Pixel Scroll 5/19/24 Come For The Chocolate, Stay For The Pixels

(1) SMALL WONDERS IS KICKSTARTING YEAR 2. Cislyn Smith and Stephen Granade have launched a Kickstarter to fund the year two of Small Wonders, a monthly online SFF magazine for flash fiction and poetry.

For the past year, Small Wonders has published original and reprint flash fiction and narrative poetry, all tinged with the wonder of other worlds both science fictional and fantastic. Now the magazine is raising funds to cover Year Two, with an initial goal of $11,000. Stretch goals include publishing a Best of Year One collection, an issue guest edited by Premee Mohamed and Chimedum Ohaegbu, and more. Backers can get discounted yearly subscriptions; a Kickstarter-only mini issue with new works by Nino Cipri, Myna Chang, Jennifer Mace, Avra Margariti, and more; and pins and stickers themed to stories and poems from Year One. The Kickstarter runs through June 3.

Each issue of Small Wonders contains three original pieces of flash fiction, three new poems, and three re-printed flash fiction stories. Issues are published as ebooks (mobi, epub, and pdf) at the first of the month, and subscribers can receive every story and poem in their inboxes as they’re published on the website.

The first year of Small Wonders succeeded beyond Cislyn and Stephen’s expectations. It published new authors and poets as well as familiar names such as John Wiswell, Ali Trotta, Premee Mohamed, and Mary Soon Lee. and included multiple Rhysling-nominated poems. They’re excited to see what year two will bring, and hope you’ll be a part of it through the Kickstarter.

(2) VOTE FOR BEST FRENCH SFF SHORT STORY OF 2022. SFSF Boréal invited readers during the month of March to nominate the best French-speaking sff short stories that were published in 2022 in Canada. The four finalists for the Prix Aurora-Boréal have been announced. Members of SFSF Boréal are invited to vote for the best story at this link. Votes must be cast by June 1. The finalists are:

  • Blouin, Geneviève, “La Vie secrète des carapaces” (Solaris 223)
  • Côté, Philippe-Aubert, “À l’Ère des Jumeaux errants” (Les Six Brumes)
  • Kurtness, J.D., “Bienvenue, Alyson” (Hannenorak)
  • Vonarburg, Élisabeth, “Into White”, (Les Six Brumes)

The Congrès Boréal will be held in Montréal, Québec from September 20-22.

(3) THE N-WORD. Wrath James White gives his conclusive answer to using the n-word in dialog: “Make It Make Sense” at Words of Wrath.

Wrath James White

I have been asked several times lately about non-Black authors using the n-word when writing character dialog. Because I am, frankly, weary of answering this question, I decided to answer it here, once and for all. 

So, here’s my answer. It is appropriate for a White author to put the n-word in a character’s mouth if it isn’t done gratuitously (ala Quinton Tarantino) where the word is just shoehorned in unnecessarily to sound cool or edgy. If the dialog feels natural and non stereotypical. If the characters themselves aren’t one dimensional caricatures and are the type of people who would use the word as part of their everyday vernacular. If it’s the appropriate word to use in the moment and another word wouldn’t work just as well, then by all means do it. Wherever another word would be just as effective, don’t do it. 

For example, if your story takes place in the 90s or early oughts, then “dog”, “playa”, “gangsta”, “playboy”, “sistah” and “bruh” would all work just as well in most situations where one Black person is talking to another. Using the n-word in place of these words is a choice and the author should definitely question their motives for making that choice. That is unless you are writing a racist character. 

Obviously, it would be absurd to have a racist character avoid using the n-word unless he’s a closeted racist. Still, even a racist doesn’t use the word in every sentence, and might even use other more creative pejoratives. And, most racists are not blatant in their racism….

…The bottom line, I can’t grant you a pass to use the n-word. Nothing I have said above will guarantee that you won’t get the taste slapped out of your mouth for including it in yourwriting. But, if you do find it necessary to use it, just like I said in a previous article about grossout and gore, make it make sense. Make it feel natural and not like a teenager or adolescent trying to shock their parents. If you don’t think you can pull that off, use another word.

(4) LEFT BEHIND? “Some fight change, while others adapt. It’s a Toy Story sort of deal,” says Ronald Kelly in “Woody, Buzz, & the Changing of the Guard” at Fear County Chronicle.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my place in an ever-growing, ever-changing horror genre. How it once was, how it is now, and if Ol’ Ron has the willpower and stamina to hang in there and keep up the pace with all the new and wildly talented authors who are flooding a market that was once relatively small and limited, both in ranks and growth. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Pixar movie Toy Story….

You see, I’m Woody. Most of us veteran horror authors are. Woody is old-fashioned, leery of change, and a little hesitant to hand over the reins to anyone else because he likes the position he’s held for so long (Andy’s favorite and the leader of the toys). Deep down inside, he believes that he deserves to retain that position, perhaps indefinitely. Could be that he was pretty special and popular in the past, along with some of his peers (Woody’s Roundup stars Jessie, Bullseye, and even Stinky Pete in Toy Story 2). Woody likes how it is in Andy’s Room because it’s familiar, comfortable, and safe. He feels like he’s the head honcho there… not necessarily giving the orders but holding some measure of respect and authority among those around him. Even the mouthy and cantankerous Mister Potato Head looks to him for stability and guidance….

…Truthfully, very few veteran writers feel contempt and suspicion toward the swell of new storytellers bursting on the scene, but unfortunately some do. They feel challenged by progress and diversity and aren’t receptive to those who want a piece of the action. They also don’t approve of how the rules have changed, and how the dynamic of the writing world is evolving at a rapid pace. The mere thought of the Changing of the Guard horrifies them. We’ve seen it happen in social media in the past few years; an old-dog author bristles at the sudden influx of new talent in the genre and cries foul, sometimes in very volatile and unflattering ways. Some have even gone as far as losing all respect in the genre they helped trailblaze and end up being cast from the ranks for their nearsightedness, prejudice, and insolence….

(5) IN THE BEGINNING. “A Closer Look At Great Animated Title Sequences” at CartoonBrew.

In honor of Saul Bass’s birthday this month, we’re taking a look at some of the greatest animated title sequences from live-action movies (the topic of great credits sequences in animated movies is a subject for another time)….

… As Walt Disney suggested above, opening credits in the early days of movies tended to be straightforwardly informational, often created quickly by in-house art departments superimposing text over static background paintings. Even so, there are a handful of movies from the 1930s and ’40s that contain brief bits of animation during the credits. One great example is the cartoon opening of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). This scene is frequently attributed to Walter Lantz, but was actually directed by Dave Fleischer….

… Maybe the all-time classic title sequence comes from The Pink Panther (1963), by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which not only introduced a cartoon star but also introduced one of the best movie themes ever composed (by Henry Mancini). Looney Tunes director Friz Freleng supervised the sequence, while Freleng’s longtime layout artist Hawley Pratt designed the panther and Ken Harris primarily animated him. Producer David DePatie remembered the movie’s premiere: “The memories of that night will remain with me forever. The projector started to roll and as the Panther first appeared there was a ripple of laughter from the audience which quickly became whistles and roars of approval as the Panther toyed with the various titles. At the conclusion of the main title, the crowd went bananas.”…

(6) REESE WITHERSPOON, LITERARY TASTEMAKER. “When her career hit a wall, the Oscar-winning actor built a ladder made of books — for herself, and for others.” Link bypasses Paywall, courtesy Brad Verter: “Inside Reese Witherspoon’s Literary Empire”

…First and foremost, she wants books by women, with women at the center of the action who save themselves. “Because that’s what women do,” she said. “No one’s coming to save us.”

Witherspoon, 48, has now been a presence in the book world for a decade. Her productions of novels like “Big Little Lies,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and “The Last Thing He Told Me” are foundations of the binge-watching canon. Her book club picks reliably land on the best-seller list for weeks, months or, in the case of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” years. In 2023, print sales for the club’s selections outpaced those of Oprah’s Book Club and Read With Jenna, according to Circana Bookscan, adding up to 2.3 million copies sold.

So how did an actor who dropped out of college (fine, Stanford) become one of the most influential people in an industry known for being intractable and slightly tweedy?

It started with Witherspoon’s frustration over the film industry’s skimpy representation of women onscreen — especially seasoned, strong, smart, brave, mysterious, complicated and, yes, dangerous women…

(7) PUBLIC FROCKING. Attention 18th-century re-enactors! “You Can’t Live in the Past, Even in a Period-Accurate Frock” contends the New York Times, although they know where you can get one.

In 2012, not long after he decided to dedicate his professional life to 18th-century wares, Casey Samson spent a weekend at a colonial-era fair in Bardstown, Ky., selling leather mugs out of a tent.

On his first night there, Mr. Samson sat alone by a crackling campfire, smelled the wood smoke and felt as if he had been transported to a different time. He knew then, he said, that he had made the right choice.

Today, Mr. Samson and his wife, Abbie, own and operate Samson Historical, a three-story business that doubles as a pseudo-museum on the downtown square in Lebanon, Ind., about 30 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

On a recent morning, Mr. Samson, 32, walked into a small warehouse tucked behind the retail space and waxed poetic about the shop’s “great wall of waistcoats.” But there was more: “These are original sugar dippers.” And: “One of Abbie’s passions is clay pipes.” And: “All right, so: gun flints.”

There were breeches and bonnets, frocks and cloaks, candles and lanterns, hip kidneys (for extra support) and bum rolls (for that perfect silhouette). And while Samson Historical has 10 full-time employees and manufactures its own merchandise, it also works with about 40 artisans from trades that are teetering on the edge of extinction: blacksmiths, woodworkers, glass blowers, horners. A fifth-generation pipe maker from Germany handcrafts the store’s pipes.

“A lot of what we do,” Mr. Samson said, “is trying to help keep these things alive.”…

(8) MAYBE YOU WONDERED. “How the ‘B Movie’ Got Its Name” at MSN.com.

When the legendary filmmaker Roger Corman died on May 9 at the age of 98, obituaries dubbed him “the King of the B Movies”—or, even more snappily, “King of the B’s.” He earned that sobriquet by churning out hundreds of low-budget productions, often sensationalistic “exploitation films” or genre fare like horror or science fiction….

In the silent era, motion picture studios began using a tiered approach to categorize productions. When Adolph Zukor founded his Famous Players film company in 1912, he used a three-way classification. As Gerald Mast recounted in his 1971 book “A Short History Of The Movies,” Zukor initially divided his pictures into “Class A (with stage stars and stage properties, the artsy films); Class B (with established screen players); and Class C (cheap, quick features).” Mary Pickford started as a “B” actress in 1914, but her movies quickly proved more popular than Zukor’s “Class A” productions.

A two-tiered system with “Class A” and “Class B” films became the industry standard, catching on during the Great Depression when the “double feature” offered two-for-one pricing to attract customers. The main feature would have the prestigious stars and high production values, while the “B” feature would be an inexpensive, quickly produced genre film like a Western. Studios set up “B units” to produce second features, and the slapdash “B movies” were aptly nicknamed “quickies” or “cheapies.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 19, 1946 André the Giant.  (Died 1993.) This Birthday for André René Roussimoffwho performed as André the Giant came about because (a) I really, really like The Princess Bride film and have seen it way too many times, and (b) I thought that he was charming in it as Fezzik. That said, I knew nothing about him and all his other performances, or his life story, at all.

He was a French professional wrestler of impressive height, seven feet and four inches to be precise. He would wrestle his entire life right up until he died at age forty-six of congestive heart failure after an apparent heart attack in his sleep in the Paris hotel he was staying at in order to attend his father’s funeral. It was likely associated with his untreated acromegaly which had been diagnosed some twenty-five years earlier.

His first genre role was being Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man on “The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 1” and “The Secret of Bigfoot Part 2”. Naturally I’m giving you a photo of him in that role. 

Next up is being the Monster in “Heaven Is in Your Genes” on Greatest American Hero. Monster, just Monster? So, what did he look like there? Ahhh…. They apparently didn’t a budget for creating a monster which explains the generic name. I’m giving you a photo anyway so you can see what he looked like sans makeup. 

Andre the Giant on Greatest American Hero

He got to be in a film with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Destroyer. He played Dagoth the Dreaming God, the main antagonist of Conan. For some reason, he was uncredited. Considering what he looks like in the film, it was easy for him to go uncredited. 

Andre the Giant as Dagoth

And that brings us to his best and last genre role, that of Fezzik, the giant in The Princess Bride. He’s played as Goldman describes him in his novel, “Fezzik. The timid, large-hearted and obedient giant who accompanies Vizzini. Fezzik loves rhymes and his friend Inigo, and he is excellent at lifting heavy things.”  

Not a long career, but an interesting one I’d say. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld shared his latest:

(11) SAURON TURNS HIS EYE TO YOUR WALLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Palantír viewing room included. Hopefully without a working Palantír just in case Melkor find a way to open the Door of Night. I mean, if you thought Sauron was bad news, you sure don’t want to deal with the OG baddy. “$460, 5,471-piece Lego Barad-dûr set comes for LOTR fans’ wallets in June” at Ars Technica. (See the set in detail at the LEGO® Icons website.)

…Sauron, Base Master of Treachery, will keep his Eye on you from atop the tower, which will actually glow thanks to a built-in light brick. The tower includes a minifig of Sauron himself, plus the Mouth of Sauron, Gollum, and a handful of Orcs.

The Lego Barad-dûr set will launch on June 1 for Lego Insiders and June 4 for everybody else. If you buy it between June 1 and June 7, you’ll also get the “Fell Beast” bonus set, with pose-able wings and a Nazgûl minifig. It doesn’t seem as though this bonus set will be sold separately, making it much harder to buy the nine Nazgûl you would need to make your collection story-accurate….

(12) SPACE AT LAST. “90-year-old Ed Dwight, 5 others blast into space aboard Blue Origin rocket”NPR has the story. (This was Blue Origin’s 25th mission to space. The New Shepard Mission NS-25 Webcast replay is on YouTube.)

Ed Dwight, the man who six decades ago nearly became America’s first Black astronaut, made his first trip into space at age 90 on Sunday along with five crewmates aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

The flawless liftoff from a West Texas launch site marked the first passenger flight in nearly two years for the commercial space venture run by billionaire Jeff Bezos. The approximately 10-minute suborbital flight put Dwight in the history books as the oldest person ever to reach space. He beat out Star Trek actor William Shatner for that honor by just a few months. Shatner was a few months younger when he went up on a New Shepard rocket in 2021.

(13) INDIA’S NEXT MARS MISSION. Space.com says “India’s ambitious 2nd Mars mission to include a rover, helicopter, sky crane and a supersonic parachute”.

India is preparing to launch a family of seemingly sci-fi robots to Mars, perhaps as soon as late 2024.

The Mars Orbiter Mission-2 (MOM-2), or Mangalyaan-2 (Hindi for “Mars Craft”), is set to include a rover and a helicopter, like a robotic NASA duo already on Mars — the Perseverance rover and now-grounded Ingenuity. A supersonic parachute and a sky crane that will lower the rover onto the Martian surface will also be part of Mangalyaan-2, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials said last week during a presentation at the Space Applications Centre in Gujarat, India Today reported….

Media reports from late last year suggest that Mangalyaan-2 will have at least four science instruments designed to study the early history of Mars, analyze its leaking atmosphere, and look for a hypothesized dust ring around the planet generated by its two moons, Phobos and Deimos….

(14) SPEEDING UP TRAVEL TO MARS. “NASA-funded pulsed plasma rocket concept aims to send astronauts to Mars in 2 months” reports Space.com.

An innovative rocket system could revolutionize future deep space missions to Mars, reducing travel time to the Red Planet to just a few months. 

The goal of landing humans on Mars has presented a myriad of challenges, including the need to quickly transport large payloads to and from the distant planet, which, depending on the positions of Earth and Mars, would take almost two years for a round trip using current propulsion technology.The Pulsed Plasma Rocket (PPR), under development by Howe Industries, is a propulsion system designed to be far more efficient than current methods of deep space propulsion, enabling the trip between Earth and the Red Planet to be made in just two months. Specifically, the rocket will have a high specific impulse or Isp, a measure of how efficiently an engine generates thrust. This technology could therefore enable astronauts and cargo to travel to and from Mars more efficiently and rapidly than existing spacecraft, according to a statement from NASA…

(15) THE FINEST SUPERNATURAL TALE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at the Media Death Cult YouTube Channel invites us to consider Algernon Blackwood’s 1907 novelette, ‘The Willows’, as a contender for the grand chief fountainhead of the insidious order.  It did though inspire the likes of H. P. Lovecraft.  You don’t have to buy in to the pronunciation of Danube as ‘dan-noob’ but it is the Moidelhoff way…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/18/24 Come On You Pixels, Do You Want To Scroll Forever?

(1) R. F. KUANG’S BABEL WINS AWARD AT A CEREMONY AT THE CHENGDU SF MUSEUM. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The Chinese edition of R. F. Kuang’s Babel, as translated by Chen Yang, won the “Best Translated Work” category of the Xingyun (Chinese Nebula) Award.  The award ceremony took place in the Hugo Hall at the Chengdu SF Museum on Saturday May 18.

China.org.cn have published a brief English language article on the awards; a longer Chinese-language report, including all the winners, was published by the Xingyun Award account on WeChat/Weixin, which is where the pictures below are taken from.   A five-and-a-half-hour long video has also been posted to Weibo.

Judging by the logos in the hall and on photos from the event, the awards appear to have been sponsored by Guojiao 1573, an alcohol brand.  The aforementioned WeChat/Weixin report mentions that a member of the Pidu district local government gave a welcoming speech, but the report does not mention if there was any discussion of the 10-year science fiction plan.

(2) TRIPLETS. “Red Dwarf ‘returning to TV with 3 brand new episodes’” promises Radio Times.

It has been reported that long-running sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf will be returning for a new set of three specials in 2025, the first time the show has been seen on-screen since 2020.

British Comedy Guide has reported that one feature-length instalment will be split into three episodes, with filming set to begin in September, and stars Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Danny John-Jules and Robert Llewellyn all returning.

Robert Llewellyn reportedy confirmed the news on his Fully Charged YouTube channel, saying: “We knew we were going to do more Red Dwarf, and we’re actually now doing it in the middle of October to the middle of November this year.

“A 90-minute special, three half-hours. So yes, we are making more. I can’t believe I’ve agreed to do it, I’m insane. I’m much too old.”

He previously told the channel: “We’ve all agreed to do more. We’re not going to do a new series, but we’re making something and it should be fun.”…

(3) BEAGLE Q&A. “Peter S. Beagle on his new novel, the hero’s journey, and why villains talk so much” at NPR.

[SCOTT] SIMON: Let me ask you about the wizard in the book ’cause he can’t keep his yap shut about what he’s hellbent on doing. Why is that?

BEAGLE: Well, you can’t possibly blame him. After all, he has been destroyed and come back. He has ridden with dragons. He knows so much about dragons, just not the important stuff. But because of his experience, he thinks he knows more than he does. And that’s fatal. I know that myself.

SIMON: That’s happened to you?

BEAGLE: It has. It has. Not with dragons, particularly….

(4) READ THE ANTHONY AWARD FINALISTS. The 2024 Bouchercon recently posted the Anthony Award Shortlists, and where one can read the short story finalists online.

(5) BWAH! Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook contends there are “25 Great Things About The Phantom Menace”. (Maybe you had trouble thinking of even one?) Seventh on his list —

I have to put “Sound Design” as one item on this list, because if wasn’t, 90% of this list would be me trying to find the onomatopoeia for practically every noise in this movie. The thrum of podrace engines, the clack of droideka feet, the little wibble Gungan energy shields make under fire, and yes, the Naboo blasters that go “bwah!”.

Especially the Naboo blasters that go “bwah!”.

(6) AND BLAB! “Did a Star Wars Producer Just Reveal the Title For James Mangold’s Movie?” asks Collider.

In a recent interview with SFX Magazine, Emanuel referred to the movie with a new title that could signal a significant shift in its direction. He said, “James Mangold’s Jedi Prime is set thousands and thousands of years before [the original trilogy], and I’m really excited to see what happens there.” While that quote does not officially confirm a title change, Emanuel’s use of “Jedi Prime” suggests exciting possibilities for the upcoming film.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 18, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. (Died 2007.)

By Paul Weimer: I came to Fred Saberhagen through epic fantasy.  I came across a reference to his Empire of the East series in a piece discussing science fantasy and the mixture of the two.  So I sought out that series and started to devour it. The idea of a post apocalypse America now ruled by magic, but the protagonist finds an old tank, and then goes on to find the “g0d” that was once a supercomputer fighting a demon that was once a nuclear bomb…the appeal to me of this was obvious from the start. 

Fred Saberhagen. Photo by Patricia Rogers.

After Empire of the East, I fell into his Books of Swords stories (which are in the same verse although the connection between the two was very very thin), and then, once I had gone with all of those, looked to see what else Saberhagen had written. 

If you are a sophisticated reader, you are probably wondering where Saberhagen’s Berserkers came in. It actually took me a while to make my way to Saberhagen’s most famous creation, with stops in Dracula, Frankenstein, and more before I would finally come across the ultimate killer AI stories. When I watched a Babylon 5 episode that referenced Berserkers, I was absolutely delighted. Beserker’s Planet is probably the oddest one of the whole series, which is much taken up with the ultimate MMA tournament where fighters of different skills from across the planet compete to be the champion (this is all secretly run by a half broken berserker, but for a lot of this book you have no idea it’s even there)

My favorite Saberhagen, overall, though, is a novella, “The Mask of The Sun”, which is about an absolutely interesting artifact that almost works like magic, showing probabilistic results from actions when you put it on. The main character gets hold of this, and it turns out two timelines and timeline/time travelling empires want that same artifact, at any cost. The interesting fillip for me, back then, was that it was timelines and polities based on the Aztecs and the Inca, rather than (at the time) more usual choices.  A Time War with the Inca and Aztecs pushes a LOT of my buttons. And I vividly enjoyed the main character trying to figure out how to have the Inca defeat Pizzaro and the Spanish, sustainably, once he wound up in 16th century Peru. His solution is ingenious and it makes a lot of sense, and overall, the story has a strong playground of the imagination, and shows Saberhagen at his best. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) LIBRARY’S STAR TURN. TrekMovie.com takes us “Inside How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Transformed A Toronto University Library Into The Eternal Archive”.

Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Labyrinths,” featured an unusual location: the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. Star Trek fan Michael Cassabon, the Director of Advancement for the University of Toronto library system, assisted the production team on site and wrote about his experiences with the show and what makes the Fisher Library so unique.

… Modern-day Toronto is part of Trek canon (SNW: “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow”); for those of you keeping track, the library complex is a few blocks away from where the child Khan Noonien-Singh — the notorious ancestor of La’an — lives, and where an alt-universe Captain Kirk was killed trying to restore the timeline.

It is almost unheard of for filming to take place at the Fisher Library, but a rare exception was made for Star Trek: Discovery. Our library’s leadership believed that this collaboration would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the enduring relevance of libraries in the human quest for meaning. Libraries connect people to the information they seek in their quest for knowledge. The executive producers dedicated the episode with thanks “to librarians everywhere, dedicated to the preservation of artifacts, knowledge, and truth.”…

(10) LEARNING FROM THE SEVENTIES. Francis Hamit recommends Ken Miyamoto’s ScreenCraft article “25 Years Later: Why The DAZED AND CONFUSED Script Works”.

…So with no major character arcs being explored, surely there’s a compelling plot that takes us through the whole eventual film?

Not so much. Dazed and Confused is lacking in significant plot motivations and devices. There is no conventional plotting of moments beyond the overarching conflict of first-year students getting paddled by seniors. That is the sole piece of evidence of any consistent plot.

Instead, we follow the characters through their first day and night of summer. They drive in cars and bob their heads to now-classic seventies tunes, they play baseball, they smoke pot, they drink, they fight, they make out, and that’s about it….

The script teaches us that not every story needs broad character arcs, crucial plot points, and pinpoint structure. If you have stories that involve multiple characters, you can:

  • Engage the reader and audience by showcasing a specific world that attracts attention and interest
  • Offer characters that are void of the clichés we’ve already seen in multiple films and television series
  • Focus on small story windows to enhance the conflicts and drama
  • Use the multiple characters in creative ways to cut between scenes and showcase small character moment windows
  • Find creative ways to break up the dialogue to heighten each and every word that is spoken
  • Learn when too much is too much in scenes during the rewrite process
  • Set up the collaboration process by writing great characters that call for great casting

So go do likewise in your scripts and just keep livin’. L-I-V-I-N.

 (11) MONTY PYTHON. Eric Idle is fond of this take on King Charles’ portrait:

(12) DYSON SPHERES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There may be seven Dyson spheres within 1,000 light years!

A collaboration of eight, primarily Swedish-based, astronomers have identified seven Dyson sphere candidates within 300 parsecs (about 1,000 light years) of Earth.  The astronomers looked a data from ESA’s Gaia satellite, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and 2MASS of around five million stars.

A Dyson sphere is a theoretical concept seriously developed in 1960 by Freeman Dyson, but actually originating from the novel Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon. The Dyson sphere is a construct that completely surrounds a star and so captures all of, or most of, its visible light. Similarly, a Dyson swarm is a multitude of small orbiting bodies about a star that captures the majority of its light. While Dyson spheres and Dyson swarms capture visible light, they in turn warm and so give off infra-red (IR) and this IR excess might be considered a ‘techno-signature’ of an extraterrestrial civilisation.

Combing through the Gaia, WISE and 2MASS data, the astronomers come up with 7 possible candidates for Dyson spheres/swarms. The nearest is 466 light years away. All are M-type stars or red dwarfs. The astronomers do point out that there are several alternate natural explanations to the Dyson sphere/swarm suggestions but none of them fully explain the spectra seen from these candidate stars.

See   Suazo, M. et al (2024) Project Hephaistos – II. Dyson sphere candidates from Gaia DR3, 2MASS, and WISE. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. vol. 531 p695–707.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The “Young Frankenstein Movie Documentary (with Mel Brooks)” is a 2002 documentary. A bit self-adulatory, but worth it for the amusing anecdotes.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a 1974 American comedy horror film directed by Mel Brooks. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder. Wilder also starred in the lead role as the title character, a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and Peter Boyle as the monster. The film co-stars Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Richard Haydn, and Gene Hackman. The film is a parody of the classic horror film genre, in particular the various film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus produced by Universal Pictures in the 1930s. Much of the lab equipment used as props was created by Kenneth Strickfaden for the 1931 film Frankenstein. To help evoke the atmosphere of the earlier films, Brooks shot the picture entirely in black and white, a rarity in the 1970s, and employed 1930s’ style opening credits and scene transitions such as iris outs, wipes, and fades to black. The film also features a period score by Brooks’ longtime composer John Morris.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Ersatz Culture, Joel Zakem, Francis Hamit, Lise Andreasen, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dann.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/24 With A Sprinkle Of Pixel Dust, You Can File Like A Bird

(1) COMPLAINTS AS FANIMECON DROPS MASKING REQUIREMENT AT LAST MINUTE. [Item by Janice Gelb.] FanimeCon in San Jose made the following announcement on May 12, 12 days before the con starts, and is refusing to provide refunds to people who now don’t feel they can attend safely (not to mention travel arrangement costs and the hotel’s cancellation policy now requires them to pay for one night). “FanimeCon | Masking Policy Change”.

FanimeCon is changing our masking policy from ‘required’ to ‘strongly recommended’ due to feedback from our attendees, staff, and local health partners. Some events may require mandatory masking due space issues and bigger crowds.

The complete policy is here: “FanimeCon COVID-19 Vaccination Policy”.

(2) LIADEN UNIVERSE® IS MARCHING ON. Sharon Lee was happy with Joshua Tyler’s article “The Best Sci-Fi Read You’ve Missed Is Filled With Spies, Romance, And Massive Space Battles Stretched Over 27 Books” at GiantFreakinRobot except for one thing, which she blogged about today: “From the mail bag” at Sharon Lee, Writer.

Despite being largely positive, Mr. Tyler’s piece contains a sentence which has . . . horrified, concerned, and angered some Liaden readers and fans, and thus I find letters in my mailbox.  This blog post is a blanket reply to those letters, and statements of concern.

Mr. Tyler states:  “Sadly, Liaden co-author Steve Miller died suddenly on February 20, 2024. He was 73. It’s unclear if Sharon will continue writing the series without him. As a fan of the series, I hope not.” (bolding is mine)

Now, whether this is opinion or corrigendum, I can’t tell you.  I am not the author of the piece.  In general, it’s wise to assume that what the author wrote is what the author meant, and Mr. Tyler is, as we all are, entitled to his opinion.

What I can say is this:  There are three Liaden Universe® novels now under contract with Baen Books.  I am currently lead on one of those, the sequel to Ribbon Dance.  In addition, before Steve’s death and the attendant dis- and re-organizations engendered by that cataclysm, I was making notes for the sequel to the sequel.  Steve was lead on Trade Lanes, which had become increasingly difficult for him as his heart slowly failed him.  I may or may not be able, eventually, to finish Trade Lanes.  If not, another Liaden book will fill the third slot.

So, for the moment, Mr. Tyler must reside in disappointment.  Sharon will be continuing the series, but, not, as he supposes, “without” Steve….

 (3) TREK’S OWN STORAGE WAR. “Court is the final frontier for this lost ‘Star Trek’ model” reports the LA Times. Junot Diaz posted the text of the Times’ paywalled story on Facebook. It says in part:

In April, Heritage Auctions heralded the discovery of the original model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the iconic starship that whooshed through the stars in the opening credits of the 1960s TV series “Star Trek” but had mysteriously disappeared around 45 years ago.

The auction house, known for its dazzling sales of movie and television props and memorabilia, announced that it was returning the 33-inch model to Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr., son of series creator Gene Roddenberry. The model was kept at Heritage’s Beverly Hills office for “safekeeping,” the house proclaimed in a statement, shortly after an individual discovered it and brought it to Heritage for authentication.

“After a long journey, she’s home,” Roddenberry’s son posted on X, (formerly Twitter).

But the journey has been far from smooth. The starship model and its celebrated return is now the subject of a lawsuit alleging fraud, negligence and deceptive trade practice, highlighting the enduring value of memorabilia from the iconic sci-fi TV series.

The case was brought by Dustin Riach and Jason Rivas, longtime friends and self-described storage unit entrepreneurs who discovered the model among a stash of items they bought “sight unseen” from a lien sale at a storage locker in Van Nuys last October.

“It’s an unfortunate misunderstanding. We have a seller on one side and a buyer on the other side and Heritage is in the middle, and we are aligning the parties on both sides to get the transaction complete,” said Armen Vartian, an attorney representing the Dallas-based auction house, adding that the allegations against his client were “unfounded.”

The pair claimed that once the model was authenticated and given a value of $800,000, they agreed to consign it to an auction sale with Heritage planned for July 2024, according to the lawsuit. However, following their agreement, they allege the auction house falsely questioned their title to the model and then convinced them, instead of taking it to auction, to sell it for a low-ball $500,000 to Roddenberry Entertainment Inc. According to the suit, Eugene Roddenberry, the company’s CEO, had shown great interest in the model and could potentially provide a pipeline of memorabilia to the auction house in the future.

“They think we have a disagreement with Roddenberry,” said Dale Washington, Riach and Rivas’ attorney. “We don’t. We think they violated property law in the discharge of their fiduciary duties.”

The two men allege they have yet to receive the $500,000 payment.

For years, Riach and Rivas have made a living buying repossessed storage lockers and selling the contents online, at auction and at flea markets. In fact, Riach has appeared on the reality TV series “Storage Wars.”

“It’s a roll of dice in the dark,” Riach said of his profession bidding on storage lockers. “Sometimes you are buying a picture of a unit. When a unit goes to lien, what you see is what you get and the rest is a surprise. At a live auction you can shine a flashlight, smell and look inside to get a gauge. But online is a gamble, it’s only as good as the photo.”

Last fall, Riach said he saw a picture of a large locker in an online sale. It was 10 feet by 30 feet, and “I saw boxes hiding in the back, it was dirty, dusty, there were cobwebs and what looked like a bunch of broken furniture,” he said.

Something about it, he said, “looked interesting,” and he called Rivas and told him they should bid on it. Riach declined to say how much they paid.

There were tins of old photographs and negatives of nitrate film reels from the 1800s and 1900s. When Rivas unwrapped a trash bag that was sitting on top of furniture, he pulled out a model of a spaceship. The business card of its maker, Richard C. Datin, was affixed to the bottom of the base.

A Google search turned up that Datin had made “Star Trek” models, although the two men didn’t make the connection to the TV series.

“We buy lots of units and see models all of the time,” Riach said. He thought they would find a buyer and decided to list it on eBay with a starting price of $1,000….

(4) BALLARD’S MACHINED POETRY. The Conversation says “Novelist J.G. Ballard was experimenting with computer-generated poetry 50 years before ChatGPT was invented”.

…Listening recently to the audiobook version of Ballard’s autobiography Miracles of Life, one very short passage seemed to speak directly to these contemporary debates about generative artificial intelligence and the perceived power of so-called large language models that create content in response to prompts. Ballard, who was born in 1930 and died in 2009, reflected on how, during the very early 1970s, when he was prose editor at Ambit (a literary quarterly magazine that published from 1959 until April 2023) he became interested in computers that could write:

“I wanted more science in Ambit, since science was reshaping the world, and less poetry. After meeting Dr Christopher Evans, a psychologist who worked at the National Physical Laboratories, I asked him to contribute to Ambit. We published a remarkable series of computer generated poems which Martin said were as good as the real thing. I went further, they were the real thing.”

Ballard said nothing else about these poems in the book, nor does he reflect on how they were received at the time. Searching through Ambit back-issues issues from the 1970s I managed to locate four items that appeared to be in the series to which Ballard referred. They were all seemingly produced by computers and published between 1972 and 1977….

(5) BLEEPS WITHOUT END. Scott Lynch has a pretty clear idea about how Harlan would respond to Lincoln Michel’s question.

(6) IN A GALAXY OF SFF, ONE CONSTELLATION IS BLINKING OUT. The Verge argues that “Apple TV Plus is turning into the best place for streaming sci-fi”. The article discusses a large number of series. But one of them isn’t going to be around for long.

…More recently, the service has edged toward a darker tone. First there was the debut of Constellation earlier this year, which starred Noomi Rapace as an astronaut who returned to an Earth that’s very different than the one she left. And now we have Dark Matter based on the novel by Blake Crouch, which premieres on May 8th. It’s a multiversal story about a physicist played by Joel Edgerton who gets kidnapped by a parallel version of himself. So far, I’ve watched the first two episodes, and it manages to merge the tone of a tense thriller with the mind-bending nature of time travel, creating the kind of story that intentionally makes you feel unmoored. Also, there are some very large and impressive cubes…

Two days ago Deadline reported “’Constellation’ Canceled By Apple After One Season”.

 Apple TV+ has opted not to continue with a second season of Constellation, its sci-fi psychological thriller series starring Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks. The news comes a month and a half after Constellation‘s eight-episode first season wrapped its quiet run on the streamer March 27.

Created and written by Peter Harness, Constellation stars Rapace as Jo – an astronaut who returns to Earth after a disaster in space – only to discover that key pieces of her life seem to be missing. The action-packed space adventure is an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology, and one woman’s desperate quest to expose the truth about the hidden history of space travel and recover all that she has lost.

… Sci-fi is a core genre for Apple TV+ whose roster of series also includes For All Mankind, recently renewed for a fifth season alongside a pickup for a spinoff series, Star City, as well as Foundation, Severance, Invasion and Silo — all slated to return with new seasons.

Apple’s latest entry in the genre, Dark Matter, premiered this week, with Neuromancer, starring Callum Turner, and Murderbot, headlined by Alexander Skarsgard, coming up. The streamer also had an surprise entrant into the space with the mystery drama Sugar, which took an unexpected sci-fi turn last week.

(7) LEIGH EDMONDS’ AUSTRALIAN FANHISTORY. From Bruce Richard Gillespie on Facebook I learned that Norstrilia Press has published Leigh Edmonds’ fanhistory Proud and Lonely: A History of Science Fiction Fandom in Australia. Part One: 1930 – 1961

Proud and Lonely is a new history of science fiction and its fans in Australia, telling the story of its arrival in Australia in the 1920s, and the start here of a sub-culture of fans of the genre.

Historian Dr Leigh Edmonds shows how science fiction was seen as a low form of literature and didn’t get public acceptance until at least the 1970s.

Because of the frequent ridicule, fans of the genre kept quiet about their interest in public. But in private they sought out other fans, locally and overseas. They corresponded, started clubs and published amateur magazines about the genre.

They created a fascinating sub-culture that was a microcosmos of Australian life from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Norstrilia Press in its first incarnation had its major focus on science fiction, and Leigh’s history makes a significant contribution to the study of the field. It will also be of value to people interested in cultural and literary studies.

Proud and Lonely is the first of a two-part history exploring how science fiction fandom developed in Australia, from its beginnings in the 1930s to the first World Science Fiction Convention held in Australia, in 1975.

Part one deals with the early period up to 1961, when government regulations prevented most science fiction from being imported into Australia, and the seeds were sown of a gathering energy that would raise Australia’s profile in the global science fiction community.

Available from bookshops and online.

(8) FROM BROOKLYN TO ROHAN. [Item by Dann.] Mike Burke found himself in the theater department auditioning for a part in Newsies: the Musical.  One of the songs from that production – “Brooklyn’s Here” — seemed to match the narrative of the riders of Rohan arriving at the Pelennor Fields.  And a little filking ensued. “Rohan’s Here!” at Storytelling Skunkworks.

…We are Riders (of Rohan!)

The beacons are lit and Gondor is hurtin’

Facing total disaster for certain

That’s our cue lads, it’s time to come runnin’

Hey Minas Tirith, the calvalry’s comin’!…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 12, 1950 Bruce Boxleitner, 74. Let’s look at our Birthday celebrant, Bruce Boxleitner, first for the interesting work he did before that series. 

One of my very favorite characters that he played was the top-level unnamed Agency operative Lee Stetson on the Scarecrow and Mrs. King which starred him and Kate Jackson as divorced housewife Amanda King and top-level Agency operative Lee Stetson as they began their unusual partnership and eventual romance after encountering one another in a train station. It ran for four seasons.

Remember Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler”? Well, it would afterwards become a series of Gambler movies. Boxleitner played Billy Montanain in three of five films being the sidekick to Roger’s Brady Hawkes character. He was the comic relief in those films apparently. I’ve not seen them. 

Bruce Boxleitner at Phoenix Comicon in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He’s been on Outer Limits in “Decompression” as Senator Wyndom Brody in a twisty time travel episode that’d make Heinlein proud. Enough said of that story. He had a recurring role as another politician on the first Supergirl series as President Phillip Baker, a vain, egotistical man. He even played the President of the Planetary Union President on The Orville.

Then there’s Tron where he has the dual roles of Alan Bradley, a programmer at ENCOM Boxleitner and Tron, a security program developed by Bradley to self-monitor communications between the MCP and the real world. It’s an amazing dual for him. He’d reprise, in voice, so I supposed in spirit as well, that role in the animated TronUprising series, and then in I think finally in the animated Tron: Legacy film. 

So that brings us to Babylon 5 commander, Captain John Sheridan. What an amazing role it was for. Lis Carey says of him, “John Sheridan was raised in a diplomat’s family, and enlisted in the military–leading to him becoming a war hero, the only officer to win a battle against the Minbari. When he became the second commander of Babylon 5, he was not well received by the Minbari. Relations obviously improved, while the Earth Alliance was being transformed into a military dictatorship, which Sheridan opposed. In the last season, after confronting the Earth Alliance decisively, he became President of the new Interstellar Alliance, and subsequently married the Minbari ambassador, Delenn.”

Ok, it was a great role and if you haven’t seen it, go see it that’s all I have to say so. I’m ending this now. Have a good night.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COUNT HIM IN. [Item by Steven French.] Guardian television reviewer Joel Golby becomes one of us: “Doctor Who: even the haters will find it impossible to resist Ncuti Gatwa”.

The injection of Disney cash has definitely helped – the new series looks utterly, hugely epic, but without sliding into the “CGI on top of another layer of CGI” thing that could ruin a still pleasingly British-feeling series like this – and the casting of the two new leads is inspired. If it first came out now, a show like Doctor Who – an infinite number of universes and possible monsters and possible problems and possible ancient villains – would be easy to mess up, push it so it’s too sci-fi, forget to ever come back down to Earth, have Gatwa trapped in a studio for a few months acting opposite a tennis ball. But you’ve got 60 years of lore and an army of fans guarding it and ready to email you if you mess with it too much, and I honestly think that probably helps keep Doctor Who honest. I’ll see you for the Christmas special this year. I think I’ve been converted.

(12) THE PRICE IS A HORROR, TOO. The dramatically-staged Montegrappa Universal Monsters Fountain Pen – Frankenstein edition can be yours for a mere $9,175.

Vintage Hollywood staging and mechanical mayhem are the base ingredients for an homage to a horror icon. Montegrappa’s own strain of mad science brings Frankenstein’s creation back to life, with props and special effects that revisit the magic of a 1931 cinema classic. Energy pulses through its XXL, all-brass body, with ingenious complications to re-animate the senses – bringing fun to high function.

(13) AGED IN THE CROCK, ER, CASK. Nothing to do with sff, except for all the fans who like to drink this sort of thing. And for you, we present Tasting Table’s interview, “Pappy Van Winkle’s Grandson Tells Us 10 Things You May Not Know About Old Rip Van Winkle”.

… Additionally, Van Winkle III noted the 15-year bourbon makes a great cocktail. Now, we know that for some of you, mixing any Old Rip Van Winkle whiskey into a cocktail may sound like blasphemy. But Van Winkle III believes you shouldn’t be worried about mixing high-quality alcohol into a drink. Either way, because the 15-year hits that sweet spot of flavor between younger and older whiskey expressions, Van Winkle III thinks it’s “a fun one to have.”…

I laughed because it reminds me that when LASFS’ Len Moffatt hosted a party he warned the guys that violence would ensue if he found any of us making mixed drinks with his Cutty Sark.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George invites us to step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver.

[Thanks to Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, John J. Arkansawyer, Daniel Dern, Gary Farber, Janice Gelb, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kevin Harkness.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/24 La Scroll È Mobile

(1) SATURN AWARDS NEWS. Keanu Reeves will be the inaugural recipient of the Lance Reddick Legacy Award when the 51st Saturn Awards take place on February 4. reports Variety.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films has announced that Keanu Reeves will receive the inaugural Lance Reddick Legacy Award at the 51st Saturn Awards. The entire show will be dedicated to the memory of the late Reddick, who died at the age of 60 in March 2023.

Reeves, who was friends with Reddick, starred alongside him in the “John Wick” action-thriller franchise. Reddick appeared in all four movies as Charon, the concierge at the Continental hotel, where his character interfaced with Reeves’ titular hitman.

Academy president Robert Holguin and Saturn producers Bradley and Kevin Marcus released a statement on Reeves’ forthcoming honor: “This award symbolizes and celebrates not only a performer’s talent, but their character; someone who’s a true goodwill ambassador in the industry. From science fiction (‘The Matrix Trilogy’), fantasy (‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’/’Constantine’and horror (Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’/’The Devil’sAdvocate’), Keanu has done it all — not to mention ‘Speed’ and ‘Point Break.’”…

(2) SNUBBED? [Item by Dann.] The Hollywood Reporter has a story about the backlash to the backlash that protested the lack of Oscar nominations for Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie.  Media outlets from the New York Times to Slate offered rebuttals suggesting that it’s OK for a successful property to not win every award. “The ‘Barbie’ Oscar Snubs Backlash-Backlash: ‘Everyone Lost Their Minds’”.

The penultimate paragraph includes a quote from a genre fan-favorite:

And finally there was The View‘s Whoopi Goldberg, proclaiming, “[Saying somebody was snubbed] assumes someone else shouldn’t be in there. There are no snubs. That’s what you have to keep in mind: Not everybody gets a prize, and it is subjective. Movies are subjective. The movies you love may not be loved by the people who are voting.”

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Munch MVP sandwiches with MVPs Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan” in Episode 217 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan

Gary K. Wolfe is a science fiction critic, editor, and biographer who’s had a monthly review column in Locus since December 1991. He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2006 for the book Soundings: Reviews 1992–1996, and again in 2011, for the book Bearings: Reviews 1997–2001. Over the years, he’s won the Eaton Award from the Eaton Conference on Science Fiction, the Pilgrim Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Science Fiction Research Association, the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and the British Science Fiction Association Award for nonfiction for the previously mentioned Soundings: Reviews 1992–1996. He’s also (among many other things) edited two wonderful volumes for the Library of America — American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1953-1956 and American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels 1956-1958.

Jonathan Strahan is a nineteen-time Hugo Award nominated editor and publisher of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. He’s won the Aurealis Award, the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism and Review, the Australian National Science Fiction Convention’s “Ditmar Award”, and the Peter McNamara Achievement Award. As a freelance editor, he’s edited or co-edited more than sixty original and reprint anthologies and seventeen single-author story collections and has been a consulting editor for Tordotcom Publishing and Tor.com since 2014, where he’s acquired and edited two novels, 36 novellas, and a selection of short fiction. Strahan won the World Fantasy Award (Special – Professional) in 2010 for his work as an editor, and his anthologies have won the Locus Award for Best Anthology four times (2008, 2010, 2013, 2021) and the Aurealis Award seven times. He has been Reviews Editor at Locus since 2002.

As the reason I’m with both of them is — together, they’ve been cohosts of The Coode Street Podcast since May 2010, which had 640 episodes live the last time I looked, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fancast ten times, winning once.

We discussed why The Coode Street Podcast is “the Cheers of podcasts,” the foolish statement made during their first episode which meant there had to be more, the identity of the guest who was most resistant to appearing on their show, the reason the podcast made Paul Cornell want to run, the different interviewing techniques necessary when having conversations with the voluble vs. the reticent, the white whales whom they could never snare, how to make sure we’re speaking to more than just our own generations, their advice for anyone who wants to launch a podcast, the way to avoid getting canned responses out of guests, how their conversational methods have changed over 13 years, whether critiquing books or rejecting stories has ever affected relationships with a guest, and much more.

(4) PRESSURE FOR REGULATION. “The Sleepy Copyright Office in the Middle of a High-Stakes Clash Over A.I.” – the New York Times has the story.

For decades, the Copyright Office has been a small and sleepy office within the Library of Congress. Each year, the agency’s 450 employees register roughly half a million copyrights, the ownership rights for creative works, based on a two-centuries-old law.

In recent months, however, the office has suddenly found itself in the spotlight. Lobbyists for Microsoft, Google, and the music and news industries have asked to meet with Shira Perlmutter, the register of copyrights, and her staff. Thousands of artists, musicians and tech executives have written to the agency, and hundreds have asked to speak at listening sessions hosted by the office.

The attention stems from a first-of-its-kind review of copyright law that the Copyright Office is conducting in the age of artificial intelligence. The technology — which feeds off creative content — has upended traditional norms around copyright, which gives owners of books, movies and music the exclusive ability to distribute and copy their works.

The agency plans to put out three reports this year revealing its position on copyright law in relation to A.I. The reports are set to be hugely consequential, weighing heavily in courts as well as with lawmakers and regulators.

“We are now finding ourselves the subject of a lot of attention from the broader general public, so it is a very exciting and challenging time,” Ms. Perlmutter said.

The Copyright Office’s review has thrust it into the middle of a high-stakes clash between the tech and media industries over the value of intellectual property to train new A.I. models that are likely to ingest copyrighted books, news articles, songs, art and essays to generate writing or images. Since the 1790s, copyright law has protected works so an author or artist “may reap the fruits of his or her intellectual creativity,” the Copyright Office declares on its website.

That law is now a topic of hot debate. Authors, artists, media companies and others say the A.I. models are infringing on their copyrights. Tech companies say that they aren’t replicating the materials and that they consume data that is publicly available on the internet, practices that are fair use and within the bounds of the law. The fight has led to lawsuits, including one by The New York Times against the ChatGPT creator OpenAI and Microsoft. And copyright owners are pushing for officials to rein in the tech companies….

(5) RADIO SILENCE. Looking for comments from Kevin Standlee? We’re told he’s probably seeing the questions, but he’s been told he mustn’t say anything, so don’t be offended about getting no response to the Standlee Signal.

(6) ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL. “Pharrell Williams: Lego Animated Biopic Coming From Focus Features” at Variety.

The musician and superproducer announced that he is teaming with The Lego Group, director Morgan Neville and Focus Features to create “Piece by Piece,” an animated film about his life using the famous toy blocks.

Per the press release, “Uninterested in making a traditional film about his life, Pharrell set out to tell his story in a way that would set audience’s imaginations free. Developed from his singular vision, ‘Piece by Piece’ defies genres and expectations to transport audiences into a Lego world where anything is possible.”…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 44. A truly stellar writer.

His first work for us was “The Hundredth Question” story published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in the February 1999 issue. May I note that magazine has published some of the finest short fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to read?

After “The Hundredth Question”, I count just over a hundred short stories and intriguingly nearly thirty pieces of poetry which is a fair amount of genre work I’d say.

Yoon Ha Lee

Quite interesting is that the stories have several series running there — one that runs off with “The Cat Who Forgot to Fly” and runs five stories (I went to read these); then there’s series of stories about dragons, librarians, mermaids, phoenixes and queens. 

So let’s talk about his novels. His Machineries of Empire space opera novels, well space opera is a gross understatement to it mildly, consisting of Ninefox GambitRaven Stratagem and Revenant Gun are splendid works indeed. As a follower of Asian folklore, the fact that these nicely use Korean folklore is a bonus. 

Ninefox Gambit was nominated for a Hugo at Worldcon 75, Raven Stratagem at Worldcon 76 and Revenant Gun at Dublin 2019. None alas won a Hugo.

He likes fox spirits, he really does. (As do I.) So The Thousand World series is a space opera, and yes time that is an accurate term, about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. Oh there’s dragons and tigers, oh my here as well. 

I’ve not read his latest novel, Phoenix Extravagant, but magic fueled weaponized armored giants sounds potentially interesting. 

Remember all of those short stories? Well they have been collected,  well I thought most of them had in The Candlevine Gardener and Other Stories but it turned out that those are flash fiction, all sixty five of them as I just discovered, though available are free from his website here.

I just read “The Cat Who Forgot to Fly”. It read like a classic folklore story from well before the 1800s — charming, magical and everyone is fine at the end. All two pages. 

The longer stories can be found in Conservation of ShadowsThe Fox’s Tower and Other Tales and Hexarchate Stories.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SOMETHING ELSE YOU CAN’T SAY. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Can we please stop calling it AI? They’re not actually artificial intelligences, they’re collections of algorithms doing routines based off them. None could pass a Turing test. “George Carlin’s Estate Sues Creators Of AI Version Of Comedy Icon” at Deadline.

Over 50 years ago, the late and great George Carlin listed off the seven words you couldn’t say on television. Based on a lawsuit from the iconic comedian’s estate filed in federal court in California today, at least two of those words may apply to the creators of an AI generated special that uses Carlin’s style and voice to a 2024 effect.

AKA: “a bastardization of Carlin’s real work,”  the copyright infringement complaint says.

“Defendants’ AI-generated “George Carlin Special” is not a creative work,” it goes on to exclaim. “It is a piece of computer-generated click-bait which detracts from the value of Carlin’s comedic works and harms his reputation.”… 

(10) THE END. Another one from Sam Sykes that tickled me.

(11) VIDEO OF A YEAR AGO. [Item by Danny Sichel.] German band Electric Callboy just (for values of ‘just’ that include ‘over a year ago’) released a very genre-intense video for their song ‘Spaceman’.

Warning: Electric Callboy’s style is a mix of bouncy energetic rave pop and thrashing deathcore growls. They are an extremely non-serious band.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Wicked Witch on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1975)”.

David Newell (Mr. McFeely) recollects Margaret Hamilton’s visit to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood filmed at WQED in Pittsburgh. In the episode on scary images, Fred Rogers meets the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West in 1938 movie “The Wizard of Oz”.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Dann, Danny Sichel, Kathy Sullivan, 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 OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 1/8/24 Come Gather ’Round Pixels, Wherever You Scroll; And Admit That The Files, Around You Have Rolled

(1) CREATIVE ARTS EMMYS NIGHT 2. Sff was much less prominently featured among the second night 2023 Creative Arts Emmys Winners. (Note: Some categories had multiple winners.)

Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation

  • EntergalacticThe Simpsons, “Lisa the Boy Scout;” More than I Want to RememberStar Wars: Visions, “Screecher’s Reach”

Outstanding Costumes for Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Programming

  • Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration; We’re HereSt. George, Utah

Outstanding Makeup for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program

  • Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

Outstanding Animated Program

  • The Simpsons

Outstanding Emerging Media Program

  • For All Mankind Season 3 Experience

(Click here for a report about “Night One of the 75th Creative Arts Emmy Awards”.)

(2) QUESTION TIME. Steve Davidson opines “The Fannish Inquisition Needs More Than Soft Cushions and Comfy Chairs” at Amazing Stories. Davidson says that in particular the recent Chengdu Worldcon bid and the 2028 Uganda Worldcon bid needed/needs sharp questioning on human rights. (Note that conventions generally abandoned the “Fannish Inquisition” panel title several years ago; at last December’s Smofcon the event was called “Future Worldcon and Smofcon Q&A”.)

…We’d all like to believe that stepping inside a convention transports us from a real world that is flawed with all manner of injustices, mistaken values and ancient moralities into one where the things that really matter are given their due.

But you can’t do that if the host country doesn’t at least respect those values enough to be hands-off.  ANY country that does not operate under one version of a rule of law or another is a potential mine field, because the rules are, in fact, arbitrary, and can change on a political whim….

…Sure, we need to know about the “restaurant scene” in your city, but we also need to know –

How is the LGBTQI community perceived in your culture or country?   Can Transgender individuals be arrested for “wearing the wrong clothing”?  Will I be arrested for having posted something critical of its government or leaders in my Fanzine?  Will my cell phone be scanned?  My internet communications monitored and recorded?  Will I have to hide my necklace with a Cross or a Star of David on it?  Will I be prevented from entering the country because I have the wrong stamps in my passport?  Will I disappear because I held hands with the wrong person in public?  What are my risks if I travel outside the venue?  If I’m female and need a doctor, will a male owner have to be present? Will armed thugs beat me in the street because I didn’t cover my hair?

… I strongly suggest that some additional questions be added to our Fannish Inquisitions.  Questions like:

What kind of government does the host country have?  Where does it fall on the Corruption Perceptions Index?  Why?

Where does the host country fall on the Universal Human Rights Index?  If it’s rating is considered to be low, why is that?

Do individuals identifying as LGBTQI enjoy the same rights and freedoms as those who do not?  If not, why not?  What are the restrictions, if any? What are the consequences for expressing LGBTQI affiliation privately?  Publicly?

Do women enjoy the same freedoms as men?  The same opportunities?  The same protections under the law?…

(3) THEY SAY AI CREPT. [Item by Anne Marble.] The official account for Magic: The Gathering had to admit that some recent marketing images they posted were, in fact, created with AI. As often happens, the company first claimed they were not created via AI. Some have pointed out that perhaps some of the 1,100 people they laid off just before the holidays could have checked the images and kept the company from making this mistake.

And Ars Technica quotes one artist who says he is done with the company after the way this was handled: “Magic: The Gathering maker admits it used AI-generated art despite standing ban”.

…As accusations of AI use in the creation of the promo image grew throughout the day, WotC posted multiple defenses on Thursday (such as this archived, now-deleted post) insisting that the art in question “was created by humans and not AI.” But given the evidence, the situation was too much for veteran MtG artist Dave Rapoza, who has created art for dozens of Magic cards going back years.

“And just like that, poof, I’m done working for Wizards of the Coast,” Rapoza wrote on social media on Saturday. “You can’t say you stand against this then blatantly use AI to promote your products… If you’re gonna stand for something you better make sure you’re actually paying attention, don’t be lazy, don’t lie.”….

(4) IN THE NEWS. Nnedi Okorafor shared happy moment with Facebook readers.

I was featured in New York Times yesterday! A great way to start 2024.

(5) NINO CIPRI SEMINAR. Atlas Obscura Experiences will host a four-part seminar “Thrills & Chills: Horror Story Writing With Nino Cipri” in February/March. Full details and prices at the link.

The horror genre is a funhouse mirror, offering larger-than-life reflections of a culture’s fears and insecurities. Its popularity may rise and fall, but horror is always with us. In this seminar, award-winning author and lifelong horror fan Nino Cipri will guide students through the process of writing horror, from generating ideas to the final revision and submission process. Along the way, we’ll talk about horror’s roots in oral traditions, embracing and subverting tropes, and why we keep coming back to horror even when it can’t compete with real life’s awfulness. This course welcomes writers of all backgrounds and experience who are interested in sharpening their skills and exploring the genre. 

(6) THE BLACK AMAZON. On Bluesky (for those of you with access) Jess Nevins wrote a 26-post story about a “real superhero” in 19th-century Paris. Thread begins here.

The concept of the superhero is as old as human culture. (See: Enkidu, “Epic of Gilgamesh”). But “real” superheroes? Vigilante groups have likely been wearing disguises for centuries. Certainly, the Whiteboys of Ireland (na Buachaillí Bána) in the 18th century did. What about women vigilantes?

(7) THE REINVENTED EDITORS Q&A. Paul Semel interviews “‘The Reinvented Detective’ Editors Jennifer Brozek & Cat Rambo”.

Who came up with the idea for The Reinvented Detective?

Jennifer: This one was all me! I have a deep and abiding love of noir detective stories, as well as mysteries in the future. Think Blade Runner / Blade Runner 2049 or any Philip K. Dick type story.

Also, as a member of Gen X, I grew up without the Internet, and was introduced to it in my formative adult years. I remember things that many people have never been without (contact online access, GoogleAmazon, and more). My world has changed enough that I can see how technology changes the face of society and how people interact with each other.

And yet…many of the same problems remain. We all live, love, hate, feud, want. We are still human in all the ways that matter. Which means no matter the circumstances, motivations for crimes remain the same. It’s how we see, solve, and punish those crimes that change. That’s what I wanted the stories to be about, and our authors delivered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 8, 1944 Richard Bowes. (Died 2023.) Richard Bowes is a fascinating story.  He started getting published relatively late in life, in his early forties, with three novels in three years — WarchildFeral Cell and Goblin Market. Warchild and its sequel, Goblin Market are set in an alternate history version of the New York City, his home city. 

Richard Bowes in 2008.

A series of stories, mostly published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, were later reworked into his Minions of the Moon novel which won the Lambda Literary Award. One of these stories, “Streetcar Dreams”, would garner a World Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

Dust Devils on a Quiet Street is semi-autobiographical but adds in a dose of the supernatural as it centered around 9/11. It got nominated for Lambda and World Fantasy Awards. 

Now my favorite stories by him are his Time Ranger stories mixing fantasy and SF. They’re some of the best such stories and the mosaic novel, as edited by Marty Halpern, From the Files of the Time Rangers, has a foreword by Kage Baker in which she gives her appreciation of his stories. It was nominated for a Nebula Award.

Two of the novelettes that make up this novel,  “The Ferryman’s Wife” and “The Mask of the Rex” were  originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction – were also nominated for Nebula Awards. 

(9) THE SOURCE. Gareth L. Powell tries to answer the eternal question “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”

… These ideas can be something complex or something simple, and often come in the form of an answer to a ‘What would happen if…?’ question.

The Embers of War trilogy sprang from an article about the Titanic that I was reading in a dentist’s waiting room. There had been other ship losses before the ill-fated liner, but the Titanic carried a radio and was able to call for help, which meant other ships arrived in time to rescue survivors and relay the tale of what had happened. I started thinking about how different things might have been today, when the ship’s radio could have summoned helicopters and planes and fast-response boats – and as I write science fiction, I naturally projected that situation into space. If space travel became commonplace, I thought, there would need to be some sort of rescue organisation for starships in distress. And from there, I went on to build the rest of the universe around that central notion.

My point is, ideas can come from anywhere. You just have to learn to interrogate them.

Read widely, both within and beyond your chosen genre. Expose yourself to nonfiction, biographies, music, art, poetry. The wider you cast your net, the better your chances of finding something at inspires your creative process. It all goes into the compost heap of the imagination, where unexpected connections happen all the time….

(10) FAMILY TIES. Someone followed this Mark Hamill’s post at X.com with a comment: “Seems to have gone better than your meeting with your father.”

(11) YOU DON’T SAY. The Guardian offers advice about “Where to start with: Wilkie Collins”, the 19th-century author.

Monday marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Wilkie Collins, the Victorian writer known for his mystery novels. His writing became foundational to the way modern crime novels are constructed, and his most famous works – The Woman in White, No Name, Armadale, and The Moonstone – have earned him an international reputation. British crime novelist and Collins fan Elly Griffiths offers a guide for those new to the author’s work.

…the book [No Name] abounds with colourful characters, including the disreputable Captain Wragge and the noble Captain Kirke (a protype of the Star Trek hero?).

(12) AKA TRIBULATION PERIWINKLE. Can scholars identify the works published under the many pen names of Louisa May Alcott? There’s Gould in them thar hills. Max Chapnick tells “How I identified a probable pen name of Louisa May Alcott” in The Conversation.

…Where was this phantom “Phantom” story? Could I find it?

After searching digital databases, I came across one such story, called simply “The Phantom,” with the subtitle, “Or, The Miser’s Dream, &c.” It had been published in the Olive Branch in early 1860, months after Alcott listed having written “The Phantom” in her journals. But the byline under the story read E. or I. – I couldn’t quite make out the first initial – Gould, which wasn’t a known pseudonym of Alcott’s.

So I went to sleep. Sometime later I awoke with the thought that Gould might be Alcott. What if, along with her several known pseudonyms – A. M. Barnard, Tribulation Periwinkle and Flora Fairfield, among others – Alcott had yet another that simply hadn’t been identified yet?

I cannot say for certain that Gould is Alcott. But I’ve encountered enough circumstantial evidence to consider it likely Alcott wrote seven stories, five poems and one piece of nonfiction under that name….

(13) SFNAL ADVERTISING EPHEMERA, CIRCA 1900. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Liza Daly on Mastodon posted some interesting sample pages from “The Mars Gazette: News from Another World”, a circa-1900 advertising pamphlet, that was an illustrated 16-page story of a traveler to Mars who enlightens the sickly malnourished Martians about the virtues of “Liquid Peptonoids”. (A combination of beef, milk and gluten; vegans, lactose-intolerant, and people with celiac disease, beware!) Daly’s post includes a link to the full pamphlet. Some of the illustrations are kinda neat:

(14) PRIVATE LUNAR LANDING NOW UNLIKELY. “US lunar landing attempt appears doomed after ‘critical’ fuel leak” reports AP News.

The first U.S. moon landing attempt in more than 50 years appeared to be doomed after a private company’s spacecraft developed a “critical” fuel leak just hours after Monday’s launch.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology managed to orient its lander toward the sun so the solar panel could collect sunlight and charge its battery, as a special team assessed the status of what was termed “a failure in the propulsion system.”

It soon became apparent, however, that there was “a critical loss of fuel,” further dimming hope for what had been a planned moon landing on Feb. 23….

This news has implications for a Star Trek-themed payload that is part of the mission: “Vulcan Centaur rocket launches private lander to the moon on 1st mission” at Space.com.

…The company [Celestis] also put a payload called Enterprise on the rocket’s Centaur upper stage. That mission, aptly named, has been decades in the making. It includes DNA from “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, as well as the remains from several actors from the original TV series, including Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan and DeForest Kelley, who played Lieutenant Uhura, Chief Engineer “Scotty” and CMO Leonard “Bones” McCoy, respectively….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “New Lisa Frankenstein Trailer Brings Awesome ’80s Movie Vibes” says SYFY Wire. The movie arrives in theaters on February 9.

There are a lot of genre movies we’re already looking forward to in 2024, and at the moment, Lisa Frankenstein is near the top of the list. With a great roster of talent behind it, a wonderful dark comedy concept, and a blend of warmth and irreverence, it’s exactly the kind of movie we’re ready to see. Oh, and if you love nostalgia vibes, it’s also got that ’80s movie feeling, and lots of it.

Written by Diablo Cody (JunoJennifer’s Body) and directed by Zelda Williams in her feature directorial debut, the film follows Lisa (Kathryn Newton), a weird teenager who doesn’t fit in for a lot of reasons, including her taste in men. See, Lisa has a crush, but her crush happens to be on a Victorian man who’s buried in a local cemetery. She visits him, talks to the handsome statue that marks his grave, and dreams of what their life might be like together. Then, a lightning strike unexpectedly reanimates the man (Cole Sprouse), making Lisa’s dreams seemingly come true.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Anne Marble, 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 Randall M.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/23 Which Items In This Scroll Contain A Hovercraft Full Of Eels?

(1) INDIE SPIRIT. The 2024 Independent Spirit Awards nominations are out. Full list at Variety: “Indie Spirit Film and TV Nominations 2024 Revealed”.

…The annual honors recognize the best of television, as well as film…. Only new TV shows that have run for one season and were released between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of this year are eligible for awards….

The sff epic The Last of Us received four nominations.

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB speculative fiction reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Holly Black and S.L. Coney on Wednesday, December 13. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

Holly Black

Holly Black is the #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of fantasy novels, short stories, and comics. She has been a finalist for an Eisner and a Lodestar Award, and the recipient of the Mythopoeic Award, a Nebula, and a Newbery Honor. She has sold over 26 million books worldwide, and her work has been translated into over thirty languages and adapted for film. Her most recent novel is The Stolen Heir.

S. L. Coney

S. L. Coney is the author of Wild Spaces, an Esquire Best of Horror 2023 pick, and named as an author to watch by Publisher’s Weekly. Their short stories have appeared in St. Louis Noir and Gamut Magazine and their story “Abandoned Places” was picked for 2017s Best American Mystery Stories. They still hold seashells to their ears to hear the ocean speak to them, and are still deeply disappointed that their fins never grew in.

(3) SCHOLASTIC DISCONTINUES SEPARATING OUT BOOKS WITH BIPOC/QUEER CHARACTERS. Publisher’s Lunch reports:

Scholastic announced an update to its Book Fairs policy, after separating out books with BIPOC and queer characters and creators from elementary school fairs in a purported effort to protect teachers and librarians who are dealing with legislation that bans such titles. Scholastic apologized and reversed course in October, announcing that they would discontinue the share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice a la carte collection but without additional details about the future of the program.

“From our experience in the fall, we have learned that separating out titles or highlighting titles that might make teachers and librarians vulnerable to serious legal and professional consequences is not the answer,” they state in a release.

Now, Scholastic has announced that books from the separate case—which they now call the Celebrating Voices Collection—will be integrated into the standard book fair case for the spring 2024 season, “joining a number of new titles with a wide array of representation.” All books will be delivered to schools, “which will be able to make their own local merchandising decisions, as they have always done, just like any bookstore or library.”

(4) WOOF. The Worldcon Order Of Faneditors had a collation at the Chengdu Worldcon. This year’s Official Editor (OE), Don Eastlake, has made WOOF #48 a free download at eFanzines.

WOOF is an amateur press association (apa) that has been a feature of Worldcons since 1976 thanks to its originator, the late Bruce Pelz. 

(5) WHAT A STINKER. “Doctor Who: Worst Things The Doctor Has Done”GameRant has seven of them on its list. They get even worse after this one —

Abandoning Sarah Jane Smith

The Hand of Fear (Season 14, Serial 2)

Sarah Jane Smith first appeared alongside the third Doctor in 1973. She was a determined woman who managed to infiltrate a secret research facility in her first episode, an act that caught The Doctor’s attention. He took her on board the TARDIS as his next companion, and Sarah Jane faced off against the Daleks, Cybermen, and The Master in her time. She even got to witness The Doctor regenerate into the fourth incarnation.

All of this history made it seem even stranger that The Doctor would just abandon Sarah Jane Smith when he is called back to Gallifrey by the Time Lords. He did agree to take her home, but accidentally left her in Aberdeen with the promise of returning to her. However, it is revealed later on during the tenth Doctor’s run that the two never saw each other after that, and that The Doctor chose to abandon Sarah Jane as he did not want to see her grow old.

(6) NEW SFF IN THE NYT. Amal El-Mohtar reviews new books by Vajra Chandrasekera, Avi Silver, Cadwell Turnbull, Michael Mammay and T. Kingfisher in “What’s Behind That Door?” at the New York Times.

THE SAINT OF BRIGHT DOORS (Tordotcom, 356 pp., $27.99), by Vajra Chandrasekera, is the best book I’ve read all year. Protean, singular, original, it forces me to come up with the most baffling comparisons, like: What if “Disco Elysium” were written by Sofia Samatar? At the same time, all you need to know about it is contained in its opening:

“The moment Fetter is born, Mother-of-Glory pins his shadow to the earth with a large brass nail and tears it from him. This is his first memory, the seed of many hours of therapy to come.”…

(7) FRANKLY. David Fear’s Rolling Stone review says “’Poor Things’ Is Emma Stone’s Horny, Feminist-Frankenstein Masterpiece”. (To be precise, that’s Frankenstein’s monster, of course.)

…Based on Alasdair Gray’s award-winning 1992 novel, this serrated satire from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) drops you into Victorian-era London, at the very moment that a young woman steps off the city’s titular bridge. She is Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), and her contemporaries might call her “simple.” Or perhaps “beastly.” She communicates by grunting, smashing plates, and high-decibel screaming. When she’s not gleefully terrorizing the servants, she hobbles unsteadily throughout the house of her guardian, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) — God, for short. A surgeon by trade (and judging from the jigsaw scars on his face, intimately familiar with the scalpel), he spends his off hours exploring the boundaries of bleeding-edge 19th century science….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 5, 1936 James Lee Burke, 87. James Lee Burke is a writer that I first encountered by way of his Dave Robicheaux series, the once seriously alcoholic former homicide detective in the New Orleans Police Department, Robicheaux lives in New Iberia, Louisiana, and works as a detective for the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

James Lee Burke

The series being set there takes full advantage of its setting. This is an extraordinary series in which people I care about have bad things happen to them and yet I keep reading the series. It has cringe-inducing moments and it is not one to read late at night, but I enjoy it immensely. 

ISFDB lists four novels in this series as having genre elements, all I assume fantasy as Burke doesn’t do SF: In the Electric Mist with Confederate DeadBurning AngelJolie Blon‘s Bounce and A Private Cathedral, the latter the newest novel.  Now I remember the scene in Electric Mist with Confederate Dead that they think might be fantastical. It might, it might not be. To say what I think would be a spoiler. 

His shorter series of which there are currently four are all much shorter than the Dave Robicheaux series which is now at twenty-three novels over thirty three years and has even spawned has two films, the first with Dave Robicheaux played by Alec Baldwin (Heaven’s Prisoners) and then Tommy Lee Jones (In the Electric Mist). I go with the latter as working in this role as the former is too handsome as the character is described in the novels. 

The Billy Bob Holland series which I’ve read is damn good. Billy Bob Holland, an attorney and former Texas Ranger, in Deaf Smith, Texas which the author admits is a sort of love affair to his birth state. The first novel, Cimarron Rose, an Edgar Award for Best Novel. Very impressive. 

Though I’ve not read them yet, I’m very interested in his series using the real life memorable Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland coming of age against the backdrop of the civil rights era in a border town with the problems of that time.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe has a horrible literary pun.
  • Bizarro has a more subtle horror pun.
  • Reality Check mashes up Shakespeare and Spider-Man.
  • Existential Comics wonders a bit about relative perspectives.  Paladins and orcs, on the other hand, aren’t terribly concerned with the nuances of perspective. 
  • xkcd has a strange (of course) solar system navigation aid.

(10) DWAYNE MCDUFFIE GRANT CREATED. “There is now a Dwayne McDuffie Genius Grant Award (as there should be!)”Popverse has the story.

Dwayne McDuffie is a titan in the world of superhero comics and animation. The Milestone hero Static who you know from all the DC Comics and cartoons? That’s one of his. Marvel’s Damage Control, which is now not only in comics, but the MCU, and board games? That’s one of his as well. And that’s not to mention his foundational work on the animated series Ben 10 and Justice League Unlimited.

Although McDuffie sadly passed away in 2011, his personality and work have lived on through subsequent reprints, re-issues, collections, spinoffs to his work, and the contributions of those he helped along the way. And now if you consider yourself helped by McDuffie – as a reader or watcher of his work, as a collaborator, and/or as a friend – you can help someone on his behalf.

A non-profit organization called the Dwayne McDuffie Foundation has been started by McDuffie’s widow Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie, and one of its first acts is partnering with the iconic writer’s childhood school for the gifted with a “significant” scholarship called the Dwayne McDuffie Genius Grant Award….

More details are available in the announcement on the Dwayne McDuffie Facebook page.

… The main beneficiary of the Foundation at this time is Dwayne’s beloved childhood school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: The Roeper School, a prestigious private institution of learning for gifted students pre-K through high school.

The Dwayne McDuffie Foundation has established a significant scholarship at Roeper called the “McDuffie Genius Grant”—a moniker Dwayne himself always wanted to use.

Beginning in Fall 2023, this annual scholarship is being awarded to a young African-American student entering the Lower School, as Dwayne did, famously reminiscing that at Roeper, he finally “felt at home.”

In February 2024, a ceremony will take place at Roeper, honoring Mr. McDuffie for his humanitarianism and many professional achievements, including his inclusion in The Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The faculty and staff of Roeper, present and past, couldn’t be prouder of their alumnus.

(11) BARBENHEIMER Q&A. “Cillian Murphy and Margot Robbie Discuss Barbenheimer Memes, Box Office Success”. Variety thought it would be cute for the two stars to interview each other. Were they right?

ROBBIE: It was all the way along. The fact that it’s Greta Gerwig, people are like, “Greta Gerwig and a ‘Barbie’ movie, what?” And then the pictures of Ryan Gosling and me Rollerblading on Venice Beach came out and went even wider than I was expecting. I’d been thinking big for it, and it still turned out bigger than I expected.

But what about you? Did you think so many people were going to watch a movie about the making of the atomic bomb?

MURPHY: No. I don’t think any of us did. Christopher Nolan was always determined that it would be released in the summer as a big tentpole movie. That was always his plan. And he has this superstition around that date, the 21st.

ROBBIE: Do all his movies come out on that date?

MURPHY: In and around the 21st of July — they always come out then.

ROBBIE: It’s a good date. We picked that day too!

MURPHY: Yeah, I know.

(12) AARGH. “British Museum ends terrible year as punchline in Christmas cracker joke” which is repeated in the Guardian. (And here.)

The British Museum has barely been out of the headlines in 2023. First, there was the theft of 1,500 items from its collection and then it found itself in the middle of a diplomatic row over the Parthenon marbles.

Now the institution’s annus horribilis has been topped off by becoming the punchline in the year’s most popular Christmas cracker joke.

The annual competition, commissioned by the TV channel Gold, asks people to post their festive jokes to X (formerly Twitter) with a winner of the annual poll decided by the British public.

This year’s winner was written by Chris Douch from Oxfordshire who managed to combine a joke about the British Museum’s recent travails with a reference to fruity festive confectionery: “Did you hear about the Christmas cake on display in the British Museum? It was Stollen.”

The annual competition usually produces a topical winner that sends up one of the biggest stories of the year. In 2020, the winner poked fun at Dominic Cummings and his trip to Barnard Castle during the Covid-19 pandemic….

(13) HOLD THAT THOUGHT. A Scientific American article says, “Mars Can Wait. Questions Surround Settlements on Other Worlds”.

As ever-deepening turmoil engulfs Earth, daydreaming about moving to Mars might provide a pleasant break from our everyday predicaments. It is entirely understandable—and human—to grasp onto promises of a better life in a faraway place. But when Martian daydreams, in particular, turn into reality, the picture becomes less pleasant. What promise could a barren, hostile planet like Mars hold? As far as the solar system is concerned, we already inhabit a paradise.

Nevertheless, Mars is on the menu. NASA’s proposed Artemis mission ends with people planting flags on Martian soil in coming decades. China plans a sample return mission to Mars, and India plans to send another orbiter there in 2024. Even Earth’s newest space billionaire, Elon Musk, has joked about spending his last years on Mars, apparently intending to make humans a multiplanetary species…

…At face value, the long-term survival of humanity seems to provide a solid and noble cause for building permanent settlements on Mars. However, for a Mars settlement to truly mitigate extinction risks it must be adequately self-sufficient. This is unlikely to be achieved any time soon, and we may not have the time to wait. Instead, investments in global food security, meteor or comet deflection, pandemic preparedness and global peace appear far more cost-effective than building a settlement off-world. Additionally, some risks may follow us to Mars , such as rogue artificial intelligence, meaning that a settlement on Mars does not lower the total risk of extinction that much. Therefore, while in the long term safeguarding humanity may provide a good reason to settle other planets, it does not give us an urgent one….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “10 Funny James Bond Commercials”.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/23 It Was An Early Evening Pixel And The Scroll Had Just Opened Up

(1) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Charlie Jane Anders asks “Why Is It So Hard For Hollywood To Create Brand New Heroes?” at Happy Dancing.

…I actually have no idea why Hollywood’s heaviest hitters keep coming back to the same characters. To find out more, I asked Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the creator of The Middleman (which I praised in last week’s newsletter.) Javi recently pitched a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV show that wouldn’t include Arthur Dent, so I was curious to find out what he thought about this topic. Here’s what he told me.

Star Wars has arguably had a hard time moving away from the Skywalkers — every Star Wars TV show or movie up to now features characters who are at most two Kevin Bacons away from Luke. The Wizarding World has stumbled when it tries to move too far away from Harry Potter — the Fantastic Beasts movies very quickly pivoted to being about Harry’s mentor Dumbledore. The only Hunger Games spinoff is a prequel that focuses on a guy who spent a lot of time with Katniss. Why is it so hard to move away from characters we already know, or the familiar version of the saga?

Having worked on one or two franchise projects, I would add the caveat that it’s easy to armchair quarterback some of these decisions when one is not aware of the parameters under which they were made. That said, the biggest issue is always money. Every single project you mentioned above is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars that has to be recuperated — not to mention that these projects also have to buttress entire empires of merchandising, theme park attractions, and publishing across all media. It’s not a business model that rewards risk.

There’s also what I call “The Fog of War,” by which I mean the often desperate need to make things work for no reason other than being committed to a something like the availability of a piece of talent, or setting a release date before having a robust concept, or a weird contractual obligation (like Sony needing to produce a Spider-Man movie every six years on pain of losing the rights to the characters), or having too many powerful producers who disagree about everything, and needing something — anything — to put before the camera. Those sorts of artificial constraints lead directly to the lowest-hanging fruit, and often to decisions that make little sense when examined with the benefit of a greater perspective….

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

113 recommended short SF stories

I’m not sure what – if any – connection this list of stories has to the Worldcon – possibly it’s related to the reaction to Hai Ya’s Hugo win, as covered in yesterday’s Scroll?  It seems to have been crowd-sourced, and is a mix of Chinese and non-Chinese works.  Hopefully most of the Western authors and works are still recognizable after the “Translate content” link does its work; whilst it doesn’t always successfully reverse-engineer the correct original titles from their translated titles, it should be close enough for them to be identified.

“Celebrity” and other photos from Xiaohongshu

I was mildly amused when the algorithm behind the Xiaohongshu app started categorizing some photos of people who will be recognizable to Filers – or who are actually Filers – as “celebrities”.  Most if not all of the following links contain a variety of photos, but I’ve highlighted the names of people who appear in some of those photos.

A couple of other photos and videos:

A couple more con reports from Chinese fans

(via Zimozi Natsuco on Twitter).  A slight word of warning: I think this pair of con reports don’t fare as well with machine translation (well, Google Translate at least) as does a lot of non-fiction material.  Part of this is that Google Translate doesn’t seem to have been trained on fannish materials.  For example “二次元” becomes “second dimension” or”two-dimensional”, which is correct in a literal sense, but would be more understandable as “anime”, “anime-styled” or “animation”.

The first is from an anime fan, and probably covers the overall Chinese speculative fiction and media scene more than the con itself.  A couple of extracts via Google Translate, with minor cleanup edits:

Compared with the dazzling array of two-dimensional products, looking at Chinese science fiction, what products have been developed over the years that are well-known to the public?

“The Three-Body Problem”!  Anything else?

“The Wandering Earth”!  Anything else?

Um, “Sun of China“?  Are there any works other than those of Liu Cixin?

…Umm, “Shanghai Fortress“?

When science fiction was introduced to China by Lu Xun, Liang Qichao and others in the early 20th century, it was included in a utilitarian direction as soon as it was involved. Of course, this was also due to the ambiguity of the meaning of “science fiction” proposed by Hugo Gernsback. Most people now equate “speculative fiction” with “fiction about science”, and the “fantasy” aspect of speculative fiction is ignored. lThis makes more sense in Chinese: “科幻” is translated as “science fiction”, but it is actually an abbreviation of “科学幻想”, which are the words “科学” science and “幻想” fantasy.)]

This definition deeply influenced Chinese science fiction literature in the 1970s and 1980s. Even now, many people still believe that science fiction should be scientific, and the fantasy part is excluded. This situation was particularly serious when “The Three-Body Problem” first became popular. At that time, the Internet was full of comments such as “hard science fiction is science fiction, soft science fiction is not as good”

Our old friend Game Grape also published an article on the last day of the Chengdu Science Fiction Conference called “The second dimension is getting colder. Is science fiction the next trend in the gaming industry?” In the article, a game company boss revealed to Putao that “the next trend may be science fiction.”

Nowadays, more and more two-dimensional mobile games are beginning to put on the skin of science fiction. In the second trailer for Honkai Impact 3 released in September, it is not difficult to see the dominance of science fiction: the stage is placed in the universe.

The second is by Zimozi himself.  Again, via Google Translate with minor edits

But the conference was a real success. Please read the news reports: We have received the highest attendance in the decades-long history of the World Science Fiction Convention. The foreign guests present are sincerely praising the venue and services. Chinese writers have gained a lot from the Hugo Awards and even [appeared on the TV news], Bai Yansong enthusiastically discusses with the audience, “Where is China’s science fiction going?”…

So, do I have a problem?

….

Science fiction is also an industry. The industry is not child’s play, nor is it a few science fiction fans who want to start a science fiction fanzine…  There are carefully arranged corporate exhibitions, grand and enthusiastic talent introduction, and the intensive construction of talent housing — opposite the venue are several new talent apartments and new real estate projects that are in full swing, attracting science fiction talents from all over the world to settle down in Chengdu. In industry summits one after another, we have seen one after another novel support plans and science fiction awards, as well as countless new institutions integrating industry, academia and research. 

(3) HUGO WINNERS ON TV. Chris Barkley sent a link to video of “the press conference Neil Clarke and I were a part of after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.” — here.

(4) SIXTIES PARANORMAL SERIES. Todd Allen made a discovery – “Martin Landau’s Lost Occult Detective TV Show”. It will probably be news to you, too.

…I stumbled into Martin Landau’s lost occult detective TV show a couple weeks ago.

His what?!? Yes, that was my reaction, too. I later asked a few people I’d expect to have heard of such a thing and none of them had, so now I’ll tell you about it.

I’d been watching The Brides of Dracula on Prime and was flipping through the list of films people who watched that also watched, I came across what appeared to be an old Martin Landau horror movie called The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre. I hadn’t heard of this or associated Landau with horror, so I looked it up and proceeded to be shocked.

It seems that back in 1964, James Aubrey (the president of CBS) commissioned Joseph Stefano to produce a pilot called “The Haunted.” Does the name “Stefano” sound familiar? He wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and was one of the writer/producers on the first season of The Outer Limits.

The Haunted would have starred Martin Landau – two years before Mission: Impossible – as Nelson Orion, an architect who moonlights as a paranormal investigator….

(5) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 95 of the Octothorpe podcast – “Hugo, Girl!”John Coxon is playing a game, Alison Scott is in New Zealand, and Liz Batty’s head is on fire.

We discuss the Hugo Award winners, Anna Karenina, what the word “semiprofessional” means, and what continent/timezone/day of the week Alison is in. Art by the very talented España Sheriff.

(6) APPLE+$. “Apple TV+ Price Increase: Apple Raises Monthly Fee to $10” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Apple is hiking the price of Apple TV+ significantly, raising the monthly subscription fee to $9.99 per month from its current $6.99 per month price point. The cost of an annual plan is going from $69 to $99.

(7) OTHER SERVICES TOO. Reuters adds to its Apple+ coverage this info about Disney+ and Netflix.

Netflix increased subscription prices for some streaming plans in the United States, Britain and France when it reported results last week. Disney said in August it would raise by 27% the price of the ad-free tier of the Disney+ service to $13.99 and hike by 20% the no-ad version of Hulu. 

(8) DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS. “Doctor Who confirms air dates for 3 specials with David Tennant”Radio Times has the schedule – and the publicity posters.

The BBC has announced that David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor will officially be bursting back onto our screens on Saturday 25th November, with the second and third specials following on Saturday 2nd December and Saturday 9th December respectively.

(9) HUNGARIAN SFF AUTHOR TRANSLATED. [Item by Bence Pintér.] One of the best contemporary Hungarian sci-fi writers, Botond Markovics (AKA Brandon Hackett) had his Zsoldos Award-winning book Disposable Bodies translated into English. He also set up an English-language Facebook page on which he wrote about this.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1934 Dan McCarthy. The grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and color graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice. (Died 2013.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 78. Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”. She’s garnered four Mythopoetic Award nominations but no wins to date.
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson,69. Writer of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 51. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 60. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 52. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 

(11) FRANKENSTEIN. [Item by Steven French.] With Halloween almost upon us, Leeds Central Library has a nice blog piece about its 3rd edition copy of Mary Shelley’s classic which includes the first illustration of the monster, looking quite different from the movie version! “Mary Shelley – The First Science Fiction Author” at Secret Library.

…Leeds Central Library has a third edition copy of this novel, published in 1831 by Richard Bentley and Henry Colburn and the first illustration of Frankenstein’s monster can be found on the first page. This stunning and slightly disturbing drawing was drawn by Theodor von Holst, a student of Henry Fuseli. The image is a visualisation of an extract from the text that is written at the bottom of the page. The quote reads;

‘By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull, yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive agitation seized its limbs…I rushed out of the room.’

At the right side of the illustration, you can see Victor Frankenstein fleeing the room, the look of pure fear on his features. However, the main focus of the image is the ‘monster’ who is on the floor with an agonised look on his face as he takes his first breaths. The Gothic meets romantic style of the image as well as the symbols of both death and science perfectly capture the themes that Shelley conveyed in this novel.

This edition was edited from the original version that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote in 1816 when she was only 18 years old. This version contains an introduction from Shelly in which she answers the question “How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea”….

(12) THE “TRANSPORTER” BEFORE THE TRANSPORTER. “Read Gene Roddenberry’s First Sci-Fi TV Show Pitch in Its Original Doc” at IndieWire.

…In 1955, Roddenberry had begun writing for Ziv TV, a production company for TV shows in syndication, specifically for the titles “Mr. District Attorney” and “Highway Patrol.” He had gotten into television writing by acting as a liaison for the LAPD, when he worked as a police officer in the early 1950s, to the show “Dragnet.” In that capacity he helped condense actual case files into story treatments that the show’s writers could turn into teleplays.

“Science Fiction Theatre” was a Ziv TV production as well. Hence why at the top of this document you see the company listed, before Roddenberry crossed that out in favor of the name of a production executive he’d be pitching. Here’s the document, and give it a closer look in PDF format here….

…The description of his pitch for the episode reads:

The proposed story is of the invention of the “Transporter” — a device which is television, smellovision, soundovision, all rolled into one. A device which creates an artificial world for the user, capable of duplicating delight, sensation, contentment, adventure–all beyond the reach of the ordinary person living the ordinary life. With it you can voyage to far-off lands, argue with Socrates, earn and spend a million dollars, or lay Marilyn Monroe. Take your choice.

And this is the story of the inventor who, after achieving this miracle, suddenly realizes that a commercial, greedy, sometimes inhuman world would take over his miracle. And it might be used as they have used the miracle of radio, television, the motion pictures–with much more devastating results. It could become the most powerful totalitarian enslaving device; it could become the most powerful opiate; it could create wants and desires for which the world would destroy itself–a dying race sitting at their “transporters.”

(13) TAIKONAUTS. “China’s youngest-ever crew of astronauts heads to space station”Reuters has the story.

The youngest-ever crew of Chinese astronauts departed for China’s space station on Thursday, paving the way for a new generation of “taikonauts” to advance the country’s space ambitions in the future.

The spacecraft Shenzhou-17, or “Divine Vessel”, and its three passengers lifted off atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China.

Leading the six-month mission was former air force pilot Tang Hongbo, 48, who was on the first crewed mission to the space station in 2021.

His return to the orbiting outpost Tiangong, or “Celestial Palace” in Chinese, also set a new record for the shortest interval between two spaceflight missions by taikonauts – coined from the Chinese word for space – suggesting a faster rotation of taikonauts in coming years.

Tang, from China’s second batch of astronauts in 2010, had to wait more than a decade before he was picked for his inaugural spaceflight in 2021.

By contrast, his fellow Shenzhou-17 crew members Tang Shengjie, 33, and Jiang Xinlin, 35, both travelling to space for the first time, joined China’s third batch of astronauts in September 2020….

(14) POISONING PIXELS IN THE PARK. [Item by Jim Janney.] There’s an article in MIT Technology Review about a tool that lets artists “poison” their images in ways that mess with generative AI: “This new data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against generative AI”. It seems to work by manipulating pixels in ways that the human eye doesn’t notice, so wouldn’t be directly applicable to large language models.

…The tool, called Nightshade, is intended as a way to fight back against AI companies that use artists’ work to train their models without the creator’s permission. Using it to “poison” this training data could damage future iterations of image-generating AI models, such as DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, by rendering some of their outputs useless—dogs become cats, cars become cows, and so forth. MIT Technology Review got an exclusive preview of the research, which has been submitted for peer review at computer security conference Usenix.   

AI companies such as OpenAI, Meta, Google, and Stability AI are facing a slew of lawsuits from artists who claim that their copyrighted material and personal information was scraped without consent or compensation. Ben Zhao, a professor at the University of Chicago, who led the team that created Nightshade, says the hope is that it will help tip the power balance back from AI companies towards artists, by creating a powerful deterrent against disrespecting artists’ copyright and intellectual property. Meta, Google, Stability AI, and OpenAI did not respond to MIT Technology Review’s request for comment on how they might respond. 

Zhao’s team also developed Glaze, a tool that allows artists to “mask” their own personal style to prevent it from being scraped by AI companies. It works in a similar way to Nightshade: by changing the pixels of images in subtle ways that are invisible to the human eye but manipulate machine-learning models to interpret the image as something different from what it actually shows…. 

(15) SMALLER ON THE INSIDE. [Item by Mark Roth-Whitworth.] Nature reports“Mars has a surprise layer of molten rock inside”. “Fresh investigations find that the red planet’s liquid-metal core is smaller than scientists thought.”

A meteorite that slammed into Mars in September 2021 has rewritten what scientists know about the planet’s interior.

By analysing the seismic energy that vibrated through the planet after the impact, researchers have discovered a layer of molten rock that envelops Mars’s liquid-metal core. The finding, reported today in two papers in Nature1,2, means that the Martian core is smaller than previously thought. It also resolves some lingering questions about how the red planet formed and evolved over billions of years.

The discovery comes from NASA’s InSight mission, which landed a craft with a seismometer on Mars’s surface. Between 2018 and 2022, that instrument detected hundreds of ‘marsquakes’ shaking the planet. Seismic waves produced by quakes or impacts can slow down or speed up depending on what types of material they are travelling through, so seismologists can measure the waves’ passage to deduce what the interior of a planet looks like….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Jim Janney, Bence Pintér, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Ersatz Culture for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/26/23 One-Eyed, Once-Scrolled Flying Purple Pixel Eater

(1) HEAR JEMISIN ON WORLDBUILDING. N. K. Jemisin’s lecture at Cornell on October 4 will be livestreamed: “N. K. Jemisin to speak on imagining a better future” in the Cornell Chronicle.

N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin, award-winning fantasy author and critic, will give the Bartels World Affairs Lecture on Wednesday, October 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium.

The campus community is invited to join an in-person livestream watch party in Klarman Hall and attend a reception and book signing with Jemisin in the Groos Family Atrium after the event. A free watch party ticket is required. General admission is sold out. The lecture will also be livestreamed by eCornell.  

In this Bartels World Affairs Lecture, fantasy author N. K. Jemisin will share how she learned to build unreal worlds by studying our own — and how we might, in turn, imagine a better future for our world and reshape it to fit that dream.

Join us for Ms. Jemisin’s lecture and a discussion featuring a panel of distinguished Cornell faculty to kick off “The Future,” a new Global Grand Challenge at Cornell. We invite thinkers across campus to use their imaginations to reach beyond the immediate, the tangible, and the well-known constraints. How can we use our creativity to plan and build for a future that is equitable, sustainable, and good?

(2) FOOLS’ NAMES AND FOOLS’ FACES. [Item by “Orange Mike” Lowrey.] I will be appearing this coming Sunday as a special guest star in a lecture/presentation called Depths of Wikipedia Live, at the Majestic Theatre in Madison, WI. Ticket information at the link:

Join Depths of Wikipedia creator Annie Rauwerda on a journey through Wikipedia’s most interesting corners. You’ll have the time of your life [citation needed]…

(3) SALT LAKE CITY BOOKSTORE THREATENED. The King’s English Bookstore in Salt Lake City, UT was temporarily shut down by a bomb threat on Sunday morning targeting a drag queen story hour. Salt Lake City police heard of a “suspicious circumstance” around 9:30 and, after determining it was a bomb threat, evacuated the store to search for explosives, clearing it to reopen around 11. Tara Lipsyncki has hosted that drag queen story hour for five months. “Salt Lake City bookstore cleared after receiving bomb threat”Fox13Now has the story.

…Salt Lake City Police said they learned of a “suspicious circumstance” at the King’s English Bookshop, located at 1511 S. 1500 East, around 9:30 a.m. They later determined that it was a potential bomb threat and evacuated the building.

…The threat came in an hour and a half before “Sunday Storytime” with drag queen Tara Lipsyncki.

She’s been reading children’s books at the shop on the last Sunday of every month for five months now. She said she was heading to the King’s English when the co-owner, Calvin Crosby, called her to say the store had received a bomb threat.

“The parents and the queer kids that need this event and need to be seen, I feel for them,” she said….

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall posted to X, “I cannot say this strongly enough, EVERYONE belongs in Salt Lake City. The actions today to cause fear at @KingsEnglish around a drag story time event are not welcome here. We’re looking forward to working with King’s English so this event can happen at a future date for all those who wanted to be there today.”

Sad Puppy Brad R. Torgersen joined others piling on the mayor with slurs about pedophilia.

Lipsyncki wrote in an Instagram post:

(4) WGA WEST AND EAST BOARDS VOTE TO LIFT STRIKE. A membership ratification vote comes next. “Writers Strike Is Over: WGA Votes to End Work Stoppage” reports Variety.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike is officially over.

On the 148th day of the work stoppage, the board of the WGA West and council of the WGA East voted unanimously on Tuesday to lift the strike order as of 12:01 a.m. PT on Wednesday. following a tentative agreement on a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). That means writers can go back to work as of Wednesday even before the final ratification vote.

The ratification vote will be held from Oct. 2-Oct. 9. The WGA will hold member meetings on both coasts this week in person and on zoom to discuss the details of the contract. Given the enthusiastic endorsement of the WGA negotiating committtee, it is expected to be easily ratified by strike-weary members.

(5) TOYS’R WHO? “57 Years Later, A Forgotten Sci-Fi Villain is Making an Unexpected Comeback” Inversefills in his dossier.

…With the release of the action-packed trailer for all three Doctor Who 60th-anniversary specials, airing this November, BBC confirmed that Neil Patrick Harris is playing the Toymaker. The name seems obvious — when he’s not donning a tuxedo and top hat, the character is dressed like a sinister Gepetto, and constantly surrounded by toys. But there’s more to him than just a toy-making gimmick: the Toymaker, also known as the Celestial Toymaker, is one of the oldest villains of Doctor Who, first appearing in a serial that aired 57 years ago.

Originally played by Michael Gough, the Toymaker made his debut in the 1966 serial “The Celestial Toymaker,” as a cosmic adversary to the Doctor who forced the Doctor’s companions to play a series of seemingly childish but deadly games. Think Squid Games but everyone is dressed in questionably oriental-looking robes (the Toymaker’s nickname was also “the Mandarin” — it was the ’60s). The Toymaker trapped his victims in a kind of pocket universe called the Celestial Toyroom, which he could manipulate to his whim. If his victims lost the games, they would become the Toymaker’s playthings forever, but if the Toymaker lost, the Toyroom would be destroyed and he would be forced to build another. The Toymaker also appeared to only be able to exist within his pocket universe, and couldn’t — or wouldn’t — leave it. But in the upcoming Doctor Who anniversary special, it seems that the Toymaker has made it into the main universe, and he’s pulled Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) into his schemes….

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

This is one I stumbled across, it was posted on February 9th, although the video title mentions January 5th, which was perhaps when it was filmed?  (Which would be two weeks before the venue and date change was officially announced.)

What is the progress of the main venue of the World Science Fiction Convention? Cover anchor takes you on a tour of the “Nebula” main venue (January 2023, 1)

(7) RILEY ON THE COVER. Although the story by David A. Riley initially accepted by F&SF was turned down after social media raised the issue of Riley’s history of having once been part of the UK’s National Front (see “F&SF Will Not Publish Riley Story”), a different work by the author has been announced as part of the lineup of Rogue Rocket Press’ Best of Lovecraftiana. (Lovecraftiana is a quarterly.) Riley also announced it on his blog: “The Best of Lovecraftiana Magazine will include The Psychic Investigator”.

The Best of Lovecraftiana Magazine will include my story The Psychic Investigator, which is likely to be the last of my Grudge End tales as it brings them to a post-apocalyptic end. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 26, 1869 Winsor McCay. Cartoonist and animator who’s best remembered for the Little Nemo strip which ran between The Wars and the animated Gertie the Dinosaur film which is the key frame animation cartoon which you can see here. He used the pen name Silas on his Dream of the Rarebit Fiend strip. That strip had no recurring characters or theme, just that a character has a nightmare or other bizarre dream after eating Welsh rarebit. What an odd concept. (Died 1934.)
  • Born September 26, 1872 Max Erhmann. Best remembered for his 1927 prose poem “Desiderata” which I have a framed copy hanging here in my work area. Yeah big fan. Genre connection? Well calling it “Spock Thoughts”,  Nimoy recited the poem on Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, his 1968 album.  Who here has actually heard it? (Died 1945.)
  • Born September 26, 1888 T. S. Eliot. He’s written at least three short poems that are decidedly genre, “Circe’s Palace” “Growltiger’s Last Stand” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat”. Then there’s his major work,  “The Waste Land” which is genre as well.  It’s worth noting that Lovecraft intensely hated the latter and wrote a parody of it called “Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance”. (Died 1965.)
  • Born September 26, 1935 Juan Zanotto. An Italian-born Argentine comic book artist whose Italian Yor series was used as the basis of the 1983 Yor, the Hunter from the Future film. It has a fourteen percent rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. Who’s seen it? And he drew the Marvel Comics War Man graphic novel which was written by Chuck Dixon. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 26, 1946 Louise Simonson, 77. Comic editor and writer. She started as editor on the CreepyEerie, and Vampirella titles at Warren Publishing. Working for DC and Marvel, she created a number of characters such as Cable and Doomsday, and written quite a few titles ranging from Doomsday, Wonder WomanConan the Barbarian and X-Terminators. She’s written a Star Wars title for Dark Horse. 
  • Born September 26, 1957 Tanya Huff, 66. Her Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend. Oh and her Blood Books series, featuring detective Vicki Nelson, was adapted for a television series as Blood Ties. And yes, it was, like Forever Knight, filmed and set in Toronto.  It’s streaming pretty much everywhere. 
  • Born September 26, 1959 Ian Whates, 64. The Noise duology, The Noise Within and The Noise Revealed, are space opera at its finest. And his City of a Hundred Rows steampunk urban fantasy series sounds damn intriguing. As an editor, he’s put together some forty anthologies of which I’ll note only one of the most recent, London Centric: Tales of Future London, as it’s a quite amazing collection. 

(9) AD ASTRA INSTITUTE WORKSHOP. The Ad Astra Institute‘s new speculative-fiction workshop “Writing in (& about) the Age of Artificial Intelligence” led by Christopher McKitterick will run from October-December. Outline below; full information at the link.

The format differs from prior workshops in that it’s a Science, Technology, & Society course blended into our “Science into Fiction” low-intensity writing workshop structure – our first pro workshop with a syllabus that includes weekly readings and viewings for discussion to inspire and inform participants. We hope people enjoy it and get a lot out of the experience.

This third SiF course takes place over the course of about two months, so it’s much lower-intensity than our residential summer workshops – suitable for people with day-jobs. But if you want high-intensity, it can be as intense as you like by getting more involved in Discord discussions, write-ins, reading and watching more stuff and talking with the others about it, playing around with chatbots, and so forth.

The developmental and brainstorming weekend takes place October 21-22, and after six weeks of drafting a new story (and one week to critique one another’s work) we’ll hold our critique weekend on December 9-10. We’ll host both workshop weekends in hybrid format (in-person in Lawrence, KS, plus on our Discord channel), so there’s no need to come to LFK unless you want to rub elbows with the small in-person cohort.

Workshop leader (and Ad Astra director) McKitterick is getting married this week and will be away while everyone is getting starting reading and watching, but will check in while on the road. Soon after he gets back to LFK in October, we’ll begin hosting discussions and write-ins.

Registration is now open! There are only a few spots left, so check it out soon if you’d like to participate. Alums are eligible for a small AdAstranaut scholarship right off the bat, plus – thanks to generous donors and attendees who pay full price – we can offer a few further scholarships, as well. So don’t let cost be a barrier to participating if you’d like to join.

Ready to take a deep-dive into AI and write a new story this fall? It needn’t be about AI, and you won’t get an “F” for failing to read and discuss enrichment materials, but hopefully the’ll inspire and get you writing.

(10) WHERE THE CORPSE FLOWER GROWS. On October 27-28, The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA will roll out some events, entertainments, and displays in the Halloween spirit for “Strange Science at The Hauntington”. Full details and tickets at the link.

Join us for an evening of chills and thrills! Witness spirited performances and special displays of rarely seen objects from our vaults. Hear spine-tingling stories, learn weird scholarly facts, and experience twisted fantasies on the dance floor.

(11) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. Frankenstein 1930 at the Long Beach (CA) Playhouse between now and October 21 – full details and tickets at the link.

Just in time for the Halloween season, FRANKENSTEIN 1930 harkens back to the Universal monster movies of the 1930s in a stage homage that features all the elements we love and remember from those films: the stone walled laboratory, the crazed scientist, angry villagers, a swooning yet determined heroine, a fearful storm, and the hideous but sympathetic creature with its confused mind and powerful, undisciplined body. Can Victor Frankenstein and his fiancée Elizabeth subdue his deadly creation, or will the final confrontation be the end of them all?!?

(12) RIGS IN SPACE. [Item by Steven French.] Space drugs are coming soon! “Building in zero gravity: the race to create factories in space” in the Guardian.

… For some startups, the most pressing questions in manufacturing right now are: how do you build computer parts, harvest stem cells or produce pharmaceuticals while in space?

A group of founders say it’s already happening, at least at the research level. Nasa has given a $2m grant to scientists who want to see if zero-gravity conditions can help produce new stem cell and gene therapies. The defense company Northrop Grumman partnered with a startup that aims to produce semiconductors in space. By the end of this decade, one expert says, we’ll be using items that contain some element that was built off of Earth.

Why go through the trouble of “off-planet manufacturing”? Jeff Bezos told CBS’s Gayle King that heavy manufacturing and air-polluting industries could operate away from Earth. “This sounds fantastical … but it will happen,” Bezos said.

Advocates say that certain conditions in space, including the lack of gravity, low temperatures and near-perfect vacuum, mean that certain ingredients, such as crystals, can be made at a better quality than on land….

(13) A VERY BIG DESERT ISLAND. Nature says “This is what Earth’s continents will look like in 250 million years”. It will take true grit to survive this.

…Up to 92% of Earth could be uninhabitable to mammals in 250 million years, researchers predict. The planet’s landmasses are expected to form a supercontinent, driving volcanism and increases to carbon dioxide levels that will leave most of its land barren.

“It does seem like life is going to have a bit more of a hard time in the future,” says Hannah Davies, a geologist at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam. “It’s a bit depressing.”

Earth is currently thought to be in the middle of a supercontinent cycle1 as its present-day continents drift. The last supercontinent, Pangaea, broke apart about 200 million years ago. The next, dubbed Pangaea Ultima, is expected to form at the equator in about 250 million years, as the Atlantic Ocean shrinks and a merged Afro-Eurasian continent crashes into the Americas.

…If humans are still around in 250 million years, Farnsworth speculates that they might have found ways to adapt, with Earth resembling the 1965 science-fiction novel Dune. “Do humans become more specialist in desert environments, become more nocturnal, or keep in caves?” he asks. “I would suspect if we can get off this planet and find somewhere more habitable, that would be more preferable.”…

(14) A LITTLE TOUCH OF HARRY IN THE NIGHT. Unlike King Kong, Harry Potter will not be climbing the building as part of this celebration: “Empire State Building to light up in Harry Potter’s Hogwarts house colors Wednesday to mark 25th anniversary” at AMNY.

The Empire State Building will light up in the four Hogwarts house colors on Wednesday, Sept. 27 to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book published in the U.S.

With a flick of the wand and a “Lumos,” the Tower Lights will shine in Gryffindor red, Hufflepuff Yellow, Ravenclaw blue, and Slytherin green at sunset.

A magical pop-up cart with free copies of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and bottled Butterbeer will be given to guests who purchase tickets to the 86th floor Observatory from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., while supplies last.

The Empire State Building, Wizarding World franchise partners, and Scholastic collaborated to organize the anniversary event, which all Muggles are also invited to come. 

(15) A TARTAN FOR OGRES? It’s Nice That tells how “You can now book a stay at Shrek’s swamp for free on Airbnb”. It’s in Scotland!

Shrek is giving Barbie a run for its money. After Barbie’s Malibu DreamHouse recently returned to Airbnb (this time hosted by Ken), the holiday rental platform has listed Shrek’s Swamp on its site. Located in the Scottish Highlands, the property is a real-life recreation of the homestead built by everyone’s favourite ogre.

According to Airbnb, anyone can request to book. One lucky group of three will be chosen for a two-night stay from 27-29 October, where they’ll experience all the luxuries of Shrek’s swamp – from “earwax candlelight” to the ogre’s iconic outhouse. The property was designed exclusively for this campaign, and is independently owned and operated by Ardverikie Estate….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/30/23 And The Pixels That Mother Gives You Don’t Do Anything At All

(1) COURT DECISION CURBS A LONGTIME COPYRIGHT REQUIREMENT. [Item by Anne Marble.] In 2018, print-on-demand publisher Valancourt Books sued the U.S. Copyright Office because of the “mandatory deposit” requirement — which required the publisher to send U.S. Copyright Office copies of about 240 of the books they publish. They didn’t have the books on hand and would have had to spend several thousand dollars to produce them. Valancourt faced the possibility of as much as $100,000 in fines.

The legal issues were analyzed by the plaintiff’s law firm Institute for Justice in a 2021 article “Unique Richmond Publisher Will Appeal After D.C. Judge Insists It Must Give the Government Free Copies of Its Books”.

Valancourt is a unique publisher run by James and his husband Ryan Cagle. James is a former lawyer who found his life’s calling reviving and popularizing rare, neglected and out-of-print fiction, including 18th century Gothic novels, Victorian horror novels, forgotten literary fiction and works by early LGBT authors. Founded in 2005, Valancourt has published more than 300 books, all of which they have permission to reprint, winning praise from literature professors and the press alike.

The U.S. Copyright Office is demanding copies of hundreds of books published by Valancourt. If Valancourt doesn’t send the books, they could be subject to fines of $250 per book (plus the retail price of the books), along with additional fines of $2,500 for “willful” failure to deposit the books. But there’s a problem: Valancourt doesn’t have the books. They are a print-on-demand publisher, and giving the federal government free books would damage their business.

An earlier Forbes article (“Why Is The Federal Government Threatening An Indie Book Publisher With $100,000 In Fines?” (2018) also explained:

…[M]andatory deposit was originally required if an owner wanted their works protected by copyright. That requirement was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court—in 1834….

Valancourt lost at the District Court level but won at the U.S. Appeals Court level (read the decision here). Reuters covered the victory: “US appeals court curbs Copyright Office’s mandatory deposit policy”. The Copyright Office says they are reviewing the decision.

(2) BIG GREEN NUMBERS. The Hollywood Reporter passes this on with a grain of salt: “’Ahsoka’ Series Premiere Gets Big Ratings, Disney+ Says”.

Disney+ is breaking with its usual practice to share some (strong) viewing numbers for the premiere of its latest Star Wars series, Ahsoka.

According to the streamer, the first episode of the series, starring Rosario Dawson as the titular Jedi, has racked up 14 million views worldwide in the five days after its Aug. 23 debut. Disney+ is using the same methodology for counting a “view” that Netflix has employed for the past couple of months — dividing the total viewing time by the run time for a given title.

In Ahsoka’s case, 14 million views of the 56-minute premiere episode would equate to 784 million minutes of viewing worldwide. “Views” doesn’t necessarily equal “viewers,” however, as the total viewing time doesn’t necessarily account for multiple people watching the show together or a single person watching the episode several times. Disney+ also didn’t release any figures for episode two of Ahsoka, which also premiered Aug. 23.

(3) PRATCHETT PROJECT EVENT. “Terry Pratchett at the Unseen University”, featuring a series of short presentations from researchers of various disciplines, is an in-person and virtual event happening September 22. Tickets available at the link.

The Pratchett Project in Trinity College Dublin is an interdisciplinary platform for research into the life and works of Terry Pratchett. It builds on the comprehensive collection of Pratchett’s works and their translations into forty languages, held in the Trinity College Library, as well as Pratchett’s personal connection with the College, borne out of the adjunct professorship he held from 2010. A further part of this endeavour is driven by Pratchett’s own life story and inclinations. In 2007, Pratchett publicly announced that he had a rare form of young-onset Alzheimer’s disease, called posterior cortical atrophy. He subsequently became a passionate campaigner who was determined to reduce the stigma of dementia. A docudrama on BBC followed the literary career and charitable work of the beloved author.

So, research into brain health is an important part of the Pratchett Project in Trinity College. We are currently developing this strand of the project to find new ways in which the implications of breakthroughs in research can be “translated” for members of the public. We aim to bring people together from various backgrounds and fields to make new connections, to promote public understanding and awareness, to change perceptions and inspire people to support brain awareness campaigns and get involved.

This Culture Night, we will be joined by a wide range of speakers, each discussing their research, which is in some way connected to the life and/or work of Terry Pratchett.

THIS EVENT CAN BE ATTENDED BOTH ONLINE AND IN PERSON.

IT WILL ALSO BE RECORDED AND UPLOADED TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

(4) AVOID TOO MUCH INFORMATION. Sarah A. Hoyt speaks with the voice of experience in “Starting Your Novel and Need to Know” at Mad Genius Club.

…Anyway, one thing that is becoming painfully obvious as I read people’s beginnings of novels, is that most of you have no idea how much information and world building to put in the beginning of your book.

This is not strange or unusual. I not only went through years of having this issue, but I also revert to this issue whenever I have not written for a long while.

When I fail I have two modes: either I write completely incomprehensible stuff or I write an opening that reads like you’re in a classroom and I’m expecting you to take notes.

But there is a way to handle it. I only figured it with Darkship Thieves, and only after breaking it pretty badly with an extra fifty pages in the beginning.

Anyway, so, what do you need to tell the reader: no more and no less than the reader needs to know.….

(5) GENRE WORK UP FOR KIRKUS PRIZE. The Kirkus Prize announced finalists across three categories, with winners to be named on October 11. The Fiction category shortlist includes White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link and Shaun Tan. Literary Hub explains how the award works.

The Kirkus Prize is one of the richest annual literary awards in the world with the prizes totaling $150,000. Writers become eligible by receiving a rare, starred review from Kirkus Reviews; this year’s 18 finalists were chosen from 608 young readers’ literature titles, 435 fiction titles, and 435 nonfiction titles….

(6) HUANG Q&A. “Reading with… S.L. Huang” at Shelf Awareness.

On your nightstand now: 

I don’t actually have a nightstand, but next to my bed or currently on my phone are:

The Search for E.T. Bell: Also Known as John Taine by Constance Reid. It’s the biography of mathematician Eric Temple Bell, who wrote Radium Age science fiction under the pen name John Taine, and it is WILD, because this man?? completely made up??? his entire life??? I read it because I’m writing an intro to a rerelease of his fiction, but his life is fascinating. I love reading about mathematicians!

Lost Ark Dreaming, a novella by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, which I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy of. I haven’t started this one yet, but I’m looking forward to it!

Shigidi and the Brass Head of Obalufon, which is Wole Talabi’s debut novel–another advanced copy I’m super excited to start reading! I’ve really enjoyed Wole’s short fiction.

And finally, I’m also currently part of a book club reading this podcast version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms3kingdomspodcast.com . We’ve been at it a year, and we’re about a third of the way through! It’s a very, very long book.

(7) THE ART OF ZARDOZ. The Hugo Book Club Blog improved on a meme about good art vs. bad art that has been getting a lot of attention. Their table is effing brilliant. Or zeeing brilliant. You decide.

(8) WITH EXTRA ADDED BRAIN. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverworlf explains a fact of TV life in 1968: “[August 30, 1968] TV or Not TV, That is The Question (They Saved Hitler’s Brain and Mars Needs Women)”.

Not all movies show up in theaters. Movies made for television began a few years ago, at least here in the USA, with a thriller called See How They Run. There have been quite a few since then.

A similar phenomenon is the fact that theatrical movies are frequently altered for television. Of course, films are often cut for broadcast, either to reduce the running time or to remove material deemed inappropriate for the tender sensibilities of American viewers.

But did you know that new footage is sometimes added to movies before they show up on TV? That’s because they’re too short to fill up the time slot allotted to them.

An example is Roger Corman’s cheap little monster movie The Wasp Woman. In theaters, it ran just over an hour. On television, new scenes increased the length by about ten minutes.

Wasting time in front of the TV screen recently, I came across such an elongated theatrical film, as well as one made for television only. Let’s take a look at both.

They Saved Hitler’s Brain

This thing began life in 1963 under the a much less laughable title….

(9) MEMORY LANE

1991 – [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

To my thinking, there are two great fictional uses of the Babbage Machine that Charles Babbage designed but never built. Oh, and the first complete Babbage Engine was constructed in London in 2002, one hundred and fifty three years after it was designed. So what are those novels?

One is S.M Stirling’s The Peshawar Lancers in which the British Empire decamps to India after meteor strikes usher in a new ice age. That novel and his Sky People novels, particularly In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, are my favorite works by him.

Then there’s the one our Beginning comes from which is William Gibson & Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine, their name for The Babbage Machine. It was published by Gollancz thirty-three years ago with cover art by Ian Miller.

It was nominated for a number of Awards but didn’t win any. The nominations were a BSFA, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, a Nebula and a Prix Aurora.

It is at the usual suspects as a Meredith Moment. 

And now, as I don’t want to give a single message generated by The Difference Engine, is our Beginning…

THE ANGEL OF GOLIAD

Composite image, optically encoded by escort-craft of the trans-Channel airship Lord Brunel: aerial view of suburban Cherbourg, October 14, 1905.

A villa, a garden, a balcony.

Erase the balcony’s wrought-iron curves, exposing a bath-chair and its occupant. Reflected sunset glints from the nickel-plate of the chair’s wheel-spokes.

The occupant, owner of the villa, rests her arthritic hands upon fabric woven by a Jacquard loom.

These hands consist of tendons, tissue, jointed bone. Through quiet processes of time and information, threads within the human cells have woven themselves into a woman.

Her name is Sybil Gerard.

Below her, in a neglected formal garden, leafless vines lace wooden trellises on whitewashed, flaking walls. From the open windows of her sickroom, a warm draft stirs the loose white hair at her neck, bringing scents of coal-smoke, jasmine, opium.

Her attention is fixed upon the sky, upon a silhouette of vast and irresistible grace—metal, in her lifetime, having taught itself to fly. In advance of that magnificence, tiny unmanned aeroplanes dip and skirl against the red horizon.

Like starlings, Sybil thinks.

The airship’s lights, square golden windows, hint at human warmth. “Effortlessly, with the incomparable grace of organic function, she imagines a distant music there, the music of London: the passengers promenade, they drink, they flirt, perhaps they dance.

Thoughts come unbidden, the mind weaving its perspectives, assembling meaning from emotion and memory.

She recalls her life in London. Recalls herself, so long ago, making her way along the Strand, pressing past the crush at Temple Bar. Pressing on, the city of Memory winding itself about her—till, by the walls on Newgate, the shadow of her father’s hanging falls …

And Memory turns, deflected swift as light, down another byway—one where it is always evening….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 30, 1797 Mary Shelley. Author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818), her first novel. Another of Shelley’s novels, The Last Man (1826), concerns Europe in the late 21st century, ravaged by a mysterious pandemic illness that rapidly sweeps across the entire globe, ultimately resulting in the near-extinction of humanity. Scholars call it one of the first pieces of dystopian fiction published. (OGH) (Died 1851.)
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 81. Editor and academic. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the fame gained for her Pennterra novel helped her win John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II. Asimov wrote an introduction for the book and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series.  Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on EarthTime, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born August 30, 1943 Robert Crumb, 80. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang which I think is genre.
  • Born August 30, 1955 — Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Thread magazine. She’s here in the gold outfit that she designed and made at Costume-Con 9 which was held February 15-18, 1991 at The Columbia Inn in Columbia, Maryland. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 30, 1955 Mark Kelly, born 1955, aged sixty eight years. He maintains the indispensable Science Fiction Awards Database (SFADB), which we consult almost daily. He wrote reviews for Locus in the Nineties, then founded the Locus Online website in 1997 and ran it single-handedly for 20 years, along the way winning the Best Website Hugo (2002). More recently he’s devised a way to use his awards data to rank the all-time “Top SF/F/H Short Stories” and “Top SF/F/H Novelettes”. Kelly’s explanation of how the numbers are crunched is here. (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 58. She was an executive producer of the short-lived not so great Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like. 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 51. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she’s cast as an uncredited bus passenger in Minority Report.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit has an inside comics joke, and it’s a hoot.
  • Tom Gauld, meanwhile, has an inside physics joke.

(12) A BIG FAN, EVENTUALLY. Peter Stone shows the evolution of one comics artist’s respect for another: “Mapping Out NEAL ADAMS’ Enduring Respect and Admiration for JACK KIRBY” at 13th Dimension, Comics, Creators, Culture.

Like many of us, Neal was not a big fan of Jack Kirby’s art when he was younger. In fact, Neal thought very little about Kirby’s art. IN FACT, Neal kind of hated it…

The transformation of Adams’ opinion began here:

[Challengers of the Unknown]  Issue #4! Chapter 4, “The Mechanical Judge”! The splash page was exactly what Neal was looking for. It had changed the way Neal viewed Jack Kirby when he was just getting into comics. Jack was writing and pencilling these stories and this was Neal’s Dream. His theory was always that artists should be writing their stories. They understood storytelling better than writers, according to Neal. A writer was there to add dialogue and that was “the icing on the cake.” But, in this case, it was the splash page image that blew his mind.

It was all about perspective. Kirby had drawn a futuristic, sci-fi building where the reader can see the bottom, middle and top clearly. The middle of the building is the focus and closest to the reader. However the top of the building AND the bottom of the building curve away and get smaller. Neal would always say it’s wrong but absolutely fascinating. Neal once drew a couple other examples of what Kirby was doing with perspective. The first is a boat with three men in it where the front of the boat comes to a point and the back end of the boat does the same. The widest spot is the middle section. Neal viewed it very much like a cinematic technique; a fish-eye lens that adds drama to the image….

…When Neal was 27 in the late ’60s, he started to realize how unique Kirby was. Fantastic Four was obviously a heightened version of the Challengers. Then, the Hulk, the Avengers, the (almost throwaway) X-Men, Ant-Man, Thor, Black Panther, a revised Captain America and so many others. Neal drew Deadman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Batman, Avengers, the X-Men and so much more while Jack Kirby was changing the comic universe. Neal saw that every page of a Jack Kirby comic had a boldly new idea that someone else could explore and turn into a regular series….

(13) THANKED AND EXCUSED. The actress that Carrie Fisher beat out for her Star Wars role — Terri Nunn — still went on to fame: “’Star Wars’ Princess Leia Runner-Up Wound Up Becoming A Famous Musician” at Slashfilm.

…Lucas said, “Your runner-up? She became a rockstar.” That runner-up was Terri Nunn, the lead singer of the band Berlin, who brought us songs like “Take My Breath Away” and “Metro.” In fact, Nunn’s audition with Harrison Ford is out there (via WishItWas1984) on YouTube. Nunn brought a softness to the part that is very different than Fisher’s interpretation. Frankly, I’m in awe of both of them for making what, at the time, was space gibberish sound compelling.

Nunn spoke about the audition in a 2022 interview with Rave It Up. She said, “I’m sitting there with Harrison Ford, and we’re reading these lines, and I had no idea what the hell is an R2-D2. I don’t know what that is. But I was trying to make it happen.” Nunn would go on to act in projects like “T.J. Hooker,” “Lou Grant,” and “Vega$,” but Fisher just nailed that audition….

(14) HOOCH YOU CAN FIND IN THE DARK. If It’s Hip It’s Here introduces oenophiles to “The latest in global design and creativity”.

The 19 Crimes x Universal Monsters Glow-In-The-Dark Wine Bottles are a must have for lovers of old classic monster movies and Halloween. The wine brand 19 Crimes has launched 2 new wines; a Frankenstein Cabernet Sauvignon and a Dracula Red Blend, both with illustrated labels that illuminate when the lights are out.

… The Frankenstein Cabernet, vintage 2021, is firm and full with a rich mouth feel. Aromatics of dark berries, violets and vanilla….

… The Dracula Red Blend, vintage 2021, is rich and round with a soft fruity finish. Sweet aromatics with notes of chocolate….

The place to buy them is at the 19 Crimes website.

(15) CYBERATTACKS ON TELESCOPES. “Hackers shut down 2 of the world’s most advanced telescopes” at Space.com.

Some of the world’s leading astronomical observatories have reported cyberattacks that have resulted in temporary shutdowns.

The National Science Foundation’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, or NOIRLab, reported that a cybersecurity incident that occurred on Aug. 1 has prompted the lab to temporarily halt operations at its Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii and Gemini South Telescope in Chile. Other, smaller telescopes on Cerro Tololo in Chile were also affected. 

… “We plan to provide the community with more information when we are able to, in alignment with our commitment to transparency as well as our dedication to the security of our infrastructure,” the update added. 

The cyberattacks on NOIRLab’s facilities occurred just days before the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) issued a bulletin advising American space companies and research organizations about the threat of cyberattacks and espionage. …

(16) WHAT HAS IT GOT ON ITS SPROCKETSES? “Chandrayaan-3: What has India’s Moon rover Pragyaan been up to since landing?” BBC News overviews the rover’s first week of activity.

…Over the past few days, the rover has been hard at work.

On Tuesday evening, Isro said that a laser detector onboard had made “the first-ever in-situ – in the original space – measurements on the elemental composition of the surface near the south pole” and found a host of chemicals, including sulphur and oxygen, on lunar soil.

The instrument “unambiguously confirms” the presence of sulphur, it said, adding that preliminary analysis also “unveiled the presence of aluminium, calcium, iron, chromium, titanium, manganese, silicon and oxygen”.

“A thorough investigation regarding the presence of hydrogen is underway,” it added….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George’s “Game of Thrones Season 8 Pitch Meeting – Revisited!” is something you may have seen before. There’s some new content at the very end, and his explanation of how he decided which viewer questions to answer is worth skipping ahead to.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/23 Scrolling About Pixels Is Like Stardancing About Naval Architecture

(1) SHORT SFF REVIVAL. Charlie Jane Anders diagnoses the problem and then brings forward “Some Ideas for How to Save Short Fiction!”

Short fiction is once again in crisis. After an era when the Internet seemed to be helping a lot of short stories find a bigger audience, the same thing is now happening to short stories that are happening to a lot of other content: the invisible hand is raising a big middle finger. Among other things, Twitter is getting to be much less useful in helping to spread the word about short stories worth reading, and Amazon just announced that it’s ending its Kindle subscription program from magazines, depriving magazine publishers of a pretty significant slice of income….

Here’s a short example out of several ideas Anders pitches.

I’d love to see more short fiction turning up in incongruous contexts

This is something I talked about a lot in the introduction to my short story collection Even Greater Mistakes (shameless plug alert!). I am always happy to see short stories show up on coffee bag labels, in pamphlets on public transit, scrawled on bathroom walls, or in the middle of a publication that mostly includes serious non-fiction pieces about politics and culture. I feel like we could be doing more to leverage the ability of short stories to show up in surprising places and suck us in with their narrative power.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Paul Di Filippo’s partner Deborah Newton wrote to friends that on January 19 Paul was hit by a large SUV. 

The driver stopped, spoke to Paul and gave him her phone to call Newton.

I ran the three blocks to where the accident had occurred — the ambulance passed me as I ran.  Luckily there was a witness whose moving car was facing the accident when it happened and had a video camera on the dashboard.  He made arrangements with the police, who had already arrived, to share the video.  

Those of you who have met Paul in the flesh will not be surprised that he dragged himself up after the huge hit, and even climbed by himself into the ambulance.  The Dr. at the ER later called that “adrenaline”, but I believe Paul has a stronger energy and will than most of us mere mortals.

After extensive testing in the ER it was determined he sustained no head wounds or broken bones. However, writes Newton, “He is covered with bruises and has a large hematoma on his left thigh. His hip, where he believes he landed after the hit, is excruciatingly painful.”

He is back home, presently using a walker to get around.

(3) LIVE FROM 1968. Cora Buhlert returns to Galactic Journey as one of the contributors to a “Galactoscope” column, reviewing Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber — and also talking about some of the biggest protests her hometown has ever seen. There are also reviews of Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ, a Jack Vance book, an Andre Norton book and several others: “[January 20, 1968] Alyx and Company (January 1968 Galactoscope)”.

… However, with the sale of the Ziff-Davis magazines to Sol Cohen, the appearances of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser in the pages of Fantastic became scarce. It seemed the dynamic duo was homeless once again, unless they shacked up with Cele Goldsmith Lalli over at Modern Bride magazine, that is.

So imagine my joy when I spotted the brand-new Fafhrd and Gray Mouser adventure The Swords of Lankhmar in the spinner rack of my trusty import bookstore…

(4) 2024 NASFIC UPDATE. Sharon Sbarsky, the Pemmi-con/2023 NASFiC committee member in charge of NASFiC 2024 Site Selection, announced today that the Buffalo in 2024 bid has filed. She published the following extract from their letter of intent.

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance Inc. is pleased to present this letter of intent, along with Visit Buffalo Niagara, to host the 16th North American Science Fiction Convention in Buffalo, New York USA in 2024 .

Details of the bid

Proposed date: July 18-21, 2024

Proposed site: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center & Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

Proposed Headquarter Hotel: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance, Inc. is a NYS registered not-for-profit corporation focused on encouraging and running fannish activities in New York State. Members of our bid committee include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across New York and Southern Ontario
https://buffalonasfic2024.org/

Sbarksy added: “Members of Pemmi-con will be able to vote in the Site Selection. Details will come at a later time. We hope to have electronic voting, similar to the Worldcon and NASFiC selections at Chicon 8. 180 days before the Start of Pemmi-Con is January 21, 2023, so the ballot is still open for additional bids.”

(5) GETTING UNSTUCK. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware delivers another warning: “Bad Contract Alert: Webnovel”.

A bit over two years ago, I wrote about two companies, A&D Entertainment and EMP Entertainment, that appeared to have been deputized by serialized fiction app Webnovel to recruit authors to non-exclusive contracts. The contracts from both companies were (and continue to be) absolutely terrible.

EMP Entertainment no longer appears to be active (it has no website and I’ve heard nothing about it since 2020), but A&D is still going strong, and over the past two years I’ve been contacted by a lot of (mostly very young and inexperienced) writers who are confused about its complicated English-language contract, or have changed their minds about signing up and want to know how to get free (as with the contracts of so many serialized fiction apps, there’s no option for the author to terminate).

A&D recruits via a bait and switch. Writers are solicited by an editor or Author Liaison who claims to have discovered the writer’s work on Amazon or elsewhere, and invites them to publish on the Webnovel platform (the bait)….

(6) DON’T JUST ROLL THE DICE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “5 Things SecOps Can Learn from Dungeons & Dragons” at Tech Beacon. Note, “SecOps” is tech shorthand for “Security Operations” (or possibly “Security Operators”)

… Anyone who has ever experienced a SOC 2 or ISO 27001 audit might see the parallels between a lengthy framework of rules and their arbiter. Still, D&D is significantly more fun than a cybersecurity audit. In fact, when it comes to security preparedness there are quite a few lessons that security operations (SecOps) teams that are responsible for the security of connected assets—including myriad Internet of Things (IoT) devices—can learn from D&D. And they might just have a bit of fun along the way.

Assemble Your Party

From wizards and warriors to clerics and rogues, there are a wide variety of classes in D&D—each with its own specializations. The key to an effective adventuring party is to combine them in a way that the strengths of one character can mitigate the weaknesses of another. Building a cybersecurity team is no different. Aside from all the specialized roles within cybersecurity, such as incident-response or threat-hunting teams, an effective approach to security preparedness requires cross-functional collaboration between IT teams, operational-technology (OT) teams, and other lines of business to better understand how to balance business objectives with security requirements….

(7) A THEORY ABOUT THE HOBBIT.  Scott McLemee poses the questions in an “Interview with Robert T. Tally Jr. on historicizing ‘The Hobbit’” for Inside Higher Ed.

Q: You don’t historicize The Hobbit in the naïve or narrow sense of interpreting it as a fictionalized response to real-world events. Your approach owes a great deal to the American Marxist literary theorist Fredric Jameson—the subject of your first book. What does it mean to read Tolkien as a Jamesonian?

A: “Modernism” is a dirty word among many Tolkien enthusiasts, and perhaps for Tolkien himself, but I see his desire to “create a mythology for England” as a powerfully modern thing to attempt, more like Yeats or Joyce than most mere medievalism. Also, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are clearly novelistic in form, even if they deal with “epic” or “romantic” ideas.

In his work on postmodernism, Fredric Jameson refers to the “attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place.” Coming from an entirely different direction politically, I think Tolkien was deeply concerned with the modern world’s inability to “think historically,” and thus his desire to connect elements of the medieval historical world with our own time, even if—or especially if—that meant using fantasy as a way of sort of tricking us into “realizing” history.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2021 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing was a novel that I nominated for a Hugo. Why so? Because it is damn good. It made my top ten novels of that year by having a fantastic story, great characters that for the most part I could care about and not one but two truly interesting settings, the first being the intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing, and the other being a restaurant situated near a defunct star gate.

Now unlike the restaurant in the Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy, this one is not played for laughs and is real, working environment. I don’t know if Rambo has worked in such a place but she captures the feel of it very nicely as I have a very long time ago and it seems quite right.

Now before we get to the quote, I’m very, very pleased to note that the next novel in the series is indeed out relatively soon. Here are the details courtesy of the author:

Devil’s Gun, available this August, follows the adventures of intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing and its crew. While seeking a weapon against the pirate king Tubal Last and operating a pop-up restaurant near a failed star gate, Niko and her friends encounter a strange pair of adventurers who claim to have power over the gates that link the Known Universe.  But following the two on an intergalactic treasure hunt will require going into one of the most dangerous places any of them have ever faced.

Of course it will be available from all the usual suspects in both print and epub formats. 

Now I normally choose the quote, but this time I’m honored to say that Cat chose her favorite quote about food from You Sexy Thing:

[Niko] looked at Dabry, who stood ignoring them, caressing the eggplant with all four hands and his eyes half closed. “Sweet Momma Sky, should we leave so you can have your way with that eggplant or should I just let you take it to your bunk?”

His eyes closed entirely, expression blissful. “Baba ganoush,” he said. “Flat wheat bread dusted with cumin. Seared protein tinctured with lemon and garlic…”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. He’s available at the usual suspects. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” They’re his only ones — he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 89. The Fourth Doctor and still my favorite Doctor. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worst of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. And yes, he turns up briefly in the present era of Who rather delightfully. Before being the Doctor he had a turn as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he played Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad,The MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech-made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of ten percent among audience reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 77. Director of the first Dune movieWent on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1960 Kij Johnson, 63. Faculty member, University of Kansas, English Department. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She has won a Best Novella Hugo for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” had several other nominations. Much of her work is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 59. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Get Fuzzy makes a noble pun about a bestselling horror writer.
  • Eek! deals with a young superhero’s fib.

(11) FRANKLY SPEAKING. In “When Monsters Make the Best Husbands”, a New York Times reviewer tells about two plays, one of genre interest.  

The monster is nestled in a glacier when the villagers dig him out, frozen but not dead, because he was undead already. Tall, broad-shouldered, hulking in his platform boots, he is instantly recognizable, and once he thaws, proves unpretentious despite his Hollywood fame.

It is 1946 in a tiny European village, and he is the most endearing of monsters: awkward, uncertain, just wanting to help out. And in “Frankenstein’s Monster Is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences,” a winsome cartwheel of a show that’s part of the Origin Theater Company’s 1st Irish festival, he finds lasting romance — with a local outcast who falls in love with him at first sight. Never mind that by his own account he is “constructed from the dismembered body parts of a number of different corpses”; their sex life is fabulous….

(12) BEGIN AGAIN. The Cromcast, a sword and sorcery podcast that started as a Conan readthrough, are rereading all the Conan stories again ten years after they launched. They started with “The Phoenix on the Sword”, the very first Conan story: “Season 18, Episode 1: The Phoenix on the Sword!”

“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of…”

(13) HE-MAN. The For Eternia YouTube channel has a great interview with Tim Sheridan, one of the writers of Masters of the Universe Revelation/Revolution, about why the Filmation Masters of the Universe cartoon resonated with so many gay people: “The Power of Pride: Talking Importance of 1980’s He-Man on the LGBTQ+ Community with Tim Sheridan”.

(14) THE NATURE OF REALITY COUNTS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I know from being involved with SF2 Concatenation that quite a few fans are interested in the interface between science and science fiction: after all, the term ‘science fiction’ contains ‘science’. Consequently, it should not be any surprise that all of the four YouTube Channels I invariably check out each week are SF and/or science related.

One of these is PBS Space-Time. It is ostensibly a physics channel (though often there’s astronomy and cosmology) and there’s nothing like at the start of the day having a mug of Yorkshire builders tea (sufficiently strong that the teaspoon stands up in it) along with a short episode of PBS Space Time: it is good to limber up with some physics before embarking on the serious biological and geoscience business of the day (tough as that is for Sheldon Cooper to take).

One aspect of the SF-science border is an exploration as to the true nature of reality. Are we living in a holographic universe? Are we living in a Matrix simulation? And if so is there a simulator?

This week’s PBS Space Time asks the question as to whether the Universe is simply, and purely, mathematical (not physical)? And if so, what of parallel Universes, dimensions and alternate Universes? Indeed, are there different levels to the multiverse?

Be assured, despite maths (or ‘sums’ as we environmental scientists call it) being in the title, there are no heavy mathematics in this short video, rather it is a somewhat deep philosophical discussion. Nonetheless, don’t worry if you find your mind being stretched: that’s what daily limbering up exercises are all about.

So, sit down with your mug of builders and enjoy this 16 minute slice of Space Time“What If The Universe Is Math?”

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