Pixel Scroll 3/15/22 Here’s One Weird Trick To Nominate For The Hugos. SMOFS Hate It. Click Here For More

(1) TIME TO PANIC. Nominations for the 2022 Hugo Awards, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and Astounding Award for Best New Writer close at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7), today, March 15, 2022.

If this was a cooking show, the judges would be yelling, “You should be plating!”

Or you could just panic.

(2) REGISTER FOR NEBULA CONFERENCE. The 2022 SFWA Nebula Conference registration is now open. The online event runs May 20-22.

We know that many of you have been eagerly awaiting the opening of registration for this year’s Nebula Conference, tamping down the anxious space bats fluttering in your stomachs as you waited for news. We are pleased to announce that registration is now open! 

Registration Price: $150.00 for One Year of Access Starting May 1st!

Register Here: https://events.sfwa.org/

This year’s conference is fully online, and filled with all the panels and networking opportunities that we can possibly fit into a three-day weekend! The 2022 Nebula Conference Online will once again host the SFWA Nebula Awards Ceremony. 

(3) A SPLASH AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL. Chris Barkley is excited that someone on the Chengdu Worldcon committee acknowledged his message “about the current status of the Committee on whether or not your group will be able to fulfill their duties in administering the 2023 World Science Fiction Convention.”  

This morning, at 9:58 am EDT, I received the following response from that account:

Chengdu Worldcon 2023:

“Hi Chris, thank you for the message and concern over the status of our committee. Since we are fully committed to run a most successful convention, we are working hard with locals for the best possible services for our members, including a very affordable membership package. The plan will be announced soon. Sorry for this delayed reply.”

(4) GAMES HUGO SUPPORT SITE GROWS. Ira Alexandre, proponent of a permanent Best Game or Interactive Work Hugo category, has updated the “Games Hugo – FAQ”. They’ve also written a series of tweets defending watching “playthrough” videos as an alternative way for voters to inform themselves rather than playing the games. Thread starts here. (See also “Games Hugo – Playthroughs”)

And if you don’t agree, well —

The category definition itself has been updated to prevent the possibility of conventions being considered in the category. 

(5) WERE YOU THERE? On Twitter, a cosplay fan pointed out a half-hour news documentary of the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK is available on YouTube. “The Human Factor – World Science Fiction Convention”.

(6) MS. MARVEL. “The future is in her hands.” Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel comes to Disney+ on June 8. Variety remembers where it all began: “’Ms. Marvel’ Trailer: MCU’s First Muslim Superhero Debuts on Disney+”.

In 2013, Marvel Comics introduced Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager from New Jersey who idolizes Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. By 2014, Kamala had superhuman abilities, her own solo series and her own superhero moniker — Ms. Marvel — making her the first Muslim superhero to headline a Marvel comic.

Nine years later, Kamala is making history once again in “Ms. Marvel,” the latest Disney Plus series from Marvel Studios that debuted its first trailer on Tuesday. The series will debut on June 8….

(7) WHO SAID CASH OFFENDS NO ONE? “Do Ya Wanna Taste It? Thoughts on Peacemaker by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions.

I had no intention of watching HBO Max’s Peacemaker. The whole concept seemed to me indicative of the cynicism and blatant manipulation that characterize this most recent chapter in the lifecycle of the superhero-industrial complex. Superheroes are now the leading product of the increasingly consolidated entertainment empires vying for our money, and each of those empires is now promoting its own streaming platform. Ergo, each superhero property has to function as a launching platform for a spin-off show, be it ever so esoteric and hard to justify artistically. Did you think that The Batman‘s take on the Penguin was weird and over-emphasized, a waste of Colin Farrell under a distracting fat suit in a role that could have been played by any character actor in Hollywood? Well, just sit tight for The Penguin, coming to HBO Max in 2023!

It would be one thing if these shows were bad and easily ignorable. But the same self-correcting mechanism that allows Marvel to keep chugging as the biggest pop culture juggernaut in existence despite the failure of individual movies is clearly informing the production of these shows, which repeatedly forestall the “who asked for this?” reaction with top-notch casting, stratospheric production values, and (up to a certain point) good writing….

(8) MORNING IN THE METAVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber discusses the sf origins of the metaverse.

It tells you a lot about the state of the tech industry that much of its terminology is pilfered from dystopian science fiction novels.  Isaac Asimov gave us ‘robotics.’  HG Wells named the atomic bomb, and Neuromancer author  William Gibson came up with “cyberspace.”  Meanwhile in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson popularised the term ‘avatar’ to refer to the digital embellishment of a human in a shared world he called ‘the Metaverse.’  His vision of how humans might behave in a virtual world was quite prescient. ‘If you’re ugly, you can make your avatar beautiful,’ he wrote.  ‘You can look like a gorilla or a dragon or a giant talking penis in the Metaverse.”,,,

…The idea we’re being sold of the metaverse is essentially a video game, and it’s a dreadfully boring one.  All the exciting promises that glitter among the metaverse hype–the ability to socialise in digital spaces, engage in virtual economies, or build genuine friendships online–have existed in games for decades.  See the sophisticated societies in MMORPGS such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, or the virtual universe of Fortnite and Roblox. They are more like a ‘true’ metaverse than anything Meta has to offer:  virtual worlds where you can customise an avatar, spend digital currency, attend concerts and, in what is becoming a metaverse specialty, tolerate obnoxious branding partnerships with your friends.

(9) EASY BIRTH. Goodreads does a brief Q&A with authors Jo Harkin, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Sue Lynn Tan, Olivia Blake, and John Scalzi in “Today’s Hottest Speculative Fiction Authors Answer Our Burning Questions”. Here’s part of what Scalzi has to say about writing The Kaiju Preservation Society.

GR: What sparked the idea for this book?

JS: The complete and utter collapse of an entirely different novel I was writing and the panic that came from knowing I was going to miss a publication date unless I came up with a new idea, fast. To which my brain said, OK, well, how about big monsters? And I said, YES BIG MONSTERS YES, and then my brain dropped the whole plot into my head.

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing your novel?

JS:  Honestly, nothing was challenging about writing this novel. It was a complete and liberating joy from start to finish, and I completed it quickly and easily. I want my next 60 novels at least to be just like this experience. I may be willing to do some unspeakable live sacrifices to achieve this. 

(10) LESLIE LONSDALE-COOPER. Publisher and translator Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper has died at the age of 96 reports the Guardian.

…Following a move to Methuen, where she became a rights specialist, she met [Michael] Turner and with him began translating the Tintin stories, a project that continued for three decades. “Translation” in this context meant rendering Hergé’s Brussels slang into English utterances that could be fitted into the speech bubbles of Hergé’s original drawings. Leslie was especially proud of their invented Tintinian oaths, such as “blistering barnacles!”…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1973 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Some affairs are mostly harmless to use. The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy phrase. So it was with The Girl with Something Extra series that debuted forty-nine years ago. That the lead actress was Sally Field tells you how deep the story was intended to be. She was a wife who had ESP, and her husband never quite understood her. It was intended to be cute, really, really cute. 

Rounding out the cast was Teri Garr, Henry Jones and Zohra Lampert.

One critic noted that “The plot for The Girl With Something Extra TV show immediately brings to mind another show that ended in March of 1972 after a whopping eight seasons on the air! That series of course was “Bewitched” which also featured a young newlywed couple with the wife having super-human powers that caused many problems for her and her husband.” 

The audience apparently didn’t grasp its charms and it was canceled after one season of twenty two half episodes. I believe that it might be streaming on Netflix. (I have four streaming services but not that one. I have Britbox, HBO Max, Peacock and Paramount. That’s quite enough, thank you.) 

Lancer Books published a tie-in novel by Paul Farman, The Girl With Something Extra. 

I see a signed script is for sale on eBay. Huh. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory (née Persse). Irish dramatist, folklorist, theatre manager. With William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, she created the Irish Literary Theatre and the Abbey Theatre. She produced a number of books of retellings of stories taken from Irish mythology. Gods and Fighting Men, all seven hundred pages strong, is the best look at her work. It’s available at all the usual digital sources. (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 15, 1911 Desmond  W. Hall. He served as assistant editor of Astounding Stories of Super Science. His writing career is best remembered for his Hawk Carse series which would as Space Hawk: The Greatest of Interplanetary Adventures in the Fifties. These were co-written with Harry Bates, Astounding Editor. Unfortunately, it appears that he never stayed in print, either in paper or digitally. (Died 1982.)
  • Born March 15, 1920 Lawrence Sanders. Mystery writer who wrote several thrillers that according to ISFDB had genre elements, such as The Tomorrow File and The Passion of Molly T. Now I’ve not read them so I cannot comment how just on how obvious the genre elements are, but I assume it’s similar to what one finds in a Bond film. One of these novels btw is described on the dust jacket as an “erotic spine tingler”. Huh. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 15, 1924 Walter Gotell. He’s remembered for being General Gogol, head of the KGB, in the Roger Moore Bond films as well as having played the role of Morzeny, in From Russia With Love, one of Connery’s Bond films. He also appeared as Gogol in The Living Daylights, Dalton’s first Bond film. I’m fairly sure that makes him the only actor to be a villain to three different Bonds. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 15, 1926 Rosel George Brown. A talented life cut far too short by cancer. At Detention (1959), she was nominated for the Hugo Award for best new author, but her career was ended when she died of lymphoma at the age of 41. She wrote some twenty stories between 1958 and 1964, with her novels being Sibyl Sue Blue, and its sequel, The Waters of Centaurus about a female detective, plus Earthblood, co-written with Keith Laumer. Sibyl Sue Blue is now available from Kindle. (Died 1967.)
  • Born March 15, 1939 Robert Nye. He did what the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy describes as “bawdy, scatological, richly told, sometimes anachronistic reworkings of the traditional material“ with some of his works being BeowulfTaliesin (which was the name of my last SJW cred), FaustMerlin and Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works. His Falstaff novel is considered the best take on that character. Some of his works are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 79. Not a director whose films are at all for the squeamish. His best films? I’d pick VideodromeThe FlyNaked Lunch and The Dead Zone. Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh, and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. And he’s playing a recurring role in Star Trek: Discovery as Federation agent Kovich. 
  • Born March 15, 1967 Isa Dick Hackett, born 1967, 55. Producer and writer for Amazon who helped produce The Man in the High CastlePhilip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, and The Adjustment Bureau, all of which are based on works by her father, Philip K. Dick.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows a long-time household member having a problem with a new arrival.

(14) PRIDE MONTH. Honoring Pride Month, Marvel’s Voices: Pride returns for its second annual showcase of LGBTQI+ characters and creators in June.

Marvel Comics is proud to highlight its commitment to LGBTQI+ representation with stories that spotlight existing stars AND introduce brand-new characters to the Marvel mythology. Ranging from poignant to action-packed, here are some of the tales that fans can look forward to, each one capturing the joy and promise of PRIDE MONTH!

  • In last year’s MARVEL’S VOICES: PRIDE, Steve Orlando and Luciano Vecchio introduced the dreamy mutant hero SOMNUS,  who now stars in the ongoing X-Men series MARAUDERS! New York Times-bestselling, multi-award-winning author Charlie Jane Anders continues this tradition with the debut of another new hero to the Marvel Universe – and it won’t be the last you see of them. Stay tuned for more info!
  • IRON MAN scribe and lauded TV showrunner Christopher Cantwell takes on Moondragon’s complex legacy for a heart-bending story across space and time.
  • Shuster and Eisner-winning writer Andrew Wheeler makes his Marvel debut with the Marvel Universe’s real god of love – Hercules! Drawn by PATSY WALKER artist Brittney Williams!
  • Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus-award winner Alyssa Wong reunites the Young Avengers fan-favorite artist Stephen Byrne in a story guaranteed to please fans new and old! Byrne will also depict the team in a vibrant variant cover that you can check out now!
  • Comedy writer Grace Freud (Rick and Morty, the Eric Andre Show) brings her talents to Marvel with a story about the power of responsibility featuring the Marvel Universe’s favorite gay ginger, D-Man! She’s joined by Eisner-nominated artist Scott B. Henderson in his first work for Marvel!
  • Television writer and podcaster Ira Madison III explores the legacy of Pride in his Marvel debut!
  • Champions scribe Danny Lore revisits the legacy of two characters long left in the closet in a tale of love and redemption! 

(15) PUTTING ON THE WRITS. NPR shows that even when you win in court, you don’t necessarily win: “Try as she might, Bram Stoker’s widow couldn’t kill ‘Nosferatu’”.

The world’s first vampire movie premiered 100 years ago. After a long copyright battle, Florence Stoker, widow of the author of Dracula, asked for all copies of Nosferatu to be destroyed. Were they?…

(16) A LARGER CANVAS. Rich Horton spotlights a first novel from a gifted short fiction writer in “Review: On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu” on Strange at Ecbatan.

…On Fragile Waves is a powerful novel on a very contemporary theme, that if anything has become more powerful, more apposite, since it appears. It is the story of an Afghan family, fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan. At one level, it is purely naturalistic fiction, and very effectively so. But there is a fantastical level as well (or “magical realistic” as many reviews would have it) expressed in two ways — the stories the parents of the main character tell, traditional stories (with variations) … and, more obviously, a dead character who returns to haunt — or inspire — the main character….

(17) HOW MANY LIVES WAS THAT? A trailer has dropped for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the upcoming movie that stars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Salma Hayek).

(18) OWLKITTY. NPR profiles the creator of OwlKitty in “Videographer imagines what it would look like if Steven Spielberg made cat videos”.

…MARTIN: In one of Charroppin’s latest videos, Lizzy co-stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in “Titanic.”…

CHARROPPIN: The hardest of it is not adding the cat, it’s removing Kate Winslet. That process takes about three-quarters of how long it takes to do video.

MARTIN: Lizzy has 6 million social media followers, which is something Charroppin and his wife hope that animal shelters actually benefit from. They adopted Lizzy five years ago.

CHARROPPIN: If there’s one reason to do all of this, it’s to mostly raise awareness that adopting cats is way better than going to get full breed cats. Anything that we can do to help makes it all worth it.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Elden Ring,” Fandom Games, in a spoiler-filled episode, notes this new game, designed by George RR Martin, is a world where “every animal, person and plant wants to kill you” and features a dozen different killer swamps.  But the narrator thinks the scariest monsters are the crabs and lobsters. “I haven’t been this frightened by seafood since I got food poisoning at Red Lobster!”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rich Horton, Chris Barkley, N., Martin Easterbrook, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/22 The Fay Wray Home Companion

(1) GAMES HUGO RESOURCES. If hard work makes a difference – and the example of Jared Dashoff’s efforts leading to the Best Series Hugo is already before us – Ira Alexandre is going to change some minds with the content of their ever-evolving Games Hugo website.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the exhaustive discussion on the “Games Hugo – FAQ”.

Would a medium-neutral award create such a broad spread that nominees cannot effectively be compared or get enough votes?

There are two parts to address: Comparing disparate works and having such a broad field that no productive consensus can be reached in terms of too wide a spread of votes.

…In terms of a lack of consensus, our research has shown that within each most common genre of games (video, analog, and interactive fiction) there is a strong drive towards consensus on what the “best games” of any given year are. Each year, across the five most major video game awards, about two dozen games are finalists in at least 5 categories (out of over 100 titles that are finalists in just one or more categories). These top two dozen games consistently take home 60% of the total possible honours every year….

How can Hugo voters evaluate games they can’t or don’t want to play?

For reasons of financial or logistical accessibility; lack of co-players; player ability/game difficulty; or frank preference, many WSFS voters will not want to or be able to play every finalist title. This is indeed a notable barrier in many ways unique to games.

While this is not an ideal solution, watching someone else play is a time-honoured means of experiencing video games, especially if one can influence the choices or gameplay….

(2) SCAN, SHRED, OR WHAT? Stuff gets a status report from New Zealand’s National Librarian about an unresolved hot-button issue: “’Help us’: The National Library’s unsolvable dilemma”. (See background in earlier post, “National Library of New Zealand Reconsiders Agreement with Internet Archive”.)

Rachel Esson has run out of ideas. “We’ve tried book fairs. We’ve tried donating.”

After plans to ship 600,000 rarely-used books overseas were halted after months of pushback from the book sector, the National Librarian has a plea to save the books from the pulping machine: “We really don’t want to recycle them… help us.”

Esson will not waver? on her view that the books from the Overseas Published Collection will be officially removed from the library – she just doesn’t know what to do with them after that.

… Esson says she’s in the process of setting up a dialogue with stakeholders after pressing pause on the ongoing saga at the end of last year.

She plans to ask the sector about their main concerns, and for their ideas, after the library was met with major resistance on plans to donate the books to the offshore Internet Archive, which is embroiled in a copyright lawsuit.

Esson will not reconsider keeping the rarely-used overseas books, which will make way for a larger Maori and Pacific collect. But sending them to the recycling bin is the library’s “absolute last resort”.

“People care so passionately. But the world’s moved on, and we don’t need to keep these,” she says. “It’s not good for New Zealand, and for us, to keep them. And they’re not being used. And they’re available elsewhere. All those arguments. We’ll find a way through, but I’m not sure that we can please everyone.”

(3) BUTLER IS CONSTANTLY RELEVANT. The Atlantic’s Lovia Gyarkye says “Octavia Butler’s Final Novel Shows Us How to Coexist”.

Octavia E. Butler spent most of her life excavating the past and observing the present to construct stories attuned to society’s woes and grim futures. She wrote about a Black woman in 1970s Los Angeles repeatedly transported to the antebellum South; about a teenage girl who establishes a religion to save her community from climate destruction; and about the alien colonization of Earth. She was obsessed with broad, gnarly themes: intimacy and sex, hierarchy and power, the link between ancestral knowledge and eventual survival. There is always, it seems, a Butler book for our times. And as the world plods through the third year of the pandemic, one of her most peculiar works might be the most resonant today.

Fledgling, the last novel Butler published before her death in 2006, is a propulsive story about Shori, an amnesiac 53-year-old Black vampire who must reconstruct her past after she wakes up shrouded in darkness, alone and with no memories….

(4) STEALTH ON THE SHELF. “An 8-Year-Old Wrote a Book and Hid It on a Library Shelf. It’s a Hit.” The New York Times interviews a trailblazer in self-published sff.

During his Christmas break, Dillon Helbig, an 8-year-old boy from Boise, Idaho, wrote a book that he wanted everyone to read.

He had spent a long time on it — four days to be exact — and filled 81 pages of an empty journal with a richly illustrated tale about how he gets transported back in time after a star atop his Christmas tree explodes.

But he did not have a book deal. (He’s only in second grade, after all.) So when his grandmother took him to the Lake Hazel branch of the Ada Community Library in Boise at the end of December, he slipped the sole copy of his book onto a shelf containing fiction titles….

…In his “Crismis” tale, Dillon, the protagonist and the author, goes on a time-traveling adventure after the star on the tree explodes.

“Santa comes,” he said, explaining the next part of the plot. After that, Dillon comes across five trees, and one of them “was like a tree portal.”

The portal takes him back in time to the “first Thanksgiving” in 1621, a date that he had to confirm with his mother, Ms. Helbig said.

“His imagination is just incredible,” she said.

Dillon has been writing “comic-style books” since he was 5, his mother said, but this one is certainly his most successful. The library gave him its first-ever “Whoodini Award” for best young novelist, an award they created for him….

(5) PULP EPICENTER. PulpFest 50 will be held in Pittsburgh from Thursday, August 4 through Sunday, August 7. The theme will be “Action for a Dime!” As for “Why PulpFest?” – let Sara Light-Waller explain it to you.

…Why PulpFest? It’s an immersion. As with any niche convention, you’re surrounded by people speaking the same language. There’s no need to explain about a popular author or artist when talking to vendors. They already know! And probably know much more about the subject than you do. You’re rubbing elbows with professionals in all fields, very bright and interesting people. The presentations are always inspiring and I learn a lot from them. And the chance to see original artwork is simply outstanding. There are things you can see in the original art that you just can’t make out in reproductions….

(6) WHAT’S NEXT AFTER WORDLE (WHICH I DON’T DO). [Item by Daniel Dern.] Dunno if I’m the first to come up with this. As just posted to my FB page:

I’m working on a math-oriented sequel to Wordle: Gödle.

(Probably a good home for it would be Amazon Prime?)

* With a tip of the hat to Fred Pohl’s The Gold At The Starbow’s End

(7) SLYTHERIN TO BEAM UP. “Starfleet Academy Series In Works For Expanded Star Trek Universe”Deadline has the story.

…A new offshoot, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, is in development at CBS Studios and Alex Kurtzman’s studio-based Secret Hideout for the ViacomCBS streamer, sources said. Sharing a name with the late 1990s video game, the series is set among the college of cadets mentored for leadership roles in the United Federation of Planets space force.

We hear Absentia co-creator Gaia Violo is currently working on a take for the project. With the long-gestating Star Trek spinoff Section 31 starring Michelle Yeoh expected to get a pickup soon, Starfleet Academy is believed to be next in the Star Trek development pipeline behind it. It will be pitched to Paramount+ shortly, and the hope is to get it going in the next year, sources said….

(8) ONE TO SADDLE UP. And much sooner than that, you can view Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which begins airing on Paramount+ beginning May 5.

(9) GO AHEAD AND TOUCH THAT DIAL. “Foundation TV Series Season 2 New Characters Announced” and Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken is grumpy.

Apple TV+’s loose adaptation of the classic Foundation sci-fi novels has just gotten a little looser. Ten new actors have been added to the cast to play 10 new characters on the show—and six of them appear to be very new, having not appeared in any of Isaac Asimov’s seven Foundation novels.

I’ve written off the TV series and thus refuse to get further upset about how it mangles the source material, but I think it is… interesting to see how much further Foundation is willing to deviate from its infamously difficult-to-adapt source material. Here are the actors, characters, and quick bios, all courtesy of Apple TV+…

(10) MOSES J. MOSELEY (1990-2022). Actor Moses J. Moseley died last week reports Deadline. The 31-year-old was best known for his appearances in six episodes of The Walking Dead. His other genre roles included The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (uncredited), Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, Southern Fried Zombies, and an episode of TV’s Watchmen.

(11) RICHARD L. TIERNEY (1936-2022). Writer, poet and scholar of H. P. Lovecraft, Richard L. Tierney died February 1. Wikipedia finds him notable for his heroic fantasy, including a series of Red Sonja novels co-authored with David C. Smith. Some of his standalone novels utilize the mythology of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. He is also known for his Simon of Gitta series (which cross historical Gnosticism with Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos), his Robert E. Howard completions, and fiction utilizing such Howard-invented characters as Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mak Morn and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey.

(12) MEMORY LANE.

1939 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Eighty-three years ago on this date, the Buck Rogers serial, produced by Universal Pictures, first aired. It starred Buster Crabbe (who had previously played the title character in two Flash Gordon serials and would return for a third.) Buster was sometimes billed as Larry Crabbe as well as you will note in the poster below. 

I don’t think I need to say that it’s is based on the Buck Rogers character as y’all know that as created by Philip Francis Nowlan but for the sake of the few Filers who will nitpick if I don’t I will. 

It was directed by Ford Beebe was Saul A. Goodkind as written by Norman S. Hall, Ray Trampe  and Dick Calkins. It would run for twelve chapters of roughly twenty minutes each. 

As I said Buck Roger was Larry “Buster” Crabbe with  Constance Moore was Wilma Deering, and Jackie Moran was “Buddy” Wade, an original character who was based on the Sunday strip character Buddy Deering.

It had a really small budget and re-used film footage from the futuristic Thirties musical Just Imagine

In 1953, it was edited into the film Planet Outlaws and twelve years it was edited again into Destination Saturn, not to stop there, the late Seventies saw the latter release of the latter as Buck Rogers. All three were feature films. 

Not surprisingly, you can watch it online — here is the first chapter. 

Buster Crabbe, Constance Moore, and Jackie Moran in Buck Rogers (1939)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavors include — and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits — included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes, I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense.” (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas M. Disch. Camp ConcentrationThe Genocides334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done.  He was a superb poet as well, though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of at Aussiecon 3, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture, and was nominated for a number of other Hugos for his short fiction. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1944 Geoffrey Hughes. He played Popplewick aka The Valeyard in the Fifth Doctor story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”. Intriguingly he was also the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine which surely is genre. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 2, 1947 Farrah Fawcett. She has a reasonably good SFF resume and she‘s been in Logan’s Run as Holly 13, and Saturn 3 as Alex. (Does anyone like that film?) She was also Mary Ann Pringle in Myra Breckinridge which might I suppose be considered at least genre adjacent. Or not.  Series wise, she shows up on I Dream of Jeanie as Cindy Tina, has three different roles on The Six Million Man, and was Miss Preem Lila on two episodes of The Flying Nun. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 73. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series we were just discussing not long ago? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer on Person of Interest, to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 73. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight ZoneOuter LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. 
  • Born February 2, 1986 Gemma Arterton, 36. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. 

(14) COMIC SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest work out their own Variety cliché headline.
  • Speed Bump has a “ripped from the headlines” version of “The Three Little Pigs.”

(15) THE PROOF IS IN THE READING. Ursula Vernon couldn’t stand it any longer. Thread starts here.

(16) TODAY’S BURRITO FILLING. There’s a review here with an award campaign wrapped around it: “Please give the German android gigolo movie a Hugo nod” urges the Hugo Book Club Blog.

…Despite an initial clinical detachment, Dr. Felser begins to be enticed by the android’s meticulous focus on being the ideal romantic partner. But she can’t fully buy into the experience because she knows that every perfect moment is the product of research, psychology, and algorithms. Simultaneously, she’s challenged emotionally by her ex-husband and his new girlfriend’s decision to have a baby together. This is all, of course, standard plot tension for a romance film.

What’s refreshing, for both AI and romance films, is that I’m Your Man feels like a deeply personal movie, comfortable both with its own awkwardness, and with tackling the difficulties of relationships and the contradictory desires of humans. This is not a movie that follows standard Hollywood narrative patterns, or focus-grouped easy satisfaction conclusions, but rather tells a story that one person wanted to tell. And it’s stronger for that. Writer-director Maria Schrader is probably best-known in North America for directing the Netflix drama Unorthodox, for which she won an Emmy…

(17) ARRIVAL. The New York Times’ Dennis Overbye philosophizes about “The James Webb Space Telescope and a Quest Every Human Shares”.

On Monday, NASA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope had reached the perch from which it could spend as much as 20 years in surveillance of the cosmos. It traveled about a million miles since launching on Dec. 25, and what a journey that has been.

The telescope was launched from French Guiana as a tightly wrapped package of wires, plastic and slabs of gold-plated beryllium. As it journeyed toward its destination, it had to unfold like a robot from the “Transformers” movies and shape-shift into, well, a telescope with a golden 21-foot-wide mirror gliding atop a silver sunshield.

There were 344 things that could have gone wrong during that month — what NASA calls “single point failures” — that would have doomed the mission.

The astronomers were on the edge of their seats.

And so were I and my colleagues. We knew that at any moment a call or a tweet saying something on the telescope had snagged or ripped or frozen, gone offline or just started sending gibberish would plunge us into a heartbroken crisis investigation: Interviewing disappointed and baffled astrophysicists, begging engineers for better explanations about tiny bits of metal or computer algorithms we’d never heard of, covering rounds of commissions, tiger team reports, congressional hearings and outside critics.

Everything about the Webb would be up for grabs: What shortcuts were taken during the decades of effort, by whom? Who had an idea or a suspicion that was ignored? What was the road not taken?

At the risk of jinxing the whole thing, not to mention my journalistic objectivity, I have to say I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. NASA did what it had to do.

And we as humans, temporary inhabitants of a dust mote, as Carl Sagan said, did what we had to do. The Webb telescope is designed to ferret out the very first stars and galaxies that lit up the foggy aftermath of the Big Bang and initiated the grand crescendo of evolution that produced us, among other things, as well as to search for clues to whether the conditions might be right for other creatures’ emergence, on nearby exoplanets….

(18) SYNCH OR SWING. A Boston Dynamics Robot dances to “BTS’ IONIQ: I’m On It” on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Deep Rock Galactic,” Fandom Games says this game lets you dig into the earth with your fellow dwarfs to fight bug monsters for a soulless corporation.  But make sure you’re playing this with friends, because there are “much cheaper and less sad ways to have a good time” than playing this game alone.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, Cora Buhlert, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, with an assist from a big monkey.]

Pixel Scroll 2/1/22 Pixelled In The Scroll By A Chuck Tingle Pixel Scroll Title

(1) MAKING MAUS AVAILABLE. Shelf Awareness says one Tennessee bookseller is crowdfunding the means for local students to read Maus in the wake of a school board decision: “Tenn. Comic Shop’s Maus Fundraiser Garners $90K”.

After the McMinn County Board of Education in Tennessee voted to ban Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus, about the Holocaust, from its eighth-grade curriculum last week, Nirvana Comics in Knoxville, Tenn., started a GoFundMe campaign to provide students with free copies of the graphic novel.

… The [Jewish Telegraphic Agency] reported that Penguin Random House negotiated a deal to sell 500 additional copies of Maus to Nirvana at a reduced price to give away to students. Actor Wil Wheaton shared Nirvana’s story on social media, and “that’s when it really, really exploded,” Davis said. 

The GoFundMe campaign opened on January 28 with a goal of $20,000; as of this morning it had raised more than $90,000, from more than 2,800 donors. Although Nirvana Comics initially had planned to provide copies to local students, they will now donate copies to students anywhere in the U.S.

Students can request a copy of Maus from the store on Facebook or Instagram.

(2) AFROFUTURISM IN LEGO. CNN Style invites you to “Meet the Ghanaian Canadian Lego sculptor building a Black universe”. (The Official LEGO Shop also has a feature on the same artist in “Celebrate Black Creators”.)

…In his “Building Black: Civilizations” series, Nimako reimagines medieval sub-Saharan African narratives. His “Kumbi Saleh 3020 CE” piece, which is made up of around 100,000 Lego bricks and can be found in the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, is named after the capital city of a medieval Ghanaian kingdom. The artist explores medieval West Africa and reimagines what it would look like 1,000 years in the future.

Nimako hopes for an “inclusive future” that acknowledges the history of anti-Black racism and how “utterly disruptive” it is, and recognizes the role of Afrofuturism in allowing people to “envision a better world.”

“My wife always says, ‘all movements of resistance are rooted in that imagination.’ You have to imagine the freedom, the emancipation. You have to imagine this struggle being over. You have to project that in order to rise up, in order to resist. What else are you resisting for, if not for that Promised Land?” he said. “Even art is a form of resistance and it’s been used as a form of resistance for a very long time.”…

(3) BEST PUNISH THE WORLDCON HUGO. What do you think about “An Anti-Raytheon Protest Vote at This Year’s Hugos?” Doris V. Sutherland is working to make it happen.

…Before I should go on, I should mention that the practice of nominating short, emotive pieces like acceptance speeches or angry blog posts in Best Related Work — thereby taking spots that could have gone to longer works which took time, effort and research to construct and will better stand the test of time — is itself controversial. My views are conflicted. I would generally agree with this stance (my personal solution would be to split Best Related Work into long-form and short-form categories) but I have considerably stronger feelings about the deal with Raytheon. So, while I would like to see this Best Protest Vote practice to end, I don’t beleive that 2022 is the right year for it to end. I would like to see a Hugo ballot this year that includes an uncompromising renunciation of last year’s Raytheon sponsorship….

(4) LASFS HISTORY ZOOM. Fanac.org’s “Spring History Zoom” schedule is now up here. The first session is “Death Does Not Release You – LASFS Through the Years” with Craig Miller (M), Tim Kirk, Ken Rudolph and Bobbi Armbruster, on February 26, 2022, at 4:00 p.m. To RSVP, or find out more about the series, please send a note to fanac@fanac.org.

LASFS is unique – in its history and impact on fandom. LASFS has a clubhouse, a long list of professional writers that have been members, and has had an incredibly active fan group over the decades. Los Angeles area fandom has produced innumerable fanzines, six Los Angeles Worldcons (and many other conventions). Join us for a session with our real world AND fannishly accomplished participants – convention runners (including a Worldcon chair), a noted fan and professional artist, and a fanzine editor, all past or present LASFS members – in conversation about Los Angeles fandom from the inside.

(5) A READY PLAYER. On Twitter, Ira Alexandre is ramping up the campaign to get the Worldcon to add a Best Video Game category. They foreshadow “a full-length, more detailed explanation” forthcoming on Lady Business. Thread starts here.

(6) PIECES OF EIGHT. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight today, this time for Octothorpe, which is created by John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty: “Fancast Spotlight: Octothorpe”

Alison: I have been wanting to do a podcast ever since the very beginning of podcasts, but it turns out that if you want to do a podcast, you have to find someone who’s daft enough to do the editing for you. Because otherwise podcasts don’t happen, do they? So if you want to run your own podcast the core thing you need is somebody who’s up for doing the editing.

Liz: I didn’t have any desire to be on a podcast, or to start a podcast, or really to do any work around a podcast. But John had asked me “Do you want to do a podcast?” and I said, “Maybe?” And then there was a coronavirus, and now I literally have nothing else that I need to be doing on a Sunday afternoon, so let’s do a podcast! And I am just constantly amazed that we have made it almost 50 episodes, and there appear to be at least ten people actually listening.

(7) KANE ADAPTATION ANNOUNCED.  [Item by Cora Buhlert.] According to The Hollywood Reporter, there is an adaptation of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane novels and stories in the works: “Action Fantasy ‘Kane’ Adaptation in the Works From Vertigo”. Personally, I’d be happy if there was a decent print edition of the Kane novels and stories available again. Also, my inner pedant bristles at calling the Kane stories epic fantasy, because they’re sword and sorcery.

Kane is very able for producers Roy Lee, Andrew Trapani and Steven Schneider.

The trio has secured the adaptation rights to the long-sought-after series of Kane fantasy novels and short stories by cult fantasy author Karl Edward Wagner.

…Kane’s adventures take place in a visceral world steeped in ancient history, with bloody conflicts and dark mysteries. Wagner wove gothic horror elements into this pre-medieval landscape, taking Kane on fantastic sagas involving war, romance, triumph and tragedy.

(8) ONE READER’S APPROACH. Tika Viteri tells “How I’m Decolonizing My Sci-Fi Reading” at Book Riot.

… One of the ways I am working to decolonize my science fiction reading is to diversify it. White cisgender male authors are vastly over-represented in science fiction, and they come from the dominant gender and race of the English-speaking world, whether they are consciously buying into the narrative or not. A good way to mitigate that narrative is to read it from different perspectives, and those perspectives are usually written by authors who are either non-white and/or not male.

If you haven’t yet read the Binti trilogy of novellas by Nnedi Okorafor, it is an excellent place to start. As an author, she specifically identifies with Africanfuturism, which is a genre (along with Afrofuturism) that has been regularly blowing my mind since I was introduced to it. Our heroine, Binti, has been accepted at a prestigious university off-planet, but her journey is interrupted when her ship is attacked and she is the only survivor. The series handles interspecies biases, what it means to broker peace, and what happens when the fate of worlds rests on the shoulders of one young woman. Reviews are full of phrases like “ground-breaking” and “unique,” and I wholeheartedly agree….

Another of Viteri’s recent articles for Book Riot is “Literary Scandals: Who Was the Real-Life Dracula?”

… [Bram] Stoker famously kept to himself, editing his public image ruthlessly. In contrast to [Oscar] Wilde, and perhaps in reaction to what he perceived to be Wilde’s recklessness regarding his sexual exploits, he retreated farther and farther into the closet, going so far as to say in 1912 that all homosexuals should be locked up — a group that definitely, in retrospect, included himself.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge] Fifty-one years ago at Noreascon where Robert Silverberg was Toastmaster and Clifford D. Simak (pro) and Harry Warner, Jr. (fan) were Guests of Honor with Tony Lewis as the Chair, Larry Niven won the Hugo for Best Novel for Ringworld. It was published by Ballantine Books in October of 1970. 

Other nominated workers were  Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero, Robert Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, Wilson Tucker‘s The Year of the Quiet Sun and Hal Clement’s Star Light

It would also win the Locus, Nebula and Ditmar Awards. Locus would later include Ringworld on its list of All-Time Best SF Novels before 1990.

Algis Budrys found it in his Galaxy Bookshelf column to be “excellent and entertaining, woven together very skillfully and proceeding at a pretty smooth pace.” 

It would spawn three sequel novels with The Ringworld Engineers nominated for a Hugo at Denvention Two which was the year Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen won and a prequel series, Fleet of Worlds which was co-written with Edward M. Lerner. (I really like the latter.) One film and three series have been announced down the decades but none to date have been produced. Indeed Amazon announced this as a series along with Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and Greg Rucka’s Lazarus five years ago but none got developed. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 1, 1884 Yevgeny Zamyatin. Author of We, a dystopian novel. He also translated into into Russian a number of H.G. Wells works and some critics think We is at least part a polemic against the overly optimistic scientific socialism of Wells. The Wiki writer for the Yevgeny Zamyatin page claims that We directly inspired Nineteen Eighty-FourThe Dispossessed and Brave New World. No idea if this passes the straight face test. What do y’all think of this claim? (Died 1937.)
  • Born February 1, 1908 George Pal. Producer of Destination Moon (Retro Hugo at Millennium Philcon), When Worlds CollideThe War of the Worlds (which I love), Conquest of SpaceThe Time MachineAtlantis, the Lost ContinentTom ThumbThe Time MachineAtlantis, the Lost ContinentThe Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm7 Faces of Dr. Lao (another I love)and his last film being Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze which is not so great. Can we hold a George Pal film fest, pretty please? (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 1, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who was considered the originator of the program’s structure in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail whichwas nominated for a Hugo at MidAmeriCon, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. Let’s not forget Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book by Brian Froud and him which won a Hugo at Intersection for Best Original Art Work. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 1, 1942 Bibi Besch. Best remembered for portraying Dr. Carol Marcus on The Wrath of Khan. Genre wise, she’s also been in The Pack (horror), Meteor (SF), The Beast Within (more horror), Date with an Angel (romantic fantasy) and Tremors. She died much, much too young following a long battle with breast cancer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 1, 1946 Elisabeth Sladen. Certainly best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who. She was a regular cast member from 1973 to 1976, alongside the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), and reprised her role down the years, both on the series and on its spin-offs, K-9 and Company (truly awfully done including K-9 himself) and The Sarah Jane Adventures (not bad at all). It’s not her actual first SF appearance, that honor goes to her being a character called  Sarah Collins in an episode of the Doomwatch series called “Say Knife, Fat Man”. The creators behind this series had created the cybermen concept for Doctor Who. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 1, 1954 Bill Mumy, 68. He’s had a much longer career in the genre than even I knew. And I probably overlooked something. His first genre roles were at age seven on Twilight Zone, two episodes in the same season (Billy Bayles In “Long Distance Call” and Anthony Fremont in “Its A Good Life”). He makes make it a trifecta appearing a few years later again as Young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”.  Next for him he played an orphaned boy in an episode of Bewitched called “A Vision of Sugar Plums” and then Custer In “Whatever Became of Baby Custer?” on I Dream of Jeannie, a show he revisited a few years as Darrin the Boy in “Junior Executive”. Ahhh his most famous role is up next as Will Robinson in Lost in Space. It’s got to be thirty years since I’ve seen it but I still remember and like it quite a bit. He manages to show up next on The Munsters as Googie Miller in “Come Back Little Googie” and in Twilight Zone: The Movie In one of the bits as Tim. I saw the film but don’t remember him.He’s got a bunch of DC Comics and Marvel roles as well — Young General Fleming in Captain America, Roger Braintree on The Flash series and Tommy Puck on Superboy. He’s Lennier, one of the most fascinating and annoying characters in all of the Babylon 5 Universe. Enough said. I hadn’t realized it it but he showed up on Deep Space Nine as Kellin in the “The Siege of AR-558” episode. Lastly, and before our gracious Host starts grinding his teeth at the length of this Birthday entry, I see he’s got a cameo as Dr. Z. Smith in the new Lost in Space series. 
  • Born February 1, 1965 Brandon Lee. Lee started his career with a supporting role in Kung Fu: The Movie, but is obviously known for his breakthrough and fatal acting role as Eric Draven in The Crow, based on James O’Barr’s series. Y’ll know what happened to him so I’ll not go into that here except to say that’s it’s still happening and damn well shouldn’t be happening, should it? (Died 1993.)

(11) STAND BY FOR NEW. “DC is re-writing all of its major events since the ’80s with a stunning reveal in Justice League Incarnate #4”GamesRadar+ broadcasts the warning.

If you’ve read any of the big DC Comics superhero events from 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths to now, everything you know is about to change.

In February 1’s Justice League Incarnate #4, DC’s de facto chief writer Joshua Williamson and co-writer Dennis Culver have re-contextualized the major events in DC multiversal history from the ’80s to now. Although this Justice League Incarnate limited series has been a story unto itself, it continues to move pieces around on DC’s ‘big picture’ chessboard towards another Crisis-level event in the very near future.

Anything more we could say on Justice League Incarnate #4 would be spoilers, so…

(12) THE PANELS THROUGH TOMORROW. Jared Shurin has harnessed the power of modern computing to spew forth the commonest denominators in convention programming since the A-bomb went off. Thread starts here.

(13) MOST POPULAR VIEWS. While we’re waiting for someone to produce Sanctuary Moon, here’s what people are enjoying according to JustWatch.

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies and TV Shows in the US in January (01.01.-31.01.22)

Rank*MoviesTV shows
1Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStation Eleven
2DuneA Discovery of Witches
3Free GuyResident Alien
4Spider-Man: HomecomingPeacemaker
5Spider-Man: Far From HomeThe Book of Boba Fett
6EternalsArchive 81
7Don’t Look UpGhosts
8The Amazing Spider-ManSnowpiercer
9Spider-ManThe Expanse
10Venom: Let There Be CarnageDoctor Who

*Based on JustWatch popularity score. Genre data is sourced from themoviedb.org

(14) LOOK OUT BELOW. “Nasa reveals how it will destroy International Space Station at the end of its life” reports MSN.com.

…The plan assumes that lifespan will come to an end in January 2031. But the work to do so could start a year or more in advance, when the International Space Station’s orbit starts to fall towards the Earth.

Because of the ISS’s vast size, it will not burn up in the atmosphere, and so its descent will have to be precisely controlled in order to be safe. Nasa hopes to do so by gradually manoeuvring the spacecraft so that it drops down to Earth.

Those manoeuvres will be done partly by using the propulsion built into the ISS, as well as by the vehicles that visit. Nasa says that it has already examined the visiting vehicles for whether they would be able to provide enough thrust to help with the de-orbit – and found that a number of them do, with work continuing to expand that list further.

Eventually, the track of the space station’s fall will be lined up so that the space station will fall towards what it calls the “South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area”, or SPOUA. That area is known as the “oceanic pole of inaccessibility” since it is the part of Earth furthest from land – and it is so remote that often the closest human beings are the International Space Station’s astronauts as they float overhead.

Nasa will aim for a specific region known as “Point Nemo”, which is not only remote but almost entirely uninhabited….

(15) LOFTY CONCERNS. Here’s something else you don’t want to be under if it drops out of the sky. WIRED’s Rhett Allain is worried about “What Happens If a Space Elevator Breaks”.

…OK, back to the space elevator. If we can’t build a tower from the ground up, we can hang a 36,000-kilometer cable from an object that’s in a geostationary orbit. Boom: That’s the space elevator.

To get this to work, you would need a large mass in orbit—either a space station or a small asteroid. The mass has to be large so that it doesn’t get pulled out of orbit every time something climbs up the cable.

But perhaps now you can see the problem with a space elevator. Who wants to make a 36,000-kilometer-long cable? For a cable that long, even the strongest material, like kevlar, would have to be super thick to prevent it from breaking. Of course, thicker cables means more weight hanging down below, and that means the higher parts of the cable have to be even thicker to support the cable below. It’s a compounding problem that seems essentially impossible. The only hope for the future of space elevator construction is to figure out how to use some super strong and lightweight material like carbon nanotubes. Perhaps we will make this work someday, but that day is not today.

What About a Falling Elevator Cable?

In the first episode of Foundation, some people decide to set off explosives that separate the space elevator’s top station from the rest of the cable. The cable falls to the surface of the planet and does some real damage down there.

What would a falling space elevator cable look like in real life?….

(16) SHIELDS UP! Here’s a clip of what 2021’s Dune would look like with 1984 technology.  Which, if you’re as old as I am, you maybe thought you’d already seen. From the Corridor Crew.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: The Witcher, Season 2,” the Screen Junkies say that there’s a lot of grunting and deep signs in season 2 of “The Witcher,” but characters are obsessed with how bad they smell (tying into that Old Spice ad!) and much of the series has “a plot line as boring as the phrase ‘elf migration crisis’ would imply.”  The narrator is bothered by the character growth in the show because “I haven’t grown since eighth grade!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Soon Lee, N., Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Will R., Brian Z., Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27/21 The Force That Through The Green Pixel Drives The Scroll

(1) NEW YEAR’S WHO. “Doctor Who’s special time loop trailer teases huge Dalek moment”Digital Spy introduces the clip. BEWARE SPOILERS.

The New Year’s Day special ‘Eve of the Daleks’ will see Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor getting stuck in a time loop with Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), Dan Lewis (John Bishop) and a group of deadly Daleks.

The episode also features Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon in the roles of Sarah and Nick as they get ready to celebrate the start of the new year….

(2) TRANSPORT OF DELIGHT. Julian Yap and Fran Wilde begin weekly publication of The Sunday Morning Transport in January, delivering speculative fiction using a newsletter platform. Subscribe for one free story a month, or become a paid subscriber and get a story every week.

Subscribing to Sunday Morning Transport means bringing a a new speculative short story connection to your inbox every week, fifty weeks a year.

Sunday Morning Transport readers are makers, thinkers, scientists, artists, authors, dreamers. With a single speculative short story each Sunday, we connect across space and time. We deliver, right to your inbox: a moment of whimsy; a deep dive into an unknown world; a single illuminating transformation; a vibrant community of readers and writers built around the best new speculative stories each week.

Free subscribers receive one story a month. Paid subscribers receive one story each week, fifty weeks a year.  For paid subscribers, there’s more: the opportunity to join in a conversation about story, to ask questions, and to help build a year’s worth of moments with authors including Max Gladstone, Karen Lord, Elwin Cotman, Kij Johnson, Kat Howard, Elsa Sjunnesson, Kathleen Jennings, Katherine Addison, Juan Martinez, E.C. Myers, Maureen McHugh, Tessa Gratton, Sarah Pinsker, Michael Swanwick, Brian Slattery, Malka Older, and many more. 

Subscribe now, and get ready for your Sunday Morning Transport starting in January 2022.

(3) BUILDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Ira Alexandre has launched a discussion on Twitter by asking: For purposes of a Game Hugo, what does it mean for a game to be “in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects”? Thread starts here.

(4) A BAD WORD. Frell from Farscape is my favorite genre swear word, says Cat Eldridge. “Smeg and the art of sci-fi swearing” at Kerrang!

…For a long old time, the quickest way to get taken out of libraries or complained about by parents was to include swearing. This led sci-fi creators to come up with new alternatives to the usual suspects, both to evade censorship and emphasise the ‘otherness’ of the worlds in which their tales took place (if a movie was set 10,000 years in the future and started with someone calling someone else a shithead, that would just seem plain silly).

Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison is a terrific book, a laugh-out-loud funny anti-war satire with a hidden gut-punch of an ending. A bleakly hilarious look at the futility of war and the cruelty with which people can treat one another, it’s a book that should be read by as many people as possible – ideally when they are about 12. During the title character’s ascension through the ranks of the Space Troopers, there’s plenty of effing and jeffing, except Harry opts for his own coinage, ‘bowb’, instead of the curses we all know and love.

As with a lot of made-up swear words, ‘bowb’ is kind of all-purpose – the phrases “Don’t give me any of your bowb!”, “Get over here, you stupid bowb!” and “What is this, “Bowb Your Buddy Week?” suggest it can be substituted in easily enough for ‘shit’, ‘bastard’, ’asshole’ and ‘fuck’….

(5) IN TIMES TO COME NEXT WEEK. Nicholas Whyte tries the thought experiment of anticipating next year with the help of films and stories that treat 2022 as history: “2022 according to science fiction, in novels and films” at From the Heart of Europe. Some of these sources aren’t very helpful!

Time Runner (1993)

What’s it about? Mark Hamill, unsuccessfully attempting to fight off an alien invasion of Earth in 2022, somehow gets sent thirty years back in time to try and prevent it all from happening. He tangles with a corrupt politician who is destined to become the collaborationist president of the world, and ends up assisting at his own birth.

Is 2022 really going to be like that? Actually most of the film is set in 1992, apart from the very beginning and occasional flashforwards. As of now, we don’t (yet) have a President of Earth; as for the alien invasion, we will have to wait and see….

(6) FANZINES IN THE FAMILY TREE. Andrew Porter tells why the Gothamist report is sff-related: “Patti Smith Receives Key To New York City: ‘I Wish I Could Give NYC The Key To Me’”. It has to do with the photo accompanying the article.

In his last weeks as mayor, Bill de Blasio has been bestowing Keys to New York City to a number of figures, including legendary music producer Clive Davis (who helped stage the ultimately Mother Nature-interrupted “Homecoming” concert in Central Park), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his indefatigable support for the city. On his last Monday in office, de Blasio honored one of his favorite artists, the “punk rock laureate,” Patti Smith….

Note Lenny Kaye in the photo behind her. Lenny was a teenage science fiction fan, active in science fiction fandom and publishing a fanzine, Here’s an article about his SF fanzine collection: “The Tattooed Dragon Meets The Wolfman: Lenny Kaye’s Science Fiction Fanzines”, a 2014 Thought Catalog post.

(7) TAKE BIXELSTRASSE TO I-95. Gwen C. Katz tweeted her interpretation of the history that shaped Worldcon’s administrative culture. Thread starts here.

(8) THE PRESTIGE. Catherine Lundoff followed-up the Katz thread with her thoughts about the Hugo Awards. Thread starts here. Lundoff evidently is focused on book-length work, since publishers of finalists like Uncanny, Clarkesworld, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, for example, aren’t operating with “deep pockets.”

(9) END OF WATCH. At Vox: “NASA will let the ISS disintegrate into the atmosphere. Here’s why”. When hasn’t been specified, but “NASA has only technically certified the station’s hardware until 2028.”

The International Space Station brings together astronauts from around the world to collaborate on cutting-edge research, and some have called it humanity’s greatest achievement. But after two decades in orbit, the ISS will shut down, and a crop of several new space stations will take its place. While these new stations will make it easier for more humans to visit space, they’re also bound to create new political and economic tensions.

NASA is scaling back its presence in low-Earth orbit as the government focuses on sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars. As part of that transition, the space agency wants to rent out facilities for its astronauts on new space stations run by private companies. When these stations are ready, NASA will guide the ISS into the atmosphere, where it will burn up and disintegrate. At that point, anyone hoping to work in space will have to choose among several different outposts. That means countries won’t just be using these new stations to strengthen their own national space programs, but as lucrative business ventures, too….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1893 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] One hundred twenty-eight years ago, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was first published by G. Newnes Ltd. sometime late in 1893 with an actual publication date listed as 1894. It was the second collection following The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and like the first it was illustrated by Sidney Paget. This hardcover edition has two hundred seventy-nine pages comprising twelve stories. The stories were previously published in the Strand Magazine

Doyle had determined that these would be the last Holmes stories, and intended to kill off the character in “The Final Problem”, but a decade later a new series, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, would begin in the aftermath of “The Final Problem”, in which it is revealed that Holmes actually survived. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 27, 1938 Jean Hale. If you’ve watched Sixties genre television, you’ve likely seen her as she showed up on My Favorite MartianIn Like Flint (at least genre adjacent), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, My Brother the AngelWild, Wild WestBatman and Tarzan. (Died 2021.)
  • Born December 27, 1951 Robbie Bourget, 70. She started out as an Ottawa-area fan, where she became involved in a local Who club and the OSFS before moving to LA and becoming deeply involved in LASFS. She’s been a key member of many a Worldcon and Who convention over the years. She was the co-DUFF winner with Marty Cantor for Aussiecon 2. She moved to London in the late Nineties.
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 61. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book series? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role, in it.
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 44. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The End of Time” as Addams but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time.
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 34. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another one now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The  Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed.
  • Born December 27, 1995 Timothée Chalamet, 26. First SF role was as the young Tom Cooper in the well received Interstellar. His only other genre role was Zac in One & Two before he played Paul Atreides in Director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows something by the side of the road – a little too big for a hubcap, I’m thinking.
  • The Argyle Sweater spots the moment an undercover operator’s cover is blown.

(13) IS SF ABOUT THE PRESENT OR FUTURE? Star Trek shouldn’t be gloomy insists Reason Magazine’s Eric Studer: “Even if Modern Star Trek Doesn’t Think So, the World Is Getting Better”.

For decades, various incarnations of Star Trek have offered mostly positive visions for the future of humanity—one in which we’ve set aside petty, earthbound squabbles in favor of boldly seeking out new worlds (and, of course, finding the occasional conflict). 

But the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery (Paramount+), the seventh television series in the long-running franchise, have too often seemed tied down by storylines that might have more in common with real-world politics of the 21st century rather than the unbridled optimism that was such an important part of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s original conception for the show. Discovery is highly serialized, more focused on a single calamity than a larger sense of exploration, and with far more internally focused characters who care more about their own interests than in a larger plan for society.

As a result, Star Trek now seeks to reinforce the trepidation and existential doubt that is a hallmark of our modern culture. Instead of showing the potential of what humanity can become, Discovery seems to reflect more on what the feelings of the human condition are today…

(14) INVADER FROM MARS. Space.com celebrates an anniversary: “On This Day in Space! Dec. 27, 1984: Famed Allan Hills Mars meteorite found in Antarctica”.

On Dec. 27, 1984, one of the most famous Mars meteorites was found in Antarctica. 

…Weighing in at just over 4 lbs., this space rock is considered to be one of the oldest Martian meteorites ever found on Earth. Scientists estimate that it crystallized from molten rock more than 4 billion years ago, when Mars still had liquid water on its surface. It also has been the source of controversy about the search for life on Mars that continues to this day.

(15) NOT JUST ANY KIND OF HORROR. The new episode of the Rite Gud podcast features an interview with John Langan on cosmic horror. And also about the horror of dealing with the publishing industry.

Bram Stoker Award-winning author John Langan joins us to talk about cosmic horror, his novel The Fisherman, upstate New York, how much money writers make (none), and how hard it is to get published when you’re a little too literary for the genre crowd but a little too genre for the literary crowd. Special appearance by Langan’s wiener dog/beagle.

(16) OPENING OUT OF TOWN. “Terry Gilliam’s Disputed Sondheim Show Finds a Home” – the New York Times knows its address.

For weeks, a question hung over London theater: What would happen to Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”?

On Nov. 1, the Old Vic theater canceled a revival of the musical, co-directed by Terry Gilliam, after a dispute in which the renowned director was accused of endorsing transphobic views and playing down the MeToo movement. That left the production in limbo and London’s theater world wondering if anyone would dare to take it on.

Now, there is an answer. On Aug. 19, 2022, Gilliam’s “Into the Woods” will debut at the Theater Royal in Bath, 115 miles from London. The show will run through Sep. 10, 2022, the theater said in a statement….

(17) CRITICAL COMPONENT. DUST presents a short film about a young robot with a defective part, trying to find their way in the world.

(18) A BETTER PLAN. “Tesla agrees to stop letting drivers play video games in moving cars”  says the New York Times.

Tesla has agreed to modify software in its cars to prevent drivers and passengers from playing video games on the dashboard screens while vehicle are in motion, a federal safety regulator said on Thursday.

The agreement came a day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal investigation of the game feature, which is known as Passenger Play. The investigation was announced after The New York Times reported this month on the potential safety risks the games posed….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King’s parodies are news to me but not to his quarter of a million YouTube subscribers. Here’s a sample.

As the first person ever to spoof Doctor Who, I decided not to bother doing an impression of 13 different actors, and just wore a jaunty hat instead.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, N., Bill, Raquel S. Benedict, Jeffrey Smith, Nicholas Whyte, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Ready Nominator One: Best Video Game Special Hugo Award Category Announced for 2021

DisCon III, the 79th Worldcon, announced today that a special Hugo Award category for “Best Video Game” will be included in the 2021 Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Awards — the oldest and most prestigious awards in speculative fiction, presented first in 1953 and annually since 1955 — honor the field’s literature and media as well as the genre’s fans. The awards are voted on by members of each year’s Worldcon.

“Since early 2020, many of us have spent more time gaming than we ever expected. This award will offer fans an opportunity to celebrate the games that have been meaningful, joyful, and exceptional over this past year,” DisCon III co-chair Colette Fozard said. “Video games draw from the same deeply creative well that has fed science fiction and fantasy writing and art for so many years. This innovative and interactive genre has brought us new ways of story-telling as well as new stories to tell and we are glad to honor them.”

There is no permanent Hugo Award category to recognize this interactive form of storytelling with which so many fans of the genre create and engage. A trial Best Interactive Video Game Hugo Award was attempted in 2006. Since that time, science fiction and fantasy video games have continued to evolve and generate intense interest from both reviewers and the wider fan community.

The DisCon III committee has chosen to create this special category for 2021 only, as provided for by the rules of the World Science Fiction Society. The Hugo Study Committee is also considering Best Game or Interactive Experience as a potential permanent category.

An eligible work for the 2021 special Hugo award is any game or substantial modification of a game first released to the public on a major gaming platform in the previous calendar year in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects. 

For these purposes, a game is defined as a work wherein player choice, interaction, or participation significantly impacts the narrative, play, meaning, or experience. A major gaming platform means that the game is available on personal computers such as Windows, Mac, or Linux computers (including, but not limited to, via Steam, Epic, itch.io, browser, or direct download), iOS, Android, Switch, PlayStation, and/or Xbox systems. This definition will be provided as part of the nominating and voting ballots. 

The DisCon III committee expressed appreciation to Ira Alexandre and the Games Hugo Subcommittee of the Hugo Study Committee for their work in gathering the necessary data and evidence to support the creation of this special award. (An earlier version of Alexandre’s idea was discussed in their 2019 File 770 post “A Hugo Award for Best Game or Interactive Experience”.)

Members of CoNZealand and DisCon III as of December 31, 2020 are eligible to nominate works for the 2021 Hugo Awards, including for the special category Best Video Game. Nominations open in early 2021. Only members of DisCon III are eligible to vote on the final ballot. More information on the Hugo Awards is available at The Hugo Awards official site.

Register for DisCon III here. Follow the con on Twitter at @worldcon2021.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 9/5/19 You Don’t Scroll On Pixelman’s Cape, You Don’t File In The Wind

(1) DID AMAZON CHEAT? The American Booksellers Association is on the warpath: “ABA Condemns Amazon for Breaking ‘Testaments’ Embargo”.

The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.

Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”

In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”

Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)

…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.

The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

(2) MEANWHILE IN VIDEOLAND. The question is — “Handmaid’s Tale: Was it right to take the series beyond the book?” Warning for those who click through — Excerpt ends at point where spoilers start.

The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.

Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.

The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?

“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”

The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.

“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”

(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”

I’m writing it in. So there.

(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal should be rejected:

Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.

But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming. 


It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.

(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]  Not sure if this is newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good thing.

One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:

In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible renaming for our newly-female cat:

Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say “amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.

(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.

Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!

Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by JON LAM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

(7) POLLY WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

(8) SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY. Randall Munroe will soon be bringing us How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His book tour started this week.

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.

With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1939 Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston. 
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in  Planet Terror and Pam in  Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) MYTHBUSTING. The results of test purport to explain “Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth”.

A mobile security company has carried out a research investigation to address the popular conspiracy theory that tech giants are listening to conversations.

The internet is awash with posts and videos on social media where people claim to have proof that the likes of Facebook and Google are spying on users in order to serve hyper-targeted adverts.

Videos have gone viral in recent months showing people talking about products and then ads for those exact items appear online.

Now, cyber security-specialists at Wandera have emulated the online experiments and found no evidence that phones or apps were secretly listening.

(11) IN A SNAP, IT’S GONE. “Trolls cause shutdown of official Jeremy Renner app” – BBC has the story.

Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.

Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.

Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.

Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.

Identity crisis

Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.

In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.

(12) FRIENDLY (?) NIEGHBORHOOD SPIDER-DRONE. What flies through the air and snares its enemies in webs? CNN has the answer: “China says its drone can hunt like Spiderman”.

               China says it has developed a new hunter drone that can disable other drones — or even small aircraft — by firing a 16-square-meter (172 square feet) web at them.

               “Caught by the web, the hostile drone should lose power and fall to ground,” said a report on the Chinese military’s English-language website.

               Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.

The hexacopter drone can also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.

(13) NECRONOMICON. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda gives a con report for Necronomicon, including the panels he enjoyed and the art and books he brought home: “Dispatch from a ‘horror’ convention: It began in a dark, candlelit room .?.?.”

… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.

Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…

(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes.

Part one here.

On the 50th anniversary of Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost sketches. This programme contains material never heard before, including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch.

(15) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Jezebel claims “The Woman Who Wore a T-Rex Costume to Her Sister’s Wedding Is the Best Person in America”. Photo at the site.

…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”. You can listen anytime.

A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.

  • Steven Price: Gravity 
  • Mica Levi: Under the Skin 
  • John Murphy: Sunshine 
  • Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo) 
  • Carly Paradis: The Innocents 
  • Clint Mansell: Moon 
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet (Main Titles – Overture) 
  • Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant Jòhann Jòhannsson arr. 
  • Anthony Weeden: Arrival (Suite No 1) 
  • Hans Zimmer: Interstellar 

(17) SWEET. The Harvard Gazette calls it “Pancreas on a chip”.

By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.

The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.

“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”

Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.

The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.

(18) BUT IT’S NOT RIGHT. BBC reports “Left-handed DNA found – and it changes brain structure”.

Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.

The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.

The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.

But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.

(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last piece of ice.

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 7/5/19 We Hold These Pixels To Be Self Scrolling, That All Filers Are Created Equal

(1) TUNING IN. The Doctor may use her time traveling skills to visit your TV set even sooner than the beginning of Season 12. Radio Times speculates that “Doctor Who could air an extra episode before the new series”.

RadioTimes.com understands that a plan is in the works to air a standalone Doctor Who special some time before series 12 hits screens, possibly in a festive slot like this year’s New Year’s Day Special or the Christmas specials that were released every year prior (from 2005 onwards).

However, it’s also possible that the proposed episode will bypass the festive period altogether, airing in a less competitive slot to give the Tardis team their best reintroduction this winter, and avoiding the usual holiday themes favoured by previous Doctor Who specials.

(2) ORDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE. Just as French fries are merely a delivery vehicle for ketchup, File 770 exists to publicize where Scott Edelman goes to eat lunch. In Episode 99 of Eating the Fantastic, the meal is served at the Sagebrush Cantina in the company of comics legend Gerry Conway.

Gerry Conway

My first meal of the Nebula Awards weekend was with comics legend Gerry Conway, who I’ve known for at least 48 years, since 1971 — when I was a comics fan of 16, and he was 19, and yet already a comics pro with credits on Phantom StrangerKa-Zar, and Daredevil. Our paths back then crossed in the basement of the Times Square branch of Nathan’s (which, alas, no longer exists) where the late Phil Seuling had organized a standalone dealers room without any convention programming dubbed Nathan’s Con, which was a test run for his future Second Sunday mini-cons.

Gerry and I have a lot of history in those 48 years, including his time as Marvel’s editor-in-chief when I worked in the Bullpen — though his tenure was only six weeks long, two of those weeks my honeymoon — a tenure you’ll hear us talk about during the meal which follows. He’s the creator of The Punisher, Power Girl, and Firestorm, and wrote a lengthy and at one point controversial run on Spider-Man. But he’s also worked on such TV series as MatlockJake and the FatmanHercules: The Legendary JourneysLaw & Order, and many others.

At Gerry’s recommendation, our meal took place at the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas, California, where I invite you to take a seat and eavesdrop on our longest conversation in 40 years.

We discussed how the comics business has always been dying and what keeps saving it, why if he were in charge he’d shut down Marvel Comics for six months, what it’s like (and how it’s different) being both the youngest and oldest writer ever to script Spider-Man, the novel mistake he made during his summer at the Clarion Writers Workshop, why he’s lived a life in comics rather than science fiction, what caused Harlan Ellison to write an offensive letter to his mother, the one bad experience he ever had being edited in comics (it had to do with the Justice League), the convoluted way Superman vs. Spider-Man resulted in him writing for TV’s Father Dowling Mysteries, how exasperation caused him to quit his role as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief (while I was out of the Bullpen on my honeymoon), how he’d have been treated if he’d killed off Gwen Stacy in today’s social media world, and much, much more.

(3) TALKING ABOUT A GAMES HUGO. Camestros Felapton starts a thoughtful discussion of Ira Alexandre’s motion in “Looking at the Hugo Game/Interactive Experience proposal”.

…I think accessibility to the works remains one of the biggest obstacles to this category working effectively, although the proposal makes substantial efforts to address this.

My other concern is the multiple vectors against which we’d need to judge works in this category. The proposal gives numerous examples of other game awards but I’m struck by the many ways game awards split their own categories….

(4) KOTLER’S PICKS. Paul Weimer hosts “6 Books with Steve Kotler” at Nerds of a Feather. I’m in the middle of reading the author’s latest —

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

My latest book is Last Tango in Cyberspace. It’s a novel that follows a protagonist named Lion Zorn. He’s an empathy tracker or em-tracker, a new kind of human with a much deeper ability to feel empathy than most. His talent lets him track cultural trends into the future, a form of empathetic prognostication, and a useful skill to certain kind of company. But when Arctic Pharmaceuticals hires him to em-track rumors of a new and extremely potent psychedelic—with potential medical uses—he ends up enmeshed in a world of startup religions, environmental terrorists and overlapping global conspiracies. It’s a thriller about the ramifications of accelerating technology, the evolution of empathy, and the hidden costs of consciousness-expansion. And it’s awesome because, well, it’s just a ton of mind-blowing fun.

(5) GROKKING JAPAN. In The Paris Review, Andrei Codrescu resurrects “The Many Lives of Lafcadio Hearn”, once among the best-known literary figures of his day.

…History is a fairy tale true to its telling. Lafcadio Hearn’s lives are a fairy tale true in various tellings, primarily his own, then those of his correspondents, and with greater uncertainty, those of his biographers. Hearn changed, as if magically, from one person into another, from a Greek islander into a British student, from a penniless London street ragamuffin into a respected American newspaper writer, from a journalist into a novelist, and, most astonishingly, from a stateless Western man into a loyal Japanese citizen. His sheer number of guises make him a creature of legend. Yet this life, as recorded both by himself and by others, grows more mysterious the more one examines it, for it is like the Japanese story of the Buddhist monk Kwashin Koji, in “Impressions of Japan,” who owned a painting so detailed it flowed with life. A samurai chieftain saw it and wanted to buy it, but the monk wouldn’t sell it, so the chieftain had him followed and murdered. But when the painting was brought to the chieftain and unrolled, there was nothing on it; it was blank. Hearn reported this story told to him by a Japanese monk to illustrate some aspect of the Buddhist doctrine of karma, but he might as well have been speaking about himself as Koji: the more “literary” the renderings of the original story, the less fresh and vivid it becomes, until it might literally disappear, like that legendary painting.

(6) VISIONARY. CNN discovers Simon Stålenhag — “Simon Stålenhag’s hauntingly beautiful retro sci-fi art”.

Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are a strange, irresistible mix of mundane scenes from the Swedish countryside and haunting scenarios involving abandoned robots, mysterious machinery and even dinosaurs.

They are the product of his childhood memories — growing up in suburban Stockholm and painting landscapes and wildlife — and his adulthood appreciation for sci-fi.

“I try to make art for my 12-year-old self,” he said in a phone interview. “I want to make stuff that would make my younger self see it and go, ‘I’m not supposed to look at this because it’s for adults, but I really want to anyway.'”

(7) UNSURPRISINGLY, THE IRS RECOGNIZES SATAN. The Burbank Leader generated some clicks with its overview: “The IRS gave nonprofit status to a satanic church. Will all hell break loose?”.

Earlier this year the Internal Revenue Service officially recognized the Satanic Temple as a church, meaning it has 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

According to the church’s website, the Satanic Temple’s mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”

Yet perhaps because the group describes itself as a “nontheistic religious organization” and maintains an openness about taking political stances, the IRS decision has brought some controversy.

According to an article on Rewire.News, a pro-life petition online states, “This egregious decision runs counter to everything America stands for,” and a Catholic commentator argued that without God or a literal Satan, there is no “real religion.”

A letter to the editor from a self-identified atheist began:

I’m fine with the ruling, based on the finding that the Temple’s attributes — unique tenets, regular congregations and religious services — meet the IRS guidelines for a tax-exempt religious organization, i.e., a church. Neither God, gods nor Satan are required to be a “real religion” under these guidelines, contrary to the commentator quoted in this month’s question.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 5, 1904 Milburn Stone. Though you no doubt know him as Doc on Gunsmoke, he did have several genre roles including a German Sargent in The Invisible Agent, Captain Vickery in Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, Mr. Moore in The Spider Woman Strikes Back and Capt. Roth in Invaders from Mars. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 5, 1929 Katherine Helmond. Among her roles was Mrs Ogre in Time Bandits and Mrs. Ida Lowry in Brazil. Now I’ll bet you can tell her scene in the latter… (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 5, 1941 Garry Kilworth, 78. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work? 
  • Born July 5, 1948 Nancy Springer, 71. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos.
  • Born July 5, 1957 Jody Lynn Nye, 62. She’s best known for collaborating with Asprin on the MythAdventures series  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. 
  • Born July 5, 1963 Alma Alexander, 56. Author of three SF series including the Changer of Days which is rather good. I’m including her here for her AbductiCon novel which is is set in a Con and involves both what goes on at that Con and the aliens that are involved. 
  • Born July 5, 1964 Ronald Moore, 55. He‘s best known for his work on various Star Trek series, on the Battlestar Galactica reboot and on the Outlander series.  
  • Born July 5, 1972 Nia Roberts, 47. She appeared in two two Doctor Who episodes during the time of the Eleventh Doctor, “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood”. But it’s an earlier role that gets her a Birthday citation just because it sounds so damn cool: Rowan Latimer in the “Curse of the Blood of the Lizard of Doom” episode of the Dr. Terrible’s House of Horrible whichspoofed shows such as Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.

(9) GET MAD. If you want to see more of Alfred E. Newman’s gap-toothed smile, Doug Gilford’s MAD Cover Site is the place for you.

Look at every regular issue cover from the comic book days of 1952 to the present day! Issue contents included!

(10) COUNTING FANS AT WORLDCONS. The latest round of Hugo statistics led to a discussion on the SMOFs list about other Worldcon stats, where Rene Walling reminded readers about his compilations, published by James Gunn’s Ad Astra earlier in this decade:

Sweeping statements and generalizations are often made about the membership of early World Science Fiction Conventions (WSFC, or Worldcon) such as “only the same people came back every year” or “the attendance was all male.” Yet rarely is more than anecdotal evidence given to support these statements. The goal of this report is to provide some hard data on the membership of early Worldcons so that such statements can be based on more than anecdotal evidence.

…The number of members listed over the entire 1961-1980 time span totals 33,279 for the WSFC sources, which represents 81.66% of the total from the Long List (40,752). The total number of individual members is 17,136.

(11) IS BEST SERIES WORKING? At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry precedes his discussion of the nominees in “Reading the Hugos: Series” with some meta comments about the category.

This is worth mentioning now because 2019 is the third year of the Best Series category and the second appearance of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series because McGuire has published two additional novels (The Brightest Fell, Night and Silence) as well as some short fiction set in that universe. I wouldn’t be shocked to see McGuire’s InCryptid make a second appearance next year, and I also expect to see The Expanse to have its own second crack at the ballot, though with The Expanse I hope readers wait one more year for the ninth (and final?) volume to be published so that The Expanse can be considered as a completed work.

I’m curious what this says about the long term future and health of the category if we see some of the same series make repeat appearances. Of course, we can (and do) say the same thing about a number of “down the ballot” categories like Fanzine (we do appreciate being on the ballot for the third year in a row!), Semiprozine, and the Editor categories.

(12) IN A BAD PLACE. Steve J. Wright’s review of the finalists has reached “Hugo Category: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” – and there’s one he really doesn’t like.

We have two episodes of The Good Place, and I won’t complain about that either, because this is a popular vote and the show clearly has its fans…. I’m still not among them.  It seems to me that The Good Place is still trying to be several things at once, and is failing at all of them, and since the things it’s trying to be include “funny” and “though-provoking”, the result isn’t good. 

(13) HELICON AWARDS. Richard Paolinelli celebrated the Fourth of July by announcing the ten inaugural winners of the Helicon Awards on his YouTube channel. Sad Puppy Declan Finn won the Best Horror Novel category, which is probably more informative about where these awards are coming from than that Brandon Sanderson and Timothy Zahn also won.  

The 2019 Helicon Awards celebrates the best literary works of 2018 in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Military Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Alternate History, Media Tie-In, Horror and Anthology (SF/F/H).

Throughout the presentation Paolinelli keeps using the pronouns “we” and “our” without shedding very much light on who besides himself is behind these awards. The slides for the winners bear the  logo of his Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild, opened last year with the ambition of rivalling SFWA. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild closed group on Facebook is listed as having 275 members – you can’t see the content without joining, but FB displays a stat that it’s had 6 posts in the last 30 days. The SFFCGuild Twitter account hasn’t been active since February 2018.

Paolinelli’s blog claims sponsorship of the awards, but in the video he says not only won’t winners be receiving a trophy, he hasn’t even designed a certificate for them, though he might do that in a few weeks.

In addition to the 10 Helicon Awards, Paolinelli named “three individual honorees for the Mevil Dewey Innovation Award, Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award and the Frank Herbert Lifetime Achievement Award.”

So far as the first two awards are concerned, it’s likely that what did most to persuade Paolinelli to give them those names was the decision by two organizations this past year to drop the names from existing awards – in Wilder’s case (see Pixel Scroll 6/25/18 item #5), the US Association for Library Service to Children said it was “over racist views and language,” while the American Library Association dropped Dewey (see Pixel Scroll 6/27/19 Item #13) citing “a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment.”

(14) A FANNISH ANIMAL. “My Wild Time Living in a House Full of Wombats” is an article at The Daily Beast, where else?

What is a full night’s sleep?! I haven’t had one of those in a long time. I run Sleepy Burrow Wombat Sanctuary in Australia, which is the largest wombat sanctuary in the world. I’m up every three hours to do round-the-clock feedings for the baby wombats that have recently come into our care. Their first nights with us are always the most critical time where their survival is the most at risk. If being up all night is what it takes to pull them through, I will do it. Don’t feel too bad for me though. I wouldn’t trade the life I have for anything in the world. I have a wonderful family I built with the most supportive husband, who is my partner both in life and rescue. I’m a mother to two perfect daughters, a dog, and a house full of the cutest wombats you can imagine. As a family unit we have rescued over 1,300 wombats.

(15) NIGERIAN SFF. Adri Joy makes the book sound pretty interesting, though rates it only 6/10: “Microreview [book]: David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa” at Nerds of a Feather.

That main character, it will not surprise you to hear, is David Mogo, Godhunter. David lives in a version of Lagos which has been subjected to the Falling: a war which has caused thousands of Orisha to rain down on the city and take up residence. A half-god himself, David was abandoned by his mother and raised by a foster-father who also happens to be a wizard, wielding magical talents which David’s divinity keeps him from using in the same way. Instead, when we meet David he’s trying to throw himself into a bounty hunting existence with as much amoral abandon as possible, taking on a job from far more shady wizard Ajala for “roof money” while trying to suppress the sense that he should be acting with slightly more principle.

(16) SPONGING OFF FANS. That’s the allegation, anyway: “SpongeBob SquarePants fan claims Nickelodeon copied art”.

A fan has claimed Nickelodeon used his SpongeBob SquarePants artwork without his permission.

Matt Salvador, 17, says the art was featured in an advert for the show which was aired in June.

His artwork, uploaded online in 2016, is drawn in the style of a background used in a typical episode.

Various YouTube channels have uploaded the video, which the fan says shows the same artwork, but with his signature in the bottom-right corner removed.

(17) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. Unlike Facebook or Google — “Why the BBC does not want to store your data”.

BBC audience members could soon be using all the data from their social media and online accounts to fine tune the content they listen to and view.

The BBC is developing a personal data store that analyses information from multiple sources to filter content.

Early prototypes of the BBC Box draw on profiles people have built up on Spotify, Instagram and the BBC iPlayer.

The BBC will not store data for users. Instead, preferences will be kept in the Box so they can be reused.

The project is seen as “disruptive” because individuals will decide what they use their data for themselves.

The Box is part of a larger European project seeking to give people more control over their data.

(18) STILL NOT READY. Let’s face it: “Biased and wrong? Facial recognition tech in the dock”.

Police and security forces around the world are testing out automated facial recognition systems as a way of identifying criminals and terrorists. But how accurate is the technology and how easily could it and the artificial intelligence (AI) it is powered by – become tools of oppression?

Imagine a suspected terrorist setting off on a suicide mission in a densely populated city centre. If he sets off the bomb, hundreds could die or be critically injured.

CCTV scanning faces in the crowd picks him up and automatically compares his features to photos on a database of known terrorists or “persons of interest” to the security services.

The system raises an alarm and rapid deployment anti-terrorist forces are despatched to the scene where they “neutralise” the suspect before he can trigger the explosives. Hundreds of lives are saved. Technology saves the day.

But what if the facial recognition (FR) tech was wrong? It wasn’t a terrorist, just someone unlucky enough to look similar. An innocent life would have been summarily snuffed out because we put too much faith in a fallible system.

What if that innocent person had been you?

This is just one of the ethical dilemmas posed by FR and the artificial intelligence underpinning it.

Training machines to “see” – to recognise and differentiate between objects and faces – is notoriously difficult. Computer vision, as it is sometimes called – not so long ago was struggling to tell the difference between a muffin and a chihuahua – a litmus test of this technology.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

A Hugo Award for Best Game or Interactive Experience

[This guest post proposes adding a category to the Hugo Awards.]

By Ira Alexandre:  Thirteen years ago, in 2006, there was a trial attempt at a “Best Interactive Video Game” Hugo category. Then, as now, hundreds of WSFS members were also creating and playing analog games, telling stories by touch and by chance, by word and by wit. These experiences were excluded from this award entirely. Since then, we have entered the age of Steam, YouTube, and Twitch, mobile games and the indie explosion. The tools to breathe life into the branching paths of an interactive novel have never been more accessible and sophisticated. We need an award that recognizes the proliferation of games, platforms, creators, and users in the thirteen years since the video game award was last trialed.

It is time for all types of games and interactive media to be recognized in our community. It is time for an inclusive games Hugo Award.

I know we’ve tried this before, but a lot has changed – including what is actually being proposed. In addition to the 2006 trial category attempt, there was also a petition in 2015 to get MidAmeriCon II to run a Best Video Game category. There’s two major ways my proposal is different: it’s not just for video games, and it addresses the issue of modifications (DLC, expansions, fan mods, etc.).

Here’s what I’m proposing, and I’ve put together roughly 100 pages of data, arguments, and case by case analysis to back it up:

3.3.X: Best Game or Interactive Experience.

Any work or substantial modification of a work (such as a game or interactive narrative, demonstration, or installation) first released to the public in the previous calendar year in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects in any medium where player/user choice, interaction, or participation significantly impacts the narrative, pacing, play, or experience of the work.

With this proposed definition, I want to:

  • Name games specifically. Let’s keep it grounded, translatable, and accessible to international audiences.
  • Leave room for all the other amazing things that can be achieved with interactivity.
  • Acknowledge and engage with the uniquely modification-heavy nature of games. We’re taking advantage of the concept of “substantially modified,” already present in the Best Related Work Category.

This approach opens up the category to a ton of content that WSFS members are demonstrably interested in, judging by the amount of Worldcon programming that’s devoted to games. My proposal includes a Proof of Interest section covering the growth in games programming since 2006 as well as showing WSFS members writing about, playing, and creating games. Between WorldCon 64 — the year of the 2006 attempt — and WorldCon 76 last year, there have been 353 gaming panels, presentations, scheduled gaming sessions, and other gaming-related program items at WorldCons. The percentage of Worldcon programming that’s devoted to games has tripled since 2006, with some cons having as much as 6-9% of their entire program devoted to games, up from less than 1% when the category was last trialled.

Not only has interest grown, but games as a medium have changed and matured immensely. Indie and mobile games have taken off and now form the majority of the market, and the distribution platform of Steam has made gaming more accessible than ever.  There’s plenty of games – not just good but great games – to nominate every year, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot to nominate and vote. It’s not a solid wall of expensive AAAs and even more expensive consoles. Analog games are often collectively owned, with one playable set shared among several people. Prose interactive fiction is often low-cost or even free. Indie games, playable on run-of-the-mill PCs and phones, are doing a ton of the heavy lifting in terms of quality and interesting SFF work, and they cost about as much as a hardcover novel or even an ebook novella. For those who can’t or don’t want to play the games, guided game tours like Let’s Plays or “movie versions” of games abound on YouTube and Twitch (I moderated a panel on this very thing at WisCon). Existing WSFS gamers already own or buy the platform and materials in numbers large enough to nominate, and becoming an informed voter ranges from cheap to free.

But aside from the growing interest and accessibility, games are also just not well served by the current category structure.  Games simply do not fit in Best Dramatic Presentation or Best Related Work, where they’re currently eligible. In the BDP categories, not only are games competing with big budget films and TV series, but they also have to be sorted by runtime, which most games don’t even have. More importantly, putting them in either category ignores the unique nature of interactive storytelling that blends narrative and play.

It doesn’t matter if it’s audiovisual, analog, immersive, or prose. If it’s interactive, it’s made differently, it’s crafted differently. We approach the work in a different way; we shape it even as it shapes our experience. This unifying element of all interactive experiences – of this utterly unique way to convey a story, a world, an idea – deserves to be recognized.

The sort of speculative fiction storytelling that games can do is absolutely unique. There is no substitute for imagined planets you can actually explore, for time travel stories where you pick where and when to go, for being given the tools to make your own stories with your friends. Games are uniquely suited to push the limits of interactive worldbuilding (Microscope, Dragon Age, Dwarf Fortress), expand the ways we can tell stories (GRIS, Return of the Obra Dinn, Heaven’s Vault), and interrogate the natures of narrative and play themselves (BioShock, Braid, The Stanley Parable, Pandemic Legacy). There is simply nothing like this medium. There is SFF work only games can do.

WSFS members play games, write about games, make games, and are inspired by games. We have always been here. We have always gamed.

And as gamers, we understand that mods, analog or digital, pro or fan, are part of the game. Expansions, rereleases, editions, bundles. DLC, handmade cards, patches, fan mods, house rules. Part of the magic of games is that you can make them your own. Changes to the game can be experienced directly as part of it – not alongside, but during, the play. A truly inclusive game award must acknowledge game modifications. Including a substantial modifications clause in the award definition not only acknowledges the culture and reality of the gaming world, but also takes the burden off Hugo administrators during the nominations phase.

With a substantial modification clause, Hugo admins don’t have to legislate the common cases of expansive expansions, meaty DLC, and top-to-bottom remakes. These are part of modern gaming craft, and when they make a difference, they deserve to be acknowledged. And fans can tell what truly makes a difference. We are simply less likely to nominate mods that don’t have meaning when there’s so much fresh content to consider. By acknowledging this aspect of gaming culture, we honour the speculative fiction and fannish work being done without creating an undue burden on Hugo admins.

Whether you’re a gamer or not, this proposal is about you. It’s about what the speculative fiction work we as WSFS members choose to honour.

If you’re interested, please take this interest survey  – it does use Google sign-ins to enforce a single-vote policy. If you don’t have a Google account, please feel free to join the mailing list, tweet about it using #GamesHugo, email me at contact@gameshugo.com, or talk to me in person at Worldcon, where I will be at the Business Meeting.  I’ve made www.gameshugo.com as a central hub for this campaign.

If you’re not convinced, I invite you to read the full proposal, where I put forward full, detailed arguments, reams of data, and a dozen test cases: A Hugo Award for “Best Game or Interactive Experience”. There’s about 60 pages of arguments, examples, and narrative, about 40 pages of appendices, and a spreadsheet of hundreds of games, panels, and panelists. I’d love to hear feedback!

Thanks for your time!

— Ira Alexandre, (WSFS Member and Contributing Editor at Lady Business)