Pixel Scroll 2/23/24 (This Is) A Fine Paranormal Romance

(1) PROLOGUE. Daniel Dern is champing at the bit to explain today’s Scroll title “(This Is) A Fine Paranormal Romance”.

Deets: Via the Kern & Fields song “A Fine Romance”, “…written for the musical film, Swing Time, where it was co-introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.”

Here’s that video clip:

And one of my favorite recordings by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong who have several great duets albums/CD/etc’s!

(2) GAIMAN AUCTION. Courtesy of Gary Farber, a gift link to the New York Times story “Neil Gaiman on the Collectibles He’s Auctioning”. Many pictures of comics and other art.

… Gaiman will donate part of the auction proceeds to the Hero Initiative, which is an emergency fund for comics creators, and the Authors League Fund, which benefits writers in financial hardship; he will also give living artists whose work sells part of the proceeds. The items are on display at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, and bidding starts on Friday.

More than 100 pieces are up for sale, and Gaiman pointed to some highlights….

The whole shooting match can be seen at Heritage Auctions. The card uses a piece of art by Mike Kaluta.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to snack on sushi with Ray Nayler in Episode 219 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ray Nayler

Nayler is the author of the Locus Award-winning debut novel The Mountain in the Sea, which was also a finalist for the Nebula Award and the L.A. Times Book Awards’ Ray Bradbury Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction. He began publishing speculative fiction in 2015 in Asimov’s, and since then, his stories have appeared in ClarkesworldAnalogThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ViceNightmare, and other magazines. His story “Yesterday’s Wolf” won the 2022 Clarkesworld Readers’ poll, and the same year, his story “Muallim” won the Asimov’s Readers’ Award, his story “Father”, in French translation, won the Bifrost readers’ award, and his novelette “Sarcophagus” was a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Award.

In addition to his speculative fiction, Ray has published in many other genres, from mainstream literary fiction to comics. Those have appeared in Ellery QueenCrimewaveHardboiledCemetery DanceDeathrealmQueen’s Quarterly, the Berkeley Fiction Review, and other journals. He’s also a widely published poet, with work in the Atlanta Review, the Beloit Poetry JournalWeaveJukedAble MuseSentence, and many more. He is currently Diplomatic Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at The George Washington University.

We discussed how his time living outside the U.S. helped him become a better science fiction writer, why he feels the greatest effect of having written The Mountain in the Sea was a culinary one, the reason we agree our favorite part of writing is rewriting, the sad results of his accidental Facebook experiment, whether his mammoth memory behavior is based on scientific facts or is purely speculative, why we’ll likely never be able to truly resurrect extinct species, how changes in culture can affect evolution, the train trip where he received career advice from a stranger he didn’t realize was Neil Gaiman, why we aren’t totally in control of our writing destines, how he’s haunted by the ghost of an alternate version of himself, plus much more.

(4) RADIO FREE FANDOM. Chris Barkley must feel like he’s reached the top of Mt. Olympus – he and Jason Sanford were interviewed for NPR’s “Morning Edition”. Listen here: “The Hugo Awards scandal has shaken the sci-fi community”.

And the dynamic duo were interviewed for the Retro Rockets podcast “RetroRockets With Chris Barkley & Jason Sanford”.

(5) SHOCKED THAT ‘YEET’ IS NOT IN MY ARCHAIC LANGUAGE DICTIONARY. [Item by Anne Marble.] We all need some lighter discourse. Here is a great response (from author Moniza Hossain) to another “hot take.”

The book in question “That Time I Got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion at a Werewolf” by Kimberly Lemming. She is a Black author who has been building her brand. And clearly has a great sense of humor.

She is aware of the recent posts and has a fun response here. It turns out that the “Yeet” title is actually the fault of people who criticized her for using modern language in her fantasy novels.

Another reaction:

(6) MY LITTLE PONY UNDER SUSPICION IN RUSSIA. “Moscow Police Investigated a ‘My Little Pony’ Convention for Alleged LGBTQ+ Propaganda”Them.us has the story.

This past weekend, the organizers of a My Little Pony convention in Moscow shut down the festivities early after police were called to investigate the event for alleged “LGBTQ propaganda.”

As the Associated Press reported, the organizers of Mi Amore Fest posted to the Russia social media site VK on Sunday, writing that police had received a complaint about the event promoting “non-traditional relationships and related symbols, adult content for minors, and general horror and darkness.”

Police were unable to find any confirmation of these allegations, but asked for the convention to be shut down a few hours early on Saturday, according to the post. The organizers additionally chose to end the event even earlier than the police asked, after hearing unconfirmed reports of additional officers heading to the venue, per the Associated Press. Both attendees and organizers were able to leave without incident.

My Little Pony has minimal canonical LGBTQ+ representation, but the franchise has been the subject of some scrutiny in Russia, especially in the wake of the country’s recent ruling against anti-LGBTQ+ “propaganda.” In November, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the “international public LGBT movement” is an “extremist organization,” and banned all forms of related activism (which includes displaying LGBTQ+ “paraphernalia or symbols”). Shortly after the ruling was issued, the Russian streaming service Kinopoisk changed its age rating for My Little Pony to 18+, according to Pink News. (There has been speculation that the change was due to the character Rainbow Dash, who has a rainbow-colored mane and tail. )…

(7) MORE ON MARK MERLINO. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr is “Remembering Mark Merlino (1952-2024), a founder and soul of furry fandom” with a well-researched tribute.

…After 5 decades at the heart of it all, Mark’s elder health problems led to hospitalization at the new year in 2024. He was lovingly supported by friends and partners and a crowdfund until he passed away on February 20. Anime, furry, and brony networks lit up with condolences from around the world while the name Mark Merlino trended on social media next to mainstream celebrities.

He is survived by partners including Rod, and Changa who joined them for 28 years. They were united by love and creativity, but as queer people, their relationship was fundamental to the acceptance and expression that aligns many furries with queer culture. Fandom may be a hobby, but it’s also a way to show identity, and theirs was the soul of what furries are.

Mark contributed stories to Dogpatch Press. With eyes on the future, his 2022 look at Furality featured its hugely successful 15,000 attendance. He also wrote 2020’s A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club. Then there were meetings in person….

(8) NIKLAUS WIRTH (1934-2024). The New York Times pays tribute to the creator of the Pascal programming language, who died January 1: “Niklaus Wirth, Visionary Software Architect, Dies at 89”.

…In 1970, while teaching at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, Dr. Wirth released Pascal, the programming language that powered early Apple computers and initial versions of applications like Skype and Adobe Photoshop. He also built one of the first personal computers and was instrumental in helping a Swiss start-up commercialize the mouse. (The start-up, Logitech, became one of the world’s largest makers of computer accessories.)

The Association for Computing Machinery honored Dr. Wirth in 1984 with the Turing Award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing. Other recipients have included Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Vinton G. Cerf, who wrote the code that powers communication on the internet.

For Dr. Wirth, simplicity was paramount in computing, and he created Pascal — named after Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century French mathematician and calculator inventor — as a simpler alternative to languages like BASIC, which he deemed too cumbersome.

BASIC forced programmers to “jump all over the place, writing spaghetti code,” Philippe Kahn, a former student of Dr. Wirth’s who later founded several tech companies, told the New York Times reporter Steve Lohr in an interview for his book “Go To” (2001), a history of software.

“Pascal forced people to think clearly about things and in terms of data structures,” Mr. Kahn said. He added: “Wirth’s influence is extremely deep because so many of the people who were taught in real computer science programs learned Pascal. It was the language of classical thinking in computing.”…

(9) PAMELA SALEM (1944-2024). Actress Pamela Salem, who had James Bond film and Doctor Who roles on her resume, died February 21 reports Deadline.

… She played Bond’s secretary Miss Moneypenny in Sean Connery’s 1983 film Never Say Never Again

Salem made guest appearances in Doctor Who as Professor Rachel Jensen, first appearing in 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks episodes with Sylvester McCoy’s seventh Doctor.

She reprised the character in Counter-Measures, a Big Finish audio spin-off series. The more recent story in the series, The Dalek Gambit, was released in 2020.

She also guest starred in Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures (reunited with Tom Baker) and then reprised the role of Toos in The Robots.

Other screen roles included 1978 crime film The Great Train Robbery and The West Wing, in which she featured as fictional UK prime minister Maureen Graty. ER and Blake’s 7 were also notable credits.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett Roddenberry. (Died 2008.) Majel Barrett. Number One.  Nurse Chapel. Computer. Betazoid. Widow of a Centauri emperor. 

She first appeared in the initial Trek pilot, “The Cage” as the Enterprise’s first officer. Number One, as she was called, is a title that was from there forwarded through the Trek universes, though not as their only name usually. 

Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel

Even before she was cast in this role, she was already involved with Roddenberry. So every reliable Trek source agrees that the network executives were extremely, well, pissed off that the girlfriend of a married man was cast in a series they were going to be broadcasting. So she had to go. And hence we got Spock instead.

So instead she was cast as Christine Chapel, a nurse, one assumes more to the least grumbling acceptance of the network bosses. (Though some Trek sources claimed they were still extremely annoyed at her presence in the series. Idiots.) Chapel made her first appearance the revised script of “The Naked Time.” Of the seventy-nine episodes, she would appear in twenty-five of them. I think she was in some of the films but I can’t confirm that and it’s been too long for me to remember if that’s true.

I said Computer above, and yes she provided the voice of the computer system starting off with the original series, but it continued on from there to include the computers of Next Generation and Voyagers ships, the Deep Space Nine station and the ships in these films — GenerationsFirst Contact, InsurrectionNemesis, and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, Star Trek. She also reprised her role as a shipboard computer’s voice in two episodes of the prequel series Enterprise

Then there’s Lwaxana Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed who is also, Goddess help us, the Betazoid ambassador to the Federation. I’ll admit that I never warmed to her character, but then Picard didn’t really either. Mother of Deanna (who I felt they never played right), it’s a role that just never sat right with me.

She made just six appearances here and three on Deep Space Nine.

She appeared, live or animated, in her lifetime in nearly all series that were produced.

She got cast in other Roddenberry productions, too. She appeared as Primus Dominic in Genesis II pilot; as Dr. Bradley in The Questor Tapes and as Lilith the housekeeper in the Spectre pilot. 

She also appeared in Michael Crichton’s Westworld as Miss Carrie.

Remember Earth: Final Conflict?  She played the character Dr. Julianne Belman in it. Well she stitched it together from notes that Roddenberry left after his death and she executive produced it. 

Finally in a role I thought was pitch perfect she was in the Babylon 5 “Point of No Return” as Lady Morella, the widow of the Centauri emperor and she was psychic. Her role which was used to set-up a major story line.

I could go on, but I don’t think I will. 

So what’s your favorite story about her?

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! suggests I was wrong when I assumed superhero sidekicks were independent contractors.

Tom Gauld has new cartoons.

(12) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] Today’s first round of the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions had a whole category in the Double Jeopardy round.

First, in the Jeopardy round, there was this:

1960’s Fiction, $200: The Mrs. W’s (Whatsit, Who, and Which) are guides through the universe in this Madeleine L’Engle classic

Suresh Krishnan asked: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

Then in Double Jeopardy we had Pop Culture Dragons. Introducing the category, Ken Jennings quipped, “Not like the real ones.” I’ll present the clues in the order the contestants encountered them.

$1600: In a series of books by Cressida Cowell, this son of Stoick the Vast can speak Dragons & learns to train a dragon

Triple stumper: nobody knew this was Hiccup.

$2000: A Daily Double, found by Suresh, who wagered $3000. (All his money).

Falkor the white Luck Dragon helps Atreyu in this epic fantasy film from Wolfgang Petersen

Suresh did not come up with “The Neverending Story”.

The contestants then went through every clue in every other category before coming back to this one.

$400: Stuff the Magic Dragon is the name of the mascot for the NBA team that plays home games in this city

Emily Sands said, “What is Orlando?” (The team would be the Orlando Magic.)

$800: After killing the Ender Dragon in this “blockbuster” video game, players receive a dragon egg as a trophy

Matthew Marcus: “What is Minecraft?”

$1200: Instead of a standard written clue, we saw a picture of a group of musicians standing in front of a backdrop labeled with logos, reading things like “Golden Gods”, “Fireball”, and “Hammer”. Ken read the clue: 

Where Dragons Dwell” is a swell song from this band that took its name from the Japanese word for Godzilla.

Suresh tried, “What is Gorillaz?” but this was wrong. Matthew got it right with, “What is Gojira?”

(13) WHEN ZINES WALKED THE EARTH. [Item by Daniel Dern.]  Warning: There are no sff fanzines in exhibit. “When Zines Walked the Earth” at the New York Times. “An extraordinary exhibition of dissident and countercultural takes at the Brooklyn Museum shows the power of the copy machine….”

The curators of “Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines” at the Brooklyn Museum, the art historians Branden Joseph and Drew Sawyer, define them as low-budget, limited-circulation publications (short for “magazine” or “fanzine”) that are not political pamphlets or countercultural newspapers.

The show’s territory starts in 1969, coinciding with the widening availability of photocopy machines, and runs to the present.

Daniel Dernnotes the obvious: SF fanzines clearly predate all this. Aside from the obvious — “starts in 1969” — I’m not seeing any mention of (mimeo or spirit) duplicators, enchanted or otherwise. IIRC, I was introduced to (sf) fanzines early ’60s, by a friend/fan from camp, Ed Reed.

Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines. Through March 31, Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, 718-501-6354, brooklynmuseum.org.

(14) CHINA SCHEME FOR HARASSING DISSIDENTS. “Leaked document trove shows a Chinese hacking scheme focused on harassing dissidents”NPR has the story.

A large trove of more than 500 sensitive technical documents posted online anonymously last week details one Chinese technology company’s hacking operations, target lists and marketing materials for the Chinese government.

The majority of the operations appear to be focused on surveilling and harassing dissidents who publicly criticize the Chinese government, including on global social media platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter.

Target lists reveal victims from at least 14 governments from Pakistan to Australia, as well as academic institutions, pro-democracy organizations in places like Hong Kong, as well as the military alliance NATO. The company was also bidding for work to surveil the minority Uyghur population in Xinxiang, a broader Chinese government program that major global human rights’ organizations around the world have heavily criticized. There are even pictures of custom devices used for spying, such as a recording device disguised as a power bank….

(15) BENNU BITS. “First Look at Asteroid Hints It’s a Fragment of a Lost Ocean World” says Science Alert.

NASA scientists are just getting started in their analysis of fragments brought back from the Bennu asteroid, and the early indications are that the material it contains originated from an ancient ocean world.

That assumption is based on the phosphate crust detected on the asteroid. The calcium and magnesium-rich phosphate mineral has never been seen before on meteorites – those small space rocks that make it through our atmosphere and down to Earth.

The mineral’s chemistry bears an eerie resemblance to that found in vapor shooting from beneath the icy crust of Saturn‘s moon, Enceladus….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/24 I Think There Is A World Market For About Five Pixel Scrolls

(1) INTERNATIONAL REACTION TO HUGO AWARDS CENSORSHIP REPORT. Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford’s report “The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion” (also available at Genre Grapevine and as an e-book epub file and as a PDF) has sparked the attention of mass media: .

The Guardian: “Authors ‘excluded from Hugo awards over China concerns’”. In addition to covering the report, the article includes an excellent quote from Chinese social media:

…The incident prompted discussion among the science fiction community in China. One commenter on Weibo wrote: “Diane Lacey’s courage to disclose the truth makes people feel that there is still hope in the world, and not everyone is so shameless … I can understand the concerns of the Hugo award staff, but ‘I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards.’”…

BBC Radio 4: Last night’s arts programme Front Row’s third quarter looked at the Hugo Awards debacle. “Ukraine drama A Small Stubborn Town, Emma Rice, The Hugo Awards”. Jonathan Cowie says, “It was a superficial dive. For example, it did not note that the nominating stats literally did not add up, so clear fraud, nor that Glasgow also is ignoring WSFS rules.” (Cowie adds, “Remember to skip to the programme’s final third quarter.”)

In the wake of the Hugo Awards scandal, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, culture critic and Hugo awards finalist, Han Zhang, editor-at-large at Riverhead Books, focussed on finding works in the Chinese language for translation and publication in the US, and Megan Walsh, author of The Subplot: What China is reading and why it matters, discuss the fallout and what is reveals about the popularity of Sci-Fi in China.

There’s also a paywalled article in New Scientist: “Amid (more) Hugo awards controversy, let’s remember some past greats”.

IT IS a truth universally acknowledged that all awards are total bunk except for the ones you personally have lifted into the air in triumph. That rule doesn’t hold, however, if your prize is in some way sullied later on. This, sadly, is the situation for the winners of the 2023 Hugo awards….

Slashdot has an excerpt of 404 Media’s paywalled article: “Leaked Emails Show Hugo Awards Self-Censoring To Appease China”.

And here are some highlights from the vast social media discussion.

John Scalzi: “The 2023 Hugo Fraud and Where We Go From Here” at Whatever

Cora Buhlert: “The 2023 Hugo Nomination Scandal Gets Worse”

Mary Robinette Kowal’s thread on Bluesky starts with this link.

Neil Gaiman commented on Bluesky: “I’m unsure how comfortable I would be participating if anything I was involved in was nominated for a Hugo in 2024, if there were people involved who had been part of what happened in Chengdu.”

Chuck Tingle’s thread on X.com begins, “this report of leaks regarding what actually happened at hugo awards shows a disgusting way. years of buckaroos working in and around hugo awards popularizing phrases like ‘chuck tingle made the hugos illegitimate’ when the rot was starting with them.”

Courtney Milan, on Bluesky, offers a series of short scripts for how censorship could have been deflected. The first is: “Ways to handle censorship if someone asks you on the DL to censor your award. 1. ‘No, this isn’t in our rules. Is this going to be a problem? I can let the community know that the Hugo rules aren’t going to be applied if so.’”

(2) IT ONLY GETS VERSE. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] A brilliant poem by TrishEM about the Hugo mess: “A Vanilla Villain’s Variant Villanelle” at What’s the Word Now. The first stanza is:

It’s wrong to allege we were mere censors’ tools;
If you knew all the facts, you’d condone our behavior.
I grok Chinese fans, and was their White Savior.
I maintain the Committee just followed the rules.

(3) HOW CENSORSHIP WORKS.  Ada Palmer’s post about censorship and self-censorship comes highly recommended: “Tools for Thinking About Censorship”. It begins:

“Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?”

This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks that any expressive work (a book, film, news story, blog post etc.) has been censored or suppressed by the company or group trusted with it (a publisher, a film studio, a newspaper, an awards organization etc.)

This is not a direct analysis of the current 2023 Chengdu Hugo Awards controversy. But since I am a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates, I want to put at the service of those thinking about the situation this zoomed-out portrait of a few important features of how censorship tends to work, drawn from my examination of examples from dozens of countries and over many centuries….

(4) ELIGIBILITY UPDATE FOR US NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. “US National Book Awards: Opening to Non-US Citizens”Publishing Perspectives has the story.

In recent years, as readers of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of book and publishing awards know, there have been several cases in which higher-profile book and publishing awards programs have decided to broaden their eligibility requirements for authors whose work is submitted.

Today’s (February 15) announcement from the National Book Foundation about the United States’ National Book Awards‘ change in eligibility opens the program to submissions of work by authors who are not citizens of the United States, as long as they “maintain their primary, long-term home in the United States, US territories, or Tribal lands.”

These new updated criteria will be in effect as of March 13, when submissions for the 75th National Book Awards open….

(5) WAYWARD WORMHOLE. Two workshops will be available at “The Rambo Academy Wayward Wormhole – New Mexico 2024”.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is pleased to announce the second annual Wayward Wormhole, this time in New Mexico. Join us for the short story workshop to study with Arley Sorg and Minister Faust, or the novel workshop with Donald Maass, C.C. Finlay, and Cat Rambo.

Both intensive workshops will be hosted at the Painted Pony ranch in Rodeo, New Mexico. The short story workshop runs November 4-12, 2024, and the novel workshop runs November 15 through 24, 2024.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers has been in existence for thirteen years, serving hundreds of students who have gone on to win awards, honors, and accolades, including Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. “I attended Clarion West, and have taught at multiple workshops now,” says Academy founder Cat Rambo. “While others have delivered the gold standard, I decided to stretch to the platinum level and deliver amazing workshops in equally amazing settings. Last year’s was a castle in Spain, this year a fabulous location in southwestern America. And wait till you hear what we’ve got cooked up for 2025!”

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

(6) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

The Chengdu SF Museum reopened to the public a few weeks ago, after an event a few days earlier involving Hai Ya and other authors.  The images I’ve selected here are primarily because of their potential interest to MPC types, but you can click on the following links to see the Xiaohongshu galleries these came from.

As far as I can tell, all of these photos have been taken in the past few weeks; there are none from when the Worldcon was running.

Gallery 1Gallery 2Gallery 3Gallery 4Gallery 5Gallery 6Gallery 7Gallery 8Gallery 9

(7) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 103 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Just This Guy, Y’know?”, is available for listening. John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty say:

Octothorpe 103 is here! We discuss a bunch of stuff which isn’t Hugo Award-related before moving onto the bits of the kerfuffle that we couldn’t fit into 102 and hadn’t come out when we recorded.

The words “Octothorpe 103 Hugo Regalia Shop” appear above a selection of costumes. There are small depictions of a clown, a pirate, a panda and a banana above full-length depictions of a member of the Catholic church (with Hugos on their mitre and crosier), a gangster (labelled “boss”, holding a Hugo), Zaphod Beeblebrox (holding three Hugos) and Jesus (with a crown of thorns but made with Hugos).

(8) MOURNING MUSIC. “Matthew” (at Bandcamp) is a tribute song about Matthew Pavletich by his sister, Jo Morgan. Matthew died in January. The lyrics are heart-wrenching – see them at the link.

‘Matthew’ is a touching tribute dedicated to Jo’s beloved brother who passed away after a courageous battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Tenderly capturing the power of familial love, serving as an anthem honouring all the qualities defining him.

Jo says “I wrote this song to celebrate my brother Matthew who passed away from Motor Neurone Disease in January 2024. There are so many wonderful qualities about this beautiful man and I am so blessed to have had him as my brother. He lost so much to this illness, and I want the world to know about this sweet and humble gentle man.”

Jo will be making a donation from some of the proceeds from the song to support MND NZ and animal welfare charities.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 15, 1945 Jack Dann, 79. It’s been awhile since we’ve done an Australian resident writer, so let’s do Jack Dann tonight. Yes, I know he’s American-born but he’s lived there for the past forty years and yes he’s citizen there.

In 1994 he had moved to Melbourne to join Janeen Webb, a Melbourne based academic, SF critic, and writer, whom he had met at a conference in San Francisco and who he married a year later. Thirty years later they’re still married. 

They would edit together In the Field of Fire, a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories relating to the horrors of the Vietnam War. I’m not aware who anyone else has done one on this subject, so go ahead and tell who else has. 

Jack Dann

He published his first book as an editor, Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction forty years ago, (later followed up by More Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction) and his first novel, Starhiker, several years later. 

His Dreaming Again and Dreaming down-under are excellent anthologies of Australian genre short fiction. The latter, edited with his wife, would win a Ditmar and a World Fantasy Award. Dreaming Again, again edited with his wife, also won a Ditmar. 

With Nick Gever, he won a Shirley Jackson Award for one of my favorite reads, Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense.

He’s written roughly a hundred pieces of shorter fiction.  I’ve read enough of it to say that he’s quite excellent in that length of fiction.  Recently Centipede Press released in their Masters of Science Fiction, a volume devoted to him. Thirty stories, all quite excellent.

So what is worth reading for novels beyond Starhiker which I like a lot? Well if you’ve not read it, do read The Memory Cathedral: A Secret History of Leonardo da Vinci in which de Vinci actually constructs his creations as it is indeed an amazing story. 

The Rebel: An Imagined Life of James Dean is extraordinary. All I’ll say here is Dean lived, had an amazing life and yes it’s genre. I see PS Publishing filled out the story when they gave us Promised Land.

Those are the three novels of his that I really, really like. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) EVIL GENIUS GAMES. [Item by Eric Franklin.] Morrus, the owner of ENWorld, posted an article on “The Rise And Fall Of Evil Genius Games” that may be of interest to the gaming contingent of File770’s readership: EGG has produced games for a number of licensed genre properties, including Pacific Rim, Escape from New York, and The Crow. “DriveThruRPG – Evil Genius Games”

How does a company go from over twenty core staff to just six in the space of a few weeks?

In the summer of 2023, Evil Genius Games appeared to be riding high. They’d made about half a million dollars over two Kickstarter campaigns and had raised $1M from several rich investors in the form of technology companies. The company boasted 25-30 core staff, an official tabletop role-playing game for a movie franchise called Rebel Moon was well under development, and EGG standees and window clings representing characters from the d20 Modern-inspired Everyday Heroes could be seen in game stores across America.

By the end of the year, the Rebel Moon game was dead, staff had been asked to work without pay for periods of up to three months, freelancers were struggling to get paid, people were being laid off, and the company’s tech company investors seemed to be having cold feet in the face of escalating expenditure and dwindling resources….

(12) SFF FROM LAGOS. “’Iwájú’ trailer: Disney’s enticing limited series is set in a futuristic Nigeria” says Mashable. Available February 28 on Disney+.

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos.

(13) NSFF770? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Star Zendaya walked the red carpet at the Dune Part Two premiere wearing a formfitting silver and translucent robot-inspired outfit. Friendly warning: anyone inclined to over-agitation at such a sight might want to make sure they’ve taken their heart medication before checking out the video. “Zendaya’s Robotic Outfit For The ‘Dune: Part Two’ Premiere Has To Be Seen To Be Believed” at Uproxx. Article includes a roundup of X.com posts with video.

(14) WHAT REALLY MATTERS. “This new map of the Universe suggests dark matter shaped the cosmos” at Nature. See the compilation photo at the link.

Astronomers have reconstructed nearly nine billion years of cosmic evolution by tracing the X-ray glow of distant clusters of galaxies. The analysis supports the standard model of cosmology, according to which the gravitational pull of dark matter — a still-mysterious substance — is the main factor shaping the Universe’s structure.

“We do not see any departures from the standard model of cosmology,” says Esra Bulbul, a senior member of the team and an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany. The results are described1 in a preprint posted online on 14 February.

The galactic clusters were spotted in the most detailed picture ever taken of the sky using X-rays, which was published late last month. This image revealed around 900,000 X-ray sources, from black holes to the relics of supernova explosions.

The picture was the result of the first six months of operation of eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array), one of two X-ray telescopes that were launched into space in July 2019 aboard the Russian spacecraft SRG (Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma). eROSITA scans the sky as the spacecraft spins, and collects data over wider angles than are possible for most other X-ray observatories. This enables it to slowly sweep the entire sky every six months….

(15) VALENTINE’S DAY IN THE TARDIS. How can you not click when Radio Times offers to tell about “Doctor Who’s four greatest love stories – and why they make the cut”?

The love stories definitely aren’t the main focus in Doctor Who… but they certainly don’t hurt.

From David Tennant’s Ten and Billie Piper’s Rose being ripped away from each other in Doomsday, to Matt Smith’s Eleven and Alex Kingston’s River Song finding their way back to each other through time, some of them are love stories for the ages.

Some of them, perhaps, deserved a little more time (looking at Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteen and Mandip Gill’s Yaz), and some don’t even feature the Doctor at all, with Karen Gillan’s Amy and Arthur Darvill’s Rory melting our hearts….

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

The 2023 Hugo Awards: A Report on Censorship and Exclusion

This report is being released simultaneously on File770 and Genre Grapevine and is also available to download as an e-book epub file and as a PDF.


By Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford

“You acquire information and you convey the information. That’s the job.”

++ National Public Radio News Director, Editor and Reporter Emeritus Linda Wertheimer, February 7, 2024

INTRODUCTION

By Chris M. Barkley: The earliest documentation of the phrase, “News is only the first rough draft of history,” is attributed to a 1943 New Republic book review written by Alan Barth. The phrase quickly caught on with other writers and journalists at the time and for many decades, the late Washington Post president and publisher Philip L. Graham was wrongly given credit for the phrase.

For journalists, such as myself for example, the phrase rings true on a very basic and emotional level. And while what you are about to read here will be considered shocking and a seismic event in the history of SF fandom and the World Science Fiction Society in particular, it is my hope that it is just the beginning of a greater story yet to be told.   

What my colleague and co-author Jason Sanford and I are going to outline in this lengthy report will most certainly not be the final word on the extraordinary events and actions surrounding the 2023 Hugo Awards that were adjudicated and presented by the 81st World Science Fiction Convention held in the city of Chengdu in China in October of 2023.

To understand how extraordinary these events were, I refer back to the 79th Worldcon held in Washington D.C. in December of 2021; a bid from fans based in The People’s Republic of China won the bid for the 81st Worldcon over the bid from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada by a wide margin.

This in itself was not unusual, except that there was a considerable amount of consternation on the method and accounting of the Chinese ballots. A majority of the ballots from China had email addresses and not the traditional street addresses that fans in other parts of the world usually provide.

The DisCon III committee allowed the contested votes and the Chengdu bid was declared the winner.

Almost immediately there were signs that the Chengdu convention committee may not have expected to win; the one-sheet announcement had no guests of honor, hotel information or membership rates listed. Most alarmingly, several vital convention committee spots were either vacant or non-existent. 

In the intervening twenty-one months, there were long periods of silence from the concom, which caused a great deal of concern among many SF fans and convention organizers as well. 

This period was followed up by a frenzy of activity. First came the announcement of the author Guests of Honor, the Hugo Award winning novelists ‎Liu Cixin from China and Canadian Robert J. Sawyer and Russian SF author Sergey Lukianenko.

Lukianenko, who was mostly unknown to readers and fans in the West, turned out to be an ardent supporter of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and subsequently made inflammatory comments about his support for the unprovoked war against Ukraine, which began in February of 2022.

In addition, the Chengdu Worldcon was heavily criticized because it was being held under the auspices of an authoritarian regime which regularly spied on, discriminated against or jailed political dissenters, religious minorities, writers, artists, booksellers and publishers. There were also allegations that the government was colluding with business interests to build the venue the convention would be held in. The delays in the construction of the facility moved the date of the start of the Worldcon from early August to mid-October.

But, against all odds, the Chengdu Worldcon was staged successfully and was widely acclaimed by all those who attended, including myself.

I was invited by the Worldcon Convention Committee and its hosting organization, the Chengdu Science Fiction Society as a finalist in the Best Fan Writer category. (Full Disclosure: My airfare, lodgings and meals were paid for by the convention. I gave no considerations to the Worldcon in return for my attendance).

The Science Fiction Museum turned out to be a fabulous site for the proceedings, the panels were well attended, presentation areas were spectacular and the Hugo Awards Ceremony came off without a hitch.

But, having attended thirty-one previous Worldcons, there is no such thing as a convention without some problems or complications; the main one was that I heard first hand of complaints by attendees that there were a limited number of tickets for the main events, the opening ceremonies, the Hugo Awards ceremony and closing ceremonies.

The only curious thing I noticed was that the long list of nominations and the voting results, which are usually out soon after the ceremony, were not released. In fact, that was still the case by the time I left China, which was two days later.

The final voting results were finally published on December 3, 2023, forty-six days after the end of the Chengdu Worldcon. There was no explanation for the delay.

And on January 20th, ninety-one days from the opening of the convention, the Long List of nominees was published on TheHugoAwards.org.

There was a firestorm of outrage, condemnation, speculation and rumors of malfeasance surrounding the absence of the works of novelist R.F. Kuang (Babel), screenwriter and producer Neil Gaiman (The Sandman), fan writer Paul Weimer, and Xiran Jay Zhao — who would have been an Astounding Award nominee for Best New Writer — despite having enough nominations to make the Final Ballot.

At the time of its release, no further explanation was given by the Chengdu Worldcon Convention Committee or Hugo Award Administrators, other than the works in question were ruled not eligible.

Both Jason and I have taken care to diligently gather evidence to answer the following questions:

  • Who was responsible for the “not eligible” rulings?
  • Was there evidence to support marking these particular works “not eligible”?
  • Why were these particular works chosen?
  • To what extent was the Chinese Communist Party and business interests involved?
  • What measures should be taken to ensure that the disenfranchisement of future nominees is never repeated?

This report, prepared by myself and Jason Sanford, is not meant to be the final word on what happened at this Worldcon. We are hoping that others, both here and abroad, will follow in our journalistic footsteps and come forward with more information and details about these events.

We hope that this is not the last inquiry into the curious, shocking and ultimately devastating story that we hope will bring about changes in how Worldcons are run and how the Hugo Awards are administered. We also acknowledge that this report will be quite upsetting to the fannish community but we hope that exposing the truth will also lead to the first steps in healing these social and political wounds ailing us.

As journalists, we are dedicated to be fair, accurate, and equitable in our pursuit of the truth. We are lucky that we live in an open society where inquiries like this are not only legal, but possible.

Jason, I, and other dedicated journalists like the recently retired Linda Wertheimer (whom I quoted above) know that we carry a sacred responsibility to get it right and convey it directly to you, factually and without bias.

++ Chris M. Barkley — 14 February 2024

LEAKED EMAILS AND FILES REVEAL POLITICAL CONCERNS RESULTED IN INELIGIBILITY ISSUES WITH 2023 HUGO AWARDS

By Chris M. Barkley and Jason Sanford: Emails and files released by one of the administrators of the 2023 Hugo Awards indicate that authors and works deemed “not eligible” for the awards were removed due to political considerations. In particular, administrators of the awards from the United States and Canada researched political concerns related to Hugo-eligible authors and works and discussed removing certain ones from the ballot for those reasons, revealing they were active participants in the censorship that took place.

When the Hugo Award voting and nomination statistics were released, no detailed explanation was given for why multiple authors and works were deemed “not eligible” even though they had enough nominations to make the award’s final ballot. The only official explanation came from overall Hugo Awards administrator Dave McCarty, who said “After reviewing the Constitution and the rules we must follow, the administration team determined those works/persons were not eligible.”

However, emails and files released by another member of that Hugo administration team, Diane Lacey, shows that the rules “we must follow” were in relation to Chinese laws related to content and censorship.

Lacey previously served as an administrator for the Hugo Awards in 2009, 2011, and 2016, and was the lead Hugo administrator for Chicon 7 in 2012. The 2023 Hugo Award Administration Team for the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in Chengdu were comprised of the following people according to the official Hugo Awards website: Dave McCarty, Ben Yalow, Ann Marie Rudolph, Diane Lacey, Shi Chen, Joe Yao, Tina Wang, Dongsheng Guo, and Bo Pang.

While the official Hugo Awards website doesn’t list Kat Jones as an administrator, the emails Lacey shared show Jones was involved in working on the awards. Lacey also confirmed this in an interview, as did Jones who said in an email exchange that “I did a small amount of work in the margins of the 2023 Hugo process, but was nowhere near any decisions.”

In an apology letter released to this report’s authors, Diane Lacey wrote “Let me start by saying that I am NOT making excuses, there are no adequate excuses. I am thoroughly ashamed of my part in this debacle, and I will likely never forgive myself. But the fans that have supported the Hugos, the nominees, and those that were unfairly and erroneously deemed ineligible in particular, deserve an explanation. Perhaps the only way I can even begin to ease my conscience is to provide one.”

The emails Lacey shared are extremely illuminating about the entire controversy. In an email from Dave McCarty dated June 5, 2023, he announced to the Hugo Award administration group that “This is us, the group of folks that are validating the Hugo finalists.”

None of the Chinese members of the administration team were listed as recipients in any of the emails examined for this report, only administrators who were from Western countries.

After discussing technical details of the work in the June 5th email, McCarty wrote “In addition to the regular technical review, as we are happening in China and the *laws* we operate under are different…we need to highlight anything of a sensitive political nature in the work. It’s not necessary to read everything, but if the work focuses on China, taiwan, tibet, or other topics that may be an issue *in* China…that needs to be highlighted so that we can determine if it is safe to put it on the ballot (or) if the law will require us to make an administrative decision about it.”

On June 5, Kat Jones asked McCarty for a “list or a resource you can point us to that elaborates on ‘other topics that may be an issue *in* China’?”

McCarty responded on June 5 at 7:18 pm saying “At the moment, the best guidance I have is ‘mentions of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, negatives of China’. I will try to get better guidance when I have a chance to dig into this deeper with the Chinese folks on the committee.”

On June 6, Kat Jones wrote an email to the administration group titled “Best Novel potential issues.” In the email, Jones raised concerns about the novels Babel, or the Necessity of Violence by R. F. Kuang and The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Jones wrote that Babel “has a lot about China. I haven’t read it, and am not up on Chinese politics, so cannot say whether it would be viewed as ‘negatives of China’” while adding that The Daughter of Doctor Moreau talked “about importing hacienda workers from China. I have not read the book, and do not know whether this would be considered ‘negative.’”

Babel, which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel, ended up being deemed “not eligible” for the Hugo Awards despite having 810 nominations, more than enough to make the final ballot. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau was not removed from the ballot.

When the authors of this report reached out to Kuang for comment, her publicist said by email that due to her academic schedule and writing deadlines Kuang was unavailable for an interview.

In addition to being involved in work on last year’s Hugos, Kat Jones is the current overall Hugo Awards administrator for the 2024 Worldcon in Glasgow, Scotland.

In an emailed statement in response to a request for comment, Jones said she was concerned that the “confidential Hugo Award eligibility research work product that was ‘leaked’” may be incomplete or modified, and that she was “shocked that this extremely extremely confidential material was shared in the first place.”

“In relation to my involvement with Chengdu,” she added, “as the previous Hugo administrator from Chicon8, there is a necessary handover aspect from administrator-to-administrator. Then in addition, at the request of the Chengdu team I assisted with eligibility research for some of the English language works/creators in June 2023. I performed some of the 2023 Hugo Awards eligibility research on some of the English-language potential finalists. …

“For Chengdu, I conducted the eligibility research as instructed by the 2023 Hugo Award Administrator, and asked for clarifications where instructions were not clear. I did have concerns, and I shared them with the Administrator. Those concerns you should have evidence of if you have access to all communications. I was not involved in the evaluation of the data we flagged – and you’ll note in those emails we all expressed confusion over the vague instructions and had no idea whether anything we were mentioning was an actual problem. I had serious concerns at this point about this process. I then stepped back and did no further work for the Chengdu Worldcon after the first pass of eligibility research. I only had visibility into that first step as a Hugo researcher. I did not ever and do not have visibility into why the choices that were made, were made.”

At the end of her statement, Jones said “I would not be willing to participate in any way in the administration of an award under such circumstances again.  I don’t think we, as a community, should put our Hugo Award administration teams in this kind of no-win situation. The safety, wellbeing, and freedom of our community members is a whole different kind of consideration.”

The entire statement from Jones can be downloaded here.

The American and Canadian Hugo Award administrators also examined political concerns around the finalists for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. In an email dated June 7, 2023, Lacey raised possible issues with regards to Xiran Jay Zhao, Naseem Jamnia and Sue Lynn Tan. Xiran Jay Zhao ended up being deemed “not eligible” despite being a finalist in that same category the year before. Naseem Jamnia made the final ballot while Tan appears to have not had enough nominations to make the final ballot.

The Hugo Awards category that received the most concerns in the email chain was Best Fan Writer. As Kat Jones wrote in an email dated June 7, 2023, “This category has the potential to be problematic, under the constraints you’ve listed, for most non-Chinese fan writers.” Jones then detailed items of possible concern for numerous fan writers including the two authors of this report along with Paul Weimer, Bitter Karella and several writers who subsequently did not receive enough nominations to qualify for the 2023 final ballot such as Alex Brown (a 2022 Hugo finalist in this category), Camestros Felapton (a 2018 Hugo finalist) and Alasdair Stuart (a three-time Hugo finalist).

Paul Weimer would eventually be deemed “not eligible” for the award despite meeting eligibility requirements in the constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, which lists the rules governing the Hugo Awards. Among the concerns Jones raised about Weimer’s writings were him having traveled to Tibet, him having a Twitter discussion with Jeannette Ng about Hong Kong along with mentioning Hong Kong and Tiananmen Square on that social media platform, expressing support for the Chengdu Worldcon while also sharing negatives about the Chinese government in a Patreon article, and writing a review of S.L. Huang’s The Water Outlaws where Jones said Weimer praises Huang for “tak[ing] one of the pillars of Chinese literature and reinvent[ing] it as a queer, feminist retelling of an important and nation-defining story.”

It should be noted that Mr. Weimer was nominated for the Hugo Award as fan writer on the 2020-2022 Hugo Award final ballots and last year for Best Fanzine as one of the editors of Nerds of a Feather.

In an interview on February 11, 2024, Weimer said he only found out he was declared “not eligible” for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer when the complete Hugo nomination and voting statistics were released. He confirmed he was eligible for the Best Fan Writer Award by virtue of publishing more than 60 works in various places.

“I had more ‘fan writer’ somethings than you can shake a stick at … by any definition of the word,” he said.

Weimer also confirmed that, despite the research done on him by the Hugo administrators, he has never visited Tibet. Instead, he had previously traveled to Nepal and Vietnam.

When told about the political research the Hugo administrators did on him, Weimer’s initial response was very pointed: “Well fuck,” he said, noting that he doesn’t curse that often but a precision f-bomb seemed appropriate here.

“I was afraid that in the end this was going to come down to soft or hard or some kind of censorship once things started leaking out,” Weimer said. “I mean, they came up with a dossier on all of us and went through stuff from 10 years ago? I mean, I honestly think that the Hugo committee are cowards. I would like to hope that if I was in the position of Dave McCarty and the others I’d have simply said we can’t hold the awards under these conditions and just cancel the fucking things rather than going through political dossiers. This is the worst possible outcome.”

Strangely, neither the emails nor other supporting files shared with the authors explain why the episode “The Sound of Her Wings” from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman TV series was ruled ineligible. When asked about this, Diane Lacey said she wasn’t sure who reviewed finalists for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation but it wasn’t her, Kat Jones or any other associate administrators.

At the time of publication, Gaiman has not responded to a request for an interview. A request for comment with Xiran Jay Zhao is also still pending.

The emails provided by Diane Lacey can be downloaded here.All emails examined by the authors are included in that document. Personal email addresses of the people on the Hugo Award administration team have been redacted. In addition, the name of one Hugo administrator who was cc’d on the shared emails but didn’t respond to any of the emails was redacted. Otherwise the emails haven’t been altered or edited in any way. The authors of this report initially received these emails in a printed format. Some of the emails in the combined PDF are from a scanned version of the print copies.

In addition to the emails, Lacey also shared other supporting documents, including a “validation” spreadsheet where comments were shared by the Western Hugo administrators about different Hugo finalists and potential finalists. Comments on the finalists ranged from “possible issues” to “minor possible issues” to “no issues.”

One interesting aspect of the “validation” spreadsheet is it appears to show a number of Chinese works that may have been removed from the final ballot. For example, in the Best Novel category, four Chinese novels are listed including We Live in Nanjing by Tianrui Shuofu. None of these novels made the final ballot.

In both Diane Lacey’s apology letter and an interview, she said some of these Chinese works were removed due to “collusion in a Chinese publication that had published a nominations list, a slate as it were, and so those ballots were identified and eliminated.”

However, the Hugo administrators from the United States and Canada appear to have only examined works and authors who were from the Western world and who mainly published in English. The “validation” spreadsheet shows that the Western administrators did not raise concerns about any of the Chinese authors or works on that spreadsheet, only about Western-based authors and works originally published in English.

Because of this, it is possible some of these Chinese works were removed for other reasons than slating.

While the emails from the Hugo administrators don’t reference overall Hugo Awards committee decisions or any specific orders from the Chinese government, a post reported to be from a Sichuan government website discusses work done to censor works related to last year’s Worldcon.

In the post, the Propaganda Department of the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China stated that “Three special groups reviewed the content of 1,512 works in five categories, including cultural and creative, literary, and artistic, that were shortlisted in the preliminary examination of the Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, conducting strict checks on works suspected of being related to politics and ethnicity and religion, and putting forward proposals for the disposal of 12 controversial works related to LGBT issues.”

The post was later deleted.

Because the post was deleted, it is difficult to prove its authenticity. However, the post does tie in with language from the Chengdu Worldcon’s second progress report that was shared by ErsatzCulture on X-Twitter on January 20 and by Nibedita Sen on Bluesky on January 23. That language stated “Eligible members vote according to the ‘one person, one vote’ rule to select Hugo Award works and individuals that comply with local laws and regulations.” [emphasis added]

It’s also possible self-censorship was undertaken due to fears of what might happen if certain finalists made the final ballot, or due to pressure from financial interests and businesses in China not wanting to upset a major investment opportunity. As reported by China.org.cn, “Investment deals valued at approximately $1.09 billion were signed during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) held in Chengdu.”

As Lacey said in an interview, “The things that were marked ineligible, was it local pressure from the government or was it business interests? I can’t answer that. From my knowledge, I would probably say business interests.”

In an interview conducted on February 4 in Chicago, Dave McCarty said that the Chinese government was not indirectly involved in the Hugo Awards “except insofar as the government says what the laws are in the country. … So the government of China says what’s cool in China and the people just operate inside of the bounds of what’s cool, which is exactly the same way that you and I work here.”

What McCarty appears to be referring to is self-censorship. As discussed in the academic article “The Cost of Humour: Political Satire on Social Media and Censorship in China,” there is a “red line” around certain forbidden topics in the country. Because people don’t know exactly what the red line is, and because the punishment for crossing the line can be so severe, “self-censorship is the only way to protect themselves and lower the risk.”

In recent years, this practice of self-censoring has spread to numerous Western organizations and groups that work in or have dealings with China, including Hollywood studios, technology companies, and Ivy-League schools.

Regardless of whether official government censorship took place or if it was self-censorship, what is certain is that the Hugo Award administrators from outside of China were actively involved in researching issues that enabled this censorship.

In an email dated June 7, 2023 at 6:18 PM and sent to the Western Hugo administrators, Dave McCarty said “Tomorrow I have a 4 hour meeting with my chinese counterpart to look at ballot detail and determine if any ballots are to be voided (which happens with frequency so that it’s not *really* that controversial if we determine we need to do it) as well as what things we need to move categories.” The identity of this Chinese counterpart remains unknown at this time.

McCarty then added “The chairs and the administrators will review the items we’ve highlighted in research Friday evening if we have enough time after the ballot review…otherwise we’ll be looking at it on Saturday (China time, of course, so we’re about 13 hours ahead of you).”

This statement, along with McCarty’s earlier email saying the administrators will “determine if it is safe” to put finalists on the ballot or “if the law will require us to make an administrative decision about it,” shows that the research the Western administrators did on Hugo Award finalists was used by the Chengdu convention chairs and administrators to determine who would be on the final ballot.

Lacey confirmed in an interview that this is what happened. “We were supposed to identify any issues and pass them on,” she said. “The decisions were above our heads.”

As Lacey explained in more detail in her apology letter, “We were told to vet nominees for work focusing on China, Taiwan, Tibet, or other topics that may be an issue in China and, to my shame, I did so. Understand that I signed up fully aware that there were going to be issues. I am not that naïve regarding the Chinese political system, but I wanted the Hugos to happen, and not have them completely crash and burn.”

Since the release of the Hugo Award nomination statistics on January 20, Western fandom has been outraged over what happened while multiple mainstream media outlets including The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and Esquire have covered the story. In addition, there have been unverified reports of fans in China who are also angry at having their first Worldcon tainted by this affair.

In the initial week after the release of the statistics, multiple posts by Chinese fans were translated and shared in the Western world, such as a thread of comments in a Bluesky thread shared by Angie Wang. And Zimozi Natsuco, a genre fan from China, published an essay on File770 describing shock and anger at what happened while also giving a glimpse behind the scenes at what might have gone down.

However, in recent weeks posts like these from Chinese fans have been harder to find. According to a report by Ersatz Culture on File770 released on January 27 (see item #8 at link), posts related to the Hugo Awards controversy in China began disappearing around this time.

This report’s authors attempted to reach out to Chinese genre fans for comment, but did not receive any responses in time to include in this report.

An explanation for what might be happening came from Pablo Vazquez, a traveling genre fan and co-chair of the 12th North American Science Fiction Convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Vazquez is also well known for his connections with genre fans around the world.

When Vazquez was asked if he could help connect the authors with any fans in China who might comment for this report, he said “I’m sorry. They do not want to speak to the media even anonymously.”

As Vazquez stated in a follow-up comment, “I have a lot of love for Chinese fandom and my friendships and connections there run deep. That’s a real and vibrant fandom there that is, like us, wanting very little to do with their government being involved in their fandom. They definitely don’t think it’s their government and instead think its corporate interests or, even worse, a fan/pro organization. Honestly, they seem more scared by that than anything else which saddens me to see and despite multiple attempts to get them to share their story they seem really hesitant.”

He elaborated further: “They don’t seem to fear official reprisal (the CPC seems to want to find who’s responsible for embarrassing them on the world stage actually) but rather ostracization from their community or its outright destruction. If I were to hazard a guess, the way we blew up this affair in the international media has now put this fandom in very serious trouble. Previously, it was one of the few major avenues of free speech left in China. Now, after all this, the continuation of that freedom seems highly unlikely.”

In the days following the January 20th release of the nomination Long List, several forums have been created online and all of them are calling for the Hugo Awards to be separated from the control of the sitting Worldcon and amending the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) to accomplish this.

In Dave McCarty’s February 4th interview, he said he was opposed to separating the Hugos from Worldcon, calling it “entirely wrong headed.”

“Even though I am certain that every administration decision I made was correct, I don’t think that anybody would ever give me this job again,” McCarty said in the interview. “The answers that I’ve got for the administration decisions, all I can say is again, after reviewing this Constitution and all the other rules we must follow, the administration team ruled that these works were ineligible, which absolutely, categorically is our right to do, you know, that’s right there in the WSFS Constitution.”

A full transcript of the File 770 interview with Dave McCarty can be found here.

When Paul Weimer was asked if he supported separating the Hugos from each local Worldcon, he said, “I was already moderately inclined toward that idea and now I’m more inclined. Clearly we need third-party auditing of the ballot and the whole process as a standard practice. Custom is not strong enough. Custom failed here. It wasn’t a failure in Chengdu, it was a failure here. We need guardrails of multiple types. Because otherwise people are going to stop trusting the Hugo results and that will be the death of the awards.”


OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

By Jason Sanford: In a recent article in Esquire about the Hugo Awards controversy, I talked about how the science fiction and fantasy genre saved my life. I still remember how as a kid certain SF/F novels and stories gave me an escape from horrific days while also opening my mind to new possibilities. These stories also revealed to me that other people saw the world in similar ways to myself.

All of this gave me the drive to not give up and to continue moving forward. And in a major way, I found the stories that illuminated and saved my life through the Hugo Awards. Back then I read every Hugo winner and finalist I could find. While I didn’t agree with or even like many of them, they were still the standard by which I approached the SF/F genre.

When I grew up and began writing my own SF/F stories, I realized the idealized version of the Hugos from my youth didn’t exist. The Hugo Awards, like all awards, were flawed. Some stories that deserved to be finalists never made the ballot. Other works that did likely shouldn’t have been there. And that’s before getting into the political infighting, lack of diversity, lack of inclusion, and other issues that have plagued the awards for decades.

No, the Hugo Awards aren’t perfect. However, what I still love about the Hugos is how they result from thousands of people across fandom working together to honor stories and authors. I love how readers continue to discover new authors and stories thanks to the words “Hugo Award finalist” or “Hugo Award winner.” I love seeing the excitement in an author’s face when they’re nominated for or win a Hugo.

I also respect how each problem that pops up with the awards is examined and dissected by the genre as a whole until maybe, eventually, possibly, a solution is found.

Now the Hugos are facing the biggest crisis in their history.

Make no mistake; the 2023 Hugo Awards were censored because certain authors and works were deemed to have too many political liabilities, at least from the viewpoint of the Chinese government. While it’s unclear if this was official censorship from the Chinese government or self-censorship by those afraid of offending governmental or business interests, we can now be certain that censorship indeed took place.

However, what also disturbs me is that the administrators of the Hugo Awards from the United States and Canada, countries that supposedly support and value free speech, appear to have been active participants in this censorship.

Let me say that again because there are too many people who believe all this happened solely because of the Chinese government: The administrators from the United States and Canada appear to have helped censor the Hugo Awards!

As detailed in the emails and files examined by myself and Chris Barkley, these Western administrators took it upon themselves to research political concerns about many of the finalists. I was one of those finalists they researched and let me tell you, this is the first time I’ve seen what amounts to a political dossier being created on what I’ve said and done. It’s not a good feeling.

That this happened in conjunction with the Hugo Awards sickens me even more.

I know the Hugo Award administrators from the United States and Canada were in a tough spot. They deeply cared about both Worldcon and the Hugos and wanted both to be successful. But in their attempt to do that, they took actions that go against the very heart of what the awards should represent.

This didn’t have to happen. The administrators could have refused to research the political issues around various award finalists. They could have spoken out when these issues first emerged. They could have told the entire SF/F genre what was happening before the awards were held.

Instead, the true story is only now coming out.

Ironically, while the Western Hugo administrators appear to have taken these actions in an attempt to protect both the Hugos and Worldcon, the result has been the exact opposite. This controversy has deeply hurt fandom in both the Western world and in China.

In the leadup to the Chengdu Worldcon, I wrote about speaking with many of the SF/F fans from China who went to the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago. I noted that we all love science fiction and fantasy and how, despite my disagreements with many actions of the Chinese government, I hoped the Chengdu Worldcon would help bring together our shared international fandoms.

Instead, as Chris and I documented in this report, it now appears SF/F fans in China are fearful of possible repression resulting from the Hugos controversy.

It’s my sincere hope that in the years to come we all remember that the regular SF/F fans in China didn’t want this to happen. They are as horrified as Western fans are by all of this. Instead of blaming China’s genre fans, we should work to ensure this issue with the Hugo Awards never happens again.

I want to thank Diane Lacey for providing these emails and files to Chris and myself. This is an amazing act of bravery and was undertaken because Lacey deeply cares about the Hugo Awards. I highly commend her for her work in revealing all this to the world. I also urge everyone to read her apology letter.

The SF/F genre has a lot of work in the coming months and years. We must ensure nothing like this ever happens again. The first opportunity for change will happen this year at the Worldcon in Glasgow. During the business meeting, proposals to decouple the Hugos from Worldcon will be raised and must be approved. You can read the beginning of proposals to do this in these posts by Chris Barkley and Cheryl Morgan.

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) must also start the process of incorporating so they have the actual power to deal with issues like this in the future. If we want Worldcon to exist a decade from now, the WSFS must change.

The Hugo Awards remain one of the most prominent and visible worldwide icons of the science fiction and fantasy genre. The awards must be saved. The good news is the genre has the power to do just that.


Jason Sanford is a science fiction and fantasy writer who’s also a passionate advocate for fellow authors, creators, and fans, in particular through reporting in his Genre Grapevine column. His first novel Plague Birds was a finalist for both the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.


OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

By Chris M. Barkley: When I received the documents that are included in this report on February 3rd at Capricon 44, I did not look at them immediately. In fact, I waited until I got home in Cincinnati the next evening.

I did not read that material that day because I was attending a party honoring a very ill friend, who, as it turns out, couldn’t attend because of a medical emergency. I did not want anything to detract from my enjoying the celebration.

But once I read the first two pages of the emails provided by Diane Lacey, I was stunned, anxious, confused and finally, very angry about what I was seeing. And, as I read the remaining pages, I became even more upset to the point of being violently ill.

The Chengdu Hugo Administrators compiled what a casual observer could reasonably consider to be dossiers of the works of possible nominees, including myself and my co-author, Jason Sanford.

As you can see, these lists contain what the admins thought the People’s Republic of China’s government officials and censors may consider to be politically offensive or subversive in our works, both in the recent past and up through the year of our eligibility.

After I got over my initial shock, I realized I had a dilemma; when pursuing a story, the journalists who are chronicling the events usually do not find themselves as the subject of the inquiry. But these documents, and the truth behind them, were entrusted to me. So, as far as I was concerned, there was no way I could avoid being involved.

I also realized I could not do a report on this story alone. For a brief while, I considered enlisting the help of mainstream reporters. But after reading several recent news articles about the Hugo controversy, I found that they lacked the insight about SF fandom that was needed to bring in a sense of context to what was happening.

I decided that whomever I chose I had to have an insider’s knowledge of fandom and be a very good writer in their own right as well. So, I called in my fellow nominee and professional journalist Jason Sanford.

Once he was apprised of the evidence I had in hand, he did not hesitate to jump in and provide an invaluable perspective of what we should write. In fact, Jason provided the bulk of the third person narrative of this report.    

And as we wrote, we knew that the truth we were revealing would have immediate and lasting consequences for everyone in science fiction fandom, here in North America and internationally.

I have remarked to my partner that I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe that everything that happened, from my surprise nomination last year, the offer of attending the Chengdu Worldcon, winning a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer and being personally embroiled in the controversy that followed in its wake was not fated to happen.

Everything that did happen could have been avoided if the government of China, their associated business interests and those involved in the running of the Worldcon had not tried to “do the right thing”, culturally speaking. 

By western standards, we generally believe that suppressing the truth and then covering up the attempt to do so is considered abhorrent and should be rightly condemned. But in the People’s Republic of China, and in other totalitarian nations, speaking out and having a differing opinion can lead to being ostracized by the community, imprisonment, homelessness, becoming a refugee or death.    

For decades, each individual and independent Worldcon convention committee has had complete jurisdiction and control over the administration of the Hugo Awards. And now that we have seen the disastrous results of what might happen in repressive countries like Turkey, Hungary, Russia and Uganda, which have every right to bid under the current Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, we can well imagine what would happen if they hosted a Worldcon.

And if that were to come to pass, would the members of the Worldcon be bound to nominate and vote on their ballots according to the “local laws and regulations” of an oppressive host country. Moreover, are the Hugo administrators beholden to assist them?

It is my opinion that Mr. McCarty and his fellow western based administrators felt by ingratiating themselves with the Chengdu Worldcon Committee and other Chinese administrators working with them, they could to interdict any direct actions of censorship by the Chinese Communist Party officials, members of the censorship board or the security services by researching and ruling on potential nominees themselves.

The resounding answer should be a very loud NO.

I think that people in fandom, including the Chengdu Hugo Award admins, seem to have forgotten that the Hugos are not supposed to be a popularity contest but a merits-based award that is a judgment of the year’s best works of fiction and non-fiction. As such, it is up to the fans, who I might add, paid out of their own pockets for the privilege to nominate and vote on an annual basis, who should have the final word on who is honored.,

Not the Hugo administrators, not the hosting convention committee and certainly not a group of government bureaucrats and censors with their own non-consensual political agenda. 

In his interview with me, Dave McCarty was adamant that the Hugo Awards should remain under the direct auspices of the Worldcon hosting the proceedings. But this debacle and the Hugo administrators role in interdicting the nominations of four participants who should have been included on the Final Ballot practically ensures that the next two WSFS Business Meetings will seriously consider severing this traditional and long standing relationship, and, at the very least, enact amendments that safeguard the nomination and voting process from any geo-political influences, here in North America and the rest of the world as well.

The firestorm of speculation and outrage that followed the release of the nomination Long List engendered a frenzied demand for the truth of what really happened, a furious yearning that could not and would not be denied by pronouncements of obfuscation, half truths or attempts at subterfuge.

Which brings us to Diane Lacey, who is the hero of this story.

Ms. Lacey, whom I have also known for many years through socializing and working on SF conventions, is very distraught about her role in what happened. What she feared the most was that when this story was released to the public, she would become a pariah in the fannish community.

It is my fervent contention, and I think that my colleague Jason would agree, that what Diane Lacey has done was brave, conscientious and ultimately, the right thing to do for herself and for the community at large.

The omissions of the works of R.F. Kuang, Neil Gaiman, Paul Weimer and Xiran Jay Zhao formed the outline of the puzzle that has been confounding all of us since January 20th. The emails, spreadsheets and Lacey’s personal reminiscences provided a great number of the pieces that provided most of the answers fans have been asking for, at least for now. As far as our investigation is concerned there was no reason to exclude the works of Kuang, Gaiman, Weimer or Xiran Jay Zhao, save for being viewed as being undesirable in the view of the the Hugo Award admins which had the effect of being the proxies Chinese government.

What remains unknown at this time is what was the extent of the involvement of the Chinese government or the business interests that surrounded the development of the Science Fiction Museum, if the business deals that emerged from the convention were orchestrated in conjunction with the convention organizers, a more detailed knowledge of the reaction from the SF fans in China, and whether or not there have been repercussions for them from this shameful incident.

I fully acknowledge the complete truth may never be known. But with the publication of this report, we now know more than we did on the morning of January 20, 2024.

And I can assure anyone reading this that the search for more explanations and answers will continue.

And so must the Hugo Awards.

The purpose of this report goes beyond a clarion call for truth and transparency, it is also a plea for healing and transformation.

The Hugo Awards have been in existence for seventy one years. It has strived to honor the best SF, fantasy, horror and works of related interest during those years. I consider it to be, as several astute critics have called it, “the literature of change”.

What has happened is a test of our will to ask the right questions, find the right answers, heal our wounds and be resilient in the face of adversity.

Because reacting out of fear is not the answer. Facing down that fear is…

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown, only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

-Captain James Kirk, from Star Trek, “The Corbomite Maneuver”, written by Jerry Sohl, 1966.


Chris M. Barkley has been a contributor to File 770 since 1997. He is currently a correspondent and a news editor for the daily newszine The Pixel Scroll.


This report is Dedicated to the Memory of author and former National Public Radio host Bob Edwards (1947-2024); a journalist’s journalist and the morning voice to three generations of radio listeners.

Pixel Scroll 2/2/24 Scroll Pixel Very Simple Man, With Big Warm Filey Secret Heart

(1) UNLOAD THE CANON. Rev. Tom Emanuel calls on scholars and students to “Decanonize Tolkien” at Queer and Back Again.

In the fifty years since Tolkien’s death, his work and legacy have irrevocably shaped our understanding of what fantasy even is. This Oxford don, whose seemingly anachronistic, unclassifiable, wildly popular stories of Elves, Hobbits, and magic rings were once dismissed by the self-appointed guardians of Western literature, has now become one of its canonical figures.

Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends very much on whom you ask. Speaking as a lifelong Tolkien fanatic, my answer is: a bit of both. Either way, we might as well throw in the towel on biblical scholarship as on Tolkien scholarship. Just as the Bible is an inescapable, bone-deep influence on Western culture even for those who do not accord it status as Scripture, Tolkien is an inescapable influence on modern fantasy and, by extension, the study of the fantastic. His canonical status is why we cannot yet write him off; he means too much to too many people, has exerted too great a gravitational pull upon our field of inquiry. Yet that same canonical status is also why Tolkien scholarship must explore new horizons of reception and applicability and grapple responsibly with Tolkien’s complicated legacies both literary as well as cultural, historical as well as contemporary – another feature his work shares with the Bible. In fairness to my colleagues, many exceptional scholars, both established and emerging, are actively breaking new ground in Tolkien studies. More is needed, however, and an active reconsideration of approaches which have held sway in our field for too long….

…Those of us who study the man will always find it edifying (possibly) and entertaining (most certainly) to “interpret every single note Tolkien once wrote on a napkin and subject this analysis to multiple peer review,” to quote from this forum’s prompt. If we seek to continue in a genuinely Tolkienian spirit, however, we would do well to consider more deeply and carefully the effects of Tolkien’s fiction upon his readers and the wider culture in which they are implicated.

Key to this endeavor will be loosening the grip of so-called “authorial intent” over large swaths of Tolkien fandom and scholarship….

(2) HUGO AWARDS MESS REACHES ESQUIRE. [Item by PhilRM.] A not-terrible article that just showed up in Esquire about Chengdu touches, briefly and not terribly accurately, on the Puppies, and is almost entirely about the exclusions rather than the complete lack of believability of the numbers (although Heather Rose Jones’ work gets a link), but at least it delivers a well-deserved drubbing to Dave McCarty. “Hugo Awards 2024: What Really Happened at the Sci-Fi Awards in China?”

…In 2021, the voting process to select the host city for the 2023 convention became a lightning rod for conspiracy theories. Each year, anyone who purchases a membership in the World Science Fiction Society can vote on where WorldCon will be held two years later. In 2021, voters could choose between Chengdu and Winnipeg, Canada for the 2023 convention. “There were concerns that a couple thousand people from China purchased memberships [in the World Science Fiction Society] that year to vote for Chengdu,” says Jason Sanford, a three-time Hugo finalist. “It was unusual, but it was done under the rules.”

While Sanford welcomed the participation of new Chinese fans, other people were alarmed that many of the Chinese votes for Chengdu were written in the same handwriting and posted from the same mailing address. The chair of the convention that year, Mary Robinette Kowal, says some members of the awards committee wanted to mark those votes as invalid. “But if you’re filling out a ballot in English and you don’t speak English, you hand it to a friend who does,” she says. “And the translation we’d put in could be read as ‘where are you from,’ not ‘what is your address.’”

Eventually, a few votes were invalidated by the committee, but most were allowed to stand. “China has the largest science fiction reading audience on the planet by several magnitudes, and they are extremely passionate,” Kowal says….

…When McCarty finally shared last year’s nominating statistics on his Facebook page, authors, fans, and finalists were shocked. In the history of the awards, no works had ever been deemed ineligible like this. Many people who had expected Kuang to win for Babel were now stunned to see she very well could have, and McCarty’s refusal to explain what happened made everything worse. (McCarty did not respond to interview requests for this story.)

“Fandom doesn’t like people fucking with their awards, no matter who does it or why,” says John Scalzi, a three-time Hugo Award winner who was a finalist last year in the Best Novel category: the very same category in which R.F. Kuang should have been nominated for Babel, according to the nomination count on page 20 of McCarty’s document. “The reason people are outraged right now is because they care about the award, in one fashion or another, and this lack of transparency feels like a slap,” Scalzi says….

The article ends:

At the end of my Zoom call with Sanford, I see some emotion in his face around the eyes. “When I was young, science fiction and fantasy books literally saved my life,” he says. “I looked for books that were Hugo finalists or winners, and they showed me a way forward. They showed me there are other people out there who think like me.”

Whatever happens to the Hugos moving forward, one thing is clear: No one should have the power to erase books from the reading lists of future Jason Sanfords.

Jason Sanford disavowed the last paragraph on Bluesky.

Yes, I read the Esquire article I was interviewed for about the Hugo Awards controversy. A good article overall. I liked how the transparency of the Hugos is compared to lack of the same with most literary awards. Then I read the closing paragraph. Oh gods. SMDH. Be nice & know I didn’t write that.

Editor’s Note: The article also says of McCarty, “Within the WorldCon community, he’s nicknamed the ‘Hugo Pope’ for serving on so many awards committees over the years.” It’s a nickname I haven’t heard before. And Ersatz Culture reminds me that the October 26 Scroll carried a photo of a signature book showing McCarty refers to himself as ‘Hugo Boss’.

(3) WE DON’T TALK ABOUT HUGOS. Artist Lar deSouza has done a cartoon inspired by the controversy. See it on Bluesky: “We don’t talk about Hugos….”.

(4) IN THE YEAR OF THE DRAGON, A HEADLINE. “Dungeons & Dragons Publisher Denies Selling Game To Chinese Firm: Here’s What To Know” reports Forbes.

Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division behind tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons, is denying rumors sparked by a Chinese news report that a struggling Hasbro could be selling its Dungeons & Dragons franchise to Chinese video game company Tencent….

…But in a Thursday statement to multiple outlets, including Forbes, Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division that publishes Dungeons & Dragons and games including Magic: the Gathering, denied the rumors, claiming while the company has multiple partnerships with Tencent, “we are not looking to sell our D&D [intellectual property],” and the company would not comment any further on “speculation or rumors about potential M&A or licensing deals.”…

(5) FIGHT GOES INTO THE SECOND ROUND. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] “Disney To Appeal Ron DeSantis Legal Loss As The Empire Strikes Back” reports Deadline. Of course they are. It’s The Mouse. They have far more lawyers than there are pirates in The Pirates of The Caribbean Ride at Walt Disney World. And those lawyers know more about fighting dirty than those pirates ever did. Hmmm…. Mickey with an eye patch and cutlass…

The lines at Disney World may be long, but the Mouse House isn’t standing around to let Ron DeSantis savor his win yesterday in the company’s First Amendment lawsuit against the failed presidential candidate.

Less than 24 hours after a federal judge agreed with the Florida Governor and deep-sixed Disney’s nearly year long legal action, the Bob Iger-run entertainment giant and Sunshine State mega-employer gave official notice they plan to challenge Wednesday’s dismissal.

“Notice is given that Plaintiff Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S., Inc. (“Disney”) hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit from the Order Granting Motions to Dismiss and the final judgment entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on January 31, 2024,” said outside Disney counsel Daniel Petrocelli and a small legion of lawyers in a filing this morning.

No word yet when the actual appeal will be filed, but it could be within the next week or so, I hear.

In a Florida knife fight that started with Disney’s slow but eventual opposition to the state’s parental rights bill, known by detractors AKA the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and then turned to DeSantis’ throwing overboard the long standing governance the company had over the region around Orlando’s Disney World and appointing his own Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board. As the dust-up escalated, Disney filed its suit in April, as past and now present CEO Iger and the so-called “woke” battling DeSantis, who was eyeing what became a face plant of a primary campaign, hurled missives at each other in public…

(6) URSA MAJOR. Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards, Annual Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Award, are open and will continue until February 17.

To nominate online, all people must first enroll. Go here to ENROLL FOR ONLINE NOMINATIONS or to LOGIN if you have already enrolled.

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series
Best Anthropomorphic Novel
Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
Best Anthropomorphic Non-Fiction Work
Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
Best Anthropomorphic Game
Best Anthropomorphic Website
Best Anthropomorphic Costume (Fursuit)
Best Anthropomorphic Music

(7) CALL FOR ‘WEIRD HOLLYWOOD’ SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia, Chuck Serface, and Alissa Wales are planning an issue of The Drink Tank about Weird Hollywood. “Weird,” however you define that term, can apply to Hollywood as the city itself or as the entertainment industry. The editors are interested in fiction, art, history, poetry, photography, or anything printable you want to contribute. Send submissions to Chris at [email protected] or to Chuck at [email protected]. The deadline is March 1, 2024.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 2, 1990 Sarah Gailey, 33. Sarah Gailey comes to our attention with their Best Related Work Hugo at Worldcon 75 with their Women of Harry Potter posts. Fascinating look at some other commenters mostly. Here is the “Women of Harry Potter: Ginny Weasley Is Not Impressed” post at Reactor.

Their alternate history “River of Teeth” novella, the first work in that series, was nominated for  a Hugo Award for Best Novella at Worldcon 76 and a Nebula. It’s also the first work in their American Hippo duology, the other being the novella “Taste of Marrow”. 

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, art by Will Staehle
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, art by Will Staehle

Upright Women Wanted is set in the a fantasy of a Wild West of a twenty minutes into the future dystopian hyper heterosexual America which is all I can say about giving away spoilers about it. Major trigger warnings for any conservative readers here. 

Their Magic for Liars, is quite excellent I would say. It’s a murder mystery set in school for young wizards but it’s nothing like those books.  They discuss their book here in a YouTube video.

The Echo Wife is a thriller with some very adult questions about the nature of what being human actually means. To say anymore would be spoiling it. It’s damn good. I’d say that it’s their best work to date. 

Their latest novel, Just Like Home, is not one I’ve read. Let’s just say that I don’t do serial killers and leave it at that. 

They also scripted The Vampire Slayer series on Boom! Comics from the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

They have done a double, double handful of short fiction, almost so far collected though the American Hippo collects the “River of Teeth” novella and the “Taste of Marrow” novella, and two short stories, “Worth Her Weight in Gold” and “Nine and a Half”, all part of the River of Teeth storytelling. 

Finally they have a magical, in the best way magic is, newsletter called Stone Soup. “It’s about the things we cook, the things we read, the things we write. It’s about the things we care about, together and separately; it’s about everything we add to the pot, in little bits and pieces, to make something great. It’s about community.” You can sign up for the free level, or the paid which I do and is well worth the cup of coffee a month it’ll cost you. (My Patreon fees collectively are larger than any of my streaming services by far.) Mike has from to time included material from it here. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz ponders the power of story.

(10) ARE WRITERS GETTING PAID? The Society of Authors is skeptical. According to the Guardian, “Spotify claims to have paid audiobook publishers ‘tens of millions’ in royalties”.

Spotify has said that it has paid audiobook publishers “tens of millions” since allowing users 15 hours of audiobook listening in its Premium subscription package last autumn.

The company said that the figure, reported by trade magazine the Bookseller, is “100% royalties” and that it expects to “continue growing” royalty payouts in future. It would not give a more precise amount for payouts made so far, but said that the “tens of millions” figure applies in both pounds and dollars.

However, the Society of Authors (SoA) said they “remain concerned at the lack of clarity about the deals”. The industry body said it is “still waiting to see the effect on author incomes and whether these are real additional sales or simply take market share from Amazon”….

(11) JEOPARDY! [Item by Andrew Porter.] A Tolkien category featured on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! Some contestants stumbled.

Category: Talking About Tolkien

Answer: Humphrey Carpenter’s bio of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis & like-minded friends has this title, like their literary circle.

Wrong question: What is the Oxford group?

Right question: What is the Inklings?

Answer: To his family and close friends, Tolkien was known by this name, the first “R” in his initials.

Wrong questions: What is Rael? and What is Robert?

Right question: What is Ronald?

(12) CSI SKILL TREE. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree is “Game Localization with Siyang Gao and Emily Xueni Jin”. The series examines how video games envision possible futures and build thought-provoking worlds. In this episode, the participants discuss the process of video game localization, which encompasses both translation and deeper work, even up to adapting a game’s mechanics, cultural references and allusions, and more to better resonate with players who encounter the game outside of its initial linguistic and cultural context.

Siyang Gao is a writer, translator, and video game localizer who specializes in narrative-heavy games, and Emily Xueni Jin is an essayist, researcher, and fantastic translator of science fiction who translates both from Chinese to English and the other way around. Also, here’s a YouTube playlist with all 14 of the Skill Tree episodes thus far.

(13) K5 WAS NO K9; RETIRED. The New York Times says “Goodbye for Now to the Robot That (Sort Of) Patrolled New York’s Subway”.

The New York Police Department robot sat motionless like a sad Wall-E on Friday morning, gathering dust inside an empty storefront within New York City’s busiest subway station.

No longer were its cameras scanning straphangers traversing Times Square. No longer were subway riders pressing its help button, if ever they had.

New York City has retired the robot, known as the Knightscope K5, from service inside the Times Square station. The Police Department had been forced to assign officers to chaperone the robot, which is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 400 pounds. It could not use the stairs. Some straphangers wanted to abuse it.

“The K5 Knightscope has completed its pilot in the NYC subway system,” a spokesman for the department said in an email.

On Friday, the white contraption in N.Y.P.D. livery sat amid a mountain of cardboard boxes, separated from the commuting masses by a plate-glass window. People streaming by said they had often been mystified by the robot.

“I thought it was a toy,” said Derek Dennis, 56, a signal engineer.

It was an ignominious end for an experiment that Mayor Eric Adams, a self-described tech geek, hoped would help bring safety and order to the subways, at a time when crime remained a pressing concern for many New Yorkers….

(14) TUNES INSPIRED BY LOVECRAFT STORY. Another musical discovery that might be of interest: “The Music of Erich Zann” from Half Deaf Clatch via Speak Up Recordings at Bandcamp.

‘The Music of Erich Zann’ is one of my favourite short stories by H.P Lovecraft, and I’ve been wanting to do a musical adaptation for a long while now. This EP started out as a few short atmospheric instrumentals, but very quickly turned into a full blown musical work with lots of lyrics!

The words are an abridged version of the story and detail the salient points, rather than providing a blow by blow account, if you haven’t read the actual story I highly recommend it.

I kept the instrumentation relatively simple, just an acoustic guitar, electric cello, pipe organ, percussion and atmospheric soundscapes. The majority of the sounds are made by acoustic or electro-acoustic instruments, the electric cello was played through an Orange ‘Crush’ acoustic amp and EHX Soul Food pedal, any ‘otherworldly’ effects were created with instruments put through octavers and auto filters.

In the original story Lovecraft says that Eric Zann plays a ‘viol’, it is widely accepted that he meant a viol da gamba, a Baroque era instrument which closely resembles the cello, but has five to seven strings, and frets. Since these are rare and very expensive, I obviously decided to use my electric cello for this EP, as buying a viol da gamba seemed an unnecessary extravagance.

(15) OUT OF THE JUG. The Guardian visits with “The man who owes Nintendo $14m: Gary Bowser and gaming’s most infamous piracy case”.

In April 2023, a 54-year-old programmer named Gary Bowser was released from prison having served 14 months of a 40-month sentence. Good behaviour reduced his time behind bars, but now his options are limited. For a while he was crashing on a friend’s couch in Toronto. The weekly physical therapy sessions, which he needs to ease chronic pain, were costing hundreds of dollars every week, and he didn’t have a job. And soon, he would need to start sending cheques to Nintendo. Bowser owes the makers of Super Mario $14.5m (£11.5m), and he’s probably going to spend the rest of his life paying it back….

…In the late 00s he made contact with Team Xecuter, a group that produces dongles used to bypass anti-piracy measures on Nintendo Switch and other consoles, letting them illegally download, modify and play games. While he says he was only paid a few hundred dollars a month to update their websites, Bowser says the people he worked with weren’t very social and he helped “testers” troubleshoot devices.

“I started becoming a middleman in between the people doing the development work, and the people actually owning the mod chips, playing the games,” he says. “I would get feedback from the testers, and then I would send it to the developers … I can handle people, and that’s why I ended up getting more involved.”

In September 2020, he was arrested in a sting so unusual that the US Department of Justice released a press release boasting about the indictment, in which acting assistant attorney general Brian C Rabbitt called Bowser and his co-defendants “leaders of a notorious international criminal group that reaped illegal profits for years by pirating video game technology of US companies”.

“The day that it happened, I was sleeping in my bed, it was four in the morning, I’d been drinking all night,” Bowser says. “And suddenly I wake up and see three people surrounding my bed with rifles aimed at my head … they dragged me out of the place, put me in the back of a pickup truck and drove me to the Interpol office.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George’s “Echo Pitch Meeting” invites everyone to step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Echo! Beware what you step in, though, because there are spoiler warnings.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Kathy Sullivan, Joey Eschrich, PhilRM, Jason Sanford, Robin Anne Reid, Ersatz Culture, Chuck Serface, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/24 It’s A Beautiful Day In The Pixel Scroll, A Beautiful Day For Some Pixels, Would You Be Mine?

1632 and Beyond convention logo. Red, white and blue design incorporates elements of USA flag

(1) 1632 AT FANTASCI. The first 1632Con from 1632 & Beyond will be at FantaSci in Raleigh-Durham, NC from April 19-21. Kevin Ikenberry, author of the Assiti Shards book The Crossing, is one of the con’s Special Guests. Bjorn Hasseler, Bethanne Kim, and Chuck Thompson will all be there, as will other authors from the series.

(2) A PASSENGER ABOARD SILVERBERG’S SPACESHIP. Todd Mason researches the early sff of Fred Chappell, who died early in January: “Fred Chappell’s 3 (earliest published?) short stories, in Robert Silverberg’s SPACESHIP, April 1952, April and October 1953” at Sweet Freedom.

Fred Chappell (born 28 May 1936/died 4 January 2024) and Robert Silverberg (born 15 January 1935) were teenaged fantastic-fiction fans in 1952, but were already showing some promise of the kind of writers (and editors) they would soon and continue to become…both had discovered the fiction magazines, among other reading, that would help shape a notable part of both their careers, and were involved in the (somewhat!) organized fantasy/sf/horror-fiction-fandom culture of the late ’40s and early ’50s…so much so that three issues of young New Yorker Silverberg’s fanzine (or amateur magazine meant for other fans and any other interested parties) Spaceship (first published by Silverberg in 1949) would each offer one of three vignettes from young Canton, North Carolina resident Fred Chappell, in Starship’s 4/52, 4/53 and 10/53 issues…. 

(3) IN MEMORIAM LIST. “In Memoriam: 2023”, Steven H Silver’s compilation of sff figures who died last year, has been posted at Amazing Stories.

(4) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jason Sanford’s “Genre Grapevine for January 2024” at Patreon about the Hugo controversy and other news is a free read.

… And here’s a great reason why all this drama likely happened in the first place: MONEY!

According to China.org.cn, “Investment deals valued at approximately $1.09 billion were signed during the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) held in Chengdu, Sichuan province, last week at its inaugural industrial development summit, marking significant progress in the advancement of sci-fi development in China. The deals included 21 sci-fi industry projects involving companies that produce films, parks, and immersive sci-fi experiences. Others were related to the development of melodramas, games, and the metaverse. Additionally, various service platforms for sci-fi franchise incubation projects and sci-fi cultural and creative funds will be developed.”

As Charles Stross wrote, “That’s a metric fuckton of moolah in play, and it would totally account for the fan-run convention folks being discreetly elbowed out of the way and the entire event being stage-managed as a backdrop for a major industrial event to bootstrap creative industries (film, TV, and games) in Chengdu. And—looking for the most charitable interpretation here—the hapless western WSFS people being carried along for the ride to provide a veneer of worldcon-ness to what was basically Chinese venture capital hijacking the event and then sanitizing it politically.”…

(5) OUT AT HOME. For what good it will do the Florida governor now that he’s out of the GOP primary race, The Hollywood Reporter brings this news: “Disney-DeSantis Lawsuit: Court Dismisses Free Speech Suit”.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the Walt Disney Co. against Ron DeSantis that may decide the entertainment giant’s authority to control development around its sprawling theme park.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, in an order issued on Wednesday, found Disney “lacks standing to sue the governor” and DeSantis’ handpicked board that now controls the district in which the company’s park operates. He concluded that the statute reshaping the leadership structure and granting the governor the authority to appoint every member of the tax district’s governing body is “facially constitutional” and cannot be challenged with a free speech claim….

(6) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. “’Avatar’ VFX Artists in U.S. Vote to Unionize” at The Hollywood Reporter.

U.S.-based visual effects artists who help bring James Cameron’s Avatar epics to life have voted to unionize in a National Labor Relations Board election.

Of an eligible 88 workers at Walt Disney Studios subsidiary TCF US Productions 27, Inc. who assist with productions for Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, 57 voted to join the union and 19 voted against, while two ballots were void. These workers include creatures costume leads and environment artists as well as others in the stage, environments, render, post viz, sequence, turn over and kabuki departments…

(7) WE’RE NOT KIDDING. “The Onion Union Reaches Tentative Deal With Management, Averting Strike” also at The Hollywood Reporter. Try saying “Onion Union” three times fast…

A strike has been averted at The Onion and several of its sister publications, at least for now.

Hours before their current labor agreement was set to expire, The Onion union — representing staffers at The Onion, Onion Labs, The A.V. ClubDeadspin and The Takeout — reached a tentative deal on a new contract with owners G/O Media. According to union, affiliated with the Writers Guild of America East, the new agreement “made important gains in wages and workplace protections.” No other details were immediately available.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 31, 1934 Gene DeWeese. (Died 2012.) This Scroll I’m looking at a writer this I’ve never heard of before, Gene DeWeese. He was a member of fandom, and his stories were published in fanzines such as The Chigger Patch of FandomFan-Fare and Yandro. He was a member of the Eastern Indiana Science Fiction Association and the Midwest Nomads. Fancyclopedia notes, “He tried to attend Midwestcon 4 in 1953 with his friends Bev Clark and Buck Coulson, but left when she wasn’t permitted in due to Beatley’s Hotel’s racist Jim Crow policy.”

Photo of author Gene DeWeese
Gene DeWeese

His first professional novels appeared in the Sixties, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. book co-written with Robert “Buck” Coulson under the name Thomas Stratton, The Invisibility Affair. They would do one more book in this continuity, The Mind-Twisters Affair

(I do wish that these, like so many works of that era, had become digital publications. They didn’t obviously.)

In the Seventies he and Coulson wrote under their own names two novels set in fandom, Now You See It/Him/Them… and Charles Fort Never Mentioned Wombats.

Most of us remember DeWeese for his Trek novels which is interesting as they were written later in his career. The four that are set in the original continuity were written the Eighties onward, all by him except one he wrote with Margaret Wander Bonanno and Diane Duane.  He also wrote three set in the Next Generation continuity as well.

What else did he do? There’s Dinotopia novels, something I swear exists by the dozens even if they don’t. I think. And one in the Lost in Space continuity as well. 

What’s more interesting is the series that I’ve never heard of. The Black Suits from Outer Space YA trilogy involves, well, Men (possibly) in Black, plucky teenagers, spaceships, aliens (some cute, some not) and nothing terrible challenging. Fun is the best word to describe them. 

He wrote two novels in the Birthstone Gothic series which as near as I can tell is the standard  cookie cutter gothic  mansion pulpish series with no redeeming  alue ehat-so-ever that a writer would do because, well, there’s money there. (The reviewers on Goodreads  admit that they were really, really horrible. In an entertaining way.) 

He wrote three novels in the Ravenloft continuity, a campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons. I just got the giggles, errr, laughs reading the summary of that  module, but then I never played fantasy RPGs, just SF ones like the Traveller RPG. What a fantastic RPG that was! 

There’s still a lot of other novels that I’ve not mentioned and quite a bit of short stories (none collected). 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ENDLESS TROUBLES. Artist Colleen Doran tells how the sky fell on her after she agreed to adapt Good Omens: “Great Big Good Omens Graphic Novel Update”. You think Job had it bad?

Anyway, as a long time Good Omens novel fan, you may imagine how thrilled I was to get picked to adapt the graphic novel.

 Go me!  

This is quite a task, I have to say, especially since I was originally going to just draw (and color) it, but I ended up writing the adaptation as well. Tricky to fit a 400 page novel into a 160-ish page graphic novel, especially when so much of the humor is dependent on the language, and not necessarily on the visuals.

Not complainin’, just sayin’.

Anyway, I started out the gate like a herd of turtles, because  right away I got COVID which knocked me on my butt. 

And COVID brain fog? That’s a thing. I already struggle with brain fog due to autoimmune disease, and COVID made it worse.

Not complainin’ just sayin’.

This set a few of the assignments on my plate back, which pushed starting Good Omens back. 

But hey, big fat lead time! No worries!

Then my computer crawled toward the grave….

(11) COME LIVE THAT DAY ALL OVER AGAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Groundhog Day cast members will reunite in Chicago on February 2 to celebrate the life and career of director Harold Ramis.

Cartoon image of groundhog wearing eyeglasses superimposed on old-fashioned alarm clock with two bells on top

The reunion will feature an immersive experience inspired by the 1993 film, as well as iconic costumes, props and set pieces.

The comedy’s mayor himself, Brian Doyle-Murray, will appear with a real groundhog to forecast the next six weeks of weather, just like in the movie. Groundhog Day Cast Will Officially Reunite for the First Time in Chicago (movieweb.com)

According to the release (per Harry Caray’s Tavern), nine Groundhog Day actors are expected to show up at Harry Caray’s Tavern, Navy Pier, on Friday, February 2. Unfortunately, the movie’s two leads, Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, were not listed among those expected to appear. Given Murray’s love of Chicago Cubs baseball, though, he could pop in as a surprise guest, but that’s not been confirmed. However, Stephen Tobolowsky, the actor who played the unforgettable insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson, will be in attendance.

Joining Tobolowsky is another prominent cast member, Bill Murray’s brother, Brian Doyle-Murray (the mayor who almost chokes to death). Marita Geraghty (Nancy Taylor — the woman who makes noises like a chipmunk when she gets “real excited”), Robin Duke (Doris the waitress), Ken Hudson Campbell (the hotel guest who says “ciao”), David Pasquesi (the psychiatrist who asks if Murray’s character can come back tomorrow), Peggy Roeder (Phil Connors’ piano teacher), Richard Henzel (DJ) and Don Rio McNichols (drummer) are all scheduled to show up at Harry Caray’s Tavern. And fans can check out one of Phil Connors (Murray) and Ned Ryerson’s memorable scenes (below) to whet their appetities:

And there will be a related promiotion next door:

Chef Art Smith’s Reunion, located right next door to Harry Caray’s Tavern, will be playing Groundhog Day on their monitors and treating guests to a complimentary taste of their signature Punxsutawney Punch which will be available for purchase all day. Additional offerings include a GREAT Instagrammable moment where guests can take their pic being a groundhog. Make sure you say the line “I had groundhog for lunch, tastes like chicken” to get dessert comped on the house! Click below to make a reservation.

(12) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. “NASA’s Webb Depicts Staggering Structure in 19 Nearby Spiral Galaxies – NASA Science at NASA Science.

“Webb’s new images are extraordinary,” said Janice Lee, a project scientist for strategic initiatives at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “They’re mind-blowing even for researchers who have studied these same galaxies for decades. Bubbles and filaments are resolved down to the smallest scales ever observed, and tell a story about the star formation cycle.”

… Something else that amazed astronomers? Webb’s images show large, spherical shells in the gas and dust. “These holes may have been created by one or more stars that exploded, carving out giant holes in the interstellar material,” explained Adam Leroy, a professor of astronomy at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

Now, trace the spiral arms to find extended regions of gas that appear red and orange. “These structures tend to follow the same pattern in certain parts of the galaxies,” Rosolowsky added. “We think of these like waves, and their spacing tells us a lot about how a galaxy distributes its gas and dust.” Study of these structures will provide key insights about how galaxies build, maintain, and shut off star formation….

Collage of 19 photos of spiral galaxies taken by James Webb Space Telescope

(13) DOUBLE DIP. Two new trailers for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, coming to movie theaters March 22. This is the US trailer:

This is the international trailer, which reportedly includes some different footage.

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

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.

(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 5/22/23 A Pocket Full Of Pixels, A Universe Made Of Scrolls

(1) TREK CREWS SUPPORTING STRIKE. “Star Trek Actors Join Writers On Trek-Themed Picket Lines In LA And NYC”TrekMovie.com has the story.

…The WGA West and the WGA East both called for Star Trek writers to picket on Friday at the Paramount in Hollywood and at the Manhattan headquarters of Netflix. Star Trek writers showed up at both locations, joined by actors and others who have worked on the franchise.

Strange New Worlds writer/co-executive producer (and WGA strike captain) Bill Wolkoff shared a group photo from Hollywood. Writers and actors from Star Trek: The Original SeriesThe Next GenerationDeep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, Picard, Strange New WorldsLower Decks, and Prodigy can all be seen showing their support….

…In New York, Lower Decks voice actress (and Starfleet Academy writer) Tawny Newsome shared photos that included actors Anthony Rapp (Discovery) and Celia Rose Gooding & Jess Bush (Strange New Worlds)….

… TNG actress Denise Crosby met up with Picard showrunner Terry Matalas.

(2) WHEATON KERFUFFLE. Meanwhile, Wil Wheaton launched his own front by criticizing a Jeopardy! host. Comic Sands has the story: “Wil Wheaton Slams Ken Jennings For Crossing WGA Picket Line”.

Wheaton wrote on Facebook:

“This is a VERY small town, Ken Jennings, and we will all remember this. Your privilege may protect you right now, but we will *never* forget.”

The post has since blown up on social media, so Wheaton added some more information in an edit:

“This is getting more attention than I expected or wanted, and I don’t want this to be about me being disappointed by a choice Ken Jennings made.”

“I want attention and energy focused on supporting the writers who are fighting for their professional existence, opposed by billionaires who are keen to ruin my entire industry.”

This afternoon Wheaton told Facebook followers that The National Enquirer was trying to milk the story even more.

Hey, isn’t this neat? The National Enquirer asked me to comment on a story they are running, claiming I “publicly threatened” Ken Jennings.

Here’s what they sent:

To Whom It May Concern:

The National Enquirer is preparing to publish a story reporting Wil Wheaton has publicly threatened Jeopardy host Ken Jennings for crossing the writer’s picket line.

The story quotes Mr. Wheaton’s Facebook message which stated, “This is a VERY small town, Ken Jennings, and we will all remember this.”

It also points out that Mr. Wheaton is close friends with Mr. Jennings’ competition for permanent hosting duties on Jeopardy — Mayim Bialik.

Here is my entire response, in the *cough* unlikely event *cough* they edit it for space or somesuch:

Your clumsy efforts to misrepresent me, to mislead your readers, to distract from the issues underlying the strike, have not gone unnoticed. But since you asked, let me be clear: I didn’t threaten anybody. That’s laughable. I’ve been threatened. It sounds like, “be careful on your way home tonight.” It doesn’t sound like “I will remember that you betrayed us when it was convenient, and other people will, too.”

I support organized labor without exception and will never cross a picket line. I stood (and stand) with and for my fellow union members. Hollywood is a notoriously dishonest industry that runs on relationships and trust. We tell stories and make stuff up for a living! We need to know who we can trust and who we can’t; who stands with us, and who will sell us out. It’s not a threat; it’s a fact.

You would do well to inform your readers that regulatory capture, the monopolization of entertainment companies, and the incomprehensible greed of a handful of billionaires threaten my entire industry and countless people I love. WGA (and possibly my union, SAG-AFTRA) members are fighting for our careers, our families, our healthcare and the future of our industry. The billionaires across the table are fighting for bigger yachts.

I’m deeply disappointed with Ken. I think he’s a great host, an obviously sensational player, and the couple times I’ve met him, I’ve enjoyed our conversations. The fact is, he has an enormously high profile, and his choices affect the writers of his show and the entire WGA in a meaningful way that people pay attention to. He is certainly more influential, and can have a more direct impact, than me. I hoped he would use that privilege to put the needs of the many ahead of the greed of the few. He didn’t, and speaking only for myself, I will remember that. That isn’t a threat; it’s keeping a promise to my fellow workers, and honoring the sacrifices of all who came and fought before us.

Wheaton added a little snark in the comments.

(3) THE NUMBER OF YOUR DOOM. In “The Annals of Not So Terrible Fates”, Camestros Felapton has devised a foolproof table that you can use to foretell your terrible ending.

A doom awaits you! To learn your fortune you must meddle with the dark forces of pseudonumerology…

Here is my result:

15. Overtaken by Artificial Intelligence
A self-driving care overtakes you on the road in a way that you find disrespectful.

I suppose it’s completely in character that my fate contains a typo.

(4) THEY’RE HERE! [Item by Steven French.] Excellent list by Nina Allan, author of Conquest: “Top 10 strangest alien invasion novels” in the Guardian. At number nine:

9. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
With its jump cuts and tessellations, Okorafor’s playful, almost filmic account of an alien expedition to the city of Lagos feels unlike any alien invasion story you might have read before. Science fiction cohabits with fantasy to produce a vigorous, gorgeous mutation teeming with deft postmodernist touches: chapters told from non-human points of view, snapshots of reportage, moments when Okorafor breaks the fourth wall to ask how readers might have reacted had they been there. A joyously experimental text, Lagoon shimmers with the delirium and chaos that might be expected from an alien visit.

(5) GRAPES OF WRATH. Jason Sanford devoted a Genre Grapevine to “the Sudowrite Controversy and the Increasing Pushback Against AI”, a free post on Patreon. It includes a brief interview with Amit Gupta, Co-Founder of Sudowrite.

…On May 17, Gupta’s fellow Sudowrite co-founder James Yu announced the launch of Story Engine. As Yu wrote on Twitter, “Our awesome team worked with hundreds of novelists for months to build the ideal interface for writers and machines to collaborate on a narrative. … Story Engine is the first serious tool for long-form AI writing.”

In the video attached to the announcement, Yu said Story Engine would allow authors to “write an entire novel in just a few days.”

As Yu noted, previous AI writing models had difficulty staying on track with a story “for more than a few paragraphs,” meaning most “AI products were optimized for short generations.” Story Engine evidently fixes this by allowing people to provide the system with character information, overall plot points, themes, and more data tailored for longer-form stories. This helps the AI remain focused on generating a story that would, in Yu’s words, stay true to the “author’s vision.”

And the reaction from the writing community to this development? Perhaps this headline in Gizmodo best sums that up: “Sudowrite Launches Novel-Writing AI Software for Pseudo-Writers.

To say that Yu’s announcement was ratioed hard is an understatement, with his tweet receiving by May 21 over 8.2 million views but only 182 regular retweets and 963 likes. Instead, there were over 4,500 quote retweets where people generally ripped into the announcement….

(6) TODAY’S 10,000. Horror movies were banned in Australia for two decades? News to me! Daniel Best tells that history in “Charles Higham and the Fate of the 1965 Bulletin Ban List”.

Horror movies were formally banned in Australia in mid-1948. This ban wasn’t announced with any great fanfare, rather it was a subdued series of articles in newspapers and tabloid magazines that stated the premise of the ban – all horror films from 1949 onwards would be subject to an instant ban, with no exceptions. Films already in the country, which had been passed by the censor and dated pre-1948, would be exempt from the ban. Thus the status quo was established, and it remained this way for over twenty years.

(7) MARTIN AMIS (1949-2023). Martin Amis died May 19 at the age of 73. His genre-related contributions include Time’s Arrow (1991), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. As described in the Wikipedia —

Notable for its backwards narrative – including dialogue in reverse – the novel is the autobiography of a Nazi concentration camp doctor. The reversal of the arrow of time in the novel, a technique borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut‘s Slaughterhouse 5 (1969) and Philip K. Dick‘s Counter-Clock World (1967), is a narrative style that itself functions in Amis’s hands as commentary on the Nazis’ rationalisation of death and destruction as forces of creation with the resurrection of Nordic mythology in the service of German nation-building

According to ISFDB he wrote a fair amount of short sff, featured in two collections, Einstein’s Monsters and Heavy Water and Other Stories.

He was the son of author Kingsley Amis.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2013[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Rebecca Campbell was not an author I was aware of before Mike picked her this afternoon for the Beginning. It turned that she is a quite fascinating person who, as she says on her most excellent site, writes “weird stories about climate change and ghosts, mostly, though aliens and parasites sometimes show up, too, and I will always love archives and libraries”. 

NeWest Press published her The Paradise Engine a decade ago. It’s her only novel to date according to ISFDB, though she has written some novellas and a generous amount of short fiction. Our Beginning is from The Paradise Engine

And for her Beginning…

A Ghost Story

The first ghost appeared at the end of August, when Jasmine had already been gone for months. That was too bad because she was the only person Anthea knew who would recognize a ghost when she saw one, or know what to do about it.

Anthea didn’t know a ghost when she saw one, though she was the one haunted. She also didn’t know what had happened to Jasmine, but whatever it was, it was probably over. She knew only this: Jasmine was last seen just northwest of the city, on a highway that curled uphill along the coast and the mountains. She was last seen early in June, in the company of a bearded Caucasian male apprx. 30 yrs of age, who carried an army surplus backpack and was otherwise without distinguishing characteristics. Anthea could determine, then, that Jasmine was last seen facing southeast, hitching northwest along a highway that grew pineapple weed on its shoulders. Pineapple weed smelled like chamomile tea when it bruised, as it would do under Jas’s runners when she stood for long stretches, one thin arm reaching out into the traffic and the other propped on her hip. Given how hot June had been, Anthea also knew Jasmine was kneecapped by heat waves that rose from the highway, so she seemed to float above the asphalt. To the drivers who did not pick them up, they might have been a mirage, or ghosts from the early ’70s.

Jasmine would have enjoyed being mistaken for a ghost, especially one that smelled of chamomile. She and the man walked northwest all day. Sometimes where the shoulder was narrow, she slithered halfway down the ditch and he’d turn around to help her to her feet. They were still walking when the sky turned purple and rusty orange over the mountains. Jas’s arms crossed over her chest. She shivered with dehydration and the sun-ache in her temples, the tight wrinkle of a burn on her nose and forehead. After that night no one saw anything, and so Anthea is unable to determine how much longer they walked north and west. This little film plays out in her head sometimes, unresolved.

That was months before the haunting, though, which had its start very early on a Sunday morning at the end of August. Anthea was asleep when it began, and she mistook the first visitation for a dream. In the dream a dark-haired man told her something very important she should not forget in a voice that had the texture of a shellac 78 on an old turntable. She listened politely to the man for a long time, unable to grasp his words though she felt their urgency. Just as she began to understand what the man wanted her to know, the squirrels in the attic started fighting, as they often did in the early morning. Half-awake and still listening to the distorted voice in her dream, she sat up and hit the angled wall above her head, and then stood and thumped the ceiling with the heel of her hand.

By the time Anthea was fully awake—still hitting the plaster, the squirrels still fighting overhead—the phone was ringing and she forgot even that she should not forget the antiqued voice of her dream, and so the second supernatural event of Anthea’s life passed her without remark. She picked up the phone beside the bed, but no one was there.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 22, 1859 Arthur Conan Doyle. I read the Holmes stories a long time ago. My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles as it allows him to develop a story at length. Favorite video Holmes? Jeremy Brett.  Looking at ISFDB, I’m see there were more Professor Challenger novels than I realized. And the Brigadier Gerard stories sound suspiciously comical… (Died 1930.)
  • Born May 22, 1900 Wallace West. His first two short stories were “Loup-Garou” in Weird Tales, October 1927 and “The Last Man” in Amazing, February 1929. He published continuously through the Sixties though only averaged a story a year. Interestingly his first two novels were about Betty Boop in the Big Little Books format: Betty Boop in Snow-White: Assisted by Bimbo and Ko-Ko and Betty Boop in “Miss Gulliver’s Travels”.  He wrote four genre novels, only a few of which are available from the usual suspects. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 22, 1901 Ed Earl Repp. His stories appeared in several of the early pulp magazines including Air Wonder StoriesAmazing Stories and Science Wonder Stories. Some were collected in The Radium Pool (just three stories), The Stellar Missiles (another three stories) and Science-Fantasy Quintette (five this time with two by L. Ron Hubbard). He also had one SF novel written in 1941, Rescue from Venus. He turned to writing scripts for Westerns and never wrote any fiction thereafter. (Died 1979.)
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.)
  • Born May 22, 1914 Sun Ra. As SFE says he “played and released a large quantity of music, mostly in the postwar period, all of it inflected by his fascination with outer space, Alien encounter, Ancient Egypt (whose Sun god inspired his working name) and Atlantis.” It’s well worth reading the fascinating SFE entry on him. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 22, 1964 Kat Richardson, 59. Her Greywalker series is one of those affairs that I’m pleased to say that I’ve read every novel that was been published. I’ve not read Blood Orbit, the first in her new series, yet. Has anyone here done so? Her Blood Orbit novel won an Endeavour Award which is given for a science fiction or fantasy book written by a Pacific Northwest author and is given by a panel of judges chartered by Oregon Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. 
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 55. She’s a Barbadian writer. Her debut novel, Redemption in Indigo, retells the story “Ansige Karamba the Glutton” from Senegalese folklore; The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game are genre novels as is her edited New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows the moment of surprise in an alien robbery.
  • Macanudo has an equation that yields horror.  
  • Thatababy finds out what happens to a superhero who signs too many checks.

(11) SOMETHING FOR WAR GAMERS AND AUTHORS OF MILITARY SF. [Item by Francis Hamit.] We have the smartest military in the world.  Seriously.  You can’t attain flag rank now without a PhD or three Masters degrees.  This article is a very thoughtful analysis of urban combat and why it matters. “Decided among the Cities: The Past, Present, and Future of War in Urban Environments” at Army University Press.

Cities not only possess cultural and psychological value for combatants, but they are also sociologically and geographically anchored to multiple aspects of military key terrain. Cities sit astride, near, or encompass major ground routes (road and rail), major water crossings such as large bridges, and logistical and power projection hubs for sea and air. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine provides an immediate example of the importance of cities themselves and what cities contain. Moreover, the importance of cities is apparent with a study of history. However, even with history and current events, there is faint acknowledgement of the importance of the urban fight in military theory, and it has limited coverage in U.S. Army doctrine. When acknowledged, urban operations are largely discussed in commentary on their inherent difficulty, the natural aversion to costly fighting characteristic of urban combat, and with the recommendation to bypass or avoid city fights altogether. However, as history and recent examples in Ukraine demonstrate, conflicts often are decided among the cities. The physical and infrastructure characteristics of cities naturally and geographically can make control of them critical for victorious military campaigns. The one who can seize and hold the city controls, or just denies, crucial capabilities to military operations…

(12) 3 MOVIE ALERTS: THESE STREAMS YOU MIGHT WANT TO CROSS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Within the past month or so I’ve finally been able to see a few films that had been on my “watch at home when they’re available at no additional cost” (as in, on streaming services I subscribe to, or as DVD/BluRay loans through the local library): Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, and Peter Pan & Wendy.

The first two I’m going to say close to zero about other than “now available this way” (nor should I need to say more):

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Paramount Plus).

Lots of fun! It’s got dungeons! It’s got dragons! (But no dice or dice-rolling)

It’s nice to see a fantasy flick that doesn’t require backstory, doesn’t involve an orphaned/prophesied/etc. protagonist, is done-in-one (in terms of wrapping up the plot), and is focusing on a less-than-the-fate-of-everything plot.

One perhaps helpful note: If, like me, you’re on P+’s cheaper with-commercials tier, you’ll be happy to know they sensibly frontloaded a handful of commercials up front, and did not interrupt the movie (and included a note that they were doing it, just before the actual commercials).

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Display+)

While clearly part of the Marvel movie universe too-many-moving parts flow chart/timeline, this movie doesn’t require you to know much. Having seen the two previous Ant-Man movies can’t hurt; beyond that, knowing about the Thanos “snap” (from the past two Avengers flicks) resulted in many characters (including Scot Lang/Ant-Man) missing five years of normal timeline.

Another nice aspect in Q-mania is that, by taking place mainly in the Quantum Realm, that solves the super-hero universe conundrum, e.g., “so where are all the other (Marvel) heroes when all heck is breaking loose?” Answer, in this case: not in Quantumville.

Recommended.

Peter Pan & Wendy (Disney+)

I’m not a fan of the original book — as I discovered some years back while volunteer-literacy-tutoring. The first 20-30 pages are treacly enough to rot out even the toughest teeth — for no clear-to-me reason I watch many of the films — perhaps Robin Williams and the rest of the superb cast of Hook (I’ve still got the DVD, and, I think, also the laserdisk) deserve credit for that (and have read many of the post-Barrie books).

PP&W is based on the original book/movie/story-that-we-know, with a fair amount of edits, deletions and additions, all of which I heartily applaud. Princess T Lily (played by Alyssa Wapanatâh, who is, per IMDB, a member of the Bigstone Cree First Nation). The Lost Boys, while retaining their group’s name, include girls. And there’s more backstory connecting Peter and Hook. (Not all watchers/reviewers felt positive about this, e.g., this ComicsBookReview one.)

To be fair, I don’t recall thinking much of the 2015 Pan; (starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, FYI) was the one where the big rocky scene had pirates and singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (here’s the video excerpt, in case you doubted my memory).

Same memory says I liked the 2003 Peter Pan…probably one reason it didn’t do well at the box office was that some other pirate movie debuted around the same time, starring that guy who played Edward Scissorhands, which grabbed more attention.

Now, back to waiting for the The Flash movie.

(13) MASSED MINDS PRODUCTION. Can someone be an AI writing addict? “Sci-fi author ‘writes’ 97 AI-generated books in nine months” reports The Register.

Sci-fi author Tim Boucher has produced over 90 books in nine months, using ChatGPT and the Claude AI assistant.

Boucher, an AI artist and writer, claims to have made nearly $2,000 selling 574 copies of the 97 works.

Each book in his “AI Lore” series is between 2,000 to 5,000 words long – closer to an essay than a novel. They are interspersed with around 40 to 140 pictures, and take roughly six to eight hours to complete, he told Newsweek

Boucher’s superhuman output is down to the use of AI software. He uses Midjourney to create the images, and OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Anthropic’s Claude to generate text to brainstorm ideas and write stories…. 

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It was Sci-Fi Sunday over at Isaac Arthur’s Futures and this month’s topic Co-existence with Aliens. He opines, “One day we may encounter intelligent aliens, but can we ever hope to understand their psychology and coexist with them if we do?”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/14/23 File 770 Posting Moved Because Pixel Scroll Collapsed From Comments Bug

(1) AFROPANTHEOLOGY. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki today announced his new imprint, genre, and debut collection with Joshua Uchenna Omenga — Between Dystopias: The Road to Afropantheology. The book’s release date is October 24, 2023 and it can be preordered at Arc Manor Books. The cover is by Cyrielle Prückner.

Afropantheology is a portmanteau of Afro and Pantheology. Pantheology is the study of gods, religions, and the bodies of knowledge associated with them. Afropantheology, thus, is the study of African (and African-descended) religions, gods, and the bodies of knowledge associated with them. It captures the gamut of African works which, though having fantasy elements, are additionally imbued with the African spiritual realities.

​African literary scholars and storytellers have long grappled with the incompatibility of stories of African mysticism with the extant literary labels which seem to erase or dismiss essential aspects of African mysticism in their definitions. Between Dystopias: The Road to Afropantheology takes a stab at this age-old problem that cuts across the continent’s non-monolithic literature rooted in religion and culture. Afropantheology encapsulates the essence and value of African mysticism and dystopia through its award winning and original stories that cut across forms—essays, short stories, novelettes and novellas. It acknowledges the continent’s history in its inexorable journey through time’s spiral, from its origins to the present and into the future. ‘Mother’s Love, Father’s Place’, captures a ‘dark’ moment in the history of certain parts of Africa where the culture forbade the birthing of twins. 02 Arena, on the hand, is a contemporary ‘dystopic’ reality. The Witching Hour reflects the apprentice system in the voodoo practice still extant in many parts of Africa. ‘The Deification of Igodo’ is a tale of creation of deities from among the ancestors in African cosmology. ‘A Dance with the Ancestors’ tells of the interconnection between the world of the living and the world of the dead. And ‘Land of the Awaiting Birth’ is a mystic tale of the link between the born and the unborn in African cosmology.

Ekpeki says the collection will be published by a collaboration of Caezik Books of ARC Manor Books his new Pantheology imprint, “OD Ekpeki Presents”. The imprint logo is by Wilson Ofiavwe.

(2) CONAN BCE (BEFORE COPYRIGHT ERA) AND AFTER. Chuck Dixon’s The Siege Of The Black Citadel is an unauthorized Conan graphic novel published in February by Vox Day’s Castalia House. The original stories published during Robert E. Howard’s lifetime are in public domain in Europe, and Vox Day expressed confidence he will not run afoul of the rights connected with the work of L. Sprague de Camp and others.

This is going to be considered competition with the new authorized Conan novel recently released by Titan Books, S. M. Stirling’s Conan – Blood of the Serpent: The All-New Chronicles of the Worlds Greatest Barbarian Hero, although one reviewer calls it “a 304-page prologue to Robert E. Howard’s Red Nails” which is included in this very volume (rounding out the total page count to 417).

(3) MAGAZINES AND AMAZON. “Genre Grapevine Special Report: Amazon’s Ending of Kindle Newsstand Could Severely Impact SF/F Magazines” is a public post by Jason Sanford on Patreon. He says, “This is a major issue of SF/F magazines in the coming year or two.”

…The reason for the alarm is that over the last decade, Kindle subscriptions have become a significant part of the overall circulation for a large number of science fiction and fantasy magazines. Essentially, people like the convenience and ease of buying and reading e-books and expect the same from their magazine subscriptions.

By ending the Kindle Newsstand program, Amazon would no longer allow people on their platform to subscribe directly to magazines. Instead, Amazon announced it would allow certain magazines to remain on the platform through their Kindle Unlimited program.

As Rajiv Moté said, this means Amazon would be “moving e-magazines to a Spotify model, just like music. You pay the sales platform, not the producers.”…

(4) 2022 ENDEAVOUR AWARD OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. The Endeavour Award for science fiction or fantasy is now open for 2022 submissions.

Since 1999, The Endeavour Award has recognized science fiction or fantasy works of 40,000 words or more, or single-author collections of short fiction. The author(s) must have been living [maintaining legal or physical residence] in the Pacific Northwest [Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, The Yukon, and British Columbia] when the publisher accepted the book, and must affirm that they wrote the majority of the book while living in the Pacific Northwest. The books must have been published in the United States or in Canada with a copyright date in 2022.

In addition to recognition and a handsome physical award, the winner also receives a cash prize of $1,000.

We require submitted books in electronic form (5 copies if they are copy protected), which will be shared with our preliminary readers. We can also accept NetGalley links. No physical copies will be accepted.

The entry form can be downloaded here: https://osfci.org/endeavour/entryform.pdf.

The preliminary readers will use a grading system to select a list of finalists. A trio of judges to be announced will select a winner from these finalists.

Please send completed entry forms and submissions to Jim Kling at [email protected]. Deadline for submissions is May 31, 2023.

For more information, visit the award website at https://osfci.org/endeavour/. General questions can be directed to Marilyn Holt at [email protected] or Jim Kling at [email protected].

(5) INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE. The International Booker Prize 2023 Longlist of 13 works was released today. There appears to be one item of genre interest, Cheon Myeong-Kwan’s Whale. The shortlist will come out on April 18 and the winner will be announced May 23. Publishing Perspectives breaks down the amount of the prize.

…The focus of this Booker is translation, and its £50,000 prize (US$60,734) is to be split into £25,000 (US$30,367) for the author and £25,000 for the translator—or divided equally between multiple translators. There also is a purse of £5,000 (US$6,072) for each of the shortlisted titles: £2,500 (US$3,036) for the author and £2,500 for the translator or, again, divided equally between multiple translators….

(6) GETTING THERE. “The Lucas Museum Finds Your Lack of Faith Disturbing” japes the New York Times.

It was chased out of Chicago by preservationists, only to become the object of a bidding war between Los Angeles and San Francisco. When George Lucas finally decided to build his $1 billion museum in Los Angeles, its arrival was jeered by some critics who saw it not as a civic gift but a vanity project. The museum is “a terrible idea,” wrote Christopher Knight, the art critic for The Los Angeles Times.

Since then, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has been beset by more delays: it is not expected to open until 2025, seven years after ground was first broken on a parking lot across the street from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a promised 2021 opening.

But even in the haze of construction, a seemingly endless swirl of workers, cranes and girders, the enormous scope of the project is coming into focus as its futuristic new home rises in Exposition Park: a grand homage to one of the nation’s best-known filmmakers, and a massive repository for his eclectic collection of 100,000 paintings, photographs, book illustrations and comic book drawings.

Its huge expanse of curving gray metal hovers over the landscape like a low-flying spaceship, or perhaps the unfinished Death Star being built in “Return of the Jedi,” a fitting tribute to its namesake and patron, who created the Star Wars franchise. It stands five stories high, with enough gallery space to fill one-and-a-half football fields, and it takes 15 minutes to walk across its sprawling campus….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1933[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Lester Dent’s best remembered work was of course Doc Savage, but it was not the only pulp work that he did. Ninety years ago, he created his scientific detective Lynn Lash who headquarters was in a New York skyscraper where he took on those science fiction threats the police were unable to handle. This in large part led to Dent’s greatest character, Doc Savage. 

Hell in Boxes: The Exploits of Lynn Lash and Foster Fade gathers up the six stories that he wrote with these characters. Our Beginning is that of the first story, “The Sinister Ray”.  It is available from the usual suspects. 

And now our Beginning…

A WOMAN screamed—piercing shrieks torn between hoarse gasps of indrawn breath. 

“My eyes! My eyes!” 

A taxi driver howled, jerked his hands from his wheel to his eyes. 

His cab, wild, bucked over the curb, rooted across the crowded sidewalk. 

The motorman of a street car westbound on Forty-second Street doubled his arms across his face, tumbled sidewise off his stool. His car, no hand on airbrake, rolled against the lights into the Sixth Avenue junction. Automobiles piled against it like driftwood. The street car rocked on its trucks, stopped. 

A man bawled out in horrible agony. More screams! More crashes! Sound became a roar in the brick and glass canyon of Forty-second Street. 

The Sinister Ray had been let loose on the city! 

Men, women, ran blindly, plunging into each other, colliding with whatever was in their path. Some lay on the walks, quivering, hands clawing at their eyes. On the Sixth Avenue “L” station, waiting patrons reeled about, pain-drunk, tearing at their eyes. 

A few fell off the platforms among the electrified rails. Near the south end of the station, a man leaped wildly over the rail to the hard paving thirty feet below. 

Wild hysteria, bedlam was rampant. 

Several blocks distant from that mad corner of Forty-second Street and Sixth Avenue, in his laboratory on the sixth floor of a swanky Park Avenue apartment building, Lynn Lash abruptly laid his pencil on a sheet of paper weighted to his desk top by a glass retort and a microscope. He swung back in his deeply upholstered chair, rubbed his eyes gently with the backs of his thumbs.

“Strange I should suddenly start seeing spots in front of my eyes,” he muttered. “Never felt better in my life.” 

A breeze coming in through the open laboratory windows from Park Avenue faintly stirred the petals of the gardenia in his lapel. In the reception room, he could faintly hear the telephone buzzer as it whizzed out, then the click of the receiver being lifted by Rickey Dean, his secretary. 

Rickey, her voice as throaty as that of a boy, said: “Hello…. Nix! No can do. He’s busy.” 

The metallic gnashings the receiver made at her carried into the laboratory.

“What of it?” she clipped. “You’re Detective Captain Sam Casey and you’ve got something important in your hair—and what of it? That don’t cut any ice.” 

The receiver rattled at her again. There was a thump as she jerked it down on the Lester Dent desk.

“All right, all right, all right! Nobody but a pup of a cop would call a lady them things!” 

She opened the laboratory door, came through, closed the door, but kept her right hand on the knob. She was a small girl with a boyish form, chewing gum. “Sam Casey on the phone,” she said. “He wants to talk at you.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 14, 1869 Algernon Blackwood. Writer of some of the best of the best horror and ghost stories ever done according to the research I just did. Most critics including Joshi say his two best stories are “The Willows” and “The Wendigo”. The novel that gets recommended is The Centaur. If you’re interested in reading him, he’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1951.)
  • Born March 14, 1918 Mildred Clingerman. Most of her stories were published in the Fifties in F&SF when Boucher was Editor. Boucher included “The Wild Wood” by her in the seventh volume of The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction and dedicated the book to her, calling her the “most serendipitous of discoveries.” A Cupful of Space and The Clingerman Files, neither available as a digital publication, contain all of her stories. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 14, 1946 Diana G. Gallagher. She won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist along with Brad W. Foster at Noreascon 3 after being a nominee at Nolacon II the previous year.  She won it under the name Diana Gallagher Wu while married to William F. Wu whose Birthday we did yesterday. She was also an author filker and author who wrote books for children and young adults based on Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and various Trek series. Her best-known filksong was “A Reconsideration of Anatomical Docking Maneuvers in a Zero Gravity Environment.” (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 14, 1957 Tad Williams, 66. Author of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, Otherland series, and Shadowmarch series as well as the most excellent Tailchaser’s Song and The War of the Flowers. I’ve heard good things about his latest novel, Into The Narrowdark which came out last year.
  • Born March 14, 1961 Penny Johnson Jerald, 62. She played Kasidy Yates, the love of Ben Sisko, on Deep Space Nine. She’s played Dr. Claire Finn on the cancelled Orville, just one of many Trek cast member that you’ll find there. And she provided the voice of President Amanda Waller on the most excellent Justice League: Gods & Monsters.
  • Born March 14, 1964 Julia Ecklar, 59. She’s the Astounding Award–winning author of The Kobayashi Maru which is available in English and German ebook editions. She’s also a filk musician who recorded numerous albums in the Off Centaur label in the early 1980s, including Horse-Tamer’s DaughterMinus Ten and Counting, and Genesis. She was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 1996.
  • Born March 14, 1971 Rebecca Roanhorse, 52. Her “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” which was first published in the August 2017 issue of Apex Magazine won a Hugo as best short story at Worldcon 76. (It won a Nebula as well.) She also won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She has six novels to date, including Trail of Lightning which was nominated for a Hugo at Dublin 2019, and Black Sun, being nominated for a Hugo at DisCon III. 
  • Born March 14, 1974 Grace Park, 49. Boomer on the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. She’s been on a fair amount of genre over the years with her first acting role being the Virtual Avatar in the “Bits of Love” episode of Outer Limits. After that, she shows up on Secret Agent ManThis ImmortalThe Outer Limits again, Star Gate SG-1Andromeda, and oddly enough Battlestar Galactica in a number roles other than her main one. I’m sure one of you can explain the latter. I confess that I’ve not watched it. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Barney & Clyde shows a classroom that needs a copy of Fahrenheit 451. You can guess what the problem is.
  • Tom Gauld tweeted his two latest cartoons.

(10) PI DAY. John King Tarpinian remembers celebrating the date at the House of Pies near the office, once upon a time.

(11) DISNEY THEME PARK CHARACTERS DISPLAYED AT SXSW 2023. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The article shows three different ways Disney is working on to interact with theme park characters. There’s a “life” sized Tinker Bell in a lantern, who appears to be played by an off-stage actress  using some sort of 3-D projection system. There’s a full-size Hulk character (that needs work on the appearance side) powered by a person inside working an exoskeleton suit. And there’s a fully robotic character still in very early development stages. “Disney Unveils Unreal New Hulk, Tinker Bell, And Prototype Robot Theme Park Characters” at Slashfilm.

… The first new innovation D’Amaro demonstrated for the crowd was a brand new, unbelievably authentic way to interact with a beloved character, namely Tinker Bell from “Peter Pan.” While Tink has had a presence at the parks for years, this latest version of the magical pixie is true-to-size and can interact with people in a very real way. Much like the lightsaber I mentioned above, what myself and the crowd on hand witnessed is remarkably close to the real thing….

The Tinkerbell demo doesn’t give that good a view – see it at the link. Meanwhile, here’s a view of the lightsaber mentioned in another Slashfilm article: “I Saw A ‘Real’ Star Wars Lightsaber In Person And It Blew My Mind”.

(12) THE GODS THEMSELVES. In “’American Born Chinese’ Teaser: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan Reunite”, Variety gives us every reason to look.

It’s a big night for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at the Oscars, but stars Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan are already looking to the future with “American Born Chinese.” The two actors reunite in the first teaser for the action-comedy series. Released Sunday morning by Disney+, the footage caps off with the announcement of a May 24 premiere date for the series.

The series is adapted from cartoonist Gene Luen Yang’s acclaimed 2006 graphic novel, which tells the story of Jin Wang (Ben Wang), a child of Chinese immigrants who’s struggling with growing up in a predominantly white suburb. When he meets a new Taiwanese classmate, the two become fast friends, but Jin is pulled into the battles of Chinese mythological gods.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mrs. Davis comes to Peacock on April 20.

“Mrs. Davis” is the world’s most powerful Artificial Intelligence. Simone is the nun devoted to destroying Her. Who ya got?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Anne Marble, Jim Kling, Jason Sanford, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 2/11/23 Do Pixels Prefer Coke Or Pepsi? No, It’s Scroll Soda For Them

(1) ONE ARTIST, INDIVISBLE. Charlie Jane Anders’ latest Happy Dancing newsletter is about “J.K. Rowling and ‘Separating the Art from the Artist’”.

… And that’s the thing : JK Rowling is the public face of the “Wizarding World.” She owns it and exercises complete control over it, and it’s pretty much impossible to talk about Harry Potter or the Fantastic Beasts movies without referencing her. In fact, she’s gone to great lengths to make her art inseparable from herself. Other authors seem to fade into the background a little bit more, especially as their books and adaptations get more and more prominence. I know tons of people who obsess about Murderbot, but who don’t know that much about Martha Wells, for example. JK Rowling made a choice to center herself in the discussion of her work, starting with how her “rags to riches” story was used to market her novels….

(2) MARSCON. Cass Morris has a wise commentary on the outcome of the MarsCon kerfuffle: “All* Are Welcome (*terms and conditions may apply)”. (What Morris means by DARVO can be learned from “A guide to DARVO, the gaslighting response people give when they’re called out” at Metro News.)

… a MarsCon regular guest very mildly voiced a concern, on FB, over whether or not he was the right choice for a con that claimed to want to be inclusive.

This GOH, and others like him, do not respond well to such statements. When they hear “Some people choose not to be around you because they find you unpleasant,” they perceive it as an attack, and they determine that a rabidly vitriolic response is not only warranted but necessary. (Again, DARVO).

The GOH wasted no time, it seems, in calling in his flying monkeys to harass the person who voiced concern, swiftly turning the FB threads into an unqualified shitshow. MarsCon responded by shutting down all comments and, rather than addressing the concerns that had just been proved entirely valid, doubling-down on their support for their aggressive GOH.

A whole choice.

MarsCon then made the choice to post a new “Interim Online Policy” claiming that “MarsCon is as it has always been an apolitical Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. It is the firm stance of MarsCon that personal politics should be left outside of the convention. It will not allow itself to used as a place for anyone to try and forward their personal political views.”

There’s more to the statement and the word “political” is doing some heavy lifting throughout….

(3) PREPPER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is great fun from BBC Radio 4. Be prepared for the end of the world. “Prepper, Series 1, The Kit in Your Head”. Pearl Mackie plays one of the leads.

Trump. ISIS. The Courgette Crisis. Signs of civilisation’s fragility are all around. No wonder the Doomsday Clock just nudged closer to midnight. In this fearscape, more and more ordinary people are wondering how they’d cope if everything we take for granted (law and order, access to healthcare, iceberg lettuces in Sainsburys) was taken away.

(4) ENGLAND SWINGS SF. Martin Wisse asks “Is it possible to buy too much science fiction?” at Wis[s]e Words. The answer is, not if the book has been on your want list forever.

…Among that stack of paperbacks is the perfect example of what I mean: Judith Merril’s England Swings SF, a book I’ve spent literal decades looking for. A book I’ve known about, have read about for decades I yesterday finally got to hold in my hands. England Swings SF is an incredibly important book in the history of science fiction. A key work of the New Wave, a defining statement of what New Wave science fiction was all about. It’s Judith Merril’s defining work, the jewel in the crown of her work as an editor. You know how important and controversial it was just from the publisher writing its own introduction washing its hands of the whole thing.

Though it may seem strange now, the New Wave was revolutionary, was controversial because it set out to deliberately undo science fiction’s dogmas, both literally and politically. Worse, as it originated in the UK and its most important early writers were British like Moorcock, Ballard and Aldiss, it also upset the natural order of America as the centre of the SF universe. When England Swings SF was released in 1968, the controversy had been raging for almost half a decade between the upstarts and the SF establishment…. 

(5) AI: A CREATOR’S TOOL OR RIVAL? Jason Sanford has put together a new column on what AI generated art and writing programs might mean for artists and authors. The column includes some predictions on how all this might play out in the coming years. “Genre Grapevine on What AI Generated Art and Writing Might Mean for Artists and Authors” a public post on Patreon.

… So far OpenAI hasn’t been very open about the works their programs are trained on.

The same with Midjourney, whose founder David Holz recently said he didn’t seek consent from living artists or those with work still under copyright because it was essentially too hard to do that. And don’t think this is a small issue – in an interview with Forbes, Holt admitted Midjourney was trained on at least a hundred million images without consent.

Because these AIs were trained on works by living artists, this can result in the programs creating images based on their art. For example, Deb JJ Lee discovered that someone had crafted an AI model to create art similar to Lee’s own distinctive work. Worse, when Lee pushed back on their art being used in this way, they were accused of being a “gatekeeper.”

As Lee said, “I never hide how I draw. I teach classes and share *everything*, from my layer structure to my inspirations to Gradient mapping. At Lightbox this year I would show my original files to ppl who come to my table to demonstrate how I do everything. I’m the opposite of a gatekeeper.”

Despite that, Lee was essentially blamed by a number of supporters of AI programs for daring to question the use of their own art in the training of machine learning programs.

It’s almost like, as Alasdair Stuart said, “the entire system is powered by artists but devalues them in every way.”…

(6) GRANTING AI UNLIMITED RIGHTS? At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss considers the AI implications in contractual language: “Findaway Voices, Machine Learning, and the New Rights Frontier”.

Audiobook creation service Findaway Voices has become a popular alternative to Audible’s ACX, especially in the wake of #Audiblegate (the controversy over ACX’s author-penalizing returns policies that has generated at least one lawsuit).

In the past few days, though, authors and narrators have been drawing attention to this paragraph from Findaway’s Digital Distribution Agreement, which grants Apple–a third party–a license to use the rights holder’s audiobook files for “machine learning”, aka AI training…

…Unsurprisingly, there are now multiple lawsuits. Microsoft, Github, and Open AI are being sued for copyright-related issues over Github’s AI-powered coding assistant, Copilot. A group of artists has filed a class action suit against Stability AI (owner of Stable Diffusion), Midjourney, and DeviantArt for copyright violation and unlawful competition. Getty Images is also suing Stability AI, alleging that it scraped millions of copyright-protected images from Getty’s database. On a different side of the issue, computer scientist Steven Thaler is suing to overturn the US Copyright Office’s determination that AI art can’t be copyrighted. There will no doubt be much more legal action to come….

(7) NED BEAUMAN INTERVIEW. “Ned Beauman: ‘After reading Terry Pratchett, it feels like something is missing from most fiction’” in the Guardian.

My favourite book growing up
I devoured The Colour of Magic and at least 20 other Terry Pratchett novels as a child and consequently have never got over the feeling that there’s something pretty fundamental missing from nearly all “grown-up” fiction (ie jokes).

The book that changed me as a teenager
We perhaps expect novelists to feel a reverent fascination with human consciousness, how miraculous it is, sacred, ineffable, unique etc. But if you read too much Greg Egan at an impressionable age, all of that gets absolutely napalmed. A book like Permutation City is dangerous (and mind-expanding) stuff.

(8) EUGENE LEE OBITUARY. The New York Times profiles a stage and TV figure whose work you may have been seeing for years: “Eugene Lee, Set Designer for Broadway and ‘S.N.L.,’ Dies at 83”. “He won Tony Awards for Wicked and other shows while also overseeing the sets for the late-night franchise’s fast-paced sketch comedy.”

For decades it was possible for Saturday night theatergoers in New York to get a double dose of Eugene Lee’s work, though it’s likely that few would have realized they were doing so. They might have taken in “Sweeney Todd,” “Ragtime,” “Wicked” or other Broadway shows whose striking sets were designed by Mr. Lee, then could arrive home in time to tune into “Saturday Night Live” — a show for which he served as production designer when it began in 1975, and on which he was still working this season….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1971[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I’m very, very fond of SF genre short stories as I like them because they are often distilled versions of longer takes. Larry Niven I think in his prime wrote some of the best genre short stories ever done. 

He won Hugos for them — “Neutron Star”, “Inconstant Moon” and “The Hole Man” to be precise.  A collection, Convergent Series, one of my favorite collections to read, won a Locus Award.  Not bad at all. 

Not so with this story, Niven’s “For A Foggy Night” which was first published in the All the Myriad Ways collection published by Ballantine Books in 1971. 

Niven like the idea of alternative worlds and I believe wrote more than ones of these stories with another story I really like being “All Myriad Ways”.  It’s wonderfully done story that I won’t spoil as I suppose it’s possible that someone here hasn’t read it yet but to say that it has a great narration, fascinating story and a conclusion that makes perfect sense. 

And now the Beginning… 

The bar was selling a lot of Irish coffee that night. I’d bought two myself. It was warm inside, almost too warm, except when someone pushed through the door. Then a puff of chill, damp fog would roll in.

Beyond the window was grey chaos. The fog picked up all the various city lights: yellow light leaking from inside the bar, passing automobile headlights, white light from1971 frosted street globes, and the rainbow colors of neon signs. The fog stirred all the lights together into a cold grey-white paste and leaked it back through the windows.

Bright spots drifted past at a pedestrian’s pace. Cars. I felt sorry for the drivers. Rolling through a grey formless limbo, running from street globe to invisible street globe, alert for the abrupt, dangerous red dot of a traffic light: an intersection; you couldn’t tell otherwise . . . I had friends in San Francisco; there were other places I could be. But it wasn’t my city, and I was damned if I’d drive tonight.

A lost night. I’d finished my drink. One more, and I’d cross the street to my hotel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 11, 1908 Tevis Clyde Smith. He’s a curious story indeed as he collaborated on three short stories with Robert E. Howard. Those stories are “Red Blades of Black Cathay”, “Diogenes of today” and “Eighttoes makes a play”. ISFDB suggests that he might have written other short stories and poetry. Anyone encounter these? (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 84. She loves dark chocolate. That I know as I just sent her some a few weeks ago. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled in Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. And yes she’s on the chocolate gifting list as well.
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are mostly popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 73. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott).
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 70. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and IllustratorThe Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! imagines what would happen if Skywalker Sr. was analyzed by Ancestry.com.
  • The Argyle Sweater mines Harry Potter for a horrible pun. Which of course I had to share.

(12) INSCRIBED TO THE DEDICATEE. Macmillan and HBG just raised starting salaries to $45,000. So you could say eBay is asking a year’s salary for this dedication copy of Rocket Ship Galileo signed by Heinlein. (Well, two Heinleins, actually.)

The dedication copy of the author’s first published novel, signed and inscribed by Robert A. Heinlein in the year of publication “with best wishes to my nephew Lawrence Lewis ‘Buddy’ Heinlein [signed] Robert Heinlein Nov. 1947” with an arrow pointing to Buddy’s printed name on the dedication page. Additionally signed by Lawrence Lewis Heinlein as “L. L. Heinlein” on the front free endpaper. Lawrence was the son of Robert’s brother.

(13) IT’S A WRAP! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature cover story has nothing on Boris Karloff. “How to make a mummy”.

The cover shows sarcophagi used to house the mummified remains of Ancient Egyptians in the Saqqara region of Egypt. Although the existence of mummies is well known, the details of how ancient embalmers practised their art have remained largely obscure. In this week’s issue, Maxime Rageot, Philipp Stockhammer and their colleagues draw on finds from an embalming workshop in Saqqara that dates to around 664–525 BC to reveal many of the details of the process. The researchers analysed 31 ceramic vessels found in the workshop. By combining biochemical analyses of the residues in the vessels with the inscriptions, such as “to be put on his head”, featured on many of them, they were able to establish which chemicals were used and how they were mixed, named and applied. The researchers also note that some of the embalming substances were imported from the Levant or even from south or southeast Asia, indicating that mummification might have helped to promote long-distance trade.

(14) FOOD: GHOSTLY OR GHASTLY? It’s Saturday, and today this sounded amusing enough to put in a Scroll: Ghostbusters: The Official Cookbook by Jenn Fujikawa and Erik Burnham.

Who you gonna call… to eat?! Featuring more than 50 recipes inspired by the beloved Ghostbusters 1984 film and continuing into present day with Ghostbusters: Afterlife, this cookbook celebrates the bold personalities of Egon, Venkman, Zeddemore, and Stantz, along with the spooks, spectres, and ghosts that tried to transform New York City to a Babylonian dystopia.

But they’re not alone — they’ve got company with a new generation of Ghostbusters like Phoebe, Trevor, Podcast, and Lucky that saved Summerville, Oklahoma from the second coming of Gozer! In fact, it’s Podcast’s, well, podcast that inspires this book! Now he and Ray are combing through the Ghostbusters archives and recording new episodes to bring the group’s favorite new and old foods to delicious life.

With luscious full-color photography and packed with the fun and spirit of the films, Ghostbusters: The Official Cookbook is a must-have for foodies and paranormal investigative fans alike.

(15) CLOUDS OF WITLESS. Sure, this couldn’t backfire: “There’s a Radical Plan to Cool the Earth With … Moon Dust” at Popular Mechanics.

A long time ago (in every sense of the phrase), a Mars-sized celestial object named “Theia” smacked into Earth and formed our moon. Now, 4.5 billion years later, scientists want to put that moon back to work by using its dust to cool down its fever-induced planetary neighbor.

Scientists from the University of Utah suggest that “ballistically eject[ing]” millions of pounds of lunar dust around Earth could help deflect the sun’s rays and cool down the planet. The idea follows similar solar geoengineering concepts like ejecting reflected sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the stratosphere to gain the same sun-reflecting benefits (but with less potential health concerns).

However, this research is decidedly more sci-fi as it would likely require lunar infrastructure, electromagnetic cannons, and even orbital space platforms. The results of the study were published in the journal PLOS Climate….

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