Trigger Snowflake and the Goings-Away

By Ingvar.

A round-table conversation of the Elemental Smart-Alec Club, planetary day 7928

Rick ven Fleerbo: I guess you have all heard that them there Anti-Sulphurists are trying to Going-Away me. I am not sure what imagined grief they have with me, this time. Probaby as made-up as everything else they’ve chased me for.

John ven Fengsler: I hear you. I have seen it myself. There’s been many LoCs that have tried to make you a Persion Without Grater in the literary magazines.

Anna min Scorch: I cannot believe the things they make up. Chasing after innocent Sulphurists for no reason what-so-ever. We should write angry Letters of Comment, denouncing all Going-Awayists!

RvF: Yes. It is all so bad.

***

A Letter of Comment, published in Smelly Compounds

Venus, planetary day 7931, from the pen of Anna min Scorch

Fellow Sulphurists!

We need to do something! As late as yesterday, my oldest child arrived home from school, telling me that they’re forced to study hydro-carbons in chemistry class! Hydro! Carbons! Not a single pure yellow atom of Sulphur in that! Only icky hydrogen and dirty dirty carbon!

Please, fellow Artistes. Join me in a letter-writing campaign to have my oldest child’s chemistry teacher fired! It is for a good cause! These things must not be tolerated! Something must be DONE!

***

Trigger Snowflake walked down the Main Street of Fort Corallium, doffing his hat towards, and greeting, his fellow citizens. It had been a quiet few weeks. Not much happening, locally. In the larger Solar System, however, things were not as quiet as they could be. The Saturn Federation had been making noise about the moons of Uranus. To the point of sending liner ships into Uranian orbit.

No matter, Trigger’s responsibility was Fort Corallium, not the system at large. However, other members of the Sheriff’s Union may end up in trouble because of it.

He tried, as much as he could, leave these intrusive thoughts behind him, as he was just about to finish off a day of patrolling the neighbourhood, making Fort Corallium safe for law-abiding citizens. And soon, it was time to return home, to say a hearty “good evening” to Mrs. Snowflake. Trigger could not quite make up his mind if that “good evening”, the customary “sleep well”, or maybe the first “good morning” was the best part of the day. But it probably was one of them.

***

Coraline was down at the Coffee Emporium, just finishing a last cup and reading through this week’s selected Letters of Comments from her clip-and-file service. After sorting through them, one caught her eye for immediate and detailed reading.

\[Cut from “Venewsian News”, LoC column\] Uranianism is a Rock-Planet

Sponsored Misconception

by Briney ven Pommeln

I have been asked multiple times, as a resident on the Saturnian moons, been asked how I view the recent liberation mission of the Saturnian space force to Uranus.

Well, it is quite simple. There is no such thing as a Uranus nationality. Uranus was until very recently a member planet of the Saturnalian Federation. It has been a part of Saturnalian national identity for centuries.

The so-called Uranian Identity is manufactured and sponsored by state actors from rocky planets. Living on the moon of a gas planet, I know that they are not to be trusted, and all we can do to liberate the Uranian moons is right, just, and should be done.

Only two weeks ago, there were fervent pleas from the moon of Miranda, to the Saturnial parliament, to come and liberate them from their Uranian oppressors. And now that the Saturnalian fleet is on its way, we can look forward to a Uranus, returned to the Saturnalian crowd.

Peace to our gas giants, in our time.

***

Coraline dropped her stack of papes down onto the table, as she audibly gasped.

“Coraline, dear, what is it?” enquired Barbara.

“Barbara, I have just read the most horrible thing, from the QuicksilverCon Guest of Honour.”

“Briney ven Pommeln? What’s he written now?” “Oh, I cannot possibly summarise it quickly, please read yourself!”

Ms. Dimatis read through the clipped LoC, then also audibly gasped.

“Oh my. I wonder if QuicksilverCon will have to disinvite him, now?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Debacle At SysLiCon

By Ingvar: “Trigger, dear?”

Trigger Snowflake was shaken out of his tired musings by the voice of his beloved wife Coraline. “Yes, Coraline?” he replied.

“Are you packed? You know we’re heading to Mars tomorrow, for SysLiCon.”

“I have not forgotten, beloved wife. I only have my holiday hat left to pack. Just finishing up some paperwork, then I’ll come to bed.”

*      *      *

The next morning, fast duly broken, the couple walked to the Fort Corallium spaceport, where they boarded the small vessel provided for Sheriff Snowflake. They’d have to reimburse the Solarian Police for the fuel used, but it was definitely worth the cost for having private transport to the Mars SysLiCon.

It was a momentous SysLiCon. For the first year, Mercury was bidding for an upcoming SysLiCon and it stood between Luna on one hand and Mercury on the other.

The general feeling in the Literature community was that while it would be interesting to have SysLiCon on Mercury, it was not safe for the bulk of the SysLiCon attendees.

And the initial processing of the absentee ballots would begin while they were in transit. Naturally, Trigger and Coraline were eagerly awaiting any and all news beams.

*      *      *

“Oh. Trigger, have you seen?”

“No, what?”

“A telefacsimile transmission just arrived. It seems as if OlympiCon have dropped Urbel as chairperson for the con-meeting.”

“That’s unusual. Why?”

“I am not actually quite sure. But, you’ll have to enquire when we get to Mars.”

*      *      *

“Trigger, there are more updates! Apparently, he has also been dropped from the SysLiCon-on-Luna bid committee.”

“This is very unlike Sheriff Scrogginski. I will need to talk to him, once we get to Mars.”

*      *      *

Trigger expertly maneouvered the ship down onto the landing pad. They still had a few hours before the official opening of OlympiCon, the Mars Systems Literature Convention.

Trigger debarked, then helped Coraline to step down on the landing pad.

“Dearest Coraline, would you excuse me? I need to find Sheriff Scrogginski and see if I can get any clarity in what has been happening.”

“Darling Trigger, you do that. Come back and tell me, once clarity has been achieved.”

*      *      *

“Urbel! Urbel! It’s me, Trigger.”

“Ah, Sheriff Snowflake, a familiar face!”

“So, this whole thing? What happened?”

“Well, as you know, I was on the SysLiCon-on-Luna bid committee. And as such, I was an observer for the initial processing of the absentee future site election. As such, I used the bid committee observer privilege to get some data from the absentee ballots. Specifically, the planet of domicile for the absentee voters.”

“Hm, so far, I see nothing untowards?”

“No, neither did I. So, then, I sent out a Letter of Comment, with the planetary domicile breakdown, highlighting that almost 7 out of 10 were domiciled on Mercury.”

“Well… The on-site voting in the future site selection has a deadline in three days?”

“Yes.”

“But, Urbel, culd this not be construed as election interfering?”

“I very clearly sent the LoC as myself as a private individual.”

“Nonetheless, you are well-known as being the chairperson, and you are, well were, on a bid committee.”

“Yes. In retrospect, I suppose it was not as well-advised as I thought at the time.”

*      *      *

Coraline walked through the main hall of OlympiCon, soaking up the heady atmosphere of literature discussions, happening all around her. It felt so good being back at an actual convention, after all the SOVID issues.

She suddenly stopped, staring at a book propped up at one of the fan tables. It was titled “An Elemental Mess – a History of Sulphurian Actions in Literature”.

She picked the volume up, and only then did she see who was also standing by the table.

“Barbara! I did not know you were here. It is so good to see you!”

“Coraline! I see you have seen my new book. I was inspired to write it, after the whole thing when they thought I was Trigger. I just didn’t know what to call it.”

*      *      *

A few days later, Trigger, Coraline, and Ms Dimatis were taking coffee in one of the convention cafés.

“Ms Dimatis”, Trigger said, “did you know that danishes are actualy called Viennas in Denmark?”

“Yes, Trigger, I knew that. They were apparently first made by a baker from Vienna, who had moved to Copenhagen. Oh! Look! They’re just about to announce the results of the future site election!”

“I wonder how it all went? Ah, yes, I did speak to Urbel. Apparently about 70% of the absentee ballots were from Mercury.”

“Oh, if that had been published in… Wait, is that why he was dropped as chair?”

“Yes, apparently neither OlympiCon nor the SysLiCon-on-Luna concoms thought it was a good look, having someone so well-known doing something like that, even as a private individual.”

“Well, looks like Mercury won the election. So, SysLiCon will be on Mercury in two years.”

“Good for them. I hope they will get many off-planet attendees. But I for one will not go, as I fear being that close to the Sun.”

Never Mind The News – File 770’s Best Feature Articles of 2021

Was the year too heavy, deep, and real? Yes, but it was also rich in creativity, humor, and shared adventures. It’s a gift and privilege for me to be continually allowed to publish so many entertaining posts. Thanks to all of you who contributed!

FEATURES

David DoeringMost Remote SF Bookstore in the World?

Meet “Book Island” in the town of Saint Denis on Reunion Island—a small speck in the vast Indian Ocean

Pierre E. Pettinger, Jr.Never Too Late To Start: Guest Post by Pierre E. Pettinger Jr.

… Like many fans, I had tried my hand with writing, especially as a teenager. I wrote notes, drew weird aliens, and even wrote a novel which will never see the light of day. But during all this I did noodle, consistently, with several recurring characters and a story line. It shifted and changed, of course, as I matured and different interests came into my life, and eventually they just settled in the back of my mind.

John HertzAt the Height of His –

… Once when [Tim] Powers was being interviewed at an SF convention someone asked “Do you actually believe in this stuff?”  He said “No.  But my characters do.”  As Gordon Bennett wrote, and Frank Sinatra sang, “This is all I ask, this is all I need.”

JJ2020 Novellapalooza

… I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). …

Patty WellsLearn About SAFF, the Space Agency Fan Fund

… The mission of SAFF is to keep the factual progress of space exploration out there for our community and to help individual Worldcons and other conventions in dealing with the arrangements and funding of space experts as special guests. 

JJWhere To Find The 2020 Nebula Finalists For Free Online

To help propel you into your awards season reading, here are links to excerpts or complete works from the 2020 Nebula Award finalists.

John HertzGood Names for Bad Guys

 During 1937-1956 a radio program called “The Answer Man” was broadcast over the Mutual Broadcasting System….  

Wolf von WittingInexplicable Phenomena and How To Approach Them

… Another solved mystery was that of the vanishing pancake. A friend of mine, by profession police officer, was standing at his stove, frying pancakes. As we both did with pancakes, we flipped them around in the air. So did my friend on this day.

His mystery was that the pancake never came back down. It vanished. There was no trace of it….

A Multitude of FilersOpening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic — By Filers

Eli Grober’s “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker humorously changes the beginnings of famous books to suit life as we knew it in the plague year of 2020…. Filers answered the challenge to add to the list. Here is a collection from yesterday’s comments….

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed, being careful to maintain a distance of at least six feet.

–Nina Shepardson

Brendan DuBoisIn Happy Pursuit of Jeopardy!

… It was the Jeopardy! gameshow display screen one saw all the time on television, in real life, just yards away, here inside the cool Sony studios.   Six rows across with the categories, columns of five numbers under each.  To the right of the large display was Alex Trebek’s podium, and nearby were the three contestant stations. 

There were sixteen of us here, and before the end of the day, all of us but one would have our thirty minutes of fame — or infamy — in this very special place.

But how did I get here?

John HertzAnother Well-Titled Book

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  

Rich LynchRocket Boy

… The model took off and rose straight up for maybe 100 feet or so before the second stage kicked in, but then there was trouble.  Instead of continuing its upward flight, the thing veered to the right and zoomed away horizontally, slightly descending all the while.  It went directly over a house across the street and continued on, neatly bisecting the span between two tall trees behind the house.  And then it was gone from sight.  I remember that my uncle gave me a quizzical look and asked, “Was it supposed to do that?”…

IphinomeFour Reviews by Iphinome

Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

IphinomeIphinome Reviews Novik’s A Deadly Education

El (Galadriel) is pissed off. Her classmate Orion just rescued her for the second time –needlessly. She’s capable, more than capable, El’s powerful – El, power, get it? Get it?…

Lyrics by Aydrea Walden and Jocelyn Scofield“All Because of You” Lyrics from the Nebula Awards Ceremony

But then I had a spark, a realization
While floating here all by myself
I’m actually in the best of company
Because you’re on my shelf

Mark L. BlackmanDeath and Doom (and Cats) at the KGB Bar with Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin

On the evening of Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Reading Series, hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, presented authors Seanan McGuire and Nadia Bulkin in livestreamed readings on YouTube. (Neither reader is running for Mayor of New York.)

This is the 16th month of virtual readings, in place of in-person reading at the eponymous bar in the East Village in Manhattan, noted Kressel. New York City may be “open,” added Datlow, but they don’t yet feel comfortable “going into the crowd” at the Bar for at least a few more months….

Mike GlyerSmell Like A Superhero

Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.

Sara FelixWhy I Work on Worldcon: Guest Post by Sara Felix

There was a post a while ago on twitter that asked, “So what motivates y’all to continue entering bids to host Worldcons? Genuinely curious.”

And I responded with, ”I think there are some great bids out there like Glasgow 2024 that you can genuinely tell they are enthusiastic and want to put on a good show.  Working on Dublin was like that for me as well.  I am not saying they are perfect but the excitement is really important.”

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I wanted to say…

Cat EldridgeLeague of Extraordinary Gentlemen Film Anniversary: Celebrate or Not?

… Now back to Connery. The film would leave him with such a bad experience that claimed he the production of the film and the film’s final quality was what he caused his decision to permanently retire from filmmaking, saying in an interview with The Times that, “It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

Martin Morse WoosterSpace Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas….  

Mark L. BlackmanTwo Too-Near Futures from Kim Stanley Robinson and Nancy Kress

… Datlow asked Robinson, “How can you be so optimistic?” He replied that his mother was; she felt that it was our duty to be optimistic and to help people….

Mike GlyerLe Guin Stamp Issued Today

The Ursula K. Le Guin commemorative Forever stamp was officially unveiled today during a ceremony at the Portland (OR) Art Museum.

Steve VertliebCelebrating The Wonderful Nehemiah Persoff At 102

… I began to wonder whatever became of this marvelous actor and so, before retiring for the evening, I started to research Mr. Persoff’s whereabouts on my computer. As luck would have it, I found him and wrote him a rather hasty letter of personal and lifelong admiration. To my shock and utter astonishment, he responded within five minutes….

Melanie StormmEmails From Lake Woe-Is-Me: Links To Every Installment

Stormm began her humorous series about the misdirected emails she gets from Writer X in August and has done 17 regular and two bonus installments. It swirls together comedy, horror, and the pitfalls of being a writer.

Robin A. ReidWriting Against the Grain: T. Kingfisher’s Feminist Mythopoeic Fantasy

The purpose of this presentation is to place Tolkien’s theory of mythopoeic fiction in dialogue with fantasy series by T. Kingfisher in order to argue that her work is feminist and mythopoeic. While there are a number of elements of Kingfisher’s fiction that are relevant to my purpose, I’ll be focusing on two: her version of Faërie and system of magic, and her portrayal of female characters whose relationships are with failed warrior heroes….

Brian Z.A Modest Proposal for the Very Retro Hugo for Genre-Related Work

The talk of time capsules and 1000-year M-discs in the Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 discussion of item (16), the Louis XIII Cognac 100-year sci-fi film vault, got me thinking that Worldcon should do Hugos for Best Genre-related Work Created 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 years ago….

Sultana RazaHergé’s Multi-Layered Worlds

… Considered to be a genius by many, not only was Hergé skilled at drawing, he was also good at fascinating his readers with mysteries, and intriguing situations. For example, why was Prof. Calculus going into the heart of a volcano, following the agitated movements of his pendulum, instead of running away, like all the others? Perhaps he was so oblivious to his real surroundings, and was so desperate to find the cause of the wild swinging of his pendulum for the sake of science, that inadvertently, he was willing to risk his very life. Or was he running away from mundane reality? And why did Tintin rush back to save his friend from going deeper in the maze of the mountain? Possibly because that was Tintin’s nature, to rescue not just the innocent people of the world, but it also showed his deep friendship with the absent-minded professor….

Robert RepinoConsequences as an Engine of Storytelling: A Guest Post by Robert Repino

…After watching [John Wick: Chapter 3], my friends and I got some drinks at a nearby bar. There, I found myself repeating a single word from the movie: “Consequences.” Wick utters this word whenever one of the characters points out that his past may have finally caught up with him. Since I like to drive jokes into the ground, I began to say “Consequences” in response to everything that night, in a poor imitation of Wick’s scratchy voice. Why did we need to buy another round? “Consequences.” Why should someone else pick up the tab? “Consequences.” And maybe I should call out sick tomorrow? “Consequences.”…

Mike GlyerHallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.

If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves….

Craig MillerPreview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In, I believe, 1927, the Academy of Motion Pictures was founded.

In 1929, they decided there should be a museum of motion picture history and memorabilia.

In three days, a little shy of a hundred years later, the Academy Museum will open to the public….

Martin Morse WoosterReview: Museum of the Bible

Continuing my reports on museums that might be of interest to Filers coming to Washington for DisCon III, I offer a report on the Museum of the Bible, which I visited recently.  (I had a Groupon!)…

Glenn HaumanOh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over….

Esther MacCallum-StewartCOP26 and Glasgow in 2024

… COP26 has produced an enormous impact on Glasgow….

Sultana RazaFan or Spy?

… I couldn’t help thinking of the passage from The Lord of the Rings, where the Crebain go searching for the Fellowship. In fact, there are many birds as spies in fantasy fiction, such as the Three-Eyed Raven, the, One-eyed Crow, or Varamyr Sixskins warging into an eagle in A Song of Ice and Fire, to mention a few…. 

Mike GlyerShould the Best Series Hugo Category Be Kept?

The Best Series Hugo category was added to the WSFS Constitution in 2017 with a sunset clause requiring a future re-ratification vote to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution. That vote happens next week at the DisCon III Business Meeting. If you were there, would you vote yes or no on keeping the category?

Shana WorthenTwas the Night Before DisCon III

Then down the long hall there arose so much chat,
that I sprang from my chair to see what was that?
Through archways, past plant pots, I slipped through the throng
as the loud murmuration came strolling along.

Colin HarrisThe World in Worldcon

… In reality, China is a huge country with a vast population and an expanding middle class; an enormous SF field and well established fandom. Chengdu is an established international convention site as well as a centre for science and technology.

I rather suspect that from the Chengdu bid’s viewpoint, the US-centric history of Worldcon is at odds with the very name of the event and its claim to be the leading global celebration of the genre. I do not need to believe there is anything suspicious about the bid, because it only needs a tiny percentage of Chinese fans to get behind it to make it a success….

Sultana Raza (and others)International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Though Tolkien’s novels were very successful in the last century, after the Peter Jackson trilogy in the early 2000s, their reach increased to encompass the globe. Irrespective of geographical or linguistic differences, they spoke to us in different ways. In an informal Discussion Group at Oxonmoot 2021, (held online), participants were welcome to share their thoughts/reactions/ take on various aspects of Tolkien’s works, mainly his Legendarium….

Mike GlyerThe Twenty Percent Solution: A Self-Published Science Fiction Competition Judge’s Upvotes

… Based on reading 20% of Team File 770’s assigned books, I found there are actually 12 I’d say yes to – so I am going to need to cut two more before I finalize this list….

TRIGGER SNOWFLAKE

The saga of Sheriff Trigger Snowflake, the lovely Coraline, and the shenanigans of the Solarian Poets Society added several chapters this year that were not so much ripped-from-the-headlines as amused by the news.

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Election

… Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

IngvarTrigger Snowflake and the Dessert

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”…

Ingvar Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”

INTERVIEWS

Brandon Sanderson WFC 2020 Interview Highlights – Conducted by David Doering

Far Sector Round Table with N.K. Jemisin – Conducted by James Bacon and others

CHRIS BARKLEY

ConStellation Hat. Photo by Craig Glassner/Pinterest/Hat of the Day

… Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well….

… Before I reveal my BDP Hugo Nomination Ballot choices, let’s contemplate these ten outstanding films from 2020…

So forget about what the naysayers are saying; Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a big, exciting, sprawling, violent, intense, profane, beautiful and ultimately moving film.

DECLASSIFIED! Seven Secret and Untold Stories From the Worldcon Press Office

CONVENTION REPORTS

Commemorative button.

CHRIS BARKLEY’S DISCON III REPORTS

Ride along with Chris at this year’s Worldcon, everywhere from major events to favorite restaurants.

JAMES BACON

In addition to reviewing comics and graphic novels, James used his camera and descriptive abilities to take us along on visits to all kinds of fascinating exhibits and pop culture events.

CATS SLEEP ON SFF

OBITUARIES

[date of publication]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/21 Benny And The Gesserits

(1) WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS. Exciting opportunity for those communicating about space to be recognized by the European Space Agency, with categories for video, artwork, storytelling, public speaking, and education. How many fans do we know who fall into these categories! “‘ESA Champions’ award initiative launched”. Check out the link for more info, and use #ESAchampion when sharing eligible projects on social media. Full details at the link.

Whether you are hosting a YouTube channel about space or volunteering to speak at your local school, we want to recognise and reward your passion and advocacy for space.

Our new ESA Champions initiative will honour outstanding contributions to communicating about space in Europe with unique awards and give you the chance to become part of an exclusive network of space enthusiasts, as well as win some awesome prizes.

We’ll be monitoring social media over the next few months for creative representations of your passion for space in Europe, in particular on TwitterInstagramFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

If you’re an artist who paints or draws space-themed pieces, a writer who publishes short stories about space or a vlogger who posts videos, now is your chance to be recognised….

(2) DOCTOR WHO ACTORS IN THE SPOTLIGHT. Mandip Gil tells Radio Times what it feels like to be a companion on the way out.“Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who return is a ‘relief’ says star”.

…“When I started, I didn’t realise how significant it was taking over from other people, but now it’s happening to me,” she tells RT. “You’re not part of it, in that you don’t know what’s happening. Who are the companions? What are they going to do?

“I’m going to watch it, be nosey and think, ‘How’s it different to ours?’”…

But Jodie Whittaker confessed to Radio Times she was tempted not to go after all: “Jodie Whittaker considered going back on her Doctor Who exit plan”.

Speaking exclusively to Radio Times magazine, Whittaker said: “Chris [Chibnall] and I always said we were going to do three series together, but then when you get to it, it’s a very different thing.

“Sometimes it was like… ‘Are we sticking to this decision?’ There’s part of me that could absolutely say, ‘No, let’s keep going! Let’s go back on it!’ But to give the fans the level that they deserve, there has to be some sacrifice. You have to know when you’ve done it.”

Meanwhile their final season is about to air. Radio Times fished for possible surprises: “Doctor Who Thasmin in series 13 – do the Doctor and Yaz get together?”

…However, Gill also cautioned that fans don’t buy a hat for Yaz and the Doctor’s wedding just yet, noting that the duo’s closeness doesn’t necessarily mean they’d become involved romantically.

“At the same time, it could also head down the route of like it being platonic, because two people are allowed to travel together and not have that relationship,” she said.

“People have asked about it, people have wanted it. Me and Jodes have a lovely relationship as people, as actors, and our characters have a really, really nice relationship. And I think it’s been written very naturally.”…

(3) JMS FAQ. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers today:

I’m getting a lot of nearly identical questions on various forums — here, Twitter, elsewhere — so to avoid redundancy, or repeating myself, or saying the same thing more than once in a way that doesn’t exactly sound like a repetition but serves the same purpose, I’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions file to address the issue.

Here’s the link: “JMS POSTING FAQ” from J. Michael Straczynski on Patreon. A few examples:

17) WHAT IS THE NEW BABYLON 5 PILOT/STORY ABOUT? WHAT CHARACTERS ARE IN IT? WHERE IS IT SET? All of that is classified, I can’t publicly discuss any of it. So there’s no point in asking anything about the story for the new pilot, because I can’t tell you.  But patrons here will be the first to get the details as they emerge, long before it reaches the rest of the world.

18) WHY DID YOU HAVE GWEN STACY AND NORMAN OSBORN HAVE KIDS? They were going to be Peter’s kids but Marvel thought Norman was a swell idea and would avoid making Peter seem old. I didn’t know any better. I was an idiot. Here, rub some salt in my wounds….

19) CAN I SUGGEST ACTORS FOR THE NEW SHOW? Technically yes (provided those suggestions don’t come with character names), but really, if you don’t know for sure who the characters are going to be, how can you suggest a suitable actor? Riddle me that, Batman!

(4) NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET. Michael Dirda anoints Ambrose Bierce as “One of America’s Best” in The New York Review of Books.

Ambrose Bierce (1842–1913) is arguably the finest not-quite-first-rate writer in nineteenth-century American literature. Civil War veteran, contrarian journalist, master of the short story, muckraker, epigrammatist, and versifier, he is today most widely known for that word hoard of cynical definitions, The Devil’s Dictionary, and for a handful of shockingly cruel stories about the Civil War.

In those dozen or so “tales of soldiers,” gathered in the collection eventually titled In the Midst of Life (1892, augmented in 1898 and 1909), a brother shoots his brother, a sniper is compelled to kill his father, and a cannoneer obeys the order to destroy his own house, where his wife and child await his return from battle. The best known of these contes cruels, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” has been called—by Kurt Vonnegut, himself a kinder, gentler Bierce—the greatest short story in American literature. Surely, no first-time reader ever forgets the shock of its final sentences….

(5) SANDCASTLES IN THE AIR. John Scalzi registers his take on the epic film: “Dune: A Review” at Whatever.

…To bring Villeneuve himself back into it, it’s fair to say that he is a very fine match for the material. To begin, Villeneuve’s visual aesthetic, and its tendency to frame people as tiny elements in a much larger composition, is right at home with the Dune source material, in which legions of Fremen and Sardaukar and Harkonnens stab at each other, and 400-meter sandworms tunnel through the dunes of Arrakis. To continue, anyone who has seen Villeneuve’s filmography is well aware he is a very very very serious dude; there’s not a rom-com anywhere in his history. Dune’s single attempt at a joke is done and over in the first 20 minutes the film, almost before it even registers. One can argue whether or not Frank Herbert’s prose and story styling in Dune is exhaustingly and pretentiously serious or not, but it is what it is. Given what it is, it needs a director whose own style matches. That’s Villeneuve. I don’t care to see Villeneuve’s take on, say, Galaxy Quest. But Dune? Yup, that’s a match….

(6) 100% ACCURATE PREDICTION. Here’s Ursula Vernon’s reaction. Thread starts here. A few highlights:

HORROR THIS YEAR. Raquel S. Benedict, David Jesudason and Rich Johnson appeared on Connecticut NPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show where the host led a discussion about why horror, as a genre, is particularly resistant to Disneyfication and other topics covered were the current renaissance in Black horror cinema and An American Werewolf in London“Not Necessarily The Nose: The year in horror, 2021”.

This year: Could it be that the one genre with a certain amount of immunity from the Disneyfication, the cinematic universeification of everything… is horror?

And: There’s an ongoing renaissance in Black horror dating back to Jordan Peele’s Get Out in 2017. This year’s best example is probably Nia DaCosta’s Candyman reboot/remake/sequel (co-written by DaCosta and Peele). But horror’s creeping (you see what I did there) reckoning with racism is having its share of ups and downs, too.

And finally: We have a largely arbitrary tradition of spending a chunk of this show on a horror classic that’s celebrating, specifically, its 40th anniversary. Previously, it’s been HalloweenAlienThe Shining. This year: An American Werewolf in London.

(8) AND AT THE NEXT TABLE. CrimeReads’ Molly Odintz convenes a symposium with horror writers, including Alma Katsu, Stephen Graham Jones, and Grady Hendrix. “Horror Fiction In The Age of Covid: A Roundtable Discussion”.

I came to horror the same way I came to Rihanna—later than most, but with the commensurate fiery passion of a true convert. Crime and horror have, after all, been slowly converging for many years, as domestic suspense transformed into the New Gothic, and psychological thrillers took over from procedurals as the dominant trend in the genre. And yet, despite my newfound fandom, I’m about as poorly informed a horror reader as one could be (I’ve only read one Stephen King novel and it was Mr Mercedes). So I invited a whole bunch of authors with horror novels out in 2021 to join me for a roundtable discussion on the genre and its appeal to crime fans, and in which I could stealthily attempt to figure what exactly horror is—and why we’re all enjoying it so much during the pandemic.

(9) COME AND GET MY COPPER. Atlas Obscura tells how the genre got its name, and contends they had a beneficial side-effect: “How Gruesome Penny Dreadfuls Got Victorian Children Reading”.

…As one might expect, no audience was drawn into the world of penny dreadfuls more than children and teenagers. In fact, they specifically targeted young readers. Many of the stories feature young characters, such as the schoolboy Jack Harkaway, who would become as beloved to Victorian readers as Harry Potter is today, according to the British LibraryBoys of England, a periodical marketed to young boys, first introduced the character in the 1871 penny dreadful “Jack Harkaway’s Schooldays,” which details the protagonist running away from school, boarding a ship, and embarking on a life of adventure and travel. Jack even had to battle a 15-foot python when one of his many pranks went awry.

The popularity of penny dreadfuls had another side: They helped to promote literacy, especially among younger readers, at a time when, for many children, formal education was nonexistent or, well, Dickensian. The proliferation of such cheap reading material created “an incentive to require literacy,” says professor Jonathan Rose, author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. People were invested in the stories of Jack Harkaway and Sweeney Todd, and there was only one good way to keep up—learn to read.

While some historians credit compulsory education for the increased literacy of the age, “The fact is that most of the increase in literacy happened before you got universal free education,” says Rose. In England, education wasn’t required for all children until 1880, decades into the heyday of penny dreadfuls….

(10) DE PATIE OBIT. Animation producer David DePatie died September 23 at the age of 91 reports Deadline.

…Born in Los Angeles, DePatie, according to Animation magazine, was a self-described “Warner Brat” whose father Edmond DePatie was a longtime WB exec who eventually become vice president and general manager of the studio under Jack Warner. The younger DePatie began working for the studio in 1961 as a Warner Bros. Cartoon production executive.

[NY Times noted, “David started his Hollywood career as a sound and film editor at Warner Bros. He worked on several films for the studio, including “Them!” (1954)…]

According to the magazine, DePatie “oversaw the end days of this iteration of WB animation, ushering the final Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn and Tweety Bird theatrical cartoons to screens.” He would also produce TV’s The Bugs Bunny ShowThe Adventures of the Road Runner and other projects including animated commercials.

In 1963, DePatie and Freleng formed their own company, soon landing a contract that would make their names: the comedy feature film The Pink Panther starring Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. The animated opening-credit sequence featuring the panther quickly led to a United Artists commission for a separate cartoon short, which became the Oscar-winning The Pink Phink, launching the durable franchise of theatrical shorts and TV series.

For decades the DePatie-Freleng logo was a familiar sight to any kid watching Saturday morning cartoons or such primetime series as 1969’s My World and Welcome to It and the Seuss specials…. 

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1994 – On this day in 1994, Stargate premiered. It’d be a runner-up at Intersection to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s  “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. It was directed by Roland Emmerich and produced by Dean Devlin, Oliver Eberle and Joel B. Michaels. It was written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.  Principal cast was Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson and Viveca Lindfors.

It was a box office success earning over two hundred million on a budget of fifty-five million despite some critics not at all being fond of it. Ebert put it on his list of most hated films of all time, but others thought it was an “instant camp classic”. Currently it holds a most excellent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of seventy-three percent. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Now she actually had a longer career than that as she’ll have roles in Mary Poppins, Blackbeard’s Ghost, Willard, Alfred Hitchcock HourAlice in WonderlandThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Night Gallery. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 70. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, a American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 69. The original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II of course but also appeared in HerculesThe Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories series , and The Man Who Fell To Earth film. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the new Ghostbusters film. 
  • Born October 28, 1957 Catherine Fisher, 64. Welsh poet and children’s novelist who writes in English. I’d suggest The Book of The Crow series of which the most recent, Corbenic, won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. Her Incarceron series earned two more Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature nominations as well. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 63. Writer of four novels over a decade twenty years ago, including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 59. Her very first role was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labeled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare ClassicsBatman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight ZoneThe Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa again. 
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 54. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird  Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think for the sake of you not imagining her as such…
  • Born October 28, 1972 Matt Smith, 49. He’s the current and longest-serving editor of long-running 2000 AD, and also the longest-running editor of its sister title Judge Dredd Magazine. He’s written three Judge Dredd novels plus a number of other genre novels based off the properties he edits. Along with Alan Ewing and Michael Carroll, he’s written the Judge Dredd audiobook, a take on the newly deputized Dredd.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) ABOUT BERNIE WRIGHTSON. Michael Gonzales tells CrimeReads where he first encountered the artist: “Scary Monsters and Spooky Freaks: Bernie Wrightson Unleashed”.

…While comic book shopping in 1972, I spotted The House of Mystery #204. The cover featured a disgusting multi-eyed green blob creeping across the floor in pursuit of a screaming femme. In the lower right hand corner the illustrator’s signature was a simple “bw” that I later learned belonged Bernie Wrightson, the artist who’d soon become my comic book hero as well as a later inspiration for my writing. Wrightson’s cover became my gateway into the world of 1970s horror comics.

Five years later I had the pleasure of seeing the original pen and ink drawing in its entire poetic, grotesque splendor hanging on the wall of the New York Comic Art Gallery. I stared at that image with the same intensity I’d give the the Mona Lisa three decades later. It was scary, yet moving and damn near alive. Wrightson imagined things and made the horror real. However, the rules of the then-active Comics Code stated, “No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title,” so the books were referred to as mysteries or suspense….

(15) IF CTHULHU CALLS, HANG UP! James Davis Nicoll didn’t, but in compensation he got a Tor.com article idea: “Eldritch Abominations for the SFF Soul: Five Works of Cosmic Horror”.

Happy birthday, Call of Cthulhu! Forty years ago on Halloween 1981, the roleplaying world met and grew to love the Lovecraft-inspired game in which characters boldly confront the unknown before being consumed by it! If there’s one thing humans seem to desire, it’s to have their skulls cracked open like walnuts and their minds consumed by entities whose true nature would drive the sanest person mad, were they unlucky enough to understand what had them gripped in its tentacles.

Of course, Lovecraft wasn’t the first author to dabble in cosmic horror nor has he been the last. In honor of Halloween and forty years of Call of Cthulhu, allow me to suggest the following five works of cosmic horror….

(16) IN CONCLUSION. Cinefex, the visual effects magazine, has called it quits. The announcement was made earlier this year, and since then the publication has been doing a few activities to call attention to its winding down.

After 41 years of publication, we are sad to report that Cinefex 172, just off the presses, will be our final issue. We extend heartfelt thanks to our loyal readers and advertisers who sustained us through the years, and to the countless filmmakers and artists who told us their stories, shared their secrets, and trusted us to write and preserve the history of motion picture visual effects. A fond farewell to you all.

(17) MONUMENTAL RESEARCH. At Mystery File, veteran collector Walker Martin reviews Ed Hulse’s new volume, “The Art of Pulp Fiction”.

…Many collectors contributed to this book by lending paperbacks to Ed. Also he visited several art collectors. His visit to my house can serve as an example of his methods in borrowing so many books. One afternoon several months ago, he visited me and we went through the rooms discussing and looking at my paperback collection. We started on the second floor in the room that my wife and kids call “The Paperback Room”. The entire room is devoted to detective and mystery paperbacks including what may be a complete set of the hundreds of Dell mapbacks. Also in the room is some original cover art and several paperback racks which took me decades to find. These wooden racks were made to hold paperbacks for sale and were usually destroyed or lost over the years.

 We then went to my basement where we looked and talked about my science fiction, western, and mainstream paperbacks. Ed ended up borrowing two boxes full of paperbacks, perhaps 75 to 100, of which close to 50 may have been used in the book. By the way, I noticed one paperback lacked the 50 words of comment. If there is a reprint or revised edition in the future. page 116 needs comments for Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave….

(18) NEVER SAY NEVER. “’Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ director Jason Reitman used his ‘complicated’ relationship with his father to take on the franchise he’s avoided his whole life”MSN’s Jason Guerrasio profiles the younger Reitman.

… Reitman’s change of heart began with the idea of a girl in a cornfield, wearing a proton pack.

“A decade ago, I had this vision of a girl shooting a proton pack in a cornfield and suddenly popcorn flying up and her catching and eating it,” Reitman said with a far off look in his eye as he sipped on his morning coffee inside his home office. The sun shined in from his backyard window beside his desk.

“It was just one of those images where I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do with that,'” he continued.

Reitman is the first to admit that he usually doesn’t embrace these types of ideas. His movies, up to this point, have been grounded in reality. He’s preferred the independently-financed dramas that explore the human condition and usually feature women going through challenging times in their lives like a teenaged pregnancy (“Juno”) or a mid-life crisis (“Tully”).

He’s always had the same answer when asked if he’ll ever make a “Ghostbusters” movie: “No.”…

(19) AND IF YOU WANT TO PLAY ALONG AT HOME. Gizmodo reports “Hasbro’s fan-funded Haslab is offering the chance to purchase a full-scale model of the iconic prop” – “Ghostbusters Proton Pack”.

…Furthermore, the prop even has “a metal V-hook bracket that connects to the metal V-hook bracket on the bottom of the Neutrona Wand,” the Neutrona Wand being another Hasbro Pulse item you can preorder here for $125. If you’re not up on your Ghostbusters equipment lingo, the Neutrona Wand… well, it’s the gun that connects to the proton pack, so if you really want to get your cosplay on, you’re looking at dropping $525 for the pair. That is, assuming the Proton Pack project gets fully funded, but I wouldn’t be too worried about that. More than half of the 7,000 backers needed have signed up since the project launched yesterday, and there are still 45 days to go… 

(20) OCTOTHORPE. Time for the 43rd of Octothorpe. Listen here! “Clip That Out, John”.

John Coxon is critically bereft, Alison Scott made a mistake, and Liz Batty is carving papayas. We discuss Hallowe’en and then we move onto discussing problematic Guests of Honour in the context of convention bidding, before wrapping up with quick picks.

(21) TWO CHAIRS TALKING. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “celebrate St. Crispin’s Day by discussing recent awards, what they’ve been reading, both non-fiction and fiction, and summarizing their thoughts about this year’s Hugo Award nominees” in episode 64 of Two Chairs Talking: “And gentlemen in England now-a-bed”.

(22) SWEDEN’S SOLAR SYSTEM MODEL. [Item by Ingvar.] In the intermittent “Ingvar investigates planets”, I found the Jupiter model. It is pretty big, and publicly accessible without having to do anything, except walk.

(23) TOO MUCH INFORMATION. In Atascadero, CA “It’s No. 1 For Chills”.

At this haunted house, the ghosts and ghouls sometimes elicit more than screams.

The Haunt in Atascadero keeps extra pants on hand for visitors so frightened that they lose control of their bodily functions.

Two people have requested the pants, said Sandi Andersen-Tarica, the Haunt’s production manager.

And the staff keeps a list of those who wet themselves — at least 31 “confessed pee-ers” in the last two years.

“Some people, when they know what’s happening, they like to sign it as sort of a badge of honor,” Andersen-Tarica said. “And we do have it on a sign that we will provide emergency pants upon request.”

Nestled among coffee shops and restaurants in downtown Atascadero, the Haunt draws about 4,000 visitors each year….

(24) IF YOU THINK YOU’VE FOUND E.T. “Call for a framework for reporting evidence for life beyond Earth”Nature has the details.

Our generation could realistically be the one to discover evidence of life beyond Earth. With this privileged potential comes responsibility. The magnitude of the question of whether we are alone in the Universe, and the public interest therein, opens the possibility that results may be taken to imply more than the observations support, or than the observers intend. As life-detection objectives become increasingly prominent in space sciences, it is essential to open a community dialogue about how to convey information in a subject matter that is diverse, complicated and has a high potential to be sensationalized. Establishing best practices for communicating about life detection can serve to set reasonable expectations on the early stages of a hugely challenging endeavour, attach value to incremental steps along the path, and build public trust by making clear that false starts and dead ends are an expected and potentially productive part of the scientific process….

 [Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Dr. Emma J. King, Sandra Miesel, Raquel S. Benedict, Lise Andreasen, Ingvar, Daniel Dern, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, StephenfromOttwa, Carl Coling, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, a combiner of Elton John and Dune motifs, who admits Benny And The Gesserits also was a Portland, Oregon band, with at least one song from 2015, “I Guess That’s Why They Call This Place Dune”.]

Pixel Scroll 8/22/21 Ain’t No Mount TBR High Enough

(1) RAY BRADBURY’S 101ST. John King Tarpinian commemorated Ray Bradbury’s birthday, as he does each year, with a visit to the writer’s burial place:

Left Ray some Montag typing paper & a Faber pencil.  Plus a half-bottle of Dandelion Wine & a skate key from the Chicago Roller Skate Company.

(2) CHICAGO HONORS WOLFE. The late Gene Wolfe will be among those inducted to the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame on September 19.  As a former Fuller Award honoree he gained automatic induction upon his death. (Via Locus Online.)

(3) THE PLANETS OF SWEDEN. Ingvar livetweeted his latest tour of the inner planets of Sweden’s Solar System model . Ingvar’s thread starts here. Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are in Stockholm. The rest of the model is spread across the country.  

(4) AUSSIE NATCON CANCELED. Conflux, the annual Canberra convention which was also designated this year’s Australian national convention, won’t be held due to COVID concerns: “Conflux 2021 Cancelled” reports SFFANZ. See the announcement at the Conflux website.

Conflux is a speculative fiction convention held annually in Canberra. Like many conventions, Conflux in 2020 and 2021 have had to be cancelled due to the global pandemic. 

We will refund all registrations in the coming weeks, and the Rydges Hotel cancellation policy includes a full refund as long as you cancel more than 24 hours in advance.

We are currently working on how we can host the Ditmars and will advise further once we have everything in place for that.

(5) TINGLE PROVES LOVE TO HUGO VOTERS. Camestros Felapton’s autopsy of the 2016 Hugo Awards includes one lively memory — “Debarkle Chapter 58: Hugos and Dragons and Puppies Again”.

…If the impact of the Puppies was more ambiguous in 2016 it was still no less visible. There had been hope that the huge numbers of people who had joined Worldcon and voted against the Puppies in 2015 would translate into overwhelming numbers at the nomination phase. However, without a coordinated slate, a large number of people voting for a wide range of different things will not necessarily out vote a much smaller number voting for a slate. Over four thousand nomination ballots had been cast and of those maybe less than 10% were people following the Rabid Puppy slate[6] but in more popular categories, Day included more “hostages” on his slate and concentrated his more controversial picks on down-ballot categories….

With the Sad Puppies largely absent from the fight and with most of the substantive arguments having already played out in 2015, the 2016 award season was less riven with feuding disputes. There was a degree of pressure on some finalist who had been on the Rabid Puppy slate to withdraw but few did. Included in those who had been asked to withdraw was erotic humorist Chuck Tingle whose short story Space Raptor Butt Invasion had been slated by Vox Day in an attempt to mock the Hugo Awards. Tingle didn’t withdraw but instead turned his attention to mocking Vox Day and rolling the whole process of being nominated into his bizarre metafictional book titles….

(6) STINKERS. Buzzfeed lists “18 Movies That Were Completely Worthless” based on a Reddit thread. Would you like to guess how many are sff? Some of them are hard to classify – like the one below.

We all know that feeling. You finish a movie, and you can’t believe you just wasted two hours of your life that you’ll never get back…

8. The Emoji Movie

“It was a soulless corporate husk of a movie built on ads. Literally, ads the movie. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about the movie. It’s morally, creatively, and ethically bankrupt. I’m actually angry remembering I wasted two hours of my life watching that fucking movie.”

(7) RAIN ON YOUR ALIEN PARADE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post Magazine, Joel Achenbach, who wrote a book (Captured By Aliens) about “the search for extraterrestrial life,” takes a deep dive into the evidence for space aliens and conclude we’re alone in the universe and should work on problems we can solve instead of daydreaming about space aliens. “It’s time to stop UFO mania”.

…I’m wary of returning to that strange universe, because anything I write is guaranteed to be unsatisfying for everyone involved. My strong suspicion is that the number of UFO sightings that involve actual alien beings, from deep space, with the tentacles and the antennae and so on, is zero. I would put the likelihood at 0.0000 and then add some more zeros, before eventually, begrudgingly — because I’m so intellectually flexible — putting in a little 1 out there somewhere to the right, a lonely sentinel, because who knows? (Yes, I’m saying there’s a chance.)

This skeptical take, however, is the boring take. A better story would be that, after all these decades as a skeptic, I’ve converted, because the recent rash of UFO sightings has persuaded me that these are, in actual fact, spaceships from somewhere else in the universe, or perhaps from the future, and could even be future humans, such as grad students getting their PhDs in paleoanthropology. Much better story.

Science journalists regularly disappoint people by refusing to confirm really cool things like UFOs, past-life recall, astral projection, telekinesis, clairvoyance and so on. When I wrote my aliens book I made a disastrous marketing mistake by not including any aliens in the story, focusing instead on people who believe in aliens. Thus it was a major disappointment for readers who bought a copy after finding it in the “Occult” section at Barnes & Noble….

(8) ELLISON ON THE AIR. J. Michael Straczynski has made available, in a now-unlocked Patreon post, a recording of one of the Harlan Ellison-hosted episodes of Hour 25 aired in 1986 by LA radio station KPFK.

Meanwhile, here’s an exclusive treat for Patrons who are/were fans of Harlan Ellison: his HOUR 25 interview with best-selling horror author Clive Barker.  (Harlan copyrighted the shows he hosted under the Kilimanjaro Corporation and I don’t believe this has been heard anywhere since its initial airing.)  It’s vastly entertaining, educational for writers, and very funny in places.  This is the broadcast exactly as it went out on at 10 p.m PST, August 30th, 1986, with roughly 90 minutes of the most engaging conversation you’re apt to hear this month.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2001 – On this day twenty years ago, the Legend series ended its very brief run on UPN. A sort of steampunk Western, it was developed by Michael Piller, who is best known for his contributions to the Star Trek franchise, and  Bill Dail who is responsible for Sliders. It really had only two primary characters in the form of Ernest Pratt / Nicodemus Legend as played by Richard Dean Anderson and Janos Bartok as played by John de Lancie. It would run for the briefest of times as I noted, just twelve episodes before being cancelled. Every critic compared it to The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., some favorably and some not. The New York Post critic called it “a gorgeous amalgam of science fiction and old-fashioned Western”.  It, like so many short run series, has no Rotten Tomatoes rating. Nor does it exist on any of the streaming services. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 22, 1907 Oliver McGowan. He played The Caretaker in the “Shore Leave” episode of the original Trek. It must be decades since I’ve seen that episode but I still remember liking it a lot, silly though it be. It’s kind of the ancestor to the holodeck, isn’t it? McGowan has one-offs on One Step Beyond, Wild Wild West, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born August 22, 1919 Douglas W F Mayer. A British fan who was editor for  three issues of Amateur Science Stories published by the Science Fiction Association of Leeds, England. He was thereby the publisher of Arthur C. Clarke’s very first short story, “Travel by Wire”, which appeared in the second issue in December 1937. He would later edit the Tomorrow fanzine which would be nominated for the 1939 Best Fanzine Retro Hugo. (Died 1976.)
  • Born August 22, 1920 Ray Bradbury. So what’s your favorite work by him? I have three. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the one I reread quite a bit, with The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles being my other go to works by him. Though he won no Hugos as his best work predated them, he’s won six Retro Hugos for a best novel, two best short stories, twice for fan writer and one for best fanzine. The Martian Chronicles film was nominated for a Hugo at Denvention Two, the year The Empire Strikes Back won; Something Wicked This Way Comes would go up against the Return of The Jedi which won at L.A. Con II. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 22, 1925 Honor Blackman. Best known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers, Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts. She was also Professor Lasky in “Terror of the Vervoids” in the Sixth Doctor’s “The Trial of a Time Lord”. Genre adjacent, she was in the film of Agatha Christie’s The Secret Adversary as Rita Vandemeyer. (Died 2020.)
  • Born August 22, 1931 Douglas Cramer. He produced twenty-four episodes of the original Trek, and he was Executive Producer of Wonder Woman. His only writing credit was for The Cat People. (Died 2021.)
  • Born August 22, 1945 David Chase, 76. He’s here today mainly because he wrote nine episodes including the “Kolchak: Demon and the Mummy” telefilm of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. He also wrote the screenplay for The Grave of The Vampire, and one for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Enough Rope fur Two”, which he also directed. And yes, he wrote many of the scripts for Northern Exposure which is at least genre adjacent. 
  • Born August 22, 1955 Will Shetterly, 66. Of his novels, I recommend his two Borderland novels, Elsewhere and Nevernever, which were both nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature , and his sort of biographical Dogland. Married to Emma Bull, they did a trailer for her War for The Oaks novel which is worth seeing as you’ll spot Minnesota fans in it. Emma as the Elf Queen is definitely something to behold! 
  • Born August 22, 1963 Tori Amos, 58. One of Gaiman’s favorite musicians, so it’s appropriate that she penned two essays, the afterword to “Death” in Sandman: Book of Dreams, and the Introduction to “Death” in The High Cost of Living. Although created before they ever met, Delirium from The Sandman series is based on her. 

(11) TAKING THE LID OFF. The table of contents has been revealed for What One Wouldn’t Do: An Anthology on the Lengths One Might Go edited by Scott J. Moses. Comes out October 5.

With dark fiction from J.A.W. McCarthy, Avra Margariti, Marisca Pichette, Stephanie Ellis, Christina Wilder, Donna Lynch, Katie Young, Scott J. Moses, Angela Sylvaine, tom reed, Cheri Kamei, Shane Douglas Keene, J.V. Gachs, Tim McGregor, Emma E. Murray, Nick Younker, Jennifer Crow, Joanna Koch, Lex Vranick, Laurel Hightower, Eric Raglin, Eric LaRocca, Daniel Barnett, Bob Johnson, Simone le Roux, Hailey Piper, Bryson Richard, Jena Brown, and Christi Nogle.

(12) NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S ANIMATRONICS. The New York Times wants to know, “Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?”

Not an imitation Groot conjured with video or those clunky virtual reality goggles. The Walt Disney Company’s secretive research and development division, Imagineering, had promised a walking, talking, emoting Groot, as if the arboreal “Avengers” character had jumped off the screen and was living among us.

But first I had to find him. GPS had guided me to a warehouse on a dead-end street in Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb. The place seemed deserted. As soon as I parked, however, a man warily appeared from behind a jacaranda tree. Yes, I had an appointment. No, I was not hiding any recording devices. He made a phone call, and I was escorted into the warehouse through an unmarked door behind a dumpster.

In the back near a black curtain a little wrinkled hand waved hello.

It was Groot.

He was about three feet tall and ambled toward me with wide eyes, as if he had discovered a mysterious new life form. He looked me up and down and introduced himself….

…The development of Groot — code-named Project Kiwi — is the latest example. He is a prototype for a small-scale, free-roaming robotic actor that can take on the role of any similarly sized Disney character. In other words, Disney does not want a one-off. It wants a technology platform for a new class of animatronics….

(13) AS THE STEM IS BENT. NASA entices scholars with a loaded webpage: “Launch Back to School With NASA: Student and Educator Resources for the 2021-2022 School Year”.

As students across the country are saying goodbye to the summer and the new school year is kicking off, NASA is gearing up to engage students in exciting activities and thought-provoking challenges throughout the year ahead. The agency offers many resources to inspire the next generation of explorers, and help educators and students stay involved in its missions.

“Back-to-school season is a really exciting time for NASA. It represents the beginning of a new year of opportunities to connect with students, and the families and teachers who support them,” said Mike Kincaid, associate administrator for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this variety of activities and options for students from K-12 to the collegiate level, whether they’re returning to a brick-and-mortar school or a virtual classroom at home.”

Below, NASA has prepared a long list of mission-related resources and opportunities for students, educators, and families to utilize during the 2021-2022 school year. Follow NASA STEM on Twitter and Facebook social media channels using the hashtags #BacktoSchool and #NASASTEM for additional content and updates….

(14) CELEBRATE LANDSAT. At another page, “NASA Invites You to Create Landsat-Inspired Arts and Crafts”.

Share Your Earth-Inspired Art – For 50 years, Landsat satellites have collected images of Earth from space. On Sept. 16, Landsat 9 is scheduled to launch and continue this legacy. Crafters of all ages are invited to share Landsat-inspired art creations.

How?

  1. Search the Landsat Image Gallery for an image that inspires you.
  2. Get crafting! This can be anything from watercolor paintings to knitted accessories to a tile mosaic – whatever sparks your creativity.
  3. Share your creation with us on social media using the hashtag #LandsatCraft

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2018, Jay Leno’s Garage did a demo of Jay driving Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

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

Trigger Snowflake and the Grand Reopening

By Ingvar: Trigger was just about done with his pre-lunch stroll through Fort Corallium, when an almost out-of-breath Barbara Dimatis came rushing towards him.

“Sheriff! Sheriff! Have you heard?”

“No, Ms Dimatis, I don’t believe I have?”

“The Bistro has re-opened!”

“Bistro Futuristo?”

“Yes!”

“Well, I hope this is after a thorough investigation of all the alleged shenanigans around the dessert stations.”

“The editor’s column in the latest issue of Futuristo Magazine has some commentary around it. I believe Coraline should have a copy.”

Trigger finished off his patrol, then walked back to the office. This was clearly something well worth checking up on.

***

> What I saw in the Bistro over the last year by James ven Sveller

> I have now had time to review the allegations made against Bistro
> Futuristo, both specific and general.

> And I can say with confidence that they are all fabricated. What I
> have seen is a vibrant community of literary people, discussing art
> and curating the buffet in a civilised fashion, ranging from arranging
> or peeling grapes to the intricacies of experimental grammar in the
> works of Snorkly ven Ziploque. I have investigated tens of
> serving-related tools from the buffet, if not all of the thousands
> used to serve, and served from, during the years that the Bistro has
> operated.

> Were there dishes served I would not eat? Yes, some I would not touch
> with a three-metre pole. But, such is taste.

> When I first shut down the Bistro, I was overwhelmed with the love
> that past and current patrons of the Bistro expressed. It is now my
> privilege to re-open Bistro Futuristo again. And to distance the
> magazine from it, I have created a company I call LiteratureSalons to
> manage the Bistro going forward.

> We did make some changes during the close-down. Some areas of the
> buffet that were not well-trafficked (the spiced butter section, among
> them) have been taken out, and some have been moved, to better
> facilitate the serving flow.

> And remember that there are rules in the Bistro. No bringing in food
> from other Bistros. No disparaging the contributors to Futuristo
> Magazine.No pan-handling for causes not previously OKed by one of the
> curators.

> Also, in order to ensure we don’t get any of these blatantly false
> allegations in the future, we have made the Bistro a members-only
> establishment. To enter, you must have purchased a Futuristo Magazine
> in the last Earth year. Any visitor to the Bistro in the last 12
> months has been grandparented in.

Trigger could not quite believe what he just read. Was ven Sveller completely out of touch with reality? Was the clearly documented presence of emetics in the Cleveries not enough of a “there is a problem here” signal?

***

The following week, as Trigger entered the Emporium, for a sneaky afternoon snack of coffee and a danish, he was not expecting the extra item served with his between-meals snack. A letter-of-comment, printed out, next to his coffee cup.

> More Bistro Shenanigans? Leanne Ackie

> You have all heard the news that Bistro Futuristo has re-opened. As
> someone whose visiting privileges was grandparented in, I recently
> paid a visit to the re-opened establishment.

> Like previous times, I took samples from multiple stations and had
> them sent off to a laboratory for analysis. The situation with the
> purple Cleveries is the same. Roughly one in five is covered in
> emetics (and, mind you, this will eventually, through agitation,
> dissipate onto other candies in the same bowl).

> For the chocolate truffles, I sampled in total seventeen, from four
> different truffle plates. Of those, a whole five were now spiked with
> emetics.

> Based on this, I think we can simply conclude that the Bistro
> management were fully aware of what was happening and that they are OK
> with breaches of the “no forcey” rule, if that is in furtherance of
> Sulphurian appreciation demonstration customs.

“Ms Dimatis? Am I reading this correctly? That ven Sveller closed the bistro, only to re-open it and concluding that nothing untowards ever happened?”

“Yes, Sheriff Snowflake, I think that it is the only thing we can conclude. Did you like the latest roasted beans?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Dessert

By Ingvar: Trigger arrived back at his combined Sheriff’s Office and home, after a productive day of patrolling Fort Corallium. All the citizens seemed happy, and he was looking forward to a nice, relaxing evening in the company of his beloved wife, Coraline.

He opened the door, hung the belt with his twin laser revolvers on its assigned hook and locked the door behind him.

“Coraline, I am home!”, he shouted, then proceeded to climb the stairs from the office space to his domicile. Once unencumbered by his street clothes, Trigger leaned back in his comfy chair and relaxed.

Not even fifteen minutes later, his reveries were disturbed by Coraline’s agitated voice.

“Trigger! Trigger! You won’t believe it!”

“Hmm?”

“You know Futuristo Magazine? There’s just been an article published about one of their side businesses!”

“From the sound of it, nothing good?”

“No, I am wondering what they’re going to do about it?”

“About what, beloved?”

“So, Futuristo Magazine have this, well, salon. It is called Bistro Futuristo. And apparently, Sulphurists have been putting emetics in the buffet. And until just recently, it had just never been spoken about. I mean, imagine it, you go to a poetry and literature salon, and the next thing you know, you’re spilling your figurative guts over everything.”

“I’m sure we will see a sensible response from the editors and owners of Futuristo.”

“I so hope that is true, Trigger.”

          #          #          #

A few days later, down at the Coffee Emporium, Trigger was having breakfast. A nice cup of Bean of the Day and a grilled synthecheese. As he finished the last bite of the synthecheese, Barbara Dimatis walked up to his table.

“Sheriff Snowflake, may I sit?”

“Why, sure, Ms Dimatis. What troubles you?”

“You’ve heard of Bistro Futuristo? Well, turns out that the editor and owner of Futuristo Magazine has made an announcement.”

“From what my beloved Coraline said, I hope it was a sensible and well-reasoned announcement?”

“Not so much. Actually, it may be easier if you just read it yourself.”

> It has been brought to our attention by some helpful folks, that emetics that not everyone want to ingest have been present in Bistro Futuristo. In order to fully investigate these serious allegations, and the Bistro’s ‘no forcey’ rules, we will be closing the Bistro from Wednesday at noon, and all patrons will have to take their lawful acts of appreciation elsewhere.

“Now that,” said Trigger, “is not the response I would have expected.”

“Well, ven Sveller, the owner and editor of Futuristo Magazine, have shown Sulphur sentiments in the past, but, the way I read this is that there’s basically no way he didn’t know.”

          #          #          #

A long and tiring day of patrolling the neighborhood later, Trigger arrived home.

“Trigger, darling, have you heard?”

“The ven Sveller apolonot? Yes, Ms Dimatis showed me at the Emporium this morning.”

“No. Well, related, but not that. Here, read this!”

An outrage of cancel culture run amok! by Whalie Correadore

As a poet and contributor to Futuristo Magazine, it has been my custom to visit the Bistro, to bask in the presence and splendour that is the collective intelligence and with of the Bistrovians, as we jokingly call ourselves.

I have been an active Bistrovian for 23 years, and I have never had a problem of being slipped emetics. But, I normally stick to the coffee and the Danishes. I mean, people who go for the candy get what they deserve, right?”

Trigger blinked. Was this the beginning of a brewing storm?

None of the sections I curated and collected recipes for ever had a problem. Therefore, this report of inserted emetics is pure hogwash, constructed by the rabidly anti-Sulphur literati. Not, mind you, that I am a Sulphurian myself, but I know several of them.

Trigger shook his head. This was obviously not heading anywhere good.

“Oh, darling, here’s another LoC that you should read.”

Cancelists by Carl Sparkrock

I have been a Futuristo contributor for 30 years. I am probably the most anti-Sulphur Futuristo contributor there is. And I condemn everyone for these false emetics allegations. Why, I used to be a regular in the Bistro, and there was never anything like that going on then.

Sure, I have been on a different planet for 15 years, but I am sure that nothing would ever change in the Bistro, as it is so lovingly curated and managed by not only James, but by several community curators. They ensure that fresh fare is brought forth and every bowl, carafe and pump thermos is kept in good order.

They’re a good bunch, the Bistrovians, I am sure they would never do anything like that.

Trigger simply shook his head. This whole story was becoming more and more unbelievable, for every single report that came out of the Bistrovian camp.

          #          #          #

Later that evening, Trigger found further letters of comment, touching on the matter of the Bistro Futuristo.

My thoughts, by Anna min Scotch

There have been overblown reports of emetics all over everything in the Bistro. As a regular Bistrovian, I can say that this is blatantly false. I have a strict “no emetics” policy for the salad bar. Over in the dessert section, I guess there’s some emetics in among the Cleveries. It’s a known thing and it’s not as if everyone doesn’t already know to stay away from the candy section in general and the Cleveries in particular.

No, this is clearly overblown and there is no emetics problem at the Bistro. I am outraged that James has been forced by these anti-Sulphurians to need to shut the Bistro down. It is a valuable resource for us who publish with and contribute to Futuristo Magazine. They should be ashamed for closing the Bistro down.

This Bistro Futuristo thing. Leanne Ackie

I have occasionally visited Bistro Futuristo. Mostly, I would say, it is a nice, clean, and food-safe environment. But, there are sections that are definitely not.

I am not going to name names, because I do not know them. But, having taken samples from various parts of the Bistro’s buffet of comestibles, I can definitely say that in my sample, one out of roughly every five purple Cleveries candy was absolutely coated in emetics. I also found a single chocolate truffle that had emetics on the inside.

Based on this, I think these self-congratulating reports about “no problem at all” are interesting and show, possibly, a tendency to defend the Bistro while either intentionally obscuring what they know (or should know) or (as some did) simply not knowing, on account of not having visited the Bistro for well over a decade.

Make of this what you want. There was a problem, and either James ven Sveller knew and let it continue. Or, probably worse, ven Sveller didn’t know what was being done in the name of his magazine. Either way, a temporary close-down to ensure that there are no stray emetics, as well as making a strong statement that it is not acceptable going forward, is necessary.

          #          #          #

The next morning, Trigger woke up to Coraline pacing in the bedroom.

“Beloved, what is the matter?”

“Well, it seems that there have been threats against the person who first reported the Bistro Futuristo problem.”

“But? What? Why? That makes no sense. At best, it accomplishes nothing, at worst it puts the Bistrovians in an extremely bad light?”

“Honestly, dear Trigger, I don’t understand it and I am not sure I want to.”

“Threats for what reason?”

“Apparently for not having engaged with ven Sveller before publishing the report. Or possibly for having brought it to light. Something like that.”

“Metaphorically putting my Sheriff’s Hat on, I don’t see why that would have been necessary. We can safely assume that ven Sveller has been aware of what’s going on. I mean, it’s not as if the other Bistrovians weren’t aware, they just chose to declare it ‘not a problem’. And as the proprietor, ven Sveller is fundamentally responsible for the quality of food served in his establishment, even if he has volunteer curators assisting with quality assurance. Also note that, if I understand correctly, the person dosing the Cleveries with emetics was a volunteer curator, pointing towards failures in judgment by ven Sveller. Now, I will go to the kitchen and make us a nice, nostalgic, breakfast of beans on toast.”

Trigger Snowflake and the Election

By Ingvar: Coraline came up the stairs, just as Trigger took a sip of coffee. The DripMatic 3000 had been behaving oddly the last week, but today’s coffee was pretty good. Well on the right side of “drinkable”, at least.

Trigger put his cup down, as he saw Coraline wave a paper in the air.

“Trigger!” she said, “Look at this! Look who’s standing for president!”

Trigger swallowed his coffee. “But, Coraline, the presidential election isn’t for another four years.”

“Oh, sorry. Not for the Solar System. Just for the Solarian Poets’ Society.”

*    *    *

We now take our omniscient view back a week or so in time, to see how the candidacy that upset Coraline started.

Charles Tayroth woke up, bright and early, just before brunch, as he normally did. This day, unlike most days, he was pondering the upcoming election for the SPS board. “I am a successful poet.”, he thought. “I am a winner. I should clearly be the new president of the SPS.”

With thought and deed being one, he rapidly declared his standing for election.

I, Charles Tayroth, will be standing for president for the Solarian Poet’s Society. I am the most logical choice, because I am rich and successful. I even once won the Best Services to the Poetic Arts. Based on this, you would be a fool to vote for anyone else.

Remember, when it is time to mark your candidate, anything but marking Charles Tayroth for president is foolish and misled. Vote me. Make the Solar System Poetic!

*    *    *

“But, beloved Coraline, who is this Mr Tayroth?”

“Trigger, dear, do you remember, back a while ago, when me and Barbara were upset over the Poetry Of All Of Us win, and what came after? Well, Tayroth is the one who ended up declaring himself the sole reason for the win, and misusing logos for pins, embroidered shirts and other merchandise.”

“That doesn’t necessarily sound like the best person to head a trade association for poets.”

“You are so right. I will need to go speak to Barbara, immediately.”

*    *    *

As Coraline entered the Coffee Emporium, she was met not only by the delicious smell of freshly brewed coffee, but also some strong words and a flung newspaper.

“Barbara? What is happening?”

“Oh, Coraline, the most awful thing. Charles Tayroth is standing for SPS president. Something clearly must be done. But, I do not know what.”

“It is beginning to become clear to me. We need to get a second candidate to stand. Someone who is more liked by poets in general, and who has a chance to win. Someone like you, Barbara.”

“No, Coraline, I could not possibly do that. What would happen to the Emporium, were I to become president of the SPS? I would not have enough time to oversee all the roasting and synthecheese printing. You know how much work it is. And you were possibly even more involved in writing letters of comment than I was.”

“It is a thorny problem, Barbara. Let us sit down with a cup of something to fuel our thoughts.”

*    *    *

“Anna, have you seen? Charles Tayroth is standing for president of the SPS!”

“I have, Rick. It is a wondrous thing. While not a Sulphurian, he has at least showed himself sympathetic to the Sulfurian creed. There is no possible chance that he will lose.”

“I will take it upon myself to spread the good word, to every single poet within venostationary orbit. Personally, if needs be. I will ensure that I do all I can to safeguard Tayroth’s future presidency.”

                    *    *    *

Olaus Frond dropped the newsletter from his surprisingly uncooperative hand. Normally, he had no problem holding on to multiple sheets of paper, but what he just read was so out of the normal that minor bodily malfunctions was a small price to pay.

It was, nonetheless, time for a sharply worded letter of comment.

Charles Tayroth standing for the SPS presidency – an unprecedented crisis in poetry?

   By Flapping-in-the-wind Leaves

   This morning, I saw something that I could not even have anticipated in my most febrile nightmares. Charles Tayroth has declared his candidacy for the presidency of the Solarian Poets’ Society. And at this point, he is standing unopposed.

   To most of us, Charles Tayroth is only known as a businessman. To some of us, he is also known as the person who sullied the collective win of POAOU a while back, by trying to make it his win. To me, and a small number of others, Tayroth is a cruel abuser, who kicks those who happen to have fallen down in his vicinity and, if they haven’t fallen on their own accord, will happily push and trip them.

   I know, because I am one of those he has pushed, tripped, kicked and generally abused. I have hesitated to say something. I am not actually sure why, in retrospect. Maybe my silence has helped him get further than he deserves. But, no longer. My love for SPS is greater than my fear of personal ridicule.

   I am not in a position to stand for the presidency myself, but what we need at this point is a candidate everyone can get behind. Someone with impeccable organizational skills and a good reputation in poetry.

*    *    *

Barbara Dimatis sat down, head between her hands, elbows on the table, almost pressing down. She had just finished reading the letter of comment from Flapping-in-the-wind, and was now in visible distress.

She walked from her office, towards the entrance of the Emporium. “Sophonta, I will be out for a while. You’re in charge.”

She turned left and walked up Main Street. After a few minutes, she reached the Sheriff’s Office, where she paused, hand raised as if ready to knock.

A few seconds later, she knocked on the door, first hesitantly, but by the third knock, it was a firm, almost urgent, knocking.

The door opened. In front of her stood Sheriff Snowflake.

“Ms Dimatis? What a surprise. How can the Sheriff’s Office help you today?”

“Oh, Trigger, I need to speek to Coraline, urgently. You have no idea.”

“Certainly, won’t you come in and sit down, I will tell her that you have arrived.”

Trigger walked up the stairs. Muted voices filtered down from upstairs, but Barbara could not rightly say what was being said, even if the tone was calm and relaxed. As she fidgeted, Coraline came down the stairs.

“Barbara? What’s wrong? Trigger said you seemed upset? Won’t you come upstairs?”, the two women started towards the upper floor. “I won’t offer you coffee, you can have much better at the Emporium and I know that. But, dear, sit down and I can offer you a small sherry, it is good for the nerves and from the looks of you, a pre-noon sherry is exactly what the Doctor would order.”

“Barbara, have you read the latest from Flapping-in-the-Wind Leaves? He has accurately described the whole Tayroth situation. It is a big problem. I fear that SPS will fall down around us, unless something is done.”

“No, Barbara, I have not. Did you bring a copy?”

“I brought the whole issue. Here it is, right there. Read it, please.”

Coraline took the magazine and quietly read, while Barbara took a cautious sip of sherry.

“You are right, Barbara, this is worse than I thought. But, who could we possibly find on short notice, with extensive experience in organizing, as well as an active connection to poetry and the arts?”

“I don’t know, for sure. But, I just had a sudden idea.”

“Do tell, do tell.”

“It just occured to me that you have been on the board, now, for multiple SysLiCons. You also have a proven passion for the arts.”

“What? Me? I could not possibly…”

“Let me get a semi-independent second opinion. Trigger?! Could you come up here? We need your advice.”

Several seconds later, Trigger appeared in the kitchen.

“What advice, Barbara?”

“Well, you know the whole Solarian Poets’ Society presidency election thing?”

“Yes, some Treerot standing, wasn’t it?”

“Tayroth, yes. Well, it turns out he’s even less suitable for president than we thought. And he is still standing unopposed. And without a suitable candidate, with organizational experience, a good reputation in the arts, as well as an active love for the world of poetry, the SPS is basically doomed.”

“Sounds like it. Well, I can think of a few that fits that bill, off the top of my head. Barbara, have you considered…”

“Yes, I have. But, that would mean giving up the Emporium and at this point I am not quite ready for that.”

“Well, the second name that occurs, not because it is necessarily better nor worse, just later in the alphabet is my beloved Coraline. What do you think? Would that be something that would suit you?”

Coraline’s jaw dropped. “What? But? What? No? I mean, yes. But? How much time would it take? Could I possibly…”

“Coraline, darling. It is for the betterment of the arts. I was a single sheriff before I met you and should this take enough time that you would find yourself unable to do all the small things that we jointly have become accustomed to, well, it just means I have to do a bit more. Or that things stay undone. I definitely think that you should consider it.”

*    *    *

“This meeting of the Elemental Smartalec Group is declared open. Anna, could you report on Tayroth’s campaign?”

“We have a second candidate, Coraline Snowflake. But, as we all know, she is deeply unpopular and thus has no chance of winning. Tayroth’s presidency is all but guaranteed.”

“Excellent. We will finally have the president that poets and artists demand. Do we have any contingency plans?”

“Based on the numbers, we don’t need any. A poll last week had a reassuring 100% vote for Tayroth. As I said, despite a new candidate in the field, our victory is all but guaranteed.”

*    *    *

Barbara finished off counting the last few entries on the pre-election poll. Based on the latest polling, Coraline would win by a comfortable margin. A full 68.3% of the SPs electorate had a preference for Snowflake for President. She looked up from the results sheet.

“Coraline? Almost 7 out of 10 prefer you for president. I would consider it time to start writing your acceptance speech. It is by no means a guarantee, but two weeks ago, you were polling at around 30% and now you’re well into a majority. It is of course just a poll, but we may just pull this off.”

“I am so nervous, Barbara. I am almost as afraid of winning as I am of losing. But, yes, I will cautiously start writing my acceptance speech, that is good advice.”

*    *    *

The Solarian Poets’ Society Presidential Election – A Report

    This presidential election campaign is unprecedented. For the first time ever have the SPS stood with a single candidate for president for over half the campaign period.

   When the campaign started, only Mr Charles Tayroth was standing for candidate. But, just over halfway through the campaign period, a second candidate, Mrs Coraline Snowflake, entered the field, campaigning on a basis of proven volunteering within the field of poetry.

       Now that the election is over and the votes have been counted, it is the pleasure of the Electoral Committee to present the results.

    Runner-up, with 6.06% of the vote, is Mr Charles Tayroth. Winner, with 92.24% of the vote, is Mrs Coraline Snowflake. In total 1.7% were write-in candidates, blank or otherwise spoiled votes.

 *    *    *

Slem ven Pocketry dropped the official election results on the table, “This is an outrage. How can Tayroth possibly have gone from an assured win, to a humiliating defeat in only a few months? This makes no sense.”

John ven Fengsler cleared his throat, “Slem, you know as well as I do that numbers do not lie. In the polling, Tayroth had close to all the votes. The only explanation possible here is election fraud. You’re well-versed in the law. Is there anything we can do?”

“Hm, well, we can probably show election fraud. And that’s illegal. Not as illegal as in an official election. But, yes, I am pretty sure we have room to bring a law suit to the SPS election board. We should probably also tell Tayroth that he’s not lost because election fraud. This all makes sense. John, could you ask Anna min Scortch, Rick ven Fleerbo and possibly a few others to start working on slogans and memes?”

   *    *    *

Emmanuel Lilyberg opened his front door, “Lilyberg, what do you want?”

“We have a package for you, if you could sign here?”

Manny signed and brought the package into his home. He had a nagging feeling this was related to all the false rumours going around related to the SPS election. Deep down, he knew that accepting the position as chair of the electoral board would eventually have come to this.

He opened the package. It wasn’t even a good law suit, definitely pre-used and still whiffing slightly of the dry-cleaning fumes. Hopefully, the legal matter would be better. Thankfully, he was in a good position to make an estimate of the chances of the opposing side taking the matter home.

    A suit of law, brought from the Campaign for Tayroth for Solarian Poets’ Society President against the Solarian Poets’ Society Electoral Board.

       We, the Campaign for Tayroth for Tayroth for Solarian Poets’ Society (hereafter “the Campaign”) bring this law suit against the Solarian Poets’ Society Electoral Board (hereafter “the board”) for malicious interference in election, electoral fraud, and the stealing of the presidency of the Solarian Poets’ Society (hereafter “SPS”).

   We have ample evidence that this is the case. In exhibit A, we demonstrate that in a polling on Soldate 17-5, every single polled individual who stated a preference preferred Tayroth as president of the SPS. It is thus not mathematically possible for Coraline Snowflake to have gained over 90% of the vote a mere four months later.

   We will demonstrate how the board interfered with the free will of the electorate. We will show how they maliciously transferred votes from Tayroth to Snowflake. We will demonstrate that they were indeed up to no good at all.

     *    *    *

A few days later, Manny walked over to the court room where the case would be heard. At least, living on Luna, it was easy to get to the central court.

He seemed to be among the first to arrive, the plaintiff had yet to show up. Manny sat down in the Defendant’s Section and waited.

Within a few minutes, everyone had arrived. Slem ven Pocketry seemingly representing the plaintiff. But, at least this time there were no yellow capes signalling Sulphur allegiance.

“Let it be known that Honourable Judge Baycove is in the court. This court is now in session for The Charles Tayroth Campaign for President of the Solarian Poets’ Society v The Solarian Poets’ Society Electoral Board, in a matter of election shenaniganery. Is the plaintiff present?”

“Aye!”, said ven Pocketry, rapidly standing up. “Well, a representative for,” then sat down again.

“Plaintiff is present. Is the defendant present?”

“Aye”, Manny sat down again.

“Defendant is present. I can see that both plaintiff and defendant are not advised by advocates. We have not had a preliminary hearing. The purpose of this session is first and foremost to establish the truth. Based on that truth, we will determine where guilt lies. After that, this court will dispense justice, retribution and corrective measures as it sees fit. Any questions?”

No one spoke, for a few seconds. The judge checked the documents in front of her.

“The Court calls Slem ven Pocketry, Venusian and representative for the Tayrorth Campaign, that is clear enough for now. Please take the witness stand and place your hand on the truth sensors. Please tell us your version of the events. You will be under oath. The truth sensors will signal any perjury, which is punishable all the way up to imprisonment. Please now proceed to the witness stand.”

Hands on the sensors embedded in the railing, ven Pocketry cleared his throat. “I am one of the people who have been working for the Tayroth Campaign. We have seen the Tayroth popularity go from overwhelming in polling to devastatingly low in the actual election. We put forth that this can only be explained by election fraud, in various forms.”

The judge’s gaze wandered across the court room. “Would the defense like to cross-examine at this point?”

“Gladly, your Honour. This over-whelming polling, when was that?”

“It would have been about five months ago?”

“Could the overwhelmingness of the Tayroth polling at that time be explained by Tayroth being the only candidate standing for president at that point? And the decline then be explained by a second candidate, offering a choice between candidates?”

“It is simply not mathematically possible that people would change their preferred candidate.”

“Again, going back to this poll, about five months ago. Could you present it in full?”

“Tayroth was overwhelmingly popular?”

“As it happens, I ordered a copy of the full report from the polling firm. Looking at this breakdown, it seems the actual numbers are 15% for Tayroth, 30% for ‘I will spoil my vote.’ and 55% for ‘if he wins, I will leave the SPS.’ Could this not explain things?”

“Note that the 85% of spoiled votes would not count. This is 100% of the valid votes being for Tayroth. Not mathematically possible!”

“The defense would like to enter this polling document into the evidence. We don’t think we need to do more to demonstrate our innocence in this matter.”

The judge gazed at ven Pocketry in silence. As the Venusian started to squirm, she spoke. “The Plaintiff can leave the witness stand. This court is now ready to pronounce judgment.”

When everyone were back in their assigned seats, she continued. “In the matter of the Tayroth Campain v The Electoral Board, we find that the plaintiff has a sufficiently vague grasp of basic statistics and such a tenuous connection to consensus reality that we cannot put a perjury claim on them. However, we also find that the Electoral Board is completely free of any wrong-doing. In the interest of the legal system, anyone involved in the Tayroth Campaign is hereby instructed to not raise any matter involving mathematics without at least three independent mathematicians checking their basic assumptions. This case is dismissed, with prejudice. For the Court, Judge Baycove presiding.”

Trigger Snowflake and the Catchy Thing

By Ingvar: “Trigger, darling?”, said Coraline. “I just saw a really interesting, and disturbing, letter-of-comment.”

“Hm?”

“It’s from this Sean Massdriver, he’s on one of those terminator-chasing cities on Mercury.”

“You mean the ones on rails? Just on the night-side, keeping track with Mercurian dusk?”

“Yes, one of those. He’s writing about this new disease that’s starting to pop up in one of the other terminator cities, Yannis. It’s apparently already killed several people and seems to have just popped up from nowhere.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good. Do we know anything else?”

“Not at this time, we don’t, no. I’m heading over to the Emporium, to meet Barbara. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

Trigger was still busy reading the latest legal updates as Coraline closed her reader and headed downstairs. He’d just reached an interesting update on profiteering as the door closed.

#

Barbara Dimatis was in the back office, looking through a combination of news feeds, literary magazines, and the order book for the Emporium. Presumably, there was a pattern to how she did this, but for an external observer, it would have looked random.

She was just finishing a most interesting letter-of-comment from a Sean Massdriver when she heard, faintly, her name being mentioned out by the counter. She stopped and listened. Yes, it was definitely Coraline, what a pleasant surprise.

“Are you sure Barbara is busy? It’s important I get to speak to her?”

“Well, Mrs. Snowflake, she said she’d be busy with some office work, and not to be disturbed.”

“Oh. In that case, can I have the House roast, drip, a quarter spoon of sugar, and maybe a Vienna on the side?”

Barbara stepped out from the office door. “Make that twice, Angelique, dear. I will join Mrs Snowflake for refreshments.”

“Barbara! Have you seen….”

“I think I have, Coraline. Would you join me in the office?”

The two friends sat down at the small table in the corner of the Coffee Emporium’s rather large office, nicely decked out with a white linen cloth and small, fragile-looking lace placemats.

“So, you’ve seen the Mssdriver LoC, Coraline?”

“I have indeed. And I am troubled. If what he writes is real, we have a new disease on our hands, and no one will be immune.”

“It is on Mercury, though.”

“True, but people travel from Mercury all the time, even if it is deep in the Sun’s gravity well. And we have no idea what incubation times look like.”

“No, I think the best we can hope for now is that no one is infectious before symptoms show, and stop being infectious before the symptoms go away.”

“We should be so lucky. Well, if it looks like it’s a new sysdemic, I will do what I can to keep Fort Corallium safe. I will talk to darling Trigger. And you, Barbara, should consider closing the Emporium down for over-the-counter business. This is very much a place where everyone meets, and if the new disease is sturdy on hard surfaces, this could become the one place that infects our whole delightful town.”

“I will take that under consideration. If nothing else, we could expand the delivery business.”

With that, the coffee was finished, and the two pastries eaten. Coraline brushed the few remaining crumbs off the table into her hand and deposited the detritus in Barbara’s waste basket.

“It was delightful, Barbara, to talk to you, even if the subject matter leaves something to wish for.”

“Likewise, Coraline. Don’t be a stranger. Take care of Sheriff Snowflake for us, will you?”

#

Trigger was walking down Main Street, nodding a quick “hello” to people as he passed. It was a beautiful day, the sun a small, bright star on the horizon, and the gas giant bright and bold, covering a substantial portion of the sky.

Such a day really demanded a good cuppa, and a grilled synthecheese. His feet quickened by the thought, Trigger sped up somewhat, as he headed for the Coffee Emporium.

“Sheriff Snowflake!” Barbara said as he entered. “Welcome. The usual?”

“Thank you, Ms Dimatis, if you would?”

“Say, Sheriff, would you feel horribly imposed on, if I were to give you a second synthecheese, on the house?”

“Is this an attempt to curry favour from a lawman?”

“No, Sheriff, I have been tracking the progress of SoVID-59, and I have taken the decision that the Emporium will close its doors to walk-in customers, when we close for the day. And, so, I am trying to empty the cupboard of perishables. As well as leaving our loyal customers with a happy feeling that we here at the Emporium are trying to do the right thing.”

“Sous Vide? Isn’t that a cooking technique? What does that have to do with…”

“Have you not heard, Sheriff? The new Mercurian flu. It’s caused by the Solaris virus.”

“Ah, Solaris-virus. I’ve heard of that. It’s that thing that started in a Mercurian terminator-town, by someone having illicit contact with Mercurian soil in the market, no?”

“No, Sheriff, we don’t actually know how it started. But we do know that the first cases were in Yannis.”

“Oh, this is the thing Coraline talked about a couple of weeks ago. I remember now. So, what does that have to do with sous vide?”

“Not sous vide. SoVID. ‘Solaris Virus Infectious Disease – 2359’. It’s spread at least as far as Mars now, and I think the most responsible thing I can do now is to shut down and prepare for what’s coming. You may want to alert our shop keepers that they should limit essentials to only a few items per customer. If I am extrapolating the numbers correctly, we will hear something official in the next few days.”

“I will do that, Ms Dimatis, I will do that.”

In silence and contemplation, Trigger finished his coffee and grilled synthecheese. With the bill paid, he left the Emporium, to pass the information he’d been given o the shopkeepers of Fort Corallium.

#

Trigger had just finished his breakfast, when his teleprinter beeped. It only did this for incoming priority communication from Law Inc. Headquarters. He headed down to his office, plucked the still-warm sheet from the output hopper and rapidly read the text.

“Coraline, dear! Looks like Fort Corallium has been put on Antisocial Distance, it’s come.”

“Told you! Good thing that Barbara closed down the Emporium two days ago, should put us in a better situation to weather this. I guess this means no patrolling Main Street?”

“On the contrary, I am to double the frequency, and ensure that no one is within spitting distance of anyone else.”

“Poor, beloved Trigger! I know how much the friendly conversations and gatherings in our town mean to you. But, in this time of infectious disease, we all have to do what we can to curb the spreading!”

“Right as always, beloved. Right as always.”

Trigger put on a pair of vinyl gloves, and set out for his morning stroll up and down Main Street. The street was emptier than normal, but up ahead, he saw a small group of people gathered outside the General Store.

“Citizens! I must ask you to stand further apart. You can still form an orderly queue, but please keep a distance of at least 1800 millimetres between you. This is to stop the spreading of the Solaris virus!”

The crowd slowly expanded, to comply with what the lawman had just said.

“Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake” said Joseph Lilyberg. “This new Antisocial Distance has us all confused. We’re all quite social, at heart you see.”

“I know, Lilyberg, I know. I would say go with it for now. You can be close to your family at home. But, please keep your distance in public. And do NOT try any panic-buying, because I would be unhappy having to arrest you. And then I would need to deep-clean the cell, which is really rather annoying. Take care, now.”

#

Several months later, the doors of the Coffee Emporium burst open and Barbara Dimatis stepped outside, bull-horn in hand.

“The medical authorities have declared the crisis over. I have spoken to Sheriff Snowflake, and the Antisocial Distance decree has been cancelled. Your first cuppa is ON THE HOUSE! And we have fresh pastries. Welcome all!”

Trigger Snowflake and the Prize

By Ingvar: Trigger walked into the Coffee Emporium, looking forward to an excellent cup of coffee and a delicious grilled synthecheese. What he actually saw was his wife, Coraline Snowflake, more or less dancing around with Barbara Dimatis, whooping with what sounded for all in the world like joy.

He stopped a few steps inside, staring wordlessly at the scene in front of him. A few seconds later. Barbara and Coraline stopped, turned to Trigger and laughed.

“Oh, darling Trigger, Barbara has given me the best of news, POAOU is a finalist for the Best Services prize! This is huge!”

“Beloved Coraline, what prize? And what’s POAOU?”

“Oh, I sometimes forget that you are not as deeply interested in literature, poetry, song and the arts as I am. You remember when we helped Kochs with the Separable Rock? Well, Best Services is handed out by the same organization and at the same ceremony. It’s the prize for the most valued service or services to literature in the previous year. And POAOU is a finalist. This is huge!”

“I am still not sure what POAOU means?” said Trigger.

“Let me explain”, said Barbara, “POAOU is a collective that writes adjacent poetry, reinterprets literature and extends songs. It is a collective of artists from various backgrounds, and they’ve gathered under the name of ‘the Poetry Of All Of Us’, to POAOU for short. And last year, they finally completed their automated context finder, that by automatic means sorts written works into various categories, to give a context in which the work is similar to other things. And that’s huge, and well worth winning Best Services!”

Trigger took a slow, deep breath.

“All of this sounds absolutely exciting. When will we know?”

“Oh,” said Coraline, “the awards will be handed out at SysLiCon in four months.”

“Sheriff Snowflake”, said Barbara, “before I forget, would you like your usual?”

#

Several months later, as the afternoon turned into evening and it was time to shutter the Sheriff’s Office, Coraline walked down from their apartment above the office.

“Trigger, darling, we should watch the telecaster. The Prizes were announced live just a short while ago, and the signal should be arriving just after dinner. We can watch it as live as possible! It will be so exciting!”

“Of course, beloved Coraline. Prizes on the telecaster it is!”

They sat through the first few winners, before the prizes they were most concerned with were coming around.

“And, next, the Separable Stone Award for Most Obvious Slate For The Exploding Star! It was a tough field this year, but our indefatigable panel went through the entire shortlist. Among them, one slate in particular caught their attention. And, without further ado, I present the Separable Stone to Slem ven Pocketry, for his tireless pumping of Venusian Sulphur Poetry! Understandably, he has chosen to not give an acceptance speech, but we will forward the award to his current permanent residence.

“Finally, and with extreme joy, we come to the Prize for Best Service to the Poetic Arts. Again, the field this year was, as always, completive and it was quite hard to decide from the shortlist who was best placed to receive the award. But our illustrious voters managed to crown a winner. And this year’s winner of the Systems Literature Convention for Best Services Award is… The Poetry Of All Of Us! Accepting the prize on the collective’s behalf is Natalia Newbay. Natalia?”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! It is with great joy I am standing here. I have been part of the POAOU since about a month before the collective was formally convened. I think what POAOU do is brilliant. And I am so, so happy that the SysLiCon membership have graciously agreed that POAOU is worthy of the Best Services award. Naturally, I am not POAOU, since it is, indeed, the collective all of us. But I doubt I fail to speak for any of us, when I say ‘Thank you!'”

“And, with that, our final prize for the evening has been awarded. What remains is simply saying thank you to the SysLiCon committee, without whom we would not be here. And a big thank you to all attending and supporting SysLiCon members, without whom we would not know what we would’ve done in the ceremony that is now coming to an end. I have been your host, Ioannis Ruste.”

Coraline turned to Trigger, “POAOU won!”. Trigger was not entire sure what to say, when there was suddenly a sharp knocking on the front door.

“Beloved Coraline, here’s someone knocking on the door. I need to answer it, in case it is urgent.”

Trigger hurried down the stairs. Not quite a run, but definitely fast-stepping down the stairs. He unlocked the three locks, and lifted the bar blocking the door.

“Just about to open! Please refrain from knocking, so you don’t hit a lawman!”, he shouted, just as he pulled the door open. Standing on the porch outside, Barbara Dimatis was actually bouncing up and down, squealing with delight.

“Did you hear? Did you hear? POAOU won! I must speak to Coraline, at once! It is so exciting!”

“She’s upstairs, please come in.”

#

Olaus Frond woke up, and checked the announcements from yesterday. The Prize for best Services to Literature had been announced inconveniently late, after Olaus’ accustomed bedtime. But that meant he could break fast and take part of the news at the same time.

Mr Frond was a long-time contributor to, and member of, the Poetry Of All Of Us, and he had hopes, nay a strong wish, that POAOU had indeed managed to take home the prize. It would be an unprecedented first, as he was sure that the literature world at large sneered at POAOU and their mission of bringing, extending, explaining, and exploring context in literature was childish and foolish. Well, at least that is what many said, and he had no wrong reason to doubt it. It was a well-known fact after all.

He started on his toast, with mild cheese and the best synthetic Martian orange marmalade. Just a thin smear, enough to bring some citrus to the cheese, but not so much that it was overpowering. Then he brought up the news from yestereve.

“We won!”, he thought. “We actually did it! This is a system first. I must immediately write a letter of comment!”

The Poetry Of All Of Us – an unprecedented victory

By Flapping-in-the-wind Leaves

Yesterday, we saw something wonderful. Together, we have pulled off something unprecedented. Together, we have made the Poetry Of All Of Us into a prize-winning literature collective. This is something that none of would have dared dream of, only a decade ago. But, by our collective expertise, effort and guidance, we have created a context-extraction machine of unheralded power. It is only because of all of us that we have achieved this. So, say together with me, sisters, brothers, siblings. We won! We have done it! We made the Poetry Of All Of Us what it is. Rejoice!

#

As Trigger entered the Coffee Emporium, Barbara Dimatis came up to him.

“See, Sheriff Snowflake, they’re still at it!”

Trigger hummed non-committaly, as Barbara places a print-out in front of him. He scanned the plastisheet.

Why POAOU’s win is important

– Godrune Schutler

Today, I woke up to the news that I am 0.0000435% of a winner of the Exploding Star Prize for Best Services. This is clearly something to celebrate! I will do this by spending 0.0000435% of the year crowing my win to the skies, and maybe have 100% of a glass of Champagne. I hope everyone else who is also a partial winner will join me in celebrating our new, exalted, status with the seriousness that it requires.

Trigger put he sheet down.

“Miss Dimatis, I fear you are over-reacting. This is clearly someone writing in jest and there is no way you can consider this a smear on the dignity of the Exploding star?”

“But! They’re joking. About the Exploding Star!”

“Which, surely, is allowed. Do you not remember that Martine E. E. George hosts a Brown Dwarf party for everyone who was a finalist, but did not win? Is that not poking fun at the Exploding Star? It definitely feels as if this super-small fraction joke is merely in the same vein. To me, at least.”

“But! The dignity of the…”

“Brown Dwarf party. This is clearly no different. Dear Miss Dimatis I beg you to stop trying to find outrage in everything people of the POAOU do.”

#

Charles Tayroth woke up, head spinning. Only yesterday, it had been announced that his context-extension had won the SysLiCon prize for best. It would certainly not have happened unless for him. It was time, therefore, to shout his victory from the rooftop. Or, at least, updating his social media profiles, all over the place.

First, time to put an update on ShortCom, the interplanetary service for extremely short letters-of-comments. Only 140 code points allowed.

“@TheRealTayroth: Yesterday, I earned my first well-deserved SysLiCon Prize for Best Services. I am the best.”

Then, time to update his profile.

“@TheRealTayroth – Business man, leader, master of the shuffle – Exploding Star Winner”

Almost done. What was that? Someone complaining about Charles talking about his well-earned victory?

“@TheRealTayroth: Did too! POAOU would not have won without me. I *am* a winner. So there!”

Nothing would spoil this glorious day, it was truly time to bask in the glory of being a winner. It was probably time to jazz up a lapel pin, a tie clip and possibly an embroidered linen shirt, proclaiming “Charles Tayroth – Winner”, over the Exploding Star logo. And, maybe, in white, on a stylish, brightly coloured fedora.

#

Almost a week into the win, and Barbara Dimatis was almost regretting that POAOU had won. Too many people were simply not taking the orbit-shattering newness of POAOU’s win with the seriousness that it should earn. Was it not enough to say “we, the collective, won”? Must it always be turned into the personal? Or the comedic? Sure, in the most technical sense possible, she was herself a 0.000003017% of a prize winner, but why was it not enough to say “POAOU won”?

She would write to the Exploding Star committee and ask them to talk to POAOU’s board, to make sure this all stopped.

Yes, that would be a good thing, with no possible drawbacks.

#

The Poetry Of All Of Us letters-of-comment section had a new post. Unusually, it was from the board. It read:

It has been brought to the board’s attention that some members of POAOU are calling themselves winners of the Best Services to Literature Prize. As a matter of fact, the prize was awarded to POAOU, not to any specific individual. We have been asked, and now ask all of you in turn, to please not drag the POAOU’s glory in the dirt by referring to yourself as a winner of the prize.

Also, please don’t sell merchandise with the prize’s logo in your march stores. It is trademarked, and if you do, people will have to come after you for it.

Sorry to be buzz-kills, we wish we didn’t have to.

— The Board

#

“No, I think you’re cherry-picking data, Barbara”, Coraline said. “I think it’s an extremely small minority that are saying ‘I won’ in all seriousness. Yes, there are many people that have put it in their social media bios, but so far I have only seen one that actually seems to believe it.”

“Who? Ah, TheRealTayroth? Yes, he seems to actually believe it would not have happened without him,” Barbara responded.

“Yes. And looking at who’s been saying things, I think what you’re seeing is a digging-in of metaphorical heels, and a circling of the wagons, as it were, to show collective strength in the face of opposition.”

“But! They’re wrong!”

“No, they’re speaking (or typing) from anger. I think everyone who’s put down an indication of a small percentage of a win, is doing so in surprise that POAOU won, and use this to show pride in the win. Not to actually pull the tail of the prize, as it were.”

“So, a sign of respect?”

“Of sorts. It’s probably also the case that most POAOU members don’t realize how small the voting contingent for the Best Services prize is. There’s, what, 300 million POAOU contributors? And about 4,000 voters. So, they probably do see themselves as the downtrodden minority, because in general they probably only know 10-15 other POAOU contributors personally, so it feels like a small group.”

“That might be true. So you are saying I shouldn’t be angry?”

“No, I am saying that expressing and feeding your anger is not a useful endeavour. And if all of us stop being angry, maybe all of the other us stop being angry as well.”

“Thank you, Coraline. Would you like to come over to the Emporium, for a cuppa on the house?”