Pixel Scroll 12/13/23 Pixeltar: The Fifth Scrollbender

(1) CONTEST KERFUFFLE. The Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has announced that one of its judging teams – unnamed in their statement, but it’s Team EPIC – will no longer be participating.

Kris, who reviews on YouTube as A Fictional Escapist, and formerly at EPIC Indie, said they found something on EPIC’s “About” page that led them to leave the SPSFC’s Team EPIC. They gave this explanation on X.com.  And followed with a screencap of the offending rules.

Team EPIC leader Matthew Olney published a statement on X.com:

Some of the exchanges have been taken down. Other parts can still be traced starting with this tweet by JCM Berne.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. [By Lisa Hertel.] I visited Erwin Strauss at Steere House in Providence, R.I. today. He is in good spirits and resting comfortably, and would love visitors, cards, or phone calls; he has his mobile. (Obviously use his real name when you are at reception or talking to the switchboard.) If he doesn’t answer the phone, try again later. He expects to be in Providence through mid-January.

(3) 400-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR AND SCIENTIST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s Front Row devotes its first third of the programme to Margaret Cavendish, the British scientist and SF author who was born 400 years ago and known for her novel The Blazing World (1666), which of course pre-dates Frankenstein 1818. In The Blazing World there is a parallel Earth which can be accessed via the North Pole as the barrier between the two Earths is weakest there…. 

Margaret Cavendish was born exactly 400 years ago, and her many achievements include writing The Blazing World, arguably the first ever sci-fi novel. Novelist Siri Hustvedt and biographer Francesca Peacock discuss the enduring legacy of this pioneering woman. 

You can hear the programme here.

(4) PICKING UP THE BRUSH. “Dream of Talking to Vincent van Gogh? A.I. Tries to Resurrect the Artist.” The New York Times tells how it’s being done. Doesn’t seem quite as cheerful as in that Doctor Who episode.  

…His paintings have featured in major museum exhibitions this year. Immersive theaters in cities like Miami and Milan bloom with projections of his swirling landscapes. His designs now appear on everything from sneakers to doormats, and a recent collaboration with the Pokémon gaming franchise was so popular that buyers stampeded at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, forcing it to suspend selling the trading cards in the gift shop.

But one of the boldest attempts at championing van Gogh’s legacy yet is at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, where a lifelike doppelgänger of the Dutch artist chats with visitors, offering insights into his own life and death (replete with machine-learning flubs).

“Bonjour Vincent,” intended to represent the painter’s humanity, was assembled by engineers using artificial intelligence to parse through some 900 letters that the artist wrote during the 1800s, as well as early biographies written about him. However the algorithm still needed some human guidance on how to answer the touchiest questions from visitors, who converse with van Gogh’s replica on a digital screen, through a microphone. The most popular one: Why did van Gogh kill himself? (The painter died in July 1890 after shooting himself in a wheat field near Auvers.)

Visitors can chat with the A.I. Vincent van Gogh through a microphone. In this video, A.I. van Gogh responds to questions about his paintings.Video via Jumbo Mana

Hundreds of visitors have asked that morbid question, museum officials said, explaining that the algorithm is constantly refining its answers, depending on how the question is phrased. A.I. developers have learned to gently steer the conversation on sensitive topics like suicide to messages of resilience.

“I would implore this: cling to life, for even in the bleakest of moments, there is always beauty and hope,” said the A.I. van Gogh during an interview.

The program has some less oblique responses. “Ah, my dear visitor, the topic of my suicide is a heavy burden to bear. In my darkest moments, I believed that ending my life was the only escape from the torment that plagued my mind,” van Gogh said in another moment, adding, “I saw no other way to find peace.”…

(5) LOCAL SFF WORKSHOP. The organization that hosts The Tomorrow Prize and the Green Feather Award will hold a workshop at a library in Pasadena (CA) next week.

My name is Valentina Gomez and I am very excited to introduce myself as the new Literary Arts Coordinator for the Omega Sci-Fi Project! I am reaching out to invite your participation in this season’s short science fiction story writing program, both through creative writing workshops and student story submissions.

Join our upcoming creative writing workshop at the Jefferson branch of the Pasadena Public Library on 12/19, catered to young creative writers and open to all ages! Please share with the high-school students in your life!

(6) YOU’LL KEEP HEARING THIS. Former Google and Apple executive Kim Scott asks “Will Books Survive Spotify?” in a New York Times opinion piece.

Spotify may have made it easier than ever for us to listen to an enormous trove of music, but it extracted so much money in doing so that it impoverished musicians. Now the company is turning its attention to books with a new offering. It will do the same thing to writers, whose audiobooks Spotify has begun streaming in a new and more damaging way.

We’ve read this story before. Tech platforms and their algorithms have a tendency to reward high-performing creators — the more users they get, the more likely they are to attract more. In Spotify’s case, that meant that in 2020, 90 percent of the royalties it paid out went to the top 0.8 percent of artists, according to an analysis by Rolling Stone.

That leaves the vast majority — including many within even that small group — struggling to earn a living. The promise of the business strategy laid out in the book “The Long Tail” was that a slew of niche creators would prosper on the internet. That has proved illusory for most content creators. It’s a winner-takes-all game; too often the tech platforms aggregating the content and the blockbusters win it all, starving the vast majority of creators. The result is a gradual deterioration of our culture, our understanding of ourselves and our collective memories.

This is why regulation is so crucial. Before writing books, I worked at Google, leading three large sales and operations teams and before that, I was a senior policy adviser at the Federal Communications Commission. What I learned is that today’s tech platforms are different from the kind of monopolies of an earlier era that inspired our regulatory framework. Their networks can have powerful positive or negative impacts. We don’t want to regulate away the value they can create, but the damage they can cause is devastating. We need a regulatory framework that can distinguish between them….

(7) DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF. The Hollywood Reporter cues up the “Civil War Trailer: Kirsten Dunst Stars in Politically Charged Movie”.

Alex Garland‘s mysterious Civil War is coming into focus with its politically charged first trailer.

As the trailer reveals, Kirsten Dunst stars as a journalist living in a near future in which 19 states have seceded from the Union, with Western Forces (including California and Texas) and the Florida Alliance among those in the conflict. Meanwhile, the three-term President of the United States, played by Nick Offerman, has ordered air strikes on U.S. soil against these forces.

“Every time I survived a war zone, I thought I was sending a warning home: don’t do this,” Dunst’s character says as she attempts to reach Washington, even as forces close in on the city….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge from a selection by Mike Glyer.]

1962 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a work that I saw and read but once in both cases but is still inedible upon my mind’s eye. 

The novel was published first by William Heinemann Ltd., in 1962 and I read in University in a literature class taught by professor who very obviously thought SF was cool as Le Guin and Bradbury were also included. I won’t say I like it but then I’m not into novels involving sexual violence. Very really not. 

Now the film was fascinating the way encountering a cobra was — Stanley Kubrick captured the dangerous of the characters in the book all too well. Still didn’t want to see it again, like not encountering a cobra again, but it was worth seeing once. 

So here’s our beginning.

What’s it going to be then, eh?

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, o my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg.Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I’m starting off the story with.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 69. Damn, I can’t believe Emma Bull is sixty nine! My mind’s image of her is fixed upon her being the imperious sidhe queen in the War for the Oaks trailer shot way back in Will thinks 1994 according him just now in an email.

Her first novel. War for The Oaks was published in paperback by Ace Books thirty-six years ago. And then that publisher promptly tied up the rights so that it would be fourteen years before Tor Books could release another edition. Yeah Emma wasn’t happy. 

It, along with Bone Dance which would be nominated for a Hugo at MagiCon, and Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands show, I believe, a remarkably great writer of genre fiction. 

I’m pleased to say that I have personally signed copies of all of them. Two of them for Oaks, one not long after she broke both forearms at a Minneapolis RenFaire and another after they’d moved to Bisbee, Arizona and she’d healed up quite a bit. 

(I absolutely love Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands love which is along with the two novel written by Wills are the only novel in Terri Windling’s Bordertown universe. I still, sort of spoiler alert, makes me sniff every time I read it.) 

(Not to say I that I don’t love War for the Oaks and Bone Dance as I do. I cannot count how many times I’ve read each one of them.) 

Will Shetterly and Emma Bull in 1994. Photo from Wikipedia.

Now about that trailer. It was financed by Will at his own expense from money originally intended first and run first the governorship of Minnesota. Emma as I said is the sidhe Queen here and I know any of you that were active in Minnesota fandom back then will no doubt be able to tell me who many of the performers are here as Will tells me that many of them came from local fandom. 

(I really do need to do an in-depth interview with him about this sometime.)

The music is by Flash Girls and Cats Laughing. Emma was in both, and some of the music the latter played is referred to in the novel as being played by Eddi and the Fey. (Cats Laughing didn’t form until after the novel.) Lorraine Garland, Gaiman’s administrative assistant at that time, was the other half of the Flash Girls. 

Lorraine went to found another group, Folk Underground, whose tasteful black t-shirt of, one moment while I look, three skeleton musicians (violinist, guitarist, accordionist) in coffins I have twenty years in remarkably good shape. 

Oh, the screenplay did later get published. It’s an interesting read. 

So what else? There’s Liavek, a most excellent fantasy trade city akin to one Aspirin did. She and Will edited the many volumes of them on Ace with, and I think this a complete listing, Gene Wolfe, Steven Brust, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Emma Bull, Nancy Kress, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Megan Lindholm, Barry Longyear and Will Shetterly. Generally speaking, they’re all fine reading, lighter in tone that Thieves’ World is.

Finally there’s the Shadow Unit series which created by her and Elizabeth Bear. If you like X-Files, you’ll love this series as it’s obvious that both of them are deep lovers of that series and their FBI unit, the Anomalous Crimes Task Force, could well exist in the same universe.  

Well there’s one more that reflect their deep love of the Deadwood video series, her Territory novel. This is certainly one of the more unique tellings of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the Clantons and what happened there. I particularly like the dialogue heron, some of the best I’ve seen anywhere.

And no, this doesn’t by any means cover everything as she wrote some truly great short fiction set in the Borderlands universe, not to mention the novel she wrote with Stephen Brust, Freedom & Necessity which I could write an entire essay on. Wait I did, didn’t I? She even did space opera of sorts in Falcon. And there’s a wonderful children’s book that she sent Green Man to review, The Princess and the Lord of Night

(10) LOOKS GREEN TO HIM. For what it’s worth, someone is reporting “’Dune: Messiah’ Greenlit by Warner Bros, 2027 Release Date Eyed” says World of Reel.

…As for “Dune: Messiah,” the trilogy capper, we have an update on that project, and it seems to be picking up some major steam. At this point, its future making is turning into an inevitability. Here’s Jeff Sneider, via his newsletter:

“I’m already hearing rumblings that WB is so bullish on Villeneuve’s vision for Dune that ‘Part Three’ has already been greenlit with a 2027 release date in mind. WB sees Part Two as a home run, and internally, I’m hearing the studio is already projecting an opening north of $100 million. That may be optimistic, but given the trailer above, hardly out of the question….”

(11) ODD NOGGIN. [Item by Steven French.] Shirley this can’t be true?! (Sorry – channeling Airplane! there …) Gastro Obscura introduces readers to the “Head of the Egopantis”. “The head of a legendary creature allegedly killed during colonial times is now on display at a local restaurant.” Unlike Bigfoot and Nessie, this one supposedly has left remains.

… According to legend, the Egopantis was a mighty and terrifying creature that once roamed the woods behind the tavern instilling fear among the locals. One evening, a Captain named Nathaniel Smith spotted the creature wading through the Mulpus Brook and took aim with his musket. He fired mortally wounding the creature which charged across the brook before succumbing to its injuries. The colossal Egopantis had been felled with its head and the musket both on display ever since….

(12) IT’S A SMALL WORLD. “Researchers Develop Tiny Cute VR Goggles For Mice With Big Implications” at HotHardware. Daniel Dern quips, “Raptors seldom strafe passes/at meeces with VR glasses.”

Virtual reality can be an immersive way to play games, experience new environments, or consume and learn new content for anyone of any age. With that philosophy in mind, scientists have expanded the use cases of VR to rodents to enable new pathways and possibilities in neuroscience with tiny mouse-sized VR goggles that simulate environments better than ever before.

Earlier this week, researchers from Northwestern University published research outlining a new mouse VR goggle system called Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR, or iMRSIV system….

(13) SUPERCONDENSATION. From 10 years ago, “Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short”.

From the creative minds of Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (Superman: The Animated Series) and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, this short follows Superman through the years, from his first appearance on the cover of Action Comics #1 to Henry Cavill in this year’s Man of Steel…all in two minutes!

(14) NIHILISTIC ALIENS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur spent his monthly Sci-Fi Sunday looking at nihilistic aliens.

Many doubt whether existence has any purpose or meaning, but could entirely civilizations become nihilistic. Would this spell their doom? And if not, what would they be like?

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

Pixel Scroll 11/22/23 All Right, Mr. Pixelle, I’m Ready For My Scroll-Up

(1) LOSCON THIS WEEKEND. Loscon 49, a gathering of writers and fans of all ages, with common interests in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Cosplay, Film, Art and Music takes place this Thanksgiving weekend, November 24-26, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott on Century Blvd.

Author and screenwriter Peter S. Beagle is the Writer Guest of Honor. Generations of readers have enjoyed his magic of unicorns, haunted cemeteries, lascivious trees and disgruntled gods. His best-known work is “The Last Unicorn”

Echo Chernik, the Artist Guest of Honor, is commercial artist and instructor of digital media, specializing in art nouveau-influenced design art and illustration.

Fan Guest of Honor is Elayne Pelz. She has worked at Worldcons, Loscon, Gallifrey One, Anime cons, SFWA Nebula Conference, and many more, as an essential staff member for decades.

Loscon will partner with Nerd Mafia Group for a cosplay contest on Saturday evening.

Submissions will be accepted for the Losconzine49 onsite, at a fan table stocked with paper and various writing implements. They will also take emailed submissions until Dec 3rd via [email protected] These will be compiled and shared electronically with all those who submit and an online post will be shared with the public.

Weekend passes are $75, day rate is $40. Parking with validation is $20 per day.

For more information, check out Loscon 49.

Peter S. Beagle. Photo by Krystal Rains.

(2) FOR YOUR EARS. Audible.com has posted 20 books on its list of The Best Audiobooks of 2023, two of them of genre interest. And there are additional lists of —

(3) YOUR FAVORITE BOOK MAY ALREADY HAVE WON – IT’S UP TO YOU. Christopher Ruz has a solution to the surfeit of literary awards – make it bigger! “Announcing the 2023 Rando Awards”.

The Randos are a highly prestigious* genre fiction award, judged by a team with over a century of combined experience** in fantasy, science fiction, horror, crime, and more. Founded by me, because I felt like it, the Randos is a way of sharing our love of genre fiction and recognising the authors who made our year great. Our judging panel of Randos will come together at the end of the year to decide on their favourite reads of 2023. Each winning author—one per judge—will be awarded a coveted Rando trophy***.

*this is a lie

**if you add up the time we’ve all spent reading then it’s probably a hundred years? Maybe?

***I mean, I’d covet them pretty hard

Can I Be a Judge?

Here’s the thing about the Randos: anyone can be a Rando, and find some way to recognise and appreciate their favourite authors. You can shoot me a message and join our team in time for the 2023 awards! All you need is to cover the costs of the trophy and international postage for your chosen winner. Or, you can find your own way to let your fave author know that you appreciated their work and that they enriched your life with their stories.

There are no downsides to sharing that love….

(4) TOO CLOSE TO HOME. Author Max Florschutz says his mother survived the mudslide in his hometown of Wrangell, Alaska but his father is still missing: “It’s All Gone”. Sad and alarming news.

Guys, I … I barely know how to write this. The last thirty-six hours have been a nightmare that is still ongoing.

If you’ve seen the news and heard a story about Wrangell Alaska, then you’ve heard part of what I’m about to tell you.

Monday night at 9 PM, a landslide hit my hometown. It was 450 feet across by the time it hit the highway, after it completely demolished my parent’s property and home (here’s a picture of the size of the slide).

It continued down across the highway and into the bay, destroying another home along the way before ending up in the bay.

My mother pulled herself from the wreckage of her home and walked to the search and rescue teams across a still-shifting mudslide.

My father is still missing, and just typing this hurts. Search and rescue teams are trying to get to what’s left of their home to locate him. We have no idea if he’s alive or dead. Everything that can be done is being done….

(5) INDOPANTHEOLOGY OPENS TO SUBMISSIONS. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has put out a call for “Indopantheology: Stories from the Spiritual Margins” at OD Ekpeki Presents. Deadline to submit is March 31, 2024. Full details at the link.

Do you have stories that go beyond the realms of the physical world? We, the editors, are asking for your spirit-fiction.

This volume will explore the theme of Indopantheology, analogous to the Afropantheology of Oghenechovwe Ekpeki’s Between Dystopias: The Road to Afropantheology, published October 2023 by OD Ekpeki Presents, as an installment of the Pantheology projects

For us, Indopantheology maps the realm of the spiritual imagination, comprising all soul-matters from the most worldly of dreams to the most numinous of visions. If that is what you wish to explore, then this call is for you. We want stories from the wilder thickets of the spiritual world, the old places, the cultures and peoples that have been looted, disrespected and forgotten.

We want tales of the vast borderlands between life and death, where dreamers walk and ghosts and gods converse. Too often it seems that, in our current age of bigotry, exploitation and violence, the ‘spiritual’ is wielded as a weapon, designed to shame and exclude anyone of whom the wielder does not approve. We want to showcase stories that stand against this trend, and that go beyond the traditional binaries into the slippery truths of the shadow realms.

While the focus of this volume will be on South Asia and its many spiritual streams that defy the categories of organised religion, we are willing to accept spirit-stories from anyone in the wider Indoasian world. Please note that there are volumes currently in progress for other geographical regions with relations to South Asia, such as Africa, the Caribbean, etc.

We see this as a decolonising project, since the spirit world has historically been hijacked and weaponised by oppressors of various hue. We believe that new storytelling can cure this wound. And we especially want stories from, and about, people who are on the various spectrums: gender, neurological, mental and physical….

(6) RED WOMBAT DEAL. Orbit Books has acquired T. Kingfisher’s Saint of Steel series and Swordheart. Four of these were self-published, and now will get tradpub reprints.

Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary Agency sold UK and Commonwealth rights in five of T. Kingfisher’s books to Nadia Saward, Commissioning Editor at Orbit. The ebooks of Paladin’s GracePaladin’s StrengthPaladin’s Hope and Swordheart are on sale now from Orbit, with Paladin’s Faith publishing in early December. Orbit will be redesigning the covers and will be releasing paperbacks of all five books in Spring 2025.

(7) VARIABLE GOALS. We’ve heard a thousand times about AUTHORS GETTING PAID, but publisher Steven Radecki tells readers of the SFWA Blog that’s not the only way to keep score: “The INDIE FILES: Measuring Your Success As an Author”.

During the more than a decade that I have been involved in indie publishing, I have worked with more than three hundred authors. One thing I have discovered is that, just as publishing is not a one-size-fits-all process, neither is how individual writers conceive of their success. Managing your own goals and expectations and why you have them can go a long way toward understanding your feelings of success as an indie author.

Just getting your work published is probably your primary goal—whether it be a short story, novella, or epic trilogy. Few writers, particularly newly published ones, give much advance thought to what happens after they achieve that goal: what it will mean to feel successful as an author once their work has been published.

Having clear goals helps you in the effective promotion of your work. Discussing your goals early in your relationship with your agent or publisher can help you determine whether you are the right fit for each other in helping you achieve your goals. Defining goals will also help you in your decision on whether to go the traditional publishing, small publishing, or self-publishing route.

Some of the ways you might measure your success as an author include:

  • income earned
  • number of books or stories sold
  • number of engaged readers
  • public displays of your work

(8) PLAINTIFF HITS STUMBLING BLOCK IN AI LAWSUIT. [Item by Nina Shepardson.] The Hollywood Reporter has a new article out on Sarah Silverman’s lawsuit against Meta alleging that its generative AI program infringes her copyright as an author. “Sarah Silverman Hits Stumbling Block in AI Lawsuit Against Meta”.

A judge has dismissed most of the claims in Silverman’s lawsuit. He called the claim that the AI model itself is an infringing derivative work “nonsensical.” He also found that Silverman didn’t provide sufficient evidence that the outputs of the model are “recasting, transforming, or adapting” her books. He said that, “To prevail on a theory that LLaMA’s outputs constitute derivative infringement, the plaintiffs would indeed need to allege and ultimately prove that the outputs ‘incorporate in some form a portion of’ the plaintiffs’ books.” Apparently, there’s a “test of substantial similarity” that’s used in copyright cases to determine whether a work is similar enough to the original to likely be infringing. It sounds like the judge doesn’t think Silverman has provided evidence that the outputs of Meta’s AI program are substantially similar to her original work.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1987 [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks is a lovely novel. So we take our Beginning from it this time.

Since some of you might because of your extreme poor fortune not have read it yet so I’ll talk not about it and spoil it for you. Well I’ll at least put SPOILER ALERT up if I do. 

War for The Oaks was first published by Ace in softcover in 1987 with the first cover art below by Pamela Patrick. The novel’s setting is based upon Minneapolis where she and her husband Will Shetterly were living at the time. 

The novel was, by Ace, printed once and declared out of print. It took Emma almost a decade-and-a-half to get back rights to the novel from Ace. Tor then printed a hardcover edition which never officially got released. It got released in a trade paper edition that had exactly the same cover. I like the Tor art by Jane Adele Regina as shown in the second cover image better than the Ace illustration as I think it captures the darker aspect of the novel. 

SPOILER ALERT FOR A MINUTE.

Eddi also plays songs written by herself – in actuality of course, written by the author, Emma Bull. Some of these (including “Wear My Face” and “For It All”) were performed by the band Cats Laughing (of which Emma Bull is a member), and are on their second album Another Way To Travel whose cover art is by Terri Windling of a hearse and the band in front of it.

When the trailer for War for The Oaks was filmed with funding meant first Will’s run for the Governorship of Minnesota, this music was supplemented by some by Boiled in Lead as well. In the trailer, Emma plays the Fairy Queen and a fine one she does make! 

That trailer is here. Don’t watch it if you’ve not read the novel. Really don’t or the Unseelie Queen will curse you. If you do and you were in Minneapolis in the large Eighties, let be note that a lot of the actors are from fandom. 

END OF SPOILER ALERTS

And now our Beginning…

Prologue

By day, the Nicollet Mall winds through Minneapolis like a paved canal. People flow between its banks, eddying at the doors of office towers and department stores. The big red-and-white city buses roar at every corner. On the many-globed lampposts, banners advertising a museum exhibit flap in the wind that the tallest buildings snatch out of the sky. The skyway system vaults the mall with its covered bridges of steel and glass, and they, too, are full of people, color, motion.

But late at night, there’s a change in the Nicollet Mall.

The street lamp globes hang like myriad moons, and light glows in the empty bus shelters like nebulae. Down through the silent business district the mall twists, the silver zipper in a patchwork coat of many dark colors. The sound of traffic from Hennepin Avenue, one block over, might be the grating of the World-Worm’s scales over stone.

Near the south end of the mall, in front of Orchestra Hall, Peavey Plaza beckons: a reflecting pool, and a cascade that descends from towering chrome cylinders to a sunken walk-in maze of stone blocks and pillars for which “fountain” is an inadequate name. In the moonlight, it is black and silver, gray and white, full of an elusive play of shape and contrast.

On that night, there were voices in Peavey Plaza. One was like the susurrus of the fountain itself, sometimes hissing, sometimes with the little-bell sound of a water drop striking. The other was deep and rough; if the concrete were an animal, it would have this voice.

“Tell me,” said the water voice, “what you have found.”

The deep voice replied. “There is a woman who will do, I think.”

When water hits a hot griddle, it sizzles; the water-voice sounded like that. “You are our eyes and legs in this, Dog. That should not interfere with your tongue. Tell me!”

A low, growling laugh, then: “She makes music, the kind that moves heart and body. In another time, we would have found her long before, for that alone. We grow fat and slow in this easy life,” the rough voice said, as if it meant to say something very different.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 22, 1918 Walter Kubilius. Quoting John Clute in SFE, “US editor and author involved in American Fandom from as early as 1932, when he was a founder member of the Edison Science Club; by the end of the 1930s, after serving on the committee that created the first Worldcon in 1939, he helped form the Futurians.”  He wrote a fair amount of short fiction but it’s never been collected as near as I can tell. (Died 1993.)
  • Born November 22, 1925 Arthur Richard Mather.  Australian cartoonist, illustrator, and novelist. He was the artist who and later wrote of one of Australia’s most successful comics series, Captain Atom. It was published from 1948 to 1954, with 64 issues. No relation to the by Charlton Comics character of that name who became the DC Comics character. After the Australian comics business declined in the Fifties, we become a writer and churned out seven works, all  thrillers and crime novels with elements of science fiction.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 22, 1938 William Kotzwinkle, 85. Fata Morgana might be his best novel though Doctor Rat which he won the World Fantasy Award for is in the running for that honor as well. Did you know Kotzwinkle wrote the novelization of the screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? And his short stories are quite excellent too.  The usual digital suspects are well stocked with his books now, a change from five years ago.
  • Born November 22, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 83. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits.
  • Born November 22, 1949 John Grant. He’d make the Birthday list solely for being involved in the stellar Hugo Award winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy which also won a Mythopoeic Award.  And he did win another well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Related Work for The Chesley Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy Art: A Retrospective.  Most of his short fiction has been set in the Lone Wolf universe, though I see that he did a Judge Dredd novel too. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 22, 1957 Kim Yale. She was a writer whose first work was in the New America series, a spin-off of Truman’s Scout series. With Truman, she developed the Barbara Gordon Oracle character, created the superb Manhunter series, worked on Suicide Squad, and was an editor at D.C. where she oversaw such licenses as Star Trek: The Next Generation. Married to John Ostrander until 1993 when she died of breast cancer. For First Comics, she co-wrote much of Grimjack with her husband. (Died 1997.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows someone big and green bringing a veggie to the Thanksgiving feast. No, not the jolly one.
  • Tom Gauld thinks about silencing the feedback.
  • Elsewhere, Tom Gauld teases scientists.

(12) DOCTOR WHO MEMORIES. “’John Hurt and I swapped wine tips’: stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part three” in the Guardian.

Ben Aaronovitch (writer of episodes featuring the Seventh Doctor, 1988-1989)

My first real memory of a complete story is The Green Death, and my favourite memory is of this large slug sneaking up on Jo Grant. I was literally watching it from behind the sofa. From working on the show, I remember that the anti-terrorist squad in Remembrance of the Daleks was scrambled to Waterloo station because we’d blown a great big hole in it. I used to have a photo of a group of Daleks with fire engines coming down and stopping and looking at the road blocked by a group of Daleks. God knows what they thought!

(13) COSMIC INSIGHT. Adam Roberts after reading the science news….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George is “Talking About The Apocalypse In 2023”. What, him worry?

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Nina Shepardson, 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 Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 4/27/23 Only The True Pixel Denies His Divinity

(1) BOASE AWARD. The UK’s Branford Boase Award honors debut efforts in children’s books and the editors as well as authors behind them. There are three works on The Branford Boase Award 2023 Shortlist of genre interest:

The other shortlisted works are:

  • The Bones of Me by Kel Duckhouse, edited by Harriet Birkinshaw, Flying Eye Books YA
  • Seed by Caryl Lewis, edited by Sarah Hughes, illustrated by George Ermos, Macmillan Children’s Books 7+
  • The Cats We Meet Along the Way, Nadia Mikail, edited by Bella Pearson, Guppy Books YA
  • Ellie Pillai is BrownChristine Pillainayagam, edited by Leah Thaxton, Faber 13+
  • The Map of Leaves, Yarrow Townsend, edited by Rachel Leyshon, Chicken House 10+

(2) SMALL PRESS WINS AWARD WITH GENRE BOOK. “Dead Ink wins Republic of Consciousness prize with Missouri Williams’s ‘astonishing’ debut” in the Guardian.

…First awarded in 2017, the Republic of Consciousness prize is given to the best literary novel published by a small press in the UK and Ireland with fewer than five employees. Over the past seven years the prize has awarded almost £100,000 to more than 25 small presses and writers….

Dead Ink Books has won the Republic of Consciousness prize for small presses for Missouri Williams’s “astonishing” debut novel The Doloriad. Yet while Dead Ink and Williams will get the prestige of winning, the entire shortlist will receive the same reward. Each of the five books wins £1,000, split 70:30 between publisher and author, on top of the £300 awarded to the 10 longlisted titles, which was paid to the presses only.

Prague-based Williams’s novel is set in the imagined wake of a mysterious disaster that has wiped out most of humanity. One family, descended from incest, remains, ruled by a merciless woman known only as the Matriarch. When the Matriarch believes there might be more survivors she sends one of her daughters, the legless Dolores, as a marriage offering….

(3) HOW LONG? Author Hana Lee built a tool designed to calculate how many copies an author must sell to earn out an advance. [Via Publishers Weekly.]

“Earning out” means that the amount you’ve “earned” in royalties from copies sold (across all formats) equals or exceeds your advance payment.

(4) CON OR BUST AUCTION RETURNS. Dream Foundry’s Con or Bust program makes direct cash grants to creators or fans of color to assist with travel, food, registration, and other expenses associated with attending industry events. They are bringing back The Con or Bust Auction to raise money for their grants and are looking for donors for items of interest to potential auction buyers. “Think special experiences (like author Q&As), art, limited and/or special edition copies of books, ARCs for anticipated releases, etc.”

They want to have donations in by the end of June for inclusion this year. See full information on the program and how to contact them about donations here. Dream Foundry is a recognized non-profit and any donations given to us are tax deductible.

(5) ELLIOTT Q&A. Paul Weimer asks the questions in “Interview: Kate Elliott, author of Furious Heaven at Nerds of a Feather.

Furious Heaven, being a sequel to Unconquerable Sun, is a middle book in a series. How has the writing of this been the same, and different than other series that you have done? 

My goal with each of the three books of this trilogy has been, and continues to be, to shape each individual volume as if it is a standalone. Unconquerable Sun completes several of its major plot threads and, I believe, ends at a satisfying point. If I’ve done my job right, the reader will feel they’ve read a complete story and ALSO wish to read more.

Middle volumes are peculiarly hard. It’s important, in my opinion, to avoid “adding more beads onto the string” — that is, just to add more incident without complicating or expanding on the original elements of the story. A middle volume can add layers, unexpected twists and outcomes; it can deepen the characters and guide the reader into new landscapes and unknown dangers only hinted at in book one. That’s how I worked with (for example) Shadow Gate (Crossroads), Cold Fire (Spiritwalker), and Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives), which are all second volumes in trilogies that make the story bigger and show the reader new places and new conflicts.

With Furious Heaven I specifically wanted to do my best to make the story readable by someone who hadn’t read book one, while also having it build on what had come before…. 

(6) DUNE 2 PREVIEW. “’Dune: Part Two’—An Exclusive First Look at the Saga’s Epic Conclusion”Vanity Fair offers descriptions and photos, but no video.

If you want to know where Dune: Part Two will begin, just look to the ending of the 2021 original. Director Denis Villeneuve wants to make it clear that his new movie, set for release November 3, is not so much another film as a continuation of the first. “It’s important—it’s not a sequel, it’s a second part. There’s a difference,” Villeneuve tells Vanity Fair for this exclusive first look. “I wanted the movie to really open just where we left the characters. There’s no time jump. I wanted dramatic continuity with part one.”…

….Although the first part of Dune became one of the first post-pandemic blockbusters and was nominated for 10 Oscars, winning six, the filmmaker himself still fixates on what he feels he could have done better. “You have to accept your failures as an artist,” he says. “It’s a task that was almost impossible, for me to be absolutely faithful to what those childhood dreams were. But what brings a lot of peace in my heart is that I brought a lot of them to the screen, a lot of them are close to what I had imagined.”

For now, Villeneuve is keeping his head down, staying focused on his work. “I’m deep into sound design and the visual effects, and it’s a race against time,” he says. Even discussing the film for this story was taxing for him. “I’ll be very blunt, okay?” he says with a smile, deploying the most Canadian analogy imaginable. “It’s very difficult for me to start to talk about a movie when I’m doing it. It’s like asking a hockey player to describe how he will score as he is skating toward the net.” 

Meanwhile, The Onion is skeptical: “’Dune: Part Two’ To Pick Up Right Where Viewers Fell Asleep During First One”.

(7) URSA MAJOR AWARDS. The group that runs the Ursa Major Awards for anthropomorphic works is asking for financial support. Contact them at the Ursa Major Awards website.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2003[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

One of my very favorite authors is Emma Bull (she and Will are on the chocolate gifting list) and Finder: A Novel of The Borderland is a novel that I’ve read at least a half dozen times to date.

Without stating any spoilers, I think it’s safe to say that Emma created truly believable characters, from the primary ones to the ones that just exist to enhance out the story, the setting of the city itself, and a story that makes the most of the setting that Bull has fleshed out from what Terri Windling created originally in this series.

The novel is available readily for quite reasonable prices in various editions, print and digital. 

And here’s the Beginning straight from the Border…

“My father he rides with your sheriffs

And I know he would never mean harm…

— Richard Thompson, “Genesis Hall”

 Chapter 1. Falling Out of Paradise

I remember where I was and what I was doing when Bonnie Prince Charlie was killed. Not that I knew it at the time, of course. But while Charlie was traveling the distance from the Pigeon Cloisters belfry to High Street with all the dispatch that gravity can muster, I was sunbathing.

If the weather had held, I’d have been on the roof of my building the next day, too, spread out like a drying sweater. But it promised rain. (If the forecast had been different, would the past be, too? Would a lot of people still be here? This town is strange and has weather to match, but I never imagined it was a matter of life and death.)

So when Tick-Tick pounded on the frame of my open front door, I was in and washing dishes. She poked her head in and shouted, “I am the queen’s daughter, I come from Twelfth and Flynn, in search of Young Orient, pray God I find him!”

I lifted my hands dripping from the suds, took the herbal cigarette out of the corner of my mouth, and said, “Excuse me?”

“Well, in a manner of speaking,” said the Ticker placidly. She stalked in, the picture of elven self-possession, and picked a saucer out of the dishpan with thumb and forefinger. “Mab’s grace. So low as you’ve fallen, my precious boy.”

“I’m out of cups. Nothing else would have driven me to it.” The water had killed my cigarette. I sighed and flicked it out the window.

She dropped into my upholstered chair and swung her long legs over the arm. Her concession to summer’s heat, I noticed, was to tear the sleeves off her favorite pair of gray mechanic’s coveralls and roll the legs up to mid-calf. And still she did look rather like a queen’s daughter; but the elves usually look like royalty. When they’re trying not to, they only look like royalty in a cheap plastic disguise. Tick-Tick had a face like the bust of Nefertiti, only more daunting, and her eyes were huge and long and the gray of January ice.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 27, 1899 Walter Lantz. Cartoonist, animator, producer and director who founded Walter Lantz Productions. He created the Woody Woodpecker and Chilly Willy characters among others. He received an Academy Award “for bringing joy and laughter to every part of the world through his unique animated motion pictures”. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1901 Frank Belknap Long. John Hertz says that Long should be singled out for the “To Follow Knowledge” novelette which he lovingly discuses here.  I only add that Long received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1994.)
  • Born April 27, 1920 Doris Baumgardt.Well-known and loved fan, illustrator and writer. She was a member of the Futurians, and a founding member of FAPA. She was also a member of the CPASF and the Science Fictioneers. She was one of five members of the Futurians allowed into the first World Science Fiction Convention by Sam Moskowitz — the other four were Isaac Asimov, David Kyle, Jack Robinson and Richard Wilson. She wrote three pieces of short fiction that were published in the Forties and Fifties; she contributed artwork to fanzines. (JJ) (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 27, 1958 Caroline Spector, 65. She was an Associate Editor at Amazing Stories for several years, but her main genre connection is her fiction in George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series where she has seven stories. She also a Shadowrun novel, Worlds Without End. (Now that was an interesting RPG!) she also has an essay, “Power and Feminism in Westeros” in James Lowder’s Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, From A “Game of Thrones” to “A Dance with Dragons
  • Born April 27, 1962 Rachel Caine. She had two ongoing endeavors, the Weather Warden series which is most excellent and the superb Great Library series. I can’t speak to the Morganville Vampires series as I don’t do vampires really. And yes, I know she’s got a number of other series, far more than can detailed be here. (Died 2020.)
  • Born April 27, 1963 Russell T. Davies, 60. Responsible for the 2005 revival on BBC One of Doctor Who. (A Whovian since the very beginning, he thinks “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” has the best dialogue in the entire series, an opinion I concur with.) Of course he’s also responsible for Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures as well. (Need I note that the The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was his idea?) Davies returned as the showrunner in October 2022 after the departure of Chris Chibnall; the first episodes of his second tenure will be the show’s sixtieth anniversary specials in 2023.
  • Born April 27, 1986 Catherine Webb, 37. She’s writes under a number of names but I only know her under her Kate Griffin name where she wrote the extraordinary London set Matthew Swift series which one of the best urban fantasy series I ever read. I’ve not read any of her fiction written as Claire North which is major other name, so if you have, do tell me how it is. As North, her book The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August won the Clarke Award and Campbell Memorial Award, and The Sudden Appearance of Hope won a World Fantasy Award. Now go read the Matthew Swift series! 

(10) JOBS MAGNET. “As New York Boosts Tax Breaks for Movies, Some Critics Pan the Program” reports the New York Times.

 Four years ago, Amazon pulled the plug on its plans to build a headquarters in New York City, amid left-wing outrage over a $3 billion public subsidy package. But New York has hardly cut the company off: Amazon’s film and TV arm has received more than $108 million in state tax credits since then, and the left has raised nary a peep.

The handout is part of a state program that provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year in tax incentives to producers across the film and television industry, including Amazon — helping fuel a rapid expansion of studios in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Westchester County.

Now, Gov. Kathy Hochul is pushing to expand the program by nearly 70 percent, using the proposed state budget to shower as much as $7.7 billion in tax credits on the industry over the next 11 years. As it now stands, the subsidy is the most generous of any offered by the state, according to an analysis by Reinvent Albany, a watchdog group.

The proposed expansion to $700 million a year from $420 million has drawn stern rebukes from a range of critics who argue the decades-old program has consistently been a bad deal for taxpayers. But its likely success shows what is possible when powerful political and economic forces align in Albany, and states are increasingly pitted against each other for prestige jobs.

Ms. Hochul’s team is most concerned about neighboring New Jersey, which, along with Georgia and Canada, offers its own buffet of sweeteners that threatens to siphon film projects from New York.

(11) WWII RESISTANCE WORK. “Colorful Stories for Children, With the Darkest History as Backdrop” in the New York Times.  Includes many pictures from the books.  

During World War II, a clutch of whimsical children’s books were published in the Netherlands under a pen name, El Pintor. One book shows children flying on the backs of sparrows. In another, they float, attached to balloons. There is a pop-up book with people and animals nestled in trees and an activity book with paper cutouts.

The books sold thousands of copies, and were popular not only in the Netherlands, which was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940, but in Germany as well.

The books did more than entertain children during the grim days of war. Behind the pseudonym El Pintor was a Jewish couple, Galinka Ehrenfest and Jacob Kloot. They used the name El Pintor to obscure their heritage, and funneled the proceeds from their picture books to fund Dutch resistance efforts and to help Jews who were hiding from the Nazi regime.

They did so at great risk, said Linda Horn, who wrote a book published in the Netherlands about Ehrenfest’s life.

“Secrecy was very important, people couldn’t write down what they were doing,” said Horn of those who worked in the Dutch resistance. “There are barely any sources.”…

(12) TODAY’S DAY. It’s World Hyena Day today. Which is important if you’re into furry fiction.

(13) HISTORY-MAKING AMATEUR FILM CLUB. [Item by Ahrvid Enghom.] UK fan Jim Walker suddenly appears in the new documentary “A Bunch of Amateurs” (eg 37h30m in, but also later and in the credits), a film about the world’s perhaps oldest amateur film club, the Bradford Movie Makers founded in 1932.

Available here for UK viewers  (Geo-blocking may be overcome by VPN or something, if you know how.) I’ve seen the film, which has been on our local SVT.

(See also e.g. “Bradford-Based Feature Documentary A Bunch Of Amateurs”) — Bradford Movie Makers. They seem to have done some skiffy flicks among their 300 productions over 90 years, e.g. a Superman parody which is shown in this documentary.

Jim Walker

(14) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 82 of Octothorpe, “Metatextual Dinosaurs”

John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty talk about their Hugo Award nominations. You have about four days to vote, so get your skates on! Read and watch everything we recommend! Do it now!

(15) APEX ACQUIRES KEENE BOOK. Apex Book Company has acquired first North America English trade paperback rights to the novel Island Of The Dead by Brian Keene in a deal brokered by the author.

Island Of The Dead is a horror/sword and sorcery novel in which an enslaved barbarian plots his escape from a war galley transporting soldiers and a mysterious biological weapon. But when a storm at sea leaves them shipwrecked on a mysterious island, friend and foe alike must band together against a ravenous, steadily growing horde of the undead.

Through Apex Books, Keene has written the Lost Level series of dark fantasy novels and co-authored the Rogan Chronicles series with Steven Shrewsbury.

Brian Keene is the author of over fifty books, mostly in the horror, crime, fantasy, and non-fiction genres. His 2003 novel, The Rising, is credited (along with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic and Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later film) with inspiring pop culture’s recurrent interest in zombies.

(16) STALKER. “A Russian ‘inspector’ satellite appears to be chasing a secret US military satellite in a game of cat and mouse” – see photos at MSN.com.

mysterious Russian satellite and a confidential US military satellite appear to be engaged in a cat-and-mouse chase through space.

The Russian spacecraft, called Kosmos-2558, was launched into the same orbital plane as the US satellite, called USA-326, in August 2022 and has regularly passed close to the American spacecraft ever since.

The behavior of Kosmos-2558, and the lack of a formal explanation from Russia, has led space observers to believe that the probe is stalking USA-326. It’s at least the third satellite Russia has launched that appears to be an “inspector” — a spacecraft aiming to gather up-close data on another satellite….

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Ahrvid Engholm, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/23/23 You Can Make The Scene On The Mezzanine, But Don’t Scroll In The Pixels

Android Jones. Photo by Greg Preston. From Jones’ appearance at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! in 2012.

(1) HELP ARTIST RECOVER FROM STUDIO FIRE. [Item by Arnie Fenner.] Artist Andrew “Android” Jones’ studio burned down on January 18. I posted a little about it on Muddy Colors, “Android Jones Fundraiser”, and you can see some photos of his studio (before and after) in his GoFundMe page.

Several days ago a distinguished member of our art family experienced every artists’ nightmare: Andrew “Android” Jones’ studio burnt to the ground in a devastating fire. The studio, built by Andrew’s father, was separate from his home and contained all of his computers, back-up files, printers, sketchbooks, business records, traditional paintings and drawings, and his library. Thankfully Andrew and his family are safe, but everything in the studio was lost.

As one of the world’s most innovative artists—someone who was a leader of the “immersive experience” so popular today with his projections on the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House and at Burning Man, someone whose innovations with Painter and Photoshop pushed the boundaries and possibilities of digital art—Android’s loss is a loss for us all.

GoFundMe: “Fundraiser by Andrew Jones : Android Jones Studio Fire”.

Here’s a bit from his bio:

Best described as a “digital painter,” Jones has created an immense body of work. He has become well known for his many layered, psychedelic works and live performances using a custom built digital set up. He participated in the Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well Tour and his work has been projected on the Sydney Opera House and the Empire State Building. A long time member of the Burning Man community, Android has traveled the world exhibiting his work and has contributed to events on 6 continents.

Andrew’s art appeared on the cover of Spectrum #14 and was featured in a show at the Smithsonian: “Android Jones” at Smithsonian American Art Museum.

(2) COZY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] My Semiprozine Spotlight project never really took off the way the other spotlights did, but I just posted another one today, featuring Wyngraf Magazine of Cozy Fantasy.

Tell us about your magazine.

Wyngraf is a magazine of cozy fantasy short fiction—as far as I know, the first of its kind. Cozy fantasy focuses on low-stakes stories, often with themes of home and community. They can be simple slice-of-life tales or feature some conflict, but they’re never about toppling kingdoms or preventing the world from ending and they’re rarely solved with violence. They’re often set at home, though when they go off wandering we call that “backpack fantasy” and still count it. Our stories always give readers worlds they’d love to live in and endings that leave them feeling warm and, well, cozy!

(3) EARLY HORROR AFICIANADO. Bobby Derie has dug up an 18th century piece of horror criticism: “’On the Pleasure derived from Objects of Terror; with Sir Bertrand, a Fragment’ (1773) by Anna Laetitia Aikin & John Aikin” – Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

Anna Laetitia Aikin was born in 1743; her father was a Presbyterian minister and the headmaster of a boy’s school, and both Anna and her brother John Aikin received solid educations, which led to their careers in letters—Anna being noted for working in multiple genres, and earned a reputation as a poet and author. One of her earliest publications was Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773), published jointly with her brother. Among the contents of this volume is “On the Pleasure derived from Objects of Terror; with Sir Bertrand, a Fragment.”

The essay is one of the early English works on the subject of the horror story, and much of it is as insightful today as it was two and a half centuries ago…

(4) JMS ON B5. J. Michael Straczynski has released another Babylon 5 episode commentary track on YouTube: “Babylon 5: Severed Dreams”

A new sync-up commentary sponsored by my Patrons (if you’d like to lend your support you can do so the Patreon page noted above) for Severed Dreams, the third episode of the Messages from Earth trilogy. Best listened to by playing this on your iphone or tablet while the episode unspools on the TV in front of you.

(5) LOCUS GETS GRANT. “CLMP Names US Literary Publishers’ ‘Capacity-Building’ Grants” reports Publishing Perspectives. Locus Magazine is one of the grant recipients.

CLMP, the nonprofit Community of Literary Magazines and Presses in the United States, has announced extensive funding to 43 independent nonprofit literary magazines and presses. Each of these grantees has been chosen to receive two-year “capacity-building” grants of US$2,500 to $25,000 per year, meaning that each company listed will get, in total, between $5,000 and $50,000….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1991 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] Emma Bull’s Bone Dance

There’s a nice riff on gardening, on growing food, in Emma Bull’s Bone Dance when Sparrow is in a community outside the city. 

I used to read, when I could still read novels, this Hugo-nominated work at least every few years as it’s one of my favorite novels. It’s got great characters, especially the gender ambiguous Sparrow, a fascinating setting that’s based according to her on our Minneapolis and an absolutely stellar story. 

I do have a signed copy of it as I do Finder and two copies of War for The Oaks, one just after her unfortunate accident and one much later one. And yes, she is on the chocolate gifting list. Surely you aren’t at all surprised by that. 

Here’s the quote. 

As my endurance came back, and my flexibility, I began to walk instead of sit. Outside the second ring of houses (my estimate had been low; there were thirty-nine), I found barns and sheds and stables and workshops. Beyond those were pastureland and cultivated fields. Grain did its foot-rooted wind dance there; corn thrashed its jungle leaves; beans waggled long green or purple or yellow fingers; summer squash ripened furiously in a pinwheel of tropical-looking vegetation. Here, too, there were always people, cultivating, hoeing weeds, spreading things, raking things, trimming, harvesting. It all seemed as ritual as a pre-Bang Catholic mass, and as intelligible to outsiders.

Work 

One morning, when I’d gone farther than I had before and was feeling the effects, I sat down in the shade of a tree next to a field. Five people were hoeing up and down the rows of something I didn’t recognize. One of them reached the end of the row nearest me, looked up, smiled, and came over.

“Hi,” she said, dropping down onto the grass. “Sparrow, isn’t it? I’m Kris.” She pulled her straw hat off to reveal a brush of hair the color of the hat. She tugged a bandanna out of her pocket and wiped her face with it; then she unclipped a flask from her belt and poured some of the contents over the bandanna. She draped that over her head like a veil and jammed the hat back on. “Funny-looking,” she said with a grin, when she saw me watching the process. “But it does the trick. The evaporating water keeps your head cool.”

“Looks like hard work,” I said, nodding back out into the sun.

“Goddess, it is. Especially this part of the year. Harvesting isn’t any easier, but it’s more fun, and you have something to show for it right away. Every year about now I start wishing it was winter.”

This was a reasonable line of conversation, not too personal. “What is that out there?”

“Sugar beets. We voted to do ’em this year instead of tobacco, thank Goddess. Don’t get me wrong—I love to smoke. But I’ll pay for my tobacco and be glad to. It’s a good cash crop, but the hand labor is murder, and no matter how careful we are, we always have trouble with the tomatoes when we grow it. Turns out we’ll make as much on the beets, anyway, so I can afford to buy my smokes.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1923 Walter M. Miller Jr. He’s best remembered for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Terry Bisson would finish off the completed draft that he left of Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, a sequel of sorts to the first novel. He did a fair amount of short fiction as well. He’s poorly represented both from the usual suspects and in the dead tree sense as well beyond A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Died 1996.)
  • Born January 23, 1933 Emily Banks, 90. She played Yeoman Tonia Barrows in the absolutely splendid “Shore Leave”.  Though her acting career was brief, ending twenty years later, she shows up on Mr. Terrific, a series I’ve never heard of, Fantasy IslandThe Wild Wild WestBewitched, the original Knight Rider, Highway to Heaven and Air Wolf.
  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg is aged 84, but Tim passed seventeen years ago. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wooton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice. (Tim Hildebrandt died 2006.)
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 80. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly, I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer. Roy Batty In Blade Runner of course but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the vey evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 73. Yes I am counting MacGyver as genre you can say it is open to debate if you want. His main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate small universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it. Too bad it got cancelled so fast. 
  • Born January 23, 1950 David Feldman, 73. Before authoring the “Imponderables” series, David Feldman taught the first-ever college course on soap operas at Bowling Green State University (OH), at that time the only school in the world with a postgraduate degree in popular culture. That’s where Mike Glyer met him. After Feldman took his talents to the University of Maryland in pursuit of a Ph.D., where the soap opera class blew up into a 350-student draw, he worked in New York in the programming department of NBC, in both daytime and primetime programming until he decided writing books was a more attractive idea. Imponderables, the first in the 11-book series, came out in 1986. And once upon a time, he even ran Wolfman Jack’s campaign for president. (OGH)
  • Born January 23, 1954 – Craig Miller, age 67.  Ray Bradbury suggested he join LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Of course I put that first, what Website do you think this is?  CM soon earned the LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Co-chaired Equicon ’74, Westercon 28, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon; chaired Loscon 12.  Fan Guest of Honor, Westercon 41, Loscon 27 (with wife Genny Dazzo), Baycon 2006, Boskone 55.  With Marv Wolfman co-created and produced Pocket Dragon Adventures.  Memoir of work with Lucasfilms Star Wars Adventures.  Three hundred television writer and producer credits.  Writers Guild of America West’s Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award.  [JH]
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 59. First, I must note she is the lead cast member as Olivia Benson of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, now in its twenty-fourth season, the longest running scripted series currently on television. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in the not very good, indeed truly awful, Tales from Earthsea. Bad, bad idea. 

(8) REVISITING APPENDIX N. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The good folks of Goodman Games are profiling more early 20th century SFF authors who appear in Appendix N of the original D&D Dungeon Master handbook:

 James Maliszewski profiles Abraham Merritt: “Adventures in Fiction: Abraham Merritt”.

Of all the literary influences on D&D and DCC RPG, Abraham Merritt is perhaps the “most-influential of the least-known.” His work is rarely read in this modern time, yet he is named by Gary Gygax as one of “the most immediate influences on AD&D. Today, on January 20, 2020, the 136th anniversary of his birth, we provide a little more insight into this little-read but well-deserving author. You can also learn about all the Appendix N authors by listening to the Appendix N Book Club. For Merritt in particular, his most famous work, The Moon Pool, was recently covered in a special session on the Appendix N Podcast in which Joseph Goodman participated. You can find more about it HERE.

Michael Curtis profiles Clark Ashton Smith: “Appendix N Archaeology: Clark Ashton Smith”.

…While we cannot fault Gygax for not including certain names, we can, however, dig deeper into the authors he does list and examine where they drew their influences from. In the process, we discover that some of the names that people grumble about over their absence, are in fact representative in the works of those that are present. One of these influencers of the influencers is the third name from “the big three of Weird Tales”—Clark Ashton Smith….

Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles John Bellairs: “Adventures in Fiction: John Bellairs”.

…Many years later a fan asked Bellairs about his time in England only to have him reply “I lived for a year in Bristol [England], and it was the most miserable year of my life.” Bellairs’s misery was everyone else’s good fortune though, as this is when he wrote The Face in the Frost….

(9) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Also at Goodman Games, Bill Ward contrasts those archetypical adventurers Conan and Elric: “Archetypes of Adventure: Conan and Elric”.

Few characters in fantasy are as iconic as Conan the Cimmerian: black-haired barbarian warrior with the deadly grace of a panther and the impressive physique of a prize fighter, a wanderer, a reaver, and a king by his own hand. Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone perhaps rivals Conan in terms of iconic status (if not exactly in market saturation), perhaps in part due to his deliberate inversion of many of Conan’s characteristics….

(10) SHE KNOWS. “We Think Rian Johnson’s Poker Face Is a Superhero Show, and He’s OK With That” says Gizmodo at the top of its interview with the director.

Columbo. Kojak. Murder, She Wrote. These are the shows most commonly mentioned when describing Peacock’s new show, Poker Face. And, it being from Rian Johnson, the mastermind behind the Knives Out films (as well as The Last Jedi), the comparisons are accurate and logical. Poker Face is, at its core, about a woman named Charlie (Natasha Lyonne) who travels the country and solves murders.

But there’s a twist. Charlie is a human lie detector. She can instinctively tell, for a fact, if a person is lying about something. So if you step back and describe that in a different way you might say she has an innate, unexplained power that makes her superior to others. Or, in other words, a superpower….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Arnie Fenner, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4/23 Give It To Me Pixelled, Doctor, I Can Scroll It!

(1) EARLY 2023 AWARDS WARNING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The SF2 Concatenation has just tweeted its annual, internal poll as to the Best Science Fiction Books and Films of the Year.  This is just a bit of informal fun and most certainly not to be taken too seriously. Having said that, previous years have seen a few works go on to win awards (scroll down the previous link).

(2) DEMOCRACY AT WORK. Meanwhile, the Critters Writers Workshop Readers Poll is taking votes from the public through January 14. Categories added this year: Magical Realism, Positive Future Fiction (novel & short story).

The award is unique for posting a running tally of the leaders in every category while voting is carried on.

I can say that I have actually heard of one of the top ten leaders in the Science Fiction & Fantasy category. (Reflecting on this process, I have to wonder why the Dragon Awards shortlists aren’t filled with the same kinds of indie books.)

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Christopher M. Cevasco and A. T. Greenblatt on Wednesday, January 11.

Christopher M. Cevasco

Christopher M. Cevasco’s debut novel Beheld: Godiva’s Story (Lethe) was released in April 2022. His stories have appeared in such venues as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Black Static, and Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War (Prime). After ten years in Brooklyn, Chris and his wife moved to Myrtle Beach, SC, where they live with their two children.

A. T. Greenblatt

A. T. Greenblatt is a Nebula award winning short story writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in SlateTor.com, Uncanny, and many other places. She has been a finalist for the Hugo, Locus, Sturgeon, and WSFS awards. By day, she is a systems engineer and lives in Brooklyn.

At the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs) on January 11. Begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

(4) PERPETUALLY PEEVED. C. T. May is “mad at Harlan Ellison” for reasons explained in “A Good Story, a Great Story, and the Guy Who Couldn’t Tell Them Apart” at Splice Today.

Harlan Ellison was a very loud man. Even when he made a passing, matter-of-fact observation, it would be noisily matter-of-fact. For instance, “the two men wrote almost identical stories,” he once asserted. The two men, a pair of innocent authors, had done no such thing. But Ellison said otherwise to readers of Again, Dangerous Visions, the long-ago s.f. anthology that he compiled. I’m mad because a dead science fiction author didn’t understand a couple of stories.

Lord Dunsany wrote “Two Bottles of Relish,” and John Collier wrote “The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It.” A condiment and a spice, that’s a parallel. Further, each story involves murder and builds to a wicked one-line payoff, and the goal of each payoff is to chill the blood and flatter reader sophistication by laying before us a bitter, even grotesque secret regarding human nature and what people are capable of. The two stories are even told in a similar way: a character narrates what he saw other men say and do.

Those are some striking points of resemblance. I’d say the task of an intelligent person is to recognize that they’re just a list. Add these things up and you don’t get the same story twice….

Ellison opined on the two stories in his introduction to “Getting Along” by James Blish…

(5) DOINK DOINK. A case of New York publishing law and order is reaching its conclusion: “The End of a Book World Mystery: A Suspect in Manuscript Thefts to Plead Guilty” reports the New York Times.

The mystery captivated the book world: For years, someone impersonated authors and agents, editors and publishers, trying to steal unpublished book manuscripts from high profile authors like Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Ethan Hawke, but also from debut novelists and writers of more obscure works.

Now, a resolution to the yearslong scheme is near. On Friday, Filippo Bernardini is expected to plead guilty to wire fraud in front of a magistrate court judge in Manhattan, according to an email from the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York that was sent to victims on Tuesday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Bernardini early last year, saying he had “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” over five or more years, gaining access to hundreds of unpublished manuscripts in the process….

(6) LOOK FOR THE UNION LABEL. “Video game workers form Microsoft’s first US labor union” – the Associated Press has details.

A group of video game testers is forming Microsoft’s first labor union in the U.S., which will also be the largest in the video game industry.

The Communications Workers of America said Tuesday that a majority of about 300 quality-assurance workers at Microsoft video game subsidiary ZeniMax Studios has voted to join the union.

Microsoft already told the CWA it would accept the formation of the union at its Maryland video game subsidiary, fulfilling a promise it made to try to build public support for its $68.7-billion acquisition of another big game company, Activision Blizzard….

… The unionization campaign accelerated thanks to Microsoft’s ongoing bid to buy Santa Monica game giant Activision Blizzard. Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., made a June pact with the CWA union to stay neutral if Activision Blizzard workers sought to form a union….

(7) LET’S YOU AND HIM FIGHT. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] Is it punching down or punching up if Wolverine attacks Deadpool?

Actor Ryan Reynolds has been receiving Oscar attention for his song “Good Afternoon” in the Christmas flick Spirited. Hugh Jackman, who will be playing Wolverine opposite Reynolds‘ Deadpool in the upcoming Deadpool sequel, has thoughts. His video tweet jokes, “Ryan Reynolds getting a nomination in the best song category would make the next year of my life insufferable. I have to spend a year with him shooting Wolverine and Deadpool. Trust me, it would be impossible. It would be a problem.”

Variety analyzes Jackman’s tweet here: “Hugh Jackman Roasts Ryan Reynolds: Don’t Give ‘Spirited’ an Oscar Nom”.

Ryan Reynolds has earned himself a spot on the Oscar shortlist for best song for “Good Afternoon,” from his Christmas movie “Spirited” with Will Ferrell. But Hugh Jackman, who is preparing to star alongside Reynolds in the upcoming “Deadpool” sequel, hopes the Academy refrains from further boosting Reynolds’ ego with a nomination….

Or you can just watch it yourself.

(8) SUZY MCKEE CHARNAS (1939-2023). Author Suzy McKee Charnas died January 4. The author of many groundbreaking books (to quote Catherine Lundoff), her first published book, Walk to the End of the World, appeared in 1974 and later won a retrospective Otherwise Award. Her novella “Unicorn Tapestry” won a 1981 Nebula. Her short story “Boobs” won the Hugo Award in 1990.

Charnas’ story “Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast”  was shortlisted for the 1997 Hugo, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon awards.

She was a three-time winner of the Otherwise Award for Motherlines (1996; retrospective), Walk to the End of the World (1996, retrospective), and The Conqueror’s Child (2000).

Her series The Holdfast Chronicles was named to the Gaylactic Spectrum Hall of Fame in 2003.

The Kingdom of Kevin Malone won the Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Fantasy (1994).

Read more about her writing in John Clute’s SFE entry: Charnas, Suzy McKee. Her own website is: Suzy McKee Charnas science fiction.

Michael Swanwick also shared a significant memory in “Suzy McKee Charnas Meets Her Ideal Reader”.

…I met Ms. Charnas only once, back in the eighties, and I doubt I made much of an impression on her. But it’s worth recounting because that was the time she first met Judith Moffett.

Judy Moffett began as a serious poet (I greatly admire her collection Whinny Moor Crossing, the title poem in particular), fell into science fiction almost by accident, and quickly became an intensely admired novelist and short fiction writer. She was and is one of those tough-minded, tolerate-no-nonsense, totally admirable women who find in genre a place where they can think and do exactly as they like. And she admired the hell out of Suzy McKee Charnas. Most particularly, as with me, for The Vampire Tapestry.

Judy’s day job was as an academic at the University of  Pennsylvania, where she taught, among other things, a science fiction class. As part of which, that year, the class did a reading of a script–I think written by Judy, but it’s been a long time–of one of the component stories of the Tapestry. The protagonist was female but the student reading her lines was male.

Judy wrote to Suzy McKee Charnas telling her about the project and inviting her to come and witness an encore performance. An invitation which was readily accepted….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Waffles, or rather food in Emma Bull’s Finder: A Novel of the Borderlands

We sat at the round table that was just the right size for two; I don’t know if the Ticker ever has dinner parties. If she does, she can probably find another table. This one was made of some highly-polished golden wood in high Art Nouveau style. Heaven only knows how these things come into Bordertown, or, once they have, why they should land on Tick-Tick’s doorstep instead of in some parlor on Dragonstooth Hill.

The alcohol was gone from the liqueur, the strawberries were warmed and softened, and some of the sugars had caramelized. The waffles were crisp all around the edges and soft in the middle. And the Ticker had stopped me just in time on the whipped cream. There was hot tea to wash it down with, which tasted something like Darjeeling and something like not. It was related to last night’s shower: It was a meal to make me grovellingly happy to be alive.

— Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder: a Novel of The Borderlands

I have written this novel up here as one of my favorite novels but I’ve don’t think I mentioned in that review that food plays a role in it. Another scene takes place in the Hard Luck Cafe. 

Here’s the best quote from the part of that novel: 

It was warm inside in spite of the fans, and busy, and noisy, and remarkably like a combination of farmhouse kitchen, private club, and arts salon. Anyone who makes trouble at the Hard Luck Cafe is considered an incurable misfit, even within the loose social contract of Bordertown, and is not welcome anywhere, to anything. Consequently, the Hard Luck’s habituTs include humans, elves, and halfies, people from Dragontown and shimmers from up on the Tooth, painters and gang leaders. It’s such a desirable place to simply be that it’s almost too much to hope that the food is good. The food is good.

I peered at the back wall and the blackboard that serves as menu. The Hard Luck is a cooperative, and the people working the kitchen cook whatever they feel like that day. Certain things are almost always availableùburgers for the philistines, for instance—but if the staff decides they want to do Chinese that day, that’s what’s for dinner. If you don’t like it, that’s—all together now — Your Hard Luck. That day it looked like mixed down-home: fish chowder, lentil and spinach casserole, stuffed peppers, Brunswick stew.

Finally I need to mention the strawberries:

I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.)

The novel is so richly, not just with these note, but everything that it brings the unnamed city, its inhabitants and the surrounding area to a quite vivid reality.  As I said in my post on the novel, I highly recommend Finder. But then I send Will and Emma dark chocolate which tells you how much I like them, so why wouldn’t I? 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1785 Jacob Grimm. Here solely for two reasons, the first being that he and his brother were the first to systematically collect folktales from the peasantry and write them down. Second is that the number of genre novels and short stories that used the Grimms’ Fairy Tales as their source for ideas is, well, if not infinite certainly a really high number. I’d wager that taking just those stories in any of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror would get quite a number based on these tales. (Died 1863.)
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 96. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone.
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 77. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better-known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb.
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 65. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well-crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist  and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon. His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out SupergirlHoney, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like.
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 63. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could say are genre adjacent. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! 
  • Born January 4, 2000 Addy Miller, 23. She is on the Birthday List for being Sarah in Plan 9. Really? They remade that movie? Why? And yes, she played A Walker in that other show. My fav role by her is because of the title, it was a short called Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown, in which she was Scary Carrie Carmichael. And yes, you can watch it here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump turns a miraculous moment into a mundane complaint. (And yet it’s not about social media…)

(12) BRACE YOURSELVES. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki will be part of HWA New York’s  “Galactic Terrors” online reading series on January 12, along with Meghan Arcuri and Nathan Carson, with co-hosts Carol Gyzander and James Chambers. The writers will read their stories live and take questions.

(13) CONTINUED NEXT ROCK. Atlas Obscura has pictures of a “Hidden J.R.R. Tolkien Quote – Natural Bridge, Virginia”.

VIRGINIA’S NATURAL BRIDGE IS a wonder in and of itself. It’s no surprise that North America’s largest natural land bridge has been drawing people to it for centuries. But those who visit Natural Bridge State Park just to see the enormous stone structure miss risking one of its hidden gems.

Head to Cedar Creek, and you’ll find a literary surprise. There, etched into the side of a large rock, is a J.R.R. Tolkien quote….

(14) HISTORIC SOUND RECORDINGS PRESERVED. “Wax Cylinders Hold Audio From a Century Ago. The Library Is Listening.” And the New York Times eavesdrops.

 The first recording, swathed in sheets of distortion, was nonetheless recognizable as a child’s voice — small, nervous, encouraged by his father — wishing a very Merry Christmas to whoever was listening.

The second recording, though still noisy, adequately captured the finale of the second act of “Aida,” performed by the German singer Johanna Gadski at the Metropolitan Opera House in the spring of 1903.

And the third recording was the clearest yet: the waltz from “Romeo and Juliet,” also from the Met, sung by the Australian soprano Nellie Melba.

Accessed by laptop in a conference room at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the recordings had been excavated and digitized from a much older source: wax cylinders, an audio format popularized in the late 19th century as the first commercial means of recording sound. These particular documentations originated with Lionel Mapleson, an English-born librarian for the Metropolitan Opera, who made hundreds of wax cylinder recordings, capturing both the turn-of-the-century opera performances he saw as part of his job and the minutiae of family life….

…These particular cylinders were previously available to the library in the 1980s, when they were transferred to magnetic tape and released as part of a six-volume LP set compiling the Mapleson recordings. After that, they were returned to the Mapleson family, while the greater collection stayed with the library. But, Wood said, “there’s people all over the world that are convinced that a new transfer of those cylinders would reveal more audio details than the previous ones.”

Wax cylinders were traditionally played on a phonograph, where, similar to a modern record player, a stylus followed grooves in the wax and translated the information into sound. The Endpoint machine uses a laser that places less stress on the cylinders, allowing it to take a detailed imprint without sacrificing physical integrity, and to adjust for how some cylinders have warped over time. The machine can retrieve information from broken cylinder shards that are incapable of being traditionally played, which can then be digitally reconstituted into a complete recording.

Within the next few years, the library hopes to digitize both the cylinders and the diaries, and make them available to the public. The non-Mapleson cylinders in the library’s collection are also eligible to be digitized, though Wood said that process will be determined based on requests for certain cylinders. The library’s engineers are shared across departments, and with a backlog of thousands, she said, “We have to wait our turn.”…

(15) TAILS OF CLI-FI. The Scientist Magazine says “Animals Are Shape-Shifting in Response to a Warming World”.

At the South African nature preserve where Miya Warrington and colleagues study Cape ground squirrels (Xerus inauris), the maximum daily temperature has increased by about 2.5 °C in just 18 years. The animals have evolved a quiver of tactics to tolerate the region’s sweltering heat, says Warrington, a conservation ecologist at the University of Manitoba. Sprawling flat on the ground in a pose called splooting, for example, helps the animals shed heat from their less furry undersides. The squirrels also take shady respites under their bushy tails, which they curl above their heads like tiny parasols. When it’s really hot, the fossorial mammals retreat to their burrows to cool off. But Warrington warns that, even with all these options for keeping cool, “still they could be at the limits of their tolerance” due to such a rapid climactic shift.

That intense pressure could be why their bodies have begun to change shape, Warrington says. She found that, over the course of just under two decades, the squirrels’ already incredibly large hind feet, which may help dissipate heat, have grown relative to their body sizes by about 11 percent. Meanwhile, their spine lengths have become about 6 percent shorter….

(16) THE NEXT CRISIS. “’Foundation’ Season 2 Release Date on Apple TV Plus, Trailer” discussed at TV Line.

Apple TV+ has unveiled a sneak peek at the upcoming season, which you can check out above, featuring Gaal making her way home and Brother Day bracing for a potential war. New episodes will arrive this summer, the streamer has announced.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/27/22 A Long Time Ago, When Pixels Scrolled The Earth, A Filer Was Climbing Mount Tsundoku

(1) BROADCAST MUSIC. Rolling Stone assures us these are the 100 “Best TV Theme Songs of All Time”.

WE APOLOGIZE IN advance for all the TV theme songs we are about to lodge back into your heads. Or maybe we should preemptively accept your thanks?

Despite periodic attempts to contract or outright eliminate them, theme songs are a crucial part of the TV-watching experience. The best ones put you in the right mindset to watch each episode of your favorite, and can be just as entertaining in their own right as any great joke, monologue, or action sequence. So we’ve decided to pick the 100 best theme songs of all time — technically 101, since there are two as inextricably linked as peanut butter and jelly — and attempted to rank them in order of greatness….

John King Tarpinian has scouted ahead and says these numbers are genre: 77, 75, 65, 54, 42, 39, 33, 29, 24, 18, 17, 11, 06.

The highest sf TV show theme is from The Twilight Zone. It lodges at number six between the themes from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Speaking of number six – I’m shocked to learn that the theme from The Prisoner is not on the list at all.)

P.S. I’m sure John would want me to mention that the theme from Rachel Bloom’s TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is even higher, at number four.

(2) BEYOND GOOSEBUMPS. LA Review of Books hosts ”Stine Still Scares: A Conversation with R. L. Stine”.

DANIELLE HAYDEN: So, could you please tell me a little more about the upcoming comic series, Stuff of Nightmares? And I know some of your earliest work was comics. So how does that feel?

R. L. STINE: Well, yeah, when I was nine, I did comics.

Well, yes, I just mean, like, kind of, full circle now.

You know, I’m having a lot of fun. I’m working with BOOM! Studios in Los Angeles. And I did a series of comic books for them called Just Beyond, which was sort of Twilight Zone for kids. And it became a Disney+ series. We had eight episodes. That was fun. Now I’m doing this for adults; I’m actually writing something for grown-ups. And it’s really gruesome stuff. It’s like my version of Frankenstein. And so, I’m having fun with it. Comic books are fun to write. Forces me to be more visual, you know?…

(3) CSSF VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB. The next title in the Gunn Center for the Study of SF’s (CSSF) monthly virtual book club is Sofia Samatar’s A Stranger in Olondria. This debut novel about a merchant’s journey to the distant land of Olondria where he finds himself haunted by a mysterious force is the 2014 winner of the World Fantasy Award. 

…We hope it’ll be a wonderful read for folks who have ever been “the new person,” or experience homesickness or wanderlust.

Join them on December 16 at noon (Central Time) for our virtual meeting. Register here. Also, this programming is running all year, click here to see what’s in the Book Club’s future.

(4) THE WORDS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE WORLD SING. Today I learned that Chris Weber published Sentient Chili and Stranger Filk: Lyrics to 107 Songs of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Fandom this summer. Good work!

“Filk” is the term applied to the fan music of science fiction and fantasy. Readers and viewers of the genre will find familiar faces and tales. These lyrics cover topics from movies and television to books and original stories. Much of the collection leans towards humor, while touching other emotional chords as well. The stanzas have the feel of ’80s nostalgia but are not exclusively from that era.

The collection is like the contents of the proverbial box of chocolates, bite-sized and filled with surprises.

(5) IGLESIAS INTERVIEW. “Three Questions for Gabino Iglesias Regarding His Novel ‘The Devil Takes You Home’” at LA Review of Books.

DANIEL A. OLIVAS: The hero (or antihero, if you will) of The Devil Takes You Home is a man who has suffered unspeakable personal loss, not to mention a self-inflicted rupture in his marriage. He feels deep remorse and guilt, yet he is hopeful that one big score will restore some of what he’s lost. Could you talk about how you created Mario and what you wanted to explore through his journey?

GABINO IGLESIAS: One of the things I love the most about horror and crime fiction is that both genres share a heart: at their core are good people who are thrown into bad situations. Mario is all of us — far from perfect but not bad. He’s desperate and the system doesn’t offer him many options. Most people know what that feels like. I wrote about 45,000 words of The Devil Takes You Home while writing for various venues, teaching high school full-time, and teaching an MFA course at SNHU at night. Then I lost the high school teaching gig and my health insurance along with it, and this happened in June 2020, just as the pandemic was raging. I would read about people getting sick and then receiving astronomical medical bills. I was angry and worried, and I injected all of that into Mario. Hopefully that will make him resonate with people, especially with those who understand that good people sometimes do awful things for all the right reasons.

(6) BOOGIEPOP. The second episode of the Animation Explorations Podcast is “Boogiepop & Others (2019) – Breaking it all Down”.

This month, David, Tora, and Alexander Case look at the 2019 adaptation of the successful adaptation of some of the Boogiepop light novels

(7) GOING BACK TO WAKANDA. “Ryan Coogler talks Black Panther sequel ‘Wakanda Forever’” at NPR.

…The film has clearly touched a chord with audiences. It’s already earned more than $300 million in the U.S. and is expected to top the Thanksgiving weekend box office. So we wanted to talk with director and co-writer Ryan Coogler. He says the film, although about grief, shows the sort of rebirth that occurs in the face of insurmountable loss. And he began by telling me what it was like to reimagine the film’s story, which had already been written before Boseman died.

RYAN COOGLER: It was really complicated. It was difficult technically, because Joe and I had a lot of work to do to figure out what this new movie would be without him and without the character. But it was also complicated because me and everybody involved were navigating our own emotional journey, how to deal with losing our friend. So it was admittedly like the most difficult professional thing I’ve ever done and probably the most difficult personally as well….

(8) MAGNIFYING SMALL PRESS PUBLISHING. Cora Buhlert posted “Small Press – Big Stories: Some of Cora’s Favourite Small Press SFF Books of 2022”, an overview done as part of Matt Cavanaugh’s project to highlight small press SFF. First on Cora’s list:

Mage of Fools by Eugen Bacon

African-Australian writer Eugen Bacon is clearly a rising star in our genre. Yet the first time I heard of her was, when I was asked to feature her novel Claiming T-Mo, published by Meerkat Press, at the Speculative Fiction Showcase back in 2019.

Eugen Bacon’s latest release is Mage of Fools, also published by the good folks of Meerkat Press. Mage of Fools is a unique science fantasy tale set in the dystopian world of Mafinga, a polluted hellhole where books, reading and imagination are forbidden by law. Protagonist Jasmin is a widowed mother of two young children as well as the owner of a forbidden story machine. Possessing such a machine is punishable by death and when Jasmin’s story machine is discovered, she faces execution. However, she gets a temporary reprieve… for a terrible price. Because the queen of Mafinga, who cannot have children of her own, wants Jasmin’s children…

Mage of Fools is a great SFF novel, that manages to be both grim and hopeful at the same time. And since Eugen Bacon is also a poet, the novel is beautifully written as well.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1994 [By Cat Eldridge.] Emma Bull’s Finder: A Novel of The Borderland

I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.) — Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands

One of my frequently re-read novels is this one. It’s a comfort read in every meaning of that word. And yes, I do have a personally signed as I do of Bone Dance as well. Of course they’re on the chocolate gifting list.

Emma released this novel on Tor twenty-eight years ago. It’s one of three novels done on the shared world created by Terri Windling, a ruined city sharing a Border with the Fey. Most of the fiction here is short stories, novellas and poetry. This novel and two done by her husband, Will Shetterly, Elsewhere and Nevernever, are the only novels done. His are also excellent.

So why do I like her novel so much that I’ve read it at least a dozen times?

MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW. REALLY THEY DO. GO GET A DRINK IN THE DANCING FERRET.

First, it has a first-person narrator in Orient, a young male, who has the psychic ability to find anything if the right question is asked. So when his elf friend, Tick Tock, asks him to find her missing wrench in exchange for supper, little does he know that his life will become the whim of others. There are plenty of characters, all well-fleshed out, and all moving the story along.

Second, it has a compelling story weaving two apparently disparate plots that are here into a single thread that makes perfect sense. And Emma pulls no punches; bad things will happen to folks no matter how central they are to the story including what happens TO Tick Tock which made me cry. A lot of story get packed into its just over three hundred pages and it moves smartly along.

Third, Emma does the best job in this long running series of making the central setting (naturally called Bordertown) feel as if it were an actual place, a neat trick as too many such places feel not quite real. The short stories quite frankly fail at doing this as they focus more on making the characters be Really Cool.

Everything here really does feel as if you could walk down Mock Avenue, have a drink in the Dancing Ferret, and hear the Horn Dance perform as they came down the street on their magic fuelled wheeled motorcycles.

COME BACK NOW, THE HORN DANCE HAS LEFT FOR NOW.

If you like this, I suggest the newest anthology, Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands, which Holly Black and Ellen Kushner edited a decade or so back, is well worth your time as are the older anthologies. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 27, 1907 L. Sprague de CampThe Tales from Gavagan’s Bar he wrote with Fletcher Pratt are my favorite works by him. Best novel by him? I’d say that’s Lest Darkness Fall. His only Hugo was awarded at LoneStarCon 2 for Time & Chance: An Autobiography. He got voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award, and he got World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. His very first Award was an IFA for Lands Beyond that he wrote with Willy Ley. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 27, 1935 Verity Lambert. Founding Producer of Doctor Who. (When she was appointed to Who in 1963, she was BBC Television’s only female drama producer, as well as the youngest.) After leaving BBC, she’d oversee the Quatermass series at Thames. She’d return to BBC to Executive Produce three seasons of So Haunt Me, a supernatural series.  Wiki has her script editing and appearing in a fan-made episode of Doctor Who called “A Happy Ending” in 2006, which is notable for the presence of Susan, played by Carole Ann Ford, the granddaughter of the First Doctor. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 27, 1940 Bruce Lee. His only genre role was as Kato in The Green Hornet which to my utter surprise only lasted for twenty-six episodes between 1966 and 1967. He also appeared on Batman in three episodes, “The Spell of Tut”, “Batman’s Satisfaction”, and “A Piece of The Action”. Despite the various weird rumors, including Triad induced curses about his death, it was quite mundane. Donald Teare, an experienced forensic scientist who had been recommended by Scotland Yard was assigned to the Lee case. His conclusion was “death by misadventure” caused by cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in the combination Equagesic medication. (Died 1973.)
  • Born November 27, 1951 Melinda M. Snodgrass, 71. She wrote several episodes of Next Generation while serving as the story editor during its second and third seasons. She also wrote scripts for SlidersStrange LuckBeyond RealityOdyssey 5, Outer Limits and SeaQuest DSV. She’s a co-editor of and frequent story contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series.
  • Born November 27, 1957 Michael A. Stackpole, 65. Best known for his myriad Star Wars and BattleTech books, but I’m going to single him out for the excellent Once a Hero which was nominated for a Nebula, his Conan the Barbarian novel, and the two Crown Colonies novels.
  • Born November 27, 1961 Samantha Bond, 61. Best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in four James Bond films during the series’ Pierce Brosnan years. She was also Mrs Wormwood in three episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, the spin-off of Doctor Who, and played Helga in Erik the Viking which written and directed by Terry Jones. 
  • Born November 27, 1974 Jennifer O’Dell, 48. Her only meaningful role to date, genre or otherwise, has been that of Veronica on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. She’s had some minor roles such on Charmed and Bones, and appearances on films such as Alien Battlefield but nothing major.

(11) BOOP BOOP A DOOP. ScreenRant knows this question has been on your mind: “How Does Luke Skywalker Understand What R2-D2 Says In Star Wars?”

In the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 have several interactions together, but it’s not entirely clear how the Jedi learned to understand what the astromech droid is saying. Droids have always been a key component of the Star Wars franchise, with some of them being so intelligent they can speak multiple languages, such as R2’s companion, protocol droid C-3PO. Artoo, however, has only ever spoken in the default droid language known as “Binary,” which contains a mixture of whistles, chirps, and beeps, both loud and quiet…. 

(12) KSR DROPPING. A little credit gets directed at Kim Stanley Robinson in the New York Times’ article “Douglas Brinkley Would Like to Invite Thoreau to Dinner”.

The historian, whose new book is “Silent Spring Revolution,” would also invite E.O. Wilson and Rachel Carson: “We could talk about the 11,000 bird species the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is helping to conserve in the face of climate change.”

What’s the last great book you read?

During the pandemic I was transfixed by George R. Stewart’s “Earth Abides,” perhaps the most frightening doomsday thriller of all time. Most of American civilization collapses because of a strange disease, but a Berkeley ecologist is one of the rare survivors of the epidemic. Stewart wrote the book about 75 years ago, but his description of empty cities and the power of nature unleashed seem very contemporary in a world of Covid and climate change. It holds up well, and Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a fine introduction for the 2020 edition.

(13) BANG BANG. “San Francisco police consider letting robots use ‘deadly force’” reports The Verge.

…As reported by Mission Local, members of the city’s Board of Supervisors Rules Committee have been reviewing the new equipment policy for several weeks. The original version of the draft didn’t include any language surrounding robots’ use of deadly force until Aaron Peskin, the Dean of the city’s Board of Supervisors, initially added that “robots shall not be used as a Use of Force against any person.”

However, the SFPD returned the draft with a red line crossing out Peskin’s addition, replacing it with the line that gives robots the authority to kill suspects. According to Mission Local, Peskin eventually decided to accept the change because “there could be scenarios where deployment of lethal force was the only option.” San Francisco’s rules committee unanimously approved a version of the draft last week, which will face the Board of Supervisors on November 29th….

(14) INSTANT MUSIC VIDEO. Boing Boing told readers that “Gifaanisqatsi generates Koyaanisqatsi-style montages with random GIFs and sets them to Philip Glass’s looming score” – and what they’d like to see next.

Gifaanisqatsi is outstanding. Click it and off it goes, grabbing random GIFs and setting them, with a little treatment (such as time-lapse and slow-mo) to Philip Glass’s score to Koyaanisqatsi. The result is comically nihilistic, confirming both the trivial universality of the movie’s sentiments and that the sense of the awe commanded by the filmic tone poem format is now available at zero marginal cost.

Suggestion: a “Qataaniskoysi” option that restricts the GIFs in use to cats.

(15) FEEL FREE TO LOOK OUT THE WINDOW. “See the Far Side of the Moon: Incredibly Detailed Pictures From Artemis I Orion Close Lunar Flyby” at SciTech Daily.

…On the sixth day of the Artemis I mission, Orion made a close flyby of the Moonpassing about 81 miles (130 km) above the surface. During the close flyby, Orion’s optical navigation camera captured black-and-white images of craters on the Moon below. Orion uses the optical navigation camera to capture imagery of the Earth and the Moon at different phases and distances, providing an enhanced body of data to certify its effectiveness under different lighting conditions as a way to help orient the spacecraft on future missions with crew….

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/22 Files, Scrolls, Pixels From The Sea

(1) SECOND ANNUAL SPSFC CONTEST TAKING SUBMISSIONS. Here’s the link for authors to submit their books to the next Self-Published Science Fiction Competition.

(2) KEEPING UP. Lincoln Michel on sf epics at Esquire: “Genre-Bending Books: Everything Everywhere All in One Novel”.

It’s a cliché to say that we live in science fictional times. But recently it’s felt like we’re living in every science fictional time simultaneously. The world’s richest man decides to purchase a global communications platform on a whim, then decides to back out on a whim. Climate change heat waves lead governments to patrol borders with robot dogs. Meanwhile, a global pandemic rages on, new dystopian technologies are unveiled every day, and the wealthy work on their plans to escape into space. When a scroll through the news reveals a dozen dystopian scenarios—and the daily tasks of work, life, and family trudge on—what’s a novelist who hopes to capture our reality to do?

Maybe novels must do everything too.

In the last couple of years, there’s been a wave of ambitious genre-bending novels whose wide scopes and wild imaginings reflect the surreal state of our times. I’ve come to think of the form as “the speculative epic.” “Speculative” is used here as an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, and other fictional modes that imagine worlds different from ours. Examples of these speculative epics from the last two years include Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility, Matt Bell’s Appleseed, Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark, Monica Byrne’s The Actual Star, Vauhini Vara’s The Immortal King Rao, Hanya Yanagihara’s To Paradise, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future. These novels vary in style and range from breakout debuts to works from established masters, but they all share an epic scope and the use of speculative premises to tackle the biggest concerns of our day….

(3) TAFF SELLING TWO CHICON 8 MEMBERSHIPS. [Item by Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey.) The Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund has received a generous donation of two Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon) attending memberships, Hugo voting and site selection rights intact, from two members who sadly cannot attend.

If you are interested in buying one or both of these, please contact the TAFF administrators, Johan Anglemark ([email protected]) and Michael J. Lowrey ([email protected]) for further instructions. The price asked is $150 per membership.

(4) FAST TIMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the gaming subculture of “speedrunning” or going through a game as quickly as possible.  The speed record for The Elden Ring is 21 minutes.

Speedrunners often specialise in classic game series–Doom, Mario, Zelda–and certain new titles, such as platformer Celeste, have become popular and there is even a community dedicated to lengthy Japanese role-playing games. The ingenuity of these players is remarkable–community members have specific roles such as ‘routers,’ who pore over a game to work out the optimal sequence of actions to get the fastest time, or ‘glitch-hunters,’ who look for flaws in the game’s code which can be exploited to gain seconds.

In new release Lego Star Wars:  The Skywalker Saga, a speedrunner realised that child characters cannot be killed, so if you hit one upwards and continually slash them with your lightsabre, you can fly infinitely through the air, bypassing all manner of obstacles. This technique has been dubbed ‘child flight.’

(5) TUNE INTO HORROR. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] English Rose is a new, five-part, fantastical horror on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds.

It is a #MeToo take on a traditional fantasy horror genre of which I don’t want to say more lest it counts as a spoiler. Risking this last, our protagonist – 18 year-old Rose – leaves Whitby to go to New York to be a nanny for a very wealthy couple. Episode 1: The Call of the Wild sees us realize that Rose is leaving behind a family and suggests that she did something that has caused her family to fear being hunted.  There is also more than a suggestion that she is on a mission and has a target… Enough said. The radio play is by the novelist and playwright Helen Cross.

The special effects for this radio drama rely on the best technology: the human brain.

(6) FANS GATHER IN LONDON. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] The Northumberland Heath SF group had its 2nd Thursday of the month meeting this week in southeast London.

Somewhat slightly depleted due to a few members away on holiday but in the mix is the daughter of a former Worldcon fan GoH Vince Clarke (see picture).

The group resumed its monthly meets in the spring following a winter CoVID lockdown.

All fans in London’s Bexley borough or on the 89 and 229 bus routes are most welcome. Details here and Facebook page here.

Apologies – the pic is a smartphone mosaic. (Not mine – don’t use smart phones – sustainability, rare earth metals etc)

(7) HERBERT W. FRANKE (1927-2022). Austrian scientist, artist, and SF writer Herbert W. Franke died July 16 at the age of 95. A major science fiction writer in the German language, he was a guest of honor at the 1970 Worldcon. He also was a computer graphics pioneer. His wife Susanne announced his death on Twitter, which he had just joined in March.

His fiction won the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis for Best Novel in 1985 and 1991, and the Kurd Lasswitz prize for sff in 1985, 1986, and 2007. The European Science Fiction Society named him “European Grand Master of Science Fiction” in 2016.

(8) MEMORY LANE.  

1987 [By Cat Eldridge.] “True enough,” Willy said with a rueful quirk of an eyebrow. “All right. There are certain days associated with magic. Halloween, May Eve, the solstices and equinoxes, a few others. Some are more favorable to one Court than the other. The next big event is Midsummer’s Eve, which is a good one for the Seelie Court. The Eve itself is a truce period. But the Sidhe would like to hold off and fight soon after that, when we’re still strong.” — Willy to Eddi

Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published in paperback by Ace Books thirty-five years ago this month. And then that publisher promptly tied up the rights so that it would be fourteen years before Tor Books could release another edition. Yeah Emma wasn’t happy.

SPOILERS ABOUND! 

I’ve read it at least a half dozen times, usually in the summer. I’m reasonably sure it was one of a handful of books that I took overseas with me. 

I love Eddi McCandry, a musician who dumps her quite nasty boyfriend and in the process of doing that finds herself chosen to be the agent of Good in the fight between the two sides of the Fey. 

Everything here is spot-on including the shapeshifter who’s chosen to protect Eddi and falls in love with her. For her first novel, Emma does am exceedingly great job of writing the characters here so that each is a true individual. Seelie, unseelie and just plain human characters all seem real. 

The story here is that a concert at Midsummer’s Eve will determine if the Seelie or Unseelie Court will hold sway for the next six months. The same premise was used in Gael Baudino’s rather stellar Gossamer Axe

Now it won’t surprise you, and yes this is why I said there would be spoilers, that Eddi McCandry and her band of human and seelie musicians will triumph and Good will sway for now.

END OF SPOILERS!

Fourteen years after Ace tied the rights to the novels up in, well, I can’t use the language I’d like to use, Tor published it in a nifty trade paper. Now they almost published it in a hardcover edition as well though that hardcover did come out as an Orb / SFBC edition. 

I have two signed editions here, one hardcover and one softcover. One was signed just after she broke both her forearms at a RenFaire (water and catching yourself don’t mix) and is quite shaky, the other from much later on is quite better.

They made a trailer of this novel. Yes they did. Will Shetterly decided not to run for Governor and spent the money here instead. Or so he tells me. Emma plays the Seelie Queen. And the music is by Boiled in Lead.  See how many members of Minnesota fandom that you spot. 

You can watch it  here courtesy of Green Man who has exclusive online rights.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1876 David Lindsay. Best remembered for A Voyage to Arcturus which C.S. Lewis has acknowledged was a great influence on Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. His other genre works were fantasies including The Haunted Woman and The Witch. A Voyage to Arcturus is available from the usual suspects for free. And weirdly it’s available in seven audio narratives. Huh.  Seven? (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in “The Deadly Years” episode. Other genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man,  The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The MunstersHouse of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based off his Immortality, Inc. novel. I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. He had two Hugo nominations, at NYCon II (1956) for his “Spy Story” short story, and at Detention (1959) for his Time Killer novel. His Seventh Victim novel was nominated for a Hugo at the 1954 Retro Hugos at Noreascon 4. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri Tepper. I think I’m going to single out her Marianne Trilogy (MarianneThe Magus and The ManticoreMarianne, the Madam and the Momentary GodsMarianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse) as her best work. Both the setting and the characters are unique, the story fascinating. She got the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1943 Steve Stiles. Fan artist who was nominated way too many times for Best Fan Artist to list here. He did win once at MidAmeriCon II (2016). I can’t begin to list everything he’s done, so I’m sending you to Mike’s eulogy here. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 71. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. NESFA presented her with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction (“Skylark”) in 1994, a lifetime achievement award. She’s very well stocked at the usual suspects. L.A. Con III (1996) saw her nominated for a short story Hugo for “A Birthday” and she was Toastmaster at Millennium Philcon (2001). 
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 59. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting seven years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 56. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). His latest film is the supernatural horror The Black Phone based on the short story by Joe Hill.

(10) ORIGINS OF LIBRARY OF AMERICA. “Edmund Wilson’s Big Idea: A Series of Books Devoted to Classic American Writing. It Almost Didn’t Happen”. A 2015 post by National Endowment for the Humanities.

The nonprofit publisher Library of America has released almost two hundred seventy volumes of classic American writing. Its black dust jackets with an image of the author and a simple red, white, and blue stripe running below the author’s name, rendered in a fountain-pen-like hand, help give the clothbound volumes a timeless feel, as if copies might have been found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dorm room or Henry James’s steamer trunk. But the series is nowhere near that old. It began publication in 1982.It did, however, take a long time to become a reality.

Jason Epstein remembers the day he joined Edmund Wilson at the bar of the Princeton Club, in New York City, where, in the presence of numerous martinis, Wilson said exactly what he wanted the publishing industry to do: bring out a series of books that would be small enough to fit in the pocket of his raincoat and be filled with classic American writing.

(11) KNIGHTWHO? [Item by Francis Hamit.] Knightscope. Yeah, they look like Daleks.  Sheer coincidence.  Bill Li had never heard of Daleks when he started the company. A Knightscope robot is a supplement not a replacement for a human guard but does have some pretty neat features that humans can’t replicate such a license plate reading, 360-degree vision and other sensors.

Augment your existing security program at a fraction of the average rate for one 24-hour security post. Our Autonomous Security Robots (ASRs) are Made in the USA – Designed and Built in Silicon Valley by Knightscope – and offer security patrols as well as a physical presence that deliver real-time, actionable intelligence anytime and anywhere, giving you and your security team the ability to detect and react faster.

(12) WATCH ‘EM ALL. “Pokémon Fossil Museum Virtual Tour Lets You See the Japanese Exhibit For Yourself”IGN tells how to access it.

The Pokémon Company and Toyohashi Museum of Natural History have made it possible to see the Pokémon Fossil Museum without being anywhere near Japan. Pokémon fans can now take a virtual tour around the exhibit — which is open until November — to see the collection of real and Pokémon fossils, from a tyrannosaurus to a Tyrantrum.

Designed to teach children about fossils and dinosaurs, the exhibit includes models of Pokémon side-by-side with fossilised versions and information panels to educate amid the fun.

… Ancient Pokémon obtained through fossils have always existed in the games and anime, and just like the normal pocket monsters (Pikachu being the mouse Pokémon), they’re based on species in the real world.

(13) LIGHTS! CAMERA! TENTACLES! Apparently this genre-inspired ad campaign for a brand of rum ran several years ago. But it’s news to me! “Kraken Rum Bus” from Oink Creative.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/30/20 Can I Scroll There By Pixel-Light? Yes, And Back Again

(1) TAKING NOTES. I’d love to see more panel reports of this kind.

(2) FAN FUNDS AUCTION. Alison Scott announced that today’s CoNZealand Fan Funds auction raised 2190$NZD for GUFF, TAFF, DUFF and FFANZ.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY FICTION! This happened to a CoNZealand panel participant yesterday.

Schluessel also reports getting dinged for having a Black Lives Matter background. Which is pretty bizarre, because there’s a Black Lives Matter banner in CoNZealand’s virtual Exhibit Hall, as seen in the screencap below. However,  Schluessel says “CoNZealand has extended me a full apology, which I have accepted.”

(4) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT. CoNZealand’s virtual exhibit hall includes many things, such as the Rotsler Award exhibit (membership required to access) with artwork from each year’s award winner. Click the link, select “Boldy Go,” select Exhibits, and once there, click on Displays. The Rotsler link is last on the bottom right.

(5) PLEASE UNSIGN THEM. When she saw her sff group’s name listed as a signer of the Open Letter to WSFS about the Saudi Arabia Worldcon bid, Fran Dowd, “Sofa” of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy society posted a denial on the group’s Facebook page.

I’d like to put it on record that I have no idea how this group appeared as a signatory to the Jeddah letter. Whatever our personal feelings might be, I would not expect anyone to sign such a statement on our behalf without consultation at the least. 

I have spent this morning, when I would actually rather be at the current Worldcon, trying to spread the word. Apologies have been given to the NZ Chairs and to Kevin Standlee. Given the spread of social media, getting a retraction would be meaningless. 

I apologise to any members of the group who have been dragged into this. If it is of any help, please point people to this statement. 

Signed by me in my capacity as Chair When We Need One.

(6) RETRO SPLASHDOWN. Cora Buhlert takes stock of yesterday’s awards. Did they stick the landing? “Some Thoughts on the 1945 Retro Hugo Winners”.

Best Novelette

The 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Novelette goes to “City” by Clifford D. Simak. This isn’t a huge surprise, because the City cycle is well regarded, still in print and Clifford D. Simak was one of the best writers of the Golden Age. “City” is a pretty good story, too, though not the best City story of 1944 or even the best City novelette, because “Census”, which didn’t make the ballot, is better.

That said, this was not the category I wanted to see Simak win. In fact, I was hoping that C.L. Moore, either with or without Henry Kuttner, would win Best Novelette, because both “No Woman Born” (which finished second) and “The Children’s Hour” (which finished unfairly in sixth place) are great stories.

Though I’m glad that “Arena” by Fredric Brown was its “Genocide is good” message didn’t win, because I feared that it might.

(7) MORE OR LESS RETRO-HUGOS? Charles Stross thinks pausing the Retro-Hugos for about a quarter century might address some of the competing values now in conflict. Thread starts here.

Alasdair Stuart laments the Campbell and Lovecraft Retro wins. Thread starts here.

(8) PERSERVERANCE IS ON ITS WAY. “Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance robot launches to detect life on Red Plane” – BBC story includes video.

The US space agency’s Perseverance robot has left Earth on a mission to try to detect life on Mars.

The one-tonne, six-wheeled rover was launched out of Florida by an Atlas rocket on a path to intercept the Red Planet in February next year.

When it lands, the Nasa robot will also gather rock and soil samples to be sent home later this decade.

Perseverance is the third mission despatched to Mars inside 11 days, after launches by the UAE and China.

Lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 07:50 local time (12:50 BST; 11:50 GMT).

Nasa made this mission one of its absolute priorities when the coronavirus crisis struck, establishing special work practices to ensure Perseverance met its launch deadline.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s a challenge, it’s very stressful, but look – the teams made it happen and I’ll tell you, we could not be more proud of what this integrated team was able to pull off here, so it’s very, very exciting,” Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters.

(9) SPEAK UP, MARS. NPR tells how “Microphone Aboard NASA’s Rover Aims To Pick Up Sounds From Mars”.

…BRENDAN BYRNE, BYLINE: When the Perseverance rover lands on Mars in February, it will unpack a suite of scientific experiments to help uncover ancient signs of life on the red planet – high-tech cameras, spectrometers, sensors and…

ROGER WIENS: This is the voice of Roger Wiens speaking to you through the Mars microphone on SuperCam.

BYRNE: Roger Wiens is the principal investigator of the rover SuperCam, a slew of instruments, including a camera, laser and spectrometer, that will examine the rocks and soil of Mars for organic compounds, a hint that there might be further evidence of past life. Tucked away inside the SuperCam is the Mars microphone.

WIENS: And so it is there to listen to anything interesting, first of all, on Mars. And so we should hear wind sounds. We should hear sounds of the rover. We might hear things that we never expected to hear. And so that’s going to be interesting to find out.

BYRNE: The mic will also listen as Perseverance’s onboard laser blasts nearby rocks.

ADDIE DOVE: You might think we’re going to hear, like, pew pew, but we probably won’t.

BYRNE: University of Central Florida planetary scientist Addie Dove says the sounds of Martian rock blasts will help scientists determine if they might contain organic material, evidence of life on Mars. But it will actually sound more like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCK BLASTS)

(10) JOSE SARAMAGO NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming discusses a new adaptation of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s sf novel Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse in London (donmarwarehouse.com).  Donmar’s director, Michael Longhurst says the production will be a hybrid of theatre and “sound installation” that will let the theatre hold four shows a day.  I can’t tell from the review how much actual theatre there is in the production.  The only Donmar production I’ve seen was an all-female Julius Caesar on PBS that had an impressive performance by Dame Harriet Walter as Brutus.

Lockdown has emphasised the importance of sound for many of us from that early experience of hearing birdsong in unusually quiet city centres, to a keener awareness, prompted by physical separation, of the way we listen.  And several online drama offerings, such as Simon McBurney’s The Encounter and Sound&Fury’s wartime meditation Charlie Ward At Home, have used sophisticated recording to steep their homebound audiences in other worlds and prompt reflection. 

Blindness, in a sense, builds on that (there will be a digital download for those unable to get to the theatre).  So why attend in person?  Longhurst suggests the very act of being in a space will change the quality of listening–and reflect the way we have all had individual journeys through the collective experience of lockdown.  And while this is a one-off piece about a society in an epidemic, created for an industry in a pandemic, that physical presence marks a move towards full performance.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1987 — Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of Minneapolis fandom. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 30, 1800 – Aleksandr Veltman.  Order of St. Vladimir (bravery) while in the Russian army, eventually Director of the Museum of Armaments.  Poetry praised by Pushkin, second wife’s novel praised by Gorky.  The Wanderer in an imaginary journey parodies travel notes.  Koshchei the Deathless parodies historical adventures.  The Year 3448 is supposedly by Martin Zadek (who also finds his way into Pushkin and Zamyatin).  The Forebears of Kalimeros has time-travel (by riding a hippogriff; “Kalimeros”, a nudge at Napoleon, is the Greek equivalent of Buonaparte) to meet Alexander and Aristotle.  Tolstoy and Dostoevskyapplauded AV too.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1873 – Curtis Senf.  Four dozen covers and hundreds of interiors for Weird Tales, after which what the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists modestly calls “a more lucrative career as a commercial artist in the Chicago advertising industry”.  Here is the Oct 27 WT; here is the Jan 30; here is the Mar 32.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1911 Reginald Bretnor. Author of many genre short stories involving Ferdinand Feghoot, a comical figure indeed. It looks like all of these are available in digital form on iBooks and Kindle. He was a consummate SJW. He translated Les Chats, the first known book about cats which was written by Augustin Paradis de Moncrif in 1727. He also wrote myriad articles about cats, was of course a companion to cats, and considered himself to have a psychic connection to cats. Of course most of us do. (Did 1992.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode  of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1947 – John Stith, 73.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian.  Wrote about John Kennedy (i.e. our JK; indeed John R.; 1945-2009) in 1992 (for the limited ed’n of “Nova in a Bottle” bound with “Encore”), interviewed by him in 1993 (SF Chronicle 164).  Did his own cover for a reprinting of Death Tolls.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 72. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen… (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1961 Laurence Fishburne, 59. In The Matrix films. His voice work as Thrax in Osmosis Jones on the other hand is outstanding as is his role as Bill Foster in Ant-Man. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 54. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. I didn’t know he was an author ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1967 – Ann Brashares, 53. Famous for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (that’s the U.S. meaning of “pants”, in this case a magical pair of blue jeans), a NY Times Best-Seller, and its sequels, films, companions.  Two more novels for us, one other.  Indies Choice Book Award, Quill Award.  Philosophy major (yay!) at Barnard, 1989.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1971 – Kristie Cook, 49.  Nine novels, a dozen shorter stories (some with co-authors; publishes Havenwood Falls shared-world stories, some wholly by others).  Loves cheese, chocolate, coffee, husband, sons, motorcycle.  “No, I’m not crazy.  I’m just a writer.”  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1974 – Jacek Dukaj, 46.  Ten novels, half a dozen shorter stories, translated into Bulgarian, Czech, English (he’s a Pole), German, Hungarian, Italian, Macedonian, Russian, Slovak.  Six Zajdel Awards.  EU Prize for Literature.  Another writer with a Philosophy degree, from Jagiellonian University even.  His Culture.pl page (in English) is here.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 45. Her southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how they are. Anyone read these? (CE)

(13) NOW WITH MORE MASK. Ray’s playing it safe, I see. Incidentally, the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum is accepting RSVP’s here for entry during RBEM’s Ray Bradbury Centennial Celebration on August 22, 2020.

(14) OOPS. Marc Zicree has issued a video “Apology to the Science Fiction Writers of America,” for using their membership list to publicize Space Command.

(15) A DISSATISFIED CUSTOMER. And not only that, we line up for the opportunity!

(16) BACURAU. The Criterior Channel’s August lineup includes Bacurau on August 20, an exclusive streaming premiere, featuring an interview with directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.

(17) SHELFISHNESS. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda finds it’s not that easy: “In turbulent times, culling my book collection gave me the illusion of control. Then the dilemmas began multiplying.”

… After all, who doesn’t periodically yearn to flee the nightmarish world we now live in? A persistent feeling of helplessness, frustration, anger and mild despair has emerged as the “New Normal” — which is one reason my recent reviews and essays tend to emphasize escapism, often into books from the past. A similar impulse lies behind the pruning of my basement hoard. Going through my many boxes, I am no longer the plaything of forces beyond my control. I have, to use a vogue term, agency. I alone decide which books to keep, which to let go.

However, making these decisions has turned out to be harder than I expected.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I’m fond of a slightly overwritten travel book called “A Time of Gifts” by English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. It recounts in striking detail a walk across half of Europe undertaken by the young Leigh Fermor in 1933. Somehow, I possess four copies of this minor classic: a Penguin paperback that I read and marked up, an elegant Folio Society edition bought at the Friends of the Montgomery County Library bookstore, a later issue of the original John Murray hardback, and a first American edition in a very good dust jacket acquired for a bargain price at the Second Story Books warehouse. Given the space-saving principle of eliminating duplicates, I should keep just one copy. Which one?

(18) WIZARDS OF THE COST. NPR finds that “In The Pandemic Era, This ‘Gathering’ Has Lost Some Of Its Magic”.

You draw seven cards. You look at your hand. It would be perfect if you had that one card.

Too bad it costs $50. And your local game store is closed anyway.

Depending on where you lie on the nerd spectrum, you may or may not have heard of Magic: The Gathering. It’s a trading card game that’s been in production for almost three decades. Even if you haven’t heard of it or played it, you probably know someone who has. It’s one of the most popular trading card games of all time, and that isn’t an exaggeration; there are millions of Magic: The Gathering players worldwide.

…Before COVID-19 hit the Magic community, players packed into local game stores to sling spells and blow off steam. Now, as players move toward the online versions, there are additional financial hurdles to clear.

There’s a reason it’s called Magic: The Gathering. Most of the fun comes from squaring off against other players, catching the clandestine tells of your opponent as they draw powerful spells. Game stores across the country offer opportunities to play; they host tournaments, stock up on new cards and teach new wizards how to play.

But even if veteran players and shop owners welcome new Planeswalkers with open arms, how accessible is Magic: The Gathering?

Players can craft a variety of decks, and if they’re playing the more common formats of the game, a deck can cost anywhere from about $275 to $834 or more. Not only are full decks expensive, but so are individual cards. The card Thoughtseize, for instance, has a current value of around $25 per copy. If a deck contains four copies of a single card (the maximum), just that one card would bring the price of a deck up by $100. And there are much more expensive cards on the market.

…There is an online version of the game, but Magic Online isn’t cheap either. And while it isn’t as expensive as its cardboard counterpart, a player still has to buy new digital versions of physical cards they already own. On top of that, a Magic Online account costs $10 just to set up. And while a Magic veteran might jump at the opportunity to play online, a new player may feel less inclined to pay the fee when there are other online deck-building games, like Hearthstone, that are free to try.

In 2018, Magic’s publisher Wizards of the Coast released a free, digital version of the game called Magic: The Gathering Arena. It’s a more kid-friendly online option for new Planeswalkers, but it still has the same Magic charm for older players. Arena does include in-game purchases, but players can obtain better cards by grinding out a lot of games instead of spending extra money. And while Arena can be a great way to introduce a new player to the online format, if they don’t want to empty their wallets, they’ll have to get used to losing for a while.

[Thanks to John Hertz, N., Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Jeffrey Smith, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Cats Laughing Again

Cats Laughing, a psychedelic folk rock band with authors Emma Bull, Steven Brust, and Adam Stemple, plus Lojo Russo and new addition Scott Keever, will play a reunion concert Friday, April 3 at Minicon.

Livestream audio and video from the concert, presented free on ConcertWindow, begins at 9:00 p.m. EDT. SisterTree, featuring Kerri Joy and Dee Brust, will open with a short set. Richard Tatge will provide a light show.

David Dyer-Bennet, part of the concert’s Beyond Conventions team, is spreading the word. “We don’t get paid for number of people connected, but it would still be cool if people wanted to have Cats Laughing parties at conventions or elsewhere, or even go so far as to present the stream in a program item.”

The reunion was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign that Neil Gaiman promoted in this amusing video —

The Cats Laughing Facebook page has plenty of photos of the band. And here is a clip of Emma Bull singing a bit of “Signal to Noise” at a recent rehearsal.

Bull Aces Surgery;
Lynch’s Tip Jar Explodes

Emma Bull told Livejournal readers today she emerged from her August 8 thyroidectomy in fine shape –

Out of the hospital and home on the couch, complete with cats. The surgery went well and my recovery likewise, except – A WHOLE DAY WITH (almost) NO COFFEE! I almost died. Okay, no, I didn’t, but the caffeine withdrawal headache was a drag. Will [Shetterly] banished it this morning with a triple latte brought to my hospital bed.

And within 48 hours after Scott Lynch declared he would help with Emma Bull’s and Steven Brust’s imminent medical expenses by giving them 2/3 of readers’ donations to his free online serial, Queen of the Iron Sands,  more than $3,000 had been stuffed in his tip jar.

Now that he’s able to help as he wanted to, Lynch also will be busy delivering the string of incentives offered if donations reached certain milestones — among them a promise to write the story one of his characters hypothetically submitted to Astounding during the Golden Age of SF:

$3000 In Chapter 2 of Queen of the Iron Sands, Violet mentions some of the short story titles in her own brief bibilography. One of them, as recorded in her letter from John W. Campbell, is “Cold Windings of the Murthalump.” Hit three grand and I’ll actually write this… in Violet’s authorial voice, as though it had been written by her around 1948-49, for publication in Astounding Science Fiction. The particularly fun thing about this is I currently have no idea what the hell the title refers to.

Lynch has set the bar pretty high. (For a stunt like this, why do otherwise?) The 1948-1949 period brackets the famous ”predicted” issue of November 1949 with Robert Heinlein’s “Gulf” and an installment of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, plus the first appearances of other classics like E. E. Smith’s Children of the Lens, a couple of H. Beam Piper’s “Paratime” stories, a “Null-A” story by A. E. Van Vogt, Judith Merrill’s “Only A Mother”, Wilmar H. Shiras’ “In Hiding”, Jack Williamson’s “Seetee Shock”, and Hal Clement’s “Needle.”

If Lynch pulls this off he deserves another wave of donations – and then, of course, he’ll be able to help even more.