Pixel Scroll 6/5/24 Call Any Pixel, Call It By Name

(1) DEPICTING CULTURE. Kanishk Tantia discusses the difference between using set dressing and true engagement in the representations of a culture at the SFWA Blog: “Culture: Moving Beyond Set Dressing”.

… But perhaps we can do better. I hope I have been doing better. When I wrote “I Hear the Starwhale Sing”, which was published in Canadian SFF magazine Heartlines Spec, I was consciously possessed of the urge to write something truer to my experience, something more genuine than a list of Indian foodstuffs to convince the reader they were in a diverse setting.

What does “better” look like? Let’s draw out the issues with the Rajpur sample above, and contrast what better replacements could be used.

First, there’s the shallowness of the writing. The passage above does not need to be set in Rajpur, India. It could take place on Mars, or in London, or Atlantis. The setting exists only for flavor and can be quickly hot-swapped out without changing what we have seen of the story so far.

Next, the simple goodness, or stereotyping. It’s a dirty word, isn’t it? Even positive stereotypes can be harmful. In the paragraph above, I elicit color, food, and smell, all in a positive way. But these are flashy tricks, forcing my reader to imagine richness and depth by drawing on their own biases about India rather than trying to show them something new or deeper. That’s what stereotyping does; it simply pulls from a reader’s existing bank of experiences, without challenge or comment.

Most egregious are the loanwords. And there are indeed so many. Sari, kachoris, modaks, gulab jamuns, beedi, Diwali. These are all Hindi words, but they are given no real meaning and treated as arbitrary objects. The cultural impact of these words is lost entirely, because they exist only to fill space and create an illusion.

Can we do better? Perhaps. Here’s another sample….

(2) MANIFESTO DESTINY. WIRED eavesdrops as “China Miéville Writes a Secret Novel With the Internet’s Boyfriend (It’s Keanu Reeves)”.

… My next question to Mr. Reeves was an innocent “What do you make of China’s politics?” Did the Internet’s Boyfriend fully understand, in other words, that he was partnering with China Miéville here? “I don’t really know his politics per se,” Keanu replied. He knew exactly what China’s politics were. As any interviewer would, I waited. Keanu then told me he had recently read, “and enjoyed,” the Communist Manifesto.

Whether he meant the short text by Marx and Engels, itself a commissioned project, a tie-in of sorts for the revolutions of 1848, or China Miéville’s most recent book, A Spectre, Haunting: On the Communist Manifesto, about the same, I could not tell. The ambiguity made me giggle. Sensing it well up in me like a sneeze, I muted the phone just in time. I was forming my own speculative fiction: Keanu Reeves as communist, the Engels to China’s Marx. I suppose this makes perfect sense. Because science fiction—the kind China Miéville writes, but also, maybe, all of it, the entire genre—is, or so the great critic Fredric Jameson tells us, bent toward utopia. Possibly even a communist one….

(3) WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE SKY. “Paramount, Skydance agree to terms of a merger deal”CNBC has the details.

A Paramount special committee and the buying consortium — David Ellison’s Skydance, backed by private equity firms RedBird Capital and KKR — agreed to the terms. The deal is awaiting signoff from Paramount’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, who owns National Amusements, which owns 77% of class A Paramount shares… [National Amusements has movie theaters in the U.S., U.K. and Latin America.]

The agreement terms come after weeks of discussion and a recent competing offer from Apollo Global Management and Sony Pictures.

“We received the financial terms of the proposed Paramount/Skydance transaction over the weekend and we are reviewing them,” said a National Amusements spokesperson.

The deal currently calls for Redstone to receive $2 billion for National Amusements, Faber reported Monday. Skydance would buy out nearly 50% of class B Paramount shares at $15 apiece, or $4.5 billion, leaving the holders with equity in the new company.

Skydance and RedBird would also contribute $1.5 billion in cash to Paramount’s balance sheet to help reduce debt.

Following the deal’s close, Skydance and RedBird would own two-thirds of Paramount, and the class B shareholders would own the remaining third of the company, Faber reported. The negotiated terms were reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal….

(4) SF IN SF. Science Fiction in San Francisco will host readings by Robin Sloan, Rudy Rucker & Clara Ward on June 23 at The American Bookbinders Museum, 355 Clementina Street, San Francisco CA. Doors open at 6PM – event gets underway 6:30PM. $10 at the door – $8 seniors and students. No one turned away for lack of funds. CASH PREFERRED. All proceeds benefit the American Bookbinders Museum.

(5) JOURNEY PLANET CALL FOR ARTICLES. For the August issue of Journey Planet, Chris Garcia and James Bacon are joined by Jean Martin for an issue featuring food and drink in sci-fi and fantasy stories. 

Chris says, “A key part of worldbuilding is creating comestibles and libations that offer the audience an elevated sensory experience along with the characters. Share articles and artwork with us about your favorite made-up gustatory delights in novels, movies, etc. And if you know where to get them and/or have actually made them, let us know how they tasted!”

Submissions to [email protected]. Deadline – July 1.

(6) ONLINE FLASH SF NIGHT. Space Cowboy Books presents Online Flash Science Fiction Night with Eliane Boey, Jendia Gammon, and Jonathan Nevairon June 11 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free tickets at the link.

Join us online for an evening of short science fiction readings (1000 words or less) with authors Eliane Boey, Jendia Gammon, and Jonathan Nevair. Flash Science Fiction Nights run 30 minutes or less, and are a fun and great way to learn about new authors from around the world.

(7) TAKING GAS. Cora Buhlert was on the autobahn and filled up at Dammer Berge, the “service station of the future” (in 1969). Her encounter is part of Galactic Journey’s roundup “[May 16, 1969] Strange Dreams (May Galactoscope)”. Cora makes clear that the cuisine is not a reason to visit:

The structure is spectacular, a beacon of modernism, though sadly the food itself was rather lacklustre: a cup of coffee that tasted of the soap used to clean the machine and a slice of stale apple cake.

Cora then goes on to review Zero Cool, a pseudonymous Michael Crichton thriller from 1969.

(8) BLOCKED. “Franz Kafka letter shows author’s anguished struggle with writer’s block” – the Guardian has details.

A rare letter written by Franz Kafka to his publisher shows just how anguished a struggle it was for the Bohemian writer to put pen to paper, especially as his health deteriorated.

The letter, which will soon be auctioned, coincided with Kafka’s diagnosis with tuberculosis, which would end up killing him and which, scholars say, very probably added to his sense of mental paralysis and helplessness.

“When worries have penetrated to a certain layer of existence, the writing and the complaining obviously stop,” he wrote to his friend and publisher, the Austrian poet Albert Ehrenstein. “My resistance was not all that strong either.”

Undated, the letter is believed by scholars to have been written between April and June 1920, when Kafka was being treated for his illness at a clinic in Merano, northern Italy. Writer’s block famously haunted Kafka throughout his life but was exacerbated by his poor physical condition.

Neatly handwritten in polite, legible German, the letter is thought to be Kafka’s response to Ehrenstein’s request for the established author to contribute to Die Gefährten (The Fellows), the expressionist literary journal he was editing at the time. He had recently seen new work by Kafka in print, possibly his short story collection Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor), written in 1917 and published two years later. But Kafka quickly disabused him of the notion that he was actively writing….

(9) WILLIAM RUSSELL (1924-2024). One of Doctor Who’s four original cast members, William Russell, has died reports the BBC: “William Russell: Original Doctor Who cast member dies aged 99”.

…Russell played schoolteacher Ian Chesterton in the first two series of the BBC’s sci-fi show and was the Doctor’s first companion.

He left the show in 1965, but in 2022 he reprised his role and made a cameo in Jodie Whittaker’s final episode, The Power of The Doctor.

The actor broke a Guinness World Record for the longest gap between TV appearances.

In the first ever episode, An Unearthly Child, which aired in 1963, Russell’s character meets the Doctor, played by William Hartnell.

Russell’s character mistakenly calls him Doctor Foreman, before Hartnell then replies “Doctor Who?”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

June 5, 1928 — Robert Lansing. (Died 1994.) Let’s talk about Gary Seven, errrr, Robert Lansing.

For us, his most important performance was as the secret agent Gary Seven on Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” in which the Enterprise ended up in the Sixties. His companion was Teri Garr. He was sent there by an alien race on a mission that he’s now afraid the Enterprise will compromise. And then there’s Isis, a shapeshifter who’s a black cat in one form. Nice kitty. 

Sources agree that this episode was designed at least in part as a pilot for a new series featuring Gary Seven and his mission. Trek was seriously on the edge of cancellation late in its second year, and Roddenberry hoped to get a new show going for the fall season, hence this episode. The first draft pilot script of November 14 of 1968 had no mention of Star Trek or its characters which suggests that this was not intended as an episode for this series at all. 

Robert Lansing as Gary Seven in Star Trek.

Indeed, somewhere there’s a draft of “Seven” as it was titled before that was revised two years after the first outline of what would become “Assignment: Earth” written by Gene Roddenberry and Art Wallace in October of 1967.  I want that script! 

Garr was quoted in a Sci-fi article about this episode: “Garr feared (correctly) that Starlog wanted to talk Trek and had to be persuaded to chat so as to promote her new flick. Warren sat down with her on the balcony of her publicist’s office for an in-person session and from there, things went sour. ‘I have nothing to say about it,’ Garr declared of ‘Assignment: Earth’ in Starlog #173. ‘I did that years ago and I mostly deny I ever did it.’ Turns out she was glad the Gary Seven show didn’t go to series.” 

Lansing did do some other genre work…

His major role was as Dan Stokely in The Empire of The Ants, he’s a charter boat captain in Fort Pierce, Florida. He’s a primary character here and is in almost every scene. 

Following up on that fillm, he has the lead role of Elias Johnson in The Nest where a small New England town is overrun by genetically engineered killer cockroaches. Ants.  Cockroaches. 

So what next? Crabs, yes crabs. In Island Crabs, he’s Captain Moody nearly ten foot long land crabs created by a biological experiment gone horribly wrong are killing everything in sight.

Oh he has other genre and genre adjacent  roles, but how can I not stop there? 

Well just one more as it’s a significant one — he was Commander Douglas Stansfield in Twilight Zone’s “The Long Morrow” where before leaving on a decades-long solitary mission to another system he meets a woman and they both fall deeply in love. But what kind of a future can there be for them in the Twilight Zone when he returns? 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) VANCOUVER COMICS FESTIVAL APOLOGIZES TO JEWISH ARTIST IT BANNED. “After backlash, Vancouver comics festival apologizes for excluding Jewish artist over IDF service” reports Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

A Vancouver comics festival apologized to a Jewish artist it had banned over her past Israeli military service and a Seattle museum announced it was recommitting to an exhibit on antisemitism that prompted a staff walkout, in two reversals of arts-world sanctions connected to the Israel-Hamas war.

Both the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival and the Wing Luke Museum had faced significant backlash over the actions they took because of pro-Palestinian activism. 

“VanCAF has lost and continues to lose the trust of many we have sought to serve,” the Vancouver festival said in a social media apology late Sunday, days after announcing that it was banning American-Israeli comics artist Miriam Libicki following activist complaints over her past IDF service.

The festival didn’t name Libicki in either its initial statement banning her — which it quickly removed from social media following backlash — or its lengthy new apology. But the ban referenced Libicki’s previous IDF service, which she has turned into a comic, while the apology referenced another specific work of hers: “But I Live,” a collaboration with Holocaust survivors. 

(13) FREE AT LAST. Here’s the complete article we linked in yesterday’s Scroll, except no paywall – yay! “Sci-fi pioneer Harlan Ellison’s L.A. Shangri-la offers a window into his complicated soul”.

… As Straczynski moves through the rooms of the house called “Ellison Wonderland,” his deep affection and respect for his friend remains evident. He points out the care with which more than 250,000 books are shelved, each hardback jacket fitted with transparent archival covers, the dust-free groupings of comic-book figurines, the room full of shelves specifically made to hold jelly glasses from the 1960s. He touches only the things he must, in order to make something visible, such as when in Ellison’s office proper he opens a tiny door in one of the Bram Stoker Awards given by the Horror Writers Assn. and takes out the mini plaque inside that holds the winner’s name and book title

Harlan Ellison’s collection of books and awards

(14) VERBAL CATS. This article is paywalled, but you can enjoy the excerpt. “Written by Paw” by Kathryn Hughes in The New York Review of Books.

Cats were not, historically, great talkers (unless you counted Siamese). For much of their existence they had not needed to be. Consigned to barns, kitchens and alleyways for centuries, their main communication remained mostly among themselves. Apart from the unearthly wailing of queens during heat, or the involuntary screech of a tom scratched during a fight, cats conveyed their feelings by a twitch of the tail, a flattened ear, a crouch to the ground.

Only in the nineteenth century, once cats moved to the city and started to bump into humans more regularly, did direct communication become necessary with greater frequency….

… For the more suggestible owner, though, it was possible to imagine a darker side to this newfound articulation. For if the modern cat knew its name and could ask for food when hungry, who was to say that, when your back was turned, it wasn’t gossiping about you? If you added the cat’s well-known fondness for sitting on tops of piles of paper and books, it was quite possible to believe that it was reading your diary or browsing your letters. Worse still, perhaps it was at this very moment jotting in its own journal or cogitating a literary masterpiece—and, again, it might be all about you….

(15) SELLING BOOKS IS TOO MUCH WORK. “Costco Plans to Stop Selling Books Year-Round” reports the New York Times. (Story is behind a paywall.)

In a blow to publishers and authors, Costco plans to stop selling books regularly at stores around the United States, four publishing executives who had been informed of the warehouse retailer’s plans said on Wednesday.

Beginning in January 2025, the company will stop stocking books regularly, and will instead sell them only during the holiday shopping period, from September through December. During the rest of the year, some books may be sold at Costco stores from time to time, but not in a consistent manner, according to the executives, who spoke anonymously in order to discuss a confidential business matter that has not yet been publicly announced.

Costco’s shift away from books came largely because of the labor required to stock books, the executives said. Copies have to be laid out by hand, rather than just rolled out on a pallet as other products often are at Costco. The constant turnaround of books — new ones come out every Tuesday and the ones that have not sold need to be returned — also created more work….

(16) KAIJU STAR. The Guardian investigates “How Godzilla Minus One became a monster hit for Netflix”.

…Godzilla Minus One is by no means an artsy slow burn; like the other titles on the list of the highest-grossing foreign-language films in US history, it’s accessible and entertaining. It’s about reckoning with postwar survivor’s guilt, and it movingly challenges cultural notions of what constitutes honor, yes, but it’s also about the half-terrifying, half-exhilarating vision of a particularly mean-looking iteration of Godzilla laying waste to anything in his path…

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

Pixel Scroll 6/4/24 Cats And Pixels Like Snuggling Together

(1) RACHAEL K. JONES Q&A. Oregon Public Broadcasting interviewed awards nominee Rachael K. Jones: “Beaverton author is announced as finalist for literary awards”.

Marshall: This short story, “The Sound of Children Screaming,” drew inspiration from real life events, including one that involved you. Can you talk more about that?

Jones: It was one of the more scary experiences in my career in education. I’m a speech language pathologist, which is someone who works in special education with children who have communication disorders.

There was a lockdown at my school that happened during prep planning, which is the week before the school opens for children. All the teachers are in the building. We’re getting our classrooms ready and we’re getting the space ready for children. One evening I stayed late to finish building some Ikea furniture. While I was getting ready to leave the building you could hear weird sounds outside the school, little popping sounds.

The secretary called a lockdown of the whole school. It turned out that there was a shooting happening in the neighborhood. I went back and had to hide under my desk in my office with all the blinds drawn on a Friday night. I’m really grateful there weren’t any children in the building, but the most disturbing thing was that, because there were no children in the building, I knew it couldn’t be a drill. I was really scared.

It was one of those moments where we all tell ourselves stories in our own heads about what we would do in an emergency situation. With school shootings, you have a fantasy about how you’re gonna block the door, throw that stapler over there or tackle the guy and how you’re going to be this hero in your imagination. It was this really chilling moment to realize that this could be it. And what am I doing? I’m hiding under my desk and I’m not any more heroic than I usually am. I could die tonight on a Friday night at my job and that would be that, and there would be nothing I could do about it.

A lot of times I use my stories as a way to process strong feelings, I can’t really get out in any other way. For me, the story represents that kind of story where it says the things that are hard for me to say in any other way than fiction….

(2) TAKE THE AUTOBAHN TO THE CON. Cora Buhlert went to a German Masters of the Universe convention in May and posted a three-part con report with many photos. To get there required a three hour road trip:

…Last Saturday, I attended the 2024 Los Amigos Masters of the Universe fan convention. There are two big Masters of the Universe conventions in Germany, Grayskull Con and Los Amigos, plus at least two general toy cons which attract a lot of Masters of Universe fans and collectors.

Last year, I considered going to one or more of those cons. However, there was one problem or rather two, a)  I live in North Germany and most German cons, whether general SFF or specialty cons, are much further south and quite far away, and b) I had sick parents at home and/or in hospital and didn’t really want to leave them alone. Since point b) is no longer an issue, there was only point a) to consider.

Until last year, the Los Amigos convention used to take place in Hanau near Frankfurt, which is a four-and-a-half-hour drive away (or a one-hour flight to Frankfurt and then a train ride to Hanau). However, for 2024 the convention relocated to Neuss, a city in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, which is somewhat closer, though still roughly three hundred kilometers away, which means a three-to-three-and-a-half-hour drive, depending on traffic conditions….

…In fact, there were quite a few customisers were displaying their creations, sometimes for sale, sometimes not.  One stall offered a regular Origins Battle Cat customised to look like Battle Cat might have looked, if he had appeared in the 1987 live action movie (he didn’t, because the production team couldn’t make him work with 1980s tech). That Battle Cat looked great, but he was also quite expensive – 130 Euros – and there was so much to buy, so I passed on him. Besides, the Battle Cat was in Origins scale, but the movie figures Mattel is currently making are the bigger Masterverse figures, so the movie style Battle Cat wouldn’t fit in with my movie figure….

… I also learned that Tecklenburg has a castle ruin, as the name implies, and that bits and pieces of the castle have been integrated into buildings all over town. The ruined castle now houses an open air theater – the largest in all of Germany. The open air theater opened in 1924 and is hugely important for the town, since it’s a major tourist draw. The local handyman frequently builds sets and backdrops for them. The theatre used to stage everything from boulevard comedies to operas, but nowadays they most do musicals and children’s plays, because those are the most popular. They also host pop concerts on occasion. This summer, the open air theater Tecklenburg is staging Mamma Mia!Madagascar (based on the eponymous CGI animated kids film) and a musical version of The Three Musketeers. Personally, I’d prefer operas and operettas or regular plays (Shakespeare should be great on an open air stage in the middle of a ruined castle), but money talks and musicals are popular with people who’d otherwise never watch musical theater or otherwise set foot inside a theater….

(3)  HELP WANTED. Cora also has written a recruitment ad parody for the Evil Horde, which is one of the main villain groups in Masters of the Universe and a remarkably diverse bunch. Many positions are immediately open! “Join the Horde! Conquer the Universe! Sign Up Now!”

Are you dissatisfied with harassing peasants and raiding space tramp freighters? Are looking for a new challenge? Do want to see the galaxy and help to subjugate it? Do you want to become part of something greater? Then join the Mighty, All-Conquering Horde.

The Horde Empire is seeking, at the earliest possible date….

(4) KAIJU KORNER. Camestros Felapton is among those dialing up Netflix this week to see “Godzilla Minus One”.

…So firstly, if you are a fan of kaiju stomping and chomping their way through populated cities and military forces who foolishly think their puny weapons can stop the rampaging monster then this film absolutely delivers. Godzilla bites through warships, stomps on buildings and blasts all and sundry with atomic breath. Have no worries in this regard, if that is what you want from a Godzilla film, you should be satisfied. If you want Godzilla to be the misunderstood hero who battles a much worse kaiju, then no, you won’t get that but otherwise this is a solid entry in kaiju mayhem….

(5) MARYANN HARRIS (1953-2024). MaryAnn Harris, wife of Charles de Lint, who had been hospitalized and on a ventilator since 2021 after contracting Powassan virus, an extremely rare tick-bourne illness, died June 3. De Lint made the announcement on Facebook:

I’m so so sorry to have to tell you all that Mare passed away this afternoon, June 3, 2024. She fought long and hard to try to beat the awful state in which the Powasssan virus had left her but in the end she just didn’t have the strength to carry on any longer. She died peacefully in her room, surrounded by family, in the beautiful space that her friends and family made of what had been a sterile hospital room.

She touched the hearts of every one she met and we were all so blessed to have known her.

Lately I’d been wondering what this day would feel like. I’ve been on my own since September 2021 and feel that I started grieving at that point, but all that time did nothing to prepare me for how desolate I feel now that she’s actually gone.

Thanks to everyone who cheered her on through this journey, who sent her cards and little gifts, donations towards her care and all the love and words of encouragement. That did much to carry her forward with strength and determination until her body finally gave out on her.

Words can’t express how grateful we are for your support.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Compiled by Paul Weimer.]

June 4, 1960 Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 64.

By Paul Weimer: For me, Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s diverse and large oeuvre, in my reading, runs along two main tracks.

Where I first discovered and encountered her work was in the boom fantasy period in the 90’s with her Fey series. The Fey novels were my first experience with a robust and expansionistic version of Elves. Up until reading The Sacrifice, The Changling and its sequels, my impression of Elves as I had read them to that point were Tolkienistic: hermit kingdoms, quietly holding their power, or slowly fading away, or looking for the chance to slip away and head west to somewhere over the sea. Elves “belonged” to a world that had passed them by. Imagine my surprise when I started reading the Changeling, and discovered a Elf-like race, the Fey, who were not retiring quietly. Instead, these Fey had decided to conquer the entire world with their battle magic. Sure, Blue Isle proved to be an insurmountable roadblock to those conquests, but the very idea of militant expansionist elves…well, I’ve read takes on it since then in various guises and authors, but Rusch’s Fey were the first time I had ever encountered the idea.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch in 2019.

The Wreck series was not quite as innovative for me, but it sits in a relatively unexploited portion of space opera: Space Archaeology.  Boss’ story, in Diving into the Wreck and its sequels, is the story of a character whom, when I met her, thought, “Hey, that would make a neat Traveller character– someone who plunders old spaceships for a living, especially for their history, as well as for the financial aspects of same.  I’d read McDevitt, and Modesitt, and other authors which explored Xenoarchaeology before running into Boss, but Boss was and is a one-of-a-kind character, larger than life. I can always tell that a character resonates with me when I want to make an expy of that character for a RPG. Boss and her adventures in the first couple of novels wanted me to do that.  I didn’t quite as warm to the other various characters, such as Coop, in the later Diving novels, but maybe that’s because Boss so firmly imprinted on me that she ate up the space for me to do so. 

But in the end, Rusch has a prodigious output, under a variety of pen names, in a wide variety of subgenres from tie-in novels to romance, and thus  is one of those authors you could lose yourself in her massive oeuvre and not come out for months or years. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy reports something that once was commonly known
  • Bizarro shows why they’re a perfect match.
  • Macanudo has an expert taster.
  • Pearls Before Swine wistfully remembers a social media platform. (Wait, it’s still here!)

(8) BASED ON AN OCCASIONALLY TRUE STORY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] ROH Press published an interesting profile about the Italian adventure fiction writer Emilio Salgari (1862-1911), who created Sandokan, the Tiger of Malaysia, and the Black Corsair. Salgari isn’t very well known in the US, but I encountered his work via the film adaptations which were a staple of afternoon TV, when I was a kid: “Emilio Salgari: Master of Adventure”

…He claimed to have travelled throughout the American West where he met Buffalo Bill; he had explored the Sudan, lived at the Mahdi’s court, loved Indian princesses, sailed among the many islands of the Far East. Here was a man of action that had explored the world and lived many adventures, adventures he would use for the basis of his 80 plus novels and hundreds of short stories to captivate readers worldwide. At dinner parties he regaled his hosts with tales from his many voyages, guests to his home would often be shown artefacts acquired in far off lands. Throughout the 20th century illustrations of him on the back of his novels showed him clad in his captain’s uniform. His memoirs were filled with adventures in the most exotic lands. A remarkable life, envied by many.

Except that very little of it was true. He did meet Buffalo Bill, but at Sherman’s Wild West Show in Verona, not, as he claimed, while exploring Nebraska. He was knighted for his stories, that much was true; he founded the adventure genre in Italy, his tales captivating young and old, and inspiring many to take up the pen….

(9) NO SUCH THING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This is a year old, but it’s still a lovely remembrance of Manly Wade Wellman from Stephen Smith who was one of his creative writing students: “Manly Wade Wellman: Our Forgotten Man of Letters” in The Pilot.

…Wellman was fiercely proud of his stature as a writer. “Outlaws,” he called us, generously including his students in the designation, and he had the rare ability, from the moment he stepped into the room, to instill in each student the strong belief in self that made him a successful writer and a charismatic presence.

Each Tuesday morning that semester, I’d drop a story in the campus mail, and Manly would critique and correct it and hand it back after reading it aloud to the class. I was no doubt an annoyingly eager student, and on a couple of occasions I submitted two stories in one week. “You’re like the tiger who’s tasted blood,” Manly laughed — and in fact, I was spending entirely too much study time writing fiction. Not all my stories were keepers, but one was good enough to win a state-wide short story contest that earned me $100 and a magazine publication. When I met with Manly after winning the magazine prize, he asked what my major was. I told him it was sociology. “Change your major to English!” he barked. “There’s no such thing as sociology!”…

(10) WILL SPIELBERG ADAPT ANOTHER CHICHTON NOVEL? “Eruption: James Patterson finishes Crichton passion project” – and the BBC says now that it’s done Hollywood is abuzz.

Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton died from cancer over 15 years ago – now, his unfinished “passion project”, about a humanity-threatening volcanic eruption, has been completed by fellow literary giant James Patterson and is already generating heated interest in Hollywood.

Eruption takes readers on a thrilling journey through Hawaii’s biggest island, which, unbeknown to its residents, hides dangerous military secrets dating back decades.

There has been no formal screen auction yet – but Sherri Crichton, who discovered her late husband’s unfinished manuscript over a decade ago and controls his estate, told BBC News she was now in talks with Steven Spielberg about a possible big-screen adaptation.

(11) LE GUIN LOOKS IN THE MIRROR. B.D. McClay’s article “Ursula K. Le Guin was her own toughest (and best) critic” is behind a Washington Post paywall. If you have access, lucky you!

… What a pleasure it is, then, to open “The Language of the Night: Essays on Writing, Science Fiction, and Fantasy,” and discover someone vigorously disagreeing with herself on almost every page. To say that the Le Guin we meet in this book is argumentative, sometimes unfair, sometimes wrong and even self-contradictory is not to diminish her greatness. It is rather to rescue her from the dullness imposed on her by her canonization.

By her own account, Le Guin was an indiscriminate reader of books at a young age; she read science fiction, but with no particular devotion. As she got older, the genre did not seem to have a place in it for an adult. “If I glanced at a magazine,” she wrote in the essay “A Citizen of Mondath,” included in this collection, “it still seemed to be all about starship captains in black with lean rugged faces and a lot of fancy artillery.” She drifted off to “Tolstoy and things,” and it was only when a friend told her to read a short story by Cordwainer Smith that she went back to science fiction.

Smith — whose real name was the somehow even more improbable Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger — worked for the United States military; he was, perhaps, too close to war to fantasize about it. He drew imaginatively from other sources, like Joan of Arc and Chinese mythology. His work, which features psychic pilots and heroic space cats, is elastic, wild and, perhaps most importantly in seeing his influence on Le Guin, very funny.

For Le Guin, who was also uninspired by military aesthetics, similarly eclectic in her influences and would complain that nobody ever noticed when she was being funny, reading Smith must have been a shock of recognition akin to love at first sight. (“I don’t really remember what I thought when I read it,” she wrote, “but what I think now I ought to have thought when I read it is My God! It can be done!”) …

(12) JMS Q&A. Also behind a paywall (it’s not our lucky day!) is the Los Angeles Times’ interview with J. Michael Straczynski about his work preserving Harlan Ellison’s legacy: “Harlan Ellison’s books being reissued by J. Michael Straczynski” This passage talks about the façade of Ellison’s home dubbed “The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars”.

On a hilly street in Sherman Oaks, writer and producer J. Michael “Joe” Straczynski gestures to a row of gray gargoylesque heads mounted above an entryway. “If you look carefully, you’ll see they are the Watergate figures,” he says. “Nixon in the middle, surrounded by Mitchell, Dean, Haldeman, all of them.” He smiles, knowing that the mind that created this funky tableau belonged to none other than his closest friend, the eccentric author of speculative fiction, Harlan Ellison….

…. The Watergate grotesques form a small portion of the weird and sometimes wacky, but always carefully curated, world of Ellison. The largest portion of the facade features stone-intaglio pictographs that at first glance might be Egyptian hieroglyphs or Aztec sun symbols; closer examination reveals all sorts of imaginative creatures, from tiny robots to taloned divinities to monsters. Every piece of the house was carefully chosen by Ellison, and many pieces, including carved doors, staircases and even hinges and handles, were designed to his specifications. Next to the doorbell hangs a small framed sign: “Dig. Or split.” The author had no interest in catering to people who did not share his enthusiasms or worldviews….

(13) JUSTWATCH TOP 10S FOR MAY. JustWatch has shared their Top 10 streaming charts for the month of May.

(14) HOMEWARD BOUND FROM LUNA. “China moon landing: Spacecraft Chang’e-6 unfurls flag on far side of the moon”AP News has the details.

…The Chang’e-6 probe was launched last month and its lander touched down on the far side of the moon Sunday. Its ascender lifted off Tuesday morning at 7:38 a.m. Beijing time, with its engine burning for about six minutes as it entered a preset orbit around the moon, the China National Space Administration said.

The agency said the spacecraft withstood a high temperature test on the lunar surface, and acquired the samples using both drilling and surface collection before stowing them in a container inside the ascender of the probe as planned.

The container will be transferred to a reentry capsule that is due to return to Earth in the deserts of China’s Inner Mongolia region about June 25.

(15) WONDLA TRAILER. Animation Magazine is there when “Apple TV+ Unveils Trailer for Animated Sci-Fi Series ‘WondLa’”.

…WondLa centers on Eva, voiced by Jeanine Mason (Roswell, New Mexico), a curious, enthusiastic and spirited teenager being raised in a state-of-the-art underground bunker by Muthr, a robot caretaker, voiced by Emmy Award nominee Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives).

On her 16th birthday, an attack on Eva’s bunker forces her onto the Earth’s surface which is now inhabited by aliens, covered with other-worldly fauna, and no other humans to be found. In fact, it’s no longer called Earth, but Orbona. Otto, a loveable giant water bear with whom Eva shares telepathic powers, voiced by Emmy Award winner Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), and Rovender, a cantankerous alien with a troubled past voiced by Gary Anthony Williams (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) join Eva as she leads the team on a dangerous quest to find humans, her home, and her true destiny….

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/24 Pixel Yourself On A Scroll By A Tickbox

(1) WAYWARD WORMHOLE Signups are being taken for the Rambo Academy Wayward Wormhole – New Mexico 2024. Full details at the link.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is pleased to announce the second annual Wayward Wormhole, this time in New Mexico. Join us for the short story workshop to study with Arley Sorg and Minister Faust, or the novel workshop with Donald Maass, C.C. Finlay, and Cat Rambo.

Both intensive workshops will be hosted at the Painted Pony ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. The short story workshop runs November 4-12, 2024, and the novel workshop runs November 15 through 24, 2024.

(2) EARLY ENTRY ON THE 2024 BUSINESS MEETING AGENDA. Linda Deneroff, Alexia Hebel, Kevin Standlee, and Kevin Black have submitted to the Glasgow 2024 Business Meeting an amendment to the WSFS Constitution to restore “supporting” and “attending” to replace “WSFS Membership” and “Attending Supplement”.

Short Title: The Way We Were

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution by striking out and inserting the following:

Moved: To replace WSFS Membership with Supporting Membership wherever it appears in the Constitution, and to replace Attending Supplement with Attending Membership, including all similar variations of the words (e.g., WSFS Memberships, WSFS members, attending supplement) to their grammatically correct replacements.

Proposed by: Linda Deneroff, Alexia Hebel, Kevin Standlee, and Kevin Black

Commentary: Since both terms involved the word “Membership” there has been a lot of confusion among people purchasing memberships who do not understand why they have to purchase a “second” membership, or why they have to buy a “WSFS membership” in the first place. Under the original terminology, the price of an attending membership was inclusive of the support price.

Any reimbursement restrictions could still remain in place, with the price of the supporting portion of the attending membership deducted from any refund.

(3) IF IT’S NOT MADE IN MIDDLE-EARTH, IT’S CRAP! “Why Do Dwarves Sound Scottish and Elves Sound Like Royalty?” While Atlas Obscura  tries to say Tolkien had a lot to do with it, their evidence shows it’s not his books but the filmmakers who adapted them that are the greatest influence.

…Of course the original readers couldn’t hear what Tolkien’s creatures sounded like, but the intense focus he placed on developing their languages gave people a pretty good idea. “Tolkien was a philologist,” says Olsen.“This is what he did. He studied language and the history of language and the changing of language over time.”

Tolkien would create languages first, then write cultures and histories to speak them, often taking inspiration from the sound of an existing language. In the case of the ever-present Elvish languages in his works, Tolkien took inspiration from Finnish and Welsh. As the race of men and hobbits got their language from the elves in Tolkien’s universe, their language was portrayed as similarly Euro-centric in flavor.

For the dwarves, who were meant to have evolved from an entirely separate lineage, he took inspiration from Semitic languages for their speech, resulting in dwarven place names like Khazad-dûm and Moria….

… However, the dwarves of the Lord of the Rings movies don’t speak with an Israeli accent, and the elves of Warcraft don’t have a Finnish inflection. This comes down to the differences between how Tolkien portrayed his fantasy races and how he imagined they should talk, and the readers’ interpretation….

(4) KEEP THEM SEQUELS ROLLIN’. “Alien? Mission: Impossible? Toy Story? What is the greatest movie franchise ever?” The Guardian’s staff stake their claims. Here’s Jesse Hassenger’s pick.

Predator

There are a lot of movie series that made it through four or five entries as an unusual rotating showcase for different directors before giving in to the temptation to re-hire past successes. I still love the Alien and Mission: Impossible movies dearly, but they’ve also made me extra-grateful for the rare franchise that has managed to never repeat a director or major (human) cast member. I’m talking – for now – about the Predator movies, the B-movie little siblings to the classier, weirder, more thought-provoking A-list Alien. Only one is bad – the second Alien vs Predator match-up, nonsensically subtitled Requiem. All of the rest, where various badass aliens hunt various opponents (including Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Danny Glover, Olivia Munn, the xenomorph and Adrien Brody, among others) for sport, filter their premise through a different vision of monster-movie splendor. On one level, you always know what you’ll get: clicky noises, gory deaths, those triangle laser-sight things. Yet the specifics have plenty of wiggle room: should they be scary, funny or nasty? Action, horror or sci-fi? It’s a throwback to when movie franchises knew their place as fun programmers, rather than tentpole sagas. Alas, Dan Trachtenberg is about to become the first Predator director to return to the series. He did a great job with the entertaining Prey; it’s just a shame for the series to lose its constant one-and-done churn. For now, I’ll continue to savor those no-nonsense weirdos with the ugly mandibles and over-elaborate armor, and their accidental compatibility with B-movie auteurism. Jesse Hassenger

(5) THAT 70’S ART. This link assembles many examples of “Space Bar” themed examples of “70s Sci-Fi Art”. (And from later, too).

(6) JOHNNY WACTOR (1986-2024). Best known for his work in daytime TV, Johnny Wactor was reportedly killed by thieves on May 25. The New York Times’ summary shows he also had roles in several genre series.

Johnny Wactor, an actor best known for his role in “General Hospital,” was shot and killed on Saturday, reports said, amid what his family described as an attempted theft of a catalytic converter in Los Angeles.

Ms. Wactor said her son thought his car was being towed at first, and when he approached the person to ask, the person “looked up, he was wearing a mask, and opened fire.”

Mr. Wactor … also appeared in episodes of “Westworld,” “The OA” and “Station 19.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

May 27, 1934 Harlan Ellison. (Died 2018.)

By Paul Weimer. Or, even though he has passed away, he still might sue me from beyond the grave, so Harlan Ellison® .

My reading of Harlan Ellison® was benefited to me thanks to my older brother, whom I have mentioned earlier in this space was mainly responsible for me to get into science fiction and fantasy, and his bookshelf were my early steps into the genre. As it so happened, he had a fair number of the extant Harlan Ellison®  short story collections. So very early on in my SFF reading, I did come across “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” and other SFF stories of his. At that early age, I found few SFF short story writers that could match him.

Harlan Ellison at the ABA convention; Larry and Marilyn Niven behind him: Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

And I learned, thanks to the collections my brother had, that Harlan Ellison®   wrote far more than SFF short stories. I’m not even talking about his movie or television scripts.  Ellison is the first SFF author who I read non-SFF work by. I read The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat. I read and reread his criticism of television and cinema and began to understand the wide range of his talent. When I discovered he wrote mimetic short stories, and horror short stories as well, there was a point that I wondered what Ellison didn’t excel at as a writer in the short form.

My favorite Harlan Ellison®  is not “Mouth” because I think that is just too easy an answer. I have a fondness for the sadness of “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” and the tragic fate of the protagonist. “Jeffty is Five” breaks my heart every time I read it. “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” moved me, even though I was too young to know it was a take on the Kitty Genovese murder.

I will reach more deeply and go with “Paladin”, which I saw first as the Twilight Zone episode “Paladin of the Lost Hour” and then later read the Hugo winning novelette. It’s a poignant story, with some of the sadness and gray veil that you find in some of Ellison’s work.  It’s as if Harlan Ellison® is grabbing me by the collar and shouting. “Feel something, you coward. Feel something!”.  The anger of raging against the dying of the light and being angry when people shoulder-shrug, give up, and shuffle along?  I may not have ever met Harlan Jay Ellison®, but I think Paladin helps you feel just how powerful, angry, and potent a writer he was. Love him or hate him, his work could not and would not be ignored.  

I think there are definite periods and waves of Harlan Ellison® ‘s work. And like another sui generis artist, David Bowie, you probably will find a wave or period of Harlan Ellison® that you will like best. Not all of his oeuvre worked for me, there is a definite band I like, and a narrower (but not narrow) band that I really like. This may be the consequence of his extensive oeuvre and constant ability to change and try and write new things, or rewrite old things in a new way. Restless, Angry, Raging. Potent. 

 I loved his cameo on Babylon 5 which he served as a creative consultant and wrote an episode “A View from The Gallery”.  (Which may mean that we have  Harlan Ellison®  to thank for Lower Decks, which is to Star Trek that this episode is to the rest of Babylon 5.) 

That, my friends, is the work of Harlan Ellison® 

Harlan Ellison in 2014 at Creation event in Las Vegas.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) ANOTHER HARLAN TRIBUTE. Janis Ian marked Harlan Ellison’s 90th with this tribute on Facebook.

In my life, there have been very few colleagues who viscerally understand having been an “enfant terrible”. Even fewer that lived up to their promise. And even fewer who continued to be brave, and bold, fearlessly speaking out despite the consequences.

Today is the birthday of my late friend Harlan Ellison. A writer who completely understood what it was like for me at the age of 15, when “Society’s Child” became a hit. Unable to connect with most of my peers because of the experiences I was having, unable to much time with those I could connect with, who were always 5 to 10 years older and usually on the road.

Harlan understood better than most that Fame hadn’t changed me, it had changed the people around me. And he understood the impossibility of living up to the expectations placed on me because of my innate talent and ability.

He could be an unbelievable pain in the rear. He could be absolutely impossible. He could be rude and obnoxious and he did not suffer fools. God help you if you annoyed him. But to me, he was unfailingly courteous, generous, kind, and giving. I miss him more than I can say, and I regret the years I did not know him.

(10) APPLAUSE FOR BRENNAN. Rich Horton reviews “Cold-Forged Flame, and Lightning in the Blood, by Marie Brennan” at Strange at Ecbatan.

Marie Brennan has been publishing short SF and Fantasy (mostly Fantasy, I think) for a couple of decades, after winning the Asimov’s Undergraduate Award back in 2003. (That’s an award which spurred some excellent careers over time — writers like Rich Larson, Marissa Lingen, Eric Choi, and Seth Dickinson are also among the past winners.)…

…The two books [Cold-Forged Flame, and Lightning in the Blood] concern Ree, whom we meet “coming into existence” as Cold-Forged Flame opens. She has no idea of her name, only a dim sense of her abilities (she is a warrior, for one thing) and of her character (suspicious, prickly) — but also aware that she is bound to do what the nine people who have summoned her ask. After some debate, she learns what these people want: she must go and bring back a vial of blood from the cauldron of the Lhian. And, in exchange, they offer her her freedom — and, but only after the fact, what knowledge they have of her … history. To tell too much in advance would harm her, they suggest….

(11) SAM I AM. Knowing that a fan’s brain is never sufficiently stuffed with trivia about Tolkien, CBR.com brings us “The Lord the Rings’ Samwise Gamgee’s Real World Inspiration, Explained”.

…In Appendix C of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien explained the in-universe origin of the surname Gamgee. It came from the family’s ancestral village of Gamwich, which meant “game village” in the language of the hobbits. Over time, the name Gamwich evolved into Gamidge and later to Gamgee. This was one of many examples of the great amount of thought and effort that went into even the tiniest worldbuilding details of The Lord of the Rings. However, this backstory was a retroactive explanation that Tolkien came up with long after settling on the name Sam Gamgee for his story’s deuteragonist. The real-world basis for Sam’s surname was more unusual, and its origins predated Tolkien’s conception of Middle-earth.

Gamgee is a real — albeit uncommon — surname. In fact, in 1956, a man named Sam Gamgee wrote a letter to Tolkien after learning that a character in The Lord of the Rings shared his name. Tolkien was surprised and delighted by this coincidence. Since the real Sam had not read the novel for himself, Tolkien assured him that the fictional Sam was “a most heroic character, now widely beloved by many readers” and offered to send him a copy of the book. In Tolkien’s response, he also explained the reason that he chose to use the name. It was a long story that began with a famous surgeon: Dr. Joseph Sampson Gamgee.

Born in 1828, Joseph Gamgee made major strides in the field of aseptic surgery, the practice of ensuring that a doctor’s hands and tools remain sanitary during medical procedures….

(12) WOLFE PACK ON LOCATION. Black Gate has Bob Byrne’s newest installment of “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone”: “Welcome to Kanawha Spa – The Wolfe Pack 2024 Greenbrier Weekend”. He joined the Wolfe Pack for a descent on the West Virginia resort featured in Too Many Cooks.

…Trish [Parker] is the resident Greenbrier historian. She is also a Wolfe fan! She gave a really cool presentation that talked about the Greenbrier, the logistics of of other locations (Barry Tolman was NOT going to make that court session he was pressing to be at), and other related information.

I loved it! It was really neat. Especially as she knew the story. I really enjoyed it. She took a couple questions and got a healthy round of applause.

Intelligence Guided by Experience – A question I heard more than once over the weekend was, “Did Rex Stout stay here before he wrote the book?” While the thought seemed to be, ‘Probably, as he knew the place pretty well.’ it’s unknown. The records from that early have been lost over the years. No proof he had been to the Greenbrier….

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/24 If A Pixel Scrolls In A File And No Notification Goes Out, Is Yngvi Still A Louse?

(1) ANTHRO NEW ENGLAND LEADERSHIP TURNOVER. Anthro New England, a furry convention held in Boston, issued statements yesterday and today about the removal of two top officers, Remy and Scales. The specific reasons are not given. Comments in social media are speculative.

Statement May 24

Statement May 25

Remy, one of the officers, replied online:

The account identified with Scales also made comments.

An individual whose X.com account is @psykhedelos announced they have also resigned their position with the con.

(2) CARTOON BY TEDDY HARVIA. Here’s a character who can have it both ways.

(3) SHATNER TO RECEIVE ROBERT HEINLEIN MEMORIAL AWARD. William Shatner accepted the National Space Society’s Robert Heinlein Memorial Award last night at the ISDC: “International Space Development Conference 2024 beams up Star Trek’s William Shatner and more in Los Angeles” reports Space.com.

The stars of Star Trek are about to get a taste of real-life space exploration when they beam into the 2024 International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles this weekend, and you have a chance join them to get your space fix. 

On Friday (May 24), actor William Shatner, who originated the role of Captain James T. Kirk and launched into space on a Blue Origin rocket in 2021, will receive the Robert Heinlein Memorial Award “for his deep impact on public perception of the human expansion into space, which boldly highlighted diversity and inclusion previously unseen on television,” conference officials said in a statement. The award, which is given annually by the nonprofit National Space Society at ISDC, is just one event featuring Star Trek actors. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can learn how to attend the ISDC conference at the at isdc.nss.org.

“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” actor Melissa Navia, who portrays helm pilot Lt. Erica Ortegas, will host the 2024 ISDC conference. NSS officials have also recruited her fellow Trek alums in a May 26 panel “Science Fiction to Science Fact” featuring Nana Visitor (Major Kira Nerys on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”), John Billingsley (Doctor Flox on “Star Trek: Enterprise”) and other Trek and sci-fi veterans to discuss “how science fiction has, and will continue to, transition into our everyday lives, and ultimately, the exploration of space.” 

But real science fact is the main draw for ISDC, which is expected to draw over 1,000 attendees to its talks at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.

“ISDC 2024 talks will cover the exploration, development, and settlement of the Moon, Mars, and cislunar space; deep space exploration; innovative spaceflight technology; the commercialization of space and space infrastructure; life support systems; collaboration in space; living in space; space solar power; space debris mediation solutions; planetary defense; space law; and both national and international space policy, among others,” organizers wrote in an overview.

This year, the conference’s theme of “No Limits” has drawn in retired astronauts Susan Kilrain and Jose Hernandez, as well as Alan Stern (who leads the New Horizon mission to Pluto and beyond, as well as Vast Space CEO Max Haot, Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin and YouTube creators Isaac Arthur and Brian McManus….

(3) RETCON OF THE RINGS. Inverse compares J.R.R. Tolkien to George Lucas in “73 Years Ago, J.R.R. Tolkien Changed Gollum Canon Forever — It’s About to Happen Again”. – It burns! It burns!

…Published in 1937, The Hobbit transformed fantasy literature like no other book before or since. Presented as an intricate middle-grade children’s chapter book, The Hobbit tells the tale of Bilbo Baggins, the titular Hobbit, as he is pulled into a great journey beyond his cozy home in the Shire. Along with a company of Dwarves, and Gandalf the Wizard, this proto-fellowship encounters various threats, which all get scarier and scarier as the book progresses. The world-building of The Hobbit is shockingly vivid, and, nearly thirty years later, in 1954, when Tolkien decided to expand his world of Middle-earth into a larger epic with his trilogy of novels — The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King — very little adjustment to his landscape was needed. Only two elements had to be heavily revised to make the setting of The Hobbit click: The Ring of Power itself, and its bedraggled former owner, Gollum. And so, in 1951, three years before The Lord of the Rings was published, Tolkien published a new version of The Hobbit.

As extensively revealed by Bonniejean Christensen in the 1975 nonfiction book A Tolkien Compass, “Gollum’s function differs in the two works. In The Hobbit, he is one in a series of fallen creatures on a rising scale of terror. In The Lord of the Rings, he is an example of the damned individual who loses his own soul because of devotion to evil…”

Gollum is not the big bad of The Hobbit and is left behind by Bilbo roughly midway through the book. Crucially, in the original 1937 and 1938 editions of The Hobbit, Gollum is not a depraved maniac addicted to the Ring’s power. Nor is the Ring suggested to be sentient in the original Hobbit. All of those details were altered by Tolkien by 1951 when he changed the text and meaning of Chapter 5: “Riddles in the Dark.”

There are several examples of these changes, but the most relevant alteration is the later suggestion to the reader that Gollum is a crazed murderer and can’t be trusted to be bound by the rules of the riddle game. In the 1937 version, Gollum is just a weird creature.

From the original Hobbit (1937):

“But funnily enough he [Bilbo] need not have been alarmed. For one thing Gollum had learned long ago was to never cheat at the riddle-game, which is a sacred one and of immense antiquity.”

From the revised Hobbit (1951, 1965, et al.):

“He knew of course, the riddle-game was sacred and of immense antiquity and even wicked creatures were afraid to cheat when they played it. But he [Bilbo] felt he could not trust this slimy thing [Gollum] to keep any promise at a pinch. Any excuse would do for him to slide out of it. And after all that last question had not been a genuine riddle according to the ancient laws.”

Tolkien tinkered with “Riddles in the Dark” up until 1966, making him something of a George Lucas; continually modifying his story to fit with his other books. This retcon of Gollum’s character was so entirely successful that if you read The Hobbit now, you will only find the latter text. The 75th anniversary of The Hobbit, published in 2012, acknowledges the changes to “Riddles in the Dark,” briefly, in a section toward the front of the book, but the only way to get your hands on the first version of “Riddles in the Dark” — short of buying an extremely expensive 1937 or 1938 Hobbit — is to read Douglas A. Anderson’s The Annotated Hobbit, where he elucidates some these changes.

(4) DEEP DICTIONARY DIVE. Greg Cwik reviews a new Ellison compilation edited by J. Michael Straczynski: “Beamed from Within: On Harlan Ellison’s ‘Greatest Hits’” in the LA Review of Books. Harlan’s polysyllabic vocabulary is contagious but not fatal.

…In 1996, the year he won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, Ellison defined his writing for us: “What I write is hyperactive magic realism. I take the received world and I reflect it back through the lens of fantasy, turned slightly so you get a different portrait.” Ellison wrote like a man suffering from perpetual fever hallucinations, his stories governed by an inimitable eerie logic….

… Ellison’s writing has the electric shock of a malfunctioning machine, words like sparks spraying out. Yet there is humanity—bitter, yes, and often mean, with lust for life unrequited by the vicissitudes of fate, but Ellison’s best work is endowed with the spirit of man with a big, bruised, beating heart. He was a man fascinated by and disappointed with the society roiling around him, and thus his characters are also often denied penance and peace. Ellison is that rare beast, a writer who suffuses his work with smart-man musings without the boring, masturbatory listing of dead philosophers to boost intellectual credit. Except when he did do that (I’m not judging—I’m doing the same thing). In his nonfiction, he bemoans, with avidity, elitists’ tendency to intellectualize everything, while doing so himself, which he undoubtedly knows, just another layer of irony in the madman’s spiritual coils. He was a complicated, even hypocritical man of singular style and insoluble beliefs. (He also dressed real snazzy.)…

(5) RICHARD M. SHERMAN (1928-2024). “Richard M. Sherman, who fueled Disney charm in ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘It’s a Small World,’ dies at 95”. The AP News profile lists many of his credits, work done with his late brother Robert.

…Sherman, together with his late brother Robert, won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney’s 1964 smash “Mary Poppins” — best score and best song, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” They also picked up a Grammy for best movie or TV score. Robert Sherman died in London at age 86 in 2012….

…Their hundreds of credits as joint lyricist and composer also include the films “Winnie the Pooh,” “The Slipper and the Rose,” “Snoopy Come Home,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Magic of Lassie.” Their Broadway musicals included 1974’s “Over Here!” and stagings of “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” in the mid-2000s.

…They wrote over 150 songs at Disney, including the soundtracks for such films as “The Sword and the Stone,” “The Parent Trap,” “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Aristocrats” and “The Tigger Movie.”

“It’s a Small World” — which accompanies visitors to Disney theme parks’ boat ride sung by animatronic dolls representing world cultures — is believed to be the most performed composition in the world. It was first debuted at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair pavilion ride….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 85. Now remember that the following are roles are the ones that I like, not all the roles that he’s done. 

For me, that’d be him playing a nearly ninety-year-old retired detective who’s a beekeeper in Mr. Holmes who given the title of the film is obviously intended to that Holmes. He’s played as an individual who is struggling to recall the details of his final case because his mind is slowly deteriorating. He plays this with considerable dignity. 

Ian McKellen at San Diego Comic-Con 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Yes, I think he made a magnificent Gandalf the White in Jackson’s telling of Tolkien’s story. Note I didn’t say Tolkien’s story as it’s Jackson’s story. Now McKellen pulled off that role as he did not wear a wig or any prosthetics at all. His website detailing the shooting The Fellowship of The Ring says he had very little make-up time either. 

A film that I think that doesn’t get as much love as it should get is The Shadow which I’m very, very fond of. He played Dr. Reinhardt Lane there and did a very nice job of doing it. 

Now he was the narrator of Stardust based somewhat loosely off Gaiman’s novel. And he made a truly magnificent narrator here. Now him narrating an audiobook of that novel would be as delightful as the one Gaiman did which yes I wholeheartedly recommend. 

I’ve not seen it, though I very much want to, but forty-five years ago, the Royal Shakespeare Company production of MacBeth was filmed by Thames Television, and it featured Ian McKellen as Macbeth and Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth. That sounds awesome. It’s available on DVD. 

Well those are my favorite roles by him. What are yours? 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) AI LEAVES EGG ON GOOGLE’S FACE.  Or would if Google had a face. “Google AI Overviews Search Errors Cause Furor Online”. (This is an unlocked New York Times article.)

Last week, Google unveiled its biggest change to search in years, showcasing new artificial intelligence capabilities that answer people’s questions in the company’s attempt to catch up to rivals Microsoft and OpenAI….

…The incorrect answers in the feature, called AI Overview, have undermined trust in a search engine that more than two billion people turn to for authoritative information. And while other A.I. chatbots tell lies and act weird, the backlash demonstrated that Google is under more pressure to safely incorporate A.I. into its search engine….

… [T]hings quickly went awry, and users posted screenshots of problematic examples to social media platforms like X.

AI Overview instructed some users to mix nontoxic glue into their pizza sauce to prevent the cheese from sliding off, a fake recipe it seemed to borrow from an 11-year-old Reddit post meant to be a joke. The A.I. told other users to ingest at least one rock a day for vitamins and minerals — advice that originated in a satirical post from The Onion….

(9) ONE WRITER’S FAVE. Chowhound is going to tell you “Why Peanut Butter And Onion Sandwiches Are Named After Ernest Hemingway”.

… Ernest felt onion sandwiches were the perfect meal to enjoy while fishing. Exactly when he began adding peanut butter to the mix is uncertain, but the writer memorialized the PB&O in his novel “Islands in the Stream,” which came out after his death….

…During the Great Depression of the 1930s, an onion stuffed with peanut butter was just one of many fascinating foods, along with dandelion salad and water pie, that was commonly eaten. So a variation on these food combinations isn’t all that out of the ordinary. And, as it turns out, science is on the side of this sandwich. As Marie Wright, chief global flavorist for American food processing giant ADM, told The Takeout, peanut butter and onion complement each other because they both have sulfur-containing compounds…

(10) THE MUNSTERS’ LUCKY NUMBER. SYFY Wire reports “James Wan Eyeing New Take on The Munsters Titled 1313 From Universal”.

The Munsters might be moving back to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Variety reports that Universal Studio Group is developing a reboot of the iconic monstrous (but friendly!) family from the 1960s sitcom. 

The Munsters, which premiered in 1964 and ran for two seasons, followed the titular family. There was Herman Munster (a Frankenstein’s Monster-type), his wife Lily (a vampire), Grandpa (elderly Count Dracula), daughter Merilyn (a normal-looking young woman), and little Eddie (a werewolf). Despite their monstrous appearances, the Munsters were just as normal as any other red-blooded American family… well, almost as normal. 

The new series — which is still in the works with no details announced yet — is being developed by James Wan of SawThe Conjuring, Aquaman, Furious 7, and M3GAN fame. Lindsey Anderson Beer and Ingrid Bisu are also listed as developers, per Variety, and Beer will serve as the showrunner and executive producer along with Wan. 

According to the official logline, the upcoming take is described as a horror series that “lives and breathes within the Universal Monsterverse” — suggesting that these new Munsters might not be as cuddly as the original ‘60s incarnation. 

The tentative name for the reboot is 1313, after the family’s address at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. …

(11) THEY’RE THE TOPS. “NASA Earns Best Place to Work in Government for 12 Straight Years”.

For the 12th year in a row, the Partnership for Public Service named NASA the best place to work among large agencies in the federal government. “Once again, NASA has shown that with the world’s finest workforce, we can reach the stars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Through space exploration, advances in aviation, groundbreaking science, new technologies, and more, the team of wizards at NASA do what is hard to achieve what is great. That’s the pioneer spirit that makes NASA the best place to work in the federal government. With this ingenuity and passion, we will continue to innovate for the benefit of all and inspire the world.” The Partnership for Public Service began to compile the Best Places to Work rankings in 2003 to analyze federal employees’ viewpoints on leadership, work-life balance, and other factors of their job.

… Read about the Best Places to Work for 2023 online.

(12) MIGHTY MAKEUP. Paul Williams paralyzes Johnny Carson when he arrives straight from filming “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” in this clip from a 1973 episode of The Tonight Show.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. This week How It Should Have Ended reposted “MAD MAX Fury Road”. It may be news to you!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/23/24 Shhhh. The Pixels Are Sleeping, Let’s Not Disturb Them

Ellen Klages

(1) ELLEN KLAGES ON JEOPARDY! [Item by Steven H Silver and David Goldfarb.] One of the contestants on Wednesday’s episode was World Fantasy Award-winning, Hugo- and Nebula-shortlisted author Ellen Klages. Ellen came in third.  She was against a couple of guys who had strong buzzer abilities. The game recap can be found on J! Archive. At the break, she began the story of the scary ham story that she told at the Nebula Award Ceremony in San Jose in 2014.

David Goldfarb took notes on the episode’s sff references.

In the Double Jeopardy round, there was some SFF content in the clues.

Books From the Last Few Years, $1200: There are an infinite number of books in “The Midnight” this, a 2020 bestseller by Matt Haig

Amar Kakirde knew it was a library.

Books From the Last Few Years, $1600: This 2021 Andy Weir book about a plucky astronaut sounds like it may be a long shot

A triple stumper. (This was “Project Hail Mary”.)

Books From the Last Few Years, $800: Author Curtis Sittenfeld wonders what would’ve happened in Hillary never married Bill in the novel titled with this maiden name.

Returning champion Chris D’Amico knew Hillary’s maiden name: “What is ‘Rodham’?”

Not SF but amusing to note:

Already in the Form of a Question, $1600. A Daily Double, with $6000 on the line: In a relatively famous play, this 4-word question precedes “Deny thy father & refuse thy name”

Chris didn’t know it: he tried, “What is, ‘How now, brown cow?’”

(It was actually “Wherefore art thou Romeo?”)

(2) DANGER IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. At A Deep Look by Dave Hook the author is “Revisiting ‘Dangerous Visions’”. He still finds 19 of the 33 stories in the volume are “great” or “superlative”.

… With all of the circus and controversy over whether Dangerous Visions was ever as good or as important as its reputation, or whether it was overrated, or whether the Suck Fairy had visited, I approached the reread with interest, hope and no small amount of trepidation….

… I am very glad I reread Dangerous Visions, although my reactions are mixed….

Hook shares ratings and comments about the 19 stories he feels are still remarkable.

It’s worth remembering that four stories in the anthology became finalists for the Hugo and/or Nebula, and of those, three won at least one of the awards:

  • “Riders of the Purple Wage” by Philip José Farmer (tied for Hugo Award Best Novella, and a Nebula finalist)
  • “Gonna Roll the Bones” by Fritz Leiber (won the Hugo and Nebula Award for Novelette)
  • “Aye, and Gomorrah…” by Samuel R. Delany (Hugo Best Short Story finalist, and Nebula Award Short Story winner)
  • “The Jigsaw Man” by Larry Niven (Hugo Best Short Story finalist)
  • “If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?” by Theodore Sturgeon (Nebula Award Novella finalist)

However, Hook points out a definite shortcoming in the anthology:

…I also observe that only three out of 33 stories (9%) were by women. I don’t know how this came to be, but it is unfortunate. It may be that Ellison heard criticism on this point for Dangerous Visions. Looking at Ellison’s 1972 anthology Again, Dangerous Visions, there is a modest improvement, with nine out of 55 stories (16%) that feature women writers….

(3) WEN-YI LEE Q&A. With “Asian Heritage in Horror Month: An Interview with Wen-yi Lee” the Horror Writers Association blog continues its thematic series.

What draws you to the horror genre?

Well, I kind of like twisted things, as a baseline. As a writer, I like that horror as a genre lets you take an abstract fear and make it tangible, and confront and take apart all its angles. I also like the big, raw feelings; I like the transportive strangeness and the sense of confrontation and catharsis. Horror and romance are Barbenheimer genre sisters, really; they’re both rooted in these big vulnerable core feelings. I love romance in my horror, or horror in my romance.

Do you include Asian and/or Pacific Islander characters and themes in your writing with purpose, and if so, what do you want to portray?

I do! The protagonist in my debut novel is Chinese American, but more often than not I write from my being Southeast Asian Chinese–specifically Singaporean–which is very different from the Asian American identity but shares enough here and there that I do resonate with Asian American work. In The Dark We Know there are elements of being unrooted compared to the white families in town that can trace their lines back generations on the land, and familial language barriers and cultural isolation are factors in the main character’s loneliness. Other times, I’m not trying to write something “cultural” and “meaningful”, but just tell a good story that happens to be rooted in a particular ethnic/cultural environment, with characters that look and sound familiar instead of the blonde/blue-eyed girls that my main characters used to be. I’m still working on putting out a true love letter to Southeast Asia’s shared iconic female ghosts…

(4) MESS CALL AT REDWALL. James Folta confesses to Literary Hub readers, “I think about the food in the Redwall books way too often.”

…Before we go any further with Redwall, an important clarification: the characters are animal-sized and their world is scaled down. Some poor, misguided folks will tell you that these books are filled with human-sized animals, but the issue has been settled by scientific polling. We’re talking about a world of whimsy here, not a freak show where some rodents fell into the Toxic Avenger ooze. And yes, I know Jacques said in a Q&A that, “the creatures in my stories are as big or small as your imagination wants them to be.” We can all agree that this is a polite smokescreen for younger readers. But we’re all adults here—the characters are small.

What seems to be most enduring about Jacques’ books for me and other readers, though, are his descriptions of food and drink. If you’ve read the books, you know what I’m talking about—no one ever just eats food in Redwall. The descriptions of food unfurl in long lists, cataloged here in impressive detail. The mice food has inspired memes, a Twitter bota drinking game, and a cookbook.

Jacques is sumptuous, even gratuitous in his descriptions of food and drink. In the first book, Jacques writes of “tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg.” The Bellmaker has dishes of “turnovers, trifles, breads, fondants, salads, pasties, and cheeses alternated with beakers of greensap milk, mint tea, rosehip cup and elderberry wine.” Even a simple breakfast at the cave of a mouse named Bobbo in Mariel of Redwall is lavished with description: “Now, you will find a small rockpool outside to wash in, and I will prepare wild oatcakes, small fish, and gorseflower honey to break your fast.”…

(5) BEETLEJUICE BEETLEJUICE TRAILER. The official trailer for the Beetlejuice sequel dropped today.

Beetlejuice is back! After an unexpected family tragedy, three generations of the Deetz family return home to Winter River. Still haunted by Beetlejuice, Lydia’s life is turned upside down when her rebellious teenage daughter, Astrid, discovers the mysterious model of the town in the attic and the portal to the Afterlife is accidentally opened. With trouble brewing in both realms, it’s only a matter of time until someone says Beetlejuice’s name three times and the mischievous demon returns to unleash his very own brand of mayhem.

(6) CASTLE Q&A. The Chicago Tribune reports on the previously announced career honor: “Crete resident Mort Castle to get horror writers award”.

Mort Castle remembers being frightened when his third-grade teacher played Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” on a phonograph.

“I was one of the weird kids who liked being scared. I dug nightmares,” said Castle of Crete.

The Horror Writers Association will present him with a Lifetime Achievement Award on June 1 during the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony at StokerCon 2024 in San Diego.

The award honors individuals whose work has influenced the horror genre substantially….

(7) FAMILY TIES. Rich Horton is working his way through the 2024 finalists: “Hugo Nominee Review: The Saint of Bright Doors, by Vajra Chandrasekera” at Strange at Ecbatan.

… The story is told primarily from the point of view of Fetter. Fetter’s mother tore his shadow from him at birth, and as a consequence, besides not casting a shadow, he is not tightly rooted to the ground: he will float into the air if he doesn’t take care. His mother also teaches him to be an assassin, from an early age, and she prepares him to commit the Five Unforgivables, as defined by his absent father’s theology — for his father is a “saint”, the Perfect and Kind. These crimes are matricide, heresy, killing of saints, patricide, and killing the Perfect and Kind. Nice family!…

(8) WHAT’S THAT RINGING? The New York Times has done an in-depth article about a controversy recently mentioned in the Scroll: “’The Hunt for Gollum’ Is Announced, Then ‘Lord of the Rings’ Fan Film Disappears”. (The link is not paywalled.)

… In 2009, Chris Bouchard, a recent film school graduate, uploaded his 39-minute “Lord of the Rings” fan film, “The Hunt for Gollum,” to YouTube. At the time, the platform was still, in his words, full of “five-minute videos of people’s cats.”

The site promoted Bouchard’s movie on its homepage, and within 24 hours, he had more than one million views. Today more than 13 million have watched the film, cementing it as a fan favorite.

So it came as a surprise recently when Bouchard received a text from an old friend saying that Warner Bros. had announced a planned addition to its growing “Lord of the Rings” franchise. The name of the movie? “The Hunt for Gollum.”…

… After getting the text, “at first I thought he was pulling my leg,” Bouchard said of his friend. Soon, online articles were embedding the fan film in their coverage of the Warner Bros. announcement, leading younger fans to it for the first time while older ones relived its lo-fi magic.

But by the next morning, Bouchard’s 15-year-old work had disappeared from YouTube. Viewers clicking on the link were shown a message stating, “This video contains content from Warner Bros. Entertainment, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”…

… But YouTube denied the appeal. So, like eagles over Mordor, the Ringers, as the fans are known, swooped in. They wrote articles and posted heated comments on Reddit and other sites, calling the removal “deplorable” and “despicable.” Bouchard noted his disappointment on X.

Bouchard quickly received a follow-up email from YouTube: The movie had been reinstated. In an email, Warner Bros. said it had no official comment. YouTube did not reply to requests for comment….

(9) H. BRUCE FRANKLIN (1934-2024). Black Gate reports that scholar H. Bruce Franklin died May 19 at the age of 90. He was the emeritus John Cotton Dana endowed Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University-Newark and author of numerous books, essays, and exhibitions related to science fiction.  

During the 1960s, Dr. Franklin was fired from Stanford despite being tenured supposedly for inciting student anti-Vietnam war protests. A former Air Force navigator and intelligence office in the Strategic Air Command, he also resigned his commission in protest of that war.

He won the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pioneer Award for his article “The Vietnam War as American SF and Fantasy” (Science Fiction Studies Nov 1990).  He also received SFRA’s Pilgrim Award, an Eaton Award, and was named a Distinguished Scholar for the International Association for Fantastic in the Arts.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

May 23, 1921 James Blish. (Died 1975.)

By Paul Weimer. For me, my reading of James Blish revolves around two axes.

The first is Star Trek. I’ve not read a ton of Star Trek novels and stories. I don’t consider myself that well read in them, even as I remember at one point it seemed the SFF section of Borders and B Dalton were half Star Trek novels and the like. But when you, reader, having watched lots of repeats of the original series are confronted with a book with the title Spock Must Die, reading it becomes a moral imperative.  It’s a clever book, even if I don’t like the (now distinctly non-canonical) fate of the Klingon Commander, Koloth.  I’ve also read a couple of his adaptations of episodes that he turned into short stories, which is a pretty unique way to go about things. Has anyone else done that, turning tv episodes of a series into short stories? 

James Blish on his Vespa in the Sixties.

But what I remember Blish for the most is Cities in Flight.  I came across this one by accident. Somewhere along the line, I had read Oswald Spengler, whose racial theories are pants, but I was fascinated for a long while (and still am) with his attempts to systemize history into cycles. One really can’t, and he does a lot of plates spinning to make his formulations work.  (and yet, seeing that he sees the West in a period headed toward “Caesarism” and the rise of fascism in Europe and America, I still wonder). But somewhere along the line, I came across a reference that Blish had used a Spenglerian type of history for his Cities in Flight in sequence. 

And so I had to go read it.  The idea is bonkers, outfitting whole cities to go out into space is an idea that simply should not work.  (And yet, it’s an idea which has come time and again ever since).  But the idea of the Okies culture rising, changing, growing as the cities of Earth explore the galaxy and try to make a living is a compelling one. Characters? Plots?  I really don’t remember either for the novel sequence. But the basic ideas (including a devastating nuclear weapon type), especially the spindizzy drive itself, stuck with me.  And of course, the fact that the head of the migrating cities is the city of New York, of course, warmed and warms my ex-pat New Yorker’s heart. And a novel sequence that concludes with the end (or is it the beginning of a new one?) universe is as big a stakes as you can possibly ever get. 

I’ve also read A Case of Conscience, which I feel is a prelude or an overture to the work of Mary Doria Russell, and maybe in another vein, Walter M Miller Jr.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) EYE-OPENING GAMES. In Nature, Sam Illingworth discusses “Why role-playing games can spur climate action”.

… Imagine you are the mayor of a coastal city. How high would you build a sea wall, for example, to offer protection from future flooding? The decision involves balancing the risks of breaches against the cost of construction, without knowing how fast seas might rise or what the wider consequences of building it might be.

It is hard to anticipate the complexity of the decisions that we will all face as the world warms. But, as a game designer and education researcher, I know that games — and, in particular, role-playing games — can be an invaluable tool for helping us think through scenarios. By getting players to deal with situations in a simulated environment, games can help us to explore options in a risk-free way.

For example, I’ve used the board game Terraforming Mars to introduce young adults to the ethics of space colonization. Players control corporations competing to transform Mars into a habitable planet by extracting resources, building cities and creating green spaces. Nearly every session evolves into a heated debate about diverting resources to make a new ‘Earth’ instead of fixing the one we have….

(13) STRANGER WILL STAY ON STAGE. “‘Stranger Things: The First Shadow’ Trailer Teases Horrific Rise of Henry Creel as West End Play Extends Into 2025”Variety tells where to find the trailer and the stage show.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow,” the stage play based on Netflix‘s hit sci-fi drama of the same name, will extend its run on London’s West End into 2025. Previously, shows were only scheduled through Dec. 14, but tickets are now available through Feb. 16.

The news comes as Netflix debuts an official trailer for “The First Shadow,” which serves as a “Stranger Things” prequel. Set in 1959 Hawkins, Ind., “The First Shadow” tells the origin story of Henry Creel, a new kid in town who later goes on to become Vecna, the villain introduced in “Stranger Things” Season 4….

(14) KEEPING TIME. Here’s another reverential look at “John Williams and the Music of ‘Star Wars’” at Take Note.

…John Williams’s neoclassical approach combines elements of classic Hollywood composers (Max Steiner’s leitmotifs and physical action, Alfred Newman’s lush string writing, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s heroic fanfares, and Bernard Herrmann’s suspenseful ostinati) as well as Americana concert composers (such as Aaron Copland and Howard Hanson), and even some of the jazzy piano-based scores of Henry Mancini. 

He is a product of his time, and he found the right collaborator in Steven Spielberg; the two represent one of the most productive director/composer relationships in history….

(15) ON THE LOOSE. [Item by Mark Roth-Whitworth.] Be on the watch for Mongo (or maybe, if we’re lucky, the planet Porno…) “Euclid telescope spies rogue planets floating free in Milky Way” in the Guardian.

Astronomers have spotted dozens of rogue planets floating free from their stars after turning the Euclid space telescope to look at a distant region of the Milky Way.

The wandering worlds were seen deep inside the Orion nebula, a giant cloud of dust and gas 1,500 light years away, and described in the first scientific results announced by Euclid mission researchers.

The European Space Agency (Esa) launched the €1bn (£851m) observatory last summer on a six-year mission to create a 3D map of the cosmos. Armed with its images, scientists hope to understand more about the mysterious 95% of the universe that is unexplained….

(16) MOMENT IN THE SUN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature cover is quite nifty. Link to cover and contents here.

The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle that results in a variation of its magnetic field, readily seen in the creation and movement of sunspots. Conventional models assert that the origins of this solar dynamo lie deep within the star, but in this week’s issue, Geoffrey Vasil and colleagues present a model that suggests the opposite is true. The researchers identify that instabilities very close to the Sun’s surface provide a better explanation of the various features of the solar dynamo. The cover is a composite of some 150 images of the Sun taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory between 2010 and 2020, capturing variations in the Sun’s magnetic field over nearly a full sunspot cycle.

There is an “Instability could explain the Sun’s curious cycleshort review item on this here (paywalled).

The primary research paper is at the link.

(17) URANUS PROBE. And in this edition there is a comment piece…. “Why the European Space Agency should join the US mission to Uranus”

Without international partnerships, NASA’s ground-breaking mission could fail to be ready in time for its optimal launch window.

This week, space and planetary scientists are meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, to scope out a new flagship NASA mission — the Uranus Orbiter and Probe. Still on the drawing board, the project would entail sending a spacecraft to orbit Uranus and drop a probe into the planet’s atmosphere. The spacecraft, which could be built and launched within a decade, would investigate the nature of Uranus, including its unusual tilt and magnetic field. It would also search the planet’s moons for signs of hidden oceans and other potentially habitable environments.

Such a mission would be ground-breaking — the first to orbit an ‘ice giant’ planet. Thought to be made mostly of ices, or perhaps dominated by rocks, ice giants Uranus and Neptune have more exotic chemistry than do Jupiter and Saturn, which as ‘gas giants’ consist mainly of hydrogen and helium gas1,2. Ice giants are also the most common type of exoplanet in the Milky Way3. With characteristics that lie between those of gas giants and of Earth and other terrestrial planets, it’s crucial to learn how such systems formed and evolved.

That’s why the Uranus Orbiter and Probe was given priority status in the 2022 US Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. And NASA is set to lead it. At the Goddard workshop, scientists will scope out the mission and consider its design, technologies and costs.

The mission has been under discussion for some time, and it will be exciting to see it begin to take shape. But, to make sure it is successful and happens as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, we would like to see others involved in its design, too. As a first step, we call for the European Space Agency (ESA) to join the project by, for example, building the entry probe — a possibility that was foreseen in the decadal report and has been assessed by ESA but has not yet been agreed.

Uranus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available from bookshops and online.

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

…We are Riders (of Rohan!)

The beacons are lit and Gondor is hurtin’

Facing total disaster for certain

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/23/24 Forget About Our Pixels And Your Files

(1) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS HOF CLASS OF 2024. Muddy Colors announces the Greg Manchess and Yuko Shimizu are among the “2024 Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame” inductees. See examples of all the artists’ work at the link.

The Society of Illustrators has announced the 2024 inductees into their prestigious Hall of Fame. In recognition for their “distinguished achievement in the art of illustration” the artists are chosen based on their body of work and the significant impact it has made on the field of illustration as a whole. This year’s honorees are:

  • Virginia Frances Sterrett [1900 – 1931]
  • Robert Grossman [1940 – 2018]
  • Gustave Doré [1832 – 1883]
  • Yuko Shimizu [b. 1946]
  • Gregory Manchess [b. 1955]
  • Steve Brodner [b. 1954].

(2) LE GUIN PRIZE NOMINATION DEADLINE 4/30. There’s just one week left in the nomination period for the 2024 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. This $25,000 cash prize is awarded to a writer whose book reflects concepts and ideas central to Ursula’s work.

The recipient of this year’s prize will be chosen by authors Margaret Atwood, Omar El Akkad, Megan Giddings, Ken Liu, and Carmen Maria Machado.

Through April 30th, everyone is welcome to nominate books. Learn more about the prize, eligibility requirements, and the 2024 selection panel here.

(3) MIÉVILLE REJECTS GERMAN FELLOWSHIP. China Miéville has rescinded his acceptance of a residency fellowship for literature for 2024 in Germany which he had been awarded by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service) – DAAD. The full text is here: “Letter to the DAAD” at Salvage.

(4) A LITTLE TOO ON THE NOSE? [Item by Scott Edelman.] This year’s Met Gala theme will be “The Garden of Time,” a 1962 short story by J.G. Ballard. “Met Gala 2024: A Guide to the Theme, Hosts and How to Watch”. (Read the New York Times gift article courtesy of Scott Edelman.)

OK, what is the dress code?

It’s as potentially confusing as the exhibit. Guests have been instructed to dress for “The Garden of Time,” so named after a 1962 short story by J.G. Ballard about an aristocratic couple living in a walled estate with a magical garden while an encroaching mob threatens to end their peaceful existence. To keep the crowd at bay, the husband tries to turn back time by breaking off flower after flower, until there are no more blooms left. The mob arrives and ransacks the estate, and the two aristocrats turn to stone.

Just what comes to mind when you think “fashion,” right?

(5) BUTLER IS THEME OF LITFEST OPENING. LitFest in the Dena will hold its main program on May 4-5 at the Mt. View Mausoleum, 2300 N. Marengo Ave, in Altadena, CA. The opening event will be on May 3 – “Introduction and Keynote Presentation: In Conversation with Nikki High”, founder of Octavia’s Bookshelf.

Founder of Octavia’s Bookshelf, Nikki High will tell us about her discovery of books as an early reader and how authors of color helped her discover herself and what could become of her life. Featured in conversation with her friend Natalie Daily, librarian and literacy advocate at the Octavia E. Butler Magnet in Pasadena, Nikki talks about her bookstore as a community gathering place for book lovers who will find a treasure trove of BIPOC literature.

(6) O. HENRY 2024. Literary Hub takes care of “Announcing the Winners of the 2024 O. Henry Prize for Short Fiction”. Is there any sff on this list? I leave it up to you to identify it.

  • Emma Binder — Roy“, Gulf Coast
  • Michele Mari — “The Soccer Balls of Mr. Kurz,” translated from the Italian by Brian Robert Moore, The New Yorker
  • Brad Felver — “Orphans,” Subtropics
  • Morris Collins — The Home Visit,” Subtropics
  • Jai Chakrabarti — The Import,” Ploughshares
  • Amber Caron — “Didi,” Electric Literature
  • Francisco González — “Serranos,” McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern
  • Caroline Kim — “Hiding Spot,” New England Review
  • Katherine D. Stutzman — “Junior,” Harvard Review
  • Juliana Leite — “My Good Friend,” translated from the Portuguese by Zoë Perry, The Paris Review
  • Kate DiCamillo — “The Castle of Rose Tellin,” Harper’s Magazine
  • Colin Barrett — “Rain,” Granta
  • Robin Romm — “Marital Problems,” The Sewanee Review
  • Allegra Goodman — “The Last Grownup,” The New Yorker
  • Dave Eggers — “The Honor of Your Presence,” One Story
  • E. K. Ota — “The Paper Artist,” Ploughshares
  • Tom Crewe — “The Room-Service Waiter,” Granta
  • Madeline ffitch — “Seeing Through Maps,” Harper’s Magazine
  • Jess Walter — “The Dark,” Ploughshares
  • Allegra Hyde — “Mobilization,” Story

(7) ANTI-LGBT HARASSMENT SAFETY ADVICE. “Drag Story Hour’s Jonathan Hamilt on Bomb Threats, Safety Tips” at Shelf Awareness.

Around the country, growing numbers of independent booksellers are finding themselves the targets of anti-LGBT harassment, with bomb threats proving to be an increasingly common tactic.

In recent weeks, Loyalty Bookstores in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, N.Y., and Mosaics in Provo, Utah, have all been targets of bomb threats related to drag storytime programming. Sadly, they are not alone, and the numbers only continue to rise.

Per the nonprofit Drag Story Hour, there were nine documented incidents of bomb threats targeting official DSH events in 2023. In 2024, there have already been at least 12 such incidents, with the number growing almost every weekend.

DSH executive director Jonathan Hamilt noted that bomb threats represent only a small fraction of the harassment directed at LGBT communities and LGBT-inclusive gatherings. In 2023, there were more than 60 documented cases of harassment targeting DSH or adjacent programming; the figure more than doubles when including anti-drag incidents in general.

Hamilt called it “deeply disturbing” that adults are choosing to incite violence and intimidate children, parents, and storytellers at family-oriented events while claiming to want to protect children.

Despite what the public perception may be, Hamilt continued, Drag Story Hour is “not scrambling.” The organization is nearly 10 years old and its efforts are “very organized.” Anti-LGBT harassment is nothing new, though sometimes it takes different forms, and the organization is “working on getting through this.”

(8) ELLISON BACK IN PRINT. Inverse interviews J. Michael Straczynski for a piece titled “The Unexpected Resurrection of Harlan Ellison “. The interviewer’s portion is largely a rehearsal of decades-old Ellison controversies. (But by no means all of them.)

…As the title suggests, Greatest Hits is a kind of historical document. These are stories that don’t necessarily reflect where science fiction and fantasy are going but where the genre has been, as seen through the dark lenses of Harlan Ellison. Some of the stories (like “Shatterday”) hold up beautifully. Some, as Cassandra Khaw points out in her introduction, have problematic elements.

But unlike recent reissues of books by Roald Dahl or Ian Fleming, these stories remain uncensored. The fight against censorship was one of Ellison’s lifelong passions, and so, other than a few content warning labels in the book, the sex, sci-fi, and rock ’n’ roll of this writer’s vision remains intact and raucous. Like the punk rock of genre fiction, Ellison’s stories are as jarring and blistering as ever.

“No, no, you don’t touch Harlan’s stuff, man,” Straczynski says. “Even if he’s dead, he’ll come after you.”

(9) SPEAKING OUT. The New Mexico Press Women presented George R.R. Martin with its “Courageous Communicator Award” last month, which Martin found thought-provoking as he explains in “Women of the Press” at Not A Blog.

 “On the Occasion of its 75th Anniversary Bestows its COURAGEOUS COMMUNICATOR AWARD on March 15-16, 2024 to George R.R. Martin for building new worlds and creating strong, yet nuanced, women characters in his books and television shows.”

…Our world needs courageous communicators more than ever in these dark divided days, when so many people would rather silence those they disagree with than engage them in debate and discussion.    I deplore that… but had I really done enough, myself, to be recognized for courageous speech?

I am not sure I have, truth be told.  Yes, I’ve spoken up from time to time, on issues both large and small… but not always.  It is always easier to remain silent, to stay on the sidelines and let the storms wash over you.   The more I pondered, the more convinced I became that I need to do more.   That we all need to do more.

I started by delivering a 45 minute keynote address, on the subject of free speech and censorship.   Which, I am happy to say, was very well received (I was not entirely sure it would be)….

(10) 2024 ROMCON AWARDS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Best Translation goes to an old Ian Watson title from 1973…

The Best Novella winner Silviu Genescu is noted for back in the 1990s winning the Romanian equivalent of “D is for End” (that’s the English translation but the play on words works in English as it does in the original Romanian). I remember staying with Silviu’s family back in the late 1990s when doing an Anglo-Romanian SF & Science Cultural Exchange, and their son came back from school to say that they had been learning about his father’s oeuvre that day in class….

(11) THE LONG WAY HOME. “’Furiosa’ has an action scene that took 78 days to film”NME tells why.

The upcoming Mad Max prequel film Furiosa includes a 15-minute action scene that took 78 days to film, it has been revealed.

Speaking to Total Film Magazine, the film’s star Anya Taylor-Joy and George Miller’s production partner Doug Mitchell spoke about the scene, which Taylor-Joy says is “very important for understanding” the character of Furiosa better.

Mitchell revealed that the film includes a “has one 15-minute sequence which took us 78 days to shoot” and required close to 200 stunt workers on set daily. While little else has been revealed about the scene, it has been described as a “turning point” for Furiosa…

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 51. Naomi Kritzer’s CatNet at this point consists of “Cat Pictures Please” which won a Hugo at MidAmeriCon II, Chaos on CatNet and Catfishing on CatNet. As one who likes this series enough that I had her personally autograph the Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories collection, I wanted to know the origin of CatNet, so I asked. Well, I also gifted her with a birthday chocolate treat, sea salt dark chocolate truffles. Here’s her answers: 

Naomi Kritzer in 2020 after winning the Lodestar Award.

Naomi Kritzer: The original short story was basically the collision of two things:

1. The line, “the Internet loves cat pictures,” which made me imagine a central internet-based intelligence that wanted pictures of cats.

2. Getting myself a smartphone for the first time (I was a late adopter), and discovering some of its quirks, and coming up with anthropomorphic explanations for things like bad directions. 

I mean, the Internet clearly does love cat pictures — although “the Internet” is “the billions of people who use the Internet,” not a secret sentient AI, though!

Cat Eldridge: I went on to ask her how CatNet came to be…

Naomi Kritzer: Do you mean in the story, how it got created? I was very vague about it in the short story but sort of heavily implied it was the result of something someone did at Google. In the novel CatNet was an experimental project from a company that was again, heavily implied to be Google.

Way, way cool in my opinion.

While putting this Birthday together, I noticed that she had two other series from when she was starting out as a writer, so I asked her to talk about them. Both are available on Kindle.

Cat Eldridge: Let’s talk about your first series, Eliana’s Song.

Naomi Kritzer: Eliana’s Song is my first novel, split into two pieces. I rewrote it really heavily multiple times, and each time I tried to make it shorter and it got longer. When Bantam bought it, they suggested that I split it into two books and expand each, which is what I did. 

The book actually started out as a short story I wrote while in college. It garnered a number of rejections that said something like, “this isn’t bad, but it kind of reads like chapters 1 and 36 of a novel.” I eventually decided to write the novel, and struggled for a while before realizing I could not literally use the short story as Chapter 1, I had to start over writing from scratch.

Cat Eldridge: And your second series, Dead Rivers.

Naomi Kritzer: Sometime around 2010 I picked up the Scott Westerfield Uglies series and really loved it. Uglies in particular followed a plotline that I really loved, in which someone is sent to infiltrate the enemy side, only to realize once she’s there that these are her people, far more than her bosses are. But she came among them under false pretenses, and she’d have to come clean! And she almost comes clean, doesn’t, of course is discovered and cast out, and and then has to spend the next book (maybe the next two) demonstrating her worthiness to be allowed to come back. I read this series and thought, “dang, I love this plot — I loved this plot as a kid, and reading it now is like re-visiting an amusement park ride you loved when you were 10 and finding out that even when you know where all the turns and drops are, it’s still super fun.” Like two days after that I suddenly remembered that I had literally written that plotline. It’s the plotline of the Dead Rivers trilogy. I really really love this plot, it turns out! So much that I’ve written it!

I’m not sure how well it’s aged. We were not doing trigger warnings on books yet when it came out, and the fact that the book has an explicit and fairly vivid rape scene took a lot of readers by surprise. It’s also a story that’s very much about whether someone can start out a bad guy and work their way to redemption.

Cat Eldridge: Now unto your short stories. I obviously believe everyone should read “Cat Pictures Please” and Little Free Library”, both of which I enjoyed immensely. So what of your short story writing do you think is essential for readers to start with?  

Naomi Kritzer: That is a good question but one I find very hard to answer about my own work! It’s a “can’t see the forest because of all the trees” problem, I think.

“So Much Cooking” would probably be at the top, though (with the explanatory note that I always attach these days — I wrote this in 2015.) And then probably “Scrap Dragon” and “The Thing About Ghost Stories.”

To date, she has two short story collections, Gift of the Winter King and Other Stories which is only available as an epub, and of course Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories which is also available in trade paper edition. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) A MONOPOLY OF WHAT? Ellie Griffin concludes “No one buys books” at The Elysian.

In 2022, Penguin Random House wanted to buy Simon & Schuster. The two publishing houses made up 37 percent and 11 percent of the market share, according to the filing, and combined they would have condensed the Big Five publishing houses into the Big Four. But the government intervened and brought an antitrust case against Penguin to determine whether that would create a monopoly. 

The judge ultimately ruled that the merger would create a monopoly and blocked the $2.2 billion purchase. But during the trial, the head of every major publishing house and literary agency got up on the stand to speak about the publishing industry and give numbers, giving us an eye-opening account of the industry from the inside. All of the transcripts from the trial were compiled into a book called The Trial. It took me a year to read, but I’ve finally summarized my findings and pulled out all the compelling highlights.

I think I can sum up what I’ve learned like this: The Big Five publishing houses spend most of their money on book advances for big celebrities like Brittany Spears and franchise authors like James Patterson and this is the bulk of their business. They also sell a lot of Bibles, repeat best sellers like Lord of the Rings, and children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. These two market categories (celebrity books and repeat bestsellers from the backlist) make up the entirety of the publishing industry and even fund their vanity project: publishing all the rest of the books we think about when we think about book publishing (which make no money at all and typically sell less than 1,000 copies).

But let’s dig into everything they said in detail….

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. [Item by Steven French.] If anyone fancies a walk through some weird woods … “12 Forests That Offer Chills and Thrills” at Atlas Obscura.

…While Translyvania, Romania, brings to mind images of Dracula and his imposing castle, the Hoia Baciu Forest might be more reliably scary. Known as the “Bermuda Triangle of Romania,” the forest has been home to UFO sightings,  glowing eyes, strange disappearances, in addition to trees that look like they were plucked from the Upside Down. In the busy residential section of Ichikawa, Japan, is a small, seemingly out-of-place wooded area. It’s been said that those who choose to enter the Yawata no Yabushirazu are whisked away, never to be seen again. Entrance is strictly forbidden. From a woodland in the shadows of England’s “most haunted village” to a tree in a Michigan forest said to be possessed by spirits, here are our favorite spine-tingling forests…

(16) KITTY LITERATURE. “A survey of feeding practices and use of food puzzles in owners of domestic cats – Mikel Delgado, Melissa J Bain, CA Tony Buffington, 2020” at Sage Journals. (Downloadable as a PDF.)

…Environmental enrichment (although without a single, agreed-upon, definition) generally refers to the addition of activities, objects or companionship to optimize physical and psychological states and improve an animal’s welfare.13 Appropriate enrichment encourages species-typical behaviors,1 and may improve welfare by providing an individual a greater perception of control and choice in their environment,4 and reducing their perception of threat.5 Because all non-domesticated animals must forage for food, whether by hunting, scavenging or searching, interventions that encourage foraging behavior are commonly implemented for zoo and laboratory animals.

Previous studies of companion animals have demonstrated positive effects of foraging toys on behavior. Shelter dogs that were provided with a Kong toy stuffed with frozen food in addition to reinforcement-based training were calmer, quieter and showed less jumping behavior when meeting potential adopters.6 Shelter parrots that engaged in feather-picking spent more time foraging and showed improved feather condition when provided with a food puzzle.7 Case studies suggest positive effects of food puzzles on the behavior of cats such as weight loss and resolution of inter-cat aggression and other behavioral concerns,8 even though a recent study found that food puzzles may not increase overall activity levels in house cats.9 Despite potential benefits, a recent survey found that less than 5% of Portuguese cat owners attending a veterinary practice provided food puzzles for their cats or hid food around the home to stimulate foraging behavior.10

TEDDY HARVIA CARTOON.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/30/24 What Do You Get When You Cross A Velociraptor With An Interociter

(1) JMS’ OFFERINGS AT THE TEMPLE. “Harlan Ellison’s Last Words: Sci-Fi Writer Makes Posthumous Comeback” in Los Angeles Magazine.

The Lost Aztec Temple of Mars has stood atop the hills of Sherman Oaks for decades, with a façade lovingly fashioned like the ruins of an ancient alien civilization. Carved into its faded orange exterior is an imagined history of flying ships and extraterrestrials, of tangled tendrils and tentacles, of creatures serpentlike and humanoid. This was the home of author Harlan Ellison, a sanctuary he also called Ellison Wonderland, where he wrote his popular scripts and short stories and kept its rooms filled with a museum-grade collection of science fiction and pop culture.

The house is largely as he left it in 2018, when he died there at age 84. For much of his life, Ellison was a leading writer of science fiction (he preferred the less restrictive label “speculative fiction”), a close friend to colleagues including Isaac Asimov and Neil Gaiman, but also notorious among his many enemies and comrades in Hollywood and the once-insular science fiction world.

Upstairs at the house, where Ellison’s manual typewriters, tobacco pipes and a row of rocket-shaped Hugo Awards remain, it is familiar and sacred ground to his old friend, the writer and producer J. Michael Straczynski….

…For Straczynski, 69, Ellison was not just a friend but a father figure of lasting impact. His real father, he says, “was complete shit.” Another executor would have simply liquidated Ellison’s assets, donated them to a favorite charity and moved on. But Straczynski has taken on a bigger mission — to return Ellison’s name to prominence.

“I would not be where I am right now if not for Harlan,” explains Straczynski, who was a 12-year-old in Newark, New Jersey, when he discovered the writer, and sought out his books for years. As his own career evolved from journalism to writing for animated TV, then a latter-day version of The Twilight Zone, show-running Babylon 5 and writing screenplays for Clint Eastwood (2008’s Changeling) and others, Ellison’s feisty example remained central. “His words kept me going. He was the only writer that I came across who made the notion of courage essential to the writing process, and being willing to fight for it.”…

(2) WANDERING EARTH II HUGO PROMO IMAGE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] The official Weibo account of The Wandering Earth posted an image to celebrate becoming a Hugo finalist.  This in turn was reposted by director Frant Gwo.  This acknowledgement might be a hopeful indicator of whether there might be some representation at Glasgow?

(3) MOVIE MAGIC. The Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles is hosting “Larry Albright: A Great Magic Truth; March 29, 2024 through September 8, 2024”.

The Museum of Neon Art (MONA) is pleased to present Larry Albright: A Great Magic Truth, an exhibition celebrating the legacy of artist, inventor, and pop-culture force, Larry Albright. The exhibition contains plasma sculptures, consumer electronics, miniature neon set pieces, and film clips from Albright’s work in movies such as Close Encounters of the Third KindStar WarsStar TrekBlade Runner, The Goonies and more. Albright’s distinctive artistic style bridged the gap between the Light and Space Movement, assemblage, and pop culture in the 1970’s through 2000’s. A Great Magic Truth exemplifies the interconnectedness of art and science, and celebrates how humans can manipulate matter in a way that transcends time and space to create new realities. The exhibition will be on display March 29, 2024 through September 8, 2024.

(4) MONSTER RASSLIN. Matt Goldberg assures us “The World Is Big Enough for Two Godzillas” at Commentary Track.

Last year’s Godzilla Minus One took the character back to his roots with a human-driven story with the monster standing in for trauma and pain. Far from a heroic savior, the Godzilla of Godzilla Minus One was a return for the horrifying entity that our heroes would risk everything to defeat. It’s a great movie, but that’s not all Godzilla can be. Even if you want to argue it’s an American/Japanese divide (as this Polygon article does, although I think it kind of breezes past large chunks of Godzilla’s history), the fact remains that Godzilla is not just one kind of character, and hasn’t been for some time. That’s why I have no problem riding with his heroic iteration in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

If you’re familiar with the Showa Era Godzilla, you’ll see that’s where director Adam Wingard puts his allegiance—big, monster wrestling fights with lots of destruction and little concern towards plot details or character development. It’s been a strange journey for this “MonsterVerse” that Legendary (the series’ production company) put together where Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla feints at trying to the bridge the gap between a serious Godzilla and a monster-fighting Godzilla, but by the time you’ve reached this sequel, they’re fully in their monsters-rasslin’ mode. It’s nice to feature acclaimed actors like Rebecca HallDan Stevens, and Oscar-nominee Brian Tyree Henry, but they’re simply here to class up the joint (and doing a solid job of it). The characters with the two clearest arcs are Kong and Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the deaf girl from Godzilla vs. Kong who can communicate with Kong via sign language. They’re both looking for a place to belong, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s even deeper in The Hollow Earth (Hollower Earth?)….

(5) SMILE, YOU’RE ON ROBOT CAMERA. Science reports on research where a “Robot face mirrors human expressions.”

Humanoid robots are capable of mimicking human expressions by perceiving human emotions and responding after the human has finished their expression. However, a delayed smile can feel artificial and disingenuous compared with a smile occur-ring simultaneously with that of a companion. Hu et al. trained an anthropomorphic facial robot named Emo to display an anticipatory expression to match its human companion. Emo is equipped with 26 motors and a flexible silicone skin to provide precise control over its facial expressions. The robot was trained with a video dataset of humans making expressions. By observing subtle changes in a human face, the robot could predict an approaching smile 839 milliseconds before the human smiled and adjust its face to smile simultaneously.

Primary research here: “Human-robot facial coexpression”.

(6) ALICE IN MOVIELAND. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Alice through the projector lens” at Den of Geek. For serious Alice/Carroll video (movie, TV, etc) fans, this list (the article’s nearly 15 years old, but I’m seeing many I was unaware of and want to find, e.g. “A Song Of Alice,” along with some I might have seen but would cheerfully rewatch). And others I’m familiar with, happily.

There’s some well-known/fabulous actors among the casts, including WC Fields, Clark Gable, Ringo Starr, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Phyllis Diller, Jonathan Winters, and Gene Wilder. I’m curious to see Mr. T as the Jabberwock!

(Did Robin Williams ever do any Alice? Can somebody do one starring Kate McKinnon?)

This isn’t a complete list; e.g. it appears to omit the phenomenal 1988 (but not for young kids) Czech stop-motion animation (plus one live actor, playing Alice), Alice (Original title: Neco z Alenky).

(7) RING TOUR. Tech Wizards is selling a line of ten Lord of the Rings Posters done travel ad-style. Two examples below. (Click for larger images.)

Experience the beauty and adventure of Middle-earth through a beautifully illustrated scene that captures the essence of Tolkien’s legendary universe.

(8) CHANCE PERDOMO (1996-2024). Actor Chance Perdomo, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Gen V star, died following a motorcycle accident says The Hollywood Reporter obituary notice. Perdomo was relatively young, his career was just beginning to take off, and he had already done quite a bit of genre work.

Perdomo played Ambrose Spellman and appeared in all episodes of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018-2020) based on the Archie comics about Sabrina, the teenage witch.

Gen V (2023- ) is a spin-off of The Boys. He appeared in all 10 episodes of season 1. It has been renewed for a season 2, tentatively expected next calendar year. His character Andre Anderson was part of the cliffhanger at the end of S1, so his disappearance may take some explaining in S2, unless they recast the part.

Moominvalley (2019- ) is an English/Finnish production appearing originally on TV in the UK and Finland. Dubs for several other languages followed. It’s based on the Moomin series of books and comics. Perdomo‘s character Snork appeared in 4 episodes of the 3rd and currently final season. A 4th season is expected. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 29, 1930 John Astin. Now let’s talk about one of my favorite performers, John Astin. I know him best as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family series which was on the air shorter than I thought, lasting just two seasons and a little over sixty episodes. He played him again in Halloween with the New Addams Family (which I’ve not seen) and voiced him thirty years later in The Addams Family, a two-season animated series. I’ll admit I’m not interested in animated series based off live series. Any live series.

John Astin and Carolyn Jones in The Addams Family (1964).

Oh did you know he was in West Side Story? He played Glad Hand, well-meaning but ineffective social worker. No, you won’t find him in the credits as he wasn’t credited then but retroactively he got credited for it which was good as he was a lead dancer. Brilliant film and I’ve no intention of watching the new version, ever.

(Yes I’ve long since abandoned the idea that these Birthdays are solely about genre.)

I’d talk about him being in Teen Wolf Too but let’s take the advice of Rotten Tomatoes reviewers and steer way clear of it. Like in a different universe. Same for the two Killer Tomatoes films. I see he’s in Gremlins 2: The New Batch as janitor but I can’t say I remember him.

So series work… I was going to list all of his work but there’s way too much to do that so I’ll be very selective. So he’s The Riddler in two episodes of Batman and a most excellent Riddler he was. 

But that was nothing when compared to his role on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. as Prof. Albert Wickwire. He’s a charming, if somewhat absent minded inventor who assists Brisco with diving suits, motorcycles, and even grander creations such as rockets and airships. Dare I say that this was an element of steampunk in the series? It was a great role for him. 

Finally he has a recurring role as Mr. Radford (the real one) as opposed to Mr. Radford (the imposter) on Eerie, Indiana. A decidedly weird series that was cancelled before it completed.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville tries to find a bright side to look on.
  • Macanudo knows the benefits of reading.
  • Rhymes with Orange reveals an unexpected complication of raising a child.
  • War and Peas asks “You Dare Call That… Thing– HUMAN?!?” – and is mostly about xenosex.

(11) CAN’T TELL GOGGINS WITHOUT A SCORECARD. “’I was freaking out’: Walton Goggins on fear, The White Lotus and being a 200-year-old mutant in Fallout” in the Guardian.

…Goggins is almost unrecognisable as the Ghoul, in part due to the full-face prosthetic work that essentially turns him into a bright red, noseless skull. Which, as you may imagine, was not a lot of fun to wear.

“I didn’t know how I would hold up, to be quite honest with you,” he says. “The very first day we were working, it was 106F [41C]. And all of a sudden, the sweat started building up. I couldn’t stop it. Jonathan Nolan asked me: ‘Are you crying?’ I said: ‘No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he touched my eye and water came pouring out of the piece, because there was a buildup of sweat inside. I’m not one to complain, but I sat down on a log and literally said to myself: ‘Man, you’re getting too old for this shit. I don’t know how I’m going to do nine months of this.’ I was freaking out.’…

(12) VERONICA CARLSON INTERVIEW. Steve Vertlieb invites you to look back at this 2013 YouTube video celebrating the life and career of beloved Hammer Films actress Veronica Carlson.

In an exclusive one-on-one sit-down recorded for the documentary, THE MAN WHO “SAVED” THE MOVIES, iconic Hammer Studios actress (and 60s era Mod “It Girl”) Veronica Carlson candidly discusses her days with Hammer, her near familial relationships with the legendary Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee, her close friendship with cinema journalist / archivist Steve Vertlieb, and what caused her to leave the film industry just as her star was rising.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the “Divergent Pitch Meeting”.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Ersatz Culture, Steve Vertlieb, Kathy Sullivan, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/24 I Am The Go-Captain Of The Pixelfore

(1) LIBBY BOOK AWARDS. Congratulations to Martha Wells and Rebecca Yarros, two of the 17 winners of the inaugural Libby Book Awards, chosen by a panel of 1700 librarians worldwide.

  • Fiction: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, by James McBride
  • Nonfiction: The Wager, by David Grann
  • Young Adult: Divine Rivals, by Rebecca Ross
  • Audiobook: I Have Some Questions for You, by Rebecca Makkai
  • Debut Author: The House in the Pines, by Ana Reyes
  • Diverse Author: Camp Zero, by Michelle Min Sterling
  • Comic Graphic Novel: The Talk, by Darrin Bell
  • Memoir & Autobiography: Pageboy, by Elliot Page
  • Cookbook: Start Here, by Sohla El-Waylly
  • Mystery: Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, by Jesse Q. Sutanto
  • Thriller: Bright Young Women, by Jessica Knoll
  • Romance: Georgie, All Along, by Kate Clayborn
  • Fantasy: Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros
  • Romantasy: Iron Flame, by Rebecca Yarros
  • Science Fiction: System Collapse, by Martha Wells
  • Historical Fiction: Let Us Descend, by Jesmyn Ward
  • Book Club Pick: Yellowface, by R. F. Kuang

(2) BOOK BANS SURGED IN 2023. “American Library Association reports record number of unique book titles challenged in 2023” at ALA.org.

Stack of books background. many books piles

The number of titles targeted for censorship surged 65 percent in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching the highest levels ever documented by the American Library Association (ALA). The new numbers released today show efforts to censor 4,240 unique book titles* in schools and libraries. This tops the previous high from 2022, when 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship. 

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 1,247 demands to censor library books, materials, and resources in 2023. Four key trends emerged from the data gathered from 2023 censorship reports: 

  • Pressure groups in 2023 focused on public libraries in addition to targeting school libraries. The number of titles targeted for censorship at public libraries increased by 92 percent over the previous year; school libraries saw an 11 percent increase.
  • Groups and individuals demanding the censorship of multiple titles, often dozens or hundreds at a time, drove this surge.  
  • Titles representing the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals made up 47 percent of those targeted in censorship attempts. 
  • There were attempts to censor more than 100 titles in each of these 17 states: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“The reports from librarians and educators in the field make it clear that the organized campaigns to ban books aren’t over, and that we must all stand together to preserve our right to choose what we read,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Each demand to ban a book is a demand to deny each person’s constitutionally protected right to choose and read books that raise important issues and lift up the voices of those who are often silenced.  By joining initiatives like Unite Against Book Bans and other organizations that support libraries and schools, we can end this attack on essential community institutions and our civil liberties.”…

(3) PNH’S NEW POST AT TPG. “Patrick Nielsen Hayden to Become Editor-at-Large for TPG” reports Publishers Weekly.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden has assumed the title of editor-at-large for the Tor Publishing Group. Hayden has been with TPG for 35 years and most recently served as v-p, associate publisher, and editor-in-chief.

During his tenure, he has published the debut novels of authors such as Charlie Jane Anders, Corey Doctorow, John Scalzi, and Jo Walton, and has received three Hugo Awards and a World Fantasy Award for his editorial work. In 2020, he founded our Tor Essentials imprint, which highlights a new generation of SFF classics. 

As editor-at-large, he will continue to edit such authors as Scalzi, Doctorow, and Walton, and will continue to select and oversee the Tor Essentials. 

In announcing Hayden’s new role, TPG president and publisher Devi Pillai added that the company “will not be replacing Patrick in his previous position—he is one of a kind.”

Patrick Nielsen Hayden in 2013. Photo by Scott Edelman.

(4) WICKED WORLD’S FAIR FOLLOWUP. “Eventbrite Refutes Mach’s Claims About WWF Payouts, Hints at Possible ‘Actions’” at The Steampunk Explorer. The linked post adds a great deal more coverage after this introductory item:

Amid the fallout from the Wicked World’s Fair (WWF), show organizer Jeff Mach has repeatedly blamed Eventbrite, the online ticketing and event management platform, for his inability to cover the event’s expenses. But in a statement provided Wednesday to The Steampunk Explorer, Eventbrite refuted key aspects of his claims.

WWF was held Feb. 23-25 at the SureStay Plus hotel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Mach used Eventbrite to manage ticket sales, as well as sales of vendor spaces. During the event, as a sound crew was awaiting payment and vendors were requesting refunds, he told them that Eventbrite had frozen his account, preventing use of the platform’s payout features.

In the weeks that followed, Mach continued to blame Eventbrite for payment issues at WWF. “I had repeated assurances from Eventbrite that the money would be forthcoming,” he remarked in one statement to The Steampunk Explorer. “Why Eventbrite had the account locked down, but refused to tell us, I don’t know.”

This was the company’s response on Wednesday: “Eventbrite offers, but does not guarantee, multiple ways to request funds ahead of the event date. Due to an error on the organizer’s end, we can confirm that a few of these advance payouts were delayed. This was quickly remedied, and the organizer received much of his payout ahead of the event and has now been paid out in full.”…

(5) I NEVER WANTED TO GO DOWN THE STONEY END. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Last month, Doug Muir did a piece about the impending death of Voyager 1, originally launched in 1977. “Death, Lonely Death” at Crooked Timber.

…Voyager has grown old.  It was never designed for this!  Its original mission was supposed to last a bit over three years.  Voyager has turned out to be much tougher than anyone ever imagined, but time gets us all.  Its power source is a generator full of radioactive isotopes, and those are gradually decaying into inert lead.  Year by year, the energy declines, the power levels  relentlessly fall.  Year by year, NASA has been switching off Voyager’s instruments to conserve that dwindling flicker.  They turned off its internal heater a few years ago, and they thought that might be the end.  But those 1970s engineers built to last, and the circuitry and the valves kept working even as the temperature dropped down, down, colder than dry ice, colder than liquid nitrogen, falling towards absolute zero.  

(Voyager stored its internal data on a digital tape recorder.  Yes, a tape recorder, storing information on magnetic tape.  It wasn’t designed to function at a hundred degrees below zero.  It wasn’t designed to work for decades, winding and rewinding, endlessly re-writing data.  But it did.)…

… We thought we knew how Voyager would end.  The power would gradually, inevitably, run down.  The instruments would shut off, one by one.  The signal would get fainter.  Eventually either the last instrument would fail for lack of power, or the signal would be lost.

We didn’t expect that it would go mad.

In December 2023, Voyager started sending back gibberish instead of data.  A software glitch, though perhaps caused by an underlying hardware problem; a cosmic ray strike, or a side effect of the low temperatures, or just aging equipment randomly causing some bits to flip.

The problem was, the gibberish was coming from the flight direction software — something like an operating system.  And no copy of that operating system remained in existence on Earth….

But all is not lost. Well, probably. But not necessarily. At the link you can read the rest of the story about the people trying to put the smoke back in the system from fifteen billion kilometers away.

(6) WEIMER GUESTS ON WORLDBUILDING FOR MASOCHISTS. Paul Weimer joins hosts Marshall Ryan Maresca, Cass Morris, and Natania Barron for  episode 124 of the Worldbuilding for Masochists podcast, “Worldbuilding in Review”.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to work with worldbuilding as writers — but how does a reviewer approach the topic when they’re reading works of sci-fi and fantasy? Guest Paul Weimer joins us to share his insights as a prolific consumer and critiquer of speculative fiction! Paul talks about the details that he pays attention to, the things he looks for, and the things that draw his attention, as well as discussing the purpose of reviews and who they’re for (hint: it’s not the authors!).

In this episode, we spin things around to look at how we approach worldbuilding and narrative construction as readers — since we are, of course, readers as well as writers! We explore of aspects of how a writer can set and, hopefully, meet expectations through worldbuilding — and where that can sometimes become challenging as a series goes on. What makes a world exciting to enter in the first place? What grips a reader and keeps them with it? And how can you use worldbuilding to make your wizard chase sequence a more cohesive part of your world?

(7) ENTRIES SOUGHT FOR BALTICON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL. Balticon Sunday Short Science Fiction Film Festival has been revised and is looking for talented filmmakers. Full guidelines here: “Short Film Festival”. Entries must be submitted by April 10 2024.

In 2024, the Balticon Sunday Short Science Fiction Film Festival (BSSSFFF) will take place on Sunday evening at 7:00pm. We will thrill festival attendees with independently produced short films from around the region and across the globe. BSSSFFF features live action and animated films in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror from some of the best independent filmmakers this side of the Crab Nebula.

Awards will be given in both the Live Action and Animation category based upon audience preferences. Some of the history of this film festival can be found on the BSFS website.

(8) TRY SUNDAY MORNING TRANSPORT. Mary Robinette Kowal has posted a link valid for a 60-day free trial of Sunday Morning Transport.

(9) ONE SUPERHERO ACTOR CONS ANOTHER. “Simu Liu was scammed by a Hollywood Boulevard Spider-Man” at Entertainment Weekly.

Simu Liu is reflecting on an enemy he made during his first visit to Los Angeles: a not-so-friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

During an interview with Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Dinner’s On Me, the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings actor recalled an unfortunate encounter with a swindling web-slinger on Hollywood Boulevard. “I remember I was taking photos of the Chinese Theater and a Spider-Man came up to me and was like, ‘I’ll help you!’” the actor remembered.

Alas, Liu’s spider-sense didn’t alert him to the insidious plot that was about to unfold. “And then he took a bunch of photos of me, and then he took some selfies of himself, and then he was like, ‘That’ll be $20!’” the actor said. “And that was mortifying for me, because I didn’t have $20 to give him. Core memory, clearly.”

(10) INTELLECTUAL (?) PROPERTY. Jon Del Arroz tagged me on X.com about this. I clicked through and was fascinated to learn he has declared Sad Puppies is a movement “owned and led by JDA!”

OFFICIAL Sad Puppies merch is now live on the store! Show your allegiance to this great movement which is owned and led by JDA!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 14, 1933 Michael Caine, 91. On my list of favorite British performers of all time, Michael Caine is near the top of that list. Both his genre and non-genre performances are amazing. So let’s take a look at those performances.

Caine portrayed Alfred Pennyworth in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. He was quite stellar in this role. And he was in The Prestige, a truly great film, as John Cutter, in Inception as Stephen Miles, Professor John Brand in Interstellar and Sir Michael Crosby in Tenet.

Did you see him in as Ebenezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol? If not, go see it now. He’s wonderful and The Muppet take on the Dickens story is, errr, well actually touching. Really it is.

Definitely not genre is The Man Who Would Be King, based off the Kipling story, which starred him with Sean Connery, Saeed Jaffrey and Christopher Plummer. The two primary characters were played by Sean Connery — Daniel Dravot — and Caine played the other, Peachy Carnehan. A truly fantastic film. 

Michael Caine and Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King.

In the Jekyll & Hyde miniseries, he’s got the usual dual role of Dr Henry Jekyll / Mr Edward Hyde. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – in a Miniseries. He did win a Globe for Best Actor for playing Chief Insp. Frederick Abberline in the Jack Ripper miniseries airing the same time.

Nearly thirty years ago, he was Captain Nemo in a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea miniseries. 

He’s in Austin Powers in Goldmember, third film in the franchise. He’s Nigel Powers, a British agent and Austin and Dr. Evil’s father. Can someone explain to me the appeal of these films? 

In Children of Men, he plays Jasper Palmer, Theo’s dealer and friend, Theo being the primary character in this dystopian film. 

He’s Chester King in Kingsman: The Secret Service. That’s off the Millarworld graphic novel of Kingsman: The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

I’m reasonably sure that’s all I need to mention about his career.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie anticipates tomorrow’s celebration of World Sleep Day.
  • Frazz figures out the anatomy involved in scientific advancement.
  • Does F Minus depict the dream of some File 770 commenters?
  • Non Sequitur imagines the earliest days of streaming.
  • Carpe Diem has a new origin story.

(13) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 105 of the Octothorpe podcast, John Coxon watches movies, Alison Scott walks on the Moon, and Liz Batty has special bonds. Listen here: “Scorching Hot Month-Old Takes”.

In this episode, we talk through your letters of comment with diversions into Zodiac podcasts, poetry collections, and Scientology. We discuss the BSFA Awards shortlist and return to the Hugo Awards for another round of head-scratching and bewilderment.

A famous photograph of Margaret Hamilton standing beside printed outputs of the code that took the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon, overlaid with the words “Octothorpe 105” and “Liz has finished reading the latest Hugo Award exposés”.

(14) OUTSIDE THE BOX — AND INSIDE THE SHELVES. Harlan Ellison’s Greatest Hits can already be found in some bookstores, ahead of the official release date.

(15) GLIMPSE OF BLACK MIRROR. “Black Mirror Season 7 Will Arrive in 2025 With a Sequel to One of Its Most Beloved Episodes”IGN has the story.

Netflix’s long-running bleak anthology series, Black Mirror, is coming back for Season 7 next year, and it’s bringing a sequel to fan-favorite episode USS Callister with it.

The streaming platform announced the news during its Next on Netflix event in London (via The Hollywood Reporter), later bringing public confirmation with a cryptic message on X/Twitter. The post contains a video teasing the six episodes, and judging by the familiar logo that appears, it sounds like the third will be the one to give us our USS Callister sequel.

(16) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. “Doctor Who’s Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat unite to support Chris Chibnall”Radio Times cheers the gesture.

Doctor Who writers past and present have shared a photo together after Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat attended a performance of Chris Chibnall’s new play.

Recently returned showrunner Davies posted the image to his Instagram page alongside the caption: “A marvellous night out in Salisbury to see Chris Chibnall’s wonderful new play, One Last Push.”

And he added: “Also, we plotted Zarbi vs Garms”, referencing two classic Doctor Who monsters…

(17) TRUE OR FALSE? Radio Times reviews evidence supporting story that “Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat ‘returns to write 2024 Christmas special’”.

More than six years after his final episode of Doctor Who aired, it appears that former showrunner Steven Moffat may be returning to write a new episode of the sci-fi.

While the news has not yet been confirmed, it was picked up on Tuesday 12th March that producer Alison Sterling’s CV had been updated to note she had worked on the show’s 2024 Christmas special.

Underneath this, it was noted that the director of the episode is Alex Pillai, while it was stated that the writer is one Steven Moffat. The notes regarding the writer and director of the episode have since been removed….

One factor which may throw doubt on the idea that Moffat has written the special, is that Russell T Davies previously said that he himself was writing it back in 2022.

(18) STARSHIP HITS SOME MARKS. “SpaceX celebrates major progress on the third flight of Starship”ArsTechnica has details.

… The successful launch builds on two Starship test flights last year that achieved some, but not all, of their objectives and appears to put the privately funded rocket program on course to begin launching satellites, allowing SpaceX to ramp up the already-blistering pace of Starlink deployments.

“Starship reached orbital velocity!” wrote Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, on his social media platform X. “Congratulations SpaceX team!!”

SpaceX scored several other milestones with Thursday’s test flight, including a test of Starship’s payload bay door, which would open and shut on future flights to release satellites into orbit. A preliminary report from SpaceX also indicated Starship transferred super-cold liquid oxygen propellant between two tanks inside the rocket, a precursor to more ambitious in-orbit refueling tests planned in the coming years. Future Starship flights into deep space, such as missions to land astronauts on the Moon for NASA, will require SpaceX to transfer hundreds of tons of cryogenic propellant between ships in orbit.

Starship left a few other boxes unchecked Thursday. While it made it closer to splashdown than before, the Super Heavy booster plummeted into the Gulf of Mexico in an uncontrolled manner. If everything went perfectly, the booster would have softly settled into the sea after reigniting its engines for a landing burn.

A restart of one of Starship’s Raptor engines in space—one of the three new test objectives on this flight—did not happen for reasons SpaceX officials did not immediately explain.

Part rocket and part spacecraft, Starship is designed to launch up to 150 metric tons (330,000 pounds) of cargo into low-Earth orbit when SpaceX sets aside enough propellant to recover the booster and the ship. Flown in expendable mode, Starship could launch almost double that amount of payload mass to orbit, according to Musk….

Space.com has a video at the link: “SpaceX launches giant Starship rocket into space on epic 3rd test flight (video)”.

(19) FAILURE TO LAUNCH. Elsewhere, some bad news from Japan: “Space One’s Kairos rocket explodes on inaugural flight” reports Reuters.

Kairos, a small, solid-fuel rocket made by Japan’s Space One, exploded shortly after its inaugural launch on Wednesday as the firm tried to become the first Japanese company to put a satellite in orbit…

(20) TALKING TO NUMBER ONE. In Gizmodo’s opinion, “This New Robot Is So Far Ahead of Elon Musk’s Optimus That It’s Almost Embarrassing”.

As if Elon Musk needed yet another reason to hate OpenAI. Figure, a startup that partnered with OpenAI to develop a humanoid robot, released a new video on Wednesday. And it’s truly heads above anything Tesla has demonstrated to date with the Optimus robot.

The video from Figure, which is available on YouTube, shows a human interacting with a robot dubbed Figure 01 (pronounced Figure One). The human has a natural-sounding conversation with the robot, asking it to first identify what it’s looking at….

(21) MILLION DAYS TRAILER. “A Million Days” is available on Digital Platforms 18 March.

The year is 2041 and the next step in the future of humankind is imminent. After decades of training and research, the mission to create the first lunar colony is about to launch with Anderson as lead astronaut. Jay, an AI purpose built for the mission, has simulated every possible outcome for the expedition. Tensions arise when the chilling motives of Jay become apparent, sowing the seeds of distrust between Anderson, and the group that had gathered to quietly celebrate the launch. As the night descends into chaos, the group’s faith in one another and their mission begins to crack, with the knowledge that the decisions they make before sunrise, will change humanity forever.

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