Pixel Scroll 11/28/23 Scrollmas Won’t Be Scrollmas Without Any Pixels

(1) WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION 2025 ACCESSIBILITY. Karen Fishwick, Chair of World Fantasy Convention 2025, responded to Mari Ness’ comments about accessibility issues at the 2025 WFC hotel quoted in yesterday’s Scroll.

There have been some very valid concerns raised on social media about the accessibility of World Fantasy Convention 2025. 

Some of these concerns are based on experiences at a previous WFC held at the same Hotel, so I wanted to make sure that these were put into context. 

  • The hotel has recently undertaken some renovations in the front/lobby area, which has improved access. 
  • The bedrooms have been renovated since 2013. 
  • We are not using function rooms in the hotel that are not accessible to people in wheelchairs (including the mezzanine room on the staircase). The function rooms we are using are on the lower ground floor and the upper ground floor. We do also have options to use rooms on Floor M as well.
  • Details of the entrances to the hotel are on our Accessibility Audit https://worldfantasy2025.co.uk/accessibility-audit/

There are still some things we are working on:

  • Parking for high sided vehicles – this particularly affects dealers, event organisers and people with larger mobility vehicles – There is space to drop people/unload at the venue, but the car park is height limited. We are looking for parking options. If these are further away from the venue, we will look at the logistics of getting drivers to and from that site. Details of the current provision and height limits are on our Accessibility Audit. https://worldfantasy2025.co.uk/accessibility-audit/
  • We will be talking to adjacent hotels to identify options for people with different budgets and access needs to make sure that people have a range of options to choose from. 

We would very much like people to read our Accessibility Policy https://worldfantasy2025.co.uk/accessibility-policy/ that sets out the measures we are taking to improve the accessibility of our event. We will add any additional measures/accommodations to this page as they are confirmed. 

If anyone has specific concerns or have a question about the venue, they can contact me directly on [email protected]

On a personal note, I myself am physically disabled, so we do take these concerns very seriously and want to work with our potential attendees to ensure they enjoy the event. 

(2) OF COURSE THERE WERE VFX. “No Visual Effects in ‘Barbie’? Glen Pratt Reveals the Truth”Animation World Network sets the record straight.

Much has been made of Barbie and Oppenheimer sharing the same theatrical release date to the point that clever fan posters were created to promote a possible double bill coined Barbenheimer. Both productions also notably shared the declaration that they contained no visual effects when in fact, the famed physicist’s biopic, directed by Christopher Nolan, utilized digital compositing; and there are full CG shots as well as CG augmentation used to bring the adventures of a Mattel doll to life by Greta Gerwig. 

Caught the middle of the controversy are Glen Pratt and Andrew Jackson, the visual effects supervisors responsible for the two projects. Their presence on the credit list highlights the ludicrous nature of the public statements….

… “Even if you look at the sets that were physically built like the Barbie Dream House,” Pratt continues. “We shot clean plates of that for certain shots and in those clean plates, when you looked at them without any actors or crew in them, it looked like a toy.  We were taking that and extrapolating further upon that language.”

There are over 20 fully CG shots in the film. “In the Dawn of Women sequence, which is Greta’s version of 2001: A Space Odyssey there is an entirely CG shot of the original Barbie doll which doubles as the monolith,” Pratt reveals. Framestore did concept art, visual development, previs, postvis, and virtual production, totalling 1,300 shots, while Chicken Bone FX, FuseFX, UPP, and Lola VFX contributed 300 shots. 600 of the 1,600 shots required extensive visual effects work.  “When Barbie is first driving out onto the open road environment and you have the big Barbie Land rainbow, all of that was essentially bluescreen,” Pratt shares. “There was a tiny bit of set and pink road but the car had to be moving.  The sky, distant vista of Barbie Land and the mountains were created digitally from reference photography of the sets that were built.  We created an entirely CG environment.”…

(3) LIST OF PRIORS. [Item by Jim Janney.] Ars Technica has a long dive into movie time travel, from George Pal to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, with separate scores for entertainment and science. Includes some I haven’t seen and some I hadn’t even heard of.  “The Ars guide to time travel in the movies”.

…Even without scientific accuracy, we can still ask for logical consistency. Alas, that is also pretty thin on the ground, although in this case, there are true exceptions. The most straightforward way for travel to the past to make sense is if you can visit but you can’t actually change anything—“Whatever happened happened,” in the memorable formulation of fictional physicist Daniel Faraday in the TV show Lost. Physicists have dubbed this the “Novikov self-consistency principle,” but it can really just be summed up as “making sense.” Somewhat more ambitiously, we can imagine one or more alternative parallel timelines that are created by a sojourn into history. For the most part, however, our cinematic heroes make a cheerful hash of logic and narrative sense as they traipse through their pasts….

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

…You will not be surprised to learn that Hot Tub Time Machine doesn’t work too hard to maintain scientific plausibility in its portrayal of time travel….

(4) EGGSCLUSIVE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Did you there was an Alien series? I didn’t.

But Deadline does: “’Alien’: Timothy Olyphant Cast In Noah Hawley’s FX Series”.

Timothy Olyphant is reuniting with Noah Hawley and FX, signing on for a major role in the upcoming Alien series. Olyphant, who recurred on Season 4 of Hawley’s FX anthology series Fargo, is set to star opposite Sydney Chandler in Hawley‘s prequel to the Alien franchise, sources tell Deadline.

Details about Olyphant’s character are not being disclosed. I hear he plays Kirsh, a synth who acts as a mentor and trainer for Chandler’s Wendy who is a hybrid, a meta-human who has the brain and consciousness of a child but the body of an adult….

(5) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. “From Local, to Global, to Gone: On the Rise and Fall of Borders Books” — an excerpt from Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing & Bookselling in the 20th Century, edited by Buz Teacher and Janet Bukovinsky Teacher — at Literary Hub.

… Rookie Mistake #2: they ordered some new books and mixed them with used books on the same shelves. Customers were confused, not knowing if a slightly worn new book was “used,” or if a gently used book was “new.”

Rookie Mistake #3: They finally understood that Ann Arbor was a readers’ town and that antiquarian books were of marginal interest to the local avid readers. All the used books were culled from the shelves. After surviving three moves in two years, Borders Book Shop was in a good location with enough space to make a splash, and selling the kind of books people wanted. Their ambitions were rekindled.

That year, Joe Gable, fresh from Madison, Wisconsin, swaggered into Borders Book Shop. During a stand-up job interview in front of the fiction section Tom asked him “What do you know about books?” Sounding a bit like Marlon Brando, looking straight into Tom’s eyes, Joe said humbly: “I know more about books than anyone in this store.” Tom was momentarily stunned by the hubris of the comment. But he took the insult like a man, and after a few pointed questions, he hired Joe on the spot. In fact, Joe did know more about books than anyone in the store. And he proved it over the next quarter century….

(6) RECOMMENDED CLASSICS. The Martian Chronicles and Lord of the Rings are on Her Campus’ list of “ Classics That Are Worth The Read”.

Often it feels like to consider yourself a true reader, you have to know the classics. But the most classic of classics can feel impossible to read. I’ve read my fair share of incredibly boring classics, but have also managed to find some entertaining and important stories among them. Here is my list of five classics that are absolutely worth the read….

(7) DAVID ELLIOTT (1931-2023). Director David Elliott, who worked on several Gerry and Sylvia Anderson series, died November 10. Stephen La Riviere paid tribute in the Guardian.

Like many film back-room boys, my friend David Elliott, who has died aged 92, was not a household name, although he had seven decades worth of credits. Many thousands, however, will remember the happy childhood images he created as a director on the classic 1960s puppet TV series Thunderbirds, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

David first met Gerry Anderson while they were both working on feature films in the 50s. When Anderson went on to become a producer of puppet series for the fledgling medium of television, he brought David over to picture edit. A back-breaking schedule saw him cut one episode of The Adventures of Twizzle (1957-58) a day. The work paid off and soon a marionette empire was born.

David then started directing, shooting puppet stars as if they were film stars. Each production brought greater worldwide success. Four Feather Falls (1960), Supercar (1961-62), Fireball XL5 (1962-63), Stingray (1964-65) and Thunderbirds (1965-66) entertained and pushed the boundaries of TV. At one point, Anderson’s production company AP Films was the largest consumer of colour film, when TV was still black and white. It was a far-sighted decision that ensured new audiences for their work for decades….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 77. He started off as one as us as he wrote columns and articles for fanzines and APAs.  

Now let’s look at what he’s done that I find interesting.

The first would be his collaboration with John Sayles when they completely rewrote the first draft of Gary Brandner’s The Howling novel for that film. Brandner was said to extremely angry with the film that was produced.

Because of The Howling, Speliberg offered up Gremlins, one of my all time favorite films, to him. I’ve watched it more times than I can count and I enjoyed it each time. Gremlins II, not so much. 

Spielberg also brought him on as one of the directors on John Landis’ Twilight Zone: The Movie. Dante’s segment, a remake of the original Twilight Zone “It’s a Good Life” episode as written by Serling. That story was based off a Jerome Bixby story published in 1953 in the Star Science Fiction Stories anthology series, edited by Frederik Pohl.

Ahhh, Innerspace with Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan. The Studio  hated it, Dante made the film he wanted to despite the Studio and audiences stayed home. I thought it was sweet. 

I hadn’t realised to now that Dante was responsible for Small Soldiers, an interesting film. Not a great film but it have a possibility of being something. Not sure what that something would have been. Dante says that there were twelve writers involved in writing the script. Ouch. 

So Dante directed Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Moving on.

Finally Dante came back to Gremlins by serving as a consultant on the Max Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai prequel series. Don’t get too excited as this is an animated series and I’ll give you the promo poster of this kid friendly series as I take leave of you.

(9) PROTEST DAMAGE TO LIBRARY. “New York Public Library facing steep graffiti cleanup costs after protests”Gothamist forecasts the bill.

…Protesters have caused at least $75,000 in graffiti damage to the famous New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman building, where some carved reliefs may need to be replaced.

The damage was caused by at least three separate pro-Palestinian protests over the last few weeks, officials said. The worst damage, however, occurred on Thanksgiving Day when protesters sprayed “Free Palestine” in dark green paint and smeared red handprints on the steps, fountain and facade.

The graffiti damage from Thursday covered parts of marble where donors’ names are engraved with delicate crevices that can be easily eroded by cleanup efforts, said Garrett Bergen, director of facilities for the library.

Cleaning dark paint from the building requires applying a number of applications of solvent for days at a time, he said.

“We could have to replace certain elements if a rosette is too damaged for the paint to be removed. So it’s a little unclear,” Bergen said….

(10) SNAKES, IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. “Box Office: ‘Hunger Games’ Beating ‘Wish’ With $43M, ‘Napoleon’ $30M+ Over Thanksgiving” reports Deadline.

Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes won Black Friday and Saturday at the box office, respectively with $11.4M and $11.2M, soaring above a Disney animated movie (Wish) which are typically the champs of Thanksgiving weekend, and big streamer Apple’s $200M war epic, Napoleon, for a No. 1 win over the holiday stretch with a 3-day $28.8M and 5-day of $42M….

… Disney Animation’s Wish came in third on Friday and Saturday (eeks) with respectively $8M and $7M, behind Apple Original Production’s Sony-distributed Napoleon, which earned an estimated $8.4M on Friday and $7.5M [Saturday]…

(11) PAYING IT FORWARD. “Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s advice to writers from advice given to him by Robert Heinlein” – a Writers & Illustrators of the Future video from a number of years ago.

(12) LAUGHING WITH BARBIE. “’Barbie’ Gotham Awards Tribute: Watch Greta Gerwig & Margot Robbie Get Silly” – an invitation from Deadline.

Barbie writer-director Greta Gerwig and star-producer Margot Robbie showcased their comedy chops in a one-two bit tonight, thanking the Gotham Awards for a Global Icon & Creator tribute. Watch their speech above.

“We love a restaurant in a bank!” said Gerwig of the Cipriani Wall Street locale, which is just that. 

The duo was lovingly introduced by Laura Dern. …… “Four years ago, I asked Greta to come and write Barbie with me,” said Robbie. Gerwig and her husband and co-writer Noah Baumbach “took an object — a doll with no character or story — and cooked up the most ridiculous, outrageous, bananas script in an attempt to conjure back what they loved about the movies.”

Said Gerwig about making the film during the Covid lockdown: “We figured that if no one was making movies anyway, they might as well not make this one. And we showed it to everyone. And Warner Bros., miraculously, said yes, and Mattel, miraculously, said yes.” 

Robbie: “Essentially. Mostly. With some notes, which Greta and Noah ignored.”

Gerwig: ”We carefully considered the notes. And then we presented our case.”

Robbie: “You ignored them.” …

(13) THE EVOLUTION OF THE BOOK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is a charming, and surprisingly informative 15 minute documentary from the one and only Moid Moidelhoff over at  Media Death Cult. Actually, this came out a couple of weeks ago, but I have only just watched my downloaded copy. Trust me, I think you’ll find two or three things you did not know. (Have you ever heard of the paperback original revolution of the 1950s?…) In the middle of domestic chaos, Moid took the trouble to make this the week before he moved house.  So make a mug of builders and join Moid…

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Jim Janney, Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 11/21/23 I Spent A Year Pixeled For Scroll Purposes

(1) WHO HISTORY REMEMBERED. “’Matt Smith and I twiddle knobs. I am 12 again!’ Stars share their best Doctor Who moments – part two” in the Guardian.

Daniel Nettheim (director of episodes featuring the Twelfth Doctor, 2015-17)

The Doctor’s anti-war speech, from 2015’s Zygon two-parter, was a cry from the heart for compassion amid a searing indictment of the futility of war. It has never felt more relevant than it does today. The 10-minute sequence was delivered with considerable emotional heft by Peter Capaldi. It still brings a tear to my eye. When Radio Times readers voted for that year’s greatest TV moment, that came second, beaten only by Poldark scything a field with his shirt off.

Barnaby Edwards (Dalek operator, 1993 onwards)

I first worked as a Dalek in 1993. Three decades later, I’m still working as a Dalek – promotion is slow on the planet Skaro! My favourite moment was on a night shoot in Penarth in March 2008 for The Stolen Earth. It was my task to stop a Nissan Figaro in the street and threaten its occupant with extermination. It was Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen, my childhood hero. Here she was, still defending the universe from the Daleks. That’s the magic of Doctor Who. Faces come and go, but the adventure goes on for ever….

(2) EVEN ODDS. [Item by Chris Barkley.] Who will win the 2023 Booker Prize? I looked through the descriptions of the nominated books and two (or three) of them might be genre or adjacent. But, THREE guys named Paul in the ballot? What are the odds of that happening?????

Literary Hub’s Emily Temple says “Here are the bookies’ odds for the 2023 Booker Prize”.

We’re just shy of one week out from the announcement of the UK’s biggest book prize: the Booker. So it’s time to place your bets on who will win the £50,000, a massive spike in book sales, and lifelong bragging rights. (A different question, no doubt, than who should win.) If you need a tip, follow the money, and ask the bookies (they were at least close last year).

For the record: all things being equal, there is a baseline 50% chance of the Booker going to somebody named Paul on Sunday, but given the below odds, in which each Paul is more probable than the next, that number rises to . . . something I cannot calculate because I am an editor at a literary website who put all of my eggs in one basket long ago. But, higher. I think…

(3) IN THIS WORLD, ELWOOD, YOU CAN BE OH SO SMART, OR OH SO UNPLEASANT. Camestros Felapton tries to decide “Does outrage marketing work?”.

…Authors now write in a more crowded market in which even moderately successful writers struggle to make a living. Standing out from the crowd is difficult and name recognition matters….

So some authors may see a possible way forward: pick controversial/trolling-like positions, promote those positions to provoke a backlash, get free publicity and hence (maybe) more sales.

That’s the theory. I think credibly it is a process that works for Larry Correia but I can’t claim that there is any way to check in terms of sales. Correia has the advantage that his controversial stances match the author persona he projects on social media and that persona also fits the style and genre of the books he writes AND those stances (particularly on guns) fit with the audience for his books. If I just consider notable Puppies, the approach has worked less well for Brad Torgersen and notably there are mismatches across the board for Brad, he’s just not as good at projecting a tough guy persona online, and his actual novels are less well-targeted to a specific demographic and there’s not a thematic connection between his culture war topics and his science fiction other than it being vaguely backwards looking….

(4) WHO OWNS CHAOS? Facebook sent a surprising notice about a group I follow now formerly named “Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor”.

And I found this posted to the group:

(5) EX X-USER. Scott Edelman reveals in a public Patreon post “What Twitter (and the leaving of it) means to me”.

…But the first week of September, it all became too much for me, and I shared the status update you see above. In the 11 weeks since then, I’ve returned every 3-4 weeks only to remind visitors I wouldn’t be posting any more and giving links to my other social media presences, in part to prevent my account from going dormant, which might allow another to squat on my name.

What was the affect of this decision on Eating the Fantastic?

Downloads have dropped by a third.

I know correlation isn’t causation, yet I can’t help but believe the loss of serendipitous discovery which would occur on Twitter is the reason.

The subscriber base remains unchanged. I’ve shed none of those regular listeners. But most of my traffic has always come from non-subscribers, and that has dropped.

When I would tweet about an upcoming guest or a new episode or any podcast news at all to my nearly 5,500 followers on Twitter, that would be retweeted many times, and I’d see a corresponding jump in downloads. Part of that, I know, was due to the fact not all listeners were interested in every conversation. Some only wanted the science fiction guests but not the horror guests, or the comic book guests but not the science fiction ones, and so rather than subscribing, they’d wait to see who was appearing and make the decision to download then. And I believe that with no tweet reminding them to check out the content of the latest episode … they’re not.

Then there were the new listeners who, upon seeing one of their friends share about an episode new or old and learning about Eating the Fantastic, would swoop in and download every prior episode. That would happen frequently in the show’s pre-Twitter days, but since September 5th, I don’t believe it’s happened even once.

All of that discoverability is gone, like tears in rain, and seemingly not replaced by the attention I’m getting from my (currently) 788 followers on Bluesky or 561 followers on Mastodon….

(6) KEYS TO SUCCESS. “The True Story of ‘The World’s Greatest Typewriter Collection’” at Heritage Auctions’ Intelligent Collector blog.

Like so many collections, it began with a single purchase made on a whim – in this case, the typewriter used by a Pulitzer-winning sportswriter. The man who bought the machine, Steve Soboroff, was a fan of the man who used it, revered Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray, whose words Soboroff devoured each morning, especially after nights when Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax hurled fastballs using The Left Hand of God. Soboroff wanted the 1940 Remington Model J so desperately that he outdueled two others competing for it at auction in 2005: the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a hell of a score.

Not long after, Soboroff put another typewriter on the shelf beside Murray’s – a 1926 Underwood Standard that belonged to Ernest Hemingway and was used during the author’s legendary sojourns to Cuba. More machines followed in short order, each a typewriter that once belonged to someone who had appeared on the cover of Time. Novelists and playwrights, among them Jack London, Tennessee Williams, George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury, John Updike and Philip Roth. Actors, including Greta Garbo, Shirley Temple, Mae West, Julie Andrews and a typewriter collector named Tom Hanks. Musicians, from crooner Bing Crosby to tenor Andrea Bocelli. Visionaries. Journalists. The famous. The infamous. Playboy creator Hugh Hefner. Samuel T. Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb. And Ted Kaczynski, the man called Unabomber….

(7) RECORD VIEWERSHIP. “When Hollywood Put World War III on Television” – a memory-stirring article, behind a paywall in The Atlantic.

We live in an anxious time. Some days, it can feel like the wheels are coming off and the planet is careening out of control. But at least it’s not 1983, the year that the Cold War seemed to be in its final trajectory toward disaster.

Forty years ago today, it was the morning after The Day After, the ABC TV movie about a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. Roughly 100 million people tuned in on Sunday night, November 20, 1983, and The Day After holds the record as the most-watched made-for-television movie in history.

I remember the movie, and the year, vividly. I was 22 and in graduate school at Columbia University, studying the Soviet Union. It’s hard to explain to people who worry about, say, climate change—a perfectly legitimate concern—what it was like to live with the fear not that many people could die over the course of 20 or 50 or 100 years but that the decision to end life on most of the planet in flames and agony could happen in less time than it would take you to finish reading this article….

(8) WINDOW CAT. Steve Green predicts that this shop in Berkeley, California has a decent stock of sf.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR. His father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. And he won two Mythopoetic Awards for doing so, and was nominated for a Balrog for publishing his father’s work. (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 21, 1941 Ellen Asher, 82. Introduced many fans to their favorites as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award, an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Renovation. 
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 78. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965 with an example being this November 1969 cover. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at MagiCon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1946 Tom Veal, 77. He’s a con-running fan who chaired Chicon 2000. He was a member of the Seattle in 1981 Worldcon bid committee. He chaired Windycon X.  In 2016 he married fellow fan Becky Thomson. And he wrote the “1995 Moskva 1995: Igor’s Campaign” which was published in  Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons as edited by Mike Resnick.
  • Born November 21, 1950 Evelyn C. Leeper, 73. Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,302. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon. (JJ)
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 70. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work at her most excellent blog.

(10) COMIXOLOGY APP GOES AWAY 12/4. ZDNET’s Lance Whitney scorns the way “Amazon is killing off its Comixology app in true supervillain fashion”.

Like Thanos, Kang, and Dr. Doom, Amazon seems to be on a mission to destroy superheroes, at least when it comes to providing a user-friendly platform for buying and accessing digital comics. In a new message posted online and in the app, the retail giant announced that as of December 4, its Comixology app will no longer be available and will instead be merged with its Kindle app for iOS, Android, and Fire OS.

After the deadline, you’ll still be able to access and read your existing Comixology comics, graphic novels, and manga titles, but only in the Kindle app. And before the deadline hits, you’ll have to download any Comixology books you were reading into the Kindle app. You may also need to head to your Amazon Digital Content page and send individual comic books to your preferred ebook reader.

On the plus side, any books you’re reading in the Comixology app will sync their progress in the Kindle app, so you can continue where you left off. You’ll be able to read your Comixology books in the Comics section of the Kindle website. And you can continue to buy digital comics from the Comixology area on Amazon’s website.

(11) SORT OF LIKE A MEREDITH MOMENT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] There’s an available MAX (HBO) deal: $2.99/month (with ads) for six months (normally $9.99/month) — https://auth.max.com/product. (Offer ends Monday Nov 27)

(12) TWO SHORT CLIPS FROM DOOM PATROL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] DPers imagine themselves in TV trailers.

Cliff Steele (Robotman) imagines himself teaming up with Vic Stone (Cyborg) for Steele & Stone, a Seventies-style cop show.

Rita Farr (“Elasti-Girl” imagines herself teaming up with Cyborg: in Beekeeper & Borg, like Steed and Mrs. Peel. Watch the Beekeeper & Borg trailer on YouTube.

(And a Reddit user edited the second trailer to match timing with the source material! — “I edited ‘Beekeeper & Borg’ to match the ‘The Avengers’ intro”.

(13) STEAMPUNK ART. Atlas Obscura Experiences is offering a four-part lecture series “Exploring Steampunk Art With Bruce Rosenbaum” for $75 a ticket. The promo says “Bruce Rosenbaum has been dubbed the Steampunk Guru by the Wall Street Journal and Steampunk Evangelist by Wired Magazine.”

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting two hours on four Mondays beginning November 27.

Session 1 (Monday, 11/27, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Intro to Steampunk: Defining steampunk and identifying its origins. 

Session 2 (Monday, 12/4, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Designing a Steampunk Life: Exploring the philosophy and concepts of steampunk art, from creative problem solving and collaboration to adaptive reuse.

Session 3 (Monday, 12/11, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| Past/Future Art: Taking a closer look at the process of making different kinds of steampunk art and design.

Session 4 (Monday, 12/18, 7:30–9:00 PM ET)| The Business of Steampunk: Looking into how to transform your steampunk art practice into a business (with examples from Modvic)

(14) REVISITING THE BROTHERS HILDEBRANDT. In 1994, Marvel Comics’ greatest characters were brought to life by two of science fiction and fantasy’s most renowned illustrators in Greg and Tim Hildebrandt’s unforgettable Marvel Masterpieces III trading card set. To celebrate the 30th anniversary next year, Marvel Comics will proudly showcase the Brothers Hildebrandt’s gorgeous Marvel Masterpieces III artwork in a new collection of variant covers.

Also available as virgin variant covers, the new covers will begin in January and continue all year long. Fans have already seen previews of the January pieces and now can see what’s coming in February, including spotlights on Cable and Night Thrasher for their upcoming new solo series.

Across more than 150 beautifully painted illustrations, comic fans saw the Brothers Hildebrandt’s masterful approach to the Marvel Universe with these timeless depictions of heroes and villains that have stayed with in the hearts and minds of fans ever since. Now, be captivated once more when they adorn the covers of select Marvel titles next year! For more information, visit Marvel.com.

(15) BY GRABTHAR’S HAMMER, WHAT A SAVINGS. Heritage Auctions next Space Exploration Signature Auction on December 14-15 is offering a “Full-Scale McDonnell Aircraft Corporation Manufactured Friendship 7 Mercury Spacecraft Exhibition Model”. All you need is about $50,000 and a place to keep it around the house.

…Painted on the exterior are the Friendship 7 logo, “United States,” and an American flag very similar to what was painted on John Glenn’s capsule, the first mission on which an American orbited the Earth. A 27.5″‘ x 33″ removable hatch can be detached to allow closer inspection of the outstanding interior cabin assembled of a composite of wood and metal that features two fluorescent lights that beautifully illuminate the mannequin and instrument panel when plugged in via a standard plug at the bottom of the capsule. The attention to detail in the cabin is extraordinary. The instrument panel display is similar to the “B” configuration that was used on the Friendship 7 mission. The silver spacesuit has not been removed for inspection. However, the model was donated to the BSA in 1966; therefore, the suit is of the period….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Steven French, Steve Green, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/28/23 I’ll Scroll What She’s Scrolling

(1) SFWA GIVERS FUND GRANT DEADLINE OCTOBER 1. During SFWA’s recent annual business meeting, Chief Financial Officer Erin M. Hartshorn gave an update on the current amounts in each of the organization’s benevolent funds: $388,000 for the Emergency Medical Fund, $66,000 for the Legal Fund, and $103,000 for the Givers Fund, which will give away $30,000 worth of grants this fall. Applications for grants from the Givers Fund are due October 1. 

(2) RUSHDIE TO SPEAK. On October 21, Salman Rushdie will make one of his first in-person appearances since being severely injured in a stabbing attack last August, at Frankfurter Buchmesse: “Salman Rushdie Appears at Frankfurt’s Saturday Gala” reports Publishing Perspectives.

…This program, supported by ARD, ZDF, and 3sat, precedes the October 22 presentation to Rushdie of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as Publishing Perspectives readers know. The award carries a purse of €25,000 (US$26,389).

In a statement today, Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos  has said, “I was very moved that Salman Rushdie is not missing the opportunity to meet the audience in Frankfurt in person, in addition to attending the award ceremony for the Peace Prize….

…As you’ll remember, the stabbing attack on Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York occurred on August 12, 2022. Dealing with severe injuries and the preparation of his new book, Rushdie has made very few public appearances since then, one of them in May in a videotaped message from New York for the British Book Awards….

(3) HOW NETFLIX DVD WORKED. [Item by Dan Bloch.] Tomorrow is, of course, Netflix DVDs last day, and there are of course lots of articles about this, all saying more or less the same thing (“Netflix DVD, we’ll miss you, even though we canceled our subscription a long time ago”). This one is different: “Netflix’s DVD service shuts down: here’s the complex tech behind it” at The Verge. It’s a longish but very interesting article about how the technology in their shipping hubs works.

… Bronway custom-designed a massive disc robot called the “automated rental return machine,” or ARRM 3660. The ARRM, as Netflix employees simply called it, was an assembly-line-sized machine consisting of 6,500 parts total. At its center were two carousels, housed behind glass doors, that were loaded up with incoming mail and then used pneumatic arms to perform all of the things people had done before: slice open returned envelopes, unpack discs, inspect them, clean them, add them to a facility’s inventory system, and get them ready to go out of the door again — basically, every job short of sorting discs and stuffing envelopes for the next customer. 

The robotics company sold 180 of these machines to Netflix in 2010, and they were deployed in stages across all of its hubs. The labor savings alone were enormous. “The hubs were a spectacular number of people,” recalled Johnson. “You could replace about five humans opening the discs with one machine.”

Once a hub was fully automated, it really only required a handful of people to operate. Warehouse workers would arrive at 2AM each day to flip on the machines and process tens of thousands of DVDs in time to deliver them to the Postal Service later that morning. “It was just one person per machine,” Gallion said. “You’d have one person running the stuffer, one person running the sorter, one person running the rental return machine.”

But automation wasn’t just about labor costs alone. Machines were also a lot better at their job, which led to less frustration for Netflix subscribers. Customers who borrowed entire seasons of a TV show would frequently mix up discs — they might put season 7 disc one of The Simpsons in the sleeve for season 7 disc two.

Netflix hub employees were supposed to catch those mix-ups and make sure that the next customer didn’t accidentally receive the wrong disc. “But humans aren’t very good at that,” Johnson said. Machines, on the other hand, aren’t fooled by similar-looking titles. “If barcode A doesn’t match barcode B, then clearly, you’ve got a mismatch,” he said…

(4) PLUMBING THE ABSTRUSE. Timothy B. Lee and Sean Trott promise: “Large language models, explained with a minimum of math and jargon” at Understanding AI.

… If you know anything about this subject, you’ve probably heard that LLMs are trained to “predict the next word,” and that they require huge amounts of text to do this. But that tends to be where the explanation stops. The details of how they predict the next word is often treated as a deep mystery.

One reason for this is the unusual way these systems were developed. Conventional software is created by human programmers who give computers explicit, step-by-step instructions. In contrast, ChatGPT is built on a neural network that was trained using billions of words of ordinary language.

As a result, no one on Earth fully understands the inner workings of LLMs. Researchers are working to gain a better understanding, but this is a slow process that will take years—perhaps decades—to complete.

Still, there’s a lot that experts do understand about how these systems work. The goal of this article is to make a lot of this knowledge accessible to a broad audience. We’ll aim to explain what’s known about the inner workings of these models without resorting to technical jargon or advanced math….

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

  • Day tickets still not available

After the closure of regular ticket sales – on the con site, and on the damai.cn vendor site – the day tickets that were promised exactly a week ago — https://en.chengduworldcon.com/news3_35_95_32_66_76_50/151.html — have not yet materialized.  Here’s a (Chinese language) Weibo post from File 770 commenter Adaoli summarizing the situation:  https://weibo.com/5726230680/Nllv9A08q

I’m not sure if this is a new announcement, but I don’t recall seeing any mention of it prior to today.  Douban – which can be compared to both IMDB and Goodreads – has a listing for “Stellar Concerto”, which features stories from the three Worldcon GoHs.  The listing indicates there are new stories in this anthology, although I assume that means they are new in translation, but have been previously published in their original language.  The publisher is the Chengdu-based 8 Light Minutes Culture, which has a few staff on the Chengdu concom.

The October issue’s cover feature is about SF, although it doesn’t seem to have an explicit Worldcon connection, on the cover at least.  There are photos of some of the interior content, which seems to involve at least a couple of people on the concom, at this Weibo post: https://weibo.com/1662229842/NlnnPvnGo

The HelloChengdu Weibo account linked to a Sichuan Daily post from a couple of days ago with a 2-minute Worldcon-related video that has CG renderings of the venue that I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Although given that the con is ~20 days away, I’d have thought the time for CG renders over real-world footage should have long passed.

This one is way beyond my negligible language skills – and I think it might be a repost of something previously released – but I believe it goes over the Puppies stuff (29:43 and later), Marko Kloos declining his Hugo nomination (from 36:26) and the resulting elevation of The Three-Body Problem to be a finalist.,  Other people/things shown or namechecked include: VD and LC (30:02, VD numerous times after that), Zoe Quinn (from 32:39), GRRM’s Puppygate blog post (37:33), N. K. Jemisin (40:30), Robert Silverberg (45:24), the “GRRM Can Fuck Off Into the Sun” blog post (48:00).

This isn’t something that most File 770 readers are going to need or want to watch, but I think it’s a good illustration that Chinese fans aren’t ignorant of stuff that happens in the Anglosphere.

(6) SOMETHING MISSING. Abigail Nussbaum voices the opinion that Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins” has a lot of deficiencies as a biography at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…The core problem of A Life With Footnotes is one that felt easy to predict before even turning the first page. Terry Pratchett, to be perfectly blunt, did not live a particularly interesting life. He was the precocious son of working class parents in post-war England, who fell in love with science fiction and fantasy in his teens, fooled around with writing them with only moderate success, did some creative-adjacent salaried work (journalism, then PR), and then hit on a concept that ballooned into a world-class success with remarkable speed, after which he was very rich and very successful for the rest of his life. In other words, the life story of quite a few midcentury authors (give or take the stratospheric success). What set Pratchett apart, like most writers, was what was going on in his head….

But then, one of the most startling choices in A Life With Footnotes is how little it has to say about Pratchett the author….

Wilkins’s focus seems, instead, to be on the business side of things….

While I agree with Nussbaum’s description of what is and isn’t there, Pratchett was unable to complete his autobiography before he died so my own focus is on the book we have thanks to Rob Wilkins’ efforts, not the book we wanted.

(7) FROM PIXELS TO BRICK AND MORTAR. The New York Times says “Instagram’s Favorite Bookseller Is Ready to Go Offline”.

For Idea, a rare-book dealer and publisher in London, the dwindling of print has never been much of an issue. If anything, it has been a boon for the understated business that David Owen and Angela Hill have built, largely on the back of Instagram’s early infrastructure.

But now, Idea is navigating yet another swerve — the death of the Instagram timeline. In 2021 the social media platform moved from a chronological feed to a more opaque algorithm, which boosted videos. That meant less exposure for posts of, for example, vintage fashion books, which in turn made book selling on Instagram something of a slog.

And even though Idea has some 500,000 followers — W magazine called it an “Instagram phenomenon” in 2015 — the company is ready to experiment with a fairly antiquated idea that some may consider riskier than print itself: a physical bookstore.

In late September, Idea will open a store spread over three floors of a brick building on Wardour Street, in the London neighborhood of Soho. (The location is also Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill’s current home — they rent in the building — in a district crowded with David Bowie walking tours and lines for a Supreme store nearby.)

“What it really feels like is the perfect answer to all the frustration we’ve had with Instagram for the last couple of years, compared to the absolute joy and wonder we’ve had with it the eight previous to that,” Mr. Owen said.

When Mr. Owen and Ms. Hill started their Instagram account in 2010, it quickly became a popular feed. Glossy scans of their collection — which included issues of Six, a magazine by Commes des Garçons ($3,050); “Pentax Calendar” by Guy Bourdin ($500); and “Fiorucci: The Book” by Eve Babitz ($365) — popped out against a sea of heavily filtered selfies….

(8) MOTE GETS SHOPPED BY UNTITLED.TV. The Chaos Manor Facebook page announced an interest in making series from two Niven/Pournelle books has been expressed by Untitled.

A shopping agreement for a streaming series based on The Mote in Gods Eye and The Gripping Hand has been secured by Untitled.

With the end of the WGA strike, real work has begun to craft and pitch an expected 24+ episode, 3 year story arc.

Questions abounded on how to both streamline and lengthen the proposed series for streaming audiences. Let’s see how Untitled proceeds, now that the clock has started.

When asked Why 3 Arms? Larry Niven explained yesterday that his approach to the initial alien design was inspired by the dual question of why tool makers would need symmetry in their biology if there was limited-to-no gravity. He also posed: Do we need a spine? What if the spine was an evolutionary mistake?

(9) WHAT SIR PAT READS. The New York Times asks the actor about his reading habits in “The Most Novelistic Part That Patrick Stewart Ever Played”. But first – the hook!

“I acted Macbeth for exactly 365 days,” says the actor, whose new memoir is “Making It So.” “The role got into me so deeply it dominated my life at the time and caused me to drink too much alcohol after the performance was over. No other role I have played has affected me so profoundly.”…

…Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Immediately on waking up I make a cup of Yorkshire Gold with a chocolate digestive and read in bed for half an hour, or more. Always a book. Never a script or emails. This not only wakes me up, it puts me back in the world we are living in and who we are today. Unless there is an urgent reason I do not look at newspaper headlines, or listen to the news until halfway through the morning.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

You know, I haven’t heard of it either….

(10) MICHAEL GAMBON (1940-2023). Actor Michael Gambon died September 27. Variety profiles his career in its obituary: “Michael Gambon Dies: Harry Potter’s Dumbledore Was 82”.

Michael Gambon, the Irish-English actor best known for his role as Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the “Harry Potter” movies, has died, Variety has confirmed. He was 82.

“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon,” his family said in a statement. “Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside, following a bout of pneumonia.”

While it is easier for a character actor, often working in supporting roles, to rack up a large number of credits than it is for lead actors, Gambon was enormously prolific, with over 150 TV or film credits in an era when half that number would be impressive and unusual — and this for a man whose body of stage work was also prodigious.

He played two real kings of England: King Edward VII in “The Lost Prince” (2003) and his son, King George V, in “The King’s Speech” (2010); Winston Churchill in his later years in the 2015 ITV/PBS “Masterpiece” telepic “Churchill’s Secret”; U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in John Frankenheimer’s 2002 HBO telepic “Path to War,” for which he was Emmy-nominated; and a fictional British prime minister in “Ali G Indahouse,” also in 2002. And as Hogwarts headmaster in the “Harry Potter” movies, he presided over the proceedings therein. In 2016, he served as the narrator for the Coen brothers’ paean to golden-age Hollywood, “Hail! Caesar.”…

And you can see a photo of Michael Gambon, circa 1970, from when he was invited by producer Cubby Broccoli to test for James Bond at the Tim Burton Wiki.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1913 Ellis Peters. Nom de plume of the writer of The Cadfael Chronicles,which I’ll admit I broke my rule of never watching a video adaption of a print series that I like. Derek Jacobi as Cadfael was damn perfect. She is here because she was the writer of two excellent ghost novels, The City Lies Four-Square and By This Strange Fire, under her real name of Edith Pargeter. (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 28, 1932 Michael G. Coney. British-born writer who spent the last half of his life in Canada. He’s best remembered for his Hello Summer, Goodbye novelI’m very fond of The Celestial Steam Locomotive and Gods of the Greataway which might be set on what could be Vancouver Island. His only Award was from the BSFA for Brontomek!, one of his Amorphs Universe works, although he was a 1996 Nebula nominee for his “Tea and Hamsters” novelette, and a five-time finalist for the Aurora Award. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 28, 1938 Ron Ellik. Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in an auto accident the day before his wedding. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 73. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; and he wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 60. Writer who’s best remembered for Gargoyles, Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 41. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story.
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 37. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by Jo Walton is in Vector 288.

(12) COMIC SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows something that might be a case for an insurance company. But is it an act of God? 

(13) FIFTY CALIBER. Congratulations to Michaele Jordan on her appearance in 50 Give or Take!

(14) CHOPPED. “Now that Winnie-the-Pooh is in the public domain, it’s a free-for-all.” NPR tells how “Winnie-the-Pooh is now being used to raise awareness about deforestation”. [Click for larger image.]

Winnie-the-Pooh: The Deforested Edition is a reimagining of the A.A. Milne classic created by the toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap.

There is just one, stark difference: There are no trees.

The Hundred Acre Wood? Gone.

Piglet’s “house in the middle of a beech-tree” is no longer “grand.”

Six Pine Trees is six pine stumps.

Yes, this is imaginative PR (a free eBook is available on the Who Gives A Crap website; a hardcover was available for purchase but is now sold out). But the company’s co-founder, Danny Alexander, said the goal is to raise awareness about deforestation. Who Gives A Crap prides itself on “creating toilet paper from 100% recycled paper or bamboo,” he said….

… Alexander said Who Gives A Crap has tried to spread the word that “over a million trees are cut down every single day just to make traditional toilet paper,” according to a study the company commissioned….

(15) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 93 of the Octothorpe podcast “The Good Thing About the Hugos” is now up.

John Coxon is husky, Alison Scott is a dingo, and Liz Batty is a ridgeback.

We discuss Chengdu, our impact on Chinese fandom, Glasgow, its impact on Glaswegian fandom, and then all the Hugo categories bar one (foreshadowing). Or four, depending on how you count.

(16) PROTON ART. “Painting with protons: treatment beams recreate works of art” at Physics World.

Intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT) is an advanced cancer treatment technique that uses narrow pencil-like beams of protons – painted spot-by-spot and layer-by-layer within the patient – to deliver radiation in highly complex dose patterns. Combined with sophisticated treatment planning techniques, IMPT can shape the proton dose to match the targeted tumour with unprecedented accuracy, maximizing the destruction of cancer cells while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Looking to showcase the impressive power of IMPT to create intricate dose distributions, medical physicist Lee Xu from the New York Proton Center came up with an unusual approach – he used proton pencil beams to recreate a series of well-known paintings as treatment plans, effectively using the protons as a paintbrush….

(17) DISKWORLDS. In this week’s Nature: “How worlds are born: JWST reveals exotic chemistry of planetary nurseries”, “The telescope is delivering a cascade of insights about the ‘protoplanetary’ disks where planets take shape.”

 The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is aweing scientists and the public alike with its spectacular images of distant galaxies and its discoveries of dozens of new black holes. Yet JWST is also rewriting scientists’ understanding of objects on a slightly smaller, more relatable scale: how planets form from swirls of gas and dust around young stars. Such ‘protoplanetary’ disks are what the environs of the Sun would have been like 4.6 billion years ago, with planets coalescing from the whirling material around an infant star.

JWST is revealing how water is delivered to rocky planets taking shape in such disks. It’s providing clues to the exotic chemistry in these planetary nurseries. And it has even found fresh evidence for a cosmic hit-and-run in one of the most famous debris disks, encircling the star Beta Pictoris…

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/23 Yes, We Have No Tom Bombadils

(1) NYT MARKS TWO DISASTER VICTIMS’ SFF CONNECTION. Two of the people who died aboard a submersible that imploded near the Titanic wreckage, Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman, had an interest in sff, and the elder Dawood was a trustee of the SETI Institute. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times obituary.

Shahzada Dawood, a British Pakistani businessman who was among the five people aboard a submersible journeying deep into the Altantic to view the Titanic, was killed when the vessel imploded during its descent to the ocean floor, the authorities said Thursday. He was 48.

His 19-year-old son, Suleman, who was with him on the Titan submersible, was also killed.

… His son was a business student at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and had just completed his first year, a spokesman for the school said. Like his father, he was a fan of science fiction and enjoyed solving Rubik’s Cubes and playing volleyball, according to a statement from Engro….

…“Don’t adventures ever have an end?” Mr. Dawood wrote in a Facebook post last year from a trip to Iceland, quoting Bilbo Baggins from “The Fellowship of the Ring.” “I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.”

Khalid Mansoor, another former colleague of Mr. Dawood’s, said that Mr. Dawood was a passionate champion of the environment. He was also a trustee at the SETI Institute, an organization devoted to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence….

(2) YOU MAY ALREADY HAVE ONE. The Chengdu Worldcon committee attributed the Hugo ballot delay in part to needing to contact finalists to secure their acceptance. Naomi Kritzer urged her Twitter readers to check their spam filters.  Thread starts here.

(3) JONATHAN CARROLL Q&A. “What would it be like to live a different life? Jonathan Carroll explores the question in ‘Mr. Breakfast’” at Wisconsin Public Radio.

…The book is about a failing comedian named Graham Patterson. On a cross-country drive, he decides to get a tattoo. The tattoo artist not only gives Graham a one-of-a-kind tattoo, she also gives him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

The tattoo artist tells Graham that his lost soul can jump between three different universes. Through these experiences, he will find some combination of love, fame and fatherhood. Jonathan gives us insight into what it would be like to live a different life.

“I have always been fascinated with the life not lived, whether in real life, or in literature,” Carroll told Wisconsin Public Radio‘s “BETA.”

“There are so many wonderful versions of it, from Borges to the film ‘Sliding Doors.’ And I think it’s one of the universal questions that we ask, along the lines of why am I here? Or is there a god? The question is, what would my life be like if I had gone left instead of right? Or I’d taken that job or hadn’t taken that job? Those possibilities that you had in life that you chose to go in one direction rather than the other,” he continued….

(4) CULTIVATING CHAOS. When Frank Pournelle created Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s Chaos Manor website, one of the things he posted was “Robert Bloch, Author of Psycho, Explains the Appeal of Jerry Pournelle”, Bloch’s entertaining introduction to his fellow toastmaster at L.A.con II, the 1984 Worldcon.

…Professionally, Pournelle has all the qualifications which I lack. To begin with, I never attended college, and he did. As a result I’ve won no honors. But Pournelle has more degrees than a rectal thermometer.

He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1933, and just celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago. After a long and varied career during the most exciting years of the aerospace program, and a stint as a university professor, he began writing science fiction comparatively late in life as a mature adult. I started my professional writing at the age of seventeen, and haven’t matured yet.

Together with Pournelle’s colleagues, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov, he subscribes to the Cartesian paradigm of “hard science” and believes that the scientific discipline will inevitably be the key to our future salvation. My own belief is in the opposite extreme; I keep waiting for Great Cthulhu to rise again and end it all.

Both Pournelle and I have had personal experience in politics. He was a professor of Political Science and also put theory into practice as executive assistant to a former mayor of Los Angeles. In contrast, my political activity is confined to supporting Norman Thomas for President. It’s true Thomas passed away a number of years ago, but I continue to vote for him because I believe the only good politician is a dead one….

(5) MEMORY LANE.

1976 [Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Alice Sheldon also known as James Tiptree Jr. was without doubt one of the most brilliant writers our community was ever graced with. 

Writing under her preferred pen name of James Tiptree, Jr., she penned the “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” novella. It was first published in  Aurora: Beyond Equality as edited by Susan Janice Anderson and Vonda N. McIntyre in 1976. 

I’d normally spend some time talking about the author but I know that all of you know about this individual so I won’t. 

It would share a Hugo at Suncon with Spider Robinson’s “By Any Other Name”, and also a Nebula. 

Now here’s its Beginning…

Lorimer gazes around the big crowded cabin, trying to listen to the voices, trying also to ignore the twitch, in his insides that means he is about to remember something bad. No help; he lives it again, that long-ago moment. Himself running blindly—or was he pushed?—into the strange toilet at Evanston Junior High. His fly open, his dick in his hand, he can still see the grey zipper edge of his jeans around his pale exposed pecker. The hush. The sickening wrongness of shapes, faces turning. The first blaring giggle. Girls. He was in the girls’ can.

Oh! Her smile shows a chipped front tooth. Oh yes, I think Andy has. 

Andy?

For plays. Historical plays, Andy’s good at that.

Of course. Historical plays.

He flinches wryly now, so many years later, not looking at the women’s faces. The cabin curves around over his head surrounding him with their alien things: the beading rack, the twins’ loom, Andy’s leather work, the damned kudzu vine wriggling everywhere, the chickens. So cosy…. Trapped, he is. Irretrievably trapped for life in everything he does not enjoy. Strutturelessness. Personal trivia, unmeaning intimacies. The claims he can somehow never meet. Ginny: You never talk to me … 

Ginny, love, he thinks involuntarily. The hurt doesn’t come.

Lorimer’s brain seems to be expanding, letting in light. He is understanding actively now, the myriad bits and pieces linking into pattern. Deadly patterns, he perceives; but the drug is shielding him in some way. Like an amphetamine high without the pressure. Maybe it’s something they use socially? No, they’re watching, too.

Bud Geirr’s loud chuckle breaks in on him. Bud is joking with some of them, out of sight around a bulkhead. Dave is visible, though. Major Norman Davis on the far side of the cabin, his bearded profile bent toward a small dark woman Lorimer can’t quite focus on. But Dave’s head seems oddly tiny and sharp, in fact the whole cabin looks unreal. A cackle bursts out from the ceiling—the bantam hen in her basket.

You chicks have kids back home, what do your folks think about you flying around out here with old Andy, h’mm? Bud floats into view, his arm draped around a twin’s shoulders. The one called Judy Paris, Lorimer decides; the twins are hard to tell. She drifts passively at an angle to Bud’s big body: a jut-breasted plain girl in flowing yellow pajamas, her black hair raying out. Andy’s read head swims up to them. He is holding a big green spaceball, looking about sixteen.

At this moment Lorimer becomes sure he has been drugged.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 Eileen Gunn, 78. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Two other stories were nominated for the Hugo Award: “Stable Strategies for Middle Management” at Noreascon 3 and “Computer Friendly” at ConFiction. Some of her best stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future.
  • Born June 23, 1947 Mark Olson, 76. One could reasonably call him an Uberfan. And among his many accomplishments is that he oversees Fancyclopedia 3 which I constantly use. If you don’t know him, I’m going to send you to his Fancyclopedia 3 bio which is far too long to quote here. It’s just a little boastful as it should be. 
  • Born June 23, 1957 Frances McDormand, 66. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which is on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 Liu Cixin, 60. He won the Best Novel Hugo at Saquan for his Three Body Problem novel, translated into English by Ken Liu. It was nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Nebula, Canopus and Prometheus Awards as well. He picked up a Hugo novel nomination at Worldcon 75 for Death’s End also translated by Liu. 
  • Born June 23, 1972 Selma Blair, 51. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She also voiced the character in the most excellent animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 1980 Melissa Rauch, 43. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory which is at least genre adjacent if not genre. She gets to be really genre in voicing Harley Quinn in Batman and Harley Quinn which Bruce Timm considers “a spiritual successor to Batman: The Animated Series”. Having watched a few episodes on HBO when I was subscribed to that streaming service, I vehemently disagree. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 Caitlin Blackwood, 23. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler” and “The God Complex”., all showing from 2010 to 2012. y She had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond.  I can’t find anything online that talks about how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(7) STAR TREK: PRODIGY CANCELED. Variety says it’s on the hit list: “’The Game,’ ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Pulled Off Paramount+”.

…“The Paramount+ series ‘Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies,’ ‘Star Trek: Prodigy,’ ‘Queen of the Universe’ and ‘The Game’ have completed their runs on Paramount+ and will not be returning to the service,” a Paramount+ spokesperson said. “We want to extend our thanks to our tremendously talented cast and crew and our producing partners for their passionate work and dedication on these programs, and we wish them all the best on their future endeavors.”…

…The cancellation of “Star Trek: Prodigy,” the first animated kids show in the “Star Trek” universe, comes despite the fact that the show was renewed for a second season back in 2021. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, although the show had aired on Nickelodeon in addition to Paramount+, it will not be returning to Nickelodeon either. Those on the show will complete post-production on Season 2 and then CBS Studios will be free to shop it to other outlets….

(8) DEFINITELY NOT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] No. Just… no. “Furby, the bug-eyed, gibberish-talking ’90s toy phenomenon, has been revived — again” reports CNN.

Loveable or creepy? Depends on who you ask.

Furby, the ’90s toy phenomenon that divided kids and parents into opposing camps when it first hit stores and quickly became a craze, is making yet another comeback.

Furby-maker Hasbro said Thursday it is reintroducing the bug-eyed, gibberish-talking furball. The latest iteration of the animatronic toy launched on Amazon Thursday and rolls into stores nationwide on July 15 after a nearly 10-year gap.

The new Furby — which is priced at $70 and comes in purple and coral — is much like the original but somewhat cuter. It is interactive and responds to hugs, pats on the head and tickles. You can also pretend to feed it a tiny pizza….

(9) JEOPARDY! [Item by David Goldfarb.] There was a whole category on Thursday’s Double Jeopardy round that was “Vampire-pourri”. Here are the clues in the order they were encountered:

$1200: In the “Twilight” saga, the Cullens avoid the sun not because it would kill them, but because this happens

Challenger Andrea Rednick Granados said, “What is twinkle?” This was accepted.

$800: “You’re Dead” by ‘60s folk singer Norma Tanega is used as the theme song to this FX series

Andrea: “What is True Blood?”

The correct response was, “What We Do in the Shadows”.

$1600: In “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, Anthony Hopkins played this vampire-hunting professor

Challenger Dan Meuse knew it was Van Helsing.

$2000: Benjamin Walker stepped into the Presidential shoes for this 2012 metafiction monster mash-up of a movie

Returning champ Ben Goldstein: “What is ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’?”

$400: Drusilla was one of the vampire antagonists on this TV series that debuted in 1997

Surprisingly (to me at least) this was a triple stumper. I guess I’m getting old.

In addition, there was one clue in “Writing on the Walls”. At the middle level ($1200):

Writing on the Walls, $1200: In his book “Stardust”, there is a hamlet named Wall & Tristran sets out on a journey through the only hole in that wall

This too was a triple stumper. Poor Neil!

(10) THE SPEED OF DARK. A European space telescope sets off to discover the nature of dark energy—the biggest ingredient in the universe: “Into the Dark” in Science.

When the Euclid space telescope blasts off from Cape Canaveral in Florida early next month, it will embark on an unprecedented effort to survey 1 billion galaxies—and perhaps solve cosmology’s greatest mystery. The search will cover more than one-third of the sky and look back in time to galaxies shining when the universe was just one-quarter of its current age of 13.8 billion years. Although the task is immense, Euclid’s primary goal is surprisingly simple. The data it collects will be boiled down to a single number, denoted by w. And cosmologists are hoping, maybe even a bit desperately, that it is not –1.

describes the effect of dark energy, the mysterious antigravitational force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. All measures so far suggest that is close to –1. If it proves to be exactly that, it will confirm the vanilla solution to dark energy: that it’s a simple tweak—a cosmological constant—added to Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, which bestows empty space with an innate springiness of its own. As the universe expands, giving birth to more space, the total amount of dark energy also grows—so that the energy density always remains constant…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Susan de Guardiola, David Goldfarb, Danny Sichel, Michael J. Walsh, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/22 The Filezentian Gate

(1) PRESIDENT’S DAY WEEKEND.  Get ready for Boskone 60, coming February 17-19, 2023 in Boston – and via the internet. The convention’s guests are Nalo Hopkinson – Guest of Honor; Victo Ngai – Official Artist; Tui T. Sutherland – Special Guest; and Dave Clement – Musical Guest. Full information at the link.

Boskone 60 will be held in person at The Westin Boston Seaport District hotel, 425 Summer Street, Boston, MA. You can also attend in person at our incredible 3-day convention, starting in the afternoon on Friday, February 17, 2023, at 2:00 pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and running through Sunday, February 19. We are also planning to make a portion of our programming available for virtual members and virtual program participants.

You can experience Boskone virtually for only $24.60!

(2) MEDICAL STRUGGLE. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Kelly Barnhill, winner of the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella, is marking one year since she missed a step, hit her head, fell down a flight of stairs, and was unconscious for 15 minutes.Recovery from concussion is slow; as a result, she says, writing fiction is not currently possible. Thread starts here. Some excerpts:

https://twitter.com/kellybarnhill/status/1605025107591806981
https://twitter.com/kellybarnhill/status/1605036182739501056

(3) AI YI YI. Alyssa Shotwell brings readers up to date about why “Tor Faces Major Backlash for AI Art for Upcoming Novel From Bestselling Author” in The Mary Sue.

…The comments accusing Tor of using AI art in Christopher Paolini‘s follow-up to To Sleep in a Sea of StarsFractal Noise, came as early as November (when the cover was revealed), but it wasn’t until December when more people realized what happened. Around December 9, pressure had built up, and those concerned demanded an answer from Tor and Paolini. On December 15, Tor released this statement on their social media:

“Tor Books designed the cover for Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini. During the process of creating this cover, we licensed an image from a reputable stock house. We were not aware that the image may have been created by AI. Our in-house designer used the licensed image to create the cover, which was presented to Christopher for approval. Due to production constraints, we have decided to move ahead with our current cover. Tor Publishing Group has championed creators in the SFF community since our founding and will continue to do so.”

At first glance, it’s easy to take at least the first part of this as truth. As far back as September, stock websites and individuals began to host AI art for licensing purposes. Since then, it’s only grown, with Adobe Stock and the portfolio site Artstation catering to AI art. Shutterstock even inked a deal with AI generators in October. Between the sites hosting the images and the companies (like Tor) using them, there are no guidelines for even labeling AI art. It’s being mixed in with human-made art. The AI image created (from stolen images) for the base of Fractal Noise is not even labeled as AI created on Shutterstock.

… Tor knew they would continue to get backlash because, in that tweet, they turned off replies. Most of the people talking about it are retweets, and the conversation continues in those replies….

… Paolini has given mixed responses to the whole situation and has been tweeting (and replying) a lot. He spoke about the value of an artist in the book illustration process and how he’s always shared fan art of his works. Paolini commissioned work from artists and illustrated many elements of his Inheritance Saga (Eragon, etc.), including the map of Alagaësia. He also stated that this AI art situation is not ideal. Most other comments from the author remain neutral.

This is disappointing, as a reader of his books and as an artist, not to see him take a stronger stance on this, at least in a professional setting….

(4) CRICHTON, POURNELLE, AND BENFORD IN 2005. Camestros Felapton resumes following strands of right-wing and reactionary thought within science fiction in a new series “Contrarian Cli-Fi” about sff writers who took a contrarian view of climate change. The latest chapter, “Contrarian Cli-Fi 0.07: Aftermath 2005”, makes a real effort at fairness, it seemed to me, at a time when the internet gives no cookies for such efforts.  

…A great deal about science communication had changed over the intervening time between Fallen Angels and State of Fear. Whereas in past decades science magazines and hybrid sci-fi/science magazines like Analog or OMNI were a key part of science communication to a broader audience of people interested but not experts in science, in the 2000s science blogging was a growing channel between actual scientists and the public.

Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear also helped spur actual climate scientists to counter Crichton’s views (and doubts about global warming more generally) directly on the web. One of the most interesting exchanges in the wake of State of Fear was, unsurprisingly, on Pournelle’s own blog in 2005.

I’ve cast Pournelle as a right-wing ideologue pushing the contrarian view on climate change but he also manifestly had a genuine interest in climate science. He absolutely wanted to understand the scientific debate if only to refute it on its own terms. In the wake of the State of Fear discussion about global warming and global cooling would be a major topic on his blog. In part that debate was fuelled by reactions to Crichton’s novel in science and science fiction communities.

One obvious overlap between State of Fear, scientists and science fiction writers was author and physicist Gregory Benford. In a 2003 speech by Crichton that presaged the sceptical position of his novel, Crichton had quoted a paper by a panel that included Benford published in Science[1]: …

…Benford responded in a column in the San Diego Tribune published in 2005 taking apart many of Crichton’s claims and misleading statements. Benford unequivocally stated that Crichton was getting his science wrong, relying on secondary sources and misunderstanding those sources….

(5) TRYING TO PREDICT THE PRESENT. “Bezos appears to lose interest in the Washington Post as its tech ambitions wither” reports Semafor.

THE SCOOP

Earlier this month, Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan and a handful of executives traveled to Seattle for a budget meeting with owner Jeff Bezos. The paper’s executive editor Sally Buzbee was not in attendance, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

Turmoil back in Washington, DC has followed. Ryan abruptly announced a round of layoffs. Buzbee appeared to distance herself from her publisher. The Post and Buzbee did not respond to requests for comment.

And employees and observers of the Post alike were left wondering what Bezos is doing with the publication….

(6) AMAZON CURBED IN EU ACTION. A European Union press release announced the final “commitments” made by Amazon to avoid further enforcement action, including fines. “Antitrust: Commission accepts commitments by Amazon barring it from using marketplace seller data, and ensuring equal access to Buy Box and Prime”.

To address the Commission’s competition concerns in relation to both investigations, Amazon initially offered the following commitments:

– To address the data use concern, Amazon proposed to commit:

      • not to use non-public data relating to, or derived from, the independent sellers’ activities on its marketplace, for its retail business. This applies to both Amazon’s automated tools and employees that could cross-use the data from Amazon Marketplace, for retail decisions;
      • not to use such data for the purposes of selling branded goods as well as its private label products.

– To address the Buy Box concern, Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • treat all sellers equally when ranking the offers for the purposes of the selection of the Buy Box winner;
      • display a second competing offer to the Buy Box winner if there is a second offer from a different seller that is sufficiently differentiated from the first one on price and/or delivery. Both offers will display the same descriptive information and provide the same purchasing experience.

– To address the Prime concerns Amazon proposed to commit to:

      • set non-discriminatory conditions and criteria for the qualification of marketplace sellers and offers to Prime;
      • allow Prime sellers to freely choose any carrier for their logistics and delivery services and negotiate terms directly with the carrier of their choice;
      • not use any information obtained through Prime about the terms and performance of third-party carriers, for its own logistics services.

Between 14 July 2022 and 9 September 2022, the Commission market tested Amazon’s commitments and consulted all interested third parties to verify whether they would remove its competition concerns. In light of the outcome of this market test, Amazon amended the initial proposal and committed to:

      • Improve the presentation of the second competing Buy Box offer by making it more prominent and to include a review mechanism in case the presentation is not attracting adequate consumer attention;
      • Increase the transparency and early information flows to sellers and carriers about the commitments and their newly acquired rights, enabling, amongst others, early switching of sellers to independent carriers;
      • Lay out the means for independent carriers to directly contact their Amazon customers, in line with data-protection rules, enabling them to provide equivalent delivery services to those offered by Amazon;
      • Improve carrier data protection from use by Amazon’s competing logistics services, in particular concerning cargo profile information;
      • Increase the powers of the monitoring trustee by introducing further notification obligations;
      • Introduce a centralised complaint mechanism, open to all sellers and carriers in case of suspected non-compliance with the commitments.
      • Increase to seven years, instead of the initially proposed five years, the duration of the commitments relating to Prime and the second competing Buy Box offer.

The Commission found that Amazon’s final commitments will ensure that Amazon does not use marketplace seller data for its own retail operations and that it grants non-discriminatory access to Buy Box and Prime. 

(7) HENRY MORRISON OBIT. Literary agent Henry Morrison died November 2 at the age of 86. The Publishers Weekly noted his sff connections.

…Morrison struck out on his own before he turned 30.

For the next 55 years, characters and storylines in the books and films whose rights Morrison sold became household American names, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne and David Morrell’s Rambo among them. A particularly prolific agent in the crime and thriller genres, other authors in the space Morrison represented included Brian Garfield, Dean Koontz, Eric van Lustbader, Matt Scudder, and Donald E. Westlake. He also represented the science fiction writers Samuel R. Delany (one of his earliest clients) and Roger Zelazny. His well-rewarded midlist writers won multiple Edgars and served as Mystery Writers of America presidents, Grandmasters, and International ThrillerMasters….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2014 [By Cat Eldridge.] Frankenstein in Geneva 

Tonight’s creature is one that y’all will now very well, that of  Frankenstein’s monster, though almost everyone now calls it Frankenstein. Philistines. 

While the writer was English, the story was written and takes place in Geneva, Switzerland where this statue is placed in the spot where it goes on a rampage and kills his creator’s brother. 

KLAT, a Geneva artist collective, so there was no individual sculptor listed for this work, created this nearly eight-foot-tall cast bronze sculpture. “Franc” as they call him,  is dressed in ragged clothes, which represents not the character from the novel, but “the figure of the vagrant or the marginal”. With his hunchback, his scars including those of face and hooded sweatshirt and old jeans cut at the knees, it is not at all in keeping with Shelley’s original description of the monster in her novel, but more in line with the modern interpretation of a zombie-like creature. 

The statue was unveiled in May 2014, and is part of the collection of the Contemporary Art Fund of the City of Geneva. That unveiling was — shall we say? — quite electrifying?

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maurey. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can’t find proof anywhere else that it is… (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1951 Kate Atkinson, 71. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on usual suspects.
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 70. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fave films which is Darkman and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 62. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out the Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. 
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 52. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine, and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. Well maybe not the latter I’ll admit. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian?
  • Born December 20, 1984 Ilean Almaguer, 38. Here for her role as Illa on the most excellent Counterpart series. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it. To my knowledge, none of many the Spanish-language Mexican telenovelas she appeared in had the slightest genre element. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) TUNE IN. The BBC World Service is airing a production of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark Is Rising”.

A young boy’s time-travelling fight against ancient evil. When the Dark comes rising, who will hold it back? This dramatisation of Susan Cooper’s cult novel is a magical journey into the supernatural.

There currently are three episodes available with 26 to come.

(12) IRON MAN BACK TO THE PRESS. Gene Wolfe said in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech that the difference between a professional publisher and a fanzine publisher is that if a fanzine sells out, the editor will print more. So what are we to make of Marvel’s enthusiastic announcement that Iron Man #1 is getting a second printing?

This past Wednesday, fans witnessed the beginning of an all-new era for Tony Stark in Invincible Iron Man #1! Writer Gerry Duggan and artist Juan Frigeri have taken over the armored Avenger’s adventures and didn’t pull any punches in their explosive first issue, which sold out and will return in February with a second printing!

 Invincible Iron #1 will receive two new second printing covers, both of which celebrate the character’s iconic legacy by showcasing the many armors Tony has suited up in over the years: A brand-new piece by superstar artist Mark Bagley and definitive Iron Man artist Bob Layton’s showstopping connecting piece in all its glory.

 Invincible Iron Man #1 ended with Tony Stark hitting rock bottom, having lost it all: his wealth…his fame…his friends. But don’t count Stark out just yet. In upcoming issues, Stark will navigate his new status in the Marvel Universe in surprising ways. Readers will see Iron Man court new allies, embrace bold solutions, and make startling moves that will affect his relationships with the Avengers and mutantkind. Is he building towards a brighter future or will he be the architect of further destruction? 

 (13) OH SNAP! SNAP! [Item by Daniel Dern.] If (movie version) Thanos sang or hummed along to the Addams Family theme song, would that quantumize 2x 50% or 50% of 50%?

(14) SOMETHING TO READ. Ted Gioia posted his picks for “The Best Online Essays & Articles of 2022”.

…Most of these are longform essays on music, arts, and culture—because those are matters I think about (and worry about) every day. But I don’t impose any arbitrary limits here. If the article is good enough, I include it, no matter what the subject….

First on the list – “A few things to know before stealing my 914” by Norman Garrett,

Dear Thief,

Welcome to my Porsche 914. I imagine that at this point (having found the door unlocked) your intention is to steal my car. Don’t be encouraged by this; the tumblers sheared off in 1978. I would have locked it up if I could, so don’t think you’re too clever or that I’m too lazy. However, now that you’re in the car, there are a few things you’re going to need to know. First, the battery is disconnected, so slide-hammering my ignition switch is not your first step. I leave the battery disconnected, not to foil hoodlums such as yourself, but because there is a mysterious current drain from the 40-year-old German wiring harness that I can’t locate and/or fix….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Honest Game Trailers: The Game Awards” sends up an awards show which finds it impossible to live up to its pretentions, saying it’s “an award show that wants to be taken as seriously as the Oscars except that every single year something absolutely ridiculous happens.” Mistakes were made, birds were flipped.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Todd Mason, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 8/26/22 A Pixel So Great, It Can Only Be Scrolled For Good Or Evil

(1) THE REALLY FINAL FRONTIER. This is where the ashes of Nichelle Nichols, Gene Roddenberry, and Douglas Trumbull are going: “Enterprise Flight | Memorial Spaceflights” offered by Celestis. For $12,500 you can send your late loved one along. “Remaining space aboard this Voyager Flight is limited. Reservations close on: August 31, 2022.”

The Celestis Enterprise Flight ™ will launch from planet Earth and travel beyond the Earth-Moon system, beyond the James Webb telescope, and into interplanetary deep space – where it will join the other planets, moons, comets, and asteroids in our solar system on a never-ending journey through the cosmos.

Upon completion of its powered burn and coast phase, the Enterprise Flight will become Enterprise Station™ – the most distant permanent human repository outpost and a pathfinder for the continuing human exploration of space.  

The Enterprise Flight, carrying specially manufactured and inscribed individual flight capsules containing cremated remains, complete human genome individual DNA samples, and names and messages of well-wishers from around the globe will be launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Aboard Enterprise, fittingly, will be the creator and several cast members of the original Star Trek television series, as well as an Apollo-era astronaut, together with people from all walks of life, interests, and vocations.   Enterprise is truly a once-in-a-lifetime, exclusive opportunity for you or your loved ones – or both – to join an incredible mission of purpose alongside the most recognizable personas in space exploration, real or imagined.

The history-making Enterprise Flight is expected to be sold out well in advance. Contact us today to ensure your or your loved one’s participation in this mission!

(2) LABOR INTENSIVE. Kameron Hurley’s latest Get To Work Hurley podcast — a monthly rant about the hustle of making a living as a writer of All of the Things – is Episode 23, in which — 

Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher) joins us for questions from Twitter and a game of “Name of a Plant OR Name of a Britpop musician.” 

Available from Apple PodcastsStitcher, and Spotify (NOTE: Patreon subscribers get access to the video version of the podcast).

(3) IMAGINARY PAPERS DELIVERED. Issue 11 of Imaginary Papers from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination features an essay by the urban planner and futurist Lafayette Cruise on the 2002 animated film Treasure Planet, and another on the fiction and films of Colombian writer and philosopher René Rebetez, by Azucena Castro. There’s also a writeup on the new Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction. If you missed previous issues, read them here.

(4) IN SCANDINAVIA. Rudy Rucker shares photos of a trip he took with his wife to Finland: “Helsinki Math & Art”.

…Sylvia is from Hungary, and the Finnish and Hungarian languages are said to be related. These Finno-Ugric languages are not at all like any of the familiar European languages which are in the Indo-European group, which include the Romance, Slavic, Germanic and other categories. Finnish and Hungarian are total outliers. And, as Sylvia’s expression testifies here, the two are not very much like each other after all. It was fun to see such incomprehensible signs….

(5) TURN UP THAT DIAL. Classical music radio host Dr. Laura Brodian returns to the air August 29 on KMOZART FM-AM in Los Angeles she announced on Facebook today. Her show will run Monday thru Friday between 12 noon and 5pm.

Doctor Laura Brodian Freas was a voiceover artist and classical music personality on radio station KMZT in Los Angeles, and was also the voice of Delta Symphony and Delta Jazz for Delta Airlines. A past President of the Southern California Early Music Society, she earned a doctoral degree in Music, but also attended art classes at Indiana University’s School of Fine Arts and at the California Art Institute. Her cover and interior artwork has been published by, among others, TSR, The Easton Press, Analog Magazine of Science Fiction/Fact, Weird Tales, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Laura was a co-recipient [with Frank Kelly Freas] of The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists [ASFA]’s Chesley Award for Best Cover of the Year. Laura has also served as ASFA’s Western Regional Director. Laura is a Judge in the L. Ron Hubbard “Illustrators of the Future Contest.”

One of her passions is costuming. She is a former Director[1]at-Large of Costumer’s Guild West and a WesterCon Masquerade winner and a WorldCon Masquerade Judge. She also founded the Collinsport Players performing troupe the when she was the MC at the first annual Dark Shadows Festival. Another of her passions is English Regency Dancing, which she also teaches. Laura founded the San Francisco Bay Area English Regency Society and the San Fernando Valley Area English Regency Society. A member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, Laura is the widow of science fiction’s favorite illustrator, Frank Kelly Freas, with whom she co-edited the fourth volume of his collected works, FRANK KELLY FREAS: AS HE SEES IT in 2000. A new comprehensive Kelly Freas artbook is in development with artist Bob Eggleton. In 2012 she married school teacher Steven Beraha.

(6) FIRST WORLDCON IN LOS ANGELES. In “What Can We Learn From the 1946 Pacificon Program Book?”, First Fandom Experience continues its exploration of fandom in 1946 with a chronicle of the fourth Worldcon, the first held in LA. How much were memberships in those days? One dollar!

(7) WHAT DO FISH, SNEETCHES, AN ELEPHANT, AND A MOUSE HAVE IN COMMON? “Licensing: Netflix Has Five Dr. Seuss Projects in the Works” according to Publishing Perspectives. Descriptions of all five shows are at the link.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Netflix are in development on five Seuss titles, planned for preschool-audience animated series and specials….

The new Dr. Seuss line-up is to anchor Netflix’s expanded focus on preschool, the estate says. “Introducing concepts of foundational learning, this new slate of programming will explore themes of diversity and respect for others,” the company says, clearly looking to counter the less felicitous impressions left when it took those six titles out of circulation.

(8) TAKE A LETTER TO ELROND. Ars Technica explains why “Lord of the Rings mechanical keyboards are perfect for people who speak Elvish”.

Middle-earth has seen more than its share of trials and challenges, but perhaps none more pressing today than a lack of mechanical keyboards that any of its various peoples can actually read. For ages, everyone from elves to dwarves had to make do with keyboards carrying legends of unknown languages. Today, keyboard and audio brand Drop released two prebuilt mechanical keyboards to rule them all—or at least speakers of Elvish and Dwarvish.

The Drop + The Lord of the Rings Dwarvish and Elvish Keyboards ($169) are the first to gain official Lord of the Rings licensing, Drop said in its announcement today. The keyboards build on Drop’s November release of The Lord of the Rings keycap sets, also written in Elvish and Dwarvish, and follow Drop’s Lord of the Rings artisan keycaps made from resin….

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Let’s us converse of Djinn, specifically, those G. Willow Wilson wrote of in two vastly different works, Cairo, a graphic novel she did with M.K. Perker for Vertigo and the later Alif the Unseen novel.

G. Willow Wilson is Islamic which she first converted to and practiced in Cairo according to The Butterfly Mosque, her autobiography. So it’s not at all surprising that she has a fascination with the djinn. 

Cairo is set in version of contemporary Cairo, and follows a number of characters, human and really not human, as they are drawn into a complex tale surrounding a stolen hookah of great importance, and a box that looks simple but actually contains something of mythical status. I like the story because the characters are drawn from myth, (Djinn; the Devil Himself; A spirit inhabiting the city’s ruins) all feel very real. See I’ve given nothing away, have I? 

The artwork by Perker is stellar. His full name is Mustafa Kutlukhan Perker and he’s from Istanbul. He would later do the absolutely impressive Air series with her.

Dealing with the djinn once was not enough, so six years after Cairo, her first novel Alif the Unseen was released in 2007. It was, I think, a much more intimate novel. It is also a very political novel that likely caused many a leader in the Middle East not to be very happy. 

SPOILERS

Alif the hacker discovers that his love interest Intisar is entering an arranged marriage with another man. That man is head of the State in a repressive government in an unnamed Middle Eastern state. Alif gets in deep crap with said Bad Person person but, this being a fantasy, is along with his neighbor rescued by two djinn: Vikram and his sister Azalel. 

(Ok, she likes djinn a lot. And she treats them as just existing within the framework of everyday life. Now she needs to do an opera with them as the central characters.)

Eventually the Very Bad Person is assassinated, and all is well. Some really odd science involving djinn coding and quantum tech ensues before that.)

END OF SPOILERS

It won a much-deserved World Fantasy Award. 

I’m going to quote but one review and you’ll see why I’m quoting that review. Salon led off its review this way: “Arthur C. Clarke famously said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which may explain why fantasy narratives have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in this age of wondrous gadgets. In G. Willow Wilson’s equally wondrous ‘Alif the Unseen,’ the connection between the two is more than just metaphor, although as far as this book is concerned, metaphor itself is a kind of technology.”

Everything I’ve read by her is stellar from these books to her run on the Vixen series — not to overlook the Ms. Marvel work. May she continue to write for a very long time. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of a series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 26, 1912 Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Harlan Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 26, 1938 Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of it? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Or were before the lawyers at Paramount and their Hell Hounds descended upon them and ate their ability to create anything. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer SpaceSpace Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 73. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received at MidAmeriCon II and Worldcon 76, Hugo Awards for Best Professional Editor — Long Form. 
  • Born August 26, 1950 Annette Badland, 72. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”. 
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 52. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she plays a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise except a lot darker.  (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders. Really we are not.)
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 42. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which won a Hugo at Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit has a strange idea about the relationship between books and bookshelves.

(12) CREATING TOGETHER. Tim Griffin shared a photo on Facebook of Steven Barnes, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle from the Seventies demonstrating their collaborative writing process. Guess which one is wielding the ax?

(13) KOREAN SF MOVIE. “‘Alienoid’ Review: Sorcerers, Alien Prisoners and Much, Much More” says the New York Times.

This Korean film starts in the 14th century with an alien creature trying to escape from the human body inside which it has been imprisoned. Thankfully, a hole in the sky opens and an SUV materializes, carrying the interstellar lawman Guard (Kim Woo-bin) and his robot sidekick.

And that’s just the first five minutes: The rest of Choi Dong-hoon’s movie then escalates into even more bananas territory.

Hopscotching between the present day and 1391, “Alienoid” somehow works a crystal thingumajig called the Divine Blade into its narrative, as well as car chases, aerial wire-aided fights, medieval gunslinging, time travel, magic battles and Transformers-like mayhem, with dashes of comedy and romance for good measure. 

(14) CRICKETS. A trailer for the Walt Disney Studios version of Pinocchio coming to Disney+ on September 8.

Academy Award® winner Robert Zemeckis directs this live action retelling of the beloved tale of a wooden puppet who embarks on a thrilling adventure to become a real boy. Tom Hanks stars as Geppetto, the wood carver who builds and treats Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) as if he were his own son.

(15) SPLISH-SPLASH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Paging Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Paging Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Please report to TOI-1452 b. Bring your bathing suits. “Scientists discovered a beautiful ocean world 100 light-years from Earth” at BGR.

Scientists have discovered a beautiful ocean world that looks like it was ripped out of the Star Wars prequels. The exoplanet TOI-1452 b was discovered just 100 light-years from Earth. A new paper on the discovery says that the entire planet is covered by a thick layer of water and that it’s located far enough from its star to possibly support life.

The ocean world was discovered by a team of researchers at the Université de Montréal. Charles Cadieux, the team leader, announced the discovery this week. Cadieux is also a member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx)….

(16) JWST SCOPES OUT JUPITER. “’Never seen Jupiter like this’: James Webb telescope shows incredible view of planet” in the Guardian. Photos at the link.

The world’s newest and biggest space telescope is showing Jupiter as never before, auroras and all.

Scientists released the shots on Monday of the solar system’s biggest planet.

The James Webb space telescope took the photos in July, capturing unprecedented views of Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, and swirling polar haze.

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm big enough to swallow Earth, stands out brightly alongside countless smaller storms. One wide-field picture is particularly dramatic, showing the faint rings around the planet, as well as two tiny moons against a glittering background of galaxies….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: The Mortuary Assistant,” Fandom Games says you shouldn’t be hired by this mortuary because “You come in for an interview–and come out a demon” and the game is the fictional equivalent of “having a mindless job so you can keep your crappy apartment.”  No matter how bad your job is, it has to be better than purging demons form corpses with “demon Drano.” Content warning for suicide or self-harm. Click the link to view on YouTube.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Jeffrey Smith, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/21 If It Doesn’t Scroll Naturally, File It

(1) MASSIVE DOCTOR WHO POLL. Herald of Creation today finished releasing the results of its poll of the best Doctor Who episodes, a Twitter marathon that began in July with number 296 “The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos” (a Thirteenth Doctor episode, unfortunately.) Here are the top five, with apologies that WordPress won’t display single tweets. (And since Herald of Creation revealed them in last to first order, that shuffles things up, too.)

(2) ELIZABETH BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. In an open Patreon post, Elizabeth Bear announced she’s been diagnosed with cancer: “The good news is that I’m a writer and I already own 75 pairs of pajamas.” Wishing her the best of care.

This is one of those bad news but not the worst news posts, which is to say that I’ve been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and am in the process of scheduling surgery and radiation for it.

This means that The Folded Sky will probably be a little delayed, because at least two months of my life are going to vanish in a puff of waiting rooms and lasers. The good news on that front is that I’m working on the copy edits for The Origin of Storms right now and those should be handed back very soon. And I think I’ll get the short story I’m working on finished by deadline, too…

Don’t fret about me too much: I’ve got a great care team and a great group of local family and friends, and the odds are in my favor. The survival rate for early detected breast cancer is 99% these days.

I expect to be crushingly bored and annoyed and somewhat terrified for three months or so, and then suffer through biannual mammograms for the rest of my life, however long that is….

(3) MEMORY BOOK. A Kickstarter appeal has been launched to fund a limited edition hardcover book of art by the world famous fantasy and science fiction artist, Rowena — Paintings and Drawings by Rowena by Kim DeMulder.

The magically amazing artwork of Rowena is known to people everywhere in the world. She painted literally hundreds of book covers and illustrations for many different publications. She won many awards during her career, including the British Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1984, and was a four-time Hugo finalist for Best Professional Artist. Her professional peers made her a 1999 Chesley Award nominee. And the World Fantasy Conventions awarded her a lifetime achievement award in 2020.

Sadly, Rowena passed away in February 2021 and the art world experienced a profound loss.

And that means, of course that there will be no more Rowena art produced…ever. However, legends never die and here is the opportunity to keep her legend alive. This new book of her artwork contains many pieces that were never published before. And will also include several pieces that were never published in Rowena’s previous art books. Over 100 pages of paintings and drawings and even some poetry are contained within this hard cover volume.

 This beautiful book is being lovingly designed and edited by Kim DeMulder, who had lived with Rowena for approximately the last 18 years.

(4) DOES YOUR CON NEED HELP? Speculative Literature Foundation is still taking applications for their Convention Support Grants.  It’s a rolling grant – the first recipients were announced last month.

This has been a difficult year for the conventions that have long been the lifeblood of our field. The SLF is pleased to announce a new Convention Support Grant for 2021-2022.

We’ll be giving out $10,000 over the course of the year, in grants of $500 – $1000 each, to science fiction and fantasy conventions. (Literary conventions that have significant speculative literature content are also welcome to apply.)

These grants are intended to support conventions both in developing their online presences (through the purchase of tech, training costs, hosting costs, etc.) and making in-person gathering safer once it’s appropriate, perhaps in the last quarter of 2021 (through purchase of cleaning supplies, masks, renting additional rooms for better spacing, etc.). Non-profit organizations preferred.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Open for submissions: Conventions taking place between January 1 and May 31, 2022, application period: August 15 – September 15, 2021

Please visit our website for more specific information on the application process: https://speculativeliterature.org/convention-support-grant/

(5) L’AUDACE L’AUDACE TOUJOURS L’AUDACE. “The French military’s newest weapon: science fiction writers” says Literary Hub.

…Essentially, reports Le Monde and WorldCrunch, the French Military of Defense is working with the University of Paris Sciences and Lettres to train their military on sci-fi-esque ideas. The science fiction writers, already in the business of thinking of futuristic technology and social innovations, come up with futuristic scenarios that could possibly endanger France between 2030 and 2060. Once the sci-fi writers, called the “Red Team,” fact-check with “The Purple Team,” academics working in AI and tech, and the “Blue Team,” military, the military uses those ideas as practice scenarios.

…A little surprisingly, a fraction of the scenarios are made available for public consumption on the Red Team’s website; the two scenarios currently on the site are “The Sublime Door Opens Again,” a world where hypervelocity missiles have caused armies to design shields that can cover a whole city, and “Chronicle of an Announced Cultural Death,” a world where communities have siloed themselves into “safe spheres”.

The Red Team also has a YouTube channel filled with what are essentially commercials for themselves.

(6) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the August 28 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Lorien Kite discusses a vacation she took with her family in Iceland, organized by Black Tomato “Take me on a Story” based on Jules Verne’s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.

The action begins almost as soon as we make it through the melee of duty-free shopping and Covid-related bureaucracy at Keflavik arrivals only to be greeted by our guide for the next four days, Arnar Olafsson.  Outside, loading the vehicle, we find an envelope wedged under the windscreen wiper, which opens to reveal a letter with certain words rendered in Scandinavian runes together with part of a runic-to-roman key–though not a big enough part for us to make much headway. Later, after we are dropped off at our base for the first two days, the stylish Hotel Husafell near the Lankjokull glacier, a parcel including the missing section is delivered to our door.

The packages keep coming, all containing puzzles or messages that whet the appetite for the next day’s activities and sustain the narrative of a mysterious uncle with the initials “GH” who has discovered a way to the centre of the Earth and is now on the run:  It’s a kind of treasure hunt, borrowing from the 1959 and 2008 films as well as from the book.

(7) DHALGREN IN DEPTH. On Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, edited by Bill Wood, and put together with a great deal of assistance from Delany himself, will be released by Fantastic Books on September 9.

This book—full of reviews, critical essays, and in-depth analyses of Dhalgren as a novel, and as commentary on life and the world—is an excellent companion to the novel itself. There are also discussions of how to read the novel, and clues to unraveling some of the mysteries hidden therein. Dhalgren is a difficult novel to read—playing with the reader’s perception through the use of circular text, interior echoes, multistable perception, and repeated imagery—but it is a worthwhile read. The book includes nine full-color illustrations (and more spot black-and-white illos), as well as an essay on “The Making of Hogg,” Delany’s infamous and nearly unpublishable novel.

Samuel R. Delany is the winner of two Hugos and four Nebula Awards. He has been honored with lifetime achievement awards, including SFWA’s Grand Master, the Eaton Award, the Lambda Pilgrim Award, and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Dhalgren, his most popular and most controversial novel, was first published in 1975. It was nominated for the Nebula Award, remains in print to this day, and has sold close to two one million copies in a variety of editions.

Contributors include Douglas Barbour, Mary Kay Bray, Rudi Dornemann, Harlan Ellison, Robert Elliot Fox, Jean Marc Gawron, Kenneth R. James, Gerald Jonas, John Nizalowski, Steven Paley, Darrell Schweitzer, Steven Shaviro, K. Leslie Steiner, Theodore Sturgeon, and Samuel R. Delany himself.

The table of contents is on the publisher’s website.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2003 – Eighteen years on this date, Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Television Show was published by BenBella Books. It’s a look by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel by genre writers who are very obviously fans of those series. I won’t list all of the authors and their essays who are here so I’ll single out just a few such as David Brin who wrote “Buffy vs. the Old-Fashioned ‘Hero'”, Laura Resnick’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ambivalent” and Sherrilyn Kenyon “The Search for Spike’s Balls”. It’s available should you want to read it from the usual suspects for a mere four dollars and ninety nine cents. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1940 — Pauline Collins, 81. She played Queen Victoria in the Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw”, a most excellent tale, but she first showed up on Who over thirty years earlier as Samantha Briggs in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story. She’s appears in Tales of the UnexpectedThe Three Musketeers, Julian Fellowes’ From Time to Time film and the Merlin series. 
  • Born September 3, 1943 — Valerie Perrine, 78. She has an uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick in Diamonds Are Forever, her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Slaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. She showed up as Tins in “The Three Little Pigs” episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, and was April Flowers in “Who’s Who: Part 3” of Ghostwriters.
  • Born September 3, 1943 — Mick Farren. Punk musician who was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants. He also wrote Hawkwind lyrics who several genre writers have included in their novels.  His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. His late Eighties novel The Armageddon Crazy was set in a post-Millennium States dominated by fundamentalists who toss the Constitution away. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 3, 1954 — Stephen Gregg. Editor and publisher of Eternity Science Fiction which  ran 1972 to 1975 and 1979 to 1980. It had early work by Glen Cook, Ed Bryant, Barry N Malzberg, andrew j offutt and Roger Zelazny. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 3, 1959 — Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Died 1989.)
  • Born September 3, 1969 — John Picacio, 52. Illustrator who in 2005 won both the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and the Chesley Award for Best Paperback Cover for James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. He won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist at LoneStarCon 3 and at CoNZealand. He’s nominated this year for the same Award. 
  • Born September 3, 1974 — Clare Kramer, 47. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension, that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls IIIThe GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUSANNA CLARKE Q&A. “Susanna Clarke: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman taught me to be courageous in writing’” in The Guardian.

The book I wish I’d written
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. It’s an extraordinary novel, funny and clever. It is subtitled A Nightmare. But it’s an odd sort of nightmare – one where terror keeps dissolving into cheerfulness (which is the opposite way round from most nightmares, and from a lot of contemporary fiction). Chesterton describes scenes and objects and colours with an almost heraldic vividness – or, looked at another way, as if they were pages in a modern graphic novel. He makes London feel like a fairytale, which to him I think it was. I have read The Man Who Was Thursday many, many times, but I still don’t understand it. I’ll keep going.

A word of warning: it is a book of its times. There are no women characters. Well, there might be one, but she says three things and vanishes immediately….

(12) DUELING KAIJU. John Scalzi’s tweet  brings to mind something I saw during the 1986 Worldcon, possibly in the same hotel. (How many downtown Atlanta hotels have these glass-walled elevators?)  Quote follows.

…At other times, the illusion of flight and the view of other elevator cars hurtling past inspired new fannish stunts. Late Friday night the car I was riding stopped at the 38th floor, admitting Jerry Pournelle and Barbara Clifford. Seconds later, another car stopped beside us on the 38th floor. Staring from its window was a 3-foot-tall inflatable Godzilla held upright by two laughing fans. Both elevators left the 38th floor together, and raced downward on a parallel course. Like a tailgunner sighting bogies through his perspex dome, Pournelle jackhammered his arms from the recoil of imaginary twin-.50s and yelled, “Die, monster, die!” Godzilla’s bodyguards imitated Jerry and they shot each other down into the lobby….

(13) MORE NEWS. Petréa Mitchell returns to the con reporting field with the launch of her new Substack newsletter SMOF News. Issue 1 is live here.

SMOF News aims to be a newsletter covering fan conventions and related topics of interest. Please send your press releases, your news tidbits, and your outraged letters to [email protected].

Each issue will have 4 parts:

  1. Discussion of the big news of the week. If there is no big news, the space will be filled by editorializing, helpful tips for congoers, Q&As, or whatever else seems appropriate to the moment. Like this introduction, for instance.
  2. News in brief from around the convention world.
  3. Convention listings for the next five weekends.
  4. One interesting link that may or may not have anything at all to do with geek fandoms.

Newsletters will be published every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time.

(14) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 39 of the Octothorpe podcast is now up.  John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty are at their computers for the first time in ages, and spend awhile catching up on locs before talking about convention COVID-19 policies. Listen here: “Bar Cookies”.

(15) HOME WEET HOME. “Meet The Women Who Live In Real-Life Disney Houses” is an aggregation of Instagrams and Tik-Tok videos with framing comments at The Refinery, if you want to satisfy your curiosity.

On TikTok, the hashtag #disneyhouse currently has over 120 million views. Here, you can see everything from handles shaped like the talking doorknob in Alice In Wonderland to princess beds to Aladdin rugs to doors decaled to look like Boo’s from Monsters, Inc. In recent years, much has been made of ‘Disney adults’ – often childless millennials with an all-consuming love of Walt’s wares. Disney adults subtly dress like Disney characters, they holiday in the parks multiple times a year and they fill their homes with Disney décor. 

(16) TEN PERCENTER. Powell’s Books has picked a list of 50 Books for 50 Years. I’ve read five. (Sometime I’m going to make my own list so for once I can have a good score.)

Which books have foretold the present, lit our paths, warned us back, egged us on? What books stand with us now, reflecting the present?

Read why we picked each of these remarkable volumes of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics for our anniversary list — and share your favorites with us using the hashtag #50Books50Years.

(Click for larger image.)

(17) MADE OF CHEESE. The moon, maybe, the movie for sure. Moonfall comes to theaters February 4, 2022.

In Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Academy Award® winner Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all – but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson, “Midway”) and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley, “Game of Thrones”) believes her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark Hamill talks to Star Wars Coffee about his role in The Mandalorian. This is actually quite interesting and only four minutes long.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Ian Randal Strock, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint. Or Kendall. I’m not sure.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/20 He’s Just A Poor Scroll From A Poor Pixelry, Spare Him Comments From This File 770

(1) MARGINALIZED BY STAR WARS. “John Boyega: ‘I’m the only cast member whose experience of Star Wars was based on their race'” – a British GQ interview.

With the Lucasfilm-branded elephant in the room acknowledged, it is even harder to ignore. This is Boyega’s first substantial interview since finishing the franchise – his first since last year’s The Rise Of Skywalker tied a highly contentious, hurried ribbon on the 43-year-old space saga. How does he reflect on his involvement and the way the newest trilogy was concluded?

“It’s so difficult to manoeuvre,” he says, exhaling deeply, visibly calibrating the level of professional diplomacy to display. “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.” He is talking about himself here – about the character of Finn, the former Stormtrooper who wielded a lightsaber in the first film before being somewhat nudged to the periphery. But he is also talking about other people of colour in the cast – Naomi Ackie and Kelly Marie Tran and even Oscar Isaac (“a brother from Guatemala”) – who he feels suffered the same treatment; he is acknowledging that some people will say he’s “crazy” or “making it up”, but the reordered character hierarchy of The Last Jedi was particularly hard to take.

“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

(2) IN PLAIN SIGHT. On June 25 Gollancz (the SF/Fantasy/Horror imprint of Orion Books) released the first three books in McCaffery’s Dragonflight series as audiobooks. Artist Allison Mann noticed something about the art that was used. Thread begins here.

Someone else tweeted a possible source for the art on their Dragonflight audiobook as well.

(3) JETPACK CROSSING. The Los Angeles Times reports an incident near the airport: “A jet pack at LAX? Maybe. Jet packs are very real”.

It sounds like something out of a movie: An American Airlines pilot calls the control tower at Los Angeles International Airport to warn that his plane just flew past someone in midair — a person wearing a jet pack.

But the pilot really did give that warning Sunday night, and it wasn’t laughed off. The FBI is investigating….

JetPack Aviation Corp., based in Van Nuys, says it’s the only one to have developed a jet pack that can be worn like a backpack. The technology is real: Chief Executive David Mayman demonstrated it five years ago by flying around the Statue of Liberty, and his company has created five of them.

So it’s not out of the question that someone could have been soaring above the airport last weekend, giving pilots a scare.

Mayman was quick to say that if a jet pack was involved, it wasn’t one of his. JetPack Aviation keeps its five packs locked down, he said, and they’re not for sale. The company does offer flying lessons at $4,950 a pop, but he said students are attached to a wire and can’t stray too far.

None of the company’s competitors sell their products to consumers either, Mayman said.

The weekend incident “got us all wondering whether there’s been someone working in skunkworks on this,” he said, using a term for a secret project. Or maybe, he mused, the airline pilot saw some kind of electric-powered drone with a mannequin attached.

CNN reports the exchanges wth the tower went like this:

“Tower. American 1997. We just passed a guy on a jetpack,” the first plane called in. “Off the left side maybe 300 — 30 yards or so. About our altitude.”

About 10 minutes later, another plane spotted the man.

“We just saw the guy fly by us on the jetpack,” the crew told the traffic controller.

According to the communications, air traffic control warned a JetBlue flight to “use caution… person on a jetpack reported 300 yards south.”

After the plane acknowledged the instruction, the controller concluded with: “Only in LA.”

(4) YOUR OVERDUE FUTURE. The Irish Times constructed their checklist with the help of a 1974 sf collection: “Promises, promises: What is 2020 not delivering?” Everything besides jetpacks, I guess.

2020 is one of those years. No, not in that sense (well, obviously in that sense but that’s not what we’re talking about here…). No, 2020 is one of those years that tends to crop up in 20th century science fiction as a key year, a momentous one. A year by which time certain prophecies will have come true.

Back in the seventies, publisher Jerry Pournelle published an anthology book called 2020 Vision, for which he sought contributions from such noted sci-fi authors as Harlan EllisonLarry Niven, and Ben Bova. While some of the predictions, such as robot chefs, deep-space exploration by humans, and, erm, “An adult playground where law is enforced by remote control” haven’t come to pass (unless I’m missing something…) a few did. Several of the stories have mentions of mobile communication technology, while Prognosis: Terminal by David McDaniel posits a future where there is “a gigantic world brain to which everyone is infinitely connected.” Sounds like the internet to me…

(5) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. At the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Philissa Cramer asks “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ contains a plot point that resembles an age-old anti-Semitic lie. Why?”

Hiram Epstein, the episode reveals, was a University of Chicago scientist who conducted gruesome experiments on Black children and adults in the basement of the Winthrop House, a decrepit mansion in a white neighborhood that a main character, Leti Lewis, purchases and renovates. His spirit haunts the home, making it unsafe for Leti and her tenants and friends, until an exorcism summons the mutilated bodies of his victims and restores psychic order.

Epstein’s story calls to mind the way that Jews have been accused for centuries of stealing the blood of non-Jewish children to use in religious rituals, often to make matzah for Passover, in what is known as a “blood libel.” The blood libel charge was leveled routinely at Jews beginning in the Middle Ages, and it was used to justify countless deadly pogroms and vigilante actions. A blood libel charge tore apart an upstate New York town in 1928, and the trope featured prominently in Nazi propaganda.

Could “Lovecraft Country,” which deals so elegantly with the Black American experience, really have a blood libel embedded in its plot? On Twitter, I found a single reaction to Hiram Epstein’s name — one that matched my own.

Scholars who study anti-Semitism had more to say. The plot point “falls right into the category of a new version of the blood libel,” Elissa Bemporad, a scholar of Jewish history at Queens College who recently published a book about blood libels in the Soviet Union, told me. “The name Epstein gives it away. This clearly builds on the blood libel trope and narrative — the question of children as victims of the alleged crime, and the fact that the perpetrator is a man. Anti-Semitism, like racism, is so often gendered.”

The Epstein name isn’t present in the original novel on which the series is based, “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff. There, the ghost that haunts the house Leti buys is named Hiram Winthrop — explaining the mansion’s name — and he isn’t a doctor. (He also isn’t nearly as scary.) The series adds a more recent owner who colluded with local police to facilitate abductions and experimentation.

…But intention is only part of the picture when assessing stereotypes in popular culture, according to Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“I don’t want to say you can never have a villain in a movie or TV show have a stereotypically Jewish name,” Tuchman said. “But you need to educate yourself. When you’re dealing with a topic that is so fraught as allegations of ritual murder, then to know that these allegations have been leveled against Jews for thousands of years is something you need to pay attention to.”

(6) BEST PRACTICE? John Scalzi delivered “A Quick Note on the Malleting of Comments” to Whatever readers today.

I’ve recently begun to see an upswing in comments which begin with some variation of “I expect this comment to be deleted/malleted/otherwise expunged, but…” I think this is done for two reasons. About five percent of the time it’s someone genuinely not knowing whether what they’re about to write is going to cross the line with regard to my moderation policies. The rest of the time it’s a warding spell and/or pre-emptive smugness at transgression; either “not in the face!” or “see, I told you.”

Either way I find it passive-aggressive and annoying, so here’s a new guideline I’ve begun implementing: When I see some variation of “I expect this comment to get the Mallet,” I’m going to stop reading the comment there, and will most likely then Mallet the comment — not necessarily because the comment was in itself mallet-worthy (although it might have been, who knows), but simply because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to disappoint the person making the comment….

(7) BLACK SUN. “Rebecca Roanhorse’s Genre-bending New Novel” – a Publishers Weekly profile by Dhonielle Clayton.

…She encountered many half-Native characters in popular urban fantasy series, but noticed how those characters were divorced from their heritages. “They didn’t interact with the heroes and gods and monsters of Native cultures,” she explains. She says she started thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a story where a character was very Native? Very attached to her culture and surrounded by brown people, and in a world that I knew?”

She’d been practicing Indian law and living in the Navajo nation with her husband and daughter when she started thinking about writing more seriously. It was at this point that she began working on what would become her debut fantasy, the Locus-winning and Hugo-nominated novel Trail of Lightning (Saga Press), which was published in 2018, when Roanhorse was in her 40s.

“So I just decided to write it. I wrote it purely for myself and for the joy of writing, and to keep myself sane while being a lawyer,” she says. “I didn’t even know people like me could be writers. An editor asked me why I waited so long to start writing, and I said ‘I didn’t know that I could be a science fiction and fantasy writer.’ I didn’t come to see people like Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin until later, so I didn’t see anyone writing this genre that looked like me. So I didn’t even know it was an option.”

(8) WOMEN IN COMICS. When The Society of Illustrators in New York reopens on September 9, one of its exhibits will be “Women in Comics: Looking Forward and Back”. Afua Richardson, a Dublin 2019 Feautured Artist, is one of the many who will have work on display.

Over 50 women cartoonists from vintage comic strips to cutting edge graphic novels explore themes common to the female experience such as love, sexuality, motherhood, creativity, discrimination, and independence. 75 works drawn from the collection of the author and herstorian Trina Robbins show a progression of witty women from the Flapper era to the psychedelic women’s comix of the 1970s…

Building on this foundation, 20 contemporary women cartoonists will be showing work from new or upcoming publications…

By Afua Richardson.

(9) EX CATHEDRA. In Episode 35 of their Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss say a sad farewell to John Bangsund, and discuss three quirky films of Terry Gilliam: Time Bandits, Brazil and 12 Monkeys: ?“The gifted grotesqueries of Gilliam”.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2013 – NESFA Press published The Road to Amber: Volume 6: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. It reprinted the first of the Francis Sandow series, “Dismal Light”, published in the May 1986 issue of If, where this character first appears. The story comes before Isle Of Dead, the prequel to To Die in Italbar. (Zelazny would narrate the audiobook version of this as he did Isle of Dead and Home is The Hangman but they were never digitized.) It would also include the not-previously-collected piece in the series, “Sandow’s Shadow (Outline)”. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo.” He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger ManDepartment SThe Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number Fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral”. The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen Way. She shows up on Doctor Who twice, first as Old Mother in the First Doctor story, “The Forest of Fear,” and later in a major role as Karela in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Creature from the Pit”. She’d also shows up on the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as simply Old Woman at the age of fifty-five. Other genre appearances i think is limited to an appearance on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. Well unless you count The Saint which is at best genre adjacent. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1918 – Allen Drury.  I came to Advise and Consent long after its years as a NY Times Best Seller; it’s first-rate; it’s moved by 1950s values – what else would people write in 1959? and I don’t read books to be agreed with.  Five SF sequels (Advise isn’t SF), a novel about a Mars mission, two about ancient Egypt, a dozen others outside our field, five nonfiction books. Two of the Advise sequels are mutually incompatible, each supposing a different assassination.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1925 Peter Hunt. He was the Editor, yes Editor, on five of the better Bond films (Dr. NoFrom Russia with LoveGoldfingerThunderball and You Only Live Twice), and also the much lesser On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was also responsible for a Gulliver’s Travels and, I’m not kidding about the title, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star which I’ve never heard of but gets a stellar 75% rating from audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. He directed the title sequence of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1942 – Demi, 78.  Born in Massachusetts, M.A. from Univ. Baroda.  Seventy books she illustrated herself, e.g. Liang and the Magic PaintbrushDragon Kites and DragonfliesThe Magic BoatOne Grain of RiceThe Firebird; illustrated for others, e.g. Yolen’s Dragon Night, James’ Eucalyptus Wings.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1944 – Roland Green, 76.  Seventy novels, thirty shorter stories, some with co-authors e.g. wife Frieda Murray.  Three dozen reviews in Far Frontiers including Bridge of Birds and Heart of the Comet.  One anthology with Bujold, another with Turtledove.  Inconsequential SF Tales for the Worldcon bid that won and hosted Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon).  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1946 Walter Simonson, 74. Comic writer and artist who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well. His artwork on the RoboCop Versus The Terminator that Dark Horse did is amazing. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1951 Mark Harmon, 69. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, but he’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan. (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1953 – Gary Lippincott, 67.  Thirty covers, a score of interiors.  Here is the Jan 95 F&SF.  Here is Little, Big.  Here is “Tori and Friends”.  Here is The Prince and the Pauper (M. Mayer adaptation).  Artbook Making Magic.  Three Chesleys.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1955 Steve Berry, 65. Author of the Cotton Malone series which is either genre or genre adjacent depending on where your personal boundaries fall. There’s five in the series now with the first being The Templar Legacy. He also self-published a Captain America novel, Never Forgotten, and a Star Wars story as well, “Crash Landing”, which makes him a fanfic writer as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1972 – Justine Musk, 48.  In a highly various life she’s written three novels for us, three shorter stories.  Taught English as a Second Language in Japan.  “Love without power is anemic, as Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out, and power without love is tyranny….  We *cannot* … dismiss the subject altogether because it is distasteful to us.  The point is not to play the same old game, whether we’re buying into it or rebelling against it.”  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1977 – Fuminori Nakamura, 43.  Kenzaburô Ôe Prize for The Thief, called a chilling philosophical novel.  Evil and the Mask is ours.  A dozen more novels (five translated into English so far), four collections of shorter stories.  David Goodis Award.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • At The Far Side, all the mathematicians go: oh, the horror. 

(13) BUSIEK, AHMED HAVE STORIES IN SPIDER-MAN MILESTONE ISSUE. Spider-Man reaches another milestone this month with Amazing Spider-Man #850, the latest issue in writer Nick Spencer’s run on the title. The issue features the return of Spider-Man’s greatest villain, the Green Goblin. There’s a trailer for it here.

There will also be a trio of back-up stories by “Spidey legends of past, present and future to drive home that Spider-Man is the greatest character in all of fiction!”

Those back-up tales are by Kurt Busiek, Chris Bachalo, Tradd Moore, Saladin Ahmed, and Aaron Kuder. Amazing Spider-Man #850 hits stands September 30.

(14) SAVING THROW. “Neil Gaiman Endorses Petition To Save Constantine Comic”ScreenRant has the story.

The effort to save the Constantine comic book from cancellation just won a welcome ally; author Neil Gaiman. Not only has Gaiman shared a Change.Org petition regarding the endangered book on his social media, but he has allowed his name to be officially tied to the fan-driven effort to save John Constantine: Hellblazer.

The recent acquisition of Warner Bros. by AT&T has led to widespread turmoil across the entertainment industry. This is particularly true at DC Entertainment, which lost one-third of its staff in the wake of the latest round of lay-offs. This coincided with the cancellation of a number of low-selling titles, including John Constantine: Hellblazer, which had only seen eight issues hit the stands since its premiere in 2019

Despite not having a lengthy run on the original Hellblazer series, Gaiman is still closely associated with the character of John Constantine. Gaiman wrote a one-off story for Hellblazer, “Hold Me,” which was printed in Hellblazer #27 and centered around Constantine trying to put the spirit of a homeless man who froze to death to rest. “Hold Me” is widely considered to be one of the best one-shot stories to feature John Constantine ever written. Gaiman also gave Constantine a prominent role in the first Sandman graphic novel, Preludes and Nocturnes, with Dream of the Endless turning to Constantine for assistance in recovering his magical bag of sand, which Constantine had owned at one time.

(15) DISCOVERING DRESDEN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Similar to my belatedly recentish reading of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series (only one more to go now, I think, waiting for library loan request to be fulfilled), I’d seen references to The Dresden Files — Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books — I hadn’t investigated (read) any until a year or two ago, when a friend recommended them, and lent me one, to prime the pump.

I enjoy this kind of thing in a limited amount, but enjoyed ’em enough to add Dresden to my reading list.

As of yesterday, having finished Peace Talks, the newest, I’m caught up —  until the end of this month, when Battle Ground comes out. (I’m like 30th in line on my library’s request queue, so hopefully I’ll get my loan fulfilled by Halloween.)

Harry’s a wizard. Not to be confused with that British kid, either. Dresden is a wizard operating as a PI in Chicago, in a world where there’s magic beings and stuff — fae, vamps, spirits, etc — although most of the world remains unaware of such. Like any PI, Dresden’s cases and other events means that he takes a lot of lumps, to say the least. Like Spenser (and, to be fair, >75% of PIs, it would seem), Dresden is a wise-cracking hard-ass, and he does it well.

If you’re already a Dresden fan, you’ve probably already read this newest book. If you haven’t, you’ll enjoy it. One non-spoiler note, Peace Talks doesn’t wrap up its events, so it’s a good thing Battle Ground is coming out soon.

If you like this kind of stuff, consider ’em. (Start in order, with Storm Front.)

BTW, here’s the video trailer from March 2020 announcement.

(16) REFERENCE DROPPED — FROM A GREAT HEIGHT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 29 Financial Times, Guy Chazan interviews Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti, who was aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

The expedition her crew joined was number 42 — the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything in Douglas Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Christoforetti describes the coincidence as ‘awesome.’  An avid Adams fan, she made sure the poster for Expedition 42 was modelled after the one for the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, while her last tweet from the ISS said ‘So long and thanks for all the fish” — a reference to the message left by the dolphins in Adams’s book when they abandoned a shortly-to-be-demolished Planet Earth.

(17) FUTURE TENSE. The August 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary,” by Tochi Onyebuchi, a story about artificial intelligence, systemic racism, and reparations.

It was published along with a response essay by Charlton McIlvain, a historian of race and technology,  “Racism Cannot Be Reduced to Mere Computation” which begins –

Tochi Onyebuchi’s “How to Pay Reparations” spoke to me. Its themes rang virtually every note of my twentysomething-year-long career. In 1998, I made my first digital footprint with a signed online petition in support of reparations for the Tulsa race riots. I endured countless run-ins with Oklahoma good ol’ boys while crisscrossing the state, working for candidates representing a perpetually losing political party. As an academic, I researched Black politicians and white racial resentment, and testified as an expert in federal court about cases of reverse redlining and housing discrimination. And as a historian of technology, I’ve chronicled—like Onyebuchi—the stories of hope and despair wrought by computing technology on Blackness and Black people, in the service of an ever-triumphant white racial order.

(18) WHAT VASICEK STANDS FOR. Joe Vasicek’s title “White Science Fiction and Fantasy Doesn’t Matter” [Internet Archive] is far from the most hallucinatory claim uttered in his post, which conflates the Worldcon’s awards with the state of the sff field, and adds to a Lost Cause mythology that ignores Vox Day’s central (and Sad Puppy-sanctioned)  role in what happened in 2015.

The United States of America is currently engaged in a violent struggle that will determine whether this hyper-racist intersectional ideology will defeat the populist uprising that has its champion in Trump, or whether the country will reject this new form of Marxism and come back from the brink of insanity. But in science fiction and fantasy, the war is already over, and the intersectionalists have won. It is now only a matter of time before they purge the field of everything—and everyone—that is white.

The last chance for the SF&F community to come back from the brink was probably in 2015. The intersectionalists were ascendant, but they hadn’t yet taken over the field. (That happened in 2016, when N.K. Jemisin, an avowed social justice warrior and outspoken champion for anti-white identity politics, won the Hugo Award for best new novel for the next three consecutive years.) A populist uprising within fandom known as the Puppies attempted to push back, and were smeared as racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes, and Nazis. Whatever your opinion of the Puppies (and there were some bad eggs among them, to be sure), they did not deserve to be silenced, ridiculed, shouted down, and threatened with all manner of violence and death threats for their grievances. After the Puppies were purged, the intersectionalists took over and began to reshape the field in their image.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer wasn’t renamed the Astounding Award because Campbell was a racist (even though he was). His name was stripped from the award because the people who renamed it are racists—not in the bullshit way the intersectionalists have redefined it, but in the true sense of the word: discrimination based based on race….

(19) SECOND LIFE LIMITS VIRTUAL CAMPAIGNS. After yesterday’s story about Biden-Harris yard signs in Animal Crossing it’s interesting to read New World Notes reporting “Second Life Bans Political Billboards From Public Lands After Pro-Trump & Anti-Trump Signs Choke The Virtual Sky”.

Another US Presidential election year, another clash of ideas in Second Life. As has been the case since 2004, the virtual world has recently been festooned with political billboards, much or most of them pro-Trump or anti-Trump — though as with Facebook, it seems like the pro-Trump forces have had the upper hand.

“There was a couple of people setting up lots of mini ad farms for Trump and some places had been plastered in far right slogans and adverts,” SL veteran “0xc0ffea” tells me. 

Some commonly trafficked areas in Second Life have devolved into a veritable battle of billboards, with “Re-elect Trump” and other Trump friendly signs such as “Police Lives Matter” having to share the same space with snarky rejoinders like: “Trump/Putin – Make America Hate Again”. 

This time, however, Second Life owner Linden Lab responded, updating its policy on virtual world advertising to prohibit ad content that are “political in nature” from the SL mainland, which the company maintains. (This policy does not apply to privately-owned regions and continents.)

(20) GHOSTS IN AMERICA. Brett Riley is “Searching For Haunted Fiction In American Literature” at CrimeReads.

Back in college, one of my American Literature professors once argued that the problem with trying to write American gothic fiction is that the country isn’t old enough to have any ruined castles or ancient bloodlines. She had a point, but with ghost stories, you don’t necessarily need ancient history or locales that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. You just need “unfinished business.” A character might die under mysterious circumstances. Foul play is suspected, but the perpetrators are never brought to justice. Or maybe an untimely death stops a character from completing a crucial task or realizing a lifelong goal. In general, something terrible or tragic happens, and the victim of these circumstances suffers so much pain, despair, or outrage that their essence cannot “move on.” A piece of themselves remains—sometimes benign, sometimes dangerous or even murderous.

When a work is labeled a “ghost story,” the reader likely assumes a certain set of tropes—the spectral figure floating through a darkened room or across a foggy landscape; a crumbling, moldy, dank, littered building set on a hill, or on the outskirts of town, or behind a rotting fence; a quirky harbinger of doom who tries to warn the protagonists of the dangers they will soon face; moonlit graveyards; and, perhaps most crucially, a particular history that weighs down the characters with specifically emotional tonnage….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The other day we introduced some ambience recordings. On Facebook John DeChancie pointed out another one — an hour’s worth of “Spaceship Nostromo Sounds.” Yeah, that will put me perfectly at ease!

In this video you can experience the digital recreation of the USCSS Nostromo from the game Alien Isolation. The main story of Alien Isolation is about Amanda Ripley who is searching for her missing mother Ellen. It takes place 15 years after the first Alien movie and the disappearance of the Nostromo. In the main story you don’t really come in contact with the ship but the DLC “Expandable Crew” lets you play an iconic scene from the first movie which takes place on the Nostromo. This video showcases the interior of that ship including space ship ambience sounds. So try to relax on a ship that might have a Xenomorph on board 🙂

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Rose Embolism, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Sic transit gloria mundi

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1409)

Muscular delicacy

John Clute and David Langford, of Lord Dunsany

– o O o – 

Roberta Pournelle left our stage on August 3rd (1935-2020).  She survived her husband Jerry (1933-2017) by three years.

There was no public church service.  Interment was at Forest Lawn on the 14th.  Forest Lawn said “We’ll provide ten chairs.  Don’t bring any more people than that.”  I said I’d not go.  There were plenty who had a better claim.

Christened Roberta Jane Isdell at her birth in Victoria, Idaho, she was reared in Seattle by a family of readers and singers.  She put herself through Univ. Washington working as a secretary at Boeing. She met Jerry in 1958.  Their romance included aerospace, fencing, philosophy, plays, religion, science fiction, writing.

Jerry had several careers, some of them simultaneous.  To name two sometimes neglected, he was was board chairman of the Seattle Civic Playhouse, and founding President of the Pepperdine Research Institute.  He eventually earned fame with science fiction and user’s tests of computer hardware and software.

With these, and four children, and visitors, and dogs, he came to call the Pournelles’ house in Los Angeles (Studio City neighborhood) Chaos Manor.  It may not be fair to say Roberta was Lady of the Lake – there was a swimming pool – nor was it plain who captivated or restored whom – but anyway mistress of the manor.  At the end a woman who’d known her for decades said she was queenly, the kind you felt glad to be with.

Meanwhile Roberta taught English for thirty years at the Kirby Center for Delinquent Minors, twenty miles southeast in Commerce, California.  When I last looked she and Jerry went to St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church, Sherman Oaks.  She sang in the choir.

Stories abound of Roberta and Jerry’s different styles.  Waiting in what seemed an endlessly slow line to be seated at a ceremonial banquet, you might hear Jerry bellow “Donner, party of 16!” – then after more waiting, “Donner, party of 15!”  You might also see Roberta quietly finding the shyest contest winner and engaging in conversation for ten or fifteen minutes, then quietly finding the next-shyest and doing it again.

The electronic may see the very moving eulogy by Jennifer Pournelle, Ph.D., [here].  She is Jerry’s daughter by a previous marriage.  As it happens I was the lawyer who arranged her adult adoption some years ago.

My appreciation of Jerry can be seen [here].  As I just now wrote to a friend – whose politics I have never asked about –

James Blish in his novel Doctor Mirabilis (1964) about Roger Bacon (1220-1292) has a character observe that we human beings are part honey, part aloes.  Exploring whatever agreements and disagreements I may have had with Roberta seems immaterial to me now.

R.I.P.


The Donner-Reed party was a band of migrants to California snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter of 1846-1847.  Their sufferings were terrible.  Some resorted to cannibalism.

Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

(1) MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! The 2020 Hugo voting report, which begins with a short list of works that got enough votes to be finalists but were disqualified or withdrawn by the author, showed that Ann Leckie declined her nomination for The Raven Tower. In a blog entry today she explained why: “The Hugos and The Raven Tower”.

…I’ve had a taste of that cookie quite a few times now. It is, let me tell you, one delicious cookie. And when the email came telling me that The Raven Tower was a finalist for the Hugo Award, I thought of the books in that longlist, how often I’d had a bite of this cookie, and how many of the amazing books from 2019 were debuts, and/or were books that, when I’d read them, my first thought was, Oh, this should be on the Hugo ballot. More books than there were spots, for sure. And I realized that I could do something about that, at least in a small way.

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

Let me be perfectly clear–I was overwhelmed at the thought that so many readers felt The Raven Tower deserved to be a Hugo finalist. I have been treasuring that for months. And as I’m sure we all know, these have been months during which such treasures have become extremely important.

I also want to be clear that this is not any sort of permanent decision on my part. I make no promises about withdrawing anything in the future. If I am ever so fortunate as to have a work reach the shortlist again, and I see what seems to me a good reason to withdraw, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. It is, after all, one of the sweetest, most delicious cookies around!

(2) A WEE JOKE. From the August issue of Ansible:

The Retro Hugo Statistics reveal that a single Fan Writer nomination for 1944 work (it took three to get on the final ballot and no one had more than six) went to some chap called David Langford. Ho ho, very satirical….

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

(4) NOW PLAYING. “The Ballad of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

(5) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. “John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel”The Guardian has his confession.

John Boyne, the award-winning author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has acknowledged that a cursory Google led to him accidentally including monsters from the popular video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in his new novel.

Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom opens in AD1 and ends 2,000 years later, following a narrator and his family. In one section, the narrator sets out to poison Attila the Hun, using ingredients including an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”….

Dana Schwartz rounded up some graphics to support the story. Thread starts here.

(6) HARD TO KEEP UP. David Gerrold concludes a Facebook post about sff awards with this sentiment:

…Personally, I am delighted that we are suffering from the challenges of success instead of the problems of failure. The level of mediocrity has risen and the level of excellence has truly surpassed the past. So the challenges in front of any author must look insurmountable, even to the long-time practitioners.

As difficult as all this may seem to anyone who writes, it’s still a good thing. Because it’s no longer about the awards — in fact, it never was about the awards. It has always been about the quality of the work.

That there is so much good work being created these days is a victory for the field, and especially for the readers.

I just wish I had enough time to keep up with it all.

(7) ONE MORE TAKE. Robert J. Sawyer has his own issue with George R.R. Martin’s choices while hosting the Hugo ceremony.

…But let me elucidate one category of Martin’s microaggressions that cut across the entire spectrum of humanity by subtly excluding anyone not part of his old guard: his use of nicknames for writers and editors whose prominence was in days gone by, signaling that no matter who you might be, if you weren’t part of the inner circle back in the day, you’ll never really be a true fan (or pro) now.

In Martin’s very, very long commentaries during yesterday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, Robert Silverberg was “Silverbob,” George Alec Effinger was “Piglet,” and the editor Robert A.W. Lowndes was “Doc.” I think Martin also called Isaac Asimov “Ike” during his trips down memory lane, although I’m not going to sift through the hour and forty-five minutes of his rambling again (fully half of the total running time of the Hugo ceremony) to be sure.

You see? Even someone like me — 40 years a selling author in this field, and now 60 years of age — was never part of that ancient, early prodom. I’ve known Robert Silverberg since 1989 and knew Asimov and Effinger, too, but was never close enough to call them by cutesy nicknames.

And if someone like me feels left out after all these decades in the field, imagine how the newer writers, or the writers whose literary background wasn’t the American SF magazines, felt during the Hugo ceremony.

… Yes, it’s a small thing — that’s why it’s called a MICROaggression — and it’s usually done without consciously intending to exclude or put down someone else, but microaggressions ARE pervasive and exclusionary in effect. We’d all do well to guard against committing them.

(8) JOIN THE BOB & DOUG SHOW. Back in their home theater after taking their show on a bit of a road trip, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their flight to the International Space Station and back aboard the inaugural crewed voyage of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. This press release — “NASA Astronauts to Discuss Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight” – tells how to access their news conference.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

This will be a virtual event with no media present, due to the safety restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reporters who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

(9) DRESSING UP PITTCON. The International Costumers Guild did a roundup of contemporary photos and reports about a Worldcon sixty years ago: “Convention Costuming History – 1960”.

The 1960 Worldcon, known as Pittcon (Pittsburgh, PA) promoted their masquerade as a “Costume Cabaret”. Following the show, there would be a glee club performance, a “minstrel show of science fiction flavor”, and then a dance (music provided by a “hi-fi”, rather than a live band like some past years)…

(10) ROBERTA POURNELLE OBIT. Roberta Pournelle, widow of Jerry, passed away last night at the age of 85. Her son Frank Pournelle announced services are planned in the coming week. The Chaos Manor page on Facebook saluted her:

An educator for 30 years at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, Mother of 4, Grandmother, a friend to many; she made order out of Chaos.

Born Roberta Jane Isdell, she married Jerry Pournelle in 1959. ISFDB shows she wrote a nonfiction piece for Analog in 1988, “High-Tech for the Little Red Schoolhouse.”

(11) SUSAN ELLISON OBIT. HarlanEllisonBooks.com announced today that Susan Ellison (1960-2020) died over the weekend at home, the “Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” No other details were given. Susan and Harlan married in 1986 and were together 32 years until his death in  2018.

(12) BUARD OBIT. It was recently learned that Patricia Anne Buard died in May 2017 reports the International Costumers Guild. Photos of her masquerade entries at the link.

Patricia Anne Buard. Patricia was a person of several interests, including theater and theology. In addition to having created works of both original fantasy and historical recreations, her short story “Devil’s Advocate” was published in the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology book “Red Sun of Darkover”, released in 1987.

(13) IVEY OBIT. David Ivey succumbed to his battle with cancer on July 24. The International Costumers Guild describes one of his memorable entries.

David was a Michigan area costumer. His best known creations were Krakatoa, the Volcano God, and St. Helen. Krakatoa appeared at several venues, including Worldcon: Chicon V, in 1991 (photo below). It was quite innovative for its time, featuring several special effects.

(14) ENGLISH OBIT. “Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91” – BBC pays tribute.

The co-creator of the computer mouse, William English, has died aged 91.

The engineer and inventor was born in 1929 in Kentucky and studied electrical engineering at university before joining the US Navy.

He built the first mouse in 1963, using an idea put forward by his colleague Doug Engelbart while the pair were working on early computing.

…Bill English became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at Mr Engelbart’s research project at the Stanford Research Institute.

The idea was Mr Engelbart’s, which he described as only being “brief notes” – but the creation was down to Bill English.

His first version was a wooden block with a single button – and underneath, two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement.

“We were working on text editing – the goal was a device that would be able to select characters and words,” Mr English told the Computer History Museum in 1999.

(15) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 3, 1951 — The Tales of Tomorrow series premiered with “Verdict From Space”. The series was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. There were eighty-five episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length. The series came about through the efforts of Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahams, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The League who included Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, and Isaac Asimov made their work available to the producers.  The screenplay was written by Sturgeon and is based on his own story “The Sky Was Full of Ships” first published in the June 1947 issue of Thrilling Wonder. You can watch it here.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 – Juliana Ewing.  Thirty short stories for us; a score of books with our and other stories, plays, book-length fiction, for children.  Roger G. Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), one of the Inklings, who suggested the name Chronicles of Narnia to C.S. Lewis, called JE’s the first outstanding child-novels in English literature.  Kipling said he knew her novels Jan of the Windmill and Six to Sixteen almost by heart; of Six “here was a history of real people and real things.”  From her novelette “The Brownies” (1865) the Baden-Powells got the idea and name for junior Girl Guides.  Here is a Caldecott cover for Jackanapes (1884).  (Died 1885) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1922 – Ron Turner.  Some sources say his birthday is the 22nd.  Twelve dozen covers (I’d say “one gross”, but look what trouble that made for Bilbo Baggins), more if you count posthumous uses.  Tit-Bits SF ComicsSpace AceRick RandomStingrayThe DaleksThunderbirds.  Here is Operation Venus.  Here is a John Russell Fearn collection.  Here is Rick Random and the Terror from Spacehere is its opening interior.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1926 —  John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 80. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1946 – John DeChancie, 74.  Best known for nine Castle Perilous and three Skyway books, he’s published ten besides, two dozen shorter stories; if you know he has written as Raul Cabeza de Vaca, and entitled a poem “The Refusal to Mourn the Rejection, by Printed Form, of a Hopeful Writer in Pittsburgh, February, 1992”, you’ll know he can read, and smile, and has been with SF a while.  Some fans become pros; some pros become fans, as he did; some are both, as he has been.  Plays piano, likes the American Songbook and Rachmaninoff; paints, including a portrait of Rachmaninoff.  See this, which includes portraits of Marty Cantor and Chip Hitchcock.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 70. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1953 – Margaret Bechard, 67.  Reed College woman (as an Antioch boy, I think of these things).  Children’s fiction, translated into French, Korean, Swedish.  Two novels, one shorter story for us; Star Hatchling about first contact won a Golden Duck.  Six other novels.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1971 – Yoshitoshi ABe, 49.  Graphic artist.  Usually writes his name in Roman letters, with capitalized for the sake of early works he signed “AB”.  Known to sketch with just his finger and an iPad.  Thirty self-published books; artbooks; covers; half a dozen each of animé and manga.  Here is his cover for Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (A. Smith tr. 2009; hello, Pete Young).  Here is Walking the Dragon from YA’s artbook Gaisokyu (“Palace”; 2007).  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 48. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish redheaded colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1979 – Evangeline Lilly, 41.  Actress, author.  She was in LostReal Steel, two Peter Jackson hobbit films, three Marvel superhero films – to misquote Winston Churchill, who said a Wasp couldn’t sting thrice?  So far two Squickerwonker short stories for children have appeared, one translated into Portuguese.  [JH]

(17) A TOTAL SURPRISE. After Hastings author Steven H Silver tells Lawrence Shoen about eating reindeer steak in Stockholm as part of “Eating Authors: Steven H Silver”. However, the cuisine is overshadowed in this great anecdote about something that happened at dinner —

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal….

(18) KAIJU KIA. Does ScreenRant have enough fingers and toes to answer the question? “How Many Times Godzilla Has Died (All Movies)”. (And I wonder if it’s more or less than the number of times John Wayne got killed?)

He’s starred in over 30 movies but how many of those has Godzilla actually died in? The first movie is a somber monster movie with the title creature is intended to be a walking metaphor for nuclear weapons. The movie’s huge success led to a franchise that is still running nearly 70 years later, with the monster appearing in sequels, reboots and remakes, in addition to comics, novels and video games where he’s battled against all sorts of creative monsters.

(19) MAD, I SAY. Could it be that Dave Freer’s message in “F-IW” at Mad Genius Club is “When you’re in your time machine on the way back to kill baby Hitler, don’t forget to stop off in the Sixties and take over traditional publishing”?

…Both of these [old] books had a huge effect on my young mind. Yes, I can see the Woke and modern left rubbing their hands (and other parts, never mentioned) in glee, saying ‘Yes! We were RIGHT that we had to capture publishing and exclude any badthink. Just think if we’d had the dominance we have now over traditional publishing, back in 1960, even evil people like Freer would have been won (Hi: I’m Dave the Divider. If it wasn’t for me, so we are told by the self-elected authorities,  sf/fantasy would be united and singing Kumbaya. See what a fate I saved you from!).

(20) CANON FIRED. Meg Elison says you’re excused from reading the SFF “canon.”

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

https://twitter.com/megelison/status/1290045811326214145
https://twitter.com/megelison/status/1290047860994527234

(21) APOLLO POLITICS. At The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses an interesting radio program about space history. “Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul”.

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.

(22) FANTASY NETWORK FREEBIES. Some of us encountered The Fantasy Network for the first time watching CoNZealand events. They also have lots of free content. For example, the 2017 movie Magellan:

When NASA picks up three signals of extraterrestrial origin coming from within our own solar system, the space agency expedites a mission to investigate the sources. As Earth’s lone emissary, they send Commander Roger Nelson, the test pilot for an experimental spacecraft call the Magellan, assisted by an onboard A.I. named Ferdinand.

(23) MORE, PLEASE. James Davis Nicoll is sure these are “Five Stories That Make You Wish For a Sequel”. But rest easy – none of them involve the megaselling series that have made sff news this week.

Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

… I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.

(24) DIY. “New ‘Quar-Horror’ Films Show Staying At Home Is Scary Too”.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

All over YouTube, you can find inventive homemade horror shorts taking the pandemic as inspiration. (They come from Brazil, from Canada and from, well, Funny or Die.) And a new movie Host, filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine and entirely on Zoom, debuted on the horror channel Shudder last week.

Call it “quar-horror.”

Among the most chilling of the YouTube offerings is Stay At Home, part horror movie and part PSA from a filmmaker in New Orleans.

“I literally just grabbed a box, and I set up the camera on a tripod and gave myself a scenario,” says Kenneth Brown, a former Uber driver turned horror auteur. “And the story started to build and build and build.”

Brown went to film school, and you can tell. Based on the myth of Pandora’s Box and the evening news, Stay At Home is elegantly lit and crafted. As of this writing, it’s racked up nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

Part of what makes Stay At Home so effective — and heartfelt — is the insistent drone of news anchors discussing the mounting carnage. “That’s everything I need to say as far as reaching African Americans, which is the population most vulnerable to this virus,” says Brown, who is Black himself.

But escapism is also the point, say Nathan Crooker and James Gannon. Their upcoming quar-horror, called Isolation, just wrapped principal photography. The two produced the film; Crooker is also its director. Isolation is an anthology; nine interconnected shorts by different directors who filmed their movies using only resources immediately available to them.

(25) PIECEMEAL. According to BBC, “Other mammals lose out in panda conservation drive”.

Saving the giant panda is one of the big success stories of conservation.

Decades of efforts to create protected habitat for the iconic mammal has pulled it back from the brink of extinction.

But, according to a new study, while many other animals in the same landscape have benefited from this conservation work, some have lost out.

Leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas.

Driven to near extinction by logging, poaching and disease, their loss could lead to “major shifts, even collapse, in ecosystems”, said researchers in China.

Without the likes of leopards and wolves, deer and livestock can roam unchecked, causing damage to natural habitats, with knock-on effects for other wildlife, including pandas themselves.

By protecting the panda’s forests, conservationists believed they would be protecting not only the charismatic black-and-white animal, but the many other species roaming the same habitat.

But while that has worked for some other wildlife, the efforts do not appear to have worked for large carnivores, such as the leopard and wolf.

A team of researchers now says a broader – holistic – approach is needed to manage the ecosystem in which the panda lives – one that ensures key species don’t lose out.

(26) SHORT LEAPS FORWARD. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler interviews Catherine Hardwicke, whose new Quibi series “Don’t Look Deeper” is set “15 minutes into the future” and has a teenage girl as a protagonist who may or may not be an android.  Hardwicke discusses what it was like to direct a story delivered in 10-minute chunks and why star Helena Howard is a “strong and vulnerable” actor Hardwicke enjoyed working with. “Can Catherine Hardwicke get you to watch Quibi?”

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

Actually, the script was written for short episodes. It was written in chapters. I thought that was quite interesting when I first read the script. I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating,” because the short format does tie in — it weaves in directly with what’s going on with [Aisha’s] memory. We tell the story in a non-linear way as her memories are being erased and restored. The technology that we’re exploring, showing it on a new technological platform with the vertical and horizontal, it all seemed to kind of work together in an interesting way. So this leap of faith — that [Quibi founder Jeffrey] Katzenberg said let’s try this format — I thought that was an interesting challenge to dive into it and see what happens.

(27) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dragonball Evolution Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that when the hero of the film has to collect seven dragonballs to make a wish that dragonballs are as powerful as “blowing out candles on a birthday cake.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Cliff, Madame Hardy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]