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

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

Statement May 24

Statement May 25

Remy, one of the officers, replied online:

The account identified with Scales also made comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the original Hobbit (1937):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/2/24 Knitting the Fannish News:  Scroll One, Pixel Two

(1) BURROUGHS ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions will hold The World of Edgar Rice Burroughs Rare Books Signature® Auction on April 25:

…featuring more than 120 lots — many of which have never been publicly offered, and some of which come from Burroughs’ collection, including his dual-edged knife used in the 1929 film Tarzan and the Tiger and the Gothic library table famously seen in numerous photos of the man at his Tarzana, California, home. But the event could just as easily have been titled The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

…Indeed, the deft brush of James Allen St. John graces the cover of the catalog for this event, which boasts two original oil paintings by St. John that were turned into iconic dust jackets for Swords of Mars, starring John Carter, and Tarzan’s Quest….

St. John’s artwork for the dust jacket that wrapped the first edition of Sword of Marsbecame the definitive rendering of that tale. The same holds for his dust jacket artwork for Tarzan’s Quest, another Blue Book serial also published as a novel in 1936 — and the last Tarzan story to feature the Ape Man’s wife, Jane, as a significant character. Of course, she’s on the cover in her final star turn in the long-running series….

(2) KEEP THOSE DONJONS MOVIN’, RAWHIDE! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has broadcast a nifty version of Diana Wynne Jones Howl’s Moving Castle.

In the land of Ingary, Sophie Hatter is resigning herself to an uninteresting life working in a hat shop, when a castle appears above the town of Market Chipping and refuses to stay still.

Visiting the shop one day, the dreaded Witch of the Waste transforms Sophie into an old crone. Setting off into the countryside to seek her fortune, Sophie soon runs into the sinister moving castle. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the souls of young girls.

First published in 1986, Howl’s Moving Castle’s reputation has grown over time to become recognised as a fantasy classic and, in 2004, it was adapted as an Oscar-nominated animated film by Studio Ghibli.

You can listen to it here: “Drama on 4, Howl’s Moving Castle”.

(3) PUBLISHING TAUGHT ME. SFWA has announced that their online anthology Publishing Taught Me now has a full roster of contributors. Two currently published essays by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and James Beamon are available at Publishing Taught Me: A SFWA Anthology Project.

Additional essays are upcoming from Diana Pho, Erika Hardison, Kanishk Tantia, Nelly Garcia-Rosas, Yoon Ha Lee, and Emily Jiang. These essays will be posted on the first Wednesday of each month through September.

The Publishing Taught Me anthology is part of the Publishing Taught Me program supported by a grant from the NEA. Monthly posts of essays addressing the presence of BIPOC in the publication of SFFH are being edited by multiple award-winning editor Nisi Shawl and two interns, Somto Ihezue and Zhui Ning Chang. The essays will be posted through September 4. An Editors’ Afterword is scheduled for October 2, and in November anthology authors will have a chance to participate in an online symposium on the topic of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our genres.

(4) HEAVY WAIT CROWNS. Atlas Obscura recommends “10 Secure Places to Wait Out the Zombie Apocalypse”.

THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE HAS LONG been a favorite subject of horror movies, but where would you hide if the undead really roamed the Earth?…

Fifth on their list:

5. Prison Cell of Ludger Sylbaris

SAINT-PIERRE, MARTINIQUE

On May 8th, 1902, the Mt. Pelee volcano erupted on the island of Martinique, killing an estimated 30,000-40,000 people in the town of Saint Pierre. Only a handful survived–a few lucky sailors in boats off the coast, and a local drunk who had been thrown in jail the night before: Ludger Sylbaris. His solitary confinement cell, a stone structure built partially into the ground, saved his life from scalding volcanic gasses and ash. Saint Pierre never recovered from the devastation, and today has a population of around 1000, but Sylbaris’ prison cell still stands. With a tiny window and one entrance, it could be a good place to hunker down during a zombie invasion.

Pros: This structure has a few things going for it in terms of zombie defenses: it’s located on an island, it’s made of stone with only one entrance to fortify, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s one of the few structures in the world that has already proven its effectiveness at withstanding truly apocalyptic conditions.

Cons: Mt. Pelee is still one of the world’s most active volcanos, so there is a chance that while waiting out the zombies, you would have to deal with an eruption.

(5) TOM DIGBY (1940-2024). Ansible® 441 reports “Tom Digby (1940-2024), US fan, filker and fanzine publisher who was a fan GoH at the 1993 Worldcon, died on 27 March aged 84”.

His burial took place today in Half Moon Bay, CA.

He was twice nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo – in 1971 and 1972 – at a time when his writing was mainly seen by those who read his zine Probably Something in LASFS’ weekly APA-L.

Around the same time he was referenced in Larry Niven’s story “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?” (1971), set in part at the Dian and Bruce Pelz divorce party which preceded my time in LASFS by a couple years. (There really was a cake topped by bride and groom figures facing in opposite directions.) Tom Digby was the inspiration for the alien.

Digby believed ideas are the real currency that distinguishes fandom. He coined the term “idea-tripping” for our kind of play.

And he was endlessly inventive. He made up “plergb”, a kind of Swiss-army-knife of words for use in all kinds of gags. Here is my own official certificate authorizing me to use the word. (Click for larger image.)

(6) ED PISKOR (1982-2024). “Ed Piskor, Hip Hop Family Tree and X-Men: Grand Design Artist, Reportedly Passes Away at Age 41”CBR.com. has the story.

Ed Piskor, the artist of the Eisner Award-winning comic Hip Hop Family Tree, has reportedly passed away, per a Facebook post by his sister. Piskor, the co-host of popular podcast and YouTube channel Cartoonist Kayfabe, had recently become embroiled in controversy after two women accused Piskor of sexual misconduct, leading to the cancellation of a planned art exhibit in Pittsburgh showcasing his Hip Hop Family Tree art and Cartoonist Kayfabe co-host Jim Rugg announcing that he was ending his “working relationship” with Piskor. On Monday, Piskor posted a lengthy note where he indicated he had plans to take his own life after refuting some of the allegations against him…. 

I’m not going to run it all down here, but if you want more stomach-turning details including the roles of JDA and Comicsgate search his name on X.com.

(7) JOE FLAHERTY (1941-2024). [Item by Todd Mason.] Second City comedy troupe writer/performer/director Joe Flaherty has died. Along with the frequent Second City stage and SCTV material that dug deeply into fantastica in various manners (Canada’s Monty Python in many ways), he also had roles in and wrote and produced such work as Back To The Future Part Ii and Really Weird Tales, and the sitcom Maniac Mansion (and in other modes, the fine short-lived series Freaks And Geeks). One of his recurring characters was Monster Chiller Horror Theatre horror host Count Floyd, the other regular gig for his local newscaster character Floyd Robertson, on the various forms of the SCTV series. “Joe Flaherty, comedian known for work on SCTV and Freaks and Geeks, dead at 82” at CBC News.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 2, 1948Joan D. Vinge, 76. One of my favorite writers is Joan D. Vinge. What do I consider her best series? Without question that’d be the Snow Queen series of which the first novel, Snow Queen, won a Hugo at Denvention Two. I’ll admit that my favorite work in this series is Tangled Up In Blue where two police officers must fight corruption within the Tiamat force. It’s more personal I think than the rest of the series. 

Joan D. Vinge

Next in line for her would be the Cat trilogy (well it did have a chapbook prequel, “Psiren” which I’ve not read) consisting of Psion, Catspaw and Dreamfall. Cat, the young telepath here, is fascinating as is his story which she tells over the three novels. 

I’m going to give a shout-out to her first novel, The Outcasts of Heaven Belt which was serialized in February-April 1978 in Analog. An egalitarian matriarchal belt-based society is in a conflict against a patriarchal society in the same region of space. If Niven could write sympathetic female characters, this is what he might have written. Only she wrote it better. Really, it’s that good.

I general don’t read media novelizations so I can’t comment on all of her many such writings like Cowboys & AliensLost in Space, Tarzan, King of the Apes and Willow

I’ve not read her short fiction, so I’d like to know who here has. What’s the best collection? 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home has a character’s DNA test results.
  • Eek! Explains why we saw only one Batmobile driver.
  • Frazz reflects on sayings and the weather.
  • F Minus comes up with a new game.
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn realize it’s all Greek to them.
  • Zits is sure there are better means of transportation

(10) GET YOUR MALZBERG FIX. Daniel Dern doesn’t want you to miss Collecting Myself: The Uncollected Stories of Barry N. Malzberg, released as an ebook last September and as a paperback on March 1 by Starkhouse Press. “Having just learned about it and purchase-requested my library get it,” he says.

(11) BUT WILL THEY HAVE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “White House directs NASA to create time standard for the moon”Reuters has details.

The White House on Tuesday directed NASA to establish a unified standard of time for the moon and other celestial bodies, as the United States aims to set international norms in space amid a growing lunar race among nations and private companies.

The head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), according to a memo seen by Reuters, instructed the space agency to work with other parts of the U.S. government to devise a plan by the end of 2026 for setting what it called a Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC).

The differing gravitational force, and potentially other factors, on the moon and on other celestial bodies change how time unfolds relative to how it is perceived on Earth. Among other things, the LTC would provide a time-keeping benchmark for lunar spacecraft and satellites that require extreme precision for their missions.

“The same clock that we have on Earth would move at a different rate on the moon,” Kevin Coggins, NASA’s space communications and navigation chief, said in an interview.

OSTP chief Arati Prabhakar’s memo said that for a person on the moon, an Earth-based clock would appear to lose on average 58.7 microseconds per Earth-day and come with other periodic variations that would further drift moon time from Earth time….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Learn “How Madame Web Should Have Ended” from the crew at How It Should Have Ended. (With an assist from Pitch Meeting’s Ryan George.)

Madame Web needs more than just a new ending… It needs a complete overhaul.

[Thanks to Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Dave Butterfield, Daniel Dern, Kathy Sullivan, Hampus Eckerman, Todd Mason, 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 Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/24 The DiskWorld Turned Upside Down (Because “RingWorld” Here Wouldn’t Make Sense, Would It?)

(1) HUGO SHORTLIST ANNOUNCEMENT COMING ON FRIDAY. The Glasgow 2024 committee will announce the Hugo finalists at Eastercon.

(2) BUTCHER WILL MISS NORWESCON 46. Writer guest of honor Jim Butcher has contracted COVID-19 and will be unable to travel to Norwescon this weekend. The committee adds, “While this is disappointing to all of us who wished to see him, we sincerely wish him the best for a speedy recovery, and hope to see him again in the future.”

(3) EXPAND YOUR VOCABULARY. [Item by Steven French.] The Guardian reports “The Oxford English Dictionary’s latest update adds 23 Japanese words” including:

Isekai, a Japanese genre of fantasy fiction involving a character being transported to or reincarnated in a different, strange, or unfamiliar world … A recent example of the genre is Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli film The Boy and the Heron, in which 12-year-old Mahito discovers an abandoned tower, a gateway to a fantastical world.

(4) FANDOM BEFORE THE DATE WHICH SHALL LIVE IN INFAMY. First Fandom Experience will release the third book in the series on April 5 at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention in Chicago: “Introducing Volume Three of The Visual History”.

Science fiction fandom in 1941 played out in a panoply of wisdom, foolishness, belief and incredulity. Less mired than previous years in the economic shackles of the Great Depression, fans let loose in ways both expected and surprising.

The year began with a bang – the noisy implosion of the ascendant Queens Science Fiction League, torn apart by rancor among New York factions stewing since 1938. In early December, fans in America were forced to face the threat of imminent dystopia as insidious products of science and engineering rained down on sailors at Pearl Harbor.

Between these bookends, fans read and wrote and gathered and argued and published in profusion – mostly in good humor.

The perennial questions persisted. What’s the purpose of the fiction we inhale like oxygen? What role do fans play in the world? Are we somehow better than others? What’s the point of organizing? Perhaps these debates were reason enough to come together.

Fans flocked together. Small but vibrant clubs coalesced in Boston, Minneapolis, northern New Jersey and central Michigan. Regional gatherings established communities and annual conferences that still endure….

(5) THE RIGHT STUFFY. Futurism amusingly tells how “AI-Powered Children’s Toy Agrees to Stop Responding, But Keeps Butting Into Conversation Again”. The article is based on the video review below.

Late last year, Claire “Grimes” Boucher, acclaimed musician and mother of three of billionaire multi-hyphenate Elon Musk’s children, announced an OpenAI-powered line of toys called “Grok” — not to be confused with Musk’s AI chatbot of the same name, as the two are currently entangled in a nasty custody battle….

… At first, the AI companion appeared to have no issues following Murdock’s orders.

“Hey Grok, can you just chill for a second,” he asked it.

“Sure thing, I’ll just float here and enjoy the cosmic breeze,” Grok answered….

Made by Curio, the product website is here: “Grok AI Toy”.

(6) KEEP ON TREKKIN’. How does the Star Trek franchise keep us coming back? “Star Trek’s Future: ‘Starfleet Academy,’ ‘Section 31,’ Michelle Yeoh and Chris Pine” at Variety.

…“Strange New Worlds” is the 12th “Star Trek” TV show since the original series debuted on NBC in 1966, introducing Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a hopeful future for humanity. In the 58 years since, the “Star Trek” galaxy has logged 900 television episodes and 13 feature films, amounting to 668 hours — nearly 28 days — of content to date. Even compared with “Star Wars” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Star Trek” stands as the only storytelling venture to deliver a single narrative experience for this long across TV and film.

In other words, “Star Trek” is not just a franchise. As Alex Kurtzman, who oversees all “Star Trek” TV production, puts it, “‘Star Trek’ is an institution.”

Without a steady infusion of new blood, though, institutions have a way of fading into oblivion (see soap operas, MySpace, Blockbuster Video). To keep “Star Trek” thriving has meant charting a precarious course to satisfy the fans who have fueled it for decades while also discovering innovative ways to get new audiences on board.

“Doing ‘Star Trek’ means that you have to deliver something that’s entirely familiar and entirely fresh at the same time,” Kurtzman says….

(7) WIZARDLY HIRING PRACTICES. I’m sure you wanted to know, too, but were just too shy to ask. CBR blurts out the question on your behalf: “Why Did Dumbledore Hire So Many Bad Teachers in Harry Potter?”

In the Harry Potter franchise, one thing that is made abundantly clear about Headmaster Albus Dumbledore is that he is the greatest wizard who has ever lived. Brilliant, wise, compassionate, and with a charming personality to boot, if not a bit quirky. He represents the archetype of the wizened mage, who provides the protagonist with guidance throughout their journey. Even those who despise him respect his power and intelligence. Yet, he was not a flawless person, with many skeletons in his closet. One in particular affected a majority of his students for a time: the professors he hired for Defense Against the Dark Arts were not always the best….

(8) UNFORGETTABLE HOWARD. Arnie Fenner, who published some of his work in small press, adds his tribute to the late “Howard Waldrop” at Muddy Colors.

…No one wrote like Howard Waldrop: no one could. He saw stories in virtually everything and telling them just the way he thought they should be told was far more important to him than the time they took to write or the amount of money he was ultimately paid—or not paid—when they were eventually published. His knowledge was encyclopedic and while there are wags who might know a little bit about a fair number of subjects, Howard knew a lot about a lot of things; he may have written fiction but there was always something factual, some history, to be learned from each story. He was, very much, a writer’s writer and he never compromised in the creation of his work; plus he was also a visual writer—an extension of growing up a comic book fan—one who literally painted vivid pictures with his words and who always created memorable scenes that could be a treasure trove for illustrators….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 82. What’s your favorite Michael York role? For me, it’s not any of his later roles but rather as D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeersback fifty years ago when he was thirty years old, and its sequels, The Four Musketeers (The Revenge of Milady) and The Return of the Musketeers. It was a role that he apparently played with great relish.

He was busy in this period as he also was in Cabaret as Brian Roberts, a bisexual Englishman, one of lead roles there. He has an affair with Sally, one of the other leads. 

I’m not convinced he slept at all as I just found that also he was in a version of Lost Horizon, billed as “A musical fantasy adventure film”. Often cited as one of the worst genre films of all time, it currently holds a fourteen percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

But as all the best actors seem to do, he would show up in a production of Murder on the Orient Express, as Count Rudolf Andrenyi. 

Michael York in Logan’s Run.

Just three years after he played D’Artagnan he was cast as Logan 5, a Sandman, in Logan’s Run, a 1977 Hugo nominee at SunCon. I remember sort of liking it when I saw it back then but not enough to have watched it again since then. What’s your opinion of it? An of course his acting in it?

He’s got a lead role in The Island of Dr. Moreau as Andrew Braddock, his last genre role in film for twenty years until he played Merlin in A Young Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a role I dearly want to see. Though I’m not interested in seeing him in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery as Basil Exposition, as those films to me are badly done. 

He voices Bob Crachit in a late Nineties Christmas Carol that, shall we say, is way less that faithful to the source material and adds such things as Scrooge’s pet bulldog, Debit. Seriously it does. Tim Curry is Scrooge here. That’s it for film as far as I’m concerned. 

Now for genre television. He was on The Wild Wild West as Gupta in “The Night of the Golden Cobra”; Batman: The Animated Series in the “Off Balance” episode as Count Vertigo; on seaQuest DSV in the recurring role of President Alexander Bourne; on Babylon 5, in the extraordinary role of David “King Arthur” McIntyre in the “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode; multiple roles on the animated Superman series; in Sliders  as Dr. Vargas in “This Slide of Paradise” (that series started fine but lasted way, way too long, yes I’m editorializing); King Arthur again in A Knight in Camelot;  he voiced a truly awesome Ares in the Justice League Unlimited’s “Hawk and Dove” episode; and finally we have two voicings on Star Wars: The Clone Wars of the Dr. Nuvo Vindi character. He retired from acting a decade ago. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Loose Parts has its own ideas about the way dinosaurs really looked.

(11) SNAZZY THREADS. “Discovering Worldcon: Masquerade, Costuming, and Cosplay” — Vince Docherty outlines convention costuming history at the Glasgow 2024 website. Lots of photos. (But none of Vince…)

…SF conventions in Glasgow started in 1978, and grew during the 1980s. They also featured a costume competition and, usually, a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with full audience interaction! (I even dabbled a little bit myself, including entering the contest once as ‘Riff Raff’ from Rocky Horror—fortunately in pre-internet times, so hopefully no photos exist!) Fans from Glasgow and the rest of the UK have continued to actively participate in costuming in the decades since….

(12) SOMETHING ABOUT THE TIMING. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Shanghai-based English-language news site Yicai Global reported that the CEO of a company linked to Three-Body Problem has been found guilty of homicide, and sentenced to death.

The former chief executive officer of a unit of Yoozoo Interactive, which used to own the rights to ‘The Three-Body Problem,’ has been found guilty of poisoning the Chinese gaming firm’s chairman on the same week that the Netflix version of one of China’s most successful sci-fi novels began to broadcast.

Xu Yao, who joined Yoozoo Pictures in 2017, was sentenced to death for intentional homicide and handed an additional six-year sentence for administering dangerous substances, the Shanghai Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said today in a first-instance verdict. Xu has also been deprived of his political rights for life.

The trouble started soon after Netflix linked arms with Yoozoo Interactive, whose other subsidiary Three-Body Universe had bought the rights to Chinese science fiction novelist Liu Cixin’s trilogy, to produce an English-language version of ‘The Three-Body Problem’ in September 2020.

Xu, who had resigned from the firm in January 2019, had a disagreement with Lin, a hugely successful and ambitious film and game producer, over company matters and deliberately poisoned his food around Dec. 14 or Dec. 15, 2020, the court said.

Xu also had a conflict with two other colleagues, both surnamed Zhao, and he poisoned them as well between September and December 2020, but not fatally.

Lin fell ill on Dec. 16, 2020 and was told by doctors that he had been poisoned, according to earlier statements from the Shanghai-based company. The next day Lin called the police who conducted an investigation and detained Xu. Lin passed away 10 days later.

There is similar coverage at The IndependentCBS News, and the New York Post.  There was also a paywalled article in The Times by Adam Roberts a few days ago, before the verdict came down.  Searches for “xu yao” or “yoozoo” on other China-based English-language news sites such as China.org.cn or Global Times failed to come up with any results.

Comments on Weibo indicate that Xu Yao was involved in the early deal-making stages of the Netflix adaptation of The Three-Body Problem,

(13) RANKING 100 RANDOM SF BOOKS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I do not know if you have come across the YouTube Channel Bookpilled but it is the channel of a die-hard SF reader. I do know that many of you SF book readers will know of, if have not read, most of the 100 books that he has just randomly picked from his collection.  Here he rates them. 

Do you agree with him? Disagree with him? Agree with him in part?…

Do you, like him, have happy accidents?

I don’t know about you but there were three or four in here that he rates fairly well that I don’t have in my own collection. Check out his vid below.

(14) DRIVEN TO SUCCESS. The Takeout has a photo gallery of “8 of the Most Iconic Food Vehicles”.

Everyone remembers their first Wienermobile sighting. Maybe you were driving down the highway with friends and it suddenly appeared on the horizon: a gleaming hot dog that’s 11 feet tall, 27 feet long, and 8 feet wide. The unmistakable red and yellow of America’s favorite giant frank on wheels is always a thrill to encounter. Why travel to a roadside attraction when it can drive to you?

That image pops immediately to mind, no doubt. Here’s one that’s a little less familiar.

Nearly identical in size to the Wienermobile, the Planters NUTmobile debuted in 1935 and is manned by “Peanutters” who drive Mr. Peanut around the country. A Nutmobile was transformed into an INN a NUTshell retreat (help) in 2021, allowing people to book a night in the vehicle, which was outfitted as a sort of snack-themed fever dream camper.

(15) A DERN MINUTE’S WORTH OF “WHERE THIS CAME FROM”. [By Daniel Dern.] The reference behind today’s title, “The DiskWorld Turned Upside Down (Because ‘RingWorld’ Here Wouldn’t Make Sense, Would It?)”.

Via, for us folkies, Leon Rosselson’s song of that name (I’m pretty sure he wrote it — I know it’s on his albums, and I believe I’ve heard him sing it, live, way back when), although he got the notion/phrase from the the 1640s version, and LR’s song was subsequently-ish done by Billy Bragg and, most recently, the phrase became part of a song in Hamilton.

[OGH adds: That last is probably because “The World Turned Upside Down” was played during the surrender ceremony at Yorktown, the climactic moment of the American Revolution.]

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended has remastered their 12-year-old Ghostbusters tribute.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/13/24 Pixel Would Like A Word With Engineering

(1) SFWA NEBULA FINALIST ANNOUNCMENT TOMORROW. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) will announce the 2023 Nebula Award finalists (to be presented this year in Pasadena) on the SFWA Youtube channel, tomorrow, March 14, starting at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. 

Once again, we’ll be calling upon a talented group of SAG-AFTRA narrators to take us through an evening filled with a variety of outstanding speculative fiction works. 

It’s sure to be a night to remember! We hope you’ll join us!

(2) NEBULA CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE. Also tomorrow — March 14, is the deadline to apply for the scholarships SFWA is offering for members of under-served communities to attend the Nebula conference! The 2024 Nebula Conference will take place June 6-9 in Pasadena, CA and online. If you or someone you know may benefit from these scholarships, please apply here or share this link: https://airtable.com/appqxO86fh6JpPBNR/shrjMcYbZyuTxhwVH

Scholarship applications must be completed on this form by March 14th, 2024. The scholarship recipients will be selected from the applicant pool by lottery. Applicants may be considered for more than one scholarship if they identify with more than one of the following groups.

Here are the categories of scholarships being offered and the number of online conference scholarships available for each:

  • Scholarship for Black and/or Indigenous Creators: This scholarship is open to Black and/or Indigenous creators in the United States and abroad. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for AAPI Creators: This scholarship is available to Asian creators, Asian American creators, and creators from the Pacific Islands. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarships for Hispanic/Latinx Creators: This scholarship is available to creators with backgrounds in Spanish-speaking and/or Latin American cultures. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for Writers Based Outside of the U.S.: This scholarship is available to creators who live outside the United States. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for members of the LGBTQIA+ Community: This scholarship is available to creators who identify as LGBTQIA+. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for creators with disabilities: This scholarship is available to creators who identify as having a disability. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for creators who face financial barriers: This scholarship is available to creators whose financial situations may otherwise prevent them from participating. (quantity: 15 online scholarships)
  • Scholarship for in-person registration are available in limited quantities for creators who identify with one of our online scholarship groups. This scholarship does not include funds for travel, lodging or other related expenses to attend the conference, only for registration.

SFWA says, “Our support of underserved communities isn’t possible without your help. If you are able, please consider making a donation at sfwa.org/donate to help us fund additional scholarships in the future.”

(3) COMPLETE TOLKIEN POEMS VOLUME PLANNED. “Collected poems of J R R Tolkien to be published for first time”The Bookseller has details.

HarperCollins will publish The Collected Poems of J R R Tolkien, edited by Christina Scull and Wayne G Hammond, in September 2024, the first time all the author’s poems will appear in one volume. 

HC, which holds world all-language rights to Tolkien’s works, said: “Poetry was the first way in which Tolkien expressed himself creatively and through it the seeds of his literary ambition would be sown.” One of Tolkien’s  poems “The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star”, begun in 1914, is where the “Silmarillion” first appears and both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings “are enriched with poems both humorous and haunting, magical and moving”. Tolkien scholars Scull and Hammond will provide analysis of each poem. 

Scull and Hammond were hired for the project by Christopher Tolkien’s, J R R Tolkien’s son and executor of his literary estate until Tolkien died in 2020. They said: “Charged at first to review only his early poems, we soon saw the benefits of examining the entire poetic opus across six decades, vast though it is with hundreds of printed and manuscript sources…Not long before his death, we were able to send Christopher a trial portion of the book, which he praised as ‘remarkable and immensely desirable’.”…

(4) SPEAKING OF. “The Oral History of ‘Repo Man,’ the Greatest Indie Sci-Fi Movie Ever Made” at Inverse.

Somewhere in the California desert, a police officer pulls over a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu as it lurches wildly across the highway. After interrogating the driver, he opens the trunk and is instantly vaporized by a blinding light that reduces him to a skeleton, leaving behind only a pair of smoldering leather boots.

Thus begins Repo Man, a sci-fi cult classic sci-fi with a nihilistic worldview and a punk rock soundtrack that by all accounts probably shouldn’t exist….

Dick Rude (plays Duke): I was a teenager going to the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles. I wrote a script called Leather Rubberneck with a friend of mine from school, about two kids who get drafted. Alex [Cox, writer and director] wanted to make the film, but it didn’t pan out. So he incorporated it into Repo Man. A lot of the characters, some of the dialogue, some of the ideas, there was quite a bit of it that was used in Repo Man….

Jonathan Wacks: We went through the Yellow Pages and looked up studios and producers and we sat and typed letters. We knew they wouldn’t pick up our phone. We sent hundreds of letters out and got zero responses. So we decided to raise $500,000 and shoot it at UCLA so we could use the equipment for free.

Peter McCarthy: The thing with UCLA is you never wanted to get your diploma. Once you did, you couldn’t go back and use anything….

Olivia Barash: I was talking to Alex, and I said, “Who are you going to have do the title track?” And he goes, “There’s one of two people. David Byrne, we have something out to his agent. But I really want Iggy Pop, we just don’t know where to find him.” And I said, “I know where to find him. He’s in my building. He’s my neighbor.” So Alex came over, and we rang the intercom outside, and Iggy answered. And that’s how we got Iggy….

(5) J-LO AND AI. “’Atlas’ trailer: Jennifer Lopez uses AI to save humanity in sci-fi thriller” – here’s Mashable’s introduction:

The first trailer for Netflix’s futuristic sci-fi thriller Atlas is here, featuring Jennifer Lopez having a very bad day.

Atlas follows the titular character Atlas Shepherd (Lopez), a government data analyst with a healthy distrust of artificial intelligence. However, after a mission to capture a rogue robot from her past goes wrong, she soon finds herself having to trust AI in order to save humanity. If AI wrote propaganda, this is probably what it would sound like….

(6) IT’S A TIE. “Reading with… Liz Lee Heinecke” at Shelf Awareness.

…Favorite book when you were a child:

It’s a three-way tie, with a few runners-up.

As a kid, I desperately wanted a horse but knew I would never have one, so I lived vicariously through Maureen and Paul Beebe’s adventures in Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Wesley Dennis.

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey had it all as far as I was concerned: a gifted girl who isn’t allowed to be a musician because of her gender, tiny, colorful dragons called fire lizards, and a nearby planet that rained down flesh-eating parasites frequently enough to keep things exciting. I probably read it 20 times.

The Tombs of Atuan is the second book in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series and features a female protagonist who struggles against the confines of a role that’s been chosen by others. Most of the story takes place in a nightmarish underground labyrinth, where Le Guin’s hero Ged (Harry Potter’s prototype) struggles to steal a talisman. I loved everything about it.  

I was always on the lookout for books about girls on adventures. When visiting the library, I often checked out Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking books or the Danny Dunn series by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams, which features a girl who loves physics.  

Your top five authors:

Ursula K. Le Guin: She caught my attention as a middle-grade reader with her Earthsea fantasy series and has kept me captivated as an adult.

She uses science fiction to escape the social confines of our planet and explores themes of colonization, race, environmental destruction, political systems, gender roles, and sexuality without ever losing sight of the story. The Word for World Is ForestThe Dispossessed, and The Left Hand of Darknessare three of my favorites.

Amy Tan: I can’t recall whether The Kitchen God’s Wife or The Joy Luck Clubwas my first Amy Tan book. I adore the funny, relatable stories she tells about women and family, and enjoy learning about Chinese culture and history. The Bonesetter’s Daughter, which weaves science and anthropology into the story, was fantastic too. I became an even bigger fan after hearing Tan sing with the Rock Bottom Remainders at First Avenue a few years ago.  

J.R.R. Tolkien: I can’t count how many times I’ve re-read The Lord of the Rings. I love losing myself in Middle-earth, with its mountains and languages and monsters and lore, and I’ve always been a sucker for a well-told hero’s journey.

Margaret Atwood: Sometimes I think she can see the future. The Handmaid’s Taleis a masterpiece in so many ways. I heard her speak once, and I recall her saying that she grew up reading science fiction stories with her brother. It’s amazing how the books we read as children shape us as adults.

Ann Patchett: She has been one of my favorite authors for years. As a reader interested in themes of music, science, and theater, she’s hit the mark over and over again with books like Bel CantoState of Wonder, and Tom Lake. I can’t wait to see what she writes next….

(7) THE WRITERS’ PRIZE. A non-genre work, Liz Berry’s The Home Child, was announced as the winner of the poetry category (£2000) and The Writers’ Prize Book of the Year (£30,000) at the London Book Fair on March 13.

Born in the Black Country and now living in Birmingham, The Home Child was inspired by the story of Berry’s great-aunt Eliza Showell, one of the many children forcibly emigrated to Canada as part of the British Child Migrant Schemes. This beautiful novel-in-verse about a child far from home was described as ‘absolutely magical’ by Fiona Benson.

The book achieved the highest number of votes from the 350+ celebrated writers in the Folio Academy, who exclusively nominated and voted for the winners of The Writers’ Prize 2024.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 68. I remember Dana Delany best for her role as nurse  Colleen McMurphy on China Beach, set at a Vietnam War evacuation hospital.  It aired for four seasons starting in the late Eighties. Great role, fantastic series. I rewatched it a decade or so ago on DVD — it held up very well.

Dana Delany

So let me deal with her main genre role which was voicing Lois Lane. She first did this twenty years ago in Superman: The Animated Series for forty-four episodes, an amazing feat by any standard.  That role would come again in Superman: Brainiac AttacksJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (avoid if you’ve got even a shred of brain cells), in a recurring role on the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series, The Batman and even in the Superman: Shadow of Apokolips game.

Her other voice role of note was for Wing Commander Academy as Gwen Archer Bowman. And she wasn’t Lois Lane but Vilsi Vaylar in Batman: The Brave and the Bold’s “The Super-Batman of Planet X!”. 

She’ll have a one-off on Battle Galactica as Sesha Abinell; more significantly she has a starring role as Grace Wyckoff in the Wild Palms series. 

Oh, she showed up on Castle as FBI Special Agent Jordan Shaw in a two-part story, the episodes being “Tick, Tick, Tick…” and “Boom!”. 

So I’m going to finish with her role in Tombstone, Emma Bull and Will Shetterley’s favorite Western film along with the Deadwood series. It’s an inspiration she says for her Territory novel. And I love it as well. Delany played magnificently Josephine Sarah “Sadie” Earp, the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp. The final scene of them dancing in the snow in San Francisco is truly sniffles inducing. 

(9) CREATOR CANNED. Variety reports “X-Men ’97 Creator Beau DeMayo Fired Ahead of Premiere on Disney+”. Article does not give a reason.

Beau DeMayo, the showrunner and executive producer behind Disney+’s upcoming animated series “X-Men ’97,” has been fired ahead of the March 20 premiere, Variety has confirmed.

DeMayo had completed work on Seasons 1 and 2 of “X-Men ’97” ahead of his exit. He will not attend the March 13 Hollywood premiere for the show. His Instagram account, on which he had been previewing artwork and answering fan questions about “X-Men ’97,” has also been deleted.

He wrote and produced “X-Men ’97,” which is a continuation of the popular “X-Men: The Animated Series” that aired on Fox Kids in the ’90s. It is unclear why DeMayo was fired from “X-Men ’97” so close to the premiere, but he will no longer promote the show or be involved with future seasons….

(10) NO MICHELIN STARS FOR MORDOR. CBR.com chronicles “Every Meal Hobbits Eat In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings”.

Peter Jackson and actor Billy Boyd found a memorable way to convey that love in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. As Aragorn leads the Hobbits toward Rivendell, Pippin asks about “second breakfast” and a litany of additional meals that will presumably be skipped as they continue. Tolkien specified six meals in the Prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring — which roughly match European traditions — but two of them are essentially the same meal. Here’s a rundown of each one to give a good idea of what Pippin is missing….

Here’s the one I’m always interested in:

Second Breakfast

Tolkien mentions second breakfast in The Hobbit, with Bilbo settling down to his just as Gandalf appears to tell him that the Dwarves have already left for The Lonely Mountain. It serves as a quiet joke — stressing that Hobbits in general and Bilbo in particular enjoy eating — as well as emphasizing the comfortable lifestyle he’s leaving behind to go on his adventure with the Dwarves. It also serves as the inspiration for Pippin’s line about second breakfast in The Fellowship of the Ring, which he doesn’t deliver in Tolkien’s text.

(11) PRAISE FOR STARMEN. [Item by Francis Hamit.] Demetria Head is a book blogger, one of that legion of reviewers who do it without pay and for the joy of it.  Ms. Head actually read the entire book and delivered an almost forensic analysis.  I think her work deserves wider exposure.

Demetria Head Review from BookBub and A Look Inside book blogs

“STARMEN” by Francis Hamit is a sprawling epic that seamlessly blends elements of magical realism, historical fiction, and sci-fi fantasy to create a mesmerizing tale that will captivate readers from start to finish. Set against the backdrop of the American Southwest in 1875, the novel introduces us to a cast of richly drawn characters whose lives become intertwined in a web of intrigue, adventure, and supernatural mystery.

At the heart of the story is George James Frazer, a budding anthropologist working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, whose quest to contact a local Apache tribe leads him on a journey beyond the realms of ordinary reality. When a mysterious hot air balloon appears over the town of El Paso, owned by the British Ethnographic Survey, Frazer finds himself drawn into a world of ancient magic and hidden truths.

The characters in “STARMEN” are truly the heart and soul of the novel, each one fleshed out with depth and nuance that makes them feel like living, breathing individuals. From the determined and resourceful Frazer to the enigmatic Apache witches and the ruthless Pinkerton agents, every character brings their own unique perspective to the narrative, driving the plot forward with their conflicting desires and motivations.

Plot development in “STARMEN” is masterfully executed, with Hamit weaving together multiple storylines that intertwine and intersect in surprising and unexpected ways. From the quest to find a missing heir to the discovery of a town inhabited by extraordinary gunfighters, each twist and turn of the plot unfolds with breathtaking intensity, keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

What truly sets “STARMEN” apart is its seamless blend of genres, incorporating elements of historical fiction, magical realism, and hard sci-fi into a cohesive and compelling narrative. From the romantic entanglements to the political intrigue and the mind-bending concepts of quantum mechanics and string theory, the novel offers something for every reader, appealing to fans of both traditional historical fiction and speculative fiction alike.

Overall, “STARMEN” is a tour de force of storytelling that will transport readers to a world of adventure, mystery, and wonder. With its unforgettable characters, intricate plot, and bold exploration of complex themes, it is a must-read for anyone seeking an immersive and thought-provoking literary experience.

(13) SHAKEN TO THEIR CORE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I have not seen it yet (but have downloaded to mem stick for home viewing – it might be rubbish???) In the TV series Pending Train, “100 People Accidently Time-Travel By Train to a Destroyed Earth in 2063”. See video at the link.

In Tokyo, train passengers find themselves fighting for their very survival after their train car jumps into an apocalyptic future

(14) ON THE AIR. Breathe (2024) with Jennifer Hudson, Milla Jovovich, Sam Worthington, Common, and Quvenzhané Wallis. In Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand April 26.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended brings us up to date with “Previously On – DUNE”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/8/24 It’s The Great Singularity, Charlie Brown

(1) SEE ICONIC ARTWORK IN BAY AREA THIS WEEKEND. Leo and Diane Dillon’s original cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness, recently in the news as one of the items sold from the Carr-Lichtman estate by Mark Funke, will be on display at the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco, February 9–11 reports KQED in “The Painting That Became an Ursula K. Le Guin Book Cover”.

…“When I talk to other LGBTQIA+ science fiction writers and people who are immersed in science fiction, they always point to The Left Hand of Darkness as a book that kind of showed them how expansive, how rich and how multilayered speculative fiction could be in its approach to gender and sexuality,” says Charlie Jane Anders, a San Francisco-based transgender science fiction writer, who wrote the afterword for the 50th anniversary edition of the novel….

How the cover was acquired by Terry Carr for the Ace paperback edition, and the artistry of Leo and Diane Dillon, is discussed at length in the KQED article.

…Diane Dillon says science fiction writers inspired some of their best work. Leo introduced her to the genre when they met as students at Parsons in the ’50s. They were drawn to sci-fi’s imaginative worlds and the promise of what could be possible.

“Science fiction, fantasy and myth gave us the freedom to invent and challenge our imagination,” Diane wrote via email.

In a 2000 interview, Leo said he and Diane wanted their illustrations to “take science fiction out of that spaceship-and-craters-on-the-planet look.” (Leo died in 2012.)

In the case of The Left Hand of Darkness, the Dillons drew inspiration from Gustav Klimt. The original 24-by-19-inch acrylic painting evokes an uncanny world. Two figures with blurry features melt into a muted luster — an allusion to the icy planet of Gethen that provides the setting for the novel.

“That’s a sprawling piece, and it says volumes in just that one image,” says Paul Gulla, manager of R. Michelson Galleries, which represents the Dillons, in Northampton, Massachusetts.The Dillons’ work was recognizable, but the duo enjoyed experimentation. They used various techniques and materials — including stained glass, woodcarving and clay — throughout their decades-long career, which spanned book covers, album covers, kids’ picture books and advertisements.

The Dillons even forged a new artistic identity. They described their collaboration as a “third artist,” drawing on the combined powers of their own individual styles….

Leo and Diane Dillon’s painting for the cover of Harlan Ellison’s ‘No Doors No Windows.’ (Courtesy R. Michelson Galleries)

The article also has this photo of another item – an album of fan photos, some dating back to the Fifties.

(2) ON THE FRONT. Austin Conrad has more advice for SFWA Blog readers in “Sourcing Art on a Budget (Part 2)”

High-quality art plays an important role in creating the well-presented products expected by most consumers of tabletop games, but commissioning bespoke art can be expensive. Like a novel’s cover, an RPG’s interior graphics evoke the game’s aesthetic and market the game to the audience. Many tabletop writers—especially new creators—don’t have the resources to commission the expected quantity of art. What, then, are a tabletop writer’s ethical alternatives?…

(3) 2024 FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM SERIES: AUSTRALIA. [Item by Joe Siclari.] In 2022, we had a very interesting Fan History Zoom Session on Australian history with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. We didn’t even get to the first Australian Worldcon so we are going to continue.

Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track, Part 2 with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. Saturday, February 17, 2024. Time: 7PM EST, 4 PM PST and 11AM Feb. 18, Melbourne AEDT

To attend, send a note to [email protected]

(4) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE WINNERS Q&A. Space Cowboy Books will host four Writers of the Future winners in an online event late this month. Register for free HERE.

Online Reading & Interview with Writers of the Future Winners

Tuesday Feb. 27th 4:30pm PT

Reading and Interview with Writers of the Future Winners: David Hankins, Elaine Midcoh, Jason Palmatier, & TJ Knight.

Be amazed. Be amused. Be transported … by stories that take you by surprise and take you further and deeper into new worlds and new ideas than you’ve ever gone before…. Twelve captivating tales from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy accompanied by three from masters of the genre.

Get your copy of the book at Bookshop.org.

(5) VERSE IS BETTER. Holly Henderson recommends “Using Poetry to Enhance Your Writing” at the SFWA Blog.

Poetry can be one of the shortest forms of fiction, but it has the ability to make an outsized impact on the reader. This is especially true when poetry is combined with fantasy and science fiction—both forms aspire to express common concepts in uncommon ways.

From classics like The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien to recent Hugo Award winner A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, poetry has been used throughout the history of speculative fiction to jumpstart brainstorming, enhance worldbuilding, and reinforce themes so they resonate far beyond the last page….

Effective Poetry Is Its Own Skill Set

Study poetry as you would any other aspect of your craft. Read collections with a wide variety, such as Chris Riddell’s Poems to… series. Pick apart your favorites to figure out why they work. Explore different forms to expand your horizons beyond the ABAB rhyme scheme.

That being said, you don’t need an MFA in Poetry to incorporate it into your novel. Just like with prose, there’s a lot to be said for writing poetry you like to read. Don’t get caught in the trap of it having to be a certain way to be “right.” One of the most beautiful things about poetry is that it encourages you to break the rules….

(6) SWANWICK’S TRIBUTE TO WALDROP. “Howard Waldrop, Implausibly, Is No More” mourns Michael Swanwick at Flogging Babel.

Howard Waldrop is dead. This seems impossible–almost as impossible as that he could have existed in the first place. He was unlike anybody else. I once labeled him in print as “the weird mind of his generation,” and it was true. He simply didn’t think the way other people did.

You could see it in the best of his stories. People would come back from conventions where he’d read a new story (he incubated them in his mind for a long time and didn’t write anything down until the story was letter-perfect; fans learned that you could squeeze a new one out of him by making him the guest of honor at a con and requesting that he read something new at it; the night before the reading, he’d sit down and write out… something amazing) and say something like, “Howard wrote a story about dodo birds surviving in the American South,” or “Howard wrote a story about Dwight D. Eisenhower becoming a jazz musician,” and I’d think: Damn. I wish I’d had that idea! One day somebody said, “Howard wrote a story about Izaak Walton and John Bunyan going fishing in the Slough of Despond.”…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 55. Author, puppeteer, voice actor. Mary Robinette Kowal is an amazing individual indeed.

As I always find out who is narrating the audio works I’m listening to, I first encountered her when she was voicing some of the works that I like best, such as Seanan McGuire’s Indexing novels which are so wonderfully narrated by Kowal. 

Mary Robinette Kowal

She has an ability to give life to each character in a novel so that the listener can tell each of them apart by the way that she voices them. Her narration of her novel is Ghost Talkers is both properly spooky and horrifying in equal measure. 

While doing this essay I got curious about the idea of her as a puppeteer. She has been one for over thirty years and her production company is the Other Hand Productions. So she worked for Jim Henson Pictures in the Elmo in Grouchland film, she assisted Martin P. Robinson who was Sesame Street’s Telly Monster in “Jackstraws” piece, and her design work has been recognized with UNIMA-USA citations of excellence for Mark Levenson’s Between Two Worlds and Other Hand Productions’ Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom. The Citation of Excellence was founded by Jim Henson and is the highest award possible for an American puppeteer. Cool, eh? 

Now for the third part of her quite impressive career. I asked one of our Filers, Paul, to talk about that as I figured he’d read more deeply of her than I have. (I personally loved The Spare Man, Ghost Talkers and the Glamourist series. Her narration of The Spare Man is an  amazing experience speaking as one who only gets his long form fiction now in that way.)

So here’s Paul: “I was immediately enchanted with her first Glamourist history novel, Shades of Milk and Honey. I enjoyed the characters, the magic system and saw her homage to Regency romances, and liked it. I also particularly think that the last book in that series, Of Noble Family, engaging with some difficult subjects of class and race, is a strong entry that shows Kowal’s willingness to work with such material and face the issues therein.  Her recent The Spare Man encapsulates a lot of what she does, on a luxury liner, in SPAAACE.  And while many will point at her Lady Astronaut series as her current pinnacle of work (and I did borrow Elma York’s mental trick of composing fibonacci numbers in my head while hiking in Nepal), I think her alternate WWI fantasy novel Ghost Talkers is very unjustly overlooked as a compelling novel of a woman caught by her duty and needs in a terrible, dangerous wartime.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest has an encounter with a librarian about Robin Hood. But they’re not arguing whether it’s sff….
  • F Minus says there’s a downside to owning a superpet.

(9) PATRICK S. TOMLINSON. The Independent invites readers to “Meet the most ‘swatted’ man in America”.

Mr Tomlinson told The Independent he had woken in the middle of the night to find officers banging on his door, been handcuffed, and had guns shoved in his face during the yearslong ordeal. He was once swatted four times in one day.

Mr Filion has not been charged in relation to the swats on Mr Tomlinson’s home, and investigators believe there are at least two individuals behind the Torswats account.

The FBI, Milwaukee Police Department and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida where the teenager is facing four felony counts declined to provide further information, beyond an extensive account of Mr Filion’s activities in a probable cause charging document.

After Mr Filion was arrested on 18 January at his home in Lancaster, Los Angeles County, Mr Tomlinson said he and his wife Niki Robinson had their first decent night of sleep in years.

Their relief was short-lived. Within a day of Mr Filion’s arrest, a Telegram channel named “Torswats Return” was created by someone claiming that their “partner has been arrested”, according to posts viewed by The Independent.

The channel stated that it would continue offering “swats” for as little as $40, and offered returning customers a discounted rate. It also posted derogatory photographs and text about Mr Tomlinson — noting that there would be no charge for requested swats against him.

“And of course swats to Patrick… are free,” read the Telegram message.

… The science fiction author has endured relentless harassment from an anonymous online army of what he describes as “cyber terrorists”. He says they have stalked and impersonated him, defaced his home, and continue to send a daily avalanche of abusive phone calls, voicemail messages and emails.

“I wont stop until one of them die (sic),” a message posted to the channel, referring to Mr Tomlinson, on 6 January stated.

As swatting incidents have spiked in recent months, victims and cybersecurity experts say law enforcement are failing to deal with the threat.

Last month, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley revealed she was targeted by swatting hoaxes twice in two days, and has requested Secret Service protection amid the rising threats to her safety. She is among the dozens of lawmakers, judges in Trump trials and public figures who have experienced tactical response teams turn up at their homes in response to the false callouts.

Swatting, defined by the Anti Defamation League (ADL) as a “malicious act of reporting a false crime or emergency to evoke an aggressive response”, emerged from online gaming communities in the early 2000s, where rivals would call 911 on each other and watch the armed response on livestream.

The ADL estimates there were over 1,000 swatting incidents in 2019, but the true figure is unclear as there is no federal statute against swatting that would enable convictions to be recorded….

(10) IF COVER REVEAL. Worlds of IF magazine has shared Bob Eggleton’s cover art and the table of contents for the relaunch’s inaugural issue. Issue #177 will be released later this month as both a digest-sized print version and digital download. The PDF version will be free for a limited time at this link. Subscribe to the mailing list for updates.

Featuring stories, poetry, and art by:

  • Renan Bernardo
  • David Brin
  • Michael Butterworth
  • Tara Campbell
  • Kwame Cavil
  • J. Dalton
  • Tatiana Daubek
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Zdravka Evtimova
  • Richard Grieco
  • Akua Lezli Hope
  • Pedro Iniguez
  • Ai Jiang
  • Leslie Kean
  • Rodney Matthews
  • Bruce Pennington
  • Charles Platt
  • Daniel Pomarède
  • Paulo Sayeg
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Andrew Stewart
  • Nigel Suckling
  • Dave Vescio 

(11) CLASSIC FILM MAGAZINE BACK IN PRINT. L’Incroyable Cinema: The Film Magazine of Fantasy and Imagination is available once more. The five issues published in the Sixties and Seventies have been reproduced in paperback editions for sale at Amazon.uk.

For example, issue #4 with Hitchcock on the cover includes the writing of Harry Nadler, Steve Vertlieb, Allan Asherman, and Charles Partington and their coverage of  Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and “Hitchcock – Master of the Eloquent Absurdity”.

Please note: This is a REPRODUCTION scanned from an original printed copy – whilst every care has been taken to make this as accurate as possible to the original some flaws etc will be evident. The only changes made to the layout have been to comply with Amazon printing guidelines. They have been reproduced with the permission of Tony Edwards who printed the originals way back when. Brought to you by Steve Kirkham and Tree Frog Publications.

Issues #2-#5 had color cover artwork by Eddie Jones, featuring Boris Karloff, Star Trek’s Spock and Kirk, Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Harryhausen. All issues had extensive picture coverage of sf and horror films.

(12) HOW TO READ A CHARCOAL SCROLL. “First complete passages from ancient Herculaneum scroll decoded” at CNN.

After using artificial intelligence to uncover the first word to be read from an unopened Herculaneum scroll, a team of researchers has revealed several nearly complete passages from the ancient text, giving insight into philosophy from almost 2,000 years ago.

The Herculaneum scrolls are hundreds of papyri that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. In their charred state, the ancient documents would crumble if anyone attempted to unroll them, and any writing on surviving pieces would be nearly illegible to the human eye.

By using computer technology and advanced artificial intelligence, researchers can now analyze the Herculaneum scrolls without unrolling and risking damage to the extremely fragile documents. More than 2,000 characters — the first full passages — have been deciphered from a scroll, according to an announcement Monday by computer scientists who launched the Vesuvius Challenge, a competition designed to accelerate the discoveries made on the scrolls….

… The recently decoded passages were pulled from the end of a scroll and reveal words written by the philosopher Philodemus, who was believed to be the philosopher-in-residence working at the library in which the scrolls were found, the announcement said.

…In the deciphered text, Philodemus writes on “pleasure,” and whether the abundance of goods available can affect the amount of pleasure they give. “As too in the case of food, we do not right away believe things that are scarce to be absolutely more pleasant than those which are abundant,” the first sentence reads….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. TheHow It Should Have Ended crew say that when it comes to Dune what they really need to fix is “How It Should Have Started”.

An animated Dune cartoon. When House Atreides dares to pass on the spice, who will take on the job? Only a Lethal Company will do.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/4/24 It’s 2024, Are Those Godstalks Distimmed Yet?

(1) THE MUSIC OF HEAVY METAL. Maya St. Clair remembers “When Heavy Metal Magazine Made Playlists” at News from the Orb.

When I worked at Heavy Metal magazine, people in my life inevitably assumed it was a publication about heavy metal music. My usual response was “not really,” and I’d describe how Heavy Metal was a comics magazine focused on experimental, adult-rated sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve since realized that a better response would have been “fuck it, probably” — since Heavy Metal, like cosmic background radiation, seemed to presuppose and pervade everything, including music. Name a thing, and Heavy Metal had it: yellow, cyan, black, magenta, rectangles, circles, pterodactyls, Homer, Shakespeare, love, death, superheroes, hamburgers, Jane Fonda, H. P. Lovecraft, boobs, dicks, God, jazz, rockabilly, and (inevitably) heavy metal music, lower case….

St. Clair has compiled playlists at Spotify that emulate some Heavy Metal writers’ Eighties recommendation lists. Including two by my old friend Lou Stathis! Here’s the first —

In 1980, as it reached the height of its influence and circulation, Heavy Metal introduced music criticism by SFF editor/music nerd Lou Stathis and others, in the “Dossier” section. The contrarian Stathis was a fearless advocate for the experimental over the conventional (he hated the fucking Eagles, man, and Bruce Springsteen’s normie-ism was a running joke). Alternative icons like Brian Eno, Genesis, the Cure, Grace Jones, Gary Numan, Laurie Anderson, and Tangerine Dream got their recognition in Heavy Metal, plus uncountable niche bands.

Anyway, the HM squad would occasionally throw together a DJ set, album recs, or mixtape. I’ve consolidated them into playlists on Spotify, linked below….

The Metal Box: Lou Stathis’ 1983 Singles Picks

Stathis sometimes compiled lists of his “heavy rotation” singles and albums. In April 1984, he listed his top picks for the previous year. Some, like Michael Jackson and Eurythmics, are recognizable. Others are supremely obscure.

The Metal Box 1983 on Spotify

(2) ON A TANGENT. Dave Truesdale introduces the “Tangent Online 2023 Recommended Reading List”, once again targeting SFWA as the reason “real world politics” have intruded on the science fiction field. Not because Truesdale is unaware of the history of sf, but because he argues that somehow the Thirties political activism of young sff writers and editors didn’t really count.

For the most part, the literary aspect of the science fiction field proceeded as usual in 2023; the general machinery operated well enough to keep the magazines and books appearing on reasonable schedules, and SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, formerly for decades since its 1965 inception the Science Fiction Writers of America) the field’s one and only member-funded 501(c)(3) tax exempt administrative organization, was still alive and kicking, though to my mind and due to external “real world” politics, took a wrong turn that gave the outside world an entirely misleading picture of the organization as a literary organization, but instead revealed its political advocacy (or lack thereof) on any given issue.…. 

…Politics has entered the SF field directly but sporadically over the past 97 years, since its official birth as a genre began with the April 1926 issue of Amazing Stories. Early readers became fans when they corresponded with others through letter columns, and small SF fan clubs began to sprout all over the country. The first SF worldcon was held July 1-4, 1939 in New York City, to coincide with the World’s Fair in the same city. Attendance was in the dozens and many of the members were in their teens. Sam Moskowitz (later to become SF’s premiere historian) chaired, with a few of his friends, this first worldcon at the ripe old age of 19. A group of SF fans known by their club name of the Futurians, led by Donald A. Wollheim (later founder of DAW Books), Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth, Doc Lowndes, and a few others were at odds with Moskowitz’s group and wanted to attend the worldcon. Many of these young SF fans were fashionably members of the local socialist or communist branches; it was the cool thing to do at the time. Without getting into the details (there were many different accounts given from both sides) the Moskowitz faction turned the Wollheim, Pohl, faction (the Futurians) away and were thus excluded from the convention. This became known in fandom and the early fan press as “The Great Exclusion Act.” Wollheim and Pohl, among others were either in their teens (C.M. Kornbluth 14 or 15, Pohl 19) or early twenties (Wollheim 24, Doc Lowndes 22) and full of headstrong piss and vinegar. That the feud between fan groups and the turning away of some from the worldcon was primarily because of politics was downplayed by Pohl when he wrote in his autobiography The Way the Future Was, “We pretty nearly had it coming,” and then, “What we Futurians made very clear to the rest of New York fandom was that we thought we were better than they were. For some reason that annoyed them.”

So in essence what amounted to an early fan feud between SF fan clubs whose members were still in their teens or early twenties and had little to do with politics, has somehow become the one size fits all go-to argument that supposedly proves politics has always been a part of SF and SF fandom and is thus nothing new….

(3) STAY OR GO? Catherynne M. Valente’s post “On Recent Developments at Substack” at Welcome to Garbagetown analyzes the dilemma of persisting in using that platform.

Many people have reached out to me to discuss Substack’s not-always-stellar history of managing a diverse breadth of opinions and/or policies on monetization.

Let me make it clear: This was always an issue, and I have always been aware of it. It’s gotten worse of late. And now I just feel like Marc Maron trying to figure out what to do with his friends who voted for Trump….

…Yes, Substack has and does allow dipshit fascist transphobic and otherwise morally-cancerous fuckgiblets to post freely and make money from their platform. They also allow a lot of marginalized creators to flourish and make a livelihood here. Like every other site I’ve ever known, all of whom have been incredibly reluctant to crack down on extreme right-wing content despite that very policy allowing it to proliferate wildly and bring us to a very bad historical place. Do I want them to kick out anyone making money on hate? Yep. Do I understand the slippery slope argument about free speech? That it’s much easier to take no stance and allow everything, trusting the users to sort it out, than to take the step of defining what opinions can be allowed to be heard? Yep.

I do not know if I’m going to stay here. I just don’t know. I came to Substack because of the Twitter diaspora. I managed to build a small audience, built mostly on hating fascism and idiocy. I like the community I and all of you have built here and I’m reluctant to migrate and lose people. But I don’t want to support the Badness by being here. And yet, if I go, does that not just abandon another space because bad people are also here, handing them control of yet another hugely-recognized platform, control they could never achieve on their own just on numbers and popularity, while the people who have any moral compass whatsoever have to continually start over from scratch?…

(4) AWARD-WORTHY APPAREL. The “Costume Designers Guild Awards 2024 Nominations” include two sff-specific categories. (See the full list of finalists at the link.)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

  • Barbie – Jacqueline Durran
  • Haunted Mansion – Jeffrey Kurland
  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes – Trish Summerville
  • The Little Mermaid – Colleen Atwood & Christine Cantella
  • Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire – Stephanie Porter

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television

  • Ahsoka: Part Eight: The Jedi, the Witch, and the Warlord – Shawna Trpcic
  • Loki: 1893 – Christine Wada
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 22: Guns for Hire – Shawna Trpcic
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Pride Parade – Laura Montgomery
  • The Witcher: The Art of the Illusion – Lucinda Wright

(5) OCCIDENTAL OCCULT. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton will teach a three-part online course “Confronting the Spectral: A History of Ghosts in the Western World With Lisa Morton” beginning January 22 through Atlas Obscura Experiences. Full details including schedule and prices at the link.

What We’ll Do

In this three-part lecture series, explore how people have thought about ghosts through time in the Western world.

Course Description

In this course, we’ll trace the history of ghostly encounters reported across the Western world, both friendly and nefarious. We’ll begin with ghosts from the classical world who haunted heroes like Gilgamesh and Odysseus, and look at the Biblical story of Saul and the Witch of Endor. We’ll meet medieval necromancers, Victorian spiritualists, and finally, the modern ghost-hunter. By the end of our time together, you’ll not only have a deep understanding of how cultures have conceived of the most common supernatural entity throughout history, but also ideas and suggestions for engaging in your own supernatural investigations.…

(6) SEA DEVILS SPINOFF? “Doctor Who Spinoff Series Seemingly Confirmed, Will Feature Classic Villains” says CBR.com.

A production listing on the Film and Television Industry Alliance website confirmed pre-production has begun on a spinoff series of the massively popular sci-fi series Doctor Who, which is scheduled to begin filming in March. The listing also provides a brief summary of the project, describing it as a fantasy-action adventure featuring the Sea Devils, an old villain from the classic Doctor Who series.

The listing does not provide any further details about the show’s plot, but it does reveal some of the crew members involved in the project, such as Doctor Who showrunner Russel T Davies set to return as the series’ writer. Other names include producers Phill Collinson, Vicki Delow, Julie Gardner and Lord of the Rings TV series producer Jane Tranter….

…As for when the spinoff series may see a premiere, the listing does not provide any concrete information, though it does confirm the projected filming date of March 4, 2024. …

(7) NEEDS WORK. The Mary Sue’s Charlotte Simmons would like to be a Zack Snyder fan if only the auteur would make that a little easier: “’Rebel Moon’ Proves That Zack Snyder Needs To Grow Up, and I Say That With Love”.

…Sure, it would have given the infamously obnoxious Snyder cult some more ammunition, but more good movies is a win for everybody. Sadly, whatever remotely interesting set dressing Zack Snyder cooked up here was woefully undermined by incoherent storytelling at its most relentless and suffocating character development—nay, the bare essentials of characterization—behind a mountain of formulaic sci-fi battles and dialogue that not even an amateur could be proud of.

Indeed, Rebel Moon is proof in the pudding that Snyder has some serious work to do, and that’s a damn shame, because the nature of his raw creative pursuits is stupendously important in the genres he occupies, which perhaps makes his failures all the more depressing….

(8) OCTOTHORPE CENTURY. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Lis Batty receive a telegram in episode 100 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I Don’t Have Show Notes or Alcohol”.

We celebrate with a bevy of special segments, including ”letters of comment”, “talking about the Glasgow Worldcon”, and “aftershow involving games”. PRETTY ADVANCED STUFF. 

(9) GLYNIS JOHNS (1923-2024). Actress Glynis Johns, best known to fans as Mrs. Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) and as a forest maiden who assists Danny Kaye’s character in The Court Jester (1955), died January 4 at the age of 100. She also appeared in several episodes of Sixties TV’s Batman as Lady Penelope Peasoup.

…Johns won a Tony for her role as Desiree Armfeldt in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” introducing the song “Send in the Clowns” — written for her by Sondheim. In addition she was Oscar-nominated for her supporting role in 1960’s “The Sundowners.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 66. I encountered Matt Frewer the same way that I suspect most of you did when he was unrecognizable as Max Headroom almost forty years ago. That character debuted in April 1985 in the Channel 4 film Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. It’s virtually identical to the premiere of the American television series, though there might be a bit of foul language if I remember correctly. Or not. 

Two days after it was broadcast, Max hosted on the same channel The Max Headroom Show, a program where he introduced music videos, made pointed comments on various topics, and conducted rather off the wall interviews with guests before a live studio audience. These would eventually be aired in the States on Cinemax.

Max would become a global spokesperson for New Coke, appearing on way too many TV commercials with the catchphrase “Catch the wave!”.  You can see one of those commercials here

Now we come to the Max Headroom series which on ABC from just March 31, 1987, to May 5, 1988 with just a total of fifteen episodes. Damn it seemed like it lasted longer than that. He, like everyone on the series, was spot on in creating a believable future. I consider it one of the best SF series ever done.

He’s got way too many genre roles to list them all here so let me focus on a few of my favorite ones.

He was Dr. Jim Taggart on Eureka. On screen for a total of eighteen episodes, his Aussie character was the Eureka’s veterinarian and “biological containment specialist”, which means he catches whatever needs to be caught. If it moved and it did something weird, he was after it.

And then he was Dr. Aldous Leekie, the primary Big Bad on the first season of Orphan Black. He was in charge of the handling the clones as if anyone should trust him.

Though I find it hard to believe, the Hallmark Channel produced the Hallmark Sherlock Holmes films. And he was Sherlock Holmes in four of these films — The Sign of FourThe Hound of BaskervillesThe Royal Scandal and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire.

My final role for him a silly one indeed, it’s in In Search of Dr. Seuss where he is the Cat in The Hat. This thirty-nine-year-old film is a delightful romp  — Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Hunch, Patrick Stewart is Sgt. Mulvaney, and the list goes on far too long to give in full here. 

And yes, he’s been in a lot of genre films, go ahead and tell me your favorite. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHO IS YOUR HOST. All you Tennant fans pay attention: “David Tennant To Host 2024 BAFTA Film Awards” reports Deadline.

Former Doctor Who actor David Tennant has been set as the host of the 2024 BAFTA Film Awards, which take place February 18 at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in London….

…Jane Millichip, CEO of BAFTA, added: “We are over the moon that David Tennant will be our host for the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards. He is deservedly beloved by British and international audiences, alike. His warmth, charm, and mischievous wit will make it a must-watch show next month for our guests at the Royal Festival Hall and the millions of people watching at home….

(13) SEMI-MANDATORY VIEWING. Dylan sang “Everyone Must Get Stoned” but never mind that, CBR.com insists you see these 10 “Must-Watch Sci-Fi Movies For Fans of The Genre”. Or heck, maybe you already have! In the middle of the list comes the film that gave us Ripley.

5. Alien Combined Science and Horror Perfectly

Alien (1979)

The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission….

Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s biomechanical designs for the alien artifacts and creatures helped turn a great movie into an incredible one. With a story that starts out similarly to Forbidden Planet, in which a space crew investigates a distress signal, the film is transformed into an intense thriller with a horrifying Alien Xenophorph stalking and killing the crew. With stunning visuals and a premise too good for just one movie, Alien spawned a multi-media franchise that has entertained for more than four decades.

(14) MORE PICKUP. And it’s arguably appropriate to follow a mention of the Alien series (“Get away from her you bitch!”) with Giant Freakin Robot’s news item “Exoskeletons Take Huge Step Toward Becoming Common”.

Science fiction would appear to be becoming nonfiction in Europe. Indeed, in Italy, a groundbreaking pilot project involving real-life exoskeletons achieved exciting results. The Port System Authority of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea and the Livorno Port Company reported marked advantages using the exoskeletal tech, developed by IUVO and Comau (a subsidiary of Stellantis)….

…The workers regularly undertook strenuous tasks: loading and unloading goods, relocating heavy loads, and securing containers onto ships. Without the sci-fi-reminiscent exoskeletons, these activities are notoriously exhausting. They also pose genuine risks of introducing musculoskeletal disorders.

The initial evaluations conducted by IUVO and Comau involved measuring muscle activity and gathering feedback through questionnaires–all to assess the perceived drop in fatigue. The findings were overwhelmingly positive. Laborers reportedly adjusted well to the novel technology, additionally recognizing the exoskeleton’s significant impact on their efficiency and physical well-being. 

Based on the data, utilizing MATE XT and MATE XB technologies can potentially lessen the effort required by workers.

By how much? As much as thirty percent….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended crew knows “How Batman Should Have Ended” – meaning the version where Michael Keaton is Batman and Jack Nicholson is The Joker.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4/23 Cool Carbonite Hand Luke 

(1) POWELL ARRESTED. Longtime fan Rickland Powell was arrested December 1 in connection with “assaulting a female child who is known to him” according to the Middlesex (MA) District Attorney.  Their press release follows.

Powell is on the list of people who have been banned from Arisia. Prior to that he worked on Arisia over the past couple of decades in positions ranging from Division Head to logistics and art show help.

(2) UNCATCHABLE. Gideon Lewis-Kraus’ “Maybe We Already Have Runaway Machines”, a discussion of David Runciman’s The Handover: How We Gave Control of Our Lives to Corporations, States, and AIs,  is a rather Strossian article in The New Yorker.

…Yet we citizens of modern states have always labored under the shadow of a partly mitigated alignment problem—a “mismatch between the drives of these artificial persons and the needs of the planet,” as Runciman describes it—that provides a frame, a vocabulary, and a sense of foreboding as we seek to process the automation on the horizon. The concern about unaligned machines is that even if we can program, so to speak, their ultimate ends, we can’t necessarily anticipate the instrumental subgoals they might pursue as an intermediate measure. If you instruct a machine to complete a task, the likeliest instrumental subgoal is to “gain control.” If the danger of the alignment problem seems indistinct or preposterous, Runciman suggests, you haven’t been paying attention….

“… States and corporations reflect two different sides of our contemporary fear of machines that have escaped human control. One is that we will build machines that we don’t know how to switch off, either because we have become too dependent on them or because we can’t find the off switch. That’s states. The other is that we build machines that self-replicate in ways that we can no longer regulate. They start spewing our versions of themselves to the point where we are swamped by them. That’s corporations….”

(3) FOLLOW-UP ON ALASKAN MUDSLIDE. Max Florschutz wrote in November that his mother survived the mudslide in his hometown of Wrangell, Alaska but at that time he did not know the fate of his father. Unfortunately, his father passed on. He has an update in “Emergency News and Classic Being a Better Writer: Horizontal and Vertical Storytelling” at Unusual Things.

(4) BEST XX. Esquire’s list of “The 20 Best Books of 2023” is topped by a genre work.

…Our selections range from debut works by emerging voices to new outings for canonical writers. They delve into everything from prisons to shipwrecks, ghost stories to extraterrestrials, American dreaming to American failures. Whether you’re into novels, short stories, memoirs, or nonfiction, we’ve covered the whole waterfront here with a bumper crop of incredible books. They’re all worth their weight in gold (believe us, we know exactly how much they weigh).

Below, here are Esquire’s 20 best books of the year…

Ranked number one:

Chain-Gang All-Stars, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Ever since his breakout debut, Friday Black, we’ve been eagerly awaiting Adjei-Brenyah’s sophomore outing. Nearly five years later, it arrived this past spring, and it surpassed all expectations. In a dystopian United States, the prison-industrial complex has gone private, leaving incarcerated people with no choice but to compete for their freedom in the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment system. Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker have traveled together for years as Links in the same Chain-Gang, but as Thurwar nears her freedom, she contemplates how to bring dignity to her multi-racial and multi-gendered coalition of fellow gladiators. Reading Chain-Gang All-Stars in a nation addicted to violent sports that brutalize athletes of color, Adjei-Brenyah’s acerbic vision lands like a lightning bolt of truth.

Read an exclusive excerpt here at Esquire.

(5) WILKINS GOFUNDME. Cory Doctorow signal boosted an appeal to help Pacific Northwest bookseller Duane Wilkins.

Nearly every sf writer who’s ever toured the west coast knows Duane – he’s the encyclopedically knowledgeable sf buyer for the U Washington Bookseller, who has organized some of the best sf signings in Seattle history. He’s a force of nature.

He’s also broke. A two-week hospital stay left him drowning in medical debt – despite being insured! – and now he’s being threatened by a collection agency.

Now, Duane is forced into participating in one of the most barbaric of contemporary American rituals, fundraising to cover his medical debt. He’s raised $6k of the $10k he needs (I just pitched in $100).

If you can afford to help out someone who’s done so much for our community, please kick Duane whatever you can spare.

Shawn Speakman, who set up the GoFundMe (“Please Help Duane Wilkins Pay His Medical Debt”) says there are reward for certain levels of donation. (Also note – as of this writing the appeal has brought in $15,567).

I told him that I’d help him relieve that debt and raise some extra funds for any future situation that might require aid.

That’s where you come in.

If you donate $10 or more, Grim Oak Press will email you free ebooks of our amazing anthologies UnfetteredUnfettered IIUnfettered IIIUnbound, and Unbound II. These are filled with amazing SF&F short stories. Google them to view their incredible author line-ups.

And if you donate more than $20 to Duane’s GoFund Me, several of these writers are willing to give free ebooks of some of their novels. Starting with me and my newly-edited edition of The Dark Thorn.

I hope you will consider donating to Duane’s GoFundMe and help spread word about it. Together, we can help one of our best SF&F booksellers….

(6) MONSTER MASH. They’re at it again: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Official Trailer is coming to theaters April 12, 2024.

(7) FAITHFUL EEYORE. John Boston reviews the latest (in 1968) issue of Amazing at Galactic Journey. “[December 4, 1968] Sign Me Up (January 1969 Amazing)”.

In this January’s Amazing, on page 138, there is an editorial—A Word from the Editor, it says, bylined Barry N. Malzberg—which suggests a different direction (or maybe I should just say “a direction”) for this magazine.  First is some news.  There will be no letter column; Malzberg would rather use the space for a story.  Second, “the reprint policy of these magazines will continue for the foreseeable future,” per the publisher, but “A large and increasing percentage of space however will be used for new stories.”

Pointedly, the editor adds, “it is my contention that the majority of modern magazine science-fiction is ill-written, ill-characterized, ill-conceived and so excruciatingly dull as to make me question the ability of the writers to stay awake during its composition, much less the readers during its absorption.  Tied to an older tradition and nailed down stylistically to the worst hack cliches of three decades past, science-fiction has only within the past five or six years begun to emerge from its category trap only because certain intelligent and dedicated people have had the courage to wreck it so that it could crawl free. . . .  I propose that within its editorial limits and budget, Amazing and Fantastic will do what they can to assist this rebirth—one would rather call it transmutation—of the category and we will try to be hospitable to a kind of story which is still having difficulty finding publication in this country.”

As far as I know fifty years later Malzberg is still disappointed in science fiction. G.W. Thomas took inventory of some of his past predictions for the genre in “The Fate of Science Fiction According to Barry N. Malzberg” at Dark Worlds Quarterly.

(8) MEDICAL UPDATE. Erwin “Filthy Pierre” Strauss, who fell down some stairs at Smofcon thie weekend, suffered a broken wrist and was taken to New England Hospital, wrote Kevin Standlee yesterday. “They expect to keep him at least one more night. Sufford and Tony Lewis will retrieve him from the hospital when he is released.”

(9) TIM DORSEY (1961-2023). Crime novelist Tim Dorsey, who wrote about the eccentricities of Floridians long before Florida Man became a meme, died November 26. The New York Times obituary is here: “Tim Dorsey, Who Turned Florida’s Quirks Into Comic Gold, Dies at 62”.

…Mr. Dorsey gave his books comic titles that reflected the blend of Jimmy Buffett and Raymond Chandler that filled their interiors.

“The Maltese Iguana,” published this year, was Mr. Dorsey’s most recent book.via HarperCollins

He reveled in the diversity of Florida — the dog tracks and swamps around Miami, the Redneck Riviera along the Panhandle, the morass of state politics in Tallahassee, the nostalgic weirdness of the Keys.

His novel “Atomic Lobster” (2008), Mr. Dorsey said in an interview with Powell’s Books, was “the dissection of a Florida neighborhood populated almost entirely by degenerates, con men, the terminally dysfunctional, golf freaks, trophy wives, and prescription-abusing retirees in Buicks tying up traffic. In other words, a documentary.”

Some people considered Serge to be Mr. Dorsey’s alter ego, but he corrected them. Serge was, he said, his ego, living the kind of life and doing the sorts of things he would love to do if not constrained by conscience and the law….

(10) TODAY’S WISDOM.

From Wole Talabi:

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys wondered how to get hold of Batman if the Batlight went out.
  • Tom Gauld decodes some highly technical terminology so the layperson can understand it.

(12) LEGACY. Bobby Derie looks at an example of the Japanese Cthulhu Mythos in “The Cthulhu Helix (2023) by Umehara Katsufumi (梅原克文)” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

… Which is why The Cthulhu Helix works as a Lovecraftian novel. The characters are all conscious of Lovecraft’s legacy, but for them it’s all shorthand and metaphor, a way to frame and discuss these complex ideas and relationships without getting bogged down in Elder Signs and other minutiae. The particular approach Umehara took is fairly Derlethian, but that’s not surprising considering when and where it was published….

(13) SEEKING SUBSCRIBERS. Sunday Morning Transport’s free-to-read story for December is “Deconstruction in the Form of a Cat God” by LaShawn Wanak.

LaShawn Wanak opens with talking cats; then the tale only grows more wondrous — and we can think of nothing better

(14) CASTING CALL. Slashfilm tells readers “How David Tennant Ended Up Playing Huyang In Star Wars”.

… It’s brilliant casting, if I may gush for a moment. I love him in both franchises. I think part of the appeal is that David Tennant’s voice is pretty recognizable; “Doctor Who” fans have a built-in feeling that this is a wise person who has centuries of universal knowledge behind whatever he’s saying. I suppose you could say the same thing for fans of “Good Omens” (where he plays a fallen angel who has been around for all of time) who only discovered Tennant’s Huyang in “Ahsoka.” Of course, his performances are great across the board, but there is something to be said for many audience members having immediate feelings about him from his past work…. 

(15) IT’S GOOD FOR YOU. “Neuroscience Says 1 Rather Brainless Activity Can Lower Your Stress and Make You More Productive” says Inc.com. And we’re all into brainless activities, right?

…The activities included coloring in a mandala, doodling within or around a circle marked on a paper, and having a free-drawing session, each for three minutes, with rest periods in between. During all three activities, there was an increase in blood flow in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which forms a part of the wiring for our brain’s reward circuit. 

“This shows that there might be inherent pleasure in doing art activities independent of the end results,” said the study’s lead author.

The advantages of creating art go beyond just the pleasure of the activity itself. According to surveys before and after the art-making activities, participants who engaged in art-making felt more creative and were better able to solve problems….

(16) AI CON GAME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s documentary programme File on Four has taken a fascinating look at how artificial intelligence (A.I.) is being used by criminals to con victims. A crime that, if written as a story a decade ago, would be decidedly SFnal.  A.I.-generated deep fakes are no longer restricted to images but also to voices and even video.  In the programme, the presenter gets a researcher to train an A.I. to simulate the presenter’s voice and then gets the A. I. to phone his mother: someone who arguably best knows what his voice sounds like. His mother is completely taken in by the A.I. voice.

The programme reveals that the banks, which have been using voice identification as an added security measure, are in an arms race with criminals. One A.I. researcher has even refused to let his bank use voice identification on his account!

Artificial intelligence, or AI, makes it possible for machines to learn – and in the future it will perform many tasks now done by humans. But are criminals and bad actors ahead of the curve? AI is already being used to commit fraud and other crimes by generating fake videos and audio; fast emerging threats that form just part of a potential new crime wave. File on 4 investigates.

You can listen to the half-hour programme here: File on 4, Artificial Intelligence: The Criminal Threat”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended, strangely enough, has an opinion about how Transformers: Rise of the Beasts should have ended.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Ersatz Culture, Steven French, Andrew (not Werdna), Kathy Sullivan, Kevin Standlee, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/23 Glass Pixels Are Good For Seeing Into The Hearts Of Scrolls

(1) CLASSIC CAR WITH AN SFF PEDIGREE. J. Michael Straczysnki told Facebook readers he needs a taker for the late Harlan Ellison’s 1947 Packard.

For the last six months, we’ve talked to just about every vintage car company in existence about buying Harlan’s 1947 Packard, to no avail. It’s not an especially collectible car, not in great condition, not worth much on the market, and nobody we spoke to knew who Harlan was or felt that this added to its market value.

We need to get the car out of the garage where it’s been sitting, exposed to the elements, every day for almost ten years because the plan is to turn the open garage into an enclosed, on-site storage and work area to make it easier to work on the house, rotate out equipment, and store display cabinets and other items to be used for exhibitions. But I really don’t want to just sell it for parts because it hurts my heart.

Knowing Harlan, I think he’d want the Packard to end up in the hands of a fan who could appreciate it, look after it, maybe fix it up over time. Which brings me here. If there’s a stone Harlan fan who can arrange to have the car (safely) picked up and transported away, it’s yours.

(And to everyone looking on: please don’t send me suggestions or links or say “well, what about this company?” or “I think I know a guy” or “what about an SF museum somewhere” because we have spent half a year chasing that stuff down and come up empty every time. We have to start the process of transforming the garage into on-site storage and as a place for the contractors currently making repairs to the house to seek refuge from the bitter heat. It’s been a long, difficult and annoying process, with so many folks flaking out on us, so honestly, just don’t.)

Any takers? Serious only. Must be able to pick it up by no later than the end of August.

UPDATED TO ADD: Despite the very clear request not to post more dead-end solutions, true to the tradition of the Internet, people keep posting the very thing they’re being asked not to post. I don’t mean to be crotchety about it, but I don’t know how to express it any more clearly: the only posts here should be from folks interested in taking the car, so if we can keep the signal to noise ratio to a minimum that would be grand. Otherwise every time I get pinged with a notification and think, oh, good, we have someone who can take the car, I come back to…the opposite.

Harlan Ellison wrote about his love for that Packard here.

I’m sitting in my car, my car is a 1947 Packard. I got a current car. I drive that one, but I love the Packard. I love the Packard because it was built to run, built to last. You could hit this car with 200 small Japanese cars and they would be demolished into ashes. When I go past a grade school little kids have no idea what this car is. They have no idea it was made in 1947. They don’t even know there was a year called 1947. But they see this car go by and they give me that (thumbs up & OK signs) and that means they recognize something that is forever, like the pyramids….

(2) X NO LONGER MARKS THE SPOT. Charlie Jane Anders has pulled the plug on her X (formerly Twitter) account. It’s gone. “If you see me on Twitter, it’s not me”. She tells why another common strategy for leaving the platform wouldn’t work for her:

…. Many, many people have advised me to delete all of my tweets, lock my account, and simply stop tweeting. Their argument is that someone else could take my username and impersonate me, which feels like a real, serious issue — but if I leave my account inactive for long enough, Twitter will probably take my username away and let someone else take it in any case. So I apologize in advance to anyone who sees a fake Charlie Jane on Twitter and gets confused. It’s not me, I swear. (And that’s part of why I’m writing this newsletter: so people can point to it if there’s any confusion.)

I feel the need to make a clean break from Twitter at this point. After all of the proliferation of hate speech, and the random shutdowns of progressive accounts that challenge the owner’s rigid orthodoxy, I was already wanting to make a break for it. But after the latest scandals involving CSAM, I really feel as though I have no choice. And the “clean break” thing feels important — to be honest, I don’t entirely trust myself not to log in a month from now when I have something to announce, unless I delete the account entirely….

(3) CELEBRATE BRATMAN’S HALF-CENTURY OF SCHOLARSHIP. A collection of David Bratman’s nonfiction, Gifted Amateurs, has been released by the Mythopoeic Press.

For more than four decades, David Bratman has established himself as a leading authority on J.R.R. Tolkien, the Inklings, and the enchanting realms of fantasy literature. Bratman’s scholarly articles, captivating Mythopoeic Conference presentations, and esteemed editorial work for the newsletter Mythprint and the journal Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review have solidified his expertise. Now, in celebration of his profound contributions and recent distinction as the Scholar Guest of Honor at Mythcon 52, the Mythopoeic Press proudly presents Gifted Amateurs and Other Essays, an extraordinary collection of some of Bratman’s most insightful, engaging, and intellectually stimulating works.

Within these pages, discover the untold stories behind the “Top Ten Rejected Plot Twists from The Lord of the Rings,” unravel the religious themes woven throughout Middle-earth, and delve into the surprising origins of hobbit names. Guided by Bratman’s unwavering curiosity and scholarly passion, explore the fascinating history of the Inklings and how they connect to the boundless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, unearth the dramatic works of Lord Dunsany and the overlooked masterpiece of Mervyn Peake, and revel in the mythopoeic genius of Roger Zelazny. Seamlessly blending scholarship and entertainment, Gifted Amateurs and Other Essays invites readers on a journey that illuminates the true essence and enduring power of mythopoeic storytelling.

David Bratman has been writing Tolkien scholarship for nearly 50 years. He’s been co-editor of Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review since 2013 and has edited its annual “Year’s Work in Tolkien Studies” since 2004. In addition to contributing to Tolkien scholarship, Bratman has published works on Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, Ursula Le Guin, Mervyn Peake, Neil Gaiman, and others. Now a retired academic librarian, Bratman also was editor of the Mythopoeic Society’s members’ bulletin Mythprint for 15 years and worked on many Mythopoeic Conferences, including serving twice as chair.

(4) SDCC SOUVENIR BOOK. The 2023 San Diego Comi-Con souvenir book can be downloaded as a free PDF here.

(5) WANT TO BE A SPSFC JUDGE? The Self-Published Science Fiction Competition is recruiting judges for its third season. Apply here.

(6) YEARS PASS AND THESE ARE STILL LIVE ISSUES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SAG-AFTRA and producers are still at odds over many things. But, at least they have seemingly agreed to end the large majority of paintdowns and wiggings. 

Wait, what?

“Ending One of the Last Vestiges of Blackface in Hollywood” in Rolling Stone.

As SAG strikes, stunt performers have proposed one thing the union and studios can agree on: a new process to end controversial “paintdowns” and “wiggings”

Actor Jason George was a few years into his career when he secured his first starring role in a movie. It was the early 2000s, and he’d been cast as a co-lead in a mountain climbing flick called The Climb. He was excited for the prospect of a break until he walked into a trailer one day and saw a white man “wearing my wardrobe, my helmet, my climbing harness, and they’re putting makeup on him to make him look like me.”

George, who is Black, was stunned. 

“I did a double take — if you’d shot it for a movie, [my reaction] would’ve been too much, too big,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I stepped out to make sure I was in the right place, came back in, and said, ‘What is happening?’ And they said, ‘This is your stunt double.’”

What George had walked in on was a “paintdown.” It wasn’t blackface in the traditional sense of a minstrel show, but it was also definitely blackface. One of Hollywood’s many seedy little secrets, a paintdown is when the skin of a white stunt performer is darkened so they can double for an actor of color — rather than just hiring a stunt performer of the same ethnicity….

In the 20-odd years since, paintdowns and “wiggings” — a similar practice where, instead of hiring a stuntwoman, a man is dressed up to double a woman — have been on the decline, but they’re far from eradicated….

(7) A LITTLE MISTAKE. [Item by Kevin Hogan.] I always start my Hugo ballot early, based on what I nominated.  In case I’m abducted by aliens, at least my initial preferences will be taken into account.

The website itself is nicely done, and the ranking of choices is easy enough.  No way to accidentally rank multiple entries the same number with a drag and drop system. 

I feel that the English proofreading on the nominees might need another pass, though.  Unless Rachel Hartman truly is the secret 7th member of Monty Python.

Editor’s note: In case that’s too hard to read, we’re talking about Lodestone Award finalist Rachel Hartman’s In the Serpent’s Wake. When I voted today I copied the Chinese characters for Hartman’s work and ran them through Google Translate. It returned “Monty Python – Rachel Hartman (Random Children’s Books)” in English. The self-same Chinese text is part of the 2023 Hugo finalists press release.

(8) ROLL BACK THE RED CARPET. The New York Times is reporting “With Actors on Strike, Sony Pushes Big Releases to 2024”.

…Sony Pictures Entertainment on Friday pushed back the release of two major films that had been set to arrive in theaters by the end of the year — the Marvel Comics-based “Kraven the Hunter” and a sequel to “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”

In addition, Sony is postponing some of its big 2024 releases. “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse,” is no longer on track for a March premiere, and a new “Karate Kid” will no longer arrive in June.

Until now, the 2023 theatrical release schedule had been left relatively unscathed by the actors’ strike, which started on July 14. But other studios are likely to follow Sony’s lead. Warner Bros. has been debating whether to postpone “Dune: Part Two,” which is supposed to arrive in theaters on Nov. 3. “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” a big-budget superhero sequel, and “The Color Purple,” based on the Broadway musical, are among other 2023 holiday-season movies that could be delayed….

(9) BO GOLDMAN (1932-2023.) [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bo Goldman is probably best known as the screenwriter for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but many of his films received acclaim. He won two Oscars (for Cuckoo’s Nest plus Melvin and Howard) and was nominated for a third (for Scent of a Woman). Goldman died July 25. Read Variety’s tribute: “Bo Goldman, Oscar-Winning Writer of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ Script, Dies at 90”.

His only completed and credited genre work appears to be the script for Meet Joe Black (1998)—starring Brad Pitt as Joe Black, aka Death. He did also do uncredited script revisions for 1990’s Dick Tracy.

In an alternate reality, we could’ve seen Goldman’s take on the King Kong story. In 1975 he wrote a script for a Universal film, to be called The Legend of King Kong. It went unproduced after Paramount and Dino DeLaurentis sued in favor of their own 1976 release of King Kong. (Source: IMDb, Trivia section of his entry.)

Goldman is also credited as one of the sources for a fan-produced King Kong film from 2016

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 29, 1888 Farnsworth Wright. Editor of Weird Tales, editing an amazing 179 issues from November 1924–March 1940. Mike Ashley in EoSF says, “Wright developed WT from a relatively routine horror pulp magazine to create what has become a legend.” His own genre fiction is generally considered undistinguished. He also edited during the Thirties, Oriental Stories and The Magic Carpet. The work available digitally is a poem, “After Two Nights of the Ear-ache”. He was nominated at Loncon 3 for a Best Editor Retro Hugo. (Died 1940.)
  • Born July 29, 1907 Melvin Belli. Sole genre role is that of Gorgan (also known as the “Friendly Angel”) in the Star Trek “And the Children Shall Lead” episode. Koenig objected to his playing this role believing the role should have gone to someone who was an actor. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 29, 1915 Kay Dick. Author of two genre novels, The Mandrake Root and At Close of Eve, plus a collection, The Uncertain Element: An Anthology of Fanta. She is known in Britain for campaigning successfully for the introduction of the Public Lending Right which pays royalties to authors when their books are borrowed from public libraries. They which may or may not be genre is her only work available at the usual suspects. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. Founder of Atheneum Children’s Books, where she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s early Earthsea novels and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. An SF author as well for children and young adults, she wrote The Turning Place collection and three novels, Beloved Benjamin is WaitingBut We are Not of Earth and Strange Tomorrow. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. (Died 2022.)
  • Born July 29, 1955 Dave Stevens. American illustrator and comics artist. He created The Rocketeer comic book and film character. It’s worth noting that he assisted Russ Manning on the Star Wars newspaper strip and worked on the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost ArkThe Rocketeer film was nominated for a Hugo at MagiCon which was the year Terminator 2: Judgment Day won. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 29, 1956 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 67. Author of the India set magical realist The Brotherhood of the Conch series. She also has three one-off novels, The Palace of Illusions, The Mistress of Spices, and The Forest of Enchantments.

(11) VALHALLA FOR FANZINES. Thanks to Heath Row, the late Marty Cantor’s 54 boxes have been delivered to the Eaton Collection at UC Riverside. See photos on FB.

Today a friend and I loaded a rented van with 54 boxes of science fiction fanzines and amateur press association bundles and mailings to donate to the Eaton collection at UC Riverside. The collection spans 1975 to the present day. It is a veritable treasure trove.

(12) A JOLLY PAIR OF FRIGHTENERS. Once upon a time in 1968, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price sang a duet on the Red Skelton Hour.

(13) IS THAT WATER THEY SEE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There’s a pre-print just up on Nature in which an international collaboration of western European based astronomers has reported the detection of water in the terrestrial zone of a planet forming star system.

PDS 70 (V1032 Centauri) is a very young T Tauri star in the constellation Centaurus. Located 370 light-years (110 parsecs) from Earth, it has a mass of 0.76 M☉ and is approximately 5.4 million years old. The star has a protoplanetary disk containing two very early exoplanets, named PDS 70b and PDS 70c, which have previously been directly imaged by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. PDS 70b was the first confirmed protoplanet to be directly imaged.

Terrestrial and sub-Neptune planets are expected to form in the inner (less than 10 AU – 1 AU being the distance from Earth to the Sun) regions of protoplanetary disks.

The European astronomers’ findings show water in the inner disk of PDS 70. This implies that potential terrestrial planets forming therein have access to a water reservoir.

OK, before we get too excited 1) the edge of the detection is 1 AU (the distance from the Earth to our Sun) and 2) PDS 70 is smaller, hence cooler, K-type star than our Sun and so the habitable zone would closer in to the star than in the Solar System: further in than the 1AU detection limit.

OK, we can get a little excited. There has been a fair bit about water in proto-planetary systems recently and the over-all picture emerging does seem that it is likely that water might exist early in star systems’ lives in the habitable zone and not — as it is today either already on planets or alternatively on small bodies beyond planetary snow or frost line which in our system is beyond Jupiter. The reason it could exists so close in — as the pre-print alludes — is because proto-planetary systems have not yet has a star with solar wind clearing out all the interplanetary dust and gas: that came later.

Until recently, the conventional theory was that the Earth (and Mars) had water transported to it from beyond the snow line. by the more abundant comets in the early Solar system. Possibly these comets were driven inward by a migrating Jupiter to a more stable orbit, so providing the inner system with a late veneer or heavy bombardment of volatile rich comets. The picture that emerges is that water is more common — if not universal — in very early planetary systems and so planets forming there will have water.

The pre-print is Perotti, G. et al (2023) Water in the terrestrial planet-forming zone of the PDS 70 diskNature, vol. to be determined, pages to be determined.

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. The Smithsonian discusses the challenges of “Preserving Launch Infrastructure” at the National Air and Space Museum.

Launching a rocket is a complex operation, requiring personnel, equipment, and infrastructure. Space agencies and companies around the world, therefore, build giant ground systems to support launches. One of the largest and best-known launch complexes is Launch Complex 39 (LC 39), which NASA has used at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to stack and launch rockets for the Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle, and Artemis programs, among others.

All these programs have relied on a similar method of assembly. Apollo and Skylab’s Saturn V and Saturn IB, the Space Shuttle’s Space Transportation System, and Artemis’ Space Launch System (SLS) have all had their final construction inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). At 525 feet tall, the VAB is one of the largest buildings by volume in the world. Stacking the launch vehicle inside protects it from weather, including Florida’s frequent storms….

Both the mobile launch platforms and the CTs are enormous, meaning that they are both much too large to fit inside either of the National Air and Space Museum’s two locations. Even NASA does not have enough space to store the MLPs now that they will not be used for Artemis. At the same time, both structures are integral to the histories of three space programs. How can the Museum collect artifacts to tell this history? One way is through preserving representative components that can speak to the history, use, and scale of these pieces of infrastructure. 

From the Crawler Transporter, the Museum’s collection boasts two tread shoes. Seeing the shoes up close gives a sense of scale. Additionally, it is possible to see that these are shoes that have been used. Their wear and tear speaks to the heavy load that the CT carries as it moves the vehicle to the launch pad….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. How It Should Have Ended works out the correct finish for “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3”. Actually, several correct finishes. Take your pick!

How Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 Should Have Ended. Starlord remembers his boots, The High Evolutionary visits the Villain Pub, The Guardians visit the Super Cafe, and Rocket Raccoon saves his friends.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Kevin Hogan, Michael Toman, 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 P J Evans.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/23 “A Pixel Less Scrolled Is A Scroll Saved” As The Old Saying Doesn’t Go

(1) FROM FANFIC TO THE TOP. [Item by Steven French.] One to watch out for: after debuting with Boy Parts, ‘a mischievous satire’, and following that up with Penance, based on horrific true events, Eliza Clark is planning a third novel of speculative fiction and a collection of science fiction and horror short stories: “Eliza Clark: ‘I’m more primary school teacher than enfant terrible’” in the Guardian.

…She reckons that being a word-of-mouth success let her fly under the radar of critics ready to dismiss Granta’s selection as a list of commercially unsuccessful unknowns. “But you don’t want to be the arsehole who’s like: ‘Actually, if you were to check TikTok and ask 20-year-old girls on humanities courses at university, you’d find that one of these books is actually very popular,’” she says, with a winningly wicked laugh.

Being underestimated is something of a theme with Clark. In her early teens she read keenly, led by her parents to Tolkien, George RR Martin and Stephen King while finding Nabokov and Murakami on her own (“Ryū, not Haruki,” she adds quickly, as if to make certain I know that extreme horror is her jam, not pervy magic realism). The kind of pupil who once wowed English teachers by writing “pages and pages and pages”, she was blocked by her school from applying to study English at Oxbridge because she got C grades in GCSE maths and French. She then fell into boozing with pals (“it was very easy to underage drink in Newcastle”) and out of love with reading – or at least with books. “My brain had been so boiled by the internet by that point. I shouldn’t have been allowed to have my own laptop! Shock images were so clickable and findable. But I used to write loads of fan fiction and I wouldn’t have had all those years of writing practice.”…

(2) MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Cora Buhlert brings us her “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Pride Month Special: ‘Ambush in the Mystic Mountains’”.

…Last year, I posted a Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre Pride Month Special called “Fisto’s Significant Other”, in which Fisto and Ram-Man announce that they are a couple. This is only my head canon BTW, but the various cartoons hint quite strongly that Fisto as well as various other heroic warriors are not straight. And besides, they do make a cute couple.

Therefore, I decided to do another Pride Month Special featuring fan favourite Malcolm a.k.a. Fisto and his significant other Ram-Man a.k.a. Krass. Especially since I had just picked up the new Masterverse Deluxe Ram-Man figure.

So enjoy…

Ambush in the Mystic Mountains…

(3) INCREASING REPRESENTATION. Arturo Serrano interviews two game designers, Miguel Colón (designer of Boricubos) and Adrián Mejía (designer of Koboa) in “More Latin American content for your TTRPG sessions” at Nerds of a Feather.

…AS: How did you ensure a respectful representation of elements from real-world cultures?

MC (Boricubos): There is a careful balance here. As someone who is very entrenched in the culture, I had to make sure I represented what I loved about some of the stories I was told, some of the research I did, and some of the things that I came up with individually. This all blended together quite nicely, I believe. Ultimately, it is not my role to speak for every Puerto Rican, other Latin Americans, or anyone, really. I am trying to represent something deeply personal to me, share with others something that would make them interested in doing their own research, and present a new point of view for people. It’s very hard because, in order for the setting to work, there have to be things that are inspired by the actual culture, but also things that are completely independent. I think the best thing for people to take away is that Boricubos represents some stories and legends, but is not a one-for-one recreation.

AM (Koboa): It is an ongoing process. We have built up a team of South American designers, writers, and artists with extremely diverse backgrounds and experiences. Additionally, all our content (writing, art briefs, illustrations, etc.) goes through two or more cultural and sensitivity consultants, to ensure we don’t inadvertently represent elements of culture in ways that are harmful or offensive….

(4) HWA PRIDE. The Horror Writers Association blog continues this month’s theme with “A Point of Pride: Interview with Mae Murray”.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I didn’t have an idyllic childhood. I was exposed to a lot of pain, loss, and trauma from an early age, which made me feel alienated from my peers. I enjoyed the horror genre because it allowed me to deal with those themes in an imaginative, transformative way. It was safe to talk about certain traumas in the context of a horror story, because for a child/teen/young adult, the truths were almost too brutal to articulate any other way. But it’s more than just that… I found horror sexy, exciting. I hated being afraid, and I loved being afraid. It was the push and pull of daring yourself to be brave. It’s a challenging genre that begs to break formulae time and again. It can be romantic, erotic, terrifying, cathartic, disgusting, beautiful. It truly is a genre that has it all and can do it all. 

(5) TIDAL FLOW. Really, I’m not convinced by this first paragraph. Is adding “-punk” to a noun anything more than a tactic to market a short list of books? “Diving into the Sub-Genre of Oceanpunk” at Book Riot.

From steampunk to dieselpunk to clockpunk and more, there is a proliferation of sub-genres and mashups that fall under the punk literature umbrella. Defined by their embrace of retro, yet futuristic technologies and specific elements and settings, these books transport readers to an imaginative world in which characters move through an altered landscape from our own. Punk sub-genre books often play with timelines and settings in ways that both echo our own world and change it up. For example, steampunk writers craft fictional worlds that are both futuristic and have echoes of Victorian fashion and steam powered-technology, while cyberpunk authors focus on what happens when a high-technology society meets humanity. Oceanpunk writers take us under or onto the high seas, to explore what it would be like to live in a water-dominated world….

(6) IT’S POSSIBLE AFTER ALL. “‘I’m not that geeky guy any more’: Simon Pegg on comedy, action heroes and staying at home” in the Guardian.

Pegg’s ascent remains one of the great, recent Hollywood creation stories. In one of the most entertaining parts of it, he and Wright were asked in an interview, after Shaun of the Dead, whether they planned to leave the UK behind and make action films in the US. Pegg responded, “It’s not like we’re going to go away and do, I don’t know” – scanning his brain for an imaginary, and unimaginable, blockbuster – “Mission: Impossible III.”

The reply was honest. Pegg had not long before done an audition for a small part in the Mission: Impossible franchise, something involving a helicopter, and heard nothing. But then, the original director, Joe Carnahan, left the project and Cruise brought in Alias creator JJ Abrams, who was a huge fan of… Shaun of the Dead! Ricky Gervais was set to play Cruise’s sidekick Benji Dunn, but dropped out and Pegg was given the nod. “So it was a huge irony that I’d said, ‘I’m not going to go off and do this,’” says Pegg. “But then, at that time, there was this attitude that anyone who went off to Hollywood was betraying their roots in some sense or selling out. It’s not like you cross some misty bridge at night and never come home again. So many people assume that I live over there. But, you know, I live in Hertfordshire.”…

(7) MONTY PYTHON’S DYING CIRCUS. ICv2 carried news of CMON’s game expansion “Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Zombicide 2E”. There’s a gallery of images of the components at the link.

CMON announced Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Zombicide 2E, a new board game expansion, which will arrive in April 2024.

Zombicide 2E just got a whole lot more wacky with the introduction of this expansion featuring the elements of the classic TV show by the legendary English comedy troupe.  The set revisits some of the show’s funniest sketches by adding Monty Python-themed survivors , enemies, and equipment.  There is also a new mission and if the expansion is preordered off CMON’s website, it includes an exclusive pack of Gumbys.

This set comes with 21 miniatures, 8 tokens, 47 cards, and a rules leaflet.  The expansion requires a base set to play and it will retail for $50.00….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1994 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Now here’s an author that I really like — Mike Resnick. There’s really nothing by him that I’ve not enjoyed immensely. 

First and foremost are the four novels in the John Justin Mallory series, followed by his Future History series and the ever so silly Galactic Midway affair with one with the best novel titles ever, The Best Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Gunslinger in the Whole Damned Galaxy.

Let’s not forget the Weird West Tale series which I consider one of the best steampunk Western series ever done.

And then there’s the “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” novella, the source of our Beginning this Scroll, which was first published in 1994 by Axolotl Press, part of Pulphouse Publishing. Part of his Birthright Universe series, it would win a Hugo at Intersection. A Nebula would be also would be won as well as a HOMer. There was also a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award nomination 

And here’s our Beginning…

The creatures came again last night.

The moon had just slipped behind the clouds when we heard the first rustlings in the grass. Then there was a moment of utter silence, as if they knew we were listening for them, and finally there were the familiar hoots and shrieks as they raced to within fifty meters of us and, still screeching, struck postures of aggression.

They fascinate me, for they never show themselves in the daylight, and yet they manifest none of the features of the true nocturnal animal. Their eyes are not oversized, their ears cannot move independently, they tread very heavily on their feet. They frighten most of the other members of my party, and while I am curious about them, I have yet to absorb one of them and study it.

To tell the truth, I think my use of absorption terrifies my companions more than the creatures do, though there is no reason why it should. Although I am relatively young by my race’s standards, I am nevertheless many millennia older than any other member of my party. You would think, given their backgrounds, that they would know that any trait someone of my age possesses must by definition be a survival trait. 

Still, it bothers them. Indeed, it mystifies them, much as my memory does. Of course, theirs seem very inefficient to me. Imagine having to learn everything one knows in a single lifetime, to be totally ignorant at the moment of birth! Far better to split off from your parent with his knowledge intact in your brain, just as my parent’s knowledge came to him, and ultimately to me.

But then, that is why we are here: not to compare similarities, but to study differences. And never was there a race so different from all his fellows as Man. He was extinct barely seventeen millennia after he strode boldly out into the galaxy from this, the planet of his birth—but during that brief interval he wrote a chapter in galactic history that will last forever. He claimed the stars for his own, colonized a million worlds, ruled his empire with an iron will. He gave no quarter during his primacy, and he asked for none during his decline and fall. Even now, some forty-eight centuries after his extinction, his accomplishments and his failures still excite the imagination.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1894 – Hermann Oberth. Physicist, engineer, pioneer of rocketry. Read Jules Verne as a child, built his first model rocket at age 14. Doctoral dissertation Rockets into Space. Consulted on Fritz Lang’s film Woman in the Moon (1929). Worked on early rockets, came to work for NASA. Autobiography in Clarke’s anthology The Coming of the Space Age (1967).  Werner von Braun said “Oberth was the first.” (Died 1989) [John Hertz]
  • Born June 25, 1903 George Orwell, born Eric Blair in 1903. Animal Farm is fantasy of a political sort, but 1984 is clearly genre, and it may hold the record for the most neologisms added to English by a single SF book. Orwell was mostly known as a journalist and essayist, including his spats with H.G. Wells, most notably in “Wells, Hitler and the World State”. (Died 1950.) [Alan Baumler]
  • Born June 25, 1925 June Lockhart, 98. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveler Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. Besides his Hugo Award at ConAdian (1994) for “Georgia on My Mind”, he had several nominations as well. Chicon V (1991) picked two, “A Braver Thing” novelette and the “Godspeed” short story.  Oh, and he was toastmaster at BucConeer. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1947 John Maddox Roberts, 76. Here for being prolific with his Conan pastiches, seven to date so far. I’ll also single out his The SPQR series beginning with SPQR which are police-procedural mystery novels set in Ancient Rome. Someone at the Libertarian Futurist Society really, really likes the Island Worlds as it has been nominated three times for the Prometheus Hall of Fame.
  • Born June 25, 1956 Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!, (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1981 Sheridan Smith, 42. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eighth Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro introduces us to King Kong’s mom.

(11) TO THE THIRD POWER. Paul Weimer praises a trilogy with a satisfying ending: “Review: The Ivory Tomb by Melissa Caruso” at Nerds of a Feather. “Melissa Caruso finishes the Rooks and Ruin trilogy, as Ryx and her friends must deal with the return of all the demons of legend and myth to the world.”

It’s not been a good time for Ryx. After the revelations of the second book in the series (the main one I will discuss anon), The Quicksilver Court, and the disastrous events, she and the rest of the magical-problem solving Rookery are on the backfoot. All the demons are on the loose, both the Vaskandrans and Serene Empire seem to be ready to pummel each other. But the Rookery is still in the fight, hoping to get new and old friends together to oppose the world-spanning threat.

This is the story of The Ivory Tomb, the third and final volume in Caruso’s Rooks and Ruin series, her second series set in her world of Vaskandar and the Serene Empire….

(12) KEEPING AN EAR ON ANIME. This month Anime Explorations’ Summer of JoJo continues with the second season of the series, and the first half of the Stardust Crusaders arc of the story, with their first pair of JoJos, and introducing the concept of Stands into the series. “Anime Explorations Podcast: Episode 9: JoJo Part 2 – Stardust Crusaders (Road to Egypt Arc)”.

(13) FLAME ON. The Hunger Games star finds hunger isn’t always a bad alternative: “Jennifer Lawrence Sobs in Pain While Eating Spicy Wings” on Hot Ones, where they taste progressively spicier sauces.

(14) LIKE YOU NEED TEENY-TINY BRANDING IRONS FOR ANTS. “How To Visit This Secret Trader Joe’s in California” at Apartment Therapy.

Taking a trip to your local Trader Joe’s is probably a highlight of your week, so if you got the chance to check out the most secretive Trader Joe’s in the country, that might just make your entire year. There’s a hidden (and exclusive!) Trader Joe’s in Irvine, California, that’s making waves on social media. You need a ticket to get in and … it’s completely pint-sized.

This top-secret Trader Joe’s is located inside Pretend City Children’s Museum, and the entire store has been shrunken down to give children the experience of grocery shopping. Natasha, the creator behind the Trader Joe’s List Instagram account, visited the spot that comes with child-sized shopping carts, make-believe food, faux flower bouquets, and pretend cash registers….

(15) MARKS THE SPOT. Whatever happened to the “on the internet no one knows you’re a dog” meme? Ryan George’s new video shows what it would be like “If Dogs Had Podcasts”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. And HISHE says this is “How The Super Mario Bros Movie Should Have Ended”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disregard the Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The annual con is also part pilgrimage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) MEMORY LANE.

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

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

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

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

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

And now the Beginning…

Eddie

New York City

Midnight

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

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

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

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

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(14) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a mouthful.

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

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

Neanderthals had bigger brains than people today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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