Pixel Scroll 5/10/24 Pride And Prejudice And Pixels

(1) STAR TREK WINS PEABODY AWARD. The Star Trek franchise was among the Peabody Award winners announced today. Given to television, radio, and other media, the Peabody honors “stories that powerfully reflect the pressing social issues and the vibrant emerging voices of our day.”

TrekMovie.com homes in on the story of greatest interest to fans: “Star Trek Franchise Wins Peabody Award”

… This is actually Trek’s second Peabody. In 1987 the Next Generation episode “The Big Goodbye” won the Entertainment, Children’s & Youth Award. The first season of Star Trek: Discovery was also nominated for the same award.

Here is the full text of the announcement for Star Trek…

The Institutional Award – Star Trek

The original Star Trek television series aired on NBC for only three seasons, from September 1966 to June 1969. It was fresh, prescient, and so ahead of its time that it couldn’t quite capture the mainstream audience required for hits during a particularly insipid time in television. But fast forward nearly 60 years, and creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision is alive and well, having spawned a media franchise of 13 feature films, 11 television series, and numerous books and comics, with a legendary fan following. Today Star Trek is more vibrant, imaginative, funny, entertaining, and progressive than ever. And these days, we’ve got the special effects to make it look stellar.

The original science-fiction series was set aboard a starship, Enterprise, whose mostly human crew encountered alien life as they traversed the stars, led by the iconic Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). It was groundbreaking for its diverse cast and for its unapologetically progressive values—exploration over colonialism, cooperation over violence. Its fandom grew over time, and the successors to the original series have updated the franchise without losing its moral core—the dream of a future free from human destruction, poverty, and bigotry. Subsequent captains have served as models of ethical and diverse leadership: The Next Generation’s Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Deep Space Nine’s Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), and Voyager’s Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) among them.

With every passing decade, new versions have proliferated, attracting new generations of fans. Film reboots directed by J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin revived Kirk and his crew with new, young actors, zippier dialogue, and vastly improved effects in the 2000s and 2010s. The Streaming Era has brought a raft of reimaginings with a variety of sensibilities, from the dark and complicated Star Trek: Discovery to the crowd-pleasing prequel Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (featuring a young Spock!) to the hilariously meta cartoon Star Trek: Lower Decks. As the latest versions of Star Trek invite in a new generation of viewers, the interstellar travelers still encounter danger and difficulty, of course. But the Starfleet crew always comes out on top— and without sacrificing essential values that seem quintessentially human: valor, self-sacrifice, curiosity, compassion, broadmindedness.

“From a groundbreaking television series to an expansive collection of films, novels, comic books and so much more, Star Trek has been delivering joy, wonder, and thought-provoking stories since the 1960s,” said Jones. “With powerful anti-war and anti-discrimination messages, it has blazed trails for all science fiction franchises while winning over passionate fans across the globe. We’re proud to honor Star Trek with Peabody’s Institutional Award.”

The Hollywood Reporter has the complete list of Peabody Awards 2024 Winners.

Other winners of genre interest are:

CHILDREN’S/YOUTH

Bluey (Disney+)
Creator Joe Brumm’s endearing family of animated Australian dogs have captivated both children and adults for years in episodes equally delightful and heartrending. Very little feels off the table, as Bluey fearlessly tackles topics from death to infertility to fleeting friendships, all while maintaining a sense of innocence and exuberance for the children, and affinity and understanding for the parents, who are allowed to be dynamic, imperfect beings on their own growth journey. 
Ludo Studio, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Studios

ENTERTAINMENT

The Last of Us (HBO | Max)
In HBO’s post-apocalyptic The Last of Us, a faithful adaptation of the critically-acclaimed Naughty Dog video game, the road trip odyssey of Joel and Ellie (played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey) functions as a recursive meditation on love and loss—and how love is capable of changing people, for good and for ill. In the hands of showrunner Craig Mazin, who worked in collaboration with Neil Druckmann, a co-director on the original game, this adaptation extracts new layers from the text that expand its meaning—imagining what a life of love and fulfillment, and survival, can look like at the end of the world.
HBO in association with Sony Pictures Television Studios, PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint, and Naughty Dog.

(2) MINNESOTA BOOK AWARDS. The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library announced the Minnesota Book Awards winners. The complete list is at the link.

Emma Törzs’ fantasy novel Ink Blood Sister Scribe is the winner of the Genre Fiction category.

For generations, the Kalotay family has guarded a collection of ancient and rare books. Books that let a person walk through walls or manipulate the elements—books of magic that half-sisters Joanna and Esther have been raised to revere and protect.

All magic comes with a price, though, and for years the sisters have been separated. Esther has fled to a remote base in Antarctica to escape the fate that killed her own mother, and Joanna’s isolated herself in their family home in Vermont, devoting her life to the study of these cherished volumes. But after their father dies suddenly while reading a book Joanna has never seen before, the sisters must reunite to preserve their family legacy. In the process, they’ll uncover a world of magic far bigger and more dangerous than they ever imagined, and all the secrets their parents kept hidden; secrets that span centuries, continents, and even other libraries . . .

(3) OUT OF TIME. Jonathan Russell Clark analyzes “Why We Love Time Travel Stories” for Esquire.

…For Wells’s contemporaries, Gleick notes, “technology had a special persuasive power.” For us, now a quarter of the way through the 21st century, things have grown complicated. Technology governs everything we do, but rather than enhancing our lives, our gadgets seem to exploit us, isolate us, box us in. Moreover, the technology itself has moved beyond our understanding, leaving us dependent on the two or three corporate entities producing it. The World of Tomorrow never arrived; no matter how much technology has progressed, it is still frustratingly Today.

Instead of holding out for a future that will solve our problems, contemporary readers now look into the past to address the wrongs inflicted on the less powerful, so what makes a convincing time-travel story in the 21st century isn’t the verisimilitude of the science but rather the morality of the characters’ intentions. In her book on ’80s movies, Life Moves Pretty Fast, Hadley Freeman notes that in Back to the Future, “Marty’s meddling in the past results in his parents living in a nice house, with chicer furnishings, posher breakfast dishes, and even domestic help in the form of Biff Tannen in 1985. Marty’s triumph is to lift his family up to middle-class status.” If Hollywood rebooted the franchise today, Freeman writes, “Marty’s challenge would be to save the world.” I still think a remake would keep Marty’s adventures confined to his personal bubble; it’s just that instead of reuniting his parents to ensure his existence, his mission would instruct him to meddle in his parents’ past because, down the line, this will save the world. Nowadays, to exploit time travel for personal gain—and indeed to tell a story in which such actions are uncritically celebrated—is unacceptable, as is returning to our discriminatory, segregated, slavery-filled history without seriously grappling with those realities. It’s no longer technology but rather moral conviction that now has a special persuasive power on us….

(4) A RARE HEINLEIN CONNECTION. Dave Hook has done fascinating research into a forgotten Heinlein collaborator: “Who is Elma ‘Miller’ Wentz?”

I know I’ve read this story in “Beyond the End of Time” at least once, but I remember nothing about it or even that it existed until seeing this. I found this very interesting for several reasons:

  1. To my knowledge, this is the only fiction published by Heinlein with a co-author during his lifetime.
  2. Heinlein clearly was not fond of it, as he never allowed this and two of his other early stories published as by “Lyle Monroe” to be reissued in a Heinlein collection during his lifetime (per Wikipedia).
  3. I had no idea who “Elma Wentz” was.

…Sometime in the early 1930s, she moved to Los Angeles. Her family did also, although it’s not clear if they moved at the same time or not.

William H. Patterson, Jr.’s “Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1: 1907-1948: Learning Curve” (“Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue…”), 2010 Tor, noted that Elma was working for Upton Sinclair on Sinclair’s California 1934 governor’s campaign as his personal secretary. Patterson also notes that she and her husband to be, Roby Wentz, met Robert A. Heinlein when Heinlein joined Sinclair’s related “End Poverty in California” (EPIC) movement in early 1935. The EPIC movement overlapped substantially with Sinclair’s run for governor. This resulted in her and Roby becomes friends with Robert A. Heinlein and his first wife Leslyn (MacDonald) Heinlein, and with journalist (and future SF writer) Cleve Cartmill….

(5) GUARDIAN REVIEW ROUNDUP. Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup” for the Guardian encompasses The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard; A View from the Stars by Cixin Liu; Flowers from the Void by Gianni Washington; The Dark Side of the Sky by Francesco Dimitri; The Hungry Dark by Jen Williams; and To the Stars and Back by various writers.

(6) VANISHING POINT. Atlas Obscura advises “Don’t Stare at the Dark Watchers”.

… There are dozens of similar accounts of so-called dark watchers by hikers in the Santa Lucia Mountains near Big Sur, California. The stories often share details: The figure stands seven to 10 feet tall and has a walking stick and hat, for example. No one has ever been able to interact with the looming figures—they always disappear once the hiker acknowledges them…

…Despite their ephemeral nature—and claims that they only appear to hikers with low-tech, old-school gear—stories of these cryptids go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Some people trace the legend to the pre-colonial oral stories of the Chumash, Indigenous peoples that have lived along the Central Coast of California and the Channel Islands for 13,000 years. But while there are many Chumash accounts of various creatures in December’s Child by Thomas Blackburn—the most complete written record of Chumash stories—it’s unclear whether any describe the dark watchers.

“These entities—whatever they are—have not just influenced the local people,” says Offutt. “They influenced some pretty famous people, too.” The earliest written accounts of dark watchers go back to the 1700s, when Spanish colonists gave the mysterious beings their name: los vigilantes oscuros. Since then, sightings have continued, and in 1937, the creatures made their literary debut….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 55. This is not full accounting of everything that the rather prolific John Scalzi has done, nor is it limited to his fiction. Now that I’ve got that out of the way let’s start…

I was trying to remember what I first read by him and I think it was actually Old Man’s War whereas I expect you know the characters of Old Man’s War are senior citizens who leave Earth to have their brains transplanted into cyborg bodies and sent off to be fight in an interstellar war. Scalzi has said the series was in homage in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

John Scalzi in 2019.

I only read further in the series through the “Questions for a Soldier” short story, The Ghost Brigades and the Zoe’s Tale. The latter broke my heart really it. Damn, I so like the main character here, and spoiler alert, what happened to her really did severely distressed me. Effing hell. 

So who here has read and liked The Android’s Dream novels? I liked everything I read by Scalzi save this. Maybe it was the premise itself, maybe the weirdness of the sheep hybrid which I’ll not discuss lest somebody be here who’s keen to read it still, maybe there there was too much Philip K. Dick in it. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it. So tell me why I should have.

Space opera, I knew he had it in him. And the Interdependency series certainly proved that amply. Lovely premise of an Empire, spoiler alert again so go drink Romulan blood wine, as the portals connecting the worlds of their Empire are apparently collapsing. The titles of the final novel in the trilogy sums up the trilogy up nicely, The Last Emperox.

And then there’s the Hugo winning Redshirts. Obviously off the Trek’s infamous oh my he’s a red shirt and will die a horrible death meme, it allowed Scalzi to play around with that delicious premise. No, I’m not saying a word more, so no spoiler alert needed. It’s a great story told well. There’s even something that Scalzi might well have borrowed from the Clue film here.

The last novel I want to talk about involves Fuzzies. Fuzzy Nation, authorized by the estate of H. Beam Piper, was not intended to be a sequel to Little Fuzzy, the Piper novel which was nominated for a Hugo. Scalzi wrote it first and then got permission from the Estate to publish it. It doesn’t feel like something the Piper would have written, but it’s worth reading none the less. 

Now let’s note Whatever, no doubt the most entertaining blog done by any writer, genre or otherwise. Is this what he won a Fan Writer Hugo for? If so, great choice. It’s something I very much look forward to reading every day. I see his Hugo for Best Related Book was related to his blog, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever 1998–2008. 

Ok, that’s what I like by him. No, it’s not everything but I did say it would be. As always, I know you’ll give copious comments about what I didn’t mention. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark’s lines up the usual suspects.
  • Shoe lets the name speak for itself.
  • Speed Bump disappoints these readers.
  • Carpe Diem has an unexpected haunting.
  • Nathan W Pyle shows a character resisting inimical forces!

(9) A VICIOUS GANG OF FACTS. Those skeptics at ScreenRant pooh-pooh “8 Sci-Fi Movie Inventions Ruined By Real Science”. First on their list of impossibilities:

8. Lightsabers

The Star Wars Series

One of the most iconic movie weapons ever created, lightsabers need little introduction. The mythical weapons of both the legendary Jedi order and the insidious Sith, these blazing hot swords of pure light can slice through nearly anything in the Star Wars universe, barring specialty-made materials like Durasteel. Not only that, but they’re also capable of deflecting bolts from energy-based blaster weapons, making them an impressive source of offense as well as defense. In the lore of the franchise, the lightsabers are powered by the mysterious Kyber crystals.

The lightsabers operate on different laws of physics than those in reality. Creating a powerful enough beam of light to cut through solid metal would result in a much longer, unwieldy weapon, not limited in its projection to a mere three feet. Even ignoring the issues regarding the lightsabers’ power source, which would easily need to be connected to some kind of power-generating backpack with today’s available technology, the ability of the weapons to physically clash with one another disobeys the properties of light. In reality, crossing lightsabers would simply pass through one another.

(10) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER. Is it really? I don’t know, so better safe etc. “Doctor Who’ Star Ncuti Gatwa Filmed With 20 Babies in Season Premiere”.

While filming episode one of “Doctor Who” season 14, entitled “Space Babies,” Millie Gibson had to do the impossible: keep the attention of 20 infants at once. Although she was bearing her soul in a speech integral to her character’s backstory, the babies kept dozing off and losing their attention to the flashing lights of the space-age set. So, to keep their little eyes focused on her, she delivered her lines while a nursery rhyme played on her phone just out of camera view.

“It was so hard honestly,” recalled Gibson. “It was the most bizarre thing but it will stay in my mind forever.”

…“They were such divas,” Gatwa joked about his toddler co-stars. “They had so many demands.”…

(11) FLAME ON! I don’t know how this cooking news item ended up at Popular Mechanics: “’Star Wars’ Fans, Truff’s Latest Super-Spicy Hot Sauce Is for You”.

…That’s right: Truff—the brand behind the decadent truffle-infused hot sauces Oprah has named to her Favorite Things list for the last three years—just dropped a new hot sauce with some serious Star Wars flair. Truff’s Star Wars Dark Side Hot Sauce is nothing to play with, given it’s now the brand’s spiciest sauce, featuring the hot-as-Hades ghost pepper.

Yes, the ghost pepper is certainly quite hot, topping out at over 1 million Scoville Units. That said, it isn’t the hottest. That title only recently belongs to Pepper X, which reaches more than double the ghost pepper’s 1+ million Scoville Units. According to Britannica, though, less than 20 years ago, the ghost pepper actually was the fieriest, most fearsome of them all. But just because there’s one hotter out there now doesn’t mean ghost peppers aren’t still fierce, as you’ll find out when you crack open this hot sauce….

(12) MONSOON Q&A. A BBC interview: “Doctor Who star Jinkx Monsoon on playing ‘zany’ villain Maestro”.

… American drag queen Jinkx Monsoon, who plays the new nemesis, tells BBC Newsbeat her “dreams have been granted in a wonderful way”.

Jinkx is known as the “Queen of Queens” after winning a regular and All Star season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

And she says moving to the world’s longest-running science fiction show felt like a natural progression for a self-described trans queer actor.

“Sci-fi has always been queer. Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional,” she says.

“There are prominent writers, directors, producers who are queer in these fields. And it just hasn’t really been able to be talked about and a lot of them nowadays are done being silent.”

She adds there has been “so much queer progress” in society, but feels in the entertainment industry “there’s still been this thing of queer people behind the cameras”.

“And only certain palatable society-approved queer people get to be in front of the camera.

“What I really love about this Doctor Who season is it saying: ‘To hell with that’.”

(13) HOLY SH!T! Aka the video of the day — Hell and Back by Scott Base. A short film based on original Bad Space comic. Mark sent the link with a warning, “I’m not sure I’d want to see a whole movie…”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Lise Andreasen, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Michael J. Walsh, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 4/27/24 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll And Stumble. File Churn And Cauldron Double

(1) DEAD PLASTIC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] What would you do if the world suddenly ran out of digital money?

With some parts of Worldcon fandom (such as publications policy increasingly becoming digital myopically to the exclusion of all else), this is a very topical subject.  Of course sercon trufans know that the current trend is to be abhorred: they’ve read the likes of Brunner, Gibson and Orwell).

The past couple of decades, SF has on occasion looked at digital privilege, monitoring and so forth, as well as social reactions against it (Max Headroom’s Blank Reg for example). So the new BBC Radio 4 drama series, that had its first episode this week, is timely.  It envisages a near-present day in which suddenly all debit and credit cards stop working.  The phenomena is not local, or national, but global….!

Money Gone, Money Gone – 1. ‘Insufficient Funds’” (Episode 1 of 5)

Valentine’s Day 2025. The UK awakes to financial catastrophe and no one can access any money. Ross sees opportunity as the country descends into chaos, but Grace has picked the worst day run away.

A fast-paced satirical drama starring Robert Bathurst (Cold Feet, Toast of London), Charlotte Richie (Ghosts, Call the Midwife), Aaron Heffernan (War of the Worlds, Brassic) and Josette Simon (Wonder Woman, Blakes 7).

(2) HANGING OUT ONLINE. John Scalzi, in “One Year of Bluesky”, assesses the social media platform for his Whatever readers.

…Now, the flip side of this is you can’t just sit back and let Bluesky happen to you. You have to engage with it — actual engagement! Not the kind where an algorithm pokes you with a stick! — or you’re going to be bored. It’s not an endless TikTok firehose where all you have to do is put yourself in its path. It’s a spigot, and you control how much or how little you get. Everyone says they want that, but it turns out a lot of people kinda like the firehose instead.

The other aspect of Bluesky being algorithm-free (and still being relatively small; its user base currently sits at 5.5 million) is that it’s not great for being famous or being an influencer, or being a troll. I think the Bluesky technical and cultural schema confuses the famous and/or influencer and/or shitty people who come onto the service to be famous, or to influence, or to be shitty for clicks. You can’t game an algorithm to go viral, and the sort of marketing that works on other social media works less well on Bluesky, and even if it did work that way, there aren’t hundreds of millions of people to broadcast at. You can try to do all these things on Bluesky, obviously. But Instagram and TikTok and Threads and the former Twitter are all still there, and much easier to game and influence and troll. People who come to Bluesky to do those things don’t seem to stay very long.

Which is a feature, not a bug, for me, and comports with how I want to do social media….

(3) A FURRY APOCALYPSE. Maya St. Clair evangelizes for a comedy film in “Would You Survive HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS?”

…Humanity, thanks to industrialized agriculture and the highway, now possesses the upper hand. But underneath it all, one sometimes senses a vague, sublimated longing to return to more survivalist times. Plexiglass Paul Bunyans and the Giant Musky dot the landscape, standing in shared reverence to older struggles of brute force, consumption, survival. On the radio, Gordon Lightfoot reminds us that even the sunny Great Lakes are biding their time to kill us. And this year we have Hundreds of Beavers, a two-hour slapstick tour de force that gleefully revives the hairy, primordial struggle of the old Midwest. In Moby-Dick, Herman Melville chronicled the “universal cannibalism of the sea”; Hundreds of Beavers brings us, at last, the universal cannibalism of Green Bay, Wisconsin….

Hundreds of Beavers Official Trailer”.

In this 19th century, supernatural comedy, a drunken applejack salesman must go from zero to hero and become North America’s greatest fur trapper when he loses his whole operation in a fire and is stranded in the wilderness. Now facing starvation, he must survive in a surreal winter landscape surrounded by Hundreds of Beavers – all played by actors in full-sized beaver costumes. Using nothing but his dim wits, he develops increasingly complex traps to battle the beavers and win the hand of a mischievous lover.

(4) RAY DALEY (1969-2024). Author Ray Daley died April 19 following a heart attack on March 28. His earliest sff was self-published beginning in 2012. His work included the collection A Year Of Living Bradbury; 52 Stories Inspired By Ray Bradbury (2014).

His first blog post in 2012 was charmingly frank:

…I can be a bit anal about wanting to be as factual as I can be, to the point where it actually gets in the way of the storytelling. I actually came across this problem when I wrote my first story I decided to sell.  I had a great idea but the facts ruined it so I had to go with my own reality on that occasion….

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 27, 1963 Russell T. Davies, 61. Let’s talk about the man who in large part made the revival of Doctor Who possible, Russell T. Davies. 

He was both the showrunner and head writer for the revival of the Doctor Who for the first five years. His last episode was the Tenth Doctor’s “The End of Time” which he wrote and executive produced. He wrote thirty-one episodes during his tenure.

But let’s go back in time to his earlier series. 

Russell T. Davies in 2008.

His Dark Season children’s series had three young teenagers in a contemporary secondary school who discover a plot by the villain Mr Eldritch to take over the world using school computers. The next three episodes focus on a new villain: the archaeologist Miss Pendragon who becomes a part of the ancient supercomputer Behemoth. The two distinct plot elements who later converge when Pendragon crashes through the school stage as Eldritch walks into the auditorium.

Following up on that would be Century Falls which tells the story of teenager Tess Hunter and her mother, who move to the seemingly idyllic rural village of Century Falls, only to find that it hides many powerful secrets. Something dark has happened here and it will take her to bring it out into the light. 

And then there’s The Second Coming which gave BBC the vapours (spelling there deliberately used) It concerns a video store worker by the name Steve Baxter, played by Christopher Eccleston, who realizes he is in fact the Son of God that has but a few days to find the human race’s Third Testament and thus avert the Apocalypse. It ran on Channel 4 with major changes from what Davies originally envisioned.

Torchwood was his first post-Who series and I think it was brilliant early on. From my perspective, the characters, the setting and the storyline was quite amazing. No, not every story was great but over the first two seasons were well-worth watching. Now keep in mind that of the first two series, Davies wrote only the première episode but was the showrunner with Christopher Chibnall. The last two series, “Children of Earth” and “Miracle Day” I cared not for at all. 

Then he would do the Sarah Jane Adventures, technically a children’s series but I saw it and it was lovely for everyone. A spin-off of Doctor Who with the companion Sarah Jane played by Elizabeth Sladen. He would be one of five, yes five, executive producers here. 

Now living in modern-day Ealing, London, she investigates extraterrestrial matters and protects Earth against alien threats with a group of teenage accomplices. It ran five series with a sixth planned until she passed on from pancreatic cancer.

Davies made a cameo appearance in  The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Haven’t seen it? What are you waiting for? 

So Davies has now returned as Doctor Who’s showrunner. He of course cast Rwandan–Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa for the Fifteenth Doctor. Or was the Fourteenth Doctor originally? Only Davies knows. Or did a week later. Time is a cool thing. 

I’m reasonably sure that covers his genre work. 

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side proves even a Western showdown has a logical order.
  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon has a bit more edge than usual!
  • Nathan W. Pyle takes us to a lawn belongings transfer.

(7) FALLOUT UNSHELTERED. Inverse reveals “How Amazon’s Best New Sci-Fi Show Built Its Massive Post-Apocalyptic World”.

… Though this may be an entirely new saga, there is no question that it is set within the all-too recognizable world of the Fallout series. In fact, Nolan was committed to bringing this vast universe to life as faithfully and precisely as possible — and this daunting task fell on the shoulders of production designer Howard Cummings and costume designer Amy Westcott….

… And so, Cummings and Westcott dove into the vast world of Fallout. Neither being self-proclaimed “gamers,” this involved a mountain of research….

…The more he watched and listened to the fans, the more detail he discovered within the universe. “It all has such history. It’s crazy — I used to turn on my phone and just fall asleep listening to the history of Fallout.”

Cummings became so familiar with the look and feel of Fallout that Bethesda Games, the company responsible for the series, essentially “let [him] go” do his thing, he says. “But I had to go to them when we were creating new stuff, because I wanted to make sure it was right. I knew that fans would sit there and go through it all and find every friggin’ Easter egg!”

Bethesda collaborated with Cummings, helping him craft many new crucial pieces of Fallout lore — perhaps most excitingly, a map showing the locations of every single Vault in America. It is this mixture of ultra precise replication paired with thoughtful new creation that makes the design of the series a feat in world-building and a surefire hit with fans and newcomers alike.

(8) GAIMAN FILM PROJECT. “Neil Gaiman Teams With Graphic India For Animated Pic ‘Cinnamon’” reports Deadline.

New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman is teaming with Graphic India for the English-language animated movie, Cinnamon.

Based on a short story written by Gaiman, the screenplay is being adapted by the Coraline author and leading Indian animation writer and creator, Sharad Devarajan (The Legend of Hanuman; Baahubali: The Lost Legends) with Sarena Khan and Sujatha SV. Indian animator Jeevan J. Kang is set to direct.

Blurb for project: Born with pearl eyes that render her blind to the physical world, Cinnamon’s destiny is shaped forever when a mysterious talking tiger appears. Offering to lead her through the wonders and trials of the wild, Cinnamon begins a perilous adventure that will shape her path and test her resolve. She enters a hidden realm where the line between the mundane and the mystical is as thin as a whisper and where the ancient wisdom of India breathes life into a jungle thrumming with secrets….

(9) IMAGINARY WEALTH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, it’s mostly guesswork. But it’s still interesting to see these extremely rich fictional characters ranked and to see that none of them would be so rich as to be completely out of line in the modern world. Only the top 2 crack the $50B mark, leaving them way, way behind in the race for the richest person in the world (for which they’d have to be worth over 4 times that much). “15 Richest Fictional Characters Of All Time” at The Richest. The ladder runs from Jay Gatsby to Scrooge McDuck, with a surprising number of sff characters in between.

2 – SMAUG

Smaug’s Net Worth: $54.1 Billion

The Hobbit’s very own dragon Smaug never speaks a word, but has managed to invade the town of Dale, which happens to be sitting on a pile of gold.

Some sources have placed Smaug’s net worth as high as $62 billion dollars, with $54.1 billion deemed a “conservative estimate.”

(10) I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS MISSING. Dan Monroe wants to know “Whatever Happened to the BLACK HOLE?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

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

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Jack Dann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NESFA Presents Skylark, Gaughan Awards at Boskone 61

The New England Science Fiction Association honored the winners of two annual awards at Boskone 61 on February 10.

SKYLARK AWARD

NESFA presented the Skylark Awards for 2023 and 2024 at the ceremony. 

2023: John Scalzi

2024: Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman 

The Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction (the Skylark) is presented annually by NESFA® to some person, who, in the opinion of the membership, has contributed significantly to science fiction, both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late “Doc” Smith well-loved by those who knew him.

Here is an example of the award trophy:

The admonition about where to stick it is, after a fashion, a genuine safety warning that dates to this Jane Yolen anecdote. The line is usually delivered by the audience with great gusto.

JACK GAUGHAN AWARD FOR THE BEST EMERGING ARTIST

2024: Alex Dos Diaz 

Alex Dos Diaz

The Gaughan Award honors the memory of Jack Gaughan, a long-time friend of fandom and one of the finest SF artists of the 20th century. Because Jack felt it was important to encourage and recognize new blood in the field, The New England Science Fiction Association, Inc., presents the Gaughan Award annually to an emerging artist (an artist who has become a professional within the past five years) chosen by a panel of judges.

LUNA by Alex Dos Diaz

Alex Dos Diaz’ website, with images of many more works, is here.

FELLOWS OF NESFA

Tonight’s ceremony also included the induction of two Fellows of NESFA:

2024: Jenny & Paul Kraus

[Thanks to Lisa Hertel for the story.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article ends:

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

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

Jason Sanford disavowed the last paragraph on Bluesky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz ponders the power of story.

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

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

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

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

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

Category: Talking About Tolkien

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

Wrong question: What is the Oxford group?

Right question: What is the Inklings?

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

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

Right question: What is Ronald?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/24 They Told Me The Pixel Was Safe To Scroll!

(1) WHEN YOU DISCOVER YOU’RE AN “INELIGIBLE”. Xiran Jay Zhao just got the news.

(2) ONLINE DISCUSSION OF CHENGDU WORLDCON HUGO NOMINATIONS REPORT. Hugo finalist Arthur Liu / HeavenDuke adds context to the 2023 Hugo Awards voting in an X.com thread that begins here. An excerpt:

(3) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. Heather Rose Jones’ “A Comparison of Hugo Nomination Distribution Statistics” at Alpennia takes the 2023 Hugo Nominations report and the statistics from selected other years to create graphs that show just how anomalous the 2023 results are. A very helpful tool.

(4) RESPONSES TO STAT RELEASE BY THREE HUGO WINNERS.

Ursula Vernon said on Bluesky:

Seanan McGuire said on Bluesky:

Chris Barkley told Facebook readers this evening:

As someone who attended the Chengdu Worldcon AND was the recipient of Hugo Award in the Best Fan Writer category, I am upset, incensed and angry at the exclusion of R.F. Kuang’s Babel and my friend, colleague and peer, Paul Weimer from the 2023 Final Ballot. There were numerous other irregularities and outrages as well.

I don’t know for certain if Paul Weimer’s presence on the ballot would have may any difference in the outcome and to some extent, that has weighted heavily on my mind since Saturday’s release.

We may never know what actually happened here but I would like to thank the people who voted for me and have repeatedly reiterated their support for my fan writing and took the time to reassure me that my work was worthy of the award.

I also know that this incident, whether it was at the behest of the government of the People’s Republic or China or some other entity, will NEVER be forgotten and that doing something about preventing such a thing from happening again will be at the top of the agenda at the Glasgow Worldcon Business Meeting in August…

(5) IN TIMES TO COME. John Scalzi’s “What’s Up With Babel and the Hugos?” at Whatever includes some ideas about what should happen going forward.

4. Likewise, depending on what we learn about these disqualifications, next year’s Worldcon Business meeting would be a fine time to offer proposals for disqualification transparency (i.e., there have to be reasons detailed other than “because”) and for dealing with state censorship regarding finalists and the award process.

5. Even the speculation of state censorship should give pause to site selection voters regarding future Worldcons. For example, there is a 2028 Worldcon proposal for Kampala, Uganda, and while the proposed Worldcon itself offers a laudable and comprehensive Code of Conduct page, Uganda is a country with some of the most severe laws in the world regarding LGBTQ+ people, including laws involving censorship. If the state leaned hard on the local Worldcon regarding what was acceptable on the Hugo ballot, would it be safe for the organizers to ignore this pressure? This is now an issue we will need to consider, among the many others, in where the Worldcon lands every year.

(6) 2024 DEADLINE TO QUALIFY AS HUGO VOTER. If this weekend’s Hugo Awards discussion hasn’t convinced you there might be a better way to use your money, like throwing it in the ocean, and you want to be able to nominate for the 2024 Hugo Awards but weren’t a member of Chengdu, you need to get a membership in the Glasgow 2024 Worldcon by January 31: Memberships and Tickets. [Via Jed Hartman.]

(7) MEANWHILE, IN CHINA. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Here are some Chinese user comments regarding the Hugo nomination news.  As these are (mostly) from regular fans or individuals, I’ve not included their usernames, but all are on public posts that anyone can access – I imagine stuff circulating in small private WeChat/Weixin groups (which I don’t have access to) will be much harsher than these.

All English translations via Google Translate, which doesn’t handle the slangy language used very well, so some of these are a bit opaque, but the general vibe should be pretty clear.  As yet, I’ve not come across any commentary about the works that just missed out on being finalists; hopefully that might appear once the initial controversies have died down a bit.

现在对国内的任何文学奖都失去信任,都不过是一小撮人自娱自乐地玩票而已。

Nowadays, we have lost trust in any domestic literary awards. They are just a small group of people playing for their own entertainment.

哈哈哈,目测你们没有审核机制,干的啥事啊

Hahaha, I guess you don’t have an audit mechanism, what are you doing?

令人不满在于数据披露拖延、不透明、疏忽大意,有呼声很高的作者和候选莫名被判定“不具备资格”,在于评奖数据显露出的组织管理混乱,而不是你以为的“烂作得奖”,只要符合规则,谁得奖都是该的,因为机制如此。所以我请你在开地图炮宣泄情绪之前,先了解一下始末

(replying to another user’s comment) The dissatisfaction lies in the delay, opacity and negligence in data disclosure. Some highly vocal authors and candidates were inexplicably judged to be “ineligible”. The dissatisfaction lies in the organizational and management chaos revealed by the award data, rather than the “bad work winning the award” as you thought. “As long as the rules are followed, whoever wins the prize deserves it, because the mechanism is like this. So I ask you to understand the whole story before opening the map cannon to vent your emotions.  [Note: I’m not sure what “opening the map cannon” is a euphemism for, but I think something like “setting off fireworks” might be a more reasonable translation,]

真丢脸,无话可说????对“环境污染”放任自流,各种花样层出不穷,无法理解这样的不作为。

It’s so shameful, I have nothing to say ???? Let’s let “environmental pollution” go unchecked, with all kinds of tricks emerging in endlessly, I can’t understand such inaction.

太丢人了

So embarrassing

丢脸

shameful

不是有stuff说了,公布一眼假的数据是为了表明他们也很无奈

Isn’t that what stuff said? The purpose of publishing fake data is to show that they are also helpless.

那到底有多无奈呢,总不会被枪指着头吧,感觉都是托词,总之不想负责

(reply to previous comment) So how helpless are you? You won’t have a gun pointed at your head. It feels like it’s all an excuse. In short, you don’t want to be responsible.

丢人丢到家了

I’m so embarrassed.

咋回事

What’s going on

一地鸡毛…控奖真是有点

It’s a piece of cake… Controlling awards is really a bit tricky

呵呵,这不明摆着么

Haha, isn’t this obvious? (note: I think this might make more sense translated as “blatant”)

国外网友表示雨果组织方所谓过去三个月仔细检查核准数据的说法难以让人信服,毕竟现在还有一个类别里同样的作品出现两次的错误(指最佳短中篇类别的《图灵大排档》)

Foreign netizens said that Hugo organizers’ claim of carefully checking the approval data in the past three months is unconvincing. After all, there is still a category where the same work has errors twice (referring to “Turing” in the best short and medium novel category). Food stalls》)

无非三个原因:商业运作,草台班子,不可说因素

There are no more than three reasons: business operation, grassroots team, and unspeakable factors

怕只怕有心人……

I’m just afraid of someone with a bad intention…

(8) CENSORS, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. “After national backlash, Florida lawmakers eye changes to book restrictions” at Politico.

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature wanted to keep obscene books out of the hands of kids. But some are now acknowledging they created a “logistical nightmare” that lawmakers are trying to rein in.

Legislators this month introduced a new idea to curb frivolous challenges to books — one of the first admissions the law, which tightened scrutiny around books with sexual content in K-12 schools, may have gone too far. The potential solution: allowing local schools to charge some people a $100 fee if they want to object to more than five books.

“I’m happy that we are digging in and trying to remove reading material that is inappropriate for our children,” said state Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Republican from Fort Pierce who is sponsoring the legislation. “But I think [book challengers] really need to be respectful of the amount of books that they are pouring into schools at one time.”Florida’s Legislature in 2023 expanded education transparency laws by requiring books considered pornographic, harmful to minors or that depict sexual activity to be pulled from shelves within five days and remain out of circulation for the duration of any challenge. If school officials deem a book inappropriate, it can be permanently removed from circulation or restricted to certain grade levels.

The law caused a national outcry after local schools received hundreds of challenges to a wide range of books, leading to reviews of titles like Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “And Tango Makes Three,” a kids book about a penguin family with two dads. It’s also led to multiple lawsuits against top education officials and local school boards asserting that the restrictions violate free speech. Florida, according to the free speech advocacy group PEN America, has “banned” more books than any other state — some 1,406 works total….

(9) MEMORY LANE. (A 1984 REFERENCE COULDN’T BE MORE TIMELY!)

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1984 — On this day forty years ago, Apple (then know as Apple Computer) began selling its first Macintosh. It featured an 8 MHz processor and 128k of RAM in a beige all-in-one case with a 9-inch monochrome display — all for around $2,500. That’d be $7,380 today.

Now I’ll connect it to our genre, Apple for the Mac’s arrival with its 1984 commercial that aired during a break in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. That commercial was based of course on that George Orwell novel. It starts off with the opening of “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” 

Ridley Scott was the director. Steve Jobs hired him to do it just after Blade Runner came out. Though the press said Scott spent a million dollars on it, he has said in several interviews since that Apple budgeted it at a quarter of that so he got creative, meaning instead of performers in Britain (where he filmed it) who had Union standing and would have cost him serious money, those are actually skinheads playing all those drones.

(This being 1984, those Union performers that there was got the Union minimum of twenty-five dollars for a day’s work.)

Anya Major is the sledge hammer throwing runner. She beat all models and runners who tested in a London park, most couldn’t lift the hammer, and several threw nearby parked windshields.  And yes, that is actual glass that she smashes though of course it gets enhanced afterwards.

She has only one other video appearance as Natika in Elton’s 1985 “National” video. Well and the documentary done about this commercial. Of course there’s a documentary. When isn’t there? 

Naturally the lawyers got involved. Because the ad looked an awfully lot like a scene from the 1984 film — which I’ve not seen so I don’t know how much it looks like that film — the Estate sent a cease-and-desist letter to Apple, and the commercial never aired on television again. 

The commercial aired only twice on American television. It had been first screened in December 1983, right before the one am sign-off on KMVT in Twin Falls, Idoho, which made it eligible for advertising industry awards for that year. That’s why it got to win a Clio Award for Creative Excellence in Advertising and Design, a very high honor indeed. 

In addition, starting on January 17, 1984, it was screened prior to previews in movie theaters for a few weeks.

It’s on YouTube, though, so you can it see here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 21, 1933 Judith Merril, (Died 1997). Yes, I know Judith Merril is a pen name but it’s the name on her writing, so it’s the only name that I’m interested in for this Birthday. Let us get started.

She was no doubt most excellent SF writer. Her first novel, Shadow in the Hearth, was written by herself.  It was published by Doubleday in 1950 with the scary cover art by Edward Kasper. Geoff Conklin said her first novel was a “masterly example of sensitive and perceptive story-telling”. And I agree. 

Gunner Cade was under her Cyril Judd pen name, written in collaboration with Cyril Kornbluth, as was Outpost Mars from Simon & Schuster just two years later, with a much more traditional SF cover. The novel itself is quite well done. 

Outpost Mars was also given a paperback edition from Dell that would get a very traditional SF cover by Richard Powers. It’s a great look at a Mars-based doctor, the colony, and their dealing and the Earth company and its meddling.

Eight years after Outpost Mars, her novels come to an end with The Tomorrow People. It is also her first novel not from a major house, being printed by Pyramid Books. 

(I’m going to leave it to someone here who’s more knowledgeable than me about fanzines to talk about them.)

Her short fiction is some thirty pieces deep, including a few collaborations. She co-wrote a story each with Kornbluth and Pohl. I’ve have read more than a few of her stories, there’s not a weak one, and even the ones written in the Forties still hold up very well. Which collection is a good question. That’s easy as NESFA, as always is our friend here publishing Homecalling and Other Stories: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith Merril.

She was not nominated for any Hugos in her lifetime. She, along with Emily Pohl-Weary, granddaughter of her and Frederik Pohl, would win at Torcon 3 for Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld probably didn’t need to find out about this from the sff field, much as it applies.

(12) MAESTRO’S NAME OVER THE DOOR. Deadline is on hand when “Sony Pictures & Steven Spielberg Dedicate John Williams Music Building”. (Photo at the link.)

“The first time I came to this studio was 1940 when my father brought me here to show me the stage, and I was about 9 or 10 years old, and I thought, ‘Some day this will all be mine!’ It’s finally come to be – it’s only taken me 92 years to get here!” That’s what five-time Oscar winner and 53-time nominee John Williams said as the curtain was raised on the iconic Sony Pictures Entertainment lot’s newly renamed John Williams Music Building.

Joining in the celebration — and it was a celebration — were Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group Chairman and CEO Tom Rothman, SPE Chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra (who made opening remarks), filmmaker J.J. Abrams and of course, Williams’ longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg, who instigated the idea of putting the legendary composer’s name on the building where they have worked on 20 or their 29 films, as Spielberg noted….

(13) SHE’LL BE BACK. Did no one ever tell them that when it comes to a choice between the truth and the legend, print the legend? “Reacher Showrunner Shares the Surprising Story Behind That Terminator 2 Reference” at CBR.com.

Reacher Season 2’s reference to Terminator 2: Judgment Day had nothing to do with the casting of Robert Patrick.

In the second season of the hit Prime Video series, Patrick, who played the T-1000 in Terminator 2, played the role of Shane Langston, a foe to Alan Ritchson’s Jack Reacher. The Season 2 premiere included a cheeky reference to Terminator 2 when Frances Neagley used the alias Sarah Conner, a nod to Linda Hamilton’s Terminator franchise character. When he’s asked by a henchman, “Who’s Sarah Connor?,” Patrick’s Langston replied, “I don’t give a sh*t.” It’s a stark contrast to the character he played in Terminator 2, where killing Sarah’s son was the T-1000’s sole objective.

Per TVLine, showrunner Nick Santora revealed that the Terminator 2 reference was not written in to the show because of Robert Patrick’s casting. Santora wanted to make it clear, noting how “everyone thinks we’re so smart and funny for doing it,” but that the Sarah Connor line was “in there before Robert Patrick came in. I don’t want to lie; that’s the truth.“…

(14) ABOUT UGANDA. Fans are already concerned about the prospects of a Uganda Worldcon bid. Something more to keep in mind: “Ugandan internet propaganda network exposed by the BBC”.

…They all claimed to be Ugandan citizens – often women – whose accounts appeared to have the sole purpose of posting praise for the president and pushing back against critics.

The Ugandan Media Centre, which handles public communications on behalf of the government, did not respond to our requests for comment.

A sprawling network of fake accounts

By analysing those accounts’ behaviour, BBC Verify was able to map out a network of nearly 200 fake social media accounts operating on X and on Facebook (even though the latter has been blocked in Uganda since 2021).

The vast majority of these accounts used stolen images as profile pictures – often social media photos of models, influencers, and actresses from across the world. But none of the usernames used by them appeared to be linked to real individuals in Uganda or Tanzania….

(15) CALLING OUT MAO. Inverse recounts a bit of Chinese sff history in “44 Years Ago, a Revolutionary Sci-Fi Movie Ushered in a New Golden Age For the Genre”.

Imagine a world where scientists are banned from and even persecuted for practicing their research in technological advancement. This was the reality in China during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Fueled by a desire to remove all forms of capitalism from their society, Mao’s followers destroyed laboratories and burned any literature related to science — including science fiction.

Science fiction author Enzheng Tong wrote Death Ray on Coral Island in 1964 but hid it for fear of being persecuted due to the belief that the genre was created by the West to corrupt the people of China. It wasn’t until 1978, under Xiaoping Deng’s reign, that science and technology became a national priority for the country and Tong published his short story. In 1980, director Hongmei Zhang took this opportunity to adapt Tong’s story into a film — keeping the original’s sense of nationalistic pride while taking other liberties to address the scientific failure of Mao’s rule.

(16) DEBOSE Q&A. “’I.S.S.’ Star Ariana DeBose Talks Shocking Ending, Returning To Broadway” in Variety. Beware spoilers.

“I.S.S.” is a thriller set in outer space, but the creative team was filled with pioneers in their own right. “Blackfish” director Gabriela Cowperthwaite helmed the project, with Oscar winner Ariana DeBose suiting up for the lead role — both creatives playing in a new genre for the first time.

The result is a fleet, pulpy film in which three American and three Russian astronauts are living and working together on an international space station. But things turn dire quickly when their governments declare war on each other and both groups are instructed to commandeer the space station by any means necessary….

What was the most challenging part about filming zero gravity realistically, for nearly the entire film?

Cowperthwaite: I just wanted it to look as real as possible. We tried different contraptions, some of which were a bit more comfortable, but unfortunately for the actors, they didn’t look as good. Now I understand why so many films don’t do zero gravity.

DeBose: To achieve this look and feel, we shot the movie in harnesses that are very tightly secured on our hips. Then there were tethers attached to them. We had about two weeks of training, where we learned how to balance our bodies. It’s very hard, but the especially challenging thing was when we had scenes that involved all six of us. That meant we were all in harnesses, and for every one of us, there were at least two or three people operating. While you don’t see the tethers, they were very much there, so shout out to VFX….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/6/24 10 Pixels To Scroll, Number 9 Will SHOCK You

(1) 2024 IS LAST YEAR KRESS AND WILLIAMS RUNNING TAOS TOOLBOX. Taos Toolbox, a two-week master class in writing science fiction and fantasy helmed by authors Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, is open for submissions.

And as part of the announcement Williams told Facebook readers, “This will be the last year that Nancy and I will be doing this. Taos Toolbox may continue under new management (it’s under discussion), but Nancy and I won’t be running things.”

This year’s Taos Toolobox workshop will take place June 2-15, 2024, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Special Guest for 2024 is the creator of The Expanse, James S.A. Corey, in reality the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank…

Special lecturers this year include Jeffe Kennedy, who currently holds the office of President of the Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s been widely published and has special expertise in indiepub, and owns her own press.

The second special lecturer is Diana Rowland, who at various times been an Air Force pilot, a Las Vegas card dealer, a detective for a sheriff’s office in Louisiana, and a morgue assistant, occupations that contributed to writing her Demon and White Trash Zombie series.

(2) MISSING ROYALTIES. Authors are the hidden victims of the cyber-attack on the British Library, which has prevented them receiving an annual rights payment. The Guardian explains: “Richard Osman among authors missing royalties amid ongoing cyber-attack on British Library”.

…In February 2023, those authors would have been paid thousands of pounds each from Public Lending Right (PLR) payments – money earned by writers, illustrators and translators each time a book is borrowed. But not this year.

Ongoing fallout from a massive cyber-attack means that PLR payments will not be paid as expected while the British Library, which manages the service, fights to restore its crippled systems.

Every time an author’s book is borrowed from a library, they get about 13p, capped at £6,600 a year. To authors like Osman and JK Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was also on last year’s top read list, this might be a drop in the ocean, but for many authors whose books are library favourites it is a different matter….

The British Library was hit by a cyber-attack at the end of October. At the time, its chief executive, Sir Roly Keating, said that access to even basic communication tools such as email was initially lost. “We took immediate action to isolate and protect our network but significant damage was already done.

“Having breached our systems, the attackers had destroyed their route of entry and much else besides, encrypting or deleting parts of our IT estate.”…

(3) STEVE VERTLIEB MEDICAL UPDATE. File 770 contributor Steve Vertlieb was briefly hospitalized after suffering a mini-stroke on January 4. He told Facebook friends:

Well, there’s good news and bad news early in the new year. The bad news is, that while at needed physical therapy for my balance on Thursday afternoon, I began babbling unintelligibly. I knew what I wanted to say to my trainers but, when it physically left my lips, it became distorted beyond recognition, rather like mumbling incoherently in my sleep.

They called an ambulance and rushed me to nearby Nazareth Hospital where I spent the next twenty-four hours.

I continued complaining, while in the ambulance, that I simply wanted to go home but they drove me, instead, to the Emergency Room.

I began recovering once we reached the waiting hospital. However, to be on the safe side, they kept me overnight in a hospital room. I knew that I must have been returning to “normal,” however, when I began cracking jokes.

It appears that I must have suffered a “T.I.A,” or what’s called a “mini-stroke.” However, following that isolated assault on my sensory nerves, the seemingly isolated attack that apparently came out of nowhere somehow abated and I’ve recovered.

I had a single previous occurrence some eighteen months earlier on what was to have been my last night in Los Angeles. It’s frightening. I can tell you that. The wiring in your brain goes … you should excuse the expression … “haywire.”

I asked the doctors what I can do to keep this from happening again. They said “You’re doing it. You’re taking all the right medications. Just keep an eye out for trouble signs in future.”

What’s the good news, you may well ask?????????? Well, the simple answer is that I’m Home once more!!!!!!!!!! Unlike the esteemed Mr. Bond, I’m “shaken, yet stirred.” “Toto, We’re home …. We’re Home.”

(4) SFWA’S COPYRIGHT OFFICE RESPONSE. Following up SFWA’s October 30th comments to the Copyright Office, they had the opportunity to respond to some of the many other comments received. With over 9,000 responses, SFWA “focused on specific aspects of the conversation around fair use that we felt were not given due attention, as well as to raise concerns that are unique to our community.” Their 10-page response document can be downloaded from Regulations.gov at the link.

One topic SFWA discussed is the scraping of content that is offered free to readers by online sff magazines.

…SFWA acknowledges the problem of generative AI scraping pirated material published as copy-protected ebooks by professional publishers, but SFWA additionally has the unique position of representing many authors who have fought to make their work available for free for human readers. Over the last twenty years, many science fiction and fantasy authors of short fiction have embraced the open Internet, believing that it is good for society and for a flourishing culture that art be available to their fellow human beings regardless of ability to pay. That availability is not without cost; it is quite difficult to bring an online magazine to market, and being freely available has never meant abandoning the moral and legal rights of the authors, nor the obligation to enter into legal contracts to compensate authors for their work and spell out how it may and may not be used. But on balance, many writers and fans believe that freely sharing stories is a good thing that enriches us all.

The current content-scraping regime preys on that good-faith sharing of art as a connection between human minds and the hard work of building a common culture. The decision to publish creative work online to read and share for free is not guaranteed; it is a trade-off of many factors including piracy, audience, and the simple (albeit elusive) ability to make a living. In too many comments to enumerate here, individual authors have made clear that they regard the use of their work for training AI to be another important factor in that mix, and the ultimate effect on the short fiction marketplace and its role in our culture is far from certain. Bluntly, many authors do not want their work taken for this purpose, and that cannot be ignored.

“If my work is just going to get stolen, and if some company’s shareholders are going to get the benefit of my labor and skill without compensating me, I see no reason to continue sharing my work with the public — and a lot of other artists will make the same choice.” (N. K. Jemisin, COLC-2023-0006- 0521)

The developers of AI systems seem to believe that a green light to use scraped copyrighted work will result in a clear field for them to continue freeloading forever; we fear rather that it will result in large swathes of artistic work removed from the commons, locked behind paywalls and passwords to the detriment of all….

(5) AURORA AWARDS. [Item by Danny Sichel.] The Eligibility Lists for this year’s Aurora Awards are open. If you’re aware of any genre work produced by Canadians, submit it. (CSFFA membership required — $10 – to make an addition to the lists.)

(6) WESTERCON 2025 UP FOR ADOPTION. Kevin Standlee announced a “Committee Formed to Select Site of 2025 Westercon” at Westercon.org.

Because no bid filed to host Westercon 77, selection of the site of the 2025 Westercon devolved upon the 2023 Westercon Business Meeting held at Westercon 75 (in conjunction with Loscon 49) in Los Angeles on November 25, 2023. The Westercon 75 Business Meeting voted to award Westercon 77 to a “Caretaker Committee” consisting of Westercon 74 Chair Kevin Standlee and Vice Chair Lisa Hayes with the understanding that they would attempt to select a site and committee to run Westercon 77 and transfer the convention to that committee.

Any site in North America west of 104° west longitude or in Hawaii is eligible to host Westercon 75. There are no other restrictions other than the bid has to be for dates in calendar year 2025. All other restrictions in the Westercon Bylaws are suspended, per section 3.16 of the Westercon Bylaws.

To submit a bid to the 2025 Caretaker Committee to host Westercon 77, contact Kevin Standlee at [email protected], or send a paper application to Lisa Hayes at PO Box 242, Fernley NV 89408. Include information about the proposed site, the proposed dates, and the proposed operating committee. The Caretaker Committee asks that groups interested in hosting Westercon 77 contact them by the end of February 2024.

Should the Caretaker Committee be unable to make a determination for a site for Westercon 77 by Westercon 76 in Salt Lake City (July 4-7, 2024), and assuming that no bid files to host Westercon 77, the Caretaker Committee will ask the Business Meeting of Westercon 76 for additional guidance on how to handle Westercon Site Selection.

(7) MOVING FORWARD – AT OLD MAN SPEED. Tor.com notified those not reading Bluesky that “Netflix’s Adaptation of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War Is Still In The Works”.

We first found out that Netflix optioned the rights to John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War over six years ago, back in December 2017. It’s not uncommon for things to get optioned but never get made (Old Man’s War, in fact, had been previously optioned by Paramount and Syfy without making it to the production stage), but it sounds like the Netflix movie adaptation is still moving forward.

Scalzi gave an update on the project over on Bluesky yesterday, where he said that work on it is “slowly but surely moving along.”…

(8) COPPOLA’S NEXT APOCALYPSE. Another long-awaited sff project finished filming last year and should actually get released sometime: “Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘Megalopolis’ Is Coming Soon” at Collider.

Francis Ford Coppola is renowned as the mastermind behind some of the greatest pieces of cinema in history but as all legends do, he refuses to rest on his laurels and he’s preparing to release his first film in over a decade with his self-funded star-studded sci-fi drama, Megalopolis. The film has been mired by a number of setbacks, but filming wrapped on the project back in March. And now, we won’t have much longer to wait for it to arrive, as Coppola revealed on the latest episode of The Accutron Show.

The film has an eye-watering array of talent attached, including Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, DB Sweeney, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Bailey Ives, Grace Vanderwaal, James Remar, and Giancarlo Esposito.

All that’s known so far about the film so far is that it has a futuristic setting and that it will revolve around the idea of humanity attempting to build some sort of utopian society in the wake of a natural disaster. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess, and Coppola isn’t up for explaining more quite yet.

(9) WAS THIS THE BEST SF OF 2023? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Every January the SF2 Concatenation have an informal survey as to the best SF novels and films of the previous year. It is strictly informal and a bit of fun, enabling team members see what more than one of the others rate. The years have shown that this informal survey has form in that invariably some of the chosen works go on to be short-listed, and sometimes even win, major SF awards later in the year. SF² Concatenation have just advance-posted their selection for 2023 as part of the “Best Science Fiction of the Year Possibly?” post. Scroll down to see how previous years’ choices fared…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. (Died 1978.) So let’s talk about the British writer Eric Frank Russell. His first published piece of fiction was in the first issue of Tales of Wonder called “The Prr-r-eet” (1937). (Please don’t tell me it was about cats.) He also had a letter of comment in Astounding Stories that year. He wrote a lot of such comments down the years. 

Eric Frank Russell

Just two years later, his first novel, Sinister Barrier, would be published as the cover story as the first issue of Unknown. His second novel, Dreadful Sanctuary, would be serialized in AstoundingUnknown’s sister periodical, in 1948.

At Clevention, “Allamagoosa” would win a Short Story Hugo.  The Great Explosion novel garnered  a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award.

Now let’s note some reworkings he did as I like them a lot. Men, Martians and Machines published in 1955 is four related novellas of space adventures at their very best. 

The 1956 Three to Conquer, nominated for a Hugo at NY Con II is a reworking of the earlier Call Him Dead magazine serial that deals with an alien telepath and very well at that. Finally Next of Kin, also known as The Space Willies, shows him being comic, something he does oh so well. It was a novella-length work in Astounding first.

And then there’s the Design for Great-Day novel which was written by Alan Dean Foster. It’s an expansion by him based off a 1953 short story of the same name by Russell. I’m pretty familiar with Foster has done but this isn’t ringing even the faintest of bells. Who’s read it? 

He wrote an extraordinary amount of short stories, around seventy by my guess. 

(My head trauma means numbers and I have at best a tenuous relationship. I once counted the turkeys left over after we distributed them at a food pantry I staffed pre-knee injury. Three times I counted. I got, if I remember correctly now, twelve, fifteen and eighteen birds. I had someone else do it.)

Short Stories Collection is the only one available at the usual suspects. He’s an author who needs a definitive short story collection done for him. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows there are always lines.
  • Edith Pritchett’s cartoon for the Guardian recalls how “I climbed the tube station steps and entered another dimension.” Steven French adds, “Of marginal genre interest but having walked up those steps, this made me laugh!”

(12) PIONEERING WOMAN COMICS ARTIST RETIRES. BoingBoing pays tribute as “Aquaman, Metamorpho, and Brenda Starr cartoonist Ramona Fradon retires”.

Famed cartoonist Ramona Fradon is retiring at the age of 97, according to a January 3 announcement from her comic art dealer Catskill Comics….

An extremely long run, indeed. Her comic book career started in 1950, and her career highlights include a 1959 revamp and long run on Aquaman, the co-creation of DC’s offbeat superhero Metamorpho with writer Bob Haney in 1965, a run on Super Friends in the 1970s, and the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter from 1980-1995.

She also was a pioneer, as one of the only women working in comics during the first decades of her career.

Cartoonist and curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco Andrew Farago wrote on BlueSky, “Ramona Fradon retires today at the age of 97, just a little shy of Al Jaffee’s retirement age of 99. Not sure if that means that cartooning keeps you young or if it just means that cartooning keeps you broke, but what a body of work she’s produced over the past eight decades!”…

(13) WHAT THEY WILL READ IN 2024. “’I want some light in my life’: eight writers make their new year reading resolutions “ – the Guardian’s collection of quotes includes a declaration from Sheena Patel.

‘I’m turning to sci-fi and dystopia’
Sheena Patel

I have a fascination with sci-fi that is purely theoretical. I often think about reading it but never make any attempt to go near such books because I am afraid of the imagination I will find there. Perhaps I haven’t felt I can really access the genre because sci-fi feels like what Black and Brown people can go through on a daily basis. We’re still in an age of empire, even though we are distracted from this knowledge.

I do love sci-fi films though. I had a true epiphany when I saw Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin at the cinema. It was so strange, the alien mixed with the mundane, documentary spliced with fantastical set pieces. Next year I think I will read the Michel Faber book from which the movie was adapted.

In 2024 I also want to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune books. Earlier this year, I watched the film on my laptop maybe 50 times. At first, I hated it, but then I totally fell in love with it – the visual representation of different worlds opened my mind. Throat singing and nomadic desert tribes could be used as a mood board for the future, but this is already happening now in communities that are regarded as “primitive”. It is the future because it is eternal – such a beautiful thought.

We are fed so much dystopia that reading it in fiction feels hard – but, as the world burns, maybe it is a good idea to hear from artists about where we might be heading. So the other three titles I will try are classics: Octavia E Butler’s KindredStanisław Lem’s Solaris and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. The present feels so bleak, and our vision of the future so foreshortened, it almost seems like tempting fate – but, without science fiction, how can we dream?

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel is published in paperback by Granta

(14) HOOFING IT TO MOUNT DOOM. They say “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but apparently they exaggerated. The Conqueror Virtual Challenges is a thematic program to encourage you to exercise by walking, running, and biking, with solo variations costing from $49.95 to bundles costing $299.95 and up. This link takes you to All 8 LOTR Conqueror Virtual Challenges.

Follow Frodo and Aragorn on an epic journey across Middle-earth with the ULTIMATE THE LORD OF THE RINGS Virtual Challenge Series.

Walk, run or cycle all the way from The Shire to Mount Doom in an epic adventure with one goal – destroying the One Ring. Complete this unforgettable saga by following Aragorn into battle and restoring peace to Middle-earth.

(15) CITY OF HEROES. “11 years after this cult classic superhero MMO was shut down, the original publisher has given its blessing to the community’s custom servers” reports GamesRadar+.

Despite the shutdown of the beloved superhero MMO City of Heroes over a decade ago, fans have been keeping it alive for years with a variety of custom server efforts. Now, one of those projects has just gotten the blessing of the game’s original publisher and license holder, NCSoft.

City of Heroes: Homecoming made the surprising announcement earlier today that “Homecoming has been granted a license to operate a City of Heroes server and further develop the game – subject to conditions and limitations under the contract.” The Homecoming project will remain free and donation-funded, and while there are a few changes to how the project is being managed, it doesn’t look like players will see any meaningful differences in the game itself.

“NCSoft has always had (and will continue to have) the right to demand that Homecoming shuts down,” as the announcement notes. “This agreement provides a framework under which Homecoming can operate the game in a way that complies with NCSoft’s wishes in hopes of minimizing the chances of that happening. We’ve had a really positive and productive relationship with NCSoft for over four years now, so we do not anticipate there being any issues.”…

…The question mark that currently weighs over the license for Homecoming is what this means for other custom server projects, like City of Heroes Rebirth. Today’s announcement notes that “other servers are out of scope” for this license, and the devs say that “our hope is that our license will help us consolidate our userbase with City of Heroes fans from other servers.” There’s already a bit of fear in the community that other private servers might start to disappear following this news, but only time will tell what will happen on that front….

(16) RECORDS BROKEN. Gizmodo tells why “Doctor Who’s New Streaming Home Has Been a Huge Success” – that is, for viewers who can accesss the BBC platform.

To celebrate Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary last year, the BBC made a huge, unprecedented move: for the first time, almost the entirety of Doctor Who, from episodes from 1963 all the way up to the then-airing anniversary specials, would be made available to stream in the UK in one place, on the BBC’s own streaming platform iPlayer. And it turns out doing so has helped the BBC break streaming records over the festive period.

The corporation has announced that Doctor Who—and most specifically Doctor Who episodes from 2005 onwards—were streamed 10.01 million times over the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, helping the platform break a previous record for streamed content for the week between January 2 and January 8, 2023, with 177 million programs being streamed in total….

It’s hard to say just how that success has panned out internationally, however. The BBC’s new deal with Disney to stream Doctor Who on Disney+ everywhere but the UK and Ireland only covers new episodes from the 60th anniversary onwards—other contemporary and classic Doctor Who access is spread out on various platforms elsewhere, such as Britbox for classic Doctor Who and Max for post-2005 Doctor Who.

(17) MY BLUE HEAVEN(S). [Item by Mike Kennedy.] So you know how astronomers are always using false color images to show this detail or that detail or what something would look like if it was only in the visible spectrum or some such? well, those can leave lasting misimpression.

New images showing color-corrected true-color likenesses of Uranus and Neptune show the latter ice giant—rather than being a dark blue—is only slightly darker than the former.  “True blue: Neptune only slightly deeper colour than Uranus, say Oxford scientists” in the Guardian.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/2/24 It Was A Dark And Scrolly Night, Suddenly A Pixel Rang Out

(1) THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD. Rachel Craft tells “How Writing Challenges Made Me a Better Writer” at the SFWA Blog. One of the ways is: they make her “Let go of perfection”.

…For me, one of the hardest parts of writing is deciding when a piece is finished and ready to submit. No matter how many rounds of revision I’ve been through, the perfectionist in me can always find something else to tweak. Sometimes I suspect it’s less about perfectionism and more about fear of rejection. As long as I never quite finish a story, it can never be rejected, right?

Writing challenges forced me to let go of perfectionism, fear of failure, and all the other things that usually keep me from saying “It’s done.” They also reframed this last step of the process. Submitting used to be a big, daunting task that loomed like a specter over the rest of my writing process—but in a writing challenge, submitting is actually a triumph. There’s nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment that comes from hitting “submit” as the clock ticks down after 24 hours of frenzied creativity. And even if your story doesn’t win or place in the challenge, you can go on to submit it elsewhere….

(2) MIDNIGHT ACQUISITIONS. Colin O’Sullivan tells his CrimeReads audience not to sleep through great raw material for their writing: “How to Corral Your Nightmares for Use in Your Next Novel” at CrimeReads.

Will robots dream of us in the same way that we dream about them? They say that AI can “hallucinate”, right? Hadn’t Philip K. Dick warned us about all this many years ago? Maybe we weren’t paying enough attention then. Maybe we aren’t paying enough attention now. What a strange world we are being thrust into… and are we ready?

Sunny, the titular robot character of my novel, was conceived in a dream. Several years ago, I tossed and turned in bed, unnerving visions unfurling in my head. In this nightmare I was being chased by a robot that I myself had programmed. The domestic robot had turned on me – and I had been under the illusion that it was merely a household appliance, there to help with the laundry, dust a shelf, or vacuum the floor. I was trying to access its “dark settings” in order to switch the damn thing off, but I wasn’t having much luck: I couldn’t find the manual that would provide me with the right set of instructions, and the machine was definitely out to get me. It was one of the nastiest nightmares I’ve ever had, so vivid, so real. I woke in the proverbial sweat, and was instantly relieved to realize we hadn’t yet reached that stage where the machines were taking over. Not yet, at least, not yet….

(3) IOWA BOOK BAN LAW REBUKED BY FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT. “Judge Blocks Key Provisions of Iowa Book Banning Law” reports Publishers Weekly.

In yet another legal victory for freedom to read advocates, a federal judge has blocked two key portions of SF 496, a recently passed Iowa state law that sought to ban books with sexual content from Iowa schools and to bar classroom discussion of gender identity and sexuality for students below the seventh grade.

In a 49-page opinion and order, judge Stephen Locher criticized the law as “incredibly broad” and acknowledged that it has already resulted in the removal of “of hundreds of books from school libraries, including, among others, nonfiction history books, classic works of fiction, Pulitzer Prize–winning contemporary novels, books that regularly appear on Advanced Placement exams, and even books designed to help students avoid being victimized by sexual assault.”

Specifically, Locher preliminarily enjoined two provisions challenged in two separate but parallel lawsuits. Regarding the law’s ban on books with any depictions of sex acts, Locher found that the law’s “sweeping restrictions” are “unlikely to satisfy the First Amendment under any standard of scrutiny.” In a rebuke, Locher said he was “unable to locate a single case upholding the constitutionality of a school library restriction even remotely similar to Senate File 496.”

Locher said that the law’s “underlying message” is that there is “no redeeming value to any such book even if it is a work of history, self-help guide, award-winning novel, or other piece of serious literature,” adding that with the law state lawmakers had sought to impose “a puritanical ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over school libraries.”

Furthermore, Locher suggested that the law was a solution in search of a problem. “The State Defendants have presented no evidence that student access to books depicting sex acts was creating any significant problems in the school setting, much less to the degree that would give rise to a ‘substantial and reasonable governmental interest’ justifying across-the-board removal,” he wrote….

(4) FROM ZERO COURANT TO AU COURANT. In “Scalzi on Film: When Fun Becomes Homework” at Uncanny Magazine, John Scalzi puts on his film critic’s hat and runs down the ridiculously large number of film and streaming series a person must have previously seen in order to fully appreciate the latest in certain Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars properties. This is a lot like a job!

…We are nerds, and more than slightly obsessive—all the minutiae of created universes are our jam. But there’s a difference between salting in easter eggs to reward the faithful, and requiring hours of prep work—or at least the willingness to locate a wiki and dive in. And even the nerds have limits. I am a nerd by inclination and by profession—but I’m also a 54-year-old human who lives in the world and who requires at least some of my time and brain slots remain open for other things, like family and work and sleep and domain knowledge in other areas relevant to my life….

(5) FUTURES HISTORY. Professor Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Chair of Glasgow 2024, a Worldcon for Our Futures, posted a message on New Year’s Day: “Looking Ahead to 2024—Reflections from the Chair”.

…When I look up from writing this, I see original art on my wall by Iain Clarke, and an empty bottle of our gin, full of lights and on display in my bookcase. I see a mug that one of my team gave to me and a comic book that a Division Head sent this week to cheer me up. My phone is buzzing, because it always is, despite the fact that I said ‘This is the last week we have before the new year, you HAVE to all take breaks’. (Reader, my team absolutely has not let me do this, because there’s always one thing that needs addressing and, as a result, several of them have been forcibly told to take that break, because we really won’t get it from now on in.) I can see the official gavel of the convention, which is on my mantlepiece until next August. The gavel has been around the world multiple times, but for me, it will be next used to open Glasgow 2024, and five days later, it will be used to declare it closed. Another Chair told me once that closing their Worldcon with that gavel broke their heart a little bit. All of the Chairs cry in the Closing Ceremony. Because it’s five days to attend, but it’s years and years to build…. 

Any Chair that wants to cry should go right ahead. Do all Chairs? No.

(6) I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Or, so US House of Representatives members may claim after they leave this briefing: “Scoop: House members to receive classified UFO briefing” says Axios.

Members of the House Oversight Committee will receive a classified briefing on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), better known as UFOs, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Congressional interest in the issue has grown in recent years, with a small but vocal group of lawmakers in both parties pushing for greater transparency from the government on the issue.

Driving the news: The members-only briefing will be held in the Office of House Security, according to a notice obtained by Axios.

The briefing is being provided by the Office of Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, the notice said….

(7) HURT IN NYC. A stuntwoman whose resume includes major MCU films was critically hurt by a hit-and-run driver on New Year’s Day: “Carrie Bernans Injured: Stuntwoman & Actress Hurt In NYC Hit & Run”Deadline tells how it happened.

Actress and stuntwoman Carrie Bernans was critically injured during an alleged hit and run in New York City at 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Bernans, whose work includes 2023’s The Color Purple as well as Marvel’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame, was hurt along with eight others. Per her publicist, she was struck by a driver who crashed into an outdoor dining shed at Chirp, a Peruvian restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. That driver then backed up and rammed into another car before officers swarmed.

Bernans recently gave birth to a son, and luckily the newborn wasn’t with her but rather in a hotel with her family. Bernans was in stable condition and is undergoing surgery. Her mom posted details on the traumatic incident on Instagram and said Bernans is in rough shape….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. (Died 1992.) I’m looking at Isaac Asimov this Scroll, one of the Big Three of SF, proclaimed so at the time along with Arthur Clarke and Robert Heinlein. 

Isaac Asimov. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

Now let me note these selections are my personal picks, not a look at his entire career as that’s simply not possible given how prolific he was. One source says that he wrote five hundred books and I certainly wouldn’t say that’s impossible to believe!

Without a single doubt, I can state that the Foundation Trilogy which won a well deserved Hugo at NyCon 3 for All Time Best Series is my favorite work by him, and it is certainly the work by him that I’ve read the most down the years. Like everything by him, I’ve not watched any film adaptations that have been done. 

I am familiar with, and fond of, of his first two novels, Pebble in The Sky and The Stars, Like Dust.  It’s been decades since I’ve read either so I’ve no idea how they’ve fared with age. 

The Caves of Steel and the other Robot series novels I think are on the whole excellent. Now of course speaking of robots, I, Robot with Susan Calvin is simply awesome. Almost all of the Robot stories, all 32 of 37, can be found in the 1982 The Complete Robot collection. There also are six novels.

The Gods Themselves is an amazing and it stands up well when re-read. It would win a Hugo at Torcon II. 

Isaac Asimov. Photo by and © Andrew Porter.

That’s it for SF by him, but there’s one more tasty creation by him that being The Black Widowers stories which were based on a literary dining club Asimov belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders. 

The Widowers were based on real-life Spiders, some of them well known writers in their own right such as Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison and Lester del Rey.

There were sixty-six stories over the six volumes that were released. So far only one volume, Banquets of the Black Widowers, has been released as an ePub. And yes, I’ve got a copy on my iPad as they are well worth re-reading. 

Someone needs to get them collected in one ePub collection. Pretty please. 

So that’s what I like by him. What do you like? 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side asks, if a tree falls on an exoplanet, does it make a sound?
  • Peanuts (published March 22, 1955) has one more Martian joke.
  • Moderately Confused lives up to its name – does the sign refer to the store or the books?
  • Oh my gosh – Tom Gauld revealed a secret message!

(10) YOUR LACK OF FAITH ETC. ETC. It’s not a very good omen that Entertainment Weekly’s “The 40 best alien movies of all time” can’t make up its mind about the very first film on the list.

1 of 40 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978)

If you favor the later renditions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, we don’t blame you. And it may be cheating to double up on our list’s first entry, but the 1978 version (featuring Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, and Veronica Cartwright) is one of the rare examples of a remake living up to the legacy of its predecessor, which is all the more impressive when you consider the magnitude of industry legend Robert Wise‘s original. As an EW staffer previously wrote, the 1956 film is meant to be “a timely Cold War parable of takeover from within.” It ultimately “hit upon even deeper mass-marketing-age fears,” which helped it stand the test of time. Meanwhile, the follow-up flick harnesses that same dread and translates it to a new age without losing any punch.

At the center of these effective alien features is our fear of the Other. Most people don’t worry about little green men taking over their cities and suburbs, but most of us have watched some of our friends and family become bizarre shadows of their former selves practically overnight — which is exactly what transpires in Body Snatchers as the citizens of Earth are infiltrated by alien doppelgängers. In an age where paranoia and misinformation reign supreme, this tale of science failing to explain the chaos around us seems more timely (and more frightening) than ever before.

(11) SCREAMBOAT WILLIE. “Mickey Mouse horror film unveiled as copyright ends” and BBC is quick to point it out.

…A trailer for a slasher film, featuring a masked killer dressed as Mickey Mouse, was released on 1 January, the day that Disney’s copyright on the earliest versions of the cartoon character expired in the US.

“We wanted the polar opposite of what exists,” the movie’s producer said….

…Creatives have been quick to take advantage of the new rules, with a trailer (contains violent scenes) for a Mickey horror film dropping on the same day.

In the horror comedy thriller, called Mickey’s Mouse Trap, a young woman is thrown a surprise birthday party in an amusement arcade – but things quickly take a turn for the worse when she and her friends encounter a knife-wielding murderer in a Mickey costume….

(12) WIPER NO SWIPING! Meanwhile Disney’s lawyers are staying in shape by working over the owner of a Chilean car wash. Forbes analyzes the case in “Lucasfilm Sues ‘Star Wash’—A Car Wash In Chile—Claiming Plagiarism”.

Lucasfilm, the billion-dollar Disney-owned film and production company behind the “Star Wars” franchise, is suing a Chilean car wash known as “Star Wash,” arguing the small business is plagiarizing the wildly popular franchise with its branding, according to Reuters.

The law firm representing Matias Jara, the owner of “Star Wash,” told Reuters that Jara was in the process of registering his brand with Chile’s patent authority when he received a lawsuit from Lucasfilm seeking to block the registration of his business’s name.

Lucasfilm is claiming the business brand could confuse consumers into believing it’s affiliated with the studio, though it hasn’t taken issue with car attendants who can be seen on the “Star Wash” Instagram account dressed as characters like Darth Vader, Chewbacca and Boba Fett….

Once I looked at this Instagram ad for the business, though, I thought Disney had a point.

(13) MUSICAL ITEMS. [By Daniel Dern.] By the way, a third theremin video (not here) said that playing the trombone was the best preparation/way for learning to play the theremin.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/23 Doctor Who And The Scrolls Of Pixeldon

(1) GLASGOW 2024 INITIATES CONSULTATIVE VOTE. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon committee announced they will hold a “Consultative Vote on Hugo Rule Changes” – specifically, about the two new Hugo categories given first passage at the Chengdu Worldcon Business Meeting. Only WSFS members of the 2024 Worldcon will be eligible to vote. None of the other 12 rule changes passed at Chengdu will be part of the poll.

(Note that despite the phrasing below it was not a “resolution” but multiple amendments to the WSFS Constitution that were passed in Chengdu. A mere resolution would have no binding effect.)

…A resolution passed at the 2023 WSFS Business Meeting in Chengdu would create two new Hugo Award categories: the Best Independent Short Film Award and the Best Independent Feature Film Award. This resolution would need to be ratified by the 2024 WSFS Business Meeting in Glasgow to come into effect from 2025 onward.

At present, we plan to invite all WSFS members of Glasgow 2024 to express their views on the proposed change, in a straight yes-or-no online vote, in the weeks before the convention takes place in August 2024. The proposers will be invited to write a short statement in support of their proposal, and we will offer a similar facility to opponents….

The vote will be conducted immediately before Glasgow 2024—no earlier than the close of Hugo voting, no later than the start of the convention….

Doesn’t this usurp the Business Meeting’s role in changing the constitution?

No. The consultative vote will have no constitutional force. The decisions made by the Business Meeting will be final. Within certain limits, the 2024 Business Meeting can also amend the current proposal before it is ratified, subsequent to the consultative vote.

Why are you doing this?

Among the many potential reforms to WSFS Business Meeting procedures, putting proposals and other matters to a vote of WSFS members is an innovation that has often been mentioned. But it has never been tried. In 2016, the idea of an approval vote for Hugo finalists, as a third round in the nomination process, was passed at the Business Meeting but not ratified in 2017. We therefore propose to test the operation of a consultative vote, to explore if and how such a procedure could become part of the permanent rules….

Why are you not also calling a consultative vote on any other constitutional amendments that are up for ratification in 2024, or on any changes to the standing rules?

Several other constitutional amendments were indeed passed in Chengdu, most notably a proposal to set up an Asian regional convention under the remit of WSFS. Those amendments will also be subject to ratification by the Glasgow Business Meeting, but we do not think that they are suitable material for a consultative vote. Likewise, we don’t believe that amendments to the standing rules, either recent or envisaged, are suitable for this exercise. The Hugo proposal is more straightforward and perhaps of more general interest….

(2) PEAK TV. Variety has ranked “The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time”. The overall number one show is I Love Lucy.

Here are the sff programs on the list. The original Star Trek isn’t on it, only Star Trek: The Next Generation. No, I’m not including St Elsewhere, regardless of its sff ending. Should I have included The Simpsons (4) or BoJack Horseman (55) or South Park (59)?

14. The Twilight Zone

21. Game of Thrones

27. Twin Peaks

32. Lost

38. The X-Files

40. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

44. Star Trek: The Next Generation

49. Watchmen

58. The Good Place

79. The Muppet Show

83. Stranger Things

95. Black Mirror

(3) DID THEY MISS THE POINT? Charles Stross says “Tech Billionaires Need to Stop Trying to Make the Science Fiction They Grew Up on Real” in an article at Scientific American. (Possibly paywalled, or not. I had a 50-50 success getting to read it.)

Science fiction (SF) influences everything in this day and age, from the design of everyday artifacts to how we—including the current crop of 50-something Silicon Valley billionaires—work. And that’s a bad thing: it leaves us facing a future we were all warned about, courtesy of dystopian novels mistaken for instruction manuals.

Billionaires who grew up reading science-fiction classics published 30 to 50 years ago are affecting our life today in almost too many ways to list: Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. Jeff Bezos prefers 1970s plans for giant orbital habitats.  Peter Thiel is funding research into artificial intelligence, life extension and “seasteading.” Mark Zuckerberg has blown $10 billion trying to create the Metaverse from Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash. And Marc Andreessen of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has published a “techno-optimist manifesto” promoting a bizarre accelerationist philosophy that calls for an unregulated, solely capitalist future of pure technological chaos….

(4) BRING ME THE HEAD OF E.T. “Screen-Used E.T. Animatronic Head Nets Big Money at Auction” – and SYFY Wire knows how much.

…An animatronic E.T. head used during the production of Steven Spielberg‘s coming-of-age sci-fi classic (the film is available to rent and/or own from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) recently sold for a whopping $635,000 in a bidding war hosted by California-based auction house, Julien’s Auctions. The lot — which was initially estimated to bring in between $800,000 to $1 million — also included a DVD of the movie, just to sweeten the deal a little. Because if you’re going to drop a load of cash on an immortal piece of cinema history, you might as well get a slightly outmoded form of home entertainment for your troubles….

(5) KERFUFFLE COVERAGE. The year could not end without another writerly uproar. Anne Marble has a full roundup in “Can You Copyright the Sun?. The Latest Author Attack of 2023” at Medium. Account required to read the complete story.

So what happened? An author named Lauren M. Davis accused another author of copyright infringement.

Wow. Oh, no! That sounds serious.

But wait. The targeted author — Marvellous Michael Anson — is innocent.

All Marvellous Michael Anson did was promote her upcoming book — an adult fantasy romance called Firstborn of the Sun. Like many acclaimed fantasies in recent years, this one is influenced by West African culture and magic. In this story, everyone is able to draw power from the sun. Except the heroine, Lọ́rẹ. She instead yields a shadow magic…

Note that Anne Marble is a bit concerned that people may be giving the accuser too much attention, because the complaint is so dubious some suspect she may be doing this to get sales. Or simply trolling everyone.

(6) FIGURES REVEALED. “The December Comfort Watches, Day Nineteen: Hidden Figures” – a John Scalzi review at Whatever.

…History, as taught in school, is about choices made. When I was a kid, this story was not one of the choices made.

This can be, I will note, one of the great advantages of film. Hollywood is always looking for stories, and while it is not afraid of recycling the same ones over and over and over, it still from time to time unearths one that is new, or at least new to a general audience. Some of those stories come from history, recent or otherwise. And while one must always take the history that Hollywood provides with a massive grain of salt (including this one; the general arc of Hidden Figures’ story is true, but specific incidences are pumped up and rearranged for dramatic purposes, and certain characters outside of the three main roles are made up out of whole cloth), it nevertheless has the effect of saying: This is a thing that happened, you didn’t know, and we, in our fashion, are telling you about it….

(7) DARK MATTER MAGAZINE TO BE RETIRED. “Issue 018 Will Be The Final Issue Of Dark Matter.” An announcement from Rob Carroll, Founder & Publisher.

When I started Dark Matter three years ago, I wondered if anyone would even care. There are so many excellent short fiction publications out there. Why should people pay attention to this one?

I don’t have an answer to how or why readers and writers and artists jumped on board, but I’m forever grateful they did. Thanks to them, Dark Matter will end its third year of publication in December of 2023, having published 21 issues (18 regular issues plus 3 Halloween special issues), more than 180 stories, more than 40 art features, and a number of interviews with industry greats. These past three years have been a dream come true for me. The joy of creating and editing my own science fiction magazine was an honor and a privilege, and one that I’ll never forget. Helping in a small way to create something that people truly enjoy is the best feeling in the world.

So why close now? Well, there are two simple reasons. One is bandwidth. Starting in 2024, Dark Matter will focus exclusively on our growing trade imprints and audio division. The Dark Matter staff is the most talented and dedicated group of people I’ve ever worked with, but we’re still small in number. In order to continue producing the quality readers have come to expect, I needed to streamline our business model and refresh our focus. The last thing I want is to overextend staff or fail to meet promises made to the readers and contributors that trust us with their time, money, and hard work.

The second reason: it’s time to give others a chance….

The publisher is transitioning to producing Dark Matter Presents line of anthologies, published by Dark Matter INK. 

(8) GREAT LIVES FEATURES BALLARD. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives this week looked at the SF author J. G. Ballard. Among the programme’s contributors was his daughter, so the show had some real insights. For example, J. G. Ballard never objected to being called a science fiction writer, but equally did not like being pigeon-holed. Also covered were his predictions including climate change (Drowned World, 1962) and socially divisive housing (High Rise, 1975) and things like YouTube/streaming (accessible video on demand) which he predicted back in the 1970s. The 25 minute programme also covered his life beyond his writing. 

Philosopher John Gray chooses as his great life the iconic British writer of dystopian and speculative fiction, J.G. Ballard, in conversation with the author’s daughter Bea Ballard. 

You can download it here.

(9) BOB JOHNSON (1944-2023). [Item by Steven French.] I remember buying that Steeleye Span album Below the Salt! “Bob Johnson obituary” in the Guardian.

…Exhausted by the touring, Johnson left the band to work with Knight on a 1977 concept album, The King of Elfland’s Daughter, based on the 1924 fantasy novel by Lord Dunsany. Johnson and Knight were joined by a star cast that included Christopher Lee and the blues hero Alexis Korner, but it was not a commercial success. “It was a lovely project and completely Bob’s idea,” said Knight, “but the record company had no intention of promoting it.”

Johnson re-joined Steeleye for the 1980 album Sails of Silver, but by now folk-rock was out of fashion, swept away by punk and disco. The band’s schedule was far less hectic, allowing him to study for a degree in clinical psychology at Warwick University, followed by an MA at the University of Hertfordshire and occasional work as an occupational therapist in Harley Street. Ill health forced him to leave Steeleye once again in 2002, but he returned to contribute two songs and guest vocals for the band’s 2013 concept double-album, Wintersmith, which was based on stories by the author Terry Pratchett, a Steeleye fan….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 63. Our Birthday guest tonight is the Jamaican-Canadian writer who I first encountered when I read her Brown Girl in the Ring with its magic realism Afro-Caribbean folklore rooted culture. She won the 1999 Astounding Award for Best New Writer, was a GoH at the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki, and named a SFWA Grand Master in 2021.

Now I’m going to gush like a true fan here as everything she has done since her impressive debut is most stellar. 

Midnight Robber, that draws off the Trinidadian culture and puts it in a SF setting, was nominated for a Hugo Award at The Millennium Philcon and shortlisted for the Nebula Award and the Canadian Sunburst Award. It is an extraordinary coming of age story.

2017 Worldcon GoH session: Nalo Hopkinson. Photo by Daniel Dern.

So what’s next? Her short fiction must not be overlooked and Skin Folk which garnered a much deserved World Fantasy Award for Best Story Collection is well worth your reading time.“The Gloss Bottle Trick” herein got nominated for an Otherwise Award, and “Something to Hitch Meat To” got a World Fantasy Award nomination. 

And that is one eerie cover, well as done by Mark Harrison. 

Back to novels…

The Salt Roads is not light reading. Depending on your trigger points, it definitely could be depressing. Or worse. I can’t say as you’ll need to read it to find out. The best review of it by far was by Gwyneth Jones in the 91st issue of Foundation.

Everyone but Hugo nominators loved her tale of an orphaned child with a mysterious past and the fantastic troubles it causes in the life of a Caribbean woman as told as in the New Moon’s Arms. I’m not kidding. It won both Sunburst and the Prix, and had nominations for a Campbell Memorial, Mythopoetic Award and a Nebula.

She says the sources for her novels often comes from songs or poems with Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” is that for her Norton Award winning Sister Mine which is the complicated tale of two sisters. Fascinating read.

I’ll finish off with her writing for The Sandman Universe: House of Whispers which I think is some of the best work done for that series. It is available, as is all of her work, from the usual suspects. 

Nalo Hopkinson at 2023 Boskone. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

(11) TIME TO OPEN YOUR GIFTS. The Robert Bloch Official Website tells everyone they’re just in time to receive two “presents” for the holidays.

(12) FICTION STORIES FROM THE JOURNAL NATURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature “Futures” now seems to be open access again. They seem to vacillate between being open access and being behind a pay wall (only a couple of weeks ago when I last checked they were behind a paywall as I had to log in to see them (I am a Nature subscriber)).

SF² Concatenation has an arrangement with Nature to re-post what it considers to be the four best of these stories a year subject to author approval. These ‘best of’ ‘Futures’ are all open access. http://www.concatenation.org/futuresindex.html.

(13) HARD-R TREK. One of the director’s collaborators claims to know “Why Quentin Tarantino Stark Trek Movie Was Never Made” and Variety has the story.

Quentin Tarantino fans were sent into a frenzy in late 2017 after it was announced that Paramount and “Star Trek” producer J.J. Abrams had accepted Tarantino’s pitch for a new “Star Trek” movie and were working with “The Revenant” screenwriter Mark L. Smith to iron out the script. The project ultimately never got made, but Smith recently told Collider while promoting his latest project, the George Clooney-directed drama “The Boys in the Boat,” that it would’ve been “the greatest ‘Star Trek’ film.”

“Quentin and I went back and forth, he was gonna do some stuff on it, and then he started worrying about the number, his kind of unofficial number of films,” Smith said. “I remember we were talking, and he goes, ‘If I can just wrap my head around the idea that ‘Star Trek’ could be my last movie, the last thing I ever do. Is this how I want to end it?’ And I think that was the bump he could never get across, so the script is still sitting there on his desk.”

…Tarantino has long said he will retire from feature filmmaking after making his 10th movie. He has nine movies under his belt (he views the two “Kill Bill” movies as one movie), which means there’s only one Tarantino-directed film left. That will be “The Movie Critic,” not a “Star Trek” movie.

“I know he said a lot of nice things about it. I would love for it to happen,” Smith said. “It’s just one of those things that I can’t ever see happening. But it would be the greatest ‘Star Trek’ film, not for my writing, but just for what Tarantino was gonna do with it. It was just a balls-out kind of thing.”

“But I think his vision was just to go hard. It was a hard R. It was going to be some ‘Pulp Fiction’ violence,” Smith continued. “Not a lot of the language, we saved a couple things for just special characters to kind of drop that into the ‘Star Trek’ world, but it was just really the edginess and the kind of that Tarantino flair, man, that he was bringing to it. It would have been cool.”…

(14) MORE CAT VIDEOS, PLEASE. “Orange tabby cat named Taters steals the show in first video sent by laser from deep space” reports AP News.

An orange tabby cat named Taters stars in the first video transmitted by laser from deep space, stealing the show as he chases a red laser light.

The 15-second video was beamed to Earth from NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, 19 million miles (30 million kilometers) away. It took less than two minutes for the ultra high-definition video to reach Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, sent at the test system’s maximum rate of 267 megabits per second.

The video was loaded into Psyche’s laser communication experiment before the spacecraft blasted off to a rare metal asteroid in October. The mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, decided to feature an employee’s 3-year-old playful kitty.

The video was streamed to Earth on Dec. 11 and released by NASA this week. Despite the vast distance, the test relayed the video faster than most broadband internet connections here on Earth, said the project’s Ryan Rogalin.

NASA wants to improve communications from deep space, especially as astronauts gear up to return to the moon with an eye toward Mars. The laser demo is meant to transmit data at rates up to 100 times greater than the radio systems currently used by spacecraft far from Earth….

(15) SCANSION. “Black holes, love and poetry — an artistic exploration of intimacy and adventure” at Nature.

The Warped Side of Our Universe: An Odyssey through Black Holes, Wormholes, Time Travel, and Gravitational Waves Kip Thorne & Lia Halloran Liveright (2023)

Physicist Kip Thorne and visual artist Lia Halloran began to collaborate on a magazine article about the strange, warped space-time in and around a black hole more than a decade ago. It was never published — but it inspired a much more ambitious project.

The pair have just released an illustrated book portraying space-time storms generated by colliding black holes and neutron stars, as well as wormholes and the possibility of time machines — with explanations and illustrations all guided by cutting-edge computer simulations. It’s an intimate account, too. Halloran’s paintings depict her wife, Felicia, with her body stretching, spinning and contorting as she nears the gravitational maw of a black hole. Thorne expresses his words in verse….

(16) HOLIDAY TUNE. Return now to those thrilling days of 1979: “John Denver & The Muppets – The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together is a 1979 Christmas television special starring Jim Henson’s Muppets and singer-songwriter John Denver. The special first aired December 5, 1979, on ABC.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Daniel Dern doesn’t want you miss the Pink Panther & James Bond EPIC Theme Song Mashup” (first posted in 2022.)

This time I took the famous Pink Panther theme song by Henri Mancini and the also famous James Bond Theme by Monty Norman. In my opinion the two themes fit perfectly together but judge yourself. For this Epic song mashup I used my Korg Kronos 61 and Korg Kronos 88. All the sounds you hear are specially designed for this classic theme song mashup.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, Steven French, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Michaele Jordan Review: Five of the 2023 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel

By Michaele Jordan.

  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)

In The Daughter of Doctor Moreau, Ms. Moreno-Garcia re-examines a story that has been intriguing us for well over a century. The original novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G Wells, was published in 1896. It was followed by three movies. The first, made in 1932, was titled The Island of Lost Souls, and starred Charles Laughton and Richard Arlen. In 1977 it was remade under the original title, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and starred Burt Lancaster and Michael York. It was remade again in 1996, with Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.

The story deteriorated over the years. H.G. Wells was an ardent social activist, particularly appalled by the then common practice of vivisection. His book was intended to highlight its horrors. It was a serious novel, and was not well received at first, specifically because it was so horrifying. The 1932 movie was excellent. I saw it years ago, and the memory still gives me shivers. It’s a little hard to find these days. It’s on YouTube, but mixed in with numerous adulterated versions. You have to hunt for it. Then the 1977 movie was very bad, and the 1996 version went beyond bad to utterly dreadful. Fortunately, Ms. Moreno-Garcia’s novel restores the tale to its former stature.

The basic story remains the same. A stranger comes to the island. Usually he’s marooned, although in the new book [INB], he’s a new hire. (Because, yes, Dr. Moreau needs staff.) He finds a deserted jungle island (or INB, a nearly deserted jungle island) with only two visible residents: Dr. Moreau, and a beautiful young woman identified as his daughter. They are surrounded by a group of misshapen, inarticulate persons, either his servants or his patients. We soon learn that Moreau is engaged in what modern SF calls ‘uplift’, transforming animals into humans.

His technique varies – depending on which version you’re looking at – from vivisection to DNA injections. But he’s having trouble making his process work. The resulting creatures do not look fully human, and have trouble with human speech (many cannot talk at all.) Even apparent successes tend to revert to their original forms and behaviors. The introduction of a stranger into this mélange greatly disturbs the social balance, and the whole project erupts into violent conflagration from which the stranger and the beautiful woman narrowly escape. Just in case one of you has somehow evaded this story until now, I will not reveal the surprise ending.

So what does Ms. Moreno-Garcia have to add to this outline? As her title suggests, she makes the beautiful woman, Carlotta, the viewpoint character. Carlotta is entirely concerned with the people around her. Of course she knows where her friends came from. But they are her friends, her day-in-day-out companions, her family.

She never gives a second thought to the morality of a practice she’s grown up with. She assists her father in his work, as his nurse, administering medications and tending injuries. She accepts her father’s creations as her fellows, and takes pleasure in providing them with the special care they need.

Ms. Moreno-Garcia has also expanded the environment.  Dr. Moreau is not working on an uninhabited island, just a thinly populated one. A good ways down the road,  there’s a city where supplies can be purchased and travel arrangements made. There are neighbors within a day’s travel. He has a very large tract of uninhabited land, but he doesn’t own it – he rents it.  His landlord is extremely interested in his work, and is providing the financing

This leads to a major shift in focus. In previous versions, the thematic emphasis was on the cruelty of the procedure. Even the later variants, where vivisection is replaced with DNA injections, the process is depicted as hideously painful, producing creatures who could not possibly have lived independently. But in this more modern work, the procedure is accomplished by subjecting the embryo to genetic changes.

Doctor Moreau may not be inflicting his creations with physical torture, but he is instead subjecting them to a subtler, crueler torture. He is breeding slaves. His landlord expects to acquire workers in exchange for the financing.

I don’t doubt you can plainly see that these changes must make a major difference in how matters play out, and I strongly encourage you to read the book and find out where the story now goes. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is a fine book.

  • The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (Tor Books) (Beware spoilers)

Do you remember when John Scalzi’s first novel, Old Man’s War came out? (Okay, it wasn’t actually the very first – it was his first traditionally published book.) It was back in 2005, and at the time there was a lot of joking about how he was channeling Robert Heinlein. But it was happy joking. Robert Heinlein, who had been with us since we were children, had been gone for seventeen years, and we missed him sorely. We were happy to have his voice back.

That was pushing twenty years ago, and Mr. Scalzi has published a lot of novels since then. And you know what? He’s still channeling Heinlein.

I thought that The Kaiju Preservation Society read just like a Heinlein juvenile. The parameters for a juvenile are not the same as those for an adult work. Characterization tends to be simplistic. So-and-So’s a prankster. Who’s-it is obsessed with dinosaurs. Goody-two-shoes has to be talked into everything, but always bring snacks. Kids are still learning their social skills, so you give them plain markers. Action – even in an ‘action’ book – tends to be a little minimal. (You don’t want to scare the kids.) And there’s lots and lots of explanations.

The Kaiju Preservation Society runs 258 pages, in 28 chapters. The first four chapters are the basic set up. We meet Jamie (the protagonist) and Rob (the bad guy). We see the circumstances that pull Jamie into the story. And at the end of chapter four (page 35) we get the exciting reveal of where he’s going and why – earth in an alternate dimension! With real kaiju! Of course, we already know those things from the liner notes, but we assume that’s just the beginning.

So in chapters five, six, and seven the staff is introduced. They explain the basics of the place – how they got there, and what they’re doing, and how it’s possible for the kaiju to exist. (That’s an issue for all the newbies.)There’s lots of odd but interesting information about the creatures. They seem to be organic nuclear reactors.

There’s a transportation system which is, naturally, unique to the environment, and constructed entirely on site with local materials). En route to the local base, there’s a close visual sighting. Yes, these critters are enormous and yes, they are insanely dangerous. The beastie snarls, and its teeth are the size  of cars. It throws a tree at them. But the staff aren’t really in danger. Their pilot is a genius (like everyone else on the staff), and quickly flies them away. The biting insects prove to be the bigger nuisance. The reader learns who’s the boss and who knows how to play a ukulele.

In chapter eight, our protagonists are provided with special kaiju-jungle clothing and operations manuals. Chapter nine opens with the discovery that the coffee is terrible. “Wait a minute!” I hear you cry. “Are you going to go over this book chapter by chapter?”

What? You’re bored already? Have you murdered your inner child? I ask, because if you were ten years old, you would find all this convincing detail fascinating. I’m not being snarky, honest. Young readers – or rather young persons, whether they are reading, or not  – absorb huge amounts of random data. They are still determining for themselves the parameters of their interests and what details may prove relevant. When I was thirteen, I was thrilled to discover Paul McCartney’s shoe size. A kid I knew had been to Paris over the summer. He told everyone he saw how many steps there were in the Eiffel tower.

But none of us are kids anymore. So I’ll try to speed this up. Chapter nine continues with pheromones.  That’s important. It provides the staff with a means to direct kaiju behavior to a limited extent. The scientists are hoping to observe nesting and birthing procedures, so they attempt to provoke a mating interaction. In the meanwhile, we learn about their parasites. (Kaiju have lots and lots of parasites.) And when they’re dying they head to water.  And when they die, they explode. (The staff learned that the hard way. Their original base was located on a lake shore.) The nuclear explosions are taken in stride by the local fauna, but strangely, they seem to thin the barrier between the worlds.

There’s an interlude in which tourists (very important tourists) visit the base. Among them is the bad guy we last saw back on earth. (He’s rich. Very, very rich.) He’s still a pig. He is surprisingly interested in the kaiju, and tries (with becoming incompetence) to steal some souvenirs. We had not previously suspected he was interested in anything but money. Jamie takes him aside and tells him he’s no longer welcome, and if he ever tries to come back, a recording of the attempted theft will reach a lot of authorities.

The pheromones worked! Bella (a female kaiju) is pregnant! The base already uses aerial cameras to keep a bird’s eye view on the local kaiju. But now the scientists are not as thrilled to settle for aerial cameras anymore. A mission is launched to set up close range cameras, so they can observe Bella’s nesting behaviors, and her eggs.

You see nothing wrong with any of this. And you are right. If you were a scientist – in any of a number of fields – you would probably kill for the opportunity to go on a mission like this, and see such things first hand. You would be fascinated by every procedure, either for capturing data, or protecting the staff. You would revel in each tiny little discovery.

But the reader is mostly watching other people make notes. For all that their surroundings are thrilling, not much actually happens. It’s like watching a movie about some guys on a roller coaster, and all the silly jokes and gossip and lifelike workplace grumbling just don’t make it more interesting. (At least not to me. I don’t doubt that Mr. Scalzi found it interesting, because he was doing the inventing.) The description of other people studying interesting stuff in an interesting place continues for one hundred fifty pages.

On page 220 (the end of chapter 24) planning of the next move is complete, and action is initiated. Things are very exciting for three chapters (32 pages) and on page 252, the heroism is completed and the six-page wrap up commences.

  • Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (Tor Books)

There is not a lot to say about Legends & Lattes. It describes itself as “A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes,” which is fair enough.  It is a simple, gentle book about a seasoned warrior retiring from the fight to set up a coffee shop. It qualifies as high fantasy because none of the main characters are human.  

They’re all mythical creatures. The protagonist, Viv, is an orc. Her former colleagues are an elf, a gnome and a dwarf. Her new friends, who assist in her endeavor, are a succubus, a hob, and a ratkin. They are joined later by Pendry, who may be human. (He’s described in one review as a bard). One character (almost certainly a fan favorite) is not even humanoid, but a dire-cat. Dire or no, this cat is a classic house kitty – except she’s the size of a Saint Bernard (or maybe even a pony). But other than the cast list, there’s not a lot of magic in the story.

Viv acquires a magic artifact at the beginning of the book. We see her claim it after a battle, as her share of the spoils. It is her possession of this artifact that inspires her to sheathe her sword and set up shop in the city.

They say any story needs some conflict. The action in this story derives from one of Viv’s former comrades deciding that she was not entitled to scoop up that artifact and take off with it. I had a little trouble with that. As I said, we see Viv claim the artifact. She did not sneak – she claimed it in plain sight. None of her companions objected at the time. And none of them supported their team-mate’s later objection.

You are probably getting annoyed with me for going on about the “artifact” without telling you what it is. But to say more would be a spoiler, as much of the book debates that very question. The rest of the story is a hymn to the pleasure of a really great cup of coffee. I was surprised to see such a light-weight book on the list of Hugo nominees. It doesn’t really deserve any awards. But I didn’t hate it. Like a P.G. Wodehouse novel, it made me chuckle often.

  • Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (Tor Books)

I blush to admit that I had never read anything by T. Kingfisher before this Hugo season. Now I’ve read two. And as soon as I finish my Hugo reading, I am going to go hunt up her previous work, Ms. Kingfisher has accomplished that rare task: she writes stories that are deeply grounded in the fantasy traditions, and yet are completely original.

In Nettle & Bone we find royal palaces and the Goblin Market, villains armed with ancient swords and princesses in danger, magical godmothers and witches raising the undead. And yet none of these things are remotely like the tropes as you’ve seen them a thousand times. And yet they all conform to the basic concepts, and do (or don’t do) all the things that their position in fairy-lore calls for.

The protagonist is Marra – she’s the third daughter of the king and queen of Harbor Kingdom. It’s a small place, sandwiched in between two larger, stronger and richer kingdoms. It only exists because it has a really good harbor, and each of the neighboring kings would dearly love to march in and grab that harbor, but can’t, for fear that the other neighboring kingdom would quickly intervene. So – since the Harbor Kingdom has no sons – the Northern Kingdom decides to acquire it by marrying into it.

Right away we have a selection of glamorous royal courts, which somehow fail to sound romantic, because none of that glamor can penetrate the stench of ugly, grasping politics. Marra is sent off to a convent after the two elder sisters are married. When was the last time since Malory’s Morte D’Arthur that you saw a convent mentioned (or even presumed to exist) in a high fantasy?  In Nettle & Bone, convents, despite their religious associations, are maintained by the rich and powerful who use them to dispose politely of excess women.

Ms. Kingfisher does this again and again: introduces an element to her fantasy that is startlingly practical and realistic. Marra loves the convent, because she can close her bedroom door there, and she doesn’t have to spend an hour being dressed by servants every morning. She doesn’t have to watch her tongue or keep an eye out for a backstab every minute of the day. She gets very good at embroidery, and picks up some nursing skills

Very few fantasy novels note that quests are generally composed of trudging through bad weather carrying a heavy load. When Marra and her companions cross the Blistered Land, they have to sleep on the ground in the snow, and share one egg amongst the three of them for breakfast. Here, magical godmothers are not routinely happy in their work. Royalty are almost always vicious and paranoid. Ghosts carry pointless grudges, and are often difficult to identify. Demons occasionally possess chickens. No single victory, however great, sets the world to rights. It just pushes the world in a slightly different direction.

Marra’s interior monologue is wonderful – the reader feels like they are talking to an old friend. She is so normal, so relatable, she makes everything around her feel real. She worries about everything. She constantly second-guesses her past actions, and barely notices her successes. She wonders what her friends think of her, and worries they will desert her. The only thing she doesn’t agonize about is her quest.  She already knows it’s hopeless. She does it anyway.

And most of all, despite Nettle & Bone being about a magical quest to rescue a princess, it is completely original. (I wouldn’t have thought that was possible!) Even the ending is not what you expected. Read this book!

  • The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books) Beware spoilers.

The Spare Man is officially a cozy mystery, a book in which there is no explicit or grisly violence, permitting the reader to focus on solving the mystery, without having to gag on the blood and guts. (These mysteries are not usually very complex or difficult, so that the reader doesn’t get frustrated with the puzzle, and skip to the end to find out who did it.)

You could even say that The Spare Man is a ‘country house mystery’ since it takes place in a closed environment. Of course, the usual purpose of setting the mystery in a closed environment is to limit the number of suspects and associated locations. Ms. Kowal did not take advantage of that option, as The Spare Man  is set on an intra-solar luxury cruise ship, as large as an entire city, only far more difficult to navigate.

Despite that, The Spare Man is definitely a cozy mystery. Really. Ms. Kowal doesn’t miss a trope. She starts out with  Nick and Nora Charles (here, named Shal and Tesla), and their adorable little dog. Of course, Shal, a detective, is first on the scene after the murder. And of course, he is immediately charged with the crime. The surly and bigoted Chief of Security beats him brutally, presumably in hope of extracting a confession. Or maybe just for fun.

So Tesla has to run all over the ship, trying to solve the mystery, although she’s not a detective, and although she and Shal have agreed not to infuriate the authorities by interfering. Tesla is an insanely wealthy interplanetary celebrity, who is so plagued by fans that she has to travel under an assumed name. Her fans swarm her as if she were Beyoncé,  because – wait for it – she was a brilliant roboticist seven years before.

I had a problem with this. Even on this tiny little island earth, I do not see a lot of scientist/engineers becoming major celebrities. Carl Sagan is the only scientist that I can think of who was so famous that I would recognize his picture when I saw it. And fame in the US doesn’t have to penetrate all the way to the moons of Saturn.  (By the way, natives of Titan are called Titians, and they have their own music forms. For a while I thought they’d named their flute after a 16th century painter)

But Tesla has another claim on fame. She’s a tragic victim. She has steel bolts all up and down her spine, and still often needs the help of a cane to walk. She’s in pretty much constant pain, although she doesn’t let that interfere with her love life. Seven years earlier she was involved in an Accident. For over half the book the event is always referred to with an ominous capital A.

Eventually we are told that a PAMU (some kind of personal mobility unit for the handicapped) malfunctioned during testing. It was apparently in, or attached to, some kind of off-earth vehicle which had, in turn, been launched from an orbital laboratory. The attempt to disengage resulted in a ricochet, causing the vehicle to crash into the laboratory, killing six and crippling Tesla.

Aside from the steel bolts in her spine, Tesla was also assigned a service animal, with electronic implants which improve its ability to communicate with and assist its owner; hence the dog. I give Ms. Kowal full credit for having a really good idea: a cyborged service animal. Somebody should look into that.

Unfortunately, Ms. Kowal didn’t waste a lot of words on explaining the dog’s enhancements or abilities. To the reader’s eye, the dog was simply a hugely loyal companion. And terminally cute. EVERYBODY fell in love with that Westie on first sight. Strangers crossed the room to come pet Gimlet – and had to be warned off.  (It really is very inappropriate to stroke a service animal.) Business associates made appointments to stop by for a play date. It was actually stated in so many words that if you don’t care for dogs, you’re a bad person. Personally, I have cats.

I don’t hate dogs. I used to work in a kennel. I’ve stopped now and then to pet a neighbor’s dog, while saying hello to the neighbor. But playdates?

As you can see, I am not being the target audience for this novel. I don’t care for mysteries and I detest romances. So, I started yawning as the familiar mystery tropes floated by, and squirming at all the love scenes. I got very, very bored with people talking baby talk to the Westie. But if you do like mysteries and/or romances you should be fine.


Friends, I sat down here intending to write up all six of the novel nominees. But, when I picked up Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom), I discovered that it was the third volume of The Locked Tomb Series. I do not like to read series out of order. And even if was I okay with that, I saw the note in Wikipeda warning me not to attempt to read the books out of order. “You’ll never catch up,” the note read. “You’ll just get confused and give up reading it,” I was warned.  So I heaved a sigh, and went to the library. It turned out that Gideon the Ninth (Volume 1) is extremely popular. There are 27 holds on it. I didn’t even look for Harrow the Ninth (Volume 2). So these are just my notes on the five that I’ve actually read.  Perhaps I’ll get back to you with my thoughts about The Locked Tomb Series. Catchy title.