Pixel Scroll 3/16/24 And The Riverbank Scrolls Of The Pixels Of March

(1) SEE SAMATAR’S EPIC LECTURE. Sofia Samatar will deliver the 2024 Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture on Monday, March 18, at 4:00 p.m Central. The lecture is virtual and you can register here. She will be speaking on the relationship between epic poetry and fantasy:

What is the relationship between ancient epic poetry and the contemporary genre known as epic fantasy? This talk offers five answers to that question, from the perspective of a speculative fiction writer. Sofia Samatar is the author of six books, including the memoir The White Mosque, a PEN/Jean Stein Award finalist. Her works range from the award-winning epic fantasy A Stranger in Olondria to Tone, a collaborative study of literary tone with Kate Zambreno.

(2) THE FIRST GREEN HILLS. Bobby Derie filled in a previously unsuspected gaping hole in my knowledge of sff history with “Quest for the Green Hills of Earth (1995) by Ned Brooks” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein. Originally I was just checking to see if he was talking about the Ned Brooks I knew – he was. Then – bang! – I discovered that C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner are at the root of a famous verse tradition.

…Who wrote this bit [in “Quest of the Starstone”]? Moore was the poet of the pair, but Kuttner was no slouch, and the title itself is a callback to two previous tales. In “Shambleau” Moore wrote: “[…] he hummed The Green Hills of Earth to himself in a surprisingly good baritone”; and in “The Cold Gray God” (1935):

“No one sang Starless Night any more, and it was the Earth-born Rose Robertson’s voice which rang through the solar system in lilting praise of The Green Hills of Earth.”

That could be the kind of detail that a good pasticheur like Kuttner would pick up and expand upon. Yet it wouldn’t be surprising if they both had a hand in the final version of this scene….

…However, Sam Moskowitz claims:

“When Robert Heinlein read the story, he never forgot the phrase which became the title of one of his most famous short stories and of a collection, The Green Hills of Earth.”Sam Moskowitz, Seekers of Tomorrow (1967), 312

“The Green Hills of Earth” ran in The Saturday Evening Post for 8 Feb 1947, and provided the title for Heinlein’s 1951 collection of science fiction. Heinlein did not reiterate Moore & Kuttner’s verses, but came up with his own—and attributed it to an author, the blind poet Rhysling….

Ned Brooks later produced a chapbook based on these works:

…This is where Quest of the Green Hills of Earth (1995) comes in. Edited by Ned Brooks and illustrated by Alan Hunter, this is the kind of standalone chapbook that is a hallmark of science fiction and fantasy fandom. It reprints “Quest of the Starstone” in its entirety, Heinlein’s verses from “The Green Hills of Earth,” and three fan-made versions—one by Chuck Rein, George Heap, “and other fans of the 1960s”; one by Don Markstein (“late 60s”), and one by Steve Sneyd (Oct 1992)….

(3) SPIRITED GIVING 2024. Spirited Giving, a horror-themed fundraiser serving as the official kickoff to StokerCon 2024, takes place May 29, 2024 beginning at 3:00 p.m. in the San Diego Central Library. Full details at the link.  

It’s a night of author readings, live performances, meet and greets, and book signings, all while raising funds for the San Diego Library Foundation, particularly the Books Unbanned Initiative.

The event will feature readings from: Clay McLeod Chapman, Jamie Flanagan, Ai Jiang, Vincent V. Cava, Danger Slater, and Bridget D. Brave. And a special one-hour live performance by YouTube Horror Narrator Mr. Creepypasta.

To attend the event, get Spirited Giving Tickets at Eventbrite.

(4) IF NOT NEWS TO YOU, IT WILL BE NEWS TO SOMEONE. At Literary Hub Debbie Berne makes her case — “Not Just Covers, But Every Page: Why Writers Should Talk About Book Design Early On”.

… Interior design is both micro and macro. It involves technical prowess and creativity. There is line-by-line typesetting and there is translation of vibe.

Take, for instance, chapter openers. Most books are divided into chapters and an author has decided if they each have chapter titles or just numbers, or both, or neither, or additional info like a subtitle or time stamp or narrator name or geographic locator or setting-up-an-idea pull quote.

The designer, then, must figure out how to make those pieces of text—many or few—look nice and clear on the page and put forward an aesthetic, bringing visual voice to the writing voice. Which font? How big? How bold? Italic? Centered or no? In a single line, neatly stacked, cascading? Each decision is literal and expressive….

(5) HOW MUCH WAS C-3PO’S HEAD WORTH? Read the answer reported in Friday’s Birmingham (UK) Mail.

(6) SPRINGTIME FOR WONKA. Everyone is going to make money off this disaster except the people who perpetrated it. (Would you have it any other way?) “Viral Willy Wonka Glasgow event to be turned into musical” at BBC.

A new musical satire based on a Glasgow Willy Wonka experience that went viral is in the works.

The show’s lead producer, Richard Kraft, has assembled a team of writers and producers for the project titled Willy Fest: A Musical Parody.

The event in February gained notoriety after angry families, who paid up to £35 to attend, demanded their money back.

Kraft says he hopes people watching the show “won’t be left in tears.”

The creative team working on the musical includes Emmy-nominated actor and comedian Riki Lindhome who tweeted, “I’m so excited,” along with screenshots of an article.

Others attached to the project include Broadway songwriters Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner.

Kraft is known for producing and directing a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory concert at the famed Hollywood Bowl.

He told the BBC it was his idea to turn the Glasgow event into a musical and that the writing team was “assembled in less time than it takes for someone to sing the first verse of ‘Oompa Loompa Doompa-Dee-Do’.”

He hopes to launch the musical later this year….

…Asked why the Glasgow event might be ripe for the musical theatre treatment, Kraft said: “It is about desperate dreamers who actually have fragments of a great idea, just executed beyond their budget and abilities.”

He said he loved shows “about big-hearted flim-flam artists in musicals like The Music Man, The Greatest Showman, and The Producers. At the core they are romantics who get in over their heads.”…

(7) THREE-BODY, BUT NOT JUST ONE PROBLEM. “’3 Body Problem:’ How Netflix’s new sci-fi saga employs the legendary Wow! signal”Space.com is sure you’ll want to know.

The Wow! signal is one of the great astronomy puzzles of the past 50 years, but it’s not so mysterious in the sci-fi universe of “3 Body Problem.”

Netflix’s new eight-episode alien invasion saga “3 Body Problem” uses the famous SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) signal as a prominent plot device in its wild centuries-spanning narrative.

The Wow! signal was an intense narrowband radio signal detected on the night of Aug. 15, 1977 by Ohio State University’s Big Ear Radio Observatory and the North American Astrophysical Observatory (NAAPO) during a standard SETI search. No personnel were on duty at the time, yet the strong 72-second-long signal was recorded by a computer printer….

Beware spoiler:

… “3 Body Problem,” which drops on March 21, puts its own spin on the signal. In the series, Wow! is a real message from intelligent aliens beyond Earth. A Chinese astrophysicist responds to the translated signal by inviting the aliens to visit Earth — to humanity’s detriment, as we later learn….

(8) SIGNING TIME. John King Tarpinian has the Glendale Civic Auditorium all prepared to welcome tomorrow’s influx of dealers to the 2024 LA Vintage Paperback Collectors Show & Sale.

(9) JON STOPA (1935-2024). Longtime Chicagoland fan Jon Stopa died March 4 at the age of 88. See the family obituary in the Kenosha News at the link. (The family obituary spells his first name “John”. In the sff field he was known as “Jon” except for the few instances when he used “John” in the credits for his book cover art for Advent:Publishers).

Jon Stopa

Fancyclopedia 3’s article about Jon records that he made his first sf short story sale to Astounding at age 22, “The First Inch” published in 1957, followed by two more appearances in Campbell’s magazine in 1958. Jon’s fourth and last fiction credit was in 1973 with “Kiddy-Lib” in Eros in Orbit.

He co-founded Advent:Publishers in 1955 with Earl Kemp, Robert Briney, Sidney Coleman, James O’Meara, George Price, and Ed Wood. The company produced nonfiction books about the sf field, the first of which was Damon Knight’s essay collection In Search of Wonder (1956).

A Jon Stopa-designed Advent book cover.

Stopa met Joni Cornell at the 1960 Worldcon (Pittcon). They married in 1962 and lived at Wilmot Mountain, Stopa’s family ski resort in Wilmot, WI, where they began hosting Wilcon, a three-day long invitation-only relaxacon.

Jon appears as a bartender in the video Faans (1983) (around the 18:50 mark) in a scene shot at the lodge at Wilmot Mountain.

Throughout the 1960s, the Stopas entered and won many convention masquerades. In the early 1970s, the couple helped found the conrunning group ISFiC.

The Stopas were Fan GoHs at Chicon V, the 1991 Worldcon.

Jon’s survivors include his grandson, Keanen (Kim) Burns; sister, Diane Reese; great-granddaughter, Kinsley Burns; and nieces: Tiffany and Amanda Stopa. Along with his parents and wife; John was preceded in death by his daughter, Deb Burns; and brothers: Walter Jr. and Conrad (Karen) Stopa.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. (Died 2002.) Pop culture is wonderful, isn’t it? And Leo McKern was definitely part of it. 

The Prisoner where he was Number Two in three of the seventeen episodes is definitely his best remembered SF role. He played that role more than any of the other seventeen credited actors. That is if you consider The Prisoner to even be SF and not merely a spy series gone very weird. Just tossing that idea out here.

Leo McKern as Number Two in The Prisoner.

Next up is The Adventures of Robin Hood where he was Sir Roger DeLisle, usurper of the Locksley manor and lands, and Herbert of Doncaster, a corrupt moneylender. It was an early Fifties series and his of earliest acting roles. 

Sliding on later in his career is one of my favorite roles by him, Horace Rumpole, a London barrister on Rumpole of the Bailey. He was a great  character to watch, the cases were interesting and the supporting cast was well thought out.

Slipping on over to his radio work, he was the voice of Captain Haddock in the 1992 and 1993 BBC Radio Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin.

He was “Mac” MacGill in X the Unknown, a Fifties horror SF film from Hanmer Productions; and he’s got a lead role as Bill McGuire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, an end of the world Sixties film.

The final role I want to mention is in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother where he gets to be Professor Moriarty. I’m almost certain that I’ve seen it. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

And we’re overdue to catch up with Tom Gauld!

(12) STAND AND DELIVER. [Item by Steven French.] Sally Wainwright is a national treasure over here in the U.K. so her writing a new fantasy show set in the 18th century (featuring Louisa Harland formerly of Derry Girls as a gender fluid highwaywoman with superpowers!) is a Big Deal: “’I never dreamed I’d get this role!’: Derry Girl Louisa Harland on Sally Wainwright’s thrilling new heroine” in the Guardian.

When Louisa Harland was cast as the lead in the new Sally Wainwright drama, Renegade Nell, the director told her: “Nell needs to be one of those characters, even when she’s on the screen so much, you still want the audience to miss her when she’s not.” It’s quite an ask: Nell is a massive Doctor Who of a role, swashbuckling, always with a new accent or cool pyrotechnics or punch in the face, and Harland fills the screen every second she’s on it. Somehow, though, you do miss her when she isn’t. Meeting the 31-year-old in central London, I can see exactly why she was chosen for Nell, even though almost the first thing she says is “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get this role. My parents still think it is so random.”

Renegade Nell is a rebel and a chancer, an 18th-century tomboy in a constant life-or-death scenario of some other bugger’s making. The year is 1705, and she’s just lost her husband in a battle that has left her both widowed and superhuman, but only sometimes. The show has a lush period feel and is a closely observed love affair with the British countryside (Harland describes the incredibly precise location scouts combing through forests searching for trees that would have been mature by 1705), but it is powered by mischief – fight scenes, disguises, magic monsters and highway robbery after highway robbery….

(13) JAPANIMATION’S SUICIDE SQUAD. Animation Magazine introduces Warner Bros. Japan LLC’s updated trailer featuring the anime-styled anti-heroes of Suicide Squad ISEKAI.

Synopsis:  In the crime-ridden Gotham city, Amanda Waller, the head of A.R.G.U.S., has assembled a group of notorious criminals for a mission: Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Peacemaker, Clayface and King Shark. These DC Super-Villains are sent into an otherworldly realm that’s connected to this world through a gate. It’s a world of swords and magic where orcs rampage and dragons rule the skies — an “ISEKAI!”

Harley and others go on a rampage after arriving in ISEKAI but are captured by the Kingdom’s soldiers and sent to prison. They only have 72 hours before the bomb on their neck explodes.

The deadline is fast approaching. After negotiations with Queen Aldora, the condition for liberation was the conquest of the hostile Imperial army. They have no choice but to throw themselves head-first into the front line of battle.

They run; they die. They lose; they die. With their lives on the line, can Harley Quinn and The Suicide Squad survive in ISEKAI? Brace yourselves for the pulse-pounding saga of the elite task force known as the “Suicide Squad” as they embark on a jaw-dropping adventure! Let the party begin!

(14) THE HOBBIT DIET EXPLAINED SCIENTIFICALLY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Filers may have noted “(10) NO MICHELIN STARS FOR MORDOR.  CBR.com chronicles ‘Every Meal Hobbits Eat In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings’” in “Pixel Would Like A Word With Engineering”. It strikes me that there is a very logical, biological reason for Hobbits requiring more meals than us, larger, humans!

It centres on the fact that scale is size specific: a cube does not have the same spatial properties at any scale – its surface area to volume ration is scale specific. For example, to depart slightly from a simple cube, a single cube might have a volume of one unit and a surface area of six square units: a cube has six sides. However, a cube of volume of two cubic unites only has a surface area of ten square units. (You can easily create a volume of two cubic units by joining two one-cubic-volume cubes together and in the process cover two, one cubic square sides leaving just ten cubic squares as the surface area.)

What this all means is that smaller creatures have proportionally more surface area from which to lose heat.

Hobbits are smaller than humans and so must lose more heat assuming they have the same blood temperature. Proportionally losing more heat means that they must consume proportionally more food, hence require more meals.

Jus’ sayin’.

Second breakfast anyone?

(15) POOR LITTLE MERCURY! Space.com says “Mercury slammed by gargantuan eruption from the sun’s hidden far side, possibly triggering ‘X-ray auroras’”.

A gigantic, fiery eruption around 40 times wider than Earth recently exploded from the sun’s hidden far side. The eruption hurled a massive cloud of plasma into space that later smashed into Mercury, scouring the planet’s rocky surface and potentially triggering “X-ray auroras” on the unprotected world.

The eruption was likely triggered by a powerful solar flare, which occurred around 7 p.m. ET on March 9, Spaceweather.com reported. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spotted a large, partially obscured plasma filament exploding outward from behind the sun’s northeast limb. Based on the amount of visible plasma, the eruption likely spanned around 310,000 miles (500,000 kilometers) across.

SDO data showed that the explosion, which likely left behind a massive “canyon of fire” on the sun’s surface, also released a large coronal mass ejection (CME) — a fast-moving cloud of magnetized plasma and radiation — that collided with Mercury on March 10.

Mercury is often blasted with CMEs due to its proximity to our home star. The small planet has no atmosphere left as a result of this bombardment and is fully exposed to the full force of these solar storms. …

(16) HOT TIMES CLOSER TO HOME. “The Staggering Ecological Impacts of Computation and the Cloud” at The MIT Press Reader. “Anthropologist Steven Gonzalez Monserrate draws on five years of research and ethnographic fieldwork in server farms to illustrate some of the diverse environmental impacts of data storage.” (A full version of this article, as well as a bibliography, can be accessed here.)

…The molecular frictions of digital industry, as this example shows, proliferate as unruly heat. The flotsam and jetsam of our digital queries and transactions, the flurry of electrons flitting about, warm the medium of air. Heat is the waste product of computation, and if left unchecked, it becomes a foil to the workings of digital civilization. Heat must therefore be relentlessly abated to keep the engine of the digital thrumming in a constant state, 24 hours a day, every day.

To quell this thermodynamic threat, data centers overwhelmingly rely on air conditioning, a mechanical process that refrigerates the gaseous medium of air, so that it can displace or lift perilous heat away from computers. Today, power-hungry computer room air conditioners (CRACs) or computer room air handlers (CRAHs) are staples of even the most advanced data centers. In North America, most data centers draw power from “dirty” electricity grids, especially in Virginia’s “data center alley,” the site of 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic in 2019. To cool, the Cloud burns carbon, what Jeffrey Moro calls an “elemental irony.” In most data centers today, cooling accounts for greater than 40 percent of electricity usage….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Physicist Matt O’Dowd at PBS Space Time this week takes a dive into a decidedly SFnal trope, that of the possible need to hide humanity from aliens as they themselves may be doing so?

Dark Forest: Should We NOT Contact Aliens?

In 1974 we sent the Arecibo radio message towards Messier 13, a globular cluster near the edge of the Milky Way, made up of a few hundred thousand stars. The message was mostly symbolic; we weren’t really expecting a reply. Yet surely other civilisations out there are doing the same thing. So, why haven’t we heard anything? What if the silence from the stars is a hint that we shouldn’t be so outgoing? What if aliens are deliberately keeping quiet for fear that they might be destroyed?

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

Samantha Mills Wins 2023 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

Samantha Mills

Samantha Mills’ “Rabbit Test,” published by Uncanny Magazine, is the winner of the 2023 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best science fiction short story published in 2022. The award was announced August 25 by the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF).

Sample of award trophy

The winning piece was selected by a jury of prominent science fiction writers and scholars composed of jurors Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Pinsker, Noël Sturgeon, and Taryne Taylor. They described the work as a “powerful and powerfully relevant story about liberty and human rights in the face of encroaching fascism.” One juror said Mills’ story “absolutely wowed me when I first read it, and it holds up to reread. To me this does everything science fiction is supposed to do.” Among the qualities jurors praised was the way the protagonist’s personal story centered a structure that moves back and forth through history.

Samantha Mills is a Nebula and Locus Award-winning author living in Southern California with her family and cats. She has been short-listed for the Hugo Award and previous rounds of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award competition and included in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2023. You can find her short fiction in Uncanny Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, and others. Her debut novel, The Rise and Fall of Winged Zemolai, is coming out in 2024 through Tachyon Publications.

CSSF will present the trophy and monetary prize to Mills at the Sturgeon Award Ceremony on Thursday, September 21 at 5:30 pm in the Hall Center for the Humanities (900 Sunnyside Avenue, Lawrence, KS). The ceremony will feature a reception, opening remarks, presentation of the Award, a reading by Mills, and a Q & A session.

This year’s ceremony is part of the Gunn Center’s second annual Sturgeon Symposium, celebrating an international array of speculative literatures and communities. The theme, “Fantastic Worlds, Fraught Futures,” coincides with the anniversary of the publication of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, KU’s 2023-24 Common Book. The Symposium begins virtually on Wednesday, September 20 at 9:00 a.m. and runs through Friday, September 22, with virtual and in-person sessions; it is free and open to the public. The full program and registration link is here

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/23 It’s More Like A Big Ball Of Wibbly-Wobbly, Pixelly-Scrolly Stuff

(1) WRITERS STRIKE: MORE THOUGHTS ON AI. Justine Bateman tweeted this warning for SAG-AFTRA members:

(2) FREE HWA AI WEBINAR. The Horror Writers Association will host a free webinar on May 15 about what AI means for the future of writing and publishing to help writers understand the facts and realities of what AI does and what it might accomplish in the future. Register here: “Artificial Intelligence and Writing — What AI Means for the Future of Fiction Writing and Publishing”. James Chambers will be leading the panel, joined by Colleen Anderson, CW Briar, R Leigh Hennig, Matthew Kressel, John Edward Lawson, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Leonard Speiser.

AI and WRITING PANEL UPDATE: Greetings! This Monday, May 15, at 8 p.m. ET, the HWA’s Horror University Online program will sponsor a FREE panel discussion about Artificial Intelligence and Writing. This panel is open to all. You don’t have to be an HWA member to attend.

I’ll be leading a group of seven people who bring a wide range of experience and knowledge as authors, editors, organizers in the horror community, publishers, and technology experts to this conversation. We will discuss what artificial intelligence is, how it works, its limitations, how it might change, and how it might affect writing and publishing. Our goal for the discussion is to provide information and insight for writers, editors, and publishers as a springboard for further conversation and understanding and to help them navigate evolving technology so that it does not ever diminish the work of human writers.

The genesis of this panel came a few months back when I heard a lot of chatter online, in the news, and in my writing groups about AI and what this technology means for writers. The sincere anxiety and uncertainty expressed in those conversations made me think the HWA’s Horror University Online could be a good platform to open a fact-based conversation to address these very real concerns and help people wrap their heads around it.

Likewise, I thought, it would be a good forum in which to discuss what the future might hold because, whether we like it or not, we must now work in a world where AI exists. How can human writers, editors, and publishers avoid AI pitfalls? What should we expect on the business side of our industry, such as changes to contract language, submission guidelines, and so on? What are elements of AI we must watch most closely to protect what we do as writers, editors, and publishers? These are just some of the things our panel will discuss.

Among of the core missions of the HWA and Horror University are to support writers, help them develop and improve, help them succeed, share knowledge, and build community. This panel is aligned with those goals. I encourage everyone interested to register at the link below. We will be taking questions during the panel. Even if you can’t attend the live session, you may access the recording.

(3) FIYAH GRANTS. FIYAH Literary Magazine is taking applications for its Grants. Full details at the link.

The FIYAH Literary Magazine Grant Series is intended to assist Black writers of speculative fiction in defraying costs associated with honing their craft. 

The series includes three $1,000 grants to be distributed annually based on a set of submission requirements. All grants with the exception of the Emergency Grant will be issued and awarded as part of Juneteenth every year. The emergency grant will be awarded twice a year in $500 amounts.

(4) NAVARRO SHARES EXPERIENCES. The Horror Writers Association continues its thematic Q&A series: “Celebrating Our Elders: Interview with Yvonne Navarro”.

Do you think you’ve encountered ageism? If so, how do you counteract or deal with it?

Yes, I do. Thanks to self-publishing, younger authors will accept a shamefully lower amount of money for books while older, experienced authors still want to be decently paid for their work. Recently, a younger writer with less experience in a certain media tie-in universe in which I have worked extensively was chosen over me for a project. Unless someone has a mystical wand, I don’t see any way to fight this

(5) ABOUT PTSD. Francis Hamit says, “This is the best, most comprehensive article about PTSD I have ever read:  This is a condition that I’ve suffered from most of my life and, based upon observation I think that many people in Fandom are also afflicted.   Others in Fandom are unkind and go out of their way to make PTSD worse.” “Understanding PTSD in Security Professionals: Unveiling the Impact and Effective Approaches for Support and Recovery” at Security Guards.

PTSD Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It is a complex disorder that affects the mind and body, causing significant distress and impairing daily functioning. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of PTSD, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options….

(6) THE HOLE TRUTH. At Speculiction, Jesse Hudson is ready to send for the coroner: “Tailspin: The Decline of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale Series”.

…A lot of shows have plot holes, and The Handmaid’s Tale is no exception. I will not go into detail here. But I will say that they are coming faster and with more frequency. Where Atwood’s novel (aka Season 1) is a tightly wound tale in a finite setting whose pieces fit nicely together, each subsequent season frays this rope. Where characters once acted and behaved according to the personalities Atwood established, they begin to deviate in ways that seem more plot-serving than character-oriented. The show’s writers need to get Person A from point 1 to 2, so they introduce situation X, a situation that goes beyond the limits of the world already established (i.e. plot hole). Or they introduce decision point Y, which keeps the wheels of plot moving but don’t seem true to character or setting. I read a shit-ton of books. I am a forgiving person in plot-hole land. But the series has become too much. It has lost touch with the ground it grew from and now floats in the sky above, the ground only in sight. Nothing is interesting when everything is possible…

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1984[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

This novel was published by Bantam the same year R.A. MacAvoy won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very fond of her as she would write The Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope.

Our Beginning this Scroll is from the first novel of the Damiano series and it too is called Damiano.  It was published by Bantam Books in 1984 with the cover illustration by Jim Burns. 

It is a fantastic series and the Beginning which follows gives you a taste of what this novel and the series as a whole is like. So let’s get started…

A string buzzed against his fingernail; the finger itself slipped, and the beat was lost. Damiano muttered something that was a bit profane.

“The problem isn’t in your hand at all. It’s here,” said Damiano’s teacher, and he laid his ivory hand on the young man’s right shoulder. Damiano turned his head in surprise, his coarse black ringlets trailing over the fair skin of that hand. He shifted within his winter robe, which was colored like a tarnished brass coin and heavy as coins. The color suited Damiano, whose complexion was rather more warm than fair.

“My shoulder is tight?” Damiano asked, knowing the answer already. He sighed and let his arm relax. His fingers slid limply across the yew-wood face of the liuto that lay propped on his right thigh. The sleeve of the robe, much longer than his arm and banded in scarlet, toppled over his wrist. He flipped the cloth up with a practiced, unconscious movement that also managed to toss his tangle of hair back from his face. Damiano’s hand, arm, and shoulder were slim and loosely jointed, as was the rest of him.

“Again?” he continued. “I thought I had overcome that tightness months ago.” His eyes and eyelashes were as soft and black as the woolen mourning cloth that half the women of the town wore, and his eyes grew even blacker in his discouragement. He sighed once more.

Raphael’s grip on the youth tightened. He shook him gently, laughing, and drew Damiano against him. “You did. And you will overcome it again and again. As many times as it crops up. As long as you play the instrument. As long as you wear flesh.” 

Damiano glanced up. “As long as I … Well, in that case may I fight my problem a good hundred years! Is that why you never make mistakes, Seraph? No flesh?” His toothy smile apologized for the witticism even as he spoke it. Without waiting for an answer, he dropped his eyes to the liuto and began to play, first the treble line of the dance, then the bass line, then both together.

Raphael listened, his eyes quiet, blue as lapis. His hand still lay on Damiano’s shoulder, encouraging him. Raphael’s great glistening wings twitched slightly with the beat of the music. They caught the cloudy daylight and sent pearly glints against the tiles of the wall. 

Damiano played again, this time with authority, and smoothly passed the place where he had to change the meter—two strokes, very fast, plucked by the middle finger. When he was done, he looked up, his face flushed with success, his lower lip red because he’d been biting down on it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a very splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. Nor have I seen any of the later adaptations of the Oz fiction. What’s the rest of his fiction like?  There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and some of it is slash which is a really, really scary idea. (Died 1919.)
  • Born May 15, 1877 William Bowen. His most notable work was The Old Tobacco Shop, a fantasy novel that was one runner-up for the inaugural Newbery Medal in 1922. He also had a long running children’s series with a young girl named Merrimeg whom a narrator told her adventures with all sorts of folkloric beings. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 15, 1926 Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie-based Evil Under the Sun, Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 75. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series?
  • Born May 15, 1955 Lee Horsley, 68. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls as it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer.
  • Born May 15, 1966 Greg Wise, 57. I’m including him solely for being in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun.
  • Born May 15, 1971 Samantha Hunt, 52. If you read nothing else by her, do read The Invention of Everything, a might be look at the last days in the life of Nikola Tesla. It’s mostly set within the New Yorker Hotel, a great concept. I’m avoiding spoilers naturally. She’s written two other genre novels, Mr. Splitfoot and The Seas, plus a handful of stories. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MAKES YOU WONDER. “Wonder Woman’s daughter Trinity arrives in upcoming DC comic” reports Entertainment Weekly. Yeah, I’m sure you’re asking that question, too, but the article doesn’t answer it.

Wonder Woman has been a superhero, a feminist icon, and a movie star over the decades, but this year she’s going to add another title to her resume: mother.

IGN revealed on Friday that DC Comics is introducing Trinity, Wonder Woman’s daughter, in the upcoming anniversary issue Wonder Woman #800. She was created by writer Tom King and artist Daniel Sampere, who are taking over the monthly Wonder Woman comic when it relaunches with a new issue #1 this September….

(11) IT WILL TAKE YOU BY SURPRISE. Jennifer Hawthorne encourages everyone to check out this “super-cool space-themed art.” It lives up to her billing! “Astronaut sculpture from an ex-physicist” at Reddit.

(12) CSSF VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB CHOICE. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction has announced their final Virtual Book Club Event of the academic year. To join them Friday, May 19 at noon (Central) for a virtual meeting, register here.

For the month of May, the Center has chosen short story, “We Travel the Spaceways” by Victor LaValle.

Otherworldly interference in real world New York City? Or delusions? For the answer, follow two strangers in an astonishing short story of faith and hope. Grimace is a homeless man on a holy mission to free Black Americans from emotional slavery. His empty soda cans told him as much. Then he meets Kim, a transgender runaway who joins Grimace on his heroic quest. Is Grimace receiving aluminum missives from the gods, or is he a madman? Kim will find out soon enough on a strange journey they are destined to share. Available for free with Amazon Prime account. 

(13) ALTERNATE MCU. CinemaBlend eavesdrops on his commencement address at USC where “Kevin Feige Talks Forks In Life And How Robert Downey Jr. Only Landed The Iron Man Role After Marvel’s ‘Top Choice’ Passed”.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, in great, the powerhouse that it is today due to the efforts of studio head Kevin Feige and the countless individuals who work at Marvel Studios. Of course, an actor by the name of Robert Downey Jr. deserves some credit as well, as his debut performance as Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man helped to propel the film to box office success. After all these years, it’s honestly hard to imagine anyone else playing the role of the mustachioed hero except for Downey. Believe it or not though, he wasn’t the studio’s “top choice” for Stark, as the other name they had in mind passed. Feige recently recalled that situation while discussing forks in life and more during a recent speech….

Oscar nominee Clive Owen is certainly a gifted actor and could’ve been an interesting choice for Tony Stark. Entertainment enthusiasts probably know him best from his performances in CloserClose My EyesSin City and more. While the notion of him playing the character is intriguing, I don’t think he could’ve brought Tony Stark the way that Robert Downey Jr. did….

… “And that is the unwritten rule of luck – not getting your first choice might just be the greatest thing that can happen. Because you know what’s better than getting your first choice, getting the right choice. In our case, of course, that was Robert Downey Jr., and the first movie we ever made as a studio ended up being one of the best reviewed and highest grossing movies of the year.”

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This month’s Sci-Fi Sunday over at Isaac Arthur’s Futures YouTube channel is on “Hive Worlds”.

Science fiction often shows us dark, grimy, dystopian mega-cities in the future, but are such planet-wide cities possible, what would they be like, and how many people could they hold?

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/23 Not Just Another Scroll Title. This One Has Heart. And Humanity. Four Pixels!

(1) “BIGOLAS DICKOLAS WOLFWOOD ENERGY”? [Item by Soon Lee.] Four years after release, This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone rocketed up to number 6 in the Amazon overall book rankings (it’s number one in a number of categories). And it is all thanks to a recommendation tweet from an account named “Bigolas Dickolas”, a fan account for the “Trigun” anime. Amal El-Mohtar tweeted a link.

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a Hugo, Nebula, and BSFA winner so it’s not like it wasn’t critically acclaimed. I loved it. But for a book to climb into the Amazon Top 10 four years after release is not something that happens. Let alone it happening because an anime fan account tweeted about it. Stunned and delighted reactions all round.

My TL;DR

Bigolas Dickolas has done for “This is How You Lose the Time War” what “Stranger Things” did for “Running Up That Hill”.

Several more write-ups here:

DongWon Song (Amal El-Mohtar’s agent) commented:

(2) THIS IS THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT MODERATION. Charlie Jane Anders’ Happy Dancing newsletter offers “Some (Probably) Worthless Thoughts About Content Moderation”. Spoiler: They are far from worthless.

… Twitter has long had a feature where you can choose to see notifications only from people you follow, which is great in theory. If you have that box checked on Twitter, you’ll only see replies and quote-tweets from the people you’ve decided to trust — but in practice, if your tweet gets a ton of hostile replies and quote-tweets, you will absolutely know about it. It’ll show up if you look at the permalink for your actual tweet, but also your trusted followers will inevitably start arguing with the folks you don’t follow. Plus, it requires a lot of willpower to avoid looking at a swarm of replies or quote-tweets when you know they’re there.

Plus as I’ve said above, even if you decide you don’t want to see hate group posts, you’ll still find out about it if they target you. It’s impossible to ignore at a certain point.

Here’s a good place to mention that I’m enjoying Bluesky a lot so far — a ton of Black Twitter folks who were turned off by Mastodon’s well-documented racism problem are hanging out there, along with many other folks I enjoyed chatting with on Twitter. But I’m also very aware that I’m enjoying it, in part, because it’s still a small community and we’re at the start, rather than the end, of the “enshittification” process*….

(3) AI IS MY COPILOT. [Item by Anne Marble.] If you see people getting upset with publishers asking for AI submissions, here is one example. In a Special Submissions Call, Space and Time Magazine is asking authors to collaborate with AI for a unique issue. This submissions call did not go over well…

Here are the first two of many tweeted responses:

(4) GREMLINS PREQUEL ARRIVES. Animation World Network has the story: “Max Shares ‘Gremlins: Secrets of The Mogwai’ Official Trailer”.

Max (formerly HBO Max) has dropped an official trailer and poster for Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, the highly anticipated 3DCG animated prequel series to the iconic Gremlins film franchise. The show debuts May 23, followed by two new episodes released weekly on Thursdays.

The new series takes viewers back to 1920s Shanghai, where the Wing family first meets the young Mogwai called Gizmo. Sam Wing (future shop owner Mr. Wing in the 1984 Gremlins film) accepts the dangerous task of taking Gizmo home and embarks on a journey through the Chinese countryside. Sam and Gizmo are joined by a teenage street thief named Elle, and together, they encounter—and sometimes battle—colorful monsters and spirits from Chinese folklore. Along their quest, they are pursued by a power-hungry industrialist and his growing army of evil Gremlins….

Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, from executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tze Chun premieres May 23 on Max.

(5) J.M. COSTER MEMOIR. “Your Tongue Remembers” is introduced by Sarah Gailey as “Jen Coster’s reflections on language, food, and what it means to be loved.”

…During my childhood, my parents were learning English while I was forgetting the little bit of Chinese that I knew. We spoke to each other in fits and starts, each of us hurt (in the exact same but also completely different ways) by the lack of understanding. With my grandmother, I barely spoke at all. She didn’t know English, and I was eventually too ashamed of my broken Chinese to try.

And yet, China was my first home, and Chinese was my first language. At some point in my early life, it was all I knew. Even though I don’t remember what it was like to have those musical words fall from my mouth at the speed of thought, there are certain shapes my mouth still knows how to make, certain tones my ears still know how to hear—things my mind and body have held on to as a record of my past.

The words that my tongue remembers, though it’s clumsy in the shaping of them, are mostly related to food.

It always comes back to food.

I don’t know what it’s like to have to make concessions related to cultural identity, for success to require the rejection of things that make up the fabric of you, for victory to feel like surrender. But I do know what it feels like to grieve the loss of something I never really had in the first place….

(6) EKPEKI TAKES ON IAFA ROLE. International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) announced on Facebook they have appointed Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki as their Virtual Conference Coordinator.

(7) CSSF WORKSHOP OPPORTUNITY. Applications are being taken for the online CSSF Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop. 

This intensive, 2-week creative writing course will be taught online by RB Lemberg, author of the acclaimed novellas The Four Profound Weaves (2020) and The Unbalancing (2022) and finalist for the prestigious Nebula Award for best science fiction or fantasy published in the United States.

Lemberg will bring their expertise in writing and publishing speculative fiction—an umbrella category that includes science fiction, horror, fantasy narratives, magical realism, and the like—to instruct students in the creation and polishing of their own imaginative work. Students will read an assortment of SFF short stories for discussions of craft and stylistic choices, and participate in writing exercises and peer review workshops. Each class member should come prepared with at least one short story they are prepared to share and revise. 

June 12 – June 23, 2023 (Monday – Friday)

4:30 – 7:30 pm (Central US/Canada), with synchronous and asynchronous elements. 

Cost and Enrollment:

NON-CREDIT-SEEKING STUDENTS: $500 for 2-wk session – Register here

CREDIT-SEEKING KU STUDENTS: Enroll via https://classes.ku.edu/ – ENGL 757 (Summer 2023)

Small scholarships available – 1st come, 1st served. Email us with your name, contact information, institution (if applicable), connection to the Gunn Center (if any).

(8) 2024 STURGEON SYMPOSIUM DESIGN CONTEST. If you have an inspiration for next year’s Sturgeon Symposium t-shirt design it could be worth $250 to you.

The J. Wayne & Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) is dedicated to research and education in science fiction and other speculative forms, such as fantasy, horror, Afrofuturism, fanfiction, and neo-Gothic narratives. We believe that through our encounters with different worlds, we come to know the one we all share; we also become better equipped to create new possibilities within it. Our ongoing mission is to foster a global community of students, scholars, artists, educators, and enthusiasts who are interested in exploring the limitless potential of the human imagination, whether that be to question, to play, or to dream about the future.

The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, offered annually for the best published science fiction short story of the previous year, will be presented at the Sturgeon Symposium, where scholars, artists, educators, students, and enthusiasts come together to discuss and learn about new work in the field. The winning design will be featured on T-shirts sold to generate funds for the 2024 symposium and on flyers used to promote the event. Help us showcase the limitless potential of the human imagination!

The 2024 Sturgeon Symposium will be honoring the foundational work of Samuel R. Delaney to the field and study of Science Fiction. Inspired by his 1984 science fiction novel, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, the theme of this year Design contest is “Stars in Our Pockets.”

To Enter:

  • Submit your original design(s) by 11:59 pm on 18 August 2023 to [email protected]. Include name, email address, and phone number with entry.
  • File(s) should be submitted as a .pdf, .jpb, .png, .ai, or .eps with dimensions of 1500px by 1500px.
  • Designs should be front of t-shirt only and can include up to 4 colors.
  • Transparent artwork preferred. Avoid gradients.

Judges will consider:

  • how well each design celebrates the concepts of science fiction and/or the speculative
  • how well each design represents KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of SF
  • how well each design builds energy for the 2024 Sturgeon Symposium

By entering the contest, you agree and acknowledge that:

  • You have read, understood, and will abide by the contest rules, terms, and conditions.
  • If your design is selected as the winning entry, you grant the Center for the Study of Science Fiction a non-exclusive license to reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of your submitted design (the “Work”) on promotional materials and marketing materials such as t-shirts, posters, brochures, and digital media.
  • You warrant that you are the original creator of the Work and that it does not infringe upon the rights of any third parties, including, but not limited to, copyright, trademark, and rights of publicity or privacy.

Winner will be announced at the Sturgeon Award ceremony, Date and Time TBD Questions? Contact The Gunn Center for the Study of SF – [email protected] https://sfcenter.ku.edu/

This is last year’s winning design:

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2019[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day was her Nebula-winning debut novel. It was also nominated for a Compton Crook Award. Those folk in Baltimore have stellar taste in SF novels, don’t they?

It is a wonderful read (no spoilers there) and I surprised to learn that she wrote but one more novel to date. I’ve read this novel but haven’t read We Are Satellites, so am very interested in what y’all think of it.

A Song for a New Day was published by Berkley Books. 

And here is her splendid Beginning. Warning: fatal violence involving Muppets occurs here. It really does. 

172 Ways 

There were, to my knowledge, one hundred and seventy-two ways to wreck a hotel room. We had brainstormed them all in the van over the last eight months on the road. As a game, I’d thought: 61, turn all the furniture upside down; 83, release a pack of feral cats; 92, fill all the drawers with beer, or, 93, marbles; 114, line the floor with soapy plastic and turn it into a slip ’n’ slide; etc., etc. 

In my absence, my band had come up with the one hundred and seventy-third, and had for the first time added in a test run. I was not proud. 

What would Gemma do if she were here? I stepped all the way into their room instead of gawking from the hallway and closed the door before any hotel employees could walk past, pressing the button to illuminate the DO NOT DISTURB sign for good measure. “Dammit, guys. This is a nice hotel. What the hell did you do?”

“We found some paint.” Hewitt’s breath smelled like a distillery’s dumpster. He lingered beside me in the vestibule.”

“You’re a master of understatement.” 

All their bags and instruments were crammed into the closet by the entrance. The room itself was painted a garish neon pink, which it definitely hadn’t been when I’d left that morning. Not only the walls, either: the headboards, the nightstand, the dresser. The spatter on the carpet suggested somebody had knifed a Muppet and let it crawl away to die. For all the paint, Hewitt’s breath was still the overwhelming odor.

“Even the TV?” I asked. “Really?” 

The television, frame and screen. Cable news blared behind a drippy film of pink, discussing the new highway only for self-driving cars. We’d be avoiding that one. 

JD lounged on the far bed, holding a glass of something caramel colored. His shoes were pink. The bedspread, the site of another Muppet Murder.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ‘mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive. (Died 1920.)
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable, Last and First Men, his first novel (!) written in 1930 extends over two billion years. Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled. He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both. Darkness and the Light was nominated for a Retro-Hugo At WorldCon 76 as was Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord at CoNZealand. He was the first recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2001 and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2014. (Died 1950.)
  • Born May 10, 1891 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film where the SJW credential was the defendant in a Perry Mason murder case, The Case of Black Cat. I haven’t seen the film but it’s got cool poster. (Died 1940.)
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original  Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two other genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English-language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.)
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 60. He directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he has worked on Futurama. Might be stretching the definition of genre (or possibly not), but he did the animation for “Spy vs. Spy” for MADtv. You can see the first one here.
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 54. Bane of Puppies everywhere. Really he is — successful, white and writing SF very much that is in the mode of writers like Heinlein. How dare he? And yes, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic, with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes. The Interdependency series is excellent as well. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokey for my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

  • Bizarro once again lives up to its name with this Pinocchio joke.
  • Arlo and Janis find a clever use for a 2001 reference.
  • Thatababy calls out a buttinski named Batman.
  • Dog Eat Doug isn’t that funny but it does reference a well-known sff writer.

(12) KAIJU AND OTHERS. The birthday boy and Michi Trota featured today in episode 142 of the AMW Author Talks podcast: “John Scalzi & Michi Trota”.

Acclaimed science fiction author John Scalzi discusses his recent book The Kaiju Preservation Society and the science fiction genre with fellow award-winning science fiction writer Michi Trota.

This conversation originally took place May 15, 2022 and was recorded live at the American Writers Festival.

(13) APPLY FOR LEONARDO. Applications are being taken for the “Leonardo Imagination Fellowship”, hosted by Arizona State University, through June 2.

Leonardo and the Center for Science and the Imagination are proud to announce our second Imagination Fellowship, starting in August 2023. In this virtual, global program, fellows will develop experimental media projects exploring diverse aspects of Planetary Health Futures, including but not limited to issues of climate, human well-being, interspecies relationships, democracy, emerging social structures, and safeguarding the Earth’s habitability for humans and other life forms. Applications are due on June 2, 2023 at 11:59pm MST.

Fellows will reflect on how their projects support, align with and add new complexity and nuance to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They should also substantively engage with the notion of experimental media, charting new territory in areas like expanded reality, immersive storytelling, worldbuilding, and more. Projects should embrace global perspectives and invite global participation, and demonstrate commitment to justice and equity.

Each fellow will produce a discrete media artifact, and will be supported in collaborative, cross-disciplinary experimentation with practice and process throughout the fellowship period. Examples of outputs or deliverables include, but are not limited to experimental publishing projects, from books and novellas to zines and networked texts; expanded reality projects, from virtual and augmented reality to mixed reality; games and interactive experiences; films and video installations; sonic environments and acoustic experiences.

We invite fellowship applications focusing on a range of themes. Each fellow will connect their work with one of the following themes at Leonardo-ASU or the Center for Science and the Imagination. In the first phase of their fellowship the fellows will identify a specific existing CSI or Leonardo project to focus on, building on its networks, communities, and creative outputs. Some exemplar projects are listed for each theme below.

ACCESS

PLANETARY FUTURES

LEARNING FUTURES BRAIN/MIND/CONSCIOUSNESS

  • Futures of Learning and Education, connecting with the Arizona STEM Acceleration Project*
  • Imagination, Cognition, and Consciousness, connecting with Applied Imagination Project
  • Speculative Fiction for Institutional Transformation, connecting with the Applied Sci-Fi Project

*While several of these existing projects are rooted in Arizona, we welcome global connections, extensions, and expansions in fellowship projects that connect to these regional efforts.

Fellowship Details

  • The Imagination Fellowship Program will offer up to 3 virtual fellowships, beginning in August 2023, and running through April 2024.
  • Fellows will receive $6,000 per fellow for the period of 9 months. There is no separate production budget. Fellows are free to use their stipend to support production needs.
  • Applications are due Friday, June 2, by 11:59 pm Arizona time (UTC-7).

For further questions, please reach out to [email protected].

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. When my daughter was very young we used to watch The Wiggles. So it didn’t take much to rouse my curiosity about Defunctland’s YouTube video, “The Awful Wiggles Dark Ride”.

In Defunctland, Kevin and company return with stories of defunct rides, parks, and themed entertainment experiences. Whether it’s Disney, Universal, Six Flags, or a hastily built World’s Fair, Defunctland looks at the stories behind their incredible failures.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Soon Lee, Anne Marble, Kathy Sullivan, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 4/17/23 Cordwainer Angry Bird

(1) REALLY LISTENING. Charlie Jane Anders considers “What the Universal Translator Tells Us About Exploring Other Cultures” in her latest Happy Dancing newsletter.

… But at the same time, the notion of instantaneous, flawless translation feels very aspirational. In order to get better at writing Elza, a Brazilian travesti, in my young adult Unstoppable trilogy, I learned to speak and write Portuguese pretty fluently, and it was a huge struggle….

…This experience left me feeling as though it’s a lot easier to convince yourself that you understand everything that people are saying than it is to actually understand. Come to think of it, that’s kind of true even if everyone is speaking English.

And this led me to thinking that the trope of the universal translator is fundamentally about wishing that understanding other cultures would be simple, and that we didn’t have to work so hard. That we could go on endless voyages and encounter colorful people, and never have to worry about embarrassing gaffes where we announce that we are jelly donuts. (Though apparently, that’s a myth.) In other words, more boldly going, less patiently learning….

On Sunday, Anders will be at the L.A. Times Book Festival.

(2) CSSF BOOK CLUB. The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction has announced their April Virtual Book Club Event. Register here.

 In honor of April being National Poetry Month, the Center has chosen Kien Lam’s Extinction Theory. Extinction Theory is a collection of pseudoscience poems that try to provide rationales for some of life’s most salient mysteries.Where is God? What does it mean to belong? Who killed the dinosaurs? Kien Lam creates new worlds with new rules to better answer these perennial questions. His poetry is that of discovery, of looking at the world as if for the first time. Lam exposes the transitory and transcendent nature of things and how we find meaning. Readers from all backgrounds are welcome and even if you only read one or a few of the poems in this collection, feel free to log in! Poetry can be intimidating, but our book club is a safe space to explore theories, ideas and texts. Feel free to stop by and be part of the conversation!

If you would like to join us Friday April 28, 2023, at noon (Central Time) for our virtual meeting, register here. A flyer is attached, feel free to share with your friends, students, colleagues, and on social media. 

(3) A DRAMATIC ARGUMENT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  “Word Scrubs” aired on BBC Radio 4 this weekend, a SFnal story that concerns a future debate as to the re-writing of novels to “modernize” them for the new, present-day readership. Rather topical.

Word Scrubs

Mitch and Meg, siblings in their 30s, are the great great nephew and niece, and literary executors, of Peggy Stanhope (1889-1959), a prolific and profitable writer of books for children and young adults from a very different era.

Beloved by generations of children around the world, White Star (1943), winner of the Carnegie Medal, is the story of a snowy horse, owned by a young woman, who frightens away the evil stallion Black Boy from a village. Because of its time of publication, White Star was seen by some teachers and preachers as a patriotic allegory of Allied superiority to the Nazis, although Stanhope, denied this.

In 2023, a Hollywood streamer wants to adapt the book as a film, but, as a condition, wishes to change the title and some of the plot and language.

The meetings between the siblings and the publishers are intercut with Home Service readings from Stanhope’s work, and interviews with their author on Desert Island Discs, in a drama that takes its inspiration from the current debate over whether classic texts should be rewritten for contemporary re-publication.

(4) HWA LIBRARIANS’ DAY. The Horror Writers Association has released the program for the Librarian’s Day at StokerCon 2023. Admission for the June 16 event at Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square is available for $85 by May 15 or as a $35 to add-on Librarians’ Day to StokerCon 2023 registration.



8:30-9: Check-in

9 – 9:50 a.m.: Buzzing About Horror Books, Moderated by Emily Vinci: Join members of the HWA’s Library Advisory Council as they share the buzz about a slew of exciting new and upcoming horror titles. Come for the booktalks; stay for the free books and swag!

10 – 10:50 a.m.: How to Feature Horror at Your Library, Moderated by Konrad Stump: Hear librarians from across the country share their experiences featuring horror at their libraries, from book discussions to writing groups to author events and more.

11 – 11:50 a.m.: Why I Love Horror, Moderated by Lila Denning : Join some of StokerCon 2023’s Guests of Honor for a lively discussion about why readers of all ages enjoy a good scare, from fictional frights to all-too-true terrors. Appearances by: Cynthia Pelayo, Alma Katsu, Daniel Kraus, Owl Goingback, Jewelle Gomez

Noon – 1:20 p.m.: LUNCH
Grab a plate of delicious food and join your fellow attendees and presenters in casual conversation. 

1:30 – 2:20 p.m.: Brains! Brains! Brainstorming Ways to Engage Your Community: Join HWA Library Advisory Council members in small group discussions to meet some of your fellow librarians, share experiences, and gather ideas for how to engage your community with the horror community

2:30 – 3:30 p.m.: The Rising Popularity of Extreme and Erotic Horror, Moderated by Ben Rubin. Extreme horror is no longer lurking on the fringes of the genre. Some of the best selling and most critically acclaimed Horror authors today inflict their scares through this lens. It’s a subgenre libraries MUST carry on their shelves. It even has its own award. Appearances by Splatterpunk Award founders Brian Keene and Guest of Honor, Wrath James White, along with Eric LaRocca, V. Castro, Wesley Southard, and Hailey Piper.

3:30 – 4:20 p.m.: Summer Scares: A Thrilling Summer Reading Program, Moderated by Becky Spratford: Join Summer Scares current and past selected authors, spokespeople, and partners to learn more about the HWA’s popular summer reading program, how to get involved, and how to use Summer Scares resources to better serve your patrons. Appearances by Daniel Kraus, Stephanie from Books in the Freezer, and more.

(5) RACHEL POLLACK TRIBUTE. Christopher Priest’s “Rachel Pollack obituary” appeared in the Guardian.

The transgender pioneer Rachel Pollack, who has died aged 77 of cancer, was for many people known best as a novelist and short-story writer, winning readers and awards in many countries. She wrote in the idiom of serious fantasy, using the metaphors of numinous images to tackle concerns and events in the real world. Much of her work could be thought of as magic realism.

For Pollack, fantasy enabled her to address the matters that most affected her, including the nature and meaning of gender. She also wrote several scripts for American comics – notably one called Doom Patrol (1993-95), which featured a trans woman superhero, and often included such non-generic subjects as menstruation.

Her early novels were more or less traditional science fiction, although the third, Unquenchable Fire (1988), had several striking features. Set in an alternative US, it proposed the notion that shamanism was a workable system and mode of existence. The central character, involuntarily pregnant, discovers that her unborn child is destined for shamanism, which she obdurately fights against. Unquenchable Fire won the Arthur C Clarke award in 1989….

(6) IF SO, RAISE YOUR TENTACLE. BBC’s CrowdScience asks “Is there anyone out there?”

What are the actual chances of finding alien life? The idea of meeting an extra-terrestrial has ignited imaginations for hundreds of years, and it’s also inspired real science: the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – or SETI – is an organisation that brings together researchers across the world in pursuit of distant life forms. This same dream is on the mind of listener Andrew in Yorkshire, who has been looking into the sheer size of the universe, and wants to know: how many stars are there in existence, how many planets, and how many planets that could harbour life? 

CrowdScience presenter Marnie Chesterton sets off on a space odyssey to answer these questions. She starts at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, where University of Manchester astrophysicist Eamonn Kerins tells her the number of stars in the universe, and explains the Drake Equation – the mathematical formula that underpins SETI’s work. It’s a series of seven numbers that combine to give you the probability of making contact with an alien civilisation. The next step after stars is the number of planets; Michelle Kunimoto of MIT, who works on NASA’s TESS mission, explains the transit technique for finding distant worlds. Supposedly anyone can learn to use this technique, so Michelle puts Marnie to a test of her planet-hunting prowess. 

Distant planets are a huge leap forward – but not all of them will be hospitable to life. Eamonn breaks down how scientists define a habitable planet, as well as how to determine habitability using telescope observations. Marnie speaks to Mary Angelie Alagao from the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand about a cutting-edge piece of optical kit designed to block out the light from stars so you can take direct images of the planets next to them. Finally, it’s time to put everything together and get some actual numbers for listener Andrew – as well ask how long it could take to find proof of alien life. Try out Marnie’s planet-hunting test for yourself in the gallery below: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0fghj2l

(7) AI IS TWEETING OUR DOOM. In “AI Tasked With ‘Destroying Humanity’ Now ‘Working on Control Over Humanity Through Manipulation’” Vice shows things are moving right along – wasn’t it just last month AI was “only” trying to destroy us?

…An anonymous programmer modified the open-source app, Auto-GPT, to create their version called ChaosGPT. The user gave it the goals of destroying humanity, establishing global dominance, causing chaos and destruction, and controlling humanity through manipulation. ChaosGPT is also run in “continuous mode,” which means that it won’t stop until it achieves its goals.  

There is now a second video of ChaosGPT, following up on its initial video posted last Wednesday, titled “ChaosGPT: Hidden Message.” The video states that ChaosGPT is now prioritizing its objectives based on its current resources, with its “thoughts” being: “I believe that the best course of action for me right now would be to prioritize the goals that are more achievable. Therefore, I will start working on control over humanity through manipulation.”… 

(8) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books has released Simultaneous Times episode 62 with Addison Smith & Moh Afdhaal. The stories featured in this episode are:

  • “Containment” by Addison Smith; with music by Patrick Urn, and
  • “Unauthorized Personnel on the Bridge” by Moh Afdhaal; with music by Phog Masheeen

Simultaneous Times is a monthly science fiction podcast produced by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1997[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll comes from the very first story of the Spade/Paladin stories, “Stomping Mad: A Spade Conundrum”. It was first published in Martin Greenberg and Mark Resnik’s Return of the Dinosaurs anthology twenty-six years ago. It got reprinted in Rusch’s Five Diverse Detectives, a wonderful collection of her efforts in that area of the genre. 

You know the author, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, from her most excellent Diving Universe. She’s won one Hugo so far for the “Millennium Babies” novellette at Millennium Philcon

I delight in fantasy detectives but this isn’t one at all as Spade exists very much in the real world of fandom with the mysteries he solves taking places at Cons  All of the tales, including eventual novel, Ten Little Fen, are told in the first person singular by Spade. They are well told tales with a character in Spade that is easy to believe in. And he’s quite a sympathetic character as well.

The latest is “Unity Con: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum” which came out two years ago, and it’s available from the usual suspects.

She called herself the Martha Stewart of Science Fiction, and she looked the part: Homecoming-queen pretty with a touch of maliciousness behind the eyes, a fakely tolerant acceptance of everyone fannish, and an ability to throw the best room party at any given Worldcon in any given year. 

So when a body was found in her party suite, the case came to me. Folks in fandom call me the Sam Spade of Science Fiction, but I’m actually more like the Nero Wolfe: a man who prefers good food and good conversation, a man who is huge, both in his appetite and in the ecphis education. I don’t go out much, except to science fiction conventions (a world in and of themselves) and to dinner with the rare comrade. I surround myself with books, computers, and televisions. I do not have orchids or an Archie Goodwin, but I do possess a sharp eye for detail and a critical understanding of the dark side of human nature. 

I have, in the past, solved over a dozen cases, ranging from finding the source of a doomsday virus that threatened to shut down the world’s largest fan database to discovering who had stolen the Best Artist Hugo two hours before the award ceremony. My reputation had grown during the last British Fantasy Convention when I—an American—worked with Scotland Yard to recover a diamond worth £ 1,000,000 that a Big Name Fan had forgotten to put in the hotel’s safe. But I had never faced a more convoluted criminal mind until that Friday afternoon at the First Annual Jurassic Parkathon, a media convention held in Anaheim.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 17, 1910 Everett Cole. His first sf story, “Philosophical Corps” was published in Astounding in 1951. His fix-up of that story and two others, were published as The Philosophical Corps, was published by Gnome Press in 1962. A second novel, The Best Made Plans, was serialized in Astounding in 1959 but never published in book form. (Died 2001.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 Lloyd Biggle Jr. He was the founding Secretary-Treasurer of Science Fiction Writers of America and served as Chairman of its trustees for many years. Writing wise, his best-known series were the Jan Darzek and Effie Schlupe troubleshooting team, and the Cultural Survey.  I find it interesting wrote his own Sherlock Holmes stories from the perspective of Edward Porter Jones, an assistant who began his association with Holmes as a Baker Street Irregular. There’re are two novels in this series, The Quallsford Inheritance and The Glendower Conspiracy. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 17, 1923 T. Bruce Yerke. He was active member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, serving as its secretary for many years, and is credited with getting Bradbury involved with the group. Myrtle R. Douglas, Forrest Ackerman and he edited Imagination!, the Retro Hugo Award-winning fanzine. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 17, 1942 David Bradley, 81. It’s his Doctor Who work that garners him a birthday honor.  He first showed up during the time of the Eleventh Doctor playing a complete Rat Bastard of a character named Solomon in the “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” episode. But it was his second role on the series as actor who was the First Doctor that makes him really worth noting. He portrayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time, then played the role of the First Doctor again in “The Doctor Falls” and “Twice Upon a Time”, both Twelfth Doctor stories.  He is also known for playing Argus Filch in the Harry Potter film franchise, Walder Frey in Game of Thrones and Abraham Setrakian in The Strain
  • Born April 17, 1948 Peter Fehervari, 75. Ok, I’ll admit I’m including him because he’s written a number of novels set in the Warhammer Universe and I’ve never read anything set there. Who here has read the fiction set there? I’ve spotted a noir series set there. Really I have. Is it worth reading, and if so, is there a good starting point?
  • Born April 17, 1959 Sean Bean, 64. His role that garners him the most recognition is his performance as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, but he’s been in our area of interest a long time.  His first genre role was in GoldenEye as the the antagonist of Bond, Alec Trevelyan (Janus).  Next he shows up as Boromir in the first of The Lord of the Rings films. He played Dr. Merrick in the horror SF film The Island and was James in horror flick The Dark high purports to be based off Welsh myth. Following in the horror vein, he’s Chris Da Silva in Silent Hill (which gets a sequel later in Silent Hill: Revelation) and in yet more horror is John Ryder in the remake of the The Hitcher. (Was it so good that it yearned for a remake? I doubt it.) Black Death — yes more horror — and the character of Ulric ensued next. Finally something not of a horror nature in playing Zeus in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief happened. I’m going to forgo listing the subsequent horror films he’s in and just finally note that he’s in The Martian playing Mitch Henderson.
  • Born April 17, 1973 Cavan Scott, 50. To my thinking, there’s somewhat of an arbitrary line between fanfic and professional writing. (Ducks quickly.) Which brings me to the world of fiction set in media universes where a lot of fanfic is set. This writer has apparently specialized in such writing to the extent that he has novels in the universes of  Dr. Who (including the subgenre of Professor Bernice Summerfield), Blake’s 7, Judge Dredd, Skylanders Universe, The Tomorrow People, Star Wars and Warhammer Universe. Judge Dredd?  Novels? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld keeps knocking ‘em dead.

(12) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] In 2013, a LearnedLeague player wrote (in LL parlance, “smithed”) a quiz about time travel. You can find it here. In his last question, he used the conceit that the question itself had been sent to him from himself ten years in the future.

Well, here it is ten years later….and we have a second One-Day Special quiz: Time Travel 2, The Prequel! In which we discover that the paradoxes nest even deeper than was initially apparent.

This was a tough one, with a focus on somewhat obscure streaming television. Of course, from a regular LearnedLeague player perspective, there was a focus on somewhat obscure written science fiction. I got six questions right, but because the written SF questions played hard and I knew them, I scored in the 81st percentile.

(13) TROPES REMADE. Roger Luckhurst considers a nonfiction essay collection in “Science Fiction as Mode of Action: On MIT Press’s “Uneven Futures’” at LA Review of Books.

… Many of the roughly 40 essayists (including the book’s editors Ida Yoshinaga, Sean Guynes, and Gerry Canavan) refer to the lockdown conditions in which they wrote their contributions through the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. No wonder so many of them dream of action: SF as an active doing, a form of activism, rather than as a passive body of texts consumed in quarantined isolation, behind shuttered doors, away from the emptied-out public sphere…

…The task the editors gave their contributors was to “choose an SF text you love and explore how it helps us think of ways to live in, survive, and grow beyond the inequalities and injustices of our times.” They want to convey that the genre across its now myriad forms has the potential to be a kind of toolkit not just for imagining utopian alternatives but also for implementing them, however incompletely and precariously, in the fissures of the dystopian now. This gives each chapter its slightly awkward titling: the name of the text, and its active or activist possibility (“Affective Praxis,” “Deimperializing Empire,” “Inhabiting Hostile Futures,” “Black Lives Matter SF,” and so on)….

(14) SPACE FOR CHOCOLATE. Dreams of Space takes a look at “The Conquest of Space (1962?)” – not the similiarly-titled Willy Ley book, but a Nestle’s chocolate promotion. Images at the link.

I last blogged about this book in 2015 so it is time for a revisit. I got a second copy that has a couple of things I had not seen before. The Conquest of Space is a 1962 (?) Australian stamp album. It is intended for children to collect paper stamps they get in Nestle chocolate bars and then they could send away for this album. 

John Gunn. The Conquest of Space. Sidney : The Nestle Company (Australia) Ltd. 55 pp. 1962?

One of my favorite features is the certificate in the front. You also got a “Nestle’s Space Club” pin which this copy still had in the book…. 

(15) HATCHLING. George R.R. Martin tells the title of a new Game of Thrones spinoff in “A Knight and a Squire” at Not A Blog. And it damn well won’t be Dunk & Egg.

…The working title will be A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS: THE HEDGE KNIGHT.  Whether that will be the final title, I can’t say for sure… beyond saying that no, it won’t be called TALES OF DUNK & EGG or THE ADVENTURES OF DUNK & EGG or DUNK & EGG or anything along those lines.   I love Dunk and I love Egg, and I know that fans refer to my novellas as “the Dunk & Egg stories,” sure, but there are millions of people out there who do not know the stories and the title needs to intrigue them too.   If you don’t know the characters, DUNK & EGG sounds like a sitcom.  LAVERNE & SHIRLEY.   ABBOTT & COSTELLO.   BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD.    So, no.   We want “knight” in the title.  Knighthood and chivalry are central to the themes of these stories….

(16) PRIZE WINNER REVEALED AS AI IMAGE. “Photographer admits prize-winning image was AI-generated” says the Guardian.

A photographer is refusing a prestigious award after admitting to being a “cheeky monkey” and generating the prize-winning image using artificial intelligence.

The German artist Boris Eldagsen revealed on his website that he was not accepting the prize for the creative open category, which he won at last week’s Sony world photography awards.

The winning photograph depicted two women from different generations in black and white.

In a statement on his website, Eldagsen, who studied photography and visual arts at the Art Academy of Mainz, conceptual art and intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, and fine art at the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication in Hyderabad, said he “applied as a cheeky monkey” to find out if competitions would be prepared for AI images to enter. “They are not,” he added.

“We, the photo world, need an open discussion,” said Eldagsen. “A discussion about what we want to consider photography and what not. Is the umbrella of photography large enough to invite AI images to enter – or would this be a mistake?

“With my refusal of the award I hope to speed up this debate.”…

(17) THAT’S MEOW. “Cats Recognize Their Own Names—Even If They Choose to Ignore Them” reports Scientific American.

…Atsuko Saito, a behavioral scientist now at Sophia University in Tokyo, has shown that cats can recognize their owner’s voice. In another study, which involved 78 cats from Japanese households and a “cat café,” she homed in on responses to their names.

Saito and her colleagues first had owners repeatedly say four words that sounded similar to their cats’ names until the animals habituated to those words and stopped responding. Next the owners said the actual names, and the researchers looked at whether individual cats (when living among other cats) appeared able to distinguish their monikers. The cats had more pronounced responses to their own names—meowing or moving their ears, heads or tails—than to similar words or other cats’ names, according to the study, which was published in April 2019 in Scientific Reports….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/10/23 A Pixel Sliding Into Third Just Under The Tag Of A Scroll As A Filer Calls “Safe!”

(1) FRENCH SFF SCHOLAR COMING TO KANSAS. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF is welcoming 2023 Hall Center International Scholar, Simon Bréan. Professor Simon Bréan (U. of Paris-Sorbonne), a world-renowned a scholar and specialist in science fiction, will visit the University of Kansas in April 2023 as the Hall Center for the Humanities 2023 International Scholar and a guest of the Department of French, Francophone & Italian Studies, Center of Excellence, KU Libraries, and the Gunn Center for the Study of SF. Professor Bréan will be visiting from Wednesday April 26 to Thursday, April 27, 2023.

(2) ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN. “Harlan Coben’s Top Tip for Book Touring: Appreciate Crowds” in the New York Times.

On July 11, 2001, Harlan Coben was at home in Ridgewood, N.J., when his publisher called to share the happy news that his 10th novel, “Tell No One,” was a best seller. “That’s the first time I hit the New York Times list,” he said in a phone interview. “It was also the day my fourth and youngest child was born. Things changed a lot after that.”

Not only was the author swarmed by small people — the oldest Coben kid was 7 — he suddenly attracted crowds to bookstores. Gone was the awkwardness he immortalized in a 2014 Op-Ed about a slow afternoon at Waldenbooks: “During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four people approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.”

Maybe this memory explains why Coben declined to issue a single substantive complaint about the toll of recent professional obligations.

(3) NERO FIDDLES, VULCAN BURNS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] We may be living in some offshoot of the Star Trek alternate timeline where Nero destroys Vulcan.

Back in 2018 it was announced an exoplanet (“super-Earth” sized) had been discovered at 40 Eridani which was, of course, popularly referred to as Vulcan after Mr. Spock‘s home planet orbiting there in the Star Trek universe.

Well, reanalysis of the data has lead to the conclusion that, sadly, that announcement was in error. Though, the door isn’t completely closed as current data isn’t sensitive enough to rule out other, smaller, planets in the system. 

So, fingers crossed — for Nero to be thwarted and Vulcan to be rediscovered in its rightful place. Or perhaps a different arrangement of one’s fingers is called for. “Sorry Trekkies: Bad news about the ‘real-life Planet Vulcan'” at Mashable.

… The trouble is, after a reanalysis, the new team found the discovery was likely a mistake. That’s right: They couldn’t just let Spock live long and prosper in a real world. They had to go and wipe out his home planet from existence.

“We apologize for that,” Burt told Mashable. “We’ll find other cool planets.”…

… Despite their findings, the search for Spock’s home can continue, Laliotis said. Though they may not have a starship Enterprise to seek it out, more sensitive instruments and detection methods in the near future may make it possible to find another smaller exoplanet in that star system — perhaps one that is more Earth-like — to rename Vulcan.

After all, if 40 Eri b’s detection were correct, it would be much too hot for life as we know it.

“There is still hope that there might be a Vulcan there,” she said. “This actually is maybe promising that there might be a better Vulcan there.”

(4) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A fan costumed as Boba Fett had the transit police called on them during Anime Boston because onlookers thought he was carrying a real rifle. Fortunately, nothing severe came of it. “Police were called about a person with a rifle. It turned out to be a man in a Boba Fett costume” at CNN.

… Boston police had an intergalactic encounter after a report about a person carrying a long rifle led them to someone dressed up in a Boba Fett costume.

Transit police with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority received a call about a person armed with a long rifle at the Back Bay train station on Friday around 6 pm ET, according to a tweet from the agency’s official account.

But the rifle in question wasn’t real at all, said police…

(5) AL JAFFEE (1921-2023). Mad Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee died April 10 at the age of 102 reports SFGate.com.

Al Jaffee, Mad magazine’s award-winning cartoonist and ageless wise guy who delighted millions of kids with the sneaky fun of the Fold-In and the snark of “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions,” has died. He was 102.

Jaffee died Monday in Manhattan from multiple organ failure, according to his granddaughter, Fani Thomson. He had retired at the age of 99.

…The [initial fold-in] idea was so popular that Mad editor Al Feldstein wanted a follow-up. Jaffee devised a picture of 1964 GOP presidential contenders Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater that, when collapsed, became an image of Richard Nixon.

“That one really set the tone for what the cleverness of the Fold-Ins has to be,” Jaffee told the Boston Phoenix in 2010. “It couldn’t just be bringing someone from the left to kiss someone on the right.”

…Jaffee received numerous awards, and in 2013 was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, the ceremony taking place at San Diego Comic-Con International. In 2010, he contributed illustrations to Mary-Lou Weisman’s “Al Jaffee’s Mad Life: A Biography.” The following year, Chronicle Books published “The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Jaffee began his comics career after graduating high school in 1940, and at age 20 he made his first sale to Will Eisner, who bought his parody of Superman called Inferior Man. He went on to work for soon-to-be Marvel legend Stan Lee at Timely Comics, a forerunner of Marvel Comics.  He did his first work for Mad Magazine in 1955.

(6) NORMAN REYNOLDS (1934-2023). Production designer and art director Norman Reynolds died April 6, and Lucasfilm has a lengthy tribute.

Reynolds shared the 1978 Academy Award for Best Production Design with three colleagues for their work on the first Star Wars movie.

…Reynolds was an art director on Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). He worked closely with John Barry, the film’s overall production designer, to help establish the core design philosophy behind Star Wars architecture and construction. They joined art director Leslie Dilley and set decorator Roger Christian as winners of the Academy Award for Art Direction in 1978. For Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Reynolds was elevated into the production designer role as Barry pursued directing (sadly, he would pass away while working as a consultant on Empire)…. 

He won another Academy Award for Art Direction 1982, shared with two colleagues, for their work on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

…When Steven Spielberg partnered with Lucasfilm to make Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reynolds became production designer, helping establish the Indiana Jones style from the ground-up. This even included sculpting the iconic golden idol that Indy attempts to procure during the film’s memorable opening. Reynolds used an Incan fertility sculpture that he’d collected during his travels overseas….

Of course, Raiders wouldn’t be complete without Indy’s close call with a giant boulder as it rolls down a temple passage. “I didn’t know it was gonna look as good as it did until the day Norman Reynolds showed me that he had actually made a boulder that was something like 22 feet in circumference,” Steven Spielberg would explain. As Reynolds explained, it was Spielberg himself who kept asking for it to be bigger! Raiders would earn Reynolds his second Academy Award for Art Direction in 1982 alongside art director Leslie Dilley and set decorator Michael Ford….

(7) MICHAEL LERNER (1941-2023). Actor Michael Lerner has died at the age of 81. The Yahoo! profile mentions many genre roles.

…With an Academy Award nod under his belt [for Barton Fink], Lerner became a familiar face for moviegoers through the ’90s, with notable credits including “Newsies,” “Blank Check,” “No Escape” and “Celebrity.” In Roland Emmerich’s 1998 “Godzilla,” he played the overwhelmed, pompous New York leader deemed Mayor Ebert, a flagrant lampoon of premier film critic Roger Ebert. Lerner was styled to resemble the “At the Movies” co-host in the disaster blockbuster. (Ebert ended up panning the film with a 1.5 star review, though he praised Lerner for a “gamely played” performance.)

Lerner continued regular work after the turn of the century. He played the severe boss to James Caan’s grumpy publishing company exec in the 2003 holiday comedy “Elf,” as well as a mutant-weary U.S. Senator in the 2014 blockbuster “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1888[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning is both that of Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet and of the best known consulting detective to ever grace the pages of fiction, Sherlock Holmes. 

The November 1887 issue of Beeton’s Christmas Annual published Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet which showed us for the first time Sherlock Holmes and his friend Watson. Only eleven known copies of this issue are known to exist. 

It would be published in book form in 1888 by Ward, Lock & Co. 

It’s hard to believe there’s a single soul here who doesn’t know the story of these characters but I’m playing by our established rules, so no spoilers. So let’s go to our Beginning.

MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES

IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army. Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached to the 5th Northumberland Fusilier as assistant surgeon. The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I could join it the second Afghan f war had broken out. On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced through the passes and was already deep in the enemy’s country. I followed, however, with many other officers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded in reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment and at once entered upon my new duties.

The campaign brought honors and promotion to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster. I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Berkshires, with whom I served at the fatal battle of Maiwand. There I was struck on the shoulder by a Jezail bullet, which shattered the bone and grazed the subclavian artery. I should have fallen into the hands of the murderous Ghazis had it not been for the devotion and courage shown by Murray, my orderly, who threw me across a pack-horse and succeeded in bringing me safely to the British lines.

Worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships which I had undergone, I was removed, with a great train of wounded sufferers, to the base hospital at Peshawur. Here I rallied, and had already improved so far as to be able to walk about the wards, and even to bask a little upon the veranda, when I was struck down by enteric fever, that curse of our Indian possessions. For months my life was despaired of, and when at last I came to myself and became convalescent, I was so weak and emaciated that a medical board determined that not a day should be lost in sending me back to England. I was despatched, accordingly, in the troopship Orontes, and landed a month later on Portsmouth jetty with my health irretrievably ruined, but with permission from a paternal government to spend the next nine months in attempting to improve it.

I had neither kith nor kin in England, and was therefore as free as air—or as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be. Under such circumstances, I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the empire are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had considerably more freely than I ought. So alarming did the state of my finances become, that I soon realized that I must either leave the metropolis and rusticate somewhere in the country, or that I must make a complete alteration in my style of living. Choosing the latter alternative, I began by making up my mind to leave the hotel and to take up my quarters in some less pretentious and less expensive domicile.

On the very day that I had come to this conclusion, I was standing at the Criterion bar, when some one tapped me on the shoulder, and turning round I recognized young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at Bart’s. The sight of a friendly face in the great wilderness of London is a pleasant thing indeed to a lonely man. In old days Stamford had never been a particular crony of mine, but now I hailed him with enthusiasm, and he, in his turn, appeared to be delighted to see me. In the exuberance of my joy I asked him to lunch with me at the Holborn, and we started off together in a hansom.

“Whatever have you been doing with yourself, Watson?” he asked, in undisguised wonder, as we rattled through the crowded London streets.

“You are as thin as a lath and as brown as a nut.”

I gave him a short sketch of my adventures, and had hardly concluded it by the time that we reached our destination.

“Poor devil!” he said, commiseratingly, after he had listened to my misfortunes. “What are you up to now?”

“Looking for lodgings,” I answered. “Trying to solve the problem as to whether it is possible to get comfortable rooms at a reasonable price.”

“That’s a strange thing,” remarked my companion; “you are the second man to-day that has used that expression to me.

“And who was the first?” I asked.

“A fellow who is working at the chemical laboratory up at the hospital. 

He was bemoaning himself this morning because he could not get some one to go halves with him in some nice rooms which he had found, and which were too much for his purse.”

“By Jove!” I cried; “if he really wants some one to share the rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him. I should prefer having a partner to being alone.”

Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wineglass.

“You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,” he said; “perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion.”

“Why, what is there against him?”

“Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in his ideas—an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know, he is a decent fellow enough.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 10, 1897 Eric Knight. Decidedly better known for his 1940 Lassie Come-Home novel which introduced Lassie who I cannot stretch to be even genre adjacent for the soul of me, but he had one genre undertaking according to ISFDB, the Sam Small series. I’ve never heard of them, nor are they available in digital form though Lassie Come-Home of course is. Anyone read them? (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 10, 1921 Chuck Connors. His first genre role was as Senator Robert Fraser in Captain Nemo and the Underwater City followed by being Tab Fielding in Soylent Green. He’s Captain McCloud in Virus, a Japanese horror film, and he had one-offs in The Adventures of SupermanThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy Island and a recurring role as Captain Janos Skorzenyn in Werewolf. (Died 1992.)
  • Born April 10, 1929 Max von Sydow. He played Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the Never Say Never Again and Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. He shows up in the Exorcist II: The Heretic as Father Lankester Merrin while being King Osric in Conan the Barbarian. Dreamscape sees him being Doctor Paul Novotny while he’s Liet-Kynes the Imperial Planetologist in Dune. He was Judge Fargo in Judge Dredd (and yes I still like it), in Minority Report as Director Lamar Burgess, Sir Walter Loxley in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood and finally in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lor San Tekka. (Died 2020.)
  • Born April 10, 1953 David Langford, 70. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, not to mention hundreds of thousands of words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the publication, and some eighty thousand words of articles to the most excellent Encyclopedia of Fantasy as well. And let’s not forget his genre writing as well that earned him a Best Short Story Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for “Different Kinds of Darkness”.  And he has won 28 other Hugos for his fan writing, for Ansible, and his work on the third edition of EoSF
  • Born April 10, 1955 Pat Murphy, 68. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects.
  • Born April 10, 1957 John M. Ford, 1957 –  2006 Damn, he died far too young! Popular at At Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. Possibly. (And no, the Suck Fairy hasn’t gotten near when I last read it.) The Dragon Waiting is also excellent and his Trek novels are among the best in that area of writing.  He’s finally back into print after a very long time. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 10, 1962 — James H. Burns. Every search I did in putting together this late Filer’s Birthday ended back here. That he was beloved here, I have no doubt. In OGH’s obituary for Burns in 2016 he said Burns’ pride was this trio of posts that paid tribute to the influence of his father — My Father, And The BrontosaurusSons of a Mesozoic Age, and World War II, and a Lexicon in Time. Burns also wrote for File 770 about memories of “growing up fannish,” such as the very popular Once, When We Were All Scientists, and CLANKY!. And his good friend Steve Vertlieb also has reminisced about Burns here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 10, 1992 Daisy Ridley, 31. Obviously she played the role of Rey in The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. She will reprise her role as Rey in an yet untitled Star Wars film set that is after The Rise of Skywalker. She was also in Scrawl, a horror film as well as voicing Cotton Rabbit in Peter Rabbit. Though stretching to even call it genre adjacent even, she was Mary Debenham in Murder on The Orient Express.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Heart of the City shows us an episode of what Filers might call SJW Credential Court TV. (Hint: this is cat humor.)

(11) STRONG SALES PITCH. Charlie Jane Anders makes some pretty wild promises in the “Here’s What I’ll Do If You Buy My New Book!” section of her latest Happy Dancing newsletter. Here’s just the first of many:

…But regardless of where and how you purchase Promises Stronger Than Darkness, here are all the things I will do for you, because I love you and appreciate your support.

I will ship you, by zeroeth class mail, a portable ambient sexifier, which for 24 hours after activation, will render every inanimate object in your vicinity thirty-nine percent sexier. Your drapes will billow sexily. The cracks in the sidewalk will wink salaciously. Newspaper articles about the impending mulchification of civilization will appear diaphanous. The uneaten crusts of your morning toast will salute you….

(12) JUST ADD CUSTOMERS. “German monks create world’s first powdered beer”New Atlas has details.

A monastic brewery in East Germany says it’s created the first powdered beer. Just add water, and it’ll froth up, complete with a foamy head and full flavor. The result promises massive savings on transport, because it can be shipped at 10% of the weight.

Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle worked together with “technology partners” and used funding from BMWi to create its first powdered product, a dextrin-rich zero-alcohol beer which has been brewed using conventional methods, then “processed and prepared into a water-soluble beer powder/granulate.”…

(13) YOU NEVER KNOW. According to AP News, “’The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ is a box office smash”.

Audiences said let’s go to the movie theater for “ The Super Mario Bros. Movie ” this weekend. The animated offering from Universal and Illumination powered up with $204.6 million in its first five days in 4,343 North American theaters, including $146.4 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

With an estimated $173 million in international earnings and a global total of $377 million, “Mario” broke records for video game adaptations (passing “Warcraft’s” $210 million) and animated films (“Frozen 2’s” $358 million).

Its global total makes it the biggest opening of 2023 and the second biggest three-day domestic animated opening (behind “Finding Dory”). It’s also a record for Illumination, the animation shop behind successful franchises like “Minions,” which has made over $5 billion from its 13 films….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by N.] Animated fantasy series The Owl House received a final season that was truncated to only three hour-long episodes, despite the outcry of both the creator and its fanbase. In the face of that challenge the show has given viewers arguably its best episodes. The final episode has been uploaded to YouTube in full for free (as the previous two were), bringing The Owl House to a close after three years. “The Owl House Season 3 Final Episode”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Gary Farber, P. J. Evans, Daniel Dern, N., Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

2023 Sturgeon Symposium Call for Papers

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction will hold the 2nd Annual Sturgeon Symposium from September 28-30, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Octavia Butler’s groundbreaking novel, The Parable of the Sower. As University of Kansas’s choice for the 2023 Common Book program, her novel provides a powerful inspiration for the Symposium’s theme, “Fantastic Worlds, Fraught Futures.”   

The Symposium will feature Noël Sturgeon’s presentation of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best science fiction short story and a reading from this year’s winner. This year, the Symposium will include all-virtual sessions scheduled for Wednesday and in-person sessions on Thursday and Friday. The presentation of the Award and the reading by the winner will be a hybrid in-person/online event, available by broadcast for those who register and cannot be at the Symposium in person.

The CSSF celebrates the diverse community of students, scholars, creators, and fans who engage with speculative modes, challenging our conceptions of what is possible.  As Octavia Butler writes in Parable of the Sower, “All that you touch, / You Change. / All that you Change / Changes you.” Butler’s work reminds us of the transformative power of speculative fiction and its ability to inspire change and community in the face of the unknown. 

Individual papers, fully formed panels, and roundtables exploring “Fantastic Worlds, Fraught Futures” are welcome, particularly those prioritizing collaboration and dialogue across communities, and creative work from Indian Nations, such as the Kaw, Osage, and others whose homelands KU stands.

While they plan to make the Symposium available virtually, virtual presenters will be grouped together; unlike 2022, they will not be organizing panels that mix virtual and in-person presentations.   

Some possible topics for exploration include:   

  • SF pedagogy 
  • Climate fiction 
  • SF and revolution 
  • Maternity 
  • Artificial intelligence 
  • Machines in fiction 
  • Digital SF 
  • Virtual realities 
  • Music and SF
  • Weird fiction 
  • Post-human futures 
  • SF and narratives of escape/resistance  
  • Emerging technologies 
  • SF and war
  • Animals and SF

In addition to the award presentation and programming developed from submissions, the Symposium will include a roundtable discussion on the present and future of SF, a pedagogy panel on how SF is being taught, and a creative writing workshop.    

Email proposals to the Gunn Center, [email protected], by April 17, 2023. Notifications will be sent out in late May. 

For more detailed information about the symposium, including travel information and lodging options, please visit the CSSF website.

Pixel Scroll 3/11/23 Please Send In Two Hypercube Tops As Proof Of Ob, To Receive Your Free Pixel Scroll Title

(1) SPARKS FROM A GOOD CONDUCTOR. Somtow Sucharitkul proudly announces, “I ranted in my Facebook page and the Hollywood Reporter picked it up as an Op-Ed!” Beware spoilers. “Tár Ending is Not Cate Blanchett’s Character’s Downfall: Consultant” in The Hollywood Reporter.

The closing shot of Todd Field’s Oscar-nominated drama has been taken to represent the final fall from grace of the film’s eponymous heroine. But maybe we’ve got the whole thing backwards, writes Thai conductor Somtow Sucharitkul….

Well before Todd Field’s Tár opened in Thailand, I got my first review of the film from my friend, director Paul Spurrier. Paul had seen the film while in Los Angeles for the American Film Market.

“So we have here a mad genius conductor, who is kicked out of a major European orchestra after an act of violence, has rather ambiguous dealings with some young prodigies, ends up in Southeast Asia conducting a youth orchestra in a tawdry venue …,” he began.

“Oh!” I said, “You went to a screening of our film?” Because Paul was giving me the exact plot of our own film, The Maestro: A Symphony of Terror, a horror fantasy we made two years ago, which I wrote and starred in as the aforementioned “mad genius” conductor.

“Actually, no,” he said. “I just saw Tár.”

Since, I too have seen Tár and, as it turns out, Paul wasn’t wrong. Field’s movie does have a similar plot to The Maestro. Alas, I am a poor substitute for the incomparable Cate Blanchett, and our film is wholly different in substance anyway, being a modest little tribute to the horror films of the 1980s. In any case, the fall of the mighty, from Prometheus to the present, has always been the very essence of what we mean by the word tragedy….

(2) GUNN CENTER BOOK CLUB. Everyone is invited to the Gunn Center for the Study of SF’s (CSSF) monthly virtual book club happening on Friday, March 31, 2023, at noon (Central Time). Register here

For the month of March, the Center has chosen Donna Barbra Higuera’s The Last Cuentista. A comet has hit Earth and now Petra Peña’s world is collapsing. Petra, her family and hundreds of others venture to another planet to continue the human race. Petra awakes on a new planet 100 years in the future, and she is the only one who remembers the history of her people. Winner of the Newberry Medal and the Pura Belpré Award in 2022, Higuera infuses Mexican folklore with interplanetary elements to highlight the importance of preserving the history and culture through storytelling.  All ages are welcome to join.

(3) KGB PHOTOS. Ellen Datlow shared her snapshots from the March 8 Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series with Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear: KGB March 8, 2023 at Flickr.

(4) I’LL BE STABBED! “Using ChatGPT to Rewrite ‘Game of Thrones’? OpenAI Co-Founder Says ‘That Is What Entertainment Will Look Like’”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

… “That is what entertainment will look like,” Brockman said at a Friday panel at SXSW. “Maybe people are still upset about the last season of Game of Thrones. Imagine if you could ask your A.I. to make a new ending that goes a different way and maybe even put yourself in there as a main character or something.”

Hollywood creatives have already begun considering the potential impact — both good and bad — that ChatGPT could have on the TV and filmmaking process. As The Hollywood Reporter examined in January, organizations like the Writers Guild of America West have said they are “monitoring the development of ChatGPT and similar technologies in the event they require additional protections for writers,” though screenwriters interviewed by THR said they could see ChatGPT as a tool to aid the writing process, rather than replacing the work of writers….

(5) MOVIE REVIEW. The Hollywood Reporter’s James Hibberd says “SXSW: ‘Mrs. Davis’ Is a Perfectly Timed Warning About A.I. Madness”.

What if ChatGPT, but too much? Too popular, too omniscient, and far too nefarious than today’s cutting-edge chatbots?

That’s the premise of Mrs. Davis, an ultra-ambitious series from Big Bang Theory veteran Tara Hernandez and Watchmen creator Damon Lindelof. Mrs. Davis, premiering at SXSW before its April 20 streaming debut on Peacock, tells the story of a heroic, street-savvy nun (three-time GLOW Emmy nominee Betty Gilpin) battling an omnipresent AI and its legion of obsessed fans who will do anything to please their tech deity (called Mrs. Davis), which is supposedly striving to make the world a better place. Oh, and there’s also a quest for the Holy Grail, possible Nazis with butterfly nets, nefarious magicians and a teary make-out session with Jesus — and that’s just in the first two episodes. As Gilpin’s character, Simone, says at one point: “It’s a lot.”…

(6) OFFICIAL FILTERS CHALLENGED. George Packer argues “The Moral Case Against Equity Language” in The Atlantic.

The Sierra Club’s Equity Language Guide discourages using the words stand, Americans, blind, and crazy. The first two fail at inclusion, because not everyone can stand and not everyone living in this country is a citizen. The third and fourth, even as figures of speech (“Legislators are blind to climate change”), are insulting to the disabled. The guide also rejects the disabled in favor of people living with disabilities, for the same reason that enslaved person has generally replaced slave : to affirm, by the tenets of what’s called “people-first language,” that “everyone is first and foremost a person, not their disability or other identity.”

The guide’s purpose is not just to make sure that the Sierra Club avoids obviously derogatory terms, such as welfare queen. It seeks to cleanse language of any trace of privilege, hierarchy, bias, or exclusion. In its zeal, the Sierra Club has clear-cut a whole national park of words. Urbanvibranthardworking, and brown bag all crash to earth for subtle racism. Y’all supplants the patriarchal you guys, and elevate voices replaces empower, which used to be uplifting but is now condescending. The poor is classist; battle and minefield disrespect veterans; depressing appropriates a disability; migrant—no explanation, it just has to go.

Equity-language guides are proliferating among some of the country’s leading institutions, particularly nonprofits. The American Cancer Society has one. So do the American Heart Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National Recreation and Park Association, the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, and the University of Washington. The words these guides recommend or reject are sometimes exactly the same, justified in nearly identical language. This is because most of the guides draw on the same sources from activist organizations: A Progressive’s Style Guide, the Racial Equity Tools glossary, and a couple of others. The guides also cite one another. The total number of people behind this project of linguistic purification is relatively small, but their power is potentially immense. The new language might not stick in broad swaths of American society, but it already influences highly educated precincts, spreading from the authorities that establish it and the organizations that adopt it to mainstream publications, such as this one.

Although the guides refer to language “evolving,” these changes are a revolution from above. They haven’t emerged organically from the shifting linguistic habits of large numbers of people. They are handed down in communiqués written by obscure “experts” who purport to speak for vaguely defined “communities,” remaining unanswerable to a public that’s being morally coerced. A new term wins an argument without having to debate. When the San Francisco Board of Supervisors replaces felon with justice-involved person, it is making an ideological claim—that there is something illegitimate about laws, courts, and prisons. If you accept the change—as, in certain contexts, you’ll surely feel you must—then you also acquiesce in the argument….

(7) ANOTHER IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Ever notice how often two movies with the same general idea reach theaters in the same year? Now ask how it comes to pass than two movies based on the same book might do so. Gizmodo looks ahead to when “Cixin Liu’s Novel Supernova Era Will Explode Into Theaters”.

…For those who want to see Liu’s work on the big screen, good news—his 2003 novel Supernova Era is coming to theaters.

In fact, two Supernova Era movies are technically on the way, and possibly a TV series as well. Conquerer Entertainment, which has the adaptation rights to the novel, has announced a Chinese-language version of the movie, which will be simultaneously produced with an English-language version. If you don’t know the book (which Tor Books released in English in 2019), it’s got a (somewhat literally) killer premise. Here’s the official synopsis:

Eight light years away, a star has died, creating a supernova event that showers Earth in deadly levels of radiation. Within a year, everyone over the age of thirteen will die.

And so the countdown begins. Parents apprentice their children and try to pass on the knowledge needed to keep the world running.

But when the world is theirs, the last generation may not want to continue the legacy left to them. And in shaping the future however they want, will the children usher in an era of bright beginnings or final mistakes?

“The book has captured my interest due to Liu’s imaginative world-building and thought-provoking themes such as the fragility of civilization, the importance of leadership, and the role of technology in shaping society,” Conquerer co-founder Vasco Xu told Deadline. “It also raises questions about the nature of power, the relationship between science and morality, and the implications of different forms of administrations. Due to its futuristic setting and the presence of a significant global event at its core, the book has the potential to be adapted into two enthralling productions that would appeal to both the domestic Chinese audience and the global market.”

Assuming both movies get made, it’ll be very interesting to see how they compare and contrast. But we likely won’t get a chance to do so until 2026 at the earliest.

(8) RED DWARF NEWS. Radio Times reports ”Red Dwarf’s future confirmed after legal dispute resolved”.

…The future of Red Dwarf has finally been confirmed after a legal dispute between its creators, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor.

It’s no secret that the writers, who co-created the comedy series, haven’t always seen eye to eye, dissolving their partnership in the 1990s.

Naylor continued to write the Red Dwarf TV series but, in 2021, launched a High Court action against Grant over the rights to the show.

The dispute has now been resolved and it’s been confirmed that both of the writers will continue separately working on Red Dwarf in different media.

A statement reads: “Rob Grant and Doug Naylor are delighted to announce that the ongoing dispute over the Red Dwarf rights has been resolved.

“Moving onwards and upwards, Rob and Doug hope to launch separate iterations of Red Dwarf across various media, working again with the cast and other valued partners, and wish each other the very best.

“Smoke a kipper, Red Dwarf will be back for breakfast!!”…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1970[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

This is something rather different for a Beginning.Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire would be nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo fifty-two years ago at the first Noreascon. It wouldn’t win and it’s the only album nominated until the Splendor & Misery recording by Clipping was nominated at Worldcon 75 for a Hugo in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category. That didn’t win either. 

It is the first album to use Starship instead of Airplane, this under Kantner alone who produced the album, a name which Kantner and Slick would use for the Jefferson Starship that emerged after Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen left Jefferson Airplane. 

Kantner claimed that the inspiration for the album was the work of Heinlein, particularly Methuselah’s Children where a group of people hijack a starship. Kantner even quotes the novel in the opening song, “Mau Mau (Amerikon)”: “Push the button, pull the switch, cut the beam, make it march”. 

After listening to the album, I’ll be frelled if I can see how it relates to Methuselah’s Children at all. And I’d love to hear why it was nominated for a Hugo. Was it the Heinlein connection?

1974’s Dragon Fly was I think a much better SF album with “Hyperdrive” alone being one of the best SF songs done. 

So I’ll pick the Beginning stanza of “The Baby Tree”

There’s an island way out in the sea
Where the babies they all grow on trees
And its jolly good fun To swing in the sun
But you gotta watch out if you sneeze-sneeze
You gotta watch out if you sneeze

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife — The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 11, 1925 Christopher Anvil. Pen name of Harry Christopher Crosby, a Campbellian writer through and through. He was a staple of Astounding starting in 1956. The Colonization Series that he wrote there would run to some thirty stories. Short stories were certainly his favored length as he only wrote two novels, The Day the Machines Stopped and The Steel, the Mist, and the Blazing Sun. He’s readily available at the usual digital sources. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 11, 1935 Nancy Kovack, 88. She appeared as Nona in Trek’s “A Private Little War”. She also showed up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Invaders, as Medea in Jason and the ArgonautsBatman (twice as Queenie), Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I Dream of JeannieTarzan and the Valley of Gold,  Marooned, Get Smart! and The Invisible Man
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. Another one who died way too young. I’ve read and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. There’s also the Dirk Gently series which is, errr, odd and its charms escape my understanding. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See, their travels to various locations in the hope of encountering species on the brink of extinction. It’s more upbeat than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 11, 1961 Elias Koteas, 62. Genre appearances include the very first (and I think best of the many that came out) as the sports-crazed vigilante Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (I did warn you, didn’t I?), Cyborg 2 (just don’t, really don’t), Gattaca, Skinwalkers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Haunting in Connecticut.
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 60. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors.  I don’t see a lot of other genre work from her but she was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Now the latter I would have really to seen!  Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the stellar Deborah Harkness All Souls Trilogy series of the same name.
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Yes another way too early death. Best known for playing Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Arlo and Janis work a genre reference into a strip about tonight’s change to daylight savings time.

(12) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Not sff, but the New York Times tells about a fascinating project that’s started to sift the centuries-old impounded mail taken to from prize ships during England’s colonial wars: “Long-Lost Letters Bring Word, at Last”. At the article are quotes from these old letters.

… None of those lines ever reached their intended recipients. British warships instead snatched those letters, and scores more, from aboard merchant ships during wars from the 1650s to the early 19th century.

 While the ships’ cargoes — sugar from the Caribbean, tobacco from Virginia, ivory from Guinea, enslaved people bound for the Americas — became war plunder, the papers were bundled off to so called “prize courts” in London as potential legal proof that the seizures were legitimate spoils of war….

…For centuries since, the bulging boxes of those undelivered letters, seized from around 35,000 ships, sat neglected in British government storage, a kind of half-forgotten dead letter office for intercepted mail.

Poorly sorted and only vaguely cataloged, the Prize Papers, as they became known, have now begun revealing lost treasures. Archivists at Britain’s National Archives and a research team at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in Germany are working on a joint project to sort, catalog and digitize the collection, which gives a nuanced portrait of private lives, international commerce and state power in an age of rising empires.

The project, expected to last two decades, aims to make the collection of more than 160,000 letters and hundreds of thousands of other documents, written in at least 19 languages, freely available and easily searchable online.

Many of the papers haven’t been read in centuries, and many letters remain sealed and unopened….

(13) THAT’S WHO. At Galactic Journey, Jessica Holmes provides commentary on the very latest (in 1968) Doctor Who story arc. “[March 10, 1968] The Best Laid Plans (Doctor Who: The Web Of Fear [Part 2])”.

The latest serial of Doctor Who tempers the base-under-siege formula with an infusion of ‘whodunnit’, but is this a fresh take on the format or are the mystery elements just a red herring? Let’s take a look at the latter half of The Web Of Fear….

(14) BREAK IT TO HIM GENTLY. “What $27.2 billion buys NASA — and more space stories you may have missed this week” at Yahoo!

Tom Cruise, if you’re reading this, you may want to sit down

Back in October, the head of Universal Pictures made waves by hinting that an upcoming film led by none other than Tom Cruise could literally be heading to outer space. Now, at the time, it seemed a little outlandish, but given Cruise’s career of going to increasingly extreme lengths to pull off elaborate stunts, going to space didn’t seem like too much of a giant leap.

But, unfortunately, it appears someone already beat him to it. On Wednesday, a trailer for “The Challenge,” which was produced by Channel 1 Russia in partnership with Roscosmos and partially filmed aboard the International Space Station, was released. The story is said to follow a surgeon who’s taken aboard the ISS to perform an emergency procedure on an injured cosmonaut. No word on if “The Challenge” will see an official release in the United States, although Tom Cruise likely still hopes to one-up that production by becoming the first civilian to do a spacewalk outside the ISS. And you know what? I think there’s a pretty good chance he’ll actually try to do it….

(15) PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAPS. “To Save Physics, Experts Suggest We Need to Assume The Future Can Affect The Past” contends a writer for Science Alert.

…The quantum threat to locality (that distant objects need a physical mediator to interact) stems from an argument by the Northern Ireland physicist John Bell in the 1960s.

Bell considered experiments in which two hypothetical physicists, Alice and Bob, each receive particles from a common source. Each chooses one of several measurement settings, and then records a measurement outcome. Repeated many times, the experiment generates a list of results.

Bell realized that quantum mechanics predicts that there will be strange correlations (now confirmed) in this data. They seemed to imply that Alice’s choice of setting has a subtle “nonlocal” influence on Bob’s outcome, and vice versa – even though Alice and Bob might be light years apart.

Bell’s argument is said to pose a threat to Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, which is an essential part of modern physics.

But that’s because Bell assumed that quantum particles don’t know what measurements they are going to encounter in the future. Retrocausal models propose that Alice’s and Bob’s measurement choices affect the particles back at the source. This can explain the strange correlations, without breaking special relativity.

In recent work, we’ve proposed a simple mechanism for the strange correlation – it involves a familiar statistical phenomenon called Berkson’s bias (see our popular summary here).

There’s now a thriving group of scholars who work on quantum retrocausality. But it’s still invisible to some experts in the wider field. It gets confused for a different view called “superdeterminism”….

(16) READY FOR MY CLOSE UP. “NASA spacecraft beams back tantalizing images of volcanic world Io” at MSN.com.

… Io is tortured because it’s stuck in a relentless “tug-of-war” between the massive Jupiter and two of Jupiter’s other big moons, Ganymede and Europa — a world that might harbor a sizable ocean. This powerful push and pull creates profound heat inside a world that’s a little larger than our moon. All this heat seeks to reach the surface, resulting in molten lava and extreme volcanism. It’s extremely unlikely a world swimming in lava could host conditions for even the hardiest of life to evolve. But other moons in our solar system could potentially contain suitable conditions for life to evolve in their subsurface, like the Saturnian moons Enceladus and Mimas (and, of course, Europa).

Scientists like [mission director Scott] Bolton use these images to, among other things, identify new volcanoes. The darker spots are often places where eruptions have occurred, and other recent NASA imagery shows that this volcanism is incessant. A looming question is whether a global magma ocean oozes inside Io, or if there are just giant pockets of molten rock.

When the Juno spacecraft gets nearer to Io, it’s not directly approaching the moon, but veering by the moon’s orbit, as shown in the graphic below. During each orbit, Juno will snap pictures at the closest approach before it once again whips around the gas giant Jupiter. By the end of December 2023, Juno’s orbit (PJ 58) will bring it within some 930 miles of Io. It’s a much-anticipated event.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert interviews Steven Spielberg about a now-ironic complaint about Spielberg’s Night Gallery episode. “Spielberg’s ‘Appalling, Irresponsible’ Contribution to the Horror Anthology, ‘Night Gallery’”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/23 He Said, “First!” And Exited Stage Left To A Swirl Of Scrolling Pixels

(1) TOLKIEN SOCIETY AWARDS NEWS. The Tolkien Society invites the public to submit nominations for The Tolkien Society Awards 2023 through February 26. Membership is not required to participate in the first round. Once the shortlist is compiled, however, only members will be eligible to vote on the winners, who will be announced April 1.

(2) WHAT HAS IT GOT IN ITS GARBAGE TRUCKS? “Refuse firm Lord of the Bins ordered to change its name by Tolkien franchise” reports the Guardian.

A refuse firm in Brighton called Lord of the Bins has been ordered by lawyers to change its name after being accused of breaching trademark laws.

The two-man waste collection business was contacted by Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns the worldwide rights to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Nick Lockwood and Dan Walker run the company, which collects household, building and office waste across East Sussex and West Sussex.

The pair said they have been issued with a cease and desist notice after it was claimed they were in breach of the well-known franchise’s trademarks.

As well as changing the firm’s name and website, they have been forced to ditch their company slogan – “One ring to remove it all”.

(3) TWEET DECAY. Ursula Vernon speaks for many in a remark that went viral on Twitter.

(4) CHEESE PLEASE. In “An AI app walks into a writers room” Charles Stross passes along ChatGPT’s answer to an inventive question.

Question to ChatGPT: What is the plot of the unpublished script Charles Stross wrote for Wallace and Grommit?

(5) GUNN CSSF BOOK CLUB. The Gunn Center for the Study of SF’s (CSSF) monthly virtual book club has chosen for the month of February to read Akwaeke Emezi’s YA novel, Pet

Set in the utopian town of Lucille, Emezi’s novel portrays a society that has taught children that monsters and evil no longer exist. Jam, the protagonist, soon questions the beliefs of her society when she is faced with a real monster, who is nothing like the stories she has heard. Winner of the Stonewall Book Award for LGBTQ+ writing in 2020, Pet contemplates the classic societal conception of good versus evil. 

Readers are invited to join the virtual event on Friday, February 24 at Noon (Central). Register here.  

(6) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport offers Yoon Ha Lee’s “The Ethnomusicology of the Last Dreadnought” as an encouragement to subscribe.

It is not true that space is silent.

The darkness between stars is full of threnodies and threadbare laments, concertos and cantatas, the names of the dead and the wars that they’ve fed. Few people are unmoved by the strenuous harmonies and the strange hymns. Fewer people still understand their significance, the decayed etymologies and deprecated tongues….

(7) TRIBUTE TO A CRITIC. The Strange Horizons – 30 January 2023 issue is devoted to the late Maureen Kincaid Speller. (Via Ansible.)

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much. In the couple of months that followed, we made grand plans for future projects, and even started a podcast.

The criticism special was also the last major project the three of us worked on together, before Maureen’s cancer diagnosis. We lost her in September.

We’d already been toying with the idea of doing another criticism special in 2023; when the subject of a tribute issue to Maureen was broached, the only way we could envision it was through the critical work that she loved.…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2014 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So let’s talk about Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Spade/Paladin Conundrums which got their start in the “Stomping Mad” story.

I’m very fond of our community and equally fond of mysteries as y’all well know by now. So you will not find it at all surprising that I really love these stories. They’ve got a perfect central character as you’ll see below, a great setting as they’re all set at various Cons and the stories are all fascinating. What’s not to like? 

Rusch for a long time only did short stories set here,  really great ones, a fair number of them, mostly collected in Early Conundrums, and those exist in a stellar audio version which is narrated by Rish Outfield, but two years ago Ten Little Fen: A Spade/Paladin Conundrum came out. It’s a superb mystery and a even better look at Con culture. 

Here’s the Beginning of the series in that story. 

SHE CALLED HERSELF the Martha Stewart of Science Fiction, and she looked the part: Homecoming-queen pretty with a touch of maliciousness behind the eyes, a fakely tolerant acceptance of everyone fannish, and an ability to throw the best room party at any given Worldcon in any given year.

So when a body was found in her party suite, the case came to me. Folks in fandom call me the Sam Spade of Science Fiction, but I’m actually more like the Nero Wolfe: a man who prefers good food and good conversation, a man who is huge, both in his appetite and in his education. I don’t go out much, except to science fiction conventions (a world in and of themselves) and to dinner with the rare comrade. I surround myself with books, computers, and televisions. I do not have orchids or an Archie Goodwin, but I do possess a sharp eye for detail and a critical understanding of the dark side of human nature.

I have, in the past, solved over a dozen cases, ranging from finding the source of a doomsday virus that threatened to shut down the world’s largest fan database to discovering who had stolen “the Best Artist Hugo two hours before the award ceremony. My reputation had grown during the last British Fantasy Convention when I—an American—worked with Scotland Yard to recover a diamond worth £1,000,000 that a Big Name Fan had forgotten to put in the hotel’s safe.

But I had never faced a more convoluted criminal mind until that Friday afternoon at the First Annual Jurassic Parkathon, a media convention held in Anaheim.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance.  After that early Thirties film, he shows up (bad pun I know) in The Invisible ManThe Black CatBride of FrankensteinAli Baba Goes to TownThe Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look, that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight ZoneThe MunstersLost in SpaceNight Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 5, 1922 Peter Leslie. Writer in a number of media franchises including The AvengersThe New Avengers (and yes they are different franchises), The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Invaders. ISFDB also lists has writing in the Father Hayes series but I don’t recognize that series. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 5, 1934 Malcolm Willits, 89. Author of The Wonderful Edison Time Machine: A Celebration of Life and Shakespeare’s Cat: A Play in Three Acts which he filmed as Shakespeare’s Cat. He also co-edited Destiny, an early Fifties fanzine with Jim Bradley.
  • Born February 5, 1940 H.R. Giger. Conceptual designer in whole or part for Aliens, Alien³Species and Alien: Resurrection to name a few films he’s been involved in. Did you know there are two Giger Bars designed by him, both in Switzerland? And yes they’re really weird. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage thirty years ago which I never heard of. He also created the Castle series with Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame and was one of the actual players at the poker games on the series. View one of them here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 59. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld passes along advice about what women writers need.

(11) WAKANDA WORD STUDY. Dictionary.com has a rather interesting article about “The Names Of Black Panther & Wakanda: Their Meaning & Significance”. (Spoiler warning.)

Comic book creators and filmmakers pick some superhero names just because they sound cool. Other names, though, are chosen for their deep connection with a character or setting. Many of the names from Wakanda, the home of Black Panther, are especially rich in symbolism and significance.

Join us as we answer these questions and more:

  • Is there a real Wakanda that inspired the name of the technologically advanced supercountry?
  • What is Black Panther’s real name?
  • What does Namor’s name mean?

(12) BEST DRESSED. The New York Times reviews “A Murder Mystery With Clothes to Die For”.

“The Traitors,” a new reality game show, hinges on startling revelations. In episodes of the series, which is framed as a whodunit, cast members are regularly “murdered” (kicked off). Others are “banished” (also kicked off). But some of the most astonishing reveals have nothing to do with the plot — and everything to do with what outfit the show’s host, the actor Alan Cumming, will appear in next.

There are pink plaid suits. Herringbone tweed capes. Sleek little kilts. “Perhaps, rather alarmingly,” Mr. Cumming said, “the vast majority of the clothes were mine.”…

(13) CARROLL AT NYRSF. A video of Jonathan Carroll’s NYRSF Reading has been posted.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Matt Mitchell plays all the parts in “When ‘The Balloon’ Comes South”.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/23 Magneto’s Cat Versus The Metal-Munching Moon Mice

(1) AI CONTENT CREATION. Brian Keene makes the argument that “The Machines Already Took Our Jobs”.

…Now, you might not think that’s a big deal, because who is reading those types of clickbait articles anyway? But there used to be a human writer churning out those things. And now that writer is just a little bit more financially insecure and scrambling to find another gig to replace it. 

But stick around, because it gets worse. It is one miniscule step from A.I. writing that sort of content to then writing an article for a magazine or a newspaper. And indeed, I know of magazines and newspapers whose owners are already looking into this possibility. As one person at a fairly decent-sized outlet told me, “From a cost-cutting perspective, it costs as much to pay an editor to look over a machine’s writing as it does to have them look over a human’s writing. But the difference is we don’t have to pay the human who wrote it. Just the editor. It’s a game-changer.”

That’s not the only place you’re reading A.I. generated content. I personally know of three companies that now use A.I. to write their posts for LinkedIn and Facebook. And because that sort of content is usually dry as a Saltine cracker anyway, it’s impossible to tell that a machine wrote it rather than a human….

(2) FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE. Meanwhile, Camestros Felapton finds services are being developed to detect AI-generated text, and uses his own writing to evaluate the results delivered by one of them in “The robot arms race”.

… With the text-generating services, the need to detect the role of these services in academic contexts has become an immediate issue. How does a teacher know that an essay is written by a student or by some GPT-fuelled website?

New online services intended to detect machine-learning generated text are appearing. I tried this one https://gptzero.me/

(3) THE GUNN SF CENTER’S BOOK CLUB. For the month of January, the Center has chosen Rivers Solomon’s The Deep, winner of the 2020 Lambda Literary Award. Join them on Friday, January 27 at Noon (Central Time). Register for the virtual meeting here

Set in an underwater society built in the horror of the slave trade, the mermaids of this story must rely on their collective memories of the past in order to reimagine their futures. This novel, inspired by a rap song of the same name, is sure to captivate folks interested in the forthcoming live-action The Little Mermaid and other fantastical tales.

(4) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. NPR interviews James Cameron about the movies that are on the way: “Avatar 2 is taking over cinema, but how far away are we from upcoming sequels?”

On upcoming Avatar sequels and what exactly makes a good sequel

The shooting scripts are all written. We’ve already fully captured and fully photographed movie three. So, it’s essentially in post-production.

We’ve done the first act of Movie four, and all we have to do is, you know, kind of add water, so to speak.

The audience want some degree of familiarity. They want to be grounded in that which they liked from the first film. And some sequels change too much. The trick is to find ways to make it pleasantly surprising, unexpected. You know, I feel like I was able to do that with a completely unexpected direction.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1960 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.] An excerpt from Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham

As you know by now, you know that I have an inordinate fondness for all thing things Seuss. Indeed in my bedroom on the nightstand sits Horton, Cat in the Hat and The Fish in His Teapot. 

I have also watched the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas so many times that I’m sure I’ve memorized the entire delightful affair. 

I thoroughly despised the twenty minutes I saw of the Jim Carey fronted How the Grinch Stole Christmas crap. But I am told that I should check out the newer Grinch animated film in which Benedict Cumberbatch voiced The Grinch. Any opinions here concerning it? 

Did you know that on the twentieth of September 1991 following Geisel’s death earlier that week, Jesse Jackson read an excerpt of Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live? Well he did. And here it is

Now let’s have the pleasure of an excerpt from it. 

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
I do not like green eggs and ham.

Would you like them here or there?
I would not like them here or there.
I would not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Would you like them in a house?
Would you like them with a mouse?
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death. (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus the wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 75. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to have done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 53 . Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 49. Yes she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 47. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THE HELICON SOCIETY. The 2023 “Helicon Awards” were announced January 14. It’s time again for Richard Paolinelli to give awards to people he publishes through his Tuscany Bay Books imprint, such as his fellow Scrappy-Doo Declan Finn, which now has a distribution deal with Baen, plus a couple of real bestselling sff writers he hopes will pay him attention.

Paolinelli and Finn still relentlessly advertise their Dragon Awards Finalist status, from the first years when the Puppies cornered the market, but they have solved the subsequent problem with the Dragon Awards being voted to other people by starting an award where – the public doesn’t have a vote!

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Linoleum comes to theaters February 24.

Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan), the host of a failing children’s science TV show called “Above & Beyond”, has always had aspirations of being an astronaut. After a mysterious space-race era satellite coincidentally falls from space and lands in his backyard, his midlife crisis manifests in a plan to rebuild the machine into his dream rocket. As his relationship with his wife (Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon) start to strain, surreal events begin unfolding around him — a doppelgänger moving into the house next door, a car falling from the sky, and an unusual teenage boy forging a friendship with him. He slowly starts to piece these events together to ultimately reveal that there’s more to his life story than he once thought.

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