Pixel Scroll 5/14/24 Down The Seven Pixels Scroll

(1) BUTLER CONFERENCE AT HUNTINGTON THIS MONTH. The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA will host a two-day conference, “Futurity as Praxis: Learning from Octavia E. Butler” on May 23-24.

Octavia Butler.

The year 2024 marks the beginning of the critical dystopian future Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) envisioned in her groundbreaking novel Parable of the Sower. Her fiction and the story of her life compel us to reckon with power, leadership, creativity, the Earth, human relationships, and the unknown possibilities that await us in the stars. Now, intellectuals from different communities will gather to contemplate her legacy. This conference asks how we have learned from Butler’s writing and what her archive at The Huntington—a short distance from where the author spent her formative years in Pasadena, California—can help future generations discover.

One of the panels will feature well-known sff creators.

Session 1: Creativity as Praxis

  • Moderator: Sage Ni’Ja Whitson
    Queer & Trans anti-disciplinary artist and writer, Department of Dance and Department of Black Study at UC Riverside
  • Damian Duffy
    Author of the graphic novel adaptations of Kindred and Parable of the Sower
  • Steven Barnes
    Author of The Eightfold PathMarvel’s Black Panther: Sins of the King podcast series, and Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror on Shudder
  • Sheree Renée Thomas
    Editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and the Dark Matter anthologies, poet, author of Nine Bar Blues: Stories from an Ancient Future

Tickets for the two-day conference are available here. General: $25 (Students free). Optional lunch: $20 (each day)

(2) ROMAN AROUND. “’Megalopolis’: New Teaser Trailer Drops Ahead of Cannes Premiere” reports Deadline.

Ahead of its world premiere here at Cannes, Francis Ford Coppola has dropped a teaser trailer for his master epic Meglopolis. While the first trailer showed Adam Driver’s ambitious architectural idealist Cesar attempting suicide atop a skyscraper, yet stopping time, here we see a montage of the pic’s action: a devastated city indulged in neon and noir infused Bacchanal.

Coppola’s latest is billed as a Roman Epic fable set in an imagined Modern America. The City of New Rome must change, causing conflict between Cesar Catilina (Driver), a genius artist who seeks to leap into a utopian, idealistic future, and his opposition, Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Giancarlo Esposito), who remains committed to a regressive status quo, perpetuating greed, special interests, and partisan warfare.  Torn between them is socialite Julia Cicero (Nathalie Emmanuel), the mayor’s daughter, whose love for Cesar has divided her loyalties, forcing her to discover what she truly believes humanity deserves.

(3) FROM SOUP TO NUTS. The Guardian has a long feature on the history of Coppola’s efforts to make this film: “’Has this guy ever made a movie before?’ Francis Ford Coppola’s 40-year battle to film Megalopolis”.

Early reactions to Megalopolis have been mixed. After a private screening in Los Angeles last month, one executive described it as “batshit crazy”….

…Others, however, were fulsome in their praise. “I feel I was a part of history. Megalopolis is a brilliant, visionary masterpiece,” said the director Gregory Nava after the screening. “I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day.” An anonymous viewer at a London screening went even further: “This film is like Einstein and relativity in 1905, Picasso and Guernica in 1937 – it’s a date in the history of cinema.”…

(4) CAROL SHIELDS PRIZE. The 2024 Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, which provides $150,000USD to the winner, is the largest English-language literary prize in the world for women and non-binary authors. So the announcement of the winner may be of interest to you even if the book is not genre.

V. V. Ganeshananthan has been named the winner for her novel Brotherless Night, published by Random House.

(5) COMPUSERVE GETS A PLAQUE. It didn’t take as long as you might have expected for one of the building blocks of personal computing to earn its own historic marker. Alex Krislov shared a photo of Ohio’s salute to CompuServe.

(6) LATEST ITERATION OF FANHISTORIC CLIFTON’S. Boing Boing says “Legendary L.A. eatery Clifton’s Cafeteria is back! (but is called Clifton’s Republic now)”.

…To say Clifton’s is kitschy doesn’t begin to capture it. It’s more like if uber-kitschy, ur-kitschy and mondo-kitschy had a baby….

We’re interested because LASFS used to meet at Clifton’s in the late 1930s. And consequently, Discover Los Angeles’ article “Clifton’s Republic: The Story of an LA Icon” has the tidbit of greatest interest to fans:

…The third floor is home to the Gothic Bar, which features a booth named after sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, a patron of the original Clifton’s who became a pal of Meieran’s. The back bar is a repurposed 19th-century gothic altar. The third floor also features Clinton Hall, a live performance and private event space, and lots of taxidermy dioramas created in consultation with experts from the Natural History Museum….

(7) HE’S ON THE COVER. Fantasy author Lev Grossman in on the front of Publishers Weekly.

(8) DON’T REIGN ON THEIR PARADE. Scavenger’s Reign may get a second chance on another platform. “Netflix Just Saved 2023’s Most Underrated Sci-Fi Show From Cancelation” reports Inverse:

Scavengers Reign, the remarkable but underseen sci-fi series that premiered on Max in late 2023. Scavengers Reign was widely regarded as one of the year’s best shows, and one of many projects that heralded a golden age for indie animation. Unfortunately, the series was canceled on May 10… but that development has a silver lining.

Per VarietyScavengers Reign will remain on Max (a rare concession for WB’s canceled shows), but its first season will also stream on Netflix. The rival streamer is reportedly interested in picking up the show for more seasons, but continuation is contingent on Scavengers’ success on the platform.

… Given Netflix’s growing interest in adult animation, the streamer might be an ideal destination. Scavengers Reign follows the crew of a deep space freighter after they crash on a hostile alien planet. Across 12 episodes, the crew works to find their way back to their ship, and survive a world trying to annihilate them. The series doesn’t shy away from dark themes, so it should feel at home alongside Netflix originals like Blue Eyed Samurai….

(9) TEDDY HARVIA CARTOON.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 80. I can say without doubt George Lucas was a director whose first work I encountered was THX 1138. What a damn strange film that is. Upon rewatching it twenty or so years later, the Suck Fairy wasn’t pleased by it as I’ll say she holds that it just feels really dated now which I agree with her. 

Ahhh but then was Star Wars, and no I won’t accept the renaming it. Simply didn’t happen. The film itself which I’ve seen at the theater and watched a number of times since is extraordinary. That it garnered a Hugo at IguanaCon II shouldn’t surprise anyone here. 

George Lucas in 2009.

Confession time. I’ve not watched any of Star Wars films past the first three. I adore The Empire Strikes Back, a Hugo winner at Denvention Two, actually my favorite of the first three films. I don’t dislike the final film, Return of the Jedi, Hugo of course, this time at L.A. Con II, but I really do think the story is better in The Empire Strikes Back. Also, Lucas gave his screenwriting credit to Leigh Brackett for that film after her death from cancer.

So, what’s my next film that he did that I really like? Oh guess. It was when he was story writer and executive producer on the first four Indiana Jones films, which his colleague and good friend Steven Spielberg directed, so it is Raiders of The Lost Ark is my favorite film here (with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom being almost as good), and the last should been not have been done. So not surprisingly Raiders of The Lost Ark would win him and Spielberg a Hugo, this time at Chicon IV.

Need I say that The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was wonderful? Yes, it stretched probability to the breaking point and way beyond continuously in terms of who young Indy met, but that was the sheer fun of the series. No Hugo nomination, why, oh why?

Did you know he wrote the story for Willow? (Not the screenplay.) Well, he did. Cool. I mean really cool. Noreascon 3 nominated it for a Hugo but a rabbit from Toon Town won that year. Speaking of really cool films, he was executive producer and co-edited Labyrinth with director Jim Henson. Yes, you nominated it for a Hugo, this time at Conspiracy ’87. 

He produced Howard the Duck, which the French had the gall to name on the one-sheets Howard Une nouvelle race de héros (Howard: A New Breed of Hero) was considered his worst film by far. It’s not a film I like but I feel that it should be noted here. No, you did not nominate Howard Une nouvelle race de héros for a Hugo. Nor did French give it any Awards either.

Finally for me, he also was the creator and executive producer of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series which premiered with a feature film of the same name that aired just before its first episode. 

I know he’s done a lot more including some new material now on Disney+ but I’m not taking that streaming service now. At some point, I’ll gorge myself over there but not yet. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro depicts the benefits of home delivery.
  • UFO lets a great line go astray.

(12) SPEAKING OF GEORGE. “’Grow up. These are my movies, not yours’: George Lucas Won’t be Happy How Star Wars Fan Group is Illegally Saving the Original Trilogy” Fandomwire says confidently.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away began George Lucas’ epic space opera tale that eventually grew into the pop culture phenomenon we know today as Star Wars. The original trilogy of films Lucas made during the 70s and 80s, became beloved across the globe, but the theatrical cuts of the movies have neared the brink of extinction following Lucas’ special edition re-releases.

As a result, a group of rebel Star Wars fans have taken it upon themselves to not only preserve but also digitally restore the original cuts so that the fanbase can enjoy the version of the films they first fell in love with. However, the group’s activities directly clash with Lucas’ vision for his franchise and border on a legal grey area. Here is why George Lucas won’t be happy with the rebel fans trying to preserve the original cuts of the original trilogy.

The original trilogy of Star Wars films, spearheaded by George Lucas were critical and commercial successes. However, in 1997 Lucas released the “Special Edition” of the films for the trilogy’s 20th anniversary, which featured extensive changes to the original theatrical cuts.

The original cuts have since become scarce. However, a group of Star Wars fans, known as Team Negative One have reportedly almost completely digitally restored the original cuts in 4K using 35-millimeter prints of the original trilogy….

To show how serious Lucas is about his later cuts —

…Similarly, when the National Film Registry aimed to preserve 1977’s Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope), Lucas reportedly refused to provide them with a copy of the original theatrical release…

(13) Q&A ABOUT FUNDRAISING ANTHOLOGY. Broken Olive Branches is a charity anthology; over 30 authors in the horror community donated stories to help the civilians of Palestine. The proceeds from the anthology go to ANERA and the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. Roseanna interviews the editor and some of the authors involved in “Roundtable Interview: Broken Olive Branches” at Nerds of a Feather.

(14) WHERE’S THE BEEF? AI raises the dead: “It was a classic rap beef. Then Drake revived Tupac with AI and Congress got involved” on NPR’s “Planet Money”.

In late April, Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) began his testimony before a Senate subcommittee hearing by doing something unusual for a stuffy institution like Congress: He played a new song from the rapper Drake.

But it wasn’t Drake’s rap verse that Tillis felt was important for Congress to hear. Rather it was a verse in the song featuring the voice of the legendary — and long dead — rapper Tupac Shakur.

In a kind of uniquely modern sorcery, the song uses artificial intelligence to resurrect Tupac from the dead and manufacture a completely new — and synthetic — verse delivered in the late rapper’s voice. The song, titled “Taylor Made Freestyle,” is one in a barrage of brutal diss tracks exchanged between Drake and Kendrick Lamar in a chart-topping rap battle. Kendrick is from California, where Tupac is like a god among rap fans, so weaponizing the West Coast rap legend’s voice in the feud had some strategic value for Drake, who is from Toronto.

Drake, apparently, thought it’d be okay to use Tupac’s synthetic voice in his song without asking permission from the late rapper’s estate. But, soon after the song’s release, Tupac’s estate sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Drake take the song down, which he did. However — given the murky legal landscape regulating AI creations — it’s unclear whether Tupac’s estate actually has the law on their side.

And so the beef between Drake and Kendrick Lamar has become not only one of the most brilliant — and most vicious — battles in the history of rap. It’s also become a historic flashpoint for the issues posed by what you might call AI necromancy — resurrecting traits of the dead using AI technology.

We’ve entered a new world where anyone can conjure the voice or visual likeness of a dead celebrity — or really anyone, dead or alive — with a few clicks using AI software.

(15) JEOPARDY! SFF. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Catching up on Jeopardy Masters and also watching tonight’s episode, here’s the SFF content I saw:

Jeopardy Masters, Wednesday 5/8/2024

Game 1:

Literature: Who Said It? $2000: “I freewheel a lot…I reckon I’ll become president of the galaxy, and it just happens, it’s easy”

Matt Amodio got the right book but the wrong character: “What’s Dent?”

(One of his quirks is that he never bothers to change his question words but just always says “What’s…?”)

Amy Schneider gave us, “Who is Beeblebrox?”

Most Filers I assume know this, but just in case I’ll fill in that the book was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the characters Arthur Dent and Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Literature: Who Said It? $1600: “For if he is still with the quick un-dead, your death would make you even as he is. No, you must live!”

Yogesh Raut knew or correctly guessed, “Who is Van Helsing?”

Literature: Who Said It? $1200: A Daily Double for Yogesh, who wagered all of his 15,400 points. “She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately — unreservedly. I have seldom seen anyone come over to us so promptly”.

Yogesh hesitated a bit, then tried, “Who is…O’Brien?” And this was correct, the inquisitor from 1984.

Literature: Who Said It? $400: “What’s taters, precious, eh, what’s taters?”

Matt got it: “What’s Gollum?”

Game 2:

On the Director’s Résumé, $2000: He spoke the silent language of horror in 1922’s “Nosferatu”

Victoria Groce got it: “Who is Murnau?”

Regular Jeopardy!, Monday 5/13/2024

In the Double Jeopardy round:

TV’s Fantastical Places, $1200: This undersea abode of cartoon fame is based on an actual atoll used for atomic testing between 1946 and 1958

Michael Richter tried, “What is SpongeBob Squarepants?” but this was the name of the show, not the place.

Returning champ Will Stewart knew, “What is Bikini Bottom?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $2000: First seen in 1969, this planet on “Doctor Who” was caught up in a time war with the Daleks

Will knew it: “What is Gallifrey?”

Literary Title Occupations, $800: In a special edition, J.K. Rowling did her own illustrations for the story collection title “The Tales of Beedle the” this

Michael got it: “What is a bard?”

Literary Title Occupations, $400: Emily Chambers is one of these spiritual intermediaries in a C.J. Archer novel, hunting a demon & talking to a ghost

Will: “What is a medium?”

Literary Title Occupations, $1200: In “The Magician’s Nephew”, animals talk like humans & Jadis, an evil witch, flees from Charn & reaches this fantasy land

Will got this one too: “What is Narnia?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $800: This castle was the ancestral home of Ned Stark & family on “Game of Thrones”

Will, evidently an SFF watcher, knew “What is Winterfell?”

TV’s Fantastical Places, $800: Mystic Falls is the locale for blood-sucking brothers Damon & Stefan on this long-running CW show

Joyce Yang got in for “What’s The Vampire Diaries?”

Jeopardy Masters, Friday 5/10/2024

Game 1, Double Jeopardy round:

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $1600: For this 2015 film, Lesley Vanderwalt got the idea for Furiosa’s look from an image of a girl with clay across her forehead

Mattea Roach got it: “What’s Mad Max: Fury Road?”

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $1200: This man has won 7 Academy Awards for makeup, including one for his work on “An American Werewolf in London”

Amy Schneider responded, “Who is Baker?” And Rick Baker was correct.

Oscars for Makeup & Hairstyling, $400: Makeup artist Ve Neill used moss to make Michael Keaton look like he crawled out from underneath a rock for this 1988 film.

Mattea asked us, “What’s ‘Beetlejuice’?”

Game 2, Single Jeopardy round

A Literary Tipple, $600: It takes a lot of flowers (weeds, some say) to make a batch of this stuff, the title of a Ray Bradbury novel

James Holzhauer knew it was dandelion wine.

Made You Say It, $1000: Compelled by his people’s naiveté, this Trojan said, “Don’t trust the horse…even when they bring gifts, I fear the Greeks”

Victoria Groce gave us, “Who is Laocöon?”

(16) ALIEN EMBASSIES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It was the monthly  ‘Sci-Fi Sunday’ over at Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur with a look at the SF trope of alien embassies.

Because it was a Sci-Fi Sunday episode, Isaac assumed some sort of FTL travel but not instantaneous communication. He takes a (he himself says) simple assumption of all civilizations arising together and expanding their sphere of influence, which in 3-dimensions would give each 12 neighbors.

With regards to SF, he draws mainly on cinema and TV looking at embassies Babylon V, Star Trek and Stargate.  However Niven and Pournelle’s A Mote in God’s Eye,  and Dune do get a look in.

He also points to flaws in many SF shows’ plot arising out of mis-understandings making a fairly plausible case against such actually taking place.

He opines that the embassy would be in space for control biological contaminants (both ways) and here, it is bacteria rather than viruses are the major problem. He also notes that assuming an advanced planetary system might be colonized out to the equivalent of it Kuiper belt, such is the distance between stars that any traveler passing through a stellar empire would likely come no closer than many thousands of times the Kuiper orbit distance to a single star’s civilization and so no need or practicality to control travelers simply passing through.

“We often imagine encountering many alien civilizations, and establishing trade and relationships with them, but what would being an alien ambassador be like?”

35-minute episode below…

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/24 I Grow Old, I Shall Wear My Pixels Scrolled

(1) DEAD SCIENCE FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT. James Davis Nicoll brings us “Five SF Novels Inspired by Disproven Scientific Theories” at Reactor.

The history of science is filled with beautiful hypotheses slain by ugly facts. The tendency of the universe to disregard the professional needs of hard-working scientists is something about which little can be done1. In fact, disproof is a vital and necessary element for scientific progress, no matter how vexing it must have been to Thomas Gold2. However, in that interval between hypothesis and disproof, a sufficiently enticing model can inspire intriguing science fiction stories.

Here’s one of his exhibits:

Quicksand Moon Dust

Prior to space probes landing on the Moon, the precise nature of the lunar surface was unknown. Among the contending models was Thomas Gold’s4 proposal that the lunar surface could be covered in a layer of fine dust. Depending on the properties and the depth, the layer might act like quicksand5. As it happens, the lunar surface is dusty, but visitors do not have to worry about sinking into it. That is the only good news. Lunar dust is actually much nastier than Gold envisioned. Abrasive lunar dust is a hazard to machines and humans alike.

Arthur C. Clark’s A Fall of Moondust (1961) embraced the most extreme case of Gold’s model. Deep dry dust seas are traversed by lunar boats conveying tourists. A mishap strands a boat deep beneath the lunar surface. Will rescuers locate and retrieve the tourists in time, or will they smother or be boiled in their own body heat6?

(2a) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present John Wiswell and Anya Johanna DeNiro on Wednesday, May 8, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003; Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

JOHN WISWELL

John Wiswell’s novel Someone You Can Build A Nest In was published by DAW Books in April and received starred reviews in Library Journal and BookPage, and was named one of the Best of the Best in SFF for 2024 by Ingram. His short fiction has won the Nebula Award and Locus Award, and been a finalist for the Hugo, British Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards. His fiction has been translated into ten languages. He teaches for Clarion West and for the Rambo Academy. More about him can be found at https://linktr.ee/johnwiswell.

ANYA JOHANNA DENIRO

Anya Johanna DeNiro is the author of the short novel OKPsyche from Small Beer Press and City of a Thousand Feelings from Aqueduct Press, which was on the Honor Roll for the Otherwise Award. She has also been a finalist for the Sturgeon Award and the Crawford Award, and shortlisted for the O. Henry Award. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

(2b) IT WASN’T FOR THE TUXEDO. “But Why a Penguin?” wonders JSTOR Daily.

Historian Richard Hornsey writes that Penguin publisher Allen Lane had an avowedly “leftist vision of social-democratic progress.” Lane aimed for a democratizing public sphere with an “engaged public readership,” though one perhaps not as left-left as the contemporary Left Book Club (1936–1948). What Lane used to reach these ends was pure capitalism: “the techniques of mass production, distribution, and retail.”

And an adorable black-and-white flightless bird.

“Choosing a brand character, and specifically a penguin, allowed [Lane] to appropriate the utopian dynamic of mass consumption and mold it to fit his own progressive cultural project,” writes Hornsey….

(3) THEY SAY IT AIN’T SO. “Avengers Directors Say Marvel Flops Aren’t Superhero Fatigue” in Variety.

…“There’s a big generational divide about how you consume media,” [filmmaker Joe Russo] continued. “There’s a generation that’s used to appointment viewing and going to a theater on a certain date to see something, but it’s aging out. Meanwhile the new generation are ‘I want it now, I want to process it now’, then moving onto the next thing, which they process whilst doing two other things at the same time. You know, it’s a very different moment in time than it’s ever been. And so I think everyone, including Marvel, is experiencing the same thing, this transition. And I think that really is probably what’s at play more than anything else.”…

(4) GOT ENOUGH FINGERS? The Mary Sue is ready in case you were about to ask “Just How Many ‘Planet Of The Apes’ Films Are There, Anyway?”

…Counting Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, which premieres next month, there are 10 total films set in the varying canons of Planet of the Apes.

Things kicked off with the original Planet of the Apes movie back in 1968; that film would go on to spawn four sequels, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)…

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. (Died 2006.)

By Paul Weimer: Jack Williamson. What does one say about an author who had been published continuously from the 1920’s up to the 2000s?  Resilience. Staying power? An inexhaustible imagination?

All of these, and more, I say. 

Jack Williamson

I first came across Williamson in the large collection of works that my elder brother, whom I think I’ve mentioned before got me into science fiction in the first place, had.  That was The Humanoids, which includes his novelette “With Folded Hands”, a dystopia of unthinking robots and servitors gaining sentience, and basically (although expressed as “the Prime Directive”) following Isaac Asimov’s Law of Robotics and moving to take over the world, in an effort to protect humanity. It’s definitely a horror dystopic takeover of the world, as humans who resist the Mechanicals are taken away and lobotomized to prevent them disrupting the new society.  And it’s an unhappy ending, as Underhill, our main character, and Sledge, the original creator of the Mechanicals, ultimately fail in stopping the takeover. 

I’d read 1984 and Brave New World at this point, but to have a straight up science fiction story defy what was to me the cardinal trope of “the good guys must WIN” made an impression on me. Over the next decades, I encountered Williamson’s work time and again, since his prolific output meant that his works kept showing up in back corners of libraries, a story here and there in a collection, and the original book I read always simmered in my mind. This was an author with power and verve and not afraid to take chances. 

Stonehenge Gate, his last novel, naturally, I had to read, and it was much of the “old time religion” of Williamson’s work that did feel something of a throwback to earlier models and eras of science fiction, but it charmed me all the same. And how could I resist a novel with a premise of a few friends basically finding a Stargate in the middle of the Sahara (the titular Stonehenge Gate) and going through to find out what was on the other side? The novel winds up pulling in elements of revolution, the origin of life on Earth and in general a cracking adventure running across multiple worlds and encountering some very strange alien species. It’s a fine capstone to an extensive and abiding body of work. 

But it is The Legion of Time that really sticks out for me, even more than The Legion of Space (Space adventure), or Darker Than You Think (lycanthropes!) or his return to exploring dystopias in the Starchild books.  The Legion of Time, which consists of a pair of stories, is the codifying pieces of science fiction for the idea of a Time War. Poul Anderson, the “Temporal Cold War” of Star TrekThe Big TimeTravelers, and Loki all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Williamson and coming up with the idea of multiple futures and factions in the future trying to influence the past to make their version of the timeline be the official and real one. There is also a Larry Niven Svetz story where he runs into someone trying to change the timeline from Svetz’s crapsack future (which he inadvertently created) back to the future that he is from, the nuclear war hellscape better than Svetz’s world.  

The Legion of Time itself centers on a single choice, a “Jonbar Hinge”, where events are manipulated to make one young boy’s choice to either lead the world into a world of superscience and technology and freedom, or into a dread and horrible dystopia (once again, Williamson with the dystopias) where force and brutality are backed up by darker versions of the superscience of the original world. We also get a love story of sorts, as our hero Lanning feels both for Lethonee, the ruler of the utopia superscience state, and also feels attraction for the femme fatale Sorainya. And yet, even so, even as Sorianya is clearly the “Villainess”, Lethonee in her own way is as determined and forthright to make her version of the future come about as her darker duplicate. But the choice of worlds, and which of these two futures is the better for humanity, is always clear. Williamson makes no bones about being clear eyed about the dangers of dystopias and how one must risk much in order to keep them from coming about. One might not always succeed (see The Humanoids) but one must always try

Long live his work!

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro features a fantasy medical breakthrough, or is it breakdown? 
  • Eek! lets us witness an awkward dinner conversation.
  • Thatababy honors Trina Robbins.
  • Pardon My Planet comments on timing and the medical supply chain, after a fashion.

(7) GET OUT. “The Best Escape Rooms in the World Have a Global Competition” at Atlas Obscura.

Escape rooms might seem like casual entertainment, but there’s actually science and a very serious global competition involved. Called Top Escape Rooms Project Enthusiasts’ Choice Awards (TERPECA), the competition gives annual awards for the best escape rooms in the world.

Nominated rooms include games like 60 Seconds to Escape in Gurnee, Illinois, involving skeletons popping out at people down hallways, or Madness Toledo in Spain, featuring biohazard spills, unleashed monsters, and a huge Alien-esque creature taking up most of a room, ready to mow participants down with its toothy jaws. Diego Esteban, the owner of Madness, describes the competition as “the Oscars of escape rooms.”…

… [There] is a surprising amount of science that goes into creating them. A methodology called Escape Room Theory dictates how escape rooms are designed and built. The theory consists of a series of “rules” designers are encouraged to follow—like ensuring each item is used only once (or there’s only one answer to a specific puzzle), making individual puzzles solvable in five minutes or less, and allowing for non-linear puzzles, meaning that one item in a room doesn’t necessarily solve the puzzle you work on in another room. The goal is ultimately to not frustrate participants or lead them down a road that’s tedious or unsolvable….

(8) SCORES 9 OUT OF 10. Nerds of a Feather’s Haley in “Review: Calypso by Oliver K. Langmead” tells why —

This awe-inspiring and utterly beautiful novel told in verse will make you think, feel, and wonder why there aren’t more contemporary authors writing sci-fi that is both full of ideas and jaw-droppingly well written….

(9) A HUGO FINALIST. In “Hugo 24 Novel: The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty”, reviewer Camestros Felapton says he can’t wait for the sequels.

Time to set sail for adventure! Yeah, people we’ve got a map in the front of the book, we’ve got a retired legendary pirate captain pulled out of retirement for just one last job, we’ve got a crew of talented misfits and we have a truly evil magician after a magical relic. Djinn, monsters, magic, all we need is some Ray Harryhausen stop-motion monsters and a great time is guaranteed….

(10) COLONIZING BINARY SYSTEMS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Life around a binary system is fairly common and SF sub-trope, the classic example being the two suns setting in Star Wars.

Indeed, in real life we have already found planets orbiting two stars.

This weekend, futurologist Isaac Arthur looked at the possibility of colonizing such worlds…

There are billions of binary star systems in our galaxy, including many of those stars closest to us. Can such systems host life, and what would it be like to live under two suns?

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

Pixel Scroll 3/12/24 I’m Just Fen

(1) SPECIAL DINO DELIVERY. Royal Mail’s “The Age of the Dinosaurs” special issue features eight new stamps showing different prehistoric species and their habitats. The stamps are in collaboration with the Natural History Museum and also celebrate 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning. (Click for larger images.)

(2) WICKED WORLD’S FAIR MELTDOWN. Stephen Beale, editor of The Steampunk Explorer, offers an “Inside Look: What Happened at Wicked World’s Fair?” The post first appeared on March 7 and has been updated half a dozen times with additional sources. Beale provided this synopsis of the post for File 770:

The event, Wicked World’s Fair, took place in February in Pennsylvania.

The organizer (Jeff Mach) is a highly controversial figure who previously ran the Steampunk World’s Fair, which was one of the largest steampunk events in the U.S. It collapsed in 2018 following misconduct allegations. The Daily Beast had a story about it.

The short version of this latest event is that he significantly overbooked vendor spots, so they ended up in spaces intended for panels and other non-vendor activities.

The sound crew for concert performances walked out due to non-payment.

There was a $35-per-head tea party, for which he sold 88 tickets, but due to overcrowding of vendors, there wasn’t enough capacity for all the ticketholders.

Requests for refunds via Eventbrite were declined. He’s blaming Eventbrite, but it appears that he just didn’t have the funds to cover his expenses.

My sources for the story include the former vendor coordinator and the former operations manager, both of whom worked as volunteers.

Some widely circulated videos show a confrontation between Mach and the vendors. One has 1.2 million views on Facebook. In some videos, one of his associates is seen standing in front of a vendor and reaching for a sword.

Since the event, vendors formed a private Facebook group called Disgruntled Wicked Vendors. It has around 100 members, though not all were actual vendors.

Following the SPWF collapse, many steampunk vendors, performers, etc. have vowed to avoid participating in Jeff Mach events. It appears that many vendors at WWF were not aware of this history. They’re trying to raise awareness of him so others are forewarned.

The vendor complaints were also covered by LehighValleyLive.com in “Bethlehem area steampunk convention ends contentiously. Vendors claim organizer running scam.”

(3) GODZILLA MINUS MORE THAN ONE COUNTRY. GeekTyrant says Japan is getting discs in May – no word when there will be a U.S. release. “Godzilla Minus One Blu-ray is Coming and Toho Shared a First Look”.

Godzilla Minus One had an incredibly strong box office run at the movie theaters and fans flocked to the cinemas to watch it. That theatrical run has ended and now Toho is teasing the upcoming Blu-ray and DVD release of the film.

The home video teased below will be made available for Japanese consumers, but I think it’s safe to say that the United States will get something very similar.

The movie will be released in both its color and Black and White versions. The home release of Godzilla Minus One is set to hit shelves in Japan on May 1st. There’s no word on when the movie will hit home video in the United States….

(4) FAREWELL, MY DARLING, NEVER. Philip Athans is determined to keep them alive! “Don’t Kill Your Darlings” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

There’s good writing adviceinteresting writing adviceiffy writing advice, and then there’s terrible, awful, spirit- and creativity-destroying writing advice, and the worst example of the latter category is “Kill your darlings.” What makes this nonsense so bad is how often and irresponsibly it’s repeated.

Often attributed to Dylan Thomas, sometimes William Faulkner (who, if he followed this advice himself would have killed The Sound and the Fury in its entirety), and then repeated by other teachers and authors including Stephen King. In reality the concept seems to have first been belched forth by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in a series of Cambridge Lectures about 110 years ago. Never heard of him? Neither have I. Maybe that’s because of his darling-free writing.

Whoever started it, it goes something like this:

“If you find you’ve written something you just love, that makes you feel as though you were born to do this, that you’ve found the heart and soul of it, delete that immediately and without further consideration because if you love it that much it can only be self-indulgent crap that no one else but you will like.”

What a spectacular load of bullshit….

(5) PROPSTORE. Craig Miller told about his evening at the Propstore auction on Facebook.

Propstore is an auction house based in London with an office here in Los Angeles. Their specialty is, as their name suggests, props from movies and television. Though, of course, they go well beyond that. (They’re the main auction house I’ve used to sell some of my collectibles.)

Last night was a reception and preview for their current auction, held on the penthouse level of the Peterson Automotive Museum in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles. (The auction starts today and goes for a total of three days and around 1500 items.) Herewith a few photos.

I have just a couple items in this auction. Alas, none of the really high-ticket items. I think solely a couple of pre-production paintings from “Return to Oz”. They weren’t on display.

What was on display were items including a Stormtrooper helmet from “Return of the Jedi”, an iconic dress worn by Lucille Ball on “I Love Lucy”, the Ten Commandments tablets from Cecil B. DeMille’s epic of the same name, and so much more. You can see a bunch on the Propstore Facebook page or on their webpage, where the auction is carried live (with on-line bidding, of course).

Propstore does these previews once a year and I frequently run into friends at them. Last night was no exception. It was nice to chat and spend a little time with Melissa Kurtz, Shawn Crosby, Chris Bartlett, among several others.

Perhaps best of all, because it’s been so long since I’ve seen or spoken to them, also present were Howard Kazanjian, producer of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi”, and Anthony Daniels, known the world over for being the man inside C-3PO….

(6) AND IF YOU HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT OVER. Heritage Auctions’ “March 20 – 24 Treasures from Planet Hollywood” event is hawking stuff formerly on display at Planet Hollywood restaurants.

…Though Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Willis were the star investors best associated with the restaurant, Planet Hollywood was THE biggest star of them all. Millions would flock there to see items appearing on the silver screen, and sometimes even see one of Hollywood’s A-list coming to open the restaurant. Before emails and cell phones, before digital effects and Instagram, it was the closest we could get to being close to the movies we all know and love….

Here’s an iconic example of the wares: “Jurassic Park (Universal, 1993), Wayne Knight “Dennis Nedry” Hero”.

Designed to hold and preserve dinosaur embryos for 36 hours, the can is highly visible early in the film as Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) meets with his Biosyn contact, Lewis Dodgson (Cameron Thor), who gives him the can and explains its features while devising a plan to steal dinosaur DNA samples from John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) InGen. Later in the film, Nedry uses the can as he infiltrates the cold storage facility on Isla Nubar and secures the DNA samples. The can is ultimately lost as it falls from Nedry’s jeep, washed away in churning mud when the deceitful computer programmer meets his demise in the jaws of a Dilophosaurus. Chosen by Art Director John Bell, the Barbasol brand can was a perfect fit for its aesthetics and instant recognizability which would help it stick out in its scenes and draw the audiences’ eyes. Since the film’s 1993 release, Barbasol, and their can’s classic design, have become synonymous with the Jurassic Park franchise. Exhibits production and display wear with scuffing to the finish, oxidation across the metal components, color fading, and adhesive loosening to the vial’s labels. Vials contain remnants of the clear yellowish liquid used to fill them during production, with the “PR-2.012” vial missing its cap. Comes with a COA from Heritage Auctions.

Even more irresistible is this diminuitive costume: “Muppet Treasure Island (Buena Vista, 1996), Kermit the Frog”.

Muppet Treasure Island (Buena Vista, 1996), Kermit the Frog “Captain Abraham Smollett” Ensemble. Original (11) piece ensemble including (1) black frock-style coat with gold stitching, (1) ivory waistcoat with gold stitching, (1) pair of black breeches, and (1) long-sleeved ivory shirt with ruffled cuffs. The accessories included are: (1) black tricorn hat with gold stitching, (1) pair of ivory boots with button and buckle closures, (1) black cravat-style necktie, (1) black and red striped waist tie, (1) brown leather belt, (1) 19th century-style gray wig with ponytail and black bow, and (1) Kermit-sized sword with gold basket hilt that has some green coating from oxidation. This outfit is worn by Captain Abraham Smollett (Kermit) throughout the film as he captains the ship, “Hispaniola.” Ensemble displays some production wear. Obtained from Jim Henson Productions. Comes with a COA from Heritage Auctions.

(7) PANDAS AND SANDWORMS BECOME CASH COWS. Variety verified it by watching the ticket booth: “Box Office: Kung Fu Panda 4 Leads, Dune 2 Stays Strong”.

Universal and DreamWork’s animated adventure “Kung Fu Panda 4” topped the domestic box office, earning a solid $58.3 million from 4,035 theaters in its opening weekend.

It marks the biggest debut of the franchise since the original, 2008’s “Kung Fu Panda” ($60 million), overtaking the start of the two prior entries, 2016’s “Kung Fu Panda 3” ($41 million) and 2011’s “Kung Fu Panda 2” ($47.6 million), not adjusted for inflation….

…Although “Dune: Part Two” relinquished its box office crown to “Panda,” the sci-fi sequel had another strong outing with $46 million from 4,074 venues. It marks a 44% decline in ticket sales from its debut (an impressive hold for a blockbuster of this scale) and brings the film’s North American total to $157 million. Globally, the big-budget follow-up has generated $367.5 million.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. (Died 2012.) So let’s talk about  Harry Harrison who I’d say is best known for his extraordinarily excellent Stainless Steel Rat series. James Bolivar diGriz, aka “Slippery Jim” and “The Stainless Steel Rat” is one of the most interesting characters I ever had the pleasure to read. 

The Stainless Steel Rat showed up, not surprisingly in a story called “The Stainless Steel Rat” sixty-seven years ago in Astounding in their August issue. 

Harry Harrison. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

There are 12 works in the Stainless Steel Rat series, of which I’m absolutely certain that I’ve read and immensely enjoyed the first one, The Stainless Steel Rat, and after that is where it gets complicated. I’m looking now on the other iPad at the list of the novel titles and I can’t say that I remember any of them. I know that I’ve read at three or four of them, and liked reading them, but can’t tell you which, but I’m betting that they were the earlier ones. 

I do know that I read all of three of the Deathworld series with Jason dinAlt, a professional gambler, as the central character. They’re fun SF pulp, all three originally written as serials in the Sixties. A fourth, Return to Deathworld, for the Russian market was co-written with two Russian authors and hasn’t been translated into English.

His third series, Bill, the Galactic Hero, first appeared in the “Starsloggers” novella in sixty years ago in the December issue of Galaxy. Bill the character is among the silliest that I’ve ever read about. I’m really fond of truly silly SF, however, though I read the first one  I didn’t go beyond that.

Of course, worth noting is that Alex Cox directed an animated version of Bill, the Galactic Hero which was created with his students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, completed and released a decade ago. You can see it here.

Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! became Soylent Green with Charlton Heston. I’ll confess I’ve not read the novel, nor ever seen the film. I see the film was nominated first a Hugo at Discon II and won a Nebula for the film.

I’m only going to note two other Awards, one is Sidewise Award for Best Long Alternative History, the Hammer and the Cross trilogy, and a Grand Master Nebula. 

I’ll admit I’ve not read enough of his shorter works to form an informed opinion, so I’ll let y’all tell me about that aspect of his fiction.

(9) BRAND X? “’Calling them X-Men is so 1960s’: Chris Claremont weighs in on the X-Men name change debate (and his idea for a replacement)” at Popverse.

Should the X-Men change their name? Ove the past few years, there has been some discourse around the name of Marvel’s iconic mutant team. The name has been around since the team’s first appearance in X-Men #1 (1963), but the world has changed since the 60s. Why does the team have a male-centric name when some of their most iconic members are female?

Chris Claremont, a writer famous for his 16-year X-Men run, has some thoughts on the discussion. During a discussion at the Uncanny Experience event, Claremont mused about the topic. “Calling them X-Men is so 1960s,” Claremont said, after referring to the team as the X-Group.

Claremont circled back to the topic during a question-and-answer session later in the discussion. When he was asked about changing the name, the writer revealed that it had been on his mind for years. “I tried that,” Claremont said. “I spent about 10 years referring to them as the X. The X being the unknown. It was pointed out to me that X-Men is trademarked, which apparently is a whole different kettle of fish. You can’t argue with legal people. When I came to work for Marvel, it was one or two guys, Apparently the Mouse House has much more than that. There are some fights you can’t win.”…

(10) LAUGHS OF THE CENTURY. Charlie Jane Anders makes excitement contagious about “My Favorite Comedy Films of the 2020s (So Far)” at Happy Dancing. Here’s one of her picks.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

This film finally made me a convert to the Chris Pine fan club. I know, I’m very late. Honestly, the whole cast is great, with Michelle Rodriguez getting better material than she usually gets and Justice Smith proving that he is an utterly brilliant actor. Not to mention Hugh Grant as a wonderfully oily villain. Like a lot of the other comedies on this list, Dungeons & Dragons manages to go way over the top while still having a lot of sympathy and respect for its characters, which is a tough balancing act. I appreciate any comedy whose characters seem to be genuinely trying to be better people, while screwing up over and over again. Also, the CGI monsters and other effects help tell the story instead of being a gaudy distraction!

(11) EMISSION POSSIBLE. [Item by Steven French.] Beautiful but deadly? No, not really! “The Collectors Who Hunt Down Radioactive Glassware” at Gastro Obscura.

IN JANUARY OF 2021, A New Jersey teenager brought a piece of an antique Fiestaware plate to a high-school science class. The student had received a Geiger counter, an instrument used to measure radiation, for Christmas, and wanted to do an experiment. When the plate registered as radioactive, someone at the school panicked and called in a hazmat team. The entire school was evacuated, and those in the nuclear science field were aghast….

…Prior to World War II, and well before its potential for energy or weaponry was recognized, uranium was commonly used as a coloring agent in everything from plates, glasses, and punch bowls to vases, candlesticks, and beads. Uranium glass mosaics existed as early as 79 AD.

Also known as canary or vaseline glass, uranium glass is typically yellow or green in color and glows bright green under a black light. Shades can range from a translucent canary yellow to an opaque milky white depending on how much uranium is added to the glass, from just a trace to upwards of 25 percent. Uranium was also used in the glaze of orange-red Fiestaware, also known as “radioactive red,” prior to 1944, and was once a common sight in American kitchens.

Although uranium glassware does register on a handheld Geiger counter, the radiation amounts are considered negligible and on par with radiation emitted from other everyday items such as smoke detectors and cell phones….

(12) FANCY A BEER? IT’LL KILL YOU. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Isaac Arthur departs from his usual Futurism for one of his “Sci-fi Sundays.”

This time it’s a shorter-than-usual edition at just 15 minutes because it is an impromptu one. This time the SFnal topic is of alien beer, specifically Alien Beer To Die For.

Now of course, I myself am unlikely to ever sample alien beer for the simple, factual reason that I live in Brit Cit, and have roots in Cal Hab and the Caledonian rad wastes, and am close to many of the best real ale hostelries in the spiral arm.

(Neat, huh? See some of you in Cal Hab this summer.)

A look at the possible effects of alien food, drink, and microbes on us or our ecosystem.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Godzilla takes girl on date and it’s adorable” – here, let Dexerto spoil it all for you.

…The 138-second short starts with said girl losing her mind when Godzilla (or perhaps more accurately, someone in a Godzilla costume) shows up at her door. She hits the deck, starts hyperventilating, and becomes hysterical. Which isn’t traditionally how a great date starts. But then it all becomes rather lovely.

They go shopping. Then have a picnic in the park, before a trip to the beach where this decidedly odd couple wrestle on the sand. The date ends with them kissing each other as the sun sets (well, mainly her kissing Godzilla as the monster’s mouth can’t move)….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/24 To Boldly Scroll Where No Fan Has Scrolled Before

(1) MCCARTY Q&A. Chris Barkley’s audio interview with Dave McCarty was published here overnight: “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #81”. The audio recording is at Soundcloud. A transcript is here.

(2) SPARE CHANGE? The New Zealand Mint has a line of The Lord Of The Rings™ Collectible coins.

Set in the mythical world of Middle-earth, The Lord of The Rings fantasy saga follows hobbit Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and a fellowship of characters as they embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring. Considered one of the greatest works of the 21st century, its popularity has spawned numerous adaptions.

Return to Middle-earth with our limited-edition THE LORD OF THE RINGS™ coins. Made from pure gold or silver, they feature characters and landscapes from the epic fantasy adventure films. Crafted in fine detail with themed packaging, they make the perfect memento for any fan!

Famed Middle-Earth locations feature in these gold coins.

And the silver series includes one with Gollum. Heads he wins, tails you lose!

(3) LEST GRIMDARKNESS FALL. [Item by Anne Marble.] Sebastian Milbank, in an article for the British magazine The Critic (called a “contrarian conservative magazine”) refers to “grimdark” as “Grimdull” — and seems to think they are both “liberal” and “leftist.” (Umm, those are not the same thing.) The article also flings darts at Michael Moorcock and Phillip Pullman. And it calls Breaking Bad grimdark?! Boy, does this article ever make a lot of assumptions about the writers (and readers) of grimdark! And it uses a lot of words in which to do so.

For those unblessed (or uncursed) with an interest in contemporary fantasy, the phrase “Grimdark” may suggest the name of some 2000s era Goth club. It’s a recent coinage for an ongoing craze in “gritty” and dark fantasy settings, epitomised and popularised by George RR Martin, becoming the default tone for a whole range of feted fantasy offerings from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series featuring a dark, brooding protagonist who kills a lot of people — and occasionally feels bad about it — to Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy featuring a dark, brooding protagonist who kills a lot of people — and occasionally feels bad about it.

It’s a genre with a number of consistent features. It’s generally in a mediaeval fantasy setting, but shorn of any romance. Characters are overwhelmingly cynical, and those few who exhibit nobility are treated as foolish or naive. Generally a chaotic war is happening, or about to happen. Religion features, but largely as a tool of social control, often portrayed (usually with some real effort given the baseline awfulness) as even more cruel and cynical than the secular world around it. Dark observations about human nature substitute for any moral drama, with characters seeking to outwit, manipulate or overpower one another in a kind of Darwinian struggle for dominance.

It’s a script born of vaguely liberal, vaguely radical, vaguely anarchic sentiments common to most contemporary creative “industries”. But fantasy, with its over escapism and heroic aristocratic setting, presents something of a problem. This is the inner tension of left wing fantasy — how can a genre defined by apparent escapism not end up serving reactionary ends?…

Grimdark author Joe Abercrombie has a very concise takedown:

(4) ALERT FOR CONVENTION EMAIL RUNNERS. Andrew Trembley shared this alert on Facebook.

For y’all running conventions and running convention email, if you haven’t set up SPF, DKIM and DMARC, you need to do it yesterday. If you’re reading this on Monday, February 5, literally yesterday, because today is the day Google and Yahoo started refusing mail from many email services that have failed to implement SPF, DKIM and DMARC.

(ETA long version, did not include in the share)

I’m seeing people saying “Google is starting to block more non-Gmail senders.” Now they’re right from the perspective they’re looking at this from, but they’re not seeing the whole picture.

It’s not non-Gmail senders. It’s also not just Gmail.

So what is happening? Bear with me, this is long…

(5) MARY SOON LEE Q&A. Space Cowboy Books hosts an “Online Reading and Interview with Mary Soon Lee” on Tuesday, February 6 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for free HERE.

How-to astronomy poetry to answer vexing questions such as How to Surprise Saturn, How to Blush Like Betelgeuse, and How to Survive a Black Hole.

“Unraveling meaning from partial glimpses of the universe has preoccupied astronomers for thousands of years. Mary Soon Lee’s remarkable collection of poetry traces this journey, capturing the wonder of the celestial bodies that comprise our universe, the elegance of the rules that guide its evolution and the humanity of those who search to better our understanding.” -Andy Connolly, Professor of Astronomy, University of Washington

Mary Soon Lee is a Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and has won the Rhysling Award, the Elgin Award, and the AnLab Readers’ Award. Her work has appeared in Science, American Scholar, Spillway, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons. This is her second collection of science poetry, following on from Elemental Haiku: Poems to honor the periodic table three lines at a time. Born and raised in London, she now lives in Pittsburgh.

(6) FAN FALLOUT. The Seattle 2025 Worldcon committee answered a query on Facebook by saying that neither Dave McCarty nor anyone else from the Chengdu Worldcon team will be involved with their Hugo Awards.

(7) SALAM AWARD OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. The Salam Award, which promotes imaginative fiction in and about Pakistan, reminds Pakistani writers they have until midnight July 31 to submit entries for the award. See full guidelines at this link. Participants must either be currently residing in Pakistan, or be of Pakistani birth/descent.

(8) DANISH COMPLETIST. “Modstand og håb” at Superkultur is written in Danish, however, Lise Andreasen has provided an English translation in the first comment.

Niels Dalgaard is a patient man – not only in his persistent attempt to collect all the science fiction that has been published in odd corners of the Danish publishing world, but more specifically in this case in his project: to read through the approximately 250 novels that has been published in Danish, which can be placed in the category “youth dystopias”….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. I have come this Scroll to talk of not cabbages and kings but a man who as a mystery writer showed up regularly playing poker as himself in the Castle series with Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle — Stephen J. Cannell. James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Dennis Lehane were the other such writers here. I’ll talk about his work as a novelist later. 

Nathan Fillion as mystery writer Richard Castle, playing poker with real-life authors Michael Connelly, James Patterson and Stephen J Cannell.

The Zorro rip-off, scripted in its one season by him, The Night Rider, described by IMDB this way, “A refined New Orleans gentleman becomes a masked crimefighter by night, both to uphold law and order and to find the men who murdered his family in order to get their silver mine” is genre the same The Shadow or Doc Savage is in that it’s pulp.

Between that series and what I’m about to note next, scripting shows, the good, the bad and the truly awful made him very wealthy. So he got to produce a series that he said was one he’d to do a very long time ago — The Greatest American Hero.  You know the story of it so I want go into deep detail here, but suffice it to say that he was very happy with its success.

Veering way out of genre, I’m going to note he created Baa Baa Black Sheep (which was renamed Black Sheep Squadron for the second season for reasons unknown by the Powers That Be), a series I really liked.

I’ll note next 21 Jump Street which he created with Patrick Hasburgh which was about the cases of an undercover police unit composed of really great looking young officers specializing in youth crime. Definitely not genre, so why mention it? Because that featured Johnny Depp who would later do so many genre performances. And yes, he’d done one before this series as Greg Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

He loved making low budget horror films such as The Demon HunterThe Fairy and Left in Darkness. All shot on all cheap budgets (and this is after he became very wealthy), shot on locations you wouldn’t go without security in armor and shot fast enough you’d suspect use of interesting drugs to keep everyone alert, there’s more than makes sense of these in his IMDB listings. Stephen, you devil. Possibly literally.

Now about that poker game on Castle. All four of those players are there because they are mystery writers. Cannell wrote a series of novels about Shane Scully who was a detective in the LAPD force. I don’t know if they actually played poker in those scenes but I suspect they did. 

(10) SATISFIED FAN. Cora Buhlert heaps praise on a He-Man adaptation: “The Revolution Will Be Televised: Some Thoughts on Masters of the Universe Revolution”.

…So I watched Revelation and it turned out to be not just some nostalgic fun, but so much more. Here was the He-Man story I always wanted to see, a series which took the characters seriously in all their beautiful absurdity and found new depths in them and even managed to make me cry (something western animation in general very rarely does – crying is for anime), while also harkening back to the early 20th SFF which had inspired Masters of the Universe in the first place. Plus, the animation was gorgeous and finally looked as good as the Filmation cartoon looked in my memory, but never in reality, and the voice cast was stellar….

(11) GROUNDHOG DAY CAST REUNION. “Bill Murray celebrates ‘Harold Ramis Day’ Groundhog Day” at CBS Chicago.

This Groundhog Day, Woodstock Willie did not see his shadow — and thus said we should expect an early spring this year.

But at a ceremony in Chicago on Friday, a groundhog named Chicago Harry did not agree.

But first off, why is there a groundhog prognosticating on the trajectory of winter in Woodstock, Illinois? The answer, of course, is that in the 1993 film “Groundhog Day,” Woodstock stood in for Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — home of Groundhog Day celebrations since the 1880s.

Ever since the movie came out 31 years ago, Woodstock Willie has been up there with Punxsutawney Phil in the real Punxsutawney among large-rodent long-range winter forecasters.

Members of the cast of the iconic film reunited for the first time at Navy Pier Friday, marking 31 years since the film was released. But Friday was also about honoring Harold Ramis and commemorating 10 years since his death….

…”I think it’s great that we’re here and, I don’t want to be too Irish, but it’s very nice of Harold to make it a very nice, mild day for today,” Murray said. “He’s up there stirring the clouds around, making that low pressure move out to Indiana and just drenching, ruining those people’s lives over there in Indiana.”

Ramis’ wife, Erica, was in attendance, beaming with pride as many spoke wonders about her husband. She even read a letter from former President Barack Obama encouraging people to enjoy the day as Ramis would. 

The ceremony included re-enactments of Punxsutawney festival emcee Buster Green (Brian Doyle-Murray) knocking at the tree stump with his cane, where a groundhog named Chicago Harry made his prediction.

Ken Hudson Campbell (“man in hallway”), Robin Duke (Doris the waitress), Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor), Richard Henzel (the DJ), Don Rio McNichols (drum player), David Pasquesi (the psychiatrist), and Peggy Roeder (the piano teacher) were also in attendance.

And unlike Woodstock Willie, and Punxsutawney Phil, Chicago Harry saw his shadow — and predicted six more weeks of winter after all.

(12) GOING ROGUE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Just learned that the 2000AD strip Rogue Trooper film is at last moving forward. Director Duncan (Moon, Source Code) Jones teased about this back in 2018 and it now looks like a cast is being pulled together. “Duncan Jones’ Rogue Trooper Movie Cast Announced, Including Hayley Atwell, Sean Bean, and Matt Berry” at IGN.

The cast for Rogue Trooper, the upcoming movie from Moon and Warcraft director Duncan Jones, has been announced. The animated adaptation of the classic 2000 AD comic will be headlined by Aneurin Barnard, Hayley Atwell, and Jack Lowden, and will also feature a number of other well-known British stars such as Sean Bean.

Aneurin Barnard, who previously starred in The Goldfinch and Dunkirk, plays the titular Rogue Trooper, a blue-skinned, genetically-engineered soldier fighting on the toxic battlefields of a seemingly never-ending war. The sole survivor of a massacre that killed his squadmates, he’s on the hunt for the traitor that arranged their deaths. He does this with the aid of three of his killed-in-action squadmates, whose digital personalities still remain conscious after death and are uploaded into Rogue’s gun, helmet, and backpack….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Science Futurism with Isaac Arthur this week took a look at Death Worlds. These are planets on which, once you land, they set out to kill you.  Unlike most of Isaac Arthur’s episodes (other than his monthly ‘Sci-Fi Sundays’) which have a (highly speculative) science take, this one has as much a science fictional approach, starting as it does with the legendary Harry Harrison’s DeathWorld series of the 1960s. Along the way, he gives us a number of SFnal examples… So, pour a mug of builders and sit back for a half-hour episode (it won’t kill you)…

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/23 Pixeltar: The Fifth Scrollbender

(1) CONTEST KERFUFFLE. The Self-Published Science Fiction Competition has announced that one of its judging teams – unnamed in their statement, but it’s Team EPIC – will no longer be participating.

Kris, who reviews on YouTube as A Fictional Escapist, and formerly at EPIC Indie, said they found something on EPIC’s “About” page that led them to leave the SPSFC’s Team EPIC. They gave this explanation on X.com.  And followed with a screencap of the offending rules.

Team EPIC leader Matthew Olney published a statement on X.com:

Some of the exchanges have been taken down. Other parts can still be traced starting with this tweet by JCM Berne.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. [By Lisa Hertel.] I visited Erwin Strauss at Steere House in Providence, R.I. today. He is in good spirits and resting comfortably, and would love visitors, cards, or phone calls; he has his mobile. (Obviously use his real name when you are at reception or talking to the switchboard.) If he doesn’t answer the phone, try again later. He expects to be in Providence through mid-January.

(3) 400-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR AND SCIENTIST. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s Front Row devotes its first third of the programme to Margaret Cavendish, the British scientist and SF author who was born 400 years ago and known for her novel The Blazing World (1666), which of course pre-dates Frankenstein 1818. In The Blazing World there is a parallel Earth which can be accessed via the North Pole as the barrier between the two Earths is weakest there…. 

Margaret Cavendish was born exactly 400 years ago, and her many achievements include writing The Blazing World, arguably the first ever sci-fi novel. Novelist Siri Hustvedt and biographer Francesca Peacock discuss the enduring legacy of this pioneering woman. 

You can hear the programme here.

(4) PICKING UP THE BRUSH. “Dream of Talking to Vincent van Gogh? A.I. Tries to Resurrect the Artist.” The New York Times tells how it’s being done. Doesn’t seem quite as cheerful as in that Doctor Who episode.  

…His paintings have featured in major museum exhibitions this year. Immersive theaters in cities like Miami and Milan bloom with projections of his swirling landscapes. His designs now appear on everything from sneakers to doormats, and a recent collaboration with the Pokémon gaming franchise was so popular that buyers stampeded at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, forcing it to suspend selling the trading cards in the gift shop.

But one of the boldest attempts at championing van Gogh’s legacy yet is at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, where a lifelike doppelgänger of the Dutch artist chats with visitors, offering insights into his own life and death (replete with machine-learning flubs).

“Bonjour Vincent,” intended to represent the painter’s humanity, was assembled by engineers using artificial intelligence to parse through some 900 letters that the artist wrote during the 1800s, as well as early biographies written about him. However the algorithm still needed some human guidance on how to answer the touchiest questions from visitors, who converse with van Gogh’s replica on a digital screen, through a microphone. The most popular one: Why did van Gogh kill himself? (The painter died in July 1890 after shooting himself in a wheat field near Auvers.)

Visitors can chat with the A.I. Vincent van Gogh through a microphone. In this video, A.I. van Gogh responds to questions about his paintings.Video via Jumbo Mana

Hundreds of visitors have asked that morbid question, museum officials said, explaining that the algorithm is constantly refining its answers, depending on how the question is phrased. A.I. developers have learned to gently steer the conversation on sensitive topics like suicide to messages of resilience.

“I would implore this: cling to life, for even in the bleakest of moments, there is always beauty and hope,” said the A.I. van Gogh during an interview.

The program has some less oblique responses. “Ah, my dear visitor, the topic of my suicide is a heavy burden to bear. In my darkest moments, I believed that ending my life was the only escape from the torment that plagued my mind,” van Gogh said in another moment, adding, “I saw no other way to find peace.”…

(5) LOCAL SFF WORKSHOP. The organization that hosts The Tomorrow Prize and the Green Feather Award will hold a workshop at a library in Pasadena (CA) next week.

My name is Valentina Gomez and I am very excited to introduce myself as the new Literary Arts Coordinator for the Omega Sci-Fi Project! I am reaching out to invite your participation in this season’s short science fiction story writing program, both through creative writing workshops and student story submissions.

Join our upcoming creative writing workshop at the Jefferson branch of the Pasadena Public Library on 12/19, catered to young creative writers and open to all ages! Please share with the high-school students in your life!

(6) YOU’LL KEEP HEARING THIS. Former Google and Apple executive Kim Scott asks “Will Books Survive Spotify?” in a New York Times opinion piece.

Spotify may have made it easier than ever for us to listen to an enormous trove of music, but it extracted so much money in doing so that it impoverished musicians. Now the company is turning its attention to books with a new offering. It will do the same thing to writers, whose audiobooks Spotify has begun streaming in a new and more damaging way.

We’ve read this story before. Tech platforms and their algorithms have a tendency to reward high-performing creators — the more users they get, the more likely they are to attract more. In Spotify’s case, that meant that in 2020, 90 percent of the royalties it paid out went to the top 0.8 percent of artists, according to an analysis by Rolling Stone.

That leaves the vast majority — including many within even that small group — struggling to earn a living. The promise of the business strategy laid out in the book “The Long Tail” was that a slew of niche creators would prosper on the internet. That has proved illusory for most content creators. It’s a winner-takes-all game; too often the tech platforms aggregating the content and the blockbusters win it all, starving the vast majority of creators. The result is a gradual deterioration of our culture, our understanding of ourselves and our collective memories.

This is why regulation is so crucial. Before writing books, I worked at Google, leading three large sales and operations teams and before that, I was a senior policy adviser at the Federal Communications Commission. What I learned is that today’s tech platforms are different from the kind of monopolies of an earlier era that inspired our regulatory framework. Their networks can have powerful positive or negative impacts. We don’t want to regulate away the value they can create, but the damage they can cause is devastating. We need a regulatory framework that can distinguish between them….

(7) DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF. The Hollywood Reporter cues up the “Civil War Trailer: Kirsten Dunst Stars in Politically Charged Movie”.

Alex Garland‘s mysterious Civil War is coming into focus with its politically charged first trailer.

As the trailer reveals, Kirsten Dunst stars as a journalist living in a near future in which 19 states have seceded from the Union, with Western Forces (including California and Texas) and the Florida Alliance among those in the conflict. Meanwhile, the three-term President of the United States, played by Nick Offerman, has ordered air strikes on U.S. soil against these forces.

“Every time I survived a war zone, I thought I was sending a warning home: don’t do this,” Dunst’s character says as she attempts to reach Washington, even as forces close in on the city….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge from a selection by Mike Glyer.]

1962 A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a work that I saw and read but once in both cases but is still inedible upon my mind’s eye. 

The novel was published first by William Heinemann Ltd., in 1962 and I read in University in a literature class taught by professor who very obviously thought SF was cool as Le Guin and Bradbury were also included. I won’t say I like it but then I’m not into novels involving sexual violence. Very really not. 

Now the film was fascinating the way encountering a cobra was — Stanley Kubrick captured the dangerous of the characters in the book all too well. Still didn’t want to see it again, like not encountering a cobra again, but it was worth seeing once. 

So here’s our beginning.

What’s it going to be then, eh?

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, o my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither. Well, what they sold there was milk plus something else. They had no licence for selling liquor, but there was no law yet against prodding some of the new veshches which they used to put into the old moloko, so you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches which would give you a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg.Or you could peet milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, and that was what we were peeting this evening I’m starting off the story with.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 69. Damn, I can’t believe Emma Bull is sixty nine! My mind’s image of her is fixed upon her being the imperious sidhe queen in the War for the Oaks trailer shot way back in Will thinks 1994 according him just now in an email.

Her first novel. War for The Oaks was published in paperback by Ace Books thirty-six years ago. And then that publisher promptly tied up the rights so that it would be fourteen years before Tor Books could release another edition. Yeah Emma wasn’t happy. 

It, along with Bone Dance which would be nominated for a Hugo at MagiCon, and Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands show, I believe, a remarkably great writer of genre fiction. 

I’m pleased to say that I have personally signed copies of all of them. Two of them for Oaks, one not long after she broke both forearms at a Minneapolis RenFaire and another after they’d moved to Bisbee, Arizona and she’d healed up quite a bit. 

(I absolutely love Finder: A Novel of The Borderlands love which is along with the two novel written by Wills are the only novel in Terri Windling’s Bordertown universe. I still, sort of spoiler alert, makes me sniff every time I read it.) 

(Not to say I that I don’t love War for the Oaks and Bone Dance as I do. I cannot count how many times I’ve read each one of them.) 

Will Shetterly and Emma Bull in 1994. Photo from Wikipedia.

Now about that trailer. It was financed by Will at his own expense from money originally intended first and run first the governorship of Minnesota. Emma as I said is the sidhe Queen here and I know any of you that were active in Minnesota fandom back then will no doubt be able to tell me who many of the performers are here as Will tells me that many of them came from local fandom. 

(I really do need to do an in-depth interview with him about this sometime.)

The music is by Flash Girls and Cats Laughing. Emma was in both, and some of the music the latter played is referred to in the novel as being played by Eddi and the Fey. (Cats Laughing didn’t form until after the novel.) Lorraine Garland, Gaiman’s administrative assistant at that time, was the other half of the Flash Girls. 

Lorraine went to found another group, Folk Underground, whose tasteful black t-shirt of, one moment while I look, three skeleton musicians (violinist, guitarist, accordionist) in coffins I have twenty years in remarkably good shape. 

Oh, the screenplay did later get published. It’s an interesting read. 

So what else? There’s Liavek, a most excellent fantasy trade city akin to one Aspirin did. She and Will edited the many volumes of them on Ace with, and I think this a complete listing, Gene Wolfe, Steven Brust, Jane Yolen, Patricia Wrede, Emma Bull, Nancy Kress, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Megan Lindholm, Barry Longyear and Will Shetterly. Generally speaking, they’re all fine reading, lighter in tone that Thieves’ World is.

Finally there’s the Shadow Unit series which created by her and Elizabeth Bear. If you like X-Files, you’ll love this series as it’s obvious that both of them are deep lovers of that series and their FBI unit, the Anomalous Crimes Task Force, could well exist in the same universe.  

Well there’s one more that reflect their deep love of the Deadwood video series, her Territory novel. This is certainly one of the more unique tellings of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the Clantons and what happened there. I particularly like the dialogue heron, some of the best I’ve seen anywhere.

And no, this doesn’t by any means cover everything as she wrote some truly great short fiction set in the Borderlands universe, not to mention the novel she wrote with Stephen Brust, Freedom & Necessity which I could write an entire essay on. Wait I did, didn’t I? She even did space opera of sorts in Falcon. And there’s a wonderful children’s book that she sent Green Man to review, The Princess and the Lord of Night

(10) LOOKS GREEN TO HIM. For what it’s worth, someone is reporting “’Dune: Messiah’ Greenlit by Warner Bros, 2027 Release Date Eyed” says World of Reel.

…As for “Dune: Messiah,” the trilogy capper, we have an update on that project, and it seems to be picking up some major steam. At this point, its future making is turning into an inevitability. Here’s Jeff Sneider, via his newsletter:

“I’m already hearing rumblings that WB is so bullish on Villeneuve’s vision for Dune that ‘Part Three’ has already been greenlit with a 2027 release date in mind. WB sees Part Two as a home run, and internally, I’m hearing the studio is already projecting an opening north of $100 million. That may be optimistic, but given the trailer above, hardly out of the question….”

(11) ODD NOGGIN. [Item by Steven French.] Shirley this can’t be true?! (Sorry – channeling Airplane! there …) Gastro Obscura introduces readers to the “Head of the Egopantis”. “The head of a legendary creature allegedly killed during colonial times is now on display at a local restaurant.” Unlike Bigfoot and Nessie, this one supposedly has left remains.

… According to legend, the Egopantis was a mighty and terrifying creature that once roamed the woods behind the tavern instilling fear among the locals. One evening, a Captain named Nathaniel Smith spotted the creature wading through the Mulpus Brook and took aim with his musket. He fired mortally wounding the creature which charged across the brook before succumbing to its injuries. The colossal Egopantis had been felled with its head and the musket both on display ever since….

(12) IT’S A SMALL WORLD. “Researchers Develop Tiny Cute VR Goggles For Mice With Big Implications” at HotHardware. Daniel Dern quips, “Raptors seldom strafe passes/at meeces with VR glasses.”

Virtual reality can be an immersive way to play games, experience new environments, or consume and learn new content for anyone of any age. With that philosophy in mind, scientists have expanded the use cases of VR to rodents to enable new pathways and possibilities in neuroscience with tiny mouse-sized VR goggles that simulate environments better than ever before.

Earlier this week, researchers from Northwestern University published research outlining a new mouse VR goggle system called Miniature Rodent Stereo Illumination VR, or iMRSIV system….

(13) SUPERCONDENSATION. From 10 years ago, “Superman 75th Anniversary Animated Short”.

From the creative minds of Zack Snyder (Man of Steel) and Bruce Timm (Superman: The Animated Series) and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, this short follows Superman through the years, from his first appearance on the cover of Action Comics #1 to Henry Cavill in this year’s Man of Steel…all in two minutes!

(14) NIHILISTIC ALIENS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur spent his monthly Sci-Fi Sunday looking at nihilistic aliens.

Many doubt whether existence has any purpose or meaning, but could entirely civilizations become nihilistic. Would this spell their doom? And if not, what would they be like?

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/23 Pixels Are Those Which, When You Stop Believing In Them, Don’t Scroll Away

(1) MEDICAL UPDATE. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki told Facebook readers he had a health emergency this week:  

Was very sick day before yesterday. Had a health emergency, was fighting for my life all the previous night and that morning after being checked into the accident and emergency wards. Near died several times. Been discharged from the hospital now and I am on the mend. Had to incur several expenses in the process though. So I am in need of and welcome any assistance, towards sorting out my medical bills and other expenses I needed to survive the ordeal, towards the tune of about $500 dollars. If you want to chip, you can send something to this Paypal address and it’ll get to me. [email protected]

(2) RECORDS BREAK UNDER THE HAMMER. “Two Books Break Book Sales Records At Christie’s Auction — Here Are The Most Expensive Books Ever Sold” reports Forbes.

A pair of books by Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle once owned by English musician Charlie Watts broke individual records for the beloved authors at Christie’s auction house in London Thursday, months after an 800-year-old copy of the Bible earned the title of the most expensive book ever sold.

The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie sold for $63,968, breaking her personal record of a $50,641 copy of The ABC Murders, which sold two years ago.

The $226,555 sale of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle on Thursday set a new world auction record for a printed book by the renowned Sherlock Holmes creator, previously set at $201,600 when a copy of The Sign of Four sold in 2022. …

(3) MUSEUM PIECE. “The Oldest Living Torrent Is 20 Years Old”Hackaday blows out the candles.

Twenty years ago, in a world dominated by dial-up connections and a fledgling World Wide Web, a group of New Zealand friends embarked on a journey. Their mission? To bring to life a Matrix fan film shot on a shoestring budget. The result was The Fanimatrix, a 16-minute amateur film just popular enough to have its own Wikipedia page.

As reported by TorrentFreak, the humble film would unknowingly become a crucial part of torrent history. It now stands as the world’s oldest active torrent, with an uptime now spanning a full 20 years. It has become a symbol of how peer-to-peer technology democratized distribution in a fast-changing world.

In the early 2000s, sharing large files across the internet was a mindbogglingly difficult problem to solve. In the Southern Hemisphere in particular, home internet connections were often 56 kbit dialup modems at best. Most email services limited attachments to 2 MB at most. Services like MegaUpload weren’t on the scene yet, and platforms like YouTube and Facebook were yet to materialize. 

(4) “HE DISTINCTLTY SAID ‘TO BLAVE’…” “LIAR!” “Patrick Stewart Shares the ‘Original’ Ending to Picard, Hopes for a Follow-up Film” at IGN. Beware spoilers.

…Stewart revealed that as the years passed since his appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002, the lines between the actor and Picard had become blurred.

“If I have found true love, shouldn’t he?” he asked.

Stewart married his wife, Sunny Ozell, back in 2013, and had since decided it was time for Picard to find love, too. The final scene they came up with would have confirmed this… but it still left a little to the imagination.

“The writers came up with a lovely scene,” he revealed. “It is dusk at Jean-Luc’s vineyard. His back is to us as he takes in the view, his dog at his side. Then, off-screen, a woman’s loving voice is heard: ‘Jean-Luc? Supper’s ready!’”

Who was that voice? That never would have been confirmed. However, Stewart’s real wife Sunny would have made her Star Trek debut.

(5) OBAMA’S FEEDBACK TO FILMMAKER. Variety tells movie fans that “Barack Obama Sent Script Notes to Sam Esmail for ‘Leave the World Behind’”.

Netflix’s upcoming disaster movie “Leave the World Behind,” based on the 2020 novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, marks the first fictional movie from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions company. Barack included the novel on his 2021 summer reading list and was personally invested in perfecting the film adaptation, so much so that he sent script notes to writer-director Sam Esmail (best known as the creator of “Mr. Robot” and “Homecoming”).

“Leave the World Behind” stars Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke as a couple vacationing in Long Island when a world-threatening disaster takes place. Mahershala Ali plays the owner of the home the couple is renting. The owner shows up seeking refugee from the disaster with his daughter (Myha’la Herrold), forcing the two families to trust each other as the world potentially comes to an end.

“In the original drafts of the script, I definitely pushed things a lot farther than they were in the film, and President Obama, having the experience he does have, was able to ground me a little bit on how things might unfold in reality,” Esmail recently told Vanity Fair about the script notes he received from the former President. “I am writing what I think is fiction, for the most part, I’m trying to keep it as true to life as possible, but I’m exaggerating and dramatizing. And to hear an ex-president say you’re off by a few details…I thought I was off by a lot! The fact that he said that scared the fuck out of me.”

Per Vanity Fair: “The filmmaker was more reassured when the Obamas suggested some of his potential plot points were too bleak or unlikely. Most of the former commander in chief’s notes, however, stemmed from what he’d observed about human nature, particularly the way fissures form between people who might otherwise find common cause.”…

(6) BOOK-INSPIRED KIDS SPACE. “Publisher L’École des Loisirs Opens New ‘House of Stories’ for Kids” at Publishing Perspectives.

The independent L’École des Loisirs, one of the largest children’s publishers in the country, is starting off the school year with a new space called La Maison des Histoires (House of Stories) in which children seven and younger can discover and consolidate their knowledge of L’École des Loisirs’ books.

The 58-year-old publishing house owns Chantelivre, a children’s bookshop nestled among luxury boutiques in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. Last winter, the 400-square-meter shop (4,305 square feet) underwent a renovation which included installing the 150-square-meter (1,614 square feet) Maison des Histoires just behind the bookshop in a former storage area. Its soft launch was held in May, before it closed for the summer holidays.

La Maison des Histoires has nine themed spaces, all based on books published by L’École des Loisirs. Co-founder and associate director Camille Kiejman came up with the idea, inspired by museums she’d see dedicated to children’s books in Nordic markets, such as Junibacken in Stockholm.

(7) ADDED TO THE OFFICIAL ROBERT BLOCH WEBSITE. “A Conversation with Robert Bloch” is the latest addition to the Bloch tribute website.

Happy to present excerpts (with kind permission) from David J. Schow’s 1991 interview with Bloch at the first World Horror Convention in 1991.This interview first appeared in Cemetery Dance magazine, #31.

DJS: How long have you been going to these things, Bob?

BOB: 1946 was the first year; and I arrived after Ackerman left. That was the PacifiCon, held in Los Angeles—kicking and screaming—and it had a small attendance, as I recall, but that attendance included A.E. Van Vogt, Leigh Brackett, Ray Bradbury, and others too humorous to mention.

FORREST J ACKERMAN (from audience): Remember the story you told, Bob, about the “three great sales” that made it possible for you to come to the convention?

BOB: Oh, yes—my typewriter, my hat, and my overcoat. That was also the first convention I traveled to, and from then on, I was hooked. I discovered it was a very practical thing to go from convention to convention, because it’s difficult to hit a moving target….

(8) MICHAEL F. FLYNN (1947-2023). Author Michael F. Flynn’s daughter Sara announced on Facebook that he died on September 30.

I’m sorry to tell you that my father passed away this morning. He was sleeping peacefully in the childhood home that he loved, the home his father built. We will share more details when we have them. Thank you.

He was honored with the Robert A. Heinlein Award for his career work in 2003. His short story “House of Dreams” won the 1998 Theodore Sturgeon Award, while his book In the Country of the Blind won the 1991 Compton Crook Award for best first novel and a 1991 Prometheus Award.

Flynn’s alternate history story “Quaestiones Super Caelo et Mundo ”  picked up the 2008 Sidewise Award – Short Form.  Although he never won a Hugo, one of his seven nominees was the novel Eifelheim which in Japanese translation received a 2011 Seiun Award.

His fame rests on all these works, however, for personal reasons I am partial to the book he co-authored with Niven and Pournelle, Fallen Angels, another of his Seiun Award winners (1998), which Tuckerized or otherwise based its characters on about 130 fans. You can guess who one of those fans was…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 30, 1924 Elinor Busby, 99. In 1960, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for Best Fanzine editing at Pittcon for Cry of the Nameless along with F. M. Busby, Burnett Toskey and Wally Weber. She was awarded a Fan Activity Achievement Award for fan achievements, presented at Corflu in 2013. She was on the committee of Seacon. Busby is noted in Heinlein’s Friday, and her husband is likewise in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
  • Born September 30, 1933 Jonathan Gash, 90.  Look I loved the Lovejoy series, both the novels themselves and the series starring Ian McShane but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how ISFDB lists them as being genre. Him being an antiques divvy didn’t make it fantasy, does it? He did write The Year of the Woman which is a fantasy with a ghost as a central figure in it.
  • Born September 30, 1946 Dan O’Bannon. Screenwriter, director, visual effects supervisor, and actor.  He wrote the Alien script, directed The Return of the Living Dead, provided special computer effects on Star Wars, writer of two segments of Heavy MetalSoft Landing and B-17, co-writer with Ronald Shusett and  Gary Goldman of the first Total Recall. That’s not complete listing by any stretch! (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 30, 1947 Michael B. Wagner. Though best remembered for his work on Hill Street Blues and deservedly so, he’s co-created with Isaac Asimov, produced and wrote several episodes for the one-season ABC series Probe. He provided the story for two episodes of Next Generation, “Bobby Trap” and “Evolution” and wrote another, “Survivor”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 30, 1950 Laura Esquivel, 73. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolateLike Water for Chocolate in English. Magic realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read. 
  • Born September 30, 1951 — Simon Hawke, 72. His first major SF series was Timewars which I need not tell you what it’s about. He’s since written a lot of fiction off media properties including off Battlestar GalacticaFriday the 13th, Star Trek, Predator 2 and Dungeons & DragonsHe does have a mystery series, Shakespeare & Smythe, involving, well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?
  • Born September 30, 1953 S. M. Stirling, 70. My favorite work by him is The Peshawar Lancers. The audiobook version is quite stellar. Other than that, I’ll admit that I’ve not read deep on him beyond In the Courts of the Crimson Kings and The Sky Prople.
  • Born September 30, 1960 Nicola Griffith, 63. Writer, Essayist and Teacher. Her first novel was Ammonite which won the Tiptree and Lambda Awards and was a finalist for the Clarke and BSFA Awards, followed by The Blue PlaceStay, and Always, which are linked novels in the Ammonite universe featuring the character Aud Torvingen. In total, SFE has won the Washington State Book Award, Nebula Award, James Tiptree, Jr. Award, World Fantasy Award and six Lambda Literary Awards. Her novel Slow River won Nebula and Lambda Awards. With Stephen Pagel, she has edited three Bending the Landscape anthologies in each of the three genres FantasyScience Fiction, and Horror, the first of which won a World Fantasy Award. She latest novel is Spear which just came out. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March 1993. She lives with her wife, author Kelley Eskridge, in Seattle.
  • Born September 30, 1972 Sheree Renée Thomas, 51. Writer, Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems and Sleeping Under the Tree of Life; Editor, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora which won a World Fantasy Award, and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones which also won a World Fantasy Award. She’s also written a variety of poems and essays including “Dear Octavia, Octavia E. Butler, Ms. Butler, Mother of Changes”. In 2020, Thomas was named editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) OFFBEAT HEROES AND VILLAINS. “DC Announces New Visual Encyclopedia With Foreword By James Gunn”Comicbook.com has details.

From his work on The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker to his current job co-running DC StudiosJames Gunn has helped highlight some of the weirdest and best characters of DC’s comic canon. As Gunn announced in a tweet on Tuesday, he will play a new role in spotlighting the DCU’s heroes and villains with the help of a new official book. The book, titled Strange and Unsung All-Stars of the DC Multiverse: A Visual Encyclopedia, will be a visual encyclopedia written by Nubia and the Amazons and Wakanda comic writer Stephanie Williams. The book will also feature a foreword by Gunn himself, and is now available to preorder ahead of a November 7th release date.

“Many know I have a special fondness for the wilder corners of DC comics – the forgotten or outlandish characters who I grew up laughing with or at but who in every case fired up my imagination & my love of outcasts & oddballs,” Gunn’s tweet reads. “Now there’s finally a book for folks like me (yes, including a forward BY me), 240 pages of guilty goodness, with Arm-Fall Off Boy, Colonel Computron, the Mod Gorilla Boss, and so, so many more.”

(12) FREE ONLINE GARY PHILLIPS Q&A. Space Cowboy Books of Joshua Tree, CA will host an “Online Reading & Interview with Gary Phillips” on Tuesday October 10 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific.

Award-winning author, screenwriter, and editor Gary Phillips gathers his most thrilling, outlandish, and madcap pulp fiction in an 17-story collection that straddles the line between bizarro, science fiction, noir, and superhero classics. Aztec vampires, astral projecting killers, oxygen stealing bombs, undercover space rangers, aliens occupying Los Angeles, right wing specters haunting the ’hood, masked vigilantes and mad scientists in their underground lairs plotting world domination populate the stories in this rip-snorting collection. In these pages grindhouse melds with blaxploitation along with strong doses of B movie hardcore drive-in fare. Phillips, editor of the Anthony Award-winning The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, and author of One-Shot Harry, and Matthew Henson and the Ice Temple of Harlem, said this about pulp. “The most common definition of pulp is it’s fast-paced, a story containing out there characters and a wild plot. There is that. But certainly, as we’ve now arrived at the era of retro-pulp, these stories have elements of characterization…not just action but a glimpse behind the steely eyes of these doers of incredible deeds.” As an added bonus, Phillips resurrects Phantasmo, a Golden Age comics character created by Black artist-writer E.C. Stoner in an all-new outing of ethereal doings.

Get your copy of The Unvarnished here.

Register for free here.

(13) HIGH FIDELITY. “Police Showed Up During ‘Saw X’ Editing After Neighbors Reported ‘Someone’s Being Tortured to Death in Here’: ‘I’m Just Working on a Movie!’” at Variety.

Just how grisly is one “Saw X” scene? Apparently enough to get the cops called on the film’s editor, Steve Forn. In an interview with NME, director Kevin Greutert revealed that police showed up to Forn’s editing suite in North Hollywood after neighbors reported noises of someone being tortured to death. Forn was in the middle of editing a scene depicting the “eye vacuum trap,” in which a character must escape Jigsaw’s game or lose his eyesight. A lot of screaming ensues.

“There was a knock at the door,” Greutert said. “We have the doorbell [camera] video of the police walking up, [Forn answering the door] and the police saying, ‘The neighbors [have been] calling and saying someone’s being tortured to death in here.’ And he was like, ‘Actually, I’m just working on a movie…You can come in and see it if you want?’”

“The cops started laughing!” the director continued. “They said, ‘We want to but, you know, you’re all right.’ It must have been a pretty realistic performance! It’s a pretty funny story…Plus Steve is such a mild mannered guy. I can only imagine the look on his face when he realized what was happening!”

Mike Kennedy couldn’t decide which headline he liked best. Here are the other candidates:

  • Sound Scares
  • Audible Aggravation
  • Noise Complaint 
  • Noisy Neighbor 
  • Saw Sound
  • Sawing Legs
  • Torture Tones
  • Eyes on the Prise

(14) BABYLON THREE TWENTY-TWO. “3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet is world’s first trigonometry table”Upworthy explains.

…Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles’ sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.

Mansfield and his team are, understandably, incredibly proud. What they discovered is that the tablet is actually an ancient trigonometry table.

Mansfield said:

“The huge mystery, until now, was its purpose – why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet. Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius.”…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Isaac Arthur’s latest has a titular Heinlein riff… “Have Space Suit – Will Travel”.

Space is often called the final frontier, a place of billions and billions of worlds awaiting explorers and pioneers. But what will those journeys be like, and what gear will people need for them, and perhaps most importantly of all, what sort of people will make those travels?

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/23 Take A Pixel, Leave A Pixel

(1) WORLDCON VENUE DISPLAY. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Blogger skyxiang1991, who posts photos of the Chengdu SF museum/convention centre, uploaded a video earlier today showing a test of the light/laser (?) display at what is perhaps the entrance. See the video here.

The 2 characters on the left of the entrance are 科幻 (kehuan/science fiction), I can’t make out the stuff on the right.

(2) WORLDCON INVITATION. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Whilst looking for any relevant posts or updates on the Xiaohongshu social media platform, I came across this post from September 5, which — based on the footer — indicates that the Chengdu organizers were still sending out invitations as of September 4. [Click for larger images.]

Google Translate indicates that the English and Chinese language pages have broadly the same information.  There’s nothing about the nature of the invitation though e.g. will they be appearing on panels, that says the Worldcon is offering any assistance towards their attendance, etc.

One of the comments is from a volunteer, who says that they have started training for the event.

I have no idea who Chen Ming Da / 晨鸣达 is, although their Xiahongshu bio and posts indicate they are a street artist in Guangdong province.

(3) BACK YOUR FAVORITE MAGAZINES. Jason Sanford says “Don’t Let Our Current Golden Age of Genre Magazines Fade Away” in a post at Apex Magazine.

…Last month, Fantasy Magazine announced they’re closing their doors, in part because of Amazon’s change to Kindle Newsstand. And there are fears more magazines could follow.

As magazines deal with the fallout from Amazon nuking the digital subscription landscape, people will no doubt be told that magazines are no longer relevant in today’s genre. That it is the magazine’s fault for trusting Amazon. Or that only writers read these magazines (an outright myth, with Neil Clarke’s recent analysis of Clarkeworld’s readership data showing that only 13% of his known subscribers are writers who also submitted to the magazine).

The truth is that in today’s fragmented online world, genre magazines are even more vital to the SF/F/H genre. Magazines are where new and marginalized voices can be heard. Magazines are where genre communities and connections can be formed. Magazines are where our genre futures are being created today….

(4) FIND OUT “HOW TO”. Mary Soon Lee’s How to Navigate Our Universe, released this past week, is a collection of 128 poems, ranging from whimsical to serious — poems about planets, stars, black holes, and astronomers, complete with essential advice such as “How to End the Universe”.

 Here’s an example —

How to Be a Star

Gravitationally collapse a nebula.
Fuse hydrogen into helium.
If desired, explode.

And there is other How-to astronomy poetry to answer vexing questions such as “How to Surprise Saturn”, “How to Blush Like Betelgeuse”, and “How to Survive a Black Hole”.

Mary Soon Lee is a Grand Master of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and has won the Rhysling Award, the Elgin Award, and the AnLab Readers’ Award.

The book is self-published, and available through Amazon.com.

This is her second collection of science poetry, following on from Elemental Haiku: Poems to honor the periodic table three lines at a time.

(5) I COULD SING THIS ALL DAY. “Captain America’s MCU Musical is Now Streaming”Gizmodo alerts the media.

You usually go to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a lot of things, but memorable original music isn’t really one of them. But Rogers: The Musicala corny Hamilton-alike that told a very condensed story of Chris Evans’ Captain America—is one of the more successful attempts at musically spicing things up for the films, if only because people seemed to like its brief appearance in the first episode of Hawkeye. It even took off well enough that Disney brought it to its theme parks for the summer—which is why Disney’s now putting the album out on streaming.

Marvel released Rogers’ 12-track album at the start of the weekend, which comes from the most recent performance held at Disney’s California Adventure Park at the Hyperion Theater. Beyond the novelty of being an MCU musical, the album boasts five brand new original songs that were made specifically for the production.

(6) ONLY 97 SHOPPING DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS. This is what someone at TrekCore.com is getting this year: “Hallmark Honors Data and His Cat with 2023 ‘Ode to Spot’ STAR TREK Ornament”.

…Featured in the episode “Schisms” — did that episode mess anyone else up? Just me? — the poem “Ode to Spot” has a special place in this 90s kid’s Star Trek lovin’ heart. I was delighted to see that Hallmark decided to immortalize this iconic TNG moment in this year’s ornament line up.

The push button audio includes the first and final stanzas of the poem…

(7) A DEAL, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I see that Amazon is currently offering three free months of Kindle Unlimited. (Just noticed after pre-ordering a book, by an author I’m overdue to write a scroll about.)

I’m well aware that while this is good for us voracious read’n’release readers, it’s arguably trebleplusungood for creators. OTOH, IMHO much of the reader/creator $ chain seems problematic, e.g., as mostly library/e-library user, not to mention a frequent rereader of the books I own, and still-occasional used-book buyer, creators aren’t being remunerated for much of my eyeball input (ditto audio, etc.)

(8) SUING ANOTHER INTERNET BOOK INFRINGER. “Four large US publishers sue ‘shadow library’ for alleged copyright infringement” – the Guardian briefs readers about the case.

Four leading US publishers have sued an online “shadow library” that allows visitors to download textbooks and other copyrighted materials free.

Cengage, Macmillan Learning, McGraw Hill and Pearson Education filed the suit against Library Genesis, also known as LibGen, in Manhattan federal court, citing “extensive violations” of copyright law.

LibGen operates a collection of different domains that allow users to search for and download pdf versions of books. The suit, filed on Thursday, said LibGen holds more than 20,000 files published by the four suing companies.

“LibGen’s massive infringement completely undermines the incentive for creation and the rights of authors, who earn no royalties for the millions of books LibGen illegally distributes,” Matt Oppenheim, the attorney representing the publishing companies, told the Guardian.

The publishers asked for an unspecified amount of money in damages and called for LibGen domain names to be deleted or transferred to the four companies. The complaint said that LibGen’s activities cause “serious financial and creative harm” because they devalue the textbook market and deprive publishers of income from textbook purchases, which may lead companies to stop publishing “deserving” titles that have low sales….

(9) IS STRIKE AGAINST VIDEO GAME COMPANIES NEXT? “SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher Urges Members To Approve Strike Authorization Against Video Game Companies” at Deadline.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher, saying that “right now is the time to show our solidarity,” is urging her members to authorize a strike against the video game industry. The guild, which has been on strike against the film and TV industries since July 14, could go on strike against the gaming companies any time after September 25, when voting on the strike authorization ends. The guild’s first and only strike against the gaming companies lasted 183 days in 2016-17.

In a new video, Drescher notes that voting for a strike authorization doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be a strike. But rather, it authorizes the board to “to call a strike if needed.”

“It’s been nearly a year since SAG-AFTRA began negotiating the Interactive Media Agreement with video game companies, “she says in the video. “Despite many multi-day bargaining sessions, the companies are refusing to meet our members’ needs in vital areas.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late teens and early twenties, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered first time that an American female writer published SF story using her real name. I’m pleased to say that both iBooks and Kindle are heavily stocked with her works. (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1917 June Foray. Voice performer with such roles as Cindy Lou Who, Natasha Fatale and Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She also provided the voice of Lucifer the Cat from Disney’s Cinderella. She also did a lot of witches such as Looney Tunes’ Witch Hazel which you can hear over here courtesy of WB Kids. She was instrumental in the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature twenty years ago. OGH has a most touching remembrance here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 18, 1946 Struan Rodger, 77. He was the Bishop in Stardust, and shows up in the A Discovery of Witches as John Dee. (Loved the novels, skipped the series as I always do.) He voiced the Three-Eyed Raven in The Game of Thrones’ “The Lion and The Rose” and “The Children”.  More interestingly he’s got multiple roles in Doctor Who. First he’s The Voice of The Face of Boe in the Tenth Doctor stories, “New Earth” and “Gridlock”, next he’s Clayton in the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Women Who Lived” and finally he’s a voice again, that of Kasaavin in “Skyfall, Part One”, a Thirteenth Doctor story. 
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 75. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (to whom she was married for awhile) the Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (All twelve volumes!) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her later work, so y’all will need to tell me how it is.
  • Born September 18, 1951 — Dee Dee Ramone. Yes, the Ramones bassist. He penned Chelsea Horror Hotel, a novel in which he and his wife move into New York City’s Hotel Chelsea where the story goes that they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Many predictable ghosts visit them. (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 18, 1953 Michael R. Nelson, 70. Conrunner from the BaltiWash area who got into fandom in 1989. He chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 and co-chaired the DC17 Worldcon bid. He is a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association.
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 39. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home features a super-proud dad.
  • The Argyle Sweater imagines climate change affecting Westeros.
  • Dog Eat Doug is another Game of Thrones gag – and don’t you wonder what kind of seed they’re using?
  • A Tom Gauld doubleheader.
https://twitter.com/tomgauld/status/1701537595858059723

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! where a couple contestants were stumped by the show’s final item.

Final Jeopardy: Authors

Answer: He dedicated books to each of his 4 wives, including Hadley Richardson and Martha Gelhorn.

Wrong questions: Who is [C.S. crossed out] Tolkien? Who is Mark Twain?

Correct question: Who is Hemingway?

(13) THE OPPOSITE OF DÉJÀ VU IS NOT DEJAH THORIS. But ScienceAlert will be happy to tell you what it is in “The Opposite of Déjà Vu Exists, And It’s Even More Uncanny”.

…The opposite of déjà vu is “jamais vu”, when something you know to be familiar feels unreal or novel in some way. In our recent research, which has just won an Ig Nobel award for literature, we investigated the mechanism behind the phenomenon.

Jamais vu may involve looking at a familiar face and finding it suddenly unusual or unknown. Musicians have it momentarily – losing their way in a very familiar passage of music. You may have had it going to a familiar place and becoming disorientated or seeing it with “new eyes”.

It’s an experience which is even rarer than déjà vu and perhaps even more unusual and unsettling. When you ask people to describe it in questionnaires about experiences in daily life they give accounts like: “While writing in my exams, I write a word correctly like ‘appetite’ but I keep looking at the word over and over again because I have second thoughts that it might be wrong.”…

(14) SHOULD THESE HOMINID FOSSILS HAVE BEEN TAKEN FOR A RIDE? According to BGR, “Archaeologists are losing it over Virgin Galactic’s latest spaceflight”.

Last week, Virgin Galactic completed yet another flight, sending three passengers and an instructor to the edge of space. But it wasn’t the living passengers onboard the VSS Unity that had a lot of people in an uproar. Instead, reports note that archaeologists worldwide are upset that one of the passengers carried ancient human fossils into space aboard the flight….

The taking of these ancient human fossils into space was part of an elaborate publicity stunt to draw attention to “science, exploration, human origins, and South Africa,” Berger’s request noted. Despite the possible exposure it could bring, archaeologists say that the move put the remains in danger and could have led to the loss of one of the key identifying references for A. sediba, as the shoulder bone taken into space is actually the first A. sediba fossil to be discovered, and thus a reference that helps define the species.

Of course, this story would probably be a lot different if the flight hadn’t been successful, not only because of the loss of life, but because of the loss of history possible if the flight had not gone so smoothly. Luckily, that isn’t the case….

(15) PERMISSION DENIED. “Space Drugs Factory Denied Reentry to Earth” reports Gizmodo.

After manufacturing crystals of an HIV drug in space, the first orbital factory is stuck in orbit after being denied reentry back to Earth due to safety concerns.

The U.S. Air Force denied a request from Varda Space Industries to land its in-space manufacturing capsule at a Utah training area, while the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not grant the company permission to reenter Earth’s atmosphere, leaving its spacecraft hanging as the company scrambles to find a solution, TechCrunch first reported. A spokesperson from the FAA told TechCrunch in an emailed statement that the company’s request was not granted at this time “due to the overall safety, risk and impact analysis.”

Varda Space launched its spacecraft on board a Falcon 9 rocket on June 12. The 264-pound (120-kilogram) capsule is designed to manufacture products in a microgravity environment and transport them back to Earth. On June 30, its first drug-manufacturing experiment succeeded in growing crystals of the drug ritonavir, which is used for the treatment of HIV, in orbit. The microgravity environment provides some benefits that could make for better production in space, overall reducing gravity-induced defects. Protein crystals made in space form larger and more perfect crystals than those created on Earth, according to NASA

(16) IT’S A GAS. “Jupiter’s Moon Callisto Has a Whole Lot of Oxygen Scientists Struggle to Explain”CNET has the story.

…It isn’t clear what’s happening at Callisto to produce so much oxygen, but Carberry Mogan hopes to get a better understanding of processes active in the moon’s surface that may yield an explanation or clues. 

“That’s probably Callisto’s most enigmatic feature is its surface,” said Carberry Mogan, who’s a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at the University of California at Berkeley. “It’s supposed to be an icy body, but when you look at it, it’s mostly this dark surface, anywhere from millimeters to kilometers deep.”

It’s still up for debate whether Callisto’s surface is more rock or ice. The dark material on its surface could also be ice-rich, providing a plentiful source for the mysterious amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. 

For help with the mystery, Carberry Mogan is looking to upcoming robotic missions like ESA’s Juice and NASA’s Europa Clipper, which may swing close enough to Callisto to gather new data that could shed light on the puzzle….

(17) NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur YouTube channel marked its ninth year this weekend.  Its first ever YouTube video was on ‘Megastructures in Space’ that came out on September 17, 2014.  To mark this anniversary at the weekend the month’s “Sci-Fi Sunday” with an episode “The Fermi Paradox: Fallen Empires”. In it he contemplated what the ruins of ancient Galactic Empires and the remains of their mega-structures of ancient, interstellar civilizations floating around the Galaxy might look like….

The cosmos seem silent and empty of any great interstellar empires, but perhaps they once existed, and if so, what titanic ruins might they have left behind?

(18) IF THE ROARING TWENTIES WERE SUPER. Today’s ShortyVerse — lots of nice close-ups! Interestingly, a mix of DC and Marvel characters. And an ad for Hulk Chocolate Protein Bars! “Epic Superhero Moments Throughout History”.

Let’s imagine what current movies/series would be like in 1920

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

Pixel Scroll 8/4/23 Brush Up Your Star Trek

(1) THIRD SELF-PUBLISHED SCIENCE FICTION COMPETITION OPENS TODAY. Hugh Howey’s third annual Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC) is now taking submissions. Are you an indie science fiction writer looking for a wider audience? Check the guidelines here. Submit here.

(2) CHIANG AND BENDER IN CONVERSATION. UW Professor of Linguistics Emily M. Bender talks with award-winning science fiction author Ted Chiang about the nature of creativity and the role of the author amid rising concerns about AI-generated storytelling. Moderated by Jeopardy! champion and Phinney Books owner Tom Nissley. November 10, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.

This event is a fundraiser for Clarion West. VIP tickets and meet-and-greet reception go on sale on Monday, August 7.

(3) CLARION WEST FALL CLASS SCHEDULE. Registration is open now.

Fall classes are here! We’ve got an exciting line-up of instructors, classes, and workshops. Registration is open now. Come learn with us!

(4) BOGUS BARKER. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss reports on somone impersonating her in “Dogging the Watchdog: In Which a Scammer Tries to Troll Me”.

…If you read here regularly, you’ll know that I’ve written a lot of posts about the impersonation scams that are becoming increasingly common. Well, an enterprising scammer recently decided to turn the tables…by impersonating me…

The [email protected] email address, of course, is bogus, and the scammer has added “literary agent” to my resume (which I am not, even though people sometimes mistakenly believe I am). And for added authenticity, a photo of me! Swiped from my personal Facebook page. (I’m sure the scammer would have preferred something unflattering, but I rarely post photos of myself–this post should make it clear why–so they didn’t have a lot to choose from.)

Obviously I would not want anyone to be defrauded in my name, so I enlisted a couple of the writers to write back to see what would happen. After a week with no replies, it seemed pretty clear that–as I’d half-suspected, especially given the stupidity of the fake email address –the email was a trolling attempt and not a bona fide scheme to scam.

Trolling doesn’t deliver the emotional satisfaction the troll craves unless the trollee knows they’re being trolled, though. And the scammer did want me to know…. 

(5) OLD BRIDGE (NJ) PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE FICTION DISCUSSION GROUP DISBANDING. Evelyn Leeper told MT Void readers today:

After twenty years of meeting, the Old Bridge Public Library science fiction discussion group is disbanding.  Given that the last few meetings have been only three or four people, that sounds a bit more dramatic than it really is.  Our final book was THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Saga Press, ISBN 978-1-534-43100-3) and all three of us disliked it, so we have referred to this as THIS IS HOW YOU KILL THE DISCUSSION GROUP.  The book swept all the major awards for novellas, so we are clearly in some sort of minority here.

But it was not really the book that killed the group, but the gradual drifting away of members.  We tried both Zooming and in-person meetings. but though we had weathered the pandemic, the return to other opportunities for socializing et al made it harder to get people to attend….

(6) BACK TO THE FUTURE MUSICAL. The Hollywood Reporter favorably reviews “’Back to the Future: The Musical’ Review: Stage Adaptation on Broadway”.

…The creators of Back to the Future: The Musical weren’t taking any chances.

The production, newly arrived on Broadway after a London engagement that snagged a 2022 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, begins with the stirring main theme of the 1985 film’s score, garnering loud cheers from the audience. The book, with some minor exceptions, recreates the screenplay beat for beat and in some cases line for line. And the performances hew closely to those of the movie’s lead actors, with Hugh Coles, playing Marty McFly’s father George, imitating Crispin Glover so closely that it’s hard to tell whether it’s tribute or appropriation.

None of this is surprising, considering that original co-screenwriter Bob Gale has written the musical’s book and original composer Alan Silvestri, in collaboration with Glen Ballard (GhostJagged Little Pill), its score. What is surprising is how effective and damn fun it all is.

(7) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Daniel Dern’s Scroll title, inspired by the musical Star Trek episode, he would like to remind everyone, is a reference to “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me, Kate — which, by coincidence, came from a Cole Porter musical as did the song that kicked off the musical episode.

(8) CHILDREN’S BOOK PUBLISHER REMEMBERED. The Washington Post’s recalls the impact on children’s literature of Ursula Nordstrom (1910-1988) in “The fighter behind many of the most beloved children’s books of all time”.

…Hired as a clerk in 1931 at what was then Harper & Brothers (later Harper & Row, now HarperCollins), Nordstrom became an assistant in the department of books for boys and girls five years later. In 1954, she became the first woman elected to the Harper board of directors, and its first female vice president in 1960. She was referred to (and referred to herself) as the Maxwell Perkins of children’s literature. Perkins was an editor who built his career and reputation on seeking out and supporting new writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. Over more than three decades, beginning in earnest in 1940, Nordstrom shepherded, chivied and gently bullied some of the greatest works of children’s literature into life. Those books included “Goodnight Moon,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” “Harriet the Spy,” “Little Bear,” “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Stuart Little,” “Bedtime for Frances,” “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “Freaky Friday.”

Nordstrom’s spectacular eye for talent and many “firsts” as a mid-century career woman were not the most remarkable things about her. She believed in truth for children, even when it made adults uncomfortable. She prioritized children’s needs over reactionary parental qualms and rallied a fierce defense of realistic themes in books for young people. Her stance should be recognized, now more than ever, as a model for fighting back against censoriousness, grandstanding and patronizing of children masquerading as protecting them…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 4, 1923 Paul Schneider. He wrote scripts for the original Star TrekStar Trek: The Animated SeriesThe StarlostThe Six Million Dollar Man, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. He’s best remembered for two episodes of the Trek series: “Balance of Terror” and “The Squire of Gothos.” “Balance of Terror,” of course, introduced the Romulans. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 4, 1937 David Bedford. Composer who worked with Ursula K. Le Guin to produce and score her Rigel 9 album which the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says is ‘a work that is musically pleasant although narratively underpowered.’ I’ve not heard it, so cannot say how accurate this opinion is. The not usual suspects such as iTunes have as their Meredith Moment for just seven dollars. (Died 2011.)
  • Born August 4, 1944 Richard Belzer. A long non-genre career as John Munch, for 23 years starting on Homicide: Life on the Street and then Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and related series which made him only the third actor ever to play the same character in six different prime time TV series. In the Third Rock from The Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-FilesThe InvadersHuman Target, and a recurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles. (Died 2023.)
  • Born August 4, 1950 Steve Senn, 73. Here because of his Spacebread duology, Spacebread and Born of Flame. Spacebread being a large white cat known throughout the galaxy as an adventuress and a rogue. He’s also written the comic novels, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol and Loonie Louie Meets the Space Fungus
  • Born August 4, 1968 Daniel Dae Kim, 55. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles included the Brave New World TV film, the second Fantasy Island of three series, recurring roles on Lost, Gavin Park on Angel and Lieutenant John Matheson on Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade series, Star Trek: VoyagerCharmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4, 1969 Fenella Woolgar, 54. Agatha Christie in “The Unicorn and The Wasp” episode of Doctor Who, my favorite episodewhere she more than capably played off against David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. Her only other genre was as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
  • Born August 4, 1981 Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 42. Yes, she’s done a genre performance or so. To be precise, she showed up on Fringe in the first two episodes of the second season (“A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects”) as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup. She was also in the “First Knight” episode of Knight Rider as Annie Ortiz, and Natasha in “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose” on Century City, a series most of you have likely never heard of. 

(10) DOCUMENTING POP CULTURE. Steven Heller interviews ephemera collector and student of popular culture Richard Marschall: T “What To Do With All This Ephemera” in PRINT Magazine.

What do the comics, satiric magazines and newspapers in your holdings teach you? And what do they say, through your books and exhibits, to your audience?

…But I never wanted to deconstruct to the point of denying construction in the first place. In
the 1970s I reveled to a popular culture symposium that invited me because of my “informed” attitudes on the comics as an art form. Yet every speech, roundtable and Q&A dealt with comics as mere conduits—“What did Dick Tracy say about crime?” Not, “What expressive dynamics did Chester Gould employ to communicate in revolutionary ways?” Arrested development. This academic myopia was maddening. The graphics community at one time was similarly dismissive, as you know as well as anyone, may I confidently say?

So even unconsciously I amassed a collection of comics, sections, clips, original art, magazine runs, bound volumes of newspapers, books, toys, postcards, posters and such … with the goal, instinctive as it actually was, to be in a position to document all this, and with a mature cultural perspective. And, no less earnestly, to help others who sought to do so….

(11) YOU ARE THERE. A day like any other day, but — Ersatz Culture says this news story involves his local library!

(12) WIMPS. [Item by Steven French.] Dark stars observed! No it’s nothing to do with the John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon movie. Astronomers have closely examined recent images produced by the James Webb Space Telescope and concluded that they reveal ancient stars powered by dark matter. “Stars powered by dark matter may have been seen by the JWST” at Physics World.

… In 2007, Freese and colleagues proposed the possibility of “dark stars”, which may have been common in the early universe. While composed mostly of hydrogen and helium, these exotic stars would be fuelled by “dark matter heating” rather than nuclear fusion. This could involve a type of dark matter called weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). WIMPs have evaded discovery for decades in Earth-based detection experiments, but according to Freese’s team, the sheer density of dark matter in the early universe could cause them to interact far more frequently with regular matter during the formation of some of the earliest stars.

In the early universe, “WIMPs could have annihilated into photons, electron-positron pairs, and other particles, which collided with the hydrogen in collapsing clouds,” Freese explains. “These particles then get stuck inside the cloud, and deposit all the energy from the mass of the dark matter particles into the cloud. The cloud then stops collapsing, and instead turns into a ‘dark star’.”…

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The concept of the space elevator was popularized by Arthur Clarke’s Fountains of Paradise.

The idea is that a cable from the equator (Ceylon/Sri Lanka was geographically moved in Clarke’s novel) to a large satellite/small asteroid, in geosynchronous orbit, can be used to haul payload very cheaply into Earth orbit.

This concept has been further explored before by Isaac Arthur on his Science Futurism channel. Isaac has just taken this concept further by considering the advantages of a space elevator on the Moon…

A Space Elevator on the Moon, made of mundane materials, could be built with modern technology, and allow ultra-cheap freight off the Moon

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

Pixel Scroll 7/18/23 I Only Came To Say I Must Be Scrolling

(1) LAST DAY TO NOMINATE FOR DRAGON AWARDS. Nominations are being taken for the 2023 Dragon Awards until July 19.

Need more information about what to put on your ballot? Red Panda Fraction has assembled a Dragon Awards 2023 Eligible Works spreadsheet in the format of Renay’s Hugo Awards Spreadsheet.

Bear in mind that voters are allowed to make only one nomination per category. However, that is somewhat offset by the Dragon Awards having six book categories. (But there are no short fiction categories). [Via Camestros Felapton.]

(2) SLOW BOAT. Aimee Ogden’s name is on the cover of F&SF but for the benefit of other writers she is calling them out about her story submission experience. Thread starts here. Here are some excerpts.

(3) PUBLISHING FACES MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. The Guardian hears from all sectors that “’There’s an industry-wide mental health crisis’: authors and publishers on why the books sector needs to change”.

Author and publisher welfare has been a hot topic in the books industry of late. Publishing houses, trade unions and industry bodies have scrambled for solutions following a survey by the Bookseller in which debut authors reported overwhelmingly negative publication experiences: more than half of respondents said the process adversely affected their mental health. Now, a series of measures are being rolled out across the industry in response to these concerns.

This month, Anna Frame, communications director at the independent publisher Canongate, has confirmed the launch of two initiatives: an authors’ handbook in partnership with the Society of Authors (SoA) and a resource pack for publishers, in conjunction with English Pen. Canongate has also announced that it will publish fewer books so that it can dedicate more time to authors.

These measures follow news that the Orion publishing group will establish an academy for debut novelists with the aim of “demystifying the process and ensuring expectations are clear”. Meanwhile, the Publishers Publicity Circle (PPC) is launching free media training and crisis communications sessions for publishers….

(4) MAYBE WE DIDN’T MISS MUCH. What if Winnipeg was running the 2023 Worldcon instead of Chengdu? Well, they’re running the NASFiC this week and here’s the email Robert J. Sawyer’s wrote to Pemmi-Con’s head of programming which he posted on Facebook today.  

The NASFiC in Winnipeg begins tomorrow. Still no schedule on the website, no informationa about any signings, readings, or kaffeeklatsches, and no updated emails from programming about the time-zone screw-up on the personal panel lists they sent out.

Having to ferret out on my own what times they’ve actually got me scheduled, I’ve just sent this email to programming. Note for future cons: sending out all your programming emails from an email address that says “[email protected]” does NOT make communication easy…

And Sawyer continues from there, trying to get his schedule sorted.

The schedule’s not easy to find – you can’t go directly to it from the Pemmi-Con home page menu – but it looks like there is a schedule online: Schedule | Pemmi-Con.

(5) OP-ED. [Uncredited Item by Guest Author.] It is true that there are many sides to a story, and it is also true that western countries had been and some still do, have oppressive policies toward indigenous and other minority groups, and perhaps it is a stretch to call the camps in Xinjiang as concentration camps where the images of death camps and gas chambers immediately came to mind. However, it is indisputable that such camps exist, and simply calling them re-education camps lessens their intended purposes.

The fact is that the Chinese government is systematically erasing minority views and even languages. We don’t even have to look at Tibet or Xinjiang, but even in Han populated provinces such as Guangdong and the Hong Kong city, teaching and using the Cantonese language is being discouraged, and this is a Han Chinese dialect.

Political oppression is also real. Just a month ago, the Hong Kong government charged 8 democratic leaders for seditious activities:

They promise they will bring these people to “justice” regardless where they live and to the end of time.

At DisCon 3, during the last session before the Site Selection vote, the Chinese committee said “You can say whatever you want at the convention (without being prosecuted)”. How far will that truly go? What if a fan wears a “Democracy for Hong Kong” T-shirt? Note that I carefully said “Democracy” and not “Independence”. Will they be escorted to the airport immediately, or worse outcome, if they are a Chinese citizen?

(6) B5 ON BLU-RAY. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers today that to celebrate B5’s 30th Anniversary, Babylon 5: The Complete Series will be released on Blu-Ray December 5, 2023. Pre-orders can be placed starting today.

…To address some of the obvious questions: I wasn’t directly involved with the release, so I don’t know much more than you do or what’s in the release/at the retail sites but I can add what little I do know: the release includes The Gathering (but not the movies or Crusade) because TG was our pilot (technically the first) episode, so it’s a legit part of the series which fits the title mandate; the other movies were separate, and Crusade is a completely different series, so it doesn’t belong in this box set.

This is essentially the same as the very nice 4:3 remaster done for HBO-Max, which matches the original broadcast, but putting it onto Blu-Ray increases the bitrate so it should look even better than it did there. WB wanted to include the commentaries but with everything else involved with this, it apparently wasn’t feasible (that’s the extent of what I was told, so I’ve no idea what that entails)….

…What matters most in all this is that after years of asking for a Blu-Ray release, which will make this show look more beautiful than it ever has before. Fans can now own the full series in pristine form on physical media without being held hostage by the whims of streamers. I’m very excited by this release, as it further assures the legacy of Babylon 5. Onward!

(7) AI-SPECIFIC CONTRACT LANGUAGE. Publishers Weekly reports “Illustration Agencies Introduce New AI-Specific Contract Clause”.

All ITSme Society illustration agencies will include a new clause in their client contracts protecting the rights of illustrators to their original illustrations from reproduction or other use for purposes of training and artificial intelligence models. The initiative was led by Kate Kendrick, global manager of Astound US Inc. Other participating agencies include Advocate Art, Artistique Int, Illo, and the Yeon Agency.

“We want to get ahead of the curve before there is a halt within the world of publishing—we support our actors and writers on strike, and we’d like to get ahead and not have it come to that for illustrators,” the agencies said in a statement. The clause, they continued, “states that the illustrator must give prior consent to permit the client/publisher to use technologies that are capable of generating works in the same style or genre as their work. Our aim is to get ahead of these advancing technologies and to protect the artists and their artwork against the use of AI/ML models.”

(8) TINGLE TALKS TO LITHUB. “Chuck Tingle on How Writing is Like Driving, Being an Autistic Artist, and More” at Literary Hub.

LH: Which non-literary piece of culture—film, tv show, painting, song—could you not imagine your life without?

CT: i would say my number one most important piece of art that i always return to, and thing that is probably most influential on my writing and my existence as a buckaroo, is probably STOP MAKING SENSE the talking heads live film, and also album that comes with it. that is probably chucks number one artistic touchstone even over any book.

first as an autistic buckaroo, that movie and the subtext around it is what made me proud to be autistic like david byrne. being on the spectrum was never a bad diagnosis for me it was ALWAYS just about the coolest thing someone could be because talking heads were the coolest band in the dang world. so watching that was a real big moment for me to think “wow, what a special tradition of artist i am walking in the steps of”

but even outside of that, i think the way the show is setup is just beautiful, and the songs they picked and the way those songs are presented. to me what is says is “there is so much more to art than the medium itself, there is all the other things around it.” art does not exist in a vacuum, so it is always funny to me when buds try to seperate it from the context of the time and place. bud the context is ALSO part of the artwork, and i think you can really see that in the way those songs are presented….

(9) BOX OFFICE IMPROBABLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Despite a much better reception from the critics, the latest Mission Impossible movie has opened with figures extremely similar to the latest Indiana Jones flick. Both somewhat <looks over glasses> disappointing. Perhaps audience reception will echo the critics and MI7 will have more legs than IJ5. “’Mission Impossible 7’ Falls Short of Box Office Expectations” in Variety.

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” topped domestic box office charts while falling short of initial expectations. Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster collected $56.2 million between Friday and Sunday, a lackluster start for a movie that cost nearly $300 million before marketing.

Heading into the weekend, Paramount and Skydance’s action-adventure was hoping to establish a new franchise record with $60 million or more. Instead, ticket sales landed behind 2018’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” ($61 million) and 2000’s “Mission: Impossible II” ($57.8 million), which remain as the top openings in the 27-year-old series.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2017 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Fran Wilde has written five novels with latest being The Ship of Stolen WordsUpdraft, her first novel, won an Andre Norton Award, most excellent to do, also the Compton Crook Award, the Baltimore SF Society’s Best First Novel Award. Riverland also won the Andre Norton Award.

Did I also mention that she’s simply amazing at penning shorter works? I will do so now. She’s written around fifty stories, four poems and a considerable number of essays such as “A Recipe for Summoning Aliette de Bodard”. So our Beginning comes from one of these works, “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” which appeared first in Uncanny.

It would be nominated for a Hugo at Worldcon 76 as well as a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award. It would win the Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction.

And now a short but fascinating Beginning….

Entrance

There’s a ticket booth on my tongue.

Don’t look in my eyes, don’t plead curiosity, you won’t get anywhere with that. Try it and you’ll see your reflection in my sea-green gaze: your shadow sprinting through the heavy glass doors. You’ll smell a whiff of brine, perhaps something more volatile. You’ll be caught and held, while your likeness departs. You don’t want that.

No one wants to be pinned between an entrance and an exit, unless you’re part of the show.

Here’s what you do instead: drop your dime on the rose carpet, just there. Don’t pick it up. The carpet’s sticky. Don’t ask why. Stare at my lips, my hands clasped over my velvet skirts, what rests below that, and wait.

If you’re worthy, I’ll say the word. Your dime gets you a look and a souvenir. Your hands are beautiful, did you know that?

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 18, 1913 Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes. I remember Freddie the Freeloader. He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which is also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider at least genre adjacent. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 18, 1943 Charles Waugh, 80. Anthologist and author, whose anthology work up to 2013 numbered over two hundred titles (!), mostly done with Martin H. Greenberg but a handful done with other co-editors as Greenberg died in 2011. Name a subject and there’s likely an anthology on that subject that he had a hand in.  
  • Born July 18, 1956 Deborah Christian, 67. She’s an author and game designer who has designed and edited role-playing game materials for Dungeons & Dragons such as Tales of the Outer PlanesBestiary of Dragons and GiantsDragon Dawn, and Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms.  She also writes fiction under the name Deborah Teramis Christian with genre novel such as The Truthsayer’s Apprentice and her latest, Splintegrate.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Paul Cornell, 56. Author of the Shadow Police series which is quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who including the stellar Tenth Doctor two part story “Human Nature“ and “The Family of Blood” with one of the best endings ever, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won multiple Hugo Awards for best fancast. 
  • Born July 18, 1967 Vin Diesel, 56. His first genre role was as the delightful voice of The Iron Giant. He next shows playing Riddick in Pitch Black, the first in The Chronicles of Riddick franchise. He’s Hugo Cornelius Toorop in Babylon A.D. and he’s the fascinating if enigmatic voice of Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy and other MCU films. 
  • Born July 18, 1980 Kristen Bell, 43. Veronica Mars. Genre, well not really, but a lot of y’all watched it. She also voiced Jade Wilson in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies which I highly recommend as it’s highly meta. Really it is.
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra, 41. Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit very nicely into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as is Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a key role in the Matrix Resurrections film. No, I’m not saying what it is as some of you possibly haven’t seen it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DANGEROUS MEDIA. The New York Times reviews Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel Silver Nitrate: “The Dark Magic Wrought by a Nazi Occultist and a Doomed Horror Film”.

… Montserrat is a reclusive sound editor who’s caring for her sister, who has cancer. She has three loves: horror movies, her white Volkswagen and her childhood friend Tristán Abascal, a tall, handsome, washed-up actor. Montserrat is abrasive and nerdy; Tristán, “more Cantinflas than James Bond,” is smooth, but also a goof. When he reaches out to reconnect, it means he’s between relationships; this time he also needs to borrow her car.

The plot is set into motion only after a long conversation between the two friends and Abel Urueta, Tristán’s neighbor and a once-famous Mexican horror film director. Over whiskey, he talks about a production he never completed, “Beyond the Yellow Door,” which was co-written by Wilhelm Ewers, a Nazi occultist who believed that silver nitrate film was “a perfect medium for sealing spells.” But when Ewers died before “Beyond the Yellow Door” wrapped, his magic went haywire, destroying the highly flammable nitrate prints of the film, and inflicting a curse on the cast and crew.

Urueta, who has one last canister stashed in his freezer, has an idea: If Montserrat and Tristán help him finish the project, perhaps the curse could be lifted….

 (14) THE THREE LAWS. Behind a paywall in the Boston Globe, Jay Houlihan’s letter to the editor reminds readers “Author Isaac Asimov saw AI’s risks. Now we’re rapidly facing them down.”

Re “Dan Hendrycks wants to save us from an AI catastrophe. He’s not sure he’ll succeed.” (Ideas, July 9): The potential for catastrophic results from advanced technology is not a new idea. The science fiction writer Isaac Asimov identified and addressed the risk in a 1942 short story, through his Three Laws of Robotics: 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. Though it may have taken us 80 years to reach the point where this risk is on the near-term horizon, Asimov was nothing if not prescient. Much like climate change, we may be rapidly approaching a point with artificial intelligence where reverse is no longer an option.

(15) MORE ON ASIMOV. Wailin Wong just hosted an episode of The Indicator podcast on NPR about how Asimov’s Foundation series inspired fans to pursue careers in economics. “How Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ helped set two economists on their career path” on The Indicator from Planet Money at NPR.

When we talk about classic economic texts, you might think of something like Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” But how about the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov?

One of the big ideas at the heart of this science fiction saga is that math can predict and shape the future. We hear from two economists who tell us how the ideas in Foundation helped set them on their career path.

(16) WHEN THE WORLD DISCOVERED TOLKIEN WROTE OTHER THINGS. “Talking Tolkien: On The Tolkien Reader” by Rich Horton at Black Gate.

The Tolkien Reader was first published in 1966 by Ballantine Books in the US; in response to the greatly expanding popularity of The Lord of the Rings, driven by the paperback editions from Ballantine (and the pirated edition from Ace.) This was an attempt to bring a varied sampling of his work to readers hungry for more. I read it myself in the early ’70s, after I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As an introduction it reprints a piece Peter Beagle did for Holiday (perhaps at the instigation of Alfred Bester?) called “Tolkien’s Magic Ring”, which primarily discusses the Middle-Earth books.

It’s a good and varied collection throughout, and really does the job of showing a different side to Tolkien (though not THAT different!) from that seen in The Lord of the Rings. I’ll be looking at each of the sections separately, and slightly out of order, in that I think the best part by far is Tree and Leaf, which comes second in the book….

(17) SHELVES OF THE AGES. “Halls of Ancient Wisdom: 7 Remarkable Ancient Libraries” at Ancient Origins.

2.    The Library of Ashurbanipal – A King’s Passion Project

Much older than the library of Alexandria, Ashurbanipal was founded in Nineveh, Assyria in the 7th century BC. It was one of the earliest, and most remarkable libraries, in the ancient world and was named after its founder, King Ashurbanipal.

Built as part of the royal palace, this ancient library held an extensive collection of clay tablets written in the cuneiform script, the most widespread form of writing in the ancient Middle East. After the library’s destruction, it’s estimated around 30,000 of these tablets were salvaged, giving us an idea of just how significant this repository of knowledge was. 

King Ashurbanipal built the library to highlight his empire’s vast intellectual prowess. He was a leader who valued intellectualism and was renowned for his patronage of learning. The collection held texts from all the civilizations the Assyrians had interacted with, making it a melting pot of knowledge from ancient Mesopotamia, Sumer, Babylon, and beyond. Not just a storehouse of ancient knowledge, the library was a center for early scholarship and attracted scribes, scholars, and translators who studied and translated texts from different languages. 

Sadly, the library’s heyday was short-lived. It’s believed the library fell alongside Nineveh itself in 612 BC when it was raided by the Medes, Babylonians, and Scythians. The library’s ruins were discovered by Austen Henry Layard in 1849. Thankfully, the fires that were meant to destroy the tablets actually preserved them and now the majority of the library’s knowledge resides in the British Museum. 

(18) SCORN AND DEFIANCE; SLIGHT REGARD, CONTEMPT. Matt Berry and Peter Capaldi really let it rip in this episode of Letters Live.

Possibly one of our favourite letter exchanges ever, and at London’s Freemasons’ Hall back in 2016 Matt Berry and Peter Capaldi joined us to give an incredible, hilarious reading. In 1675, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire instructed his army to attack a fortress belonging to the Zaporozhian Cossacks. They were quickly and heavily defeated. Rather than surrender, the Sultan then wrote to the Cossacks and demanded that they submit to him. This fiery exchange was the result.

(19) ISAAC ARTHUR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Isaac Arthur has had his ‘Sci-fi Sunday’ which this time looks at “Robots & Warfare”. Given the recent developments in AI this is timely. Isaac not only has a degree in physics, he also served with the US Army…

Robots play an ever greater role in every aspect of our lives, including the battlefield, but what will their role be in the wars of the future?

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George’s video “90s Time Traveler Discovers Meta’s THREADS App” is a riot. (“I know a still from Blade Runner when I see one…”)

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/23 Chocolate With Pixels Swirling At Their Center Do Taste Better Than Chocolate Covered Manholes

(1) SFF GROWING IN INDIA. Jaya Padmanabhan explores “Myth, AI, & Reality Power A Thrilling New Genre Of Indian Sci-Fi!” at IndiaCurrents.

…Presently, more and more writers are experimenting with the genre. While only a handful of SF novels have thus far been traditionally published in India every year, a slate of new science and speculative fiction domains is giving space to new voices and ideas, like the magazine Mithila Review and the feminist collection Magical Women (2019).

Vandana Singh, Anil Menon, Samit Basu, Mimi Mondal, and Gautam Bhatia, among others, headline discussions on Indian SF today. Their storylines expose the chaos, upheavals, and power structures of an ethnically, religious, and linguistically diverse India.

Unique to Indian SF is the manner in which mythology and folklore undergird much of the storytelling. From the Vedas and Puranas to the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, historical plots continue to have relevance in Indian SF. As a result, science fiction from India is emerging as a singular genre rich with its own vernacular lexicon….

(2) PROBLEMS THAT ARE WORSE THAN AI. “’We Have Built a Giant Treadmill That We Can’t Get Off’: Sci-Fi Prophet Ted Chiang on How to Best Think About About AI” at Vanity Fair.

…The “AI as McKinsey” piece also articulates an underlying capitalist critique in your work. You clearly hold a lot of skepticism about the idea that Silicon Valley can provide magic fixes for social ills; you wrote this BuzzFeed News essay in 2017 that was so saucy. When reading “Seventy-Two Letters,” your short story from 2000, I gravitate toward this conversation between a craftsman and an inventor trying to create labor-saving robots, where the craftsman tells the inventor:

“Your desire for reform does you credit. Let me suggest, however, that there are simpler cures for the social ills you cite: a reduction in working hours, or the improvement of conditions. You do not need to disrupt our entire system of manufacturing.”

At a moment when we’re being promised “labor-saving” AI, this feels…relevant.

There’s this saying, “There are two kinds of fools. The first says, ‘This is old and therefore good.’ And the second one says, ‘This is new and therefore better.’” I think about that a lot. How can you evaluate the merits of anything fairly without thinking it’s good simply because it’s new? I think that is super difficult.

There probably was a time in history where most people were thinking, “This is old and therefore good,” and they carried the day. Now I think that we live in a time where everyone says, “This is new and therefore better.” I don’t believe that the people who say that are right all the time, but it is very difficult to criticize them and suggest that maybe something that is new is not better….

(3) STEPPING OFF THE MORAL HIGH GROUND. Beatriz Williams celebrates “The Return of the Cold War Novel and Its Glorious Uncertainties” at CrimeReads.

I was a kid playing Atari with my best friend when she informed me, as she sent her frog darting through traffic, that Nostradamus had predicted the world would end in nookuler destruction in August of that year. The exact date she named happened to be my birthday. Since Nostradamus lived hundreds of years ago and didn’t even know what nookuler was, she continued confidently, he must have had special powers and his predictions were therefore true. It was the early eighties and we had no internet, so I accepted her logic and spent the remaining weeks of summer assuming I would die before the leaves fell. 

If you were born in the 1970s, like me, or the sixties or the fifties, the Cold War was the backdrop of life, like wallpaper. It had no beginning and no end. It just was. You trundled to school each day under partly cloudy skies and a chance of nuclear annihilation, and when you went to the bookstore or the movie theater you found spy novels, spy movies that pitted Us against Them—the Soviet Union. In these stories, men chased each other around the world while some bomb ticked somewhere, some web of loyalties required untangling. Their manly brows furrowed under the weight of so much responsibility. Their wives worried cluelessly at home. The hot girl in the black sequined dress with the cleavage turned out to be a honey trap….

(4) REMEMBER DOS? “’Indiana Jones’: One of the Best Sequels Wasn’t a Movie” according to Collider.

During an ample period of growth for the LucasArts division of Lucasfilm Limited, the company began experimenting with the new games centered around their tentpole properties; as the Star Wars franchise began developing the initial Rebel Assault and Super Star Wars games, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis was pitched as a canonical sequel to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The game takes place in 1939 during which Indy discovers that his former archeological collaborator Sophia Hapgood has given up her profession to become a psychic. Fearing that she’ll be targeted by the Nazis, Indy teams up with his old flame on an adventure to discover the ancient city of Atlantis and unlock its secrets before the Nazis take it for themselves to use as weaponry in World War II.

Compared to Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise, the Indiana Jones saga doesn’t quite have the same extensive expanded universe. While there are a few novel series, comic storylines, and adventure games focused on different aspects of Indy’s life, they’re merely a fraction of the massive expanded timeline developed in the Star Wars “Legends” and modern canon sagas. However, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis didn’t just expand upon the character and tease a new chapter of his story; it developed Indy’s motivations under dire circumstances and featured a compelling storyline that actually surpassed some of the cinematic installments. Even if it never hit theaters, it’s easy to rank Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis among the best projects in the Indiana Jones universe….

(5) GOODER ENGLISH. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The mention of Downbelow Station in Monday’s file reminded me of the “lost in translation” thread from rec.arts.sf.written back in, oh god, 1999.

In particular, it reminded me that Susan Stepney did an archive thereof, which Filers may find amusing. “Lost in the Translation”.

Certain competition threads start spontaneously on the science fiction newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written. One of my favourites was about title/author pairs that can be read as a single phrase (with possibly the best being The Sheep Look Up John Brunner). In May 1999 someone quoting an alleged funny mistranslation, by a translator who missed the point, of a well-known SF book title A Very Important Mission, and a thread took off from there. Below are some of the submissions I’ve collected from that thread, and from ones sent to me later. (The contributors of the titles – either the devisers themselves, or telling of titles they remember from earlier competitions – are noted afterwards.) I’ve also provided answers – but no peeking before trying to work them out – that’s most of the fun!…

Here are couple:

Nancy Kress

  • Hispanic Mendicants (Angus MacSpon)

Ursula K. LeGuin

  • On the Other Hand, It’s Dark (Joe Slater)

(6) ANTI-FAN MAIL. “Gene Roddenberry’s Threatening Star Trek Letter To Leonard Nimoy And William Shatner” at Slashfilm.

…Gene Roddenberry, writing in 1967, was clearly reacting to various stories from the “Star Trek” set claiming William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were on their worst behavior. It seems they were swapping lines, taking dialogue from co-stars, and going all-out to get as much screen time as possible. “Star Trek,” unlike some other shows at the time, had an open-door policy at [NBC], allowing actors to air grievances, explore ideas, and examine characters earnestly with those at the top. By Roddenberry’s description, this privilege was being abused. Shatner and Nimoy would cause delays in shooting and their characters would start to change on camera. Roddenberry, wanting to put the kibosh on his prima donnas, wrote the following letter, which was addressed to both actors equally:

“Toss these pages in the air if you like, stomp off and be angry, it doesn’t mean that much since you’ve driven me to the edge of not giving a damn. […] No, William, I’m not really writing this to Leonard and just including you as a matter of psychology. I’m talking to you directly and with an angry honesty you haven’t heard before. And Leonard, you’d be very wrong if you think I’m really teeing off at Shatner and only pretending to include you. The same letter to both; you’ve pretty well divided up the market on selfishness and egocentricity.” 

Roddenberry knew that actors all have egos and that petty grievances would indeed arise from time to time. Gene evidently instructed the production offices to overlook any foul moods from the cast, as tensions can run high and forgiveness will keep hackles lowered and production smooth. But after too many complaints, Roddenberry admitted, “‘Star Trek’ is going down the drain.”…

(7) IMPOSTOR PRODROME. Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss warned Facebook readers about fraudsters trying to use her name.

So…after years of reporting on impersonation scams (rampant right now), the scammers have done me the ultimate honor: impersonating ME.

(8) TODAY’S TRIVIA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The following CNN video (well, link to a video) by SE Cupp includes a quote from Isaac Asimov at the end. “SE Cupp: Was ‘Idiocracy’ real? The Musk-Zuckerberg cage match could not be dumber”

In case you were wondering whether the quote was correctly attributed, see the information at this link.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Our Beginning tonight is a true one as Bruce Bethke tells us the origin  story of a now familiar word and the story that he’d use it in.

The essay and story itself were published in Amazing Science Fiction, November 1983. If after reading the Beginning here, you can do so at Infinity Plus where it is up with the permission of the author.

In the early spring of 1980 I wrote a little story about a bunch of teenage hackers. From the very first draft this story had a name, and lo, the name was —

Cyberpunk

And you can bet any body part you’d care to name that, had I had even the slightest least inkling of a clue that I would still be answering questions about this word nearly 18 years later, I would have bloody well trademarked the damned thing!

Nonetheless, I didn’t, and as you’re probably aware, the c-word has gone on to have a fascinating career all its own. At this late date I am not trying to claim unwarranted credit or tarnish anyone else’s glory. (Frankly, I’d much rather people were paying attention to what I’writing now –e.g., my Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel, Headcash, Orbit Books, 5.99 in paperback.) But for those folks who are obsessed with history, here, in tightly encapsulated form, is the story behind the story.

The invention of the c-word was a conscious and deliberate act of creation on my part. I wrote the story in the early spring of 1980, and from the very first draft, it was titled “Cyberpunk.” In calling it that, I was actively trying to invent a new term that grokked the juxtaposition of punk attitudes and high technology. My reasons for doing so were purely selfish and market-driven: I wanted to give my story a snappy, one-word title that editors would remember.

Offhand, I’d say I succeeded.

Art accompanying the short story Cyberpunk in Amazing Stories by Bob Walters

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 4, 1883 Rube Goldberg. Not genre, but certainly genre adjacent. Born Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, he was a sculptor, author, cartoonist, engineer, and inventor who’s certainly best known for his very popular cartoons showing overly complex machines doing simple tasks in a terribly convoluted manner, hence the phrase “Rube Goldberg machines”. The X-Files episode titled “The Goldberg Variation” involved an apartment rigged as a Goldberg machine. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1900 Guy Endore. Writer of The Werewolf of Paris which is said by Stableford in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers as “entitled to be considered the werewolf novel”. He also wrote “The Day of the Dragon” which Stableford likes as well. He was a scriptwriter hence for writing Mark of the Vampire starring Bela Lugosi. He also the treatment for The Raven but never got credited. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1910 Gloria Stuart. She was cast as Flora Cranley opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man in 1933, and 68 years later she played Madeline Fawkes in The Invisible Man series. She was in The Old Dark House as Margaret Waverton which is considered horror largely because Boris Karloff was in it. And she was in the time travelling The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 4, 1949 Peter Crowther, 74. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s not really available in digital form all that much for short fiction or novels. 
  • Born July 4, 1974 Kevin Hanchard, 49. Canadian actor best known for his major role in Orphan Black as Detective Art Bell, whose partner’s suicide kicks off the whole show. He also had a significant role in the first season of The Expanse as Inspector Sematimba, Det. Miller’s old friend from Eros. Other genre roles include appearances in the movies Suicide Squad and the made-for-TV Savage Planet, and shows The StrainHemlock GroveWynonna Earp, and Impulse, among others. (Xtifr) 
  • Born July 4, 1977 David Petersen, 46. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good and it’s still ongoing. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations awhile back.  I’d have love to seen that! 

(11) CANCELLATION MARK. There’s a hole in the schedule where Crater used to be says Digital Spy: “Handmaid’s Tale star’s new movie removed from Disney+ seven weeks after release”.

Disney+ has removed Crater from its platform just seven weeks after it premiered.

The sci-fi adventure follows Caleb Channing (Isaiah Russell-Bailey), a young boy who was raised on a lunar mining colony and is about to be moved to a distant planet following the death of his father.

The film also features Mckenna Grace, best known for portraying child bride Esther Keyes in The Handsmaid’s Tale….

But despite its $50 million (£39 million) budget, the film – directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez – can no longer be watched on Disney+….

Crater, which debuted on May 12, scored a respectable 64% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes….

(12) LITTLE ICE AGE. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in “Painting Climate Change in the 17th Century”, discusses art that documents a historic climate fluctuation.  

The world has warmed by more than one degree Celsius since the late 19th century, and it is on course to warm by another two degrees by the end of this century. The combination of the speed, likely magnitude, and human cause of this global warming make it unprecedented in the history of our species.

Yet this is not the first time Earth’s climate has changed. In the 13th century, the climate of the Northern Hemisphere started to cool due to natural causes. Although cooling varied over time and from place to place, in general it persisted for several centuries. This period is commonly referred to as the Little Ice Age. Global temperatures declined by just a few tenths of a degree Celsius—significantly less dramatic a change than our current warming trend. Nevertheless, regional effects were often severe, including catastrophic droughts, torrential rains, and entire years in which winter never fully gave way to spring and summer.

…Some of the disasters of the Little Ice Age may sound familiar. Indeed, many scholars study how people of the past coped with extreme weather to better understand how our societies might respond to global warming. The 17th-century Low Countries (modern Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) provide striking models of just how adaptive and resilient people can be in the face of a changing climate. But they also provide warnings about how climate resilience can create or worsen inequality.

Fortunately, the 17th century has furnished us with a unique resource: millions of paintings, prints, and drawings, created by thousands of artists across the Low Countries, that depict elements of everyday life. By 1650 the inhabitants of Holland—the wealthiest province of the Dutch Republic, the precursor state to today’s Netherlands—collectively owned around 2.5 million paintings. Many of these paintings seem to reflect the presence of the Little Ice Age and record its consequences for ordinary people. Some remarkable examples are included in the National Gallery’s collection. 

These include stunning winter landscapes, which seem to recreate, with plausible detail, real-life gatherings in frigid weather. For example, Adam van Breen painted Skating on the Frozen Amstel River amid a sequence of chilly winters in the Low Countries, and in 1646—when Jan van Goyen painted Ice Scene near a Wooden Observation Tower—winter was even colder.

Although there were forces other than climate change that influenced how artists chose and depicted their subjects, icy landscapes do shed light on how the Dutch adapted to a cooler climate. The coastal Low Countries were crisscrossed by waterways that allowed for the efficient transportation of goods, people, and information. 

Paintings like those of Van Breen and Van Goyen accurately portray how ordinary people across the Low Countries used sleds and ice skates—a Dutch invention—to keep these transportation networks open in cold weather. To maintain crucial shipments of goods that were easier to send by water, intrepid traders even designed specialized icebreaker ships.

(13) ENGRAVED IN MEMORY. Catherynne Valente told Facebook readers why this quote is familiar.

OH MY GOD LOOK WHAT I JUST FOUND IN THE #BAYCON DEALERS’ ROOM!

I’m so completely delighted! I, big dumb #Trekkie, wrote that thing back when Twitter was fun! Ahh!

(14) THE END OF THE WORLD, AGAIN! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There nothing like the end of the world.  It is spectacular.  It is catastrophic. It has bags of sense-of-wonder.  It is anything but mundane. What’s not to like..?  Having said that, I prefer my ends of the world to be firmly in science fiction or alternatively in the future: certainly beyond my time; I’m dead sure I would not be personally partial to it and if I were I’d shortly be dead…  On that cheery thought, it is time to check out Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur as he explores ‘Earth After Humanity’.

Isaac Arthur notes that there are many ways humanity’s world could end, but picks six basic scenarios:

  • An extinction-level natural catastrophe
  • Mass destruction by nuking ourselves or dystopian industrial scenarios
  • A super plague  
  • Artificial Intelligence kills us off
  • Aliens
  • Humanity abandons Earth.

Isaac opines that a global-level natural catastrophe – say an asteroid hundreds of miles across – would be unlikely to thread the needle between wiping out humanity, but leave lesser creatures such as plants and insects alive from which the biosphere might recover. Along the way, he touches on problems such as genetic bottle-necking in recovering sparsely distributed, very small populations.

With a super plague, he notes that it would not be instantaneous, and almost certainly there would be time to land planes and turn-off nuclear power plants (though here I note that Ukraine has demonstrated that that is not as easy as Isaac suggests). So the planet would continue without humanity and wildlife would reclaim our farms and cities.

Isaac is more optimistic when it comes to considering whether an AI would want to take out humanity. He hovers between AI possibly being ‘human-like’ as we would create it, and AI being completely alien to us.

With regards to aliens coming along and killing us off, Isaac thinks they would be likely to value life even if they were ruthless about wiping out potential competitors, so again, life other than humanity would survive. Having said that, he reminds us that the first rule of warfare (the physicist Isaac served in the US forces) is that there is no such thing as overkill.

One issue would be our pets. Could larger dogs survive and evolve even better predatory skills? He does wonder who would end up at the top of the food chain?

Finally, Isaac cannot easily see us simply abandoning Earth (unless there was an existential threat). Some humans would not leave…

…By the way, this was the 401th episode of  Science & Futurism with the 400th milestone happening the other week.

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