Pixel Scroll 12/14/23 Because My Pixels Are Delicious To Scroll

(1) ALL SYSTEMS GREEN. Martha Wells’ series is coming to TV: “Alexander Skarsgård Stars In ‘Murderbot’ Sci-Fi Series Ordered By Apple”Deadline carried the announcement.

Apple TV+ has officially picked up Murderbot, a 10-episode sci-fi drama series starring and executive produced by Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgård (Succession). Based on Martha Wells’ bestselling Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning book series The Murderbot Diaries, the project hails from Chris and Paul Weitz (About a Boy) and Paramount Television Studios.

The action-packed Murderbot received a blinking green light a year ago, with the casting of the title character interrupted by the strikes. The series centers on a self-hacking security android (Skarsgård) who is horrified by human emotion yet drawn to its vulnerable “clients.” Murderbot must hide its free will and complete a dangerous assignment when all it really wants is to be left alone to watch futuristic soap operas and figure out its place in the universe….

(2) THE END IS NEAR. Good Omens is getting another curtain call: “Good Omens Renewed for Season 3 at Amazon” says The Hollywood Reporter.

The streamer has renewed Good Omensthe fantasy-comedy that started as a limited series, for a third and final season. Production on the show from BBC Studios, and based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, is expected to begin soon in Scotland.

“I’m so happy finally to be able to finish the story Terry and I plotted in 1989 and in 2006,” Gaiman said in a release announcing the news Thursday. “Terry was determined that if we made Good Omens for television, we could take the story all the way to the end. Season one was all about averting Armageddon, dangerous prophecies and the End of the World. Season two was sweet and gentle, although it may have ended less joyfully than a certain Angel and Demon might have hoped. Now in season three, we will deal once more with the end of the world. The plans for Armageddon are going wrong. Only Crowley [David Tennant] and Aziraphale [Martin Sheen] working together can hope to put it right. And they aren’t talking.”…

(3) WHO COUP. Sir Derek Jacobi will be a headline guest at Gallifrey One, the annual LA Doctor Who convention, happening February 16-18.

Star of stage and screen, and one of Britain’s national treasures, Sir Derek Jacobi portrayed the Master (and his alter ego, Professor Yana) opposite David Tennant in 2007’s “Utopia,” fulfilling a life-long ambition of the actor to star in Doctor Who. He also voices the character in audio adventures for Big Finish Productions, credited as the War Master; also voiced the Master in the 2003 Doctor Who audio play “Scream of the Shalka”; and starred as Martin Bannister in the Doctor Who Unbound audio release “Deadline.”

…We are honored to be able to welcome Sir Derek to Gallifrey One this year, his first-ever Doctor Who appearance in North America, courtesy our friends at Showmasters Events.  Sir Derek will participate in two main stage interviews during his visit, one on Friday afternoon, and one Saturday, included with general admission.  He will also be autographing and doing photo ops on Saturday and Sunday, will do a VIP script reading on Sunday morning, will participate in our guest receptions on Friday & Saturday evenings, and has a separate Diamond Pass; all of these require purchase (see below.)  Additionally, he is included in the TARDIS Tag package….

The con will also have Billie Piper, Alex Kingston, and a flock of other Doctor Who actors, writers, and production people.

(4) WHO HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Inverse tells how “2023’s Wildest Sci-Fi Show is Bringing Back Its Most Underrated Secret Weapon”.

… With this episode being the first one to contain Gatwa as the sole Doctor, this could mean a shift in the Doctor Who we know and love. Original reboot showrunner Russell T. Davies may be back, but there’s a new Doctor and a new companion at the start of a new season, why not try a new (old) genre as well?

Even if this is just a temporary jaunt into the world of fantasy, it’s proof of exactly what the third special “The Giggle” established: The Doctor took a break to rest and deal with the literal centuries of trauma that he has undergone, and now he can find himself in silly high jinks that are more suited to a classic children’s novel instead of a hardboiled sci-fi paperback….

(5) ECCLESTON’S PRICE. CBR.com listens in as “Christopher Eccleston Reveals His Conditions for Doctor Who Return”.

Eccleston, who played the ninth Doctor in the first season of the show’s revival in 2005, had a relatively brief spell at the helm before being replaced by David Tennant. Eccleston has since been vocal about his mixed feelings about his time on the show. While speaking at the For The Love of Sci-Fi fan convention over the weekend, Eccleston was asked about if he would come back to Doctor Who, and what the BBC would need to do in order to make that happen. Eccleston was brutally honest with his answer, telling audiences, “Sack Russell T Davies. Sack Jane Tranter. Sack Phil Collinson. Sack Julie Gardner. And I’ll come back. So can you arrange that?”…

(6) MOVE TOWARDS STREAMER TRANSPARENCY. Netflix today debuted its first semi-annual report of hours of content viewed on the streaming site. Or as The Verge puts it: “Netflix reveals how many hours we spent watching The Night Agent and Queen Charlotte”.

Netflix is going to start publishing a new report twice a year that details the most popular shows and movies on the platform. The first report, released today, details the most-watched content from January to June 2023, and it’s perhaps the best look yet at how much people are actually watching Netflix’s gargantuan library of titles.

“What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report” will track three metrics: hours watched, whether a show is available globally, and a show’s release date. In this first report, the first season of The Night Agent tops the list with more than 812 million hours viewed, followed by Ginny & Georgia’s second season (665.1 million hours viewed), The Glory’s first season (622.8 million hours viewed), Wednesday’s first season (507.7 million hours viewed), and Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (503 million hours viewed). Those are only the top five; the full list contains more than 18,000 titles. (Content is included if it has been watched for more than 50,000 hours.)

(7) SUBSTACK’S NAZI PROBLEM. Max Gladstone, in “Substackers Against Nazis”, told readers:

I’m taking part in a collective action on Substack today. I did not help draft the letter below, but I agree with it. I’ve been planning to shift this newsletter off Substack for a while now, and this is one of the reasons why.

Gladstone signal-boosted a mass letter which begins:

Dear Chris, Hamish & Jairaj:

We’re asking a very simple question that has somehow been made complicated: Why are you platforming and monetizing Nazis

According to a piece written by Substack publisher Jonathan M. Katz and published by The Atlantic on November 28, this platform has a Nazi problem

“Some Substack newsletters by Nazis and white nationalists have thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers, making the platform a new and valuable tool for creating mailing lists for the far right. And many accept paid subscriptions through Substack, seemingly flouting terms of service that ban attempts to ‘publish content or fund initiatives that incite violence based on protected classes’…Substack, which takes a 10 percent cut of subscription revenue, makes money when readers pay for Nazi newsletters.”

As Patrick Casey, a leader of a now-defunct neo-Nazi group who is banned on nearly every other social platform except Substack, wrote on here in 2021: “I’m able to live comfortably doing something I find enjoyable and fulfilling. The cause isn’t going anywhere.” Several Nazis and white supremacists including Richard Spencer not only have paid subscriptions turned on but have received Substack “Bestseller” badges, indicating that they are making at a minimum thousands of dollars a year….

Filer Robin Anne Reid also circulated the letter to her Substack readers.

(8) CHENGDU CATCHUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Two new articles published by Southern Weekly

On Wednesday 13th, Southern Weekly published two long articles following up from the Worldcon.

The first is titled ‘“They gave me comfort, and I risked my life to do something for them”: The birth of a Hugo-award winning science fiction fanzine’, and is an interview with Best Fanzine winner and Best Fan Writer finalist RiverFlow.  Extracts via Google Translate, with manual edits:

“In those two years, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t communicate with people normally, and I couldn’t take care of myself to a certain extent.  My daily spiritual support was to communicate with a group of science fiction fans on the Internet,” he said.  “They could give me some comfort. Even if I risk my life, I can do something for them.”  For a young man who is used to being self-isolated, these kindnesses and comforts from strangers are almost unbelievable…

He decided that he was not a “science fiction fan” in the strict sense, but a “fan of science fiction fans.”

So, he found another way to do something for his friends.  The idea of starting a fan magazine was mentioned by someone in the group, and it stirred something in his heart. He searched for public information about Chinese science fiction fans and found that there was almost no specialized research in the country.  “Why do the groups of science fiction fans who cared about me seem to have no part in the narrative of the entire history of Chinese science fiction and seem to have disappeared?”

In July 2020, the first issue of “Zero Gravity News” was released.  RiverFlow only took one day to typeset it in Word.  The issue was not detailed, just excerpting some science fiction news, group discussions, etc.  But the sci-fi fanzine had taken one small step.

RiverFlow also posted some comments on Weibo about the piece.

The second article is ‘A conversation with science fiction scholar San Feng: Why is science fiction fan culture important?’  Much of the article covers the history of the Worldcon, western SF fandom etc and seems to be aimed at a general audience, and so will be already familiar ground to File 770 readers.  Later on it moves onto SF in China, which will probably be of more interest.  (Again, this is via Google Translate with manual edits.)

Southern Weekly: Does the Chinese science fiction circle also have a similar structure [to SF in the West]?

San Feng: Our science fiction fan culture is relatively recent. According to our research, it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that science fiction fans in the strict sense began to appear.

Liu Cixin said that he is the first generation of science fiction fans, including Han Song, Yao Haijun, etc. It can be understood that people born in the 1960s fell in love with science fiction in the early 1980s. At that time, Chinese science fiction did not have a distinct cultural identity of science fiction. Science fiction clubs or science fiction research societies were established in many places, but most of them were in a top-down manner. Many places wanted to organize people to write science fiction, so they set up science fiction research associations.

To truly build a science fiction fan community from the bottom up, I think the landmark event was Yao Haijun’s founding of the science fiction fan magazine “Nebula” in 1988 (note: some say it was 1986).  At that time, he was still working as a lumberjack in Yichun [in northeast China].  Because he liked science fiction, he used a mimeograph in his spare time to publish a science fiction fan magazine “Nebula”, which was shared with science fiction fans all over the country.  If you got in touch with him and sent a little money to him, maybe a few cents, he would send you a mimeographed magazine.

(Note: both of the above links are to mobile versions of the articles, and have subheadings stating that they will only be freely available for some unstated time period, before going behind a paywall.  There are desktop versions of those pages, but those have truncated content, requiring a login to see the full article.)

Three Worldcon reports

The following Chinese-language con reports all strike quite different tones from each other.  (All extracts via Google Translate, with manual cleanup edits.)

The first one is by Shen Yusi, and was posted on the Zero Gravity Weixin/WeChat account on November 15th.  This one is very positive about the event.

If Liu Cixin won the Hugo Award and let the world hear the strongest voice in Chinese science fiction, then in 2023 the World Science Fiction Convention held in Chengdu allows the world to truly see what the Chinese science fiction community looks like…

I had seen the aerial view of the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum on the official website, which is quite shocking. It looks like a huge piece of silver metal foil flying down by the lake. I once joked that I would never be able to witness this form of the venue with my naked eyes – after all, I can’t fly. From the ground, the venue looks like a huge alien aircraft, with a silver-white outer shell and mostly icy blue light inside. From an aesthetic point of view, this sci-fi feel is relatively avant-garde, rather than being something from the present day…

There were many young people and children at the event, which I had never thought about before.  Groups of primary school students visited this event under the guidance of their teachers.  There was also an award ceremony for the essay competition in an exhibition hall on the second floor.  I can’t do anything other than praise Chengdu’s education sector!  Maybe the next Liu Cixin will emerge from these children?

There were many college students on site, including booth staff and student media interviewing guests.  As a person who was very capable of making waves when they were in college, I can’t help but sigh and think that it’s great to be young! Many of these college students have not yet shed their youthfulness, and they are full of bookishness and strong idealism. After all, science is “fantastical”. If you don’t have a little bit of the second spirit, how can you have the ambition to conquer the stars and the sea?

The second report was posted to Zhihu – which I think usually gets compared to Western Q&A websites like Stack Overflow or Quora – by Chen Mengyu on November 6th.  This one is slightly more mixed; it seems like they enjoyed the more literary, fannish or creative activities, but were bored stiff by some of the more “corporate” events that they stumbled into.

At lunch, the sun was just right and the lake was like a mirror. I lay on a soft chair and had a bite of fried chicken and a Coke, feeling comfortable.

[A woman I’d met previously] invited her friends over, and there were more people.  Everyone had finished eating and wandered around chatting. While chatting, I felt that most of the people who like science fiction are middle-class people. There was also a man who flew over from Guangzhou to attend the conference.

I went to the Trisolaris [Three-Body Problem] fan meeting and found that there was a queue of two to three hundred meters. Haha, the last time I saw such a queue was at the National Museum. We gave up on queuing.

Soon we found an area where people were playing a creative game. We were divided into several groups, and given a common starting prompt, each group would start writing one sentence at a time, and at the end there was a vote for the group with the best writing…. My group won first place, and as a reward each person chose a book. I chose

[2021 novel] Tales from a Small Town, and I was very happy….

Then I went to the Shenzhen Science and Fantasy Growth Fund panel. My friends became bored, so instead they queued up for the The Three-Body Problem panel. I was the only one who stayed, and I have to admit that it was really boring… The top ten sci-fi cities in the country, as calculated by complex formulas, were announced in the panel: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan and Nanjing.  This looked familiar to me – the top ten cities ranked by GDP.  The list was exactly the same except that Xi’an is not in the top ten by GDP… Then I wrote down a piece of data and was shocked! Beijing and Chengdu have the highest density of science fiction writers, reaching a level of 27 science fiction writers per million people…

Because I drew a lottery ticket for the closing ceremony, I attended it on the next day, but there was nothing interesting in the closing ceremony… there were only two things worth  mentioning; one was the simultaneous interpretation, either English to Chinese or Chinese to English.  After choosing, if someone speaks English, the interpreter would translate it on the spot and read it out into the earphones, which I found very interesting.

[The other was that] next year’s science fiction convention was represented by Vincent in a kilt.  It is foreseeable that there will be many Scottish hunks in kilts at next year’s Worldcon.

(Attached images: chenmengyu[123].jpg)

The final report is a Weibo post from October 23rd, which to be honest is a bit of a snarky rant.  This isn’t completely unjustified, as the poster was unable to attend due to the rescheduling, despite living relatively close to Chengdu in a neighbouring province, nor did they have much success with the online component of the con, with both the livestreams and the Hugo voting failing for them.

Your science fiction conference this year is really terrible. I really can’t help but want to curse, but after thinking about it, I might as well forget it…

Since I couldn’t attend in person, I bought an online ticket.  However the website locked up, and I couldn’t get in to watch the live broadcast. They didn’t give me a refund. When I asked, they said it wasn’t allowed.

It’s 2023, and a “science fiction conference” that can’t even be broadcast online is awesome.

The Hugo Awards have always been voted for by members who spend money, and I have been a member for a long time.  I have been voting for the Hugo Awards in the past few years, but this year I was inexplicably unable to vote.  I really admire this organizer.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. (Died 1965.) I was surprised to learn how prolific she was — she composed six novels, two memoirs, and more than two hundred short stories! 

Shirley Jackson in 1940.

Her first novel, The Bird’s Nest, she considered a mainstream work of fiction but the publisher didn’t and marketed it as the publishing house marketed it as a psychological horror story. She was right as it’s a woman with multiple personalities, not horror at all.

Her following novel, The Sundial, concerned a family of wealthy eccentrics who believe they have been chosen to survive the end of the world, and was definitely genre as there’s a ghostly presence. 

Jackson’s fifth novel, The Haunting of Hill House, Is one that we all know about it. It has been made into two feature films and a play, and is the basis of a Netflix series. It was done as The Haunting in 1963, and then as, errr, The Haunting thirty-six years later. The latter is not faithful to the novel as it is (SPOILER ALERT) an explicit fantasy horror film in which all the main characters are terrorized and two are killed as explicitly supernatural deaths (END SPOILER). 

Elizabeth Hand’s A Haunting on the Hill is the first authorized novel set in the world of Hill House. The novel takes place decades after the events of The Haunting of Hill House, as a group of theater professionals rent Hill House to workshop a new play. Lis is reviewing it for us. 

The same year she wrote The Bad Children, a one-act children’s musical based on the “Hansel and Gretel” tale. She wrote the book and lyrics with the music being by Allan Jay Friedman.

I’d talk about “The Lottery” short story but I’ve honestly never figured out the appeal of that frankly abhorrent story, so I won’t. If you won’t to, go ahead. Now “The Missing Girl” short story first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in their December 1957 issue is a chilling work of horror well worth you reading.

It’s available in a collection comprising fifty four stories of the hundred and four that she did called Just an Ordinary Day. Remarkably it’s a Meredith Moment I’d say at just $7.99! 

Though in extremely poor health, she produced two final works of note. The first being We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a Gothic mystery novel. Time magazine noted it as one of the Ten Best Novels of 1962.

The following year, she published Nine Magic Wishes, an illustrated children’s novel about a child who encounters a magician who grants him numerous enchanting wishes.

At just one forty-eight years of age, her heart failed, according to both of her biographers, due to a combination of heavy smoking, alcoholism and extreme dependence on pain killers prescribed by physicians who didn’t know better at the time. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz is for those of us who like big words.
  • Shoe goes well with Frazz.

(11) I SEE NONEXISTENT PEOPLE. “Imaginary Friends ARE Real in ‘IF’ Teaser Trailer”Animation News Network explains how it works.

…Ask yourself the question, “What if all your imaginary friends were real?” And what if your superpower was you could see them all? Then your life would look a lot like the story of IF, John Krasinski’s upcoming comedy adventure about a girl who discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends and the magical adventure she embarks upon to reconnect forgotten ‘IFs’ with their kids….

(12) MR. ROBOT NOW HAS A UNIVERSE. GQ tells readers, “Confirmed: ‘Leave the World Behind’ Takes Place in the ‘Mr. Robot’ Extended Universe”.

Leave the World Behind, Sam Esmail’s first feature film since the success of his tech-thriller series Mr. Robot, deals with themes similar to those of his acclaimed USA Network show. But the connections may not stop there. As one keen-eyed Reddit user noted, the film references a hacking in the tri-state area that nearly led to a catastrophic meltdown at a nuclear power plant. This seems to clearly be a nod to the 11th episode of Season 4, “eXit,” in which Rami Malek’s Elliot nearly hacks a nuclear plant, with catastrophic potential damage….

(13) FIRST, LET’S IGNORE ALL THE LAWYERS. As usual, people aren’t interested in legal advice that would keep them from doing what they’ve already decided to do: “Meta used copyrighted books for AI training despite its own lawyers’ warnings, authors allege”Reuters has the story.

…Meta Platforms’ (META.O) lawyers had warned it about the legal perils of using thousands of pirated books to train its AI models, but the company did it anyway, according to a new filing in a copyright infringement lawsuit initially brought this summer.

The new filing late on Monday night consolidates two lawsuits brought against the Facebook and Instagram owner by comedian Sarah Silverman, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon and other prominent authors, who allege that Meta has used their works without permission to train its artificial-intelligence language model, Llama.

… In the chat logs quoted in the complaint, researcher Tim Dettmers describes his back-and-forth with Meta’s legal department over whether use of the book files as training data would be “legally ok.”

“At Facebook, there are a lot of people interested in working with (T)he (P)ile, including myself, but in its current form, we are unable to use it for legal reasons,” Dettmers wrote in 2021, referring to a dataset Meta has acknowledged using to train its first version of Llama, according to the complaint.

The month prior, Dettmers wrote that Meta’s lawyers had told him “the data cannot be used or models cannot be published if they are trained on that data,” the complaint said….

(14) SOUNDS LIKE THE NEEDLE IS STUCK. “NASA working to solve Voyager 1 computer glitch from billions of miles away” reports CNN.

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a computer glitch that’s causing a bit of a communication breakdown between the 46-year-old probe and its mission team on Earth.

Engineers are currently trying to solve the issue as the aging spacecraft explores uncharted cosmic territory along the outer reaches of the solar system.

Voyager 1 is currently the farthest spacecraft from Earth at about 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) away, while its twin Voyager 2 has traveled more than 12 billion miles (20 billion kilometers) from our planet. Both are in interstellar space and are the only spacecraft ever to operate beyond the heliosphere, the sun’s bubble of magnetic fields and particles that extends well beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Voyager 1 has three onboard computers, including a flight data system that collects information from the spacecraft’s science instruments and bundles it with engineering data that reflects the current health status of Voyager 1. Mission control on Earth receives that data in binary code, or a series of ones and zeroes.

But Voyager 1’s flight data system now appears to be stuck on auto-repeat, in a scenario reminiscent of the film “Groundhog Day.”

A long-distance glitch

The mission team first noticed the issue November 14, when the flight data system’s telecommunications unit began sending back a repeating pattern of ones and zeroes, like it was trapped in a loop.

While the spacecraft can still receive and carry out commands transmitted from the mission team, a problem with that telecommunications unit means no science or engineering data from Voyager 1 is being returned to Earth.

The Voyager team sent commands over the weekend for the spacecraft to restart the flight data system, but no usable data has come back yet, according to NASA….

(15) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED…OUR ANCESTORS. IndieWire sets the frame for “’Out of Darkness’ Trailer: A Stone Age Survival Horror Story”.

Set during the Stone Age, the horror film “Out of Darkness” brings a modern twist to the survival story.

The film, which marks both director Andrew Cumming and screenwriter Ruth Greenberg’s respective feature debuts, centers on a teenager (Safia Oakley-Green) who must survive immigrating across the sea and into a foreign land that may or may not house monsters.

The official synopsis for the indie horror film reads: “A group of six have struggled across the narrow sea to find a new home. They are starving, desperate, and living 45,000 years ago. First they must find shelter, and they strike out across the tundra wastes towards the distant mountains that promise the abundant caves they need to survive. But when night falls, anticipation turns to fear and doubt as they realize they are not alone. Terrifying sounds suggest something monstrous at large in this landscape, something that could kill or steal them away. As relationships in the group fracture, the determination of one young woman reveals the terrible actions taken to survive.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Loontown is a nearly 18-minute animated noir set in a city reminiscent of Los Angeles, whose denizens are talking balloons, gasbags and others of their ilk. It was written by World Fantasy Award winning author Lavie Tidhar and directed, animated and scored by Nir Yaniv, who had previously collaborated with Tidhar on the 2009 novel The Tel Aviv Dossier. Loontown can currently be viewed on YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/23 For A Mere $39.95 You Can Turn A Dalek Into a Barista Machine

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

New articles on the Chengdu Worldcon website, but only in Chinese

There have been several news articles published on the official website since the convention ended on the 22nd, but only in Chinese.  Below are extracts from a few of them, via Google Translate with minor manual edits.

What kind of “future” did people encounter in Chengdu? (posted Monday 23rd)

This conference is a new starting point for the take-off of the science fiction industry in Chengdu, but it is not only the starting point for the take-off of the science fiction industry in Chengdu. This conference is the starting point for China’s science fiction industry to set sail from Chengdu.

The organizing committee of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference has made the science fiction industry a major topic of the conference for the first time. At the first industrial development summit held at the conference, the “Chengdu Consensus on Science Fiction Industry” was officially released, which will allow various industries to gather a consensus to build the cornerstone of the science fiction industry.

A thank you note! ICBC’s patient and thoughtful service won praise from guests at the Science Fiction Conference (posted Monday 23rd)

On the first day of the World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu on October 18, foreign customer Mr. Barkley hurried to the mobile banking car for help. He wanted to use his credit card to withdraw some cash to buy a domestic mobile phone to send emails online, but domestic credit card withdrawals required a password.  Mr. Barkley had previously used his credit card abroad to make purchases or withdraw cash based on his signature, and he did not know the reserved password.

Behind the exciting exhibitions at the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, ICBC’s thoughtful, patient and heart-warming financial services undoubtedly provide comprehensive protection…..

The exhibition hall is also equipped with a digital RMB coffee machine. Using digital RMB, you can enjoy a steaming cup of coffee for only 1 yuan. At the same time, the Chengdu Universiade co-branded digital RMB hard wallet set exhibited by ICBC supports payment without network and electricity. Payment can be completed with just a “touch” during transactions, which left a deep impression on many domestic and foreign guests.

In order to provide all-weather, omni-channel, international financial services and facilitate services, ICBC comprehensively promotes the financial services for the Science Fiction Conference at 11 outlets in Pidu District. 

Note that ICBC was one of two top tier sponsors of the Chengdu Worldcon.  Also note that although the article was posted two days after the Hugo ceremony, the article makes no mention of Chris being a Hugo winner.

Ximalaya Operations Director Zhou Tiantian: Science fiction encourages people to find the meaning of life on a cosmic scale (posted Monday 23rd)

Zhou Tiantian, director of operations of Ximalaya, said that science fiction gives people the limits of their imagination and encourages people to find the meaning of life on a cosmic scale . As the leading audio app in China, Ximalaya is closely integrated with cutting-edge technology and has launched many science fiction, fantasy and technological contents. At present, Ximalaya has released a number of sci-fi Atmos audio dramas, including classic sci-fi IPs “The Wandering Earth Liu Cixin Collection”, “Solaris” and “Dune Overture”. Ximalaya has cooperated with Dolby Laboratories to launch a Dolby Atmos zone. Launched with [car manufacturer] NIO, it provides high-quality audiobooks in various genres such as science fiction, suspense, and children’s books.  Previously, Ximalaya cooperated with Li Auto and WANOS to launch panoramic audio dramas, providing a shocking auditory experience for the in-car space.

Ximalaya is committed to empowering culture with technology and actively promotes the widespread application of AI technology in the audio industry, which is consistent with its long-term development strategy. As a beneficiary and leader of AI technology, Ximalaya is unswervingly committed to the exploration of AI technology in the audio field. Through the development of AI technology, Ximalaya can appear in users’ lives in a new way of experience, realizing rebirth in some scenarios. Ximalaya will continue to be committed to the application of AI technology in the audio field, and continue to promote innovation to meet the diverse needs of users and help Ximalaya continue to develop.

[Note: I’m not familiar with this audiobook company, but it seems that they use both the “Ximalaya” and “Himalaya” brand names; the former seems to be aimed at the domestic market, the latter internationally.]

The winning games of the 81st World Science Fiction Conference “Fantasy Galaxy – Annual Selection of World Science Fiction Games” have been announced! (Posted Monday 23rd)

On the morning of October 22nd, the 81st World Science Fiction Conference “Fantasy Galaxy – Annual Selection of World Science Fiction Games” award ceremony was held at the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum, where the winning works were announced. The selection event was released by the Organizing Committee of the 81st World Science Fiction Conference and sponsored by Sichuan Game Innovation and Development Center, Chengdu Science Fiction Association, and Sichuan Publishing Association Game Publishing Working Committee.

Sichuan New Media Group and other relevant leaders, as well as Canada’s “Godfather of Science Fiction” Robert Sawyer, attended the event and presented awards, as well as specially invited representatives from Google, Amazon Cloud, NetEase, Tencent, Huawei, Bilibili, and Ubisoft.

The first two winners named are by remarkable coincidence associated with sponsors of the con.

As an aside, I see that Sergey Lukyanenko is still listed as a GoH on the front page, and the “Special Guests” and “Hosts” are still showing as “UPDATING”.

Con reports: Jeremy Szal, Arthur Liu and Nicholas Whyte

Jeremy Szal was tweeting during the con and has now written his con report:

I’m led through a whirlwind of events, ceremonies, meetings, interviews and conversations. I’m thrust in front of cameras, wired up with microphones, offered seats and stools. I greet friends, both new and familiar to me. My editors and handlers keep close correspondence with me, telling me where I need to be, and at what time, and how I should be dressed. I’ve done WorldCons before. I know this gig. But something here feels different. There’s a buzz, a feverishness, in the air…

And it’s nice. Never before have I felt so welcome. Never before have I truly felt at home, as a member of the science-fiction community. Diversity here isn’t spoken off. It’s acted upon. Where other conventions may attempt to gesture at diversity, as an abstract, here it is exacted. It’s presented, on an international scale. And it’s wonderful. We don’t all speak the same language. Because we share something else, something grander: a love of science-fiction and fandom.

Arthur Liu is currently suffering from severe con crud, but nevertheless has put out the first part (of four) of his Chinese-language con report, covering the run-up to the event.  (Disclosure: I am mentioned in this article.)  Via Google Translate, with minor edits:

Yao Xue from the business meeting group also invited me to propose “constitutional amendment” proposals. The F.8 proposal also caused controversy in the American science fiction circle. A group of science fiction fans attacked it on File 770. These somewhat brought back a bit of the “Worldcon” flavor of this conference, and made us decide to at least enjoy it as much as possible. I think that the science fiction fans who finally decided to attend this conference all have more or less ambivalent feelings about it…

The theme salon is divided into three application channels: (1) Questionnaire star entrance provided on the WeChat official account; (2) Organizing committee email address provided on the official website; (3) Planorama website. This caused a lot of confusion in the early days, because the contents filled out in the three channels were different and incomplete. Later, the information was completed only through the collection of volunteers. The application for a fan booth is relatively straightforward, just send an email. However, because the venue had not yet been completed, the relevant person in charge did not respond for a long time after the application was submitted, and did not start notifying people until just before the con. From August to before the conference, I had to go through this “catch up on winter and summer vacation homework” mode at almost every stage and every milestone. The intermediary organizer also repeatedly asked us to fill in forms and provide additional event materials because they needed to review the content to ensure on-site safety. For example, the panellists needed to provide speech notes, the host needed to provide speech notes, etc. In addition, they also had to provide true identity information in order to enable the organizers to be able to perform facial recognition on the guests… From these preliminary preparations, we could actually roughly guess what the scene would be like, which shows that the local government attached great importance to this matter.

Nicholas Whyte’s first post about the con covers the Doctor Who panel:

Many aspects of Chengdu Worldcon were great fun. I will write about the things I especially enjoyed: the pandas, the set-piece events, and the friends I made along the way. (I enjoyed the WSFS Business Meeting even less than usual, so I won’t write about that.)

The thing that gave me the most unexpected joy was the love for Doctor Who shown by the Chinese fans. I have to give huge credit here to Yan Ru, 晏如, an English Chinese teacher from Wuhan, who may well be the leading Doctor Who fan in China. We had made contact before the convention, and had a lot of conversations about our shared passion.

(2) TRIANGULAR TRADE.  “The Flatiron Building Will Be Converted Into Condos” in the New York Times. Not so long ago New York fans knew it as the headquarters of Tor Books but I suspect they will resist the temptation to buy condos and live there around the clock.

The Flatiron, the storied office building in the heart of Manhattan that has recently fallen on hard times, will be converted into luxury housing, its owners announced on Thursday.

The proposed redevelopment by the new owners is aimed at starting a second life for the Flatiron — its sole office tenant, Macmillan Publishers, departed before the pandemic — and moving past a dramatic period in which its fate seemed uncertain. In March, a little-known buyer won an auction for the building, only to disappear without paying.

The building’s future as housing began to take shape this week when the Brodsky Organization, a residential developer, bought a stake in the 22-story, triangular-shaped tower on Fifth Avenue. Brodsky will lead the conversion, carving out units — either for sale as condominiums or as rentals — from the notoriously awkward space….

(3) THE GOALS OF BLACK HORROR. The Atlantic’s Hanna Rosen found out “What Scares Jordan Peele?” And N.K. Jemisin, too.

…Since then I’ve learned a lot more about how race worked in that movie. But for a Black kid interested in horror, the subtext might have been a little more obvious. Jordan Peele grew up writing horror stories in his journals, and occasionally scaring his classmates with them on school trips. In 2017, after a successful sketch-comedy career, he wrote, produced, and directed Get Out, the critically acclaimed horror film. He says the movie “felt very taboo” and “un-produceable” at the time. “I don’t know if you noticed, but Get Out doesn’t have any good white people in it,” he told me. I did notice.

After Peele made that movie, and several others, he says, Black creators started telling him that they too had a horror story to tell, but they had never thought to tell it publicly. Classic horror always seemed to be speaking to white people’s fears about the menace of “the other,” made manifest as dark and sinister forces. But Black people of course saw different monsters….

(4) UPHILL CLIMB. “Fantasy, sci-fi books by Latinx authors need more support, authors and agents say” at The 19th News.

Romina Garber had always been an avid reader of fantasy stories, especially Harry Potter, but something ate at her: She could never find another Latina in the stories.

“I couldn’t find someone that reflected me or represented me, and that always really bothered me,” she said.

So Garber wrote the story of a young girl who discovers she’s a lobizona, a werewolf of Argentine folklore. But when Garber began looking for literary representation for the book that would eventually be “Lobizona,” 15 years ago, no one wanted it.

Garber remembers one agent telling her that “no one cared about Argentine immigrants.” There was no American market for the title, and it’s not what people wanted to read. Garber felt her identity, not just her book, being rejected. 

“He was talking about me, he wasn’t talking about my characters,” Garber said. “It really crushed me. And after that, I just realized I can’t write about myself.”

So she began writing allegorical science fiction instead, creating a world where everyone is divided up by their zodiac sign. Garber found an agent with this new concept and finished publishing the four-book series in 2017. But Garber’s mind drifted back to the first book she tried to sell about an undocumented immigrant lobizona. It felt more urgent than ever: The news was filled with stories of immigrant children being detained in cages during the Trump administration’s border crackdowns.

Now armed with an agent from her science fiction series, her book was sold to a publisher. “Lobizona,” the first in the Wolves Of No World Duology, was released in 2020. Garber regrets that she ever shelved the story in the first place. “I should never have stopped fighting.”

There have been a few standout successes for Latinx authors in the realm of speculative fiction — which includes fantasy, science fiction and dystopian stories — and many are written by women and LGBTQ+ authors. Books such as Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Mexican Gothic” and Aiden Thomas’ “Cemetery Boys” have been New York Times bestsellers. Moreno-Garcia’s “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” is up for the genre’s prestigious Hugo Award.

Publishers have backed a few bright stars, but that doesn’t translate into broader support. Publishing, both the industry and the authors, are overwhelmingly White. For Latinx authors, that can mean an industry that flattens cultural nuances, tokenizing and misrepresenting the speculative worlds they are dreaming into existence….

(5) THE WEB NOT SPUN. [Item by Steven French.] David Fincher’s take on Spider-Man: “’Who doesn’t think they’re an outsider?’ David Fincher on hitmen, ‘incels’ and Spider-Man’s ‘dumb’ origin story” in the Guardian.

…He pitched his idea for a Spider‑Man movie in 1999. Fincher’s version skipped the whole “bitten by a radioactive spider” part and focused on Peter Parker as a grownup. “They weren’t fucking interested,” he says with a laugh. “And I get it. They were like: ‘Why would you want to eviscerate the origin story?’ And I was like: ‘’Cos it’s dumb?’ That origin story means a lot of things to a lot of people, but I looked at it and I was like: ‘A red and blue spider?’ There’s a lot of things I can do in my life and that’s just not one of them.” The gig went to Sam Raimi….

(6) SECOND FIFTH. “Fantastic Beasts: JK Rowling franchise has been ‘parked’, director says” – the Guardian took notes.

… The Secrets of Dumbledore netted just $407m at the international box office, compared with the first film in the franchise, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which grossed $814m, and the second movie, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald, which took $654m.

The franchise has also been dogged by controversy arising from its stars and writer. JK Rowling, the Harry Potter creator who received the sole screenwriting credit for the first two Fantastic Beasts films and was co-writer on the third, has been widely criticised for her outspoken views on transgender issues.

Johnny Depp, who played Grindelwald in the first two Fantastic Beasts films, was in 2020 asked to resign from the franchise days after he lost his libel case against the Sun, which had referred to the actor as a “wife-beater” following accusations of domestic violence made against him by his ex-wife Amber Heard.

And Ezra Miller, another of the franchise’s stars, made headlines in 2022 after they were arrested multiple times; Miller eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful trespassing and revealed they were seeking treatment for “complex mental health issues”.

Yates revealed to the podcast that the franchise’s five-film plan had not initially been on the cards.

“The idea that there were going to be five [Fantastic Beasts] films was a total surprise to most of us,” he said.

“Jo just mentioned it spontaneously, at a press screening once. We were presenting some clips of FB1 [Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them]. We’d all signed up for FB1, very enthusiastically. And Jo, bless her, came on … and Jo said, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s five of them.’ And we all looked at each other because no one had told us there were going to be five. We’d sort of committed to this one. So that was the first we’d heard of it.”…

(7) A “MONSTER KID” REMEMBERS. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Cosmic dreams (and provocative nightmares) of tantalizing journeys through time and space … infinite, conceptual exploration of the stars … alien creatures … Hammer Films … Universal Pictures … “King Kong” … Ray Harryhausen … Ray Bradbury … George Pal … Robert Bloch … Peter Cushing … Veronica Carlson … Buster Crabbe … John Agar … Frank Capra … John Williams … Miklos Rozsa … Forrest J Ackerman … and Famous “Monsters” of all shapes, sizes, and creeds, both conceived and lovingly chronicled in books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on line for over half a century, inspired this affectionate, deeply personal, if slightly “Monstrous,” remembrance of a life in “horror” by a gray haired, unabashedly child like, Monster “Kid.” “Vertlieb’s Views: A Monster Kid Remembers” at The Thunder Child.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1926 Takumi Shibano. Teacher, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Japan. He co-founded and edited Uchujin, Japan’s first SF magazine, in 1957. He was a major figure in the establishment of Japanese SFF fandom, and he founded and chaired four of the first six conventions in that country. In 1968 the Trans-Oceanic Fan Fund (TOFF) brought him to a Worldcon for the first time, in the U.S., where he was a Special Guest. He wrote several science fiction novels starting in 1969, but his work translating more than 60 science fiction novels into Japanese was his major contribution to speculative fiction. From 1979 on, he attended most Worldcons and served as the presenter of the Seiun Awards. He was Fan Guest of Honor at two Worldcons, in 1996 and at Nippon 2007, he was given the Big Heart Award by English-speaking fandom, and he was presented with a Special Hugo Award and a Special Seiun Award. (Died 2010.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1940 Patrick Woodroffe. Artist and Illustrator from England, who produced more than 90 covers for SFF books, including works by Zelazny, Heinlein, and GRRM, along with numerous interior illustrations, in the 1970s. He was also commissioned to provide speculative art for record album cover sleeves; his masterwork was The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony: The Birth and Death of a World, a joint project with the symphonic rock musician Dave Greenslade, which purported to be the first five chapters of an alien Book of Genesis, consisting of two music discs by the musician and a 47-page book of Woodroffe’s illustrations. It sold over 50,000 copies in a five-year period, and the illustrations were exhibited at the Brighton UK Worldcon in 1979. Hallelujah Anyway, a collection of his work, was published in 1984, and he was nominated for Chesley and BSFA Awards. (Died 2014.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 27, 1943 Les Daniels. Writer of a series concerning the vampire Don Sebastian de Villanueva. During the Seventies, he was the author of Comix: A History of Comic Books in America with illustrations by the Mad Peck — and Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media. Later on, he’d write myriad histories of DC and Marvel Comics, both the Houses and individual characters. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist and Illustrator, whose credits include dozens of comic books and fiction book covers, and more than hundred interior illustrations, as well as a number of accompanying works of short fiction. His first comic book story, “The Man Who Murdered Himself” appeared in the House of Mystery No. 179 in 1969. With writer Len Wein, he later co-created the muck creature Swamp Thing in House of Secrets No. 92. In the 70s, he spent seven years drawing approximately fifty detailed pen-and-ink illustrations to accompany an edition of Frankenstein. And in the 80s, he did a number of collaborations with Stephen King, including the comic book adaptation of that author’s horror film Creepshow. In 2012, he collaborated with Steve Niles on Frankenstein Alive, Alive! for which he won a National Cartoonists Society’s award. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, was honored with an Inkwell Special Recognition Award for his 45-year comics art career, and received nominations for Chesley Awards for Superior and Lifetime Artistic Achievement and for a Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Illustrated Narrative. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 53. Writer from England who produces speculative genre literature for children and young adults. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, winner of Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature, is set in an alternate London, and involves a thousand-year-old djinn; Lockwood & Co. is a series involving ghost hunters in another alternative London. I’ve read a few of the latter – they’re fun, fast reads.  Netflix made the latter into a series and promptly cancelled it after one season.
  • Born October 27, 1973 Anthony Doerr, 50. Author four novels, two of which are genre — About Grace and Cloud Cuckoo Land. The first is straightforward, the latter is really complex storytelling. He’s won four Ohioana Awards (Literature by writers from Ohio and about Ohio), not an Award I’d heard of before now.  He’s written one piece of genre fiction, “The Hunter’s Wife” which is only in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror: Fifteenth Annual Collection which means it was commissioned for there. 

(9) HOOPLA COMICS KINGDOM 1-WEEK BINGE PASSES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As I wrote in “Reading Daily Comic Strips Online” (File770.com, March 23, 2022) a lot of current and classic comic strips are available online, primarily through ComicsKingdom and GoComics, for modest annual subscription prices — and
both offer free try-it access.

If you’re curious about Comics Kingdom’s offerings but don’t want to pony up a payment method just to try, Hoopla (hoopladigital.com) (access available through participating libraries) Binge Passes include a week’s access to a selection of the full site: Comics Kingdom Binge Pass.

(10) THIRD HELPING OF OMENS ON THE MENU. “Good Omens to Reportedly Be Renewed for Season 3, But With A Catch” — and Comicbook.com knows what it is.

Good Omens is reportedly looking at a Season 3 renewal by Amazon Prime Video and the BBC – but reportedly there is a catch. It’s now looking like Good Omens showrunner, director and executive producer Douglas Mackinnon will not be returning for Season 3 (likely the final season) – although lead actors Michael Sheen and David Tennant and the main cast of the show have reportedly all been locked-in to return.

(11) THE BLOB. “Spacewalking cosmonauts encounter toxic coolant ‘blob’ while inspecting leaky radiator” reports Space.com.

Two cosmonauts conducting a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday (Oct. 25) got an up-close view of a coolant leak that was first observed flowing from an external radiator earlier this month.

Oleg Kononenko came so close to the growing “blob” or “droplet” — as the pooling ammonia was described — that one of his tethers became contaminated, necessitating it being bagged and left outside of the space station when the spacewalk ended.

Kononenko and his fellow Expedition 70 spacewalker, Nikolai Chub, also of the Russian federal space corporation Roscosmos, began the extravehicular activity (EVA) at 1:49 p.m. EDT (1749 GMT) on Wednesday, knowing that one of their first tasks was to isolate and photo document the radiator, which was first observed leaking coolant on Oct. 9. Used as a backup to a main body radiator that regulates the temperature inside Russia’s Nauka multipurpose laboratory module, Kononenko and Chub configured a number of valves to cut off the external radiator from its ammonia supply….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George introduces us to “The First Guy To Ever Trick or Treat”.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/14/23 There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy; For Everything Else, There’s Pixel Scroll

(1) TOP PEOPLE. Writer Ted Chiang, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski, manga creator Rootport, and artist Kelly McKernan are some of the recognizable names who are not CEOs or scientists on TIME’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in AI 2023”.

(2) COLLATERAL DAMAGE OF LISTS. “Here we go again. Another badly skewed list of fantasy books recommended for newcomers” – Juliet E. McKenna tees off. Which list? I don’t know, but they keep coming along.

Must be a day with a Y in it. Yes, well-informed readers are pushing back against this particular dated, limited and male-dominated list, and no, I’m not going to link to it and argue the toss over every title. There’s a wider point to be made.

Women SF&F writers don’t take these best-of lists, these recommended-for-award-nominations and shortlists, these articles and review columns that erase us ‘personally’. We object because they damage us professionally. The same is true for every under-represented group excluded from these lists. And yes, the male authors writing the progressive, informed and thought-provoking SF&F which is being ignored have a right to feel aggrieved as well.

When newcomers to fantasy fiction see the most easily-found review coverage and online discussion is all about grimdark books from big publishers, with stories about blokes in cloaks, written by authors like Macho McHackenslay, that’s what they will buy. Or they will be completely put off and go elsewhere in search of fiction where they see themselves and their concerns represented. They will never know what they’re looking for can be found in SF&F.

Either way, six months down the line, the big publisher’s accountants at head office look at the sales figures and see Macho McHackenslay is one of their bestsellers. The order goes out to ask literary agents for more of the same. Because big publishing is a numbers game, and it skews towards repeating successes rather than promoting innovation.

Meantime, an editor will be arguing the case to give another contract to P.D.Kickassgrrl. He insists the body count and hardcore ethics of P.D.Kickassgrrl’s excellent work will surely appeal to Macho McHackenslay fans, as well as whole lot of other readers. Unfortunately her sales aren’t nearly as good, because her books get far fewer reviews and other mentions. Genre magazines and blogs can have a similar skew towards established successes, arguing they have to review the books people are actually buying, because those are the writers readers are clearly interested in. The self-referential and self-reinforcing circle is complete….

(3) NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLISTS ROLLING OUT. The 2023 National Book Award Longlist for Translated Literature includes one work of genre interest – Bora Chung’s collection Cursed Bunny.

Translated Literature

  • Devil of the Provinces by Juan Cárdenas and translated from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis (Coffee House)
  • Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung and translated from the Korean by Anton Hur (Algonquin)
  • Beyond the Door of No Return by David Diop and translated from the French by Sam Taylor (FSG)
  • Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck and translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (New Directions)
  • The Words That Remain by Stênio Gardel and translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato (New Vessel)
  • No One Prayed Over Their Graves by Khaled Khalifa and translated from the Arabic by Leri Price (FSG)
  • This Is Not Miami by Fernanda Melchor and translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (New Directions)
  • Abyss by Pilar Quintana and translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (World Editions)
  • On a Woman’s Madness by Astrid Roemer and tanslated from the Dutch by Lucy Scott (Two Lines)
  • The Most Secret Memory of Men by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr and translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (Other Press)

(4) STURGEON SYMPOSIUM. The full schedule for the 2nd Annual Sturgeon Symposium has been posted at the link. Shows the in-person and several virtual program items. Optional registration available.

(5) HWA’S NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR. Maxwell I. Gold has been installed as Executive Director of the Horror Writers Association, replacing Brad Hodson who served the HWA for ten years as Administrator.

…The HWA Hiring Committee saw a robust pool of twenty applicants and conducted six interviews in the organization’s first executive search. As HWA President and member of the hiring committee, John Lawson  noted:

“This Executive Director search was a first for the HWA, and while I expected interest in the job opening, I had no idea we’d garner the attention of such strong applicants, including those outside the HWA community. Having worked closely with Maxwell, both as Treasurer and as Interim Executive Director, I’ve witnessed firsthand his creative problem-solving and know our membership—and volunteers—will benefit from his efforts. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome of this process and am proud to serve alongside Maxwell.”

Gold has served on the Board of Trustees for two years as Treasurer and will remain a non-voting member of the Board in his new role as Executive Director. Effective immediately, Michael Knost, currently running unopposed, will assume the role and responsibility of the Office of Treasurer for the Horror Writers Association….

(6) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA PICKET LINE. You’re invited to drop by on September 21.

(7) THAT SINKING FEELING. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Mickey Ralph, the lead designer for Good Omens, posted to Twitter about some logistical problems that resulted from there being a second season. Thread starts here.

(8) FOR ALL MANKIND SEASON 4. Collider unpacks “’For All Mankind’ Season 4 Teaser”. The show returns November 10 on Apple TV+.

In previous seasons, For All Mankind explored space exploration’s impact on political and cultural landscapes in different eras, from the 1970s Moon mission to the 1980s Cold War competition for lunar resources. Season 3 saw a race to conquer Mars, leading to a climactic finale.

Launching into the new millennium, Happy Valley has made remarkable strides over the past eight years since Season 3. It has rapidly expanded its presence on Mars, transforming former adversaries into valuable partners. Fast forward to 2003, and the primary focus of this space program has shifted towards capturing and mining extraordinarily precious, mineral-rich asteroids that have the potential to reshape the destinies of both Earth and Mars. However, underlying tensions among the inhabitants of the sprawling international base now jeopardize everything they have worked so diligently to achieve.

Here’s a clip of the show’s “Helios Recruitment” commercial.

Rocketing into the new millennium in the eight years since Season 3, Happy Valley has rapidly expanded its footprint on Mars by turning former foes into partners. Now 2003, the focus of the space program has turned to the capture and mining of extremely valuable, mineral-rich asteroids that could change the future of both Earth and Mars. But simmering tensions between the residents of the now-sprawling international base threaten to undo everything they are working towards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14, 1919 Claire P. Beck. He was a reclusive fan known as the Hermit of Lakeport, California was active in the 1930s. Editor of the Science Fiction Critic fanzine which published in four issues the first work of criticism devoted to American SF: “Hammer and Tongs,” written by his brother, Clyde F. Beck. Their publishing house was Futile Press. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 14, 1927 Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one in the Buck Rogers one as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels as well. Marooned was nominated for a Hugo at Heicon ’70 but TV coverage of Apollo XI won that year. The Six Million Dollar Man film was a finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 14, 1944 — Rowena Morrill. Well-known for her genre art, she is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (French publication only), Imagination (German publication only), and The Art of Rowena.  Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she never won, but garnered the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. She also did the three covers you see here for the Recorded Books edition of The Lord of The Rings. OGH’s obituary for her is here. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 14, 1950 Michael Reaves. A scriptwriter and story editor to a number of Eighties and Nineties animated television series, including Batman: The Animated SeriesDisney’s Gargoyles He-Man and the Masters of the UniverseSmurfs Space Sentinels, Star Wars: Droids and The Transformers. Live action wise, he worked on Next GenerationSlidersSwamp Thing, original Flash and Young Hercules.  He also worked on two of my favorite animated Batman films, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. (Died 2023.)
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 62. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. And he has other series going as well! Another nineteen novels written, and then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  He writes mainly Doctor Who novels with thirteen, so from the Eighth through the Thirteenth Doctor so far, and Creative Consultant for the BBC Books range of Doctor Who novels. He’s written novels with Professor Bernice Summerfield as the protagonist as well. And written more SF that aren’t Whovian than I could possibly list here. One such series is, as EoSF notes, “the Invisible Detective sequence, beginning with The Paranormal Puppet Show (2003; vt Double Life 2004), consists in each case of two stories: one set in the 1930s, where the four young protagonists solve sf and fantasy mysteries; the other set in the contemporary world, where a parallel tale is told.”
  • Born September 14, 1972 Jenny T. Colgan, 51. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date with several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wrong Hands mashes up kids’ programming with a famous horror story.
  • Wrong Hands also shows the varieties in the “film school of fish”.

(11) EMBROIDERED WORLDS KICKSTARTER PURSUES STRETCH GOALS. The Kickstarter for the “Embroidered Worlds” English translation of Ukrainian SFF is now funded as far as all stories are concerned, but now they’re working on stretch goals for illustrations and other features. Donors who support this for as little as $1 which will receive a copy of the ebook. There are just over two weeks left in the Kickstarter that will benefit not only Ukrainian writers but, it is hoped, Ukrainian illustrators.

There are several guest blogs for the Kickstarter, including this one by Michael Burianyk on “Why do we need Ukrainian stories?”.

… Because the origins of Ukraine’s cultural and political capital Kyiv are lost in the shades of unrecorded time, they are fought over by competing storytellers. To this day, historians speculate and argue and create their own legends about who and when and why. And Kyiv was for a large part of its story a post-apocalyptic city: It lay in ruins, its spectacular architecture burnt and rotting, its population ravaged and scattered — a perfect breeding ground for ghosts and angst.

Ukraine was a place of conflict, in many ways still unresolved, between the Pagan and the Christian. Priests of the new god ensured that the old, some might say more interesting, beliefs were not written down. Prince Volodymyr, the Red Sun of legend, had the wooden idol of Perun flogged and dragged into the Dnipro to drown, and one imagines that his ghost still wanders the hills of the city along with his divine siblings, Dazhbog, Stribog, and Simargl, who still haunt the wooded ravines and forests of the country — as do many other fantastic and terrible beings.

The country saw, through the centuries, hordes and armies and emperors and commissars — not so different and no more understandable than demons and invading space invaders. Ukraine saw fire and sword wielded by abominable aliens; destruction visited over terrified generations and without warning. The Ukrainian people created their own interesting champions through these times. Stories of its protectors: Volodymyr of legend again and other bogatyry, were told for consolation. Legends of the Kozaks were examples of the spirit of independence of the people and their need for liberty that permeates their souls to this day….

(12) WHERE TO SEE THE CHINESE SERIES THREE-BODY PROBLEM. Seattle PBS station KCTS 9 is going to be running the Chinese-language version of the Three-Body Problem TV series (with English subtitles). Members can stream the first episode now, and the full series starting September 23. Will it be shown on any other PBS stations? My search on the main PBS website didn’t find it, nor another search on LA PBS station KCET. Let me know if it shows up anywhere else. But you could always become a member of the Seattle station and get access to it.  

(13) MISSED THE WINDOW. “Stan Lee’s Estate Loses Yearslong Elder Abuse Lawsuit Against Former Attorney on a Technicality”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

A messy legal battle initiated by Stan Lee’s estate involving accusations of exploitation and elder abuse by the comic book legend’s inner circle has concluded, with an arbitrator siding with Lee’s former attorney that the lawsuit against him was brought too late.

The five-year legal saga was sparked by The Hollywood Reporter’s investigation into Lee’s estate, which chronicled allegations that people introduced into his life by his daughter, J.C., stole millions of dollars from him. This included Jerardo Olivarez, Lee’s ex-business manager who was given power of attorney. Olivarez allegedly insisted that Lee retain Uri Litvak as his attorney for business dealings, but he didn’t disclose a conflict of interest stemming from Litvak representing him in personal matters. A year after Olivarez was sued, Lee also named Litvak in the lawsuit calling the pair “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” seeking to take advantage of him following the death of his wife.

A procedural defect in the lawsuit, however, led to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Epstein on Tuesday entering judgment in favor of Litvak after an arbitrator found in February that the statute of limitations to sue him had expired. Lee had a one-year window starting on April 12, 2018, when the complaint against Olivarez was filed, to also name Litvak in the lawsuit. Litvak was sued on April 18, 2018, five days passed the maximum allowable time to initiate legal proceedings….

(14) KGB READINGS. Ellen Datlow shared her photos from the September 13 Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings with Josh Rountree and Benjamin Percy.

(15) DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. It was supposed to be a tautology until it wasn’t.

(16) SF2 CONCATENATION RELEASES AUTUMN ISSUE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The N. hemisphere’s academic, autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation is now up. Its contents are:

v33(5) 2023.9.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Autumn 2023

v33(5) 2023.9.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v33(5) 2023.9.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

Forthcoming: In November SF2 Concatenation will have the third of its four ‘Best of Nature “Futures” short stories‘ of the year, and in December a pre-Christmas final one. If you are new to the site, these are short, one-page, SF stories. They’re rather fun and well worth sitting down with a mug of tea/coffee for a few minutes read. (The Best of Nature “Futures” short stories link is to the SF2 Concatenation archive of past ‘Best of’ stories, so feel free to have a browse. Enjoy.)

(17) FUTURAMA TEASER. Animation World Network shares “Exclusive Clip: ‘Futurama: The Prince and The Product’”.

… Hulu has shared with AWN an exclusive clip from Futurama: The Prince and The Product, streaming Monday, September 18 – one of three mini-episodes slated this season that reimagine the series in a different style…. 

…In the new episode “The Prince and The Product,” the crew members, reborn as toys, find themselves in life-and-death situations and, in our exclusive sneak peek clip, “Zoidberg Gets Left Behind” a plan is made to go to Saturn and the group decides to… you guessed it! Leave Zoidberg behind….

(18) REVISION QUEST. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] Rebecca Watson’s video “The Long History Behind the Latest TikTok ‘No Glasses’ Scam” is about a recent Tik-Tok quack who is reviving the old Bates method – a bogus method to improve eyesight that turns up in Heinlein, Van Vogt and Pohl (and perhaps others).

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew (not Werdna), Bruce D. Arthurs, Linda Deneroff, Michael Burianyk, Danny Sichel, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/3/23 For Who Knows What Pixels Will Come, When You Have Shuffled Off This Mortal File

(1) GOOD OMENS GRAPHIC NOVEL KICKSTARTER BREAKS RECORDS. A Kickstarter to publish a hardcover graphic novel of Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens, adapted by illustrator Colleen Doran, raised over $1 million in the first two days. According to the project page, it broke two Kickstarter records: the most successful 24 hours of any comic campaign and the most-backed comics Kickstarter.

Dunmanifestin, the publishing arm of Terry Pratchett estate, will also make GOOD OMENS: the Official (and Ineffable) Graphic Novel available to bookstores as well through a pledging pre-order process.

(2) MOVE NOW TO GET “JOHN THE BALLADEER” BONUS. Place your order for the Haffner Press’ Manly Wade Wellman collection The Complete John The Balladeer by August 10 to receive a chapbook of the unpublished Wellman story, “Not All a Dream”.

Here’s the cover for the story, and photos of the big book in final stages of production.

(3) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org’s next Fanhistory Zoom Session is: Boston in the 60s, with Tony Lewis, Leslie Turek and Mike Ward, moderated by Mark Olson on September 23.To get an invite, send a note to [email protected].

Boston in the 60s was a generative hotbed of fannish activities, with long lasting consequences. The first modern Boskone was held in 1965 by the Boston Science Fiction Society, as part of its bidding strategy for Boston in ’67. NESFA began in 1967, and the first Boston Worldcon was held in 1971. MIT provided a ready source of new fans, and they made themselves heard in fanzines, indexes, clubs and conventions (and invented the micro-filk). What was Boston fandom like in the 60s? How was it influenced by MIT? Who were the driving forces and BNFs? What were the impacts of the failed 67 bid? What made Boston unique?

September 23, 2023 at 4PM EDT (New York), 1PM Pacific (PDT), 9PM London (BST) and 6AM Sept 24 in Melbourne

(4) HE’S A CEO BRO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The good news: Warner Bros. believes the writer’s and actor’s strikes may be over soon.

The bad news: They’re telling investors that, meanwhile, WB is saving sooooo much money that investors should jump for joy (and maybe root for the strikes to continue). “Warner Bros. thinks the strike will end soon. Meanwhile, it’s saving millions” in the Washington Post.

…Warner Bros. Discovery expects that the Hollywood strike will end in a few weeks, executives said in a public earnings call Thursday. But even if actors and writers remain on the picket lines into next year, the studio is projecting hundreds of millions of dollars in savings as an “upside.”

Chief financial officers Gunnar Wiedenfels said a work stoppage by thousands of unionized writers in May resulted in more than $100 million in savings, which helped juice Warner’s free cash flow above projections — to $1.7 billion between April and June. The company reported about $10.4 billion in revenue for the quarter, though it still lost $1.2 billion.

Analysts expect Warner’s free cash flow to remain strong next quarter, which will include the impact of tens of thousands of unionized actors who joined the strike in July, shutting down almost all remaining production in Hollywood….

(5) DECLINED CHENGDU OFFER. The Octothorpe team, John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty, are not taking up the Chengdu Worldcon’s offer of financial and other assistance to attend the con.

(6) STATUS OF HUGO VOTER PACKET. The Chengdu Worldcon told Facebook readers today: “We are still collecting materials for the voter packet. Hopefully, within a week we will see all. Fingers crossed!”

(7) GET OFF MY LAWN. “George Lucas learned he’s not official owner of California driveway — so he’s suing”Yahoo! has the story.

George Lucas, the creator of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones,” recently learned he’s not the official owner of a paved driveway leading to one of his properties in California’s Bay Area, according to a lawsuit.

Lucas, and those permitted by his agents, have driven up the strip to the San Anselmo property over the past three decades — dating back to around 1990, a complaint filed Marin County Superior Court on May 15 says

The acclaimed filmmaker suspects heirs of his deceased neighbors may have been granted the right to access part of the driveway and believes they may claim that right, the complaint says.

As a result, Lucas has filed a lawsuit against those heirs and the town of San Anselmo to ensure he’s declared the rightful owner of the strip, the complaint shows. The lawsuit was first reported by the Marin Independent Journal

(8) CLARION WEST INTERVIEWS. This summer Clarion West is featuring three interviews with people from their community. Access them at the link.

Q&A with 2023 Six-Week Workshop instructor Samit Basu
Get to know our Week 3 instructor, Samit Basu, as he shares about writing and publishing across multiple genres (and countries!), plus what he’s looking forward to with Clarion West.

Interviews with Sagan Yee (CW ’21) and Fawaz Al-Matrouk (CW ’21)
Six-Week Workshop alumni Sagan Yee and Fawaz Al-Matrouk share their virtual workshop tips and insights for this year’s class. Helpful advice on balance, self-care, and facilitating online connection — useful for anyone interested in virtual learning!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 3, 1861 — Michel Jean Pierre Verne. Son of Jules Verne who we now know rewrote some of his father’s later novels. These novels have since been restored using the original manuscripts which were preserved. He also wrote and published short stories using his father’s name. None of these are the major works Jules is now known for. (Died 1925.)
  • Born August 3, 1904 — Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.)
  • Born August 3, 1920 — P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. I like authors who can do that. ISFDB lists her as having done a short story called “Murder, 1986” which they say is genre but I’ve not read it. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 3, 1940 — Martin Sheen, 83. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie
  • Born August 3, 1946 — John DeChancie, 77. A native of Pittsburgh, he is best known for his Castle fantasy series, and his SF Skyway series. He’s fairly prolific even having done a Witchblade novel. Who here has read him? Opinions please. 
  • Born August 3, 1950 — John Landis, 73. He’d make this Birthday List if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which is the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. Neat fact: he was the puppeteer for Grover in The Muppet Movie, and he later played Leonard Winsop in The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Born August 3, 1972 — Brigid Brannagh, 51. Also credited, in astonishing number of last names, as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish red headed colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The Embrace, American GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an Angel, Charmed, Early Edition, Angel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. 

(10) WHO HAS THEM? “Doctor Who missing episodes are ‘out there’, says TV archive boss” to Radio Times.

The head of TV archive Kaleidoscope has suggested that ‘missing’ episodes of Doctor Who are known to still exist, but remain in private collections.

Out of 253 episodes from the show’s first six years, 97 remain lost in their original form, due to the BBC’s policy of junking archive programming between 1967 and 1978.

As a result, numerous adventures of the First Doctor (played by William Hartnell) and the Second Doctor (played by Patrick Troughton) are either incomplete or missing in their entirety….

(11) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 89 of the Octothorpe podcast, “The Winner Does Not Receive a Pie”,  John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty “read your lovely letters of comment before discussing podcast transcripts, podcast programme, generative AI, free trips to China (we’re not going), and picks.”

(12) OCTOTHORPE HUGO VOTER PACKET SUBMISSION. And while we’re busy making this the all-Octothorpe edition of the Scroll, the team announced they have uploaded transcripts and subtitles for Episodes 49, 62, and 72 as part of their Hugo Voter Packet submission.

(13) IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING. “Gal Gadot Developing Wonder Woman 3 With James Gunn, Peter Safran (Exclusive)” reports Comicbook.com.

The DC Universe on film is headed in a new direction under James Gunn and Peter Safran, but it sounds like Gal Gadot is still going to be involved with Wonder Woman‘s future. Gadot debuted as Diana Prince in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She then headlined 2017’s Wonder Woman and its 2020 sequel, Wonder Woman 1984 opposite Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, both helmed by director Patty Jenkins, while also appearing in Justice League (and the fully Zack Snyder-helmed director’s cut). As Gunn and Safran took over as co-heads of the rechristened DC Studios for Warner Bros., plans for Patty Jenkins to return for Wonder Woman 3 were scrapped. That left Gadot’s future as Wonder Woman unclear. Things became murkier when she appeared in a cameo role in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but had a similar cameo cut from The Flash, starring Ezra Miller, where she would have appeared alongside Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman, further confusing fans.

Speaking to ComicBook.com’s Chris Killian for her new Netflix movie Heart of Stone before the SAG-AFTRA strike, Gadot said that, as she understands it, she will be developing Wonder Woman 3 together with Gunn and Safran. “I love portraying Wonder Woman,” Gadot says…. 

(14) ALL ROADS LEAD TO CURRY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You know how it is — been to see a few panels, desperately avoid spending too much in the dealers room, catch a recent art house SF film — and it’s the evening and you’ve had a few beers in the hotel bar…  So it’s time for a curry.  But for how long have people been doing this?

Researchers have now found on ancient culinary tools from 2,000 years ago in Southern Vietnam “culinary spices that include turmeric, ginger, finger root, sand ginger, galangal,clove, nutmeg,and cinnamon. These spices are indispensable ingredients used in the making of curry in South Asia today. [The researchers] suggest that South Asian migrants or visitors introduced this culinary tradition into Southeast Asia during the period of early trade contact via the Indian Ocean, commencing about 2000 years ago.” [Wang, W., et al (2023) Earliest curry in Southeast Asia and the global spice trade 2000 years ago. Science Advances, vol.9 (29), eadh551]

The maritime trading networks and the Silk Road linked the Eurasian continent and the ancient civilizations of the world at least since 2,000 years ago. Southeast Asia, such as the trading entrepôt, Oc Eo, is at the crossroads of the ancient maritime trading networks

Potential maritime trading networks, the realm of Funan, and the location of Oc Eo.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Planet Zoom Players bring us “The Crystal Egg” by H. G. Wells, a play adaptation with effects.

Join us to see what kindly old Mr. Cave sees in his crystal egg. What does this new world mean for Earth’s future. This performance is enhanced with illustrations, music, and animations. This is an amateur production created by Planet Zoom Players.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/14/23 Knock, Knock! Who’s There? Cthul.

(1) BUTLER’S NEW YORK PREMIERE. The New York Times interviews Toshi Reagon, co-creator of an opera based on Parable of the Sower. “Apocalypse Nowish: Singing the Prophetic Warnings of Octavia Butler”.

… It was the novel’s urgency, and the need to share it [Parable of the Sower] with as many people as possible, that prompted the composer and performer Toshi Reagon and her mother, Bernice Johnson Reagon, a founding member of the a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, to adapt it into an opera — or what Toshi calls a “congregational opera.” “Parable of the Sower,” which has its New York premiere on Thursday at David Geffen Hall as part of Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City, includes a chorus made up of at least 170 community members from New York City’s five boroughs, making it the biggest production at Geffen Hall since its reopening in the fall.

Still, Toshi Reagon kept the music alive. When she and her band, BigLovely, performed at Reagon’s annual birthday concert series at Joe’s Pub in 2014, she closed her set with a few “Parable” songs. That’s where Shanta Thake, then the director of Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, first heard them. Thake, who is now the chief artistic officer of Lincoln Center, recalled being “floored by the actual songs,” which ranged from folk to Black spirituals to protest music, and by their ability to teach “the power of participation in the work and in the world.”

She invited Reagon back the next year to present more of the opera as a work-in-progress at the Public’s Under the Radar Festival. And she committed herself to its further development, a pledge she kept in her new role at Lincoln Center and through the work’s many iterations as a concert, a gathering and now an opera.

Reagon has toured the world, spreading Butler’s ominous message through the opera and other platforms. In June 2020, she started hosting, with the writer Adrienne Maree Brown, “Octavia’s Parables,” a podcast in which they discuss Butler’s novels, one chapter at a time. And Reagon also created “Parable Path,” a series of community-based initiatives inspired by the opera…

Why an opera?

Neither one of us really writes dialogue, but we tell everything in a song. I remember my mom doing shows at DC Black Repertory Theater Company in Washington. I was a 9-year-old theater kid. And all of her songs were like opera. She called them song talks, and when she retired from Sweet Honey, she did a solo kind of song talking, and I would go and watch her work and they were really beautiful. So, I think that’s one of the reasons.

The other part is I like breaking up with things. I don’t know why they structured Western opera the way they did, but it makes sense to us that a story about journeying is a story about a lot of different voices operating together and finding their way to be a unit. We really simplified our story to Lauren’s last day [in her home near Los Angeles].

How did the community choir come about?

Last summer, we asked people: “You want to sing with Toshi? Sign up, and make your Lincoln Center debut.” It’s an all-volunteer choir. I had a series of Zooms so I could actively meet people. And these people are everything. There’s a dean of a college. There was a woman from Berlin who is working on translating Black books into these languages she knows how to speak. It was people coming back to New York and needing a reason to come back. There’s a cello player who was also a trucker.

We call it a “congregational choir” because if you had to build a congregation, you could do it out of these people. And nobody is getting paid money to come and sing, so the currency is different….

NPR also has a post about it: “Octavia Butler wrote a ‘Parable’ that became a prophecy — now it’s also an opera”.

(2) WATERSTONE’S DEBUT PRIZE. [Item by Steven French.] Some genre interest here with Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s dystopian novel Chain-Gang All-Stars on the shortlist: “Waterstones debut fiction prize 2023 shortlist announced” in the Guardian.

The prize, now in its second year, is voted for by Waterstones booksellers and open to all debut fiction published in the UK.

Though the prize is open to any debut novel written or translated into English, New York-based Adjei-Brenyah is the only writer on the 2023 shortlist who does not live in the UK or Ireland. Chain-Gang All-Stars, his first novel following a New York Times-bestselling collection of short stories, Friday Black, is set in an imagined near-future in which “gladiator” prisoners fight against one another for their freedom. Speaking about the novel in a Guardian interview, the author said America’s penal system was “a kind of poison that affects us, even if we’re not impacted directly. I wanted to speak to that.” LJ, a bookseller at Waterstones Haywards Heath, said of Chain-Gang All-Stars:“[It] made me feel every single emotion.”

…This year’s winner will be announced on 24 August. 

(3) CAFFIENDS. “Six Shots of Espresso” is a Good Omens Season 2 sneak peek.

Crowley and Aziraphale visit the neighborhood coffee shop, Give Me Coffee or Give Me Death, where we meet Nina, the owner. While Crowley orders his caffeine fix, Aziraphale finds that he’s the subject of some salacious gossip.

(4) A SECOND OPINION. George Scithers was the founding editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (1977-82) where he notably encouraged young writers. However, in later years working on Weird Tales he seems to have taken a much different approach. Cat Rambo tells about her bizarre experience trying to submit to that magazine on TikTok.

@catrambo145

I promise I will get back to the anthology and collection read, but in the meantime, here is a story about being a newbie writer back in the day when I had just gotten out of Clarion West. It involves George Scithers of Weird Tales #editors #weirdtales

? original sound – Cat Rambo

(5) OUT OF THE STARTING GATE. Camestros Felapton starts his review of the Hugo contenders: “Hugo 2023: Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form”.

You’ve got to start somewhere and as an avowedly lazy person, BDP:Long is a handy place to start. I’ve (sort of) watched them all and also none of the finalists really care very much, so I’m not ruining anybody’s happy time basking in the glow of Hugo recognition….

Despite the introduction it’s a pretty interesting review. Is Camestros related to Heinlein’s “The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail”? 

(6) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES ARCHIVE. Space Cowboy Books has compiled and released all 36 issues of the fanzine Simultaneous Times Newsletter (2020-2023), featuring interviews with SF authors, editors, and publishers, as well as speculative poetry, book recommendations, and more. Download them free here.

Simultaneous Times Newsletter Year One:

Cover Art by Austin Arthur Hart

Interviews with: Mari Collier, David Farland, Christopher Ruocchio, Sarah Waites (Queer Science Fiction & Fantasy Database), Brent A. Harris, Rob Carroll (Dark Matter Magazine), Jason Sizemore (Apex Magazine), Weston Ochse, Marie Vibbert, JW Stebner (Hexagon Magazine)

Poetry and writing by: Holly Lyn Walrath, Samuel Butler, Therese Windser, Robin Rose Graves, Jean-Paul L. Garnier, Kim Martin, Thelma D. Hamm

Simultaneous Times Newsletter Year Two:

Cover Art by Zara Kand

Interviews with: Tom Purdom, A.C. Wise, Cora Buhlert, Charlie Jane Anders, Sean Clancy (Planet Scumm Magazine), Holly Lyn Walrath (Intersteller Flight Press), Christina Sng, Chris Kelso, Akua Lezli Hope, David Schultz (Speculative North Magazine), Jeanne Cavelos (Odyssey Workshop), Kay Allen (Sword & Kettle Press)

Poetry and writing by: James Clerk Maxwell, Gareth L. Powell, David Brin, F.J. Bergmann, Arley Sorg, Gabriel Hart, Marie Vibbert, Richard Magahiz

Simultaneous Times Newsletter Year Three:

Cover Art by Austin Arthur Hart

Interviews with: Guy Hasson (Geekdom Empowers), Rachel S. Cordasco (SF in Translation), Andy Dibble, Tristan Evarts (Utopia Magazine), Dr. Phoenix Alexander, Justin Sloane (Starship Sloane), Jonathan Nevair, Adrian M. Gibson (SFF Addicts), Michael Butterworth, Todd Sullivan

Poetry and writing by: Renan Bernardo, Jana Bianchi, Rodrigo Assis Mesquita, Pedro Iniguez, Mary Soon Lee, Robin Rose Graves

And more!

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman tells listeners it’s time for a ramen reunion with my 1979 Clarion classmate Rhondi Salsitz in Episode 202 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Rhondi Salsitz

My guest this episode — my penultimate conversation while in California for this year’s Nebula Awards Conference — is Rhondi Salsitz, whom I met when I attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop in 1979. This is the second time you’re getting the chance to eavesdrop as I chat with someone I met during that long ago summer, the first being Gene O’Neill way back in Episode 12.

You might have read Rhondi’s work without realizing it — because she’s also appeared under the names Charles Ingrid, Kendall Rivers, Sara Hanover, Emily Drake, Anne Knight, Elizabeth Forrest, Jenna Rhodes, Rhondi Greening, R.A.V. Salsitz, and Rhondi Vilott — and those are just a few of the pseudonyms under which she’s published over the past four decades.

 Rhondi’s first publication was actually one of the stories written while at Clarion, and was chosen by our teacher, Damon Knight, for publication in Orbit 21. (And believe me — we were envious! And some of us were even jealous.)

Since that time, she’s written so many books under so any names — not only science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but also romances, westerns, and choose your own adventure books — her prolific career has unfairly been overlooked, and I’m so glad I was able to get her to step out from behind the mask so you can learn more about her. Her series — include The Sand Wars (written as Charles Ingrid), Elven Ways (as Jenna Rhodes), Dragon Tales (as Rhondi Vilott), and many others.

We discussed her early missed opportunity to workshop with Octavia Butler, the terrible thing Tom Disch told her during their one-on-one meeting during Clarion, the animated series which inspired her to write her bestselling Sand Wars series of novels, why she feels she’s still standing when so many of our Clarion comrades aren’t, what caused a reader to write an angry letter to Dean Koontz about one of her novels, how she progressed from recognizing there was a problem but not knowing how to fix it to understanding what needed to be done, and so much more.

(8) DANIEL GOLDBERG (1949-2023). Producer Daniel Goldberg died July 12 at the age of 74 reports Deadline.

Daniel Goldberg, who produced all three The Hangover films, Space Jam, Old School and many others and co-wrote movies including the Bill Murray comedies Stripes and Meatballs...

Goldberg and Ivan Reitman collaborated for more than 30 years, working together on features including the animated Heavy Metal (1981); toon/live-action hybrid Space Jam (1996), starring Michael Jordan alongside Looney Toons characters; 1994’s Junior, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the world’s first pregnant man, along with Danny DeVito and Emma Thompson; … the 2001 sci-fi comedy Evolution, starring David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott and Julianne Moore…

He also was an executive producer on a pair of animated TV series based on features: Beethoven and Extreme Ghostbusters.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2007 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

So let’s about Nalo Hopkinson. The first work by her I read was Brown Girl in the Ring, a stellar telling of Afro-Caribbean culture with its themes of folklore and magical realism. Midnight Robber and The Salt Roads are equally worth reading. Her short fiction is equally well crafted with Falling in Love With Hominids, her latest collection, being a great place to start.

So Mike’s pick of her works for our Beginning is The New Moon’s Arms which was published sixteen years ago by Warner Books. The cover is a montage of four photos, all credited on the rear flap; over-all design by Don Puckey and Jesse Sanchez.

It won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic and the Prix Aurora Award for Best Canadian science fiction and fantasy works and activities in English and French. It was also nominated for John W. Campbell Memorial, Mythopoeic and Nebula Awards. And she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. 

Now for this Beginning…

A CROWD HAD GATHERED AROUND MRS. WINTER. The commotion at the graveside vibrated with suppressed hilarity. Me, I wasn’t able to keep properly solemn. When my shoulders had started shaking with silent laughter, I’d ducked behind the plain pine coffin still on its stand outside the grave. 

I bit my lips to keep the giggles in, and peeked around the coffin to watch the goings-on. 

Mrs. Winter had given up the attempt to discreetly pull her bloomers back up. Through the milling legs of the mourners, I could see her trying desperately instead to kick off the pale pink nylon that had slithered down from her haunches and snagged around her ankles.

Her kick sent a tiny flash of gold skittering across the cemetery lawn to land near me. I glanced down. I picked up the small tangle of gold-coloured wire and put it in my jacket pocket for later. Right now, I had some high drama to watch.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 14, 1904 — Zita Johann. She’s best known for the lead performance in Karl Freund’s 1932 film The Mummy which also featured Boris Karloff. She wouldn’t show in another horror film for another fifty-four years when she was in Raiders of the Living Dead as a Librarian; her original career only lasted three years. She quit film to work in theater where she where she was a partner of John Houseman, her husband, who she was married to from 1929 to 1933, and with Orson Welles as well. She also taught acting to people with learning disorders. (Died 1993.)
  • Born July 14, 1906 — Abner J. Gelula. One of the many authors* of Cosmos, a serialized novel that appeared first in Science Fiction Digest July 1933 and then has a really convoluted publication history that I won’t detail here. It was critiqued as “the world’s most fabulous serial,” “one of the unique stunts of early science fiction,”and conversely “a failure, miserable and near-complete.” The entire text, chapter by chapter, can be read here. (*To be precise, Earl Binder, Otto Binder. Arthur J. Burks, John W. Campbell, Jr., Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Ralph Milne Farley, Francis Flagg, J. Harvey Haggard, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller, M.D., Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, P. Schuyler Miller, Bob Olsen, Raymond A. Palmer, E. Hoffmann Price and Edward E. Smith.)
  • Born July 14, 1926 — Harry Dean Stanton. My favorite genre role for him? The video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding.  He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 14, 1939 — Sid Haig. Best remembered as having a lead role in Jason of Star Command as the villain Dragos. He had one-offs in BatmanMission: ImpossibleStar TrekGet SmartFantasy IslandBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and MacGyver. His Trek appearance was First Lawgiver in “The Return of the Archons”, and someone in casting at Mission: Impossible liked him as he had nine different roles there. He was Royal Apothecary twice on Batman, not a role I recognize. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 14, 1943 — Christopher Priest, 80. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. Not that Pretender. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders (both of which won BSFAs) and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound?  
  • Born July 14, 1949 — Brian Sibley, 74. He co-wrote (with Michael Bakewell) BBC Radio 4’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. He also adapted The Chronicles of Narnia, and Titus Groan and Gormenghast for the same. Print wise, he’s responsible for such works as The Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide and The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy. His only Award to date is a Sir Julius Vogel Award which is given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) and the National Science Fiction convention for Weta Digital: 20 Years of Imagination on Screen.
  • Born July 14, 1964 — Jane Espenson, 59. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode. She was on the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica. 
  • Born July 14, 1966 — Brian Selznick, 57. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a travelling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TRIVIA OF THE DAY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If there’s one thing I love it’s science fiction. If there’s a second, it’s trivia. So we’ve been taking some time to go through the list of Hugo Award winners and finalists to pick out a few choice tidbits of trivia. Many of which, I’m sure the Filers will already know. But I hope to surprise them with a few of these morsels of trivia. “Trivia is Latin for ‘Three Roads’” at the Hugo Book Club Blog. Here’s one item:

The Hugo Hat Trick:
There are only three authors who have won a Hugo Award in each of the four long-established prose fiction categories (novel, novella, novelette, and short story). They are Fritz Leiber, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Connie Willis.

(13) HE DID IT WITH STYLE. [Item by Steven French.] In an exhibit of artifacts from the Sixties at York’s Castle Museum and representing the “style of the ‘60s”, I spotted this classic from a certain Mr Aldiss:

(14) CALLING FOR VOLUNTEERS. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Ok, this isn’t really news, but did you know that Vincent Price invented a dish called Dishwasher Salmon? As he was a master chef, I feel that this is something that needs to be tested by someone. Could some Filer help? Here’s the reference: Vincent Price in the Wikipedia.

…In 1971, Price hosted his own cooking program on British television, called Cooking Price-Wise produced for the ITV network by Thames Television, which was broadcast in April and May 1971. This show gave its name to Price’s fourth and final cookbook later that year. Price promoted his cookbooks on many talk shows, one of the most famous instances being the November 21, 1975, broadcast of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, when he demonstrated how to poach a fish in a dishwasher….

(15) THE VIEW FROM CHILE. “See world’s largest telescope come together beneath the Milky Way” at Space.com.

Newly released stunning images show that the Extremely Large Telescope is now halfway complete.

The images taken in June show the structure of the revolutionary ground-based Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) currently under construction atop the mountain Cerro Armazones located in Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert in extraordinary detail.When complete, the ELT will boast a 128-foot (39-meter) wide primary mirror that will represent the largest eye on the universe from the surface of Earth, able to view the cosmos in both visible and infrared light… 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/23 “What Is The Use Of A Scroll,” Thought Alice, “Without Pixels Or Conversation?”

(1) A FINE IDEA. “Fake reviews are illegal and subject to big fines under new FTC rules” says the Washington Post’s article about a Federal Trade Commission notice of proposed rulemaking.

Fake reviews are ruining the web. But there’s some new hope to fight them.

The Federal Trade Commission on Friday proposed new rules to take aim at businesses that buy, sell and manipulate online reviews. If the rules are approved, they’ll carry a big stick: a fine of up to $50,000 for each fake review, for each time a consumer sees it.

That could add up fast.

It’s the biggest step to date by the federal government to deter the insidious market for buying and selling fake reviews, though the FTC’s rules don’t do as much to hold big review sites like Yelp, Google, Tripadvisor and Amazon directly accountable. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim chief executive Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)…

Here’s the FTC press release: “Federal Trade Commission Announces Proposed Rule Banning Fake Reviews and Testimonials”.

…In its notice of proposed rulemaking, the Commission cited examples of clearly deceptive practices involving consumer reviews and testimonials from its past cases, and noted the widespread emergence of generative AI, which is likely to make it easier for bad actors to write fake reviews.

The Commission is seeking comments on proposed measures that would fight these clearly deceptive practices. For example, the proposed rule would prohibit:

  • Selling or Obtaining Fake Consumer Reviews and Testimonials: The proposed rule would prohibit businesses from writing or selling consumer reviews or testimonials by someone who does not exist, who did not have experience with the product or service, or who misrepresented their experiences. It also would prohibit businesses from procuring such reviews or disseminating such testimonials if the businesses knew or should have known that they were fake or false.
  • Review Hijacking: Businesses would be prohibited from using or repurposing a consumer review written for one product so that it appears to have been written for a substantially different product. The FTC recently brought its first review hijacking enforcement action.
  • Buying Positive or Negative Reviews: Businesses would be prohibited from providing compensation or other incentives conditioned on the writing of consumer reviews expressing a particular sentiment, either positive or negative.
  • Insider Reviews and Consumer Testimonials: The proposed rule would prohibit a company’s officers and managers from writing reviews or testimonials of its products or services, without clearly disclosing their relationships. It also would prohibit businesses from disseminating testimonials by insiders without clear disclosures of their relationships, and it would prohibit certain solicitations by officers or managers of reviews from company employees or their relatives, depending on whether the businesses knew or should have known of these relationships.
  • Company Controlled Review Websites: Businesses would be prohibited from creating or controlling a website that claims to provide independent opinions about a category of products or services that includes its own products or services.
  • Illegal Review Suppression: Businesses would be prohibited from using unjustified legal threats, other intimidation, or false accusations to prevent or remove a negative consumer review. The proposed rule also would bar a business from misrepresenting that the reviews on its website represent all reviews submitted when negative reviews have been suppressed.
  • Selling Fake Social Media Indicators: Businesses would be prohibited from selling false indicators of social media influence, like fake followers or views. The proposed rule also would bar anyone from buying such indicators to misrepresent their importance for a commercial purpose.

(2) NICOLA GRIFFITH WINS FIRST ADCI LITERARY PRIZE. The inaugural ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize went to Nicola Griffith for Spear (Tordotcom Publishing), “a lyrical, queer reimagining of Arthurian legend, in which ‘those usually airbrushed from history take centre stage’” (Via Ansible.)

The prize, launched in 2022 to encourage greater positive representation of disability in literature, was announced alongside ten other prizes which make up the annual Society of Authors’ Awards. The SoA Awards is the UK’s biggest literary prize fund, worth over £100,000, this year shared between 30 writers, poets and illustrators.

The ADCI Literary Prize. Sponsored by Arts Council England, ALCS, the Drusilla Harvey Memorial Fund, and the Professional Writing Academy, the ADCI Literary Prize is awarded to a disabled or chronically ill writer, for an outstanding novel containing a disabled or chronically ill character or characters. Judged by Penny Batchelor, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Nydia Hebden, Karl Knights, Julia Lund, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Vikki Patis and Chloe Timms.

(3) CON OR BUST GRANT OPPORTUNITIES. Dream Foundry’s Con or Bust program for creators and fans of color makes direct cash grants to assist with travel, food, registration, and other expenses associated with attending industry events.

If you’re a person of color planning to go to a convention this year and need support, our Con or Bust program is here for you. Right now we have memberships to the following conventions for any Con or Bust qualifying application.

  • Readercon (July 13-16, 2023)
  • Pemmi-con, aka Nasfic (July 20-23, 2023)
  • Capricon (February 1-4, 2024)

If you want one of these memberships, or need other support from this program, you can apply on the Con or Bust page.

(4) DIAL OF DESTINY. Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara joins Harrison Ford on a lap of his marathon promotional tour: “’Indiana Jones’: There will never be another Harrison Ford”.

…That said, his desire for “Dial of Destiny” to succeed feels quite personal.

“I wanted to be ambitious, for those things we have not necessarily done in such measure,” he said. When asked what he means by “those things,” he explains in that instantly recognizable, back-straightening “take this seriously” tone. “I mean take a chance on telling the story of an older character, take a chance on introducing your character in present day in a totally anti-iconic way, reducing him to his underwear and a La-Z-Boy with a glass in his hand.

“That moment in film,” he says, relaxing into a laugh, “may be one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in a movie. That and grabbing a baseball bat and going out to the neighbors’.”

… Mostly, he said, he wanted to see Indy “inveigled into one last adventure. I wanted to see him at the nadir, where we could pick him up and kick him in the ass. I know what age is about. I wanted to bring that into the story. If I was going to be the actor playing this guy, I wanted the reality of my age.”

But first, in the film’s opening scene, he had to play a younger Indy, which made the contrast of past and present more striking. Ford’s face was de-aged through the miracle of artificial intelligence and Lucasfilm’s trove of images from the earlier films, but “the mouth is my mouth, the eyes are my eyes,” he said. “The voice is me talking in a higher register because age lowers the voice, and the body language I had to act. But he moves like I move and I remembered.”…

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to bite into a baconless BLT with Jordan Kurella in Episode 201 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jordan Kurella

This episode’s guest is Jordan Kurella, who was a Nebula Award nominee this year in the category of Best Novella for I Never Liked You Anyway, which was also longlisted for the BSFA award.  His stories have appeared in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesApexMermaid MonthlyGlitter + AshesStrange Horizons, and many other magazines and anthologies. Some of these were gathered in his short story collection, When I Was Lost, published by Trepidatio in December. In his past lives, he was a photographer, radio DJ, and social worker, and he has also taught at Iowa State University and Rambo Academy.

We discussed which ice cream flavor he chose to celebrate his Nebula Award nomination, the way readers can tell which stories writers had the most fun writing, how  all he needs to pants a story is the first line, what caused him to say “it’s not write what you know, it’s write what you’re embarrassed about,” why he doesn’t like to reread his own published work unless he has to, how to avoid getting stuck in rabbit holes of research, the ways writing a book can be like spending time with your best friends, his rule about story titles, why we’re both so attracted to writing love stories, how playing the violin in public prepared him for surviving rejection, why he published only a single piece of literary fiction before realizing the fantastic was where he belonged, and so much more.

(6) SWATTING. NBC News’ report “The FBI has formed a national database to track and prevent ‘swatting’” includes a long Q&A with Patrick Tomlinson.

Author Patrick Tomlinson and his wife, business owner Niki Robinson, have been “swatted” at their home in Milwaukee more than 40 times, often resulting in police pointing guns at their heads. Their tormentors have also called in false bomb threats to venues using their names in three states. Yet law enforcement hasn’t been able to stop the calls.

The couple’s terror comes as these incidents appear to be on the rise in the U.S., at least on college campuses. In less than a single week in April, universities including Clemson, Florida, Boston, Harvard, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Oklahoma, as well as Middlebury College, were targeted by swatters.

To combat the growing problem, the FBI has begun taking formal measures to get a comprehensive picture of the problem on a national level.

Chief Scott Schubert with the bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services headquarters in Clarksburg, West Virginia, told NBC News that the agency formed a national online database in May to facilitate information sharing between hundreds of police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country pertaining to swatting incidents.

… Security expert Lauren R. Shapiro, who is an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said: “Swatting involves people making fraudulent 911 calls reporting serious-level criminal threats or violent situations like bomb threats, hostages, killing, etc. to fool the police into raiding the house or business of somebody who is not actually committing a crime.”…

… Tomlinson’s troubles began after he posted a casual remark on Twitter in 2018 saying he’d never personally found the comedian Norm Macdonald very funny. As The Daily Beast reported, the tweet caught the attention of online trolls who soon began to harass, stalk, impersonate and defame Tomlinson and his wife, using a website of their own along with social media accounts on Reddit, Twitter and YouTube to target the couple and invite others to pile on. 

Their harassers mostly converge on a website that’s cloned elsewhere so participants can migrate rapidly if their forum is ever banned by a service provider. 

 Since The Daily Beast report, the harassment escalated both online and offline.

The couple was mostly recently swatted at their home on Tuesday, bringing the total of swatting incidents to 43. Tomlinson’s parents, who are senior citizens, also suffered swatting at their home about 2 hours outside of Milwaukee this year…

Whether the FBI’s database will lead to any results is open to question based on past performance.

… At a federal level, Tomlinson filed a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center in November 2020. He never saw a reply to that, so in early May 2022, he went to the Milwaukee branch of the FBI in person to file a new one.

An FBI special agent was assigned to evaluate his case. He says the agency already had a file on Tomlinson because of a false bomb threat that swatters had called into a hotel outside of Detroit in April 2022, a few weeks prior to a presentation he was scheduled to give. The presentation, part of PenguiCon, was titled,”Elon Musk is Full of S—.” 

Since then, “There has been nearly zero communication by the FBI,” Tomlinson said. 

One agent has requested more evidence from his family by email on rare occasions. But the agency has not brought him or his wife in for an interview, and have not arrested people who the couple identified as participants in their harassment and swatting…

(7) CALIFORNIA AVENGERS. Critic Todd Martens tells how “Broadway-style ‘Rogers: The Musical’ charms at Disney’s California Adventure” in the Los Angeles Times.

“Rogers: The Musical” started as a joke in the Disney+ series “Hawkeye,” which presented a challenge for the Disneyland Resort’s live-entertainment team. How, in a 30-minute, heavily condensed Broadway-style show, do you bring a little heft to a production in which fans will be clamoring for cheese? Sure, there’s Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow and the Hulk, among others, but these are superheroes who spend more time flexing jazz hands than muscle.

In the show opening today, directed by Disney’s Jordan Peterson with a book from Hunter Bell, known best for Broadway’s “[title of show],” the answer was simple: heartbreak.

The story of Steve Rogers’ transformation into Captain America is framed by longing — for better days, for acceptance and for love. It allows the production, which veers close to overt patriotism in its opening moments, to find a sense of personal grounding. When an actor playing a young Rogers is framed by an Uncle Sam military recruitment poster, he gets all wistful and rejected: “What’s a guy to do when ‘I want you’ doesn’t mean you?”

Don’t worry, the production doesn’t stay down for long. “Hawkeye” introduced fans to the over-the-top corniness of the song “Save the City,” a work written by Broadway vets Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and it pops up multiple times, each one leaning into the showtune parody that it is. When it wants to, “Rogers: The Musical” embraces its silliness….

…The musical features five original songs, not counting the previously heard “Save the City” and “Star Spangled Man,” which dates to the film “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The new works are credited to composer Christopher Lennertz, with lyrics by Peterson, Lennertz and Alex Karukas. None quite reach the heights of “Save the City,” which went all out in its showtune glitz. “Rogers: The Musical” comes off as a series of puzzle pieces constructed around that signature number.

Lennertz, a composer with a lengthy résumé of film and television credits, including Marvel’s “Agent Carter,” plays it more low-key. The new works largely attempt to take “Rogers” out of parody mode, a decision that accounts for a series of tonal shifts and results in a theatrical mood that’s not quite serious yet not fully goofy.

(8) CSI SKILL TREE. The latest episode in the ASU Center for Science and Imagination’s Skill Tree series on video games, possible futures, and worldbuilding is out, featuring the award-winning science fiction roleplaying game Citizen Sleeper (2022). This episode’s guests are Gareth Damian Martin, the game’s developer, and Phoebe Wagner, a speculative fiction author, researcher, and editor of three solarpunk anthologies, including Sunvault. Here’s a link to the entire Skill Tree playlist, with 12 episodes so far.

(9) ALAN ARKIN (1934-2023). Four-time Oscar nominee Alan Arkin, who won Best Supporting Actor for Little Miss Sunshine (2007), died June 30 at the age of 89. He was perhaps best known for playing Yossarian in Catch-22 but his other three Oscar nominations honored his portrayals of deaf-mute Singer in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Russian Lt. Rozanov in one of my favorite movies, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, and the has-been producer Lester Siegel in the genre-adjacent Argo.  

In Argo (2012), Arkin played the fictional producer of a fake sff movie that provided cover for a CIA operation to rescue Americans caught up in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. He acted in collaboration with a character based on real-life Planet of the Apes makeup man John Chambers, played by John Goodman.

Within the sff genre Arkin did a lot of voice work late in his career – including Dumbo (2019) and Minions: Rise of Gru (2022), but early on voiced Schmendrick in The Last Unicorn (1982).

He’s been in a Muppets movie, in The Monitors (1969), in the film adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night (1996), played Detective Hugo in Gattaca (1997), The Chief in the movie Get Smart (2008). He had parts in The Seven Percent Solution (Dr. Sigmund Freud — 1976) Edward Scissorhands (1990), and The Rocketeer (1991).

Arkin also won a Tony for his Broadway debut in 1963’s Enter Laughing.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1989 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

This time Mike picked one of my favorite writers, Sheri S. Tepper. Her series have too many exemplary books to list them all and her standalone novels such as Singer from the Sea and The Companions are excellent as well.

She’s been nominated for a lot of Awards but garnered only two, one of which is the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. Grass, the source of our Beginning this time, was published by the Doubleday Foundation in 1989 (one of their first books was Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation), and was a Hugo finalist at ConFiction. 

And it has an absolutely stunning Beginning as you can read here…

Millions of square miles of it; numberless wind-whipped tsunamis of grass, a thousand sun-lulled caribbeans of grass, a hundred rippling oceans, every ripple a gleam of scarlet or amber, emerald or turquoise, multicolored as rainbows, the colors shivering over the prairies in stripes and blotches, the grasses—some high, some low, some feathered, some straight—making their own geography as they grow. There are grass hills where the great plumes tower in masses the height of ten tall men; grass valleys where the turf is like moss, soft under the feet, where maidens pillow their heads thinking of their lovers, where husbands lie down and think of their mistresses; grass groves where old men and women sit quiet at the end of the day, dreaming of things that might have been, perhaps once were. Commoners all, of course. No aristocrat would sit in the wild grass to dream. Aristocrats have gardens for that, if they dream at all.

Grass. Ruby ridges, blood-colored highlands, wine-shaded glades. Sapphire seas of grass with dark islands of grass bearing great plumy green trees which are grass again. Interminable meadows of silver hay where the great grazing beasts move in slanted lines like mowing machines, leaving the stubble behind them to spring up again in trackless wildernesses of rippling argent. 

Orange highlands burning against the sunsets. Apricot ranges glowing in the dawns. Seed plumes sparkling like sequin stars. Blossom heads like the fragile lace old women take out of trunks to show their granddaughters.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 30, 1902 Lovat Dickson. Australian-born publisher and author who wrote a biography of H G Wells, H G Wells: His Turbulent Life and Times. He was the first Canadian to have a major publishing role in Britain. (Died 1982.)
  • Born June 30, 1905 Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft-forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adams Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con because they threatened to disrupt it in which was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, He edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 64. His long running-role is Detective Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is in no way genre. He was Kingpin in Wilson Fisk / Kingpin in four television series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film to date and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye.
  • Born June 30, 1963 Rupert S. Graves, 60. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 57. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the terribly underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black and a recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. 
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 51. Maureen Robinson on the Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man as Sister Rose / Sister Thorn. She also was Alma Garret on Deadwood. No, not genre but Emma and Will love the series. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WIDOWMAKER. Sarah Gailey will be writing Marvel’s White Widow comic reports The Mary Sue: “Yelena Belova Fans, Our Time Is Now With This New ‘White Widow’ Comic!”

Being a fan of Yelena Belova keeps getting better and better. The younger sister of Natasha Romanoff, Yelena is also a widow and is everything that a sassy younger sister could be. And now she’s getting her very own time in the spotlight with a new comic series! First appearing in 1998, Belova quickly became a popular character for fans of Nat but she gained a new level of fame when Florence Pugh took on the role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Getting her own comic storyline is just exciting evidence of how popular Yelena Belova has grown throughout the last twenty-five years. As someone who relates to Yelena Belova a lot (and she’s one of my all-time favorite Marvel characters), this comic makes me incredibly excited for the future of her character!

Called White Widow, the series is created by writer Sarah Gailey and they worked along side artist Alessandro Miracolo to bring her to life. David Marquez gave us a perfectly Yelena cover and the entire reveal is a dream come true for fans. Sometimes, you wait a long time to see a character you love get their time in the spotlight and that’s exactly what is happening with White Widow. She’s not the little sister in Nat’s shadow anymore with this series!

(14) AI IN CINEMA. [Item by Steven French.] The Guardian seems to be having a bit of a bout of listmania these days but this one contains some interesting recommendations: “The best films about AI – ranked!”

16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The first Avengers sequel isn’t particularly good, but at least it introduced cinema to the AI lifeform Ultron. Tasked with sparing the Avengers from having to suit up whenever a new baddie rolls into town, Ultron quickly realises that the greatest threat to world peace is humanity and – in time-honoured AI fashion – attempts to eradicate it himself. The moral of Age of Ultron is clear: trust AI less than the irresponsible billionaires who invented it.

(15) FUTURE TENSE. The June story in the Future Tense Fiction monthly series is “The Big Four v. ORWELL,” by Jeff Hewitt, about a copyright lawsuit against a prolific AI author.

The response essay is by sff novelist Ken Liu, “The Imitation Game”.

… But what about ChatGPT-5, ChatGPT-15, or ChatGPT-55? Assuming this goes on, in classic science fiction fashion, the LLMs will surely continue to blur the lines between artificial and “real” authors. That blurriness is the setup for Jeff Hewitt’s “The Big Four v. ORWELL,” a courtroom drama in which a group of publishers sue ORWELL, an A.I. that has become a prolific author, for copyright infringement.

I have my doubts that the current approach to building LLMs, essentially an exercise in statistically predicting the most likely next “token” given a string of tokens, can lead to the holy grail of artificial general intelligence, an imagined state of crafted cognition capable of accomplishing any intellectual task a human can. (ORWELL definitely appears to be an AGI.) Symbol manipulation alone, without more, must plateau at some point short of “true” intelligence—or so I tell myself (using strings of symbols, of course, smug with irony). To be sure, there is reason to be humble here. Decades ago, when I was studying A.I. in college, the idea that anything resembling the current brute-force approach could construct a virtual entity that could tutor you on any subject you liked, compose college essays, and even answer personal ads would have seemed like handwavium sci-fi. And yet, here we are. So, maybe I’m wrong about the future this time too….

(16) SERVING KAIJU CHOW. “Taiwan restaurant launches ‘Godzilla’ crocodile ramen” reports Taiwan News. These days there’s always a suspicion that such a photo is produced with AI, but the ingredient seems plausible.

A restaurant in Douliu City, Yunlin County debuted its “Godzilla” ramen featuring crocodile meat as its main ingredient.

Nu Wu Mao Kuei (女巫貓葵) announced on Facebook the launch of its “Godzilla” ramen, which is prepared by steaming or braising the front leg of a crocodile. In a clip, a young female customer samples both flavors and describes the dish as surprisingly delicious.

She says the steamed version of the dish resembles chicken, while the braised meat has a taste similar to pork feet. The soup contains over 40 spices, and the owner reportedly learned how to make the spicy “witch soup” during a trip to Thailand, SETN reported

The crocodiles used for this dish are sourced from a farm in Taitung. The owner was inspired by the giant isopods ramen, which went viral at another restaurant.

(17) TYPECASTING. [Item by Tom Becker.] Womprat is a bold font, inspired by the classic “STAR WARS” text on the movie poster. But that is just the beginning. There are alternate character sets, ligatures, symbols, and special glyphs galore. It is clearly the work of obsessive font geeks who are also massive Star Wars fans. It is a delight just to browse the glyphs or the free desktop background at http://womprat.xyz

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From Good Omens’ second season: “What’s The Point Of It All? – Season 2 Sneak Peek”.

A brand new Good Omens Season 2 clip from the upcoming return of Amazon Studios’ fantasy comedy series has been released, featuring David Tennant as Crowley. The next installment will be available for streaming on July 28 on Prime Video.

The video confirms Crowley’s current status in Hell as persona non grata, as the fan-favorite demon continues to question the point of Heaven and Hell. It also features Miranda Richardson’s newest character, who has now assumed the role of Hell’s representative in London after previously playing the role of Madame Tracy in Season 1.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Steven French, Juli Marr, Tom Becker, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/23 I Do Not File With My Scroll. The Man Who Files With His Scroll Has Forgotten The Face Of His Father. I File With My Pixel.

(1) GROOT, STAR-LORD, ROCKET, OR WHO? Guardians of the Galaxy stars Karen Gillan and Pom Klementieff test their knowledge of Volumes I and II by seeing if they remember who said what lines.

With such a stacked cast, the challenge should be difficult, but having such iconic characters like Groot played by Vin Diesel, Starlord by Chris Pratt, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Mantis and Nebula’s knowledge proves to be superior. Get ready for Vol III of ‘Guardians of The Galaxy’ by time-traveling through lines of volumes past.

(2) WISCON SPEECHES. The WisCon 46 GOH speeches and Otherwise Award presentation can be viewed on YouTube.

(3) NEXT YEAR IN NEW MEXICO. And WisCon GoH Martha Wells has been announced as Guest of Honor of the 47th Jack Williamson Lectureship which will take place April 11-13, 2024.

Best known for her Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells has been an actively publishing author in scifi and fantasy since 1993 and in that time she has won four Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards and three Locus Awards. The Murderbot Diaries is also currently being adapted for a TV series, and this series has been growing increasingly popular in the past few years. 

(4) GOOD OMENS GRAPHIC NOVEL. The second season of the TV series arrives July 28, and now a Good Omens graphic novel has been announced – Comics Worth Reading has the story. Neil Gaiman, the Terry Pratchett Estate, and Colleen Doran are creating a graphic novel version of Good Omens that will be funded via Kickstarter. The Kickstarter has not yet launched, but you can sign up at the link to be notified when it does.

(5) SIGNED, SEALED, AND SOON TO BE DELIVERED. Guess where fans will be able to find the new Sharon Lee and Steve Miller book?

(6) NOT JUST A GOOD IDEA, IT’S THE LAW. James Davis Nicoll brings us “Five Ways SF Writers Sidestep the Problem of Relativity” at Tor.com.

Relativity! Extremely well supported by the evidence, and extremely inconvenient for SF authors who want jaunts to the galactic core to be as easy as popping down the road. Given a universe so large that light takes as long as anatomically modern humans have existed to meander across a single galaxy, combined with a very strict speed limit of C, and you face a cosmic reality that makes many stories authors might want to write quite simply physically impossible. So… what are hardworking science fiction authors to do?

 The first solution, courtesy of E. E. “Doc” Smith is —

Disregard the Issue

By far, the most popular option is to ignore the issue or actively deny that it is an issue. Maybe Einstein divided when he should have multiplied (he didn’t). Perhaps light speed can be surpassed given sufficient will (it can’t). What if some miracle material for which absolutely no evidence exists could facilitate superluminal travel? (More likely, such materials are simply non-existent.)

(7) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. SYFY Wire reveals “The Real Reason Kong Is Alone: The Science Behind King Kong”. For some values of science…

…The particulars of Kong, including his size and origin, vary from movie to movie, but in every single telling he is alone. The reasons for his solitude haven’t been widely explored, but the 2005 movie shows the decaying skeletons of other giant apes, long since dead. While their cause of death isn’t entirely clear, it’s implied that the rest of Kong’s family were killed off by the other large predators on the island, particularly the T. rex-like theropod dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs probably contributed to the demise of Kong’s species, but the true culprit may have been the island itself. In the continuity of Jackson’s 2005 film, Skull Island was slowly sinking into the ocean by the time Denhem and crew landed on its shores. By 1948, a 9.2 magnitude earthquakes broke it loose and the island vanished into the sea….

(8) AD ASTRA. Chris McKitterick recently announced that Ad Astra (originally established as a University of Kansas Center in AAI) has now grown into the not-for-profit Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination.

Led by yours truly and Kij Johnson, Ad Astra is an umbrella organization that brings together creators, readers, educators, and fans to learn about and create speculative fiction through writing workshops, expert talks, seminars, and more. The people we work with create and teach art that opens minds and imaginations, reaching for the stars and “Saving the world through science fiction!”

Their residential Science Fiction Summer program takes off in mid-June, in-person again for the first time since before Covid. Kij Johnson and Barbara Webb’s Novel Architects Workshop is now full, but there’s still room in McKitterick’s Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop (and both of his and Johnson’s “Repeat Offenders” workshops).

Also, a talk-and-weekend-workshop “Science into Fiction” Spec-Fic Writing Workshop series resumes in late August.

(9) HOWARD DAYS. Brian Murphy reports on the annual Robert E. Howard gathering to readers of The Silver Key: “There and back again from Massachusetts to Cross Plains: A recap of 2023 Robert E. Howard Days”.

…I live in Massachusetts, some 1600 miles from the small town in West Texas that Howard called home. With a wife and family, domestic obligations, and a busy professional career to manage, there is never a good time to do something like this, even though Howard Days had been on my bucket list for years….

The annual con is also part pilgrimage:

…Nothing can quite prepare you for the first view of Robert E. Howard’s home and ultimately the humble bedroom where did the majority of his writing. Others have made the same observation many times, but its stunning that Howard was able to birth and deliver such vivid creations to the world from such small, prosaic quarters. It’s a testament to his unique genius. The volunteer docents who serve as tour guides, women from the Cross Plains community, were patient and wonderful. I learned that Howard’s father, Isaac, treated bloodied oil field workers right in the Howard home. One docent noted poetically that blood has seeped its way into the roots of the home….

Murphy is also one of the guests on the Rogues in the House podcast episode “Howard Days Wrap Up”.

(10) ATOMIC SHAKESPEARE. Eighties cult TV favorite Moonlighting reportedly is slouching its way towards availability on a streaming service. Meantime, Heritage Auctions will put on the block some of the costumes from its most iconic episode, as explained in “Maddie, David and Bill Shakespeare”.

…That episode essentially paid tribute to [showrunner Glen] Caron’s inspiration for the entire series: The Taming of the Shrew. Willis, of course, would play the fortune-seeking Petruchio; Shepherd, the titular “shrew,” Katherina. The rest of the regulars rounded out the cast, among them Allyce Beasley and Revenge of the Nerds’ Curtis Armstrong, which was transported from the Blue Moon Detective Agency in Los Angeles to Padua, Italy, in 1593 (“or just an incredible facsimile,” per the title card, which was the Universal backlot).

The episode starts as a Moonlighting episode about a kid wanting to watch a Moonlighting episode; no series winked at itself in the funhouse mirror more. But the boy’s mother banishes him to his room to do his homework – in this case, read Shakespeare. He cracks open the play, and the episode quickly morphs into a rather sincere retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, down to the iambic pentameter and its occasional use of actual dialogue, combined with some anachronistic winks (Willis’ Ray-Bans, his saddle bearing the BMW insignia, the performance of The Rascals’ “Good Lovin’”)….

(11) GEORGE MAHARIS (1928-2023). Actor George Maharis, best known for his work on TV’s Route 66, died May 24. Though it was not a genre program, Steve Vertlieb recalled in his File 770 post about Route 66 there was one episode with a strong genre appeal to horror fans:

…“Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing” premiered over the CBS television Network on Friday evening, October 26th, 1962. Featuring guest stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr., this beloved episode of the classic television series “Route 66” starring George Maharis and Martin Milner would be the last time that Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr. would ever reprise their signature performances as Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man….

Deadline’s summary of his career includes these appearances on genre shows:

In the 1970’s, Maharis returned to television and starred in shows like Night GalleryThe Mostly Deadly Game, … Mission: Impossible, … The Bionic WomanFantasy Island, and many more.

Maharis’ final credit was in the film Doppelganger directed by Avi Neshar in 1993 which starred Drew Barrymore and George Newbern.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

2011[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Sheri Holman’s Witches on the Road Tonight is the source of our Beginning this Scroll. 

It was published twelve years ago by Atlantic Monthly Press. It would win a Shirley Jackson Award  for Best Novel, and it also won the Independent Publisher Book Award, Gold Medal, Literary Fiction.  It was named a Book of the Year by the Boston Globe, the Toronto Globe and Mail, and PopMatters. Very impressive I’d say. 

It is her only genre novel to date. She has written several other novels including a mystery set in a medieval monastery.  Oh, and she was a principal writer on the Longmire series for much of its run.

(I finished watching the Longmire series recently. They did a stellar job of tying everything up there.) 

And now the Beginning…

Eddie

New York City

Midnight

Of all the props I saved, only the coffin remains. Packed in boxes or tossed in the closet were the skulls and rubber rats, the cape folded with the care of a fallen American flag, my black spandex unitard, white at the seams where I’d stretched out the armpits, sweat-stained and pilled. I saved the squeezed-out tubes of greasepaint, the black shadow for under the eyes, the porcelain fangs. Of the gifts fans sent, I kept that bleached arc of a cat’s skeleton, the one you used to call Fluffy and hang your necklaces from, and a dead bird preserved with antifreeze. I kept maybe a hundred of the many thousands of drawings and letters from preteen boys and girls. There were some from adults, too, confessions of the sort they should be writing their shrinks or the police, and not a man who plays a vampire on TV. “Dear Captain Casket, Fangs for the memories.” 

But in the move up to Manhattan, in the successive apartments Charles and I shared, everything has been lost or thrown away. Coming to me late in life, Charles has been pitiless in tossing my prehistory, usually while I am off at one of the twice-yearly conventions I attend as if having an affair we both tacitly refuse to discuss. Now everything has been scrapped but the coffin, too big not to be missed, too great a conversation piece even for Charles, a bit of memorabilia that you might send off to a regional horror movie museum or sell to some theme restaurant as the base of a fixin’s bar to defray a small portion of the funeral cost. We’ve been using it as a coffee table, pushed in front of the big picture window that overlooks the Chrysler Building, a view that accounts for three-quarters of the ridiculous price we paid for this apartment. It has held up well over the years, made of wormy chestnut, hand-planed and smooth as a wooden Indian. I used to keep it in the carport between Saturday shows, and you played in it as a girl. Sometimes when we couldn’t find you, your mother and I would look outside and you’d be curled up inside it, asleep, your hand bookmarking the eternally youthful and nosy Nancy Drew, your mouth brushed with cookie crumbs.

I have made it as comfortable as possible. It is lined with an old down comforter tucked inside one of Charles’s more elegant duvet covers, a dusky rose shot with gold thread. I have a pillow for my head and a scarlet throw to keep me warm. You might think I’d like to go out in full costume, but camp comes too easily these days. I’m wearing, instead, my most comfortable pajamas, the ones with the pug dogs you bought me for my birthday last year. They are about the only ones my chemo-blistered skin can bear. Before I put them on, I took a shower and washed what’s left of my hair. Maybe it was cowardly to wait to do this until Charles was out of town. His mother, who is only a few years older than I, is ill, too, and poor Charles hasn’t known whom to nurse more dutifully. He refuses to discuss my death, pulling, instead, all sorts of prophylactic voodoo like purchasing cruise tickets for next spring, or placing a down payment on a purebred mastiff puppy, if you can imagine, as if he can mortgage me back to life, keeping me on the ventilator of increasingly onerous financial obligation. I know he will be furious when he gets back from Philadelphia, but maybe he’ll take his mother with him on that cruise through the Cyclades.

My only real regret is not seeing you one last time. I left you a message before you went on the air, something light and innocuous, and I hope you’re not too shocked to hear it after you get the news. I want this good-bye to set the tone for all the memories that follow it. When people approach me about my show, they never want to talk about the cut-rate monster movies. Most can barely remember the titles. No, it is the irreverence of the interruption they cherish, the silliness and explosions. I made it my career for decades, but only now do I begin to understand the need to terrify, followed by the even greater need to puncture the fear we’ve called into being. It is a surrender and recovery that feels suspiciously like love.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. It is thought that “The Death’s Head Meteor,” his first story, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930, could be the first use of “astronaut” in fiction. He also created the use of a future history before either Robert A. Heinlein or Cordwainer Smith were to do so. They’re collected in The Planet of the Double SunThe Sunless World and a number of other overlapping collections.  He’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1923 Genevieve Linebarger. Widow of Cordwainer Smith. She had a hand in The Instrumentality of Mankind series, co-authoring “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul” (1960), and “Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh!” (1959) and, after her husband’s death, was the sole author of “Down to a Sunless Sea” (1975) published under his name, and completed “Himself in Anachron” (published 1993). (Credits per NESFA Press’ Rediscovery of Man collection.) (Died 1981.)
  • Born May 29, 1930 Richard Clifton-Dey. An Illustrator of many SF book covers including The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He did not sign many of his originals so his widow has the final say what is an original and what is not. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born May 29, 1939 Alice K. TurnerPlayboy fiction editor from 1980 to 2000. Silverberg praised her highly and she did much to make sure SF had an important place in the fiction offered up there. The Playboy Book of Science Fiction collects a good tasting of the SF published during her tenure. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than eight works of fantasy and was best known for her Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1996 R. F. Kuang, 27. She’s an award-winning Chinese-American fantasy writer. The Poppy War series, so-called grimdark fantasy, consists of The Poppy War which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. She’s been a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville shows a new tech that combines streaming with nagging.
  • Non Sequitur looks for a definition of intelligent life.
  • Macanudo has a strange mashup of Darth Vader and Casablanca.

(15) ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE. This is impressive – watch Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” deftly remove a pistachio from its shell.

(16) FACTORY SECONDS. Discover Magazine chronicles “Why 1 Second Is 1 Second”.

…Today, however, when computers perform operations at the rate of 4 billion cycles per second, we need a better measure. The rotation of Earth, and its orbit, change slightly over time. Earth’s rotation, for example, is slowing slightly. So measuring a second based on rotation would mean that a second would get slowly longer over time. Ultimately, we couldn’t compare the second of today to the second of yesterday.

So, to pin down a truly timeless measure of a second, scientists in the 1950s devised a better clock, one based not on astronomical processes but on the movement of fundamental bits of matter — atoms — whose subtle vibrations are, for all intents and purposes, locked in for eternity. Today, one second is defined as “9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom”.

That’s a mouthful.

…When hit with a laser, the single electron in a cesium atom’s outermost shell will cycle back and forth between two states — known as a hyperfine transition. It can be magnetically aligned either in the same direction as the atom’s nucleus, or the opposite direction, and under a laser’s beam, it will flip back and forth between these two states rapidly at a rate that never changes. Cesium isn’t the only element for the job, but it has only one stable isotope, so it’s easier to purify, and the hyperfine transition is both large enough and fast enough to be accurate, unlike some other atoms….

(17) NEANDERTHAL CHESS ODDS? According to Discover Magazine, “Neanderthal Brains: Bigger, Not Necessarily Better”. But once you’ve clicked they admit they don’t really know.

Neanderthals had bigger brains than people today.

In any textbook on human evolution, you’ll find that fact, often accompanied by measurements of endocranial volume, the space inside a skull. On average, this value is about 1410 cm3 (~6 cups) for Neanderthals and 1350 cm3 (5.7 cups) for recent humans.

So does that quarter-cup of brain matter, matter? Were Neanderthals smarter than our kind?

While brain size is important, cognitive abilities are influenced by numerous factors including body size, neuron density and how particular brain regions are enlarged and connected. Some of these variables are unknowable for Neanderthals, as we only have their cranial bones and not their brains. But anthropologists have made the most of these hollow skulls, to learn what they can about the Neanderthal mind….

(18) NEXT GEN NAVIGATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A quantum inertial navigation system has the potential to improve INS accuracy to the point that it could replace satellite systems like GPS for some applications. “Imperial College working with Royal Navy on groundbreaking system to replace GPS on ships” explains the Telegraph.

A new quantum compass that could replace GPS on ships has been tested on water for the first time, The Telegraph can reveal.

Inside an old shipping container onboard XV Patrick Blackett, the Royal Navy’s experimental ship, could be the future of navigation.

Military chiefs have been warning for years of the dangers of relying on GPS, due to the potential for adversaries to jam and manipulate trackers.

In an interview with The Telegraph last year, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the Armed Forces, warned Russia could wage war in space against the West.

He said: “Russia could also attack the GPS systems which play a key role, both military and civilian, throughout the world,” he said. He added that attacking a nation’s GPS was attractive to an adversary because it involves “neither direct casualties nor an attack on another country’s territory,” and is therefore less likely to provoke a direct Western military response….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended knows “How The Little Mermaid Should Have Ended” and asks for three minutes to tell you.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/23 When Scrolls Collide

(1) BLACKADDER GOES POSTAL. Guess who the Royal Mail has put on an issue of stamps? “Blackadder’s 40th anniversary celebrated with new stamps” at BBC News.

The 40th anniversary of BBC comedy series Blackadder is being celebrated with a special set of stamps.

The classic sitcom, which spanned hundreds of years of British history over four series, was first broadcast on 15 June 1983.

Four decades later the show, which launched the careers of some of the UK’s most recognisable actors, remains a favourite with British viewers.

Now some of its most famous scenes have made it on to eight new stamps.

… Writer Richard Curtis said he was “very amused and delighted” to see his creation on the stamps

“It’s a great relief for Blackadder to have his head on a stamp, instead of on a stake,” he added….

(2) MEMORIAL CELEBRATES 25 YEARS. Author Michael Ward shared photos on Facebook of a C.S. Lewis-related feature at Oxford.

It’s twenty-five years since the Addison’s Walk memorial at Magdalen College was installed to mark the centenary of C.S. Lewis’s birth. The then President of Magdalen, the late Anthony Smith, unveiled it, and the late Walter Hooper, Lewis’s editor and biographer, recited the poem engraved thereon to the gathered crowd. The event was preceded by Evensong in the college chapel, at which lessons were read by Jill Flewett (Lady Freud), who was an evacuee at The Kilns during the Second World War, and by the late Laurence Harwood, Lewis’s godson….

He posted a close-up of the commemorative plaque here.

(3) ACCESSIBILITY GROWING IN VIDEO GAMES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A number of game designers are giving more thought to adaptations for players with disabilities. The PBS NewsHour’s website takes a look: “Why developers are designing video games for accessibility”.

… “I think it’s still really early and we’re still learning and we’re still growing, so there’s so much more I think we can do,” Brennecke said. “This is the first iteration of a lot of these ideas and I think, over time, we’re going to continue to improve that as an industry.”

Disability advocate Zigmont believes this push for accessibility will ultimately benefit everyone who picks up a controller. She explained that when engineers design with disabilities in mind, it often leads to benefits for everyone. Adding curb cuts at a crosswalk, for instance, makes it easier for wheelchair access, but also for parents pushing strollers and workers moving items on a hand truck.

“If you build for the disability community, you make it better for the whole community,” she said.

(4) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH MONTREAL. [Item by Danny Sichel.] From the MTL Blog: “The STM Redid The Montreal Metro Map With ‘Star Wars’-Themed Station Names For May The 4th. (STM = Société de Transport de Montréal. They run the metro and the buses.)

True, the puns work better if you’re familiar with (a) Star Wars in French, and (b) the normal Montreal metro map, but still….

(5) JOSEPH P. MARTINO (1931-2023). A regular fixture of Analog in the Sixties, author Joseph P. Martino died July 29, 2022 (though File 770 just recently learned of his death.) The family obituary appeared in the Dayton Daily News. He is survived by his wife Nancy and twelve children and step-children.

…He served in the Air Force for 22 years. His duty stations included Air Force research laboratories throughout the United States, and a tour of duty in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Joseph retired from the Air Force in the grade of Colonel in 1975. After retirement from the Air Force, he joined the University of Dayton Research Institute as a Research Scientist and worked there for 18 years until his retirement from the University….

One of his better-known stories, “Pushbutton War” (1960), is available at Project Gutenberg. In addition to his fiction, he wrote several books on technological forecasting.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1986[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Bob Shaw’s one of my favorite writers. I’ve read The Orbitsville trilogy several times and the Warren Peace books are equally enjoyable. 

He would win Hugos for Best Fan Writer at Seacon ‘79 and Noreascon Two. His short story “Light of Other Days” was nominated for a Hugo Award, as was The Ragged Astronaut novel which is where our Beginning is from this Scroll.  It did win a BSFA. 

The Ragged Astronaut novel was published by Gollancz in 1986 with the cover illustration by Alan Brooks.

It is a Meredith Moment at the usual suspects. 

And now for our Beginning…

It had become obvious to Toller Maraquine and some others watching on the ground that the airship was heading into danger, but–incredibly–its captain appeared not to notice.

‘What does the fool think he’s doing?’ Toller said, speaking aloud although there was nobody within earshot. He shaded his eyes from the sun to harden his perception of what was happening. The background was a familiar one to anybody who lived in those longitudes of Land–flawless indigo sea, a sky of pale blue feathered with white, and the misty vastness of the sister world, Overland, hanging motionless near the zenith, its disk crossed again and again by swathes of cloud. In spite of the foreday glare a number of stars were visible, including the nine brightest which made up the constellation of the Tree.

Against that backdrop the airship was drifting in on a light sea breeze, the commander conserving power crystals. The vessel was heading directly towards the shore, its blue-and-grey envelope foreshortened to a circle, a tiny visual echo of Overland. It was making steady progress, but what its captain had apparently failed to appreciate was that the onshore breeze in which he was travelling was very shallow, with a depth of not more than three hundred feet. Above it and moving in the opposite direction was a westerly wind streaming down from the Haffanger Plateau.

Toller could trace the flow and counter flow of air with precision because the columns of vapour from the pikon reduction pans along the shore were drifting inland only a short distance before rising and being wafted back out to sea. Among those man-made bands of mist were ribbons of cloud from the roof of the plateau–therein lay the danger to the airship. 

Toller took from his pocket the stubby telescope he had carried since childhood and used it to scan the cloud layers. As he had half expected, he was able within seconds to pick out several blurry specks of blue and magenta suspended in the matrix of white vapour. A casual observer might have failed to notice them at all, or have dismissed the vague motes as an optical effect, but Toller’s sense of alarm grew more intense. The fact that he had been able to spot some ptertha so quickly meant that the entire cloud must be heavily seeded with them, invisibly bearing hundreds of the creatures towards the airship.

‘Use a sunwriter,’ he bellowed with the full power of his lungs.

 ‘Tell the fool to veer off, or go up or down, or …’ Rendered incoherent by urgency, Toller looked all about him as he tried to decide on a course of action. The only people visible among the rectangular pans and fuel bins were semi-naked stokers and rakers. It appeared that all of the overseers and clerks were inside the wide-eaved buildings of the station proper, escaping the day’s increasing heat. The low structures were of traditional Kolcorronian design, orange and yellow brick laid in complex diamond patterns, dressed with red sandstone at all corners and edges–and had something of the look of snakes drowsing in the intense sunlight. Toller could not even see any officials at the narrow vertical windows. Pressing a hand to his sword to hold it steady, he ran towards the supervisors’ building.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite (well the first story, not the second at all) as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. No, I’ve not forgotten about his Hugos. Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal.  It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light. His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. Very, very impressive! (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 13, 1945 Maria Tatar, 78. Folklorist who if you’re not familiar with her you should be. She’s written, among several works, The Annotated Brothers GrimmThe Annotated Peter Pan and The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen which is reviewed here on Green Man.
  • Born May 13, 1946 Marv Wolfman, 77. He worked for Marvel Comics on The Tomb of Dracula series for which he and artist Gene Colan created Blade, and the Crisis on Infinite Earths series in which he temporarily untangled DC’s complicated history with George Pérez. And he worked with Pérez on the direct-to-DVD movie adaptation of the popular “Judas Contract” storyline from their tenure on Teen Titans. (I’m not going to list his IMDB credits here. Hell, he even wrote a Reboot episode!) 
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 74. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. 
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 72. His retelling of The Tain is marvellous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same legend for an interesting look at taking an legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel.
  • Born May 13, 1958 Frances Barber, 65. Madame Kovarian, a prime antagonist during the time of The Eleventh Doctor showing up in seven episodes in totality. Fittingly she played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at the Royal Exchange in Manchester. I’ve got her doing one-offs on Space PrecinctRed Dwarf and The IT Crowd
  • Born May 13, 1958 Bruce Byfield, 65. No idea if he has academic training, but he certainly has a fascination with Leiber. He wrote Witches of the Mind: A Critical Study of Fritz Leiber which was nominated for a Locus Award for Best Non-Fiction, and many fascination sounding essays on Lieber and his fiction including “The Allure of the Eccentric in the Poetry and Fiction of Fritz Leiber” and “Fafhrd and Fritz”.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Six Chix has an idea about how it would look if the fantasy characters we read about were real.
  • Arlo and Janis show what not to name your car.
  • From Tom Gauld:

(9) GOOD OMENS FOR THIS SUMMER. Comicbook.com lets us know: “Good Omens Season 2 Premiere Date Announced by Prime Video”. It’s July 28.

…The second season of Good Omens is expected to follow Crowley and Aziraphale living amongst the humans in London’s Soho. According to Amazon, things begin to get apocalyptic once again “when an unexpected messenger presents a surprising mystery.” 

Good Omens 2 just would not be the same without the astonishing Jon Hamm as Gabriel, everyone’s worst boss,” Gaiman said in a statement when the second season was announced. “The story that Terry Pratchett and I created all those years ago continues to take us from London’s Soho into Heaven and Hell. It’s a delight for me to bring back characters we loved (or hated) and bring in new characters, from the shiniest top floors of Heaven to the dankest basements of Hell, to love (or to hate, or to love to hate or hate to love). All of them are part of the strange and unusually beloved family of Good Omens.”…

(10) WORLDS APART. [Item by Steven French.] Hugely positive review of M John Harrison’s latest in the Guardian: “Wish I Was Here by M John Harrison review – a masterly ‘anti-memoir’”.

…Throughout his writing life, Harrison has refused the generic, escapist iterations of fantasy and science fiction as “easy things to think, a waste of the power of the big visionary-apocalyptic machine”. It is central to his practice that novels be recognised not as immersive experiences, illusory spaces to inhabit, but for the artificial constructs they are. They aren’t alternative worlds, but the work of a writer in our own….

(11) THE ONE WITH THE BORG WHALES. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Illustrator gravelyhumerus posted this sketch playing off the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and the pesky Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation, etc.

(12) CAN WE KEEP HUMAN FAILINGS OUT OF SPACE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The prospect of settling the Moon, Mars and elsewhere requires urgent conversations about issues such as labor and reproductive rights far from Earth. “Ethics in outer space: can we make interplanetary exploration just?” – book reviews in Nature:

 Off-Earth: Ethical Questions and Quandaries for Living in Outer Space Erika Nesvold MIT Press (2023)

Reclaiming Space: Progressive and Multicultural Visions of Space Exploration James S. J. Schwartz, Linda Billings and Erika Nesvold (eds) Oxford Univ. Press (2023)

…From Star Trek to Apollo 17, space exploration is often framed as humanity pushing collectively towards a better future. But those utopian visions probably won’t mesh with reality. The book Off-Earth explores the ethical implications of humans moving into outer space — and whether those who do can avoid bringing along Earthly problems such as environmental destruction and social injustice. Nature spoke to its author, Erika Nesvold.

Nesvold is a computational astrophysicist, game developer and a member of the team behind Universe Sandbox, a physics-based space simulator. Based in Severn, Maryland, she is also co-founder of the JustSpace Alliance, a non-profit organization that works for a more inclusive and ethical future in space, and co-editor of Reclaiming Space, a collection of essays that explores similar themes….

Why is now a good time to talk about ethics in space exploration?

A lot of people are talking about these topics because of the growth of the private space-flight industry. For decades, human space exploration was done by national agencies with different motivations, different rhetoric surrounding it and different levels of public participation. With private space flight, members of the public — if they get rich enough — can actually think about going into space….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/16/22 This Page Intentionally Left Indescribable

(1) WHEN ‘THINGS TO COME’ WAS NEW. The videos featuring the musical score of Things to Come linked in the Pixel Scroll for February 13 prompted John L. Coker III to pass along this transcript of a conversation that he had with David A. Kyle about the movie over 20 years ago.

[David A. Kyle:] H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come was one of the first serious science fiction movies; it considered big problems and big situations, and had a great cast.  This is a picture that was full of idealism, with the viewpoint of the future as one world.  Fans of science fiction had hoped that mankind would all band together and we would all be Earth people.  When we went out to the planets, we would be representing the Earth as a whole, rather than as individual countries. 

The picture was socialistic, as H. G. Wells was, and it was rare when a real science fiction picture came out.  It dealt with real things, and forecast what was going to happen in Europe.  It is set in 1936, when an unidentified enemy bombs England and war starts.  The sky is black with airplanes coming over, all quite visionary. 

I remember when it first came out.  It played in a country theater near my home in Monticello, New York, for three days.  Because I was a young newspaper reporter, I could go into a theater anytime I wanted, and I wouldn’t have to pay.  The movie was so prophetic, and there was also the great music written by Arthur Bliss.  I had recordings of that music at one time, and it was really drummed into my head.  It still haunts me. 

When I went to New York with some of the science fiction fans in the late 1930s, we went to the Ivory Tower.  This was a breeding ground for writers such as Dick Wilson, Donald A. Wollheim and Fred Pohl.  As I came out of the subway, and approached the building, I would run through my head the march from Things to Come.  Time passed, and in 1939 war broke out in Europe, and we began to see the prophecies coming true. 

In 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the next year I enlisted.  I became an officer and was sent to Northern Ireland.  It was midnight and I was by myself in my hut, and had my radio on.  Then came the unforgettable music from Things to Come.  I remembered scenes such as the bombing of London and suddenly this creepy crawly feeling went up my back.  There I was, in uniform, a part of the conflict that was going on around me, and I realized I had become part of the picture.  It had come to life.

Six months or so later, I was in London, looking in the publication What’s On.  It listed all of the cinemas, and I noticed that Things to Come was playing.  How could I resist going to see it, being in London with a war going on? 

A few days later I was in the Savoy Hotel with a Canadian officer, and I saw Edmond Chapman, who played the role of Pippin Passworthy, opposite Raymond Massey’s main character.  So there he was, in his R. A. F. uniform, and I went over to him to say hello.  I told him that I had been intrigued by the film that I saw years ago, and that I had gone again to see it the other night.  He had several kind things to say.  It was a thrill for me to be there with a character from the film in uniform, in London, during the war.  It was as if he had somehow come alive from the movie.  It was surreal but so realistic.  I was nearly overwhelmed by the experience.  I’ll never forget it.

Years later, when I was living in England and attending a Rotary meeting, a man across the table from me who had been an entertainer told me that when he was young, he had visited the studios where they were making Things to Come.  He had been an extra on the picture, and appeared in the scene where all of the troops were jumping off of the back of the big ship.  He remembered when H. G. Wells would come around and talk with members of the cast about the picture. 

Science fiction and the cinema and fannish friends all sort of came together.  And, in my time, I was so close to the imaginative world that our writers created that sometimes I felt that I had become part of that world for a short period of time.

1st Lt. David A. Kyle (England, 1943)

(2) IDA KEOGH Q&A. Bob the Alien occasionally takes over author Paul L. Arvidson’s blog and interviews other British SF Association authors. [Via Emily Inkpen.] “Bob the Alien Interviews… Ida Keogh”.

Bob: Well what an interesting specimen we’ve beamed up here. Who are you and why have you got a tail? Other humans don’t seem to.

Ida Keogh : Hi Bob! I’m Ida, creator of words, wrangler of precious metal and occasional mermaid. Thank you for having me. Tails are great, aren’t they? Other humans are missing out.

Bob: Is this mind probe thingy working? It tells me you’re another one of these writer types. What makes you want to do that?

I.K: I have words inside me that need to get out. I love to shape phrases, sculpt paragraphs, stack pages. Sharing my words with other humans makes me glow….

(3) A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] I was wandering around Reddit (being careful not to step into the pools of muck scattered around there) when I found a very cool post from a guy doing a read-through of ALL Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award winners.  He’s posting them on his blog as he gets through them, and I am very impressed (and somewhat appalled) at all the work he’s doing. “The Project” at Don’t Forget to Read a Book. The format of the reviews is explained here.

“Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner” is The Project’s latest post – here’s an excerpt.

…What is there to say about a book that is just what it is? I was unfamiliar with the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, but apparently it is, well, a thing. A brief synopsis of the original: Thomas meets the Queen of Elfland, goes with her for seven years, sees many delights, and returns to the mortal world. He is given the gift of prophecy.

This novel version expands upon the story, offering an introduction to Thomas before he goes to Fairy, exploring his time there, and then chronicling his later life after returning. All of this added content is rather tepid. Song of Achilles is a great demonstration of the power of reimagining a well known tale and offering a new perspective. There is none of that here. No pushing of boundaries, no real expansion of the mythos. Kushner fills in the blanks in the same way that most others likely would as well….

(4) LEVAR BURTON ON TREVOR NOAH. “LeVar Burton Encourages Kids To Read Banned Books: ‘That’s Where the Good Stuff Is’”Comicbook.com introduces a clip from The Daily Show, “America’s Book Bans: The Latest Culture War Front”. (Burton appears after the 8:30 mark.)

Literacy advocate, Star Trek star, and game show host LeVar Burton wants people, particularly children, to read banned books. The former Reading Rainbow host appeared during a segment about banned books on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. In the piece, Burton attempts to read some seemingly innocuous books only to get cut off because of a book banning for one contrived reason or another. Eventually, Burton runs away after hearing sirens nearby, but not before encouraging folks to read banned books “because that’s where the good stuff is.” You can watch the entire The Daily Show segment below….

(5) DANGEROUS VISIONS AND NEW WORLDS: RADICAL SCIENCE FICTION. On Saturday, February 26 and Sunday, February 27, City Lights in conjunction with PM Press will present a two-day symposium exploring the radical currents of Science Fiction and celebrating the launch of Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985, edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre.

Featuring an all-star cast of presenters including Samuel Delany, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Michael Moorcock, Cory Doctorow, Marge Piercy, Maitland McDonagh, Annalee Newitz, Jonathan Lethem, Shelley Streeby, Mike Stax, Karen Joy Fowler, Nick Mamatas, Ann VanderMeer, Matt Bell, adrienne maree brown, Daniel Shank Cruz, Lucy Sussex, Mimi Mondal, Vandana Singh, Rebecca Baumann, Meg Elison, Terry Bisson, Andrew Nette & Iain McIntyre

Free (Registration Required) There are four sessions to register for on Day One, and another four on Day Two.

(6) MCKENNA’S NEW BOOK. The Fantasy Hive conducts an “Interview with Juliet E. McKenna” about The Cleaving, “a feminist retelling of the Arthurian legends follows the tangled stories of four women: Nimue, Ygraine, Morgana, and Guinevere, as they fight to control their own destinies amid the wars and rivalries that will determine the destiny of Britain.” The book will be published by Angry Robots in May 2023.

Can you tell us a bit more about your leading characters, Nimue, Ygraine, Morgana, and Guinevere? They’re such iconic characters, how did you approach recreating them?

[Juliet McKenna] Are they so iconic? Everyone knows Morgana and Guinevere’s names, but I can think of half a dozen very different portrayals of them both. This isn’t a problem though. That variety gives me tremendous freedom to come up with my own take. Nimue? The sources can’t even agree on how to spell her name, or exactly what she does, so I’ve got even more leeway. Ygraine’s barely mentioned in so many versions that I pretty much had a blank page there.

My approach to writing all these women has been to make them fully rounded, believable people. Far too often they’re two-dimensional figures who come and go to serve the plot by doing something or having something done to them. I took a longer view. I thought about the ways their experiences would shape their personalities, and how the people they become will influence the choices they make. 

I also looked at the influence they would have on each other. In so many Arthurian retellings women are defined by their relationships to the men at the centre of the story. Their actions only matter when what they do matters to a man. In reality, women have crucial relationships with each other, as mothers, daughters and most of all as friends and allies. There’s no way these women caught up in these events wouldn’t look to each other for support. That opens up these myths in a whole new way….

(7) CELEBRATE FAN ART. 2019 Rotsler Award winner Alison Scott has now got a website to show off her fan art 00 “Alison Scott” at Myportfolio.com. Faneds who would like to use any of this material, or perhaps something made just for them (eventually) should get in touch with Alison. This example was done for DisCon III but fits it perfectly here, don’t you think?

(8) MEAD OBIT. Prolific sff author Melissa Mead, who was born with cerebral palsy, died February 15. Her friend Eliza Ames paid tribute on Facebook.

I’ve struggled all day with how to write something about my friend Melissa Mead. Usually, writing my feelings is not hard, but Missy was a writer too, and a damn good one. Missy was born with Cerebral Palsy. Even that one illness is enough to destroy lives, and it wasn’t the only thing she had to fight her way through. Missy was a fierce fighter, and yet the single kindest person I’ve ever met….

Missy may have been limited by her body, but her imagination knew no bounds. She wrote sci fi and fantasy stories, and they were amazing. Every character felt real and every situation, no matter how fantastic, contained such imagery and forethought that it felt always as if that COULD exist….

Deirdre Saoirse Moen pointed out Melissa Mead’s recent article about disability representation in fiction, “I Don’t Hate Tiny Tim. Really!”, at Stupefying Stories Magazine. It’s brilliant.

Poor Tiny Tim.

I’m not saying that because he has a disability. I’m saying that because everyone, from his readers to his creator, pities him because he has a disability. He doesn’t pity himself, though! He joins in his siblings’ games whenever possible, and they cheerfully take him along with them. And while his father calls him “good as gold,” he’s not a perfect saint. When his father insists that the family drink a toast to his hard-hearted boss, Ebeneezer Scrooge, “Tiny Tim drank it last of all, but he didn’t care twopence for it.”…

(9) MEL KEEFER (1926-2022). Comic book and animation artist Mel Keefer has died at the age of 95. Mark Evanier wrote a tribute at News From ME.

…No one is quite sure how many newspaper strips he worked on but I know of these: Perry Mason, Dragnet, Gene Autry, Mac Divot, Thorne McBride, Willis Barton M.D. and Rick O’Shay. His longest run was with Mac Divot, which ran from 1955 to 1977. A lot of comic strip fans didn’t follow it because it was about golf and newspapers often ran it in the sports section. He ghosted on at least a half-dozen others but the most notable was Bash Brannigan, the strip drawn by “Stanley Ford” (Jack Lemmon) in the movie, How to Murder Your Wife. Mel did all the comic art in the film and when you thought you were seeing a close-up of Lemmon’s hand drawing his character, that was Mel’s hand you were seeing….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1967 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-five years ago, Star Trek’s “Space Seed” first aired on NBC. It was the twenty-second episode of the first season and it was directed by Marc Daniel from a teleplay from Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber. The former was both a major writer and a show-runner on the series; the latter did writing for Captain Video and His Video RangersLost In Space and The Time Tunnel. The story was by Weber.

Yes, this is the episode that introduced Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh. He would of course return in The Wrath of Khan which would be nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation the year that Blade Runner won. From my viewpoint, and I know some of you may beg to differ, the only other guest performer worth noting is Madlyn Rhue as Lt. Marla McGivers. 

Director Nicholas Meyer stated in interviews that he wrote McGivers out of his drafts of The Wrath of Khan in order to give Khan more motivation for being pissed off. Anyone remember if Khan made reference to her in the film? I’ve seen it at three times but not in at least twenty years now, so I don’t remember. 

James Blish who was working from the yet script drafts at the time  used the name Sibahl Khan Noonien in his novella  long adaptation for the 1968 Bantam Books’ Star Trek 2 anthology which shows that the name change was a late decision.

Passing references to  the events here appear in here will later make it to Deep Space Nine and Enterprise.

Reception at the time of its broadcast was quite positive though the reviewers for Tor.com much later on really didn’t like the relationship between Khan and McGivers saying in their of the episode that it was “really uncomfortable to watch her immediate attraction to him and her easy acceptance of his abusive and controlling behavior”.  

I’m am not, repeat, not going to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch portraying Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. Really, really not going to talk about him doing so. 

Greg Cox wrote a very much not canon novel titled To Reign in Hell: The Exile of Khan Noonien Singh which in great detail gave us the romance of Khan and Givers. I can’t say I’ve got much interest in reading it. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 16, 1933 Jim Harmon. During the Fifties and Sixties, he wrote more than fifty short stories and novelettes for Amazing StoriesFuture Science Fiction, Galaxy Science FictionIfThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and other magazines. Most of his fiction was collected in Harmon’s Galaxy. EoSF says he has one genre novel, The Contested Earth, whereas ISFDB lists two more, Sex Burns Like Fire and The Man Who Made Maniacs. He’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 16, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very, very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room instead,as it contains her original screenplays for the BSFA winning The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. Though not even genre adjacent, her Wise Children is a brilliant and quite unsettling look at the theatre world. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 16, 1951 William Katt, 71. Ralph Hinkley, the lead of The Greatest American Hero. A series I know I watched and loved at the time.  In December 1975, he auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker. But didn’t get the role obviously.
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 69. Happy Birthday! OGH has won the Hugo Award 11 times in two categories: File 770 won the Best Fanzine Hugo in 1984, 1985, 1989, 2000, 2001 2008, and 2016. He himself has won the Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1984, 1986, 1988, and 2016. The 1982 Worldcon presented him a special award in 1982 for Keeping the Fan in Fanzine Publishing. He even wrote several pieces of genre fiction, “The Six Who Are Boring” and “The Men Who Corflued Mohammed.” 
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I’m certain I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my faves. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about single malt whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. And yes, Green Man has reviewed it. How could we not, it being by Banks? (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 16, 1957 Ardwight Chamberlain, 65. The voice of Kosh on Babylon 5. And that quite tickles me as I don’t think they credited it during the series, did they? Most of his other voice work is English-dubbing versions of Japanese anime including Digimon: Digital Monsters and The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island.
  • Born February 16, 1957 LeVar Burton, 65. Well y’all know what series he was on and what character he played that he’s best known for so I can dispense with that. And yes, that series did win Hugos, “The Inner Light” did at ConFrancisco and “All Good Things” did at Intersection.  Other genre appearances include The Supernaturals, a zombie film, as Pvt. Michael Osgood, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies voicing Black Lightning and in another zombie film Rise of the Zombies as Dr. Dan Halpern. Plus his acclaimed reading series.
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 58. The Ninth Doctor, who’s my third favorite among the new ones behind David Tennant and Jodie Whittaker. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (a truly awful film), Thor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THE ACME OF FILMMAKING. Screen Crush reports “Wile E. Coyote’s Getting a Live-Action Movie Starring John Cena”.

Well, John Cena’s having a good day.

Not only did his HBO Max series Peacemaker get renewed for a second season, he’s also gotten tapped to star in the upcoming live-action Looney Tunes movie Coyote vs. AcmeThe concept is vaguely Space Jam-ish, in that it takes place in a world where humans animated cartoons co-exist. (There’s no basketball this time, though.)

The movie will be directed by Dave Green, whose previous efforts include Earth to Echo and the live-action (with CGI) Teenage Mutant Ninja sequel, Out of the Shadows. The premise is actually based on a 1990 New Yorker article titled “Coyote v. Acme” by Ian Frazier. (You can read it here.) Here are the specifics of the plot, via Deadline:

The film follows Wile E. Coyote, who after ACME products fail him one too many times in his dogged pursuit of the Roadrunner, decides to hires a billboard lawyer to sue the ACME Corporation. The case pits Wile E. and his lawyer against the latter’s intimidating former boss (Cena), but a growing friendship between man and cartoon stokes their determination to win….

(14) PERSPECTIVE ON TODAY. “George Takei: ‘I maintain that without optimism, we’ve already failed’” – so he tells an interviewer from the Washington Post. The profile includes a long reminiscence of his experience being taken to a WWII Japanese internment camp.

Let me ask you about maybe your defining role, your “Star Trek” role. Having experienced discrimination against Japanese Americans during and after World War II, what did it mean to you to as an actor to be able to take a role that didn’t play to the stereotypes of what Hollywood was portraying at the moment?

I immediately recognized that this was a breakthrough opportunity for me. For one thing, it was steady work if it sold. I was just doing guest shots here and there. And secondly, it was a part of the leadership team. A breakthrough opportunity, not only for me, but for the image of Asians and Asian Americans on television. The creator of the show, Gene Roddenberry, was extraordinary. He said the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth and that it was the diversity of this Earth that the strength of this starship comes from.

(15) GOOD OMENS. “In Pictures: Star-spotting in Bo’ness as Good Omens 2 films with David Tennant and Michael Sheen” — the Edinburgh News has numerous photos of the actors on location in the city the other day.

Fans snapped pictures of stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen as they prepared to film scenes around the Hippodrome Cinema

They were joined by Dame Siân Phillips, while extras wearing feather-adorned caps and 1920s flapper-style dresses walked around the set….

(16) THE (KAURI) HELMET OF BOBA FETT. [Item by Soon Lee.] New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison, who plays the title character on The Book of Boba Fett, was presented with a carved wooden Boba Fett helmet. “Temuera Morrison honoured in Rotorua with Boba Fett kauri carving” at Newshub.

The carver, Graham Hoete a.k.a. MrG carved it out of native kauri and has shared the video of the gifting.

And also some of the carving process.

(17) CHRIS AND ZACH; BACK TOGETHER AGAIN. CNET reports “Star Trek 4 Will Bring Back Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto”.

It’s been six years since the last Star Trek movie, but the wait for the next one is coming to an end. J.J. Abrams, director of 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, announced plans on Tuesday to bring back original cast members for a fourth film.

“We are thrilled to say that we are hard at work on a new ‘Star Trek’ film that will be shooting by the end of the year that will be featuring our original cast and some new characters that I think are going to be really fun and exciting and help take ‘Star Trek’ into areas that you’ve just never seen before,” Abrams said during the Paramount Investors Day Presentation…

(18) RESCUE RANGERS RETURNING. Disney+ will air new episodes of “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” beginning May 20. The lead voice actors will be John Mulaney as Chip, and Andy Samberg as Dale, which is very intriguing casting.

Rescuing the world takes a pair. A comeback 30 years in the making, the hybrid live-action/CG animated action-comedy catches up with the former Disney Afternoon television stars in modern-day Los Angeles. “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” premieres May 20, 2022, exclusively on Disney+.

(19) CAT BURGLAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Because this Netflix cartoon is interactive, you can watch this cartoon animal bash-a-thon over and over!

Classic cartoon craziness meets an interactive quiz in CAT BURGLAR. In this Tex Avery inspired toon from the creators of BLACK MIRROR, the viewer helps Rowdy Cat vex Peanut the Security Pup and break into a museum with the goal of making off with a priceless prize. With an average runtime of ten minutes, and over an hour and a half of animation to choose from, the viewer could play CAT BURGLAR a hundred times and never view the same cartoon twice!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Jennifer Hawthorne, Olav Rokne, Soon Lee, Chris Barkley, Michael J. Walsh, John L. Coker III, Steven French, Alison Scott, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/22 Have You Seen This Missing Scroll? Last Seen Pixeling In The Vicinity Of Fandom

(1) CHINA CENSORS FIX FIGHT CLUB. Remember the first rule of Fight Club? That’s okay. Just don’t remember the final scenes. BBC News reports “China changes Fight Club film ending so the authorities win”.

The ending to cult 1999 US film Fight Club has been removed for viewers in China, and replaced by a screen with a message saying the authorities won.

The original ending saw Edward Norton’s narrator killing his imaginary alter-ego Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, before bombs destroyed buildings in the climax to a subversive plot to reorder society, dubbed Project Mayhem.

In China, before the explosions, a message now says the police foiled the plot, arrested the criminals and sent Durden to a “lunatic asylum”.

The new finale tells viewers: “Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.

“After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”

Director David Fincher’s film has recently been added to streaming platform Tencent Video, and Human Rights Watch described the changes as “dystopian”.

…The changes were flagged up on social media by outraged viewers who had previously seen pirated copies of the original.

It’s not uncommon for Chinese censor to make cuts to Western films, but it’s more rare for them to change an ending.

Some social media users made light of the new Fight Club ending.

Of course, that film’s not sff. They’re probably fine with ending to 1984 – the only problem is the whole movie that precedes it.

(2) BLEEP OF THE RINGS. Were there censors in Middle-Earth? “Billy Boyd and Dom Monaghan Talk Best LOTR Swears” in the latest episode of The Friendship Onion podcast (which you can access here.) Yahoo! Lifestyle sets up the preview:

In this clip, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan delightedly discover that The Lord of the Rings has a PG-13 rating in the United States. This means the movie could have contained a singular swear word. Of course, the movies didn’t actually make use of this ability. But Boyd and Monaghan, in true Merry and Pippin style, invite us to imagine the possibilities.

Their top choices? Gandalf saying, “F**cking fool of a Tuck.” Or Pippin say, “Oh, I’m really f**cking sorry, Gandalf.” And the best one, of course. the idea of Aragorn saying, “My friends, you f**cking bow to know one.” I admit that’s where I lost it. Nothing like the King of Gondor dropping a casual swear at the most emotional moment.

(3) PRATCHETT BIO ON THE WAY. It’s a big news day for Terry Pratchett fans. In the first of three items, the Guardian’s Alison Flood says Rob Wilkins, head of Pratchett’s literary estate, is producing an official biography of Terry Pratchett.

Rob Wilkins, Terry Pratchett’s former assistant and friend, is writing the official biography of the late Discworld author, which will move from his childhood to the “embuggerance” of the Alzheimer’s disease he was diagnosed with in 2007.

Pratchett was working on his autobiography when he died in 2015, but “following his untimely death from Alzheimer’s disease, the mantle of completing Terry Pratchett’s memoir was passed to Rob”, said publisher Transworld.

It will include “fragments” from the memoir Pratchett was working on before he died, the publisher added….

(4) VIMES BOOTS. “Terry Pratchett estate backs Jack Monroe’s idea for ‘Vimes Boots’ poverty index” in the Guardian.

Terry Pratchett’s estate has authorised Jack Monroe to use the “Vimes Boots Index” as the name of her new price index, which is intended to document the “insidiously creeping prices” of basic food products.

The author’s daughter, writer Rhianna Pratchett, said her father would have been proud to see his work used in this way by the anti-poverty campaigner. Monroe was prompted to create her index after inflation jumped to 5.4% last week, and she found herself “infuriate[d]” that the index (the consumer price index or CPI) used for this calculation “grossly underestimates the real cost of inflation as it happens to people with the least”. She laid out how the prices of “value” product ranges in supermarkets had soared over the last decade – rice in her local supermarket had increased in price from 45p for a kilogram bag last year, to £1 for 500g, a 344% increase – and how the number of value products has shrunk. She was soon working with economists, charities and analysts to compile her own index….

(5) SECOND SERVING OF OMENS. “‘Good Omens’: Cast Confirmed For Season 2 Of Neil Gaiman’s Amazon Fantasy Series”, and Deadline has their names.

Cast has been set for season two of Amazon and BBC’s Neil Gaiman fantasy series Good Omens, which remains in production in Scotland.

Reprising his role as Metatron is Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) and joining the cast for season two is his I, Claudius co-star Dame Siân Phillips (Dune).

Also returning this season in roles that span heaven, hell, and earth are the trio from The League of Gentlemen Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Steve Pemberton (Killing Eve), and Reece Shearsmith (Inside No. 9).

Niamh Walsh (The English Game) returns, while joining in new roles are Tim Downie (Outlander), Pete Firman (The Magicians), Andi Osho (I May Destroy You), and Alex Norton (Pirates of the Caribbean).

However, neither Frances McDormand (God) nor Benedict Cumberbatch (Satan) will be back for season two.

(6) BLACK TO THE FUTURE. The Hollywood Reporter interviews the actress: “Keke Palmer on How ‘Alice’ Explores Black Freedom Through Its Time Twist”.

Alice, which is due out in theaters March 18 via Roadside Attractions, is inspired by true events of Black Americans who remained enslaved after the Emancipation Proclamation. A blend of time travel, historical drama and revenge thriller, the movie is an ode to (and spin-on) Blaxpoitation films….

There’s this acknowledgment that Black people have limitations around time travel because they don’t have the same freedoms as now. But this movie doesn’t pull its main character into the past; it pulls her forward into freedom and the future. How does that make this film different than works with a similar storyline? 

Yes, it’s set in the past, but it is pulling into the future. I think that’s a big thing. Where we start and then mostly live in the 1970s space, [which] still feels like now in a sense. Ultimately, that’s what the movie is saying. Things aren’t done and over just like that. Everything doesn’t just change. But you keep going, not in spite of but because of — like Alice. You keep going because of the Franks because of the Martin Luthers because of the Malcolm Xes. Also, it’s not going to be the same fight each time. I’m excited to see how people will unpack and digest that. When I think about the time travel in this film, it doesn’t feel like we are waiting in the back. And it’s being used in a way that reflects a mirror of us today. So many of us today are Frank. But then you look at Alice, who was just in the field, and you’re like, “What the hell am I doing?”

(7) WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Word of Mouth is a sort of whimsical philosophy-of-language radio show on BBC Radio 4. Yesterday’s episode – now available for downloading for a month (and on BBC Sounds thereafter, if you have an account) – sees a discussion on alien communication following first contact. Along the way they discuss the film Arrival and the novel Project Hail Mary. Word of Mouth, “It’s language, Jim, but not as we know it”.

Could aliens ‘speak’ in chemicals? Could they converse in electricity? Would they be able to hear us? In the absence of a Star Trek-style universal translator, how would you talk to an alien newly arrived on Planet Earth?

Dr Hannah Little is a science communicator, linguist and comedian. She joins Michael Rosen for some fascinating thought experiments on extraterrestrial communication and animal interactions closer to home. What might all this tell us about how human language first appeared, and why does it matter?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1994 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-eight years ago on PTEN, the Prime Time Entertainment Network, a syndicated network organized by Warner Brothers, the Babylon 5 series premiered.  It was created by writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski and it followed the pilot film Babylon 5: The Gathering which aired a year earlier. It would run for five twenty-two episode seasons as planned plus six related films. 

It generated a spin-off series, Crusade, but that only lasted thirteen episodes. Two other series were planned, The Legend of the Rangers and The Lost Tales, but neither got past the pilot. 

Its cast was marked by tragedy with a number of the principal actors dying young including Mira Furlan, Richard Biggs, Jeff Conaway, Jerry Doyle, Andreas Katsulas and Michael O’Hare. 

It won two Hugo Awards for “The Coming of Shadows” at L.A. Con III and “Severed Dreams” at LoneStarCon II. Neil Gaiman wrote an episode, “The Day of The Dead” which is on my frequent rewatch list. Harlan Ellison is the voice of Zooty in this episode. 

Babylon 5 in revised print is streaming on HBO Max.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1918 Philip José Farmer. I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those first three are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. I’m sure someone here has read them.  I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director, Barbarbella with Jane Fonda in a leather bikini. That alone gets a Birthday Honor. But he was one of three directors of Spirits of the Dead, a horror anthology film. (Louis Malle and Federico Fellini were the others.) And not to stop there, he directed another horror film, Blood and Roses (Et mourir de plaisir) and even was involved in The Hitchhiker horror anthology series. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1929 Jules Feiffer, 93. On the Birthday list as he’s the illustrator of The Phantom Tollbooth. Well, and that he also worked on Eisner’s Spirit, starting in 1946 as an art assistant and later the primary writer til the strip ended in 1952, which helped get him into the Comic Book Hall of Fame. Let’s not overlook that he wrote The Great Comic Book Heroes in the Sixties which made it the first history of the superheroes of the late Thirties and Forties and their creators.
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she won a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 73. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint likes these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well-crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide-ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1960 Stephen Cox, 62. Pop culture writer who has written a number of books on genre subjects including The Munchkins Remember: The Wizard of Oz and BeyondThe Addams Chronicles: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about the Addams FamilyDreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle and The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane. I’ll admit to being puzzled by his Cooking in Oz that he did with Elaine Willingham as I don’t remember that much for food in the Oz books…
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 43. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. His most excellent  Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His latest novel is Tiger Honor, the sequel to Dragon Pearl.

(10) JUPITER’S LEGACY, VOUME 5. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Volume 5 of Jupiter’s Legacy now available on Hoopla (and elsewhere). If you enjoyed the multi-generational superhero  Jupiter’s Legacy series (alas, only one season) on Netflix (I did), and/or the comic book series originally titled Jupiter’s Children) that the show is based on (ditto), written by Mark Millar and (mostly) illustrated by Frank Quitely, you’ll be happy to know that Volume 5, collecting issues 1-6 of the 12-issue “Requiem” arc, is (as I discovered last night) on Hoopla (free, to library patrons of Hoopla-participating libraries). (Also available in physical-book and electronic editions, e.g., on Kindle.)

I’m enjoying it — three issues in so far, and relieved to discover it’s slated for 12 issues, since I don’t see things wrapping up by this volume’s end.

(11) JUST LOOKING. Abigail Nussbaum lists “The Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2022” at Lawyers, Guns & Money. Though she confesses there’s not necessarily an overlap between anticipation and actual reading:

… But as the experience of the last few years has shown, the most anticipated books list isn’t a reading plan (I think I’ve read fewer than half of the books I listed last year) so much as it is a snapshot of the literary year to come. And it’s a reflection of one’s own reading history—my copy of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life has sat unread on a shelf for more than six years, so I can’t participate in the ebullience and/or disdain that has greeted the news of her new novel, To Paradise. On the other hand, when authors I’ve reviewed and championed, like Isaac Fellman or Rachel Hartman, announce new books, I feel invested in advertising that fact and widening their readership circle….

(12) KEEPING HIS STRING GOING. Movieweb is there when “Anthony Daniels Teases C-3PO Star Wars Return With Motion Capture Image”.

Giving a pretty undeniable hint of what he is up to, Daniels shared a photo of himself in a motion capture suit at Ealing Studios, London, on his Instagram account, with the caption “Finally, a new suit – that fits!.” The actor included the hashtags #c3po, #starwars and #iamc3po, leaving it in do doubt that he is clearly getting ready to bring Threepio back to the screen once again, although the use of the mo-cap technology would suggest that this could possibly be a CGI-version of the droid, which could tie into the new Disney+-bound A Droid Story.

(13) GOOD TIDINGS. NPR shares “Sea shanties written for the digital age” – which we would call filksongs if fans wrote them. For example:

“The Ballad of IT Help”

Oh, the call came in about 9:16
Is this IT? Help. I need you
It tried to log on on me machine
And there’s nothing but dark all o’er my screen

Reboot says I!
But I canna reply
Til ye filled out form A-1-5!
Tis’ on our site
But nothing works!
I canna help you connect
unless you connect
Pull down the menu and hit select!

(14) BETTING ON FUSION. People with very deep pockets are “Reaching to the stars to create fusion energy” reports Bruce Gellerman in this public radio sound file.

American billionaires are funding companies to create fusion energy which uses super magnets to harness the energy of the stars and create a clean source of energy.

As WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman reports, one start-up in Massachusetts recently received an $1.8 billion infusion from Bill Gates, George Soros and others.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Eternals,” the Screen Junkies say that many scenes in the film abandon the green screen and “go beyond the farthest reaches of a nerd’s imagination:  outside” but that the film will appeal to someone whose “idea of fun is watching ten people debate the trolley problem for 2 1/2 hours.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Steven French, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]