Pixel Scroll 5/1/23 And If I Scroll Today, I’ll Be A Happy Pixel

(1) CLARKESWORLD UNCOVERED. Neil Clarke told Facebook readers about an exasperating discovery that they had violated their no-AI policy, and what he was going to do about it.

Much to our embarrassment, evidence suggesting that our most recent cover was generated art rather than the artist’s own work has surfaced. We have removed the cover from our site while we make a final assessment. Our contracts include a clause where the artist verifies that the work is entirely their own, created by them, and without the assistance of AI tools. They signed this contract.

We apologize for this mess and stand firmly on our no-AI policy. We will learn from this and do better.

In the event that we determine the work is generated, it will be replaced. In the meantime:

(2) YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE WON. Or not. The deadline to nominate for the Hugos arrived last night, and Cora Buhlert has updated her advice in “An Open Letter to the 2023 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be”.

7. Once the Hugo finalists have been announced, there will be people who have opinions about the ballot. Most will be positive or at least fair – I always try to be fair in my own Hugo and Nebula finalist commentaries, even if I don’t care for some of the finalists – but some will be not. There are always people who think that your category or the entire ballot is too male, not male enough, too white, not white enough, too queer, not queer enough, too American, not American enough, too bestselling, not bestselling enough – you get the idea. There will be people who complain that only people no one knows got nominated or that only the usual suspects got nominated – and multiple bestsellers and Hugo winners can be “people no one knows”, while first or second time finalists can be “the usual suspects”. Some of these people won’t even wait 24 hours after the Hugo finalists have been announced to air their opinions – at least they didn’t in 2021. Some will even tag you, just to make sure you don’t miss their very important opinions. The best thing to do is ignore those people.

(3) CELEBRITY IMPERSONATORS. Alina Adams’ guest post for Writer Beware is about “The Book Marketing Scam That Went the Extra Mile”. The scammers she dealt with didn’t merely gin up fake client endorsements from Joe Blow – they faked one from Piranesi author Susanna Clarke!

…My research did turn up a NYT feature article on Martha. But when I reached out to the author who wrote it, she told me: “I’ve never even heard of [them]. You’re absolutely right — coverage in the Times cannot be bought, and everything must be approved by an editor.”

When confronted with this fact, my friendly neighborhood scam artist got a little testy:

“We directly worked with Martha T. You should confirm from her. Yes we sent the order for an article for Martha to be published in that.”

Likely sensing that I was wriggling off the hook, they sent me the contact info of another author they claim to have worked with, Susanna Clarke. She’s even featured on their website, with a testimonial that reads like it was created by a self-published author rather than a writer with a Big 5 publisher whose debut novel sold 4 million copies…

(4) WHO’D HAVE GUESSED? Alva Rogers’ cover art (ink on paper) for The Acolyte #9, the Winter 1945 issue of Francis T. Laney’s fanzine (yes, that Laney), has sold at auction for $25,000.

This cover for the pioneering Lovecraft-related science fiction/fantasy fanzine features one of the most striking, early renditions of the author’s most famous creation.

Mike Ward comments, “Yeah, this is the Alva Rogers we used to hang out with. He was a good guy, long gone. Those were some great days.

“That’s probably about 2500 times more than Alva ever got for a drawing. His best-known work is probably the historical volume A Requiem for Astounding from Advent:Publishers.”

(5) MEMORY LANE.

2001[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Jack Williamson’s a genius. He truly is. Living not quite a century, he was an amazing writer selling his first story to Gernsback at age twenty. That story, “The Metal Man” would be published in the December 1928 issue of Amazing. His career would then last another ninety years. He published a novel, The Stonehenge Gate, just a year before he died at home. 

I’ll get to our Beginning in a minute but first let me note what I like among his works. First of course is the Legion of Space series which is well-worth reading, and there is the Starchild trilogy written with Frederik Pohl. Darker Than You Think is weird and really fun.  I love his short stories but I’m really unsure which collection to recommend, so do recommend which ones you think are essential reading.

Our Beginning is from Terraforming Earth, published by Tor twenty-two years ago, and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It had started out as several novellas that became a fix-up novel, the first being “Agents of the Moon” in Science Fiction Age, their March 2000 issue which is the image below. The second, “The Ultimate Earth”, was published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in the December 2000 issue.

Our Beginning starts here…

Terraforming Earth

We are clones. A hundred years have passed since the great impact. All our natural parents lay in the cemetery on the rubble slope outside the crater rim long before the robots brought our frozen cells to life in the maternity lab. I remember the day my Robo father brought the five of us up to see the Earth, a hazy red-spattered ball in the black Moon sky. “It looks—looks sick.” Looking sick herself, Dian raised her face to his. “Is it bleeding?”

“Bleeding red-hot lava all over the land,” he told her. “The rivers all bleeding iron-red rain into the seas.”

“Dead.” Arne made a face. “It looks dead.”

“The impact killed it.” His plastic head nodded. “You were born to bring it back to life.”

“Just us kids?” “

“You’ll grow up.”

“Not me,” Arne muttered. “Do I have to grow up?”

“So what do you want?” Tanya grinned at him. “To stay a snot-nosed kid forever?”

“Please.” My Robo father shrugged in the stiff way robots have, and his lenses swept all five of us, standing around him in the dome. “Your mission is to replant life on Earth. The job may take a lot of time, but you’ll be born and born again till you get it done.”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 1, 1905 Edna Mayne Hull. Wife of A.E. van Vogt. And yes, she too wrote genre fiction. Her initial sale, “The Flight That Failed”, appeared in the November 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction under chosen author credit of “E.M. Hull” though eventually she used her own name. She has but one novel of her own, Planets for Sale, and one with her husband, The Winged Man, and only a dozen stories, one with A.E. Van Vogt & James H. Schmitz. I’m not find that her novels are available at the usual suspects. (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 1, 1924 Terry Southern. Screenwriter and author of greatest interest for the screenplay from Peter George’s original novel, Two Hours to Doom (as by Peter Bryant) of Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb directed (and in part written) by Stanley Kubrick. He was also involved in scripting Barbarella. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 1, 1952 Andrew Sawyer, 71. Member of fandom who managed the Science Fiction Foundation library in Liverpool for 25 years. For his work and commitment to the SF community, the Science Fiction Research Association awarded him their Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service. The paper he wrote that I want to get and read is “The Shadows out of Time: H. P. Lovecraftian Echoes in Babylon 5” as I’ve always thought The Shadows were Lovecraftian!  And his fanpublication list is impressive, editing some or all issues of &Another Earth MatrixPaperback Inferno and Acnestis.
  • Born May 1, 1955 J. R. Pournelle, 68. Some years ago, I got an email from a J. R. Pournelle about an SF novel they wanted Green Man to review. I of course thought it was that Pournelle. No, it was his daughter, Jennifer. And that’s how I came to find out there was a third Motie novel called Outies. It’s much better than The Gripping Hand.
  • Born May 1, 1956 Phil Foglio, 67. Writer, artist, and publisher. Twice winner of the Best Fan Artist Hugo. Foglio co-won with his wife Kaja the first Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story at Anticipation for the absolutely stunning Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, and the next two in the category at Aussiecon 4 and Renovation. If you haven’t read them, you’re in for treat as they’re quite amazing.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) TARGETED BOOKS. PEN America has released their annual report on books that were challenged or banned in school libraries. The report covers the 2021-2022 school year. Some of the books are works of genre interest, including Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. “2023 Banned Books Update: Banned in the USA”.

The 2022-23 school year has been marked to date by an escalation of book bans and censorship in classrooms and school libraries across the United States. PEN America recorded more book bans during the fall 2022 semester than in each of the prior two semesters. This school year also saw the effects of new state laws that censor ideas and materials in public schools, an extension of the book banning movement initiated in 2021 by local citizens and advocacy groups. Broad efforts to label certain books “harmful” and “explicit” are expanding the type of content suppressed in schools.

Again, and again, the movement to ban books is driven by a vocal minority demanding censorship. At the same time, a 2022 poll found that over 70% of parents oppose book banning. Yet the bans continue. Many public school districts find themselves in a bind. They face threats and political pressure, along with parental fears and anxieties surrounding the books on their school shelves. School Boards, administrators, teachers, and librarians are told in some cases to “err on the side of caution” in the books they make available. Too often, they do just that….

(9) CREATING WITH AI. For those using AI as a tool, Francis Hamit recommends The Copyright Society’s video “Exploring the Impact on Copyrightability When Creating New Works Through AI”. “This webinar is an hour long but well worth watching for anyone who is concerned about the copyrightability of artificial intelligence assisted creative work.” 

(10) SOMEONE HAD TO BE FIRST. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, names his candidate for “The First GREAT Science Fiction Movie!” It’s Metropolis.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Mike Ward, Francis Hamit, Nina Shepardson, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/23 I Demand That The Emergency Pixel System Be Activated Immediately 

(1) ROAD TRIP. Connie Willis told her Facebook readers all about attending the 2023 Jack Williamson Lectureship in mid-April:

…This year’s guest of honor was Arkady Martine, and she brought her wife, Vivian Shaw, with her, so we got two guests for one. They were great, and so were the panels, which the Lectureship features. I especially loved the one on Artificial Intelligence, which focused on the new dangers and possibilities of ChatGPT, and one on worldbuilding. I also loved Cordelia’s lecture on a very out-of-the-ordinary experience she had while working at the Santa Clara County Crime lab. Unlike the usual investigation of shoeprints, surveillance tapes, cell phones, etc., she suddenly found herself in a convoy with a SWAT team in L.A., driving a coworker’s car without the lights on in an attempt to arrest a bunch of human traffickers….

(2) SAWYER GETS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. Robert J. Sawyer was presented with the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award at the Writers and Illustrators of the Future award banquet in LA on April 28. In his acceptance speech Sawyer describes career decisions where he followed his heart in ironic terms as if they had been mistakes. But they weren’t mistakes, were they.

…Many writers do media tie-ins or work in other people’s universes. My first agent tried to steer me in that direction, too, getting me a three-book contract in the STAR WARS universe. But I bailed out; I just couldn’t bring myself to play in somebody else’s sandbox.

And then I screwed up AGAIN: my second novel was called FAR-SEER, and, at its end, I gave the protagonist, a talking dinosaur named Afsan, a heroic death scene. Well, when I sent the manuscript to my agent, he said I was nuts for killing the main character: “Rob, baby,” he said — that’s how agents talk — “Rob, baby, this could be an ongoing series, and, if not a cash cow, then certainly a monetary Megalosaurus!”

So, Afsan got a reprieve and I forced out two more books about the lovable lizard. But, as before, I just couldn’t stand it; at the end of the third book, I took the same escape route Charlton Heston did from the PLANET OF THE APES sequels: I destroyed the entire planet!…

(3) BEM IN A FLASH. Cora Buhlert has had a flash story called “Bug-eyed Monsters and the Women Who Love Them” published at Way Station, a brand-new space opera magazine, which she says doesn’t have an actual issue out yet.

Captain Crash Martigan of the rocket scout squad was on patrol, protecting New Pluto City and its inhabitants from bug-eyed monsters.

Of course, bug-eyed monsters wasn’t their real name. No, the creatures had a long and official Latinate name that no one could remember nor pronounce. So the colonists took to calling them bug-eyed monsters, because that’s what they looked like….

(4) IS ANALOG USEFUL AGAIN? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Back in the day (the 1970s when I was an Electrical Engineering student at the University of Alabama), I had occasion to build a special-purpose hybrid analog/digital computer. The only reason for its existence was so high school students visiting us as prospective UA engineering students could play tic-tac-toe and see EE at work. It was used one day, then stripped down for parts. The very idea of a programmable analog component gets my EE juices flowing a little bit, though it’s certainly nowhere enough to entice me out of retirement. There have always been problems for which analog computation was perfectly suited. But, as the article below notes, building those damn things is no joke, and every time the problem changes, the design changes. Or, perhaps, the tense should be changed to, well, “changed.“ This could become a very exciting field going forward.  “The Unbelievable Zombie Comeback of Analog Computing” in WIRED.

When old tech dies, it usually stays dead. No one expects rotary phones or adding machines to come crawling back from oblivion. Floppy diskettes, VHS tapes, cathode-ray tubes—they shall rest in peace. Likewise, we won’t see old analog computers in data centers anytime soon. They were monstrous beasts: difficult to program, expensive to maintain, and limited in accuracy.

Or so I thought. Then I came across this confounding statement:

Bringing back analog computers in much more advanced forms than their historic ancestors will change the world of computing drastically and forever.

Seriously?

I found the prediction in the preface of a handsome illustrated book titled, simply, Analog Computing. Reissued in 2022, it was written by the German mathematician Bernd Ulmann—who seemed very serious indeed.

I’ve been writing about future tech since before WIRED existed and have written six books explaining electronics. I used to develop my own software, and some of my friends design hardware. I’d never heard anyone say anything about analog, so why would Ulmann imagine that this very dead paradigm could be resurrected? And with such far-reaching and permanent consequences?

I felt compelled to investigate further….

(5) HOWARD DAYS. Ken Lizzi shares a report and several photos of the Robert E. Howard Days, which took place in April this year: “Howard Days 2023. Plus Savage Journal Entry 41.”

I made the Hajj, the Pilgrimage, to Cross Plains, Texas this weekend to visit the Robert E. Howard museum. Not coincidentally, it was also the weekend of the 2023 edition of Howard Days. I am, to be blunt, tired. It is only a five hour drive from Casa Lizzi, which is why I had no excuse to put off the visit. Still, on top of non-stop activity and limited sleep, that drive back proved less pleasant than the lovely drive out: putting a Gulf Coast thunder storm behind me Thursday morning as I wended my way north and west deep into the heart of Texas, into cattle and old oil boom country to the AirBnB I shared with Bryan Murphy and Deuce Richardson….

(6) APPENDIX N. The good folks at Goodman Games continue their articles on SFF authors listed in Appendix N:

Ngo Vinh-Hoi profiles Jack Williamson: “Adventures in Fiction: Jack Williamson”.

In the storied list of Appendix N authors, there is one name that encapsulates nearly the entire course of modern American science fiction and fantasy: Jack Williamson. John Stewart Williamson was born on April 29th, 1908 in an adobe hut in what was then still the Arizona Territory. Seeking to better themselves, the Williamson family travelled by horse-drawn covered wagon to New Mexico in 1915, where Williamson recalled that they “homesteaded in Eastern New Mexico in 1916 after the good land had been claimed. We were living below the poverty line, struggling for survival.”

This isolated, hardscrabble existence continued throughout Williamson’s entire youth, but his imagination and inquisitive mind helped him to endure…. 

Jeff Goad profiles Fletcher Pratt: “Adventures in Fiction: Fletcher Pratt”.

The Appendix N is a list of prolific authors of science fiction and fantasy. But Fletcher Pratt is not one of them, at least not in comparison to most of the authors on the list. He primarily wrote historical nonfiction about the Civil War, Napoleon, naval history, rockets, and World War II. So why is Fletcher Pratt listed in the Appendix N and why does he have the coveted “et al” listed after The Blue Star?

Well, digging a bit deeper into his writings and his career, it is no surprise that Gary Gygax was smitten with this fellow….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1999[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning this Scroll comes courtesy of Richard Wadholm. Green Tea was a novella first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in the October-November 1999 issue. It was shortlisted for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. 

Wadholm, a Clarion graduate, had a very brief visit in our corner of things writing one novel, Astronomy, and six stories. None are available at the usual suspects. 

He was, interestingly enough, a contributing writer, to Synapse, the Electronic Music Magazine  which published in the Seventies.

And now for our Beginning…

Friend Beltran, this moment has weighed on me for the past six days. At last we meet.

Will you take tea with me? Not to worry, I am not here to poison you with tainted tea. Not from a beautiful service like this, certainly. This tea kettle is pewter, yes? And the brew pot— terra cotta, in the manner of the great smuggling mandarins of the Blanco Grande? Quite so. I must beg your indulgence for its use. I was very thirsty; I have come a long way to see you.

Perhaps my name escapes you. That is the way in this profession we share. Say that I am your delivery man. Indeed, the item you procured at such dear cost is close to hand.

My fee? Whatever you arranged with the navigator Galvan will suffice. A cup of tea from this excellent terra cotta pot would do nicely. And, if you are not too pressed, the answer to a simple question?

Who was it for, the thing you birthed on our ship? Was it for the mercenaries on Michele D’avinet? Or for the Chinese smugglers who used the glare of D’avinet to hide their passing?

I suppose it doesn’t matter much either way. Whoever your treasure was intended for, they were someone’s enemy, but they were no enemy of Beltran Seynoso’s, yes? And we, the crew of the Hierophant, we were merely witnesses. Our only offense was that we could connect you with the destruction of a little star in the outer reaches of Orion.

I wronged you, my friend. You are indeed a man of pitiless resolve. Sitting here, making tea in your kitchen, in this rambling manse, on this pretty little moon of yours, I underestimated you. I pictured a dilettante, playing at a rough game.

Forgive, forgive.

That story you told our captain, that you represented an Anglo syndicate dealing in—what was it? April pork bellies? We took that for naivete. No one goes from trading in April pork bellies to dealing in ‘Tuesday morning perbladium. Not even the Anglos.

And then there was that improbable load you hired us to turn.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 30, 1913 Jane Rice. Her first story “The Dream” was published in the July 1940 issue of Unknown. Amazingly, she’d publish ten stories there during the War. Her only novel Lucy remains lost due to somewhat mysterious circumstances. Much of her short stories are collected in The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories which is not available in digital form. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 30, 1920 E. F. Bleiler. An editor, bibliographer and scholar of both sff and detective fiction. He’s responsible in the Forties for co-editing the Best SF Stories with T.E. Dikty. They later edited Best Science-Fiction Stories. He also did such valuable reference guides like The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 30, 1926 Edmund Cooper. Pulpish writer of space opera not for the easily offended. His The Uncertain Midnight has an interesting take on androids but most of his work is frankly misogynistic. And he was quite prolific with over twenty-four novels and a dozen story collections. A lot of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
  • Born April 30, 1934 William Baird Searles. Author and critic. He‘s best remembered for his long-running review work for Asimov’s  where he reviewed books, and Amazing Stories and F&SF where he did film and tv reviews. I’m not familiar with his writings but I’d be interested to know who here has read Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and Reader’s Guide to Fantasy which he did, as they might be useful to own. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 85. One of my favorite authors to read, be it the Gil Hamilton the Arm stories, Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle (The Gripping Hand alas didn’t work for me at all), or the the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 and in turn by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading but did listen in preparing this Birthday — most excellent!) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976 which I admit surprised me.
  • Born April 30, 1968 Adam Stemple, 55. Son of Jane Yolen. One-time vocalist of Boiled in Lead. With Yolen, he’s written the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy TalesPay the Piper and Troll Bridge which are worth reading, plus the Seelie Wars trilogy which I’ve not read. He’s also written two Singer of Souls urban fantasies which I remember as engaging. 
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 50. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet read her Spinning Silver novel which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, so opinions are welcome. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WHAT’S ON THE WAY? John Shirley interviews Charles Stross about The Future in “Optimism Optimized & Pessimism Prodded” at Instant Future.

Q. Will the pace of change overwhelm us? I seem to perceive, behind many of your novels, a writer conflicted about technological advancement; not against it, certainly no luddite, but concerned about its nature. It would seem that we need that advancement—but we’ve failed to develop a protocol for advancing technology intelligently. For one thing, a technology that pollutes is only half-invented. This seems clear in the age of anthropogenic climate change. Should we slow the pace? Can we?

A: I think, going by the news headlines, the pace of change has *already* overwhelmed us. The Tofflers made this case fairly well in their book *Future Shock* back in the 1970s, and that was in a then-stable media environment that wasn’t polluted with memes generated by bad actors (eg. state level disinformation agencies) and chatbots (often just trying to sell something — Ivermectin as a cure for COVID19, for example).

One problem is that we’re nearing the crest of a sigmoid curve of accelerating advances in a new technological area — computing, networking, and information processing. It seems unlikely progress on miniaturization of semiconductors will proceed for many more generations (our densest integrated semiconductor circuits already have tracks and other features on the order of a hundred atoms wide: it’s hard to see how we can shrink mechanisms below the atomic scale). So, just as progress with steam locomotion had tapered off by the 1920s after a brisk acceleration from roughly 1790 through 1870, and aviation surged from the original Wright Flyer and its contemporaries around 1900 to the SR-71 and Boeing 747 by the early 1970s but subsequently stopped getting bigger or faster, we’re approaching an era of consolidation and very slow incremental gains in our IT. People are now exploring the possible ways of monetizing the technologies we’ve acquired over the past few decades, rather than making qualitative breakthroughs. I first saw a virtual reality headset and interface in use at a conference in the early 1990s; the fact that Apple are apparently bringing one to market this summer, and Meta (aka Facebook) sank billions — evidently fruitlessly — into trying to commercialize VR over the past few years, should be a huge warning flag that some technologies just don’t seem to be as useful as people expected.

(11) UPHEAVAL IN THE SIXTIES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At Galactic Journey I was talking about some of the 1968 unrest in (West) Germany as well as the 1968 Oberhausen Short Film Festival, where George Lucas won an award for the original short film version of THX-1138 4EB. Also present at the festival was a very young Werner Herzog, which is interesting since Herzog claimed not to be familiar with Star Wars or Lucas, when he guest-starred in The Mandalorian. Of course, Herzog might just have forgotten meeting at a festival Lucas 55 years ago. Oh yes, and there also was a scandal at that festival surrounding a short film with a very upstanding cast member. “[April 14, 1968] In Unquiet Times: The Frankfurt Arson Attacks, the Shooting of Rudi Dutschke and Electronic Labyrinth THX-1138 4EB” at Galactic Journey.

…With West Germany burning and all the terrible things happening here and elsewhere in the world, it’s easy to forget that there are bright spots as well. One of those bright spots is the 14th West German Short Film Days in Oberhausen….

(12) SURVIVING THE RUNWAY. “Louis Vuitton collaborates with the director of Squid Game in a bid to woo South Korea’s elite”Yahoo! has the story.

…The event was dreamed up by Ghesquière and Hwang Dong-hyuk, the director of the hit Netflix series, Squid Game, in which contestants compete in a series of children’s games and are murdered if they lose. He could hardly have found a more effective way of winnowing out weaklings than this runway. HoYeon Jung, a Korean actress who opened the show, took it in her stride. She was probably used to tough conditions having starred in Squid Game….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Paul Di Filippo, Lise Andreasen, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

2023 Jack Williamson Lectureship

The 46th Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, hosted by Eastern New Mexico University, will be held April 13-15 in Portales, NM with guest of honor Arkady Martine and emcee Connie Willis.

Williamson Lectureship Chair David Sweeten hits the high points in the schedule:

For Thursday April 13th, we are having opening comments on the Lectureship, and we will have a screening of student short sci-fi films alongside a display of student sci-fi art. On Friday April 14th, we’ll have our Guest of Honor reading, a lunchtime event with sci-fi trivia, comments from Connie, and a Keynote from Arkady Martine; panels (including a panel on scholars studying sci-fi and fantasy); and a gaming event. On Saturday morning April 15th, we’re planning on having Connie’s Creative Writing Workshop, accompanied by however many baked goods I can get through my oven in time.

  • Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Under both names she writes about border politics, narrative and rhetoric, risk communication, and the edges of the world. She is currently a policy advisor for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, where she works on climate change mitigation, energy grid modernization, and resiliency planning. Her debut novel, A Memory Called Empire, won the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and its sequel, A Desolation Called Peace, won the 2022 Hugo Award in the same category. Arkady grew up in New York City, and after some time in Turkey, Canada, Sweden, and Baltimore, lives in New Mexico with her wife, the author Vivian Shaw. Find Arkady online at www.arkadymartine.net or on Twitter as @ArkadyMartine
  • Connie Willis has been publishing science fiction and fantasy works for more than 50 years.  After her first novel was published in 1982, she was able to quit her teaching job and become a full-time writer.  She’s won multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and named a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master.  Themes in her works include time travel, romantic comedy, history, and Christmas – to name a few.  Her 2016 novel Crosstalk was named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR. Her most recent novel was Take a Look at the Five and Ten from Subterranean Press in 2020; The Road to Roswell will be coming out in July 2023 from Del Rey.

The annual Jack Williamson Lectureship includes a luncheon with presentations by the guest of honor and toastmaster, readings by guest authors, time for book sales and signing, and panel discussions on a variety of science fiction and fantasy topics.

The lectureship, named for the prolific sff author and academic, was established by the university when Dr. Jack Williamson retired from his position as professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University in 1977. Ever since then writers, editors, artists and other speakers have gathered at ENMU every spring to share ideas, insights and their work with students, readers, viewers, creators, collectors and fans.

All events are open to the public and the luncheon is the only event that requires advance reservations and a fee. See the full agenda here.

Pixel Scroll 4/4/22 Just A Pixel Boy, Lots Of Planets Have A South, He Took The Tardis Box Goin’ Anywhere

(1) BETTER VILLAINS THROUGH SCIENCE (FICTION). Charlie Jane Anders shares “7 Secrets To Avoiding The Biggest Problem With Villains” at Stone Soup. Lots of interesting observations here.

5) A villain is often boring because of boring fight scenes. Or boring chase scenes. Or boring confrontations in general. If a fight scene is just an excuse for a lot of stage directions, or a literal blow by blow of a punching match, it quickly grows stale. As Green Bone Saga author Fonda Lee has explained many times, a good fight scene has emotional stakes and helps to tell the story and says something about the characters. You can learn a lot about a villain by watching them try to kill the hero. You can also learn a lot about a villain by watching them fighting to achieve the same goal as the hero, or the opposite goal for that matter. If your action scenes are really character – and plot development scenes, they will make your villain shine— way more than sticking them in a plexiglass cell ever would.

(2) A CLASSIC OF SF ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Karl Capek’s play, R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots, has a new adaptation as a radio play musical just broadcast from the BBC. You can access Episode 1 from Sounds at the link.

Written in 1932, the play is set in the year 2000.  Not only does it have concepts that resonate with much subsequent SF, it is particularly apposite today as we head towards full-blown general artificial intelligence.

Part two next Sunday afternoon at 15.00 Brit Cit time.

Music and Lyrics by Susannah Pearse

Book by Robert Hudson

Karel Capek’s ultra-prescient, retro-futurist 1921 comedy (the classic which gave us the word ‘robot’) is re-imagined with a massive dose of character-driven and song-centred heart.

In Capek’s world, machines do all the work and their monopolistic makers care only about enriching themselves. Robots make huge volumes of goods very cheaply, but there are limited resources to make these goods from and humans don’t care so long as life keeps getting lazier.

The movie star Lady Helen is on a personal crusade. She visits the island factory of Rossum’s Universal Robots, robot-makers to the world, with the intention of freeing the robots. Despite her better judgement, she falls in love with Chairman Domin, the capitalist boss of R.U.R, who dismisses her campaign by insisting that robots are devoid of emotion and free will. Undeterred, Lady Helen persuades a sympathetic scientist to grow a small batch of robots with these very qualities.

The new robots defy all expectations, not least because of their resolute commitment to saving the world from the humans.

(3) WILLIAMSON LECTURESHIP SCHEDULE. The 2022 Jack Williamson Lectureship schedule has been posted. Most of these events will be streamed via YouTube live, and you’ll be able to view them on the ENMU YouTube channel.

Thursday, April 7:  

3:00: Real-Life CSI Q&A, JWLA 111. Zoom link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82969992270?pwd=VDdPeUpBcFExeFZQTGRsVVpTNkRsZz09  

5:30: A Retrospective with Walter Jon Williams, UTC Small Theater  

Friday, April 8:  

10:00 am: Guest of Honor Reading, GSSC Presentation area  

12:00 pm: Williamson Lectureship Lunch and Main Event, CUB Ballroom  

1:30 pm: Gaming Session, GSSC Presentation Room  

3:00 pm:  

Panel 1a: Remixing and Genre, GSSC 216. Panelists: Walter Jon Williams, Emily Mah, Reese Hogan, Jeffe Kennedy  

4:00 pm:  

Panel 2a: History and/of Science Fiction, GSSC 216, Panelists: Connie Willis, Walter Jon Williams, Reese Hogan, Ian Tregillis  

Panel 2b: Craft of a story/Story crafting, GSSC 217, Panelists: Darynda Jones, Jeffe Kennedy, Emily Mah  

5:00 pm:  

Panel 3a: Never the Same Story Twice: Making Stories Your Own, GSSC 216, Panelists: Walter Jon Williams, Connie Willis, Emily Mah  

Panel 3b: Short Attention Span, GSSC 217, Panelists: Jeffe Kennedy, Darynda Jones, Reese Hogan 

(4) IN A STRANGE LAND. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has released its official trailer. Airing on Paramount+ this May, Strange New Worlds is both a prequel to the original Star Trek series and a spinoff of the events of Star Trek: Discovery season 2

(5) THREE’S A CHARM. New York Times science fiction reviewer Amal El-Mohtar hits the jackpot in “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Circumstances” – with good things to say about All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie, Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin, and The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz.

To paraphrase Ian Fleming: To read one good book is happenstance; two is coincidence; three is wild good fortune. That a columnist should enjoy novels in her purview is not particularly noteworthy — but to read three excellent books in sequence, all for the same column, is unusual, a critic’s jackpot….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1914 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] On this day, one hundred and eight years ago, the first part of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core novel appeared in All-Star Weekly. This magazine started life as The All-Story Magazine before becoming The All-Story and All-Star Weekly. Burroughs’ serial would run from April 4 to April 25, 1914. It would be first published in book form in hardcover by A. C. McClurg in July, 1922. It is of course freely available at the usual suspects. 

Pellucidar, a hollow Earth story, is very influential with writers using the setting later on, not the least of which is the author who has Tarzan appearing there. Lin Carter’s “Zanthodon” series, beginning with his novel Journey to the Underground World, is considered an homage to this work. 

And the Skartaris setting used by Mike Grell in The Warlord series is another homage to Pellucidar in the graphic medium. Justice League Unlimited‘s “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode would show the hollow Earth in an animated medium. It’s quite wonderful even if, like the Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World seriesit has very, very little to do with the source material. 

Wiki claims that Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness was largely influenced by this work. Huh? Please explain. 

The novel has been filmed once as At the Earth’s Core in 1976 as directed by Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure as David Innes and Peter Cushing as Abner Perry. It fared badly among critics and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, garnering just thirty-three percent from each. My favorite critic comment? This one by Stephen Randall of the Los Angeles Free Press: “It’s the type of movie you can send your kids to, but only if you don’t much like them.” Ouch. Really ouch. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 4, 1902 Stanley G. Weinbaum. His first story, “A Martian Odyssey”, was published to general accolades in July 1934, but he died from lung cancer less than a year and a half later. ISFDB lists two novels, The New Adam and The Dark Other, plus several handfuls of short stories that were I assume were out for consideration with various editors at the time of his death. Everything he wrote is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1935.)
  • Born April 4, 1949 David C. Sutherland III. An early Dungeons & Dragons artist. His work heavily influenced the development of D&D. He was also one of their writers on such modules as the Queen of the Demonweb Pits that Gary Gygax edited. He also drew the maps for Castle Ravenloft. (Died 2009.)
  • Born April 4, 1948 Dan Simmons, 74. He’s the author of the Hyperion Cantos and the Ilium/Olympos cycles. Hyperion won a Hugo Award at ConFiction (1990), and The Fall of Hyperion was nominated the following year at ChiCon V (1991). Both are, if my memory serves me right, excellent. If you like horror, Song of Kali which won a World Fantasy Award is quite tasty indeed. In 2013 he became a World Horror Convention Grand Master.  Beware his social media, which include remarks about environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
  • Born April 4, 1952 Cherie Lunghi, 70. Her fame arise from her role as Guinevere in Excalibur. (I saw Excalibur in a 1920s-built theater on a warm summer night with hardly anyone there.) She was also Baroness Frankenstien (Victor’s Mother) in Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She was also in The Lady’s Not for Burning as Jennet Jourdemayne. That I’ve not seen. 
  • Born April 4, 1959 Phil Morris, 63. His first acting role was on the “Miri” episode of Trek as simply Boy. He was the Sam the Kid on several episodes of Mr. Merlin before returning to Trek fold as Trainee Foster in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Next interesting role is voicing Vandal Savage on a three-part Justice League Unlimited story called “The Savage Time”, a role he reprised for Justice League: Doom. No, I’ve not forgotten that he was on Mission: Impossible as Grant Collier. He also played the Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) on Smallvillie. Currently He’s Silas Stone on Doom Patrol and no, I didn’t spot that was him in that role. 
  • Born April 4, 1965 Robert Downey Jr., 57. Iron Man in the Marvel Universe film franchise. (I loved the first Iron Man film, thought they could’ve stopped there.) Also a rather brilliant Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Also voicing James Barris in an animated adaption of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly which picked up a nomination at Nippon 2007. Yes, he’s plays the title role in Dolittle which despite having scathing critical reviews has a rather superb seventy-six rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born April 4, 1967 Xenia Seeberg, 55. She is perhaps best known for her role as Xev Bellringer in Lexx, a show’s that’s fantastic provided you can see in its uncensored form. I’ve also see she played Muireann In Annihilation Earth, Noel in So, You’ve Downloaded a Demon, uncredited role in Lord of The Undead, and Sela In the “Assessment” episode of Total Recall 2070
  • Born April 4, 1968 Gemma Files, 54. She’s a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic. Her Hexslinger series now at three novels and a handful of stories is quite fun. It’s worth noting that she’s a prolific short story writer whose “The Emperor’s Old Bones” won an International Horror Guild Award and four of these stories have been adapted as scripts for The Hunger horror series. Impressive indeed!  She won a Shirley Jackson Award and a Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic for Experimental Film.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro introduces us to Frankenstein’s monster’s barber.
  • Tom Gauld on baiting a wild librarian:

(9) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Bob Godfrey and Ron Neesin explain how to make sound effects with stuff you have at home in this BBC clip from 1974 that dropped today. “Sound Effects with Ron Geesin” — The DIY Film Animation Show.

Bob Godfrey is joined by musician and composer extraordinaire Ron Geesin, who delivers a masterclass in the art of creating and syncing sound effects. To create these sound effects at home you will need: A mouth, a tape recorder, a shoe box, a breadknife, a contact microphone, a disused banjo, some rice, eccentric multimedia artist Bruce Lacey, and some sticky tape. Incidentally, if you can’t be bothered to make your own sound effects, here are 16,000 we made earlier: http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/

(10) PROBLEMS WITH TWO FANS STOP ARTEMIS LAUNCH. The fans haven’t been named. “NASA’s Artemis I mega moon rocket test scrubbed for second time” reports CNN.

…The test was originally scheduled to be completed on Sunday but was put on hold before the propellant was loaded. That was due to problems with two fans used to provide pressure to the mobile launcher – the movable tower which the rocket sits upon before it lifts off.

NASA said Monday it was able overnight to resolve the malfunction of the fans, which are needed to pressurize enclosed areas inside the launcher and keep out hazardous gases…

(11) THE SEVENTIES. CBR.com dares us to disagree: “10 Best Sci-Fi Films of the 70s, Ranked”.

After the Swinging Sixties left an unmistakable mark on pop culture – music, film, and just about everything else – it fell upon the following decade to try and best what came before. For many, the 1970s may well be their favorite era for all of those things, and one area in particular where it arguably excelled over the 60s was sci-fi cinema….

5. Alien (1979) Promised That In Space… No One Can Hear You Scream

Alien took the world by surprise in the Spring of 1979 and is still considered an iconic sci-fi-horror film to this day. It was pitched as essentially being “Jaws in space” although the result is something far more than that.

Directed by Ridley Scott, with incredible designs from HR Giger, and featuring a star-making performance from Sigourney Weaver, Alien sparked a huge multimedia franchise that’s still going strong to this day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

2022 Jack Williamson Lectureship

The 45th Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, “Speculative Fiction: Never the Same Story Twice,” hosted by Eastern New Mexico University, will be held April 7-9, with guest of honor Walter Jon Williams and emcee Connie Willis.

  • Walter Jon Williams is a Nebula Award Winner author of fiction in a range of genres. His work began in historical fiction with the Privateers & Gentlemen series and branched into science fiction with the Locus-nominated Hardwired, an influential novel in Cyberpunk. He has written exhaustively in a range of science fiction and fantasy genres, from his spacefaring Praxis novels to his Nebula award-winning Green Leopard Plague to his fantasy Quillifer novels. Walter views “science fiction as a kind of infinite playground in which I can move from one set of equipment to the next, from the slides to the monkey bars to the swings,” which his incredibly versatile career demonstrates. We look forward to having Walter with us as our Guest of Honor and encourage you to join us in what promises to be an excellent event.  
  • Connie Willis has been publishing science fiction and fantasy works for more than 50 years.  After her first novel was published in 1982, she was able to quit her teaching job and become a full-time writer.  She’s won multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and named a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master.  Themes in her works include time travel, romantic comedy, history, and Christmas – to name a few.  Her 2016 novel Crosstalk was named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR. Her most recent novel was Take a Look at the Five and Ten from Subterranean Press in 2020; The Road to Roswell will be coming out next from Random House.

The annual Jack Williamson Lectureship includes a luncheon with presentations by the guest of honor and toastmaster, readings by guest authors, time for book sales and signing, and panel discussions on a variety of science fiction and fantasy topics.

The lectureship, named for the prolific sff author and academic, was established by the university when Dr. Jack Williamson retired from his position as professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University in 1977. Ever since then writers, editors, artists and other speakers have gathered at ENMU every spring to share ideas, insights and their work with students, readers, viewers, creators, collectors and fans.

All events are open to the public and the luncheon is the only event that requires advance reservations and a fee. See the full agenda here.

2021 Jack Williamson Lectureship

The 44th Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, hosted by Eastern New Mexico University, will be held online April 22-24, with guests of honor James Patrick Kelly and Rebecca Roanhorse, and emcee Connie Willis. There will be readings and panels, interspersed with film clips from past lectureships, and quizzes, SF bingo and other surprises.  A full agenda will be shared soon.

  • James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. His most recent publications are the novella King Of The Dogs, Queen Of The Cats (2020) and the collection, The Promise of Space (2018). He writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and recently retired from faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine where he taught for 15 years.
  • Rebecca Roanhorse is a Nebula and Hugo Award-winner and the recipient of the 2018 Astounding (Campbell) Award for Best New Writer. Her novel Trail of Lightning won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and is a Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy finalist. A sequel, Black Sun, came out in 2020. Her short fiction can be found in Apex Magazine, New Suns, The Mythic Dream, and various anthologies. She lives in Northern New Mexico.

The lectureship, named for the prolific sff author and academic, was established by the university when Dr. Jack Williamson retired from his position as professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University in 1977. Ever since then writers, editors, artists and other speakers have gathered at ENMU every spring to share ideas, insights and their work with students, readers, viewers, creators, collectors and fans.

Last year’s lectureship was postponed due to the pandemic and the guests reinvited to the 2021 event.

Pixel Scroll 3/12/20 This Machine Scrolls Pixels

(1) MORE SFF EVENTS AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS.

  • The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, has been cancelled.
  • The 2020 Williamson Lectureship, scheduled for April 3 at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

(2) WORLDCON 2020 STILL ON. The CoNZealand chairs gave this status as of March 13 (NZ date): “Covid-19: Update from the Chairs”.

We understand your concerns and that you want as much notice as possible if CoNZealand were to be cancelled. We are extremely keen to see CoNZealand go ahead and bring Worldcon to New Zealand for the first time ever. Our Executive have discussed the situation and unanimously agreed that we are not cancelling the convention.  Please be assured that we are closely monitoring the situation and will make a further statement if the situation changes. We do note that the convention could possibly be cancelled by the New Zealand Government or the venues, but we see no sign of that happening.

Kelly Buehler, Norman Cates – CoNZealand Chairs

(3) SFWA ON UNFIT/UNREAL. SFWA has issued a statement on Facebook warning about the practices of Unreal and Unfit magazines posting lists of rejected stories and author names on Thinkerbeat (reported here in February). However, the Thinkerbeat page seems to have been taken down.  

The Board of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is issuing a warning regarding short fiction publisher Thinkerbeat, which publishes the semi-pro magazines “Unfit” and “Unreal.” The publisher publicly posts lists of rejected stories along with the author’s name and a numeric score.

This publisher’s behavior is far outside of industry standards and is contrary to the interests of writers. Humiliating writers, betraying their trust, and violating their privacy is not acceptable.

(4) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr connects with some furry history: “Unearthing a cool fossil — A 1980’s letter shows furry fandom before the net.”

…We arranged mailing to Summercat (news writer, furry historian, and curator of the Furry Library), who received four huge binders. There were copies of parts of 1980’s zines someone liked and kept. A binder of misc anime stuff, a binder of (colloquial) furry anime stuff, and a binder each that looked like a collection of work from artists Jerry Collins and Juan Alfonso. Among the photocopies, there was a hand written artifact.

(5) MY BABY, THE CAR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Gizmodo says “Supernatural Is Crossing Over With Legends of Tomorrow…via Car”. So (ignoring backstory as not essential for this), the March 24 episode of Legends of Tomorrow brings (some of) our intrepid Legends to where the Supernatural TV series is being shot, so (we) get Baby (which is, I gather, a car) from Supernatural, along with a few other elements of Supn’l (tho no characters, I gather).

So it’s not quite a crossover, depending on your definition of things.

There’s some multiverse precedent, at least from the (paper) comic book PoV, IIRC, where, pre-Crisis (on Infinite Earths), Earth-Prime was “our” universe. Per https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Earth-Prime: “where the readers lived, DC Comics operated as a publisher and all superheroes are fictional. However, Earth-Prime is shown to be an alternate reality when the Flash (Barry Allen) accidentally travels there from Earth-One.”

(I’m still just a teeny bit sad that the recent CW 5-episode crossover didn’t include a Muppets-style montage that included a few seconds also from Riverdale, the Warner Brothers cartooniverse, Nancy Drew, and Penn & Teller. Ah well.)

(6) BOSKONE ON TV. Boston’s WCVB aired a segment shot at Boskone: “The growth in popularity of science fiction literature”. GoHs Holly Black, Kim Stanley Robinson, and artist Eric Wilkerson get extended facetime, but Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari and Mark Olson are onscreen for a split second, too. Video at the link.

L to R: Mark Olson and Joe Siclari

(7) GATE SHOW. The station’s “Chronicle” also ran a video report about the Boston Fan Expo: “Going behind the scenes of the Boston Convention and Expo Center.”

(8) LIU ADAPTATION. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Last night, I saw a screening of a film entitled La Verite (The Truth), directed by Hirokazu Kore-ede and starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke. While it is not a genre film, Deneuve plays an aging actor who is appearing in a  F film entitled “Memories of My Mother,” which is based on the Ken Liu story of the same name. “Memories of My Mother” was initially published on the Daily Science Fiction web site and appears in Liu’s latest collection “The Hiden Girl and Other Stories” (Saga Press, 2020). Liu is also listed as an Associate Producer of La Verite.

A 26-minute short film based on “Memories of My Mother” and entitled Beautiful Dreamer was released in 2016, but I have not seen it.

(9) HERSTORY. CrimeReads’ Jan Eliasberg solves the case — “Dr. Lise Meitner: The Mystery of the Disappearing Physicist”. Tagline: “She split the atom and fled the Nazis. History tried to erase her.”

Otto Hahn remained in Berlin and was named interim head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute “until a loyal Nazi could be found to take over.” But Hahn was so dependent on Meitner that he continued to collaborate with her, even after she’d fled to Sweden. He met with her in secret and sent her, on postcards via courier, the results of experiments they’d designed together. It was Meitner not Hahn, who analyzed the results and recognized that they had split the atom. The notion that a nucleus can split and be transformed into another element was radical; no one had fathomed it before. Meitner provided the first understanding of how and why this had happened.

Because Meitner was Jewish, the paper Hahn published in Germany did not have her name on it. Hahn might have been motivated by the fact that, if they paper had had borne her name, it would have been discredited as “Jewish Physics,” and he certainly was aware that including a Jewish woman on the paper would cost him his career in Germany.  So, he published without Meitner, falsely claiming that the discovery was based solely on insights gleaned from his own chemical purification work, and that any insight contributed by Meitner played an insignificant role.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 12, 1999Wing Commander premiered. It was based rather loosely based on the Wing Commander series. It was directed by Chris Roberts, who created the video game series. It starred Freddie Prinze, Jr., Saffron Burrows, Jürgen Prochnow, David Suchet, and David Warner. Critical reaction to it  was overwhelmingly negative. It has an audience rating of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. It however spawned at least three sequels. You can see it here.

March 12, 2015 Terry Pratchett dies. Cat Eldridge writes –

We lost Him five years ago today and even though I knew it was coming, it still was a horrible shock. Of all the losses we’ve suffered in the genre, this one and the loss of Iain Banks are the ones I’ve felt the deepest. I’m going to offer up the toast that Hob Gadling gives in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season of Mists as an expression of my feelings:

  • To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.

To mark the occasion, Steven H Silver sent out links to his 2000 SF SIte interview with Pratchett.

In any event, the Discworld has changed over time as Pratchett honed his skills as a writer. In early books, Pratchett referred to several characters only by their title. The Archchancellor of Unseen University or the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. As time progressed, the characters acquired names and more definable personalities.

“In those days, the Archchancellor would change at least once per book. I’m a little uncertain about [whether the Patrician changed or has always been Lord Vetinari]. Sourcery actually marked the boundary line. The books before that were ‘Old Discworld’; the books after that were ‘New Discworld.” They are the same place, but written by a better writer.

“Because the early ones were written in the fantasy tradition. You populate, apart from your heroes, with rogues, beggars, vagabonds, lords, whores… you don’t think of them as characters. But I find it much more fun to bring them forward as characters.”

Pratchett’s fans are legion and they are very vocal about their favourite novels and characters. This causes slight problems since everyone tells Pratchett which characters to focus on, but the suggestions are usually contradictory. Pratchett has taken to ignoring the advice.

“The problem is that I get requests from people who want more of the witches or don’t like the witches and want more guards. You’ll get what you’re given, but everyone is cheering for the party of choice.

“I get a lot of e-mail on the subject [of combining series]. But the fact is that if you like pickles and you like chocolate, but chocolate pickles may not be a good idea. If you put them all together, its sort of like a super-hero league where Batman can only have adventures because Superman happens to be out of town. What a lot of people want is to see a face-off between Granny and the Patrician. It may happen, but I don’t want to do it just to have the fun of doing it. I almost had Vimes and Lady Sybil meeting Verence and Magrat in The Fifth Elephant, but it got edited out because I was doing it as ‘series glue’ rather than because it was necessary for the book.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough to see that much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.)
  • Born March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. He’s best-known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia. He was also the Visual Development Artist on The Little Mermaid. (Died 1957.)
  • Born March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty-year period starting in the Fifties: The Great Beast, The Magic of Aleister Crowley, The King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say, the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats  with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best-known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 87. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career. 
  • Born March 12, 1933 Myrna Fahey. Though best-known for her recurring role as Maria Crespo in Walt Disney’s Zorro, which I’ll admit is at best genre adjacent, she did have some genre roles in her brief life including playing Blaze in the Batman episodes of “True or False-Face” and “Holy Rat Race”. Her other genre appearances were only on The Time Tunnel and Adventures of Superman.
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what a role it it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2, Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alasdair Stuart has refilled from the endless banquet of popular culture: “The Full Lid for 6th March 2020”

This week’s lead story is a look at the startlingly audacious Doctor Who season finale and it’s connections to Moorcock’s The Eternal Champion, the Creative Commons Licensing movement and Wildstorm Comics. Backing that up are my adventures attempting to replicate the breakfast sandwich from Birds of Prey, with a recipe from the always excellent Binging with Babish.

In Signal Boost, we’ve got details of the Null & Void.podcast’s crowdfunding campaign, Find them on Twitter here and have a trailer. We’ve also got the amazing Premee Mohamed‘s longform debut, Julian Jarboe releasing the brilliantly titled Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel  and the magic (literally) of Sarah Gailey. It’s rounded off with a Beth Elderkin piece that’s typically eloquent, perceptive and deeply brave. 

(14) FAMILIAR PLOT. Daniel Fienberg reviews HBO’s production for The Hollywood Reporter: “‘The Plot Against America’: TV Review”.

Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America was a cautionary tale about anti-Semitism in the United States and the dangers of a cult-of-personality presidency in which a politically unseasoned celebrity favored for his “America First!” nationalism forges questionable international alliances and enables the worst instincts of his partners and supporters, setting off a wave of hate crimes further emboldened by “But the economy is booming!” platitudes.

Terrifying fantasy. Right?

So what do you do when speculative fiction no longer feels so speculative? That’s the challenge facing The Wire collaborators David Simon and Ed Burns in their HBO limited-series adaptation of The Plot Against America. Simon and Burns aren’t always able to conquer the challenges of Roth’s text — it’s a great book, if not the most fluidly transferrable story to the small screen — but they’ve certainly crafted a six-hour nightmare with an insidious creep. Some viewers are likely to complain that nothing sufficiently dramatic or awful is happening — and they’ll surely be wrong — before the series twists the narrative knife by the end.

(15) IS LESS BETTER? Sean Kelly finds some internal contradictions in the ways Star Trek’s crews amuse themselves. Thread starts here.

(16) KONG’S INSPIRATION. I didn’t know this. I’m not sure I know it now. “How King Kong came out of a real-life scrapped Komodo dragon vs. gorilla fight” at SYFY Wire.

Ever seen an actual gorilla fighting a Komodo dragon? Well, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about animal cruelty) that fight fell through back in the 1920s, as the Depression sent potential investors running for the jungle. But, hoping to get at least some traction from this defunct battle royale, the hopeful promoter of the epic showdown, Merian C. Cooper, dreamed up King Kong instead — which, thanks to Fathom Events, you’ll be able to catch on the big screen for the first time nationally in more than six decades.

(17) COBBLED TOGETHER. “Ancient rock bears isotopic fingerprints of Earth’s origins”Nature has the story.

Identifying Earth’s building blocks from terrestrial rocks is challenging because these ingredients have become mixed as the planet evolved. Evidence of an unknown building block in ancient rocks provides fresh insight.

The Earth formed from an unknown selection of meteoritic material.  New research finds that the composition of ruthenium isotopes in ancient rocks from southwest Greenland contains evidence of a previously unrecognized building block of Earth. Surprisingly, the inferred isotopic composition of ruthenium in the material does not match known meteorite compositions. The authors’ findings suggest that Earth’s volatile components, such as water and organic compounds, could have arrived during the final stages of the planet’s growth…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Hey, every now and then…]

Convention Cancellations Accelerate as Public Health Restrictions Announced

With the effects of the coronavirus outbreak expanding, and authorities all over the world responding with policies that attempt to limit large gatherings, many more sff events have cancelled or postponed. Some are shielded from contractual penalties because the actions were initiated by the government, but not all.

The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts has relented and cancelled ICFA 41, which was to be held March 18-21.

For the last two weeks, the IAFA Board has been monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation. Until yesterday, we considered it our responsibility to keep the ICFA going for the more than 400 members who were still planning to attend, and to let each individual decide for themselves the risk.

The situation has changed drastically and quickly. The WHO has ruled this an official pandemic and, well, you’ve all seen the news. We believe it would be irresponsible for us to hold the conference because travel poses a public health threat, so ICFA is cancelled. We now must enter into negotiations with the hotel to try to minimize the financial damage. At this time, our policy to credit registration forward (as opposed to refunds) has not changed, but we will give you an update when the situation becomes clearer.

Costume-Con 38 in Montreal, scheduled to start tomorrow, has been cancelled.

It is with great sadness that we are constraint to follow the Prime Minister directives to cancel any event bigger than 250 persons. It is a case of force majeure. We will keep you updated on the situation.

Zenkaikon, slated to begin March 20 in Lancaster, PA now will not take place. The decision was made in response to the state governor’s appeal: “Gov. Tom Wolf advises canceling mass gatherings in Pennsylvania, avoiding recreational activities due to coronavirus concerns” .

We know many of our prospective attendees will be disappointed by this decision. We are disappointed too. Our volunteer staff has spent thousands of hours to make this event happen, and to make it safe for our attendees. But given the current reports coming out about this virus, we agree that it is no longer safe to hold the event. We would hate to put our members, staff, exhibitors, panelists, guests, and the greater Lancaster community at risk.

Fantastika 2020, the Swecon this year, has been postponed until sometimes in the fall. Here is the Google Translate rendering of their Swedish-language announcement:

We have had a very hard time deciding whether to implement Fantastika or set it up for the coronavirus pandemic. Now the issue has been resolved by the Diesel Workshop [the convention facility] seeing us as such an event that they do not allow it. One advantage of this is that we do not have to pay for the premises and in addition, the Diesel workshop tries to find a suitable weekend with us in the committee where we can move Fantastika2020….

Planet Comicon Kansas City is postponed ‘til later this year:

Planet Comicon Kansas City is following the Emergency Order issued by the City and will be postponing PCKC 2020, scheduled for next weekend (March 20-22). The safety, security and health of our attendees, guests, exhibitors, staff and crew members will always be of the utmost importance to us. We will be shifting our efforts to our new event dates which will be in late summer or early fall of 2020 and will be announced in the coming days. For more information, click here.

Already cancelled were the Spectrum Awards Ceremony and Flesk/Spectrum appearance planned in conjunction with the KC convention.

The 2020 Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

I regret to inform you that, due to the COVID-19  virus outbreak in the country and – more recently — in New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico University will be canceling large campus events.  Unfortunately, that means postponing the 2020 Williamson Lectureship (scheduled for April 2-3, 2020) until fall 2020.

We are reaching out to our guests and guest writers to see if we can arrange a date in September.

TOOL TO HELP STAY CURRENT. The US/Canada Convention Status Sheet is an unofficial attempt to track the many dozens of events planned for the next few months.

IN CALIFORNIA. Last night, the Governor of California publicly advised against holding large gatherings (See the LA Times story, “Large gatherings should be canceled due to coronavirus outbreak, California Gov. Gavin Newsom says”.) This announcement affects conferences, concerts, sporting events, and more — but currently does not apply to schools.

… Gov. Gavin Newsom joined state health officials in recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state, escalating the effort by his administration to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus….

The advisory, which does not carry the force of law, stops short of asking Californians to change their work, travel or even some leisure habits. A document provided by the governor’s administration said the limit on large gatherings does “not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel, or shopping at a store or mall.”

Wondercon, not due to take place until April 10-12, has been postponed. Comic Con International, which runs the Anaheim, CA event, proactively decided to postpone the con even though the host city nudged them on Twitter:

It’s also been decided that Disneyland in California will close through the end of the month.

As for San Diego Comic-Con itself, scheduled for July 23-26, the SDCC Unofficial Blog says it’s still moving forward:

…So what does this mean for San Diego Comic-Con 2020? Comic-Con International stated that they “continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con slated to take place this summer; July 23-26, 2020.” That convention is more than four months out, and with the exception of E3, most events being canceled have been in March-April. Most event organizers are likely waiting to see how containment and other measures in the US work, as well as if warmer weather could potentially help combat the spread of COVID-19, before making decisions on conventions further out. But the situation continues to change at a rapid pace, so keep an eye on this space.

The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, CA has been cancelled.

We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in California and throughout the world and carefully considered our options for the 36th L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future workshops and awards celebration.
In the best interest of the winners, judges, and guests, the workshops and gala event set to take place in Hollywood, CA, on April 3rd will be postponed until later this year.
We know how important this event is for aspiring writers and illustrators and their families who come in from all over the world.

THIS WEEKEND. Yesterday’s File 770 post about conventions affected by the coronavirus outbreak noted that PopCult HQ was tracking eight events happening this weekend. Whereas yesterday six were still planned, by today all but one has been cancelled or postponed.

That one is the River Region Comic Con in Montgomery, Alabama.  

STATEMENT CONCERNING CORONAVIRUS: We have been monitoring the situation and there has been no advisement from Alabama Public Health to not have the event. At this time no cases have been reported in Alabama. If the CDC or Montgomery Public advises and does not allow us to use the building due to concerns we would then cancel. RIVER REGION COMIC CON HAS NOT BEEN CANCELLED. for more information: CLICK HERE!

TADE THOMPSON. One of the GoHs of the UK Eastercon, Tade Thompson, has withdrawn. The convention currently is still planned to start April 10 in Birmingham, UK.

CHARLES STROSS BATTENS DOWN THE HATCHES. In Scotland, Charles Stross is “self-isolating”: “Public appearances in a time of pandemic”.

This probably doesn’t need saying, but I’m cancelling/avoiding public gatherings and/or public appearances for the indefinite, but hopefully short-term, future.

As of an hour ago the Scottish government announced that we’re moving from “contain” to “delay” wrt. Covid-19—community transmission unrelated to travel or contact has been confirmed—and banning all assemblies of >500 people from Monday.

I’m personally in the high-risk category, being over 50 and with both type II diabetes and hypertension, so I’m self-isolating as of today….

TAKE CARE. Diana Glyer’s comment on Facebook seems a good note to end with:

My favorite book about contagions is Connie Willis’s brilliant Doomsday Book, There are a hundred things to love about that book, but for me, today, the big takeaway in it is this: We are limited in the things we can do to address the catastrophe itself, but there are no limits to the ways we can serve, love, help, guide, encourage, and care for one another in the midst of it. And that will make all the difference.

2020 Jack Williamson Lectureship

The 44th Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship will take place Friday, April 3, 2020 at Eastern New Mexico University with Guests of Honor James Patrick Kelly and Rebecca Roanhorse along with other writers, friends and fans from across the region. Connie Willis returns as Mistress of Ceremonies.

  • James Patrick Kelly has won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. His most recent publication is the collection, The Promise of Space, published in 2018. He writes a column on the internet for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine and recently retired from faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine where he taught for 15 years.
  • Rebecca Roanhorse is a Nebula and Hugo Award-winner and the recipient of the 2018 Astounding (Campbell) Award for Best New Writer. Her novel Trail of Lightning won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and is a Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy finalist. Her short fiction can be found in Apex Magazine, New Suns, The Mythic Dream, and various anthologies. She lives in Northern New Mexico.

The lectureship, named for the prolific sff author and academic, was established by the university when Dr. Jack Williamson retired from his position as professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University in 1977. Ever since then writers, editors, artists and other speakers have gathered at ENMU every spring to share ideas, insights and their work with students, readers, viewers, creators, collectors and fans.

The complete schedule of events will be posted soon. All events are open to the public and everything except the luncheon is free. The luncheon costs $10, payable at the door, but reservations are required by April 2. Contact [email protected] for lunch reservations.

Wandering Through the Public Domain #20

A regular exploration of public domain genre works available through Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and Librivox.

By Colleen McMahon: I swear this happens almost every time I start to write one of these entries. I open up the blank document with no idea what I’m going to write about, and decide to do just a quick roundup of some links without going into any detail about any of the authors, etc.

Then as I’m poking around looking for what I want to link to this week, something catches my eye and sends me in a completely unexpected direction.

This week it was Captain Midnight.

There were a couple of mentions of the Captain Midnight TV show in recent Pixel Scrolls. September 4 saw the anniversary of the first broadcast, and September 9 was the birthday of Richard Webb, who played the title character.

Off I went to Internet Archive, to see if there were any Captain Midnight episodes available (since a lot of lower-tier 1950s TV appears to have fallen into public domain). I found two full episodes (at least one includes the Ovaltine commercials) but I’m not linking them because they aren’t tagged as public domain. There are some Captain Midnight comic issues and old-time radio shows as well, but again, not clearly labeled as public domain.

So at this point I would normally drop the idea and do something else. But then I saw another video item intriguingly labeled “Captain Midnight HBO Broadcast Intrusion”…and the rabbit hole opened up and down I went.

Turns out that in April of 1986, in the middle of an HBO showing of The Falcon and the Snowman, the movie was interrupted for several minutes, first by a flickering screen, and then a “rainbow bar” screen overlaid with text reading “GOODEVENING HBO FROM CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT $12.95/MONTH? NO WAY! (SHOWTIME/MOVIE CHANNEL BEWARE).”

This was a now largely-forgotten protest by one John R. MacDougall, a satellite dish seller/installer in Florida who was angry about HBO’s rates for satellite subscribers. He figured out how to take over of the HBO satellite to put out his message.

It was a small gesture by a guy angry that HBO and other paid cable services had begun scrambling their satellite signals so that dish owners could no longer watch for free. The $12.99 HBO subscription price for dish users was significantly higher than the cable price. (That’s over $30/month in today’s dollars; for comparison, you can currently subscribe to HBO NOW for $14.99.) And the subscription cost was on top of the several hundred dollars you would have to pay for descrambling equipment.

While the protest was fleeting and mostly unnoticed, the response was major. MacDougall was ultimately charged and pleaded out for probation and a $5,000 fine. But new laws were passed that made satellite hijacking a federal felony, and the ATIS signal identification system was developed.

The Wikipedia entry about the incident has a lot more interesting detail about MacDougall, the event, and the aftermath. John R. MacDougall is still around and still has his Florida business; the biography page on his business website proudly claims his Captain Midnight identity.

So, how about some actual public domain material before I call it a week?

Jack Williamson (1908-2006) is another recent Pixel Scroll mention. I enjoyed the 1992 interview in the September 9 Scroll.

Several Williamson works are on Project Gutenberg:

A recent Librivox edition collects three of Williamson’s stories (see below in new Librivox releases). Other Williamson stories are included in various Short Science Fiction volumes:

There is also a standalone solo recording of Salvage in Space.

Internet Archive has plenty of Williamson stuff of uncertain copyright status. A couple of items of interest that are listed as Creative Commons but not public domain:

Recent Librivox releases:

Lady Truman received word fourteen months ago that her husband, Sir George Truman, has died in battle. Now a very eligible widow with a large estate, she has more suitors than she knows what to do with. As if that wasn’t enough, her house is now being haunted at night by the horrible and ghostly sound of a drum, apparently caused by the restless spirit of her husband. When an old man arrives who claims to be able to lay the spirit to rest, she is so desperate for relief that she determines to give him a chance. Written with wit and good humor, this play will have you laughing out loud!

Three classic SF stories by Jack Williamson: The Cosmic Express, The Pygmy Planet and Salvage in Space. All were published in Astounding Stories in the very early 1930’s. and all are fine examples of the far ranging imagination of science fiction writers of the day. 

When Earth loses contact with the colony planet Eden, an expedition is sent to find out why. Even though the planet has been determined to have no hostile properties, the second expedition is astonished to find no evidence of the colony. The colonists are spread out, naked, wandering dazed among the bushes, with no sign of any of the technology they brought from Earth.

An anthology of short, chilling stories from Algernon Blackwood. They will make you start at noises in the night and wonder about your neighbors. These stories likely stem from Blackwood’s investigations into haunted houses for the Psychical Research Society and reflect his fascination with the weird, occult and supernatural. 

Solo project by reader Kirk Ziegler, collecting 20 public domain science fiction stories. Authors include Jerome Bixby, Randall Garrett, Algis Budrys, August Derleth, Edward Bellamy and others.