Pixel Scroll 2/7/24 We’ll Pixel Them All With Laughter And Merriment, Except For The Ones We Scroll For Experiments

(1) PRH PLANS EDITION OF A FAMOUS POTTER FANFIC. [Item by Anne Marble.] Penguin Random House (through Del Rey) is going to publish a revised version of “Manacled,” a very famous Harry Potter fanfic. This is a Hermione plus Draco (Dramione) fan fiction with a lot of trigger warnings. The author, SenLinYu, announcd this on Tumblr:

I’m excited to announce that I have signed a book deal with Del Rey at Penguin Random House in the US and Michael Joseph in the UK for my debut novel, Alchemised, a standalone dark fantasy set in a war-torn world of necromancy and alchemy, in which a healer with amnesia is taken as a prisoner of war and must fight to protect her lost memories and the secrets hidden among them. It will grapple with themes of trauma and survival, legacy, and the way that love can drive one to extreme darkness, and it is, as you may be able to tell, a reimagined version of Manacled.

I know I’ve been rather quiet about my publishing journey, and a lot of that has been because I didn’t want to spark any concerns or worry that I might be abruptly taking away a story that is such a deep part of myself and that I know has meant so much to so many people. This process has unfolded very slowly and quietly because I have tried to be mindful as I could be in every step of the way. 

As most of you know, I have been a reader in fandom long before I ever began to write. Fanfiction is incredibly special to me, and I have tried to do my best not to undermine its legal protection or allow my works to do so either. During the last several years, there has been a growing issue with illegal sales of Manacled, putting both me and the incredible community that shares fanfiction freely in legal jeopardy. 

After consulting with the OTW as well as other lawyers, it has grown clear that as a transformative writer I have limited options in protecting my stories from this kind of exploitation, but I wasn’t sure what to do; I didn’t want to just take the story down, in part because I worried that might only exacerbate the issue, but I didn’t know what other options I had. Then I suddenly had this idea of alchemy, which was peculiarly appropriate; an academic world filled with unique transmutational abilities, and a necromantic war against people who had discovered the secrets of immortality, and I could see a path to reimagining the story while still holding on to as much of the original spirit of Manacled as possible.

I began redrafting the concept privately around Christmas 2022, and then as if the universe had aligned, just as I was finishing, Caitlin Mahony and Rivka Bergman of WME reached out to me and were delightfully enthusiastic about concepts and ideas for my new alchemical world and the ways I had reimagined the story. 

I’m thrilled to be working with Emily Archbold, my visionary editor at Del Rey, along with Rebecca Hilsdon at Michael Joseph in the UK, to polish this novel for publication in Fall 2025. I feel uniquely privileged that both my publishing teams are familiar with Manacled and understand how special it is to so many people, and how important it is that this reimagining captures the same spirit while also having its own wings. 

Manacled is not going anywhere at present. It will remain online throughout 2024, at which point it will, if you’ll pardon the pun, alchemise for 2025 and be removed from AO3….

The revised version is described as “Alchemised, a standalone dark fantasy set in a war-torn world of necromancy and alchemy, in which a healer with amnesia is taken as a prisoner of war and must fight to protect her lost memories and the secrets hidden among them.” As far as I know, it will be published under the name SenLinYu — just like the original fan fic. A lot of people are happy for the author. They are happy she is finally going to get paid for her work. They also see it as Penguin Random House banking on the popularity of her fanfic.

One aspect that drove the author’s decision is that “Manacled” is so popular that some people have resold it online without the permission of the author. However, those sales are illegal, and they jeopardize both the original author and the fanfic community. The author mentioned that she consulted with the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) as well as lawyers about how to protect herself. So she decided to revise the fanfic and turn it into a new work. It will be sold in 2025. Until then, the original fanfic will still be available on A03. This news is not without its critics. First, a number of posts have accused the author of ripping off The Handmaid’s Tale alongside the Harry Potter elements. I haven’t read the fanfic, so I’m not sure how close it gets. From what I understand, there is a “concubine” element. (It seems a lot of dystopias have borrowed heavily from A Handmaid’s Tale in recent years.)

One poster got truly angry about this upcoming publication, calling the author a “freak” and a “horrible person” for romanticizing abuse. I’m sure this won’t be the only complaint along these lines. I’m torn with that sort of take. Yes, maybe some readers might get the wrong idea from reading a very dark story. But maybe we’re not giving readers (even young ones) enough credit.

(2) DON’T LET KIDS GET SMARTER. “LeVar Burton’s Banned Book Rainbow” is a show-within-the-show on Jimmy Kimmel Live, beginning at the 11:05 mark:

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Isabel Yap and Randee Dawn in person at the KGB Bar on Wednesday, February 14 starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

ISABEL YAP

Isabel Yap is the author of Never Have I Ever: Stories, which was published by Small Beer Press in 2021, and was named one of the 2021 Best Books for Adults by the New York Public Library. Her work has appeared in venues including Tor.com, Lithub, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction. Her collection won the British Fantasy Award, and was a finalist for the Ignyte, Locus, Crawford, and World Fantasy Awards. By day she works in the tech industry as a Product Manager. She likes visiting museums, playing the ukulele, and commiserating with others about how hard it is to write books.

RANDEE DAWN

Randee Dawn is the author of the bestselling novel Tune in Tomorrow, which was a finalist in the 2023 Next Generation Indie Awards. Her latest story, “The Fifth Horseman,” appears in the new anthology The Four ???? of the Apocalypse. Her stories have also appeared in Soul Scream, Horror for the Throne, and Even in the Grave, and she is the co-editor of Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles. An entertainment journalist who writes for the Los Angeles Times, Variety, and other publications, Randee lives in Brooklyn with her spouse and a fluffy, sleepy Westie.

Location: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs)

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

Observations from Hugo winner Ling Shizhen regarding the trophies

As yet, I’ve not noticed any Chinese coverage of the core part of Chris M. Barkley’s interview with Dave McCarty on Weibo, perhaps because of the initial lack of transcripts making that less accessible to non-native speakers, plus I’m uncertain how accessible SoundCloud, Google Drive, etc are to Chinese users.  (Google Drive I’m fairly sure is inaccessible in China without workarounds)

However, the notes at the end of Chris’ piece, regarding damage to the trophies that were shipped to the US, have garnered some discussion.

One of my Chinese SF friends made me aware that Best Fanzine co-winner Ling Shizhen had spoken on WeChat about the subject.  I don’t personally have access to that app, nor did I have alternative contact details for Ling, so I reached out to RiverFlow to see if I could get more information which I might be able to share more widely. 

Here is the the subsequent response from Ling via RiverFlow, firstly in the original Chinese, and then a machine translation via DeepL, with minor manual edits for phrasing.

2023年10月22日,我自成都抵重庆。一路行程中,我的箱包被塞满,为防这奖杯受损,便基本手持,虽感沉重,这奖杯无事。

后由重庆回上海时,先快递回去一大批于2023成都世界科幻大会收到的物件,便想这奖杯放书包里会好些。这奖杯被安置妥当后,一路小心,最多受行走及列车难免的些许微小颠簸。

至家后,发现有问题:这奖杯底座上的“星门”和这奖杯底座间的衔接处,有此前未有的松动,那“星门”有点晃。才发现:那“星门”本不是整块完全焊死在这奖杯底座上。于是想还不如一路手持由重庆回上海。至少我的相关亲历可以说明这奖杯很经不得碰……

On 22nd October 2023, I arrived in Chongqing from Chengdu [a journey of approximately 300km per Google]. During the journey, my bag was stuffed to the brim, so I basically held the trophy in my hand to prevent it getting damaged, and although it felt heavy, the trophy was fine.

When I returned to Shanghai from Chongqing [a distance of just under 1,700km per Google], I couriered back a large number of items I received at the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, so I thought it would be better to put the trophy in my backpack. After the trophy was properly placed, I was careful all the way, and it endured nothing worse than the inevitable bumps of walking and trains.

After arriving home, I found that there was a problem: the connection between the “stargate” and the base of the trophy had loosened up in a way that I had not been seen before, and the “stargate” was a bit shaky. It was only then that I realised that the “stargate” was not completely welded to the base of the trophy. So I think it would have been better to go all the way back to Shanghai from Chongqing carrying it by hand. At least my personal experience shows that this trophy is not very contact-friendly.

Many thanks to Ling Shizhen and RiverFlow for getting back to me so promptly, and for providing the information I requested.

Ling Shizhen and RiverFlow receiving the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine.  Image from the 2023 Hugo Ceremony video stream
Close up of the 2023 Hugo base, taken from the 2023 Worldcon Opening Ceremony video stream, previously published in the 2023-10-18 Pixel Scroll.

(5) FLAME ON. [Item by Steven French.] The Guardian is agog as “House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J Maas races to the top of bestseller chart”.

The story of a half fairy, half human woman has gripped UK book buyers this week, as a novel about the hybrid heroine shot to the top of the bestseller chart.

House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J Maas, the third book in the Crescent City series featuring Bryce Quinlan, has become the third fastest-selling science fiction and fantasy title since records began since its publication on 30 January.

Maas sold 44,761 copies of the new title in the week of its launch, coming in behind Terry Pratchett’s 2011 book Snuff with 54,687 launch week sales and Rebecca Yarros’s Iron Flame which saw a record-setting 57,055 sales last November, according to the Bookseller.

Maas and Yarros are driving a surge in popularity of the “romantasy” genre, which blends elements of romance and fantasy and has attracted huge numbers of readers through social media recommendations, particularly via TikTok. Videos with hashtags related to Maas have been viewed more than 14bn times, her publisher Bloomsbury said.”

(6) USED OR OVERUSED? At the Fantast Author’s Handbook, Philip Athans challenges the use of  particular word: “Active Search: Because”.

…I want to talk about the word “because.” I think “because,” which like all words is perfectly fine and in no way “banned,” sometimes—actually, fairly often—sounds clunky….

(7) COLLINS FUNDRAISER. Horror author, comics creator, and File 770 news contributor Nancy Collins was hospitalized earlier this week with blood clots in one lung, and as she says in the title of her GoFundMe, “What Doesn’t Kill Me Leaves Me With Medical Bills”.

This past Saturday (February 3rd, 2024) I woke up to discomfort in my left chest every time I inhaled. As the day went on I experienced increasing pain that radiated into my armpit and through my left shoulder, accompanied by extreme exhaustion. That evening I drove myself to the E.R. at a hospital near my house here in Macon, GA. By that point I thought I was having some kind of cardiac episode, as my mother’s side of the family had a long history of heart issues.

Within 30 minutes of being taken into the exam area, I was screaming in agony and could no longer sit up. Being kept prone helped alleviate the intensity of the pain, but breathing was still an issue.

An EKG, a set of Xrays, and a MRI scan later, I was told I wasn’t having a heart attack. However, I did have a blood clot in my lower left lung–actually, several small ones, according to the doctor. He said that if I hadn’t come in when I did Saturday night, odds are I would not have woken up Sunday morning.

They admitted me into the hospital, where I was ordered bed rest, pumped full of blood thinners, and then underwent several ultrasounds. They kept me over the weekend, finally releasing me Monday evening with several prescriptions and an outpatient appointment with a hematologist. I suspect I will be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. (I know, ironic for someone best known for writing vampire stories. Even more ironic–the clots appear to be the result of me sitting too long in front of my laptop while writing. )

I’m setting up this campaign to help with the medical bills from this unexpected reminder that I am no longer a spring chicken. While I have medical insurance, it ain’t all that and a bag of chips. I’m still on the hook for 25% of my treatment–possibly more, if it turns out any of the physicians, technicians, or laboratories who handled my case happen to be out-of-network.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 7, 1960 James Spader, 64. How can I not do the Birthday of James Spader, the performer who played Dr. Daniel Jackson, Egyptologist in Stargate? Yes, I’m really fond of that film. And yes, I am equally fond of the Stargate SG-1 franchise. 

His first SF film actually came as a starring role as Joey Callaghan in Starcrossed where an alien woman is running from a deadly enemy and tries to hide here. She meets a young mechanic (Joey), who helps her to go home and to be a freedom fighter there.

James Spader in 2014. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

A decade later, his next role is in Stargate one. I thought it was a great performance by him. And yes, the character as performed by Michael Shanks in Stargate SG-1 continuity is just as interesting, just completely different. His role I thought was more true to that of being an Egyptologist but the Stargate SG-1 continuity isn’t really concerned with the original premise, is it? 

If you saw Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I will readily admit that I have not, he not only voiced Ultron but did the motion capture for it. 

But his greatest role, and I readily admit that is not genre was in The Blacklist as Raymond “Red” Reddington, a former US Naval Intelligence officer turned fugitive who’s forced to become an FBI crime consultant. And I was surprised to learn that he was an executive producer for that series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TRACING THE ROOTS OF COMICS. At Colleen Doran’s Funny Business the artist takes her work on a Neil Gaiman book as the jumping-off point for a discussion of comic art history: “CHIVALRY: From Illuminated Manuscripts to Comics”.

One of the many reasons I wanted to adapt Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry into graphic novel form was to create a comic as a bridge and commentary re: comics and illuminated manuscripts.

We’re often told that the first comic was Action Comics #1 featuring Superman, a collection of Superman comic strips that morphed into comic books as an art form.

Sequential art predates Action Comics #1.

Action Comics popularized sequential art book storytelling that had already appeared in other forms in fits and starts throughout history. Comic books didn’t take off as a popular medium for several reasons, not least of which was the necessary printing process hadn’t been invented yet and it’s hard to popularize – and commercialize – something most people can never see. 

You find sequential art in cave paintings and in Egyptian hieroglyphics. I’ve read that comics (manga) were invented by the Japanese in 12th century scrolls.

And sequential art appears over and over again in Western art going back well over 1000 years, and in book form at least 1100 years ago.

The most obvious example of early sequential art in Western art – as a complete narrative in sequence – is the Bayeux Tapestry. …

(11) GRIMDARK ARCHITECTURE. The completed Brooklyn Tower is being compared to Barad-dûr. “Brooklyn Tower and 100 Flatbush Lead a Borough’s Art Deco Revival” at Bloomberg.

On an overcast day, the delicate pointed crown of the Brooklyn Tower is invisible in the clouds, as if a vengeful enemy has shrouded its superlative vantage in smoke. Nonetheless, over the low-rise flatlands that comprise most of the borough, the jagged edges rising along the dark shaft are present and unmistakable.

The Batman building, the Tower of Sauron — the nicknames write themselves. And why not? Better this than another squared-off tower that simply fiddles with the ratio of white solid to blue glass. Maybe I should hate it for its bigness, its blackness, its thrust — but I don’t. Skylines need punctuation. The designers of the Brooklyn Tower, SHoP Architects, threw everything at this to make it an exclamation point…

….“The idea was Gotham, it was Deco,” says Gregg Pasquarelli, founding partner of SHoP Architects. “Batman should live here.”…

Color photo of Brooklyn Tower, a supertall skyscraper.
Brooklyn Tower is the borough’s first supertall skyscraper. Photo: Max Touhey, courtesy of SHoP Architects

(12) OMG! The H Book Club blog on X.com made this gobsmacking observation:

Footnote: In case you don’t already know the background:

(13) MARVEL TV CREW MEMBER LOSES LIFE. “’Wonder Man’ Crew Member Dies During Production Of Marvel TV Series” reports Deadline, and people are donating to the support of his widow.

Go Fund Me drive has already raised more than $115,000 for Juan Carlos Osorio, the crewmember on Marvel’s WonderMan series who died Tuesday after falling from a catwalk at Radford Studios.

“On February 6th, 2024, our friend Spike lost his life on the set of Marvels WonderMan shoot at CBS Radford studios due to a potential structural failure,” reads the fundraise, started by Bill Martel. “We are hoping the Production Company, The Facility, MBS, Marvel Studios handles things properly, but expect a long road fraught with attorney fees and expenses. In the mean time, bills will be mounting and the widow, Boom Operator Joanne W. will be left to deal with everything. Help if you’re able, it’s greatly appreciated.”…

(14) INVESTMENT MEANS ADDING DISNEY CONTENT TO FORTNITE. “Disney Invests $1.5 Billion in ‘Fortnite’ Developer Epic Games” reports Variety.

Disney is investing $1.5 billion in “Fortnite” developer Epic Games in what will be the Mouse House’s “biggest foray into the game space ever,” Disney CEO Bob Iger announced Wednesday.

…Per further information provided by Disney, “in addition to being a world-class games experience and interoperating with ‘Fortnite,’ the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Avatar’ and more. Players, gamers and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love.”…

(15) RARE UNFINISHED DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM TRAILER FOOTAGE FROM “THE MAN WHO ‘SAVED’ THE MOVIES”. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Here’s the original theatrical trailer for the never completed feature length motion picture documentary, The Man Who “Saved” The Movies, concerning over half a century of published writings…associations with actors, composers, writers, and directors…and some seventy-six years devoted to a passion for both films and film makers, while lovingly chronicling the life and career of film, and film music historian Steve Vertlieb.

Featuring appearances by Veronica Carlson, Philippe Mora, Paul Clemens, Juliet Rozsa, Lee Holdridge, Mark McKenzie, Patrick Russ, and Gregg Nestor, the film remains a work in progress. While financial difficulties have sadly plagued its production, it is my hope that it may one day reach completion.

… and, yes, that is me with Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Kirk Douglas, William Shatner, Jack Klugman, old friend and iconic American film director, Frank Capra, Oscar winning film composer, John Williams, Oscar winning film composer, Miklos Rozsa, famed science fiction author, Ray Bradbury, iconic special effects titan, Ray Harryhausen, “Psycho” author Robert Bloch, together with “The Time Machine” producer/director, George Pal, Hammer Films’ star, Peter Cushing, and screen hero/gold medal Olympian, Buster Crabbe.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob6-t0MKXRY

(16) COLD WAR SURPLUS? “Remnants of a Nuclear Missile Are Found in a Garage” – in Bellevue, WA – reports the New York Times. “The police responded to a call from a U.S. Air Force museum that said a man had offered to donate a Cold War-era missile stored in his late neighbor’s garage.”

Members of the bomb squad in Bellevue, Wash., on Thursday were called to inspect parts of a military-grade missile in the garage of a resident.

Elements of the larger, intact missile, such as the warhead, were missing and the authorities deemed the piece to be inert and safe, the police said in a news release on Friday.

An Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio, contacted the police in Bellevue on Jan. 31 to report that a resident had offered to donate the missile, which belonged to his late neighbor….

…The next day, the man was “surprised” to hear from the police because he had not called them but invited the bomb squad to inspect the missile remnant, Officer Tyler said.

Squad members identified the rocket as a Douglas AIR-2 Genie missile, designed to carry a 1.5-kiloton nuclear warhead….

…It was clear that the missile remnant did not pose a threat given that it was missing its warhead and did not contain rocket fuel, Officer Tyler said.

“It was essentially just a rusted piece of metal at that point,” he said. “An artifact, in other words.”…

The NYT news report reminds me that when I first got into fandom I heard tell about Russell Seitz, a fan who was famous for having acquired the components of an ICBM. The following is one version of that story:

In the late 70’s, when most of our nuclear arsenal was converted from liquid to solid fuel, the U.S. Government auctioned off a number of obsolete missile silos and their contents. Mostly the silos got bought by local farmers who converted them for grain storage. I only know what happened to one of the missiles. It was offered at sealed bid auction and a friend of mine, Russell Seitz, bought it. When you bid on something like this, you have to send in a check for 10% of your bid as a deposit. He looked at his bank account, and figured he could spare about $300 that month, so that’s what he sent. When he discovered that he’d won the bid, he had to scrounge up the rest. Now the buyer must pick up the goods himself, but he can request that his purchase be delivered, at government expense, to the nearest military base. Being an undergraduate at M.I.T. at the time, he had the missile shipped to Hanscom Airforce Base, about 12 miles away. He then arranged for a truck, and donated the missile to a local modern art museum (I forget which one). Tax laws were a little different in those days, and if you donated something to an art museum, you could deduct not the just the purchase price, but the original value of the object, which was considerable. Income averaging allowed him to spread the “loss” out over a number of years so that he didn’t have to pay taxes for a long time! He was legendary at M.I.T. for quite a while, and acquired the nickname “Missile” Seitz.

(17) EARLY RELEASE SUPER BOWL AD. Does having the Aquaman actor in it make this an item of genre interest? You decide! Zach Braff, Jason Momoa and Donald Faison appear in a Flashdance-themed Super Bowl commercial for T-Mobile.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The official trailer for Despicable Me 4 is out. The movie comes to theaters on July 3.

In the first Despicable Me movie in seven years, Gru, the world’s favorite supervillain-turned-Anti-Villain League-agent, returns for an exciting, bold new era of Minions mayhem in Illumination’s Despicable Me 4.

Following the 2022 summer blockbuster phenomenon of Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, which earned almost $1 billion worldwide, the biggest global animated franchise in history now begins a new chapter as Gru (Oscar® nominee Steve Carrell) and Lucy (Oscar® nominee Kristen Wiig) and their girls —Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Madison Polan)—welcome a new member to the Gru family, Gru Jr., who is intent on tormenting his dad.

Gru faces a new nemesis in Maxime Le Mal (Emmy winner Will Ferrell) and his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina (Emmy nominee Sofia Vergara), and the family is forced to go on the run. The film features fresh new characters voiced by Joey King (Bullet Train), Emmy winner Stephen Colbert (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) and Chloe Fineman (Saturday Night Live). Pierre Coffin returns as the iconic voice of the Minions and Oscar® nominee Steve Coogan returns as Silas Ramsbottom.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Steve Vertlieb, Heath Row, Kathy Sullivan, 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 Thomas the Red.]

Pixel Scroll 1/28/24 Intergalactic Antiques Road Show

(1) GALAXY QUEST FUNKOS. Slashfilm rejoices: “Cool Stuff: By Grabthar’s Hammer, Galaxy Quest Funko POPs Have Arrived!”

… Funko has revealed three new POP vinyl figures of Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) as Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, Sir Alexander (Alan Rickman) as Dr. Lazarus, and Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) as Tech Sergeant Chen. They’re all given the classic look from the original “Galaxy Quest” TV series, though they’re not intended to be the classic versions of their characters. If they were, Tim Allen’s hair mold would probably look more retro. However, they did depict Fred Kwan with that semi-squinted expression in his eyes, which only really happened when he was fully in character on the show. Personally, I’d like to have a series of “Galaxy Quest” Funko POPs with them looking disheveled, such as Sir Alexander with hair poking out of his torn alien headpiece.

What’s a little disappointing is the lack of the rest of the original crew, with no figures for Gwen DiMarco (Sigourney Weaver) as Lt. Tawny Madison and Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell) as Laredo in sight. Seems like quite an oversight to exclude both the woman and the Black cast members from the movie/series, especially since the packaging for the other figures indicates that there are two other “Galaxy Quest” Funko POPs on the way…

(2) AFTER ACTION REPORT PART II. {By Steven French.] [Part I was in a previous Scroll.] It wouldn’t be a fantasy exhibition in Leeds without *some* mention of JRR! Leeds Central Library’s Fantasy: Realms of Imagination included a couple of displays with Tolkien-related material including one with a photo of his and Edith’s house in West Park, out on the edge of the city, as well as two of his poems that were published in the university student magazine The Gryphon. One, ‘Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden’ not only features a dragon on its hoard but also makes mention of a ring (!). The other, ‘Light as Leaf on Lindentree’ , from 1925, eventually became the Song of Beren and Lúthien which Strider recited to the hobbits on Weathertop. 

(3) AFTER ACTION REPORT PART III. [By Steven French.] And finally (honest!), no fantasy exhibition would be complete without a dragon or two and Fantasy: Realms of Imagination at Leeds Central Library had its fair share, including this fine example:

Plus an egg or two:

But my favourite was this little fellow, made by the Bermantofts Pottery of east Leeds:

(Bermantofts Pottery also made the ox-blood faïence (glazed terracotta tiles) for the facades of such London Underground stations as Covent Garden and Russell Square)

Even the reading room, with its magnificent ceiling, took part in the spot-the-dragon competition (can you see it?!):

Fun for kids of all ages!

(4) ABOUT THOSE SMOFCON VIDEOS. Ersatz Culture advanced this “Modest Proposal” about the Chengdu panels at SMOFcon:

He’s also posted this at Mastodon, where Cheryl Morgan gave a response that can be read at the link.

(5) TIANWEN. The “Tianwen” project was announced in Chengdu last October with the cooperation of representatives of several professional writers groups and Hugo Award Administrator Dave McCarty. This puff piece encompasses what we know so far: “Tianwen: Unveiling China’s Diverse Science Fiction to the World” at News Directory 3. While the publicity seeks to associate a new literature prize with the Hugo brand, it does not appear to claim a formal connection to the WSFS award.

The announcement and unveiling of the “Tianwen” project at the first Industrial Development Summit of the World Science Fiction Conference is set to revolutionize the Chinese science fiction scene. This global project, launched by the Chinese Authors Association and the Organizing Committee of the World Science Fiction Conference, aims to discover new talents, support science fiction works, and promote the integrated development of the industry.

The project was unveiled by Alai, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Writers Association, Hiroshi Osawa, Chairman of the Japan Science Fiction Writers Association, and Dave McCarty, head of the Hugo Award Selection Committee. Alai expressed his hope that “Qu Yuan’s romanticism and idealism will be better publicized in ‘Tianwen’”, while Osawa emphasized the impact of the project on shaping the future generation.

The “Tianwen” plan includes the establishment of the Tianwen Global Science Fiction Literature Prize, which will be awarded annually from 2024. This prize aims to encourage new and young writers, focusing on their innovative literary works and expression of new cultural fields. It will serve as an important supplement to the prestigious Hugo Awards and contribute to the diversity of the Hugo culture.

Additionally, the “Tianwen” project will host various activities to promote the integrated development of the global science fiction industry. These include sub-forums, award ceremonies, promotion conferences, creation salons, exhibitions, and industry roadshows.

Liang Xiaolan, the chairman of the World Science Fiction Conference Chengdu 2023, emphasized that “Tianwen” is not only an award and program, but also a platform for the industrial development of national science fiction culture. This initiative aims to elevate Chinese science fiction to a global level and promote exchange and collaboration between China and foreign countries.

With the inclusion of Chinese works in the selection process of the Hugo Awards for the first time, “Tianwen” will play a crucial role in showcasing Chinese science fiction to a wider audience. Dave McCarty views “Tianwen” as a valuable platform for international science fiction exchange, leading the way for the global science fiction industry….

(6) LESS PAIN, MORE GAIN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Directors Guild of America–the most prominent Hollywood Guild that did not strike last year—has now gotten a bump in several contract areas to more closely match their sibling guilds. You know, the siblings who did walk the picket lines. “DGA, the Guild That Didn’t Strike, Gets Improved Contract Terms” in Variety.

The Directors Guild of America, the Hollywood union that did not strike last year, told members Thursday that it has won additional gains, including a viewership bonus for streaming shows.

DGA members will get a 50% residual bump for work on the most-watched shows on streaming platforms, matching the terms won by the Writers Guild of America.

The DGA also got increases in several other areas, including a .5% increase in pension and health contributions in both the second and third year of the contract.

The DGA agreed to a three-year deal with the major studios on June 3, about a month into the WGA strike. At the time, DGA negotiators did not seek a viewership-based bonus, instead choosing to focus on a 21% increase in streaming residuals to account for the growth in foreign subscribers.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was not obligated to reopen the terms of that deal, which was ratified by 87% of the members. But by doing so, and matching the streaming residual terms obtained by the WGA, the AMPTP helps DGA leadership make the case to its members that they were not disadvantaged by refusing to strike….

(7) BACK TO THE MOON. Maya St. Clair praises Samantha Harvey’s novel in ORBITAL Review: the stars look very different today” at News from the Orb.

…When literary authors cross over into science fiction, they often do so as enlightened homesteaders, equipped with notions of the field’s backwardness and confidence that their own innovative ideas will reform the backwaters of tropey sci-fi for the better. (Remember when Ian McEwan — in A. D. 2019 — told sci-fi writers that they’d better start “actually looking at the human dilemmas” that would arise with high-level AI?)

Samantha Harvey falls into a different camp, in that she’s not attempting what we might consider “science fiction” — not exactly. I initially found Orbital (2022) because it was displayed the sci-fi section of my library; however, Harvey has described it as “space realism”: a rendering of life in space as humans currently experience it. Orbital takes place in the near future, on an international space station (the ISS in all but name), wherein six astronauts live and work, sheltered from the black void by its narrow walls. Their daily tasks are structured and mundane, and nothing happens in the novel (spacewalks, toilet repairs, floating dinners served in bags) that hasn’t happened in real life. No speculative elements, except a new manned mission to the moon, are introduced.

That being said, sci-fi fans would do themselves a disservice in skipping Orbital. Although it has no aliens or new technology, it’s one of the most inventive and immersive novels I’ve read in a long time.

(8) A HIGH WIRE ACT. That’s what Paul Weimer says readers are witnessing in his review of the final volume of a trilogy by Kevin Hearne, A Curse of Krakens: “Seven Kennings Trilogy and the Power of Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Right at the start, we find that this novel, and this trilogy is about the telling of story. A bard with the power of a Kenning, in particular the magical ability to project his voice, begins to tell the war-weary city of the war that they themselves are suffering privation under.  We are in medias res of the Giant’s War, and the bard, we soon learn, has been sent to tell the story of the Giants War and prepare the populace for what is to come next.

But it’s not a simple linear narrative. This is not a simple recitation of facts. The bard has collected and (with his flawless memory) organized a raft of stories from, ultimately, twenty or so points of view. This sounds absolutely unwieldy and unsustainable and it is a high wire act that Hearne works at through the books. Hearne manages it by telling the stories of these characters through the bard in a narratively interesting and engaging order, which is not a straight up order by dates. And by having the bard tell the stories, we can use present day events in Pelemyn itself as a breather and a buffer from the stories he tells. 

What’s more, this ambitious three volume out of order narrative drives plot right up to the “present”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 43. In Elijah Wood, we’ve an actor that I always enjoy watching. Best known here and in the greater film community for being Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, he has a much more extensive film career.

Elijah Wood in 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He makes his debut in a blink and you’ll miss it performance as Video Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II; he next has a significant genre role as Nat Cooper in Forever Young, the screenplay being written by J. J. Abram from his story named “The Rest of Daniel”. 

He next shows up as the young Mike Marshall (primary version) in Radio Flyer with Tom Hanks playing, uncredited the older version and the film narrator.  Fantastic film that. 

Then he’s Huck in, well, The Adventures of Huck Finn. Haven’t seen it, but the usual suspects at Rotten Tomatoes who did see this Disney Production did like it and gave it a seventy-three rating.  I know it’s not genre, but I like the story. A lot. 

Elijah Wood in 2019. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Next is SF in Deep Impact where he plays, let me see my notes, Leo Biederman, a teenage astronomer who discovers the Wolf–Biederman comet . Oh look they cast a teenager as a teenager!

Now we have an adult role for him in one of my favorite films — he’s Patrick Wertz in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Good role, wonderfully executed by him. 

Can we skip Sin City pretty please? Yes, I know, and do forgive me here.

He’s got a minor role in, depending in how you frame it, the reboot or new version or remake of The Toxic Avenger. I personally see no reason for such a perfectly trashy film to be made again, do you?

To quote Porky Pig, that’s it folks. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz has a question about lunch.
  • Candorville shares an interesting collection of filk lullabies.
  • Tom Gauld has more about the life of books.

(11) GRAND PRIX. “Graphic novelist Posy Simmonds wins prestigious French comics award” reports the Guardian.

The graphic novelist Posy Simmonds has won the Grand Prix at France’s Angoulême International Comics festival – the first time a British artist and author has been awarded the world’s most prestigious prize for lifetime achievement in comics.

Simmonds’s satirical observations on modern British society, interweaving detailed illustration with long literary texts, are held to have redefined the graphic novel genre.

She said of the award: “I was gobsmacked – époustouflée, as you would say in French … It’s extraordinary because if you’re writing or drawing, you work in a room on your own, and it’s then very extraordinary when the book, or your work, or you are given a lot of exposure.”…

(12) FREE READ. Sunday Morning Transport has another free story – “The Empty Throne” by Benjamin C. Kinney – to encourage new subscribers.

For the final free-to-read story of January, Benjamin C. Kinney takes us to 19th century Budapest, where a young woman wrestles with her father’s angels. Note: Should you be inclined towards tremendous footnotes, the author has linked one at the end of the story for you to peruse.

(13) SQUISHMALLOWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This Entertainment Weekly article recommends these as Valentine’s Day gifts. Hmpf. Perhaps for one’s young nephew, or niece, but it might be just a little bit ick (or EW) to give an adult love interest a squishy pillow-shaped plush styled after an underage tween/teen. “Harry Potter Squishmallows are available at Amazon just in time for Valentine’s Day”.

… Your wish has been granted with no wand-waving needed, as Harry Potter Squishmallows now exist. The lovable main character has been reimagined into a poofy, cozy plush toy that will delight any HP fan come Valentine’s Day. The Gryffindor legend has his glasses, Hogwarts house robe, and trademark lightning bolt scar all in an ultra-huggable material. 

If you’re interested in snapping up the OG trio, Ron Weasley is also available, and Hermione Granger can be preordered now, too, with the official launch date set for February 13….

(14) THUNDERBOLT FANTASY. A new episode of the Anime Explorations Podcast is up today, where they discuss the second season of the Taiwanese Wuxia Puppet series Thunderbolt Fantasy, with special guest Tom Merritt of the Daily Tech News Show and Sword & Laser Podcast. “Anime Explorations Podcast: Episode 16: Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 2”.

(15) BASKETBALL MOANS. I don’t know. Maybe you can figure it out: “Tyra Banks Nets, Furries Clip Goes Viral” at Buzzfeed.

…The clip that began picking up steam was Tyra on the Jumbotron, covering her eyes with her hands as the two furries leaned over her to caress one another….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Lis Carey, Kathy Sullivan, Alexander Case, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1/24 All These Pixels Are Someone Else’s Fault

(1) SOME PEOPLE SHINE. Let Looper introduce you to “Stephen King’s Harry Potter: The Fan-Made Concept That’s Too Weird To Be Real”. This is quite something.

When it comes to accomplished fiction writers, you don’t get much more prodigious than Stephen King. So iconic is his work that the YouTube channel Yellow Medusa created an artificial intelligence-driven video that hypothesizes how the “Harry Potter” films would look like if King — and not J.K. Rowling — created the franchise. This is one of several videos where the channel reimagines the “Harry Potter” movies if they were directed or written by other famous creators….

(2) SFPA MEMBERS NOMINATE FOR AWARDS. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association reminded members today of the deadlines to submit nominees for three annual awards.

RHYSLING AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Rhysling Chairs are Brian U. Garrison & David C. Kopaska-Merkel. Nominations are open until February 15 for the Rhysling Awards for the best poems published in 2023. Only SFPA members may nominate one short poem and/or one long poem for the award. Poets may not nominate their own work. All genres of speculative poetry are eligible. Short poems must be 11–49 lines (101–499 words for prose poems); Long poems are 50–1,199 lines, not including title or stanza breaks, and first published in 2023; include publication and issue, or press if from a book or anthology. Online nomination form: bit.ly/2024RhyslingNom. Or nominate by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA.

DWARF STARS AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Dwarf Stars Chair is Brittany Hause. Nominations due by May 1, but poems may be suggested year-round. Enter title, author, and publisher of speculative micro poems published in 2023 at https://bit.ly/ dwarfstars or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Anyone may suggest poems, their own or others’; there is no limit.

ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS The 2024 Elgin Chair is Felicia Martínez. Nominations due by June 15; more info will come by MailChimp. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2022 or 2023 to [email protected] or by mail to: SFPA, PO Box 6688, Portland OR 97228, USA. Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to nominations, but you may not nominate your own work. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.

(3) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. [Item by Steven French.] “Fiction to look out for in 2024” in the Guardian includes an SF novel tipped for the Booker:

…in September, there’s my early pick for this year’s Booker: Creation Lake (Jonathan Cape) by Rachel Kushner. It’s a wild and brilliantly plotted piece of science fiction. This is the story of a secret agent, the redoubtable Sadie Smith, sent to infiltrate and disrupt a group of “anti-civvers” – eco-terrorists – in a France of the near future where industrial agriculture and sinister corporations dominate the landscape. Think Kill Bill written by John le Carré: smart, funny and compulsively readable….

(4) NO MCU? REALLY? Rolling Stone calls these “The 150 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time”.

…So when it came time to rank the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, we couldn’t stop at 100. Instead, we went bigger and bulked it up with an extra 50 entries, all the better to pay lip service to more of the pulpy, the poppy and the perverse entries — not to mention some of our personal favorites — that don’t normally get shout-outs in these kinds of lists. There were more than a few arguments when it came to the picks. (It was also decided early on that superhero movies as a whole usually fall out the parameters of science fiction, so you won’t the MCU, et al., canon on this list — with one very notable exception.) Here are our picks for the best the genre has to offer. Live long and prosper. May the force be with you….

At the bottom:

150 ‘Tank Girl’ (1995)

What would the post-apocalyptic world look like if the hero was a riot grrrl and the soundtrack was curated by Courtney Love? Behold the adventures of Tank Girl (Lorri Petty), as our hero roams through the decimated Outback, years after a comet hit earth and an evil corporation seized control. It’s got some of the hallmarks of a traditional sci-fi adventure — a jet-flying sidekick played by Naomi Watts; an army of half-kangaroo, half-man beings, including one played by Ice-T — but Rachel Talalay’s adaptaion of the cult British comic diverges from the typical dystopia formula by layering everything over a very 1990s alt aesthetic, all bright colors and snappy, sexualized wisecracks. “No celebrities, no cable TV, no water — it hasn’t rained in 11 years,” Tank Girl explains early on in the film. “Now 20 people gotta squeeze inside the same bathtub — so it ain’t all bad.” —Elisabeth Garber-Paul

Rated number one:

1 ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

It begins at the Dawn of Man and ends with the rebirth of humanity, with Homo sapiens having finally been granted one last evolutionary level-up. In between those two poles of the human experience — one in our prehistoric past, the other light years into our future (hope springs eternal) — Stanley Kubrick give us what still feels like the benchmark for science fiction cinema that engages you in mind, body, and soul. It’s not just that his adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” has become part of our collective consciousness, enough that Barbie could kick off with an extended riff on one of its most famous scenes and everyone got the joke. Or that 2001 contains what may be the single best example of film editing as a communicative art form unto itself. Or that the closest the film has to an antagonist, the self-aware HAL 9000 supercomputer who discovers that machines are no more immune from neurosis and malice than its flesh-and-blood programmers are, is the character we end up feeling the most sympathy towards. “Daissss-yyyy… daisssss-yyyyy…”….

…The wisecrack was always that 2001: A Space Odyssey was exactly like the big, black monolith that connected its eon-spanning chapters: gorgeous, meticulously constructed, inhuman in its perfection and inscrutable in terms of concrete meaning. Conventional wisdom is that it’s actually closer to the Star Child — something that takes the entirety of the universe in and stares at it in awe, reflecting back how far we have come and how far we still have to go. —DF

(5) LAWYERS ASSEMBLE! We know this, but it’s a new year so let’s pretend it’s news: “Mickey Mouse Hits Public Domain With Disney’s ‘Steamboat Willie’” at Deadline.

As of today, the traditionally protective Walt Disney Co will have to deal with an onslaught of Mickey Mouse parodies, mockeries and likely rather explicit variations as the iconic character slips into the public domain.

Sorta.

In the sober light of 2024, Steamboat Willie, the 1928 short that effectively launched the empire that Walt built, can now be used by anyone and everyone. The legal status of Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy, from earlier that same year, has been long fought over and probably not something to which Disney was looking forward. Yet, in a new year that also sees Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking Orlando, Peter Pan, Charlie Chaplin’s The CircusBuster Keaton‘s The Cameraman and Tigger from AA Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner now in the public domain, if you are anticipating a Steamboat Willie free-for-all, think again.

Besides Disney being notoriously litigious, the color version of Mickey that came into being in 1935’s The Band Concert, is a lot different in 2024 than the non-speaking Mickey of Steamboat Willie in 1928. Evolving over the decades, the brand icon that is today’s Mickey has a lot more meat on his bones, is full of many more smiles, has that chirpy voice and a far less rough disposition, wears white gloves, and clearly looks a lot less a rat than the Steamboat Willie Mickey – and, to paraphrase MC Hammer: you can’t touch that.

“More modern versions of Mickey will remain unaffected by the expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and Mickey will continue to play a leading role as a global ambassador for the Walt Disney Company in our storytelling, theme park attractions, and merchandise,” a Disney spokesperson said of the dos and don’ts of the sound-synched film entering the public domain today….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 70. This first novel by Midori Snyder that I read was The Flight of Michael McBride, a three decades old work by her set in the old American West blending aspects of  First Folk, Irish-American and Mexican folklore. A most excellent read. 

Like Pamela Dean with her Tam Lin novel, she’s delved in Scottish myth as her first novel, Soulstring, was inspired by the Scottish legend of Tam Lin

Midori Snyder

It was however not her first published work as that was “Demon” in the Bordertown anthology, the second of the Bordertown series.  She would later do two more Bordertown stories, “Alison Gross” that’d be in Life on the Border, and “Dragon Child” in The Essential Bordertown.

Now don’t go looking for any of these as ePubs as, like the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror series which I noted in Ellen Datlow’s Birthday a few days ago, ePub rights weren’t written into the publication contracts. 

The newest Bordertown anthology, Welcome to Bordertown, is available as an ePub.

Next up is a trilogy of books that remind me of Jane Yolen’s The Great Altar Saga in tone  — New MoonSadar’s Keep, and Beldan’s Fire. They were published as adult fantasy by Tor Books starting thirty four years ago where they were The Queens’ Quarter Series. Interestingly they would be reprinted as young adult fantasy by Firebird Books just eighteen years ago as The Oran Trilogy. I see that Firebird is no longer the domain of Sharyn November which it was explicitly related for.

Now I positively adore The Innamorati which draws off the the Commedia dell’Arte theatre and the Roman legends as well. This stellar novel gained her Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It is without doubt her best novel – great characters, fascinating setting and a wonderful story.

Hannah’s Garden was supposed to be one of the novels inspired by a painting by Brian Froud. (I remember de Lint’s The Wild Wood and Windling’s The Wood Wife are two of the others but I forget the fourth. I know they got their novels with his art but I don’t if she or the fourth writer did.) It’s a more personal novel, more scary in tone I think than her other work is. 

Except the Queen was written by her and Yolen. It’s a contemporary fantasy featuring two fey who are banished here in the guise of old women. I’ll not spoil what happened next. That was her last novel and it was published thirteen years ago. 

She wrote the title short story for Windling The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors anthology anthology about child abuse survivors. Grim reading but recommended. It was nominated for an Otherwise Award.

It’s one of a not deep number of short stories she’s written, none collected so far. 

She did the text to the “Barbara Allen” graphic story Charles Vess illustrated and first published in his Ballads chapbook in 1997 which I’ve got here somewhere. Let me go see… yes, it’s also in the autographed copy of The Book of Ballads that he sent me. That came out on Tor seventeen years ago. God, time goes by fast! 

Though not about her fiction writing, she would win a World Fantasy Award for her editorial work on Windling’s Endincott Studio website. It is a fascinating site covering what Terri, Midori and others think is interesting in fairy tales, myth, folklore, and the oral storytelling tradition. It is here now.

(7) EASING A BARRIER TO CHINA TOURISM. For the next wave of fans who may be thinking about the trip: “China to simplify visa applications for US tourists as both countries seek to improve relations” at the South China Morning Post.

China will simplify the visa application process for tourists from the United States as part of its efforts to step up interactions between people from the two countries.

Beijing has also been seeking to woo more international visitors as part of its wider efforts to boost its sluggish economic recovery.

Starting from January 1, those applying for tourist visas within the US will no longer need to submit proof they have a round-trip air ticket and hotel reservation, as well as their itinerary or a letter of invitation, according to a notice published on the website of the Chinese embassy in Washington on Friday.

The measure aims to “further facilitate people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States”, it said.

It added that “since visa applications are processed on a case-by-case basis”, applicants should still refer to the Chinese embassy and consulates-general for specifics….

The move follows a cut in visa fees for US applicants of around 25 per cent until December 31, 2024 announced earlier this month, and a previous decision to allow walk-in visa applications.

(8) WHAT, ME WARP? Currently open for bids at the Heritage Auctions site is “Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art”. It was up to $1,950 when I last checked.

Jack Rickard MAD #186 Star Trek Cover Original Art (EC, 1976). Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) join Vulcan officer Alfred E. Neuman (who will likely soon meet a terrible fate, hinted at by his red shirt) tap dance their way across the cover of the parody magazine to promote the “Star Trek” Musical buried within its pages. Spock looks surprised to see Neuman sporting a pair of pointy Vulcan ears, with the adage “Keep on Trekin'” printed on his uniform. A fun poke at the beloved sci-fi TV series painted in gouache on illustration board with an image area of 16″ x 16.75″, matted and Plexiglas-front framed to 27″ x 28.5″. Light frame wear. Signed by Rickard in the lower right corner and in Excellent condition.

(9) TROLLING WITH A MAGNET. “He Has Fished Out Grenades, Bikes and Guns. Can Fame Be Far Behind?” He couldn’t make a living streaming himself playing video games – but people want to see what his powerful magnet retrieves from the waters around New York.  

… The grenade was not without precedent. Two months before, Mr. Kane managed to pull a gun out of a lake near where he lives. It might have been used in a murder, he suggested, and he was told there was a chance he might be subpoenaed. He was eager to avoid that entanglement.

On that unseasonably warm November afternoon, Mr. Kane, who is 39 and looks a bit like the actor Seth Rogen playing a deckhand, just yanked the thing right off his magnet. It took quite a bit of effort, given that the magnet (from Kratos Magnetics, for $140) was advertised as having a “pull force” of 3,800 pounds. The gunpowder had been emptied out of the bottom, so he figured the corroded explosive was something that would put him on the map, rather than blow him off it. Still, he put it on the ground and covered it with a plastic bucket — just in case.

As he dialed 911, he paused to wonder: Would the operator remember him? Was he something of a known quantity by now? Just the week before, he’d found a top-loading Smith & Wesson in Prospect Park Lake. And he’d also found a completely different grenade about a month ago, which he said led the police to evacuate a restaurant near the United Nations. But to his disappointment, that day’s dispatcher didn’t react.

“You’re gonna know Let’s Get Magnetic,” Mr. Kane told the operator, referencing the name of his YouTube channel. “I’m getting famous.”

His partner, Barbie Agostini, continued filming as the police arrived. Two beat cops who showed up took some pictures of the grenade on their phones. Meanwhile, a woman pushed a baby carriage inches away from it. More cops eventually came to cordon off the area, but the content creation did not stop there. Another officer squatted on the ground to take more close-ups. Wanting a wider-angle view of the ruckus he’d wrought, Mr. Kane moved slightly down the sidewalk and kept fishing.

It wasn’t long before a well-put-together young woman in a pinned-on hat stopped and stared as Mr. Kane pulled a hunk of junk out of the water with his magnet.

“What are you guys fishing for?” she asked.

“Anything metal,” he told her. “This is a bed frame from the 1900s.”

The woman looked astounded at this dubious bit of history.

“God bless you,” she said….

…After lunch, Mr. Kane, Ms. Agostini and Jose returned to their duplex. Mr. Kane pulled out a Styrofoam chest full of his favorite finds. They included the magazines from four guns, the barrel of a sniper rifle and two tiny cannonballs that might predate the city itself, which he plans on giving to the American Museum of Natural History.

Evidence of a collector’s lifestyle exists throughout the apartment — unopened retro video games and hand-painted Japanese anime figurines covered nearly every spare inch of wall space. Mr. Kane pulled out some tiny pieces of metal from the cooler, one in the shape of a bow and arrow, and another that looked like a ball-peen hammer.

“This is black magic,” he said. “One hundred percent.” Then came a key fob for an Audi that still lit up when he pressed a button. “This unlocks a car,” he said. “We just don’t know where the car is.” Then came his collection of iPhones, which he proudly displayed on his purple couch. All of them worked. Well, all but one. “It smokes if you turn it on,” he said. “But that’s the only problem.”…

(10) BUT IF HE TELLS – THEN WE’LL KNOW! No, content moderation is not supposed to be a big secret. “Elon Musk’s X Loses Bid To Change California Content Moderation Law” reports Deadline.

Elon Musk‘s X on Thursday has lost its bid to change a California law on content moderation disclosure by social media companies.

X sued California in September to undo the state’s content moderation law, saying it violated free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and California’s state constitution.

Today, U.S. District Judge William Shubb dismissed the social media company’s request in an eight-page decision .

The law requires large social media companies to issue semiannual reports that describe their content moderation practices. They must also provide data on the number of objectionable posts and how they were addressed.

“While the reporting requirement does appear to place a substantial compliance burden on social medial companies, it does not appear that the requirement is unjustified or unduly burdensome within the context of First Amendment law,” Shubb wrote.

X did not immediately respond. The company’s content moderation policies have long been contentious, dating to before Musk bought the company.

(11) ANOTHER INKLING NAMED LEWIS. This postcard ad for The Major and the Missionary edited by Diana Pavlac Glyer caught my eye and reminded me to kick off the new year by mentioning this collection of letters of interest to Inklings fans.

After the death of his brother, Warren Lewis lived at The Kilns in Oxford, spent time with friends, edited his famous brother’s letters, and did a little writing of his own. Then, out of the blue, he got a letter from a stranger on the far side of the world. Over the years that followed, he and Blanche Biggs, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, shared a vibrant correspondence. These conversations encompassed their views on faith, their politics, their humor, the legacy of C. S. Lewis, and their own trials and longings.

Taken as a whole, these collected letters paint a colorful portrait that illuminates not only the particulars of distant times and places but the intimate contours of a rare friendship.

Edited and introduced by Bandersnatch author Diana Pavlac Glyer.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Scott Edelman, Mark Roth-Whitworth, 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 Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/23 I’m My Own Granfalloon

(1) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] “Question 4 of match day 23 of LearnedLeague season 99”:

Fourth Wing and Iron Flame are titles of the best-selling “romantasy” books released in 2023. Give either the name of the series of which these are the first two installments, or the name of the books’ American author.

Answer: the Empyrean series by Rebecca Yarros.

This had a 14% get rate, with no single wrong answer being given by as many as 5% of players.

I know for a fact that I have seen advertising for this. If only someone had poked me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention! This will be on LL!” I’d have had a tie in my match instead of a loss. Sigh.

(2) POWELL’S BOOKS UNION CONTRACT. Publishers Weekly knows the terms. “Powell’s Books Workers Ratify New Union Contract”.

Unionized workers at Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., have ratified a new contract, according to ILWU Local 5, the union which has represented Powell’s staff since 2000. Ninety-three percent of eligible Powell’s workers voted yes for the contract, which will last for four years.

The ratification follows 10 months of negotiations and multiple rejected contracts, including one proposed by Powell’s management in August and another in November. On Labor Day, unionized Powell’s workers staged a walkout, resulting in the daylong closure of all three Powell’s locations on September 4.

Among the new contract’s stipulations are:

  • “10-19% increases to the minimums for the lowest-paid job groups in the first year, and increases to the minimum for all job groups throughout the life of the contract”
  • “annual wage increases totalling $5.20 over the life of the contract” for every union worker, which the union says “amounts to a 28% increase for the average Powell’s worker, and is in addition to any wage increases tied to promotions”
  • “expedited promotions (an accompanying wage increases) for entry-level positions”
  • “broader access to holiday pay”
  • “stronger inclement weather language to give workers more information to make safe decisions in event of snow, ice, extreme heat, wildfire smoke, etc.” “a healthcare plan that significantly decreases the cost of the most common claims for most workers”
  • “a more clearly defined recall process in the event of layoffs, and preservation of benefits for the entire time a worker is on the recall list”…

(3) ONLINE YULE LOGS AT HBO MAX. [Item by Daniel Dern.] HBO Max has a variety of Yule Log/Fireplace videos (looks like only for subscribers) including:

(Looks like it simply glows, but doesn’t hatch)

  • Harry Potter: Fireplace

Wizarding World welcomes you into the common room of all four Hogwarts houses — cozy up around a crackling fire and say hi to some familiar friends.

  • Califer (living flame, from Studio Ghibli)
  • Adult Swim Yule Log (aka The Fireplace)

[Note, not just a fire’n’log; it’s actually a horror movie, with actors, dialog, and, well, horror stuff (based on my quick skim).] “Rated TV-MA for violence, adult language and brief nudity.”

(4) IT’S NOT IN THE CARDS. “Hasbro, owner of Wizards of the Coast, to lay off 1,100 over weak sales” says The Seattle Times.

Hasbro, the parent company of the Seattle-area game publisher Wizards of the Coast, plans to lay off approximately 1,100 employees of its global workforce over weak sales that are expected to continue into next year. 

The maker of toys like Transformers and Play-Doh declined to specify if the layoffs will hit Wizards of the Coast and Washington-based employees. The Rhode Island company also declined to break down total employee numbers by location. 

Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks said in a memo to staff on Monday that weaker-than-expected sales hit as the market is coming off “historic, pandemic-driven highs.”

The “headwinds we anticipated have proven to be stronger and more persistent than planned,” Cocks said. 

Monday’s layoffs, which will affect nearly 20% of Hasbro’s global workforce, are on top of the 800 positions eliminated earlier this year

Despite Hasbro’s struggles, Wizards of the Coast, publisher of the popular games Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, performed well financially this year. … 

(5) GEOFF RYMAN ANNOUNCES DEATH OF PARTNER. Sending our condolences to Geoff Ryman.

(6) TCM MEMORIAL REEL. Turner Classic Movies today posted their annual tribute: “TCM Remembers”.

We say goodbye to the performers, filmmakers, and creatives we lost in 2023. Through their art and storytelling they soared to new heights and kept us grounded.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. (Died 1983.) So why Ralph Richardson for this Birthday write-up? Well he’d be here if only for being in Terry Gillian’s Time Bandits which was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon IV in which he played the Supreme Being. But he was actually quite active in our end of things. 

His very first genre acting was not surprisingly in the theatre with Macbeth for the first time at age nineteen when he played both Macduff and Banquo, and later on he’ll be Macbeth himself several times. Over the years he had quite extensive theatre experience, but I’ll only detail that relevant to our interest here. 

He was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Lysander (and Bottom in several later productions) and Hamlet as Haratio twice. He’s Face in Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, and Mr Darling and Captain Hook in Peter Pan.  

Now unto his film work. At age twenty-nine, unusually late generally to be doing so, he made his film debut. Two years later, The Ghoul, a horror film with Boris Karloff marked his genre debut as Nigel Hartley. 

Ralph Richardson, left, with Margaretta Scott, right, in Things To Come.

Next was Things to Come (also known in promotional material as H. G. Wells’ Things to Come whose script was written by Wells and based his book The Shape of Things to Come. He was Rudolf, “The Boss”. 

Q Planes (known as Clouds Over Europe in the States) I think is SF given the weapon that brought the spy planes. He played Major Charles Hammond here.

One very, very creepy role was The Crypt Keeper in Tales from The Crypt. I do hope he got paid very well for that acting performance. Then he got to be very cute as the caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and one very determined creature as the Chief Rabbit in Watership Down.

He finished off his film work I think appropriately enough by playing Lord Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

Ralph Richardson, left, in Time Bandits.

(8) YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE WON. There’s a stampede to fill MCU’s Kang vacancy. Call your agent today! “5 Actors To Recast As Kang Following Jonathan Majors Guilty Verdict And Disney Firing” at Forbes.

… The plan was to move from the MCU’s Phase 5 into Phase 6 with 2026’s The Avengers: Kang Dynasty, but that plan may now be scrapped after Majors’ exit and conviction.

The question now is whether Disney will attempt to recast Kang or simply move on to a new villain….

… My criteria here also includes physical details: Chiefly, the actor should be a black man who isn’t too old or too young. Kang needs gravitas, so casting someone too young would be a mistake. But if he’s too old he won’t come across as physically intimidating enough without CGI (and we don’t need another Thanos). Denzel Washington is a fan-favorite choice here but at 68 I think he might be too old at this point. Other great actors like LaKeith Stanfield just don’t have quite the physique, though it’s possible that could be countered by physical training and costumes….

(9) LAST BITE. Variety has heard that “’What We Do In the Shadows’ Ending With Season 6 at FX”.

The sixth season of FX‘s “What We Do in the Shadows” will be its last.

The series, created by Jemaine Clement based on his and Taika Waititi’s 2014 film of the same name, premiered in 2019. In mockumentary format, it follows the nightly exploits of vampire roommates Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) and Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) as they navigate the modern world of Staten Island with the help of their human familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), and their vampire bureaucrat acquaintance, the Guide (Kristen Schaal)….

…Since its debut, the series has garnered 21 Emmy nominations, winning for Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes in 2022. This year, it won Best Comedy Series at the GLAAD Media Awards….

(10) THAT THING YOU DO. At Comicbook.com “The Thing’s Kurt Russell Weighs in on Film’s Debated Ending”.

…Namely, fans wonder if either Kurt Russell‘s MacReady or Keith David’s Childs have been infected by the otherworldly creature, and while Russell isn’t outright revealing the answer, he recently addressed what his motivations were for the project and the conversations he had with Carpenter about the cryptic finale. While knowing the “answer” of the ending doesn’t change the effectiveness of the adventure, fans have remained curious about the opinions of the cast and crew regarding those final scenes.

“We talked about that, the ending of that movie, John and I, for a long, long time. We’d trade ideas for the end, write it out, and it was one of those things where John was concerned about it, doing a movie that you would see, for two hours plus, and bring you back to square one,” Russell recently shared during a conversation hosted by the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “We finally got to a point where, we’d try different things, and I just remember finally saying, ‘How about this one?’ and we’d try it, and I said, ‘John, I think this comes back to square one. I think that’s what it does.’ The only thing I could do was finish it with, ‘Why don’t we just sit here for a while and see what happens.’ It worked. It was the thing that it called for.”

He added, “It’s fun to hear people talk about that one, I must say, that’s a fun one.”…

(11) TUNES WITH A HOOK. “Spielberg’s 1991 movie ‘Hook’ was nearly a musical. Now its score has been released” reports NPR.

Steven Spielberg’s 1991 movie “Hook” was nearly a musical. Now the never-heard score with tunes by John Williams has been recorded and released.

… (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LESLIE BRICUSSE: And we thought we’d got the Oscar with a song called “Childhood.” And I remember Steven, when he heard it, saying, that’s a home run.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “CHILDHOOD”)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #1: (Singing) Shadows, memories, lingering laughter reach out, touch me half my life after.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

[LESLIE] BRICUSSE: But it was a beautiful song, beautiful song, beautiful melody – vintage Williams.

[TIM] GREIVING: “Childhood” was written for Granny Wendy. Williams and Bricusse also wrote a seductive villain song for Captain Hook to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “STICK WITH ME”)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #2: (As Captain Hook, singing) Looking at where we’re at sensibly, boy, if you will spend a little time with me, you can be – I guarantee – anything you want to be.

[TIM] GREIVING: None of these made it into “Hook” the movie….

(12) COLLECTOR ROYALTY. “You Need Felix the Cat? Early Popeye? Talk to the King of Silent Animation” advises the New York Times.

… Once a week, [Tommy José Stathes] heads from his small studio apartment in Queens to his enormous collection of vintage cartoons: a celluloid library of around 4,000 reels, some of the prints more than 100 years old. It is certainly one of the largest collections of early animated films anywhere in the world — and that accounts for the holdings of the Library of Congress, according to an archivist who does restoration there….

…This avocation can be traced back to an obscure Farmer Alfalfa cartoon his father showed him once. From there, he expanded to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Felix the Cat, and he started hunting for reels in local antique shops and flea markets. He soon progressed to eBay, ultimately piling up a six-figure investment in the archive.

His devotion to silent cartoons — the very birth of the form — is unrivaled. In fact, he has helped the Library of Congress identify some of its own collection. George Willeman, who oversees the nitrate film vaults for the library, recalled being amazed when Mr. Stathes, then in his 20s, took a seat in the archive and identified reel after reel of unidentified cartoons made decades before he was even born.

“As far as I know,” Mr. Willeman said, “Tommy is the king of silent animation.”…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/23 When Your Phone’s On Fire, Pixels Get In Your Eyes

(1) JOANNE HARRIS Q&A. The Guardian hears from the author of Chocolat: “Joanne Harris: ‘When I first read Ulysses I hated it with a passion’”.

The book that made me want to be a writer
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of being a writer. But I lived in a place where dreaming was generally discouraged. Being a writer was a fantasy, on a par with being a pirate, or a pony, or a space adventurer. The moment at which I realised that people could actually be writers was when I read the introduction to Ray Bradbury’s S Is for Space, and found him articulating things I’d assumed I was alone in feeling. The idea that the writers you love could become your chosen family was so potent that I carried it throughout my childhood and adolescence. I still do.

(2) ARE YOU LOOKING AT YOUR CARDS? In his opinion piece writer David Mack tells New York Times readers “You Don’t Want to Know How Much You Are Spending on Subscriptions”.

In recent years, much of my life as a consumer has shifted to what I like to call background spending. As I’ve subscribed to more apps and streaming platforms, significant sums of my money tend to drift away each month without my ever thinking about it. It’s as if it were a tax being taken out of my paycheck, but one that is spent on something silly or indulgent like a subscription box of international snacks, instead of — I don’t know — basic public infrastructure.

Think of it as automated capitalism. Spending without the hassle of spending. Acquisition without action. Or thought.

But while this swell of subscriptions was sold to me on the premise it would make my life more hassle-free, there was a certain sticker shock I felt upon actually discovering how much I’m spending without realizing each month ($179.45) — after I’ve already spent it, of course.

I can’t help feeling I’m being conned just a little. I admit I had forgotten I was paying monthly for the privilege of Apple TV+ after being hooked by the first season of “Ted Lasso,” before quickly falling off the bandwagon. When I reopened the app for the first time in eons, I was confronted with dozens of shows I’ve never heard of but to whose production budgets I’ve been contributing generously.

You see, the thing about background spending is it tends to happen, well, in the background without your full attention. And therein lies the point.

“Hand over your credit card details and let us take care of the rest,” these companies assure us. But by agreeing to this trade, we’ve become passive consumers who are allowing the balance of capitalism to tilt away from us. We have ceded one of our key powers as individuals: our agency.

And this laziness breeds more laziness because most of us can’t be bothered conducting regular reviews of our subscription spending. Indeed, economists estimate that buyers forgetting to cancel subscriptions can increase a business’s revenues by as much as 200 percent. It’s no wonder these companies feel that they can jack up the prices. We’re too lazy or busy to even notice or cancel!

I know it’s not just me who is suddenly living life as a smooth-brained subscriber. The average consumer spends $273 per month on subscriptions, according to a 2021 poll of 2,500 by digital services firm West Monroe, which found this spending was up 15 percent from 2018. Not a single person polled knew what his actual monthly spending was….

(3) TAKE TWO. “How William Hartnell’s Second Season Changed Doctor Who for the Better” explains CBR.com.

…After Season 1 of Doctor Who saw the TARDIS crew encounter cavemen, the Aztecs and Revolutionary France, the second season saw the series push the boundaries of the TARDIS’ trips to the past. The two final serials of Doctor Who Season 2 featured the first instances of extraterrestrial enemies from the future appearing in historical settings. In the first of these serials, “The Chase,” the trip to the past was only a fleeting moment in a wider story. However, “The Time Meddler” saw the Doctor contending with another time traveler for an entire story set in the past.

“The Chase” marked the final appearance of Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright as the Doctor’s companions. Following Susan Foreman’s earlier departure, this meant “The Chase” was the final regular appearance of any of the Doctor’s original companions. The story also saw the return of the Daleks to Doctor Who for their third outing and their first journey through time. “The Chase” saw the Daleks using their own time machine to pursue the TARDIS. The third episode of the serial, “Flight Through Eternity,” saw the Daleks arrive on an old ship, terrifying the sailors they encountered into jumping overboard. It was then revealed that the ship was the legendary Mary Celeste, with the Daleks’ arrival effectively explaining the mysterious disappearance of the crew.

(4) CALLBACKS. Radio Times revisits its roundups of the actors who played the time lord: “Doctor Who at 60: All the times the Doctors assembled for Radio Times”.

The Five Doctors in 1983 was a joyful celebration of two decades of Doctor Who – but also an odd one. William Hartnell had died in 1975, so the “original” Doctor was recast as Richard Hurndall, who bore only a passing resemblance to Hartnell. Although other past Doctors Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee readily signed up to star alongside current star Peter Davison, the fourth incarnation Tom Baker declined to appear. Instead, he allowed clips from his unfinished 1979/80 story Shada to be used, while for a publicity shoot his Madame Tussauds waxwork was pressed into service….

(5) AS TIME GOES BY. Kabir Chibber asks “Did ‘Demolition Man’ Predict the Millennial?” in the New York Times.

Now that we live in the future, we no longer seem to make as many films about the future — at least not the way we once did, when we tried our hardest to imagine a future as different from the present as we were from ancient history. Today, with all of human knowledge in our pockets, we prefer to think in terms of alternate timelines, paths not taken, the multiverse of infinite possibilities. We’re looking sideways, not forward. But for most of the existence of cinema, a glorious near-centennial from “Metropolis” (1927) to, let’s say, “WALL-E” (2008), people used celluloid to dream of what lay ahead….

…the one that I think got it most right is a 1993 action-comedy whose hallmark is a tremendous recurring poop joke.

In “Demolition Man,” a cop named John Spartan (played by Sylvester Stallone) is frozen in 1996, for spurious reasons, and thawed out in the year 2032, when Southern California has been merged into an enormous metroplex called San Angeles. He’s tasked with hunting down a homicidal maniac, played by a blond, mugging Wesley Snipes. The joke is that in this future, everyone is kind and gentle to one another. Lenina Huxley, Spartan’s ’90s-loving partner, explains that alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat, bad language and gasoline, among other things, are banned. “It has been deemed that anything not good for you is bad,” goes the tao of “Demolition Man.” “Hence, illegal.”

The movie’s pleasure doesn’t lie in its plentiful violence (well, some of it does). It’s in the humor that arises from these future San Angeleans’ disgust over Spartan’s primitive ways, like his desire to use guns and to smoke and to have sex “the old-fashioned way,” rather than through a virtual-reality headset. They mock him over the fact that he asks for toilet paper. (Everyone now uses something called the Three Seashells, which is never explained.) Spartan is baffled by new technology like the omnipresent Alexa-like morality boxes that issue instant fines for offensive language, and kiosks that offer words of affirmation on the streets (“You are an incredibly sensitive man who inspires joy-joy feelings in all those around you”). Stallone’s cop has been subliminally rehabilitated while frozen and wakes up knowing how to knit. “I’m a seamstress?” he laments.

What separates “Demolition Man” from other sci-fi films of much higher aspiration is that it imagined a future generation who might view our civilization, at the peak of its powers, as utterly barbaric. We’re not quite there, but it feels as if the world that the younger generations loathe is the one I was raised in. And in the process, this has turned the film, at least for me, into an explosive, sometimes vituperative allegory for aging. As Spartan finds out, it hurts to wake up one day and find that the world has moved on without you.

Some days I feel like I’ve woken up from cryosleep, and am looking around to discover that I’m the only one who misses our previous era of casual cynicism and dubious morality and brilliant jerks. Back in the ’90s, I sat in the cinema and watched this film like thousands of other people, never imagining that I might one day feel like Spartan. I am living in the future, and I don’t belong. Everyone else has moved on. I’m still wiping myself with toilet paper instead of the Three Seashells….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to polish off a Peruvian lunch with Alex Shvartsman in Episode 212 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Alex Shvartsman

My guest this time around is Capclave regular Alex Shvartsman, with whom I’ve pontificated on many panels over the years.

Shvartsman is the author of the new fantasy novel Kakistocracy, as well as The Middling Affliction (2022), and Eridani’s Crown (2019). More than 120 of his short stories have appeared in AnalogNatureStrange HorizonsFiresideWeird TalesGalaxy’s Edge, and many other venues. He won the WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction in 2014 and was a three-time finalist for the Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Fiction. His translations from Russian have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionClarkesworldTor.comAsimov’sAnalogStrange Horizons, and elsewhere.

He’s also the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects series of humorous SF/F, as well as a variety of other anthologies, including The Cackle of CthulhuHumanity 2.0, and Funny Science Fiction. For five years he edited Future Science Fiction Digest, a magazine that focused on international fiction. And on top of all that, he’s one of the greatest Magic: The Gathering players ever, ranking way up there in tournaments from 1998-2004, something I hadn’t known about him even though I’ve known him for years.

We discussed how intimations of mortality got him to start writing fiction, what he learned as a pro player of Magic: the Gathering which affected his storytelling, why he set aside his initial urge to write novels in favor of short stories, which U.S. science fiction writers are more famous in Russia than their home country, the reason his success as a writer and editor of humor came as a surprise, why he feels it’s important to read cover letters, the secret to writing successful flash fiction, his “lighthouse” method of plotting, and much more.

(7) THE INVENTORY WILL BE FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. In “Brian Keene: ‘Let’s Open A Bookstore!’”, Keene tells readers of Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog why he and Mary SanGiovanni are doing so.

….But the idea of that second revenue stream still haunts me, and it haunts Mary, as well. In the years since that sobering conversation in the kitchen, when Doug Winter scared the hell out of us, she and I have gotten married. We make an okay living together — as good of a living as two midlist horror writers whose core audience is beginning to age out can make. But we are fifty-six and forty (clears throat) and most of our readers are that age, as well. Over the next two decades, that audience will continue to dwindle. We are painfully aware that those royalties will lessen over time, and that we could very well go the way of the giants.

So, we decided to do something about it. Mary wasn’t inclined to become a forest ranger or a tugboat captain, so we opted for a different second revenue stream instead — one that is connected to writing, but doesn’t involve writing. One that, when managed properly and professionally, can supplement those royalties and advances. One that will allow us to give back to our community and our peers, both locally and nationally, and keep those forgotten giants in the collective memory a while longer, as well as elevating today’s new voices, so that they will one day be giants, too.

We’re opening an independent bookstore….

(8) FUGUES FOR DROOGS. “Newly discovered string quartet by Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess to have premiere” reports The Guardian.

He is best-known as the author of A Clockwork Orange, his 1962 savage social satire, but Anthony Burgess saw himself primarily as a thwarted musician. Although self-taught, he was a prolific composer, and now a previously unknown piece for a string quartet is to receive its world premiere following its discovery.

The score was unearthed in the archive of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, an educational charity in Manchester, his home city, where it had been overlooked among uncatalogued papers donated by his widow, the late Liana Burgess.

Professor Andrew Biswell, Burgess’s biographer and director of the Foundation, told the Observer: “Nobody’s heard it before. We’ve got some very good musicians from the Hallé Orchestra who are going to perform it. Thirty years after his death, Burgess is finally coming into focus as a musician.” The world premiere takes place at the Burgess Foundation on 1 December….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1911 Mary Elizabeth Counselman.  Writer of genre short stories and poetry. “The Three Marked Pennies” which she wrote while she was in her teens published in Weird Tales in 1934 is considered one of the three most popular stories in all of that zine’s history. There’s but a smattering of her at the usual suspects but she did get published— Masters of Horrors, Vol. Three, Mary Elizabeth Counselman: Hostess of Horror and Fantasy collects seventeen of her short stories and it’s readily available, and The Face of Fear and Other Poems collected much of her poetry.  It was published by Eidolon Press in an edition of 325 copies, so good luck on finding a copy. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 19, 1943 Allan Cole.  Author and television writer, who wrote or co-wrote nearly thirty books. As a script writer, he wrote for a lot of non-genre series and a few genre series, The Incredible Hulk and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which are of course familiar, and two, Dinosaucers, an animated series, and Werewolf, a horror series, that I’d never heard of at all. Genre wise, he and Chris Bunch wrote the Anteros / Far Kingdoms series, and they also wrote the Sten Adventures which was a critique, according to Bunch, of SF writers who were fascinated with monarchies and their fascist rulers. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 68. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. However because of that, he was invited to write a story in Detective Comics for Batman’s 50th anniversary and thus, he wrote “Batman: Blind Justice”. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S. series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1958 Charles Stuart Kaufman, 65. He wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both definitely genre. The former was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000, the year Galaxy Quest won. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also a Hugo nominee, losing to The Incredibles at Interaction. 
  • Born November 19, 1975 Alex Shvartsman, 48. Author of the delightfully pulpy H. G. Wells: Secret Agent series. A very proficient short story writer, many of which are collected in Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories.

(10) FOR THE MORE LITERAL-MINDED. The anniversary of Doctor Who inspired BBC Future to ask “Is time travel really possible? Here’s what physics says”.

Doctor Who is arguably one of the most famous stories about time travel. Alongside The Time Machine and Back to the Future, it has explored the temptations and paradoxes of visiting the past and voyaging into the future.

In the TV show, the Doctor travels through time in the Tardis: an advanced craft that can go anywhere in time and space. Famously, the Tardis defies our understanding of physical space: it’s bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside.

While time travel is fundamental to Doctor Who, the show never tries to ground the Tardis’ abilities in anything resembling real-world physics. It would be odd to complain about this: Doctor Who has a fairy-tale quality and doesn’t aspire to be realistic science fiction.

But what about in the real world? Could we ever build a time machine and travel into the distant past, or forward to see our great-great-great-grandchildren? Answering this question requires understanding how time actually works – something physicists are far from certain about….

(11) A SHOE-IN. “Reebok Releases Line of Harry Potter Shoes for Fans of the Wizarding World”CBR.com has details. (And honestly, the idea of these designs is more interesting than the execution.)

… The Harry Potter sneaker collection includes four colorway variants of the Reebok Club C 85 ($110), which comes with interchangeable laces and embroidered crest patches of the four Hogwarts houses. The message “It’s not Hogwarts without you, Hagrid” is also inscribed inside the tongue of the shoe as an homage to the character and a tribute to its actor Robbie Coltrane, who passed away in 2022. This variant is expected to be well-received among die-hard Harry Potter fans, who now have official footwear to represent the Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Gryffindor house….

… The Reebok Instapump Fury 95 ($250) is inspired by “He Who Must Not Be Named,” with its prominent black suede accented by the Death Eaters’ Dark Mark. The sleek design also has snake and scale details homaging the Slytherin house. For more casual Harry Potter fans, the Reebok Classic Leather ($100) offers a staple sneaker with details referencing the Deathly Hallows — an “Invisibility Cloak” textile lining the shoe’s tongue, a Resurrection Stone metal lace lock, and lace tips designed after the Elder Wand. Finally, the Classic Leather Hexalite ($120) evokes the Patronus spell with its silvery blue gradient fade, glow-in-the-dark and reflective details, and Patronus animals featured on the tongue label….

The Reebok Instapump Fury 95

(12) PREMEMBER THOR FIVE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Yet more news/speculations about Marvel Thor movie #5.

Obviously, this is all speculation, guesswork, and subject to change. I’ve submitted this item mostly for the item title.

(13) UNTANGLED. Sony/Marvel’s Madame Web opens in theaters on February 24.

“Meanwhile, in another universe…” In a switch from the typical genre, Madame Web tells the standalone origin story of one of Marvel publishing’s most enigmatic heroines. The suspense-driven thriller stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, a paramedic in Manhattan who may have clairvoyant abilities. Forced to confront revelations about her past, she forges a relationship with three young women destined for powerful futures…if they can all survive a deadly present.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Saturday Night Live’s “Old-Timey Movies” sketch shows found footage of L. Frank Baum writing while being constantly photobombed (or whatever the right word would be).

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Steven French, 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 OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 10/24/23 They Say It’s Only A Rebel Moon

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

Hugo winner RiverFlow’s con report

Some of the events in this length con report, with lots of photos, have been briefly covered in a prior Scroll, and comments, but this report is absolutely worth reading all the way through, for all the extreme highs and lows.  Via Google Translate, with very slight edits:

But when the opening ceremony progressed to the interactive session between [Cixin] Liu and the fans, I felt that my breathing rate was significantly accelerated and became more and more difficult. My chest felt tight and painful, my airway was extremely stiff, I had waist pain and abdominal numbness, and I felt dizzy and wanted to sleep. I asked the person next to me, Lu Ban, if I could leave early.

Lu Ban communicated with the volunteers, and then helped me walk to the medical aid room. The doctor gave me oxygen, asked about my various conditions and conducted a preliminary examination. Two other volunteers also arrived. The doctor said that to be on the safe side, he suggested staying at the Pidu District People’s Hospital for one night for observation. As a result, I became the first patient hospitalized during this World Science Fiction Convention.

(Note: for some reason, machine translation often renders 河流 as Hehe rather than Heliu; the latter being the Chinese for RiverFlow.  Also note that “Tianjue” is Hugo Fan Writer finalist Arthur Liu, who uses the online name HeavenDuke, an anglicization of 天爵/Tian Jue.)

Although it’s not clear from the page itself, he also posted the full text of his acceptance speech; per his con report, he was not able to read all of it out on stage.

Zhang Ran’s con report

I wasn’t aware of Zhang Ran, the author of this Chinese-language piece, but a search for “Taiko Science Fiction Academy” came up with this English language article which provides a fair bit of background.  Some of the text (as processed through Google Translate) in his report on the Chengdu Worldcon raises eyebrows.

The Chengdu Science Museum, which cost more than 1 billion yuan ($137 million USD) and was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, is a spectacle…

It was held in Asia for the second time since Nippon 2007 Worldcon in Yokohama in 2007. This should be a carnival for Chinese science fiction fans, but I couldn’t find any carnival look on the faces of many people attending the conference.

The volunteers were stiff and frightened, as if they were fulfilling some grand historical mission. The security check is dense and solemn, as if guarding some mysterious core…. The science fiction market, which should be reserved for ordinary fantasy fans, will naturally be run by companies that have little to do with science fiction.

It is commendable that this conference effectively compressed the time of leaders’ speeches to a length that foreign friends can understand. However, hundreds of primary school students walked in uniform steps at the conference venue, which was inevitably confusing….

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support China’s hosting of the World Science Fiction Conference, and I also understand that this conference has given Chengdu, Sichuan, and China a boost in Chinese science fiction.

But if, just if, the investment spent on the facade is shifted a little bit to the fans, so that they can reduce the walking distance, attend two more panels with the guests sitting next to them (rather than on the stage), and participate in one It is possible, just possible, to set up two stalls selling bookmarks and second-hand books during a parade and have lunch near the venue without having to fight for a seat. It would make the guests and hosts enjoy themselves more like a great country.

If I were a member of the organizing committee, I would definitely not invite myself to be a guest next time. It would be shameless for me to be a good person after getting an advantage.

But if I can attend a conference where everyone has smiles on their faces instead of solemn expressions, such as singing songs around a campfire, then I will definitely come at my own expense.

(Note: I put the text through DeepL and Vivaldi’s Lingvanex translation software, and got similar results, so I assume the above is reasonably accurate, whilst suffering a fair number of ungrammatical bits that I didn’t have time to clean up.)

Chinese reaction to one of their Hugo winners

Arthur Liu made some interesting observations in reply to a Hugo Book Club reposting of one of their old tweets  (1)(2)(3).

I’ve not had time to uncover much of the negative discussion referred to – I suspect that it’s happening in WeChat/Weixin groups, which I don’t have access to.  On Weibo, I did find this negative review and another brief comment, but both of those postdate Arthur’s tweets.

I suspect such discussion is also the reason behind SF Light Year reposting an earlier Weibo post of that Hugo Book Club tweet.

Hai Ya can hopefully console himself with being featured on a TV news report.  The ballad playing in the background probably wasn’t part of the original broadcast.

An observation on the different preferences between Chinese authors and readers

In an English-language Mastodon post, author Taiyo Fujii reported a recent chat he had about the Chinese SF industry (slight edits for style and grammar):

At Tianfu airport, I met a young scholar who studies Asian SF history.  I met her once before in Chengdu in 2019.  At that time, I only gave her an autograph, but we had a good discussion around SF.

Her worry about Chinese SF is a conflict between hard and soft SF.  Publishers say that readers love scientific hard SF, but young writers prefer to write more human related works.

I agreed, and gave some examples of workarounds.

And we discussed the theme of Ted Chiang, Gu Shi and Kim Choyop.

An attendee’s video of the con

The first minute or so of this Bilibili video is perhaps a little too Cixin Liu heavy, but then we get a good look at the fan table and dealers area.  That section of the video has been sped-up, but Bilibili does have a button to let you change the playback speed to 0.5x or 0.75x, allowing you a better look at things.

(2) HARRY POTTER AND THE PARALYZED STUNT PERFORMER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One stuntman — stunt boy, really — subbed for Daniel Radcliffe through almost all of the Potter movies. Until, that is, a tragic accident on the set of the penultimate film left David Holmes paralyzed.

Now a documentary about Holmes is coming out. Radcliffe not only is interviewed during the film, but signed on as an executive producer. Variety has the story: “Daniel Radcliffe’s ‘Harry Potter’ Stunt Double Was Paralyzed After ‘Deathly Hallows’ Set Accident — Now They’ve Teamed Up for a Doc to Tell His Story”.

… The documentary features “candid personal footage shot over the last decade, behind-the-scenes material from Holmes’ stunt work, scenes of his current life and intimate interviews with David, Daniel Radcliffe, friends, family, and former crew,” HBO adds. “The film also reflects universal themes of living with adversity, growing up, forging identities in an uncertain world, and the bonds that bind us together and lift us up.”

“David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived,” directed by “Lad: A Yorkshire Story” filmmaker Dan Hartley, is just the latest collaboration between Radcliffe and Holmes following their work together across the “Harry Potter” movies. During the pandemic in 2020, the two joined forces to launch the “Cunning Stunts” podcast in which they shined a greater light on stunt performers across Hollywood.

“I think there’s a myth around stuntmen that they are just superhuman in some way,” Radcliffe said at the time about the podcast. “When the public see something really painful or horrible, they think it was a visual effect or that there’s some clever, safe way of doing it. Often that’s not the case. There’s no way of faking, for example, falling down stairs. When you get hit by a car, you’re still getting hit by a car, even if it’s going slower than it would. They find the safest way of doing it, but it can still hurt.”…

(3) PEN NAME PRO TIPS. The SFWA Safety Committee today posted “Safety Dispatch: How to Establish and Use a Pen Name” at the SFWA Blog.

Have you ever considered writing under a pen name? Some authors use pseudonyms to separate works under different genres, reboot their careers after a dry spell, or replace the names of multiple authors on the cover. These are all great reasons, but some authors want to use a different name for privacy or safety reasons, and that’s what we’ll cover here.

Maintaining anonymity in the digital age can be challenging. Most publishers expect authors to have some way to communicate with fans. This kind of interaction is even more critical for indie authors, who often rely on newsletters and hand-selling to move their books. It might seem daunting to separate your legal identity from your author-life, and a determined hacker can trace your pen name back to your legal name, but here are some best practices that can help safeguard your privacy….

(4) ALIENS BEFORE TV GOT HOLD OF THEM. BBC Futures introduces us to “The weird aliens of early science fiction”.

…Humanity’s ideas about aliens have been evolving for millennia – but in the era before television, they were considerably stranger….

…Generations before, the aliens of early science fiction were considerably more fantastical – bloodcurdling octopus-beings, intelligent swarms of insect-creatures and monstrous reptiles.

In 1887 – before the invention of sliced bread, ice lollies or even the word “teenager” – the science fiction author Joseph Henri Honoré Boex set pen to paper in his Brussels office and imagined up Les Xipéhuz. 

The book is set on Earth, a thousand years before the ancient Mesopotamian cities of Nineveh and Babylon were founded, and begins with a dream-like encounter in a forest clearing. A nomadic tribe of people are looking for somewhere to rest one night, but instead they stumble upon “Les Xipéhuz”, translated as “The Shapes”.

The bizarre, geometric creatures resembled “bluish, transparent cones” with their point facing upwards. Each was around half the size of a human, with some stripey markings and “a dazzling star near its base like the sun at midday”. The creatures are considered among the first non-humanoid aliens in science fiction, within a cautionary tale that shows how devastating first contact can be with an unfamiliar “other”. After many battles, (spoiler alert), it becomes clear that there’s no room for diplomacy. Even the way the Shapes communicate, by tracing symbols on each other’s bodies using the rays of their stars, is alien. In the end, they are exterminated.

As it happens, the timing of this story is no accident….

(5) STINKER REX. There’s a meme going around poking fun at those who frequently think about the Roman empire. When this new Mary Beard book arrives they won’t be doing it any less! “A Very Bad Emperor Indeed: An Exclusive Guest Post from Mary Beard, Author of Emperor of Rome” at Barnes & Noble.

…Elagabalus was an extreme version — almost a caricature — of a very bad Roman emperor indeed.

But when I came to write my new book Emperor of Rome, I began to think about Elagabalus rather differently. It’s not that I decided he had been terribly maligned and was probably a decent kind of chap after all. But I did see that many of the stories told about him were more pointed than just random tales of capricious misbehaviour on the part of a teenaged emperor — he was about 18 years old when he was, predictably, assassinated in 222 CE.

True or not (and many, I suspect, were not), these flamboyant anecdotes often highlight the fears and suspicions that the Roman population had of their rulers…. 

(6) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. Victoria Strauss explains “Why Writer Beware Doesn’t Recommend or Endorse Agents or Publishers” at Writer Beware.

“You warn about so many bad literary agents and publishers, why don’t you ever tell us about the good ones?”

It’s a question Writer Beware has been getting for almost as long as we’ve been around, from writers bewildered about where to go for reliable information, frustrated by the abundance of author-focused schemes and scams, or just exhausted by the work of finding a good home for their manuscripts.

I have a standard answer that I provide when people email me with this question or ask me on social media. But with writing scams more prevalent than ever, and writers more beleaguered by fraudulent solicitations than at any time in Writer Beware’s history, I thought it would be helpful to offer a more detailed explanation of why we call out the bad guys but don’t focus on the good guys.

1. Writer Beware has a relatively narrow mission, and it’s all about fraud.

Our purpose is to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other bad practice in and around the publishing industry, with the aim of providing writers with the information they need to protect themselves from exploitation. (More detail is here.)

In other words, we’re not an everything-about-publishing organization; we are laser-focused on just one aspect of the publishing world. We feel it’s better to do one thing intensively and well than to try and be all things to all people.

More practically, we are a small, all-volunteer group–we simply don’t have the staff to handle the time-consuming, careful research that would be needed to maintain and update a database of “good” agents and publishers and bring that information to the public. Instead, by identifying the characteristics of common schemes and scams and shining a light on their inner workings–by educating writers on what to avoid, in other words–we try to give them tools they can use to safely research agents, publishers, self-publishing platforms, etc. on their own.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 24, 1915 Bob Kane. Writer and Artist who co-created, along with Bill Finger, the DC character Batman. Multiple sources report that “Kane said his influences for the character included actor Douglas Fairbanks’ movie portrayal of the swashbuckler Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings; and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers, based on Mary Roberts Rinehart’s mystery novel The Circular Staircase.” He was inducted into Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The character he created has been featured in countless comic books, stories, movies, TV series, animated features, videogames, and action figures in the last eight decades. The 1989 movie based on his creation, featuring Michael Keaton in the title role, was a finalist for both Hugo and British Science Fiction Association Awards. (Died 1998.) (J) 
  • Born October 24, 1948 Margaret “Peggy” Ranson. Artist, Illustrator, and fan, who became involved with fandom when she co-edited the program book for the 1988 Worldcon in New Orleans. She went on to provide art for many fanzines and conventions, and was a finalist for the Best Fan Artist Hugo every one of the eight years from 1991 to 1998, winning once. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a DeepSouthCon. Sadly, she died of cancer in 2016; Mike Glyer’s lovely tribute to her can be read here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 24, 1952 Jane Fancher, 71. In the early 80s, she was an art assistant on Elfquest, providing inking assistance on the black-and-white comics and coloring of the original graphic novel reprints. She adapted portions of C.J. Cherryh’s first Morgaine novel into a black-and-white comic book, which prompted her to begin writing novels herself. Her first novel, Groundties, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and she has been Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at several conventions.
  • Born October 24, 1952 David Weber, 71. Best known for the Honor Harrington series, known as the Honorverse. He has three other series (DahakWar God and Safehold), none of which I’m familiar with. The Dragon Awards have treated him well giving him three Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels for Hell’s Foundations QuiverA Call to Vengeance and Uncompromising Honor. His only other Award is a Hal Clement Young Adult Award for A Beautiful Friendship.
  • Born October 24, 1954 Wendy Neuss, 69. Emmy-nominated Producer. As an associate producer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, her responsibilities included post-production sound, including music and effects spots, scoring sessions and sound mixes, insertion of location footage, and re-recording of dialogue (which is usually done when lines are muffed or the audio recording was subpar). She was also the producer of Star Trek: Voyager. With her husband at the time, Patrick Stewart, she was executive producer of three movies in which he starred, including a version of A Christmas Carol which JJ says is absolutely fantastic, and a rather excellent if stylistically different The Lion in Winter too. 
  • Born October 24, 1955 Jack Skillingstead, 68. Husband of Nancy Kress, he’s had three excellent novels (HarbingerLife on the Preservation and The Chaos Function) in just a decade. I’ve not read the third one yet but I’ve no reason not to assume that it’s not as good as his first two works. He’s due for another story collections as his only one, Are You There and Other Stories, is a decade old. All of his works are available at the usual suspects for quite reasonable rates. 
  • Born October 24, 1956 Dr. Jordin Kare. Physicist, Filker, and Fan who was known for his scientific research on laser propulsion. A graduate of MIT and Berkeley, he said that he chose MIT because of the hero in Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. He was a regular attendee and science and filk program participant at conventions from 1975 until his untimely death. He met his wife, Mary Kay Kare, at the 1981 Worldcon. He should be remembered and honored as being an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a crucial filksong collection, and later as a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the very first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings. Shortly after the shuttle Columbia tragedy, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, on live TV, attempted to read the lyrics to Jordin’s Pegasus Award-winning song “Fire in the Sky”, which celebrates manned space exploration. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was named to the Filk Hall of Fame. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him can be read here. (Died 2017.) (JJ)
  • Born October 24, 1972 Sofia Samatar, 52. Teacher, Writer, and Poet who speaks several languages and started out as a language instructor, a job which took her to Egypt for nine years. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of two wonderful novels to date, both of which I highly recommend: Stranger in Olondria (which won World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards and was nominated for a Nebula) and The Winged Histories. Her short story “Selkie Stories are for Losers” was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, and BFA Awards. She has written enough short fiction in just six years that Small Beer Press put out Tender, a collection which is an amazing twenty-six stories strong. And she has a most splendid website. (Standback)

(8) STRONG OATHS. After reading this installment of Hagar The Horrible Daniel Dern asks, “Is this Mandarin grawlix?”

Grawlix is the term for symbols denoting swearing in comic strips.

(9) SUPERCREDENTIALS. In January,“’Marvel Meow’ Makes Its Print Comic Debut!”.

The cats of the Marvel mythos will claw their way to comic shops this January! Marvel Meow #1 collects Nao Fuji’s hit Marvel Unlimited Infinity Comic and features brand-new covers and an exclusive new Marvel Meow story. The series spotlights adorable interactions between the cats of the Marvel Universe and your favorite heroes and villains. These delightful adventures are perfect for all ages and are sure to delight Marvel fans, cat lovers, and everyone in between! 

Marvel’s most fearsome – and furriest – heroes are here to save the day and beg for treats in the process! Follow Chewie, Liho, Alpine and the rest of the Avengers’ feline friends as they cause a few cat-tastrophes…and maybe vanquish some villains in the process! Whether it’s crashing Captain Marvel’s apartment or defeating Doc Ock, you can always count on these cats for some cute chaos!

(10) LOTR LAGNIAPPE. GameRant calls these “The Best Lord of the Rings Books That Aren’t The Tolkien Series”.

Whether you’re a crafty, good in the kitchen, or just a major nerd for Middle-earth history, there’s a LOTR-adjacent book out there that you’re sure to fall in love with. These books are ranked as the best you can get for their attention to canon and lore and the value they offer for those LOTR lovers who are looking to either expand their knowledge or celebrate Tolkien’s magical world….

For example:

The Unofficial Lord of the Rings Cookbook

If you’re handier in the kitchen, this LOTR cookbook that includes over 60 recipes inspired by Tolkien’s stories will be perfect for you! The recipes come with stunning full-color photographs so you can have a good idea of what you’re making, with Middle-earth recipes ranging from Lembas Bread to Sam’s Coney Stew.

(11) SFF SPECIAL EFFECTS HUB CELEBRATED. The Gunnersbury Park and Museum in the UK is hosting the “Set to Stun: Designing & Filming Sci-Fi in West London” exhibit through June 2, 2024.

Beyond the stars and behind the scenes… for nearly a century west London has been home to a hive of workshops and design studios that fed into some of the country’s most iconic Sci-Fi films and TV shows.

Our major new exhibition ‘Set to Stun’ will celebrate sci-fi film and television from the 1960s through to today, turning the camera onto the west London artisans, artists and crafts people who brought it all to life.

From laser beams to paranoid androids, exploring faraway planets to alien invasions – visitors will get to enjoy an engaging and interactive showcase of the sets, costumes, prosthetics, props, and artistic visualisations that went into British Sci-Fi classics, including Doctor Who, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf. We’ll also bring the story up to date with a motion capture interactive.

The exhibition will encompass informative and engaging content for enthusiasts and fun and fascination for families, with workshops for both adults and kids.

(12) WEIRD FICTION EXPLAINED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has a stab at explaining weird fiction in under 13 minutes.  Unlucky for some, weird or what?

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

Pixel Scroll 9/28/23 I’ll Scroll What She’s Scrolling

(1) SFWA GIVERS FUND GRANT DEADLINE OCTOBER 1. During SFWA’s recent annual business meeting, Chief Financial Officer Erin M. Hartshorn gave an update on the current amounts in each of the organization’s benevolent funds: $388,000 for the Emergency Medical Fund, $66,000 for the Legal Fund, and $103,000 for the Givers Fund, which will give away $30,000 worth of grants this fall. Applications for grants from the Givers Fund are due October 1. 

(2) RUSHDIE TO SPEAK. On October 21, Salman Rushdie will make one of his first in-person appearances since being severely injured in a stabbing attack last August, at Frankfurter Buchmesse: “Salman Rushdie Appears at Frankfurt’s Saturday Gala” reports Publishing Perspectives.

…This program, supported by ARD, ZDF, and 3sat, precedes the October 22 presentation to Rushdie of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as Publishing Perspectives readers know. The award carries a purse of €25,000 (US$26,389).

In a statement today, Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos  has said, “I was very moved that Salman Rushdie is not missing the opportunity to meet the audience in Frankfurt in person, in addition to attending the award ceremony for the Peace Prize….

…As you’ll remember, the stabbing attack on Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York occurred on August 12, 2022. Dealing with severe injuries and the preparation of his new book, Rushdie has made very few public appearances since then, one of them in May in a videotaped message from New York for the British Book Awards….

(3) HOW NETFLIX DVD WORKED. [Item by Dan Bloch.] Tomorrow is, of course, Netflix DVDs last day, and there are of course lots of articles about this, all saying more or less the same thing (“Netflix DVD, we’ll miss you, even though we canceled our subscription a long time ago”). This one is different: “Netflix’s DVD service shuts down: here’s the complex tech behind it” at The Verge. It’s a longish but very interesting article about how the technology in their shipping hubs works.

… Bronway custom-designed a massive disc robot called the “automated rental return machine,” or ARRM 3660. The ARRM, as Netflix employees simply called it, was an assembly-line-sized machine consisting of 6,500 parts total. At its center were two carousels, housed behind glass doors, that were loaded up with incoming mail and then used pneumatic arms to perform all of the things people had done before: slice open returned envelopes, unpack discs, inspect them, clean them, add them to a facility’s inventory system, and get them ready to go out of the door again — basically, every job short of sorting discs and stuffing envelopes for the next customer. 

The robotics company sold 180 of these machines to Netflix in 2010, and they were deployed in stages across all of its hubs. The labor savings alone were enormous. “The hubs were a spectacular number of people,” recalled Johnson. “You could replace about five humans opening the discs with one machine.”

Once a hub was fully automated, it really only required a handful of people to operate. Warehouse workers would arrive at 2AM each day to flip on the machines and process tens of thousands of DVDs in time to deliver them to the Postal Service later that morning. “It was just one person per machine,” Gallion said. “You’d have one person running the stuffer, one person running the sorter, one person running the rental return machine.”

But automation wasn’t just about labor costs alone. Machines were also a lot better at their job, which led to less frustration for Netflix subscribers. Customers who borrowed entire seasons of a TV show would frequently mix up discs — they might put season 7 disc one of The Simpsons in the sleeve for season 7 disc two.

Netflix hub employees were supposed to catch those mix-ups and make sure that the next customer didn’t accidentally receive the wrong disc. “But humans aren’t very good at that,” Johnson said. Machines, on the other hand, aren’t fooled by similar-looking titles. “If barcode A doesn’t match barcode B, then clearly, you’ve got a mismatch,” he said…

(4) PLUMBING THE ABSTRUSE. Timothy B. Lee and Sean Trott promise: “Large language models, explained with a minimum of math and jargon” at Understanding AI.

… If you know anything about this subject, you’ve probably heard that LLMs are trained to “predict the next word,” and that they require huge amounts of text to do this. But that tends to be where the explanation stops. The details of how they predict the next word is often treated as a deep mystery.

One reason for this is the unusual way these systems were developed. Conventional software is created by human programmers who give computers explicit, step-by-step instructions. In contrast, ChatGPT is built on a neural network that was trained using billions of words of ordinary language.

As a result, no one on Earth fully understands the inner workings of LLMs. Researchers are working to gain a better understanding, but this is a slow process that will take years—perhaps decades—to complete.

Still, there’s a lot that experts do understand about how these systems work. The goal of this article is to make a lot of this knowledge accessible to a broad audience. We’ll aim to explain what’s known about the inner workings of these models without resorting to technical jargon or advanced math….

(5) CHENGDU WORLDCON UPDATE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

  • Day tickets still not available

After the closure of regular ticket sales – on the con site, and on the damai.cn vendor site – the day tickets that were promised exactly a week ago — https://en.chengduworldcon.com/news3_35_95_32_66_76_50/151.html — have not yet materialized.  Here’s a (Chinese language) Weibo post from File 770 commenter Adaoli summarizing the situation:  https://weibo.com/5726230680/Nllv9A08q

I’m not sure if this is a new announcement, but I don’t recall seeing any mention of it prior to today.  Douban – which can be compared to both IMDB and Goodreads – has a listing for “Stellar Concerto”, which features stories from the three Worldcon GoHs.  The listing indicates there are new stories in this anthology, although I assume that means they are new in translation, but have been previously published in their original language.  The publisher is the Chengdu-based 8 Light Minutes Culture, which has a few staff on the Chengdu concom.

The October issue’s cover feature is about SF, although it doesn’t seem to have an explicit Worldcon connection, on the cover at least.  There are photos of some of the interior content, which seems to involve at least a couple of people on the concom, at this Weibo post: https://weibo.com/1662229842/NlnnPvnGo

The HelloChengdu Weibo account linked to a Sichuan Daily post from a couple of days ago with a 2-minute Worldcon-related video that has CG renderings of the venue that I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Although given that the con is ~20 days away, I’d have thought the time for CG renders over real-world footage should have long passed.

This one is way beyond my negligible language skills – and I think it might be a repost of something previously released – but I believe it goes over the Puppies stuff (29:43 and later), Marko Kloos declining his Hugo nomination (from 36:26) and the resulting elevation of The Three-Body Problem to be a finalist.,  Other people/things shown or namechecked include: VD and LC (30:02, VD numerous times after that), Zoe Quinn (from 32:39), GRRM’s Puppygate blog post (37:33), N. K. Jemisin (40:30), Robert Silverberg (45:24), the “GRRM Can Fuck Off Into the Sun” blog post (48:00).

This isn’t something that most File 770 readers are going to need or want to watch, but I think it’s a good illustration that Chinese fans aren’t ignorant of stuff that happens in the Anglosphere.

(6) SOMETHING MISSING. Abigail Nussbaum voices the opinion that Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins” has a lot of deficiencies as a biography at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…The core problem of A Life With Footnotes is one that felt easy to predict before even turning the first page. Terry Pratchett, to be perfectly blunt, did not live a particularly interesting life. He was the precocious son of working class parents in post-war England, who fell in love with science fiction and fantasy in his teens, fooled around with writing them with only moderate success, did some creative-adjacent salaried work (journalism, then PR), and then hit on a concept that ballooned into a world-class success with remarkable speed, after which he was very rich and very successful for the rest of his life. In other words, the life story of quite a few midcentury authors (give or take the stratospheric success). What set Pratchett apart, like most writers, was what was going on in his head….

But then, one of the most startling choices in A Life With Footnotes is how little it has to say about Pratchett the author….

Wilkins’s focus seems, instead, to be on the business side of things….

While I agree with Nussbaum’s description of what is and isn’t there, Pratchett was unable to complete his autobiography before he died so my own focus is on the book we have thanks to Rob Wilkins’ efforts, not the book we wanted.

(7) FROM PIXELS TO BRICK AND MORTAR. The New York Times says “Instagram’s Favorite Bookseller Is Ready to Go Offline”.

For Idea, a rare-book dealer and publisher in London, the dwindling of print has never been much of an issue. If anything, it has been a boon for the understated business that David Owen and Angela Hill have built, largely on the back of Instagram’s early infrastructure.

But now, Idea is navigating yet another swerve — the death of the Instagram timeline. In 2021 the social media platform moved from a chronological feed to a more opaque algorithm, which boosted videos. That meant less exposure for posts of, for example, vintage fashion books, which in turn made book selling on Instagram something of a slog.

And even though Idea has some 500,000 followers — W magazine called it an “Instagram phenomenon” in 2015 — the company is ready to experiment with a fairly antiquated idea that some may consider riskier than print itself: a physical bookstore.

In late September, Idea will open a store spread over three floors of a brick building on Wardour Street, in the London neighborhood of Soho. (The location is also Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill’s current home — they rent in the building — in a district crowded with David Bowie walking tours and lines for a Supreme store nearby.)

“What it really feels like is the perfect answer to all the frustration we’ve had with Instagram for the last couple of years, compared to the absolute joy and wonder we’ve had with it the eight previous to that,” Mr. Owen said.

When Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill started their Instagram account in 2010, it quickly became a popular feed. Glossy scans of their collection — which included issues of Six, a magazine by Commes des Garçons ($3,050); “Pentax Calendar” by Guy Bourdin ($500); and “Fiorucci: The Book” by Eve Babitz ($365) — popped out against a sea of heavily filtered selfies….

(8) MOTE GETS SHOPPED BY UNTITLED.TV. The Chaos Manor Facebook page announced an interest in making series from two Niven/Pournelle books has been expressed by Untitled.

A shopping agreement for a streaming series based on The Mote in Gods Eye and The Gripping Hand has been secured by Untitled.

With the end of the WGA strike, real work has begun to craft and pitch an expected 24+ episode, 3 year story arc.

Questions abounded on how to both streamline and lengthen the proposed series for streaming audiences. Let’s see how Untitled proceeds, now that the clock has started.

When asked Why 3 Arms? Larry Niven explained yesterday that his approach to the initial alien design was inspired by the dual question of why tool makers would need symmetry in their biology if there was limited-to-no gravity. He also posed: Do we need a spine? What if the spine was an evolutionary mistake?

(9) WHAT SIR PAT READS. The New York Times asks the actor about his reading habits in “The Most Novelistic Part That Patrick Stewart Ever Played”. But first – the hook!

“I acted Macbeth for exactly 365 days,” says the actor, whose new memoir is “Making It So.” “The role got into me so deeply it dominated my life at the time and caused me to drink too much alcohol after the performance was over. No other role I have played has affected me so profoundly.”…

…Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Immediately on waking up I make a cup of Yorkshire Gold with a chocolate digestive and read in bed for half an hour, or more. Always a book. Never a script or emails. This not only wakes me up, it puts me back in the world we are living in and who we are today. Unless there is an urgent reason I do not look at newspaper headlines, or listen to the news until halfway through the morning.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

You know, I haven’t heard of it either….

(10) MICHAEL GAMBON (1940-2023). Actor Michael Gambon died September 27. Variety profiles his career in its obituary: “Michael Gambon Dies: Harry Potter’s Dumbledore Was 82”.

Michael Gambon, the Irish-English actor best known for his role as Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the “Harry Potter” movies, has died, Variety has confirmed. He was 82.

“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon,” his family said in a statement. “Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia.”

While it is easier for a character actor, often working in supporting roles, to rack up a large number of credits than it is for lead actors, Gambon was enormously prolific, with over 150 TV or film credits in an era when half that number would be impressive and unusual — and this for a man whose body of stage work was also prodigious.

He played two real kings of England: King Edward VII in “The Lost Prince” (2003) and his son, King George V, in “The King’s Speech” (2010); Winston Churchill in his later years in the 2015 ITV/PBS “Masterpiece” telepic “Churchill’s Secret”; U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in John Frankenheimer’s 2002 HBO telepic “Path to War,” for which he was Emmy-nominated; and a fictional British prime minister in “Ali G Indahouse,” also in 2002. And as Hogwarts headmaster in the “Harry Potter” movies, he presided over the proceedings therein. In 2016, he served as the narrator for the Coen brothers’ paean to golden-age Hollywood, “Hail! Caesar.”…

And you can see a photo of Michael Gambon, circa 1970, from when he was invited by producer Cubby Broccoli to test for James Bond at the Tim Burton Wiki.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1913 Ellis Peters. Nom de plume of the writer of The Cadfael Chronicles,which I’ll admit I broke my rule of never watching a video adaption of a print series that I like. Derek Jacobi as Cadfael was damn perfect. She is here because she was the writer of two excellent ghost novels, The City Lies Four-Square and By This Strange Fire, under her real name of Edith Pargeter. (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 28, 1932 Michael G. Coney. British-born writer who spent the last half of his life in Canada. He’s best remembered for his Hello Summer, Goodbye novelI’m very fond of The Celestial Steam Locomotive and Gods of the Greataway which might be set on what could be Vancouver Island. His only Award was from the BSFA for Brontomek!, one of his Amorphs Universe works, although he was a 1996 Nebula nominee for his “Tea and Hamsters” novelette, and a five-time finalist for the Aurora Award. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 28, 1938 Ron Ellik. Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 73. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; and he wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 60. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 41. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story.
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 37. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by Jo Walton is in Vector 288.

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows something that might be a case for an insurance company. But is it an act of God? 

(13) FIFTY CALIBER. Congratulations to Michaele Jordan on her appearance in 50 Give or Take!

(14) CHOPPED. “Now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, it’s a free-for-all.” NPR tells how “Winnie-the-Pooh is now being used to raise awareness about deforestation”. [Click for larger image.]

Winnie-the-Pooh: The Deforested Edition is a reimagining of the A.A. Milne classic created by the toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap.

There is just one, stark difference: There are no trees.

The Hundred Acre Wood? Gone.

Piglet’s “house in the middle of a beech-tree” is no longer “grand.”

Six Pine Trees is six pine stumps.

Yes, this is imaginative PR (a free eBook is available on the Who Gives A Crap website; a hardcover was available for purchase but is now sold out). But the company’s co-founder, Danny Alexander, said the goal is to raise awareness about deforestation. Who Gives A Crap prides itself on “creating toilet paper from 100% recycled paper or bamboo,” he said….

… Alexander said Who Gives A Crap has tried to spread the word that “over a million trees are cut down every single day just to make traditional toilet paper,” according to a study the company commissioned….

(15) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 93 of the Octothorpe podcast “The Good Thing About the Hugos” is now up.

John Coxon is husky, Alison Scott is a dingo, and Liz Batty is a ridgeback.

We discuss Chengdu, our impact on Chinese fandom, Glasgow, its impact on Glaswegian fandom, and then all the Hugo categories bar one (foreshadowing). Or four, depending on how you count.

(16) PROTON ART. “Painting with protons: treatment beams recreate works of art” at Physics World.

Intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) is an advanced cancer treatment technique that uses narrow pencil-like beams of protons – painted spot-by-spot and layer-by-layer within the patient – to deliver radiation in highly complex dose patterns. Combined with sophisticated treatment planning techniques, IMPT can shape the proton dose to match the targeted tumour with unprecedented accuracy, maximizing the destruction of cancer cells while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Looking to showcase the impressive power of IMPT to create intricate dose distributions, medical physicist Lee Xu from the New York Proton Center came up with an unusual approach – he used proton pencil beams to recreate a series of well-known paintings as treatment plans, effectively using the protons as a paintbrush….

(17) DISKWORLDS. In this week’s Nature: “How worlds are born: JWST reveals exotic chemistry of planetary nurseries”, “The telescope is delivering a cascade of insights about the ‘protoplanetary’ disks where planets take shape.”

 The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is aweing scientists and the public alike with its spectacular images of distant galaxies and its discoveries of dozens of new black holes. Yet JWST is also rewriting scientists’ understanding of objects on a slightly smaller, more relatable scale: how planets form from swirls of gas and dust around young stars. Such ‘protoplanetary’ disks are what the environs of the Sun would have been like 4.6 billion years ago, with planets coalescing from the whirling material around an infant star.

JWST is revealing how water is delivered to rocky planets taking shape in such disks. It’s providing clues to the exotic chemistry in these planetary nurseries. And it has even found fresh evidence for a cosmic hit-and-run in one of the most famous debris disks, encircling the star Beta Pictoris…

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

Pixel Scroll 8/28/23 It Was Scrolling Hard In Pixel, I Needed One More File To Make My Night

(1) WE’LL BE GONE FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND THEN. Cass Morris tells what it was like aboard Disney’s Halcyon Starcruiser in “Together As One”, first in a series of posts where she’ll capture full details of this Star Wars immersive experience. And joining her vicariously will be your best opportunity because the attraction will close at the end of September.

… And there was just… there was so much. Especially on Day 2. Noah and I spent four hours in Batuu, and almost all of that time was completing missions. We were running around all over the Outpost. And then once back on the Halcyon, we had a little breather (and much-needed time to clean up, considering the effect that Batuu’s balmy climate has) followed by lightsaber training, but from 3:30 onward? It was just go-go-go. Of the four major paths available, I ended up on three of them. (Or, at least, pieces of each — there are sort of sub-tracks to at least the Resistance path, with different characters and objectives). My schedule was bonkers. I think I had seven alarms set on the evening of Day 2 to make sure I moved when I needed to.

If you’re willing to go hard, it pays off. You absolutely cannot do everything — many things are mutually exclusive just due to scheduling. But you can do a lot if you’ve got the energy, the focus, the time management skill, and the willingness to dash up and down a few flights of stairs many times.

Anyone who was inclined to mock the price tag has no idea just how much goes into creating something like this — both creating it in the first place and then running it on a daily basis. I have some idea, but the work I do is on such a smaller scale, to say nothing of a smaller budget. But I know how many documents it takes to get the story set, to plan the props and scenic elements, to train the performers for something that’s really just a couple of hours of “on” time, without the complex branching trees the Starcruiser has. To do something for a 45-hour long experience, with so many variables… it would have to be utterly gargantuan….

(2) WHERE’D IT GO? For the record, David A. Riley has deleted from his blog the two posts discussing the sale of his novelette to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. News of the magazine’s decision not to publish it is at the link.

(3) ABOUT BRADBURY. Issue 7 of The New Ray Bradbury Review is out, the first completely online, open access issue. Editor Phil Nichols tells what readers can expect in times to come.

…As we enter this new phase of the The New Ray Bradbury Review, we hope to explore the four  cornerstones  of  Bradbury’s  life  and  work  which  have  informed  the Bradbury  Center’s mission.  The  first  of  these,  underpinning  many  of  the  articles in  this  current  issue,  is the advancement of literacy, a cause which seems ever more timely in 2023, where we see the states of  Florida  and Texas enacting  policies  which restrict readers’ access—and especially young learners’ access—to  diverse  voices. The  Ray  Bradbury  Center’s  home  state  of  Indiana  is regrettably heading along a similar path, while there is a glimmer of light in the darkness in Illinois, which has legislated to ban book bans. The other three cornerstones of Bradbury’s life and work will be explored in future issues of NRBR: freedom of imagination and First Amendment rights; advocacy for space exploration; and the preservation of libraries…

(4) WORKAROUNDS. Joe Yao of the Chengdu Worldcon committee responded to concerns from those having difficulty logging into the website to purchase memberships, or vote for the Hugos and 2025 Site Selection. This is a diagnosis of one individual’s problem, but includes much general information.

…The credential message was sent by Tencent Cloud, which I believe is one of the leading IT companies with the most advanced technologies in China. However, there are still some of the email systems recognize it as spam. I have checked the back-end records trying to figure out this issue, and here is some information I would like to share with you.

There are 1,084 requests for credential emails since we opened the Site Selection and the Hugo Packet, not all of them were logging in for the purpose of voting but for other membership purchases, including the Chinese members to buy admissions. And 1,057 of the requests arrived at the email addresses successfully, in other words, the receiving rate is about 97.5%. Most of the emails that failed to arrive were BLOCKED by the receivers, which we have no way to help from my side and I believe it happens not only to Chengdu Worldcon.

The way I can help is suggest you use gmail account if possible to login and if you are a voting member in DisCon 3 or you have already purchased any memberships of Chengdu with other emails but cannot login right now, I can re-upload your gmail information to the system from my side….

(5) FILM OVER BOOK. A Buzzfeed writer names “17 Movies That Were 100 Times Better Than The Book”. Of course I had to click on that. Here’s one of the better entries:

5. “The Shining. One of my favorite movie facts is from The Shining. In the book, the Torrance family drives a red Volkswagen Beetle; in the movie, they drive a yellow one. Later in the movie, as Halloran is driving in the snowstorm, he passes a car accident where a semitruck has crushed a red Beetle. This is thought of as director Stanley Kubrick knowing he totally changed the story and was actively snubbing it with this shot.”

(6) ANOTHER WRITE-OFF? “Disney finishes shooting Spiderwick Chronicles series, decides not to air it” reports Fansided.

…And indeed, Disney shot six episodes, with a cast that includes Jack Dylan Grazer, Lyon Daniels, Noah Cottrell, Joy Bryant, Mychala Lee, and Christian Slater as the shape-shifting ogre Mulgarath. But as it ends up…nah.

According to The A.V. Club, Disney has opted not to air the show on Disney+, even though it’s basically finished. This is a phenomenon we’re seeing more and more of lately. Remember the furor that resulted when Warner Bros. Discovery decided not to release the Batgirl movie after it had already finished shooting? How about when Disney spent over $100 million making a TV show based on the fantasy movie Willow only to remove it from Disney+ after a few months? Why are these studios spending all this money if they’re not going to let people watch what they bought?

A lot of it has to do with the economics of streaming. Will airing The Spiderwick Chronicles get more people to subscribe to Disney+? If not, it may be more cost-effective for Disney to dump it and write off the expenses on its taxes. It’s not like they can sell commercials during episodes, and they probably won’t sell a home video version, so there’s little way for the show to make money by itself. It’s a weird world we’re in now, and studios are trying to figure it out….

However, this line in Variety’s report “Spiderwick Chronicles Series Adaptation Not Moving Forward at Disney+” blurs the part about who’s footing the production bill:

The completed six-episode series, which hails from Paramount Television Studios and 20th Television, is currently being shopped to other potential buyers.

(7) KEEPING THE DISCWORLD NICE AND ROUND. The Gamer defends how the Pratchett rights are handed: “The Terry Pratchett Estate Is Right To Turn Down Subpar Adaptations”.

…The Pratchett estate has likely been burned by its experience with The Watch, something which languished in adaptation limbo for a number of years after the rights were bought. While the Amazon adaptation of Good Omens has been received far better by fans, the star power and intoxicating chemistry of stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen help things along. It will also help that co-author and lifelong friend of Pratchett’s Neil Gaiman is credited as creating the show and serves as a hands-on showrunner as the series moves past the events of the novel. If anyone knows how to continue the Pratchett legacy, it’s him.

In response to a headline decrying Discworld as another huge franchise “going to waste”, the Pratchett estate posted a status to the social media platform formerly known as Twitter saying, “It’s not going to waste, it’s just very much wanting to do the right thing and definitely not do the wrong thing. Again.”

The account, run by Pratchett’s longtime assistant and business manager Rob Wilkins, followed up by saying, “Our nuclear weapon remains our ability to say no and you simply wouldn’t believe how often we still have to use it”, adding the hashtag #Narrativia, referencing Pratchett’s production company that owns the multimedia rights to all of the author’s work….

… Rhianna Pratchett responded too, saying that “we are more mindful than ever, than when we give the ‘yes’ it has to be right”. After the decidedly unPratchett adaptation of The Watch, she has every right to be cautious. While the books are timeless, and continuously prove that Pratchett was ahead of his time in more ways than you could ever imagine, a slew of poor quality adaptations could tarnish that legacy….

(8) ARLEEN SORKIN (1955-2023). Arleen Sorkin, known for voicing Harley Quinn in animated DC Universe productions, died August 26 at the age of 67.

…In 1992, Sorkin began voicing Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series. She would reprise her role in other shows like Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman Beyond: Return of the JokerGotham GirlsJustice League and Static Shock. Sorkin also lent her voice as Harley Quinn for DC video games like Batman: Arkham AsylumDC Universe Online and DC Universe Online: The Last Laugh….

(9) CAREER INCLUDED HARRY POTTER FILM. Actress Matyelok Gibbs died August 14 at the age of 91.  

…On film, she played Erik’s mum in Terry Jones’s Erik the Viking (1989) – Tim Robbins was Erik, discovering there might be more to life than raping and pillaging, with Mickey Rooney as Erik’s grandad – and Auntie Muriel Weasley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010), a gaudily attired, rude and gossipy great-great-aunt of the Weasley children resembling a bad-tempered flamingo….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 28, 1915 Tasha Tudor. American illustrator and writer of children’s books. Her most well-known book is Corgiville Fair, published in 1971, the first of a series to feature anthropomorphic corgis. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 28, 1916 Jack Vance. Where to start? The Dying Earth series? Or perhaps the Lyonesse trilogy? I think I’ll pick the Demon Princes series. Damn he was good. Hugos? Oh yes. Discon was his first for “The Dragon Masters” short story followed by winning one for “The Last Castle” novelette at NYCon 3. His autobiography, This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”), Jack Vance, won at Aussiecon 4. Let’s not forget that he has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement as well. And a SFWA Grand Master Award, too. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 28, 1917 Jack Kirby. Responsible for a goodly part of modern comics from Captain America and the X-Men to Challengers of the Unknown and the New Gods. (Another DC film that got cancelled, damn it.) I had forgotten that he created the Black Panther. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 28, 1925 Arkady Natanovich Strugatsky.The Strugatsky brothers were well known Russian SF writers who were Guests of Honor at Conspiracy ’87, the Worldcon that was held in Brighton, England. Their best-known novel in the West, Piknik na obochine, has been translated into English as Roadside Picnic. It is available from the usual suspects with a foreword by Le Guin. (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 28, 1948 Vonda McIntyre. I’ve read a number of her works including Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun which are all phenomenal. The latter was based on a short story of hers done as a faux encyclopedia article “The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea”, that was illustrated by Le Guin. Neat. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 28, 1951 Barbara Hambly, 72. Author of myriad genre works including the James Asher, Vampire NovelsThe Windrose Chronicles, and the Sun Wolf and Starhawk series. Some Trek work. Was married for some years to George Alec Effinger.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld has his own version of “Writer Beware!”

(12) CELEBRITY COMIC COLLECTION GOES UNDER THE HAMMER. “Kevin Smith is Auctioning His Personal Comic Book Art Collection” and CBR.com hits the highlights.

…A highlight of the auction is Green Arrow cover art by Matt Wagner from issues #1 – #12, estimated to bring in between $1500.00 and $3000.00 each. Additionally, the collection features one of Smith’s rarest gems, a page from Frank Miller’s Daredevil #161, penciled by Miller and inked by Klaus Janson, estimated to cost $20,000.00 to $40,000.00. Each lot in this historic auction will come with a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) from Bodnar’s and Smith’s autograph.

A percentage of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to a scholarship fund for the Joe Kubert School in Dover, New Jersey. Smith, in his characteristic manner, exclaimed, “My current reduction in home wall space is going to make some ardent comic collectors’ dreams come true!” He added, “This will be the sale of the century.”…

(13) PLANET STEWARDS. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has chosen eight books and a film for their Planet Stewards Book Club. Craig Russell’s climate-crisis novel, Fragment, was selected alongside the film Don’t Look Up and the work of many other excellent authors, including Pulitzer Prize winner, Annie Proulx. Dates and subjects of club sessions and video links are here.

(14) COVER ARTIST. The Guardian shares Matt Stevens’ work in “Cover version: films reimagined as vintage paperbacks – in pictures”.

…For his project Good Movies As Old Books , Matt Stevens combined two of his main interests: recreating his favourite films in the style of vintage paperbacks. The North Carolina -based designer and illustrator begins with iPad sketches before using Photoshop to create the effect of old paper and weathered cover textures. The first 100 designs were collected in a Kickstarter-funded art book, and a second one is in the works. “You have to be efficient with the visuals and really distil down the concept into something simple, while still making an impact,” he says. “I love the challenge of that.”…

Andrew Porter dropped the link with a note: “Stephens apparently has no idea that another James Gunn is an actual author of SF books… One of the cover designs looks suspiciously like it’s by Mike Hinge.”

(15)  TIME CAPSULE. There are still 153 photos of fans and writers on Mike Resnick’s Facebook album, spanning the decades of his life in fandom. Moshe Feder pointed this out a few days ago.

(16) WHO DID YOU SAY YOU WERE? “TV Characters With Mystery Names” at TVLine. The genre examples are not the most interesting ones, but there are some.

…What follows is an extensive small-screen history consisting of the following:

Characters whose first, last or full names have never been revealed.

Characters whose names were kept secret for multiple seasons. (Angels, aliens and other inhuman entities were not included.)

Here’s one example:

AGENT 99, GET SMART

The name of Maxwell Smart’s partner-turned-wife was never disclosed. The show would later follow tradition when she gave birth to their twins — a boy and a girl — and never revealed the daughter’s name.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/19/2023 Sometimes A Great Alien Nation

(1) WRITER LOSES EYE TO GUN VIOLENCE; FUNDRAISER STARTED. Sff author Jessie Kwak of Portland, OR was severely injured in a drive-by shooting last weekend while leaving the Mississippi Street Fair. “Author shot in eye near Mississippi Street Fair in Portland: ‘My left eye exploded'” at KGW8.

Jessie Kwak spent most of Saturday among hundreds of others enjoying the Mississippi Street Fair in North Portland. For the science fiction author, it was a special chance for her to sell her books at a booth, along with her friend and fellow author, Mark. Just after 8 p.m., the pair walked to Mark’s car, which was parked at North Kerby Avenue and North Failing Street. As they prepared to drive away, they heard gunfire.

“It was just kind of like, pop, pop, pop, pop, like somebody set off a string of fireworks,” Kwak said. “The windshield exploded and my left eye exploded and I realized that wasn’t fireworks, and so I ducked down.”

Mark drove Kwak, 40, to Legacy Emanuel Hospital about four miles away. Kwak’s husband, Robert Kittilson, took photographs of his wife’s injured face, which was covered in blood. The photos are difficult to look at, but the couple hopes those who see them will see the impact of gun violence for what it is, not just a statistic to ignore

There’s a GoFundMe to help with medical bills and loss of freelance income. “Help Jessie recover from a traumatic eye injury”. The appeal has raised almost $8,000 of the $20,000 goal in the first 24 hours.

Hi, I’m Jessie, a self-made freelance writer and author. On Saturday, July 15th, I was selling books at a local street fair with another author friend. As we were leaving, someone in the car ahead of us started firing their gun into the street nearby. A bullet ricocheted into our windshield, and glass and bullet fragments hit my face and entered my left eye. I was rushed to the hospital immediately, but it was clear that the bullet had done severe damage to the eye.

On Sunday, July 16th, I went under for a 5-hour surgery to reconstruct my left eye. Doctors said it was in pieces and had to be put back together like a puzzle. The CT scan revealed that bullet fragments were embedded deep in my eye and had damaged the retina. Another surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, July 19th to remove the bullet fragments and if possible repair the retina.

It will take time to learn to live with one eye, and as a freelancer, I won’t be able to work as I recover. And no work means no income.

This fundraiser is to help pay for medical treatment, lost income and clients, and for future legal expenses.

I have been watching as gun violence has been increasing in our country, and in retrospect, I know that I am very very lucky. Many families don’t get a second chance to hug their loved ones tight.

I want to take this opportunity to show you the real person behind the statistic, and that this was not a freak accident, but the result of a systemic issue we are facing here in the United States.

(2) HUMMINGBIRD PRIZE. The winner of the 2023 Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize has been announced.

Winner: ‘Field’s Nocturne No. 10 in E Major’ by Matt Lumbard

Sonny wakes to the smell of coffee and the sight of his Grampa slipping suspenders over his shoulders, looking at the woodstove and muttering: “It’ll burn itself out.”

The editors also picked their own winner, by sff author Chip Houser.

Editors’ Choice: ‘Separate Worlds’ by Chip Houser

The first time the earth tolls, we’re all in our separate worlds doing what we do.

(3) AWARDS META. Daniel Dern suggests the Award Award, featuring categories like the “Most ingenious nomination process”. What others would you suggest?

(4) BACK IN THE TOY BOX. Masters of the Universe has been returned to development hell says Variety: “’Masters of the Universe’ Movie Dead at Netflix”. What will Cora think?

…Set on the planet Eternia, “Masters of the Universe” largely focuses on the conflict between He-Man, a blonde muscle god, and his devious nemesis Skeletor. The characters formed a much-loved 1980s animated series, which developed a cross-generational fan base during its syndicated runs. For the latest film iteration, the budget came in at over $200 million with cameras set to roll this February, sources said. Last spring, however, Netflix was confronted with a stunning stock drop that saw the powerful streamer shed $50 billion in value after investors became concerned about the company’s subscriber losses.

In the aftermath of the sell-off, Netflix film head Scott Stuber and chief content officer Bela Bajaria tried to reassure the industry that they still had money to spend amid their Wall Street woes. However, sources close to “Masters of the Universe” said after that point the streamer refused to shell out more than $150 million to see up-and-comer Allen (“American Horror Story,” “A Haunting in Venice”) pick up He-Man’s sword. A source familiar with Netflix said the stock drop was irrelevant to budget issues on “Masters,” noting that its content spend has been flat at $17 billion for two years, despite market fluctuation….

(5) WE PAUSE FOR A COMMERCIAL MESSAGE. Meanwhile, the Mark Twain House & Museum is adding a dose of grumpiness to the Masters of the Universe mix by hosting the virtual event “The He-Man Effect: How American Toymakers Sold You Your Childhood”. Register here – choose your own price, minimum $2.50 (free to Twain House members).

Brian “Box” Brown unravels how marketing that targeted children in the 1980s has shaped adults in the present. The He-Man Effect shows how corporate manipulation brought muscular, accessory-stuffed action figures to dizzying heights in the eighties and beyond. Bringing beloved brands like He-Man, Transformers, My Little Pony, and even Mickey Mouse himself into the spotlight, this graphic history exposes a world with no rules and no concern for results beyond profit. 

(6) CHARLES E. NOAD OBITUARY. David Bratman has written a tribute to the late Charles E. Noad at Kalimac’s corner. It begins:

Charles was a mainstay of the Tolkien Society, the UK-based organization, and an absolute monument for Tolkien studies for all that he didn’t write very much. Besides doing bibliographical work for the TS, his most valuable contribution was as proofreader for most of the posthumous Tolkien volumes, in the History of Middle-earth series and elsewhere. At this his ability to catch glitches was unsurpassed. He could quite literally tell whether a period (the full stop at the end of a sentence) was in italics or not. As a support to Christopher Tolkien, the editor of these volumes, he was more than invaluable….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1998 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

A work by S. M. Stirling provides our Beginning this Scroll. Now I’ll admit that I am not that familiar with him which is not to say that there aren’t works by him that I do like deeply such as The Peshawar Lancers and The Lords of Creation series which consists of The Sky People and In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. The latter is extraordinary work.

He has been nominated for many awards, winning the Lord Ruthven Award which is given for significant contributions to the field of horror literature for his A Taint the Blood novel, and a Dragon Award for the Black Chamber novel in the Best Alternate History Novel category. It was nominated for a Sunburst was awarded to a Canadian novel in previous year.

Mike choose Island in the Sea of Time, the first novel in the Nantucket series, published by Roc Books twenty-five years ago. 

And now for the Beginning…

March, 1998 A.D. 

Ian Arnstein stepped off the ferry gangway and hefted his bags. Nantucket on a foggy March evening was chilly enough to make him thankful he’d worn the heavier overcoat; Southern Californian habits could betray you, here on the coast of New England. Thirty-odd miles off the coast. The summer houses built out over the water were still shuttered, and most of the shops were closed—tourist season wouldn’t really start until Daffodil Weekend in late April, when the population began to climb from seven thousand to sixty. He was a tourist of sorts himself, even though he came here regularly; to the locals he was still a “coof,” of course, or “from away,” to use a less old-fashioned term. Everybody whose ancestors hadn’t arrived in the seventeenth century was a coof, to the core of old-time inhabitants, a “wash-ashore” even if he’d lived here for years. This was the sort of place where they talked about “going to America” when they took the ferry to the mainland.

He trudged past Easy Street, which wasn’t, and turned onto Broad, which wasn’t either, up to the whaling magnate’s mansion that he stayed in every year. It had been converted to an inn back in the 1850s, when the magnate’s wife insisted on moving to Boston for the social life. Few buildings downtown were much more recent than that. The collapse of the whaling industry during the Civil War era had frozen Nantucket in time, down to the huge American elms along Main Street and the cobblestone alleys. The British travel writer Jan Morris had called it the most beautiful small town in the world, mellow brick and shingle in Federal or neoclassical style. A ferociously restrictive building code kept it that way, a place where Longfellow and Whittier would have felt at home and Melville would have taken a few minutes to notice the differences. 

Mind you, it probably smells a lot better these days. Must have reeked something fierce when the harborfront was lined with whale-oil renderies. It had its own memories for him, now. Still painful, but life was like that. People died, marriages too, and you went on. 

He hurried up Broad Street and hefted his bags up the brick stairs to the white neoclassical doors with their overhead fanlights flanked by white wooden pillars. The desk was just within, but the tantalizing smells came from downstairs. The whalers were long gone, but they still served a mean seafood dinner in the basement restaurant at the John Cofflin House.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 19, 1883 Max Fleischer. Animator, film director and producer. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman to the screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations including the Rotoscope and Stereoptical Processes. You can see Betty’s first screen appearance here in the 1930 Cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes”. (Died 1972.)
  • Born July 19, 1924 Pat Hingle. He portrayed Jim Gordon in the Burton Batman film franchise. Genre wise, he had roles in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneCarol for Another ChristmasMission: ImpossibleThe InvadersTarantulas: The Deadly CargoAmazing Stories and The Land Before Time. He would reprise his Gordon role in the Batman OnStar commercials. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 19, 1927 Richard E. Geis. I met him at least once when I was living out there in Oregon. Interesting person. He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice; and whose science fiction fanzine Science Fiction Review won Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine four times. The Alien Critic won the Best Fanzine Hugo (once in a tie with Algol), and once by himself. And yes, I enjoyed reading the Science Fiction Review. I’ve not read any of his handful of genre novels, and certainly haven’t encountered his soft-core porn of which there’s a lot. (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 19, 1950 — Richard Pini, 73. He’s half of the husband-and-wife team responsible for creating the well-known Elfquest series of comics, graphic novels and prose works. They are also known as WaRP (as in Warp Graphics). It’s worth noting that characters based on works by the Pinis appear in Ghost Rider (vol.1 issue 14).
  • Born July 19, 1957 John Pelan. Committed (more or less) the act of opening serial small publishing houses in succession with the first being Axolotl Press in the mid-Eighties where he’d published the likes of de Lint and Powers (before selling it to Pulphouse Publishing) followed by Darkside Press, Silver Salamander Press and finally co-founding Midnight House. All have been inactive for quite awhile now and he’d been editing such anthologies as Tales of Terror and Torment: Stories from the Pulps, Volume 1 for other presses though even that has not happened for some years as near as I can tell. As a writer, he had more than thirty published stories and he had won both a Stoker for The Darker Side: Generations of Horror anthology and an International Horror Guild Award for his Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium anthology. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 19, 1969 Kelly Link, 54. First, let me note that along with Ellen Datlow, she and her husband Gavin Grant were responsible for the last five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. They all did an absolutely magnificent job. All of her collections, Pretty Monsters, Magic for Beginners and Get in Trouble are astonishingly good. And she’s much honored having three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, an Otherwise Award, a Sturgeon Award and received a MacArthur Genius Grant. She was a finalist for a 2016 Pulitzer Prize. And Hugos. She won a Hugo at Interaction for her “Faery Handbag” novellette, her “Magic for Beginners” novella was nominated at L.A. Con IV, and finally Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet was nominated at Nippon 2007 for Best Semi-Prozine (her husband Gavin Grant was also nominated). 
  • Born July 19, 1976 Benedict Cumberbatch, 47. Confession time: I really didn’t care for him in the Sherlock series, nor did I think his Khan In Star Trek Into Darkness was all that interesting but his Stephen Strange In Doctor Strange was excellent. He did do a superb job of voicing Smaug inThe Hobbit and his Grinch voicing in that film was also superb. I understand he’s the voice of Satan in Good Omens… 

(9) WIZARDS IN TRAINING. This is a pretty cute set of bookends (and middle!) “The Journey To HOGWARTS Illuminated Bookend Collection Featuring A Detailed HOGWARTS Express On Its Journey Back To HOGWARTS Castle” from the Bradford Exchange.

(10)  ARE FANS NO LONGER ALIENATED? “’The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks’ podcast explores internet outrage and its aftermath” at WBUR.

1999’s “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” introduced audiences to a technological marvel: Jar Jar Binks, cinema’s first major motion-captured character. But the comic-relief alien also became the target of one of the internet’s first hate campaigns, with vitriol spilling over to the actor who played Jar Jar as well.

The new podcast “The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks” tells this story and how it informs online discourse today. Here & Now‘s Celeste Headlee speaks to podcast host Dylan Marron, also known for his writing work on “Ted Lasso” and his podcast “Conversations with People Who Hate Me.”

Here’s the direct link to the podcast: “The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks”.

Jar Jar Binks became one of the most polarizing figures in cinematic history when he made his debut in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 1999. He was even named “the most annoying movie character of all time” by Complex Magazine. After the release, Ahmed Best, the man who played Jar Jar, was hit with the full force of the backlash — and it nearly destroyed him. The Redemption of Jar Jar Binks is a six-part journey through the early internet to understand how one of the first-ever online hate campaigns began, and to right what we got so wrong about Jar Jar the first time around.

(11) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. “High altitude balloons spy on dark matter” at Popular Science.

High altitude balloons have drawn a lot of fire lately. In February, the US military shot down a spy balloon potentially operated by the Chinese government and an “unidentified aerial phenomenon” that was later revealed to likely be a hobbyist balloon.

So, when people caught sight of another large balloon in the southern hemisphere in early May, there was concern it could be another spy device. Instead, it represents the future of astronomy: balloon-borne telescopes that peer deep into space without leaving the stratosphere.

“We’re looking up, not down,” says William Jones, a professor of physics at Princeton University and head of NASA’s Super Pressure Balloon Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) team. Launched from Wānaka, New Zealand, on April 15, the nearly 10-foot-tall telescope has already circled the southern hemisphere four times on a football stadium-sized balloon made from polyethylene film. Its three onboard cameras also took stunning images of the Tarantula Nebula and Antennae galaxies to rival those of the Hubble Space Telescope. The findings from SuperBIT could help scientists unravel one of the greatest mysteries of the universe: the nature of dark matter, a theoretically invisible material only known from its gravitational effects on visible objects….

(12) THE SHIPPING NEWS. The Last Voyage of the Demeter has the dirt on Dracula.

Based on a single chilling chapter from Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the terrifying story of the merchant ship Demeter, which was chartered to carry private cargo—fifty unmarked wooden crates—from Carpathia to London. Strange events befall the doomed crew as they attempt to survive the ocean voyage, stalked each night by a merciless presence onboard the ship. When the Demeter finally arrives off the shores of England, it is a charred, derelict wreck. There is no trace of the crew.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fanac.org now hosts the venerable Castle of Terrors made in 1964 by the UK’s Delta Science Fiction Film Group.

This fannish production from Harry Nadler and the Delta SF Film Group gives us a slapstick parody of horror movies, replete with well known British fans of the day. There are angry villagers, damsels in distress, and scary monsters, as well as less well-known horror tropes like food fights in this 20 minute amateur extravaganza. In “Castle of Terrors” you can feel just how much fun Delta Group was having (and get a clear sense of their love for slapstick). Bill Burns, who provided this and other Delta Films tells us “The individual films date from 1963 to 1970, and were made on 8mm silent film to which a magnetic stripe was later added and the sound dubbed on. They were then shown mercilessly at club meetings and Eastercons, and suffered accordingly.” For more about the Delta SF Film Group, see the Fancyclopedia article and see the text of Bill’s talk at Manunicon (2016 Eastercon) here.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/12/23 What Is It You Plan To Scroll With Your One Filed And Pixelled Life?

(1) COVID OUTBREAK AMONG EASTERCON ATTENDEES. Fans who attended last week’s Eastercon in the UK (“Conversation”) have been self-reporting positive Covid tests and symptoms to the con’s Facebook community group, or to the con’s Discord server, now closed, which reportedly had more than 70 positive tests. Masking is no longer mandatory in the UK, however, the con’s own Covid policy asked people to test before coming, stay home if they tested positive (or had symptoms of an infectious disease), and to wear a mask in program items and crowded areas. There is much discussion of how many people complied with their masking policy, as well as the load on the venue’s ventilation system in places like the bar.

Today one author put it rather dramatically:

(2) FANZINE PILGRIMAGE. Marcin “Alqua” Kłak today published a conreport about “Corflu Craic – my first fanzine convention” at Fandom Rover. The event was held in Belfast the weekend before Eastercon.

…Did I enjoy Corflu? Oh yes! I certainly want to repeat the experience (although next year the con will be held in Nevada so outside of my reach). The atmosphere, the friendliness, the conversations – It was pretty awesome. Eating meals together and discussing fannish topics was memorable.

I got a lot of reading materials. Firstly items I bought at the auction at previous Corflu were given to me. They came with some additional stuff (including the Programme Book from 2022). Then each person coming to Corflu Craic got a random set of fanzines from the chair’s own supplies. Then I got many zines people produced for this year or took them to the con to give away. And at last I bought two publications. The first was 1957 The First UK Worldcon edited by Rob Hansen (which at the end of the con got an award). The second one was a TAFF trip report from Sue Mason. I cannot complain for the lack of fanzines to read this year (and probably next too!). The challenge wiI be to write a few LoCs though (and I don’t have too much experience!).

(3) KSR AT UCSD. On April 19 The School for Global Policy and Strategy and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego will host an in-person discussion with Kim Stanley Robinson, engaging with several UC San Diego researchers, about the bidirectional patterns of influence between climate research and science fiction narrative, and what both suggest about the Earth’s future, and our own. Free admission, register here.

Earth’s Future: A Discussion with Kim Stanley Robinson. April 19, 2023, 12:30p – 1:50p. Institute of the Americas, Hojel Auditorium, UC San Diego

Internationally renowned writer Kim Stanley Robinson’s science fiction has long been engaged with the tradition of utopian thought: how do we imagine a better society? His most recent novel, The Ministry for the Future, has been hailed as a masterpiece and held up as a roadmap to climate policy and action, and how his characters navigate the next hundred years of climate catastrophe and cascading political and social effects toward a better future have inspired numerous projects that engage with related ideas in political economy, technology and engineering, climatology and ecology, and urban design.

Featuring:

Kim Stanley Robinson: American novelist, widely recognized as one of the foremost living writers of science fiction.

Introduction by Patrick Coleman, Asst. Director, Clarke Center for Human Imagination

Moderated by Jennifer Burney (Professor; Marshall Saunders Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Global Climate Policy and Research, UC San Diego)

Panelists:

Kate Ricke (Assistant Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego)

Teevrat Garg (Assistant Professor of Economics, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego)

John Ahlquist (Professor and Associate Dean, School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego)

(4) SECOND GUESS SFF. GameRant’s Kristy Ambrose says these “Sci-Fi Movies That Almost Had Different Endings”.

…It’s not uncommon for sci-fi movies to have several endings before the director and the studio decide on the one that will hit the theatres. The fans can only hope to catch a glimpse of the alternative cuts on DVDs or Blu-rays. As it happens, these highly successful sci-fi films almost ended differently, and if they had been cut today, their stories might have concluded differently….

Here’s an example – beware spoilers. (If you wonder, “how could they spoil an ending that wasn’t made?” – well, they have to compare it to the actual ending, and there you are, spoiled!)

6. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1986)

Here’s an example of a dark but comical ending that might have been retained had Little Shop of Horrors been made in another era. Instead of successfully defeating Audrey II, the killer plant that fed on human blood, it eats both Seymour, the main character, and his love interest, the original Audrey. It’s then strong enough to replicate, and the final scenes include several giant killer plants tearing apart the city.

Test audiences weren’t too keen on the ending, however, which sees our downtrodden but plucky protagonist turned into plant food. An alternative ending was used instead, in which Seymour manages to electrocute Audry II before it can do any more damage and stop the global carnage before it even starts.

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1975[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll is that of Gardner Dozois’ “The Visible Man” noveletteHe was a prolific author of short fiction, for which he won two Nebulas, and also wrote four novels. Though his fiction won no Hugos despite five nominations, he won myriads as Professional Editor, Short Fiction.

Now for “The Visible Man” novelette. It was first published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, the December 1975 issue. It got printed as part of The Visible Man collection several years later. Baen has the rights to it now and they last published as an ebook a decade in Strange Days: Fabulous Journeys with Gardner Dozois. It’s a nicely done look at him as a writer. So let’s get to that Beginning… 

GEORGE ROWAN’S ONLY chance of escape came to him like a benediction, sudden and unlooked for, on the road between Newburyport and Boston. 

They were on old Route 1, the Newburyport Turnpike, and there was not another car in sight. The fully automated Route 95 guideway was just a few miles west of here, running almost parallel to Route 1, but for reasons of his own the sheriff had preferred to take the old secondary road, even though he had to drive the car himself and couldn’t possibly get up to guideway speeds. Perhaps he simply enjoyed manual driving. Perhaps it was some old State regulation, now solidified into tradition, that prohibited the transportation of prisoners on automated roads. Perhaps it was just some more of the expected psychological torture, taking the slowest possible route so that Rowan would have time to build up a greater charge of fear and dreadful anticipation for what awaited him in Boston. 

For Rowan, the trip had already become interminable. His memory of the jail in Newburyport, of his crime, of his hasty trial, of his past life—all had become hazy and indistinct. It seemed as if he had been riding forever, on the road, going to Boston for the execution of his sentence. Only that was real and vivid: the slight swaying motion of the car, the seat upholstery sticking uncomfortably to his sweat-soaked back, the ridged rubber mat under his feet. The countryside they drove through was flat and empty, trees, meadows, cultivated fields, little streams, sometimes a boarded-up gas station or a long-abandoned roadside stand. The sky was a flat, washed-out blue, and the sunlight was thick and dusty. Occasionally they would bump over a pothole or a stretch of frost-buckled pavement—the State didn’t spend much anymore to keep up the secondary roads. The car’s electric engine made no sound at all, and the interior of the car was close and hot with the windows rolled up.

Rowan found himself reluctantly watching the little motions of the steering wheel, apparently turning all by itself, driverless. That made him shiver. He knew intellectually, of course, that he was sitting on the front seat between the sheriff and the deputy, but he couldn’t see them. He could hear them breathing, and occasionally the deputy’s arm would brush against his own, but, for Rowan, they were invisible. 

He knew why they were invisible, but that didn’t make it any less spooky. When the State’s analysis computers had gone down into his mind and found the memories that proved him guilty, they had also, as a matter of course, implanted a very deep and very specific hypnotic injunction: from now on, George Rowan would not be able to see any other living creature. Apparently the injunction had not included trees and other kinds of vegetation, but it had covered animals and birds and people. He assumed that when he “saw” through invisible people—as he now “saw” the portions of the car that should have been blocked from sight by the sheriffs body—it was because his subconscious mind was extrapolating, creating a logical extension of the view from other visual data in order to comply with the spirit of the injunction. Nothing must be allowed to spoil the illusion. Nor could Rowan break it, although he knew what it was and how it had been created. It was too strong, and planted too deep. He was “blind” in a special and insidious way….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 12, 1884 Bob Olsen. He wrote stories for Amazing Stories, from 1927 to 1936, many of them said to be of humorous inclination. He was one of the first writers to use the phrase ‘space marine’ in a two-story Captain Brink sequence consisting of “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” (November 1932 Amazing) and “The Space Marines and the Slavers” (December 1936 Amazing). I’m fairly sure that he wrote no novels and less than twenty-four short stories. I do know that severe arthritis curtailed his writing career in 1940. (Died 1956.)
  • Born April 12, 1915 Emil Petaja. An author whose career spanned seven decades who really should be remembered as much for his social circles that included early on as H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and August Derleth which later expanded to include Anthony Boucher, Frank M. Robinson, Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Robert A. Heinlein.  It should not be overlooked that he did write seven novels and around forty short stories during his career with the stories appearing in Weird TalesFantasy and Science FictionFantastic AdventuresWorlds of Tomorrow, Future Science Fiction Stories and other venues as well. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 12, 1921 Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement from the group of judges chosen by the World Fantasy Awards Administration. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend I read? (Died 2019.)
  • Born April 12, 1916 Beverly Cleary. One of America’s most successful authors, almost a hundred million copies of her children’s books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published in seventy years ago. Some of her best known characters are Ramona Quimby and Beezus Quimby, Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, and Ralph S. Mouse. (Died 2021.)
  • Born April 12, 1958 Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, 65. An LA-resident con-running fan. She has worked on a variety of conventions, both regionals and Worldcons, frequently in the art shows. She is has been a member of the Dorsai Irregulars. She is married to fellow fan Jerome Scott. Works for NASA where she writes such papers as ‘Measurements of Integration Gain for the Cospas-Sarsat System from Geosynchronous Satellites’.
  • Born April 12, 1936 Charles Napier. Well let’s meet Adam on the Trek episode of “The Way to Eden”. Oh, that’s a horrible outfit he’s wearing. Let’s see if he had better genre roles… well he was on Mission: Impossible twice in truly anonymous roles, likewise he played two minor characters on The Incredible Hulk and he did get a character with a meaningful name (General Denning) on Deep Space 9. I surprised to learn that he was General Hardcastle in Superman and Justice League Unlimited series, and also voiced Agent Zed for the entire run of the Men in Black animated series. (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 12, 1979 Jennifer Morrison, 44. Emma Swan in the Once Upon a Time series, and Winona Kirk, mother of James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. She also paid her horror dues in Urban Legends: Final Cut as Amy Mayfield, the student videographer whose film goes terribly wrong. I’m intrigued to see that she’s the voice actor for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in the Batman: Hush, a film that needs a R rating to be told properly and indeed did so.

(7) CAN YOU GUESS? “Russell Crowe doesn’t like horror movies. Why the hell is he playing The Pope’s Exorcist?” asks Entertainment Weekly.

Russell Crowe does not like scary movies.

“No, I’m not really a horror film fella,” the Oscar winner tells EW. “I like to sleep deeply at nighttime.”

Crowe is hoping to give cinemagoers interrupted slumbers with his new film The Pope’s Exorcist (in theaters April 14). In this purportedly inspired-by-real-events horror movie, the actor plays Father Gabriele Amorth, the Diocese of Rome’s chief exorcist who investigated thousands of possession cases starting in the late ’80s. Directed by Julius Avery (Overlord), the film finds Franco Nero’s Pontiff sending Amorth to investigate the strange happenings at a Spanish castle which are tormenting an American family, played by Laurel Marsden, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, and, as the clan’s matriarch, Doctor Sleep actress Alex Essoe….

(8) HARRY POTTER AND THE REGISTER OF CASH. Variety reports “’Harry Potter’ TV Show Adaptation Ordered at HBO Max”. Each season will be based on one of the books.

A “Harry Potter” TV series is officially moving forward at HBO Max.

The announcement was made during Warner Bros. Discovery’s presentation to press and investors on April 12, during which it was announced that HBO Max and Discovery+ are officially being combined into a new service dubbed simply Max.

News of a show based on the megahit J.K. Rowling book series first leaked on April 3, but details have now been confirmed.

Each season of the show will be based on one of the books in the franchise, with Warner Bros. Discovery describing the show as a “decade-long series.” It will feature an entirely new cast from the films.

(9) OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE. Not without protest, however,“The NYPD is bringing back its robot dog”The Verge has the story.

The New York Police Department is reenlisting Digidog, the four-legged robot that the city faced backlash for deploying a few years back, as reported earlier by The New York Times. NYC Mayor Eric Adams announced the news during a press event on Tuesday, stating that the use of Digidog in the city can “save lives.”

Digidog — also known as Spot — is a remote-controlled robot made by the Hyundai-owned Boston Dynamics. It’s designed to work in situations that may pose a threat to humans, helping to do things like perform inspections in dangerous areas and monitor construction sites. However, Boston Dynamics also touts its use as a public safety tool, which the NYPD has tried in the past.

… City officials say that the NYPD will acquire two robot dogs for a total of $750,000, according to the NYT, and that they will only be used during life-threatening situations, such as bomb threats.

“I believe that technology is here; we cannot be afraid of it,” Mayor Adams said during Tuesday’s press conference. “A few loud people were opposed to it, and we took a step back — that is not how I operate. I operate on looking at what’s best for the city.”…

(10) AL JAFFEE TRIBUTE. Stephen Colbert paid tribute to Al Jaffee on The Late Show last night.

Stephen takes a moment to honor one of the true giants of his childhood, MAD Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee, who died Monday at the age of 102.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Appropriate for the Easter season: bunnies… “Is Watership Down Science Fiction?” is a question posed by Moid Moidelhoff over at Media Death Cult. Only touching briefly on actual definitions of SF (it arguably defies precise definition) it is the first Media Death Cult video to take place on location at the real Watership down. Join Moid – who’s occasionally known to be a bit of a wag and a tease – for this nine-minute video….

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