Pixel Scroll 5/30/24 Scrollfiler Park Is Melting In The Dark, All The Sweet, Green Pixels Flowing Down

(1) THE STEPS LEADING TO RWA’S CHAPTER 11. Her Hands, My Hands today published a thorough roundup about the causes of Romance Writers of America’s evaporating membership: “RWA goes bankrupt; it’s not DEI, it’s the bigotry and racism.”

If you are new here: at the end of 2019, the then-second-largest-in-the-world professional writers organization, shot itself in the eye due to the baked-in racism of the people at the top. Within three months, the membership had dropped to a third of what it was, and many of those leaving predicted at the time that the annual conference venue contracts for the following years would bankrupt the organization.

Even though COVID so-called lockdowns postponed it for a bit, RWA has finally filed for Chapter 11–predictably, it’s blaming one woman of color for that….

…So yes, a professional trade organization founded by women, with a membership made up disproportionately of women, was the second largest of its kind in the world, and for a couple of decades at least. The most likely reason RWA grew so big was the incredible misogyny of the industry: genre romance authors and aspiring writers had nowhere else to go for advocacy or support. The most renowned publishers and authors have always been quick to distance themselves from genre romance and its readers, even as they benefit from marketing to them; from the “we don’t publish that shlock” to “I don’t write that” sneer.

…Why, you may ask, am I going on about the membership numbers drop after the ‘nice’ white ladies shat the RWA bed? Because of this:

Because they want to claim that it was Courtney Milan talking about racism, and the ‘woke’ push for DEI that led them to file for bankruptcy (Bloomberg link; also see footnote 7)…

(2) STATHOPOULOS IS 2024 ARCHIBALD PRIZE FINALIST. Professional artist Nick Stathopoulos, a ten-time Ditmar winner for his genre work, has just been named an Archibald Prize finalist for the ninth time.

The Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia”.

The story behind Nick’s entry, titled “The last picture show”, is explained in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ introduction to the piece.

Nick Stathopoulos was a finalist in the 2008 Archibald Prize with an irreverent portrait of distinguished film critic David Stratton fast asleep in a cinema.

Sixteen years later, Stathopoulos decided to undertake a smaller, intimate, more serious work, choosing again to paint the now-retired Stratton in monochrome, but retaining the deep red of his cardigan – a cinematic device used to dramatic effect in the 1993 film Schindler’s list. The title of the painting references Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film The last picture show.

The sitting for this portrait proved to be a happy one. ‘It was a bright, crisp Blue Mountains day, and we sat on David’s back porch talking movies (what else?) as I sketched in the final details. It also happened to be his wedding anniversary, and his wife Susie was keen to point out that she had knitted the red cardigan 40 years ago,’ says Stathopoulos.

An Archibald finalist on eight previous occasions, Stathopoulos won the People’s Choice in 2016 with a portrait of Sudanese refugee and lawyer Deng Adut.

(3) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Publishers Weekly celebrates bookseller Don Blyly, owner of the reopened Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s: “The Uncles in Minneapolis Celebrate 50 Years of Bookselling Perseverance”.

…Even though the Uncles are now located on a side street, instead of a major thoroughfare, Blyly maintains that one reason sales are up is that “we see primarily people who are interested in what we’re selling,” rather than “people walking in who could not even figure out it was a bookstore; they came in to cause problems or to use the restroom.” There is also a lot of cross-pollination among the different bookstores’ customer bases. “A lot of people who are into sci-fi and fantasy and a lot of other things automatically go to both stores when they are in the neighborhood,” Blyly said. “And we’re selling a lot more kids books than in the old location; there are more families here. Two things I’m not happy about: it takes me longer to get here from my home, and there’s no good Chinese carryout nearby. Other than that, everything else is better.”

The new location of Uncle Hugo’s in 2022.

(4) NEW ARGUMENT TO UNDERMINE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CHARGE. “Nvidia denies pirate e-book sites are ‘shadow libraries’ to shut down lawsuit” at Ars Technica. However, Ars Technica can’t explain that terminology, or how not being a shadow library helps the defendants.

Some of the most infamous so-called shadow libraries have increasingly faced legal pressure to either stop pirating books or risk being shut down or driven to the dark web. Among the biggest targets are Z-Library, which the US Department of Justice has charged with criminal copyright infringement, and Library Genesis (Libgen), which was sued by textbook publishers last fall for allegedly distributing digital copies of copyrighted works “on a massive scale in willful violation” of copyright laws.

But now these shadow libraries and others accused of spurning copyrights have seemingly found an unlikely defender in Nvidia, the AI chipmaker among those profiting most from the recent AI boom.

Nvidia seemed to defend the shadow libraries as a valid source of information online when responding to a lawsuit from book authors over the list of data repositories that were scraped to create the Books3 dataset used to train Nvidia’s AI platform NeMo.

That list includes some of the most “notorious” shadow libraries—Bibliotik, Z-Library (Z-Lib), Libgen, Sci-Hub, and Anna’s Archive, authors argued. However, Nvidia hopes to invalidate authors’ copyright claims partly by denying that any of these controversial websites should even be considered shadow libraries.

“Nvidia denies the characterization of the listed data repositories as ‘shadow libraries’ and denies that hosting data in or distributing data from the data repositories necessarily violates the US Copyright Act,” Nvidia’s court filing said.

The chipmaker did not go into further detail to define what counts as a shadow library or what potentially absolves these controversial sites from key copyright concerns raised by various ongoing lawsuits. Instead, Nvidia kept its response brief while also curtly disputing authors’ petition for class-action status and defending its AI training methods as fair use.

“Nvidia denies that it has improperly used or copied the alleged works,” the court filing said, arguing that “training is a highly transformative process that may include adjusting numerical parameters including ‘weights,’ and that outputs of an LLM may be based, at least in part, on such ‘weights.'”…

(5) BALTICON SUNDAY SHORT SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL (BSSSFFF) 2024. [Report by lance ozko.] Audience scores were from 0 to 5, with sum of values divided by number of votes. 

  • Best of Show. A retrospective screening of “Troll Bridge” from a short story by Terry Pratchett won Best of Show, edging out the George RR Martin production of Howard Waldrop’s “Night of The Cooters”. GRRM provided a new introduction to Howard Waldrop’s work, mentioning 4 films currently. 
  • Best Animated Film went to “Triskelion”, a Stop Motion Celtic Fable from Belgium by Jessica Raes.

Noteworthy were: 

  • “Siren” a comedy from Estonia with a Mermaid. Directed by Katariina Škurinski.
  • “Splinter” a Twilight Zoneish Episode filmed during the Hollywood Strike. Directed by Marc Bernardin.
  • “Falling Forward into an Unknown and Dangerous Future”  based on a verbatim  transcript of an A.I. conversation. Directed by  Mike Ambs.

Several selections were withdrawn between Balticon 57 and 58, as the festival windows did not coincide with Balticon.  Overall 1,010 films were considered. 

Coming last was a Horror Alien Abduction.  Next year we will lean into comedies. Another Howard Waldrop short film “Mary Margaret Road Grader”  is penciled in for 2025. 

(6) MOANA 2 TEASER TRAILER. Entertainment Weekly says “’Moana 2′ trailer reunites Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson”.

…The trailer showcases the now-older Moana reuniting with Maui on a mission to reconnect her people “across the entire ocean,” she says, meeting all sorts of oceanic creatures and obstacles along the way….

(7) COLUMBIA RELIC. “Astronaut’s diary found among fallen Columbia space shuttle debris added to National Library of Israel”Space.com has the story.

The handwritten journal pages of Israel’s first astronaut have been added to the country’s national library in Jerusalem, more than 20 years after they were found among the debris from the NASA tragedy that claimed his life.

Ilan Ramon wrote most of the diary while he was in orbit aboard the space shuttle Columbia, serving as an STS-107 payload specialist on the winged spacecraft’s last, ill-fated flight. The found pages document Ramon’s day-to-day life in space, from his hygiene routine to the research he performed on behalf of NASA and his home nation.

Also included were his notes on the Jewish practices that he was to demonstrate from high above Earth.

“Identified among the restored pages was the Friday night blessing over wine, with Ramon’s annotations. Apparently aware he was to broadcast the ‘Kiddush’ live from space, Ramon wanted to make sure he did not forget a single word,” read a release issued by the National Library of Israel on Wednesday (May 29).

(8) NEW SEASON OF UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Variety introduces “’Umbrella Academy’ Season 4 Trailer: The Hargreeves’ Final Countdown”.

Netflix has released the teaser trailer for the fourth and final season of its superhero series “The Umbrella Academy.” The footage, set to the tune of Europe’s 1986 song “The Final Countdown,” sees the Hargreeves siblings stepping out of their regular lives, prepping to band together one last time.

Based on the graphic novel series written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, the beloved series follows a family of adopted siblings with superpowers working to prevent the end of the world….

(9) DIGITAL HANDSELLING? The New York Times studies “How a Self-Published Book, ‘The Shadow Work Journal,’ Became a Best Seller”. (Note: this is a non-genre, nonfiction book.)  Link bypasses NYT paywall.

…The real creator of “The Shadow Work Journal” is Keila Shaheen, a 25-year-old writer from Texas with a background in marketing who self-published the book in 2021, and has since been crowned “the self-help queen of TikTok.”

After the journal blew up on TikTok, Shaheen went on to sell more than a million copies. Most of those — nearly 700,000 copies — were sold through the TikTok shop, and were marketed relentlessly by passionate influencers like Glay, who earn a 15 percent commission on each sale from Zenfulnote, Shaheen’s company.

Shaheen’s unusual path to bestsellerdom shows how radically book marketing and sales have been changed by TikTok. Over the past few years, publishers have frantically rushed to harness the power of the platform as viral videos and reviews by influencers have propelled sales for blockbuster authors like Colleen Hoover, Emily Henry and Sarah J. Maas.

But Shaheen is perhaps the first self-published nonfiction author to break out in a big way on the platform, a feat she accomplished by fully harnessing its potential not just for marketing, but for direct sales.

…“To think that she achieved a million copies sold in the United States alone, without a publisher, without any international expansion, without brick and mortar support, it breaks all the rules of what makes a best seller,” said Albert Lee, a literary agent with United Talent Agency, which represents Shaheen….

(10) MEDICAL UPDATE. MaryAnn Harris, wife of Charles de Lint, has been hospitalized since 2021 after contracting Powassan virus, an extremely rare tick-bourne illness. She has been dependent on a ventilator to breathe, and paralyzed except for a toe. Julie Bartel organized a Gofundme “de Lint Recovery Fund”. And the May 23 update begins by detailing further medical problems leading to a sad status report:

…However, all of this has taken a toll and MaryAnn is quite weak. As a result, her treatment has shifted since she returned to SVH, with a new focus on quality of life rather than full recovery. The palliative care team has been brought in, and there have been numerous conversations with MaryAnn about what comes next, and about concentrating on helping her feel comfortable and pain free.

Yesterday she had a desat that was bad enough that she is now on full oxygen again. Afterwards Dr. Kirby and one of the excellent palliative care doctors, Dr. Nick, explained just how fragile MaryAnn is and that her lungs may no longer be able to function adequately. They reiterated the need to focus on comfort and on keeping her as stable as possible and that’s what is happening now.

A very sad and difficult message to hear, but Lynn and Charles are confident the staff at SVH are doing all that they can to care for MaryAnn as well as possible.

We thought you all should know. Please keep MaryAnn in your thoughts, as she and Charles navigate the road ahead. As always, your love and support are a shining light during dark times.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

May 30, 1922 Hal Clement. (Died 2003.)   

By Paul Weimer. If hard science and physics could be considered “characters” in science fiction, Hal Clement is certainly the person who was able to make them so. Mission of Gravity is the premier look at this, giving an extremely weird and strange, and yet possible high gravity world. Do the characters he populates this world with work as individual characters? Not really, but what you read Clement for is the puzzles and the logic behind the hard science that makes a high gravity-distorted world like Mesklin (the planet of Mission of Gravity) possible in the first place. 

Hal Clement at ConFiction (1990). Photo by Frank Olynyk. From Fanac.org site.

Another novel in this vein that doesn’t get much play or notice, but I ironically read before Mission of Gravity, is The Nitrogen Fix. In this book, Earth’s atmosphere has changed, radically, with the free nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere having combined into a toxic and unbreathable mix of nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and water. Did the aliens who have come to Earth change and terraform Earth for their own purposes? In the end, the transformation of Earth’s atmosphere is a puzzle that is solved, and makes sense, with a big heaping sense of irony to it all. 

Although shared worlds are not a big thing anymore, back in the 1980’s, they were all the rage. I didn’t mention it back when I wrote on Ellison (way too much to write about him) but even Harlan Ellison did a shared world, Medea. His shared planet had a bunch of writers very interested in building a realistic planet and solar system. Clement not only provided an essay on worldbuilding the astrophysics of  Medea in the book, but also contributed a story. 

Once again, hard science as a character in Clement’s work. That’s what it means to me. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNOBTAINABLE TIMEPIECE. Hamilton Watch put together a prop watch for Dune: Part Two. You can’t buy that one. At the link they have a couple of items you can buy which echo some of its design ideas.

Collaborating with Prop Master Doug Harlocker, Hamilton Watch assisted in bringing this uniquely hardwearing Fremen device to the big screen in “Dune: Part Two”.

While the “Desert Watch” is only available on Arrakis, the creative influence behind it was too strong not to bring into our own world.

(14) OUT, OUT, DANGED SPOT. Space.com says “That giant sunspot that supercharged auroras on Earth? It’s back and may amp up the northern lights with June solar storms.”

…The first hint of AR 13697’s sunspots came into view late on May 27, with the full region visible end of May 28. Making an entrance worthy of its earlier reputation, the active region produced an X2.9 solar flare. Despite triggering fewer large flares from the sun’s backside, Monday’s X-class solar flare asserts that the region is still capable of producing these more noteworthy events. 

The active region will continue to rotate across the sun over the next two weeks, providing a view of any solar flares from the region during this window. The light from any solar flares in this window will reach Earth, with the potential to produce short-term radio blackouts. These are temporary disruptions to radio-wave propagation on the sun-facing side of Earth, lasting only an hour or so. 

As we experienced in mid-May 2024, some flares may also trigger the eruption of a CME. Unlike flares, CMEs are directional, and their potential impact on Earth relies heavily on the location of its source on the sun. For a CME to have the best odds of reaching Earth, it would need to erupt from the slight right of the sun’s center. AR 13697 will reach this location of optimum Earth connection around June 4-6, around one full solar rotation (27 days) since the mid-May solar flares. Eruptions close to this window will have the best odds of producing a geomagnetic storm and enhanced aurora display here on Earth….

(15) BIG GULP. “SpaceX fuels Starship megarocket again to prep for test flight” at Space.com. Sounds like a lot.

SpaceX has fueled up its Starship megarocket again, ramping up preparations for the huge vehicle’s upcoming test flight.

The operation, known as a wet dress rehearsal (WDR), occurred on Tuesday (May 28) at SpaceX‘s Starbase site in South Texas. The company pumped huge quantities of liquid oxygen and liquid methane into Starship‘s first and second stages, which are known, respectively, as Super Heavy and Starship (or just “Ship” for short).

“Starship and Super Heavy loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant in a rehearsal ahead of Flight 4. Launch is targeted as early as June 5, pending regulatory approval,” SpaceX said today (May 29) in an X post, which also shared photos of the procedure….

(16) MINECRAFT GETS SERIES. “’Minecraft’ Animated Series in the Works at Netflix” reports Variety.

Netflix is developing an animated series based on the wildly popular sandbox video game “Minecraft.” The streamer will produce the project alongside Mojang Studios, the Swedish developer of the game.

Plot details are not yet known, but according to Netflix, the series “will feature an original story with new characters, showing the world of ‘Minecraft’ in a new light.”…

[Thanks to Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Lance Oszko, Jim Janney, Ingvar Mattson, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, 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 Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/24 Goodbye Yellow Brick Scroll, May the Dogs of Pixelry Howl

(1) AND THE WINNING NAME IS… You weren’t holding your breath waiting for them to quit kidding around and reveal the final title, were you? Well, if you were, inhale! Variety has it: “’Agatha All Along’ Sets September Premiere Date on Disney+”.

…The “WandaVision” spinoff “Agatha All Along” has set its Disney+ premiere date.

The series will debut with two episodes on Sept.. 18. The announcement was made during the Disney upfront presentation to advertisers in New York on Tuesday.

Series star Kathryn Hahn took the stage with co-stars Joe Locke and Patti LuPone, who confirmed the series’ title after a number of changes. The show was first called “Agatha: House of Harkness.” The title appeared to change to “Agatha: Coven of Chaos” by July 2022, and then to “Agatha: Darkhold Diaries” in September 2023….

(2) THE CASE FOR PLAIN ELVES. [Item by Danny Sichel.] This video essay by Perseus Grim argues “Why Fantasy Worlds SHOULD Be Stuck in Medieval Times”.

(3) MILLENNIA BEFORE DUNE. “Dune: Prophecy: first trailer for female-led prequel TV series” – the Guardian sets the frame.

The first trailer for the much-anticipated TV prequel to the recent Dune movies promises a female-fronted look at life 10,000 years before.

Dune: Prophecy will follow the roots of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood led by the Harkonnen siblings, played by Emily Watson and Olivia Williams. Later members of the sect are played by Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Rampling on the big screen.

It is inspired by the novel Sisterhood of Dune, written by Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert, the elder son of Frank Herbert, who wrote the original Dune novels….

(4) RAGE REQUIRED. Stephanie Burt plumbs “The Radical Worldmaking of Joanna Russ” in The Nation.

“From now on, I will not trust anyone who isn’t angry.” The science-fiction writer Joanna Russ set down those words in 1984. They might have been Russ’s motto. From her 1968 novel Picnic on Paradise, about a time-traveling, take-no-prisoners female assassin named Alyx, to her 1975 pathbreaking lesbian and feminist novel The Female Man, to her collection of essays on feminism, What Are We Fighting For?, in 1997, Russ wrote unsparingly, if also elegantly, against those elements in society that keep women, especially lesbians, from becoming our best selves. Her novels and essays sometimes cut themselves short; other times, they cut to the bone. They could make room for hope, and for solidarity, and for erotic joy. Russ saw what was wrong with the world we know, how much needless pain it contains on account of gender roles—and she let herself stay angry about it, too.

Divisive in her lifetime, admired within the world of science fiction then and now, Russ has recently become the seventh sci-fi writer, and the third female one (after Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin), to get a whole Library of America volume. Assembling four novels (Picnic on ParadiseThe Female ManOn Strike Against God, and We Who Are About To…) along with shorter stories, the Library of America volume helps the reader understand the scale and scope of her talents as a prose stylist and a writer of metafiction. And it lets readers see—in Russ, and in the 1970s feminism that nurtured her—not only the rage but also the hope that her astringent imagination found…

(5) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA has released episode 75 of the Simultaneous Times podcast. The stories featured in this episode are:

  • “Memory Scars” by Adele Gardner; with music by TSG
  • “The Good Twin” by Marie Vibbert; with music by Phog Masheeen

Theme music by Dain Luscombe. Listen to all episodes on your favorite podcast player or at Podmatic.

(6) BEWARE TINY SPOILER. In The Hollywood Reporter: “Doctor Who Boss Russell T Davies on Callbacks, Villains and Disney Notes”. Sort of tiny spoiler here.

There’s a moment where the Doctor uses his Sonic Screwdriver to enable Ruby’s (the Doctor’s companion, played by Millie Gibson) phone to call her mum, even though they are thousands of years apart. That’s a lovely callback to your 2005 episode “The End of the World,” where the Ninth Doctor (Ecclestondid the very same thing for his companion Rose.

Yes, it is. It’s what he’d do. I remember sitting writing that thinking, “Oh gosh, I did that. I’ve done that before.” And then I thought, “Well, I did it 19 years ago and this is a brand new audience. But it’s very important that she doesn’t feel separated and abandoned from her family.” So there’s no way he couldn’t do it again, because it’s a good scene. It’s what he’d do, it needs reminding.

This time, when Ruby gets her phone zapped, she says, “How much did that cost?” Rose wouldn’t have thought of that. There’s something a lot more savvy about it. Ruby’s very aware of that 50 quid she got for a gig last night. And that’s her first question, “What does that cost?” I like that.

(7) ELENA STEIER (1958-2024). Comics creator Elena Steier died March 1 of cancer. The family obituary is in the Hartford Courant.

…An accomplished illustrator, author, and cartoonist, Steier created several comics and strips, such as The Ramp Rats (for the Detroit Metropolitan News), The Goth Scouts (for The South Shore Monthly Newspaper) and The Vampire Bed and Breakfast (a self-published comic book)….

Cartoonist Mike Lynch has put together an extensive tribute.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 15, 1909 James Mason. (Died 1984.) I do believe the first time I saw James Mason acting was in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest where he had the role of Phillip Vandamm, a Cold War spy. Three years after this, he’d be on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour as Warren Barrow in the “Captive Audience” episode. 

James Mason as Captain Nemo driving the getaway submarine.

Now let’s turn to what he did as genre roles. The one you most likely remember him from is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where he was Captain Nemo. Surely you remember his fight with the squid? The film was personally produced by Walt Disney, something he rarely did.

He’s Hendrik van der Zee in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, based off that story. He may or may not be the Flying Dutchman. Let’s say the film is ambiguous. Deliberately. 

He was Rupert of Hentzau in The Prisoner of Zenda which is at least genre adjacent, isn’t it? Well I think it is. Truly great silly film, and an amusing role for him. 

In Journey to the Center of the Earth, he was Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook, a professor. He was not the first choice here as Clifton Webb had been cast but turned it down as he said he could not play the part because it was such a physical part. Mason said later that he delighted in doing his stunts here.

He played Polidori in the Frankenstein: The True Story, a thirteen-episode series. Now let’s recall that Dr. Polidori did not appear in the original novel, but was rather based on the character of Dr. Pretorius from Universal Pictures’ Bride of Frankenstein, but named after John Polidori, an acquaintance of author Mary Shelley.

Finally he’s in Salem’s Lot as Richard K. Straker.

 Very impressive as a performer I’d say. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! depicts overreaction to criticism
  • The Argyle Sweater is proud of its bad video game titles.
  • Carpe Diem reveals something we never knew about flying saucers.

(10) BODY DOUBLES. “’3 Body Problem’ Renewed for Season 2 at Netflix” reports Variety.

3 Body Problem” has been renewed for at least one more season at Netflix — the streamer says that the number of seasons and episodes will be announced at a later date.

It appears that the greenlight will take the series to its finale, as creators David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo noted in a statement that they “get to tell this story through to its epic conclusion.” In an April interview with Collider, Benioff said the team would “need at least three, maybe four seasons to tell the whole story.”

Based on the novels by Liu Cixin, “3 Body Problem” follows how a decision made by a young woman in 1960s China reverberates across space and time into the present day, driving a group of scientists to join forces with an unorthodox detective to confront a major threat to humanity.

(11) A SONG OF ICE OR FIRE. While some think the new portrait of King Charles makes it look like he’s trapped in flames or swimming in blood, Filer Carl says the portrait of King Charles looks a bit like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. You decide!

(12) YESTERDAY’S VIDEO. We take you now to the year 2015 to enjoy the “’Star Wars Fan’ – Official ‘Rocket Man’ Parody”.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/24 Was Cheops A Very Large Cat? Only The Builders Know

(1) UKRANIAN WOMEN IN SF. Michael Burianyk’s English-language roundtable interview with Ukrainian Science Fiction and Fantasy writers Daria Piskozub, Svitlana Taratorina, Iryna Hrabovska, Natalia Matolinets and Nataliya Dovhopol has just been published in the British Science Fiction Association blog, Vector: “Ukrainian Women in SF: A Roundtable Conversation”. The wide-ranging discussion, on Ukrainian Science Fiction and Fantasy, literature and culture, language and translation, women’s writing, is insightful and often touching and even harrowing at times.

There is a strong trend of more Ukrainian SFF being published. Why did you think this was happening?

Nataliya It’s mainly about escapism. After spending the night in a bomb shelter and doom scrolling all day, one needs something less traumatic. Yet, SFF can also help to cope with feelings, to project one’s own experiences on those in the stories. Then the ban on book imports from Russia and a growing interest in Ukrainian culture has created more of a demand for domestic literature….

(2) HORROR UNIVERSITY OPEN FOR ENROLLMENT. StokerCon has announced the 2024 Horror University Online workshop schedule. From May 30 to June 1, they will present nine live, in-person workshops at StokerCon 2024 in San Diego, CA. See items at the link.

HORROR UNIVERSITY is designed for horror writers interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, exploring new writing formats, or better understanding the genre. These workshops are taught by some of the most experienced voices in horror. Full descriptions and registration information for our STOKERCON 2024 Workshop Schedule is available in the Horror University School on Teachable: https://horror-university.teachable.com/courses/category/stokercon-2024.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN NOW!

Registration for each workshop is $65 for non-HWA-members. HWA members receive a 15% discount on individual courses or a 20% discount on registration for five or more courses. Log into the Members Only area of www.horror.org and check the discounts page for codes. General registration for StokerCon does not include Horror University programming; additional registration is required so that the Con is able to compensate each instructor for their workshop and support the cost of the program.

(3) FIVE FOR YOUR MT TBR. Lisa Tuttle’s roundup of “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror” for the Guardian reviews Calypso by Oliver K. Langmead; Someone You Can Build a Nest In by John Wiswell; The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo; The Underhistory by Kaaron Warren; and The Universe Delivers the Enemy You Need by Adam Marek.

(4) GAY FURRY HACKERS. Them reports“Gay Furry Hacker Group SiegedSec Breached Far-Right Media Outlet Real America’s Voice”.

The gay furry hacker group SiegedSec has done it once again, this time claiming responsibility for leaking the data from a far-right media outlet.

In a Monday post to its Telegram channel, the group announced that it had hacked the app for Real America’s Voice, a right-wing media outlet founded in 2020 that regularly features far-right activists like Steve Bannon and Charlie Kirk. The outlet also frequently platforms conspiracy theories and transphobic rhetoric.

As part of SiegedSec’s ongoing hacktivism campaign OpTransRights, the group said they released the personal information of over 1,200 users on the app, including their full names, phone numbers, and email addresses. The group also said they “went poof on their files,” wiping user data from the app’s API and its cloud storage.

“[T]hroughout our attacks on transphobic entities, we have received concerns that our attacks will be used to label the LGBTQ+ community as ‘terrorists’ and ‘criminals,’” the group wrote in a Telegram message. “[T]he thing is, these types of people will blame the LGBTQ+ community regardless of what we do. they will look for a reason to hate, they won’t listen to reason, they want to spread lies to shun people different than them.”…

(5) COPYRIGHT’S WOBBLY LEGAL LINE. “Author granted copyright over book with AI-generated text—with a twist” reports Ars Technica.

…The novel draws from Shupe’s eventful life, including her advocacy for more inclusive gender recognition. Its registration provides a glimpse of how the [Copyright Office] is grappling with artificial intelligence, especially as more people incorporate AI tools into creative work. It is among the first creative works to receive a copyright for the arrangement [emphasis added] of AI-generated text.

“We’re seeing the Copyright Office struggling with where to draw the line,” intellectual property lawyer Erica Van Loon, a partner at Nixon Peabody, says. Shupe’s case highlights some of the nuances of that struggle—because the approval of her registration comes with a significant caveat.

The USCO’s notice granting Shupe copyright registration of her book does not recognize her as author of the whole text [emphasis added] as is conventional for written works. Instead she is considered the author of the “selection, coordination, and arrangement of text generated by artificial intelligence.” This means no one can copy the book without permission, but the actual sentences and paragraphs themselves are not copyrighted and could theoretically be rearranged and republished as a different book. [emphasis added]

(6) GLASGOW 2024 NEWS. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon “In Memoriam” list is being constantly updated by Steven H Silver. They ask of you know of someone you believe should be included, please let us know.

(7) DUNE MUSICAL AT WORLDCON. Glasgow 2024 also invites members to “Prepare for a unique twist on Frank Herbert’s masterpiece with Dune! The Musical. Solo artist Dan Collins will take you on a whimsical one-hour journey across Arrakis with humour and song.” There will be a performance at the Worldcon.

A memoir in song by the Earl of Caladan, trusted adviser to the Padisha Emperor and beloved troubadour-warrior, the bard Gurney Halleck.

Following the success of his work on “A Child’s History of Muad’Dib” Gurney will perform hits from his back catalogue and introduce never-before-heard songs from his time among the Fremen.

Sing along with little Paul Atreides on his journey to Sietch Tabr; can he tame the worm, save the world and get the girl?

Forget everything you know about Arrakis and get ready for Dune! The Musical…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 85. [By Paul Weimer.] It’s Rankin and Bass’ fault that I got into the work of Peter S. Beagle.  As a voracious young reader, I saw The Last Unicorn in the library and somehow, even given my small “c” catholic tastes in SFF, saw that it was somehow not going to be for me. So I didn’t pick it up. I passed it by.

Fast forward to the mid-1980’s. NYC’s Channel 11, an independent TV station, aka “New York’s movie station”, introduced me to a gigantic swelter of movies.  

One of them, by accident, was the 1982 animated version of The Last Unicorn. I remember not remembering at the time or realizing at the time that it was based on the Beagle novel, but after I was transported and transformed by the adaptation, I went and sought out the original novel.  As fine and charming as the movie is, the novel truly gave me a sense of the power and lyric nature of Beagle’s work.

I was hooked.

Peter S. Beagle

I came across my favorite Beagle, The Innkeeper’s Song, in the mid 90’s. I was in a strong fantasy vein at the time and was interested in a variety of narrative forms. The Innkeeper’s Song, with its multiple first-person narration, was a revelation in escaping the usual multiple third-person points of view that were the norm at the time. Even today, Innkeeper’s Song feels fresh and unique in its approach to narrative, point of view, and literary interest. Even before Gene Wolfe, I think Beagle’s fantasy was my first real immersion into what one might call literary fantasy.

But even more than literary talent or line by line skill, what Beagle’s work does to me, from the Last Unicorn to today, is make me feel. I think his shorter fiction is where the distillation of his skill, craft, mood and the ability to evoke emotion is at its best in the short form.  “Two Hearts”, a sequel to The Last Unicorn, is a particular favorite, because Griffins. His TNG written episode “Sarek” is one of the most moving pieces of Star Trek to this day. And yes, to this day, The Last Unicorn, the movie, brings tears to my eyes.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CLOSING WORDS. GiantFreakinRobot discusses “The Last Essay Ray Bradbury Wrote Before He Died”.

…At points, he describes how his librarian would get upset with him because he’d check out so many books when she didn’t think he’d read them all. But he did, he read every word he could get his hands on. As Bradbury explains, books “are the building blocks, the DNA, if you will, of you.”

Reading fed Ray Bradbury’s appetite for knowledge and his curiosity, which led to his understanding of writing and imagination. He expressed his love for books throughout his work, including, famously, in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, which describes a future world where books and reading is against the law.

Having his last essay be about the art of reading in general is more than a little fitting for Ray Bradbury. It acts as something of a career summation, an explanation for why literature and the act of reading are just so very important for us as humans. There really is no better sendoff for the writer, an inspiration for all us.

(11) BLUEY. Chris Barkley assures me sff fans will want to know this news: “’Bluey’ Drops Surprise New Episode on Disney” at The Hollywood Reporter. I’m guessing Chris knows this show exists because he has kids in his life. When my daughter was young I knew about Blue’s Clues and Mister Rogers Neighborhood in detail. Now kids’ TV is an undiscovered country for me.

… The new episode comes a week after “The Sign,” a special, 28-minute installment of the beloved kids’ show debuted (most Bluey episodes run under 10 minutes). The special drew waves of critical praise for its emotional storyline centering on the Heeler family possibly selling their home and moving to another city where dad Bandit would take a new job, as well as a wedding between the Heelers’ Uncle Rad and Frisky.

Coupled with the preceding episode, “Ghostbasket,” the special spawned widespread speculation that Bluey was ending. While the long-term future of the show, originally commissioned by Australia’s ABC and the BBC in the U.K. hasn’t been decided — “the BBC has asked for me never to talk about the kids’ voices or the future of Bluey,” creator Joe Brumm told The Hollywood Reporter in 2023 — “Surprise” ensures that “The Sign” isn’t the last episode of the series.

Bluey has been a breakout hit for Disney+ in the United States. It’s the most streamed show in the country this year in terms of total viewing time, according to Nielsen’s streaming ratings, after ranking second in 2023 and sixth in 2022….

(12) LESSONS FROM THE UKRAINE. The New York Times asks “Do Tanks Have a Place in 21st-Century Warfare?”

… Despite their power, tanks are not impenetrable, and they are most vulnerable where their heavy plated armor is the thinnest: on the top, the rear engine block and the space between the hull and the turret. For years they were mainly targeted with land mines, improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank guided missiles, like “shoot and scoot” shoulder-fired systems. These were widely used early in the Ukraine war because they could strike tanks from above and hit them up to 90 percent of the time.

The drones that are now being used against tanks in Ukraine are even more accurate. Known as first-person view drones, or FPVs, they are equipped with a camera that streams real-time images back to their controller, who can direct them to hit tanks in their most vulnerable spots. In several cases, the FPVs have been sent in to “finish off” tanks that had already been damaged by mines or anti-tank missiles so that they could not be retrieved from the battlefield and repaired, Colonel Reisner said.

Depending on their size and technological sophistication, the drones can cost as little as $500 — a paltry investment for taking out a $10 million Abrams tank. And some of them can carry munitions to boost the impact of their blast, said Colonel Reisner. These could be rocket-propelled grenades, he said, or self-forging warheads known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, that were widely used in roadside bombs during the war in Iraq. Colonel Reisner has collected videos of tanks in Ukraine being chased down by the drones or drones flying into their open turrets.

“Welcome to the 21st century — it’s unbelievable, actually,” said Colonel Reisner, a historian and former armor reconnaissance officer who oversees Austrian forces’ training at the Theresian Military Academy….

(13) MILITARY AI. “’Machines set loose to slaughter’: the dangerous rise of military AI” – a 2020 article from the Guardian.

The video is stark. Two menacing men stand next to a white van in a field, holding remote controls. They open the van’s back doors, and the whining sound of quadcopter drones crescendos. They flip a switch, and the drones swarm out like bats from a cave. In a few seconds, we cut to a college classroom. The killer robots flood in through windows and vents. The students scream in terror, trapped inside, as the drones attack with deadly force. The lesson that the film, Slaughterbots, is trying to impart is clear: tiny killer robots are either here or a small technological advance away. Terrorists could easily deploy them. And existing defences are weak or nonexistent.

Some military experts argued that Slaughterbots – which was made by the Future of Life Institute, an organisation researching existential threats to humanity – sensationalised a serious problem, stoking fear where calm reflection was required. But when it comes to the future of war, the line between science fiction and industrial fact is often blurry. The US air force has predicted a future in which “Swat teams will send mechanical insects equipped with video cameras to creep inside a building during a hostage standoff”. One “microsystems collaborative” has already released Octoroach, an “extremely small robot with a camera and radio transmitter that can cover up to 100 metres on the ground”. It is only one of many “biomimetic”, or nature-imitating, weapons that are on the horizon…

(14) NO SIRENS ON TITAN. “Dragonfly: NASA Just Confirmed The Most Exciting Space Mission Of Your Lifetime” enthuses Forbes.

NASA has confirmed that its exciting Dragonfly mission, which will fly a drone-like craft around Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, will cost $3.35 billion and launch in July 2028.

Titan is the only other world in the solar system other than Earth that has weather and liquid on its surface. It has an atmosphere, rain, lakes, oceans, shorelines, valleys, mountain ridges, mesas and dunes—and possibly the building blocks of life itself. It’s been described as both a utopia and as deranged because of its weird chemistry.

Set to reach Titan in 2034, the Dragonfly mission will last for two years once its lander arrives on the surface…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nearly 200,000 views and not even out for two days…. Matt O’Dowd over at PBS Space Time wonders “Why Is The World Rushing Back To The Moon?”

The Moon has been one of the most important theoretical stepping stones to our understanding of the universe. We’ve long understood that it could also be our literal stepping stone: humanity’s first destination beyond our atmosphere.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Michael Burianyk, Francis Hamit, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/24 On (Eclipse) Monday, Smart Electronic Sheep Won’t Look Up

(1) MOOGS, WOULD YOU BUY IT FOR A QUARTER? “Nobody Wants to Buy The Future: Why Science Fiction Literature is Vanishing” — according to Simon MacNeil at Typebar Magazine.

A recent Washington Post article indicated that only 12% of the reading public were interested in reading science fiction.  A perusal of bestseller lists for science fiction shows an even more alarming truth: the science fiction books that do sell are a shrinkingly small number of reprints, classics and novels that had been adapted into movies. 

The December 2023 bestseller list on Publisher’s Weekly contained only two novels published originally in 2023: Pestilence by Laura Thalassa (an odd addition to the Science Fiction list as it is marketed as fantasy / romance) and Starter Villain by John Scalzi. The bestselling SF novel in that time period, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, sold almost 17,000 copies. This puts it far below the bottom of the top 10 overall fiction bestseller list where Sarah J. Maas’ romantasy novel A Court of Mist and Fury sits at 19,097 copies sold. 

Science fiction is not selling…

… But there’s something else at play here that has reduced the public’s general taste for science fiction. 

We got to one of the futures Science Fiction proposed, and it sucked.

An oft-cited Tweet from The Onion’s Alex Blechman summarizes it perfectly: 

“Sci-Fi Author: In my book I invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale.
“Tech Company: At long last, we created the Torment Nexus from the classic sci-fi novel Don’t Create The Torment Nexus.”

We are living in the world John Brunner predicted in Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up—one of corporate dominance, political instability and environmental collapse. We are, all of us, in the Torment Nexus. So why would we want to read what future horrors Silicon Valley merchants of human misery are trying to produce next….

(2) DID HE EVER RETURN? NO, HE NEVER RETURNED. “’Quantum Leap’ Canceled at NBC After Season 2” notes The Hollywood Reporter.

The network has canceled the reboot of the 1989 series after a two-season run, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

The series starring Raymond Lee wrapped its sophomore season in February and ranked as one of the broadcast network’s lowest-rated scripted originals.

Quantum Leap, which was produced in-house at Universal Television, earned a speedy season two renewal as NBC kept production going in a bid to have scripted originals during the writers and actors strikes….

(3) MIRRORSHADES. “NASA says you shouldn’t use your phone to photograph the solar eclipse” warns XDA.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t stare at the sun during an eclipse. However, as it turns out, your phone’s “eyes” aren’t a suitable substitute. NASA has posted that, if you intend to look at the eclipse, pointing your phone at it in hopes to capture it on camera will likely fry its internal circuits, but don’t fret; there is a solution if you want to snap a photo to remember the occasion by…

…If you want to take a snap of the eclipse, there’s still a solution. NASA recommends using the same trick that protects your own eyeballs from the solar rays; with a pair of eclipse glasses. And the same rules apply for your phone as they do for your eyes; use the glasses to protect the device when it’s looking at the sun, and don’t keep pointing at it for too long. If you abide by the rules, you’ll be able to remember the eclipse with a nice photo instead of a hefty phone repair bill.

(4) THREEQUEL. You heard it here last. Entertainment Weekly reports “Denis Villeneuve’s third ‘Dune’ movie is officially happening”.

Sometimes, dreams do come true. That’s as true for Paul Atreides as it is for Denis Villeneuve, who now gets to make his third Dune movie. Legendary confirmed on Thursday that they are currently developing a third movie in the sci-fi franchise based on Frank Herbert’s original novels and are also in talks with Villeneuve to adapt Annie Jacobsen’s nonfiction book Nuclear War: A Scenario after that.

Villeneuve first told EW in 2021 that his goal all along was to make three Dune movies. Dune: Part Two completed the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s original 1965 sci-fi novel, but Herbert wrote five sequels before his death in 1986 (his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have since added to the franchise with many additional books). The first of Herbert’s sequels, 1969’s Dune Messiah, is what Villeneuve wants to adapt for his third movie in this series.

“I always envisioned three movies,” Villeneuve told EW then. “It’s not that I want to do a franchise, but this is Dune, and Dune is a huge story. In order to honor it, I think you would need at least three movies. That would be the dream. To follow Paul Atreides and his full arc would be nice.”…

(5) FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH GLASGOW. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation has advance posted ahead of its next seasonal edition an article on Glasgow: “Glasgow as a venue for the Worldcon”.

Welcome to Glasgow the largest city in Scotland, a place often referred to as “the second city of the Empire”, meaning the second city of the British Empire because of its shipbuilding prowess on the banks of the River Clyde, and its industrial base.   But other cities in the United Kingdom also lay claim to the title, so better not say “I’ve just been to the Worldcon in the second city of the Empire” if heading down south.

(6) GLANCING TOWARD THE FUTURE. If you want to be in, respond to the Glasgow 2024 Academic Programme Call For Papers by April 30.

Glasgow 2024’s Academic Programme will bring together a diverse set of scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and adjacent disciplines to launch an exploration of SF/F/H’s concern for our futures. Through a combination of panels of three (3) 15-minute presentations each and hour-long roundtable discussions with scholars, we’ll discuss themes of futurity as they manifest in genre fiction and media past and present, as well as speculate on the genre’s own potential futures and capacity for shaping the future, encompassing film, literature, comics, games, new media, and art and/or the fan communities that celebrate them.

(7) DETECTING FAKE LITERARY AGENCIES. Patrick Carter enhances your scam detection skills in a thread that starts here. Here are some examples:

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 87. Rather obviously, Billy Dee Williams’ best-known role is as — and no I did know this was his full name — Landonis Balthazar “Lando” Calrissian III. He was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back as a longtime friend of Han Solo and the administrator of the floating Cloud City on the gas planet Bespin. 

Billy Dee Williams

(So have I mentioned, I’ve only watched the original trilogy, and this is my favorite film of that trilogy? If anyone cares to convince me I’ve missed something by not watching the later films, go ahead.) 

He is Lando in the original trilogy, as well in as the sequel, The Rise of Skywalker, thirty-six years later. The Star Wars thinks this might be the longest interval between first playing a character and later playing the same character, being a thirty-six year gap.

He returned to the role within the continuity in the animated Star Wars Rebels series, voicing the role in “Idiot’s Array” and “The Siege of Lothal” episodes. 

Now this is where it gets silly, really silly. The most times he’s been involved with the character is in the Lego ‘verse. Between 2024 with The Lego Movie to Billy Dee Williams returned to the role in the Star Wars: Summer Vacation in 2022, he has voiced Lando in eight Lego films, mostly made as television specials.

Going from hero to villain, he was Harvey Dent in Batman, and yes in The Lego Batman Movie. Really they made it. I’d like to say I remember him here but than they would admitting this film made an impression on me which it decidedly didn’t. None of the Batman Films did in the Eightes.

He’s in Mission Impossible as Hank Benton, an enforcer for a monster, in “The Miracle” episode; he’s Ferguson in  Epoch: Evolution, the sequel to Epoch, a what looks like quite silly, and I’m using this term deliberately, sci-film, and finally he voiced himself on Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?,  the thirteenth television series in the Scooby-Doo franchise. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld has two for us.

(10) TAXONOMY SEASON. Richard Ngo has put together a grid about types of conflict in a certain species of sff story. It’s followed by several posts with commentary. Thread starts here. (Ngo credits Grant Snider’s 2014 Incidental Comics “Conflict in Literature” as the inspiration.)

(11) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] The April 5 episode of Jeopardy! was the first game of the tournament finals. In the Jeopardy round:

Alliterative Lit, $200:
Chapters in this book include “The Departure of Boromir” & “Shelob’s Lair”
Andrew He buzzed in but dried up. Victoria Groce responded with, “What is The Two Towers?”

The Double Jeopardy round had a category “Horror Music”. The contestants started at the bottom and worked their way up:

$2000
“Putting Out the Fire with Gasoline” is from the theme song to this beastly film starring Nastassja Kinski
Victoria tried, “What is Species?” but this was wrong. Amy Schneider tried “La Femme Nikita” but seemed to know that wasn’t right. Andrew didn’t try it. The answer was Cat People.

$1600
In a song by the goth rock band Bauhaus, this horror movie legend is “dead, undead, undead, undead”
Victoria got this: “Who is Bela Lugosi?”

$1200
A man sees a ghostly version of himself in Schubert’s Lied (song) with this German title
Amy seemed uncertain with “What is Doppelgänger?” but it was correct.

$800
“What ever happened to my Transylvania Twist?” is a lyric from this novelty horror song
Amy was more sure of this one: “What’s the Monster Mash?”

$400
Ray Parker Jr. wrote & performed the theme song to “Ghostbusters” that went to no. 1 on the charts & asked this musical question
Amy said, “What is ‘Who they gonna call?’” but this was not accepted. Andrew He got the right phrasing: “What is ‘Who you gonna call?’”

(12) CALL ME. “How ‘Bambi’ & Horatio Hornblower Helped Launch William Shatner & Captain Kirk: The Film That Lit My Fuse” – the headline of Deadline’s mini-review of You Can Call Me Bill is really the best part. You can skip the rest.

(13) WHEN MAY THE FOURTH IS WITH YOU. We reported Disney+’s upcoming Star Wars: Tales of the Empire series yesterday. Here’s the trailer. Arrives May 4.

(14) DIRECT FROM 1997. Hear the author’s musical selections on BBC Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs, Iain Banks.

This week’s castaway is an author. In his book The Wasp Factory, the teenage protagonist tortures insects, experiments with bombs and kills a brother and a cousin. But, says Iain Banks, that was “just a phase he was going through”. He tells Sue Lawley how, as a writer, he has not developed the filters that most adults do and so views the world with childlike eyes, describing what he sees. And this world, he feels, is very often a violent and terrifying one.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: Mohammed’s Radio by Warren Zevon
Book: The Complete Monty Python Television Scripts by Monty Python
Luxury: Front Seat Of A Porsche

(15) FIRST QUARTER. JustWatch has released their latest data report on market shares in the US for the first quarter of 2024. The report is based on the JustWatch users in the US selecting their streaming services, clicking out to streaming offers and marking titles as seen. 

  • SVOD market shares in Q1 2024: Global streaming giant: Prime Video took the lead in the US streaming market with shares more than the combined size of Disney-owned companies: Hulu and Disney+. Meanwhile, Netflix maintains its stronghold with more than 2x the shares than that of Apple TV+.
  • Market share development in 2024: Leading streaming growth into 2024 are Apple TV+, Netflix, and Paramount+, each adding +1% to their shares. On the other hand, Hulu, Disney+, and Max struggled to keep up, individually suffering through a -1% decline since January.

(16) CHIP OFF THE VERY OLD BLOCK. Live Science is there when “NASA engineers discover why Voyager 1 is sending a stream of gibberish from outside our solar system”.

…In March, NASA engineers sent a command prompt, or “poke,” to the craft to get a readout from its flight data subsystem (FDS) — which packages Voyager 1’s science and engineering data before beaming it back to Earth. 

After decoding the spacecraft’s response, the engineers have found the source of the problem: The FDS’s memory has been corrupted.

“The team suspects that a single chip responsible for storing part of the affected portion of the FDS memory isn’t working,” NASA said in a blog post Wednesday (March 13). “Engineers can’t determine with certainty what caused the issue. Two possibilities are that the chip could have been hit by an energetic particle from space or that it simply may have worn out after 46 years.”…

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/24 I Shall Name This Clever WordPlay After Myself, Said Tom Eponymously

(1) WHY BARDON DECLINED A 2024 HUGO NOMINATION. Natasha Bardon has posted on Instagram her reasons for declining her Best Editor, Long Form Hugo nomination: 

Learn more about Bardon in this interview from 2020 – “An Interview With… Natasha Bardon” — and this news item from the Bookseller in 2022 – “Bardon promoted to publisher at HarperVoyager and Magpie Books”.

(2) WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT. Cora Buhlert analyzes all the categories in “Some Thoughts on the 2024 Hugo Finalists” which were announced at the UK Eastercon.

Here is Buhlert’s reaction to the voters’ picks for Best Related:

Best Related

I guess everybody knows my strong preference for well-researched non-fiction in this category by now, so I’m pleased that five of six finalists in this category are actually books.

The late Maureen Kincaid Speller was an always insightful critic, so I’m glad to see the collection  A Traveller in Time: The Critical Practice of Maureen Kincaid Speller by Maureen Kincaid Speller, edited by Nina Allan, on the ballot.

Volumes 2 and 3 of Chinese Science Fiction: An Oral History, edited by Yang Feng, are the sequels to the first volume which was nominated in this category last year and most worthy they are, too.

All These Worlds: Reviews & Essays by Niall Harrison does exactly what it says on the tin. I haven’t this collection yet, but it’s exactly the sort of thing I like to see in this category.

A City on Mars by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith is an illustrated popular science book about how feasible it is to colonise Mars. I wasn’t familiar with this book at all, though again it absolutely fits into this category.

The Culture: The Drawings by Iain M. Banks is an art book collecting drawings that the late Iain M. Banks did of spacecraft, locations, etc… of his Culture series. Again, I had no idea that this book existed, but it’s most fitting finalist.

Finally, we have a podcast or rather videocast named Discover X nominated in this category. Discover X appears to be a collection of interviews with various SMOFs and SFF professionaly done by Tina Wong at last year’s Chengdu Worldcon.

Discover X was initially nominated in Best Fancast, but since it is a professional project, it was moved into Best Related. This isn’t the first time a professional podcast was nominated in Best Related. Writing Excuses was nominated in this category several times approx. 10 years ago.  I’m not very happy with podcasts nominated in Best Related, but since there is no professional podcast (procast?) category, there really is no other place to put them. And podcasts are among the less edgy of the many edge finalists we’ve seen in this category in recent years.

There also was a withdrawl is this category, because Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood was nominated for a viral tweet promoting the Hugo-winning novella This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which pushed the book up various bestseller lists due to Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood’s many Twitter followers. Now the Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood affair is a perfect example of how word of mouth works and can catapult a work into the stratosphere. Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood also appears to be a great person and it was very classy of them to decline a nomination. However, this nomination also illustrates why the Best Related Work needs to be reformed and the definition tightened. Because how on Earth can you compare a single tweet, even one which sold thousands of books, with a 400 page non-fiction book?

And even if we limited Best Related to non-fiction books and long essays, we’d still get a wide range of potential finalists as this year’s ballot shows….

(3) TAKEN FROM THE SHELF. Haven’t had enough Eastercon this weekend? Rob Hansen is prepared to immerse you in the 1956 edition — CYTRICON II – at his richly-detailed fanhistory site.

CYTRICON II, the 1956 UK national science fiction convention was held at The George Hotel in the town of Kettering over the Easter weekend, Friday 30th March – Monday 2nd April. Overflow hotel was The Royal, with The Swan Hotel hosting a further seven fans. Parties were held in both The George and The Royal. The con was organised by the London Circle.

Here’s a brief excerpt from a contemporaneous conreport.

ARCHIE MERCER:

At a quarter to four on Good Friday I staggered from the train at Kettering station, adjusted my two slung haversacks, took a tighter grip on my gramophone(in the right hand) and a parcel consisting mainly of records for same (in the left), and set my face firmly towards the George Hotel. About fifty yards ahead of me, Walt Willis stalked his proud and lordly way. About as far again behind me, I could discern the chatter of several more humans – if they too were fen, and if so who, I still don’t know. Besides I can’t say that it’s all that important.

Arriving at the George in good order, I was immediately caught up in a furious burst of misapprehensions by Joyce, the receptionist, who was practically insisting that I must have a car and wanted to know the number of it. I explained patiently that the nearest thing was the train I’d so carelessly abandoned down at the station and I hadn’t a clue as to its number. So she decided to humour me and let me in without it. I signed the book under Peter Reaney, moved within — and the Con was on….

(4) EX MACHINA REWATCH MOVIE REVIEW. [Item by Erin Underwood.] 2023 was AI’s breakthrough year, and as we move into 2024, I wanted to take a look back at one of the best AI films to see how it held up over the last decade. Check out my new rewatch review of Alex Garland’s groundbreaking AI film Ex Machina. Does the story and the technology hold up? Is it still the instant classic everyone thought it was back in 2014? “Ex Machina Movie Review – A groundbreaking AI film in 2014. What’s it like now?”

(5) BOOK PRESERVATION. Via WIRED: “This Woman Deconstructs 100-Year-Old Books To Restore Them”.

Author, educator and book restorer Sophia Bogle has nerves of steel: one slip of the hand and a century-old first edition book could be ruined. Come inside her workshop as she breaks down the amazing deconstruction, revitalization, and reassembly that goes into her history preserving speciality.

(6) READY FOR MY CLOSEUP. Forbes shares a look “Inside The Ambitious Plan To Broadcast The Entire Total Solar Eclipse”.

It’s nature’s most spectacular sight, but during North America’s total solar eclipse on April 8, the sun’s corona will only be visible for a few precious minutes from any one location.

However, totality itself will be viewed for a combined total of 100 minutes from a 115-mile path of totality stretching from Mexico to the Canada, via the U.S. So why not have cameras stationed all along the track and broadcast the entire thing as one continuous livestream?

That’s the thinking behind the Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast Initiative, a nationwide citizen science team armed with a $314,000 NASA grant, hoping to pioneer a unique new way to broadcast a total solar eclipse.

It’s as much about solar science as it is about broadcasting, however, with a new understanding of the solar corona the ultimate prize.

DEB is the brainchild of the team behind the successful Citizen CATE experiment from the 2017 total solar eclipse, the last to cross the U.S, which saw more than 60 identical telescopes equipped with digital cameras positioned from Oregon to South Carolina to image the solar corona.

The resulting images were then spliced together to reveal the plasma dynamics of the inner solar corona, which is 10,000 times hotter and dimmer than our star’s surface—and can only be studied in full during a total solar eclipse….

(7) VFX OSCAR WINNER TIM MCGOVERN DIES. Visual effects artist Tim McGovern died March 30 at the age of 68. He won an Oscar for his work on the 1990 film Total Recall. Deadline’s profile covers his other accomplishments.

…The Visual Effects Society recently recognized McGovern with the 2023 Founders Award for his contributions to the art, science, or business of visual effects and meritorious service to the Society.

McGovern was a founding member of Sony Pictures ImageWorks and ran it as the Senior VFX Supervisor as well as the SVP of Creative and Technical Affairs. After leaving Sony, McGovern continued as an independent VFX artist and filmmaker.

McGovern’s most recent film credits include Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023), Jungle Cruise (2021), Men in Black: International (2019), First Man (2019), Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Dunkirk (2017), The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016), and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (2015), among many others….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 64. What works by Ian McDonald have I enjoyed so much that I’ve read them over and over, and then when they were available as audioworks listened to them several more times? That’s easy. The Desolation Road series, Desolation Road and Ares Express which I’m holding to be the best story ever set on Mars.

Ian McDonald

A town that develops around an oasis on a terraformed Mars with a cast of characters that are truly fascinating? What’s not to really like? Not to mention the Ares Express running across the desert. Damn I wanted to see that train! 

(I do have a list of other works set on Mars I like — Kage Baker’s The Empress of Mars, Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars, Arthur Clarke’s The Sands of Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and Frederik Pohl’s Man Plus.) 

Completely shifting his tone was King of Morning, Queen of Day. Multiple generations of Irish women might have the potential to bring the fey who are obviously quite dangerous into their world. That isn’t the best aspect of the novel — it’s the characters herein. He’s very skilled in his character crafting. 

The Chaga saga set in Africa (Chaga and Kirinya) with its slow moving alien biological invasion is perfectly horrific; I’ve not yet read the short fiction set in the series.

I read both of the future India series, River of Gods and Cyberabad. I throughly enjoyed River of Gods but found Cyberabad less than interesting.

I tried the first of Everness series. No, not my cup of tea. Really not. 

Which was not true of The Dervish House, my last choice. An alternative history of Istanbul set now, well it was twenty years in the future when it was written, though the changes there suggest a history that deviated a lot earlier. Loved the characters. Loved the technology he created. Loved the story. Brilliant all around.

(9) CREDIT GRAB? CBR.com explains why “Marvel’s New Addition to Wolverine’s List of Creators Draws Controversy”.

Marvel’s decision to add a new name among Wolverine’s creators in the upcoming film Deadpool & Wolverine has sparked controversy among fans and comic creators alike.

It has been revealed that Roy Thomas, former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, will be credited as one of the four creators of Wolverine. The other creators of the character include the late writer Len Wein, artist Herb Trimpe, and designer John Romita Sr. The news sparked a Facebook post from writer Bobbie Chase, who worked at Marvel in the 1980s and 1990s, asking others to discuss the true creators of the character as well as the implications for editors-in-chief to claim creation over other characters.

Chase also mentioned speaking to Wein’s widow about the changes, saying, “Recently my friend and Len Wein’s widow, Christine Valada, got a call from Marvel executive David Bogart, informing her that in the upcoming Wolverine & Deadpool movie, Roy Thomas will now be credited as the co-creator [of Wolverine], and David said it’s a done deal. […] Of course Christine is seriously concerned about Len’s legacy. Len was profoundly important to the comic book industry, and that legacy is being changed for the worse, six years after his death.”

Chase’s frustrations about this change stemmed from the fact that the other creators of Wolverine have all died, making it hard to dispute the authenticity of Thomas’ addition to the list…. 

(10) CLOWNS AND QUESTION MARKS. 13th Dimension called on fans to “Dig These 13 Great ‘Serious BATMAN’ Moments in BATMAN ’66”. Here’s one example:

The Joker Is Wild. Batman and Robin are nearly unmasked by the Joker after being momentarily grabbed by the villain’s henchmen. The heroes are engaging the villain while he hijacks a live TV performance of the opera Pagliacci – that is why Joker is wearing a white Pierrot clown costume. I think that this image is very much in the dramatic style and spirit of the amazing Norm Saunders paintings used for the 1966 Topps Batman trading card set, inspired by the series.

(11) TAKING IT OUT FOR A SPIN. Gizmodo says “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Incredible Musical Episode Is Getting the Vinyl It Deserves”. It comes out June 7.

Of all the highs Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ sophomore season pulled off—intense actionVulcan dramafamiliar faces, and plenty more—perhaps one of the most delightful of all was “Subspace Rhapsody,” its earnestly cheesy all-singing, all-dancing musical showstopper. And if you’ve had the soundtrack streaming non-stop since last year, we’ve got great news for you.

io9 can exclusively reveal that Lakeshore Records is going to release the complete 11-track score for the episode on a black vinyl record, with artwork inspired by the poster released for the episode at San Diego Comic-Con last year forming the cover….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Matt Mitchell says this is how it would sound “If Dune was Southern”. Y’all pay attention now.

(P.S. I’m told one of the references is to Tony Chachere’s spice.)

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Wobbu Palzooza, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/20/24 He Will Know These Pixels As If Born To Them

(1) HE LIED. THANK GOODNESS! Former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat is writing an episode due to air in Ncuti Gatwa’s first season as the Fifteenth Doctor: “Steven Moffat returns to write episode for new season of Doctor Who”.

….Speaking on his return to the Whoniverse, Steven Moffat says:

“Yes, okay, fair enough – apologies to everyone I’ve very slightly misled – I am in fact writing an episode of the series of Doctor Who. Exactly like I said I never would. What can I tell you? There was begging, there was pleading but finally Russell agreed to let me have another go – so long as I got out of his garden. Working with old friends and a brand new Doctor I couldn’t be happier. Sorry I was a bit reticent on the subject for so long. It was all part of an elaborate plan that would have delighted millions but at the last minute I forgot what it was.”

(2) OCTAVIA E. BUTLER SCIENCE FICTION FESTIVAL. The Pasadena middle school once attended by — and in 2022 renamed for — the author Octavia E. Butler will hold its third Science Fiction Festival on Friday reports LAist in“Student Sci-Fi”. (The event schedule is here: “Octavia E. Butler Library Science Fiction Festival 2024”.)

…The multi-award winning and best selling author graduated from what was then Washington Junior High in 1962 and wrote some of her earliest stories while a student.

School librarian Natalie Daily organized the Octavia E. Butler Magnet’s first science fiction writing contest in 2020, the same year the school’s library was renamed in her honor. The school itself was renamed two years later.

“I want [students] to realize that their ideas matter,” Daily said. “I think that Butler is a testament to that, you know, she was writing stuff and thinking about really, really deep ideas when she was a student here.”…

(3) KINGFISHER AND COMPANY. Sarah Gailey interviews the Tor team behind the publication and promotion of T. Kingfisher’s new book. “The Mess That the Editor Fixes: What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher” at Stone Soup.

T. Kingfisher has been one of my favorite horror authors since I read The Twisted Ones, one of the only novels that has ever made me scream out loud with genuine terror. In 2022, Kingfisher released the Locus Award-winning novella What Moves the Dead, an early entry into the now-thriving world of Fungal Gothic Literature. It’s a tale of declining wealth and reanimation (sort of), and it includes some fascinating worldbuilding conversations about social constructions of gender. I got to connect with Kingfisher and the production team at Tor to discuss the upcoming sequel to What Moves the Dead. What follows is a deep dive into the process behind What Feasts at Night….

Gailey: Okay, T. Kingfisher, tell us what you do.

T. Kingfisher, Author, What Feasts at Night: I write the mess that the editor fixes. I always say that my dream is to sit in a room and write and have people shove food and checks under the door, and Tor is like “Here is a sandwich and a check and we wrote a list of all the advertisements the book has appeared in on the napkin.” It’s basically the perfect relationship, so far as I’m concerned. Lindsey Hall, my editor, is an absolute champ!…

(4) XENOMORPHS ON THE LOOSE AGAIN. Variety interviews the director of the next Aliens movie in “’Alien: Romulus’ Trailer: Fede Alvarez Teases Facehuggers, Frights”.

…“Alien: Romulus” marks the seventh film in the “Alien” franchise, and the overall ninth involving acid-blooded xenomorphs, if you include the “Aliens vs. Predator” crossover films. Writer-director Álvarez is about to complicate its already convoluted timeline even further with “Romulus,” which premieres August 16. But the more important question is, will it be better than some of the more lackluster chapters in this ongoing saga — which there are probably more of than great ones?…

How tough was it to find a balance between the little green computer monitors of “Alien” and the futuristic technology of the more recent films?

I know a lot of people felt like it makes no sense. But I think we make the mistake when we watch the Nostromo and assume that’s how the entire universe looks like. If I decide to make a movie on Earth today, and I go to the Mojave Desert and I take an old truck because a guy drives a Chevy, if you’re an alien, you’re going to go, “That’s what the world looks like.” But it doesn’t mean there’s not a guy in a Tesla in the city, which would be the “Prometheus” ship. The first movie is truck drivers in a beat-up truck. “Prometheus” is the ship of the richest man in the world….

(5) PRE-WORLDCON TOUR OF SCOTLAND OFFERED. Val and Ron Ontell are fans who have been running tours in connection with Worldcon since 1987. Past tours have included Britain, Australia, Ireland, Japan, and Scandinavia/St. Petersburg. They are currently organizing one for two weeks in Scotland beginning in Edinburgh and ending in Glasgow the day before the con begins.

Some of the highlights: Loch Ness, Inverness and the Highlands, the Isles of Arran and Skye, Stirling Castle, a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train (aka the Hogwarts Express), going into a Concorde SST at the National Museum of Flight, having a traditional Scottish dinner (including haggis), and attending the Edinburgh Tattoo. Click for the itinerary.

For complete information, visit their website at <ontell.org/Scotland> or contact them at <[email protected]>.

(6) FREE FLYER. Flaco, the escaped Central Park Zoo owl, died on February 23. The owl’s story is the premise for a book competition offering a $20,000 prize from Brazen House Inc. Contact [email protected] for full details.

The story of Flaco, the owl from Central Park Zoo, has touched people all over the world as a tale of inspiration and admonition for humans. The Eurasian eagle-owl escaped from his cage after thirteen years in captivity and moved about fearlessly in the concrete jungle of New York skyscrapers, pursuing freedom and a little perch he could call home. He found neither in that rich patch of America that stands for freedom and opportunity. Even though he had a legion of human supporters rooting for him, the authorities shadowed him, trying to get him back into his cage. As for finding a home, every inch of the land had been claimed by humans. After a year of striving and struggling, Flaco met with a tragic death when he crashed into a building on the Upper West Side.

If Flaco could speak to us from the other side of the veil, what would he say about his captive life and the brief freedom he enjoyed? What resentments would he have about the humans who for years kept him in a cage as an object of mere curiosity? What were his most joyful moments in freedom? What did he pine for most as he ranged over the concrete jungle of New York City?

Brazen House is soliciting proposals for an imaginative novel that will tell his story through his eyes and reflect on how humans regard other species. The book is intended for young adults, but the story and the writing should resonate with older readers as well. And it should make a distinguished contribution to the literature for young readers in enhancing their appreciation of other species with whom we share this Earth…

The submission should be exclusive to Brazen House. The winning proposal will be announced on September 1, 2024….

Somtow Sucharitkul sent the news item to File 770 with a disclosure, “I’m doing a new trilogy with his publishing house and I’m on his committee to pick the winning book for the 20,000 prize.”

(7) E PLURIBUS YRTH. And since we’ve mentioned Somtow’s new trilogy from Brazen House…

Yrth Trilogy by S.P. Somtow

An epic series by World Fantasy Award winning author S.P. Somtow

A timeless story reinvented for the 21st Century: with the sweep of Lord of the Rings and the spectacle of Dune

An eon from now, humans are mostly a memory, wiped out by war and their own hubris, living on the fringes. Yrth is a desolate wasteland, but life has started to return. New races have begun to live in the wasteland, finding their own harmony with their environment. Some have evolved from what were once thought of as animals. Others were created to make real the myths and imaginings of the departed humans. These races have created pockets of utopia.

But will they repeat the mistakes of past, and return Yrth to the realm of shadow? Can many species become a united world?

(8) LIGHTS…CAMERA…WATCH MEDIA! “Sci-Fi Series ‘Murderbot’ Officially Begins Filming at Apple TV+” reports Midgard Times.

The upcoming Apple TV+ sci-fi series, “Murderbot” has officially begun filming this Monday in Toronto, Canada. Starring Alexander Skarsgård in the leading role, the series is based on the award-winning books by Martha Wells.

“Murderbot” is described as an action-packed sci-fi series based on Wells’ award-winning novels about a self-hacking security android who is appalled by human emotion but lured to its weak “clients.” Murderbot must suppress its free will and perform a perilous mission when all it truly wants is to be left alone to watch future soap operas and find out its place in space….

…The 10-episode Murderbot is expected to take more than three months to complete the production. As per the current schedule, the sci-fi series will officially wrap filming on June 27, 2024. The series comes from Chris and Paul Weitz, who are writing, directing, and producing it, while also acting as showrunners….

(9) THY THREE SUNS. Critic Inkoo Kang tells readers of The New Yorker, “’3 Body Problem’ Is a Rare Species of Sci-Fi Epic”.

…“3 Body Problem” belongs to an all too rare breed: mainstream entertainment that leads its viewers down bracingly original speculative corridors. The scenario the show ultimately posits bears little resemblance to traditional sci-fi fare; the aliens are coming, but not for another four hundred years, putting humanity on notice for an encounter—and possibly a war—that’s many lifetimes away. This time span is as much a curse as a blessing. Forget the science for a second; what kind of political will—totalitarian or otherwise—is required to keep centuries of preparation on track? How do we get the über-rich to contribute to a new space race in a way that also flatters their egos? And what resources does it take to accelerate scientific discovery to a breakneck pace?…

(10) M. EMMETT WALSH (1935-2024). Character actor M. Emmet Walsh died March 19 at the age of 88 reports Variety.

…In Ridley Scott’s 1982 “Blade Runner,” Walsh was Harrison Ford’s LAPD boss, while he played the vicious private detective Loren Visser in the Coen brothers’ directing debut “Blood Simple.” Wearing a sickly yellow suit, Pauline Kael said he was the film’s “only colorful performer. He lays on the loathsomeness, but he gives it a little twirl — a sportiness.”

His other roles included the corrupt sheriff in the 1986 horror film “Critters” and a small role as a security guard in “Knives Out.”…

He also did voice work in Iron Giant.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. (Died 2004.) Jack Cady’s Wikipedia page says he’s known “mostly as an award-winning writer of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award.” I’m betting that he’s much more than just his ‘Wards, don’t you think?

So let’s see… Ghost stories are a good place to begin I think. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. 

Jack Cady

Now The Well is not quite a ghost story as such but it’s a haunted house story of sorts heavy on the horror, really heavy on the horror. 

Not a ghost story as such but equally impressive is Inagehi which is the story of a young Cherokee woman who inherits a mountain and the mystery of her father’s death. 

Now Dark Dreaming with Carol Orlockreminds me just a bit of He Who Shapes in its use of the darker side of dreams. Well much darker than Zelazny ever did. Don’t read later at night.

Cady’s The Man Who Could Make Things Vanish is a tale of a man who make anything disappear against an organisation that might or might exist wanting to rule the world. 

He wrote more novels than that but those are the ones I’m familiar with. 

He also wrote quite a bit of short fiction, some sixty pieces I figure. Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fanthoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2, both done a decade ago, collect about forty-five pieces of short fiction. Both are available at the usual suspects. 

Those ‘Wards? He won a Nebula and Stoker for a novella, “The Night We Buried Road Dog”; the World Fantasy Award was for a short collection, The Sons of Noah & Other Stories; and the final one was the International Horror Guild Award a warded for Outstanding achievements in the field of Horror and Dark Fantasy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) CONTINUAL HEALING. “’I’m still trying to recover’: Annie Potts on Ghostbusters, Toy Story – and the car crash that almost killed her” in the Guardian.

…Ask her why she thinks Ghostbusters is so enduring, and she replies: “Well, it’s made a lot of money.” But the reason for that is the affection audiences have for it. “It was uniquely hilarious and scary – it’s scalarious – and that turned out to be a very good combination.” For those of us who loved it as children, she thinks we’re trying to “get back to that moment where you’ve been both tickled and scared. And so here we are, 40 years later.” We’re speaking over Zoom; Potts is in New York for the premiere, and she’s warm, funny and has the straightforward air of someone who has seen it all….

…As well as Janine returning, the original team played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson are also back; Harold Ramis, who played Egon Spengler, died in 2014. Spengler’s estranged daughter and her children are part of the new crew (having been introduced in 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife). “So they have the young ghostbuster, and the mom ghostbuster, and then they have me, the old lady ghostbuster,” says Potts, delightedly….

…Just as her career was getting started, it was almost derailed by a car crash when she was 21. “Drunk drivers, three carloads of teenagers in the middle of the day were drag-racing down the wrong side of a two-lane highway and ran head on into the car I was in.” Virtually every bone in her body below the waist was broken, she says. “It took a very long time to recover. I’m still trying to recover.” It must have shattered her sense of security and invincibility, which many of us take for granted at that age. “Yes, when you almost lose your life, it becomes pretty dear. I don’t know if you can know how dear it is until you are faced with losing it.”…

(14) BUCKET TWIST. “The Surprise Ending of ‘Dune,’ the Popcorn Bucket” – the New York Times consults a nutritionist about the impact of the souvenir container.

In the “Dune” movies, a gigantic sandworm can rise from the desert and devour soldiers and military vehicles in its gaping maw. In real life, humans watching movies devour popcorn. These two ideas have been combined to spawn the “Dune” popcorn bucket, a sandworm-shaped tub that is having a cultural moment. The bucket arrives on the heels of other recent popcorn collectibles, like the 16-inch Barbie Corvette snack holder. But is there more to these vessels than meets the eye?

Lindsay Moyer thinks about popcorn. She is the senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group focused on food systems and healthy eating. She sat down with The New York Times to discuss what she sees when she considers “Dune: The Popcorn Bucket.” This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

…My colleague and I called some AMC locations this morning, and they all told us that the “Dune” bucket is like getting a large popcorn there, but that it varies by location. We talked to their employees and asked them how many calories are listed on the menu, and a large has 980 calories. My understanding is that would be before you added any buttery topping yourself, if you choose to add it…

(15) QUITE A COLLECTIBLE. “Manhattan Project Report Signed by J. Robert Oppenheimer Sells at Auction” at Smithsonian Magazine.

report describing the creation of the atomic bomb signed by J. Robert Oppenheimer sold for $53,594 at auction last week.

The RR Auction sale took place just a few days after Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer cleaned up at the Oscars, where it won in seven categories (including Best Picture and Best Director)….

The 200-page document—titled “Atomic Bombs: A General Account of the Development of Methods of Using Atomic Energy for Military Purposes Under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945”—was signed by Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who directed the Manhattan Project, and 23 other contributors, including Enrico FermiErnest LawrenceJames Chadwick and Harold Urey. It provides a detailed description of the “technical and administrative history” of the atomic bomb’s development….

… Nellie V. Sanderson, the secretary for General Leslie Groves (who oversaw the Manhattan Project), collected the signatures, intercepting the men as they came to meet with Groves and asking them to sign the report.

Along with the report, the anonymous buyer also got several items that belonged to Sanderson, including letters, documents and a Manhattan Project shoulder patch. One of Groves’ business cards was also included in the lot….

(16) A.I. REALLY MEANS ARTIFICIAL IMPRESSIONISM. Adam Gopnik seeks an answer to the question “What Can A.I. Art Teach Us About the Real Thing?” in The New Yorker.

…The range and ease of pictorial invention offered by A.I. image generation is startling; the question, though, is whether its arrival is merely recreational or actually revolutionary. Is it like the invention of the electric light bulb or like the coming of the lava lamp? Herewith, some thoughts.

The intersection of new machines with new kinds of images has a long history. I once owned a French drawing device—a kind of camera lucida, with reflecting mirrors and refracting prisms—that called itself a Machine to Draw the World. It took for granted that the task of image-making was to incise and adjust a drawing to a pattern of light—in itself, a fiendishly difficult action that preoccupied artists for centuries. (Whether actual machines like it played a significant role in the art of Vermeer or Rembrandt is an unsettled question.)

But systems like dall-e 2 don’t operate on light and shadow; they operate on art history—on the almost bottomless reservoir of images on which they’re trained. And the power of images lies less in their arguments than in their ambiguities. That’s why the images that dall-e 2 makes are far more interesting than the texts that A.I. chatbots make. To be persuasive, a text demands a point; in contrast, looking at pictures, we can be fascinated by atmospheres and uncertainties. Even images made to persuade—such as propaganda posters or altarpieces—are only communicative through the intercession of our outside knowledge of the narratives that they illuminate. When you don’t know the story, even tutelary religious pictures become enigmatic. 

…This is not a machine to draw the world. Instead, it proposes a recombinant approach to popular imagery as a means of making art. (The dialogue of popular imagery and modern art was, as it happens, the topic of that abandoned Ph.D. thesis.) In effect, it exploits, and has installed in it as a premise, an idea specific to a particular heritage of image-making, the heritage of Symbolism, and then of the Surrealism that Symbolism engendered. Appropriately enough, the system takes its punning name from a Surrealist painter, since dall-e 2 is ideally trimmed to make soft watches and derby hats on dogs and trains racing out of fireplaces….

(17) PUTTING HIS FOOT DOWN FOR SAFETY. “Godzilla was back on the streets of Tokyo — this time for a good cause”NPR’s “Morning Edition” has the story.

…Good morning, I’m Steve Inskeep. Godzilla, the monster of Japanese movie fame, was back on the streets of Tokyo. This time, the kaiju visited on a public service mission to encourage people to observe traffic safety laws. Godzilla was even made police chief for a day. Think of the size of his hat. The appearance was part of a campaign using Japanese movie characters to promote traffic safety. I wonder what job they gave Pikachu….

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/24 We Cannot Do With More Than 16, To Give A Tentacle To Each

(1) HOLLY BLACK Q&A. “Holly Black interview: The Cruel Prince author on the boom in faerie fantasy novels, BookTok, and sex scenes” at Slate.

What does it feel like now to be surrounded by all these other faerie fantasy books and, consequently, readers who potentially read only fantasy, who are not coming into the genre for the first time?

[Black] As a person who writes and reads a lot of fantasy, it’s been extremely gratifying to see fantasy move into a mainstream place. There are a lot of people who’ve grown up watching Lord of the Rings at a young enough age that it’s become part of their vocabulary of how the fantasy world works. Game of Thrones too. I think, for a lot of people, that barrier to entry is much lower than it was when there wasn’t so much exposure to fantasy.

I think the rise of romantasy is certainly in part because people do have the vocabulary of fantasy. Romance is one of the biggest genres in the world, so of course people want to see, or are able to read, fantasy romances in a way that might not have been true before. Romantasy is really two different genres kind of mushed together, probably in the same way that urban fantasy was. You have two streams: the romance-forward fantasy, where it’s really a romance novel with fantasy, and then you have fantasy that has romance. They’re paced really differently, and they have different focuses, but they live in the same genre. Then you had urban fantasy that came out of fantasy, and often those were the faerie books; for a long time urban fantasy was faerie, in the late ’80s.

(2) NEW WORLDS TURNING 60. Richard Glynn Jones told the New Worlds Facebook group on March 13 that an anniversary issue is in the works:

Michael Moorcock and some associates are preparing a new issue of New Worlds to commemorate the 60th anniversary of his becoming its editor. This will be in magazine format as before (A4, saddle-stitched) for publication in mid-summer. The contents are pretty much finalised, so please don’t send any unsolicited material: it’s by invitation only. A second book-format New Worlds is due from PS Publishing later in the year. More info soon.

(3) SOMETHING IS ROTTING IN HOLLYWOOD BITS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Digital is forever. Except when it isn’t. The movie industry has a data migration problem. From The Hollywood Reporter: “’It’s a Silent Fire’: Decaying Digital Movie and TV Show Files Are a Hollywood Crisis”.

Industry pros sweat the possibility that many digital files will eventually become unusable — an archival tragedy reminiscent of the celluloid era.

While David Zaslav and Bob Iger’s tax-optimization strategy of deleting films and TV shows from their streamers has triggered plenty of agita among creators, the custodians of Hollywood’s digital era have an even greater fear: wholesale decay of feature and episodic files. Behind closed doors and NDAs, the fragility of archives is a perpetual Topic A, with pros sweating the possibility that contemporary pop culture’s master files might be true goners, destined to the same fate as so many vanished silent movies, among them Alfred Hitchcock’s second feature, The Mountain Eagle, and Ernst Lubitsch’s Oscar-winning The Patriot.

It’s underscored by initiatives such as Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation. “The preservation of every art form is fundamental,” the industry icon says on a video on the organization’s web site. For the business, these are valuable studio assets — to use one example, the MGM Library (roughly 4,000 film titles including the James Bond franchise and 17,000 series episodes) is worth an estimated $3.4 billion to Amazon — but there’s a misconception that digital files are safe forever. In fact, files end up corrupted, data is improperly transferred, hard drives fail, formats change, work simply vanishes. “It’s a silent fire,” says Linda Tadic, CEO of Digital Bedrock, an archiving servicer that works with studios and indie producers. “We find issues with every single show or film that we try to preserve.” So, what exactly has gone missing? “I could tell you stories — but I can’t, because of confidentiality.”

(4) FADING SCHOLARSHIP. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The same fear holds true for scholarly publications. Nature this week has rung an alarm bell.  SF fans should note: this is another reason why fandom’s move away from paper publications is to be deplored. Digital is simply not for evermore. We need plurality and a diversity of solutions…. “Millions of research papers at risk of disappearing from the Internet” at Nature.

An analysis of DOIs suggests that digital preservation is not keeping up with burgeoning scholarly knowledge.

DOIs for the uninitiated are Digital Object Identifiers: every academic publication should have one so that if a publisher’s website changes and there is a new web-page address (URL) the DOI remains the same and links through. [Jonathan adds, “Fans need not worry about this (the only one they should remember is https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9781139087735…” Guess whose book that link goes to…]

More than one-quarter of scholarly articles are not being properly archived and preserved, a study of more than seven million digital publications suggests. The findings, published in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication on 24 January1, indicate that systems to preserve papers online have failed to keep pace with the growth of research output.

“Our entire epistemology of science and research relies on the chain of footnotes,” explains author Martin Eve, a researcher in literature, technology and publishing at Birkbeck, University of London. “If you can’t verify what someone else has said at some other point, you’re just trusting to blind faith for artefacts that you can no longer read yourself.”

Primary research is here.

(5) LEGACY WORRIES. Brian Keene muses about the disturbingly short half-life of author name recognition in “Letters From the Labyrinth 372”.

…On Tuesday of this past week, I took a rare day off and drove up to Asbury Park, New Jersey to visit my pal F. Paul Wilson. It occurs to me that I will need to explain to some of my younger readers just who Paul is, and therein lies the meat of this missive. Paul was one of the first horror novelists I read. (As I’ve written in OTHER WORDS, my evolutionary chain as a kid was comic books and Hardy Boys, then Stephen King and F. Paul Wilson). First thing I read by him was The Keep — a seminal, classic horror novel which, sadly, most of you under the age of forty have probably never read. The Keep was the third “grown up book” I ever read (right after King’s Night Shift and Salem’s Lot), and it is an essential part of my writer DNA.

Paul went on to become a giant in the fields of not just horror, but science-fiction, fantasy, thrillers, and other genres, as well. He was a stalwart, perennial New York Times bestseller, and his best-known IP — Repairman Jack — will carry on long after he’s gone. I guarantee you that right now, many of you who did not recognize the name F. Paul Wilson are now nodding and saying, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of Repairman Jack.”

It feels absurd to have to explain all of this to you. How could anyone not know this? But then, I think about this past Thursday in the store, when I overheard a mother explaining to her daughter who Brian Keene was, and that he owned the store they were currently shopping in, and that she (the mother) had started reading him in high school. The girl, high school age herself, was holding a book by Wile E. Young that she’d pulled off the shelf. Wile E. Young, was reading me in high school and my books are an essential part of his writer DNA the way Paul’s are a part of mine….

(6) FEAR THE LEFTOVERS. “Godzilla Minus One Director Releases New Kaiju Short, ‘Foodlosslla’” – here is Comicbook.com’s introduction.

…Godzilla Minus One director Takashi Yamazaki teamed up with Ajinomoto (a line of cooking products in Japan) on a special new promo that takes the Kaiju director’s expertise and brings it to life in a new way. Highlighting the amount of food waste in Japan (2.44 million tons according to the advertisement), it results in the creation of “Foodlosslla” a kaiju made out of all the wasted food that doesn’t get eaten or cooked. But with the director’s eye, it’s a great looking monster for the promo. Check it out in action below…

(7) STILL PLENTY OF GOOD EATING ON THIS ONE. Don’t ask what internet rabbit hole this 2014 recipe came from: “Edible Art: Spice Stuffed Squash Sandworms” at Kitchen Overlord. (Click for larger image.)

(8) THOMAS STAFFFORD (1930-2024). [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Gemini 6. Gemini 9. Apollo 10. Apollo 10 Lunar Module. Apollo-Soyuz. Air Force Lt General. A long and busy life. RIP. “Astronaut Thomas Stafford, commander of Apollo 10, has died at age 93”. He died March 18. PBS News Hour pays tribute.

…Stafford, a retired Air Force three-star general, took part in four space missions. Before Apollo 10, he flew on two Gemini flights, including the first rendezvous of two U.S. capsules in orbit. He died in a hospital near his Space Coast Florida home, said Max Ary, director of the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma.

Stafford was one of 24 people who flew to the moon, but he did not land on it. Only seven of them are still alive….

…After he put away his flight suit, Stafford was the go-to guy for NASA when it sought independent advice on everything from human Mars missions to safety issues to returning to flight after the 2003 space shuttle Columbia accident. He chaired an oversight group that looked into how to fix the then-flawed Hubble Space Telescope, earning a NASA public service award.

“Tom was involved in so many things that most people were not aware of, such as being known as the ‘Father of Stealth’,” Ary said in an email. Stafford was in charge of the famous “Area 51” desert base that was the site of many UFO theories, but the home of testing of Air Force stealth technologies….

… After the moon landings ended, NASA and the Soviet Union decided on a joint docking mission and Stafford, a one-star general at the time, was chosen to command the American side. It meant intensive language training, being followed by the KGB while in the Soviet Union, and lifelong friendships with cosmonauts. The two teams of space travelers even went to Disney World and rode Space Mountain together before going into orbit and joining ships.

“We have capture,” Stafford radioed in Russian as the Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft hooked up. His Russian counterpart, Alexei Leonov, responded in English: “Well done, Tom, it was a good show. I vote for you.”

The 1975 mission included two days during which the five men worked together on experiments….

(9) BELATED BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 76. Not at all surprisingly, the first series that I read by William Gibson was the one that started off with his first novel, Neuromancer, published forty years ago, which is called the Sprawl trilogy. I still love the now anachronistic wording of the opening, “THE SKY ABOVE the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

I don’t know at all how many times that I’ve read that trilogy but the last time I did read it, about a decade, it was still impressively excellent. 

William Gibson

Neuromancer would get a much deserved Hugo at Aussiecon Two as well as a Ditmar, Nebula and a Philip K. Dick; and Mono Lisa Overdrive won an Aurora. The novels had too many nominations to list here.

Yes, I’m looking forward to the Apple financed Neuromancer series. If anyone can financially afford to do it right, it’s them. And they have a strict hands-off policy of not interfering with the actual production team. 

Going back in time I must talk about “Johnny Mnemonic” which was not his first story, which was “Hinterlands“ which I’ve never of until now. “Johnny Mnemonic” I think is one of the finest SF short story written.  The same holds true for “The Gernsback Continuum” which was published in the same year, forty-two years ago.  I’ll toss in “New Rose Hotel” which showed up a few years later.

Please let’s not talk about the Johnny Mnemonic film. Really don’t mention it. I get queasy thinking about how they butchered that stellar story. And I’ve seen some pretty awful scripts but few that matched this, plus the casting of him. Why oh why? 

His second series, the Bridge trilogy, which is Virtual LightIdoru and All Tomorrow’s Parties came out some thirty years ago. No, I’ve not read it nearly as many times as I’ve read the Sprawl ones but I did find rather excellent. The near future setting is more grounded and a more fascinating read for that. 

Ok, I’ll admit that I do not at all know what to make of Pattern RecognitionSpook Country and Zero History. They are well written like everything he does, and the characters are fascinating, but something these works is just not quite right for me. It comes off cold, distanced and just not interesting as what else he’s done.

On the other catspaw, the Jackpot trilogy, or possibly longer series, which so far consisted of The Peripheral that has contain time travel (of sorts, maybe) and Agency, and a third, Jackpot, which I don’t think has a release date, is fascinating in the first two novels. Strange, disjointed but fascinating. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JUNE 4. ScreenRant says The Acolyte release date has been confirmed by Lucasfilm: “We Finally Know When The Next Star Wars TV Show Comes Out”.

… With a summer 2024 Disney+ drop having long been rumored, Lucasfilm has officially confirmed The Acolyte‘s release date as June 4, 2024, via Star Wars‘ official Twitter/X account. As it turns out, the release dates that have been reported for The Acolyte were accurate. This means Star Wars fans will not have to wait long to sink their teeth into the High Republic era, as Lucasfilm takes a big step into a new facet of a galaxy far, far away….

… The books of the High Republic are set centuries before Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Upon The Acolyte‘s announcement, it was confirmed that the Disney+ show would detail the waning days of the High Republic era. This places the show about 100 years before The Phantom Menace in the Star Wars timeline, promising a new, exciting look at an entirely new era of the franchise….

(12) DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF LOOKING UP AT GIANT ELECTRIC SHEEP? YES THEY CAN! [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Montana Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Wildlife Trafficking Charges as Part of Yearslong Effort to Create Giant Hybrid Sheep for Captive Hunting” at the US Department of Justice.

Defendant Worked to Traffic Marco Polo Sheep Parts from Kyrgyzstan, Clone Sheep, Illegally Inseminate Ewes to Create Hybrids and Traffic Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Parts

A Montana man pleaded guilty today to two felony wildlife crimes – a conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and substantively violating the Lacey Act – as part of an almost decade-long effort to create giant sheep hybrids in the United States with an aim to sell the species to captive hunting facilities.

Arthur “Jack” Schubarth, 80, of Vaughn, Montana, is the owner and operator of Sun River Enterprises LLC – also known as Schubarth Ranch – which is a 215-acre alternative livestock ranch in Vaughn. The Schubarth Ranch is engaged in the purchase, sale and breeding of “alternative livestock” such as mountain sheep, mountain goats and various ungulates. The primary market for Schubarth’s livestock is captive hunting operations, also known as shooting preserves or game ranches.

According to court documents, Schubarth conspired with at least five other individuals between 2013 and 2021 to create a larger hybrid species of sheep that would garner higher prices from shooting preserves. Schubarth brought parts of the largest sheep in the world, Marco Polo argali sheep (Ovis ammon polii), from Kyrgyzstan into the United States without declaring the importation. Average males can weigh more than 300 pounds with horns that span more than five feet. Marco Polo argali are native to the high elevations of the Pamir region of Central Asia. They are protected internationally by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, domestically by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and are prohibited in the State of Montana to protect native sheep from disease and hybridization.

Schubarth sent genetic material from the argali parts to a lab to create cloned embryos. Schubarth then implanted the embryos in ewes on his ranch, resulting in a single, pure genetic male Marco Polo argali that he named “Montana Mountain King” or MMK….

(13) TINY MESSAGES. Like the “golden record” sent with two 1977 Voyager probes,“NASA’s Europa Clipper mission will carry a poem and millions of names to ocean moon” reports CNN.

When NASA’s Europa Clipper aims to launch on its highly anticipated mission to an icy moon in October, the spacecraft will carry a unique design etched with names, poetry and artwork symbolizing humanity.

The US space agency has a long history of sending names and meaningful designs aloft aboard missions, including the Voyager probes, the Perseverance rover and Parker Solar Probe. Now, it’s Europa Clipper’s turn to carry on the tradition of ferrying a design that illustrates why humans are driven to explore the cosmos….

… Decorated on both sides and made of the rare metal tantalum, the triangular plate will seal the spacecraft’s sensitive electronics inside a vault to protect them from Jupiter’s harsh radiation.

On the inside of the vault is a silicon microchip stenciled with more than 2.6 million names submitted by the public. The microchip is at the center of a design that shows a bottle floating within the orbit of Jupiter and its moons to symbolize that it serves as a cosmic message in a bottle.

Technicians at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used electron beams to stencil the names at a size smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair.

Below the bottle, the design features the original poem “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa” by US Poet Laureate Ada Limón, etched in her handwriting, as well as a portrait of the late planetary sciences pioneer Ron Greeley, an Arizona State University professor who played a crucial role in laying the foundation for the development of a mission to Europa.

The side of the plate facing the inside of the vault also includes an etching of the Drake Equation, developed by the late astronomer Frank Drake of the University of California Santa Cruz in 1961 to estimate the possibility of finding advanced life beyond Earth. The equation remains an important part of astrobiological research as scientists search for evidence of life beyond our planet.

The external side of the plate carries waveforms, or visual representations of sound waves, that depict the word “water” in 103 languages from around the world. At the heart of the spiral is a symbol that means “water” in American Sign Language. The audio of the spoken languages collected by linguists for NASA is available on its website….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mother’s Basement looks back on “How Akira Toriyama Changed The World”.

Akira Toriyama didn’t just change manga and anime forever, he changed the entire world. Here’s how.

Geoff Thew creates videos analyzing the storytelling techniques of anime and video games. He has been named the number one Worst YouTube Anime Reviewer by The Top Tens.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Kathy Sullivan, Daniel Dern, JJ, Lise Andreasen, Andrew (not Werdna), N., 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/24 Raindrops Keep Scrollin’ On My Thread

(1) THE SOUND OF IRISH MUSIC. C.J. Cherryh put her readers in a holiday mood at Facebook. Read the full post there.

It’s an important holiday for me not because of the mythical snakes, but because of the pipers, and the fact I so love traditional Gaelic music and dancing….

… My ancestry’s a mess of people who spent a lot of time fighting each other—England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, up one side and down. But I don’t celebrate the old wars. I celebrate that we survived all of it, and can remember the songs and the dancing.

(2) THE FLIP SIDE. [Item by James Bacon.] The Irish entry into the Eurovision by Bambie Thug, “Doomsday Blue” is utterly brilliant. 

Here is Bambie Thug talking about themselves before being on The Late Late Show.

Spotify song link and Eurovision video link also.

(3) KELLY LINK Q&A. We learn how “Kelly Link Is Committed to the Fantastic” in an interview with The New Yorker. “The MacArthur-winning author on the worthwhile frivolity of the fantasy genre, how magic is and is not like a credit card, and why she hates to write but does it anyway.”

Is there a connection between your religious upbringing and the fantasy you write now?

What religion and fantasy have in common is that the reader knows, going in, that they’ll be asked to imagine that the world might be different from the way it is now. They’ll be asked to imagine the possibility of a world that is radically transformed. I salute and love the fact that fantasy is, in some ways, a frivolous genre. You read a genre book not necessarily because you feel you’re going to learn something. Sometimes it’s because the structure of a particular genre produces patterns that are pleasurable to engage with.

I didn’t expect you to say that the fantasy genre was frivolous!

It’s a story I have to tell myself when I’m working. That I am engaged in a practice which, on some level, is frivolous. I am imagining changes to the world that produce a kind of delight, not necessarily trying to describe the world in the way that it is.

It’s not that the fantastic can’t be used as a tool to do serious and pointed work. Plenty of genre writers do exactly that. But I am committed to the idea that there is something, aside from utility, in the excess and play of imagination that fantasy allows as a genre. I couldn’t write if I felt that I had something which needed to be said…

(4) FANTASY WHACKS SF AT THE BOX OFFICE! Oh, the embarrassment. (Er, I mean, “Oh, how great!” for you fantasy fans.) “Box Office: ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ & ‘Dune: Part Two’ Fight For No. 1”. Deadline is keeping score.

SUNDAY AM UPDATE: The whole marketplace is coming in lighter than expected at $89M, which is -3% off from the same frame a year ago when Shazam Fury of the Gods did $30M. That’s exactly what the second weekend is for Kung Fu Panda 4 which is a great hold at -48%, rising to $107.7M stateside running total. Legendary/Warner Bros’ Dune Part Two isn’t far behind with $29.1M, -37%, for a running total of $205.3M. The domestic endgame on the sequel is expected to be around $275M….

(5) GAME MAKERS FACING HARASSMENT. WIRED covers the attempt to run back an ugly piece of the culture wars in “The Small Company at the Center of ‘Gamergate 2.0’”.

The accusations began around the release of Spider-Man 2 last October. More came when Alan Wake II hit a week later. They were all over the replies to the social media accounts of Sweet Baby Inc.: hateful comments, many of which hinged on the idea that the Montreal-based narrative development and consulting company was responsible for the “wokeification” of video games, recalls Kim Belair, the company’s CEO.

In the months following, the noise only increased. “You made this character Black, or you added these gay characters, or you ruined the story,” Belair says of the comments, the tone of which, she adds, never changed. Neither have the demands of the people behind them. “It’s usually, ‘leave the industry,’” Belair says, or admit there’s truth to wild conspiracy theories about being involved with investment company BlackRock. (Sweet Baby is not.) Or, more succinctly: “Die.”

Online, those clamoring for Sweet Baby’s demise are calling it Gamergate 2.0, invoking the online harassment campaign that erupted into a culture war a decade ago. Gamergate formalized the playbook for online harassment used by hate groups and the far right; it inspired figures who would later tap into that outrage and rise all the way to positions of power, such as chief strategist in the White House. The two movements do share a handful of similarities: harassment campaigns flooded with falsehoods and accusations bordering on conspiracy; attacks aimed primarily at women and people of color; the idea that video game culture for cis white men is being stolen from them.

“People want to believe that our work is surgically removing the things that they would have liked. ‘Change this line, make this line less racist,’” she says. “That’s just not the reality of it.”…

(6) MAKE YOUR MOVE WITH THE RED KNIGHT. You still have two days to bid on “Vlad the Impaler’s Red Armor” from the movie Dracula (1992) in the “Treasures from Planet Hollywood” event at Heritage Auctions.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Columbia, 1992), Gary Oldman “Vlad the Impaler” Red Armor Display Figure. Original reproduction armor made from molded fiberglass components covering a ribbed, cotton body suit with separate arm extensions. Armor includes full head helmet and corresponding plate guards. Display figure features a foam body with wire armature mounted on a wooden support platform for easy display. It measures approx. 71″ x 28″ x 11″ (wood base to mask horns). The figure is dressed in the iconic red armor that Vlad/Dracula (Gary Oldman) wore at the beginning of the Francis Ford Coppola film. Exhibits display wear, chipping in fiberglass pieces, detached components, cracking, discoloration and general age. Special shipping arrangements will apply. Obtained from technical advisor Christopher Gilman. Comes with a COA from Heritage Auctions.

(7) TIKTOK IS FOCUS OF PROPOSED LAW. A Pew Research Center daily newsletter reports:

The House of Representatives passed a bill March 13 with bipartisan support that would require TikTok’s China-based parent company to either sell the app or risk a ban in the United States. The legislation now heads to the Senate, where its fate is unclear. [The full story is behind a New York Times paywall.]

While a majority of Americans said in May 2023 that TikTok is at least a minor threat to U.S. national security, support for a TikTok ban fell over the course of the year, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. In fall 2023, 38% of U.S. adults said they would support the U.S. government banning TikTok, down from 50% who said the same in March 2023.

Overall, a third of U.S. adults (33%) say they use the video-based platform, and the share who say they regularly get news from TikTok has risen sharply in recent years, from 3% in 2020 to 14% in 2023.

(8) SCENES FROM THE AUTHOR’S EXPERIENCE. Cora Buhlert’s compelling photo narrative about the WWII destruction of Dresden follows Gideon Marcus’ (unenthusiastic) review of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five – newly released this month (which at Galactic Journey is March 1969, 55 years ago): “[March 14, 1969 ] (March 1969 Galactoscope)”.

…. I have never seen Dresden before 1945, though my grandmother who grew up in the area told me it was a beautiful city and how much she missed attending performances at the striking Semper opera house, which was largely destroyed by the bombings and is in the process of being rebuilt (The proposed completion date is 1985). However, I have visited the modern Dresden with its constant construction activity and incongruous mix of burned out ruins, historical buildings in various stages of reconstruction and newly constructed modernist office and apartment blocks and could keenly feel what was lost….

(9) PHOTOS OF THE STOPA FAMILY. With an assist from Andrew Porter, I rounded up a few more photos of Jon and Joni Stopa, and their daughter Debbie. All now passed away. [Click for larger images.]

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 17, 1926 Peter Graves. (Died 2010.) Now Peter Graves is truly interesting. Paramount + has the Mission: Impossible series, so I watched all of it from beginning to end even before Peter Graves was James “Jim” Phelps of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) for seasons two to seven. He was superb in the role which, like the series, held up very well when I rewatched it.

He would reprise this character during the writers’ strike. Now the producers couldn’t hire new writers obviously, so they literally went into the vaults for previously written material. Yes, they used scripts that were rejected the first time. Was the new Mission Impossible any good? I think so. 

Peter Graves in 1967.

They did new characters even though the idiots at Paramount wanted them the original characters recast, and some of original characters showed up here. (The strike ended while they were still filming so they have fresh scripts.) 

He refused to reprise this role (which would be played by Jon Voight) in the first film of the Mission: Impossible film franchise, after reading the script and discovering the character would be revealed to be a traitor and the primary villain of the film.

He did do a lot of genre films — Red Planet Mars which appears to a rather decent piece of early Fifties SF, Killers from Space (also known as The Man Who Saved the Earth) with Big Eyed Monsters and aliens, It Conquered the World with a Venusian alien, The Eye Creatures (alternatively shown as Attack of the Eye Creatures with, oh guess), Scream of the Wolf, oh look no aliens, Where Have All the People Gone? in which you can guess what happens, Addams Family Values which he narrates, he appears as himself in House on Haunted Hill which he dies in, MIB II as well, and finally he’s in a film (uncredited) that I wish I hadn’t seen, Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

 Now let’s see what other genre TV he did other than Mission: Impossible. There’s two one-offs, The Invaders and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

(11) FIRE CLAIMS ACTOR’S LA MANSION. “Cara Delevingne’s Los Angeles home destroyed in fire”AP News has the story. Delevingne has a deep genre resume, including roles in American Horror Story, Futurama, Carnival Row, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Suicide Squad, and Pan.

The Los Angeles home of model and actor Cara Delevingne was destroyed in a fire Friday [March 15].

One firefighter was taken to a hospital in fair condition with unspecified injuries, and one unidentified person from the house suffered minor smoke inhalation, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Nicholas Prange said….

…The cause was under investigation.

The 31-year-old London-born Delevingne became widely known as a fashion model in the early 2010s and later began acting, appearing in the 2016 DC Comics film “Suicide Squad” and director Luc Besson’s 2017 “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”

(12) SHOW ME THE MONEY. At Deadline, “Billy Dee Williams Says “Pay Me A Lot Of Money” To Return To ‘Star Wars’ As Lando & Shares Thoughts On Donald Glover Taking On Character”.

…Williams said he has met Glover and shared the advice he gave the actor about taking on the role.

“I had a nice little lunch with him. He’s a delightful young man. Extremely talented. But I don’t see him… I mean, when it comes to Lando Calrissian there’s only one Lando Calrissian. I created that character,” he said. “I told him to be charming – two words! That’s all I needed to tell him. That’s all I could think of.”

Last year, Glover shared details of his encounter with Williams recalling that he gave him the “secret” on how to play Lando by telling him to “just be charming.”

“He’s right, Lando is charm incarnate,” Glover said in an interview with GQ. “He’s kind of a maverick, which I don’t think there’s a lot of anymore. It’s hard to be a smooth talker nowadays ’cause, where’s the line? But I think that’s also where the danger is. It’s like, how close can you get without tripping over it?”…

(13) UP ON THE ROOFTOP. The Guardian has a little different take on vacuum and space: “Cosmic cleaners: the scientists scouring English cathedral roofs for space dust”.

On the roof of Canterbury Cathedral, two planetary scientists are searching for cosmic dust. While the red brick parapet hides the streets, buildings and trees far below, only wispy clouds block the deep blue sky that extends into outer space.

The roaring of a vacuum cleaner breaks the silence and researcher Dr Penny Wozniakiewicz, dressed in hazmat suit with a bulky vacuum backpack, carefully traces a gutter with the tube of the suction machine.

“We’re looking for tiny microscopic spheres,” explains her colleague, Dr Matthias van Ginneken from the University of Kent, also clad in protective gear. “Right now, we are collecting thousands and thousands of dust particles, and we hope there will be a minuscule number that came from space.”’

(14) HOW FIT IS OUR GALAXY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science journal asks, “How massive is the Milky Way?”

It looks like our galaxy is a tad slimmer than thought???

The total mass of an isolated galaxy can be determined from its rotation curve, a plot of orbital velocity against distance from the galaxy’s center. Determining the rotation curve is difficult for the Milky Way because we are located inside of it. Ou et al. used a machine learning method to improve distance determinations for stars on the red giant branch, then used the stars’ velocities to extend the Milky Way’s rotation curve to 30 kiloparsecs from the Galactic Center. By fitting a mass model to the rotation curve, the authors found a lower mass for the Milky Way than was found in previous studies because of differences in the inferred distribution of dark matter.

Science journal coverage here — scroll down a little

Primary research here.

(15) SEND EELS TO OTHER WORLDS. In this week’s Science we have a brief report of a new robot designed to explore gas giant moons that may have a sub-surface ocean harboring life… “Snaking around extreme icy worlds”.

There is growing interest in the exploration of icy moons such as Enceladus because of the potential for these worlds to have liquid water that could support Earth-like life. However, obtaining samples is challenging because of environmental extremities on the surface or within ice vents. Vaquero et al. developed a snake-like robot named Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) that was capable of autonomously navigating on icy surfaces. EELS has a perception head that contains a series of sensors and cameras to observe its environment, and its body has articulated segments for shape changing and a screw-like outer surface to enable motility. EELS shows potential for risk-aware autonomous exploration of complex icy terrains.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] View the unsold 1959 pilot for a Nero Wolfe series with Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. The theme was composed by Alex North. This 26-minute pilot is in the public domain.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Cora Buhlert, James Bacon, 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 Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 3/13/24 Pixel Would Like A Word With Engineering

(1) SFWA NEBULA FINALIST ANNOUNCMENT TOMORROW. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) will announce the 2023 Nebula Award finalists (to be presented this year in Pasadena) on the SFWA Youtube channel, tomorrow, March 14, starting at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. 

Once again, we’ll be calling upon a talented group of SAG-AFTRA narrators to take us through an evening filled with a variety of outstanding speculative fiction works. 

It’s sure to be a night to remember! We hope you’ll join us!

(2) NEBULA CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE. Also tomorrow — March 14, is the deadline to apply for the scholarships SFWA is offering for members of under-served communities to attend the Nebula conference! The 2024 Nebula Conference will take place June 6-9 in Pasadena, CA and online. If you or someone you know may benefit from these scholarships, please apply here or share this link: https://airtable.com/appqxO86fh6JpPBNR/shrjMcYbZyuTxhwVH

Scholarship applications must be completed on this form by March 14th, 2024. The scholarship recipients will be selected from the applicant pool by lottery. Applicants may be considered for more than one scholarship if they identify with more than one of the following groups.

Here are the categories of scholarships being offered and the number of online conference scholarships available for each:

  • Scholarship for Black and/or Indigenous Creators: This scholarship is open to Black and/or Indigenous creators in the United States and abroad. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for AAPI Creators: This scholarship is available to Asian creators, Asian American creators, and creators from the Pacific Islands. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarships for Hispanic/Latinx Creators: This scholarship is available to creators with backgrounds in Spanish-speaking and/or Latin American cultures. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for Writers Based Outside of the U.S.: This scholarship is available to creators who live outside the United States. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for members of the LGBTQIA+ Community: This scholarship is available to creators who identify as LGBTQIA+. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for creators with disabilities: This scholarship is available to creators who identify as having a disability. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for creators who face financial barriers: This scholarship is available to creators whose financial situations may otherwise prevent them from participating. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for in-person registration are available in limited quantities for creators who identify with one of our online scholarship groups. This scholarship does not include funds for travel, lodging or other related expenses to attend the conference, only for registration.

SFWA says, “Our support of underserved communities isn’t possible without your help. If you are able, please consider making a donation at sfwa.org/donate to help us fund additional scholarships in the future.”

(3) COMPLETE TOLKIEN POEMS VOLUME PLANNED. “Collected poems of J R R Tolkien to be published for first time”The Bookseller has details.

HarperCollins will publish The Collected Poems of J R R Tolkien, edited by Christina Scull and Wayne G Hammond, in September 2024, the first time all the author’s poems will appear in one volume. 

HC, which holds world all-language rights to Tolkien’s works, said: “Poetry was the first way in which Tolkien expressed himself creatively and through it the seeds of his literary ambition would be sown.” One of Tolkien’s  poems “The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star”, begun in 1914, is where the “Silmarillion” first appears and both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings “are enriched with poems both humorous and haunting, magical and moving”. Tolkien scholars Scull and Hammond will provide analysis of each poem. 

Scull and Hammond were hired for the project by Christopher Tolkien’s, J R R Tolkien’s son and executor of his literary estate until Tolkien died in 2020. They said: “Charged at first to review only his early poems, we soon saw the benefits of examining the entire poetic opus across six decades, vast though it is with hundreds of printed and manuscript sources…Not long before his death, we were able to send Christopher a trial portion of the book, which he praised as ‘remarkable and immensely desirable’.”…

(4) SPEAKING OF. “The Oral History of ‘Repo Man,’ the Greatest Indie Sci-Fi Movie Ever Made” at Inverse.

Somewhere in the California desert, a police officer pulls over a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu as it lurches wildly across the highway. After interrogating the driver, he opens the trunk and is instantly vaporized by a blinding light that reduces him to a skeleton, leaving behind only a pair of smoldering leather boots.

Thus begins Repo Man, a sci-fi cult classic sci-fi with a nihilistic worldview and a punk rock soundtrack that by all accounts probably shouldn’t exist….

Dick Rude (plays Duke): I was a teenager going to the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles. I wrote a script called Leather Rubberneck with a friend of mine from school, about two kids who get drafted. Alex [Cox, writer and director] wanted to make the film, but it didn’t pan out. So he incorporated it into Repo Man. A lot of the characters, some of the dialogue, some of the ideas, there was quite a bit of it that was used in Repo Man….

Jonathan Wacks: We went through the Yellow Pages and looked up studios and producers and we sat and typed letters. We knew they wouldn’t pick up our phone. We sent hundreds of letters out and got zero responses. So we decided to raise $500,000 and shoot it at UCLA so we could use the equipment for free.

Peter McCarthy: The thing with UCLA is you never wanted to get your diploma. Once you did, you couldn’t go back and use anything….

Olivia Barash: I was talking to Alex, and I said, “Who are you going to have do the title track?” And he goes, “There’s one of two people. David Byrne, we have something out to his agent. But I really want Iggy Pop, we just don’t know where to find him.” And I said, “I know where to find him. He’s in my building. He’s my neighbor.” So Alex came over, and we rang the intercom outside, and Iggy answered. And that’s how we got Iggy….

(5) J-LO AND AI. “’Atlas’ trailer: Jennifer Lopez uses AI to save humanity in sci-fi thriller” – here’s Mashable’s introduction:

The first trailer for Netflix’s futuristic sci-fi thriller Atlas is here, featuring Jennifer Lopez having a very bad day.

Atlas follows the titular character Atlas Shepherd (Lopez), a government data analyst with a healthy distrust of artificial intelligence. However, after a mission to capture a rogue robot from her past goes wrong, she soon finds herself having to trust AI in order to save humanity. If AI wrote propaganda, this is probably what it would sound like….

(6) IT’S A TIE. “Reading with… Liz Lee Heinecke” at Shelf Awareness.

…Favorite book when you were a child:

It’s a three-way tie, with a few runners-up.

As a kid, I desperately wanted a horse but knew I would never have one, so I lived vicariously through Maureen and Paul Beebe’s adventures in Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Wesley Dennis.

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey had it all as far as I was concerned: a gifted girl who isn’t allowed to be a musician because of her gender, tiny, colorful dragons called fire lizards, and a nearby planet that rained down flesh-eating parasites frequently enough to keep things exciting. I probably read it 20 times.

The Tombs of Atuan is the second book in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series and features a female protagonist who struggles against the confines of a role that’s been chosen by others. Most of the story takes place in a nightmarish underground labyrinth, where Le Guin’s hero Ged (Harry Potter’s prototype) struggles to steal a talisman. I loved everything about it.  

I was always on the lookout for books about girls on adventures. When visiting the library, I often checked out Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking books or the Danny Dunn series by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams, which features a girl who loves physics.  

Your top five authors:

Ursula K. Le Guin: She caught my attention as a middle-grade reader with her Earthsea fantasy series and has kept me captivated as an adult.

She uses science fiction to escape the social confines of our planet and explores themes of colonization, race, environmental destruction, political systems, gender roles, and sexuality without ever losing sight of the story. The Word for World Is ForestThe Dispossessed, and The Left Hand of Darknessare three of my favorites.

Amy Tan: I can’t recall whether The Kitchen God’s Wife or The Joy Luck Clubwas my first Amy Tan book. I adore the funny, relatable stories she tells about women and family, and enjoy learning about Chinese culture and history. The Bonesetter’s Daughter, which weaves science and anthropology into the story, was fantastic too. I became an even bigger fan after hearing Tan sing with the Rock Bottom Remainders at First Avenue a few years ago.  

J.R.R. Tolkien: I can’t count how many times I’ve re-read The Lord of the Rings. I love losing myself in Middle-earth, with its mountains and languages and monsters and lore, and I’ve always been a sucker for a well-told hero’s journey.

Margaret Atwood: Sometimes I think she can see the future. The Handmaid’s Taleis a masterpiece in so many ways. I heard her speak once, and I recall her saying that she grew up reading science fiction stories with her brother. It’s amazing how the books we read as children shape us as adults.

Ann Patchett: She has been one of my favorite authors for years. As a reader interested in themes of music, science, and theater, she’s hit the mark over and over again with books like Bel CantoState of Wonder, and Tom Lake. I can’t wait to see what she writes next….

(7) THE WRITERS’ PRIZE. A non-genre work, Liz Berry’s The Home Child, was announced as the winner of the poetry category (£2000) and The Writers’ Prize Book of the Year (£30,000) at the London Book Fair on March 13.

Born in the Black Country and now living in Birmingham, The Home Child was inspired by the story of Berry’s great-aunt Eliza Showell, one of the many children forcibly emigrated to Canada as part of the British Child Migrant Schemes. This beautiful novel-in-verse about a child far from home was described as ‘absolutely magical’ by Fiona Benson.

The book achieved the highest number of votes from the 350+ celebrated writers in the Folio Academy, who exclusively nominated and voted for the winners of The Writers’ Prize 2024.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 68. I remember Dana Delany best for her role as nurse  Colleen McMurphy on China Beach, set at a Vietnam War evacuation hospital.  It aired for four seasons starting in the late Eighties. Great role, fantastic series. I rewatched it a decade or so ago on DVD — it held up very well.

Dana Delany

So let me deal with her main genre role which was voicing Lois Lane. She first did this twenty years ago in Superman: The Animated Series for forty-four episodes, an amazing feat by any standard.  That role would come again in Superman: Brainiac AttacksJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (avoid if you’ve got even a shred of brain cells), in a recurring role on the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series, The Batman and even in the Superman: Shadow of Apokolips game.

Her other voice role of note was for Wing Commander Academy as Gwen Archer Bowman. And she wasn’t Lois Lane but Vilsi Vaylar in Batman: The Brave and the Bold’s “The Super-Batman of Planet X!”. 

She’ll have a one-off on Battle Galactica as Sesha Abinell; more significantly she has a starring role as Grace Wyckoff in the Wild Palms series. 

Oh, she showed up on Castle as FBI Special Agent Jordan Shaw in a two-part story, the episodes being “Tick, Tick, Tick…” and “Boom!”. 

So I’m going to finish with her role in Tombstone, Emma Bull and Will Shetterley’s favorite Western film along with the Deadwood series. It’s an inspiration she says for her Territory novel. And I love it as well. Delany played magnificently Josephine Sarah “Sadie” Earp, the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp. The final scene of them dancing in the snow in San Francisco is truly sniffles inducing. 

(9) CREATOR CANNED. Variety reports “X-Men ’97 Creator Beau DeMayo Fired Ahead of Premiere on Disney+”. Article does not give a reason.

Beau DeMayo, the showrunner and executive producer behind Disney+’s upcoming animated series “X-Men ’97,” has been fired ahead of the March 20 premiere, Variety has confirmed.

DeMayo had completed work on Seasons 1 and 2 of “X-Men ’97” ahead of his exit. He will not attend the March 13 Hollywood premiere for the show. His Instagram account, on which he had been previewing artwork and answering fan questions about “X-Men ’97,” has also been deleted.

He wrote and produced “X-Men ’97,” which is a continuation of the popular “X-Men: The Animated Series” that aired on Fox Kids in the ’90s. It is unclear why DeMayo was fired from “X-Men ’97” so close to the premiere, but he will no longer promote the show or be involved with future seasons….

(10) NO MICHELIN STARS FOR MORDOR. CBR.com chronicles “Every Meal Hobbits Eat In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings”.

Peter Jackson and actor Billy Boyd found a memorable way to convey that love in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. As Aragorn leads the Hobbits toward Rivendell, Pippin asks about “second breakfast” and a litany of additional meals that will presumably be skipped as they continue. Tolkien specified six meals in the Prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring — which roughly match European traditions — but two of them are essentially the same meal. Here’s a rundown of each one to give a good idea of what Pippin is missing….

Here’s the one I’m always interested in:

Second Breakfast

Tolkien mentions second breakfast in The Hobbit, with Bilbo settling down to his just as Gandalf appears to tell him that the Dwarves have already left for The Lonely Mountain. It serves as a quiet joke — stressing that Hobbits in general and Bilbo in particular enjoy eating — as well as emphasizing the comfortable lifestyle he’s leaving behind to go on his adventure with the Dwarves. It also serves as the inspiration for Pippin’s line about second breakfast in The Fellowship of the Ring, which he doesn’t deliver in Tolkien’s text.

(11) PRAISE FOR STARMEN. [Item by Francis Hamit.] Demetria Head is a book blogger, one of that legion of reviewers who do it without pay and for the joy of it.  Ms. Head actually read the entire book and delivered an almost forensic analysis.  I think her work deserves wider exposure.

Demetria Head Review from BookBub and A Look Inside book blogs

“STARMEN” by Francis Hamit is a sprawling epic that seamlessly blends elements of magical realism, historical fiction, and sci-fi fantasy to create a mesmerizing tale that will captivate readers from start to finish. Set against the backdrop of the American Southwest in 1875, the novel introduces us to a cast of richly drawn characters whose lives become intertwined in a web of intrigue, adventure, and supernatural mystery.

At the heart of the story is George James Frazer, a budding anthropologist working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, whose quest to contact a local Apache tribe leads him on a journey beyond the realms of ordinary reality. When a mysterious hot air balloon appears over the town of El Paso, owned by the British Ethnographic Survey, Frazer finds himself drawn into a world of ancient magic and hidden truths.

The characters in “STARMEN” are truly the heart and soul of the novel, each one fleshed out with depth and nuance that makes them feel like living, breathing individuals. From the determined and resourceful Frazer to the enigmatic Apache witches and the ruthless Pinkerton agents, every character brings their own unique perspective to the narrative, driving the plot forward with their conflicting desires and motivations.

Plot development in “STARMEN” is masterfully executed, with Hamit weaving together multiple storylines that intertwine and intersect in surprising and unexpected ways. From the quest to find a missing heir to the discovery of a town inhabited by extraordinary gunfighters, each twist and turn of the plot unfolds with breathtaking intensity, keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

What truly sets “STARMEN” apart is its seamless blend of genres, incorporating elements of historical fiction, magical realism, and hard sci-fi into a cohesive and compelling narrative. From the romantic entanglements to the political intrigue and the mind-bending concepts of quantum mechanics and string theory, the novel offers something for every reader, appealing to fans of both traditional historical fiction and speculative fiction alike.

Overall, “STARMEN” is a tour de force of storytelling that will transport readers to a world of adventure, mystery, and wonder. With its unforgettable characters, intricate plot, and bold exploration of complex themes, it is a must-read for anyone seeking an immersive and thought-provoking literary experience.

(13) SHAKEN TO THEIR CORE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I have not seen it yet (but have downloaded to mem stick for home viewing – it might be rubbish???) In the TV series Pending Train, “100 People Accidently Time-Travel By Train to a Destroyed Earth in 2063”. See video at the link.

In Tokyo, train passengers find themselves fighting for their very survival after their train car jumps into an apocalyptic future

(14) ON THE AIR. Breathe (2024) with Jennifer Hudson, Milla Jovovich, Sam Worthington, Common, and Quvenzhané Wallis. In Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand April 26.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended brings us up to date with “Previously On – DUNE”.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/24 I’m Just Fen

(1) SPECIAL DINO DELIVERY. Royal Mail’s “The Age of the Dinosaurs” special issue features eight new stamps showing different prehistoric species and their habitats. The stamps are in collaboration with the Natural History Museum and also celebrate 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning. (Click for larger images.)

(2) WICKED WORLD’S FAIR MELTDOWN. Stephen Beale, editor of The Steampunk Explorer, offers an “Inside Look: What Happened at Wicked World’s Fair?” The post first appeared on March 7 and has been updated half a dozen times with additional sources. Beale provided this synopsis of the post for File 770:

The event, Wicked World’s Fair, took place in February in Pennsylvania.

The organizer (Jeff Mach) is a highly controversial figure who previously ran the Steampunk World’s Fair, which was one of the largest steampunk events in the U.S. It collapsed in 2018 following misconduct allegations. The Daily Beast had a story about it.

The short version of this latest event is that he significantly overbooked vendor spots, so they ended up in spaces intended for panels and other non-vendor activities.

The sound crew for concert performances walked out due to non-payment.

There was a $35-per-head tea party, for which he sold 88 tickets, but due to overcrowding of vendors, there wasn’t enough capacity for all the ticketholders.

Requests for refunds via Eventbrite were declined. He’s blaming Eventbrite, but it appears that he just didn’t have the funds to cover his expenses.

My sources for the story include the former vendor coordinator and the former operations manager, both of whom worked as volunteers.

Some widely circulated videos show a confrontation between Mach and the vendors. One has 1.2 million views on Facebook. In some videos, one of his associates is seen standing in front of a vendor and reaching for a sword.

Since the event, vendors formed a private Facebook group called Disgruntled Wicked Vendors. It has around 100 members, though not all were actual vendors.

Following the SPWF collapse, many steampunk vendors, performers, etc. have vowed to avoid participating in Jeff Mach events. It appears that many vendors at WWF were not aware of this history. They’re trying to raise awareness of him so others are forewarned.

The vendor complaints were also covered by LehighValleyLive.com in “Bethlehem area steampunk convention ends contentiously. Vendors claim organizer running scam.”

(3) GODZILLA MINUS MORE THAN ONE COUNTRY. GeekTyrant says Japan is getting discs in May – no word when there will be a U.S. release. “Godzilla Minus One Blu-ray is Coming and Toho Shared a First Look”.

Godzilla Minus One had an incredibly strong box office run at the movie theaters and fans flocked to the cinemas to watch it. That theatrical run has ended and now Toho is teasing the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD release of the film.

The home video teased below will be made available for Japanese consumers, but I think it’s safe to say that the United States will get something very similar.

The movie will be released in both its color and Black and White versions. The home release of Godzilla Minus One is set to hit shelves in Japan on May 1st. There’s no word on when the movie will hit home video in the United States….

(4) FAREWELL, MY DARLING, NEVER. Philip Athans is determined to keep them alive! “Don’t Kill Your Darlings” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

There’s good writing adviceinteresting writing adviceiffy writing advice, and then there’s terrible, awful, spirit- and creativity-destroying writing advice, and the worst example of the latter category is “Kill your darlings.” What makes this nonsense so bad is how often and irresponsibly it’s repeated.

Often attributed to Dylan Thomas, sometimes William Faulkner (who, if he followed this advice himself would have killed The Sound and the Fury in its entirety), and then repeated by other teachers and authors including Stephen King. In reality the concept seems to have first been belched forth by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in a series of Cambridge Lectures about 110 years ago. Never heard of him? Neither have I. Maybe that’s because of his darling-free writing.

Whoever started it, it goes something like this:

“If you find you’ve written something you just love, that makes you feel as though you were born to do this, that you’ve found the heart and soul of it, delete that immediately and without further consideration because if you love it that much it can only be self-indulgent crap that no one else but you will like.”

What a spectacular load of bullshit….

(5) PROPSTORE. Craig Miller told about his evening at the Propstore auction on Facebook.

Propstore is an auction house based in London with an office here in Los Angeles. Their specialty is, as their name suggests, props from movies and television. Though, of course, they go well beyond that. (They’re the main auction house I’ve used to sell some of my collectibles.)

Last night was a reception and preview for their current auction, held on the penthouse level of the Peterson Automotive Museum in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles. (The auction starts today and goes for a total of three days and around 1500 items.) Herewith a few photos.

I have just a couple items in this auction. Alas, none of the really high-ticket items. I think solely a couple of pre-production paintings from “Return to Oz”. They weren’t on display.

What was on display were items including a Stormtrooper helmet from “Return of the Jedi”, an iconic dress worn by Lucille Ball on “I Love Lucy”, the Ten Commandments tablets from Cecil B. DeMille’s epic of the same name, and so much more. You can see a bunch on the Propstore Facebook page or on their webpage, where the auction is carried live (with on-line bidding, of course).

Propstore does these previews once a year and I frequently run into friends at them. Last night was no exception. It was nice to chat and spend a little time with Melissa Kurtz, Shawn Crosby, Chris Bartlett, among several others.

Perhaps best of all, because it’s been so long since I’ve seen or spoken to them, also present were Howard Kazanjian, producer of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi”, and Anthony Daniels, known the world over for being the man inside C-3PO….

(6) AND IF YOU HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT OVER. Heritage Auctions’ “March 20 – 24 Treasures from Planet Hollywood” event is hawking stuff formerly on display at Planet Hollywood restaurants.

…Though Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis were the star investors best associated with the restaurant, Planet Hollywood was THE biggest star of them all. Millions would flock there to see items appearing on the silver screen, and sometimes even see one of Hollywood’s A-list coming to open the restaurant. Before emails and cell phones, before digital effects and Instagram, it was the closest we could get to being close to the movies we all know and love….

Here’s an iconic example of the wares: “Jurassic Park (Universal, 1993), Wayne Knight “Dennis Nedry” Hero”.

Designed to hold and preserve dinosaur embryos for 36 hours, the can is highly visible early in the film as Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) meets with his Biosyn contact, Lewis Dodgson (Cameron Thor), who gives him the can and explains its features while devising a plan to steal dinosaur DNA samples from John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) InGen. Later in the film, Nedry uses the can as he infiltrates the cold storage facility on Isla Nubar and secures the DNA samples. The can is ultimately lost as it falls from Nedry’s jeep, washed away in churning mud when the deceitful computer programmer meets his demise in the jaws of a Dilophosaurus. Chosen by Art Director John Bell, the Barbasol brand can was a perfect fit for its aesthetics and instant recognizability which would help it stick out in its scenes and draw the audiences’ eyes. Since the film’s 1993 release, Barbasol, and their can’s classic design, have become synonymous with the Jurassic Park franchise. Exhibits production and display wear with scuffing to the finish, oxidation across the metal components, color fading, and adhesive loosening to the vial’s labels. Vials contain remnants of the clear yellowish liquid used to fill them during production, with the “PR-2.012” vial missing its cap. Comes with a COA from Heritage Auctions.

Even more irresistible is this diminuitive costume: “Muppet Treasure Island (Buena Vista, 1996), Kermit the Frog”.

Muppet Treasure Island (Buena Vista, 1996), Kermit the Frog “Captain Abraham Smollett” Ensemble. Original (11) piece ensemble including (1) black frock-style coat with gold stitching, (1) ivory waistcoat with gold stitching, (1) pair of black breeches, and (1) long-sleeved ivory shirt with ruffled cuffs. The accessories included are: (1) black tricorn hat with gold stitching, (1) pair of ivory boots with button and buckle closures, (1) black cravat-style necktie, (1) black and red striped waist tie, (1) brown leather belt, (1) 19th century-style gray wig with ponytail and black bow, and (1) Kermit-sized sword with gold basket hilt that has some green coating from oxidation. This outfit is worn by Captain Abraham Smollett (Kermit) throughout the film as he captains the ship, “Hispaniola.” Ensemble displays some production wear. Obtained from Jim Henson Productions. Comes with a COA from Heritage Auctions.

(7) PANDAS AND SANDWORMS BECOME CASH COWS. Variety verified it by watching the ticket booth: “Box Office: Kung Fu Panda 4 Leads, Dune 2 Stays Strong”.

Universal and DreamWork’s animated adventure “Kung Fu Panda 4” topped the domestic box office, earning a solid $58.3 million from 4,035 theaters in its opening weekend.

It marks the biggest debut of the franchise since the original, 2008’s “Kung Fu Panda” ($60 million), overtaking the start of the two prior entries, 2016’s “Kung Fu Panda 3” ($41 million) and 2011’s “Kung Fu Panda 2” ($47.6 million), not adjusted for inflation….

…Although “Dune: Part Two” relinquished its box office crown to “Panda,” the sci-fi sequel had another strong outing with $46 million from 4,074 venues. It marks a 44% decline in ticket sales from its debut (an impressive hold for a blockbuster of this scale) and brings the film’s North American total to $157 million. Globally, the big-budget follow-up has generated $367.5 million.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. (Died 2012.) So let’s talk about  Harry Harrison who I’d say is best known for his extraordinarily excellent Stainless Steel Rat series. James Bolivar diGriz, aka “Slippery Jim” and “The Stainless Steel Rat” is one of the most interesting characters I ever had the pleasure to read. 

The Stainless Steel Rat showed up, not surprisingly in a story called “The Stainless Steel Rat” sixty-seven years ago in Astounding in their August issue. 

Harry Harrison. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

There are 12 works in the Stainless Steel Rat series, of which I’m absolutely certain that I’ve read and immensely enjoyed the first one, The Stainless Steel Rat, and after that is where it gets complicated. I’m looking now on the other iPad at the list of the novel titles and I can’t say that I remember any of them. I know that I’ve read at three or four of them, and liked reading them, but can’t tell you which, but I’m betting that they were the earlier ones. 

I do know that I read all of three of the Deathworld series with Jason dinAlt, a professional gambler, as the central character. They’re fun SF pulp, all three originally written as serials in the Sixties. A fourth, Return to Deathworld, for the Russian market was co-written with two Russian authors and hasn’t been translated into English.

His third series, Bill, the Galactic Hero, first appeared in the “Starsloggers” novella in sixty years ago in the December issue of Galaxy. Bill the character is among the silliest that I’ve ever read about. I’m really fond of truly silly SF, however, though I read the first one  I didn’t go beyond that.

Of course, worth noting is that Alex Cox directed an animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero which was created with his students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, completed and released a decade ago. You can see it here.

Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! became Soylent Green with Charlton Heston. I’ll confess I’ve not read the novel, nor ever seen the film. I see the film was nominated first a Hugo at Discon II and won a Nebula for the film.

I’m only going to note two other Awards, one is Sidewise Award for Best Long Alternative History, the Hammer and the Cross trilogy, and a Grand Master Nebula. 

I’ll admit I’ve not read enough of his shorter works to form an informed opinion, so I’ll let y’all tell me about that aspect of his fiction.

(9) BRAND X? “’Calling them X-Men is so 1960s’: Chris Claremont weighs in on the X-Men name change debate (and his idea for a replacement)” at Popverse.

Should the X-Men change their name? Ove the past few years, there has been some discourse around the name of Marvel’s iconic mutant team. The name has been around since the team’s first appearance in X-Men #1 (1963), but the world has changed since the 60s. Why does the team have a male-centric name when some of their most iconic members are female?

Chris Claremont, a writer famous for his 16-year X-Men run, has some thoughts on the discussion. During a discussion at the Uncanny Experience event, Claremont mused about the topic. “Calling them X-Men is so 1960s,” Claremont said, after referring to the team as the X-Group.

Claremont circled back to the topic during a question-and-answer session later in the discussion. When he was asked about changing the name, the writer revealed that it had been on his mind for years. “I tried that,” Claremont said. “I spent about 10 years referring to them as the X. The X being the unknown. It was pointed out to me that X-Men is trademarked, which apparently is a whole different kettle of fish. You can’t argue with legal people. When I came to work for Marvel, it was one or two guys, Apparently the Mouse House has much more than that. There are some fights you can’t win.”…

(10) LAUGHS OF THE CENTURY. Charlie Jane Anders makes excitement contagious about “My Favorite Comedy Films of the 2020s (So Far)” at Happy Dancing. Here’s one of her picks.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

This film finally made me a convert to the Chris Pine fan club. I know, I’m very late. Honestly, the whole cast is great, with Michelle Rodriguez getting better material than she usually gets and Justice Smith proving that he is an utterly brilliant actor. Not to mention Hugh Grant as a wonderfully oily villain. Like a lot of the other comedies on this list, Dungeons & Dragons manages to go way over the top while still having a lot of sympathy and respect for its characters, which is a tough balancing act. I appreciate any comedy whose characters seem to be genuinely trying to be better people, while screwing up over and over again. Also, the CGI monsters and other effects help tell the story instead of being a gaudy distraction!

(11) EMISSION POSSIBLE. [Item by Steven French.] Beautiful but deadly? No, not really! “The Collectors Who Hunt Down Radioactive Glassware” at Gastro Obscura.

IN JANUARY OF 2021, A New Jersey teenager brought a piece of an antique Fiestaware plate to a high-school science class. The student had received a Geiger counter, an instrument used to measure radiation, for Christmas, and wanted to do an experiment. When the plate registered as radioactive, someone at the school panicked and called in a hazmat team. The entire school was evacuated, and those in the nuclear science field were aghast….

…Prior to World War II, and well before its potential for energy or weaponry was recognized, uranium was commonly used as a coloring agent in everything from plates, glasses, and punch bowls to vases, candlesticks, and beads. Uranium glass mosaics existed as early as 79 AD.

Also known as canary or vaseline glass, uranium glass is typically yellow or green in color and glows bright green under a black light. Shades can range from a translucent canary yellow to an opaque milky white depending on how much uranium is added to the glass, from just a trace to upwards of 25 percent. Uranium was also used in the glaze of orange-red Fiestaware, also known as “radioactive red,” prior to 1944, and was once a common sight in American kitchens.

Although uranium glassware does register on a handheld Geiger counter, the radiation amounts are considered negligible and on par with radiation emitted from other everyday items such as smoke detectors and cell phones….

(12) FANCY A BEER? IT’LL KILL YOU. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Isaac Arthur departs from his usual Futurism for one of his “Sci-fi Sundays.”

This time it’s a shorter-than-usual edition at just 15 minutes because it is an impromptu one. This time the SFnal topic is of alien beer, specifically Alien Beer To Die For.

Now of course, I myself am unlikely to ever sample alien beer for the simple, factual reason that I live in Brit Cit, and have roots in Cal Hab and the Caledonian rad wastes, and am close to many of the best real ale hostelries in the spiral arm.

(Neat, huh? See some of you in Cal Hab this summer.)

A look at the possible effects of alien food, drink, and microbes on us or our ecosystem.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Godzilla takes girl on date and it’s adorable” – here, let Dexerto spoil it all for you.

…The 138-second short starts with said girl losing her mind when Godzilla (or perhaps more accurately, someone in a Godzilla costume) shows up at her door. She hits the deck, starts hyperventilating, and becomes hysterical. Which isn’t traditionally how a great date starts. But then it all becomes rather lovely.

They go shopping. Then have a picnic in the park, before a trip to the beach where this decidedly odd couple wrestle on the sand. The date ends with them kissing each other as the sun sets (well, mainly her kissing Godzilla as the monster’s mouth can’t move)….

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Todd Mason, Stephen Beale, 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.]