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 2/2/24 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 12/15/23 Earth Scrolls Are Easy

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to feast on crab fried rice with Nina Kiriki Hoffman in Episode 214 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Nina Kiriki Hoffman, who aside from having sung the earworm “Feelings” with me more times than I can count, has either won or been a finalist for the Nebula Award, the Locus Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award, the HOMer award from CompuServe, the Endeavour Award, the Mythopoeic Society Award, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and the Philip K. Dick Award.

She won the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “Trophy Wives,” and her novel The Thread That Binds the Bones won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to The Thread That Binds the Bones), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. Her novella ‘”Unmasking,” published in 1992 by Axolotl Press, was a finalist for the 1993 World Fantasy Award. Her novella “Haunted Humans” was a finalist for the 1995 Nebula Award for Best Novella and on the same ballot as her novelette”The Skeleton Key,” shortlisted for Best Novelette.

We discussed the way a ghost story which left her wanting more led to her taking her writing more seriously, her early reactions to reading Robert A. Heinlein and Ursula K. Le Guin, how the Clarion workshop convinced her she could have a career as a writer, the way she wanted to grow up to be a combination of Ray Bradbury and Zenna Henderson, what she learned about characterization from Samuel R. Delany while at Clarion, the major difference she saw between the horror and science fiction communities during the early days of the Internet, how my perception of the arc her career was affected not by what she wrote but by what she sold, the lesson Ellen Datlow taught her which she passes on to her students, and much more.

(2) DEFENSE BUDGET DIVIDEND? SYFY Wire gets us ready for holiday conversations with these Seussian factoids: “5 Things to Know About How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

WWII training cartoons led the way for special to get made

During WWII, a lot of talented artists were enlisted to create materials that would help the war effort, or help train troops heading overseas. Two of those talents were animator Chuck Jones and [Theodore] Geisel, who met and worked together on the U.S. Military commissioned animated short films produced by Warner Bros. Studio. The Private Snafu series helped educate G.I.s on a range of subjects in an easy and entertaining way. 

Having worked well together, Jones approached Geisel about adapting the book into an animated holiday special in the same vein as the hit 1965 animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Unhappy with previous adaptations of his books, Geisel agreed to give Jones the rights because of their previous personal collaborations. 

(3) CLIMATE ACTION ALMANAC. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the ClimateWorks Foundation will launch their new book, The Climate Action Almanac, with a free virtual event on January 16, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time. The event will feature, among its speakers, the SF authors Kim Stanley Robinson, Libia Brenda, and Vandana Singh. They’ll explore how to craft narratives about hopeful climate futures that catalyze real-world action and resonate with policy realities, especially in the wake of the recent COP28 UN climate summit.

When we think of climate, the stories we tell about the future are bad: megastorms, crop failures, and heat waves loom over us. These narratives are compelling, but can leave us feeling hopeless, helpless, and disillusioned.

To motivate broad-based change in the present, we need visions of positive climate futures grounded both in science and in local geographical and cultural particularities. We need stories that bridge the imperative for global coordination with values, resources, and community action, envisioning transformation that grows bottom-up and bottom-out, rather than top-down.

In the wake of the COP28 climate summit, join us for the launch of a collection of such stories: The Climate Action Almanac, presented by CSI and the ClimateWorks Foundation. We’ll hear from contributors from across the globe who have charted pathways toward a vibrant, decarbonized future.

The event is free and open to everyone. Register today!

This event will take place in English, with simultaneous interpretation into Spanish. It is presented by CSI and Future Tense in collaboration with the ClimateWorks Foundation and ASU’s Convergence Lab.

(4) DRIVEN. “Famous Cars: The Most Memorable & Expensive Cars to Ever Grace Our Screens”Investing Magazine has a list. Many are from sff productions. Here’s one that wasn’t cheap to begin with, and now is worth a fortune:

9. The Original Batmobile

As Seen In: Batman the Movie
Year: 1966 
Estimated Value: $4.6 million*

Built by famous designer George Barris, the original Batmobile was based off a 1955 Ford Lincoln Futura. This concept car was worth $250,000 at the time. But by the time it had become an iconic part of pop culture, the Batmobile was worth $4.6 million. 

(5) CURBING A HABIT. Charlie Jane Anders shares a technique for keeping doomscrolling from interfering with writing in “A Productivity Hack That’s Been Helping Me Lately” at Happy Dancing.

I used to be way better at staying focused on pouring words into a word processor, which would puree them gently into a delicious word slurry that I would send to my publisher. (At which point the publisher takes the word slurry, mixes it with gravel and limestone to turn it into decorative bricks for your garden, or so I’m assuming.) Anyway, in recent years it’s gotten harder to tear my gaze away from the sussurating horrors gathering in the desolate crevices of the collective unconscious.

Basically, the doomscrolling has gotten harder and harder to resist. It’s bad for my concentration — and, frankly, for my mental health.

(To be clear, I support staying informed about the state of the world! But not to the point where you’re just marinating in learned helplessness. And I really believe what I wrote in that book, that creativity is a worthwhile and valid way to deal with awful times. And as I keep saying, daydreaming is the opposite of doomscrolling — and daydreams are powerful.)

So I’ve come up with a productivity hack to keep myself from staring at news sites and social media all day. I recently told a friend about this method, and she seemed to find it useful too. So here it is.

Basically, my main problem is social media and news sites, plus emails to some extent. All of this stuff lives on my browser on my computer at home, and I experimented for a few years with installing browser extensions to block certain sites during daytime hours — but they usually wanted to invade my privacy, and they weren’t super reliable.

Then I discovered a way to just make my browser inaccessible during work hours, using my Mac’s settings. (I’m running the latest version, Sonoma 14.1.1.)…

(6) MAJOR SF+F EVENTS IN EUROPE IN 2024. [Item by Dave Lally.]  Now that Chengdu Worldcon 2023 is over… The year 2024 has a number of major SF+F events, in Europe, approaching (and all dates given herein are inclusive).  And this data is primarily for those from outside the area (to help).

Mid April 2024 sees another major SF+F event (herein numbered No 2 :  Eastercon/UK  (in late March-early April) being No 1):   

Luxcon (Luxembourg National SF+F Con): —

Fri 12 (unofficial for early arrivals), Sat 13-Sun 14 April

Venue: Forum Geesseknappchen, Hollerich, (western) Central Luxembourg City, L-1430, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. 

Everyone in Luxembourg speaks English fluently (and many therein also speak many other languages).

The Grand Duchy (in the EU) has one of the highest standards of living in Europe.   Currency: Euro.

Luxcon held a very successful Eurocon –with that year’s Luxcon– in 2022.

Their website: Official Luxcon. Also double check other media re updates.

Nearest Airport : Luxembourg [ IATA :  LUX ] – fast connecting express bus from the airport to the Luxembourg City Central Rail Station. Thence and FREE (*) local buses (no 10, and no 20) from there to the Con venue.

[* Nota Bene within Luxembourg and at all times, all local public transport (standard class) — incl the Luxembourg City tram (LuxTram), local buses and local CFL (rail) trains– are Free.  Hugo Gernsback (yes him, originally from here) has a street named after him in eastern Luxembourg City.] 

 Luxembourg City Rail Station is served by: 

  1. SNCB (Belgian Rail) trains from Brussels Midi (via Arlon and usually one per hour) tho the cost from Arlon (Luxembourg border) to the Luxembourg Rail Station portion (see * above) is free. And sometimes there is a train change at Arlon. Note this train usually has NO catering thereon (so stock up on food/drink before travelling).  Brussels Midi is of course served by EUROSTAR trains from London St Pancras International Rail Station and from many other places, elsewhere in Europe;
  2. SNCF (French Rail) – TGV (High Speed) trains (with catering) from Paris Gare de L’Est (via Metz, tho there may be a change of train on that route). Paris-Gare de L’Est is right next door to Paris-Gare Du Nord (which itself is well served by EUROSTAR trains from London St Pancras -as above).  

 [No doubt local Luxembourg fen, reading this,  will be able to update/augment this data. ]

And as usual fen from anywhere overseas are very welcome at any SF+F Cons here in Europe, including Luxcon.

(More events to follow.)

(7) MEOWMEOW. The New York Times ran an obituary for “Neil Drossman, Adman Who Sold With a Smile, Is Dead at 83”. Not a genre figure; he just made a big imprint on popular culture with his memorable ads.

Neil Drossman, who brought a cheeky wit and a tireless work ethic to the award-winning print advertisements and television commercials he wrote for clients like Meow Mix cat food, Teacher’s Scotch whisky and 1-800-Flowers, died on Nov. 25 in the Bronx. He was 83….

From the late 1960s until this year, Mr. Drossman was a copywriter and an executive at several agencies, some run by the advertising guru Jerry Della Femina and some he helped run himself….

…One of the most enduring lines Mr. Drossman wrote was for Meow Mix: “Tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.” That came at the end of commercials in which cats appeared to sing (“Meow meow meow meow/Meow meow meow meow”) for their chicken and seafood…

…In 1973 and 1974, Mr. Drossman ghostwrote full-page testimonials for Teacher’s Scotch in the voices of celebrities like Groucho Marx, George Burns and Mel Brooks. The Brooks ad was written as an interview with Mr. Brooks’s character the 2,000 Year Old Man.

“Sir, when was Scotch discovered?”

“It was during the Ice Age. We had so many tons of ice, we didn’t know what to do. So we made drinks, all kinds of drinks.”….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. (Died 2018.) Our community is blessed with many amazing writers of which David Bischoff was one. So let’s talk about him.  

His first writings were in the Thrust fanzine where he did a mix of commentary and criticism. (Thrust got one Hugo nomination as a fanzine and four as semi-prozine.)  Editor Doug Fratz would later convert it into a prozine for which Bischoff along with John Shirley and Michael Bishop were regular contributors. 

David Bischoff

His first novel, The Seeker, which was co-written with Christopher Lampton was published by Laser Books forty-seven years ago. He was extremely prolific. No, I don’t mean sort of prolific, I mean extremely prolific. He wrote some seventy-five original novels which is to say not within of any of the many media franchises that he wrote within plus another thirty-five or so novels falling within those media franchises.

What franchises? Oh how about these for a start and this is not a full listing by any means — AliensAlien Versus PredatorFarscapeGremlins 2: The New BatchJonny QuestSeaQuest DSV,  Space Precinct and War Games.. And no, I never knew there were Jonny Quest novels. 

Oh, and I must single out that he wrote two Bill, the Galactic Hero novels, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Tasteless Pleasure and Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars which is either a great idea or maybe not. Not having read them I have no idea. 

And he wrote for the Trek universe, two most excellent episodes at that. He co-wrote the ”Tin Man” episode from Next Generation, a Nebula nominee, with Dennis Putman Bailey, and the “First Contact” episode from the same series written with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller. 

Almost none of his extensive fiction has been collected save that which is in Tripping the Dark Fantastic from a quarter of a century ago which collects a few novelettes and some short stories. 

Very little of his fiction is available from the usual suspects, almost none of it his original works. And Tripping the Dark Fantastic is not available. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows a new kind of “Love, American Style.”
  • Free Range found the answer to a super trivia question.

(10) NO LONGER THE ANSWER. Deadline says “Mayim Bialik Out At ‘Jeopardy!’”.

Mayim Bialik will no longer be part of the Jeopardy! hosting team.

The actor posted the news on Instagram on Friday.

The move comes as Ken Jennings has been hosting Season 40 of the syndicated show by himself.

Deadline revealed in May that The Big Bang Theory and Call Me Kat star walked away from hosting the final week of season 39 of the gameshow as a result of the strike.

Mayim Bialik’s Instagram says:

“As the holiday break begins in Hollywood, I have some Jeopardy! news. Sony has informed me that I will no longer be hosting the syndicated version of Jeopardy! I am incredibly honored to have been nominated for a primetime Emmy for hosting this year and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Jeopardy! family. For all of you who have supported me through this incredible journey and to the fans, contestants, writers, staff and crew of America’s Favorite Quiz Show, thank you.”

(11) HARI HARI SELDON SELDON. “Elon Musk to open a STEM-focused K-12 school, university in Austin” according to the New York Post.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans to launch a STEM-focused primary and secondary school in Texas before debuting a glittering university “dedicated to education at the highest levels,” according to a tax filing.

Musk, who moved from California to the Lone Star State during the pandemic, will build the schools in Austin with a $100 million donation from the billionaire’s charity called The Foundation, according to tax filings first reported by Bloomberg.

The charity’s name appears to be a nod to the science fiction series written by famed author Isaac Asimov that details the collapse of a ruling empire to make way for the birth of an alternate society — fitting considering Musk’s public criticism of the current education system….

… The Foundation’s application to open the schools was initially filed in October 2022 and approved in March, according to Bloomberg, though it’s unclear when the K-12 school will break ground…

(12) DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A GALLIFREYAN ARMY KNIFE. “Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa Shows Off the Fifteenth Doctor’s New Sonic Screwdriver”CBR.com has the story. Somebody might think this is a spoiler, so no image here. Just a link to the video: “Ncuti Gatwa’s New Sonic Screwdriver”.

… In the official video posted to YouTube on the Doctor Who channel, Gatwa talks about the design elements of the newly remodeled sonic screwdriver, which comes with its own unique bells and whistles. As Gatwa demonstrates, the sonic is much larger than most previous iterations and contains several new gadgets, including a connector allowing it to link to other devices like a “USB port,” as the actor describes it….

(13) MARTIAN DOG YEARS. “The Biggest Sci-Fi Show of the Year Challenges Its Star In One Revolutionary Way” –that’s how Inverse describes For All Mankind and its lead, actor Joel Kinnaman.

Since 2019, Kinnaman has played the show’s lead, Ed Baldwin, who begins his journey as an Apollo astronaut in 1969 in Season 1. By Season 4, it’s 2003, and Ed is pushing 80, but still living on the Mars colony Happy Valley. At 44 in real life, Kinnaman is convincingly playing nearly double his age but, as he tells Inverse, this is the moment he has been waiting for since getting cast in the first place.

“The idea of doing this is what initially really appealed to me with this character,” Kinnaman reveals. “But of course, it’s rare that you have to wait five years to do the thing that you really were looking forward to doing with a character.”

As Ed Baldwin leads Helios workers on Mars to a labor strike in the episode “Leningrad,” Inverse caught up with Kinnaman to get a sense of how he took Ed this far, and whether or not he can play the character again in Season 5.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Scott Edelman, Joey Eschrich, Dave Lally, Kathy Sullivan, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 11/17/23 Walking My Sloth Named Thoth

(1) A TAFF GUIDE TO BEER. [Item by Geri Sullivan.] A TAFF Guide to Beer is now available in print on Amazon in the US and UK!

Claire Brialey & Mark Plummer published A TAFF Guide to Beer during the 2019 Eastbound TAFF race. It celebrates the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund and the ways in which in brings together and fosters connections between science fiction fans from across Europe and North America, seen through the lens of beer. It features contributions from over 3 dozen TAFF delegates as well as the 4 candidates in the 2019 race. We printed copies then, and it’s been available on Dave Langford’s splendid TAFF ebook page pretty much ever since.

When I started working on Idea #13 (being published shortly, a mere 23 years since Idea #12), Pat Virzi advised me to publish another, small project on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) since the first book you publish with them often takes a long time for them to process. 

Claire and Mark gave the go-ahead. I faffed around for longer than I like to admit, but finally figured out how to make room for the bar code on the back cover, and sent off for a proof copy. It arrived Tuesday. After I clicked the “publish” button, the fanzine spent a few days in KDP’s review process, but it’s now available for $10 or £8. TAFF will receive just over $1/£1 for each copy sold.

Note: KDP says it takes up to 3 days Amazon.com to show it in stock and up to 5 days in other marketplaces. These links are working for me tonight; you’re welcome to share them with fans who might be interested: 

And several other countries, too. 

(2) BOOKS FOR CREDENTIALS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Harvard Book Store was expecting a shipment of books. A pallet of boxes marked ‘haddock filets’ arrived instead — Warehouse workers panicked, but it was only a red herring.

The Boston Globe story is paywalled, so here’s an excerpt:

…Sitting before [the bookstore’s warehouse manager] were dozens of green-and-white cardboard packages that read, “FROZEN FISH” and “HADDOCK” in big block letters…but it turns out that the store’s regular distributor…simply had extra boxes lying around… [that] happened to be for a Florida-based seafood wholesaler called Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.

The bookstore did an Instagram caption contest; entries included “Available in hardcover, paperback, and filet.”

(3) THIEVES LIKE US. “Lost Doctor Who episodes found – but owner is reluctant to hand them to BBC” reports the Guardian.

For Doctor Who-lovers they are the missing crown jewels: lost episodes of the first series of the TV sci-fi drama, shown in the 1960s. But now film recordings of not just one, but two of the early BBC adventures, both featuring the first doctor, William Hartnell, has been found in Britain by amateur sleuths.

The episodes, one featuring the Daleks, would offer viewers a chance to travel back in time without the use of a Tardis. But the Observer has learned that the owners of the rare, rediscovered footage are not prepared to hand it over to the BBC, even as the clock ticks down to the 60th anniversary of the show’s launch this month.

Veteran film collector John Franklin believes the answer is for the BBC to announce an immediate general amnesty on missing film footage.

This would reassure British amateur collectors that their private archives will not be confiscated if they come forward and that they will be safe from prosecution for having stored stolen BBC property, something several fear….

(4) EARLY JOANNA RUSS. “’It’s Not Shrill, It’s Ultrasonic’: Queer SF Pioneer Joanna Russ’s Feminist Awakening” at Library of America.

…“We started with the assumption that the woman’s problem is not a woman’s problem; it is a social problem,” [Sheila] Tobias wrote. “There is something wrong with a society that cannot find ways to make it possible for married women, single women, intelligent women, educated or uneducated, or welfare women, to achieve their full measure of reward.” Some two thousand people attended discussions on abortion, contraception, childcare, race, and sexuality. It was one of the first conferences in the United States to address sexism in an academic setting….

(5) HAND Q&A. “Elizabeth Hand on Playwriting, Haunted Houses, and Shirley Jackson” at CrimeReads.

[ELIZABETH HAND]: I just love haunted house stories. And The Haunting of Hill House is kind of the haunted house story, certainly for Americans. For me, it was just a matter of really following the template that [Jackson] created. Laurence sent me scans of the drawings that she had made, like the house plans for Hill House, some of which I think are reprinted in the Franklin bio. But I had them in like a bigger format. And so that was really cool—to see how she envisioned that space. And I had read the book multiple times over the years, and I reread it more than once when preparing to write this book [A Haunting on the Hill]. And during one of those three readings, I just went through with a highlighter to highlight all the references to doors and windows of the halls and just… spaces within it, because I thought, if I get anything wrong, people are going to call me on it! If I have the red room at the wrong end of the hallway, you know, no one’s going to let me get away with it!

(6) INVEST WISELY. Cat Rambo advises writers about “Making the Most of Your Con Budget” at the SFWA Blog.

…Decide who you want to connect with by a) looking at the guest or membership list, which is usually available online, b) joining/following the convention’s social media accounts to see who’s posting there, and c) asking among your friends, including online groups you belong to.

If the convention is non-genre-specific, find out what kind of presence your genre will have. What teachers or mentors are attending that you would like to meet? What agents are appearing and what genres do they represent? (You may need to go to their agencies’ websites to find this out.)

Look over the convention’s website and promotional materials to determine what the event’s strengths are—what does it offer that isn’t always available, such as a chance to pitch to multiple agents, or the Nebula Conference Mentorship Program that pairs newer conference attendees with experienced Nebula-goers?

Using all of the above, set your goals for the event….

(7) UNMANNERLY VISITORS. Recommended: “’The Earthlings’ by Matthew Olzmann” at Academy of American Poets.

(8) SHADES OF TRALFAMADORE. Sophie Kemp assures us “Kurt Vonnegut’s House Is Not Haunted” in The Paris Review.

… And as for me, I do not remember when I first registered that Kurt Vonnegut lived in Alplaus, a small hamlet in Schenectady County, named after the Dutch expression aal plaats, which means “a place of eels.” (There were no eels that I am aware of.) I think it was in high school. I think my hair was cut short. I think it was when I was a virgin. I think it was when I got a job as a bookseller at the Open Door on Jay. I think I was probably sixteen….

… They asked if we wanted to see inside. The thing about the house, they told us, is that it was not haunted, because ghosts are not real, but also a copy of Player Piano, sitting face out on a bookshelf, kept falling on the head of one of their kids and as a result the family had this inside joke about it being Kurt’s ghost. Obviously, I wanted to see the haunted bookshelf so they showed me the haunted bookshelf. It looked pretty normal. Also facing out was a stuffed animal gnome holding a coffee cup that said “Best Mom,” and a book about raising chickens. I cannot stress enough that the house of Kurt Vonnegut is now just a completely normal house where people live and is full of completely normal things that appear in completely normal houses. Which to me makes a lot of sense. Vonnegut in my opinion is a charming and scrappy weirdo. He is not the kind of person you think of as living on some kind of grand estate…. 

(9) THE FIRE THIS TIME. [Item by Dann.] Author and lecturer, Virginia Postrel, found herself aghast at a repeated misrepresentation of the myth of Prometheus.  The tale of Prometheus was presented as a cautionary tale about the risks of innovation and technology.  She responds by pointing out that Prometheus was a defender who loved humanity in “The Myth of Prometheus Is Not a Cautionary Tale”

…No. No. No. No.

Prometheus is punished for loving humankind. He stole fire to thwart Zeus’ plans to eliminate humanity and create a new subordinate species. He is a benefactor who sacrifices himself for our good. His punishment is an indicator not of the dangers of fire but of the tyranny of Zeus.

…The Greeks honored Prometheus. They celebrated technē. They appreciated the gifts of civilization.

The ancient myth of Prometheus is not a cautionary tale. It is a reminder that technē raises human beings above brutes. It is a myth founded in gratitude.

She points out that a similar anti-technology reading of Frankenstein is also flawed.

(10) ABANDON TWITTER ALL YE WHO EXIT HERE. Not at all trying to be a completist, but here are a few more authors who are leaving X.

Scott Edelman also wants Filers to know that he bailed from Twitter – except he did it two months ago.

Several advertisers are also applying the brakes. “Disney, Apple, Lionsgate Suspend X/Twitter Ads; White House Condemns Musk Post” according to Deadline.

Deadline has confirmed that Disney is the latest company to suspend its advertising on X/Twitter in the wake of owner Elon Musk‘s amplification of an anti-semitic post two days ago. Read more below.

…More companies are suspending advertising on X/Twitter in the wake of reports that the site has let spots run next to pro-Nazi content.

Apple has decided to pause advertising on the platform, according to a report from Axios, citing sources at the company. An Apple spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Lionsgate also confirmed a Bloomberg report that it, too, was suspending advertising on the platform.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 Raymond F. Jones. Writer who is best remembered for his novel This Island Earth, which was made into a movie which was then skewered in Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. However, he produced a significant number of science fiction novels and short stories which were published in magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy, including “Rat Race” and “Correspondence Course”, which respectively earned Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1932 Dennis McHaney. Writer and Critic. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who, between 1974 and 2008, published The Howard Review and The Robert E. Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did, as he created reference works such as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket Checklist, Robert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk, and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing entries such as Frazetta Trading CardsThe Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine, and The Films of Steve Reeves. Fascinating… (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1936 John Trimble, 87. Husband of Bjo Trimble. He has assisted her in almost all of her SF work, including Project Art Show. They were GoHs at ConJose. He’s a member of LASFS. He’s been involved in far too many fanzines and APAs to list here, some of which I’d loved to have read such as “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”,  a fanzine done in support of the Save Star Trek campaign which was edited by him and Bojo. You can read one of their late Fifties fanzines, which I choose because of its title, “Some Important Information Concerning Unicorn Productions”, here.
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 57. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The AuthorityBatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevilCatwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan.
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 40. He is the author of the most excellent Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. Several years ago, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out sometime ago but I’ve not seen it. His SF Fractulverse series, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and Fractal Noise, is quite well crafted.

(12) WHO FAN FROM THE BEGINNING. “Russell T Davies on secrets, sex and falling for Doctor Who: ‘Something clicked in my head: I love you’” in the Guardian.

…The turning point came at the age of 11 – a huge change for me and for the show. I went to comprehensive school; the Doctor became Tom Baker. I have a crucial memory of TV Comic’s weekly Doctor Who strip printing a gorgeous piece of artwork (drawn, I now know, by Gerry Haylock) showing Tom Baker in full hat, scarf and toothy grin. And something clicked in my head. Something clicked and has stayed clicked ever since. A simple thought which said: I love you.

It’s easy to draw a link between gayness and fandom. So easy, maybe it’s true. Because as those teenage years advanced, two things synced up. I was gay and went silent, watching all the parties and fancying boys at a remove instead of getting drunk on cider, scared of giving myself away. At exactly the same time, I watched TV fiercely. Both things became closeted. Doctor Who became the other love that dares not speak its name.

It lasts, the closet. Many years later, in my late 20s, when I’d moved to Manchester and worked in TV and went to Canal Street every weekend, I copped off with a nice lad who saw a book about Doctor Who on my shelf and said: “I was in that! I was a soldier in The Caves of Androzani.” And I lied, I lied to a man I’d just had sex with, I said: “No, that book’s from work, it’s someone else’s, I don’t really know what it is.” Sorry, soldier.

I wonder now why I fell in love so hard. Though can anyone ever answer that? Some of the secret exists in what the Doctor is not. He/she/they have never had a job or a boss or even parents, they never pay tax, never do homework. They never have to go home at night. Maybe you fall in love with the show when you’re a kid because the Doctor’s a big kid, too. I could never love Star Trek in the same way because they’re the navy; when I survive to the year 2266, they won’t allow me on board. I’ll be scrubbing the floor below decks, at best. But Doctor Who’s greatest idea is that the Tardis can land anywhere. I’d walk home from school wishing I could turn the corner and see that blue box and run inside to escape everything. I don’t think that wish has quite gone….

(13) WELL, HARDLY EVER. Black Nerd Problems’ Mikkel Snyder says, “To Watch ‘Pantheon,’ I Wouldn’t Ever Promote Piracy…”

… The central point of all of this is that studios are much more concerned with not paying residuals, and you know what, in the capitalist hellscape that we exist in, I can pretend that I can understand. However, as someone who loves media in all of its forms and is a proponent of media preservation, it’s exceedingly frustrating that works of art that I could see as seminal are subject to the whims of razor thin profit margins. And I’m willing to pay to get access to this media. I immediately purchased all four seasons of Infinity Train in a desperate bid to get access to one of my favorite animated series of 2020 and 2021. Even now, I’m aware that if Prime wanted to they could wipe my entire library, and I would have next to no recourse.

But let’s flash forward to early October when thanks to a friend, I caught wind that for some reason, the second season of Pantheon was in fact airing exclusively on Prime Australia and New Zealand and had no discernable release in the States.

Now, I wouldn’t ever promote piracy. Piracy hurts hard working creatives. It denies them of any direct revenue that is generated from purchases or views, and the only thing potentially worse is completely removing any evidence that it ever existed and preventing any legitimate means of acquisition…or you know, something like that.

And it would be a real shame if the second season of a phenomenal science fiction series that may or may not conclude its story as there is no way in hell a third season is ever going to exist. And it would be completely wild if access to the episodes would be entirely dependent on the random whims of a random Prime ANZ executive. But at least *someone* would get to watch it. And at least it would be online….

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter enjoyed this wrong reply on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: Literary Characters

Answer: In his first appearance in 1902, he was described as “betwixt-and-between” a boy & a bird.

Wrong question: Who is Batman?

Right question: Who is Peter Pan?

(15) UPDATE TO THE ROBERT BLOCH OFFICIAL WEBSITE. Two updates to the Psycho page at the Robert Bloch Official Website.

  • A link to a video showing Psycho (film) locations and how they look today.
  • A nice behind-the-scenes shot with Hitchcock in front of the Bates home.

(16) KEEP CALM, ZACK FANS. “Both of Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon films will get their own R-rated director’s cut” says Entertainment Weekly.

For years after Zack Snyder departed Justice League in the midst of production, the filmmaker’s most passionate fans repeatedly pleaded their case: #ReleasetheSnyderCut. Eventually, they succeeded. In 2021, Warner Bros. brought the director back to their DC superhero roster one last time to complete Zack Snyder’s Justice League

That experience taught Snyder and his wife/producing partner Deborah that there is a significant subset of people who will always be interested in seeing his pure, uncut artistic vision. They took that lesson with them as they set out building their own new cinematic universe in the form of the two-part sci-fi epic Rebel Moon (which you can read all about in EW’s new cover story). 

Rebel Moon Part One: A Child of Fire hits Netflix on Dec. 22, but that won’t be the only version of the film. At some undisclosed point in the future, a longer R-rated version will be added to the streaming platform, and the same will be true for next year’s Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver. But unlike the messy years-long experience with DC, these “director’s cuts” were planned from the beginning. During an hourlong Zoom interview with EW on Halloween about the making of the new films, Snyder said that Netflix producers brought up the idea very early on in the process….

(17) HISTORY FROM ANOTHER PLANET. StarWars.com reminds everyone about “The Origins of Life Day”.

Before you and your family gather your glowing orbs, don your ankle-length red smocks, and gather at the sacred tree to recite hallowed Shyriiwook verses in celebration of Life Day, let’s look back at the holiday’s origins. Not from within the Star Wars setting, mind you; rather, let’s examine its real-world history and evolution from an obscure TV source to an annual fan tradition.

The root of Life Day is found in The Star Wars Holiday Speciala star-studded 1978 prime time broadcast that aired on CBS once on November 17, 1978. After that broadcast, it was never to be (officially) seen again in the US and instead was relegated to bizarre cultural curiosity in the years that followed. The intent of the Holiday Special was to keep Star Wars in the public eye during the long three-year stretch between movies with new entertainment, using a tried-and-true television format of the 1970s: the variety special….

(18) STARSHIP HELD FOR QUICK FIX. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX has announced it will delay the planned second launch of its “Starship“ rocket until Saturday to replace a failed or questionable grid fin actuator. The rocket has been unstacked at the launchpad to provide access for replacing the part. The four grid fins provide guidance/attitude control when returning the super heavy booster to a controlled landing. (In this case, a “land”ing in the ocean.) “SpaceX delays launch of its giant Starship rocket to swap out a part” at Ars Technica.

The launch of SpaceX’s second full-size Starship rocket from South Texas is now scheduled for Saturday, a day later than previously planned, according to company founder Elon Musk.

This 24-hour delay will allow time for SpaceX technicians at the company’s launch facility, known as Starbase, to replace a component on the rocket’s stainless steel Super Heavy booster. There is a 20-minute launch window on Saturday, opening at 7 am CST (13:00 UTC), shortly after sunrise in South Texas.

A delay at this point is unsurprising. Starship is a complex launch vehicle with a sum of 39 methane-burning engines, each producing roughly a half-million pounds of thrust, powering its booster stage and upper stage. And this is only the second test flight of SpaceX’s new full-scale, nearly 400-foot-tall (121-meter) rocket, the largest launch vehicle ever built…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/9/23 If You Tape Bacon To A Pixel Scroll Does It Always Fall Bacon Side Down?

(1) WHEN GRAVITY FAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Chuck Jones’ rules for Coyote cartoons said it works best when gravity is what defeats him. Instead, the change in management at Warner Bros seems to be what has claimed his long-awaited film. The mixed live/animated Coyote Vs. Acme is rumored to have been consigned to the dustbin, despite being a finished product. There it will join Bat Girl and Scoob Holiday Haunt!, both already brought to an ignominious end by the Bros. “‘Coyote Vs. Acme’: Finished Live/Action Animated Pic Shelved Completely By Warner Bros As Studio Takes $30M Tax Write-off”Deadline has the astonishing story.

In another maneuver by the David Zaslav-run Warner Bros Discovery to kill movies, we hear on very good authority that Warner Bros will not be releasing the live-action/animated hybrid Coyote vs. Acme with the conglom taking an estimated $30M write-down on the $70M production. We understand the write-down for the pic was applied to the recently reported Q3.

This reps the third time that Zaslav’s Warner Bros has pulled the plug on a movie greenlit by the previous Warner Media administration; the other two being the Max destined Bat Girl and the animated Scoob Holiday Haunt!.

The difference here is that Coyote vs. Acme is a completed movie with very good test scores, 14 points above the family norm. We’re told that the cash-strapped Warners finds that it’s not worth the cost to release theatrically, or to sell to other buyers (and there are parties who are interested for their own streaming services; we hear Amazon kicked the tires). After reporting a mixed third quarter, the best means for Warners money is a tax write-off. At one point, Coyote vs. Acme was dated on July 21, 2023 for theatrical release before getting pulled; that date placed by the ultimate $1.4 billion grossing Warner Bros biggest hit of all-time, Barbie….

(2) LEAVING THE EXPANSE BEHIND. Gizmodo is on hand as “The Expanse’s James S.A. Corey Announces a New Sci-Fi Trilogy”.

… Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—who write together as James S.A. Corey—have nixed any return to the world of The Expanse, [but] they’re still working on sci-fi projects together, as today’s big announcement attests.

Fans can look forward to the arrival of The Mercy of Gods, a space opera trilogy “that sees humanity fighting for its survival in a war as old as the universe itself,” according to a press release from publisher Orbit. This book will kick off the Captive’s War trilogy, and it will be released August 6, 2024….

(3) SOMETHING’S MISSING. Victoria Struass posts a “Contest Caution: Lichfield Institute Writing Contest” at Writer Beware.

Just about every temptation for a hungry writer is here. Big bucks for the winners. Feedback on every submission from distinguished judges–at least, one assumes they’re distinguished, since they’re finalists for important literary awards. Monthly stipends! Consideration by literary agencies! What more could a contest offer, even if it does charge a $15 submission fee?

Well…

You’ll probably already have noticed some…oddities…both in the screenshot above and on the contest page. The mis-spelling of Hemingway, to start (plus, it’s PEN–it’s an acronym–not Pen). The curious absence of judges’ names. Guidelines that fail to state when winners will be announced and how they will be notified. An entry form with a copy-and-paste box for submitting your entry (have fun reading, no-name judges)….

(4) IN A MIRROR, VERY DARKLY. “Murky reflections: why sci-fi needs to stop imitating Black Mirror” argues Adrian Horton in the Guardian.

…Black Mirror knock-offs are a scourge of the streaming era, which unfortunately incentivizes dressed-up spins on previous successes over truly cerebral or ambitious imaginations of the future….

(5) JEOPARDY! Last night’s episode of Jeopardy! devoted an entire category to science fictional worlds. Andrew Porter found these responses noteworthy.

Category: At a Loss for Worlds

Answer: Survivors escape to Bronson Beta in the 1933 Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer novel “When” this happens

Wrong question: What is “When Tomorrow Comes”?

No one could ask, “When Worlds Collide”

Same category: It’s the real name of the planet referred to in the title of a 1965 Frank Herbert novel.

He bet it all, got it wrong: “What is Dune?”

Correct question: What is Arrakis?

Same category: At the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” this world is destroyed.

No one could ask, “What is the Earth?”

(6) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 96 of Octothorpe, “A Less QR-Code-Using Society”, is ready for listeners.

John Coxon didn’t, Alison Scott would’ve done, and Liz Batty tried. We round up the rest of the news we didn’t talk about in Episode 95, featuring a discussion of how the Chengdu Worldcon went, and the much-anticipated reappearance of THE LIZ BAT. Listen here! 

(7) FEED ME. “John Lewis Christmas Ad Stars a Playful Venus Flytrap” explains Adweek.

In the U.K., watching retailer John Lewis’ Christmas ad is as much of a festive ritual as decorating the tree or exchanging gifts. This year, with a different agency and marketing strategy, the brand is hoping to cement its role in both old and new holiday traditions. 

The new ad, titled “Snapper,” follows the unusual tale of a Venus flytrap. While at a flea market with his family, a boy discovers a seed packet promising to grow into the “perfect Christmas tree.” 

Instead, a carnivorous plant emerges from the soil. Though the boy loves Snapper, the mischievous plant causes disruption and is eventually banished outside after it grows too big for the house. 

On Christmas morning, the boy leaves his family’s normal tree to bring a gift to the Venus flytrap. Snapper spits out confetti and gifts in return, inspiring the family to embrace an unconventional addition to the festivities. … 

(8) FRANK BORMAN (1928-2023). “Astronaut Frank Borman, commander of the first Apollo mission to the moon, has died at age 95” reports Yahoo!

Astronaut Frank Borman, who commanded Apollo 8’s historic Christmas 1968 flight that circled the moon 10 times and paved the way for the lunar landing the next year, has died. He was 95.

Borman died Tuesday in Billings, Montana, according to NASA.

Borman also led troubled Eastern Airlines in the 1970s and early ’80s after leaving the astronaut corps….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1921 Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he was writing under A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Lawrence T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited NebulaInfinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. His Axe fanzine (co-edited with his wife Noreen) was nominated at Chicon III for a Hugo. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 69. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, lasted updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1988 Tahereh Mafi, 35. Iranian-American whose Furthermore, a YA novel about a pale girl living in a world of both color and magic of which she has neither, I highly recommended it. Whichwood is a companion novel to this work. She also has a young adult dystopian thriller series.
  • Born November 9, 1989 Alix E. Harrow, 34. Winner at Dublin 2019 of the Best Short Story Hugo for “Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” which also was nominated for a BSFA and Nebula Award. Other Hugo-nominated work: The Ten Thousand Doors of January was nomination at CoNZealand; “A Spindle Splintered” novella and “Mr. death” short story at Chicon 8; and “A Mirror Mended” novella this year. She has three excellent novels to date, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Once and Future Witches which was nominated for a WFA and the just released Starling House.  She has a double handful of short stories not yet collected anywhere.  More’s the pity. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxes in Love features a Dune crossover.

(11) BRING ME THE HEAD OF C-3PO. “Star Wars C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels is selling film memorabilia” reports BBC News.

The actor who played C-3PO in Star Wars said “it feels like it is time” to sell the costumes, props and scripts he kept from the iconic films.

Anthony Daniels, 77, is parting company with items from his personal collection via Hertfordshire-based auctioneer Propstore from Thursday.

The famous gold helmet he wore for his character in the first film from 1977 is estimated to sell for up to £1m.

Daniels said he was excited for his collection to “find a good home”.

“I realised I had these items and they’re not unloved but they are unlooked at – we don’t have them crowding the sitting room,” he said, explaining why he has chosen to sell the items now.

“Will I feel sad to part with them? No. I will enjoy the fact people will cherish and display them.”…

Propstore marked the Screen-matched Light-up C-3PO Head as sold, however, the press has not yet revealed the amount of the winning bid.

(12) FANHISTORY ART ZOOM ON YOUTUBE. Fanac.org’s two-part Zoom with a panel of fanartists now can be viewed on YouTube.

Part 1

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 1 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 1 of this 2-part session, you’ll hear their “origin stories”, their influences, how they found science fiction fandom, and what they perceive as the unique benefits of fandom to young artists. You’ll find out why artists should avoid hecto, and torturous tales of justifying margins by hand. There are intriguing insights into adjusting one’s art to the reproduction medium, and how fandom helped people along, especially towards professional careers. Larger than life figures make their appearance, including several stories of Bill Rotsler.

There’s plenty more, including their views on Carl Barks, why Dan started “Lizard Inn”, Jim’s take on the slippery slope to having a fanzine too big to staple without an industrial stapler, Tim on his deep desire to tell stories, and Grant’s opinion of “Starling”.  The fun continues in Part 2.

Part 2

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 2 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 2 of this 2-part session, the fan art discussion continues, with more on professional careers as well. The conversation ranges from Tolkien’s house to Harlan Ellison’s house, from “The Last Dangerous Visions” to Bill Gibson, from Harlan Ellison stories to BNFs that had an impact. There are more Rotsler stories too. You’ll hear about silent jam sessions, “Esoteric Fan Art Tales”, and the impact that conventions had on artists who worked in isolation.  A real treat is the slideshow of samples of our panelists’ art, with their live comments on what each piece represents.  

Q&A starts about 45 minutes into the video, with comments as well as questions, including Ted White’s discussion of the impact of Mondrian’s work on modern magazine design. Lest you believe that fanzines are a thing of the past, the video wraps up with a plug for an upcoming paper fanzine by faned Geri Sullivan. 

(13) A COSMIC EVENT. FirstShowing introduces “US Trailer for French ‘Cosmic Event’ Sci-Fi Thriller Film ‘The Gravity’”.

“After the alignment, the world will change forever. Everything will start over.”  Dark Star Pictures has released an official US trailer for an indie sci-fi action thriller film from France titled The Gravity, made by filmmaker Cédric Ido. This intially premiered at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival last year and it already opened in France earlier this year. Finally set for a US release on VOD starting in November. A mysterious cosmic event upsets the Earth’s gravity and sets the sky ablaze in a red hue, creating chaos in a futuristic Parisian suburb. This French “genre-busting” thriller is more of a story about street culture in the suburbs, following a local band of teenagers and their feud with other residents in the area….

(14) SPACE COMMAND. Marc Scott Zicree has dropped “Why Science Fiction Matters! Unreleased Space Command Full Scene”.

Meantime there five days remain in the Kickstarter to raise funds for “Space Command Forgiveness: Post-Production”. At this time fans have pledged almost $52,000 of the $60,000 goal.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/23 A Pixel Like That, You Don’t Scroll All At Once

(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON UPDATE. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

What is the Tianwen Program/Award?

Right now, this is a bit of an enigma.  I stumbled across a link to this Chinese-language news article at the bottom of the article covered in the next item.  Here are some extracts via Google Translate (my emphases, I haven’t attempted to correct likely mistranslations):

Under the premise of the vigorous development of Chinese science fiction, in order to discover science fiction talents, support science fiction works, and promote the integrated development of the science fiction industry, the “Tianwen Project” jointly launched by the Chinese Writers Association and the World Science Fiction Conference Organizing Committee was officially “debuted” at the summit .

The plan includes a science fiction award “Tianwen Award” and N actions to promote the integrated development of China and even the global science fiction industry. The “Tianwen Award” is oriented to encourage emerging and young writers and has permanently settled in Chengdu. It has become a useful supplement to the “Hugo Award” of the World Science Fiction Conference. While awarding the award, it also holds various activities such as IP roadshows, theme exhibitions, and salon promotions. . At the same time, it will be displayed on the platform of the World Science Fiction Conference and hold exchange activities to promote the in-depth integration of Chinese science fiction into world science fiction.

“We very much appreciate Chengdu’s plan to establish the ‘Tianwen Prize’. It is not only for China, but also for the world.” In the view of Dave McCarty, a member of the Hugo Award selection committee, the “Tianwen Prize” will become China’s An important channel for science fiction to integrate into world science fiction, it has become a platform to promote in-depth exchanges between Chinese fantasy fans and world fantasy fans.

Given the highlighted bits, and with quotes from the current Hugo Administrator, and on a stage with “WSFS” at the bottom, it was hard to shake the impression that this award/project is in some way WSFS affiliated?  On re-reading, I suspect that’s actually a red herring, likely caused by a reporter not fully understanding all the different entities and relationships and/or machine mistranslation.  I presume “World Science Fiction Conference Organizing Committee” is a reference to the fact that three (I think) of the eight people on the stage for this announcement are on the Chengdu 2023 concom; four if you count Cixin Liu who was listed as part of the original bid team.

I tried searching on a few Chinese sites for 天问计划 (Tianwen Program) and 天问奖 (Tianwen Award), but found only one relevant result, a Weibo post.  The text appears to be much the same as the above linked article, but it does have a short, slightly strange, clip from the announcement.

My guess is that this is actually a domestic Chinese award, possibly with some extra stuff to help promote the finalists or winners internationally, perhaps similar to the Galaxy Awards 1 anthology that came out last year.

Media coverage of the “First Industry Development Promotion Conference”

Red Star News has an article on one of the handful of programme items deemed worthy of streaming to virtual attendees. The following extract via Google Translate (no manual cleanup edits):

Judging from the investment amount, the “Chinese Story·Science Fiction Situation Drama Incubation Base Project” with an investment amount of 2 billion will use the “program + park + base + academy” model to aggregate high-quality resources from the science fiction industry chain to create a first-class domestic science fiction sitcom Incubation platform.

From the perspective of project level, the Trisolaran Universe Global Headquarters project with a total investment of 1 billion yuan is committed to building a top Chinese science fiction brand with international influence. It will focus on developing Three-Body games, film and television drama content products, brand derivatives and other businesses, presenting A more three-dimensional three-body world.

(Note: 1 billion yuan is approximately 137 million USD.)

Huawei sponsoring the “Science Fiction vs Science Fact” panel?

Although they aren’t one of the previously announced corporate partners of the con, judging by this tweet it would appear that Huawei are sponsoring the “Science Fiction vs Science Fact” panel/event on Saturday.  This is another item that is being streamed.  Nnedi Okorafor is listed as one of the speakers.

Galaxy Award winners announced

These were announced on Thursday evening; winners include Hugo Short Story finalist “On the Razor’s Edge” by Jiang Bo.  The “Ghost of Tsushima” art book that was in the leaked list of Hugo finalists was also a winner in the Related Work category.  Weibo links: (1)(2)(3)(4)

Links to official (?) photo galleries

Earlier today, Adaoli/SF Light Year messaged me this photo of QR codes for what I presume are official photo galleries.  I think the first one has been previously linked in a Facebook post from the official con account, but I’d not seen any other mention of them online.

As yet, I’ve not been able to get my phone to recognize the QR codes for the 21st and 22nd; if anyone else can extract the links, please post in the comments.  I’ll try to get a better photo of that poster tomorrow, in the hope that I can get a readable image.  The links for the first three days are:

  • Wednesday 18th: here
  • Thursday 19th: here
  • Friday 20th: here

The galleries are arranged by the room the photos were taken in.  As far as I can tell, the UI and room names are only in Chinese, but the translation functionality built into Chrome does a decent enough job.

Photo galleries posted by publishers, writers and fans to Weibo

Eight Light Minutes Culture had several Weibo post showing some of the panels (1)(2)(3), (4)  as did Future Affairs Administration.  The latter also posted a gallery of an area documenting Worldcon history.

Translator Tian Tian posted photos of her meeting people and being on panels.  (As an aside, I notice from her CSFDB page that she co-wrote an essay which Google Translate renders as “The 2019 Hugo Awards are here. Will the United States continue to use science fiction to resist reality?”, which I am now dying to read.)

There were quite a lot of user comments on this post about James Bryant making his way alone to his 15th Worldcon at the age of 81.

Xie Yunning has written for SF World magazine, and also has a few gallery posts on his Weibo page.

Wandering Earth team video

I’m not sure exactly what the team behind the Wandering Earth film (including director and star) are doing here, but they seemed to enjoy themselves doing it.

Queue for Cixin Liu signing

Short video on Weibo; Twitter videoWeibo photo gallery posted by Adaoli/SF Light Year.

English language videos from China Daily

China Daily posted a minute-long video to Twitter, with a couple of English native-speaker presenters, one of whom was the interviewer in the Chris M. Barkley video featured in yesterday’s Scroll.  As a guide to the quality of journalism on display, the presenter refers to the con venue as “the Space Museum”, although whoever did the Chinese subtitles evidently knows what it’s really called.  Still, it could have been worse.

Those presenters also appeared in a short comedic (?) video, and briefly in another China Daily video posted a couple of days ago.  Dave McCarty and Liza Groen-Trombi can be seen in the latter video at 0:25 chatting at what I assume is the Locus table.

(2) UGANDA BID TABLE. Micheal Kabunga, Kampcon 2028 bid chair/coordinator, sent this photo of the Kampcon booth at the Chengdu Worldcon — booth B40.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Tony C. Smith of Starship Sofa told subscribers today that his surgeon has declared him cancer free.

That is a great feeling.

If folks don’t know… I had bladder cancer, only picked up by the fact I was going to the toilet more often through the night. Huge thanks to my wife Melanie for pushing me to go get it checked out. So, I’m minus a bladder, prostrate and glands and now have a bag attached to my side for the rest of my life but it’s a small price to pay.

This means SSS is rebooting her engines on Tuesday 24th November. Hope you can join me, as we travel into deep space looking for amazing SF stories.

(4) GOING VIRAL. Editors Brian Keene and Christopher Golden have announced The End Of The World As We Know It: Tales Of Stephen King’s The Stand — an original short story anthology based on the highly influential and seminal work of apocalyptic fiction and good versus evil; featuring an introduction from Stephen King himself and new fiction from a world ravaged by the virus “Captain Trips” and the minds of Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Chizmar, S. A. Cosby, Tananarive Due, Alma Katsu, Caroline Kepnes, Michael Koryta, Scott Ian, Joe R. Lansdale, Maurice Broaddus and Wayne Brady, Bryan Smith, Somer Canon, Hailey Piper, Jonathan Janz and many others. Thanks to Stephen King for entrusting these two constant readers with this task.

Brian Keene added this update on Facebook:

F.A.Q for THE STAND Anthology:

1. Yes, this is 100% authorized by the Big Man himself.

2. No, we are not open to submissions. Anything sent will be deleted unread.

3. No, we don’t have an official release date yet, nor info on various editions.

4. No, we can’t release the final full line-up yet.

5. Yes, *that* Wayne Brady with Maurice Broaddus.

(5) IT’S A TRAP! Sarah Rees Brennan has discovered something about NaNoWriMo.

(6) TODAY’S DAY

October 20, 1955 — J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, the final volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was published sixty eight years ago today by Allen & Unwin with Tolkien’s artwork on the cover. 

In The Letters Of J.R. R. Tolkien as edited by Humphrey Carpenter, he says he felt the chosen title revealed too much of the story, and that he would have instead preferred The War of the Ring as the title for the volume. 

The entire series was nominated for a Hugo at Tricorn in Cleveland, though the Foundation series would be the winner that year.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. One half with Manfred Bennington Lee of the writing team who created Ellery Queen.  ISFDB lists two Ellery Queen novels as being genre, And on the Eight Day and The Scrolls of Lysis, plus a single short story, “A Study in Terror”. The Roman Hat Mystery, the first Ellery Queen mystery is free to all Audible members. Yes, I’m going to listen to it next. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring. A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1913 Barney Phillips. Though he’s best remembered as Sgt. Ed Jacobs on the Dragnet series and yes, I remember him well from it, he did do some genre work of which his most notable being was one on The Twilight Zone, in which he played a Venusian hiding out on Earth as Haley, the short-order cook in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” episode. Remember you can see it on Paramount+. I just did and he’s amazing. I’m not forgetting his other three appearances there, the first being in “The Purple Testament” as Captain E. L. Gunther, next in “A Thing about Machines” as television repairman which is also a brilliant role for him, followed by the Venusian role, and in “Miniature” as Diemel. Quite a feat that many appearances!  He also appeared on The Invaders, Shazzan, Three Musketeers where he was voice of Porthos for all 18 episodes of the animated series, Get Smart! And The Funky Phantomthe latter being a clone of Scooby-Doo! that was set in the American Revolution. Really, I’m not kidding. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best remembered for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had other appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s “The Wax Men” episode. He was even in the Get Smart! pilot as Mr. Big. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia says “Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.” I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her please if you’ve read her!  (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1946 Thomas Wylde, 77. He’s here because he’s got two stories in the Alien Speedway franchise, Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #2: Pitfall and Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #3: The Web. I’ve never heard of these. Anyone read them?  He’s also got two stories in L. Sprague de Camp’s Doctor Bones series as well. 
  • Born October 20, 1955 Magdalena Tulli, 68. Polish writer of many, many novels, a few of which are fantastic tales. Some were translated into English and are available from the usual suspects. The one work by her that I wish to single out is Tryby, published in translation as Moving Parts, as it is a metafiction in which the novel in question takes over from its author.
  • Born October 20, 1966 Diana Rowland, 57. New Orleans writer with a fascinating job history that includes cop, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant. She’s best known for her Kara Gillian series and White Trash Zombie series. Her only award is a Phoenix Award, a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom, given by DeepSouthCon. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) EARTHLY CHILD BLOCKS UNEARTHLY CHILD. “First Doctor Who Story Excluded from BBC iPlayer in Legal Dispute”Gizmodo has the story.

Nearly 60 years to the day that Doctor Who began airing, next month, the BBC will launch an unprecedented collection of over 800 episodes from the show’s distant and not-so-distant past on its streaming platform, iPlayer—the first of its kind from the corporation. But it turns out that the very first story that kicked all those adventures off in the first place won’t be a part of it.

Known by the title of its first episode, “An Unearthly Child,” the four-part serial was written by Anthony Coburn, at the time a staff writer for the BBC, who would go on to write three more stories for Doctor Who that never made it to air….

Decades later, Coburn’s son, Stef Coburn, has repeatedly pushed back against the BBC over what he perceives as a mistreatment of his father—especially over the conceptual ideas behind, and eventual name of, the Doctor’s time-travel machine, the TARDIS. Coburn first attempted to legally challenge the BBC’s ownership of the TARDIS in 2013, timed to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who—alleging that the corporation lost the rights to use ideas leveraged in Coburn’s script for “An Unearthly Child” when he died in 1977, despite the corporation having held various copyrights and trademarks on the ship and its police box design for decades prior.

Now, a decade later, Coburn has taken to social media to confirm that he has rejected attempts by the BBC to license “An Unearthly Child” for streaming on its platforms, claiming that the corporation refused a proposed deal to license the story….

(10) THE MAYOR’S ON THE LINE. “Eric Adams Uses A.I. to Robocall New Yorkers in Languages He Doesn’t Speak” reports the New York Times.

The calls to New Yorkers have a familiar ring to them. They all sound like Mayor Eric Adams — only in Spanish. Or Yiddish. Or Mandarin.

Has the mayor been taking language lessons?

The answer is no, and the truth is slightly more expensive and, in the eyes of privacy experts, far more worrisome.

The mayor is using artificial intelligence to reach New Yorkers through robocalls in a number of languages. The calls encourage people to apply for jobs in city government or to attend community events like concerts.

Privacy advocates still criticized the robocalls, arguing that it was “deeply Orwellian” to try to trick New Yorkers into thinking that Mr. Adams speaks languages that he does not. The group has previously criticized the mayor’s embrace of facial recognition technology and his dispatch of a police robot to patrol the Times Square subway station.

“Yes, we need announcements in all of New Yorkers’ native languages, but the deep fakes are just a creepy vanity project,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project….

(11) TO HELL AND BACK. 100 Places to See After You Die: A Travel Guide to the Afterlife by Jeopardy! host and champion Ken Jennings is a thing.

Ever wonder which circles of Dante’s Inferno have the nicest accommodations? Where’s the best place to grab a bite to eat in the ancient Egyptian underworld? How does one dress like a local in the heavenly palace of Hinduism’s Lord Vishnu, or avoid the flesh-eating river serpents in the Klingon afterlife? What hidden treasures can be found off the beaten path in Hades, Valhalla, or TV’s The Good Place? Find answers to all those questions and more about the world(s) to come in this eternally entertaining book from Ken Jennings.

Written in the style of iconic bestselling travel guides, Jennings wryly outlines journeys through the afterlife, as dreamed up over 5,000 years of human history by our greatest prophets, poets, mystics, artists, and TV showrunners. This comprehensive index of 100 different afterlife destinations was meticulously researched from sources ranging from the Epic of Gilgamesh to modern-day pop songs, video games, and Simpsons episodes. Get ready for whatever post-mortal destiny awaits you, whether it’s an astral plane, a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape, or the baseball diamond from Field of Dreams.

Fascinating, funny, and irreverent, this “gung-ho travel guide to Heaven, Hell, and beyond” (The New Yorker) will help you create your very own bucket list—for after you’ve kicked the bucket.

(12) WAS IT JUSTIFIED? JustWatch’s Owen Harris asks, “Are you as astonished by the Netflix price increase as I am?” 

We all just got to know the news about the subscription price change. What we don’t know, however, is how their catalog justified such an increase. 

That’s why I thought you might want to see our data, which will show you the top 5 streaming services by catalog size over time and quality. It shows that Netflix’s price rise is not justified.

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

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 7/27/23 Take Back The Links, Take Back The Scrolls

(1) WORLDCON VENUE CONSTRUCTION REPORT. A Weibo user posted a video showing progress at the Chengdu Science and Technology Museum and Science Fiction Museum construction site. Here is a screencap from the video.

(2) WHEN FACEBOOK IS OUT OF TUNE. Somtow Sucharitkul shared his good-natured response to an annoying example of Facebook moderation.

(3) FIGHTING BACK. “Booksellers Move to the Front Lines of the Fight Against Book Bans in Texas” reports the New York Times.

With a book-rating law set to take effect in September, a group of booksellers, along with publishers and authors, filed suit to argue that it is unconstitutional.

A group of booksellers, publishers and authors filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to stop a new law in Texas that would require stores to rate books based on sexual content, arguing the measure would violate their First Amendment rights and be all but impossible to implement.

The law, set to take effect in September, would force booksellers to evaluate and rate each title they sell to schools, as well as books they sold in the past. If they fail to comply, stores would be barred from doing business with schools….

…Charley Rejsek, the chief executive of BookPeople in Austin, said that complying with the law would be impossible. BookPeople — which takes its name from Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451,” in which a group of people try to preserve books in a world where they are burned — was founded in 1970, Rejsek said. The store does not have records of titles sold over the last half century, much less a way to know which of them are still in circulation — but under the law, BookPeople would be responsible for rating those books.

“I don’t see a clear path forward for complying with the law as written,” she said. “I don’t know how I can rate them if I don’t have any records.”

Going forward, she said, BookPeople would have to read and rate many thousands of titles requested by school districts. Some might be in languages her staff cannot read, she said.

“I want to work with schools,” she said. “But I just literally can’t find a way to comply.”

(4) BLERDCON. Listen as NPR’s “Here and Now” shares how “Blerdcon celebrates Black nerd fandom throughout the year.

While summer may be the season for fan conventions, Blerdcon is unique in catering expressly to Black nerds (or blerds).

Founder and CEO Hilton George explains the rise of Black nerdom and the events he puts on to celebrate it throughout the year.

(5) FAMED MYSTERY BOOKSTORE OWNER. The Bookshop Podcast’s Mandy Jackson-Beverly interviews Otto Penzler of The Mysterious Bookshop.

In this episode, I chat with Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop about publishing, the genre of mystery and crime fiction, female mystery writers, and collecting first editions.

Opened in 1979 by Otto Penzler, The Mysterious Bookshop is the oldest mystery specialist book store in America. Previously located in midtown, the bookshop now calls Tribeca its home.

The bookshop stocks the finest selection of new mystery hardcovers, paperbacks and periodicals and also features a superb collection of signed Modern First Editions, Rare/Collectible hardcovers and Sherlockiana.

(6) THE SPACE PROGRAM’S ORIGINAL COMPUTERS. PBS’ American Experience covers “The Women Who Brought Us the Moon”.

…The women working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the 1960s were all highly trained mathematicians, and many possessed advanced degrees. Helen Ling was born in China and experienced a tumultuous childhood formed under the pressures of WWII. Coming to the United States for college, she earned her master’s degree in mathematics before leading the computing section in a managerial role for over three decades. There was also Janez Lawson, the first African American hired in a technical position at the laboratory. She held a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UCLA and by modern qualifications would be hired today as an engineer. However, in the 1950s, her gender and race impeded her employment and she was brought in as a computer….

The section on JPL is followed by another devoted to the African American computers at the Langley Memorial Aeronautic laboratory in Hampton, Virginia made famous by Hidden Figures.

…In a system designed to repress their advancement, the African American women became indispensable. “A Trojan horse of segregation opening the door to integration,” Margot Lee Shetterly wrote in Hidden Figures, her 2016 nonfiction book documenting the groundbreaking female African American computers at Langley and adapted into a feature film of the same name. In the book, Shetterly focuses her narrative on three human computers turned engineers: Katherine Johnson, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. While their careers spanned decades, their contributions to early human spaceflight are most frequently lauded…

(7) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] A number of SF-related clues in Wednesday’s Jeopardy! episode, for some reason all in the first round.

I’m Blue, $200: This Oscar-winning actress has a certain mystique playing Mystique, who, deep down, is all blue

Challenger Lucas Partridge got it right: “Who is Jennifer Lawrence?”

All Kinds of Literature, $600: “Bowman could bear no more. He jerked out the last unit, and HAL was silent forever” is a line from this sci-fi work

Lucas knew this one.

Recent TV Shows by Episode Title, $400: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”

Lucas tried “Obi-Wan”, which left the field open for returning champion Julie Sisson to respond, “What is ‘The Mandalorian’?”

I’m Blue, $400: In this novel, a character is described as having “the half-tint blue eyes that told of off-planet foods in his diet”

Nobody knew what this one does. (I’ll presume that all the Filers do.)

Recent TV Shows by Episode Title, $600: “Dear Offred”

Lucas got it right: “What is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’?”

“Da” or “Ba” or “Dee”, $800: It’s a word describing motorcyclist Bud Ekins, or the name of a Marvel hero

The third player, Alex Muhler, responded with “What is Daredevil?”

(8) ONE RING. Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman star in 57 Seconds, debuting September 29.

Time bends, revenge ignites, and survival hangs by a thread in 57 SECONDS! Josh Hutcherson and Morgan Freeman team up in this heart-racing action thriller. Franklin (Hutcherson) seeks vengeance against the man who killed his sister and the corporate empire he reigns, as he discovers a time-altering ring dropped by tech guru Anton (Freeman) that propels him into a pulse-pounding battle for survival.

(9) DAVID K. M. KLAUS (1955-2023). Longtime fan and File 770 contributor David K. M. Klaus died July 27 at the age of 67. He is survived by his sons Kevin and Ryan.

Gary Farber wrote a reminiscence on Facebook which begins with meeting David at Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon. About the David he knew for the next almost-fifty-years he says:

…Eager to help, friendly like a puppy, and occasionally overdoing it a bit. He helped several more times on sf conventions I worked on in later years, as well as many others. He also remained a major fan of fanzines and attempted to contribute to local clubs in the various places he lived. Science fiction clubs being what they are, sometimes his efforts were more compatible than others. But he truly wanted to help and was looking for no other reward.

David felt passionately, beyond passionately, about his various enthusiasms, especially his beloved STAR TREK, which remained central to the core of his ethos and who we was. David Klaus was always Starfleet in his own mind.

And now he no longer has to deal with the pain of his relatively recently deceased wife of many years, Nila….

Nila and David met at a Star Trek club meeting, married, and were together for many years, til he lost her to ovarian cancer in 2016.

I was honored with the rare opportunity to have dinner with the whole family when I was in St. Louis on business in 2010.

However, over the years our friendship experienced sudden peaks and valleys, the reasons for which I won’t go into here. Fortunately our last exchange of emails in 2022 ended on an up note when I told him, “I should just point out some things I respect about you. You took care of your family, raised your sons, worked hard. You kept it together. There are some things in that line I’d like to have done as well as you did.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1938 Pierre Christin, 85. French comics creator and writer. In the mid Sixties, collaborated with Jean-Claude Mézières to create the science-fiction series Valérian and Laureline for PiloteTime Jam: Valerian & Laureline, a French animated series was released, and a feature film directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, was released as well. A officially released compilation of the Valerian & Laureline series is on YouTube here.
  • Born July 27, 1948 — Juliet Marillier, 75. She’s a New Zealand-born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She contributed to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1939 — Sydney J. van Scyoc. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Assignment Nor’Dyren is one of her better novels. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. (Died 2023.)
  • Born July 27, 1952 Bud Webster. Writer known for his essays on the history of science fiction and genre anthologies. His Bubba Pritchert series, all four stories, is fun reading indeed. He did but a handful of stories but essays as I alluded to above, oh my. Mike has a loving look at him and everything he did here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 55. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, which won a BSFAHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she is a Karl Edward Wagner Award winner as well.
  • Born July 27, 1973 Cassandra Clare, 50. I read at least the first three or four volumes of her Mortal Instruments series which I see means I’ve almost completed it. Damn good series. Anyone read her Magnus Bane series? Interestingly she’s been nominated for myriad Goodreads Choice Awards and won two for City of Fallen Angels and City of Heavenly Fire.

(11) A HOWARD BROTHER. Slashfilm points out that “Star Trek: SNW’s Latest Guest Star Appeared in Star Trek When He Was Six Years Old”.

…In “The Corbomite Maneuver,” the U.S.S. Enterprise is approached by a massive and mysterious alien spaceship, perfectly spherical and possessed of immense destructive power. The ship is called the Fesarius, and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) can only communicate with the Fesarius’ captain, Balok (voiced by Ted Cassidy), via audio. Balok declares that he very much intends to destroy the Enterprise using his superior weapons. Thinking quickly, Kirk bluffs; he says that the Enterprise is equipped with an imaginary substance called Corbomite that would react negatively to a weapons attack and destroy both ships. The bulk of the episode is a standoff between the two captains. 

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is able to hack into the video cameras on board the Fesarius and gets a visual of Balok. Children of multiple generations likely recall the nightmare-inducing image of Balok’s evil face. Cruelly, the “Star Trek” producers included Balok’s evil face over the credits of every episode. 

At the end of the episode, however, it is revealed that Balok was also enacting a bluff. He was not an evil, blue-skinned alien, but a creature that looks an awful lot like a six-year-old boy. Balok was merely testing Kirk and would love to chat diplomatically. 

Balok was played by a six-year-old Clint Howard, an actor who has revisited “Trek” periodically over the decades, and he appears in the latest episode of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” as a general in the Klingon Wars. 

…Howard’s latest “Star Trek” appearance is in “Under the Cloak of War,” a flashback episode which shows what Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) and Dr. M’Benga (Bab Olusanmokun) experienced during the Klingon Wars. Nurse Chapel arrives at a remote Federation outpost that is being aggressively bombarded by Klingon forces and is immediately made one of the chief medical officers because her predecessor was just killed in combat. Howard shows Nurse Chapel around, completely jaded by death and unaffected by the violence. …

Collider has an episode recap: “’Strange New Worlds’ Season 2 Episode 8 Recap: War Makes Monsters of Us All”.

(12) SFF COFFEE BREAK. Bones Coffee Company offers the Crusader’s Cup blend.

Crusader’s Cup is a wise choice for those who want to embark on a flavor-filled journey with hints of nutty chocolate, butterscotch, and caramel. If you’re ready to take on the world and explore new horizons, grab Crusader’s Cup and set out on your next adventure.

(13) PRIME REAL ESTATE CAN BE YOURS. Here’s another plug…. GameSpot says “Lord Of The Rings Monopoly Is On Sale At Amazon Right Now”.

Ever wondered what it would be like to own property in Middle-earth? Well, you can find out if you pick up the Amazon-exclusive Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings edition while it’s on sale for just $26 (normally $45). This price is from a third-party seller, but if you’d rather buy directly from Amazon, you can get it for $32.49 with Prime shipping.

Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Edition reimagines Hasbro’s classic board game with locations, characters, and items from The Lord of the Rings film series directed by Peter Jackson. For example, instead of the original game pieces like the top hat and thimble, the game uses the iconic members of the fellowship–Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, Merry, Boromir, and Gandalf. Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings edition also adds new rules where players compete for control over The One Ring and journey to Mordor along with the classic Monopoly gameplay….

(14) WRITER NOTED AS BODYPAINTING SUBJECT. “At NYC Bodypainting Day, Naked Bodies Become Artists’ Canvases” in the New York Times.

…Across from a Pret a Manger near Union Square Park, Nicolette Barischoff held still as an artist painted an open blue eye across her sternum on Sunday. It was around 88 degrees and a crowd had assembled around them. But the temperature and the audience did not faze Ms. Barischoff. Nor did the fact that she was naked.

“It’s a very Zen experience,” she said, as photographers snapped pictures from behind police barricades. “This is my fishing.”

Ms. Barischoff, 38, a writer in Los Angeles, was among the 60 people who had paid $100 to become mostly nude human canvases for 40 artists during NYC Bodypainting Day, a public art exhibition that has been staged annually since 2014. This year’s installment was the 10th — and the last, according to the event’s founder, Andy Golub, an artist. He said he was ending it to focus on other projects for his organization, Human Connection Arts….

Barischoff’s online bio at Uncanny Magazine tells about the many sff projects she’s worked on:

Nicolette Barischoff has spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome. She qualified for SFWA with her first three stories, published in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, and Unlikely Story’s The Journal of Unlikely Academia. Her work has been spoken aloud by the wonderful people of PodCastle, and one of her novelettes is mandatory reading at the University of Texas, Dallas. She edited the personal essays section of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, which won a Hugo Award. She’s also a fierce advocate for disability and body-positivity, which has occasionally landed her in trouble. She made the front page of CBS New York, who called her activism “public pornography” and suggested her face was a public order crime. She has the exact same chair as Professor X, and it is also powered by Cerebro.

(15) THE MARTIAN PARTICLES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s Nature reports a wide range of organic compounds found by Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater on Mars: “Diverse organic-mineral associations in Jezero crater, Mars”.

The results come from the rover’s Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument.

The SHERLOC instrument is a deep ultraviolet (DUV) Raman and fluorescence spectrometer designed to map the distribution of organic molecules and minerals on rock surfaces.

(16) NUCLEAR PROPULSION BACK ON THE DRAWING BOARD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Rocket geeks of a certain age will remember the NERVA program, one of the first attempts to design a nuclear thermal rocket engine.

Well, NASA and DARPA are reviving that concept with the intent of a test flight as early as 2027. This version will be limited to cislunar space, but the idea is to enable flight to Mars and possibly beyond. “The US government is taking a serious step toward space-based nuclear propulsion” at Ars Technica.

Four years from now, if all goes well, a nuclear-powered rocket engine will launch into space for the first time. The rocket itself will be conventional, but the payload boosted into orbit will be a different matter.

NASA announced Wednesday that it is partnering with the US Department of Defense to launch a nuclear-powered rocket engine into space as early as 2027. The US space agency will invest about $300 million in the project to develop a next-generation propulsion system for in-space transportation.

“NASA is looking to go to Mars with this system,” said Anthony Calomino, an engineer at NASA who is leading the agency’s space nuclear propulsion technology program. “And in this test is really going to give us that foundation.”

… The basic idea is straightforward: A nuclear reactor rapidly heats up a propellant, probably liquid hydrogen, and then this gas expands and is passed out a nozzle, creating thrust. But engineering all of this for in-space propulsion is challenging, and then there is the regulatory difficulty of building a nuclear reactor and safely launching it into space….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. One of many trailers shown at SDCC is this one for Popeye The Sailor, a live-action fan-made film.

Based on characters created by E.C. Segar, Popeye The Sailor is a No budget, action, adventure fan film coming later this year. Before Olive, before Bluto, before Sweet Haven and its many residents, this feature film tells the story of a younger Popeye, wandering the world alone, living with questions of his past. In his quest to find answers, new foes are met, and new allies are made.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/15/23 I Went Looking For A Scroll And All I Found Was This Lousy Jetpack

(1) IT WON’T BE FREE. “Steven Soderbergh is releasing a surprise sci-fi series starring Michael Cera next week” and EW tries to find out why.

Steven Soderbergh is no stranger to experimentation. In 2006, he released Bubble simultaneously on cable and in theaters before that was commonplace. He shot Unsane and High Flying Bird using an iPhone. Now, he’s dropping a sci-fi series starring Michael Cera and Roy Wood Jr. on his own website, Extension765

The mysterious project, which follows his new Max series Full Circle, is called Command Z, and EW can confirm Soderbergh directed the series in addition to producing. He shot the comedy — the name of which is the computer keystroke for undo — “in secret,” according to an announcement from his Extension765 website. Command Z will stream via the site on July 17, though EW can confirm it won’t be available for free.

“This very morning, our fearful leader explained that in three days (July 17th for those who don’t want to do the math) we will be ‘dropping’ a series of some sort called Command Z,” reads a letter on Soderbergh’s website, written by a possibly fictional figure named Fabrizia del Dongo. “If I seem hedgy, it’s because A) None of us have seen it; and B) It’s apparently about ninety minutes long, but there are eight episodes of varying length, so is it an actual series or just a movie cut up into pieces?”…

(2) ON STRIKE. Variety reports that SAG and the AMPTP even dispute what some of their disagreements are. This article tries to identify all the sticking points: “SAG Actor Strike: Talks Stalled Over AI, Streaming and Pay Hikes”.

SAG-AFTRA and the major studios remain at odds on a dizzying array of issues, as film and TV actors hit the picket lines Friday for the first time since 1980.

According to sources on both sides, the biggest sticking point is the union’s demand for 2% of the revenue generated by streaming shows. The two sides also remain far apart on basic increases in minimum rates, with the studios offering 5%, 4% and 3.5% across the three years of the contract, while the union is demanding 11%, 4% and 4%.

But that only scratches the surface. The parties are at odds on dozens of issues, only a handful of which have been publicly reported.

In some cases, the two sides don’t even agree on what the disagreements are. They engaged in a rare public back-and-forth Thursday over the use of artificial intelligence to replicate background actors.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s executive director, alleged that the studios want to pay an extra for one day of work to be scanned, and then reuse that likeness forever. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers hotly disputed that, saying that its proposal explicitly limits the reuse to the project for which the extra was hired….

(3) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books has released Simultaneous Times episode 65. Listen to the episode here.

Simultaneous Times Episode 65

Stories featured in this episode:

  • “The Sport of Snails” by F.J. Bergmann; with music by Phog Masheeen
  • “Hollow Hearts” by Eric Fomley; with music by Fall Precauxions

Theme music by Dain Luscombe

(4) DEVELOPMENT HELLIONS. JoBlo asks “WTF Happened to Johnny Mnemonic?” “We take a look at the making of one of the biggest flops of the 1990s, the Keanu Reeves cyberpunk adaptation Johnny Mnemonic.”

…One of the early challenges had been expanding Gibson’s original 1981 story, which was a mere 22 pages, to a satisfying feature film length. The story’s broad strokes would remain – a courier carrying crucial encrypted data in a cranial hard drive, a double-crossing handler, a monowire-twirling Yakuza assassin, a cyborg dolphin, an outcast group called Lo-Teks. 

To stretch the story, Gibson borrowed liberally from his own work like VIRTUAL LIGHT and introduced new plot points and “cinematic pacing”, with the data in Johnny’s overloaded brain storage now both a proverbial ticking time bomb and the invaluable cure to a global pandemic called Nerve Attenuation Syndrome. This mysterious disease, also known as the “black shakes”, is a result of constant exposure to the omnipresent technology that has become the world’s addiction. PharmaKom, the corporate owner of the sensitive data wants it returned so they can maximize profits, and they dispatch assassins to literally collect Johnny’s head.

There was one story complication arising from Gibson’s own prominence, however. The film rights to Neuromancer were already held by another studio, which meant the shared character of capable razor-fingered mercenary Molly Millions was off-limits for his own adaptation of Johnny Mnemonic. In her place would be a desperate bodyguard wannabe named Jane, who suffers from the “black shakes”.

But the movie would linger in development hell under Carolco, until the company ultimately imploded for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the notorious flop Cutthroat Island. One former Carolco executive still wanted to make Johnny Mnemonic and pitched it to various studios, but to no avail. The project would eventually find support through Canadian company Alliance… and around 20 different international financiers. Sony’s Tristar Pictures entered the mix and would distribute the movie in America, and the studio would invariably make creative demands and revisions that proved maddening for the writer and director….

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1988 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

A writer I really enjoy is Jane Yolen. Indeed, she’s on the chocolate gifting list, preferring no more that no more than seventy percent dark. And I’ve got a personally signed copy of The Wild Hunt here. 

Now eighty-four, she’s been both an author and editor who is responsible for close to four hundred books existing.  Short stories? Well, she’d fill dozens of collections if publishers were so willing. Not One Damsel In Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls shows you her strong feminist bent and Meow: Cat Stories from Around the World gives you a look at her love of our companions. 

She has garnered three Mythopoeic Awards, another three World Fantasy Awards, and a hat trick was completed with three Nebulas. She also won a Skylark, and a bunch of Awards for her poetry. 

So, Mike selected the Beginning of Sister Light, Sister Dark, the first novel of the Great Alta saga, for this Scroll. It was published thirty-five years ago by Tor with the cover art by Dennis Nolan. It was nominated for a Nebula. It was followed by White Jenna and The One-Armed Queen

And now her Beginning of this Saga…

THE MYTH: 

Then Great Alta plaited the left side of her hair, the golden side, and let it fall into the sinkhole of night. And there she drew up the queen of shadows and set her upon the earth. Next she plaited the right side of her hair, the dark side, and with it she caught the queen of light. And she set her next to the black queen.RN

“And you two shall be sisters,” quoth Great Alta. “You shall be as images in a glass, the one reflecting the other. As I have bound you in my hair, so it shall be.” Then she twined her living braids around and about them and they were as one. 

THE LEGEND: 

It happened in the town of Slipskin on a day far into the winter’s rind that a strange and wonderful child was born. As her mother, who was but a girl herself, knelt between the piles of skins, straddling the shallow hole in the earth floor, the birth cord descended between her legs like a rope. The child emerged, feet first, climbing down the cord. When her tiny toes touched the ground, she bent down and cut the cord with her teeth, saluted the astonished midwife, and walked out the door. 

The midwife fainted dead away, but when she came to and discovered the child gone and the mother dead of blood-loss, she told her eldest daughter what had happened. At first they thought to hide what had occurred. But miracles have a way of announcing themselves. The daughter told a sister who told a friend and, in that way, the story was uncovered.

The tale of that rare birthing is still recounted in Slipskin—now called New Moulting—to this very day. They say the child was the White Babe, Jenna, Sister Light of the Dark Riding, the Anna.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. iBooks and Kindle have the Colossus trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titanic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the Civil War. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which somehow I’ve avoided seeing so far. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Don’t ask.) If Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1951 Jesse Ventura, 72. He’s actually been in far more genre films that I thought. His first film was Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe which audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a rating of twenty percent. After that, he’s been in PredatorRunning ManDemolition Man and Batman & Robin
  • Born July 15, 1961 Forest Whitaker, 62. His best-known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and Host of Twilight Zone
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 60. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 56. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark has a sarcastic playlist for Storm Troopers.
  • Bliss will be twice as funny if you’ve been around long enough to recognize the graffiti artist.

(8) FIRST ENCOUNTERS OF THE CLOSE KIND. DC’s Joshua Lapin-Bertone tells us about the first time “When Superman Met Lois Lane” – a story which really has no consistent beginning!

I don’t know about you, but I love hearing about how a couple first met….

So how did Lois and Clark first meet, really? Let’s start from the beginning…

Their first encounter in Action Comics #1 was replayed in the Superman comic strip.

1939 – Superman Newspaper Strips

Clark Kent notices Lois Lane for the first time when he enters the Daily Star looking for a job. He hears Lois arguing with her editor, and remarks that she has spunk. Lois meets Superman for the first time when he rescues her from some thugs.

The sequence is almost identical to the one in Action Comics #1, but since it’s running in a daily newspaper it’s dragged out. For example, the thugs throw Lois from a plane, where Superman catches her. Then she winds up in quicksand, where he has to save her again. You can’t say he’s not devoted to her.

(9) INFO DUMPER. “Foundation’s showrunner explains why big book adaptations start so dang slow” in The Verge.

Adaptations of big, complex books tend to start slow — and that’s usually because there’s just so much to explain. It was true of Game of Thrones and The Rings of Power, and it was especially true of Foundation on Apple TV Plus, which took Isaac Asimov’s novels and turned them into prestige television. With unusual concepts like psychohistory (a kind of math that can predict the future) and a genetic dynasty (a never-ending line of clone emperors who rule the galaxy), the first few episodes of season 1 were bogged down by exposition.

According to David S. Goyer, showrunner on Foundation, there really wasn’t a way to avoid that. “I felt like the first three episodes of season 1 were so exposition heavy, but — trust me — we tormented ourselves trying to figure out a way around it,” he explains. “We just decided, screw it, we have to explain this stuff and hope the audience is still around.” He believes that might just be a necessary evil of this kind of adaptation, though. “A lot of the really worthwhile shows that I ended up loving took a while to get going,” Goyer says. “Maybe that’s just what one has to do when you’re doing a big ambitious, novelistic show.”…

(10) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] On Friday’s Jeopardy! episode, the first round of the game had a full category of “Modern Fantasy Lit”. The contestants took the questions in reverse order, so that’s how I’ll present them.

$1000: This “Remains of the Day” author wrote fantasy with “The Buried Giant”, set years after the death of King Arthur

Challenger Alison Madson knew it was Kazuo Ishiguro.

$800: In P. Djéli (sic) Clark’s “Ring Shout”, Klansmen summon demons during a viewing of this 1915 D.W. Griffith film

Returning champion Ittai Sopher: “What is ‘Birth of a Nation’?”

(Checked this with Google’s help: it should be Djèlí.)

$600: S.A. Chakraborty’s “City of Brass” has Nahri team up with Dara, one of these mystical creatures whose name starts with a silent “D”

Alison responded correctly.

$400: In a book by Gail Carson Levine, obedience is the curse of this title girl, “Enchanted”; she also pines for Prince Charmont

Daniel Moore said, “Who is Ella?”

$200, last clue of the round: Monza Murcatto, thrown from a great height & left for dead, later gets revenge in Joe Abercrombie’s “Best Served” this

Daniel: “What is cold?”

(11) FINAL JEOPARDY! And Andrew Porter noted the night’s last stage also included something of genre interest.

Final Jeopardy: category: Books & Authors

Answer: In 1930 this author wrote “Murder at Full Moon”, a horror-mystery novel set in a fictional town in central California.

Wrong question: Who is Jack London?

Correct question: Who is Steinbeck?

(12) SIDE EFFECTS. FirstShowing.net sets up the official trailer for Aporia:

…Since losing her husband, Sophie has struggled to manage her grief, her job, and parenting her devastated daughter, but when a former physicist reveals a secret time-bending machine, Sophie will be faced with an impossible choice. He offers her a chance to restore her previous life, but of course, this kind of attempt to change history always comes with other dangerous consequences….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/23 In His House At R’lyeh, Dead Pixel Waits Scrolling

(1) THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT. “SAG-AFTRA Strike Called as Studio Talks Collapse”The Hollywood Reporter says the actors strike begins at midnight tonight.

… SAG-AFTRA’s National Board officially called a strike Thursday against major film and television companies as contract talks with studios and streamers broke down without a deal on July 12. The work stoppage will impact 160,000 union members and begin at midnight tonight….

…The last of the major entertainment unions to enter labor negotiations with entertainment companies in the spring and summer of this year, SAG-AFTRA walked into their talks with the AMPTP on June 7 with a strike authorization vote in hand. Responding to an especially tight time frame in which to negotiate their sprawling TV/theatrical contracts (their current pact initially expired June 30, then was extended to July 12), nearly 98 percent of voting members of the union authorized their leaders to call a strike if deemed necessary….

(2) STRIKE NUKES OPPENHEIMER PREMIERE. “Oppenheimer Cast Walks Out of UK Premiere as SAG-AFTRA Strike Begins” CBR.com.

The cast of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer has walked out of the film’s UK premiere in solidarity with the actor’s union, SAG-AFTRA, following its call to strike.

“We talked about it,” [Matt] Damon told Variety on the red carpet. “Look, if it’s called now, everyone’s going to walk obviously in solidarity … Once the strike is officially called, [we’re walking]. That’s why we moved this [red carpet] up because we know the second it’s called, we’re going home.” Damon also revealed the results of SAG-AFTRA’s vote to strike, with 98% of its membership in favor of the move….

(3) HOW ACTORS STRIKE AFFECTS SDCC. “’Good Omens,’ ‘That ’70s Show,’ & More Cancel SDCC Panels Amid SAG Strike” reports Collider.

San Diego Comic-Con is going to look pretty different this year, as SAG-AFTRA has officially begun its strike. As the actors join the writers on the picket lines for better pay, conditions, and benefits, much of the industry has come to a halt without many of its key people. With the SAG-AFTRA strike now happening, it means actors cannot promote their current or future projects – including anything that was originally planned for Comic-Con. Thus, panels are already being cancelled for the event happening next week….

(4) YOU’LL BE CRYING A RIVER IF YOU FALL FOR THESE. Victoria Strauss warns about “How Scammers Are Using Amazon and Amazon Trademarks to Rip Writers Off” at Writer Beware.

In the past year or so, I’ve noticed an upsurge in scams that employ the Amazon name, or the names of Amazon trademarks, to try and trick hopeful writers into believing they are working with a company affiliated with Amazon, or even with Amazon itself.

As is common with scams these days, many of these questions come from writers who’ve been solicited via email or phone (you can see one such story here)–but also from writers looking to self-publish, who googled “self publishing” or “Amazon self-publishing” or “KDP publishing” or a similar search term.

Right at the top of such searches are sponsored links purchased by Amazon fakers….

… All four sponsored links are scams (see the list at the bottom of this post). The real Amazon KDP is down there at #5.

Some Amazon fakers use Amazon-ish logos, the better to further the illusion….

(5) THE OUTER LIMITS OF TAYLOR SWIFT. [Item by Rogers Cadenhead.] If you’ve been waiting for the day that your love of science fiction and Taylor Swift intersected, it has arrived.

Some pressings of the vinyl release of Swift’s album Speak Now contain not the stylings of the centillion-selling chanteuse, but instead the industrial electronic band Cabaret Voltaire sampling the 1960s TV series Outer Limits on their 1992 song “Soul Vine (70 Billion People).” “’This is so creepy!’: the Taylor Swift vinyl haunted by Britain’s weirdest musicians” in the Guardian.

Rachel Hunter, a TikTok user who played the not-so-swift album, told the Guardian, “I thought maybe the vinyl had some sort of special message. Because Taylor does that sort of thing. This voice was saying strange things about flesh and anxiety. I was like: This is weird. I thought maybe the other side would be less strange but I flipped it over and, no, it only got weirder.”

All was not lost. Instead of seeing red, the Swiftie shook it off. “I was like: this is so creepy,” she said. “But when the beat kicks in I was like: this is a vibe.”

Cabaret Voltaire’s song samples the Outer Limits line “the 70 billion people of Earth — where are they hiding?”, which was written by Harlan Ellison in the acclaimed 1964 episode “Demon With a Glass Hand.” (See “Samples of The Outer Limits (1963) – The 70 Billion People of Earth, Where Are They Hiding?” at WhoSampled.)

Hunter’s copy is the only one known to contain this mistake, but there may be others. Fun fact: “Studies show that around half of the vinyl released bought isn’t actually played, so there’s a chance there are more in circulation unbeknown to owners.”

(6) AMAZING PLANS CENTENARY BLOWOUT. Amazing Stories will be 100 three years from now. They are working on the party now: “100 Years of Science Fiction Celebration”.

The Publishers of Amazing Stories magazine and the Producers of RavenCon announce a partnership to produce the most exciting event to hit the Science Fiction World since the Moon Landing!

On March 10th of 1926, the world’s first magazine devoted exclusively to the publication of Science Fiction – Amazing Stories – was released to newstands, and the world just hasn’t been the same!

…You can’t live in this world without being touched by Science Fiction’s influence. And now you have the unprecedented opportunity to join your fellow Fans in celebrating the first 100 Years of the Science Fiction Age!

RavenCon, a Virginia-based, traditional Science Fiction Convention has partnered with Experimenter to host the in-person celebration at RavenCon 19, April 2026. RavenCon is a well-respected and long-running, traditional, Fan-run con, making it a perfect choice for a celebration of the magazine that started it all, the Fandom that supported it all, and the genre that we all love!

…Lists of potential guests, special events, displays and programming subjects are currently being created, as is merchandise and crowdfunding platforms to help us make this the biggest, most exciting and out of this world celebration of Science Fiction that the world has ever seen!

If you are interested in any aspect of this event – be it attending, volunteering, offering a presentation, appearing as a guest (virtual or in person), hosting a local Slan Shack party, joining the quest to recover the Enchanted Duplicator, donating Lime Jello, or even seeking to be appointed the event’s Official David Kyle so you can tell everyone where to sit, sign up for our mailing list at www.RavenCon.com or www.AmazingStories.com.

(7) THEY MUST BE HERE SOMEPLACE. To continue a topic opened in comments the other day — Fansided published a list of the “Most sold Amazon books last week”. See how many men you can find among the 20 best sellers.

Most sold Amazon books last week

  1. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (–)
  2. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (+1)
  3. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (-1)
  4. The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand (–)
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (reentry)
  6. The Housemaid by Freida McFadden (-1)
  7. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (+6)
  8. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (-1)
  9. Happy Place by Emily Henry (-3)
  10. Never Lie by Freida McFadden (-2)
  11. Too Late by Colleen Hoover (new addition)
  12. Haunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton (-2)
  13. Wool by Hugh Howey (new addition)
  14. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (+1)
  15. Verity by Colleen Hoover (-3)
  16. It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover (+1)
  17. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (–)
  18. The Housemaid’s Secret by Freida McFadden (-2)
  19. Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros (-10)
  20. Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (-6)

(8) THE KEY TO ASCII. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] “About ASCII Art and JGS Font” at Velvetyne Type Foundry explains JGS, a free typefont designed to better facilitate the creation of “ASCII art”, like the “typewriter art” that occasionally appeared in fanzines of our own era. It includes a rundown on the history of art and decoration created with printers type and elements, typewriters, computer keyboards, etc.

A self-portrait by Joan G. Stark featuring her standard signature.

…It isn’t that simple to explain what ASCII Art means. More than defining a well-established practice, ASCII Art blurs the habitual distinction between image and text, in the art world, and between “graphic interface” and “text mode,” in the informatics domain.

Strictly speaking, the expression designates pictures composed by using the 128 characters contained in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (shortened as ASCII). Even if the terms “Text Art” or “Textmode Art” are also used, “ASCII Art” or just “ASCII” has become a way of naming all pictures produced with the help of typographic elements. In 1999, in The History of ASCII (text) Art, Joan G. Stark describes ASCII in the following way:

They are “non-graphical graphics”. Its palette is limited to the symbols and characters that you have available to you on your computer keyboard….

And here’s a link to the download page for the JGS font for anyone who wants to try it out.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2011 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

My favorite work by Jo Walton is the Small Change series, not so much for its alternate history angle but for the Manor House mystery aspect. Manor House mysteries are comfort food to me.  I’m also inordinately fond of another British set fiction, Tooth and Claw. Dragons! 

I’d also note that An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953–2000 makes for rather interesting reading. 

Our Beginning is Among Others which was published was published by Tor twelve years ago. It won a Hugo at Chicon 7 along with the BFA Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel and a Nebula. It was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award, a Mythopoeic Award and another BFA, this time for August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. 

Our Beginning starts now…

Thursday 1st May 1975 

The Phurnacite factory in Abercwmboi killed all the trees for two miles around. We’d measured it on the mileometer. It looked like something from the depths of hell, black and looming with chimneys of flame, reflected in a dark pool that killed any bird or animal that drank from it. The smell was beyond description. We always wound up the car windows as tight as tight when we had to pass it, and tried to hold our breath, but Grampar said nobody could hold their breath that long, and he was right. There was sulphur in that smell, which was a hell chemical as everyone knew, and other, worse things, hot unnameable metals and rotten eggs. 

My sister and I called it Mordor, and we’d never been there on our own before. We were ten years old. Even so, big as we were, as soon as we got off the bus and started looking at it we started holding hands.

It was dusk, and as we approached the factory loomed blacker and more terrible than ever. Six of the chimneys were alight; four belched out noxious smokes.

“Surely it is a device of the Enemy,” I murmured. 

Mor didn’t want to play. “Do you really think this will work?” “The fairies were sure of it,” I said, as reassuringly as possible. “I know, but sometimes I don’t know how much they understand about the real world.”

“Their world is real,” I protested. “Just in a different way. At a different angle.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time Bandits, a film Kage Baker adored, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he says to play three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Wombles, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Mike Ploog, 83. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. his work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost RiderKull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The ThingLittle Shop of HorrorsThe Dark CrystalLabyrinth and The Storyteller series. He also the cover art for OzCon International 2015, and Christopher Priest’s Fugue for a Darkening Island.
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart, 83. Setting aside Trek which he says he’s done with now that Picard is wrapped up, other memorable genre roles include Leodegrance in Excalibur, Gurney Halleck in Dune, Prof. Macklin in The Doctor and the Devils, Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise and he’s played Macbeth myriad times in the theatre world. 
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 68. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch short fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1966 David X. Cohen, 57. Head writer and executive producer of the original Futurama. Cohen is a producer of Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s fantasy series on Netflix. He also wrote a number of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on the Simpson’s which have a strong genre slant such as “Treehouse of Horror VII” (“Citizen Kang”). 
  • Born July 13, 1985 Monica Byrne, 38. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back four years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie shows Alexander Hamilton Bumstead telling his dad that billionaires have better ways to spend their money than space flight. Dagwood knows his son doesn’t have social causes in mind.

(12) A MEETING OF THE MINDS. Steve Vertlieb is in town and we got together for lunch today. Thanks to his brother, Erwin, for snapping the photo. It was a pleasure to see you, Steve!

Mike Glyer and Steve Vertlieb

(13) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] In Tuesday’s episode during the single Jeopardy round, in Friends, $800 (fourth tier): Ken Jennings read the following clue, while two pictures were displayed side-by-side, of two men wearing jacket and tie.

Conversations about language and myths initially bonded these two titans of fantasy, influencing each other and their works

This was a triple stumper, nobody recognizing or guessing either C.S Lewis (on the left) or J.R.R. Tolkien (on the right). For myself, I recognized Tolkien but not Lewis.

In Double Jeopardy, a category “2 Books In One” — the clues were mashups of two titles by the same author, the contestants were to unmash them and give the two titles in full. At the $1200 level (third tier):

Dandelion 451

Another triple stumper.

(14) KEEP BURROUGHING INTO THAT HOLE. “Disney Rebooting Their Biggest Sci-Fi Flop Into A Series” reports GiantFreakinRobot.

Disney is about to find out whether or not a concept that didn’t work as a movie will do better as a streaming show. Our trusted and proven sources tell us the House of Mouse is working on a John Carter reboot series for Disney+.

This seems like a strange move for Disney, particularly in light of recent months. Disney, like all of the other major studios who now own and operate major streaming platforms, has been canceling and cutting content as it struggles to figure out how to make its streaming service profitable.

(15) WHERE TO FIND THE EMMY NOMINEES. JustWatch has put up a list of the “50 Most Popular Emmy Nominees & how to stream them online”. The list shows real-time data on the titles’ popularity, as well as where to watch a particular TV show in the US.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Bruce D. Arthurs, David Goldfarb, Daniel Dern, Rogers Cadenhead, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]