Sci-Fi Cringe Again (Duneposting 1)”.

The other night, a friend and I went to an anniversary screening of David Lynch’s 1984 Dune. Its manmade horrors were consumed in the way God intended: on a towering screen, with a printout of the infamous Dune Terminology sheet balanced in my lap, as I inhaled a bucket of curly fries agleam with twice their weight in grease. Visually, Dune is an orgy of delights: a dense mannerist universe filled with gilt and wires and inbred animals/people. The voiceovers are camp, the editing ridiculous, the hairdos lofty and aggressive (Aquanet — like spice — must flow). Around the midpoint of the movie — when Sting steps out of a sauna in a codpiece —most people had come to the unspoken understanding that it was okay to laugh instead of sitting in respectful, cinephilic silence. The Harkonnen milking machine (i.e. a rat just duct-taped to a cat) brought down the house….

(6) DUNE PT. 2. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Front Row on B Beeb Ceeb’s Radio 4 (a.k.a. the Home Service) first third sees a review of Dune Part II.

Now, while I concur (others may disagree) that for all its spectacle Part I was a little ponderous (go in with a medium or large real coffee Americana) it was faithful to the novel and the SFX far better than the Lynch offering… This last is, of course unfair, the Lynch offering came out four decades ago… Yes, just a decade short of half a century and so you’d expect as big an improvement in cinematography as there was between 1984 and films made towards the end of the war (that’s WWII in case you were wondering how old I was).

So, how did the Front Row review go?  Well, the first thing that surprised me was that one of the reviewers hates epic ‘sci-fi’.  Yes, for some in the arts, SF remains a ghetto genre.  (Or perhaps we at SF² Concatenation should swop our book review panel of ardent SF readers to those that loathe genre literature. Perhaps File 770 should be edited by someone outside of fandom? Perhaps Boris Johnson  should become Prime Minister…)

Be thrilled.  Be amazed.  The truth is out there….

You can listen to the first third of the programme here: “Front Row, Dune 2”.

(7) ABOUT THOSE LENSMEN. Steve J. Wright may not be treading new ground in “How the Other Half Lives”, but fascism, John W. Campbell Jr., and the Golden Age have been thoroughly plowed under by the time he’s done.

This is spilling out of a discussion over on File 770 (item 4 on the scroll), which in turn derived partly from Charles Stross’s “We’re Sorry we Created the Torment Nexus”. It also ties in, of course, to the ongoing “was John W. Campbell a fascist?” non-debate (because people who say no are not changing their minds, ever.)

“Fascist”, of course, is one of those terms linguisticians call “snarl words”, where the negative connotations have pretty much obscured the original usage…

…But were Golden Age SF writers in general, and John W. Campbell Jr. in particular, happy with elitism? Oh, you bet they were. The Gernsbackian ideal, as exemplified in Gernsback’s own ridiculous novel Ralph 124C41+, was a homogeneous, rationally-planned society in which government, if it existed at all, was strictly subordinated to the scientific elite – in the eponymous Ralph’s case, the “plus men”, entitled to that + sign on their names, whose unfettered experimentation led to an endless round of fresh discoveries and scientific benefits for the general populace. And you can’t throw a brick in Campbell-era SF without hitting an omni-competent super-science hero with world-transforming insights and the steely determination to push aside bureaucratic meddling and Get Things Done. Campbell himself regarded Astounding as not just a science fiction magazine, but a proving ground for the ideas that would shape the world of tomorrow. And he had plenty of sympathy from SF fans, who were happy to believe that their time would come, and they would be in the vanguard of the new elite. Granted, not many fans took it as far as the rather alarming Claude Degler, but if you said “fans are slans” at any fannish gathering of the times, you would see more than one head nodding in approval….

(8) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! Meanwhile, in Russia: “Alexei Navalny Was Buried to the Terminator 2 Theme Song”  — New York Magazine has the story.

…Navalny got in one last laugh at his funeral on Friday. As his coffin was lowered into the ground, the tune playing in the background wasn’t some funeral dirge, but the theme from his favorite movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It was the refrain that plays during the movie’s famous final scene, as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s soulful killer cyborg gives a thumbs-up while he is lowered into a vat of molten steel, sacrificing himself to save the future….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie, 58. So let’s start with Lis Carey talking about her favorite work by our writer this Scroll, Ann Leckie:

Ann Leckie wins Hugo in 2014. Photo by Henry Harel.

Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, starting with Ancillary Justice in 2013, gives us a culture where biological sex is ignored, and only female pronouns are used. Breq, our protagonist throughout the trilogy, is the only survivor of a ship destroyed by treachery, and she’s the ship’s artificial intelligence, occupying an ancillary body, i.e., a body whose own personality has been erased and replaced with one more useful to the empire, and presenting herself as an officer. 

In her quest for revenge, she becomes more and more fully human, and more and more aware of what’s wrong with the empire she serves. We see glimpses of a galaxy beyond the Radch Empire, some of them fascinating.

We’re certainly not given the impression that the Radch are the good guys. In subsequent books and stories, we get looks at the Radch from the outside, and at the other human cultures trying to survive in a galaxy where the Radch are the major human power. It’s a wonderfully complex and layered universe, and it’s well worth exploring.

Ancillary Justice swept the awards field in 2014: a Hugo at Loncon 3, a British Fantasy Award, the Clarke a Kitschie, and a Nebula. The sequel, Ancillary Sword was nominated at Sasquan and won a BSFA Award; the final book in the trilogy, Ancillary Mercy, was a Hugo finalist at MidAmeriCon II. Her next book set in that universe, Provenance, novel garnered a Hugo nomination at Worldcon 76. 

Translation State, though also part of the Imperial Radch, is a pretty a stand-alone story. Yes, I liked it a lot. So let’s have Lis set the scene for you again…

It’s set in that universe, on the edge of human space, in a space station where the human polities including the Radch, and several alien polities, attempt to maintain calm and peaceful relations with the Presger, whom no one has ever seen, but who could destroy everyone if they got annoyed.

This is the book where we really get acquainted with the Presger translators, who appear to have been created from humans, but really aren’t, anymore.

It is, I would say, primarily a missing person case more than a murder mystery but it is both. It is a fascinating story. 

She’s also written an excellent fantasy novel, The Raven Tower, which I’ve been listening to of late. Adjoa Andoh narrates the audio version. She’s been on Doctor Who numerous times, mostly playing the mother of Martha Jones. She does a stellar performance here. 

Leckie has published a baker’s dozen short stories, two set in the Imperial Radch universe. I’ve not read any of them. Who has?

I look forward to seeing what she writes next. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Reality Check shows a fan pedant in (unwelcome!) action.
  • Close to Home has the most grotesque Pinocchio joke I’ve ever seen.
  • Tom Gauld mixes higher math with lower cuisine.

(11) GOOD OMENS VISUALS. Colleen Doran’s Funny Business is back with “Good Omens Peeks” – artwork at the link.

… I don’t know if, you know, getting cancer, going blind, smashing my face in, and generally having a really awful 2023 hasn’t been some weird sort of super-motivation, but I’m working very steady, and I actually think the art has gotten more solid as I go along.

I’m also very far behind schedule, but since the book was so far ahead to start, even though it’s going to be late, it won’t be horribly late. I set some pages aside and was unable to work on them for months, and that distance helped me work through some problems, too.

Anyhow, here’s some of my art in progress. And thanks for all the votes in the ComicScene awards for Good Omens as #1 crowdfund campaign of 2023….

(12) AFTER MIDNIGHT. Bitter Karella is back with the members of The Midnight Society, who are being a trial to Ursula K. Le Guin. Thread starts here.

(13) WAY AFTER MIDNIGHT. In “Seeing ‘Dune 2’ in 70mm Imax at 3:15 a.m. Was an Unforgettable Experience”, Variety’s Ethan Shanfeldfiles a snarky report about the ambiance.

…About 45 minutes into the movie, I thought for sure I was toast. Those gorgeous desert sand dunes reminded me of pillows, and I questioned what life choices I made that led me here, to seat H35. But then I saw a guy nod off two rows ahead of me, and I thought about how annoying it would be to have to see this movie again just to catch the parts I missed. I’m not weak like him, I thought, inhaling my Diet Coke. And, to even my own surprise, I powered through, savoring Paul Atreides’ larger-than-life odyssey all the way until the credits rolled at 6:18 a.m.

On the escalator down, I caught up with the three friends from New Jersey. “What are your plans this morning?” I asked, and they told me they were going to walk west to watch the sunrise over the Hudson. I didn’t have the heart (read: brain cells) to tell them the sun rises in the east.

(14) JUSTWATCH. Here are JustWatch’s charts of the most-viewed streaming movies and TV series of February 2024.

(15) SQUEAK IN DELIGHT. [Item by Bill Higgins.] Good news for all who love helium, Minneapolis in 73, and airships! Let us lift our high-pitched voices in song! “’A dream. It’s perfect’: Helium discovery in northern Minnesota may be biggest ever in North America” on CBS Minnesota.

Scientists and researchers are celebrating what they call a “dream” discovery after an exploratory drill confirmed a high concentration of helium buried deep in Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Thomas Abraham-James, CEO of Pulsar Helium, said the confirmed presence of helium could be one of the most significant such finds in the world.

“There was a lot of screaming, a lot of hugging and high fives. It’s nice to know the efforts all worked out and we pulled it off,” Abraham-James said….

…According to Abraham-James, the helium concentration was measured at 12.4%, which is higher than forecasted and roughly 30 times the industry standard for commercial helium.

(16) 2021 FLASHBACK: STRICTER RATINGS FOR THESE SFF MOVIES. The British Board of Film Classification ratings change to Mary Poppins (see Pixel Scroll 2/26/24 item #9) was just the latest to affect sff films as shown in this 2021 BBC News article: “Rocky and Flash Gordon given tighter age rating”. In 2021 the extended edition of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring has also been moved up to a 12A for its “moderate fantasy violence and threat.”Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was moved from Universal to PG.

Of the 93 complaints the board received last year, 27 were about 1980 space opera film Flash Gordon.

The movie’s 40th anniversary re-release was reclassified up to 12A partly due to the inclusion of “discriminatory stereotypes”.

The BBFC did not say what the stereotypes were. However Flash Gordon’s main villain, Ming the Merciless, was of East Asian appearance but played by Swedish-French actor Max von Sydow….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Back in the day at school — seems like half a century ago (hang on, it was) — there were a bunch of us whose aim in chemistry was to get the contents of one’s boiling tube to mark the ceiling… We were the back bench bucket chemists! Those were the days. Very much in that spirit, physics Matt O’Dowd asks “What Happens If We Nuke Space?” Come on, Bruce Willis has done it?

EMPs aren’t science fiction. Real militaries are experimenting on real EMP generators, and as Starfish Prime showed us, space nukes can send powerful EMPs to the surface. So what exactly is an EMP, and how dangerous are they?  

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Eddie Louise, JJ, Bill Higgins, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peace Is My Middle Name.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

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

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Jack Dann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article ends:

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

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

Jason Sanford disavowed the last paragraph on Bluesky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz ponders the power of story.

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

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

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

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

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

Category: Talking About Tolkien

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

Wrong question: What is the Oxford group?

Right question: What is the Inklings?

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

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

Right question: What is Ronald?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Kathy Sullivan, Joey Eschrich, PhilRM, Jason Sanford, Robin Anne Reid, Ersatz Culture, Chuck Serface, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/24 It’s A Beautiful Day In The Pixel Scroll, A Beautiful Day For Some Pixels, Would You Be Mine?

1632 and Beyond convention logo. Red, white and blue design incorporates elements of USA flag

(1) 1632 AT FANTASCI. The first 1632Con from 1632 & Beyond will be at FantaSci in Raleigh-Durham, NC from April 19-21. Kevin Ikenberry, author of the Assiti Shards book The Crossing, is one of the con’s Special Guests. Bjorn Hasseler, Bethanne Kim, and Chuck Thompson will all be there, as will other authors from the series.

(2) A PASSENGER ABOARD SILVERBERG’S SPACESHIP. Todd Mason researches the early sff of Fred Chappell, who died early in January: “Fred Chappell’s 3 (earliest published?) short stories, in Robert Silverberg’s SPACESHIP, April 1952, April and October 1953” at Sweet Freedom.

Fred Chappell (born 28 May 1936/died 4 January 2024) and Robert Silverberg (born 15 January 1935) were teenaged fantastic-fiction fans in 1952, but were already showing some promise of the kind of writers (and editors) they would soon and continue to become…both had discovered the fiction magazines, among other reading, that would help shape a notable part of both their careers, and were involved in the (somewhat!) organized fantasy/sf/horror-fiction-fandom culture of the late ’40s and early ’50s…so much so that three issues of young New Yorker Silverberg’s fanzine (or amateur magazine meant for other fans and any other interested parties) Spaceship (first published by Silverberg in 1949) would each offer one of three vignettes from young Canton, North Carolina resident Fred Chappell, in Starship’s 4/52, 4/53 and 10/53 issues…. 

(3) IN MEMORIAM LIST. “In Memoriam: 2023”, Steven H Silver’s compilation of sff figures who died last year, has been posted at Amazing Stories.

(4) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jason Sanford’s “Genre Grapevine for January 2024” at Patreon about the Hugo controversy and other news is a free read.

… And here’s a great reason why all this drama likely happened in the first place: MONEY!

According to China.org.cn, “Investment deals valued at approximately $1.09 billion were signed during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) held in Chengdu, Sichuan province, last week at its inaugural industrial development summit, marking significant progress in the advancement of sci-fi development in China. The deals included 21 sci-fi industry projects involving companies that produce films, parks, and immersive sci-fi experiences. Others were related to the development of melodramas, games, and the metaverse. Additionally, various service platforms for sci-fi franchise incubation projects and sci-fi cultural and creative funds will be developed.”

As Charles Stross wrote, “That’s a metric fuckton of moolah in play, and it would totally account for the fan-run convention folks being discreetly elbowed out of the way and the entire event being stage-managed as a backdrop for a major industrial event to bootstrap creative industries (film, TV, and games) in Chengdu. And—looking for the most charitable interpretation here—the hapless western WSFS people being carried along for the ride to provide a veneer of worldcon-ness to what was basically Chinese venture capital hijacking the event and then sanitizing it politically.”…

(5) OUT AT HOME. For what good it will do the Florida governor now that he’s out of the GOP primary race, The Hollywood Reporter brings this news: “Disney-DeSantis Lawsuit: Court Dismisses Free Speech Suit”.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the Walt Disney Co. against Ron DeSantis that may decide the entertainment giant’s authority to control development around its sprawling theme park.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, in an order issued on Wednesday, found Disney “lacks standing to sue the governor” and DeSantis’ handpicked board that now controls the district in which the company’s park operates. He concluded that the statute reshaping the leadership structure and granting the governor the authority to appoint every member of the tax district’s governing body is “facially constitutional” and cannot be challenged with a free speech claim….

(6) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. “’Avatar’ VFX Artists in U.S. Vote to Unionize” at The Hollywood Reporter.

U.S.-based visual effects artists who help bring James Cameron’s Avatar epics to life have voted to unionize in a National Labor Relations Board election.

Of an eligible 88 workers at Walt Disney Studios subsidiary TCF US Productions 27, Inc. who assist with productions for Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, 57 voted to join the union and 19 voted against, while two ballots were void. These workers include creatures costume leads and environment artists as well as others in the stage, environments, render, post viz, sequence, turn over and kabuki departments…

(7) WE’RE NOT KIDDING. “The Onion Union Reaches Tentative Deal With Management, Averting Strike” also at The Hollywood Reporter. Try saying “Onion Union” three times fast…

A strike has been averted at The Onion and several of its sister publications, at least for now.

Hours before their current labor agreement was set to expire, The Onion union — representing staffers at The Onion, Onion Labs, The A.V. ClubDeadspin and The Takeout — reached a tentative deal on a new contract with owners G/O Media. According to union, affiliated with the Writers Guild of America East, the new agreement “made important gains in wages and workplace protections.” No other details were immediately available.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 31, 1934 Gene DeWeese. (Died 2012.) This Scroll I’m looking at a writer this I’ve never heard of before, Gene DeWeese. He was a member of fandom, and his stories were published in fanzines such as The Chigger Patch of FandomFan-Fare and Yandro. He was a member of the Eastern Indiana Science Fiction Association and the Midwest Nomads. Fancyclopedia notes, “He tried to attend Midwestcon 4 in 1953 with his friends Bev Clark and Buck Coulson, but left when she wasn’t permitted in due to Beatley’s Hotel’s racist Jim Crow policy.”

Photo of author Gene DeWeese
Gene DeWeese

His first professional novels appeared in the Sixties, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. book co-written with Robert “Buck” Coulson under the name Thomas Stratton, The Invisibility Affair. They would do one more book in this continuity, The Mind-Twisters Affair

(I do wish that these, like so many works of that era, had become digital publications. They didn’t obviously.)

In the Seventies he and Coulson wrote under their own names two novels set in fandom, Now You See It/Him/Them… and Charles Fort Never Mentioned Wombats.

Most of us remember DeWeese for his Trek novels which is interesting as they were written later in his career. The four that are set in the original continuity were written the Eighties onward, all by him except one he wrote with Margaret Wander Bonanno and Diane Duane.  He also wrote three set in the Next Generation continuity as well.

What else did he do? There’s Dinotopia novels, something I swear exists by the dozens even if they don’t. I think. And one in the Lost in Space continuity as well. 

What’s more interesting is the series that I’ve never heard of. The Black Suits from Outer Space YA trilogy involves, well, Men (possibly) in Black, plucky teenagers, spaceships, aliens (some cute, some not) and nothing terrible challenging. Fun is the best word to describe them. 

He wrote two novels in the Birthstone Gothic series which as near as I can tell is the standard  cookie cutter gothic  mansion pulpish series with no redeeming  alue ehat-so-ever that a writer would do because, well, there’s money there. (The reviewers on Goodreads  admit that they were really, really horrible. In an entertaining way.) 

He wrote three novels in the Ravenloft continuity, a campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. I just got the giggles, errr, laughs reading the summary of that  module, but then I never played fantasy RPGs, just SF ones like the Traveller RPG. What a fantastic RPG that was! 

There’s still a lot of other novels that I’ve not mentioned and quite a bit of short stories (none collected). 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ENDLESS TROUBLES. Artist Colleen Doran tells how the sky fell on her after she agreed to adapt Good Omens: “Great Big Good Omens Graphic Novel Update”. You think Job had it bad?

Anyway, as a long time Good Omens novel fan, you may imagine how thrilled I was to get picked to adapt the graphic novel.

 Go me!  

This is quite a task, I have to say, especially since I was originally going to just draw (and color) it, but I ended up writing the adaptation as well. Tricky to fit a 400 page novel into a 160-ish page graphic novel, especially when so much of the humor is dependent on the language, and not necessarily on the visuals.

Not complainin’, just sayin’.

Anyway, I started out the gate like a herd of turtles, because  right away I got COVID which knocked me on my butt. 

And COVID brain fog? That’s a thing. I already struggle with brain fog due to autoimmune disease, and COVID made it worse.

Not complainin’ just sayin’.

This set a few of the assignments on my plate back, which pushed starting Good Omens back. 

But hey, big fat lead time! No worries!

Then my computer crawled toward the grave….

(11) COME LIVE THAT DAY ALL OVER AGAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Groundhog Day cast members will reunite in Chicago on February 2 to celebrate the life and career of director Harold Ramis.

Cartoon image of groundhog wearing eyeglasses superimposed on old-fashioned alarm clock with two bells on top

The reunion will feature an immersive experience inspired by the 1993 film, as well as iconic costumes, props and set pieces.

The comedy’s mayor himself, Brian Doyle-Murray, will appear with a real groundhog to forecast the next six weeks of weather, just like in the movie. Groundhog Day Cast Will Officially Reunite for the First Time in Chicago (movieweb.com)

According to the release (per Harry Caray’s Tavern), nine Groundhog Day actors are expected to show up at Harry Caray’s Tavern, Navy Pier, on Friday, February 2. Unfortunately, the movie’s two leads, Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, were not listed among those expected to appear. Given Murray’s love of Chicago Cubs baseball, though, he could pop in as a surprise guest, but that’s not been confirmed. However, Stephen Tobolowsky, the actor who played the unforgettable insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson, will be in attendance.

Joining Tobolowsky is another prominent cast member, Bill Murray’s brother, Brian Doyle-Murray (the mayor who almost chokes to death). Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor — the woman who makes noises like a chipmunk when she gets “real excited”), Robin Duke (Doris the waitress), Ken Hudson Campbell (the hotel guest who says “ciao”), David Pasquesi (the psychiatrist who asks if Murray’s character can come back tomorrow), Peggy Roeder (Phil Connors’ piano teacher), Richard Henzel (DJ) and Don Rio McNichols (drummer) are all scheduled to show up at Harry Caray’s Tavern. And fans can check out one of Phil Connors (Murray) and Ned Ryerson’s memorable scenes (below) to whet their appetities:

And there will be a related promiotion next door:

Chef Art Smith’s Reunion, located right next door to Harry Caray’s Tavern, will be playing Groundhog Day on their monitors and treating guests to a complimentary taste of their signature Punxsutawney Punch which will be available for purchase all day. Additional offerings include a GREAT Instagrammable moment where guests can take their pic being a groundhog. Make sure you say the line “I had groundhog for lunch, tastes like chicken” to get dessert comped on the house! Click below to make a reservation.

(12) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. “NASA’s Webb Depicts Staggering Structure in 19 Nearby Spiral Galaxies – NASA Science at NASA Science.

“Webb’s new images are extraordinary,” said Janice Lee, a project scientist for strategic initiatives at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “They’re mind-blowing even for researchers who have studied these same galaxies for decades. Bubbles and filaments are resolved down to the smallest scales ever observed, and tell a story about the star formation cycle.”

… Something else that amazed astronomers? Webb’s images show large, spherical shells in the gas and dust. “These holes may have been created by one or more stars that exploded, carving out giant holes in the interstellar material,” explained Adam Leroy, a professor of astronomy at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

Now, trace the spiral arms to find extended regions of gas that appear red and orange. “These structures tend to follow the same pattern in certain parts of the galaxies,” Rosolowsky added. “We think of these like waves, and their spacing tells us a lot about how a galaxy distributes its gas and dust.” Study of these structures will provide key insights about how galaxies build, maintain, and shut off star formation….

Collage of 19 photos of spiral galaxies taken by James Webb Space Telescope

(13) DOUBLE DIP. Two new trailers for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, coming to movie theaters March 22. This is the US trailer:

This is the international trailer, which reportedly includes some different footage.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/24 A Fist Full Of Typos

(1) HELP NEEDED. Writer Richard Kadrey, whose work includes the Sandman Slim novels, is asking for financial help in a GoFundMe for “Medical bills, rent, and a big, hungry cat”.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but my back is against the wall. Because of physical and mental health issues over the last year, plus disappearing gigs and jobs that never came through, I have to suck up my pride and ask for help.

I’ve been living off savings and credit cards for a year. I had one good, steady gig but got blindsided when it ended abruptly. Now that money is gone, my cards are pretty much played out, and the IRS is giving me the side eye. And there are still health issues and bills I need to deal with. Basically, I could use some help to feed my cat and keep my stupid life intact.

If you could spare a couple of bucks, you’d a life saver. And if one of the good gigs I’m hoping for comes through later this year, I promise to pay your kindness forward to another artist down on their luck.

So, here I am with my dumb hat in my dumb hand, humbled as hell. This is the last thing in the world I ever wanted to do. But I don’t have a choice. Even if you can’t help, thanks for reading this. I appreciate it and so does Aces, my hungry cat who will eat me if I don’t keep up with the kibble.

(2) MORE QUOTES ABOUT HUGO CONTROVERSY FROM CHINA SOCIAL MEDIA. On Bluesky, Angie Wang has some screencaps and computer translations to go with this introduction:

RE the Hugo Awards, if you go on Weibo and do a public search right now, you’ll see some Chinese fans cussing the hell out of the Chengdu organizers specifically, and some cryptic remarks from someone who seems related to the event and the organizers about trying to prevent all this from happening

(3) PAIJIBA. Pajiba’s Nate Parker brings schadenfreude to bear on the topic in “The Hugo Awards Step In It Again”.

… If you look through McCarty’s thread – and you should, because it’s fun to watch him get wrecked in real time – you’ll see Gaiman’s about the only one who gets a polite answer. “After reviewing the Constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible.”

He repeats the same answer ad nauseum despite multiple polite requests for clarity. It’s a vague answer for an organization that prides itself on inclusivity and transparency…. 

(4) POLYGON. Chris Barkley is quoted in Polygon’s coverage, which otherwise contains nothing new to readers here: “Hugo Awards controversy sparks censorship allegations”.

… The Hugos are among the most prestigious awards in science fiction and fantasy, and it’s incredibly disheartening to see what should be a celebration of all the great work happening in that space be tainted by controversy. With the committee still refusing to give answers and with no central governing body to step in, it seems unlikely we’ll ever know the details of what occurred — or see anyone held accountable if anything unconstitutional did.

What is clear is that the community is determined never to see a repeat of what occurred this year. As Barkley wrote, “this incident, whether it was at the behest of the government of the People’s Republic [of] China or some other entity, will NEVER be forgotten and that doing something about preventing such a thing from happening again will be at the top of the agenda at the Glasgow Worldcon Business Meeting in August…”

(5) WHERE IN THE WORLD. At Winter Is Coming, Daniel Roman’s article “Controversy strikes the 2023 Hugo Awards, causing uproar over censorship speculation” ends with this conclusion.

…I happened to be at DisCon III when Chengdu won the bid for this year’s Hugo ceremony, and one of the prominent arguments in its favor that I heard floated around was that Worldcon should be a world convention, not just one that floats back and forth across the U.S. and a handful of other western countries. Bringing it to countries in, for example, East Asia and Africa would be a great way to include fans in parts of the world who have not typically been able to attend, and to recognize the writers doing amazing work in those regions.

However, if each Worldcon must logically abide by the local and regional laws of the country where it’s being held, and those laws mean that the Hugo Awards cannot be conducted legitimately and fairly because of things like censorship — or even worse, that certain groups of people might have their safety put in jeopardy — then that must be considered as well. We have a situation right now where it’s being speculated that there was government censorship on the 2023 Hugos, and regardless of whether there was or not, it seems clear that the people behind the event do not feel that everyone involved is safe enough to explain the situation in full. In that sort of circumstance, it’s hard to imagine any scenario where the awards can actually take place in a legitimate manner.

(6) OKAY, HERE IT IS. You want the truth? You think you deserve the truth? Sarah A. Hoyt will give it to you: “This Thing Isn’t Entirely Under My Control” at Mad Genius Club.

…Among the many strange things I get asked — and other writers get asked — is how we do what we do. I.e. how we create the stories, and stay on track and write them and all. 

Now, normally when I’m asked this I’m at a panel, where I’m under writ to tell a lot of lies, provided I make them entertaining. Also, on principle, I’m supposed to sound like a professional who know what she’s doing. Of course, acting like a pro should be easy after 30 years or so of being published (okay, 25 years just about in novels. But yeah, about 30 from first semi-pro short story.) And if you believe that, I have some primo Florida swamp I’d like to sell you at a really good price.

I often wonder, though, if my fellow writers lie like moth eaten rugs at this panels. Because they make the whole thing sound so rational, so controlled. “Well, I wanted to write a book about the manufacture of bells in the planet Korud, so, I thought, how do I wrap an adventure around that?” And we all smile and nod sagely as someone explains how he researched the manufacture of bells for five months, then went to a Buddhist monastery and sat contemplating the metalness of bells, before the idea of having pirates come to the planet and remove the bells, and then our hero….”

I know I lie. I lie a lot about the writing process, when I want to sound like I did things for a reason. Well, and when I worked for Trad Pub. Because you don’t want your editor and publisher to think you’re a complete loon. But more and more I just tell the truth.

And the truth is “this thing isn’t fully under my control.”…

(7) BIG CUTS AT LA TIMES. From Politico: “LA Times slashes newsroom as paper struggles under billionaire owner”.

The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday laid off at least 115 people, including about a quarter of its newsroom, in a stunning second round of major layoffs in less than a year that underscored broader challenges facing the news business.

Cuts included reporters, editors and columnists, according to the union that represents the newsroom and social media posts from individual journalists. Layoffs fell disproportionately on Black, Latino and Asian employees who tend to have less seniority, the Guild said in a statement….

(8) CHASING MOBY CHATGPT. In a recent email to members from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society the ALCS’ Deputy Chief Executive Richard Combes expects the coming year to provide more clarity around AI, authorship and copyright.

My piece last year opened and closed with a few sentences generated by ChatGPT. At the time, this seemed like a novel way of demonstrating the capability of the technology; then I found the acres of other articles doing the exact same thing. But as Herman Melville observed, “it is better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation.”

During the intervening year, the think pieces have piled up, commenting on various policy initiatives, lawsuits and existential crises, while AI-generated content has sprouted online like fungi on the forest floor (including, notoriously, several foraging guides offering unreliable advice about edible mushrooms).

As judicial decisions and statutory rules emerge and evolve over the coming year, we should begin to find answers to key questions about copyright, authorship and creativity in the age of AI. Conceptually, we’ve been here before, repeatedly. The first quarter of this century has seen successive technologies redefine the way that creators’ works are consumed and distributed without due consideration for how they will be credited and paid, and the latest wave is no different.

The false dilemma that’s often presented between an innovative tech sector and a robust framework for copyright and creators’ rights is as artificial as it is banal. It is possible and, if we want to maintain the value and stature of our creative industries, essential to develop models whereby the tech sector is an ally to those creating the works upon which their products and services rely. So, how do we get there from here?

…For almost 20 years, the ALCS authors’ earnings surveys have described a fixed direction of travel, a stubbornly downward trend. This threatens not only the viability of existing careers but also creates barriers to entry for new and diverse voices. So, our work this year is about plotting a new course, on what promises to be an interesting, challenging but vitally important journey; which leads me to close as I opened, with Melville, “it is not down in any map; true places never are”.

(9) LOVIN’ SPOONFUL. Charlie Jane Anders argues on behalf of “10 Space TV Shows That Don’t Get Enough Love” at Happy Dancing.

The first two on the list are:

1) Space Cases.

Peter David and Bill Mumy created this YA TV show about kids exploring space, including a young Jewel Staite. It aired for two seasons on Nickelodeon, and it was cute as hell, not to mention quite subversive at times. George Takei plays an alien conqueror named Warlord Shank, and when I say Takei chews all the scenery… You’ll see tooth marks all over the sets. This show was sort of a precursor of Star Trek: Prodigy, and I remember it being fun as all heck.

2) Quark.

Quark was a short-lived spoof of Star Trek and Star Wars that aired in 1977, featuring a host of campy characters. The thing is, it had so many cool ideas in the mix. Long before Firefly (or even Alien), this is the story of the crew of a humble blue-collar starship — a garbage scow, in this case – getting involved in vital, dangerous shenanigans. There’s a gender-fluid character, a pair of clones who both insist they’re the original (just like the Maulers in Invincible!) and a plant in humanoid form. In many ways, Quark was ahead of its time.

(10) AFTER ACTION REPORT. [Item by Steven French.] The recently wrapped-up “Fantasy: Realms of Imagination” exhibition included several science-fiction related items, including this copy of the March 1956 issue of Ploy, a fanzine edited by Ron Bennett, a member of the Leeds Science Fiction Association which, as the exhibit’s label notes, was the successor to the group formed after the famous 1937 convention (not just the first in the U.K. but the first in the world!). For some reason the Library chose to display these letters from fellow fans, one of which including a description of a talk given to the Sheffield Junior (and Parents) Astronomical Society which contains language ‘of its time’ that would definitely be deemed inappropriate nowadays.

Elsewhere in the issue (available here at the FANAC site) there are brief contributions from mega fans/editors/authors Shirley (Lee) Hoffmann and Terry Carr. 

(11) FRANK STROM DIES. Comics fan and writer Frank Strom recently died, mourned by his friend Tom Brevoort in “Mortality” at Man With A Hat.

Frank had aspirations of breaking into the field professionally, and he operated on the fringes of it for many years, but was never quite able to find that break that would make it a full time vocation. He wrote a ton of issues of the licensed ELVIRA comic book, he had a short-lived series in Fantagraphics’ X-Rated Eros line in the 1990s, CHEETA POP, SCREAM QUEEN, and he wrote one story for Marvel. That one I commissioned from him especially; it starred the 1940s/1950s character Venus who was a fascination of both of ours, and guest-starred both a number of the girl comics stars of the 1950s but also a small bevy of Marvel’s pre-hero monsters. I was able to convince Dan DeCarloFrank’s favorite, to draw it. Eventually, though, he settled into a routine day job…. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 80. How could I not start by acknowledging he wrote one of the best scripts ever in the Trek series, “The Trouble with Tribbles”? Seriously it’s a perfect script from the very beginning to those Scottie saying “Aye, sir. Before they went into warp, I transported the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle into their engine room, where they’ll be no tribble at all.”  It garnered a Hugo nomination at Baycon. 

David Gerrold. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Not that he stopped there of course. He was responsible for an uncredited rewrite on “I, Mudd”, and he scripted along with Oliver Crawford the rather excellent “The Cloud Minders” in season three. 

The animated series which I still truly adore and which of course is on Paramount + saw him  following up his “The Trouble with Tribbles” script with one for “More Tribbles, More Troubles”. His other animated script was “Bem” in which he reveals James T. Kirk’s middle name to be Tiberius. I had thought it’d been done in the series but that’s just my memory. It’ll next be used in The Undiscovered Country

David Gerrold and Diane Duane at the 1975 Westercon. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

He left Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Trek verse as Memory Alpha explains here: “He left the show near the end of the first season, partly because of the dispute over his controversial script, ‘Blood and Fire’. The story, which was basically an allegory of AIDS, and involved allegedly homosexual characters, was initially scrapped by the producers. It was re-written by Herb Wright as ‘Blood and Ice’, removing the gay characters, but it still remained unproduced.” Well and other reasons that he into in great detail as well. 

Not at all surprisingly, he got involved in those video fan fictions, as a series consultant for fan-produced series Star Trek: New Voyages, and Star Trek: Phase II for which he was named show runner. He fell out later with other members of the latter series over creative differences and left. 

Let’s see… let’s not overlook that JMS actually did produce his “Believers” script on Babylon 5, a story involving our good doctor, aliens and a very unfortunate outcome. 

Books? Oh yes. When HARLIE Was One is an extraordinary novel. Though I’ve sampled his other novels, it’s his most original, most interesting and certainly most intriguing work. Interestingly, at least to me, I discovered doing this essay that When HARLIE Was One is not a one-off but is rather just one novel in a rather extensive series entitled simply Harlie. Intriguingly the first one is titled Oracle for a White Rabbit. Was that Rabbit there? 

The War Against the Chtorr series of books, about an invasion of Earth by deliberately not sketched out aliens was, errr, ok. I read A Matter for Men and A Day for Damnation but stopped there. There were two more published then a comedy or tragedy of reasons for why the series wasn’t completed have followed in the decades since. 

Other novels? Well there’s this novelette called “The Martian Child” won a Hugo at Intersection which became a film. There’s the most readable The Man Who Folded Himself that nominated for a Hugo at Discon II. It’s wonderful and certainly deserved that Hugo.

Now my favorite work by him is the first novel that he did, The Flying Sorcerers which started out in If as “The Misspelled Magician” which I like better as a title. It was co-written with Larry Niven. 

There’s too much other fiction, both long form and short form which I’ve not encountered to deal with here. I know all of you well enough that you’ll note anything that you think I should mentioned. 

(13) WEIGHING MJOLNIR. After viewing Neil deGrasse Tyson’s analysis of “How Much Thor’s Hammer Weighs”, Daniel Dern notes (anticipating much of Tom Galloway’s initial comment-worthy thoughts) (playlist: “She’s So Heavy,” The Beatles) —

Overspecialized nerds missing the point: Neil deGrasse Tyson forgets (or never read the relevant Marvel comics, nor watched the right Marvel movies). Unlike Superman’s super-heavy regular-sized front door key to his Fortress of Solitude (see Grant Morrison & Frank Quiteley’s All-Star Superman) (as opposed to the original classic humongous key pretending to be a road sign for plane flight paths), Mjolnir’s liftability was a function of the lifter’s worthiness.

(14) MICKEY AND FRIENDS PLAY AVENGERS AND X-MEN IN NEW DISNEY WHAT IF? COVERS. This time marking the 60th anniversary of two of Marvel’s most iconic super hero teams—the Avengers and the X-Men — new Disney What If? variant covers kicked off earlier this month with Amazing Spider-Man #41 and will continue to adorn select issues of Amazing Spider-Man throughout 2024. 

(15) DISNEY IMAGINEER JOINS INVENTORS HALL OF FAME. “Lanny Smoot Becomes The Second Person From Disney, Since Walt Disney Himself, To Get Inducted Into The National Inventors Hall Of Fame” reports Yahoo!

… The Disney Parks Blog reports that The National Inventors Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2024 inductees during a ceremony at the Walt Disney Imagineering campus in Glendale, CA.

Smoot is making history as the first Disney Imagineer to receive this honor. He’s also only the second Walt Disney Company employee since Walt Disney to earn the recognition.

During Smoot’s 45-year career, he has been a theatrical technology creator, inventor, electrical engineer, scientist, and researcher. The innovator has amassed a collection of over 100 patents, 74 of them created during his 25-year stint at the Walt Disney Company….

… Smoot has been integral in creating some of the most technically advanced special effects at Disney theme parks and experiences. Some examples of these special effects include Madame Leota’s floating in the Séance Room at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, Disney Live Entertainment’s extendable lightsaber, the Magic Playfloor interactive game experience on the Disney Cruise Line, and the Fortress Explorations adventure at Tokyo DisneySea….

(16) EVERYBODY KNOWS LOTR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “The Trick to the Fluffiest Muffins May Already Be in Your Kitchen” says the New York Times.

As winter set in this January, Sarah Kieffer recalled how it snowed for eight months last year in her hometown, Minneapolis. For weeks on end, the temperature dipped below minus 20. Surrounded by grayness, she baked blueberry muffins for the cheer of their bright pops of blue.

“It’s like when the hobbits got to Mordor, and Sam looks up and sees a bright shining star, and has a little bit of hope,” she said. “That’s what a blueberry muffin feels like in February.”

Ms. Kieffer, the author of “100 Morning Treats” (and a self-described “super nerd”)…

Daniel Dern comments: Implicit in the text is the assumption (by the writer and NYT section editor) that the reader is at least familiar to recognize the source (Lord of the Rings) without the invocation of Frodo, Gandalf, Bilbo or Gollum — and simply saying “Sam” rather than “Samwise” or “Sam (Frodo’s more-than-a-sidekick)” although “hobbits” and Mordor” do help provide key context, of course.

At least Ms. Keiffer didn’t close with an ending like “I’ll bet even Gollum might exclaim ‘Better than Precious!’”

(17) MEET JOE GREEN. The FANAC FanHistory Zoom Joseph L. Green Interview is now available to watch on YouTube.

Title: Joseph L. Green – An Interview conducted by Edie Stern

YouTube Description: Joe Green’s interest in science fiction began in the 1940s, before he knew there was even a name for this kind of literature. His introduction to science fiction fandom came in the early 1950s, and  first published fiction in the 1960s. Add to that his long career in the military and civilian space programs, and you have a trajectory that is the envy of a many a science fiction reader.

In this fascinating interview, Joe Green talks about his life and career, and his views on science fiction and fandom after more than 70 years in the SF community.  With a professional career spanning more than 60 years, (his last published work was in 2023),  in this discussion Joe starts with his introduction to fandom, and his early fanzine contributions, his first professional sales and the struggle to balance fandom, professional writing and a growing family.  

With a decades long career revolving around space, he tells anecdotes ranging from the Cuban missile crisis of the 60s to one of his most important accomplishments – editor and principal writer of the NASA report on the Challenger disaster. Here  he talks about that difficult but necessary work….Starting in the days of the manned Apollo launches, the Greens hosted spectacular and now legendary launch parties. Joe couldn’t help but share his joy at one of the finest achievements of mankind. In this session, there are great anecdotes about well-known writers and fans, including Poul Anderson, Sam Moskowitz, Arthur C. Clarke and A.E. Van Vogt, and Joe’s unorthodox  advice about getting entrée to NASA launches. It’s a delight to hear, and makes you wish you had been there.

One story we didn’t get to was what happened when Joe Green heard filk music for the first time. Joe was delighted, especially with the space-oriented pieces, and not too long after he heard the “Minus Ten and Counting” recording,  one of those songs was played as the wake-up music for the astronauts in space.

Many thanks to Joe’s daughter, Rose-Marie Lillian for her technical support, enabling Joe to participate in the Zoom. 

(18) TURNING TWENTY ON MARS. From an National Air and Space Museum email:

20 years ago this month, Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on the Martian surface, on opposite sides of the Red Planet. Soon after, the twin rovers, boasting a level of mobility that far surpassed the 1997 Mars Pathfinder rover Sojourner, embarked on their respective journeys. Spirit was sent to the floor of a 90-mile-wide crater named Gusev and Opportunity was sent to Meridiani Planum, a smooth area near the Martian equator.

Spirit and Opportunity

With identical sets of science instruments onboard, Spirit and Opportunity conducted comprehensive geological surveys and atmospheric analyses. Both rovers were able to find compelling evidence of the Red Planet’s ancient environments, revealing a past where conditions were intermittently wet and potentially capable of supporting life.

Panoramic view (consisting of hundreds of images stitched together) of the Martian surface. The images were captured by Spirit with the rover’s deck visible.

Both rovers exceeded their initial 90-day mission durations by a significant margin. Spirit traveled five miles on the Martian surface and sent its last message to Earth on March 22, 2010, after operating for over six years. Opportunity covered a total of 28 miles and holds the record as the longest-serving rover on Mars, having conducted over 14 years of exploration before it sent its last signal on June 10, 2018. Together the duo sent over 340,000 images back to Earth.

Mars Exploration Rover Surface System Test Bed (middle) was used on Earth to troubleshoot problems that Spirit and Opportunity encountered on Mars. It is on display next to Sojourner’s flight spare Marie Curie and a Curiosity model in the “Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery” at the Museum in DC.

The twin rovers’ landings on Mars also marks 20 years of continuous rover exploration of the Red Planet, with rovers Curiosity and Perseverance currently active on Mars and continuing on the legacy of Spirit and Opportunity.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. I haven’t viewed it because my hearing is awful and there’s no closed captioning, but no reason you should deprive yourself: “The Litigation Disaster Tourism Hour: World Contastrophe, Trademark Edition” on Twitch.TV.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Danny Sichel, Francis Hamit, Trey Palmer, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]