Pixel Scroll 7/20/24 There’s A Barsoom On The Right

(1) HELLO FROM CHINA. The Hugo Book Club Blog has a guest post from Chinese fan RiverFlow: “Guest Post: Unite Sci-Fi Fans Around The World”.

Hello science fiction fans attending the 2024 World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow. First of all, have you heard of Chinese sci-fi fandom? If so, what examples can you give?

Science fiction fans in China were excited when Zero Gravity News won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine last year. See “Introducing Chinese sci-fi fanzine Zero Gravity News” to learn more about the fanzine.

Yes, in fact, there is a very large group of science fiction fans in China, but few people have collected and collated their materials. I have been working on this since 2020, and have written some articles to introduce the collection.

The earliest Chinese Fanzine was born in 1988. In the 1990s, many science fiction fans were employed and writing in their leisure time, but in the 21st century, these contributions were mainly completed by students. Because workers are busy with their lives and families, it is difficult to find time to organize related activities. So I wrote a book, History of Chinese University Science Fiction Association, to introduce Chinese science fiction fans to the rest of the world. The thousands of photos and hundreds of thousands of words are enough to prove the rich history of this group….

(2) LOCAL GROUP FOCUS – NORTHUMBERLAND HEATH SF. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is the Northumberland Heath SF’s group meet recently when a Mandalorian visited. 

This is just half its regular membership of a score or so who turn up to at least two or three meets a year: work shift rotas, familial and other commitments, etc., mean that it is rare that all regulars attend the same meet.  In addition, the group’s Facebook has some 260 followers of which half are local, but 120 of these have never physically attended a meet. (Is this typical of other local groups?) Of the non-local remainder FB followers, a good proportion are familiar names on some Worldcon registrant lists. Some of its members belong to other specialist regional and national SF groups and one of its members is the daughter of a former Worldcon fan GoH.

The group is only several years old but has some heritage connection with the former NW Kent SF group of the 1980s and ’90s that used to meet in nearby Dartford.  N. Heath SF is located in southeast London, on its border in Kent, which means that in addition to local social gatherings and cinema outings, it is easy to have trips to central London events, such as the annual Sci-Fi London film fest, or one-offs, such as the Loncon 3 Worldcon. It meets the second Thursday of each month so as not to clash with the first Thursday London SF Circle (as it used to be called) gathering.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jonathan adds, “I for one would be interested to see potted summaries of local SF groups across different countries” and I enthusiastically second the idea. I’d love to run people’s introductions to the sf groups they’re in.

(3) DOWNLOAD THE 2019 GUFF TRIP REPORT. Simon Litten’s 2019 GUFF Trip Report Visiting Nearly Kiwiland has been published. Copies can be downloaded at the Australian Fan Funds website.

There’s no charge to download the report but interested fans may wish to make a donation to GUFF (via PayPal to [email protected]).

(4) THE SELF-PUBLISHING BUSINESS. Dave Dobson offers a deep dive into the numbers in his “Anatomy of a free BookBub featured deal”. A lot to learn here about Amazon, free book campaigns, and ratings.

Also, the intangibles – the sales rank, the visibility, the (I hope) new fans, the glut of new ratings and reviews – all of those are things I’d gladly have paid a couple hundred bucks pursuing. So, I’m going to call this a clear win, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

(5) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 114 of Octothorpe, “Tastemaker Batty”, John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty discuss the Hugo Awards. Uncorrected transcript is available here.

We cover all the categories except Best Novel, which we covered in a previous episode. The deadline is today (20 July 2024 at 21:17 Glasgow time). Don’t forget to vote beforehand. 

The value for “today” is a now-expired deadline. But that comes to us all sooner or later.

”Octothorpe 114” is at the top, and the word ”Octothorpe” is written on a series of lottery balls. Below that, a bingo card, and below that, the words ”Worldcon Community Group Bingo Card". The items on the card are as follows: - Can I convert pounds to Scottish money? - Does anyone have any opinions on...? - Do you know my Scottish cousin? - This list is too long to read so can someone... - Is the programme out yet? - Can I swim in the Clyde? - Can I visit Stonehenge for the day? - Asks question answered in PR5 - Does Glasgow Zoo have live haggis? - Volunteering is the best way to have fun - What's with all the armadillos? - Shouldn't the subway be a Digital Orange now? - Free! - Is the con organising an aurora viewing? - Is it too late to get on the programme? - Will Nessie be doing a signing? - Mention of Glasgow, England - Can anyone go to the Hugo Awards? - Why don't we do this the way we did in 1956? - Can I fly from Glasgow to Edinburgh? - Will there be any authors there? - Can I bring my Emotional Support Moose? - Are tartan and/or kilts compulsory? - What I reckon... - Mention of deep-fried Mars Bar

(6) PLUTO STILL NOT ONE OF THE COOL KIDS. “Astronomers Propose New Criteria to Classify Planets, but Pluto Still Doesn’t Make the Cut” in Smithsonian Magazine.

Nearly two decades after Pluto got kicked out of the planet club, astronomers are proposing an updated way to define “planet” based on more measurable criteria. The current definition is “problematic” and “vague,” they write in a paper published Wednesday in The Planetary Science Journal.

Unfortunately for fans of the dwarf planet, however, Pluto would remain excluded, even if the proposal is approved….

… “Jupiter’s orbit is crossed by comets and asteroids, as is Earth’s,” Gladman points out in a university statement. “Have those planets not cleared their orbit and thus, aren’t actually planets?”

In a bid to correct for this ambiguity, Gladman and his two colleagues propose a more measurable definition. According to their model, a celestial body is a planet if it: orbits one or more stars, brown dwarfs or stellar remnants; is more massive than 1023 kilograms (a size big enough to clear its orbit of debris); and is less massive than 2.5 x 1028 kilograms (equivalent to 13 Jupiter masses).

Pluto’s mass is 1.31 x 1022 kilograms, so it would remain excluded—but our current eight planets would retain their classification….

New Horizons photo of chaos region on Pluto.

(7) TOP SCI-FI MOTORBIKES. SlashGear praises “10 Of The Coolest Motorcycles In All Of Science Fiction”.

…When making this list, we looked at motorcycles that specifically had a sci-fi bent to them. The 1990 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” is definitely cool, but that’s a bike that already exists. We wanted motorcycles that pushed the boundaries of transportation in the future and perhaps even inspired folks to design their own bikes that look similar in real life. These are the sci-fi motorcycles that show that while society might change in the future, riding around on a cool motorcycle never gets old. …

The list includes —

Kaneda’s bike in Akira

Kaneda’s bike in “Akira,” one of the most influential anime films of all time, isn’t just cool-looking — it inspired the famous “Akira Slide,” which has entered meme status and has been referenced in a wide range of projects, from “Batman: The Animated Series” to Jordan Peele’s “Nope.” Even when it’s not sliding, the bike is beautifully drawn. 


[Written by Paul Weimer.]

July 20, 1938 Dame Diana Rigg. (Died 2020.)

By Paul Weimer:

I was introduced to Diana Rigg thanks to Roger Zelazny’s Amber.

It’ll make sense, trust me.

As you know, I am and have been an enthusiastic player of the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game, set in the endless multiverse of the novels.  Lots of players and GMs like to import ideas from other books, shows and series. (I am no exception in that regard, mind you).

Diana Rigg

One of these GMs I played with was a big enthusiast of The Steed and Peel Avengers series from the 1960’s. I was not yet familiar with the series, but after playing a session where Steed turned out to be a secret Amberite, I had to know more! Who was Steed and who was the mysterious Mrs. Peel he was looking for (as part of the plot)?  (She did not actually appear on screen). The GM encouraged me to seek out The Avengers.

And thus, I discovered the original Avengers TV series, and thus, Diana Rigg. I was enchanted immediately, of course, by a beautiful kick-arse actress with skill, verve, and action. I avidly watched all the episodes of The Avengers, finding Rigg the best of the partners for McNee by a long way. The DNA of some notable action heroines with skill, verve, intelligence and independence definitely can be traced back to Rigg’s Mrs. Peel.

Later on, she was proven delightful in things such as Game of Thrones (Olenna Tyrell was a great major character for her late in her career) and, when I discovered, the weird and wonderful steampunk movie The Assassination Bureau.

But in the end, yes, for me Diana Rigg IS Mrs. Peel.  Now, if only Moorcock could confirm that Peel is actually an aspect of the Eternal Champion…


(10) MONSTERPIECE THEATRE. “Godzilla Takes on the Great Gatsby in Monsterpiece Theatre Comic” at The Wrap. Cover art and preview pages at the link.

Godzilla’s been on a resurgent streak, from the MonsterVerse franchise and “Godzilla Minus One” in theaters to “Monarch” on Apple TV+. Now, TheWrap can exclusively share that acclaimed writer and artist Tom Scioli is delivering comic book “Godzilla’s Monsterpiece Theatre” from IDW, with the giant lizard taking on figures from throughout literary history — including the Great Gatsby, Sherlock Holmes, H.G. Wells’ Time Traveller and a mystery man with vampiric fingers and a “D” on the back of his cape (want to take a guess?).

The three-issue series is set in 1922, with one of Jay Gatsby’s legendary parties luring the attention of the giant lizard himself. Rather than being able to woo Daisy Buchanan, he has to deal with Godzilla absolutely demolishing his estate. Gatsby follows up on the destruction by teaming with the aforementioned 20th century literary icons to take his revenge….

(11) POINT OF NO RETURN? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Bad news in this week’s Science editorial: “Go/no-go for a Mars samples return”.

Last month’s return to Earth of China’s lunar lander Chang’e-6 with samples from the far side of the Moon is a reminder that there are “firsts” in robotic space exploration still to be achieved. Unfortunately, this year has seen a major set-back for the prospects of an even more extensive plan to collect samples from Mars. In April, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) made clear that the ballooning cost for the US Mars Sample Return mission to around $11 billion was too much and the 2040 return date was too distant. NASA has been told to look for ideas to lower costs and shorten the timeline. Shock and anger are palpable in the astronomy community.

The challenge of an exploratory robotic mission to Mars to collect samples and return them to Earth for study dates back to the post-Apollo era, 50 years ago. Twenty-five years ago, a breakthrough occurred when France and the US announced a joint Mars sample return program. Sadly, that foundered on financial grounds. Fifteen years ago, the goal of a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) was vetoed at a high level in NASA, possibly an echo of the previous experience.

Nonetheless, the last two US National Academy of Sciences planetary science decadal surveys gave the Mars Sample Return mission a high priority, thereby encouraging federal agencies to fund it. Then, last year, after the critical design phase and external review, the program’s price turned out to be way above expectations, leading NASA to apply brakes to the project…

The figures quoted for cost escalation of the Mars Sample Return mission are a reminder that NASA’s JWST project grew from less than $1 billion to around $10 billion. However, most of the JWST cost increases came after the design phase, the point where the Mars project is now caught. The sub[1]sequent steady growth in the cost of JWST was due to a different cause— namely, the year-by-year NASA budget negotiation in Congress. Once the design phase is completed, a large development team is formed. European collaborators watched in frustration as the annual US budget, cycle after cycle, drip-fed just enough money to sustain the JWST mission’s team but not enough to allow efficient progress. The multiyear funding of the ESA Science Programme by member states mitigates this.

NASA is now told to look for a solution to the Mars Sample Return mission, but the agency is likely caught at a tricky crossroads. A quicker, cheaper swoop to grab Mars dust and get it back to Earth could win the exploration “first,” but that will not satisfy the US National Academy decadal goals….

(12) FARM ROBOTS. [Item by Mark Roth-Whitworth.] “Could robot weedkillers replace the need for pesticides?” in the Guardian. I’m sure they will, and I expect smaller ones for gardens.

On a sweltering summer day in central Kansas, farm fields shimmer in the heat as Clint Brauer watches a team of bright yellow robots churn up and down the rows, tirelessly slicing away any weeds that stand in their way while avoiding the growing crops.

The battery-powered machines, 4ft (1.2 metres) long and 2ft (0.6 metres) wide, pick their way through the fields with precision, without any human hand to guide them….

His Greenfield agricultural technology company now builds and programs its robots in a shed behind an old farmhouse where his grandmother once lived….

…Farmers have been fighting weeds in their fields – pulling, cutting and killing them off with an array of tools – for centuries. Weeds compete with crops for soil moisture and nutrients and can block out sunlight needed for crop growth, cutting into final yields. Over the last 50-plus years, chemical eradication has been the method of choice. It is common for farmers to spray or otherwise apply several weedkilling chemicals on to their fields in a single season.

But as chemical use has expanded, so has scientific evidence that exposure to the toxic substances in weedkillers can cause disease. In addition to glyphosate’s link to cancer, the weedkilling chemical paraquat has been linked to Parkinson’s disease. Another common farm herbicide, atrazine, can be harmful to reproductive health and is linked to several other health problems.

Weedkilling chemicals have also been found to be harmful to the environment, with negative impacts on soil health and on pollinators and other important species. 

… North Dakota-based Aigen Robotics has raised $19m to date. Its compact robots are powered by solar panels fixed to the top of each machine and are designed to work autonomously, sleeping and waking up on farm fields….

… Still, many farmers and academic experts are skeptical that farm robots can make a substantial difference. They say that there is simply too much farmland and too many diverse needs to be addressed by robots that are costly to make and use. The better path, many say, is for farmers to work with nature, rather than against it.

The model of regenerative agriculture – using a variety of strategies focused on improving soil health, including limiting pesticides, rotating crops, planting crops that provide ground cover to suppress weeds and avoiding disturbing the soil – is the better path, they say….

(13) ELEMENTARY. According to ScienceAlert, “Curiosity Cracked Open a Rock on Mars And Found a Huge Surprise”.

A rock on Mars has just spilled a surprising yellow treasure after Curiosity accidentally cracked through its unremarkable exterior.

When the rover rolled its 899-kilogram (1,982-pound) body over the rock, the rock broke open, revealing yellow crystals of elemental sulfur: brimstone. Although sulfates are fairly common on Mars, this is the first time sulfur has been found on the red planet in its pure elemental form….

“But do they smell like rotten eggs?” asks John King Tarpinian.

(14) SF IN 1958. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Grammaticus Books has continued his deep dive into some golden age editions of SF pulps. This time he looks at a1958 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction that saw Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit Will Travel” which if memory serves was short-listed for a Hugo. There’s also a Richard Matheson in the mix…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Via Cat Rambo.] “We Didn’t Start the Fire (Bardcore|Medieval/Renaissance Style Cover)” from Hildegard von Blingin’.

There are many covers of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire that adapt it to different times, but we wanted to give it the bardcore treatment. *Unlike the original, the list is not chronological, and jumps around in time a lot. It very loosely spans from around 400 to 1600, and is from a rather Eurocentric point of view. Thank you to my brother, Friar Funk, for devising the lyrics and providing the majority of the vocals. Many thanks as well to his new wife and our dad for joining us in the chorus at the end.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/24 A Multiverse Of Pixels. Consider How Many That Is

(1) WORLDCON PROGRESS REPORT. Glasgow 2024 Worldcon has released its fifth and final Progress Report. Download here: PR #5.pdf.

One of the interesting revelations is the plan to stage —

Nothing, Nowhere, Never Again

Glasgow Worldcons are not without their traditions: each of the previous ones have had a show written and performed by Reductio Ad Absurdum. In 1995 it was their loving demolition of Dune (or The Sand Of Music); in 2005 it was Lucas Back In Anger, their smash-and-grab on all things Star Wars, which was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) despite enraging Star Wars fans by reducing the second trilogy to a 12 minute ABBA karaoke with cardboard costumes. In 2024 their offering is a unique take on the Oscar-winning sensation, Everything, Everywhere, All At Once that becomes Nothing, Nowhere, Never Again. Reductio is basically Ian Sorensen and Phil Raines plus whoever else they can blackmail into performing. This year they have suckered Geoff Ryman, Emjay Ameringen and Julia Daly into joining them in the madness. It promises to be an amazing, hilarious romp through the alternate universes, time travel and the joys of growing old disgracefully. The multiverse will never be quite the same again! (Armadillo Auditorium – Saturday 4pm)

(2) TIME BANDITS TRAILER. “Apple unveils the first nostalgia-fueled trailer for Taika Waititi’s reimagining of an ’80s sci-fi cult classic”GamesRadar+ pulls back the curtain.

Per the official synopsis, the series is an “unpredictable journey through time and space with a ragtag group of thieves and their newest recruit: an 11-year-old history buff named Kevin. Together, they set out on a thrilling quest to save the boy’s parents, and the world.”In the brief clip, which can be viewed above, Kevin (Kal-El Tuck) opens up his wardrobe and walks into another moment in time before running into Penelope (Lisa Kudrow) and her group of bandits. The upcoming series, created by Waititi, Jermaine Clement, and Ian Morris, is based on the 1981 cult classic of the same name. The trio also wrote the first two episodes, with Waititi directing both.

… Time Bandits is set to hit Apple TV Plus on Wednesday, July 24, 2024, with the first two episodes in tow. Two episodes will air every Friday through August 21, 2024….

(3) A KAIJU SURPRISE. Forbes celebrates as “’Godzilla Minus One’ Arrives On 4K Blu-Ray In Every Glorious Version”.

Toho surprised fans today with the long-awaited release of Godzilla Minus One to home entertainment in a four-disc 4K UHD Blu-ray box set. I also have an exclusive clip of writer-director-VFX supervisor Takashi Yamazaki and his team from their U.S. visit, plus a look at the different glorious versions of the Oscar-winning film.

The Godzilla Minus One box set is an exclusive through Toho’s official Godzilla site, and includes lots of behind-the-scenes features and making-of footage. Fans of the film have been eagerly awaiting word of a physical home media release, although the film finally arrived on streaming recently and VOD. The surprise today is part of a larger 70th anniversary celebration of Godzilla in 2024….

(4) SUPACELL. [Item by Steven French.] The creator of a hit Netflix show about a group of black south Londoners with superpowers triggered by sickle cell anaemia says he hopes its success can kickstart a discussion about the condition in the UK and remove the stigma associated with it. “Hit Netflix show Supacell is raising awareness of sickle cell anaemia” reports the Guardian.

…Hit show Supacell is now at No 1 in Netflix’s global top 10, with more than 18m views in its first few weeks on the platform.

In the series, a group of south Londoners start to develop comic book powers – superhuman strength and speed, telekinesis, the ability to teleport and fly, and to have premonitions – while being tracked by Health & Unity, a shadowy organisation that offers to “help” those who are affected.

The show has been praised for subtly interspersing real-life issues that affect Black Britons: from the casual racism that Black females face on reality TV shows to bias in the health system. But the biggest real-life undercurrent in the fantastical world of Supacell is the inclusion of sickle cell anaemia in its storyline….

(5) DROP EVERYTHING. The New York Times calls these “Five Science Fiction Movies to Stream Now”. (Read at this link, which bypasses the paywall.)

One of their picks is Animalia, which is available to buy or rent generally.

…If your definition of an alien invasion involves ships hovering above Earth and major destruction, just know that Sofia Alaoui’s beautifully shot take on the genre is definitely … not that. Still, the mysterious, elliptical Moroccan movie “Animalia” exerts a pull of its own as its central character, a pregnant young woman named Itto (Oumaima Barid), faces a series of unexplained events.

When the wealthy family she has married into leaves for an outing, Itto enjoys some quality alone time at home. Soon, however, things start to go off the rails. Animals behave strangely, army vehicles barrel down the streets, roadblocks are hastily erected. The movie holds back on the explanations, and as her husband, Amine (Mehdi Dehbi), tries to arrange for a reunion, Itto’s journey acquires a mystical tinge.

Yet Alaoui does not stray into woo-woo New Age-isms and offers pointed views on the emancipation of women in Morocco, and their role in both the family and society. It takes confidence and skill to keep an audience invested in a movie while withholding information, and Alaoui clearly has both….

(6) GEORGE WELLS (1943-2024). Longtime fan George Wells died June 21. A native New Yorker (from Suffolk County, Long Island), he attended his first Lunacons in 1958 and 1960, and then…college helped initiate a long gap from fandom. He became a librarian (with a Masters Degree), and returned to the convention scene in 1972. And soon also became involved with APA fandom. I first got to know George in the Seventies when we were all in Larry Nielsen’s APA-H, the apa for Hoaxes. He also was part of Apanage, the Southern Fandom Press Alliance, and N’APA.

George and his wife, Jill (nee Simmons) met via a local Star Trek club she co-founded in Suffolk. They moved to Arizona, some years ago.

In 1999, George Wells won the facetious Rubble Award given at DeepSouthCon “for doing great things to Southern Fandom” in recognition of “Introducing Fandom to Werewolf Vs. Vampire Woman”.

In 2013 File 770 celebrated George’s 70th birthday in a post by James Burns, which supplied much of the above information.

(7) RICHARD GOLDSTEIN (1927-2024). Retired JPL scientist Richard M. Goldstein, a trailblazer in planetary exploration who used ground-based radars to map planets, died June 22 at the age of 97. The New York Times obituary  explains his claim to fame.

…If successful, scientists would learn the distance from Earth to Venus, essentially laying the foundation to map the entire solar system. His adviser at Caltech was more than skeptical; Venus, in NASA’s description, was a “cloud-swaddled” planet covered by thick gasses, and previous attempts to reach the planet using other radars had produced mixed results.

“No echo, no thesis,” Dr. Goldstein’s adviser told him, according to “To See the Unseen: A History of Planetary Radar Astronomy” (1996) by Andrew J. Butrica, a science historian.

He proceeded anyway. On March 10, 1961, technicians pointed the new radar at Venus. Six and a half minutes later, signals from the planet returned. Dr. Goldstein had proved his adviser wrong. He soon bounced signals off Mercury and Mars, as well as Saturn’s rings.

The study’s influence on solar system research was immense.

“The measurements he did of the distance to Venus made it possible to do accurate navigation within the solar system,” said Charles Werner, a former senior engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “If you know one distance, it’s like a ruler that allows you to calibrate everything else and to be able to navigate spacecraft in the solar system accurately.”

The radar echoes were the celestial prelude to a long career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory charting the previously unseen. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Dr. Goldstein used radar interferometry — the splicing together of multiple radar signals over a length of time — to map the surface of Venus.

“High-resolution radar probes have broken through the thick clouds of Venus and for the first time distinguished features on the planet’s surface, which presents a landscape of huge, shallow craters,” the science reporter John Noble Wilford wrote in a front-page article in The New York Times on Aug. 5, 1973.

“Instead of the blurry shadings of earlier radar maps of the planet,” Mr. Wilford wrote, the images detected by Dr. Goldstein revealed a dozen craters, including one that was 100 miles wide and less than a quarter of a mile deep.

Dr. Goldstein had used two radar antennas 14 miles apart to produce the images.

“This, in effect, gives us stereo reception,” Dr. Goldstein said, enabling him “to pinpoint each area touched on Venus.”


[Written by Paul Weimer.]

July 10, 1903 John Wyndham. (Died 1969.)

By Paul Weimer: Cozy Catastrophe? My first encounter with John Wyndham’s work was anything but cozy. That would be, on good old WPIX, the movie version of Day of the Triffids, where Jeanette Scott fought a triffid that spits poison and kills, to quote Rocky Horror Picture Show. So when I finally picked up his work (The Chrysalids, I think was the first), I was quite taken and surprised by the “bait and switch” that my mind and expectations had for Wyndham’s work as opposed to the cinematic adaptation.

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris

Wyndham did teach me something that I would learn later in novels such as Earth AbidesAlas Babylon, and even On the Beach, and that is that catastrophes, and disasters, even ones that end civilization as the protagonists know it, could be surprisingly gentle and not harsh as the world falls apart around them.  There can be afternoon tea even as the tripods march across the landscape in an inescapable force of nature invasion. 

I recently read The Midwich Cuckoos, and even more than Day of the Triffids (which I really think could be remade in this day and age. Hollywood, call me, I could write your script), it is the Wyndham work that really hits the fears and anxieties in an otherwise pastoral and idyllic English countryside. The horror that one’s children are, in effect, changelings is an old idea (going back to the ideas of Faeries switching children at birth) and the Midwich Cuckoos plays on that, and plays on that, hard. But its even more than the parents and adults being horrified by what is happening to the children, what might be happening with the very pregnancy you have. It is the idea that these children are forming a community, a society, a way of life that excludes you (which gets into fears of the generation gap. The use of the telepathic Cuckoos in the X-men series and how tight they are together under Emma Frost, takes that idea from Wyndham and makes it front and center. It’s their world, and not yours.

That shows, ultimately, John Wyndham and his legacy at his best.


(10) SIMPSONS JOKE PLAYS ALBERT HALL. “Hip-hop band Cypress Hill makes 1996 Simpsons joke come true” reports the Guardian.

They might be more used to Rachmaninov and Brahms, but on Wednesday night the London Symphony Orchestra’s musicians will be showcasing their perfect crescendos while playing Cypress Hill’s Insane in the Brain.

The orchestra is making a Simpsons joke from 1996 finally a reality, by playing the US hip-hop trio Cypress Hill’s acclaimed Black Sunday album at the Royal Albert Hall.

The evening will riff on a joke featured in a Simpsons episode, in which Cypress Hill speculated that they had mistakenly booked the London Symphony Orchestra “possibly while high”.

After years of fan pressure, the group has struck a deal for a one-night performance in London, in which the LSO will perform its most famous songs, including Insane in the Brain and I Wanna Get High.

Considered pioneers of the West Coast hip-hop scene in the 1990s, Cypress Hill have sold more than 20m albums worldwide. Their hit Black Sunday album sold more than 3m copies in the US and spent a year in the UK charts….

… In the Simpsons episode, titled Homerpalooza, Homer tries to impress Bart and Lisa by going to the Hullabalooza music festival – a play on the Lollapalooza music festival held in Chicago – and hanging out with 1990s rap and rock stars including Cypress Hill and The Smashing Pumpkins.

In the episode, a crew member calls “somebody ordered”, adding “possibly while high … Cypress Hill, I’m looking in your direction”. This is followed by a rendition of Insane in the Brain, complete with the classic orchestral backing.

Cypress Hill have also invited the UK musician Peter Frampton, who features in the episode as the person trying to book the orchestra, although they are still waiting for a reply….

(11) SEVERANCE RETURNING. Variety knows when: “Severance Season 2 Teaser, Release Date Set for 2025”. The series will debut on Apple+ Friday, January 17. The 10-episode season will drop weekly episodes on Fridays after that.

…In addition to Scott and Arquette, the rest of the main cast includes Zach Cherry, Britt Lower, Tramell Tillman, Jen Tullock, Dichen Lachman, Michael Chernus, John Turturro and Christopher Walken. Eight more joined the cast of Season 2, including “Search Party” star Alia Shawkat, “Game of Thrones” alum Gwendoline Christie, Merritt Wever, Bob Balaban, Robby Benson, Stefano Carannate, John Noble and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson.

The new teaser doesn’t show much, other than the main cast of characters returning to the halls of Lumon. There’s also a quick look at Christie’s mysterious character, who cryptically tells them “You should’ve left.”…

(12) FEIGE Q&A. “Kevin Feige on Deadpool 3, Wolverine’s Yellow Suit and Sex Jokes in MCU” – hear about it in Variety.

The Marvel Studios president was talking to writer-director Shawn Levy about plans for the studio’s upcoming blockbuster “Deadpool & Wolverine,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman.

This was a couple of years ago, and Jackman had just confirmed his grand return as Wolverine after retiring the character in 2017’s emotional sendoff “Logan.” The 55-year-old Australian had played the gruff mutant with adamantium claws and regenerative abilities in nine films across two decades to much acclaim and, according to Feige, one glaring oversight. Jackman had never appeared in the character’s canonically mustard-colored costume….

(13) +1 SHIELD. “China Fortifies Space Station” at Futurism.

Two astronauts ventured outside of China’s Tiangong space station last week to armor its exterior against incoming space debris kicked up by an exploding Russian satellite.

“The spacewalk primarily focused on installing protective devices on external cables and pipelines to mitigate risks posed by potential space debris collisions, enhancing the long-term safety and stability of the space station,” China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation engineer Liu Ming told state-owned news network CCTV, as quoted by the South China Morning Post.

The news comes after a retired Earth observation satellite dubbed Resurs-P1 broke up in orbit late last month, forcing astronauts on board the International Space Station to shelter inside their respective spacecraft. It broke into more than 100 pieces that are now being tracked by the US Space Command.

Instead of sheltering in place, crew on board China’s Tiangong space station were instructed to bulk up its physical defenses — a mission that highlights the considerable risks small pieces of space debris can pose to astronauts orbiting the Earth…

…The spacewalk took 6.5 hours and went by largely without a hitch. According to the SCMP, the two spacewalkers even made jokes, competed to reach a designated spot, and struck poses for the camera….

(14) 1942’S AMAZING STORIES AND….SEX ADS??? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Grammaticus Books takes a deep dive into a 1942 edition of Amazing Stories in a short, 9 minute video…

Week two of Rocket Summer focusing on the October 1942, edition of Amazing Stories, produced by the legendary editor Hugo Gernsback. The pulp is a time capsule of pre-war angst and intrigue. Which included seven full length science fiction stories and….advertising for Modern Sex Secrets!? 1?!?

(15) RED PLANET NOIR. Mars Express comes to theaters May 3.

In 2200, private detective Aline Ruby and her android partner Carlos Rivera are hired by a wealthy businessman to track down a notorious hacker. On Mars, they descend deep into the underbelly of the planet’s capital city where they uncover a darker story of brain farms, corruption, and a missing girl who holds a secret about the robots that threatens to change the face of the universe.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/27/24 Please Polish Pixels With Moon Dust Only. Mars Dust Is Too Granular

(1) EVERYONE MAKES MONEY BUT THE ARTIST. “He Illustrated the ‘Harry Potter’ Cover for $650. It Just Sold for $1.92 Million” (unlocked). The New York Times asks the artist how he feels about it.

The original cover art for the first edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” sold for $1.92 million at auction on Wednesday, becoming the most expensive item related to the series, decades after its illustrator was paid a commission of just $650.

The watercolor painting, which depicts the young wizard Harry going to Hogwarts from Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station, was part of the private library of an American book collector and surgeon, Dr. Rodney P. Swantko, whose other rare items were auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York this week.

The year before the novel came out in 1997, its publisher, Bloomsbury, hired a 23-year-old from England who had just graduated from art school to design the book jacket, the auction house said. The artist, Thomas Taylor, would go on to establish the world’s conception of Harry Potter, with his iconic round glasses and lightning bolt scar.

“It’s kind of staggering, really,” he said about the sale of his painting in an interview on Thursday. “It’s exciting to see it fought over.”…

(2) LIBICKI Q&A. The Comics Journal interviews “Miriam Libicki on VanCAF, bannings, and political protests”.

The saga of Miriam Libicki and the Vancouver Comic Art Festival began on Friday, May 31, with a message posted to the comic festival’s social media accounts. Libicki is an American-based cartoonist whose best-known works include Jobnik! and Toward a Hot Jew, both of which explore her time as a volunteer soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces after moving to Israel and obtaining dual citizenship in her 20s.

Libicki had, from VanCAF’s inception in 2012 up through 2022, been a fixture at the festival’s tables. But on the 31st, VanCAF announced via an unsigned public message that an unnamed “exhibitor” matching the description of Libicki and her works had received a lifetime ban from exhibiting at the convention. The statement apologized for this individual’s past attendance, on the grounds of “this exhibitor’s prior role in the Israeli military and their subsequent collection of works which recounts their personal position in said military and the illegal occupation of Palestine.”

The post, since removed, was termed an “accountability statement”… 

Rabiroff: So that takes us into the 2024 festival. Tell me what happened with that. 

Libicki: So in 2024, because they had said apply again next year, the same day that applications were open, I applied with my new book that came out with the Holocaust survivor, David Schafer. And when acceptances were going out, they emailed me and they said, “We cannot offer you a space. Please let us know if you have any questions.” And right away I was like, “Yes, I do have a question. My question is why?” And then they didn’t get back to me for like a week. And then they said, “Well, we made this decision as a board, because there has been an incident, and there’ve been complaints. And also we want people with new work and you don’t have new work.” 

So I got very upset at that because those reasons did not seem valid to me. Because number one, I did have new work. And number two, as far as I know, there was just the one incident, and that was an incident of people who hadn’t read the book. There were no substantive complaints about me, the content of my work, or my conduct at the festival. So it took a long time to get them to really respond. They kind of started to ignore my emails until I said in an email that you need to address this. If I don’t get a response from you, I am going to take actions to hold VanCAF accountable….

(3) ADD THIS HIDDEN GEM TO YOUR TBR. Self-Published Science Fiction Competition’s judging team ScienceFiction.news, led by rcade, reveals: “Our Hidden Gem for SPSFC 3 is Woe to the Victor.

One of the traditions of the SPSFC is for judging teams to pick their hidden gem, a book that deserved to go further in the contest than it did. For the third SPSFC, which just concluded, our team is choosing Nathan H. Green’s Woe to the Victor as our gem.

Woe to the Victor was one of the two semifinalists selected by our team, but it did not advance to the finals — to our surprise. When we sampled all of the books in our initial allocation, we were high on this novel from the opening chapters.

Green’s a corporate lawyer in Canada putting his aerospace engineering degree to use on hard SF.

His book finds humanity on the eve of total annihilation. An invading fleet of Maaravi has completely wiped out the outer colonies and come to Earth for the finishing strike. This is not a fair fight. There’s nothing cocky or confident left in our protagonists. The fighter pilot Lewis Black knows that at best all he can accomplish is to buy a few extra minutes so that the humans chosen for colony ships might escape through a Vortex Generator and start over on distant planets to prolong the species. But like everyone else, Black lacks belief his mission will succeed….

(4) CON OR BUST WORLDCON GRANTS OFFERED. The Dream Foundry’s Con or Bust is making available grants for Palestinians to attend the Worldcon. Use the application at the link.

Are you a Palestinian or member of the Palestinian diaspora planning to go to Worldcon 2025 in Seattle? Would you be planning to go if you had funding covered? If so, applications for funding are now open. The preferred application window for applications is 27 June 2024 – 21 October 2024. Applicants who apply within this window will be considered together, and hear about their funding amounts in early November. Applications received outside this window will be considered on a first-come-first served basis for as long as funding remains.

We are also still accepting applications for attending the 2024 Worldcon in Glasgow. To apply for either, use the regular Con or Bust Application form and check the box to indicate that you qualify for grants from the Goldman Fund.

(5) NEW HOLE IN THE INTERNET. “Comedy Central, MTV News, CMT, TV Land Online Archives Purged By Paramount Global” reports Deadline.

In an enormous cultural loss reminiscent of the degaussed tapes incidents in the early days of television, Paramount Global has removed the online archives to ComedyCentral.comTVLand.comMTVNews.com, and CMT.com from public access.

The move takes away a quarter century or more of online content. It is unclear if the content has been saved for future use.

In a statement, a Paramount Global spokesperson said the takedowns came as part of a broader website strategy across Paramount. “We have introduced more streamlined versions of our sites, driving fans to Paramount+ to watch their favorite shows.”

The writers, editors and videographers on the sites were apparently given no warning of the changes, sparking outrage that their work has now vanished.

…The comedycentral.com website hosted clips from all episodes of The Daily Show since 1999, and bits of Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report, among other content.

A notice on Comedy Central’s website states, “While episodes of most Comedy Central series are no longer available on this website, you can watch Comedy Central through your TV provider. You can also sign up for Paramount+ to watch many seasons of Comedy Central shows.” A similar notice appears on TVLand.com….

The Wrap has more responses: “MTV News Writers Lament Site Shutdown: ‘Infuriating,’ ‘Beyond Depressing’”.

…Reaction was swift and strong: “Infuriating is too small a word,” former MTV News Music Editor Patrick Hosken said on X. He lamented, “Eight years of my life are gone without a trace. All because it didn’t fit some executives’ bottom line.”

Although he noted the existence of the Internet Archive, which has been documenting now-dead sites for decades, he wrote, “This is a huge loss not for just me (obviously) but for the dozens & dozens of hardworking people who built MTV News, who made it THE music news voice through the years.”…

(6) TEDDY HARVIA. The importance of an action figure being accurate increases when the subject is a demon!

(7) DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN. Abigail Nussbaum discusses a “Recent Movie: I Saw the TV Glow at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…For a certain kind of nerdy, pop culture-obsessed millennial, watching Jane Schoenbrun’s I Watched the TV Glow is an exercise in constant reference-spotting. The suburban setting, down whose late night, empty streets the emotionally-troubled Owen wanders, encountering strange figures and inexplicable occurrences, seems lifted straight out of Donnie Darko. The premise, in which teenagers in the 90s bond over their obsessive love for a quasi-fantastical, quasi-soapy television series that starts to make incursions into their reality, is familiar from Kelly Link’s novella “Magic for Beginners”. And, as any 90s nerd will sense the first time they see Isabel stride across the screen, ready for battle in a purple satin prom dress, the show-within-the-movie is a mirror of that pop culture stalwart, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Other references include The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The first hour of the movie sometimes feels like a game designed purely for people of my age and pop culture interests, constantly courting a feeling of recognition….

(8) MY LATE DUTCHESS. I recommend Karen Myers Mad Genius Club post “I don’t remember any of this…” about the challenge of reminding readers about series continuity.

One of the features of a long series in a created world is that you have room to build an elaborate and convincing place with a bunch of interesting characters.

One of the drawbacks is that the readers forget it all in each new entry, or are bored by having it explained to them all over again….

(9) TEACH YOUR LITERARY AGENT WELL. American Songwriter’s article about “Neil Young’s Sci-Fi Novel and His Hilarious Response About His Ongoing Project” was published just the other day, however, it relies heavily on a 2018 interview for quotes. But since it was news to me I ran with it…

The multi-talented folk rocker Neil Young’s sci-fi novel has been in the works since around 2017, and his commentary on the ongoing project is just what you’d expect from a musician who has made a career out of being unapologetically original and to the point….

“It’s a f***in’ mess,” Young admitted to Rolling Stone in 2018. “I have an agent in New York working with me on it right now. We’re just finishing it. It’s kind of a sci-fi thing about a guy who gets busted for a crime. He works for a power company, and there’s corruption in the power company, and he wants to expose it. So, he figures out a way to expose it and shuts down the grid a couple of times. He gets busted for doing that, and the cops come and take him out of his office, put him in a van, drug him, and he goes to a hospital somewhere. Then, he wakes up, and he’s on a mission to pay his debt to society. That’s all he cares about.” 

Young elaborates on the more dystopian aspects of Canary, including glasses that broadcast someone’s real-time perspective to an authoritative group miles away and a new energy system that involves developing new animal species. (In typical sci-fi fashion, the animals escape, of course.) “It’s a long story,” Young adds.


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

June 27, 1986 Labyrinth film. Much to my surprise, I had not written up Labyrinth which premiered thirty-eight years ago in the States on this date. 

Just consider to begin with that it was directed by Jim Henson with George Lucas as executive producer. Now consider also that the film was a collaboration between Henson and Brian Froud following a similar undertaking on The Dark Crystal.  

This was in the period when Lucas was taking a hiatus from directing but was credited as executive producer and sometimes story writer for such undertakings as Ewoks: Caravan of CourageEwoks: Battle for EndorWillowThe Land Before Time,  the Young Indiana Jones television prequel series and Howard the Duck to name some genre projects of his. 

This would be the last film that Jim Henson was involved in as he died less than four years later. 

The final principal player here was Brian Froud who had worked with The Dark Crystal four years earlier. If you’ve not seen it, go see it now. Though it was supposed to a children’s film, it was dark enough that the British film ratings board, the British Board of Film Classification, got more than its fair share of complaints about it. Oh those gelfs! 

(Remember we’d later have the four pieces of art by Froud that Charles de Lint, Midori Snyder, Patricia McKillip and Terri Windling were supposed to base entire novels on.)

So we have the principal players, now we need a writer, don’t? How about Terry Jones of Monty Pythons fame, will he do? So he wrote primarily the first draft of a script off Froud’s sketches rather than earlier material that he had.

Well that screenplay didn’t survive contact with the meat grinder of producing a film. We know from later stories written about the making of this film that, at a very minimum, Dennis Lee, George Lucas, Laura Phillips and Elaine May were responsible for the final script. None got credited as only Jones was listed in the end. 

The puppetry for Labyrinth, as it was in Dark Crystal, is the work of Froud. It’s definitely lighter in tone I feel than Dark Crystal was and the puppets here reflect that. The gelfs in Dark Crystal were the stuff nightmares were woven out of. I don’t think there’s really any darkness here at all which is reflected in it being rated a children’s film. Yes, it was, and the British Board of Film Classification at the time received virtually no complaints. 

Henson in news stories noted that Jim Henson’s Creature Shop had been building the puppets and characters required for around a year and a half, prior to shooting, but that it really only came together in the last few months. It was a tremendously complicated undertaking he said. Some of the puppets needed as much as five puppeteers, and the voice work was difficult as it didn’t come out of the mouth but elsewhere. 

Now there was the cast. They needed a fourteen-year-old girl, a properly  English lass. But instead they chose an American why so?  Henson says why in the actual production dairy, so let’s have it explain the decision… 

“Selecting the actress who could play the role of Sarah was one of Henson’s first major decisions. He auditioned hundreds of applicants before selecting JENNIFER CONNELLY. “I wanted a girl who looked and could act that kind of dawn-twilight time between childhood and womanhood,” Henson says. “And Jennifer was perfect. It was even more incredible that she was the same age as Sarah was intended in the script.”

So now let’s consider the Goblin King.  There was no else consider for the as the film dairy says

From the very beginning, director Jim Henson envisioned Bowie as the lead of this major new fantasy film production. “Way back when we first started working on the story, we came up with this idea of a Goblin King,” Henson explains. “And then we thought; ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have music and someone who can sing?’ David was our first choice from the very beginning. And he liked the idea. So the whole thing was really written with him in mind.”

And Bowie was equally enthusiastic 

What attracted Bowie to the role? “Jim gave me the script, which I found very amusing,” he says. “It’s by Terry Jones, of Monty Python, and it has that kind of slightly inane insanity running through it. When I read the script and saw that Jim wanted to put music to it, it just felt as though it could be a really nice, funny thing to do.”

So we’ve got the King, we’ve the girl he’s enamored with, so who else do we need?  Seriously that’s the film’s story. There are three other  human characters — Toby Froud as Toby Williams, Sarah’s half-brother, Shelley Thompson who plays  Irene Williams, Sarah’s stepmother and finally Christopher Malcolm as Robert Williams, Sarah’s father. But the story here is very much just between the Goblin King and Sarah. Or at least that’s my interpretation. )

I like it, I think it’s a lovely story. And no I’ve not watched the new series as I see absolutely no reason to do so. I like my memories unsullied by revisions, by expansions. 

So how did it do? Not well here. Maybe it’s just too British. It did do exceptionally well on its home shores so it made thirty-nine against twenty-four million in production expenses, and has done extremely well in television rights, cassette and now DVD sales, and it’s streaming free right now on Peacock as is the Dark Crystal and The Storyteller. I really, really love that series. That dog seems real. 

Now for those critics  I’d say this review by Joss Winning of the Radio Times sums up the feeling of the vast majority of critics both in Britain and here: “More traditionally structured than Henson’s previous fantasy outing, The Dark Crystal, yet sharing its mysticism-meets-Muppets DNA, Labyrinth is a wholly unique dark fairy tale that enchants from start to finish.”  

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a seventy-seven percent rating, a most excellent one I’d say. 


(12) SHE WAS ALSO A LASFSIAN. [Item by Steven French.] “Who Was ‘Lisa Ben,’ the Woman Behind the U.S.’s First Lesbian Magazine?” is an interesting article in The Smithsonian on Edyth D. Eyde who as “Lisa Ben” published the first lesbian magazine in the US but which makes no mention of the fact that as “Tigrina” she was active in SFF fandom, remaining friends with Forrest J Ackerman for many years (she is featured as The Lesbian Pioneer in Rob Hansen’s Beyond Fandom: Fans, Culture and Politics in the 20th Century, available here.

In the summer of 1947, Edythe Eyde, a secretarial assistant at RKO Pictures in Los Angeles, started covertly publishing a tiny journal she called Vice Versa, subtitled “America’s Gayest Magazine.”

Now recognized as the first lesbian magazine in the United States, Vice Versa appeared at a time when sodomy laws banning “unnatural sexual acts” criminalized same-sex activity across much of the country. To protect her safety and livelihood, Eyde—who later adopted the pen name Lisa Ben, which doubled as an anagram for “lesbian”—published her magazine anonymously….

…The free, rather plain publication featured no bylines, no photos, no ads and no masthead. It had a blue cover and consisted of typed pages stapled together. Eyde passed it around to friends, who then passed the copies on to other friends. She also mailed copies to a small number of people and gave out issues at gay bars. Overall, Vice Versa probably had no more than 100 readers, Faderman says…

(13) DON’T SPILL THAT BLOOD! Gizmodo has been reading the trade papers and learned “Vampire Hunter Van Helsing to Lead CBS’ Latest Crime Show”.

Deadline reports that CBS’s latest addition to its wild collection of procedural crime shows is Van Helsing. Yes, everyone’s favorite vampire hunter is coming to CBS. This version, however, will be “a contemporary take on the monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, who uses his uniquely inquisitive mind working alongside his ex, relentless FBI special agent Mina Harker, to solve New York City’s most harrowing cases.”

Do those “harrowing cases” involve vampires and other monsters? They damn well better! Otherwise, why the heck make a Van Helsing show? Syfy had pretty solid success with the property from 2016 to 2021, after all. And who can forget the 2004 Hugh Jackman movie with Kate Beckinsale—besides everyone, forever and always?…

(14) WHERE TO LOOK FOR THE DAMAGE. Nature says, “Misinformation Might Sway Elections – But Not in the Way That You Think”.

…Although the problem is undoubtedly real, the true impact of misinformation in elections is less clear. Some researchers say the claimed risks to democracy posed by misinformation are overblown. “I think there’s a lot of moral panic, if you will, about misinformation,” says Erik Nisbet, a communications and policy researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. A body of research suggests that it is notoriously difficult to persuade people to change their vote, for example. It’s also far from clear how any one message — true or false — can penetrate amid the media chaos.

Still, as others point out, misinformation does not have to change minds about politics to have an impact. It can, for example, mislead people about when and where to vote, or even whether they should do so at all. Furthermore, just knowing that misinformation is out there — and believing it is influential — is enough for many people to lose faith and trust in robust systems, from science and health care to fair elections.

And even if misinformation affects only small numbers of people, if it drives them to action, then that too can have an amplified impact. “We might not expect widespread effects across the whole population, but it might have some radicalizing effects on tiny groups of people who can do a lot of harm,” says Gregory Eady, a political scientist at the University of Copenhagen, who studies the effects of social media…

(15) DO WE REALLY NEED TO ASK? Marissa Doyle asks “Was Waterloo Necessary?” at Book View Café.

…In 2015 British biographer Andrew Roberts published an enormous and quite readable biography of Napoleon. In it he wonders if the Battle of Waterloo was really necessary. Roberts argues that after returning to France from temporary exile in Elba, Napoleon had changed.

He was now in his mid-forties and beginning to feel his age and the years of hard campaigning, and according to a letter sent to the Allied governments still meeting at the Congress of Vienna, had given up on reconstituting his empire and simply wanted to concentrate on continuing his reforms and modernizations within France. He set about instituting a new constitution which included something approximating a legislature, and started in on further building projects in Paris and reopening several cultural institutions that Louis XVIII had closed during his brief return to the throne….

(16) SF’S FUTURE OF PAST WARFARE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It is said that today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact.  Of course, SF is not in the prediction business: it has far more misses than hits. Yet, load a blunderbuss full of a hodgepodge of SFnal concepts and fire it at a barn, and a few will inevitably hit the door. 

And so we come to a recent YouTube post by Grammaticus Books. His 8-minute video notes that despite some stonkingly brilliant novels (Heinlein, Haldeman and even a novel by an author whose name does not begin with an ‘H’) when it comes to warfare prediction many military SF books get it wrong.

However, Grammaticus has found one SF novel that seems to have hit the mark when it comes to the future of warfare: Fred Saberhagen’s series of Berserker Wars (from 1967).  It is a bleak, dark vision with artificial intelligence, drones and even coordinated fleets of A.I. drones on the modern battlefield. Grammaticus says that you could see this in Syria in 2015/6 and now today in Ukraine with individual drones hunting down human soldiers. He envisions that soon we will be seeing autonomous A.I. controlled drones because they can react faster than a human.

However, he comes with a caveat in the form of a 1965 classic novel…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/24 Pixels On The Storm

(1) KUANG Q&A. In the Guardian: “Rebecca F Kuang: ‘I like to write to my friends in the style of Joan Didion’”.

And cancel culture? Does it exist?
I find a lot of this so disingenuous. The shape of an internet takedown would go something like this: somebody would err, and often there would be pretty genuine complaints about their conduct. But there’s also a really big spectrum of what counts [as bad behaviour]. It could be something quite egregious and harmful, and it could also be something as silly as misrecognising a breakfast cereal. We conflate all of these scales of harm. Anyway, someone would air this complaint, and then there would be a back and forth with that complaint, and then, very quickly, it would spread to the corners of the internet, and those with no stake in it at all would spread disinformation. Nobody would ever seem interested in the truth, or in reparations, or in genuinely understanding what happened. It’s so self-serving and frivolous…

What are you working on now?
My next book is set in the 80s. It’s a fantasy novel, but it’s very different from The Poppy War trilogy. It’s Neil Gaiman meets… Lewis Carroll. There’ll be a big emphasis on nonsense and riddles and mysteries. It’s an entirely new genre. I like to feel like I’m moving forward. I get bored very easily.

(2) CRIMINALIZED WRITING. “Record Number of Writers Jailed Worldwide in 2023” says PEN America annual report.

PEN America today released its annual Freedom to Write Index, recording the highest number of jailed writers around the globe since the Index launched five years ago. There were 339 writers from 33 countries jailed in 2023, an increase of 62 writers compared to 2022 and 101 more than in 2019….

The top ten jailers of writers in 2023 are China (including autonomous regions) with 107, Iran 49, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam each with 19, Israel (including the Occupied Palestinian Territory) with 17, Belarus and Russia each with 16, Türkiye 14, Myanmar 12, and Eritrea seven. 

PEN America spends the entire year researching news and verifying accounts of writers jailed for their speech–and held for a minimum of 48 hours –anywhere in the world (see more on our methodology here). In addition to the Freedom to Write Index, PEN America maintains and updates a Writers at Risk Database throughout the year, providing insights into the wide array of threats that writers face. There are currently 923 active cases of writers at risk in 88 countries in the database….

(3) FEARLESS OCTAGENARIAN. “’I can say things other people are afraid to’: Margaret Atwood on censorship, literary feuds and Trump” in the Guardian.

…Questions of freedom of expression are “front and centre” right now, she believes, with both left and right turning to censorship. “‘You have to take this book out of the school because it hurts my child’s feelings,’ says one hand, and the other hand says ‘Well this other book hurts my child’s feelings, so you have to take it out.’ And that goes on until there aren’t any books left. If you go too far down the road in either direction, you shut down political speech.” While she doesn’t think this is likely to happen in Britain any time soon – “the British are quite mouthy, you may have noticed” – it is happening in parts of America.

When Atwood speaks the world listens, with good reason: the financial crash, the rise of the extreme right and the infringement of women’s freedoms in recent years have all been anticipated in her work. “I just pay attention,” she likes to say. Her status as an international treasure and seer means she is frequently sought out for her opinions on the hottest issues of the day, as well as panel discussions and events.

“I’m a kind of walking opinion poll,” she says. “I can tell by the questions that people ask me what’s on their minds. What is the thing they’re obsessing about at the moment.” The backwards turn of women’s rights, with the ruling just this month that the 1864 total ban on abortion be enforced in Arizona, for example, is high on the list. But as always she is careful to stress that there is no one answer to questions about the future for women. “I have to ask which women? How old? What country? There are many different variations of women.”

She attributes her outspokenness to the fact that she doesn’t have a job: “You can say things that other people might be afraid to because they will lose their job or get cancelled.”… 

(4) WATER WAITERS. Animation Magazine signal boosts a “Dreamy Chinese Animated Feature ‘Deep Sea’ Now Streaming on Peacock”.

Having made a striking visual impression upon audiences at prestige film festivals in Berlin, Tribeca, Annecy and Tokyo, the innovative CG-animated feature Deep Sea has made its exclusive streaming debut on Peacock. Written and directed by Tian Xiaopeng (Monkey King: Hero Is Back), the film is produced by China’s October Media and Enlight Pictures, and had a limited U.S. theatrical release through Viva Pictures in November.

Synopsis: A young girl named Shenxiu is unexpectedly swept into the sea during a family cruise and stumbles upon a mysterious restaurant under the waves. There, she meets the scheming head chef Nanhe, and his ragtag crew of adorable otters and sarcastic walruses. They join forces to save the restaurant and reunite Shenxiu with her long-lost mother in a kaleidoscopic, dreamlike world of swirling color and dazzling views….

(5) A TRAILER PARK FAR, FAR AWAY. Animation World Network is tuned in when “Disney+ Drops New ‘Star Wars: The Acolyte’ Trailer”.

To celebrate Star Wars Days, Disney+ has just dropped a second trailer and batch of images for Star Wars: The Acolyte, which debuts with the first two episodes on June 4.

The newest Star Wars offering, the mystery-thriller takes viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a shocking crime spree, but as more clues emerge, they travel down a dark path where the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.

(6) SANFORD (SANDY) ZANE MESCHKOW (1941-2024). By Nigel Rowe: Sandy (Sanford) Meschkow passed away on January 28, 2024 in Bryn Mawr, Montgomery, Pennsylvania. He was 83.

He grew up in the Catskill Mountains area of New York State, and was a longtime SF fan and onetime roommate and best friend of artist Mike Hinge. As President of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society early in the 1970s Sandy commissioned Kelly Freas to do a portrait of Keith Laumer for a PSFS program book. An engineer and editor/writer by trade who worked at NASA for a time in the Sixties. James Blish has Sandy to thank for helping him move out of his apartment when he was moving to England.

Back in early 2022, he wrote saying, “My wife died in January of 2019 and I moved into this large retirement facility that July. I just turned 81and while I have some cardiac and dfiabetic problems I’m not using a walker yet! I wrote an SF novel I can’t seem to sell, but I’ll e-mail it to you for comments if you want to see it. I keep in close contact with an old girlfriend who also knew Mike and we keep each other from getting depressed.  We are in anti-COVID-19 lockdown here. Only one resident and seven staffers have caught the new variant lately.”

He never did send the story along, but we wrote a few more times, sharing memories about Mike and what Sandy was up to. Sandy was Mike’s executor and had packed up all his personal items for me to transport back to New Zealand along with his ashes. A task I carried out the year after he passed. A memorial for Mike was dutifully held in NZ with Mike’s brother Noel and several old time New Zealand 50’s fans present.

Sandy’s fannish memories about his early days in fandom are available in his blog from 2009: Fanograph.

Sadly, we never did meet up in person, but I’ll miss those occasional chatty emails.


[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 4, 1976 Gail Carriger, 48. Steampunk and mannerpunk , it’s time to talk about both, specifically that as written by our birthday author, Gail Carriger.  

Where to start? Her first novel, Soulless, set in an alternate version of Victorian era Britain where werewolves and vampires are members of proper society. Alexia Tarabotti is a wonderful created character that anyone would love to have an adventure with, as well as sit down with to high tea in the afternoon. 

It begins the Parasol Protectorate series centered around her, which as of now goes on to have Changeless, Blameless, oh guess, Heartless and Timeless in it, plus one short story, “Meat Cute”. Why the latter broke the naming convention I know not. 

Gail Carriger. Photo by Vanessa Applegate.

Wait, wait, don’t tell me! — she’s done more mannerpunk. Indeed she has. There is Custard Protocol series (Prudence ImprudenceCompetence and Reticence), also set in Parasol Protectorate universe. When Prudence “Rue” Alessandra Maccon Akeldama , a young woman with metahuman abilities, is left an unexpected dirigible in a will , she does what any sensible (ha!) alternative Victorian Era female would do — she names it the Spotted Custard and floats off to India. Need I say adventures of a most unusual kind follow? I really love this series and not just for the name of the series. It’s just fun. Really fun.

The Finishing School series is set in Parasol Protectorate universe. Again she has a delightful manner in naming her tales, Etiquette & EspionageCurtsies & ConspiraciesWaistcoats & Weaponry and Manners & Mutiny. Go ahead, I think you can figure what this series is about without me telling you. It’s delightful of course.

So I’m not that familiar with her other writing. It appears the two Delightfully Deadly novellas might have a tinge of romance in them though at least one also has dead husbands, four to be precise, lobsters and of course high society. Lobsters? 

The Claw & Courtship novellas are standalone stories set in the Parasol Protectorate universe. So far there’s just “How to Marry a Werewolf (In 10 Easy Steps)”, though she says there’ll be more.

Finally, I’ll note she did a SF series, the Tinkered Stars Universe series — how can this possibly be? — which she describes on her website as “a sexy alien police procedural on a space station”. Oh, that sounds so good. It consists of Divinity 36Demigod 22Dome 6Crudat and The 5th Gender

Did she do short stories? Just four, of which I really want to read one — “The Curious Case of the Werewolf that Wasn’t, The Mummy that Was and the Cat in the Jar”.


(9) OUTRÉ TECH. Gizmodo has a slideshow of “7 Extremely Weird Inventions From the Grandfather of Science Fiction” – ideas conceived by Hugo Gernsback.

…In 1913, he started The Electrical Experimenter, which would become known as Science and Invention in the 1920s. And in 1919 he founded Radio News, with Television News launched in 1928, just a couple of years after the first experimental tests of TV. That doesn’t even include the sci-fi titles he started like Amazing Stories.

All of these serious-minded tech magazines had at least one article in every issue by Gernsback, and they often included ideas for futuristic inventions. They’re simply some of the most interesting old ideas for the future from a century ago….

(10) YE KEN NOW. Apparently it booked up last year, however, you can still take a virtual tour of “Barbie’s Malibu DreamHouse, Ken’s Way in Malibu, California, United States” on Airbnb. (Was this a real property? Hard to tell.)

Welcome to my Kendom! While Barbie is away, she has handed over the keys to her Malibu DreamHouse this summer and my room could be yours for the night. I’ve added a few touches to bring some much-needed Kenergy to the newly renovated and iconic Malibu DreamHouse. Placed perfectly above the beach with panoramic views, this life-size toy pink mansion is a dream come true!

Booking opens at 10 a.m. PT on Monday, July 17 for two, one-night stays for up to two guests on July 21 and July 22, 2023.

What you’ll do
Situated along the stunning, photogenic coastline, the Malibu DreamHouse is a sunny surfer’s sanctuary surrounded by beach, beach and more beach – just the way I like it.

I’ve decked out the place with a little more…well, me! I’m more than just beach! My cowboy stuff is great. And horses! Guitars, games and more. And of course, rollerblades, because I literally go nowhere without them. Now, guests can live it up Ken-style for a neon night in Barbie Land – six-pack not included.

– During your stay, you will have the opportunity to live in technicolor by:
– Taking a spin through my awesome wardrobe to find your best beach fit. Look out Barbie, I’ve got quite the closet too!
– Channeling your inner cowboy and learning a line dance or two on my outdoor disco dance floor or performing a sunset serenade on my guitar
– Challenging your fellow guests to a “beach off” with plenty of sunbathing and chillaxing by the infinity pool
– Taking home a piece of my Kendom with your very own set of yellow-and-pink Impala skates and surfboard

(11) THE SHIP OF ISHTAR. Grammaticus Books looks at an early 20th century classic.

An in-depth review of A. Merritt’s high fantasy novel, ‘The Ship of Ishtar’. Originally published in serialize form in 1924. And an influence for future fantasy authors such as Michael Moorcock.

(12) RECOGNIZE THIS ROCK? “After Star Trek Symbol Was Spotted By NASA’s Mars Rover, We’re Getting Serious ‘Strange New Worlds’ Vibes”. See the video at the link.

Fans are experiencing a bit of a lull due to the fact that upcoming Star Trek shows are still months off. However, fortunately, NASA’s Mars rover is keeping fans entertained in a surprising way. The Curiosity happened to photograph a rock that strongly resembles an iconic symbol from the franchise and, with that, we’re now getting serious Strange New Worlds Season 2 vibes after seeing it. NASA has made cool shoutouts to The Orville and other sci-fi shows, and one gets the feeling that there are also some Trekkies working at the space-centric organization. The official account for Curiosity confirmed that there were team members delighted when an X user scanning publicly available raw images from the rover noticed a rock that looked like the Delta sigil commonly seen on a comm badge.

(13) WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU JUMP INTO A BLACK HOLE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week physicist Matt O’Dowd over at PBS Space Time asks what happens if we jump into a singularity…

Meet Alice and Bob, famous explorers of the abstract landscape of theoretical physics. Heroes of the gerdankenexperiment—the thought experiment—whose life mission is to find contradictions in the deepest layers of our theories. Today our intrepid pair are jumping into a black hole. Again. Why? Well, to determine the fundamental structure of spacetime and its connection to quantum entanglement of course.

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