Pixel Scroll 2/4/24 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll And Stumble. File Churn And Cauldron Double

(1) FUNERAL FOR CACHED WEBPAGES. Ars Technica says “Google will no longer back up the Internet: Cached webpages are dead”. That will make reporting controversial social media – where people sometimes take down posts that have attracted attention — rather harder.

Google will no longer be keeping a backup of the entire Internet. Google Search’s “cached” links have long been an alternative way to load a website that was down or had changed, but now the company is killing them off. Google “Search Liaison” Danny Sullivan confirmed the feature removal in an X post, saying the feature “was meant for helping people access pages when way back, you often couldn’t depend on a page loading. These days, things have greatly improved. So, it was decided to retire it.”

The feature has been appearing and disappearing for some people since December, and currently, we don’t see any cache links in Google Search. For now, you can still build your own cache links even without the button, just by going to “https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:” plus a website URL, or by typing “cache:” plus a URL into Google Search. For now, the cached version of Ars Technica seems to still work. All of Google’s support pages about cached sites have been taken down….

(2) GERROLD Q&A. The Roddenberry Archive has released a two-part interview with David Gerrold.

The Roddenberry Archive presents an in-depth two-part conversation with award-winning science fiction novelist and screenwriter David Gerrold. During the conversation, Mr. Gerrold tells how, as a college student he broke into the television industry by writing a script for the original Star Trek, the classic episode, “Trouble With Tribbles.”. Mr. Gerrold speaks candidly of his sometimes-tumultuous relationship with Star Trek’s creator, the late Gene Roddenberry. He delves into his personal experiences in the making of the legendary series and of his pivotal role in the development of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(3) DISCUSSING HUGO REFORM. Brad Templeton has distilled his comments about the Chengdu Worldcon Hugo problems and potential fixes into a single post: “The World Science Fiction convention/awards were attacked again. How can its unusual governance structure deal with this?” at Brad Ideas. Here are the final two sections:

Legal clarity

The organization also needs more legal clarity. The terms of the agreement between WSFS and the conventions it appoints need to be more explicit and clear. The current WSFS constitution says the WorldCon (the local convention entity) does most of what goes on at a convention, but the Hugos and Site Selection are officially the actions of WSFS, though it delegates the logistics and administration to the WorldCon. It’s a bit confusing and might not handle legal scrutiny well.

That WSFS is constitutionally the party that awards the Hugos, using the WorldCon as its agent, has many advantages for trademark law and also if WSFS wants to exercise authority over the Hugos and the people administering them. This should be made more clear.

Recommendations

  • When all is done, there should at least be the appearance that they did not get away with it, to deter future corruption and censorship.
  • The best solution is not a specific one, but a general one that allows the organization to respond quickly to problems and threats, without removing its intentional slow pace of change, and resistance to control by “SMOFs.”
  • Auditing and more transparency are a good start, with an ethos of whistleblowing.
  • Put term limits on all WSFS officials.
  • Clarify and codify the structure of WSFS and the contracts.
  • Pick one way or another to allow WSFS to respond immediately to threats. I like the idea of actions that can be reversed, but some path should be chosen.
  • Do find some way to stop Hugo administration from being under the influence of censorship states, including China.

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

La Zi speaks again

Filers will recall that on January 24th, Mike ran an article by me that included an item about a bizarre Weibo post from Worldcon Vice-Chair and SFW editor La Zi.  I did notice that that Weibo post disappeared not long after it was featured here, but I’d not checked on his account since then, thinking that he might understandably be taking a step back from social media, especially given all the ongoing Hugo stats report controversy.

Reader, I was sorely mistaken.

Amongst some fairly mundane reposts, a couple of his recent posts stood out to me.  The most pertinent to File 770 is this short one from Wednesday January 31st, which is straightforward enough that I could just about understand it all, even with my meagre Chinese language skills.  That text reads:

中国科幻迷应该永远记得本·亚洛这个名字。他是真正的好人,也是真正的国际主义者。

which Google Translate renders as follows (surname error corrected):

Chinese science fiction fans should always remember the name Ben Yalow. He is a truly good man and a true internationalist. 

Here’s a screenshot of the Weibo post – including a similar translation from Alibaba Cloud – just in case it also disappears.

Note to readers: the censuring of Ben Yalow (and Chen Shi, and Dave McCarty) occurred on the previous day, the 30th – although obviously time zone differences make things a bit more complicated with regard to recording what happened when.

The second post that I would like to bring to your attention is a couple of days older, published on Monday the 29th.  The Chinese text reads:

应该要求美国尊重得克萨斯(孤星)共和国人民的民主诉求,承认其独立共和国身份。可以考虑签订《与得克萨斯(孤星)共和国关系法》,并提供防卫目的的武器贸易和军事援助,目的是保护得克萨斯不会因为强大北方邻国的觊觎而被掠夺珍贵的油气资源,任何企图以非和平方式来决定得克萨斯共和国前途之举——包括使用经济抵制及禁运手段在内,将被视为对东太平洋地区和平及安定的威胁,联合国应该介入。

Google Translate renders this as follows (text left unaltered):

The United States should be required to respect the democratic aspirations of the people of the Republic of Texas (Lone Star) and recognize its identity as an independent republic. Consider signing the “Relationships with the Republic of Texas (Lone Star) Act” and provide arms trade and military assistance for defense purposes. The purpose is to protect Texas from being plundered of precious oil and gas resources due to the covetousness of its powerful northern neighbors. Any attempt to use Non-peaceful measures to determine the future of the Republic of Texas, including the use of economic boycotts and embargoes, will be considered a threat to peace and stability in the Eastern Pacific region, and the United Nations should intervene.

Here’s another screenshot for posterity.

Whilst many may presume that this second post indirectly refers to some other place, please note that on January 30th, Newsweek reported that Chinese social media was full of stories about the US being in a state of civil war.  A couple of extracts:

As the battle of wills over immigration continues between the White House and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a parallel debate is happening in China, where trending social media posts are backing the Lone Star State’s right to secede from the United States.

On China’s X-like microblogging site Weibo, accounts with more than a million followers were spreading misinformation this week claiming Texas had entered a “state of war” with the federal government. In the comment sections, Chinese netizens met the news with excitement and glee…

“If the U.S. really pushes Texas back, then it will be great fun,” the user said. “I hope both sides will not be cowardly and that they will fight to the end!”

In a follow-up post on Tuesday, the user said he was inspired to “definitely contribute money and effort” to support the cause against America’s “imperialist oppression” in Texas and elsewhere in the world.

There’s further discussion of this on Reddit’s /r/China, which is where I’d previously heard about this meme.

Note to readers: per Fancyclopedia:

Ben [Yalow] shocked most of fandom when he moved to Texas in 2021.

(5) GLOBETROTTER. Australian fan Robin Johnson has been writing posts for The Little Aviation Museum “Reading Room”. Here’s an example published in 2022: “1997 – A Year of Sightseeing and Science Fiction”.

I have been reminded by a Facebook post by astronomical artist Don Davis of the Hale-Bopp comet of 1997, a year that was a red-letter one for me. As a pensioner of BOAC (now British Airways) I was able to fly on a stand-by basis on their flights (and some other airlines). Flights from Australia to England were operating with one stop using the latest Boeing 747-400s.

I visited my father in England in January for his birthday, and on the way home to Tasmania attended two regional science fiction conventions in the U.S.A. and one in Perth – Arisia in Boston, Chattacon in Chattanooga, and Swancon in Perth.

In late March I set off to England again, attending a Con in Wellington, New Zealand en route, visited friends in the Los Angeles area, and took advantage of the fact that BOAC had recently taken over British Caledonian Airways to fly to London from Dallas-Ft Worth by DC-10.

Comet Hale-Bopp had not yet been easily visible in the Southern hemisphere when I left home, but was spectacular in the Northern Hemisphere. Sitting aboard the flight next to a flight crew member, we talked about the comet – and soon I was invited onto the flight deck. The DC-10 has spectacularly large windows, and standing behind the Captain as we overflew Greenland, on a moonless night: the view was unique. The comet had just passed its closest point to Earth, and the tail was prominently on view to the naked eye, and there could not have been a better viewpoint….

(6) CHRISTOPHER PRIEST OBITUARIES.

John Clute’s “Christopher Priest obituary” ran in the Guardian today.

The novelist Christopher Priest, who has died aged 80 after suffering from cancer, became eminent more than once over the nearly 60 years of his active working life. But while he relished success, he displayed a wry reserve about the ambiguities attending these moments in the limelight.

In 1983 he was included in the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, a 20-strong cohort, most of them – such as Martin Amis, William Boyd, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Graham Swift and AN Wilson – significantly younger than Priest, whose career had begun almost two decades earlier, and who had at least 15 books and 50 stories in print by the early 80s. He clearly felt that it was not so much the quality of his work that delayed his “promotion” to the literary establishment, but his reluctance to deny, when asked, that he wrote science fiction.

His large body of work never fitted easily into any mould. Only in recent years has it become widely understood that the sometimes baffling ingenuity and thrust of his fiction has been of a piece, no more detachable into convenient genres than, say, Amis’s or Ishiguro’s tales of the fantastic….

Paul Kincaid’s reminiscences about “Chris” appear at Through the dark labyrinth.

The 1976 Eastercon was held in the rather grim surroundings of Owen’s Park student accommodation, Manchester. It was my third convention and I still wasn’t used to the fact that mere mortals could mix freely with actual authors. So I was very nervous approaching a small group in the bar. My target was a tall, thin guy wearing blue denim jacket and jeans and smoking with a long cigarette holder (later in the convention, Lee Montgomerie would win the fancy dress for the best costume as an author; she was wearing almost exactly the same outfit). This was Christopher Priest and I had just bought the paperback of his latest novel, The Space Machine. I asked for an autograph. He pointed to someone at the other side of the bar. “See that guy? Andrew Stephenson. He did the illustrations. Why don’t you get him to sign it?” To this day, that paperback is one of the few Chris Priest novels I own that isn’t signed by the author.

Later that day I was standing at the back of a programme item. Chris was on the panel, smoking with that long holder, and I began to notice the wild figure of 8 shape that the glowing end of the cigarette was making, and I realised his hand was shaking. He was more nervous than I had been.

Years go by. A BSFA meeting in London at a pub near Hatton Garden. I’m propping up the bar with Chris. I mention that I’ve just reviewed his latest novel, The Glamour, and I thought it was really good except that the ending didn’t quite work. Two days later I receive a thick envelope in the post. It was the typescript for a revised ending of The Glamour, the first of countless revisions of the novel that was so good but so impossible to end….

black and white photo of Christopher Priest taken in 1983 by Gamma
Christoper Priest outside Forbidden Planet in London in 1983. Photo by Gamma.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1940 The Adventures of Superman on radio

Black and white photo of Superman radio show cast members Jackson Beck (announcer), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane) and Bud Collyer (Superman)
Superman radio show cast members Jackson Beck (announcer), Joan Alexander (Lois Lane) and Bud Collyer (Superman)

The Adventures of Superman is a long-running radio serial. Initially, the show, which aired  from 1940 through to 1951, was  syndicated through the Mutual Broadcasting System’s cornerstone station, WOR in New York, subsequently taken up by the Mutual network, and finally by ABC. In the beginning there were three episodes a week of 15 minutes in length. When in 1941 they began making five episodes a week, some stations stayed with the three-a-week format. Late in the show’s run episodes ran 30 minutes.

The year after the comic strip debuted four audition radio programs were prepared to sell Superman as a syndicated radio series. It took very little time to have WOR sign the contract to do this, so it went on the air less two years after the comic strip launched.

The original pitch was that the audience was going to be predominantly juvenile so the scripts had to be lighthearted with the violence toned down. The performers were chosen with that mind, so they cast Bud Collyer in the Clark Kent / Superman role and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. She also voiced that role in animated Fleischer Superman shorts. 

The continuity of the series is significantly different than the series as Krypton is located on the far side of the sun, and on the journey to Earth,  Kal-el becomes an adult before his ship lands on Earth., so he is never adopted by the Kents but immediately begins his superhero / reporter career. 

This serial is responsible for the introduction of kryptonite to the Superman universe. Daily Planet editor Perry White and Jimmy Olsen who was a copy editor originated in the serial as well. 

As a gimmick that paralleled the Superman comic and which the audience adored, they kept the identity of Collyer as the character a secret for the first six years, until when Superman became the character in a radio campaign for racial and religious tolerance and Collyer did a Time magazine interview about that campaign.

Kellog Company was the sponsor at least initially with the product being its Pep cereal. It was sponsored Tom Corbet, Space Cadet.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side captures a photo op with visitors who aren’t from around here.
  • Pearls Before Swine finds an unexpected angle to library censorship.
  • Six Chix meanwhile shows the challenges of a bookstore customer.  

(9) EUROSTAR. The Guardian looks ahead to issues with cross-Channel train travel. “Eurostar may cap services due to post-Brexit biometric passport checks, says station owner”.

Eurostar could be forced to limit passenger numbers travelling from St Pancras each day under post-Brexit plans to bring in biometric border controls later this year, the owner of the station has warned.

HS1, the owner and operator of the line and stations between London and the Channel tunnel, has raised concerns that planning for new Entry/Exit System (EES) checks at the London rail station are “severely inadequate”, and would lead to long delays and potential capping of services and passenger numbers.

The EES requires citizens from outside the EU or Schengen area to register before entering the zone.

This will replace the stamping of passports for UK travellers, and instead require passengers to enter personal information and details about their trip, as well as submitting fingerprint and facial biometric data.

It has been mooted that the new checks will come into force in October but the implementation has been delayed several times in recent years because the infrastructure was not ready.

HS1 has now raised several concerns to MPs around St Pancras’s ability to accommodate the changes, predicting “unacceptable passenger delays”.

It said only 24 EES kiosks had been allocated by the French government, despite modelling suggesting that nearly 50 would be needed at peak times….

(10) WOULD YOU CARE FOR A BEVERAGE? Comics on Coffee has enlisted this couple to share their “Mad Love for Raspberry Coffee”.

DC & Comics On Coffee have joined forces to make your mornings more action packed with great tasting coffee! It’s time to get crazy in love with this Valentine’s Day Special Edition Coffee. A smooth, raspberry flavored coffee.  

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. George R.R. Martin shares as much as he can about the films they’re making based on the late Howard Waldrop’s stories in “Come to the Pulls” at Not A Blog.

…COOTERS was just the beginning, though.  Only the first of a series of short films — and one full-length feature, we hope — we have been making, based on some of Howard’s astonishing, and unique, stories.   He wrote so many, it was hard to know where to start, but start we did, and I am pleased to say that we have three more Waldrop movies filmed and in the can, in various stages of post production.   Some of you — the lucky ones — will get a chance to see them this year, at a film festival near you.  As with COOTERS, we’re taking them out on the festival circuit.

First one out of the chute will be MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER.   We were able to screen a rough cut for Howard just a few days before his death.  I am so so so glad we did.   And I am thrilled to be able to report that he loved it.

We can’t show it to the world yet.   But here’s a trailer, to give you all a taste.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/30/24 Ocean’s Elven

(1) SO FEW REMAIN. George R.R. Martin calls these “Dark Days” at Not a Blog.

 …2023 was a nightmare of a year, for the world and the nation and for me and mine, both professionally and personally.   I am very glad that it is over.

Unfortunately, so far 2024 looks to be even worse….

…I am famous and I am wealthy and, supposedly, I have a “big platform.”  Whatever that is.  But I have grown more and more cynical about this supposed “power” that people keep telling me I have.   Has anything I have ever written here ever changed a single mind, a single vote?  I see no evidence of that.  The era of rational discourse seems to have ended.

And death is everywhere.   Howard Waldrop was the latest, and his passing has hit me very very hard, but before him we lost Michael Bishop, Terry Bisson, David Drake… from my Wild Cards team, Victor Milan, John Jos. Miller, Edward Bryant, Steve Perrin… I still miss Gardner Dozois and Phyllis Eisenstein and my amazing agent Kay McCauley… Len Wein is gone, Vonda McIntyre, and Harlan Ellison… Greg Bear too, and… oh, I could go on.    I look around, and it seems as though my entire generation of SF and fantasy writers is gone or going.  Only a handful of us remain… and for how long, I wonder?  I know I have forgotten people in the list above, and maybe that is the destiny that awaits all of us… to be forgotten.

For that matter, the entire human race may be forgotten.   If climate change does not get us, war will.  Too many countries have nukes….

(2) FLASH MOB. The term Larry Niven coined for his stories of a world with transport booths is in the mainstream now. Shelf Awareness’ headline about this crime is: “Deadtime Stories, Lansing, Mich., Victim of ‘Flash Mob Robbery'”.

…Owner Jenn Carpenter wrote that around 2:30 p.m., a van pulled up to the corner of Washington and South St., and five teenagers wearing backpacks, carrying a big black trash bag, got out and entered the bookstore, where they remained for approximately 15 minutes. 

“During this time, they took turns asking me questions and keeping me occupied on the bookstore side of the shop, while the rest of them stuffed their backpacks with over $1,300 worth of merchandise,” she continued…

The WILX story has more details: “Lansing’s Reotown store ‘Deadtime Stories’ victim of theft, catches individuals on security footage”.

“The very first clip that I pulled up was them stuffing hundreds of dollars of merchandise in backpacks,” said Jenn Carpenter.

In Lansing’s Reotown, a well known book store, Deadtime Stories, fell victim to a theft. The owner, Jenn Carpenter says she had no idea she had been stolen from until another store owner asked her to check her security footage.

In the security footage, you can see a group of people stuffing store merchandise in a backpack, purse, and even in their pants.

“We lost more yesterday in stolen than we made in sales,” said Carpenter,“This brazen like an entire group of people coming in and just stuffing hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise in their bags and leaving… I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The business across the street, Vintage Junkies, also fell victim to the thefts. The owner says the group took more than $700 in merchandise, even stealing a lamp.

(3) STUDYING OCTAVIA BUTLER. Lois Rosson, a historian of science, is The Huntington’s 2023–24 Octavia E. Butler Fellow. She is currently working on a project about the depiction of outer space over the course of the Cold War titled Scientific Realism and American Astrofutures: Octavia Butler and the Space Environment. “Interview with Octavia E. Butler Fellow Lois Rosson” at The Huntington.

Durkin: You have noted that Octavia E. Butler grew up in Pasadena, not far from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. How do you think that informed her work? And how does that inform your scholarship?

Rosson: For me, this is one of the most interesting parts of my project. The triangle formed by JPL, the Hollywood special effects industry, and commercial aerospace in Southern California has had an outsized impact on the look of outer space. A lot of the illustrators I write about found work in these three industries, and they often moved from one to another.

As you’ve noted, Butler grew up in the northwest part of Pasadena, in close physical proximity to JPL. That said, the scientific and technical expertise concentrated in the region was parsed out socially, not geographically. Pasadena’s public schools were segregated until as late as 1970 and officially desegregated only because of a federal court order. In fact, Pasadena was the first city outside of the South that needed such a mandate. Butler graduated in 1965 from John Muir Technical High School, which was then a vocational school serving the area’s growing African American population.

So, there’s a moment in my story when the illustrators I write about and many of their scientific collaborators are concentrated around JPL, Caltech, and Hollywood, and they are using a frontier model to articulate the landscapes of the outer solar system. Butler is living in the same environment at the same time and forming very different ideas about how society should be organized in space. Unsurprisingly, the arid landscapes of the West take on a different meaning in her work. In her Parable series of novels, outer space represents an escape from the degradation of Earth’s landscapes. In Butler’s work, space settlement looks more like diaspora, which upends the frontier logic we’re used to. Casting space as something other than a frontier helps us understand the persistence of the metaphor more clearly and rethink how we relate to space as an environment.

(4) AWARD FOR CALIFORNIANS. The 2024 Golden Poppy Awards were presented by the California Independent Booksellers Alliance on January 25. The 14 categories include a sff award. 

  • Octavia E. Butler Award for Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror: Maeve Fly by CJ Leede (Tor Nightfire)

(5) OCTAVIA BUTLER MURAL. Publishers Weekly’s January 29 “Picture of the Day” shows authors Sherri L. Smith (l.) and Elizabeth Wein (r.) celebrating the launch of their book American Wings: Chicago’s Pioneering Black Aviators and the Race for Equality in the Sky (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers), with a visit to Octavia E. Butler Magnet STEAM Middle School in Pasadena, Calif.

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

A Chinese fan writes in English about recent events and their impact

The author of this was OK for me to link to the source, but after a brief discussion with them, I am presenting their original unedited English language text here instead.  We did not discuss any of the things that they allude to in this text; I am more interested in conveying to a wider audience the sort of thing that (I imagine) many Chinese fans are feeling, than getting into the weeds of the specifics.

The problem is not that Chinese SF is without hope. I won’t be disappointed if that is the case because there would not be any hope at the very beginning. The problem is that, people who actually care about Chinese SF, who make every effort to make it shine, who knows this industry, who want this explained fairly, are being dishonored, silenced, denied, warned. They even had to warn each other about potential cost: it’s not worth it to hang on anymore. 

So, that’s it. The opportunity was cast away for a generation at least. People who had cherries picked got their fruits and headed for the next big one. The catastrophe was left behind for writers, publishers, mag editors to deal with.

As a SF reader for nearly 20y but not one who read Chinese SF for years, I was not familiar with many candidates before con. But I just heard too many familiar stories of what the survivors have to worry about afterwards.

The dishonesty, like a thorns crown, was forced on the winners’ head. Few would expect blood trailing from behind, but the bleeding will not go away easily. It was never the fault of the winners, but penalty is put on them.

I hate it. 

Mike has been provided with the link to the original source, just so that he can verify that this isn’t something I’ve invented myself.

Fact-checking Babel’s status in China

Regarding all the discussion about why Babel was declared ineligible, here’s an attempt at rumour-control of the specific issue of whether it is legally published and available within China.  This isn’t intended to prove or disprove if or why any censorship or interference took place in the Hugo nominations, but just to clarify whether the work is available.

On January 22nd, Yin Harn Lee pointed out on Twitter that Babel had been published and was available for purchase in China.  I replied with a link to a Tweet I’d made a couple of days earlier, referring to the fact that it had recently ranked 4th in a list of the top 10 SFF books of 2023 on Douban.  (I’m not sure how that list was generated – from sales, user activity, a judging panel, or something else.  Also, I’d only come across that list via a post from a Chinese Twitter user, but their tweets are protected, so I can’t really credit the “real” source for that info.)

A few days later, I did a bit more digging.  Per Douban (which is China’s equivalent of Goodreads/IMDB/etc), the publisher of that translated edition is 中信出版集团, which can be translated as something like CITIC Press.  I’ve since had it confirmed that CITIC Press is ultimately part of CITIC Group, and their Wikipedia article has some interesting nuggets about their founding and ownership.

Note: CITIC being the publisher of Babel explains a comment on Weibo I saw shortly after the Hugo finalists were announced.  My quite probably incorrect recollection is that it translated as something like “CITIC won’t be happy”, which didn’t make any sense to me at the time, even after I’d read the Wikipedia article linked above.  In retrospect, I’m guessing that by the time the finalists were announced, Babel had already been announced as an upcoming publication by CITIC.  Given all the buzz about it, CITIC would likely be expecting to gain a lot of publicity and enthusiasm from the Hugo nomination that many of us were assuming was a dead certainty.

(7) FUTURE TENSE. The January 2024 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Sad Robot,” by E.R. Ramzipoor. The story is about what happens when a globally crucial AI system is in need of therapy. Future Tense Fiction is a monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 69. Did you know Judith Tarr breeds Lipizzan horses at Dancing Horse Farm, her home in Vail, Arizona? They figure into her romantic fantasies that she wrote under the name Caitlin Brennan which she used for her White Magic series, The Mountain’s Call and sequels, and the House of the Star novel.  Yes, romantic fantasies.

Judith Tarr

Her Hound and the Falcon trilogy (The Isle of GlassThe Golden Horn and The Hounds of God) is set in twelfth and thirteenth century Europe. With elves. Yes elves. Why not?

Her Epona series (White Mare’s DaughterThe Shepherd KingsLady of Horses and Daughter of Lir) is set in prehistoric Europe. It takes the theories of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas that a matriarchal society existed in Paleolithic Europe. I’ve read her rationale on that — it’s interesting. The novels are a good read though perhaps a bit dogged at times.

Now Household Gods co-written with Harry Turtledove is a rollicking good novel that’s fun to read. Time travel, ancient Roman gods, a feisty female character — wharf’s not to like?

The next one being His Majesty’s Elephant. Charlemagne. A gift of magical elephant. A supernatural plot afoot. 

A Wind in Cairo allows her to show her love of horses as one of the characters is a male who for his transgressions is transformed by a sorcerer into a magnificent stallions in medieval Cairo where one of victims is now his jockey. 

Finally there’s Living in Threes which Book Cafe quite nice sums up this way, “Three lives. Three worlds. Three times. Three young women, past, present, and future, come together to solve an age-old mystery and save a world..” A novel where you don’t need the Bechdel test. 

She’s written some fifty shorter pieces of fiction, none collected, save those in, and try not to be surprised, in her Nine White Horses: Nine Tales of Horses and Magic collection. 

(9) BRAIN CHIP. “Elon Musk’s Neuralink implants brain chip in first human” reports Reuters.

The first human patient has received an implant from brain-chip startup Neuralink on Sunday and is recovering well, the company’s billionaire founder Elon Musk said.

“Initial results show promising neuron spike detection,” Musk said in a post on the social media platform X on Monday.

Spikes are activity by neurons, which the National Institute of Health describes as cells that use electrical and chemical signals to send information around the brain and to the body.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had given the company clearance last year to conduct its first trial to test its implant on humans, a critical milestone in the startup’s ambitions to help patients overcome paralysis and a host of neurological conditions.

In September, Neuralink said it received approval for recruitment for the human trial.

The study uses a robot to surgically place a brain-computer interface (BCI) implant in a region of the brain that controls the intention to move, Neuralink said previously, adding that its initial goal is to enable people to control a computer cursor or keyboard using their thoughts alone….

(10) NO RELATION TO THAT FLYING SQUIRREL. Atlas Obscura remembers “How NASA Got Involved With Parachuting Beavers”.

IF YOU WERE WANDERING THE wilds of the Wasatch National Forest in Utah in September 2023, you might have encountered a strange sight: a line of slowly marching horses, with beavers saddled on their backs. Unfortunately, the rodents were not wearing tiny cowboy hats and boots. They were inside carriers, but their journey via horseback was still a fairly Wild West–type of solution to a problem. These beavers were headed to a new home—a battleground in the fight against drought and wildfires in the region….

…For decades, people have gone out of their way to move beavers across great distances. Today’s preferred methods—hiking, humping, and horseback rides—are an improvement over 1948, when beavers were parachuted out of planes in Idaho. Back then, Idaho Fish and Game had loaded the animals into boxes designed to spring open upon landing, and then dropped them over the Sawtooth Mountain Range….

…However, the reason behind all of this shuttling beavers around has completely reversed since the 1940s. Then, they were being sent to remote locations because humans didn’t want them around. Today, in Idaho, Utah, and other sites, they’re being brought back. Beavers are ecosystem engineers—and the ecosystems they create happen to be key to limiting wildfires and managing drought conditions. The mini-paratroopers have been revealed to be mini-firefighters, and it was the results of that aerial feat in 1948 that helped kick it all off, at least once NASA took notice….

(11) DESERT SONG. “Dune Spice Opera 2024 remaster” available for sale at Bandcamp.

From the first Dune 1991 game, reworked in 1992 with Philippe Ulrich, a classic of 90’s Electronic music now available in a qualité never Heard before!

Carefully remastered using modern tools, this 2024 version features spectrally enhanced sound, wider stereo, and clearer dynamics, rendered in Hi-Res Audio 96/24 format.
Includes also a special bonus: The full game OST in a yet unveiled quality!

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Deadline sums up the “’Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ Trailer”.

The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare will be released on April 19. Think Ritchie meets Magnificent Seven and Inglourious Basterds….

…The true story covers Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming’s secret WWII combat organization. The clandestine squad’s unconventional and ‘ungentlemanly’ fighting techniques against the Nazis helped change the course of the war and gave birth to the modern Black Ops unit.

The script by Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, Arash Amel and Ritchie is based on war correspondent and military historian Damien Lewis’ best-selling book of the same name. Tamasy and Johnson initiated the project and sold it as a pitch to Bruckheimer and Paramount in 2015….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/24 What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Pixels?

(1) WHAT, ME WORRY? Should we share Jeffrey Davies’ concern about “Is Reimagining History Through Biofiction Ethical?”. His Book Riot post focuses on work that is not marketed as genre, although it arguably is alternate history.

…On the other side of the argument, the popularity of biofiction in the digital age, where information about the past lives of our favorite celebrities and public figures is available instantly at our fingertips, speaks to an appetite for the comfort and familiarity a fictionalized account of our favorite famous people offers. Take Daisy Jones & The Six, for example. While not considered biofiction because Daisy Jones and her friends are entirely fictional, no one can deny that they bear a remarkable resemblance to Fleetwood Mac.

Sure, Daisy Jones is a rip-off, but don’t we like it that way? Doesn’t some part of us crave a new adventure surrounding characters we pretty much already know? It’s like rewatching a movie you haven’t seen in a really long time, but you remember enough of it that it’s not asking your brain to continue engaging with new material at the end of a long day. The same can be said for Lucy Holliday’s A Night in With Audrey Hepburn, also not quite biographical fiction, but the same effect.

Then there’s Elizabeth Letts’ Finding Dorothy, a biofiction novel following L. Frank Baum’s wife in the present (1938), witnessing the production of the MGM film adaptation of her husband’s most famous novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It then flashes back to the late 1800s, imagining the historical events that led to the inspiration for Oz. Because the author treats its history with respect, it’s a joy to read and fun for any fan of Dorothy Gale, big or small, even if some aspects of the narrative can be fictionalized….

(2) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 12 to make your voice heard:

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2023. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 15 to February 12, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

(3) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS 2024 SUBMISSIONS UPDATE. Peter Dennis Pautz today sent this change in the instructions for sending items to judge Thomas Olde Heuvelt:

Due to new customs practices in Europe and the UK, some packages that are still marked “GIFT” or “NO VALUE” or “NO COMMERCIAL VALUE” or “PROMOTIONAL” or “WORLD FANTASY AWARDS JURY MATERIAL” are requiring a duty or “landing fee” at the recipient’s end.

While some packages are getting through with those fees, there are no funds available from the WFC, WFA, or the jury member(s) to pay for or reimburse those costs.

Thus, please be aware that those submissions requiring a fee will be refused by WFA Judge Thomas Olde Heuvelt, with our agreement.

M. Olde Heuvelt still prefers hard copies of any submissions. However, I suggest backing up those submissions with PDF or EPUB to ensure your submissions receive their due attention.

(4) COLLECTIBLE CRAZE. “Pokémon pandemonium: did the Van Gogh Museum play its cards right?” asks the Guardian.

In early November, I was standing in a long line at the Van Gogh gift shop in Amsterdam waiting to purchase a Pokémon ballpoint pen. It was one of the few remaining items left in the store – this was the second month of the establishment’s Pokémon collaboration, but the clamour for the limited edition merchandise was ceaseless. Everything from T-shirts to notebooks to shoulder bags with an image of Pikachu on the front had been picked bare, leaving only prints and postcards behind the till. It was barely past midday but the number of people crammed into the shop meant the area was soon cordoned off with others now rejected entry until it calmed down.

This had become an all too familiar sight for attendees and staff. From the very start of the collaboration, which began in September for the museum’s 50th anniversary and was intended to introduce new audiences to the work of the Dutch artist, the Pokémon merch caused mayhem as eager fans – and scalpers – clamoured for the best stuff. But the main cause was a single item: a limited edition “Pikachu With Grey Felt Hat” trading card. As soon as the card was made available, it sold out online, while desperate gallery visitors had to enter scrums to try and pick one up. Footage of the Poké riots soon hit Twitter (now known as X), and later, eBay listings had the card on sale for up to $900. In mid-October, the card was discontinued….

Pikachu inspired by Self-Portrait With Grey Felt Hat, Naoyo Kimura (1960) at Pokémon x Van Gogh Museum exhibition, Amsterdam. Right: Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat, Vincent van Gogh, 1887. Photograph: The Pokémon Company International/Vincent van Gogh Foundation

(5) NEW HORROR UNIVERSITY WORKSHOPS. The Horror Writers Association has announced that from January 22 to April 8, 2024, Horror University will offer these live workshops to horror writers everywhere interested in refining their writing, learning new skills and techniques, exploring new writing formats, or better understanding the genre. Full descriptions and registration information is available at Teachable.com: “Horror University Online”. Registration now open.

The Winter 2024 Session includes:

  • January 22: An Evening with Ellen Datlow: A wide-ranging discussing with multiple-award-winner, Ellen Datlow, editor of the annual The Best Horror of the Year. 
  • January 29: Writing for Haunts with Kevin Wetmore: Learn tips and techniques for writing scripts for engaging and frightening live haunted house attractions.
  • February 5: Shifting Shapes: Writing the Transformation Scene with Michael Arnzen: Learn the scenecraft for depicting how a “normal” body mutates, a mind spirals into madness, or a human morphs into a monster.
  • February 11: Horror Archives at University of Pittsburgh with Benjamin T. Rubi, Linda Addison, Clay McLeod Chapman, Lisa Morton, Tim Waggoner, and L. Marie Wood: Join curator Ben Rubin and several horror authors for a discussion of the Horror Studies Collection at the University of Pittsburgh! THIS SESSION IS FREE!
  • February 12: Anti-Ableism in Horror with Callie Stoker: How to write accurately and avoid pitfalls when representing all abilities in the human spectrum.
  • February 26: Building Your Author Roadmap with JB Kish: An interactive workshop to help identify your goals and the steps to achieve them using techniques of project management.
  • March 4: Expanding Your Writing Horizons with Lisa Morton: Learn how to move beyond fiction into non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting, paid blogging, and more!
  • March 11: Writing the Witch with Stephanie Wytovich: Immerse yourself in the rich literary history of witchcraft and create fictional work inspired by our interpretation of witches over time.
  • March 18: Bringing Cosmic Horror Down to Earth with James Chambers: Explore techniques for developing grounded settings, well-developed characters, and troubling themes for effective cosmic horror stories.
  • March 25: The Horror Hero’s Journey with Tim Waggoner: Learn how to adapt the “hero’s journey” template to write epic horror fiction!
  • April 8: Marketing 101: Selling and Extending The Life of Your Work with Robert P. Ottone: Learn ways to market your work–and yourself–to better extend the life of your publications and more.

(6) HUMAN PREDICTABILITY. Dan Rockmore’s article in The New Yorker, “How Much of the World Is It Possible to Model?”, naturally includes an Asimov reference:

… But as scientific as all this sounds, it remains hopelessly messy: it’s a model not of a natural system but of a sentimental one. In his “Foundation” novels, the writer Isaac Asimov imagined “psychohistory,” a discipline that would bring the rigor of cause and effect to social dynamics through equations akin to Newton’s laws of motion…

(7) VINTAGE VIDEO. Michael J. Walsh mourns the passing of Howard Waldrop, adding: “I look back to the 2013 Capclave and am so glad we were able to pull this off.” Click through to watch “The Howard, George and Gardner Show”.

(8) WALDROP REMEMBRANCE. James Hollaman tells about the time he made Howard Waldrop the guest of honor at Room Con – his con inside a con at ConQuesT.

I was staying with a person and had woke up early like I normally do. I went to the library of books they had and picked up a book and read a story called “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!” by Howard Waldrop. I really liked the style, there was something about it. This was my introduction to Howard’s work. I then found a few other things that Howard had wrote. I really enjoyed them all. They all had a flavor, a style that I loved. (I think the one word that comes close is vaudeville, but that doesnt do it justice. I would pick up anything that he worked on.

Cut a few years when Howard was a guest at a con in Oklahoma. Before the con Howard, Bradley Denton, the Murray/Bahm’s and I went to eat at a BBQ place. When it came to pay the check I paid for Howards meal (which was a barbecue bologna sandwich). I told him that I owed him for the joy his work brought me. I found out later this was the way to handle it. He normally didn’t like when people did this. getting to hear him read at the con was a joy. So great. He had wrote the story on his way up to the con, it was all hand written.

I started a party called Room Con. We was up to Room Con 6(66) and I wanted to really do something evil, but cool at the same time. It dawned on me that I liked the guest list that ConQuesT had, but i could do better. So I got a hold of Brad and got the info for Howard as I was going to ask him to be my guest of honor. I got his info and called him. A few rings of the phone and he picked up. There I was, talking to a legend. You don’t know how much that meant to me. He agreed to do so. I got his info, bought him a ticket, got him a room, paid him a per diem. He was all set up, all he had to do was show up.

Paula took and drove me to the airport to pick Howard up. We got there just as he was getting off the plane. There he was, just a small carry on in his hand. He was ready for the weekend. Got him to the hotel and in his room. He had a few panels (his pay for the membership to the con), one being the George and Howard show, 2 hours getting to hear Howard and George R.R. Martin talk. That was amazing. Over the weekend I got to eat with Howard several times, him and i would talk. I enjoyed every bit of the time I got to spend with him.

It was time to get Room Con started. Howard got to the party before we started and staid for the whole thing. He liked hearing Bland Lemon Denton and David Lee Anderson play music. Oh and he talked to everyone, just as nice as a human could be. During the party a person took and pulled me off to the side and told me that he had heard I had brought Howard in on my own, to which i said “yes, i did”. He was shocked. He had thought that ConQuesT had brought him in. This made my day. I found out that some others had thought the same, all was shocked I had brought him in.

I didn’t help get him to the airport, mainly because I was a little sad to see the weekend was done. I saw him at a few other cons after that, enjoyed any time I got to spend with him. We wrote each other mainly. I did call him a few times, but they was short calls. We talked about how he was doing and what was going on. While i did not have as close of a relationship with him as others did, I still had a closer relationship than others, and i am all the better for it.

Howard, you will be missed. Thank you for the friendship, thank you for all you have done. Thank you for your kindness.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 54. Garth Ennis is without no doubt one of my favorite comic writers. Born in Northern Ireland, though a rare individual who grew up with no religious background (and you are fully aware why I’m mentioning that), he’s now resident in the States.

Garth Ennis. Photo by and © Luigi Novi.

So as a six-year-old, his teacher told the class that God was a being who could see inside their hearts, was always around them, and would ultimately reward or punish them. It scared, as he says in an interview, the shite out of him, and that was the genesis of Preacher. I love that series, have read it multiple times and no, I have not seen the series. 

Next up on the list of series he wrote that he created and I seriously adore is Hellblazer with the supernatural detective John Constantine. I can’t say that I’ve read every issue of that series as I lost interest in it a decade or so ago but his work on it, mostly from issues forty to eighty three, was among the best undertaken in the series. 

He had a run on The Authority for the Wildstorm imprint, that run being possibly the most annoying run in the history of the series as it focused on a character called Kev; and the first arc of the Authority spin-off series Midnighter, a character he admits was conceived as an ainti-Superman by him and artist Brian Hitch. 

Before you ask, where’s the Marvel Comics, I looked at his work there and since I hadn’t read any of it, save random issues of his Punisher writing, I can’t say what is good and what isn’t. So do feel free to tell me what is good over there.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz admits another fandom interest.
  • Non Sequitur shows a side of public domain we never expected.
  • Hi and Lois illustrates why the difference between a Marvel superhero and Star Wars villain is just a little bit of sunshine.

(11) IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE! IT’S A ONE LINER! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Just as we always suspected. That kid from Smallville wants to be a comedian. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to make you laugh until your ribs hurt! Truth, Justice, and Impeccable Comedic Timing! “New Superman ‘Will Have a Sense of Humor,’ Says Lois Lane Actor Rachel Brosnahan: ‘Every Single Person Involved’ in the Film ‘Is a Perfect Nerd’” in Variety.

No surprise here. James Gunn is bringing comedy back to the Man of Steel, at least according to the director’s Lois Lane actor Rachel Brosnahan. The star recently told Entertainment Tonight that the new Superman (played by David Corenswet) will “have a sense of humor” and that her iteration of Lois Lane will be “feisty, marvelous and fiercely intelligent.”…

…Given that Gunn almost always infuses his work with comedy (see his “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy for Marvel), it’s not too surprising to hear his upcoming “Superman: Legacy” will be bringing out a more humorous side to the Man of Steel. It’s still a notable change given Superman’s last run on the big screen was defined largely by Zack Snyder’s ultra-serious and gritty tone. Henry Cavill played that iteration of the more super-serious Superman….

(12) EYE V. DRAGON. CBR.com wants to know “What If Smaug Had Survived The Hobbit?” Their thought experiment covers both the possibility that Sauron and Smaug would have allied, and that they would have become rivals.

Could Smaug Have Defeated Sauron?

…If Smaug and Sauron had gone to war with one another, the dragon would not have fared well. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf noted that dragon fire was capable of melting most Rings of Power, but not the One Ring. Smaug might have been able to destroy the Nazgûl’s rings, thus robbing Sauron of his most loyal servants, but without destroying the One Ring, Sauron would have persisted. Even if Smaug had annihilated Sauron’s army, the Dark Lord was an immortal Maia, so he could have retreated and rebuilt from the shadows as he did after his defeat in the Second Age. Additionally, Smaug’s weakness was far more exploitable than Sauron’s. Tolkien gave little information about the creation of the black arrow, but Sauron and Saruman were both master craftsmen with plentiful resources, so they surely could have reproduced it. From there, it would only have been a matter of time before an Orc archer got a lucky shot against Smaug….

(13) BACK IN THE ZONE. Interzone has published the January issue in EPUB form — Interzone #297. Costs 5 euros. Here’s the cover.

(14) WOULDN’T YOU RATHER VOTE FOR THEM? Atlas Obscura takes us inside the “Hall of Fake Presidents – Washington, D.C.” (Photos at the link.)

…Regally displayed in the cinema lobby, Alamo Drafthouse’s Hall of Presidents includes a dozen fictional U.S. Presidents from popular films. This is a bipartisan gallery that includes beloved leaders like Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact and Harrison Ford in Air Force One, to more polarizing Commanders-in-Chief like Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove and President Camacho himself: Terry Crews in Idiocracy. The hall’s centerpiece is a life-sized statue of President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) from Independence Day, framed by an engraving of his patriotic speech from that film….

(15) SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Gizmodo declares “These Were the Best, Cutest, Most Obscene Bots of CES 2024”. The cubist-face bot, the are-you-sure-this-isn’t-potentially-lethal industrial arm massage bot and the mini-Killdozer are particularly notable.

…Despite all the modern innovations, some of our favorite bots weren’t even meant to showcase the advancements of modern autonomous tech, one of our favorite displays was a simple, miniaturized Robot Wars demo layed out for tech press struggling after long days hoofing it through the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Sometimes, the best way to unwind after listening to an obscene amount of robot promotion is to literally dismantle an opponent’s bot with large, serrated teeth.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Resident Alien’s third season gets under way on February 14 says SYFY Wire: “Resident Alien Season 3 Gets Premiere Date & New Trailer”.

Greetings, Earthlings, and welcome back to Patience, Colorado, for Resident Alien Season 3. When we last left our out-of-this-world hero Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk), he was carving out his place in our world, struggling with his newfound humanity, and … learning that his alien race isn’t the only one determined to kill us all.

“The Grey Aliens, they are here to destroy the planet,” Harry explains in the first trailer for Resident Alien Season 3 (above). Now that he’s firmly set down roots on Earth, he seems ready and willing to fight for humanity — but not everyone trusts his motives….

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

Pixel Scroll 10/9/23 Scrolls Are Truth At 24 Pixels A Second

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON UPDATE. The World Fantasy Convention is in Kansas City, MO from October 26-29 at the Sheraton Crown Center. They are getting very close to the event. 

The deadline for online registration and tickets for the awards banquet is October 12. People can still pay for memberships on the day, but it will be more expensive. More details on their website.

They have also posted the Tentative Schedule (subject to change).

(2) WIKI HELP WANTED. Scott Edelman quite reasonably thinks the Wikipedia page for prolific sff creator Robert Reed (author) should have a photo of Reed, and not him. It once did. Can any editor fix it?

After I accepted a Hugo Award for Robert Reed at the Yokohama Worldcon, someone swiped in my photo on his wikipedia page. It was corrected after I made a public complaint, but checking his page on his birthday today, I see — I’m back! And blurry, too! Could one of your readers who has editing privileges toss in an actual picture of Bob?

And would you know — today is Robert Reed’s birthday. See the listing below.

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

Ben Yalow arrives in China

The Worldcon co-chair’s arrival in China received coverage from Red Star News.  Via Google Translate (with minor manual edits):

At 14:37 noon, Ben Yalow’s plane flew from Hong Kong, China to Chengdu Tianfu International Airport. He specially wore a panda badge from this World Science Fiction Convention on his front. He also received a special gift just after getting off the plane — the mascot “Kemeng” of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention. Ben Yalow couldn’t put it down: “It’s so cute, I love it!”

This is Ben Yalow’s third visit to Chengdu. He said: “When I came to Chengdu before, the plane landed at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, and this time it landed at Tianfu International Airport. The airport is bigger and the facilities are more beautiful. What has[n’t?] changed is that everyone is still so enthusiastic, and so many friends came to pick me up.”

Red Star News also posted a short video to the Bilibili video site.

Test run of the Worldcon-branded train this Friday

Further to the item yesterday, there will be a test run event of the Worldcon branded train this coming Friday (13th) morning.  Applications to be part of the event have to be in by the end of Wednesday the 11th; SF fans, traditional dress wearers and cosplayers are specifically named as being welcome to apply, so I imagine there’ll be plenty of photos taken and published.

Who’s sponsoring the Chengdu Worldcon?

Section B.10 of the recently released Business Meeting Agenda has a short “Sponsorship List” section near the bottom of page 31, listing two sponsors:

  • Chengdu Technology Innovation New City Investment and Development Co., Ltd
  • Chengdu Media Group

This seems inconsistent with reporting on the June 12th Brand Conference, which stated that there would be eight sponsors, although only one was named at that event.  Selected paragraphs via Google Translate:

On June 12, the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention global brand launch conference was held in Chengdu, and invitations were issued to brand partners around the world.

The “2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference Market Development Cooperation Plan” was released on site, and a signing ceremony of intent with the first sponsor company, China Telecom, and the first batch of eight franchise companies was held….

…During the event, Liang Xiaolan, full-time chairman of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference and vice president of the Chengdu Science Fiction Association, and Cheng Hong, deputy secretary of the party committee and deputy general manager of China Telecom Chengdu Branch, signed the first sponsoring enterprise intention contract. Sun, vice chairman of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference Yue signed intention cooperation agreements with representatives of the first eight franchise companies….

…According to the relevant person in charge of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, the World Science Fiction Convention will hold seven high-profile main activities. By fully participating in the activities, companies can fully display their brands at the main venue of the conference and other online and offline official scenes, and use their products. Interact with fans around the world and bring massive exposure to corporate brands through the media communication matrix….

To the best of my knowledge, these sponsorships have never been acknowledged in any of the media released on the Chengdu Worldcon’s various channels (website, social media accounts, etc), in either English or Chinese.  I’m unaware of any of the other sponsors being named since that original announcement in June.  On the positive side, I don’t recall seeing any sponsor logos being displayed on any of the photos I’ve seen of the convention venue or surrounding area, or in any of the magazines that have run features on the con, so maybe some of the things mentioned in that news report never came to pass?

(I’ve attached what I think are the 5 most pertinent images from the linked sina.cn news story.) 

More Xiaohongshu photo posts

A gallery of several photos ; A transit stop ; A bus stop (second photo)

There have been a handful of posts with photos of signage, transit stops, billboards, etc related to the Worldcon.  Part of the text of of the first of the above links says (via Google Translate):

More than 800 sets of science fiction conference road flags are hung on 15 main and secondary roads in the city. With the theme of “Meeting the Future in Chengdu”, 21 themed landscape sketches are set up around the science fiction museum, on the connection and support lines and at major nodes in the city, and use back streets and alleys. The courtyard walls, bus stops and other carriers integrate sci-fi elements such as Nebula and the mascot “Ke Meng” with the characteristics of Pidu City. 

(3) GRRM’S ANSWER. A bit of Chinese advertising researched by Ersatz Culture led me to check with George R.R. Martin whether planned to go to the Worldcon. GRRM replies that he’s neither going nor participating virtually. 

“I am not involved in this year’s Worldcon.  Either in person or via zoom. Have way too much to do here at home.”

(4) COLLECTING PODCAST. Heritage Auctions sponsors The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, a collecting podcast hosted by showrunners and “writer-collectors” David Mandel (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep) and Ryan Condal (House of the Dragon).

Every week, David and Ryan explore the far reaches of the thrilling world of collecting TV and movie memorabilia. They have dedicated much of the current season to covering the once-in-a-lifetime event that is the Greg Jein Collection. They provide everything from a three-part, deep-dive into the auction catalog, going literally page by page through Greg’s incredible collection to an entire episode to finding out who Greg Jein was as a human.

Here are links to episodes of the podcast:

There are also several YouTube videos:

(5) THEY’RE NOT ALL STINKERS. “Every Isaac Asimov Movie & TV Adaptation Ranked (Including Foundation)” at ScreenRant.

…Apple TV+’s Foundation has been a recent success for Asimov adaptations, as TV networks have been working to bring fantasy/sci-fi novels to the screen. The success of Game of Thrones changed the television landscape, and every network has wanted to bring sprawling book universes to life, paving the way for Foundation. The Foundation series, with Robots and Empire books included, is Asimov’s most expansive work. If it can be adapted, anything else is possible too. Attempts have been made at bringing the author’s novels and novellas into feature films, though so far few have been successful or faithful adaptations….

There are seven items on their list – this is the first one they didn’t hate.

5. The End Of Eternity (1987)

The End of Eternity is a 1987 adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s novel of the same name. The sci-fi film has elements of mystery and thriller and actually proves to be a well-made and faithful adaptation of the time travel novel. The film, which was released episodically for television, may have some pretty niche appeal for fans of the novel. For readers who love the story, the film is definitely worth a watch.

(6) FRIENDS, ROMULANS, COUNTRYMEN. The Commandant of Starfleet Academy announces “Due to Falling Enrollments, We Will No Longer Offer Courses in Romulan at Starfleet Academy” at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

… But despite living in a post-scarcity utopia, in which all of our material needs are satisfied by replicators and the infinite energy supplied by dilithium reactors, recent increases in the price of antimatter, declining domestic enrollments, and intensifying competition for intergalactic students mean that we are facing some tough economic headwinds.…

(7) ANTHONY HICKOX (1959-2023). [Item by Steve Green.] British screenwriter, actor, director Anthony Hickox died October 9, 2023, aged 64. Most of his movies were within the horror genre — Waxwork (1988), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Full EclipseWarlock: The Armageddon (both 1993) — but he also adapted the comic strip Prince Valiant for the big screen in 1997. Son of director Douglas Hickox (Theatre of Blood, 1973).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 9, 1900 Harry Bates. Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom. Editor from 1930 to 1933 of the new pulp magazines Astounding Stories of Super-Science (which later became Astounding Stories, then Analog) and Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror. His Retro Hugo finalist novelette “Farewell to the Master” was the source of the classic science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. He wrote a number of other stories under his own name and under various pseudonyms. In 1976 he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 9, 1948 Ciaran Carson. Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist who is here, genre wise at least, for his translation of the early Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which he called simply The Táin. I’m also going to single him out for penning the finest book ever written on Irish traditional music,  Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music. It’s every bit as interesting as Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram is. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 9, 1949 Jim Starlin, 74. Comics artist and illustrator. If you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ve seen the characters Thanos and Drax the Destroyer which he created. He would also work for DC and other companies over the years. Starlin and Bernie Wrightson produced Heroes for Hope, a 1985 one-shot designed to raise money for African famine relief and recovery. Genre writers such as  Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Harlan Ellison, and Edward Bryant would contribute to this undertaking. He’s written a number of genre novels co-written with his wife Daina Graziunas. 
  • Born October 9, 1964 Jacqueline Carey, 59. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM-centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) Locus in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”.  She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban.
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 62. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too. Oh, and I’d suggest both issues of House of Mystery Halloween Annual that he did for some appropriate Halloween reading. And let’s not forget his long run on the Sandman Mystery Theatre
  • Born October 9, 1965 Robert Reed, 68. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well such as the superb Marrow series. He won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 for his “A Billion Eves” novella. And he was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer as well.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a monstrous religious experience.
  • Thatababy shows how an ordinary phrase sounds ominous when it’s also a movie reference.

(10) READY TO BE STRANGER AGAIN. “A Georgia Town Where ‘Stranger Things’ Is Shot Yearns for Production to Return” — the New York Times pays a visit.

Liz Bowman, who was a special effects artist for “Stranger Things” before the strikes began, has since been giving tours of locations from the show in Jackson. Ga.Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Before a hole could pierce open a parallel dimension, unleashing murderous creatures like a Demogorgon into the placid existence of Hawkins, Ind., there needed to be another invasion.

Hawkins, the fictional home of “Stranger Things,” had to take over the small town in Georgia where the hit Netflix show has been set since it debuted in 2016.

The old county courthouse in the center of Jackson, Ga., was turned into the Hawkins Library. An empty storefront became Melvald’s General Store. On the other side of the town square, a marquee was added to the front of a restaurant, transforming it into Hawkins’s movie theater.

But lately, Jackson has just been Jackson. “Stranger Things” retreated, along with most of the other movies and television shows filmed in Georgia, as the writers’ strike that began in May and the actors’ strike that followed in July reached far beyond Hollywood. The writers reached a tentative deal with studios in late September, and a ratification vote is underway. But actors are still negotiating with entertainment companies, keeping most TV and film production shut down….

(11) KEEP DRINKING TIL YOU SEE NESSIE. Are you in the market for a “Scotch Ness Critter (Chilling Stone)”?

Looming far into the Scottish Highlands, the Scotch Ness Critter roams around its habitat in secrecy. Its long neck and strong nose are drawn to only the finest scents: toasted oak, dried fruits, or even a wisp of peat. No matter how shallow or deep the glass, you might be the lucky one to keep it sticking around…are you ready?

(12) THE SHADOW KNOWS…DO YOU? One of these three contestants on a 1974 episode of To Tell The Truth is the real Walter Gibson, creatof of The Shadow: “To Tell The Truth (June 6, 1974)”.

(13) FANTASTIC VOYAGERS. “The Future of Medicine: Artificial Life Forms” at SciTechDaily.

Creating artificial life is a recurring theme in both science and popular literature, where it conjures images of creeping slime creatures with malevolent intentions or super-cute designer pets. At the same time, the question arises: What role should artificial life play in our environment here on Earth, where all life forms are created by nature and have their own place and purpose?

Associate professor Chenguang Lou from the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy, University of Southern Denmark, together with Professor Hanbin Mao from Kent State University, is the parent of a special artificial hybrid molecule that could lead to the creation of artificial life forms.

They have now published a review in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science on the state of research in the field behind their creation. The field is called “hybrid peptide-DNA nanostructures,” and it is an emerging field, less than ten years old.

Potential Applications of Artificial Life

Lou’s vision is to create viral vaccines (modified and weakened versions of a virus) and artificial life forms that can be used for diagnosing and treating diseases.

“In nature, most organisms have natural enemies, but some do not. For example, some disease-causing viruses have no natural enemy. It would be a logical step to create an artificial life form that could become an enemy to them,” he says….

(14) POINT NEMO. BBC Future takes you to “The Soviet spacecraft cemetery in the Pacific”.

…The area is not routinely used for any other human activity, such as shipping or fishing – in fact, the nearest humans are often a very different kind of explorer: astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who are just 415km (258 miles) away when they pass overhead. This is known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, otherwise known as Point Nemo.

To find Point Nemo on a globe, you can simply look for the vast swathe of unbroken blue between New Zealand and southern Chile – it’s roughly halfway. For a more exact location, triangulate between an uninhabited atoll, Ducie Island – part of the Pitcairn Islands – in the north, Antarctica’s Maher Island in the south, the Chatham Islands in the west and Chile in the east. This is a place of superlatives: the most lonely, isolated and lifeless part of the ocean … even the seafloor is some 13,000ft (2.5 miles) from the surface.

But there is another link between the icy, empty waters of this desolate place and the void of space besides the ISS: it’s famous as the centre of a spacecraft cemetery – an expansive, scattered rubbish dump for obsolete items in Earth’s orbit.   

Between 1971 and 2018, global space powers, including the United States, Russia, Japan and Europe,  crashed more than 263 space objects in the uninhabited region of the ocean around Point Nemo. The list includes the Soviet-era Mir space station and six craft from the country’s Salyut programme, as well as 140 Russian resupply vehicles, six cargo transfer vehicles launched by Japan, and five from the European Space Agency (Esa). More recently, this oceanic dump is thought to have received part of a SpaceX capsule rocket. And coincidentally, its closest neighbour, the ISS, is expected to splash-land at this remote spot in just eight years.

How do spacecraft end up at Point Nemo? What twisted, broken remains are currently lurking in its inky depths? And what might future archaeologists make of it all?…

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

Pixel Scroll 10/8/23 Strange Scrolls Lying In Ponds Passing Out Pixels

(1) MARTHA WELLS Q&A. Kelly Jennings interviews Martha Wells for IZ Digital: “Out of Trauma”.

Kelly Jennings: I also saw somewhere that you used to work as a programmer – is that right? Can you talk about how that’s helped you create the bots in your books, including Murderbot?

Martha Wells: Yes, in the late 80s and 90s I was a COBOL programmer and also built and worked with SQL databases and early CGI programs for web sites. I also did a lot of user support and wrote instructions and documentation, and worked with several different systems. I’ve had people assume I’m an expert on artificial intelligence, which I absolutely am not. What really informed Murderbot’s experience was creating a database according to what the users said they needed, and then finding that what they actually needed it to do was something else, and instead of asking for it to be adjusted they cram extra information into the fields and are then surprised when it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to anymore. And being yelled at by people who don’t know how to turn their workstation on. I have lots of stories about this kind of thing….

(2) “TRUTH ISN’T ALWAYS ENLIGHTENMENT”. “Joanna Russ Showed Us the Future: Female, Queer but Far From Perfect” explains Annalee Newitz in a review of a new Russ collection.

Joanna Russ (1937-2011) was one of the great writers of the 20th century, but she is also one of those authors you either know intimately or have never heard of. She wrote prickly, violent stories about lesbian heroes who slay patriarchs, and adventure tales about bold women who swashbuckle across the multiverse. These tropes win fans and Oscars today, but Russ was publishing in the 1960s and ’70s, when women simply weren’t supposed to write like that. At least, not if they wanted to be taken seriously. She was an outsider in the literary world for writing about the future, but her space marauders were too queer for the science fiction crowd. And so she never really found a comfortable place in literary history.

Now a new collection of her most significant works, JOANNA RUSS: Novels & Stories (Library of America, 711 pp., $37.50), offers a valuable introduction to a pioneer who defied categories. It contains Russ’s best-known novel, “The Female Man” (1975), a potent mixture of science fiction and dark satire; her early stories about a savvy, tough time traveler named Alyx; and her painfully realistic coming-out novel “On Strike Against God” (1980).

Together, these works and a few others showcase Russ’s furious, chaotic style. She focuses on messy characters whose racing minds she populates with fragments of music and theatrical dialogue, interleaving their sharp social observations with futuristic speculation based in real science. It’s like listening to your smartest, funniest friend tell you why the whole world is garbage….

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

Test images lead to erroneous speculation about possible guests

A photo posted to Weibo of an apparent promotional image of George R. R. Martin, which was taken to imply that he might be at a GoT/ASoIaF panel.  One comment exchange (via Google Translate, with minor edits):

User A: Martin is coming?

User B: Or maybe it’s just a schematic diagram of the scene. Or [he’s] connect[ing] remotely. It is impossible [for him] to come. If [he] really comes, I will never criticize the organizing committee again [laughing and crying emojis]

This speculation was dashed when it transpired that the image was some sort of test or mockup that had somehow escaped into the wider world.  A similar one with James Cameron and an Avatar panel was also posted, along with a few others.

Chengdu light rail train with Worldcon livery

The official Twitter and Facebook accounts posted some photos of a light rail train in Worldcon livery.  There was also a short video posted to Xiaohongshu.

Photos of Hugo Hall and other interior areas

Those official accounts also posted some photos of the Hugo Hall, which looks a lot more finished than in the video posted here a few days ago.  Based on that video, I think the third and fourth images are of the media room, rather than the Hugo Hall.

The Weibo account of the SF World Translation magazine posted several more images of the interior of the museum.

Three Xiaohongshu posts about the surrounding area

(i) This Xiaohongshu post is a relatively slow and long video compiling aerial shots of JIngrong town, the vicinity of the con.  The locale seems to have a lot more high-rise blocks than I thought, compared to what’s been seen in other videos.  Perhaps that is down to angle and shot selection?

The accompanying text is quite informative.  Via Google Translate (with manual edits to fix tenses and grammar, and with bits that came out incoherent removed), it says:

Jingrong Town is a town under the jurisdiction of Pidu District, Chengdu City.  The Pidu District of Chengdu has transformed Deyuan New Town, which was on the verge of becoming a “hollow town” in terms of industrial development, into Jingrong Town, a well-known “maker’s paradise”.  At the same time, it has set off an upsurge of innovation and entrepreneurship in the entire district.

(ii) This post from October 5th is perhaps more interesting for the text notes and comments than the images; via Google Translate (minor manual edits):

The whole place is still under construction, and there are security guards all around to prevent you from entering. If you want to check in at the best place, you should wait until it opens. 

Moreover, the surrounding supporting facilities are not yet complete… I want to say that there are no restaurants around. The nearest community is probably nearly 2 kilometers away. There are only three or four food stalls outside. And the nearest subway station is Wangcong Temple, which takes three stops. This venue can only be reached by tram.

(iii) Most of the shots in this Xiaohongshu slideshow are by now fairly familiar, but there’s “(In Chengdu) Meet The Future” sculpture/statue/something that I haven’t seen before.  (If you have that app, several of the images will display as short videos, but this doesn’t seem to work in a browser.)

Staff badges and training material

This post contains three images:

  • A photo of the (volunteer?) staff ID badges.  I’ve seen a couple of other posts with these posted in the past day or so, so maybe they’ve just been issued?
  • The second photo looks like it might be the cover page of a training manual for the Hugo Awards Ceremony?
  • The third is possibly a banner flying in the area outside the SF museum?

PandaBot: “It’s coming”

I’m not sure what this is – quite possibly it’s just some unofficial fan art project – but these images of a robotic panda that (per the final image) is “helping the World Science Fiction Convention” were also posted to Xiaohongshu.

(4) EMMY-NOMINATED COSTUME DESIGNER. “Shawna Trpcic Dies: ‘The Mandalorian’, ‘Ahsoka’ & ‘Firefly’ Costume Designer Was 56” reports Deadline.

…She worked on such Joss Whedon series as Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. as well as his movie The Cabin In the Woods.

Firefly fan who worked at Skywalker Ranch asked her if she would like a tour, and there Trpcic met George Lucas.  Fifteen years later, she received a call to work on The Mandalorian, fulfilling a lifelong dream to design for Star Wars.

Trpcic set up shop at Lucasfilm in 2019, joining the second season of The Mandalorian. She has since continued her work on that series and also served as costume designer of The Book of Boba Fett, and Ahsoka. Trpcic was nominated for an Emmy for her work on The Mandalorian Season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett, and won a Costume Designer’s Guild Award for her work on the latter. She is currently nominated for an Emmy for her work on The Mandalorian Season 3….

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing — by far, my favorite depiction of his novel in other media. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. Yes I’ve read much more by him but all that I remember vividly.  No, I’ve not seen the film. Did y’all enjoy it? (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1943 R.L. Stine, 80. He’s been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature” and is the author of hundreds of horror novels including works in the Goosebumps, Fear StreetMostly  Ghostly, and The Nightmare Room series. Library of Congress lists four hundred and twenty-three separate entries for him.
  • Born October 8, 1949 — Richard Hescox, 74. An illustrator who between the Seventies and early Nineties painted over one hundred and thirty covers for genre books, and is now working exclusively in the games industry and private commissions. Here’s his cover of Spider Robinson’s Lady Slings The Booze, another one of Spider’s clever puns.
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 74. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and Lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film Best Dramatic Presentation Award after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. And yes, I know Conspiracy ‘87 gave Aliens a Best Dramatic Presentation Award as well but I’m really not a fan of that franchise.
  • Born October 8, 1951 Terry Hayes, 72. Screenwriter of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior which he co-wrote with George Miller and Brian Hannant, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome with Miller, and From Hell (from the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell novel) which he co-wrote with Rafael Yglesias. He’s also the writer of an unused screenplay, Return of the Apes.
  • Born October 8, 1974 Lynne M. Thomas, 49. Librarian, podcaster and award-winning editor. She has won ten Hugo Awards for, among other things, as one of many involved in the SF Squeecast fancast, and editing Uncanny magazine with and husband Michael Damian Thomas. She and her husband are fanatical Whovians, so it’s no surprise that with Tara O’Shea, she edited the superb Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly C. Quinn, 30. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Arthurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

(7) POLISH GAME DEVS UNIONIZE. “CD Projekt Red devs unionise after its third round of layoffs in three months” reports Eurogamer.net.

Staff at CD Projekt Red are uniting with others in the Polish video game industry to unionise.

The union was formed after CDPR announced a third wave of job cuts in as many months, driving developers to unionise as a means of “improving their workplace/industry standards in a way that has legal power and amplifies their voices”.

“We started talking about unionizing after the 2023 wave of layoffs when nine per cent of Reds (that is roughly 100 people) were let go,” the union explains on the Gamedevunion.pl website (as translated by Google Translate)….

(8) HOLLYWOOD KITSCH. The “Again L.A. – Huge Toy and Hollywood Ephemera Sale starts on 10/6/2023” webpage at EstateSales.net is especially interesting for the vast photo gallery of treasures from past childhoods and other collectibles. I promise – a fair number are tasteless.

(9) PAPERBACK WRITER. The New York Times visits a local exhibit about “How the Humble Paperback Helped Win World War II”.

When American soldiers fought on the battlefields of World War II, they were carrying more than weapons. They also carried ideas — quite literally.

The Armed Services Editions, a series of specially designed pocket-size paperbacks, were introduced in the spring of 1943. Over the next four years, roughly 120 million were printed, finding their way everywhere from the beaches of Normandy to German P.O.W. camps to remote Pacific islands….

… The program, one of the more heroic chapters in American publishing history, is the subject of “The Best-Read Army in the World,” an exhibition at the Grolier Club in Manhattan. The show, on view through Dec. 30, is curated by Molly Guptill Manning, a law professor who accumulated more than 900 of the volumes while researching her 2014 book “When Books Went to War.”…

… The editions also boosted the fortunes of some authors. When F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940, “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925, had barely sold 20,000 copies. Then it was selected as an Armed Services Edition, and more than 120,000 copies were distributed, spurring its transformation into a classic….

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ‘Tis the season – Halloween, that is. “Toxicity (System of a Down) 2023 Halloween Light and Fire Show”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/2023 Because The Scroll Belongs To Pixels

(1) CHENGDU’S UNIQUE OFFER. The Chengdu Worldcon committee is offering financial and other assistance to at least some Hugo finalists so that they can attend the convention. File 770 has tried to learn who is being offered the help. The Chengdu committee has yet to respond. File 770 is aware of some individual pros and fans who have been contacted. Here is a screencap of the message provided by an uncredited recipient.

File 770 contacted a sampling of finalists to ask if they’d received the message. The following people commented for the record.

John Scalzi got the offer. “I did and I passed, in part because I am already counterscheduled.” 

Ursula Vernon also received the offer: “Whether it was for the Best Novelist or Best Novella, I couldn’t tell you, but I know at least one other person who’s gotten the offer. (I am unable to attend due to health, which takes any questions of whether or not to accept such off my plate.) …They offer visa help though, which, having visited China, is arguably worth more than all the accommodations! ‘Writer’ is not a profession that the people giving visas look kindly on—when I went to Tibet, I listed my occupation as ‘jewelry maker’.”

On the other hand, Olav Rokne, an editor at the fanzines Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog and Journey Planet, said, “Neither Amanda nor I have received such an offer…. So far, nothing for either of the fanzine finalists that I was a part of.”

(2) PICKET DUTY. George R.R. Martin says this year’s strike is “the most important of my lifetime” in “Actors Join the Strike!” at Not A Blog.

…The SAG contract ended on June 30, but the actors gave AMPTP every chance to reach an equitable agreement by extending negotiations to July 12.  That proved to be a futile gesture.  The studios did not move an inch from their previous positions, and still refuse to address some of the most important issues on the table, including AI and payments and residuals from streaming.   They gave the actors no choice but to walk.

As for the writers… well, the studios are not even TALKING to us.   All negotiations between AMPTP and the WGA shut down back in May when the strike started.  It is hard to reach any agreement when  the other side won’t even come to the table.

I joined the WGA in 1986 and have been through several strikes with them.  We made gains in all of them, but some issues are more important than others… and this year’s strike is the most important of my lifetime.  An unnamed producer was quoted last week saying the AMPTP strategy was to stand fast until the writers started losing their homes and apartments, which gives you a hint of what we’re facing.

But we ARE facing it.  I have never seen such unity in the Guilds; the strike authorization votes for both SAG and WGA were as close to unanimous as we are ever likely to see….

Although Martin’s overall deal with HBO was suspended on June 1, he’s not idle.

…I still have plenty to do, of course.   In that, I am one of the lucky ones.   (These strikes are not really about name writers or producers or showrunners, most of whom are fine; we’re striking for the entry level writers, the story editors, the students hoping to break in, the actor who has four lines, the guy working his first staff job who dreams of creating his own show one day, as I did back in the 80s).

Last week we had a great meeting with the producers on THE IRON THRONE, the stage play we’ve been working on the past few years.  The scripts for that one are coming along well, and it’s got me very excited….

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Eisner-winning comics artist Colleen Doran told her Patreon supporters (in a public post) she has recovered after being in danger of losing sight in one eye.

…I’ve had other things on my mind. But we are amazed and delighted to win the Eisner Award for Neil Gaiman’s CHIVALRY.

…In even better news (something I really wasn’t talking about until I was sure how things would go,) I was blinded in the left eye in a freak accident which caused an extremely painful corneal ulcer. Still have no idea what happened. But what seemed to be a minor issue had me in the emergency room in a matter of hours. I was in imminent danger of permanently losing sight in the eye, or losing the eye entirely.

…. And I practiced my life as an artist with one eye. Just in case.

I can draw with one eye tied behind my back, and was showing work to my pro peeps to see if they could tell what was drawn with both eyes and what was drawn with one eye.

It’s super not pleasant though, and for awhile my eye was so sensitive to light that even light in my good eye hurt the bad one. I spent days sitting in the dark feeling pretty dark.

Yesterday was the first day I was able to get back to a full slot at the drawing board, as my sight has almost completely returned to normal.

Yesterday was a very good day…

(4) X. John Scalzi is “Preparing My X-it” after today’s rebranding of Twitter as X. He’s not really leaving, he says he will be posting much less frequently. Will he miss it? And what is he moving on to?

…But, one, having your career predicated on how many followers you have on a single site is fraught anyway, and two, this is the nature of social media, isn’t it? Think of all those bands who had hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers on MySpace and then that imploded. And then, three, not everything is about the sheer number of followers. I loved being on Twitter not because I had tens of thousands of people to market to, but because I was having fun. And today, I’m having fun in other places; at the moment I’m especially having fun on Bluesky. Bluesky is tiny and invite-only and at the moment absolutely fucking useless to market one’s self on, and I kinda love it and the conversations I’m having on it. So there’s that….

(5) DOWNLOAD TWO CHINESE FAN WRITERS’ HUGO PACKETS. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Two of the Chinese Hugo finalists for Best Fan Writer have made their Hugo voter packet submissions publicly available.

  • Arthur Liu aka HeavenDuke aka 天爵 – PDF can be downloaded at this link in either Chinese or English.
  • Riverflow (河流) – PDF — riverflow-pack.pdf; contains both Chinese and English

Both of these include bilingual material that was previously published in Journey Planet and at Strange Horizons; the English language Arthur Liu packet also includes 3 machine-translated essays that hopefully we were able to bash into a moderately acceptable state in the few days we worked on them.  (And as the tweet says, all the errors that didn’t get caught – of which I’m sure there’ll be many – are on my head.)

(6) LA IN 2026. The LA in 2026 Worldcon bid had a table at Pemmi-Con. Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the photo of bid chair Joyce Lloyd.

Their old website has been replaced by “LA in 2026 – Adventure Awaits!” They’re taking presupports here.

Are you stuck in the daily grind, yearning for a taste of the extraordinary? Dreaming of vistas untouched, of stories untold? Welcome!

Join us and embark on a journey where the journey itself is the destination.

LA in 2026 – we don’t just explore places, we uncover stories. We’re not just explorers of mountains, oceans, or galaxies. We’re pioneers of imagination. We traverse magical kingdoms, navigate mythical seas, walk through enchanted forests, and soar with dragons. We don’t just chase the sun, moon, or stars – we unlock the secrets of the cosmos and dance with time.

They have not yet identified the city or venue they are bidding for, although the site selection vote will be held in Glasgow in a little over a year from now.

In addition to Joyce Lloyd, the website names these other members of the bid:

  • Bobbi Armbruster: Vice Chair, Chicon 7; over 40 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Sherri Benoun: Co-Chair, World Fantasy 2019; over 30 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Bert Boden: Over 20 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Steve Cooper: Co-Chair, Loncon 3, 2014; over 20 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Genny Dazzo: Over 30 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Bruce Farr: Co-Chair, World Fantasy 2019, 2001 and 1991; over 40 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Lea Farr: Co-Chair, World Fantasy 2001; over 40 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Sara Felix: Chair, ArmadilloCon 32, 2012; over 20 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink: Over 40 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Shaun Lyon: Co-Founder & Program Director, Gallifrey One (33 years); over 30 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Karin May: DH Staff Services, Chicon 8; over 5 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Christian B. McGuire: Chair, LA Con IV, 2006; Co-Founder & Chair (13 years), Gallifrey One; over 30 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Helen Montgomery: Chair, Chicon 8; Vice Chair, Chicon 7; over 20 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Elayne Pelz: Over 40 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Jerome Scott: Over 30 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Randy Shepherd: Chair, LoneStarCon 3, 2013; Vice Chair, LoneStarCon 2, 1997; over 20 years of Worldcon and convention experience
  • Ben Yalow: Co-Chair, Chengdu 2023: over 40 years of Worldcon and convention experience

(7) WHEN WIKIPEDIA WORKS RIGHT. Immediately after Michele Lundgren was charged as a Michigan fake Trump elector somebody tried to add that information to the first paragraph of her husband Carl Lundgren’s Wikipedia entry.

The attempt ran afoul of Wikipedia’s policy to avoid “Coatrack articles”.

Typically, the article has been edited to make a point about something else. The nominal subject is functioning as an overloaded coat-rack, obscured by too many “coats”… 

A coatrack article fails to give a truthful impression of the subject. In the extreme case, the nominal subject gets hidden behind the sheer volume of the bias subject(s). Thus the article, although superficially true, leaves the reader with a thoroughly incorrect understanding of the nominal subject….

Good call!

(8) MEMORY LANE.

“Beginnings”, written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer, is moving to a weekly schedule. One will appear in the Scroll each Wednesday.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 24, 1878 Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the review here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I’m going to link to another review on Green Man as it’s an audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
  • Born July 24, 1895 Robert Graves. Poet, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book), two volumes called the Greek MythsSeven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list and more short fiction that bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 24, 1916 John D. MacDonald. Primarily a mystery writer whose Travis McGee series I enjoyed immensely and which I re-read recently survived the Suck Fairy hovering over my shoulder the entire time despite the misogyny and somewhat regressive politics therein. He wrote a handful of genre works including the sublime The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. ISFDB lists a collection, End of the Tiger and Other Short Stories, which I presume is genre. Presumably. (Died 1986.)
  • Born July 24, 1936 Mark Goddard, 87. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film.
  • Born July 24, 1945 Gordon Eklund, 78. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good as my memory says. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? If the Stars Are God is available at the usual suspect as well as Cosmic Fusion, which according to Amazon “was originally written between January 1973 and September 1982, a mammoth 300,000-word epic novel of ‘science fiction, sex, and death.’”
  • Born July 24, 1951 Lynda Carter, 72. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer;  Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin in one version of Supergirl. 
  • Born July 24, 1964 Colleen Doran, 59.  Comics artist and writer. Work particularly worth noting includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder WomanLegion of SuperheroesTeen Titans, “Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, in the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerised Into Sandman as the character Thessaly is based on Doran. Her work has received the Eisner, Harvey, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild Awards.
  • Born July 24, 1981 Summer Glau, 42. An impressive run of genre roles as she was River Tam in the Firefly franchise, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow. And she appears as herself on The Big Bang Theory in “The Terminator Decoupling” episode. Another series I’ve not seen. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

The Argyle Sweater remembers why one character was dropped from Star Wars.

MUTTS tells us how to calm the Hulk down.

(11) BIGGER THAN A BLOCKBUSTER. While Barbie blew up box offices all over this past weekend, Oppenheimer definitely did not bomb. “Box Office: ‘Barbie’ Opens to Record-Setting $155 Million, ‘Oppenheimer’ Shatters Expectations With $80 Million Debut” in Variety.

“Barbenheimer” is more than just a meme. It’s a full-fledged box office phenomenon.

Over the weekend, moviegoers turned out in force for Greta Gerwig’s neon-coated fantasy comedy “Barbie,” which smashed expectations with $155 million to land the biggest debut of the year. But they also showed up to see Christopher Nolan’s R-rated historical drama “Oppenheimer,” which collected a remarkable $80.5 million in its opening weekend.

Hundreds of thousands of ticket buyers refused to choose just one movie between the seemingly different blockbusters from auteur directors with sprawling casts and twin release dates. So they opted to attend same-day viewings of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” turning the box office battle into a double feature for the ages….

(12) ENDER’S GAME. IRL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “UK Defense Ministry: Russian children to be taught combat drone operation” reports Kyiv Independent.

…Russian children are to undergo training to learn how to operate combat drones, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported in its July 24 intelligence update.

British intelligence cites Artem Sheikin, a Russian senator, who announced that the curriculum will include lessons in terrain reconnaissance and countering Ukrainian drones.

The move highlights how Russia considers the use of drones “an enduring component of contemporary war.”

The training will be part of the “Basics of Life Safety” course. From Sept. 1, 2023, high school students will be taught how to operate an assault rifle, hand grenade skills and combat first aid, as well as the training on drones, as part of the syllabus.

“Russia’s renewed emphasis on military induction for children is largely an effort to cultivate a culture of militarized patriotism rather than develop genuine capability,” according to the report….

(13) IN HIS CUPS. Camestros Felapton analyzes a book’s recipe for success “Review: Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree”.

…The premise is simple. In a D&D-like world, a sword-wielding orc becomes tired of the life adventuring, treasure-finding, dungeon-crawling, monster-slaying shenanigans and decides to quit that life and instead open up a coffee shop. The main obstacle is in this world only the inventive gnome civilisation even knows what coffee is. It is a simple idea, one I’ve even heard called “obvious” (presumably because coffee shops feature in a subset of fan fiction) but as with copyright, the issue is never the obviousness of an idea but its actual execution. In this case, the idea is executed very well indeed….

(14) FUTURAMA. New York Times TV critic Margaret Lyons subheads this review: “I’m nostalgic, but I also want that nostalgia to be ridiculed.”

‘Futurama’

When to watch: Now, on Hulu

“Viewers must binge responsibly, the same way they smoke cigarettes or drink bleach,” quoth Philip J. Fry in this new revival of “Futurama.” Easy enough; Hulu is releasing episodes weekly, which contributes to the throwback vibe.

“Futurama” has been canceled and revived a few times since its initial run on Fox from 1999-2003. In some ways, its superior ability to spring back to life set an un-meetable standard for other shows: An animated series untethered to reality and about giant leaps forward in time has an advantage over live-action series with more specific expiration dates. If anything, the show’s taut sense of humor has become more mainstream, and now it is a contemporary with its descendants.

If you can’t have a good time watching “Futurama,” maybe you can’t have a good time….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/1/23 Yes, There Be Pixels And Where There Be Pixels There Be Birthdays

(1) WILL FANS ENCOUNTER PICKET LINES AT LA CONVENTION? Anime Expo started today in LA under the cloud of a threatened strike by hotel workers. The union has not said when they will walk off the job: “Anime fans face hotel strike threat” in the Los Angeles Times. (An NBC Los Angeles post updated an hour ago does not show that the strike has begun.)

The largest U.S. hotel workers’ strike in recent memory and the largest anime convention in North America are both set to kick off this weekend in the same downtown Los Angeles spot — with all the attendant agitation playing out on social media.

More than 15,000 union workers are seeking higher pay and better benefits and working conditions at 62 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

They could walk off the job as early as Saturday after their contracts expire.

On Thursday, the largest hotel, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, announced it had reached a tentative deal with the union representing its more than 600 employees.

The deal is the first among many that would be needed to avert the planned strike.

Meanwhile, thousands of fans of Japanese pop culture will gather Saturday for the start of Anime Expo, a four-day convocation of people interested in manga art, cosplay and video games with exhibitions and panels at the Los Angeles Convention Center and nearby hotels. Many have spent months hoarding vacation days and cash to trek to Southern California and commune with like-minded people.

The two passionate interest groups met up virtually in recent days, and the results weren’t pretty.

On Reddit, a union organizer with hotel workers’ Unite Here Local 11 kicked off the Ask-Me-Anything discussion by asking, “Did you know hotel workers at many of the properties you might be staying at for AX, such as the JW Marriott Downtown LA, Westin Bonaventure, Downtown Los Angeles Courtyard, Residence Inn Downtown LA, the Ritz Carlton and more, might be on strike?

“This could mean pickets, protests and other actions at hotels that could impact and potentially disrupt the Anime Expo,” wrote AnimeJustice11, the unnamed organizer.

“When workers go on strike, they stop work and walk off the job. If workers go on strike, there might not be anybody taking out the trash, cooking the food or cleaning the rooms. There also may be loud 24-hour picket lines right outside the property. How do you think this would affect the quality of the Anime Expo if you are attending / planning?”

AnimeJustice11 wrapped up with a plea: “I hope most/all of you will stand in solidarity with the potential striking workers and don’t cross picket lines!” The poster also asked those planning to attend Anime Expo to “contact the management and ask if they would negotiate a new contract that meets what workers are asking for.”

Unite Here Local 11 also has reached out to Anime Expo attendees, as well as other groups, with a targeted anime-style advertisement featuring a pink-haired worker carrying a sign reading: “Anime is cool! Disrespecting workers is not!”

Reddit users had many thoughts, including anger at the union for disrupting an expensive and cherished tradition, anger at hotel owners for not giving raises, and anger at one another for attacking the union organizer. Others debated what it meant to cross the picket line…

(2) LIKE SAND THROUGH THE HOURGLASS. Warner Bros. dropped a second Dune: Part Two Official Trailer.

The saga continues as award-winning filmmaker Denis Villeneuve embarks on “Dune: Part Two,” the next chapter of Frank Herbert’s celebrated novel Dune, with an expanded all-star international ensemble cast. The film, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2021’s six-time Academy Award-winning “Dune.”

(3) GRIST FOR THE RUMOR MILL. “Denis Villeneuve Wants To End His Dune Trilogy With A Dune Messiah Adaptation” according to GameSpot.

Fans got a hearty helping of Dune: Part Two yesterday with a wild new trailer, showing everything from Feyd (Austin Butler) in action, to Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet) delivering his iconic speech to the Freman. Even though there are only two parts to the Paul and House Atreides narrative, director Denis Villeneuve wants to fans to get a taste of the larger mythos at play with a third Dune film.

Deadline has reported that Villeneuve intends to cap off his Dune trilogy with a much deeper dive into Frank Herbert’s lore of the world of Dune with an adaptation of Dune Messiah. This film would be co-written by Villeneuve and screenwriter Jon Spaihts. Obviously, Warner Bros. Discovery has not yet officially announced active development for Part Three but should Part Two find success like its predecessor, a conclusion should be a no-brainer.

Dune Messiah was the second novel in the Dune Chronicles released in 1969. The book was adapted in the 2003 miniseries Children of Dune–the name of the actual third novel–which included parts of both “Messiah” and “Children.”…

(4) THE CIRCULAR FILE. Camestros Felapton fails to explain “Why did people read The Wheel of Time?” In that he probably has a lot of company.

… I’m happy to dunk on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books because I too read them, each and every one. I bought some of them as big chunky trade paperbacks as well *AND* I thought they were badly written at the time *AND* realised that the story was going nowhere somewhere around the middle. So really I could rephrase this question as “Why did I read the Wheel of Time?”…

(5) NOT THE SPITTING IMAGE.  [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Since I got some new figures, I also made a new Masters-of-the-Universe toy photo story called “Artistic License” to address the question of why Skeletor and his Evil Warriors created the least convincing He-Man doppelganger ever: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Artistic License’”.

… As for why Faker looks the way he does, the real world reason is that some Mattel designer forty years ago thought a blue and orange He-Man looked cool. As for the in universe reason, well, here is one potential answer…

… “Behold my new robot doppelganger of He-Man, Lord Skeletor. Those accursed Masters of the Universe will never know what hit them, when we plant this Faker in their midst. And now arise, my Faker.”

“I Am He-Man.”

“Is he not glorious, Lord Skeletor? I daresay he is my best invention yet.”

“Why is he blue?”

“Excuse me, boss?”

“He-Man is not a Gar. So why is he blue?”…

(6) GENRE GENESIS. A paper by Helen de Cruz titled “Cosmic Horror and the Philosophical Origins of Science Fiction” is online at Cambridge Universe Press.

We now live in a universe composed of billions of galaxies. And, for the most part, we rarely give this any thought. We go about our lives as people have done in the past. Still, you might have reflected on the vastness of the universe: perhaps when you visited a planetarium, or watched a documentary, or even looked up at the (probably light-polluted) night sky and felt a dizziness, a vertigo. That experience is cosmic horror, a sense of the sublime that makes you feel both small and insignificant and a part of a huge, interconnected whole. Once we realize the universe is enormous, and that we’re but a tiny speck in that vast world, we need to recalibrate ourselves. We need to find meaning and significance in being the tiny speck we are. As I’ll argue here, science fiction helps us to come to terms with cosmic horror, as the history of philosophy shows. As a literary form, science fiction originated in philosophical speculation about the universe and our place within it….

(7) G.O.A.T. FANTASY MOVIES. You might not be surprised by what’s at the very top of TimeOut’s list of “The 50 best fantasy movies of all time”, but I, for one, was surprised to see what made number three:

3. Onward (2020)

A pair of grieving elf brothers turn to magic to reanimate, for 24 emotional hours, the dad they never really knew. But the spell is broken halfway through, leaving them with, well, half a dad. With only the legs operational and the missing top half flopping around under layers of clothes, the three bluff their way through a quest to find a magical gem and finish the job. Set in a fantastical land populated by evolved cyclops, fauns, mages and all manner of mythical fauna who have switched from magic to mod cons, ‘Onward’ is a cometh-of-age tale that makes playful capital from our habit of turning the past into touristy kitsch. 

Magic moment: When Ian listens to a tape of the dad he never knew and you wish you’d remember to bulk-buy tissues.

(8) RR DOES NOT STAND FOR RAILROAD. Dominic Noble is “Talking to George RR Martin About HIS Favorite Book”.

GRRM joins me for this very special episode of Reginald’s Book Club to talk about Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny, which is currently being adapted for TV by Robert Kirkman and Stephen Colbert. I was so nervous doing this I got the name of the book, the name of the author and the name of MY OWN PODCAST wrong, but George was so friendly and chill the whole time I think it came out pretty well.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2022 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Mike chose Ray Nayler’s The Mountain in the Sea, which came out last year as our Beginning this Scroll. It’s his only novel, published by MCD. 

He’s published considerably more short fiction, most of it in the past three years, though his first published sff story came out in 1996. And he’s written one wonderfully-titled essay, “Not Prediction, But Predication: The True Power of Science Fiction”, which ran in Asimov’s Science Fiction, the May-June 2023 issue.

Our choice was a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, and for the LA Times Book Awards’ Ray Bradbury Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction…

NIGHT. DISTRICT THREE of the Ho Chi Minh Autonomous Trade Zone. 

The plastic awning of the café streamed with rain. Under its shelter, wreathed in kitchen steam and human chatter, waiters wove between tables with steaming bowls of soup, glasses of iced coffee, and bottles of beer. 

Beyond the wall of rain, electric motorbikes swept past like luminescent fish. Better not to think of fish. 

Lawrence concentrated his attention instead on the woman across the table, wiping her chopsticks with a wedge of lime. The color-swarm of the abglanz identity shield masking her face shifted and wavered.

Like something underwater … 

Lawrence dug his nails into his palm. “I’m sorry—does that thing have another setting?” 

The woman made an adjustment. The abglanz settled to a bland construct of a female face. Lawrence could make out the faint outline of her real face, drifting below the surface. 

Drifting …

“I don’t usually use this setting.” The oscillations of the abglanz flattened the woman’s inflection. “The faces are uncanny. Most people prefer the blur.” 

She brought her chopsticks to her mouth. The noodles sank into the glitchy surface of the digital mask’s lips. Inside was the shadow of another set of lips and teeth.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz would believe in it, Lupoff did not. (Died 1946.)
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 89. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 1, 1942 Genevieve Bujold, 81. We would have had a rather different look on Voyager if things had played out as the producers wished, for Bujold was their first choice to play Janeway. She quit after a day and a half of shooting, with the public reason being she was unaccustomed to the hectic pace of television filming. What the real reason was we will never know.
  • Born July 1, 1955 Robby the Robot, 68.Yes, this is this official birthday according to studio of the robot in Forbidden Planet which debuted a year later. He would later be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune MenThe Twilight ZoneLost In SpaceThe Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was also featured in a 2006 commercial for 2006 commercial for AT&T.
  • Born July 1, 1964 Charles Coleman Finlay, 59. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in 2001 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where many of his other stories were published, and which he edited for several years. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best-known work.
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 42. Author of the superb Persona novel and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess, and scripted Batman & Robin Eternal as well. 

(11) CAN YOU HEAR THE DRUMS FERNANDO? The Guardian’s Tim Dowling writes, “The board game is back out, and I’m losing again”.

…“We can have a takeaway for supper, but you’ll have to hang around.”

“In that case,” says the youngest, “shall we play this?” He is pointing to a box containing a complicated board game to do with medieval dynasties.

“Yeah, all right,” says the oldest.

“And Dad,” says the youngest, “you’re definitely playing.”

When this box was first opened a few weeks ago, I wrote about two fears: that it may be one of the last times I watched my grown sons sit down to play a board game in our house; and that I had accidentally raised three nerds.

At the time I did not realise the board game would become a Sunday fixture, and that I would be roped into playing against my will. I still don’t know which outcome is preferable.

“I’m new to this,” I say, sitting down. “So this is a practice round.”

“It’s easier if we just play,” says the middle one. “You’ll pick it up.”

I am supplied with a character, Fernando; some territory – the Iberian peninsula; and a number of plastic knights. I am then obliged to select an abiding trait at random.

“Chaste,” I say.

“Chaste is good,” says the middle one, “but it makes it hard to marry.”

He’s not kidding. By the start of the Second Era the middle one has launched a sustained attack on the Papal States – much to the consternation of the youngest one, who reigns there – but, critically, I have still not found a spouse….

(12) THE SMART SET. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This item will be appearing in next season’s (September) SF² Concatenation news page’s science and SF interface section…

Smart clothing – that is, not ‘neat’ but, ‘clever’ clothing – is a minor SF trope.  In terms of SFnal clothing, space-suits are positively mundane, but the genre offers much more from the techno-suits of super-heroes to the stillsuits of Dune.  Now there is a new, electrically-controlled fabric that can vary its heat – infra-red – transmission that could be used to create clothing with abilities not too dissimilar to, say, those found in Iain Banks’ ‘Culture’.  US engineers and applied physicists have created this fabric they call Wearable Variable-Emittance (WeaVE).  To make the material flexible, the authors used kirigami principles, which entail cutting a 2D surface and then folding it into 3D patterns. The polymer can either emit heat or provide insulation depending on the voltage applied to it. Here, the voltage needed is really small, less than one volt, so no large batteries are required.  The material enables wearers to experience the same skin temperature at ambient temperatures from 17.1°C to 22.0°C: that’s almost a 5°C range. No doubt we will get even better smart fabrics in the future… A brief summary of this research appears in Nature and the primary research is Chen, T-H. et al (2023) A kirigami-enabled electrochromic wearable variable-emittance device for energy-efficient adaptive personal thermoregulationPNAS Nexus, vol. 2, p1-10.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From a year ago, the opening scene of The Batman.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/4/23 Wednesday’s Pixel Is Full Of Scroll

(1) CHIANG CALLS AI “A POOR CHOICE OF WORDS”. Behind a paywall in the Financial Times: “Sci-fi writer Ted Chiang: ‘The machines we have now are not conscious’”.

…Before we have had a chance to order, the proprietor, who also doubles as the waiter, turns up with two steaming bowls of peppery red lentil soup. The flavours instantly awaken my taste buds: salty and pungent. As we dive in, Chiang, in his contemplative way, takes issue with my observation that his fictional worlds and the one we’re inhabiting are getting uncomfortably close together.

“The machines we have now, they’re not conscious,” he says. “When one person teaches another person, that is an interaction between consciousnesses.” Meanwhile, AI models are trained by toggling so-called “weights” or the strength of connections between different variables in the model, in order to get a desired output. “It would be a real mistake to think that when you’re teaching a child, all you are doing is adjusting the weights in a network.”

Chiang’s main objection, a writerly one, is with the words we choose to describe all this. Anthropomorphic language such as “learn”, “understand”, “know” and personal pronouns such as “I” that AI engineers and journalists project on to chatbots such as ChatGPT create an illusion. This hasty shorthand pushes all of us, he says — even those intimately familiar with how these systems work — towards seeing sparks of sentience in AI tools, where there are none.

“There was an exchange on Twitter a while back where someone said, ‘What is artificial intelligence?’ And someone else said, ‘A poor choice of words in 1954’,” he says. “And, you know, they’re right. I think that if we had chosen a different phrase for it, back in the ’50s, we might have avoided a lot of the confusion that we’re having now.”

So if he had to invent a term, what would it be? His answer is instant: applied statistics….

(2) CHICON 8 WILL SHARE SURPLUS. The Chicon 8 Worldcon committee informed Facebook readers today the 2022 event has a surplus. Here’s how they will distributed it:

We are delighted to tell you that Chicon 8 has achieved a modest budget surplus, despite the challenge of a pandemic environment which reduced our membership numbers and increased our costs. This means that we will have funds to pass along to the next three Worldcons, as well as some other fannish organizations.

Additionally, we are offering a partial reimbursement to all qualifying staff, volunteers and program participants. You should have received the email last weekend, so do check your spam filters! Questions can be sent to reimbursements @ chicon.org

(3) POORFEADING. My reprinting “TYPOS by Mike Glyer” today reminded John Hertz of the popular poem “Ode to a Typographical Error” at Mighty Red Pen. The first two lines are:

The typographical error is a slippery thing and sly;
You can hunt till you are dizzy, but it somehow will get by.

(4) ON THE FRITZ. And while we’re on the subject, Andrew (not Werdna) suggested we check out the typos (at least two) on the back of this edition of Robert Silverberg’s Great Tales of Science Fiction.

(5) CELEBRITY BRUSH. Buzzfeed found “17 Stories From Former Classmates Of Celebs” – one of them writes sff.

Quite a while back, a since-deleted Reddit account asked, “Those who went to high school with celebrities, who were they and what were they like?”…

16. “My cousin went to high school with George R. R. Martin [the author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the series adapted into Game of Thrones] and recalled having a freshman lit class with him. When it was time for everyone to read their stories, George’s was BY FAR the best. Apparently, the entire class simultaneously dropped their jaws. Guy’s a talent. Oh, and apparently, he was a typical nice dude.”

(6) PLAY IT AGAIN, CARL. MeTV says “The music of Kolchak: The Night Stalker shares roots with Star Trek and Trilogy of Terror”.

From the first frame in the opening sequence of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the music sets the tone. First, our protagonist whistles us a tune, a homespun melody that grounds us in Carl Kolchak’s world. Quickly, though, the playful music swells into a nearly-overwhelming orchestral score, contrasting the simpler sounds with blood-pressuring raising crescendos.

The title music is indicative of what’s to come. Carl Kolchak is seemingly a simple-enough man, however, his exploits are anything but. What could be a simple series about a regular newspaper reporter turns into a monster-of-the-week horror show. It’s a testament to the cast and crew that this tone is so expertly balanced.

Chief among the creatives who influenced the series’ direction is the show’s various composers. Initially, for the made-for-TV ABC movies featuring Kolchak, those duties were handled by Bob Cobert. Cobert was, himself, no stranger to television shows that go bump in the night; that’s his work soundtracking the vintage vampire soap opera Dark Shadows. You might also recognize his work in Trilogy of Terror, another terrifying made-for-TV flick.

The theme for the television series, though, was composed by Gil Mellé. That’s Mellé’s melody that Kolchak whispers in the opening moments. Shows like Ironside and The Night Gallery were all the better for their Mellé scores…. 

(7) YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. “20 Books to 50K is worse than KBoards now” opines Joe Vasicek.

I don’t think I have posted a single thing to the 20 Books to 50K Facebook group that hasn’t been declined by the moderators. None of my posts have been political, and I’ve gone out of my way not to throw any bombs.

Even in the wokest days of KBoards, before I was banned from that site (and just before they fell off a cliff in terms of being the main gathering place online for indie authors), the moderators were never this harsh.

Online communities have a life cycle, and in the later stages they either fall apart because the trolls take over, or the moderators become too tyrannical. Apparently, that now applies to real-life communities too, now that we all spend most of our time online. Right now, 20 Books is in perhaps the most advanced stage of a moderator takeover that I’ve ever seen….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2003[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Our Beginning is that of “A Night on the Barbary Coast”, a short story by Kage Baker that was first published in The Silver Gryphon anthology edited Marty Halpern and Gary Turner and published by their Golden Gryphon Press twenty years ago. Check out the contents on ISFDB — if you’ve not read it, you’ll want to.  Oh and the wrap around illustration is by Tom Canty.

Kage and I as I have mentioned before had a long conversation ongoing in email and on the phone for years before her death. We were planning a Concordance consisting of interviews with her characters and other materials but she became too ill too fast for it to happen. Pity that as it would been a lot of fun to do. 

Gods and Pawns where it was reprinted along with other Company stories is available from the usual suspects. The Silver Gryphon is about two dollars currently on ABE Books. Signed copies are considerably more. 

And here’s our Beginning…

I’d been walking for five days, looking for Mendoza. The year was 1850. 

Actually, walking doesn’t really describe traveling through that damned vertical wilderness in which she lived. I’d crawled uphill on hands and knees, which is no fun when you’re dressed as a Franciscan friar, with sandals and beads and the whole nine yards of brown burlap robe. I’d slid downhill, which is no fun either, especially when the robe rides up in back. I’d waded across freezing cold creeks and followed thready little trails through ferns, across forest floors in permanent darkness under towering redwoods. I’m talking gloom. One day the poets will fall in love with Big Sur, and after them the beats and hippies, but if vampires ever discover the place they’ll go nuts over it. 

Mendoza isn’t a vampire, though she is an immortal being with a lot of problems, most of which she blames on me.

I’m an immortal being with a lot of problems, too. Like father, like daughter. 

After most of a week, I finally came out on a patch of level ground about three thousand feet up. I was standing there looking down on clouds floating above the Pacific Ocean, and feeling kind of funny in the pit of my stomach as a result—and suddenly saw the Company-issue processing credenza on my left, nicely camouflaged. I’d found Mendoza’s camp at last. 

There was her bivvy tent, all right, and a table with a camp stove, and five pots with baby trees growing in them. Everything but the trees had a dusty, abandoned look. Cripes, I thought to myself, how long since she’s been here? I looked around uneasily, wondering if I ought to yoo-hoo or something, and that was when I noticed her signal coming from… up? I craned back my head.

An oak tree rose from the mountain face behind me, huge and branching wide, and high up there among the boughs Mendoza leaned. She gazed out at the sea; but with such a look of ecstatic vacancy in her eyes, I guessed she was seeing something a lot farther away than that earthly horizon.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 4, 1936 Bruce Dern, 87. Here for Silent Running, a film I’d completely forgotten I’d seen until compiling this Birthday. It’s the directorial debut of Douglas Trumbull who went on to much more famous projects. Dern also shows up in a number of other genre films such as The Incredible 2-Headed TransplantThe HauntingThe Astronaut Farmer and Freaks. Needless to say, you’ll find him on series such as The Outer LimitsAlfred Hitchcock Presents and Land of the Giants
  • Born June 4, 1951 Wendi Pini, 72. With husband Richard, responsible for Elfquest. Over the years Elfquest has been self-published by the Pinis through their own company Warp Graphics, then Marvel Comics, then the Pinis again, more recently DC Comics and then Dark Horse Comics. Everything prior to 2013 is free online. Be prepared to spend hours lost in great reading! 
  • Born June 4, 1960 Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 63. If you’ve not discovered the delights of her Diving Universe series, you’re in for a treat — it’s that good. Her Retrieval Artist series is one that can be read in no particular order so is a great deal of fun no matter where you start. Nor let us forget the Spade/Paladin series, I think we can call it a series, which is quite delightful.  Ten Little Fen is the first novel in that series. Oh, and she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her Website is here; don’t miss her appreciation of A. J. Budrys.
  • Born June 4, 1960 Bradley Walsh, 63. His first genre was on The Sarah Jane Adventures as Odd Bob Elijah Spellman aka The Pied Piper in “The Day of the Clown” story. His major genre role video wise however is Graham O’Brien, companion to the Thirteenth Doctor. Now it’s worth noting that he has a lot of theatre experience that is genre having appeared in multiple versions of AladdinCinderellaJack & the Bean StalkPeter Pan and Snow White.
  • Born June 4, 1964 Sean Pertwee, 59. Let’s see, where did I see him first? Oh, of course, playing Sheriff Hugh Beringar on Cadfael but that’s not genre, is it? Captain Heinz in “Trenches of Hell, Part 2 “,  on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was his first genre role followed being Pilot Smith on Event Horizon and Macbeth in a UK film of that name the same year. He did a bit of low-budget horror playing Bradley Cortese in Tale of the Mummy and likewise in being Sergeant Harry G. Wells in Dog Soldiers. There were some fairly low budget SF as well, say Father in Equilibrium. Not to mention Brother Proteus in Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie which I dearly want to see! All of which gets redeemed by his Inspector Lestrade in Elementary, a stunning take on that character. And then there’s his Alfred in Gotham.
  • Born June 4, 1972 Joe Hill, 51. I’ve met him once or twice down the years as he shows up here in Portland for signings at both book shops and comic shops. Nice guy like his father. Actually the whole family is amazingly nice. Locke & Key is a superb graphic novel series and I’m fond of all of his short stories, particularly those collected in 20th Century Ghosts. I’ve got Full Throttle, his latest collection in my digital reading pile. I notice that though he’s not yet won a Hugo, he’s won a fistful of Stokers, many BFAs, a World Fantasy Award and even an International Horror Guild Award.  
  • Born June 4, 1975 Angelina Jolie, 48. I really liked her two Tomb Raider films and thought Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was a really cool film with her role being quite magnificent. I never saw her early Cyborg 2 undertaking but think Hackers and her role as Kate “Acid Burn” Libby was rather good. I’ve not seen her Maleficent films. 
  • Born June 4, 1991 Jordan Danger, 32. She is best known for her role as Zoe Carter on Eureka. (Now inexplicably renamed A Town Called Eureka in syndication.) She also showed up in Ragin Cajun Redneck Gators which as horror is genre of sorts, plus the SF films, Higher Power and Beyond the Sky. And even a vampire film, Living Among Us. All low budget, all straight to DVD productions.

(10) TO START YOUR WEEK. Sunday Morning Transport seeks to encourage subscribers with this free read, “Hibernation Heirloom”.

For June, we begin with Chelsea Mueller’s evocative view of motherhood’s pressures and expectations. ~ Julian and Fran, June 4, 2023

(11) ROBERT J. SAWYER PROFILE. The Chengdu Worldcon’s latest “Dialogue with Sci-Fi Heavy Hitters” is: “Robert J. Sawyer: Go to Chengdu and You Will Meet the Best Sci-Fi Fans in the World”.

…Robert J. Sawyer’s latest sci-fi novel Download released this month also revolves around the two core themes. In the novel, humans have uploaded their consciousness into the meta-universe, opening up an alternative way of life. But suddenly, something happened. Some people vanish forever, and the survivors have to return to the real world.

The inspiration for the novel comes from Sawyer’s own feelings during the pandemic. “Before the pandemic, we were free to meet, to gather, to touch each other, to hug loved ones. Then the life we had taken for granted took a big hit and many had to connect online. So I thought, what if one day humans could only survive digitally and never return to the real world? Or what if they were suddenly forced to return to the real world after getting used to digital existence?”

Nor were his feelings confined to this point. “For decades, sci-fi writers have depicted various possible plagues, but when a plaue actually arrived, the world was still unprepared. People never learn from their mistakes, and this hasn’t changed for thousands of years.” Sawyer tells.

“And one thing hasn’t changed too. No matter how much convenience the Internet can provide, how exciting the video games can be, nothing can replace real human connection, laughter and clinking glasses, eye contacts, and soft breathing by the ears. Digital life has never been the direction of human evolution. In this era of rapid advances in AI, it is more vital than ever to appreciate human contribution and value.” Sawyer claims….

(12) WILLETT’S FIRST NOVEL BACK IN PRINT. Soulworm, the debut novel of Edward Willett, now the award-winning author of more than 20 novels and twice that many nonfiction books, has been made available once more in a new edition from Shadowpaw Press Reprise.

This YA fantasy novel, originally published in 1997, was written in the 1980s while Willett was news editor of the Weyburn Review newspaper, and is set in Weyburn in 1984—which nowadays gives it a Stranger Things vibe, although at the time it was a present-day tale.

Willett is an Aurora Award winner for Marseguro (DAW) and for Best Fan Related Work in 2019 for The Worldshapers podcast, and a Saskatchewan Book Award for Spirit Singer in 2002.

The story

For years, Liothel has waited in vain for her powers to manifest themselves, so that she can become a full-blown Warder, defender of the realm of Mykia from the mind-controlling spirit creatures known as soulworms. But when a soulworm escapes from the Warden’s citadel through a magical portal into the parallel world of Earth, it is her spirit that, entirely by accident, is sent in pursuit.

She finds herself, a helpless, unsuspected observer, in the mind of Maribeth, a teenage girl in the small Canadian prairie city of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, in 1984—and discovers the soulworm has possessed Maribeth’s best friend, Christine.

Somehow, she must find a way to save Earth from the plague of death and destruction the soulworm and its offspring will release if allowed to spread across the unprotected planet. Only she knows the danger—and only she can stop it.

(13) “NOT TODAY”. Michael Toman suggests those who have read Connie Willis’ novel Passage could be interested in this item: “Scientists saw a surge in brain activity in dying patients that could finally help explain mysterious near-death experiences” at MSN.com.

…The researchers found that two out of four of the dying patients experienced a swell of gamma waves — the brain activity associated with lucid dreams and hallucinations — even after their hearts had stopped, according to Smithsonian Magazine.  

Scientists have long thought that the brain dies with the rest of the body, but the latest study suggests that people may retain a certain level of consciousness that lends to dream-like, out-of-body experiences as they die, Vice reported

“The discovery of the marked and organized gamma activities in the dying brain suggests that [a near-death experience] is the product of the dying brain, which is activated at death,” the lead author of the study, Jimo Borjigin, told Vice. 

“As far as I am concerned, our study may be as good as it will ever get for finding neural signatures of near-death consciousness,” Borjigin told Vice, adding that the “only thing better than this is to have the patients survive to tell the tale that correlates with the detected neural signatures.”…

(14) PROVING LOVE. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Gwendoline Christie and Oliver Chris, was captured live from the Bridge Theatre in 2019. Watch now on National Theatre at Home:  

‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’ A feuding fairy King and Queen of the forest cross paths with four runaway lovers and a troupe of actors trying to rehearse a play. As their dispute grows, the magical royal couple meddle with mortal lives leading to love triangles, mistaken identities and transformations… with hilarious, but dark consequences. Shakespeare’s most famous romantic comedy will be captured live from the Bridge Theatre in London. Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones), Oliver Chris (Green Wing, NT Live: Young Marx), David Moorst (NT Live: Allelujah!) and Hammed Animashaun (The Barber Shop Chronicles) lead the cast as Titania, Oberon, Puck and Bottom.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Daniel Radcliffe series arrives July 10 reports Collider: “’Miracle Workers: End Times’ Release Date Finally Set at TBS”.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel great. After several months of delay, TBS has finally set a new release date for its anthology series Miracle Workers. The upcoming fourth season, formally titled Miracle Workers: End Times, premieres on the network on Monday, July 10.

End Times primarily follows a warrior named Sid (Daniel Radcliffe) and a warlord named Freya (Geraldine Viswanathan), a couple who must now face one of their biggest challenges yet: acclimating to a suburban lifestyle. Because even dystopia comes with its own share of modern day struggles. Based on previously released trailers, Sid and Freya try their best to find normalcy in their new setting, offering support for each other through every up and down. Additionally, Steve Buscemi will play Sid’s boss, and from the current glimpses of him, things won’t be smooth sailing.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Vincent Docherty, John Hertz, Andrew (not Wernda), 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 John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/28/23 We’re All The Children Of Pixels, Ancient Pixels Who Gave Birth To All Intelligence

(1) NAILED TO THE INTERNET DOOR. Finding that professional organizations aren’t moving quickly enough, Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke has drafted his own “AI statement”.

I’ve complained that various publishing industry groups have been slow to respond to recent developments in AI, like LLMs. Over the last week, I’ve been tinkering with a series of “belief” statements that other industry folks could sign onto…. 

Here are five of his 22 credos:

Where We Stand on AI in Publishing

We believe that AI technologies will likely create significant breakthroughs in a wide range of fields, but that those gains should be earned through the ethical use and acquisition of data.

We believe that “fair use” exceptions with regards to authors’, artists’, translators’, and narrators’ creative output should not apply to the training of AI technologies, such as LLMs, and that explicit consent to use those works should be required.

We believe that the increased speed of progress achieved by acquiring AI training data without consent is not an adequate or legitimate excuse to continue employing those practices.

We believe that AI technologies also have the potential to create significant harm and that to help mitigate some of that damage, the companies producing these tools should be required to provide easily-available, inexpensive (or subsidized), and reliable detection tools.

We believe that detection and detection-avoidance will be locked in a never-ending struggle similar to that seen in computer virus and anti-virus development, but that it is critically important that detection not continue to be downplayed…

(2) IN CHARACTER IN THE UKRAINE. “Mark Hamill voices air raid warnings in Ukraine as Luke Skywalker” reports The Verge.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill has lent his voice to a Ukrainian air raid app to warn citizens of incoming attacks during the ongoing conflict with Russia. “Attention. Air raid alert. Proceed to the nearest shelter,” says Hamill over Air Alert, an app linked to Ukraine’s air defense system. When the threat has passed, Hamill signs off with “The alert is over. May the Force be with you.”

Invoking his beloved Luke Skywalker character, some of the lines contain recognizable quotes from the Star Wars franchise like “Don’t be careless. Your overconfidence is your weakness.” You can hear a few lines in the following video starting around 56 seconds in:

(3) SIGNS OF THE TIMES. Melinda Snodgrass, George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman joined the writers strike picket line in Santa Fe earlier this week. Snodgrass shared photos on Facebook.

Walked the picket line for six hours today. Guys, we have to win this one, but what a day I met David Seidler who wrote The King’s Speech. I love that movie, I found it so deeply moving.

Of course George RR was there, and Neil Gaiman joined us as well. We had playwrights and directors, actors supporting us.

Nnedi Okorafor was on the picket line, too.

(4) CALL FOR JUDGES. Australian residents are invited to become Aurealis Awards judges. Full details at the link.

…We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2022 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category.

It is vital that judges be able to work as part of a team and meet stringent deadlines, including timely recording of scores and comments for each entry (in a confidential shared file), and responding to panel messages and discussions. Most of the panel discussions are conducted via email, with some panels choosing to have a synchronous online meeting to make final decisions….

(5) DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD. The 2023 winner of the Dublin Literary Award was announced on May 25. It is a non-genre work, Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp, translated from the original German by Jo Heinrich.

Since 1996, the Dublin Literary Award has honoured excellence in world literature. Presented annually, the Award is one of the most significant literature prizes in the world and unique in that the books are nominated by libraries from cities around the world. The award is worth €100,000 for a single work of international fiction written or a work of fiction translated into English.

(6) BOOKS TO GROW ON. BBC Culture polled 177 books experts from 56 countries in order to find “The 100 greatest children’s books of all time”. The top 10 books on the list are:

1          Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak, 1963)
2          Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
3          Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren, 1945)
4          The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1943)
5          The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien, 1937)
6          Northern Lights (Philip Pullman, 1995)
7          The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis, 1950)
8          Winnie-the-Pooh (AA Milne and EH Shepard, 1926)
9          Charlotte’s Web (EB White and Garth Williams, 1952)
10        Matilda (Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, 1988)

I’ve only read 26 – til now I thought I was a literate child!

(7) MICHAEL BUTTERWORTH’S “CIRCULARISATIONS”. Space Cowboy Books and Art Queen Gallery will display works by Michael Butterworth from June through July 2023, with an opening reception on June 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Register for free here.

In 1969 U.K. poet, author, editor, publisher, and bookseller Michael Butterworth published his “Circularisations” in New Worlds Magazine, a new form of graphic poetry designed to create a new way of reading. These literary experiments will be on display at the Art Queen Gallery in Joshua Tree, CA through June and July 2023, with an opening reception on June 17th. Selections of Butterworth’s poetry will be read during live musical performances from Phog Masheeen and Field Collapse, followed by a special screening of Clara Casian’s minidocumentary “House on the Borderland”, a film about Butterworth and his work.

The exhibit follows the release of Butterworth’s Complete Poems 1965-2020 from Space Cowboy Books, and the accompanying musical audiobook, Selected Poems 1965-2020. Books can be found at https://bookshop.org/a/197/9781732825772

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2012[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Jay Lake’s The Stars Do Not Lie novella is the source of our Beginning this Scroll.  It was first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in the October-November 2012 edition.  It would be nominated at the LoneStarCon 3 for a Hugo. It was nominated for a Nebula as well. 

I first encountered him in his work that he did for the John Scalzi-created  METAtropolis series. “The Bull Dancers” is one of his stories there and it’s quite excellent. And his steampunkish Mainspring series is well-worth reading.

Need I say I died way too young?

And now that Beginning…

In the beginnings, the Increate did reach down into the world and where They laid Their hand was all life touched and blossomed and brought forth from water, fire, earth and air. In eight gardens were the Increate’s children raised, each to have dominion over one of the eight points of the Earth. The Increate gave to men Their will, Their word, and Their love. These we Their children have carried forward into the opening of the world down all the years of men since those first days.

— Librum Vita, 

Beginnings 1: 1-4; 

being the Book of Life and word entire of the Increate

Morgan Abutti; B.Sc. Bio.; M.Sc. Arch.; Ph.D. Astr. & Nat, Sci.; 4th degree Thalassocrete; Member, Planetary Society; and Associate Fellow of the New Garaden Institute, stared at the map that covered the interior wall of his tiny office in the Institute’s substantial brownstone in downtown Highpassage. The new electricks were still being installed by brawny, nimble-fingered men of crafty purpose who often smelled a bit of smoke and burnt cloth. Thus his view was dominated by a flickering quality of light that would have done justice to a smoldering hearth, or a wandering planet low in the pre-dawn sky. The gaslamp men were complaining of the innovations, demonstrating under Lateran banners each morning down by the Thalassojustity Palace in their unruly droves.

He despised the rudeness of the laboring classes. Almost to a man, they were palefaced fools who expected something for nothing, as if simply picking up a wrench could grant a man worth. 

Turning his attentions away from the larger issues of political economy and surplus value, he focused once more on history. 

Or religion.

Honestly, Morgan was never quite certain of the difference any more. Judging from the notes and diagrams limned up and down the side of the wide rosewood panel in their charmingly archaic style, the map had been painted about a century earlier for some long-dead theohistoriographer. The Eight Gardens of the Increate were called out in tiny citrons that somehow had survived the intervening years without being looted by hungry servants or thirsty undergraduates. Morgan traced his hand over the map, fingers sliding across the pitted patina of varnish and oil soap marking the attentions of generations of charwomen.

Eufrat. 

Quathlamba. 

Ganj. Manju. 

Wy’east. 

Tunsa. 

Antiskuna. 

Cycladia.

The homes of man. Archaeological science was clear enough. Thanks to the work of natural scientists of the past century, so was the ethnography. The Increate had placed the human race upon this Earth. That was absolutely clear. Just as the priests of the Lateran had always taught, nothing of humanity was older than the villages of the Gardens of the Increate. 

Nothing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 28, 1908 Ian Fleming. Author of the James Bond series which is at least genre adjacent if not actually genre in some cases such as Moonraker. The film series was much more genre than the source material. And then there’s the delightful Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car. The film version was produced by Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, who had already made five James Bond films. Fleming, a heavy smoker and drinker his entire adult life, died of a heart attack, his second in three years. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 28, 1919 Don Day. A fan active in the 1940s and ’50s In Portland, Oregon, and a member of the local club. He was editor of The Fanscient (and of its parody, Fan-Scent), and perhaps the greatest of the early bibliographers of sf. He published bibliographies in The Fanscient and also published the Day Index, the Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950. He ran Perri Press, a small press which produced The Fanscient and the Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950.  He chaired NorWesCon, the 1950 Worldcon, after the resignation of Jack de Courcy. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 28, 1929 Shane Rimmer. A Canadian actor and voice actor,  best remembered for being the voice of Scott Tracy in puppet based Thunderbirds during the Sixties. Less known was that he was in Dr. Strangelove as Captain “Ace” Owens, and Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die in uncredited roles. He even shows up in Star Wars as a Rebel Fighter Technician, again uncredited. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 28, 1951 Sherwood Smith, 72. YA writer best known for her Wren  series. She’s also co-authored The Change Series with Rachel Manija Brown. She also co-authored two novels with Andre Norton, Derelict for Trade and A Mind for Trade.
  • Born May 28, 1954 Betsy Mitchell, 69. Editorial freelancer specializing in genre works. She was the editor-in-chief of Del Rey Books. Previously, she was the Associate Publisher of Bantam Spectra when they held the license to publish Star Wars novels in the Nineties.
  • Born May 28, 1977 Ursula Vernon aka T. Kingfisher, 46. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning graphic novel Digger which was a webcomic from 2003 to 2011. Vernon is creator of “The Biting Pear of Salamanca” art which became an internet meme in the form of the LOL WUT pear. She also won Hugos for her “Tomato Thief” novelette and “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” short story, and a Nebula for her short story “Jackalope Wives”. As T. Kingfisher she has won three Dragon Awards, one of them for A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, which also won the Andre Norton Award and the Lodestone Award.
  • Born May 28, 1984 Max Gladstone, 39. His debut novel, Three Parts Dead, is part of the Craft Sequence series, and his shared Bookburners serial is most excellent. This Is How You Lose the Time War (co-written with Amal El-Mohtar) won a Hugo Award for Best Novella at CoNZealand. It also won an Aurora, BSFA, Ignyte, Locus and a Nebula. 
  • Born May 28, 1985 Carey Mulligan, 38. She’s here because she shows up in a very scary Tenth Doctor story, “Blink”, in which she plays Sally Sparrow. Genre adjacent, she was in Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Sittaford Mystery as Violet Willett. (Christie gets a shout-out in another Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”.) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] On Friday’s episode of Jeopardy!, the Double Jeopardy round had a category called “You Just Made That Stuff Up”, about fictional substances. The first-level clue was a non-SFF one involving Monty Python, but the rest involved SFF:

$800: Kyber crystals, which are attuned to the Force, glow either blue or green & power these weapons

Alice Ciciora associated these with lightsabers.

$1200: First mentioned in a 1943 “Adventures of Superman” radio show, when it debuted in the comics in 1949, it was red, not green

Returning champion Jesse Chin got this one.

$1600: It’s the very hard-to-get substance that causes humans to set up shop on Pandora

This was a Daily Double, and Jesse got $4000 from responding “What is unobtainium?”

$2000: This super-bouncy stuff from Disney’s much-loved 1961 “The Absent-Minded Professor” was the title of a 1997 remake

Alice knew it was Flubber.

(12) ANIME ANALYSIS. In episode 8 of the Anime Explorations podcast, they’re covering speculative fiction anime with the first season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, covering the Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency arcs of the story: “Phantom Blood + Battle Tendency”.

(13) FASHION REBELLION. Variety has a critique of the latest outfits from far away and long, long ago. “’Andor’ Costume Designers Break Down Looks of Mon Mothma, Luthen Rael”.

With the “Star Wars” universe serving as the DNA for Disney+’s “Andor,” costume designer Michael Wilkinson could honor a legacy while leaning into a new world.

For Diego Luna’s Cassian, Wilkinson draped him in warm, earthy tones with fabrics that were textural.

When audiences first meet him, he’s in “beautiful oilcloth from old leather jackets with iconic details such as a high neckline and a hood.” By the end, the silhouettes become leaner and streamlined. 

“He has a beautiful tailored long-length linen coat that we made for him that moves beautifully for all the action sequences. It’s a grown-up silhouette.”To outfit Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma, he looked at prominent people, including leading senators and United Nations members, keeping power dressing in mind.  “I imagined to what extent the futuristic off-planet version of that would look like,” he says. “I leaned into the pale neutral tones.”

Her blue senate robe with a gold lining is “extremely architectural and quite austere,” Wilkinson says. “With her, there was a lot of adventurous tailoring and an exploration of silhouettes and layering that we did in her costumes, which reflect her switched-on sophisticated sense of aesthetics.”

Clothing for Mon Mothma’s more private moments “where the mask slips” hint at another side of her personality. Wilkinson relaxed her silhouette when Tay Kolma (Ben Miles) visits, for example, giving her outfit a flowing look…. 

(14) WORSE THAN INAPPOSITE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Another author used ChatGPT to beef up their prose a bit. The problem was, said author was an attorney and what they were writing was a legal brief. None of the cases cited by ChatGPT existed. I believe the legal term for this is advocatus stultus es

“A lawyer used ChatGPT for legal filing. The chatbot cited nonexistent cases it just made up” reports Mashable.

… It all starts with the case in question, Mata v. Avianca. According to the New York Times, an Avianca customer named Roberto Mata was suing the airline after a serving cart injured his knee during a flight. Avianca attempted to get a judge to dismiss the case. In response, Mata’s lawyers objected and submitted a brief filled with a slew of similar court decisions in the past. And that’s where ChatGPT came in.

Schwartz, Mata’s lawyer who filed the case in state court and then provided legal research once it was transferred to Manhattan federal court, said he used OpenAI’s popular chatbot in order to “supplement” his own findings.

ChatGPT provided Schwartz with multiple names of similar cases: Varghese v. China Southern Airlines, Shaboon v. Egyptair, Petersen v. Iran Air, Martinez v. Delta Airlines, Estate of Durden v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Miller v. United Airlines.

The problem? ChatGPT completely made up all those cases. They do not exist.

Avianca’s legal team and the judge assigned to this case soon realized they could not locate any of these court decisions. This led to Schwartz explaining what happened in an affidavit on Thursday. The lawyer had referred to ChatGPT for help with his filing.

According to Schwartz, he was “unaware of the possibility that its content could be false.” The lawyer even provided screenshots to the judge of his interactions with ChatGPT, asking the AI chatbot if one of the cases were real. ChatGPT responded that it was. It even confirmed that the cases could be found in “reputable legal databases.” Again, none of them could be found because the cases were all created by the chatbot….

(15) FATAL MISTAKE. The New York Times says it is now known that the “Japanese Moon Lander Crashed Because It Was Still Three Miles Up, Not on the Ground”.

A software glitch caused a Japanese robotic spacecraft to misjudge its altitude as it attempted to land on the moon last month leading to its crash, an investigation has revealed.

Ispace of Japan said in a news conference on Friday that it had finished its analysis of what went wrong during the landing attempt on April 25. The Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander completed its planned landing sequence, slowing to a speed of about 2 miles per hour. But it was still about three miles above the surface. After exhausting its fuel, the spacecraft plunged to its destruction, hitting the Atlas crater at more than 200 miles per hour.

The lander was to be the first private spacecraft to successfully set down on the surface of the moon. It is part of a trend toward private companies, not just governmental space agencies, taking a leading role in space exploration….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Gary Farber, Jennifer Hawthorne, Alexander Case, Dabid Goldfarb, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/23 Professor, I Observed Your Encounter With The Pixel Scroll. Today It Is You Who Learned The Power Of The File. Tomorrow It Will Be The Whole World!

(1) GRRM ON STRIKE. George R.R. Martin has written two persuasive and informative posts about the WGA strike for Not A Blog which are excerpted here.

In the waning hours of May 1, the Writers Guild of America declared a strike.   The action began on May 2.   There are pickets in front of every studio lot and sound stage in LA, and many in other cities as well.   Get used to them.  I expect they will be there for a long time.

I am not in LA, so I cannot walk a picket line as I did in 1988, but I want to go on the record with my full and complete and unequivocal support of my Guild….

(Many of you will be wondering, rightfully, about the impact of the strike on my own shows.   The second season of DARK WINDS wrapped several months ago.   Post production has been completed on five of the six episodes, and will soon be done on the last.   The show will likely air sometime this summer on AMC.   No decision on the third season will be made until after the strike.   Peacock has passed on WILD CARDS, alas.   A pity.   We will try to place it elsewhere, but not until the strike is over.   The writer’s room on A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS: THE HEDGE KNIGHT has closed for the duration.   Ira Parker and his incredible staff of young talents are on the picket lines.   Across the ocean, the second season of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON started filming April 11 and will continue in London and Wales.   The scripts for the eight s2 episodes were all finished months ago, long before the strike began,  Every episode has gone through four or five drafts and numerous rounds of revisions, to address HBO notes, my notes, budget concerns, etc.   There will be no further revisions.   The writers have done their jobs; the rest is in the hands of the directors, cast and crew… and of course the dragons)….

I want to say a few words about what I think is THE most important issue in the current writers’ strike: the so-called “mini rooms” that the Guild is hoping to abolish, and the terrible impact they are having on writers at the start of their careers.

A look at my own career may be instructive.   For the first fourteen years of my career, I wrote only prose; a few novels, and lots of stories for ANALOG, ASIMOV’S, and various other SF magazines and anthologies.   Much as I enjoyed television, I never dreamt of writing for it until 1985, when CBS decided to launch a new version of THE TWLIGHT ZONE, and executive producer Phil DeGuere invited me to write an episode for them.   A freelance script; that was how you began back then.   I decided to give it a shot… and Phil and his team liked what I did.   So much so that within days of delivery, I got an offer to come on staff.   Before I quite knew what had happened, I was on my way to LA with a six-week deal as a Staff Writer, at the Guild minimum salary, scripts against.   (In the 80s, Staff Writer was the lowest rung on the ladder.   You could tell, because it was the only job with “writer” in the title).

…There is no film school in the world that could have taught me as much about television production as I learned on TWILIGHT ZONE during that season and a half.  When TZ was renewed for a second season, I was promoted from Staff Writer to Story Editor.  (More money, and now scripts were plus and not against).   Started sitting in on freelance pitches… and now I was allowed to talk and give notes.   Sadly, the show was cancelled halfway through the second season, but by that time I had learned so much that I was able to go on to further work in television.   I did a couple stories for MAX HEADROOM, but my next staff job was BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.   They brought me on as Executive Story Editor, one bump up from my TZ rank.   Over the next three years, I climbed the ladder, rung by rung:  Co-Producer, Producer, Co-Supervising Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Executive Producer.   When B&B finished its run, I started writing features and pitching pilots, landed an overall deal at Columbia, created and scripted STARPORT and THE SURVIVORS and FADEOUT… and DOORWAYS, which we filmed for ABC.   I was Showrunner (along with Jim Crocker) and Executive Producer on that one.

That was my first  ten years in television;  1985-1995, more or less, long before HBO and GAME OF THRONES.

NONE OF IT would have been possible, if not for the things I learned on TWILIGHT ZONE as a Staff Writer and Story Editor.   I was the most junior of junior writers, maybe a hot(ish) young writer in the world of SF, but in TV I was so green that I would have been invisible against a green screen.   And that, in my opinion, is the most important of the things that the Guild is fighting for.  The right to have that kind of career path.   To enable new writers, young writers, and yes, prose writers, to climb the same ladder.

Right now, they can’t.   Streamers and shortened seasons have blown the ladder to splinters….  

(2) PULITZER PRIZE. The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced yesterday. Nothing I recognized as being of genre interest. The complete list is at Publishers Weekly: “’Demon Copperhead,’ ‘Trust,’ ‘His Name Is George Floyd’ Among 2023 Pulitzer Prize Winners”. (In case you wonder, Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead borrows its narrative structure from the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield, and the blurb doesn’t indicate there is anything supernatural in the story.)

(3) THINKING IS NOT HIS STRENGTH. “Kevin Sorbo’s Bonkers Take On Assault Weapons Gets Instant Fact-Check On Twitter” at HuffPost Entertainment. “The star of the 1990s‘Hercules’TV series hears it from his critics.”

Actor Kevin Sorbo tried a new approach in defending assault weapons amid a wave of mass shootings: They don’t exist.

The star of TV’s “Hercules” in the 1990s but who now focuses on Christian films and right-wing conspiracy theories wrote on Twitter:

Sorbo’s tweet came one day after a gunman killed eight people and wounded seven others at an outlet mall in Texas, and as a recent wave of mass shootings is leading to renewed calls for increased gun control….

(4) HOME ON THE MARTIAN RANGE. “To Live on Mars, Human Architecture Has to Combine Science and Sci-Fi” and Inverse presents a gallery of ideas for doing so.

…In the late 1990s, American architect Constance Adams worked with NASA to design TransHab, a large-scale inflatable spacecraft that would have increased the crew’s living space. While there are many advantages to using lightweight inflatable habitats, Adams once noted that before her creation, the biggest challenges facing space inflatable tech were strength, safety, and their need for a firm structure to maintain the form. With a soft inflatable shell, hard inner structural core, and three roomy levels, TransHab was the first hybrid structure that could be used for a pre-deployable Mars habitat. Although NASA did create a prototype, the project never received the funding it needed to get off the ground….

(5) SPEED READING. The New York Times says “A Faster Delivery for Fans of Manga” is on the horizon.

VIZ Media, a publisher devoted to manga and anime, on Tuesday will begin offering translated chapters of popular manga to audiences in North America on the same day they are released in Japan.

The simultaneous publication of titles through the company’s VIZ Manga app is part of an effort to get manga more quickly into the hands of fans at a time of booming readership, the company said. And it may also help fight pervasive piracy.

“In the last few years, manga became so much bigger,” said Ken Sasaki, the chief executive of VIZ Media, which is based in San Francisco and is a subsidiary of the Japanese publisher Hitotsubashi Group. “I think readers are finally aware that there are so many other genres.”

Manga sales hit $550 million in 2021, said Milton Griepp, the chief executive of ICv2, an ​​online pop culture trade publication, last year at New York Comic Con. Sales jumped 9 percent in 2022, ICv2 reported in March….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1991[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So Mike is picking our Beginnings (for the most part) and I get the great delight of doing the research and writing them up. (Yes, they are written from my viewpoint. How else would I write them up?) His Beginning this Scroll is Nancy Kress’ “Beggars in Spain” novella. (Not the novel of the same name.)

It was published by Axolotl Press thirty-two years ago with a cover illustration by George Barr. 

It won a Hugo at MagiCon as well as Asimov’s Readers, Nebula and SF Chronicle Awards while being nominated for HOMer and Locus awards. The expanded novel that came out under the same title won no Awards.

And now our Beginning…

They sat stiffly on his antique Eames chairs, two people who didn’t want to be here, or one person who didn’t want to and one who resented the other’s reluctance. Dr. Ong had seen this before. Within two minutes he was sure: the woman was the silently furious resister. She would lose. The man would pay for it later, in little ways, for a long time.

“I presume you’ve performed the necessary credit checks already,” Roger Camden said pleasantly, “so let’s get right on to details, shall we, Doctor?”

“Certainly,” Ong said. “Why don’t we start by your telling me all the genetic modifications you’re interested in for the baby.”

The woman shifted suddenly on her chair. She was in her late twenties—clearly a second wife—but already had a faded look, as if keeping up with Roger Camden was wearing her out. Ong could easily believe that. Mrs. Camden’s hair was brown, her eyes were brown, her skin had a brown tinge that might have been pretty if her cheeks had had any color. She wore a brown coat, neither fashionable nor cheap, and shoes that looked vaguely orthopedic. Ong glanced at his records for her name: Elizabeth. He would bet people forgot it often. 

Next to her, Roger Camden radiated nervous vitality, a man in late middle age whose bullet-shaped head did not match his careful haircut and Italian-silk business suit. Ong did not need to consult his file to recall anything about Camden. A caricature of the bullet-shaped head had been the leading graphic for yesterday’s online edition of the Wall Street Journal: Camden had led a major coup in cross-border data-atoll investment. Ong was not sure what cross-border data-atoll investment was. “A girl,” Elizabeth Camden said. Ong hadn’t expected her to speak first. Her voice was another surprise: upper-class British. “Blonde. Green eyes. Tall. Slender.”

“A girl,” Elizabeth Camden said. Ong hadn’t expected her to speak first. Her voice was another surprise: upper-class British. “Blonde. Green eyes. Tall. Slender.” 

Ong smiled. “Appearance factors are the easiest to achieve, as I’m sure you already know. But all we can do about slenderness is give her a genetic disposition in that direction. How you feed the child will naturally—”

 “Yes, yes,” Roger Camden said, “that’s obvious. Now: intelligence. High intelligence. And a sense of daring.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. Author of Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, which I’ve read a number of times. Of the movie versions, I like Steven Spielberg’s Hook the best. The worst use of the character, well of Wendy to be exact, is in Lost Girls, the sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore (bad script) and Melinda Gebbie (even worse art). If you’ve not read it, don’t bother. If you really must know more about it, here is the Green Man review. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1913 Richard McKenna. His short story “The Secret Place” was a Hugo nominee and won the Nebula.  “Casey Agonistes” (short story) and “Hunter, Come Home” (novelette) are in many anthologies; “Casey” has been translated into French, German, Italian; “Hunter” into French, German, Italian, Romanian; “Secret” into Dutch, German, Italian, Polish.  Cover artist for Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Essential Hal Clement (Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton).  Best known outside our field for The Sand Pebbles which I’ve read and must say is rather excellent. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that “From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.” That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Neville. His most well-remembered work, the “Bettyann” novella, is a classic of science fiction. It would become part of the Bettyann novel, a fix-up of it and “Overture“, a short story of his. He wrote a lot of rather great short fiction, much of which can be in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, edited by Barry N. Malzberg (who greatly admired him) and Martin H. Greenberg, and more (some overlapping with the first collection) Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales. He’s not alas widely available at the usual suspects. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1926 Richard Cowper. The White Bird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading.  It appears that all of them are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 9, 1929 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago — will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 9, 1951 Geoff Ryman, 72. His first novel, The Unconquered Country, was winner of the World Fantasy Award and British Science Fiction Association Award. I’m really intrigued that The King’s Last Song is set during the Angkor Wat era and the time after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, grim times indeed for an SF novel. And let’s not overlook that The Child Garden which bears the variant title of The Child Garden or A Low Comedy would win the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best SF Novel. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows Count Dracula was scarred by childhood.
  • Get Fuzzy’s absurd pet humor cannot easily be explained, but I laughed anyway.
  • Lio’s elementary school is named for a good friend of Ray Bradbury’s.

(9) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] After a little bit of a drought, today’s episode had a number of SFF-related clues.

In the single Jeopardy round:

Yeet! for $600: In “2001” this computer yeets Frank Poole off into space but still has Dave to contend with

Returning champion Hannah Wilson knew HAL 9000.

Yeet! for $1000: In Greek myth, after he was born lame, his mom yeeted him out of heaven, but he returned & made Hermes’ winged helmet

Juveria Zaheer tried, “What is Vulcan?” but this Roman equivalent was not accepted. Sami Casanova got the money with “Who is Hephaestus?”.

Children’s Lit for $1000: Though he comes from another world, not from France, this diminutive guy appeared on the 50-franc note for many years

This was a Daily Double for Sami and she correctly responded with “The Little Prince”.

In the double Jeopardy round:

Futility for $2000: Harry Potter might have a better chance of turning metals to gold using this medieval substance from alchemy, also called the tincture

A triple stumper: they were looking for the Philosopher’s Stone. Perhaps people in England might have had a better chance with this one.

What Kind of TV Place Do You Live In? for $2000: Commander Sheridan & the gang on “Babylon 5” (an inaccurate question! Sheridan had the rank of captain. It was season 1’s Sinclair who was a commander.)

Hannah tried: “What is a spaceship?”. Mayim Bialik prompted on that, “More specific?”, which surprised me — I would have just called that wrong. After the prompt, Hannah went to “What is a space station?” and was counted right.

Futility for $400: Always armed with the catchphrase no one in the “Star Trek” world wanted to hear, the Borg let it be known that this “is futile”

Juveria responded, “What is resistance?”

(11) DON’T LOOK UP? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A New Jersey homeowner, and his family, returned to find something had broken into the house. Yep, something, not someone. An apparent meteorite had crashed through the roof, broken through an upper floor bedroom ceiling, banged off the floor, and hit the ceiling again before coming to a stop. “Possible meteorite strikes New Jersey home, officials say” at CNN.

What could be a meteorite struck a home in Hopewell Township, New Jersey, authorities said Monday. The metallic object crashed through the roof of a house and ricocheted around a bedroom. No one was in the bedroom at the time of the incident, and no injuries were reported.

Police are still working to determine the precise nature of the object, though officials suspect it is related to the current meteor shower, called the Eta Aquariids, according to statement from the Hopewell Township Police Department in New Jersey.

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is an annual phenomenon in which debris from the famous Halley’s Comet rains down into Earth’s atmosphere. The celestial event was expected to peak this past Saturday, according to American Meteor Society predictions, though it will last through May 27.

“I did touch the thing because I just thought it was a random rock,” Suzy Kop, a local resident who said the rock fell through the roof of her father’s bedroom, told CNN affiliate KYW-TV in Philadelphia. “And it was warm.”

“I just thank God that my father was not here. No one was here,” she added. “You know, we weren’t hurt or anything.”…

(12) RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. At Open Culture, “Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read”. This is a 2011 post, however, it’s not like these books will have been superseded since then – the most recent title is Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

A Reddit.com user posed the question to Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?”

Below, you will find the book list offered up by the astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science….

(13) CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I found out what all the commotion was about [why the library was closed] — it was Charles (the artist formerly known as Prince) being coronated the next day. Sadly my invite to the abbey appeared to have got lost in the post.  That’s the Royal Mail for you….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Honest Trailers seeks the truth about “The Mandalorian Season 3”. But it’s not easy to find!

…After parting ways with baby Yoda in season two Disney took one look at the toy sales and said, um, no. No. It may not be super clear why they’re still together. Make up your mind whether he’s an actual baby or just a baby they’re forcing to be a Child!

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