Pixel Scroll 2/10/24 No, That’s Not A Pixel, It’s A Cat Dreaming It’s A Pixel

(1) 2027 WORLDCON RACE HEATS UP. A Montréal in 2027 Worldcon bid was announced this weekend. The committee is led by Worldcon-running veteran Terry Fong, who lives there. Montréal previously hosted the 2009 Worldcon.

Terry Fong and Rebecca Downey were at Boskone today running a bid table – thanks to Lisa Hertel for this photo.

Terry Fong and Rebecca Downey at Boskone. Photo by Lisa Hertel.

According to Kevin Standlee their proposed site, the Palais des Congrès, is scheduled for a major renovation in 2028, so a bid for that year would not be practical.

The other announced bid for 2027 is WorldCon 2027 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Kaja Foglio has returned home from the hospital. Phil Foglio posted the good news.

(3) CHTORR GAME IN OUR FUTURE. David Gerrold has told Facebook readers that Dan Verssen Games has licensed the use of one of his Chtorr novels for a version of DVG’s Warfighter games series.

(4) VERSE WANTS TO BE FREE. Bobby Derie in “’A Dracula of the Hills’ (1923) by Amy Lowell” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein looks at the Lowell novel, what Lovecraft thought of Lowell, and how both were influenced by Bram Stoker’s novel.

… Time and experience somewhat mellowed Lovecraft’s attitudes towards free verse and Amy Lowell. While the 1922 publication of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” prompted Lovecraft to write his own satire in free verse, “Waste Paper.” For all that Lovecraft remained a lifelong devotee of traditional meters and rhyme schemes, continued interaction with poets that used free verse such as Hart Crane and Edith Miniter seems to have led him to a begrudging acceptance of the practice. When Amy Lowell died 12 May 1925, Lovecraft wrote:

“When I say that Miſs Lowell wrote poetry, I refer only to the essential contents—the isolated images which prove her to have seen the world transfigured with poetic glamour. I do not mean to say that the compleat results are to be judg’d as poems in any finish’d sense—but merely that there is poetical vision in the broken & rhythmical prose & disconnected pictorial presentations which she gave us. She is also, of course, the author of much genuine poetry in the most perfect metres—sonnets & the like—which most have forgotten because of the greater publicity attending her eccentric emanations.”

H. P. Lovecraft to Lillian D. Clark, 8 Aug 1925, Letters to Family and Family Friends 1.340

(5) BUT THE GROUND’S GETTING CLOSER. The Coyote may still be up in the air, however, his destiny seems certain: “’Coyote Vs. Acme’: With Pic’s Fate In Limbo At Warners, Phil Lord Observes, ‘How Funny It Would Be For This To End With A Congressional Hearing’” reports Deadline.

Warners Bros has screened their axed Coyote vs. Acme to around 12 buyers we hear with a rigid buy price of $70M+; which is how much the animated live-action hybrid movie cost.

Netflix and Paramount put forth bids, which we told you about, but they were lower than the $70M asking price (between $30M-$50M), therefore in Warner’s eyes, rivals didn’t want the feature for what it cost.

What Deadline has received clarity on is that Warner Bros took a $70M writedown on Q3 earnings, not the upcoming Q4. Nonetheless, the movie, which the Burbank, CA lot decided back in early November not to release — remains in purgatory. That said, we hear the door isn’t officially closed on Coyote vs. Acme‘s prospects yet — it’s just that the Coyote could wind up in the cave with Batgirl.

Phil Lord, whose Lego Movie made Warner Bros. over $471M in addition to spuring a feature franchise, took umbrage with the David Zaslav-run conglomerate on Twitter tonight exclaiming, “Is it anticompetitive if one of the biggest movie studios in the worlds shuns the marketplace in order to use a tax loophole to write off an entire movie so they can more easily merge with one of the bigger movie studios in the world? Cause it SEEMS anticompetitive.”

Lord is among those with Chris Miller, Michael Chaves, Daniel Scheinert and Deadline who’ve seen the movie.

Lord further added in reference to the climax of Coyote vs. Acme, “If you could see Coyote vs. Acme, you’d know how funny it would be for this to end with a congressional hearing.”…

(6) YOU AND YOU AND YOU AND THE MULTIVERSE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] We at SF2 Concatenation enjoy diving into the really important questions of life, the Universe and everything, especially those on that fertile boundary between science fact and science fiction, feeling that there are more useful answers there than just a two-digit figure… And so is Becky Smethurst, who has used Rick and Morty as a starting point to explore the concept of the multiverse.

Is there really a parallel universe with an identical you in it? And which multiverse theory does Rick and Morty subscribe to? Indeed, how broad is SF’s approach to the multiverse concept?

Here, Brit Cit astrophysicist Dr. Becky would like to know of any SF story or film that employs the ‘bubble universe’ theory of the multiverse. If you have an example, put it in the comments beneath her 15-minute YouTube video. There’s a challenge for Filers. (Sadly, the end of video the good doctor displays worries that some (just some) of her science colleagues will object vehemently for her use of SF to explore science… There are trolls everywhere, even in science alas.)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 10, 1953 John Shirley, 71. Did you know that John Shirley has written n historical novel, a western about Wyatt Earp — Wyatt in Wichita? I wonder how many of our sff writers beside him and Emma Bull (whose novel Territory was decidedly not historical) have written novels on this incident and the individuals there? 

John Shirley. Photo by Sunni Brock.

I really enjoyed his first novel City Come A-Walkin which I think is a brilliant rendering of a City come to life. 

I’ll admit I’m not much at all for grim dystopian SF but I did find his A Song Called Youth trilogy of EclipseEclipse Penumbra and Eclipse Corona fascinating if in a horrifying manner.

His best known script work is The Crow film, for which he was the initial writer, before David Schow reworked the script. I’m not sure he got actually any credit at all. He also wrote scripts for Poltergeist: The Legacy.

I see that to my surprise he wrote an episode of Deep Space Nine, “Visionary” and also wrote three episodes of the ‘12 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. 

He wrote novels in the AliensDoomHaloResident EvilPredators franchise, Borderlands video gaming DC metaverse and Grimm series.

His latest novel which I’ve not read so do tell me about it is SubOrbital 7.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has an update about Peter and Wendy.
  • Tom Gauld has been busy since we last checked in.

(9) THE FUNGUS AMONG US. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Could The Last Of Us fungi be a real risk? The all-party Science Innovation & Technology Committee of the House of Commons Select Committee has held a special one-off session on fungi.

The session explored some of the risks and drawbacks of fungi, which can cause disease in plants and animals including humans. We know that one fungus, cordyceps, can infect and completely “take over” the life functions of insects like ants. But could they really start the zombie apocalypse as depicted in the video game and TV series The Last Of Us? The Daily Mail reported on the meeting

 A fungus called cordyceps, or zombie-ant fungus, is able to control insects’ minds using psychoactive chemicals. It drains their bodies of nutrients before directing them to a high place and releasing spores to infect others. Emmy Award-winning The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic drama based on a hit video game, shows a world in which cordyceps has spread to humans and wiped out most of humanity. Alarmingly, Professor Fisher said rising global temperatures are causing fungi like cordyceps to evolve and adapt to warmer conditions – which could enable them to colonise human bodies. Dawn Butler MP asked: ‘Is a zombie apocalypse driven by fungal infections a possibility? Professor Fisher said: ‘Well, all the bits exist, don’t they? ‘Fungi can produce strongly psychoactive chemicals, which can influence our behaviour dramatically, and they can also spread and invade humans. 

However, don’t take the Daily Mail too seriously, it is not the best of British newspapers.

The meeting also noted that few fungi can flourish in the warmth of the human body, nonetheless with a changing climate there will be more fungi about.

(10) YEAR OF THE DRAGON ON LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Filers might be interested in this One-Day Special quiz: Year of the Dragon at LearnedLeague. It actually has surprisingly little SFF content for a dragon-themed quiz.

(11) JABBA Q&A. Can you guess why this is topical?

(12) PHANTOM RETURNING. And this might be a good place to announce “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 25th Anniversary Cinema Release Confirmed For May The 4th Weekend” at Empire Online.

The epic Darth Maul vs. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn duel. The thunderous Boonta Eve Podrace. The battle of Naboo. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is packed with moments best witnessed on the big screen, spooling back to the very beginning of the Skywalker Saga to depict Anakin Skywalker’s first encounter with the Jedi, the beginnings of the galactic civil war, and the menacing meddling of Palpatine. Well, good news: to mark 25 years since the film first hit cinemas in 1999, it’s coming back to cinemas later this year. Cue the fanfare!

This May the 4th weekend (so, from Friday 3 May), The Phantom Menace will be re-released in cinemas for a limited time, meaning you can revisit all your favourite moments as large and loud as George Lucas intended….

 (13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At first I thought he made this up.

But no! I’m stunned to learn this is a real product.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, David Goldfarb, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

British Library Exhibition: Fantasy: Realms of Imagination

Fantasy: Realms of Imagination
The British Library Exhibition

27th October 2023 – 25th February 2024
St Pancras, London, Great Britain

By Jonathan Cowie: This new exhibition at the British Library explores the evolution of Fantasy. From ancient folk tales and fairy stories, gothic horror and weird fiction, to live action role-playing games inspired by Fantasy worlds, the exhibition celebrates the genre and its enduring impact…

First off, a word about the British Library.  It is Britain’s national library and also one of the six British Isles copyright depository centres: Britain has had legal deposit of all published works at least as since 1610. This means that every book published in the British Isles (including the Republic of Ireland) that has an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) or magazine & newspaper that has an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number), among others, are deposited with the British Library (though much is stored in a depository in York).

As such, the British Library is the UK’s equivalent of the US’s Library of Congress and the two rival each other in size. Truth be told, no-one knows which is bigger, what is known is that the British Library holds the second largest collection of pornography in the world: the largest, of course, is held by the Vatican (you knew that didn’t you?).

The exhibition itself contained over a hundred items – including historical manuscripts, rare first editions, drafts of iconic novels, scripts and maps, film props and costumes – that offer rare insights into the roots and evolution of the genre.

The afore term, ‘rare’, is used judiciously as many of the exhibits are decades old: some centuries old. And so the exhibits are held in a windowless, basement floor. This gives visitors the feeling that they are going through some sort of dungeons and dragons set, but actually, there is purposeful functionality behind this. With some exhibits many decades old, some even centuries, some display items need to be protected from too much light and all the glass cases have temperature and humidity monitors.

Fantasy exhibit entrance

The displays themselves were arranged within fantastical sets, beginning with an illuminated forest scene (Mythago Wood anyone?) and decorative lighting along with a welcoming, illuminated, introductory text display.

Having said that, many of the exhibition sections were well lit with appropriate, colourful backdrops along the walls.

Sleeping Beauty Hall

Of course being the British Library – with the emphasis on ‘Library’ – there were plenty of books on display, including: BeowulfSir Gawain and the Green KnightC. S Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the WardrobeLewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Under GroundThe Magic City by E. NesbitThe Owl Service by Alan Garner and The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

Fragments of the late 10th/early 11th century Old English Beowulf re-bound.

One of the more rare exhibits was a book of text fragments dating from the late 10th to early 11th century of Beowulf. This classic Old English epic poem is set against a time of war. The story itself centres around the hero Beowulf who battles the monster Grendel, Grendel’s mother and a dragon. In his last fight, Beowulf, now an old man, over-reaches himself. In the fragment (see above), he kills the dragon but is himself mortally wounded.

Game of Thrones needle sword

The exhibition drew together a number of themes (more of which later) and connections. Here, with Beowulf, a line was drawn from that Saxon epic to The Game of Thrones TV series and book, with the Beowulf fragments being displayed in the same cabinet as a 2019 Folio Society edition of A Game of Thrones and a licensed replica of the sword Needle as used by Arya Stark who, across the series, transformed from a carefree tomboy to skilled assassin. I’m guessing George R. R. Martin would approve?

But it was not all books; there were costumes from TV, film and even ballet as evidenced by a display of Margot Fonteyn’s and Rudolf Nureyev’s The Sleeping Beauty costumes (Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund respectively) from their 1968 production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet. (This exhibit was kindly provided by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. See below.)

Sleeping Beauty ballet costumes, 1968.

Beyond themes and connections from exhibits displayed together as well as side-by-side, the exhibition was also divided into sections. Visitors begin entering a section called ‘Fairy and Folk Tales’ that takes us from The Snow Queen to The Arabian Nights and Peter Pan to discover how different cultures shape their own, iconic legends. Highlights included items from the Angela Carter archive and maps by Lewis for Narnia.

Map by C.S. Lewis for Narnia

From there it was straight into ‘Epics and Quests’, to meet heroes and villains from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Xena, Warrior Princess, and explore how ancient tales have helped to shape modern Fantasy epics. On display was a version of Gilgamesh, which some say is the oldest known epic story as it is thought to have originated from the Akkadian empire some 4,000 years ago!  Gilgamesh being a semi-divine, Sumerian king who abuses his gifts of strength and bravery to abuse his people. The gods therefore create the wild man, Enkidu, to challenge the king. After a long struggle, the two become friends. When Enkidu is killed, Gilgamesh tries to solve the riddle of everlasting life…

Green Knight exhibit

The cinematic dimension was further explored in a number of places, including in part of the exhibition’s ‘Portals and Worlds’ section. One of these was that of the world Thra portrayed in the film The Dark Crystal (1982) with Gelfing costumes designed by Brian Froud and concept artwork for the mystic urSkeks (sic) that were in turn brought to life by the puppeteer and the film’s co-director, Jim Henson.

The final section looked at fandom. It included short video interviews of fans in cosplay as to why they liked fantasy and what it means to them, as well as an example of a fantasy cosplay costume. This section recognised the creativity and innovation that fans have brought to the genre and included a look at fan fiction.

Your reporter with fan cosplay costume

With over a hundred items on display it is only possible to barely skim the surface of this remarkable exhibition. Dare I say it, it’s even better than the Out Of This World Science Fiction exhibition the British Library put on with the help of the wonderful Science Fiction Foundation over a decade ago in 2011.

Much credit goes to the British Library’s Tanya Kirk (the exhibition’s lead curator) and her colleague Rachel Foss. They wisely sought out, and received guidance from a small advisory panel that included: Aliette de BodardNeil GaimanRoz Kaveney and Terri Windling. It was made possible with the support of The exhibition was made possible with support from Wayland Games and The Unwin Charitable Trust (Unwin originally published Tolkien’s The Hobbit), with thanks to The American Trust for the British Library and The B.H. Breslauer Fund of the American Trust for the British Library.

The exhibition, which runs to 25th February 2024 at the British Library, is accompanied by a series of events including author panels. (Check out the British Library website for details.)

For the rest of the world, the really good news is that later the exhibition will be going on tour after it closes at the British Library, the first confirmed tour venue is the Bowers Museum, USA, from October 2024 to February 2025 with more to be announced.


This article is based on a longer one that will, in due course, appear in SF² Concatenation.

33rd Festival of Fantastic Films

By SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie: While many in the world’s science fiction community had eyes on from afar this year’s somewhat controversial Worldcon in Chengdu – as many were not there – a far smaller event was taking place in Manchester, Great Britain, with this year’s Festival of Fantastic Films.

It has to be said that in recent years the Fest has been through its trials and tribulations following the sad passing of its co-founder, Harry Nadler. For a number of years his succeeding principal organizer found it difficult to delegate, but at least the Fest continued. When he too passed in 2020, a new, broader committee formed composed of past Fest regulars and the first of this new incarnation of Fests took place in 2021 (the 2020 Fest itself was cancelled due to CoVID lockdown).

Fantastic Film logo 2022

Numbers attending the Fest had dwindled over the years to a few score but the 2022 Fest, under the latest management, saw numbers rise to around 100 – a good trend – and this year’s fest, word had it, saw a further increase to about 150 (a welcome trend continuation).

Yet, even before we knew of the increase in attendance, on arrival we could see that things were a little different. The programme book, compared to what it had been, pre-CoVID, five years ago, was a far superior production: it was a full color, A3 folded to A4, saddle stitched, 20-page affair with all the information you could want (including some welcome statistics to which I’ll refer shortly).

Despite the Fest’s small size there were a good few guests including: actor Andy Nyman (Kick Ass 2); Madeline Smith (actress in countless horrors and Bond’s Live and Let Die cf. the magnetic watch unzipping); Jenny Runacre (actress in many horror films and notably Miss Brunner in The Final Programme adapted from Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius novel of the same name and which was also screened at the Fest); Jane Wymark (actress in some horrors and Morwenna in the Poldark series as well as Joyce Barnaby in the Midsomer Murders series); David McGillivray (actor, producer, playwright); Toby Hadoke (actor, writer, comedian) and horror author Ramsey Campbell who is the longstanding president of the Fest (his 2022 novel is reviewed here).

Jonathan Cowie with Jenny Runnacre, right.

Of course, all SF film fests have their own respective foci – for example, Sci-Fi London’s forté is recent international, independent SF films – and the Fest of Fantastic Films is vintage horror, with much else of the fantastic film spectrum greatly diminished. Indeed, this last so much so – and in desperate need of a fix of quality, recent SF – Saturday morning saw a few of us abandon the Fest for the nearby Manchester’s IMAX (one of the largest in Europe) to see Gareth Edwards’ (whose break came with his short presented at Sci-Fi London film fest over a decade ago) latest film: the visually stunning, artificial intelligence, war film The Creator.

The Fest’s genre focus was reflected in the short film submissions to this year’s Delta Award competition: 40% horror; 38% fantasy; and 21% science fiction (ignoring figure rounding). (The Delta Award being named after the former Delta SF group that the Fest’s founders, the late Harry Nadler and the still extant, Knight of St. FantonyTony Edwards, belonged to and which made homemade SF shorts, including with SF luminaries such as the author Harry Harrison.)

Short film submissions for the Delta Awards this year came from: Britain; Canada; China; France; Ireland; Italy; Macedonia; Slovenia; Spain; Taiwan; and the USA. The winner of the Delta’s SF category was Sincopat (Spain). That offering looked at a new technology, on the verge of a mass roll-out, which transmitted sound/music directly into the brain. What could possibly go wrong…?

The Best Fantasy Delta winner was Opulence (France) and the Best Horror Family Night (Ireland). The judges’ Norman J. Warren Award (Norman being a cult director who had been a Fest regular) for Best Short in Festival went to the aforementioned Sincopat. The Audience’s Choice Award went jointly to The Script (Macedonia) and Voyagers From Eclipse Sea Coasts (Spain).

The Fest also saw a number of book launches including one about Nigel Kneale’s The Beasts series.

The Beast book launch.

The Fest ended Sunday night following the traditional quiz and curry. However, with the bar having closed, chat continued on in the hotel’s foyer lounge to 01.00 (at which point I retired, what with my stamina having the breaking strain of a chocolate Mars bar) and apparently beyond. The Fest has never embraced the SF convention tradition of the past few decades of having the bar open late on the last night (albeit with reduced staff) for a ‘dead dog party’. (Perhaps this is something the committee could consider for future years and it might encourage a few more to stay on for an extra night, which the hotel itself would like?).

The Fest was undoubtedly a success and has clearly turned a corner in its near one-third of a century history, even if there are a good few rough edges to knock off, including the registration process (reliant on EventBrite with the inherent data protection issues therein – a back-up alternate registration route for the digitally protective minority, as well as those who really do not want to have to create an EventBrite account, would be welcome) and for getting the hotel discount (a good few – a sizeable minority it would seem – didn’t: the linkage between the Fest’s web page and the correct hotel contacts I was told seemed to be the issue (the hotel’s booking page apparently takes you through to their London office who wanted to charge one couple in US$), though I myself, and at least a few others, used our respective, local, travel agents for the booking). But these are all fairly easy to sort out with a little thought and sensitivity to the digital diversity of attendees (one size does not fit all), especially now that the new committee has had a couple of years of experience bedded in. In short, the future looks bright if not – dare it be said – fantastic.

Pixel Scroll 8/24/23 And The First One Said To The Second One There, I Hope You’re Having File

(1) BRITISH LIBRARY “FANTASY” EXHIBITION. [Item by Steven French.] For those who might be in London between October 27 and February 25, the British Library is putting on an exhibition about “Fantasy: Realms of Imagination”.

Set out on a legendary quest through the impossible worlds of fantasy. 

Let our landmark exhibition cast its spell as we explore the beautiful, uncanny and sometimes monstrous makings of fantasy. From epic visions to intricately envisaged details, we celebrate some of the finest fantasy creators, reveal how their imagined lands, languages and creatures came into being, and delve into the traditions of a genre that has created some of the most passionate and enduring fandoms. 

Journey from fairy tales and folklore to the fantastical worlds of Studio Ghibli. Venture into lands occupied by goblins and go down the rabbit hole. Travel through Middle-earth and into the depths of Pan’s Labyrinth. And discover how the oldest forms of literature continue to inspire fantasy authors today.

Gather your fellow adventurers and step through the British Library gates into the realms of fantasy as they have never been chronicled before. Who knows where your journey will lead…

Associated with the exhibition are a series of events including a discussion of some of Terry Pratchett’s ‘lost stories’ “A Stroke of the Pen: Terry Pratchett’s Lost Stories” on October 10 (also live-streamed on the BL platform).

And “The Dark is Rising and other stories: Susan Cooper and Natalie Haynes in conversation” on October 27 (also to be live streamed).

(2) BOOK HAUL. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] For those that follow young Moid Moidelhoff and his introduction to the cosmos of SF books (with the occasional sojourn into film and TV) on his Media Death Cult YouTube channel, there is a small soap opera dimension. Moid has an SF library in the room in which he shoots most of his videos and there are more books in the attic. Moid’s approach is to find books in good condition, second hand in the wild (buying brand new books is kind of cheating though he does occasionally do this too). This means he often changes books in his collection as titles migrate through various stages from tatty paperback to good condition hardback. Some of his Patreon followers also send him books and so, every other month or so he posts a “Book Haul” video in which he opens for the first time packages sent to him.

The long game plan had been for he and his wife to move to a bigger place where he could have a large library in his YouTube shooting room. And at last it looks like they are about to move. But there’s bad news. Apparently, their new place does not have the space to house all his existing library as well as all his attic-stored books in his new study. And so young Moid has taken the decision to stop posting “Book Hauls” on YouTube (though will still occasionally post some solely for his Patreon supporters).

Actually, I am a little saddened about this. I found it interesting to see what he was being sent and whether or not I had read the titles, or even have them in my own library. The festive December Book Hauls were particularly enjoyable as they conveyed the present-opening activities of Christmas Day. (You can see the 2021 Christmas Book Haul here).

I would tentatively (as there’s no reason for Moid to take notice of little old me) suggest that perhaps he might convert his new place’s loft into a larger library or, alternatively he might get an Alastair Reynolds type garden building in which to house the books Al Reynolds writes in his own garden study…

(As I have pointed out elsewhere – science journals and SF magazine articles – having a large library is environmentally friendly. Books lining a wall provide a thermal barrier so improving a house’s energy efficiency. Books also store atmospheric carbon. Books lining a wall saves on decorating costs, etc.)

Anyway, it looks like there will be no more fu¢k Alan Moore (it’s a running Book Haul joke borne of love for the man’s works, and not what you might initially suspect). You can see Moid’s last SF Book Haul YouTube video below. It is a long one with an interlude in which he, and his on-location cameraman, Charlie, visit Hay on Wye. For those on the other side of the Black Atlantic, outside of Brit Cit, Hay on Wye is a Welsh village where just about every other shop is a bookshop. If you are coming to CalHab next year for the 2024 UK Worldcon and are spending a week or so sight-seeing BritCit, then spending a full day (a couple of nights) in Hay on Wye might reward you with that long-sought after book edition you’ve been hunting for for ages… If you like hunting books in the wild, Hay on Wye makes for a full-blown safari. (Probably best to invest in posting the books you get back to your home country as opposed to taking them back on the plane if, like me, you have the moral breaking strain of a chocolate Mars bar and easily give in to temptation. This means you need to go on a weekday when Hay on Wye’s post office will be open all day.)

I digress… Moid’s last YouTube Book Haul below (it really is this time, honest)…

(3) OXENMOOT A WEEK AWAY. The Tolkien Society expects 350 Tolkien fans from 25 different countries will meet in Oxford next weekend to celebrate the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. This year’s Oxonmoot is the Tolkien Society’s 50th Oxonmoot which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Tolkien’s death. 

The event, taking place at St Anne’s College, Oxford from Thursday 31st August to Sunday 3rd September, has sold out due to the increasing popularity of Tolkien’s works. The event follows the recent publication of The Fall of Númenor and the release of the Amazon TV-series The Rings of Power set in the Second Age of Middle-earth.

The event itself will include talks from leading Tolkien scholars – including Brian Sibley, editor of The Fall of Númenor, screenwriter of The Lord of the Rings radio series and biographer of Peter Jackson – quizzes, workshops, an art exhibition, a masquerade, a Hobbit bake-off, a party and even theatrical performances. The weekend concludes, as always, with Enyalie, a ceremony of remembrance at Tolkien’s grave in Wolvercote Cemetery on Sunday afternoon….

(4) TIL WE HAVE FACES. “Dragons Are People Too: Ursula Le Guin’s Acts of Recognition” are analyzed by John Plotz at Literary Hub.

Nobody would dare to boil down Ursula Le Guin’s marvelous writing—all that fantasy, all that science fiction, poetry, essays, translations—into one idea. But in a pinch I’d pick two sentences from her 2014 National Book Award speech: “Capitalism[’s] power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”

Fantasy and science fiction never meant escapism for Ursula Le Guin. The dragons of Earthsea and the reimagined genders of The Left Hand of Darkness were always lenses, lenses she ground in order to sharpen her readers’ focus on everyday life. Indeed, for Le Guin, there was no difference between the stories she invented and everyday stories about the institutions governing our world. The dragons of Earthsea and capitalism are woven from similar material: it is imagination all the way down.

James Baldwin said not everything that can be faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed without being faced. The word for facing things in Le Guin is recognition, or you might even say re-cognition. Her characters—and readers—find themselves forced to think again. When they do so, what had seemed a fundamental truth about their universe turns out to be anything but….

(5) PALACIO Q&A. Here’s an excerpt from “Interview: R.J. Palacio” in the New York Times.

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

“The Lord of the Rings.”

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I got very into the works of the original creators of the literary fairy tale genre a few years ago — the women, like Madame d’Aulnoy and Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force, who wrote stories to entertain themselves and their friends in the salons of Louis XIV. These were very subversive tales that empowered these women and vented their wishful fantasies — often published in the literary gazettes of their day. I have five original Mercure Galant books from the 1600s in which some of these stories first appeared.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

While I wouldn’t mind nerding out with Carl Sagan, J.R.R. Tolkien and Arthur C. Clarke, I’ll keep it to the living: Susanna Clarke, Margaret Atwood and Judy Blume. Can you guys arrange that?

(6) FUTURAMA. Gizmodo tells how “Odd couple Bender and Dr. Zoidberg join forces for holiday chaos in this peek at ‘I Know What You Did Next Xmas’”: “Hulu’s Futurama Exclusive Clip: Robot Santa’s Sci-Fi Christmas”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 24, 1899 Gaylord Du Bois. He was a writer of comic book stories and comic strips, as well as Big Little Books. He wrote Tarzan for Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics from the Forties to early Seventies.) He was one of the writers for Space Family Robinson which was the basis for the Lost in Space series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born August 24, 1915 Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air and they too are worth reading. (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Sheppard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige, the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek.  So have I missed anything for him, genre or otherwise worth noting here? (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 24, 1934 Kenny Baker. Certainly his portrayal of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise is what he’s best known for but he’s also been in Circus of HorrorsWombling Free, Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader series, The Elephant ManSleeping BeautyTime BanditsWillowFlash Gordon and Labyrinth. Personally I think his best role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 87. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 72. Probably best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, theCrusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor ChroniclesAliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy.
  • Born August 24, 1958 Lisa A. Barnett. Another one who died way too young. Wife of Melissa Scott. Some of her works were co-authored with her: The Armor of LightPoint of Hopes: A Novel of Astreiant and Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant. They wrote one short story, “The Carmen Miranda Gambit”. She won the Lambda Literary Award. (Died 2006.)
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 66. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role genre wise is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s the narrator for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings. His best roles however are decidedly not genre — it was the comic act Fry and Laurie with Hugh Laurie, with the two also in A Bit of Fry & Laurie and  then as Jeeves and Wooster. Bloody brilliant!

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd is Tech-Geeky enough to qualify for an item, not to mention the hidden moral message.

(9) MOON PROBE SUCCESS. “India lands a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole, a first for the world as it joins elite club”AP News has the story.

India became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole on Wednesday — a historic voyage to uncharted territory that scientists believe could hold vital reserves of frozen water, and a technological triumph for the world’s most populous nation.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India now joins the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve this milestone. A lander with a rover inside touched down on the lunar surface at 6:04 p.m. local time, sparking celebrations across India, including in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, where space scientists watching the landing erupted in cheers and applause….

(10) SMARTIE PANTS. “IARPA’s new pants will record your location” reports Nextgov/FCW.

Officials from the research agency said Tuesday that they had launched a program to craft performance-grade, computerized clothing that can record audio, video and geolocation data while retaining the wearability and comfort of normal fabrics.

The Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems — SMART ePANTS — program emerged a year ago with a broad agency announcement seeking contractors to help deliver sensor systems that can be integrated into normal clothing like shirts and pants, or even socks and underwear.

Those sensors are part of a system that is woven into the textiles to make the garments more wearable and washable, but also able to “sense, store, interpret, and/or react to information from their environment,” effectively making them Active Smart Textiles, according to agency documents….

Daniel Dern quips, “This gives new meaning to ‘flying by the seat of one’s pants’ (and perhaps ‘No matter where you, there you are’).”

(11) ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AGES HEARTS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Your biological age – how old you are – is actually just one age you have.  Various parts of your body – brain, eyes, etc – have their own age. If, for example, you are middle aged, you might still unknowingly have the heart of an older person and so be at greater-than-you-think risk of a heart attack.

Up to now, things like your over-all biological age, lifestyle, blood cholesterol and genetic predisposition (did anyone in your family die young of a heart attack) have been used to guess a person’s heart’s age.

What biomedical researchers based in London, Brit Cit, have now developed is an artificial intelligence (AI) that can tell how old is a person’s heart. They also were able to quantify heart ageing factors and some of the genes involved – five seem particularly important.

They used used computer vision techniques to analyse cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging in 39,559 participants of the UK Biobank to train their AI.

See the primary research Shah, M. et al (2023) “Environmental and genetic predictors of human cardiovascular ageing”. Nature Communications, vol. 14, 4941.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. [Item by Dann.] Stone Trek is a five-episode mashup of Star Trek and the Flintstones.

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

Essential Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War Review

[To be posted in the coming autumnal edition of SF² Concatenation in September.]

Essential Judge Dredd: The Apocalypse War
(1981 / 2022) John Wagner, Alan Grant & Carlos Ezquerra,
2000AD – Rebellion, £19.99 / Can$34 / US$25, trdpbk, 160pp,
ISBN 978-1-781-08890-6

Review by Jonathan Cowie: This is part of the relatively new Essential Judge Dredd series of graphic novels. It is a welcome reprint of a collection of one of the first Judge Dredd sagas that originally appeared in the weekly British comic 2000AD in 1982 with its prequel, “Block Mania” appearing in 1981: the stories ran consecutively. This collection features both “Block Mania” and “The Apocalypse War” and they really are a single tale.

That this is a “welcome” reprint is evidenced by this volume having had a second printing in 2022. This graphic novel is a key component to the overall Dredd plot arcs demonstrating that Dredd is not adverse to a bit of wholesale genocide if he feels it lawful.

It begins with “Block Mania” when citizens of Mega-City One’s blocks begin inter-block warfare. This was not healthy. Just as today, the US has citizen gun problems, in Mega City One the matter is compounded by each block having its own Citi Def squads – the city’s voluntary civil defense corps. The mania began with the Dan Tanna block battling Enid Blyton. But the neighboring blocks joined in taking sides. Soon there were six blocks at war with the addition of Rikki FultonHenry KissingerBetty Crocker and Pancho Villa blocks. With the Garner Ted Armstong block and others adding to the fray, soon the whole of Mega City One’s northern sectors were fighting. It was all out internecine war.

The Judges had their hands full. But then things got worse. Suddenly the Judges themselves began acting strangely and joined in! Dredd suspected that something was causing this, and he was right. Block Mania was a first strike designed to weaken Mega City One. The Diktatoriat of the Kremlin in East Meg One – the capitol city of the Sov Block was currently being led by Supreme Judge Josef Bulgarin. He and the rest of the Diktatoriat wanted to repay Mega-City One for all the so-called ‘indignities’ they had heaped on the Sov Block. They wanted Mega-City One’s “decadent citizens [to] be slaves to the might of the glorious East Meg”.

Dredd and the Judges were going to be hard pressed to defend Mega-City One and Dredd himself would ultimately have to take the war to East Meg One…

As said, this is one of the earliest Judge Dredd sagas. Much of the artwork was done by Carlos Ezquerra who co-created Dredd (specifically his visual portrayal) with John Wagner (who was more responsible for the character’s concept). The script was written by John Wagner together with Alan Grant. This was one of their early Dredd collaborations – there were eventually many, and though they had collaborated before on Dredd, I have a feeling that this was the first time that they did all of a Dredd saga together. On this occasion the writing team did so pseudonymously under the moniker T. B. Grover.

There were also artists involved with cover art. Lettering was done by the legendary Tom Frame.

Originally, when the stories were first printed in 2000AD back in 1981/2, each weekly episode was six pages long with just the first two, which covered the comic’s centrefold being in colour: the rest were black and white. (2000AD itself did not go full colour until 1991 but did have some extra colour pages before then in addition to the centrefold.) The first graphic collection of the stories, if my memory serves, was in 1984 by Titan Books. This was a two-volume set and published throughout in black and white: even what were originally the colour centrefolds were black and white in this first graphic novel edition.

Then, in 2003, Titan reprinted the saga in a single volume as a hardback and then reprinted the following year as a large format (outsized A4) paperback (allowing a rendition of the strip in approximately the same size as the original). For a while Hamlyn – Egmont took over from Titan to produce 2000AD graphic collections. When Rebellion took over publishing 2000AD from Fleetway (a part of Egmont) in 2000 (yes, in 2000AD!), they soon published their own graphic collections. Here, in the main, these Rebellion graphic novels are published in a slightly reduced-sized format, but this particular edition is different…

As mentioned earlier, this edition of The Apocalypse War is published as part of a new series called Essential Judge Dredd and is in full color and is in a slightly larger format to the usual Rebellion Judge Dredd graphic novels. So again rendition of the strip in approximately the same size as the original comic.

This Essential Judge Dredd series is a really neat idea as, as with this saga, the early Dredd stories were originally published over four decades ago. Assuming a younger reader age of say 10, that means that today, anyone under the age of 50 is unlikely to have encountered these Dredd tales the first time around (something that really ages me). Therefore these reprints are vital for the new generation of Dredd fans if they are to catch up and appreciate the character’s history and ethical background.

Finally, a word about The Apocalypse War’s social context. 2000AD writers are socially aware and were so way back when it all began in 1977. Writers John Wagner and Alan Grant (as T. B. Grover when this story was first published) regularly went through the newspapers for news stories that they could then take to the next level and satirize in a Dredd story.  This is why Judge Dredd seems prescient about the slow creep of Britain towards a police state. What younger readers may not realize was the international tension in the 1960s and through to the early 1980s between the Soviet Union and NATO was palpable: there was a real threat of nuclear war. (I recall being on a bio’ geo’ fieldtrip in 1980 to hear on breakfast radio that overnight NATO had increased its Defcom status.) Today, we have climate extinction marches, but back then it was ban the bomb. Dramatized documentaries such as The War Game (1966) and the Threads (1984) film really were terrifying. This fear of nuclear war was a real cultural phenomenon and even influenced the popular music charts with things like Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s number one in the charts hit Two Tribes (1984). The original six-month run of “Block Mania”/”Apocalypse War” was conceived by Grant and Wagner as a satire on the then, and indeed current, policy of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD).

Today, with a mad man and his cronies in the Kremlin not afraid of over 100,000 casualties (so far) of his own people in pursuance of his brainless war with Ukraine for Orwellian, fictional reasons, we see an uncaring leader that very much echoes that of Supreme Judge Josef Bulgarin. When he is informed of the likely Sov casualties (up to 12%) in the early phase of the conflict, he is asked whether or not the Sov people should be informed as to what is coming and why? To which Bulgarin answers: “The people? What have they got to do with it?”  It is hard not to feel that somehow Wagner and Grant got hold of a newspaper over four decades into their future…

++ Jonathan Cowie

Pixel Scroll 8/8/2023 I Have Eaten The Notifications For The Scrolls You Posted

(1) PROSECRAFT NUKED FROM SPACE. A site called Prosecraft stirred tremendous controversy yesterday once authors realized thousands of their books were used by the site without their permission. Also, people believe their texts are being used to train AI.

Benji Smith’s initial attempt to skate around the controversy was to tell writers he would remove their book if they emailed him a link.

Smith took the site down today and left a sort of apology in its place, but they still have the texts — and the software. “Taking Down Prosecraft.io” on The Shaxpir Blog.

…Today the community of authors has spoken out, and I’m listening. I care about you, and I hear your objections.

Your feelings are legitimate, and I hope you’ll accept my sincerest apologies. I care about stories. I care about publishing. I care about authors. I never meant to hurt anyone. I only hoped to make something that would be fun and useful and beautiful, for people like me out there struggling to tell their own stories.

For what it’s worth, the prosecraft website has never generated any income. The Shaxpir desktop app is a labor of love, and during most of its lifetime, I’ve worked other jobs to pay the bills while trying to get the company off the ground and solve the technical challenges of scaling a startup with limited resources. We’ve never taken any VC money, and the whole company is a two-person operation just working our hardest to serve our small community of authors….

Lincoln Michel said the effort to decry a profit motive is deceptive.

Gizmodo’s report “Fiction Analytics Site Prosecraft Shut Down After Backlash” includes an extensive roundup of yesterday’s social media comments about the site.

Prosecraft.io, a site that used novels to help power a data-driven project to display word count, passive voice, and other much more subjective, writing-style markers such as vividness, shut down today after authors protested the project. Prosecraft used the full text of over 25,000 books—which is entirely copyrighted material—in order to develop a library of data. Authors, once they caught wind of what was happening, immediately hated this….

Ellen Datlow’s response to today’s shutdown was:

Susan Bridges pointed out why this is still dodgy:

And what’s more, Ursula Vernon found Prosecraft itself not very useful, as she illustrated in a long thread that starts here.

(2) ZOOM. Writers also discovered a much more important tool – Zoom – is grabbing their intellectual property with both robotic arms in its updated TOS.

Alex Ivanovs’ analysis at Stackdiary finds “Zoom’s Updated Terms of Service Permit Training AI on User Content Without Opt-Out”.

…What raises alarm is the explicit mention of the company’s right to use this data for machine learning and artificial intelligence, including training and tuning of algorithms and models. This effectively allows Zoom to train its AI on customer content without providing an opt-out option, a decision that is likely to spark significant debate about user privacy and consent.

Additionally, under section 10.4 of the updated terms, Zoom has secured a “perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license” to redistribute, publish, access, use, store, transmit, review, disclose, preserve, extract, modify, reproduce, share, use, display, copy, distribute, translate, transcribe, create derivative works, and process Customer Content….

Under Section 10 of the new Zoom TOS:

10.4 Customer License Grant. You agree to grant and hereby grant Zoom a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license and all other rights required or necessary to redistribute, publish, import, access, use, store, transmit, review, disclose, preserve, extract, modify, reproduce, share, use, display, copy, distribute, translate, transcribe, create derivative works, and process Customer Content and to perform all acts with respect to the Customer Content: (i) as may be necessary for Zoom to provide the Services to you, including to support the Services; (ii) for the purpose of product and service development, marketing, analytics, quality assurance, machine learning, artificial intelligence, training, testing, improvement of the Services, Software, or Zoom’s other products, services, and software, or any combination thereof; and (iii) for any other purpose relating to any use or other act permitted in accordance with Section 10.3. If you have any Proprietary Rights in or to Service Generated Data or Aggregated Anonymous Data, you hereby grant Zoom a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license and all other rights required or necessary to enable Zoom to exercise its rights pertaining to Service Generated Data and Aggregated Anonymous Data, as the case may be, in accordance with this Agreement.”

Eddie Louise, like many professionals, is out of there.

Michael Damian Thomas concluded:

(3) LET’S MAKE A DEAL. Simon & Shuster has been sold to private equity firm KKR for $1.62 billion reports Publishers Weekly.

In a move that some in the industry will welcome as putting at least a temporary stop to industry consolidation, the private investment firm KKR has reached an agreement with Paramount Global to acquire Simon & Schuster for $1.62 billion in an all cash transaction.

Though below the $2.175 billion that Penguin Random House had previously agreed to pay for the country’s third largest trade publisher, $1.62 billion is a healthy price since most trade publishers sell for not much better than 1.5 times sales, and S&S’s 2022 revenue was $1.18 billion….

… Overall, Bakish said the $1.62 billion sale price plus the $200 million termination fee paid by Penguin Random House after last year’s deal was blocked by regulators, plus the cash flow gained from strong sales from S&S over the last year, means the company will “realize approximately $2.2 billion of gross proceeds” from the S&S sale….

NPR’s story reminds readers:

…Last year, the Department of Justice blocked Penguin Random House from acquiring Simon & Schuster for $2.2 billion.

“The proposed merger would have reduced competition, decreased author compensation, diminished the breadth, depth, and diversity of our stories and ideas, and ultimately impoverished our democracy,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a statement at the time….

(4) MEET THE HANTU. BookBrunch titles its interview with Zen Cho without good reason “No tongue sandwiches in these adventure stories”. Don’t let that keep you from enjoying her comments about writing the stories now collected in Spirits Abroad.

…But it felt important to me to write about a mundanity reflecting my day-to-day life, featuring people who looked and spoke like my friends and family. 

The stories that resulted were about Asian girls and women navigating multiple worlds, challenging and being challenged by the strange beings they found there – whether those were white people, or magical creatures. The characters are witches, shapeshifters, vampires and hantu – a Malay term for a diverse and terrifying group of local spirits. 

They encounter lovesick dragons, argue with their bossy undead grandmas, and battle fairy armies. They eat sambal (a pungent condiment characteristic of Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine, made from a mixture of chillies and shrimp paste) and curry chicken bread. They address each other using Hokkien kinship terms and speak a variety of languages, not least Malaysian English – what we call ‘Manglish’, a creolised form of English that borrows grammar and vocabulary from Malay, Chinese dialects and Indian languages.

I called the collection of these stories Spirits Abroad. Despite its flights of whimsy, it’s a book rooted in my reality, in a way none of the books I read growing up were. It features magic and the supernatural, but it’s also about characters who are far away from home and trying to figure out who they are in the new places where they find themselves. It’s the book I wish I could have given my younger self….

(5) HOPE FOR EARLY DOCTOR WHO COMPLETISTS. A better explanation of an item here the other day: “Doctor Who: Head of TV Archive Gives Promising Update on Missing Episodes” at CBR.com.

…However, Perry has given Doctor Who fans a peculiar update on the issue. RadioTimes reported that the CEO of Kaleidoscope assured audiences that the lost episodes are “very likely” to be recovered somewhere along the line. At the moment, 97 episodes (out of 253), all from the show’s first six years, are still missing, meaning that quite a few stories featuring the First Doctor and the Second Doctor and their companions are either partially or completely lost.

Perry claimed that he and his team were aware of the location of the missing episodes, yet they had no means of getting their hands on them due to lacking the owners’ permission. “We know where there is missing Doctor Who out there but the owners won’t return it at the moment,” he explained.

…. The recovery work for Doctor Who‘s missing episodes has been going on for years. In fact, all of the Third Doctor’s adventures — as well as six complete serials and quite a few episodes from the lost stories with the First and the Second Doctors — have been tracked down since the 1970s. Most recently, for instance, four episodes of Troughton’s Season 5 Serial 5, called “The Web of Fear,” were miraculously found in Nigeria back in 2013…

(6) GLASGOW 2024 TO OPEN ONE YEAR FROM TODAY. [From a press release.] The 82nd World Science Fiction Convention will open its doors to the public exactly one year from today. Glasgow 2024, a Worldcon for Our Futures will host over 5,000 fans of science fiction books, films, TV shows, games and other media and is expected to inject over £5m into the local economy. The one year milestone was marked by a live-streamed announcement from convention chair Esther MacCallum-Stewart.

This is the third time that Worldcon has been held in Glasgow, following successful conventions in 1995 and 2005, and in a notable coincidence Glasgow 2024 will open 19 years to the day after the gavel was brought down on the 2005 event. Next year’s celebration of science fiction is already proving very popular with SF fans and professionals around the world, with over 3,000 members from 30 countries registered to date.

Glasgow 2024 will be held at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC), widely recognised as a leading international convention and events venue. The SEC has been significantly upgraded since 2005, with additional conference spaces and a greatly expanded range of on-site hotels. The Glasgow 2024 team has had fantastic support from Glasgow Life throughout the bidding process and in preparing for the convention.

Glasgow 2024’s Guests of Honour include writers, editors, artists and fans – Chris Baker (Fangorn), Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer, Ken MacLeod, Nnedi Okorafor, and Terri Windling. These Guests will be joined by a range of Special Guests, professionals and fans from across the field and the world, with over 600 hours of programming and over 500 speakers planned for the five days of the convention.

Worldcon is, however, not just an extraordinarily engaging and diverse conference, but a celebration of all aspects of the SF genre, and the team will be making regular announcements over the coming months as plans are finalised.  This will start this week with a look at the major events, ranging from the traditional Hugo Award Ceremony and costume Masquerade to an orchestral concert, the world premiere of an original opera, theatrical performances, dances, and live action video games. Subsequent announcements will cover Special Guests, spectacular themed exhibits, a substantial Art Show and Dealers’ Room, and arrangements for virtual participation and attendance for those who cannot come to Glasgow in person.

Glasgow 2024 Chair, Esther MacCallum-Stewart said, “I’m hugely proud of the whole team for the dedication and hard work that have brought us to this point, and excited to start sharing our plans with both members and the wider community.  It’s a rare privilege to host the Worldcon and we are committed to our vision of being imaginative, caring and inclusive.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 8, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt one of the founders of fandom, and perhaps the first true fan historian, having written Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Filking and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for Department SThe Avengers, The Champions and MacGyver. He both Davros and the Daleks on Who. He died from emphysema in Los Angeles aged 66, as he working with actor Paul Darrow who played Kerr Avon on Blake’s 7 in an attempt to revive that series. (Died 1997.)
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 88. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf and of course that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. OK, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. 
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 86. Ahhh Captian Hook, the man who got figuratively swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah I like that film a lot. But then I like the novel very much, too. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (a film I actually find rather odd), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda.
  • Born August 8, 1950 John D. Berry, 73. Editor of myriad fanzines, notable as one featured a column in the Eighties written by his longtime friend, William Gibson. “The Clubhouse” which he wrote from July 1969 to September 1972 for Amazing Stories reviewed fanzines. His last published piece was “Susan Wood: About and By”, an appreciation of the late author. Partner of Eileen Gunn.
  • Born August 8, 1961 Timothy P. Szczesuil, 62. Boston-based con-running fan who chaired Boskone 33 and Boskone 53. He’s also edited or co-edited several books for NESFA, Strange Days: Fabulous Journeys with Gardner Dozois and His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth
  • Born August 8, 1974 Dominic Harman, 49. Wandering through the Birthday sources, I found this UK illustrator active for some twenty years. He’s won three BSFA Awards, two for Interzone covers and one for the cover for 2011 Solaris edition of Ian Whates’ The Noise Revealed. My favorite cover by him? Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon cover, the 2006 Del Rey / Ballantine edition, is an outstanding look at his work.
  • Born August 8, 1993 Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, 30. She’s a Kahnawake Mohawk. Why I mention that will be apparent in a moment. Her most recent role was recurring one as Sam Black Crow on now-cancelled American Gods but she has a very long genre history starting with being Monique on the Stephen King’s Dead Zone series. From there, she was Claudia Auditore in Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, a series of three short films based on the Assassin’s Creed II video game before showing up as Ali’s in Rhymes for Young Ghouls which is notable for its handling of First Nations issues. She’s Daisy in Another WolfCop (oh guess which monster), an unnamed bar waitress in Being Human, Nourhan in Exploding Sun and Sam in the The Walking Dead: Michonne video game. Her latest genre role is Blood Quantum about a zombie uprising on a First Nations homeland.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) FIGHTING COPYRIGHT ABUSE. Fifteen-time Hugo winning artist Michael Whelan tweeted about a new battle to stop a site that computer-generates art in imitation of his style. Thread starts here.

(10) YOUR NAME HERE – EH, NO THANKS! Meanwhile, author Jane Friedman spent yesterday battling with book sites over junk books they are attributing to her name: “I Would Rather See My Books Get Pirated Than This (Or: Why Goodreads and Amazon Are Becoming Dumpster Fires)”

There’s not much that makes me angry these days about writing and publishing. I’ve seen it all. I know what to expect from Amazon and Goodreads. Meaning: I don’t expect much, and I assume I will be continually disappointed. Nor do I have the power to change how they operate. My energy-saving strategy: move on and focus on what you can control.

That’s going to become much harder to do if Amazon and Goodreads don’t start defending against the absolute garbage now being spread across their sites.

I know my work gets pirated and frankly I don’t care. (I’m not saying other authors shouldn’t care, but that’s not a battle worth my time today.)

But here’s what does rankle me: garbage books getting uploaded to Amazon where my name is credited as the author. (Here’s but one example.) Whoever’s doing this is obviously preying on writers who trust my name and think I’ve actually written these books. I have not. Most likely they’ve been generated by AI.

It might be possible to ignore this nonsense on some level since these books aren’t receiving customer reviews (so far), and mostly they sink to the bottom of search results (although not always). At the very least, if you look at my author profile on Amazon, these junk books don’t appear. A reader who applies some critical thinking might think twice before accepting these books as mine.

Still, it’s not great. And it falls on me, the author—the one with a reputation at stake—to get these misleading books removed from Amazon. I’m not even sure it’s possible. I don’t own the copyright to these junk books. I don’t exactly “own” my name either—lots of other people who are also legit authors share my name, after all. So on what grounds can I successfully demand this stop, at least in Amazon’s eyes? I’m not sure.

To add insult to injury, these sham books are getting added to my official Goodreads profileA reasonable person might think I control what books are shown on my Goodreads profile, or that I approve them, or at the very least I could have them easily removed. Not so.

If you need to have your Goodreads profile corrected—as far as the books credited to you—you have to reach out to volunteer “librarians” on Goodreads, which requires joining a group, then posting in a comment thread that you want illegitimate books removed from your profile….

Update (afternoon of Aug. 7): Hours after this post was published, my official Goodreads profile was cleaned of the offending titles. I did file a report with Amazon, complaining that these books were using my name and reputation without my consent. Amazon’s response: “Please provide us with any trademark registration numbers that relate to your claim.” When I replied that I did not have a trademark for my name, they closed the case and said the books would not be removed from sale.

Update (morning of Aug. 8): The fraudulent titles appear to be entirely removed from Amazon and Goodreads alike. I’m sure that’s in no small part due to my visibility and reputation in the writing and publishing community. What will authors with smaller profiles do when this happens to them? If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I’d start by reaching out to an advocacy organization like The Authors Guild (I’m a member).

(11) UNION GROWTH. “Marvel VFX artists take first step toward unionisation amid Hollywood strikes” notes the Guardian.

Visual effects artists working for Marvel have taken the first step towards unionisation in a notoriously poorly represented area of the film industry. According to a statement from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) a group of on-set VFX artists employed by the studio have filed a petition with the US’s National Labor Relations Board.

Hailing the move as “a major shift in an industry that has largely remained non-union since VFX was pioneered during production of the first Star Wars films in the 1970s”, the IATSE said a supermajority of Marvel’s 50-plus VFX crew had signed authorisation cards indicating they wished to be represented by the union, which already represents around 168,000 technicians and craftspeople in live theatre, film and TV and associated areas in the US and Canada….

(12) PITTSBURGH DOES SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “One small step for man, one giant leap for Pittsburgh” says Route Fifty.

Think of the space industry in the U.S., and places like Houston, Cape Canaveral, Florida, or Huntsville, Alabama, likely spring to mind. But how about Pittsburgh?

No? Well, a collection of state and local officials and business leaders from the Keystone State are looking to change that.

…The Keystone Space Collaborative, a regional organization that works to promote space industry businesses and talent in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, announced in June that it would form a space and innovation district in Pittsburgh….

And yet they mention neither James Blish’s Cities In Flight tetrology (Pittsburgh, like many other cities, spindizzies through space) nor Wen Spencer’s (highly entertaining) Elfhome series (Pittsburgh gets dimension-swapped to a magic/elf/etc world).

(13) A FACE IN AN ANCIENT CROWD. Live Science offers readers the opportunity to “See stunning likeness of Zlatý kůň, the oldest modern human to be genetically sequenced”.

In 1950, archaeologists discovered a severed skull buried deep inside a cave system in Czechia (the Czech Republic). Because the skull was split in half, researchers concluded that the skeletal remains were of two separate individuals. However, through genome sequencing done decades later, scientists concluded that the skull actually belonged to a single person: a woman who lived 45,000 years ago.

Researchers named her the Zlatý kůň woman, or “golden horse” in Czech, in a nod to a hill above the cave system. Further analysis of her DNA revealed that her genome carried roughly 3% Neanderthal ancestry, that she was part of a population of early modern humans who likely mated with Neanderthals and that her genome was the oldest modern human genome ever to be sequenced.

Although much has been learned about the woman’s genetics, little is known about what she may have looked like. But now, a new online paper published July 18 offers new insight into her possible appearance in the form of a facial approximation….

(14) THE SUSPENSE IS NOT KILLING ME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The record for suspended animation has been smashed by a worm revived after some 46,000 years! Suspended animation is a common trope in science fiction that is usually applied to astronauts in SF stories so that they can travel interstellar distances. However in reality finding organisms that can do this over potentially geological timescales has been elusive.

Now, past work has shown that bacterial spores can survive tens of millions of years, but bacteria are very simple life forms being single celled prokaryotes. What would be really neat would be something multi-cellular surviving very many years. Well, we have managed to revive 30,000 year old fruit tissue that had been frozen in permafrost from which whole plants were grown.  But what we really want to see is a multicellular animal survive thousands of years in suspended animation or, to be technical, cryptobiosis. Here too there has been some success with the resurrection of a rotifer from 24,000 year old permafrost. But rotifers are still simple animals that do not even have a through-gut and only have two, not three, layers of cells.

The latest development also involves reviving from suspended animation a species that had been buried in permafrost. Here, the species involved was a nematode worm, and a new species at that which the researchers call Panagrolaimus kolymaensis. (Panagrolaimus species have been known before, but P. kolymaensis is new.)

The dormant P. kolymaensis was found in permafrost near a riverbank at a depth of 40 metres and some 11 metres above the river level, the river being the Kolyma River, a few miles from Cherskyn north-eastern Siberia, Russia.

The worms were actually found in the remains of what was once a burrow of Arctic gophers (Citellus). The burrow also contained other organic material which the researchers used to radiocarbon date the burrow. They found it to be 44,315 years old (give or take nearly half a century of experimental error). The previous record for reviving a nematode worm in the wild was after about 25 years of being frozen in Antarctic moss. The record in the lab was 39 years of a dried worm in a herbarium. So this 46,000 year old discovery smashes both those records!

The researchers did some further work that suggests that the mechanisms Panagrolaimus kolymaensis uses to survive suspended animation are similar to that by another nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegansC. elegans is a workhorse species for biologists working with nematodes. (It has even been used to elucidate why we mammals get the cannabis munchies.)

This work is also remarkable in another way. During Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, this research was conducted by Russians together with western Europeans from Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Ireland. Two Russians and a German conceived the work. (See Shatilovich, A. et al (2023) A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larvaPLOS Geneticsvol. 19 (7), e1010798.)

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Anne Marble, Kathy Sullivan, Steven French, Daniel Dern, 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 Tom Becker.]

The Complete Yeti

By SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie: The idea of hairy, ape-like creatures roaming around the Himalayas has been around for centuries. But could the yeti actually be real? The BBC Radio 4 Yeti series has now been fully aired and all ten episodes are available for download (without a BBC Sounds account which is good news for those diligently keeping a light personal digital footprint).

Now, I am not a huge one for Fortean documentaries as these are largely woo-woo. However, as a bioscientist, cryptobiology has a certain appeal. For example, the coelacanth anyone? This series certainly grabbed me, but then I am a sucker having the moral fibre with the breaking strain of a chocolate Mars Milky Way bar.

In this series, two adventurers delve deep into the myth, legend and reality of the mysterious creature that is said to roam the Himalayas. Andrew Benfield and Richard Horsey travel across the mountain range searching for evidence that the yeti might actually exist.

What they really need is a sample to DNA test…

Each episode is about 25 minutes long.

No spoiler, but one set of DNA found turned out to be Peter Cushing’s.

Or did it…? Rod Serling says ‘Hi’ from the Twilight Zone…

Pixel Scroll 6/17/23 Whoever Lives In Glass Pixels Should Not Throw Scrolls

(1) MEDICAL UPDATE. Ursula Vernon got a biopsy on a lump, and the results are unfortunate.

(2) MOVING WORDS. David Gerrold has opened a GoFundMe appeal to “Help Move David Gerrold’s Family To Vermont”. He offers a couple of free ebooks as an incentive to go to the link and read the whole thing.

…As many of you know, we’re planning to move to Vermont as soon as we can. It’s about the right schools for the kids, the right environment for Sean and Alyce’s health and work, and the right place for me to (eventually) retire. We have been working hard to get this house in shape, get all of our paperwork in order, and find a place that suits our specific needs.

…Right now, I’m the sole support of my family. I’m doing my best, but there’s a WGAW strike, so there are options that are on hold and if the past is any guide, will probably evaporate when the strike ends. Alyce has a toddler and a baby to take care of, so going back to work is out of the question for her. For various reasons, Sean has to rethink his career options, so he’s concentrating on being the best dad he can, and that’s fine with me too. Being a dad is good for him and good for the kids.

So right now, it’s all on me. I’ve got some resources, just not enough. So, I’m asking for a little help. Anything you can contribute will be greatly appreciated. It will get us where we need to be….

(3) THE GATES WE KEEP. Norman Spinrad’s latest “At Large SF” asks how to “Save The SF Magazines From AI, Amazon, And SFWA?” But is this a cure?

It is no secret that the three traditional ink and paper SF magazines, Asimov’s, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction, are in deep trouble, and perhaps not as obviously so are the main online SF magazines. All of them are overrun with AI created submissions and how what was once SFWA, a professional SF writers’ union in all but name, has become just as much a part of the problem, if not worse.

When the SFWA, of which I was one of the creators, if you wanted to be a full member, as I remember, you had to have published 3 stories in magazines accepted as professional, or one novel published by such a book publisher.

This more or less continued while I was three time president, and until fairly recently. In those days, there were no more that 1000 full members of SFWA, but rather rapidly it has now become bloated by about 2500 members of all sorts of memberships which you can join and remain as long as you pay for one the various levels of available membership. And you can also buy even more sorts of official SFWA stuff, a perfect fannish economic operation.

Back in the day, you could write “Member of SFWA” on the header of your submission as long as it was true, and it could mean some thing to an editor, and it might get your story read above the slush pile….

And SFWA membership now plays the same lucrative game. Now since anyone could email anything anywhere without having print it, put it into an envelope, and mail it into the slushpile, anyone can do likewise for free, and of late, you don’t have to really be human, to make the slushpiles even more enormous.

And to make matters worse, since sales in book stories or even drug stores have largely disappeared,, the magazines were forced to largely resort to online subscriptions, meaning Amazon, which has now stopped serving them.

What is more, the SF magazines have for some time become just about the last magazines containing any real short stories, and if they should disappear, so might the literary short story, period.

What can be done about this? It seems to me that the magazines are making a big mistake worrying about what to do about the AI submissions and trying find ways to filter them out of the slushpiles. The answer to that, of course, would be AI slush readers, which at least could be easily taught to recognize each other, if not to recognize the 10% of literary interest.

So what I propose is to look backwards instead of forward to the original SFWA. Call it simply the SF Society. It could be the top of the SFWA or it could be independent, it doesn’t matter. As the original SFWA, there is a membership requirement of say the same 3 published stories by the approved magazines or maybe books too, but with a difference.

If you are a member of the SFS you are entitled to say so on your submissions to any SFS approved publications. But the SFS does not approve the publishers, they approve themselves! They just understand that the SFS mark on a submission means that the writer is a member and they can read it atop of the slushpile, it’s not a requirement, it’s a service.

But where does that leave would-be writers who believe they have what it takes to join the SFS? Look backward. There have long been SF writing schools where you must not just pay but where you must send a story and have it be accepted by a literary board as sufficiently promising.

But SFS is not a school. It has its own literary approval board for the sufficiently promising writers. So who is on the approval board?

Look much further back to Plato’s REPUBLIC. Plato was skeptical of democracy, so he wrote what amounted to the very first skeptical fiction in the form of the non historical Atlantis, ruled by proper philosophers such as himself. And who had selected them? Philosophers who had already been approved by other such philosophizers and so far up the line.

Okay, this is not democracy, but we are not talking about selecting rulers. An SFS approval board could be self-elected SFS member volunteers. Or even magazine editors as well who might want to serve and were approved by the SFS approval board….

(4) TIDHAR Q&A. “Pulp Fiction: PW Talks with Lavie Tidhar” at Publishers Weekly.

An unlikely cast is pulled into the hunt for lost pulp classic Lode Stars in World Fantasy Award winner Tidhar’s metafictional sci-fi romp The Circumference of the World (Tachyon, Sept.).

What inspired this story?

It began so long ago it’s hard to say! The very early seeds for it were born on Vanua Lava in Vanuatu, back in 2007, where the first section of the book takes place. I became interested in the little-known story of the WWII Coastwatchers there and climbed to their hill fort, which is much as it appears in the novel. But that was just one strand; then I had to wait for the others to materialize.

And how did they?

The black holes came from a novelette I wrote that was also called “Lode Stars.” I ran into someone who told me they thought there was more to it, which haunted me because I realized they were right. The section about hapless book dealers in 2001 London was conceived of as a trip to a vanished past. All those bookshops are long gone, and I was trying to catch a bit of the soul of that world before it disappeared. Which, in a way, is the whole theme of the book: how much of what we are is what we remember and what happens if those memories are lost?…

(5) COSY DELENDA EST. Cora Buhlert does an impressively thorough roundup of the players and viewpoints represented in the recent social media flash about “cosy horror” in “Same Old Debate, New Clothes: The Cozy Horror Controversy”. She begins:

Sigh. It’s that time of the year again and we’re having the same old debate again whether some interlopers are trying to ruin the purity of the genre and gentrify it by writing and reading the wrong sort of books.

This time around, the focus is not Hopepunk or what a certain podcast termed Squeecore, but cozy horror, cozy fantasy’s spookier sibling.

The current debate seems to have been sparked by an episode of the Books in the Freezer podcast about cozy horror (which I haven’t listened to yet), which received some pushback on Twitter, and in particular by a recent article on The Mary Sue by Julia Glassman on the cozy horror phenomenon and the backlash against it. Though the term “cozy horror” isn’t new. Here is an article by Jose Cruz from Nightmare Magazine, a horror mag, about cozy horror from 2021 and I’m pretty sure Cruz didn’t invent the term either. The phenomenon is much older anyway. What is now called cozy horror goes back to the ghost stories of the nineteenth century. A genre that – as Jess Nevins pointed out on Twitter – has triggered criticism and backlash for almost two hundred years now. And the reason was that ghost stories were mostly read and written by women. So yup, it’s plain old misogyny….

And Cora ends:

… In short, it’s all depressingly familiar and I probably should have just ignored this latest flare-up of this ages old argument, but the whole cozy horror debate annoyed me enough to put in my two cents.

Cora’s conclusion reminds me of a favorite H. L. Mencken remark, that it is best to spend life sitting in the brewery drinking beer, but sometimes he couldn’t help but rush out and break a bottle over someone’s head.

(6) HWA PRIDE. The Horror Writers Association blog continues its thematic interviews in “A Point of Pride: Interview with Lee Mandelo”.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it? 

Anything that provokes strong feeling, I’m into that—and horror, alongside erotica, devotes itself so well to powerful, bodily emotions. As a weird gay child of the ’90s, I was probably destined to love horror. There was such a huge boom in scary books, movies, and so on by LGBTQ+ artists going on during that decade. Unsurprising, given things like the HIV/AIDS epidemic, alongside government abandonment and surging social persecution through the late ’80s onward. I didn’t have that context as a kid, but I had the materials, and they left strong impressions on me! 

Looking back now, I feel like being drawn to horror—a place where stories about being an “outsider” and also experiencing extreme dread and fear could be made somehow safe to explore, in their own strange way—was only natural.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1978[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Vonda N. McIntyre is an author I’m well familiar with as I’ve read her Dreamsnake (we get our Beginning this Scroll), The Moon and the Sun and The King’s Daughter. Anyone read her Starfarers series? I’ve not but it looks potentially readable and certainly how she came to write it is a fascinating story indeed. 

Pocket Books decided to have her do novelizations of Star Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She created names for Trek characters that later became canon, including Hikaru Sulu, and Kirk’s mother Winona.

She’s won a number of Awards including one at Seacon ’79 for Dreamsnake which was also nominated for a Ditmar. She won a Nebula for Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand novelette (also nominated for a Hugo) and another one for her The Moon and The Stars novel. 

Another one I feel left us far too early though she had seven decades of life.  She died of metastatic pancreatic cancer. Damn.

Here’s our Beginning…

The little boy was frightened. Gently, Snake touched his hot forehead. Behind her, three adults stood close together, watching, suspicious, afraid to show their concern with more than narrow lines around their eyes. They feared Snake as much as they feared their only child’s death. In the dimness of the tent, the strange blue glow of the lantern gave no reassurance. 

The child watched with eyes so dark the pupils were not visible, so dull that Snake herself feared for his life. She stroked his hair. It was long, and very pale, dry and irregular for several inches near the scalp, a striking color against his dark skin. Had Snake been with these people months ago, she would have known the child was growing ill.

“Bring my case, please,” Snake said.

The child’s parents started at her soft voice. Perhaps they had expected the screech of a bright jay, or the hissing of a shining serpent. This was the first time Snake had spoken in their presence. She had only watched, when the three of them had come to observe her from a distance and whisper about her occupation and her youth; she had only listened, and then nodded, when finally they came to ask her help. Perhaps they had thought she was mute. 

The fair-haired younger man lifted her leather case. He held the satchel away from his body, leaning to hand it to her, breathing shallowly with nostrils flared against the faint smell of musk in the dry desert air. 

Snake had almost accustomed herself to the kind of uneasiness he showed; she had already seen it often.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 17, 1903 William Bogart. Yes, another one who wrote Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson, some with Lester Dent. Between 1949 and 1947, he or they wrote some fifteen Doc Savage novels in total. Some of them would get reprinted in the late Eighties in omnibuses that also included novels done with Lester Dent. (Died 1977.)
  • Born June 17, 1927 Wally Wood. Comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics’ Mad magazine, Marvel’s Daredevil, and Topps’s landmark Mars Attacks set. He was the inaugural inductee into the comic book industry’s Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 17, 1931 Dean Ing. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets which I really liked and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. (Died 2020.)
  • Born June 17, 1941 William Lucking. Here because he played Renny in Doc Savage: Man of Bronze. (I know I’ve seen it, but I’ll be damn if I remember much about it.)  He’s also had one-offs in Mission: ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkThe American HeroThe QuestVoyagersX-FilesThe Lazarus ManMilleniumDeep Space Nine and Night Stalker. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 17, 1953 Phyllis Weinberg, 70. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan Robert E. Weinberg (died 2016). They co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector, and she co-edited the Weinberg Tales with him, Doug Ellis and Robert T. Garcia. She, along with Nancy Ford and Tina L. Jens, wrote “The Many Faces of Chicago” essay that was that was in the 1996 WFC guide. The Weinbergs co-chaired the World Fantasy Convention In 1996.
  • Born June 17, 1982 Jodie Whittaker, 41. The Thirteenth Doctor who did three series plus several upcoming specials. She played Ffion Foxwell in the Black Mirror‘s “The Entire History of You”, and was Samantha Adams in Attack the Block, a horror SF film. I like her version of The Doctor a lot with David Tennant being my other favorite modern Doctor. 
  • Born June 17, 1982 Arthur Darvill, 41. Actor who’s has in my opinion had two great roles. The first was playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. The second, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, was playing the time-traveler Rip Hunter in the Legends of Tomorrow, a Time Lord of sorts. (And yes, I know where the name came from.) He also played Seymour Krelborn in The Little Shop of Horrors at the Midlands Arts Centre, and Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe.  

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A DWAYNE MCDUFFIE CALL OUT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In the next-to-last and final episodes of the WB’s The Flash series, Chester (who, a season or so ago replaced Cisco as Team Flash’s science/tech nerd) (in Chester’s case, as a blerd), uttered, in moments of surprise/stress: “Sweet N.K. Jemisin!” and “Dazzling Dwayne McDuffie!”

The late Dwayne McDuffie wrote a lot of comics and an animated series, including, for DC, some Justice League, Batman, and others, see The DC Universe by Dwayne McDuffie  (I’m using HooplaDigital links; should be available in hardcopy from many libraries and comic/book stores, digitally presumably also from DC, probably ditto ComiXology and Libby.)

I know him best for co-founding Milestone Comics in the early 1990s which, per Wikipedia, “focused on underrepresented minorities in American comics”, including Static (also became an animated series), and my favorite, Icon, (see Icon Vol. 1: A Hero’s Welcome and Icon Vol. 2: The Mothership Connection.)

Milestone comics were published and distributed by DC, but were, at the time, in separate universes… which led to multi-part crossover, with, IIRC, one of my favorite cover gimmicks, namely little sticky-plastic decals of the characters (similar to Colorforms, but I don’t think that term’s been genericized) on a sealed-plastic bag (so I don’t think I opened that copy, I’d have to check my Milestone box…).

As of a few years ago, the Milestone Universe got shuffled/merged into DC main continuity, along with some character rebooting. (E.g., Virgil “Static” Hawkins, last I checked, was working at STAR Labs.)

(11) PICARD AND FRIENDS. Deadline has a superlative interview with the Picard cast: “’Star Trek: Picard’s Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes”.

DEADLINE: Do you remember your first meeting with one another, way back in 1986?

JONATHAN FRAKES: I do remember the first time I met Patrick. We’d been called into the makeup trailer to meet the great king of makeup, Michael Westmore. Patrick and I introduced ourselves to one another, and we got right into a cricket versus baseball conversation that eventually led to him becoming a big LA Dodgers fan [laughs].

GATES McFADDEN: I was doing a play with Linda Hunt called The Matchmaker, down in La Jolla. Patrick came down to see it. We went out to dinner and it was all very exciting; we found we had a lot of mutual friends who were in the Royal Shakespeare Company. We talked all night. We both said, “I don’t know, I’m nervous about this whole thing…”

PATRICK STEWART: I remember people telling me not to worry about signing a six-year contract. They said, “You’ll be lucky to make it through the first season.” You cannot revive an iconic series, that’s what they told us. I was told, “Get a plane ticket, come over here, do the show, make some money for the first time in your life, and work on your tan, then you can go home.”

FRAKES: You have to remember, audiences were not ready for a bald English captain with a French name. And a Klingon on the bridge, and a blind guy driving. It was a very strange environment and people were skeptical to say the least. I didn’t know anything about Star Trek. Neither did Gates, or Brent [Spiner], or Patrick. I think [Michael] Dorn did, and I know your space son, Gates, Wil Wheaton did. But we had different tastes in television — in spite of the fact that my wife, the wonderful Genie Frakes, had a poster of Captain Kirk on her bedroom wall when she was a kid [laughs].

McFADDEN: Brent said the same, that we just didn’t know if this was a good idea.

Johnny, do you remember the first time I met you? We went to a costume fitting the day before a shoot, and I was so excited and intense about it all. It was a silly scene in a shopping mall. I said, “Can we rehearse? Can we go over the scene?” You looked at me and just said, “Sure.” After about three times, you were like, “I think we’ve got it.” It was a four-line scene [laughs]. But I’d never done anything like this; committed to a series like that.

STEWART: Of course, I found out eventually that I was also signing up for six years of Jonathan Frakes.

FRAKES: Hey, now [laughs].

(12) SFF STALWART. Linda Hamilton of Terminator, Resident Alien and Beauty and the Beast fame has been cast in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 5 reports Variety.

Stranger Things” Season 5 is adding Linda Hamilton to its cast. The announcement was made Saturday as part of Netflix’s annual Tudum event.

Exact details on the character Hamilton will be playing are being kept under wraps….

(13) BACK IN THE BLACK. On CBS Saturday Morning, “Black Mirror” Charlie Brooker discusses the show’s return.

“Black Mirror,” the science-fiction series, has released a new season after four years. Ahead of the release of the new episodes, “CBS Saturday Morning” sat down with Charlie Brooker, the creative mind behind the show. Jeff Glor reports.

(14) THE ENCELADUS FIZZ. “A ‘Soda Ocean’ on a Moon of Saturn Has All the Ingredients for Life” reports the New York Times.

Enceladus — the sixth-largest of Saturn’s 146 moons — has a liquid ocean with a rocky floor under its bright, white and frosty surface. Ice volcanoes spew frozen grains of material into space, generating one of the many rings circling the planet.

Now, a team of researchers has discovered that those icy grains contain phosphates. They found them using data from Cassini, a joint NASA-European orbiter that concluded its study of Saturn, its rings and moons in 2017. It is the first time phosphorus has been found in an ocean beyond Earth. The results, which add to the prospect that Enceladus is home to extraterrestrial life, were published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

“We weren’t expecting this. We didn’t look for it,” said Frank Postberg, a planetary scientist at the Free University of Berlin who led the study. He described the realization that they had found phosphates (chemicals containing the element phosphorus) as a “tantalizing moment.”

With the discovery of phosphorus on the ocean world, scientists say they have now found all of the elements there that are essential to life as we know it. Phosphorus is a key ingredient in human bones and teeth, and scientists say it is the rarest bio-essential ingredient in the cosmos. Planetary researchers had previously detected the other five key elements on Enceladus: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur (the last of which has been tentatively detected).

(15) CAN’T FLY AWAY. Scientific American focuses on “The Mystery of Australia’s Paralyzed Parrots”.

…Cases of what is called lorikeet paralysis syndrome (LPS) have been increasing over the past decade, says veterinarian Claude Lacasse of the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital in the eastern Australian city of Brisbane. It is now considered one of Australia’s most significant wildlife diseases. But scientists are baffled as to what is causing it….

Native to Australia’s eastern seaboard, rainbow lorikeets dwell in forest and scrubland and in leafy coastal suburbs. They are the country’s most common backyard bird. The charismatic parrots typically drink the nectar of the fragrant blossoms of native trees and shrubs. But widespread habitat loss, heavy rains that damage blossoms and severe wildfires have increasingly driven lorikeets to other food sources, including fruit, seeds and, strangely, even meat. This increasing variety in their diet is one reason it’s so difficult to identify what’s making them sick….

To take on the mystery, Phalen and his team set up a citizen science project on iNaturalist, a social network for biodiversity observations, asking people in LPS hotspots to take photographs of wild lorikeets feeding on plants.

(16) DIGITAL AFTERLIVES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] What’s it all about? Search me.  Some say 42, but other may want more than a two digit answer (no raising of fingers here).  And then again, what happens next? Is there an afterlife? Gosh, I hope not.  Too much trouble with this one.  Besides, if there was an afterlife it must be awfully crowded by now. (Still, I suppose one benefit might be finally being able to meet aliens?) Anyway, this week Isaac Arthur ponders digital afterlives…

For as long as we have had history and likely before, people have contemplated a life after this one, but might we one day create artificial afterlives? And if so, will we create heavens or hells?

This last reminds me of an Iain Banks novel…

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Christopher Rowe, Danny Sichel, Daniel Dern, Cora Buhlert, 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 Jeff Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 6/14/23 A Whiter Shade Of A Pail Of Air? Probably Too Much Dry Ice – Better Scoop A Few Feet Lower

(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON ON HUGO DELAY. The Chengdu Worldcon yesterday confirmed on Twitter what Hugo co-Administrator Dave McCarty said a week ago on his Facebook page concerning when to expect the ballot:

(2) SWIPER STOP SWIPING. Music conglomerates are asking for a quarter billion dollars:“Twitter Lawsuit: Music Publishers Claim ‘Massive Copyright Infringement’”. The Hollywood Reporter has full details.

Twitter’s longstanding refusal to secure music licensing rights has come to a head with a lawsuit accusing the company of mass copyright infringement.

The three major music conglomerates — Universal, Sony and Warner — joined by a host of other publishers on Wednesday sued Twitter for at least $250 million over the alleged infringement of roughly 1,700 works for which it received hundreds of thousands of takedown notices. They allege the company “consistently and knowingly hosts and streams infringing copies of music compositions” to “fuel its business.” Twitter has rebuffed calls for it to obtain the proper licenses, according to the suit.

Twitter is the lone major social media platform without music licensing deals, which permits those sites to legally host videos and other content featuring publishers’ music. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat have all entered into agreements that compensate creators of musical compositions for use of their work….

(3) AVENGERS LEGAL ENDGAME. The Hollywood Reporter reports new court filings as “Marvel Winds Down Fight Over Avengers Characters”.

Marvel has made a major move toward ending the battle for the rights to its most iconic characters — including the Avengers — but the fight isn’t over.

Back in 2021, Marvel filed a series of lawsuits in response to copyright termination notices from Larry Lieber and the estates of Gene Colan, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Don Rico.

U.S. Copyright Law gives authors or their heirs the ability to essentially claw back copyrights after a certain period of time. It doesn’t cover works made for hire, which has been Marvel’s primary argument in these matters.

At issue are the rights to titles including Amazing FantasyThe AvengersCaptain AmericaDaredevilIron ManJourney Into MysteryMarvel Super-HeroesStrange TalesTales to AstonishTales of Suspense and Tomb of Dracula.

In addition to the specific art and stories in the comics, the termination notices also targeted “any character, story element, or indicia reasonably associated with the Works.”

Collectively, an extremely long list of characters has been involved, including Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch.

Marvel, represented by Dan Petrocelli and Molly Lens of O’Melveny, has apparently reached deals that resolve four of the fights, as the parties have filed joint stipulations for voluntary dismissal.

There’s one exception: No such notice has been filed in the fight over Steve Ditko’s works…. 

(4) THE PTAO. “Pratchett and Philosophy: The Tao of Sir Terry” is related by J. R. H. Lawless at Tor.com.

…This is not an exhaustive survey of those various viewpoints and concepts. Rather, this essay is an attempt to provide a flying machine’s-eye overview of just a few of the major philosophical underpinnings of Pratchett’s Tao, or “way.” Let’s jump in…

(5) ASTEROID CITY GOES BICOASTAL. SYFY Wire tells fans how to “Visit Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City Pop-up in NYC and LA”.

Wes Anderson fans in New York City and Los Angeles, get yourself suited up and head to the exclusive Asteroid City Pop-Up activations at the Landmark Theatres Sunset and Alamo Drafthouse Lower Manhattan. Both theaters cater to the cinephile crowd and are celebrating Wes Anderson’s Focus Features sci-fi / dramedy, Asteroid City — out in limited theatrical release on June 16 and wide release on June 23 — by turning both theaters into the dusty little town.

… As the Landmark was still under renovation, Holloway said it was the perfect time for Focus to swoop in and wrap the whole lobby with signage, wallpaper and lighting grabbed straight from the film. Actual costumes and props featured in film are included in the display.The Pop-Up covers two floors of the cinema. Plus, there are social media-worthy photo ops, including reproductions of the two cabins where Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman) and Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson) have their deep conversations, and the podium where General Grif Gibson (Wright) hosts the Junior Stargazer awards….

(6) A WRITER’S HEALTH MEMOIR. Madeline Ashby shares vulnerably while introducing a recipe for “Betty’s Summer Surprise Fruit Dessert” at Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup.

…My illness enjoyed hiding behind my successes. It hid inside my carry-on and my hardshell. It hid under my gel manicure. It was a deceptively-worded clause in yet another contract I had failed to sign and scan until long after the work was done. Occasionally others glimpsed it peeking out from behind my glasses, which is, I imagine, why, in the greenroom at SXSW 2018, Bruce Sterling suddenly turned to me with the dread weight of his perceptiveness and asked, “But are you okay? Really?”

Reader, I was not.

A lot of my day was spent watching loops of soothing videos. There was something democratizing about video platforms, then. People were still nervous on camera. I listened to soft-spoken men explaining crypto and whispering women explaining crystals. What I was really listening to were people talking about the beliefs which had seen them through times of crisis. This is how I found the recipe I am about to share with you…

(7) JOHN ROMITA SR. (1930-2023). Legendary comic book artist John Romita Sr., who worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, and co-created Mary Jane Watson, Wolverine and the Punisher, died June 12 at the age of 93 reports Deadline. See also the New York Times’ obit:

…Mr. Romita’s interest in drawing was encouraged at home and in school, according to a 2007 biography by Sue L. Hamilton. In 1938, he purchased two copies of the first Superman comic, keeping one safely in a bag while using the other as a drawing guide.

After graduating from high school in 1947, Mr. Romita began working as a commercial artist. But a chance meeting with a friend and former high school classmate, who worked for Stan Lee, the comic book revolutionary, led to his first big break. Mr. Romita began secretly sketching comics in pencil for his friend, who would later go over them with ink and pass them off as his own work.

Mr. Romita took his career into his own hands in the 1950s and revealed the arrangement to Mr. Lee, who in turn gave him the opportunity to work, Mr. Romita said in an interview with The Comics Reporter in 2002….

The Guardian’s David Barnett adds these details: “John Romita Sr: the Spider-Man artist was a titan of the comic-book world”.

… Spider-Man, of course, wasn’t Romita’s first comics work; not even his first chance to stamp his mark on the Marvel Universe. The man often billed in the comic credits in Stan Lee’s Barnum-esque fashion as “Jazzy” John had started work in comics in 1949, aged just 19.

His first work was uncredited, a 10-page gangster story for Timely Comics, which was the forerunner of Marvel. He cut his teeth on war, horror, science fiction and romance comics throughout the 1950s, and then late in the decade moved to DC Comics where he worked mainly on the hugely popular teen romance titles such as Young Love, Heart Throbs and Girls’ Romances.

Hearing that Romita was thinking of getting into commercial illustration after DC pulled the plug on many of its romance titles as the genre declined in popularity, Stan Lee, ever the comic book puppetmaster, met him for a three-hour lunch and persuaded him to take on Daredevil, with issue 12 of the blind superhero’s title which came out in January 1966. It’s hard not to imagine Lee quietly moving the pieces around the chessboard of his masterplan as he wrote a Daredevil issue later that year with Spider-Man (who had debuted in Amazing Fantasy issue 15 in 1962) as a guest star, to see how Romita would handle the character who – by accident, or more likely Lee’s design – was shortly to become Marvel’s flagship superhero….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2018[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Sam J. Miller has been nominated for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and  Sturgeon Memorial Awards with one of his two Awards to date  is a Shirley Jackson Award for his “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” story. 

By my count, he’s written nearly fifty stories and his stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s Science FictionDaily Science FictionClarkesworldLightspeed and Uncanny Magazine along with being reprinted in over fifteen year’s best collections.

The other is the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Blackfish City: A Novel which is our Beginning this time.

And now for that Beginning..

People would say she came to Qaanaaq in a skiff towed by a killer whale harnessed to the front like a horse. In these stories, which grew astonishingly elaborate in the days and weeks after her arrival, the polar bear paced beside her on the flat bloody deck of the boat. Her face was clenched and angry. She wore battle armor built from thick scavenged plastic.

At her feet, in heaps, were the kind of weird weapons and machines that refugee-camp ingenuity had been producing; strange tools fashioned from the wreckage of Manhattan or Mumbai. Her fingers twitched along the walrus-ivory handle of her blade. She had come to do something horrific in Qaanaaq, and she could not wait to start. 

You have heard these stories. You may even have told them. Stories are valuable here. They are what we brought when we came here; they are what cannot be taken away from us. The truth of her arrival was almost certainly less dramatic. The skiff was your standard tri-power rig, with a sail and oars and a gas engine, and for the last few miles of her journey to the floating city it was the engine that she used. The killer whale swam beside her. The polar bear was in chains, a metal cage over its head and two smaller ones boxing in its forepaws. She wore simple clothes, the skins and furs preferred by the people who had fled to the north when the cities of the south began to burn or sink. She did not pace. Her weapon lay at her feet. She brought nothing else with her. Whatever she had come to Qaanaaq to accomplish, her face gave no hint of whether it would be bloody or beautiful or both.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 14, 1908 Stephen Tall aka Compton Crook. Stephen Tall was the most common pseudonym of American science fiction writer Compton Newby Crook. He wrote two novels, The Ramsgate Paradox (in his Stardust series) and The People Beyond the WallThe Stardust Voyages collects the short stories in that series. The Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award was established by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in his name for best first novel in a given year. (Died 1981.)
  • Born June 14, 1909 Burl Ives. No, I’m not including because of being him voicing Sam the Snowman, narrator of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in that film though I could argue it is genre. No, I’m including him because he was on The Night Gallery (“The Other Way Out” episode) and appeared in several comic SF films, Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Earthbound. He also appeared in The Bermuda Depths which is more of a horror film. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 14, 1914 Ruthven Todd. He’s here for his delightful children’s illustrated quartet of Space Cat books — Space Cat, Space Cat Visits Venus, Space Cat Meets Mars and Space Cat and the Kittens. I’m pleased to say they’re available at all the usual digital suspects and yes I’ve read them. He also wrote Over the Mountain and The Lost Traveller which are respectively a lost world novel and a dystopian novel.  Side note: he was an editor of the works of William Blake which must have a really interesting undertaking! (Died 1978.)
  • Born June 14, 1921 William L. Hamling. Author and editor who was active as an sf fan in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His first story “War with Jupiter”, written with Mark Reinsberg, appeared in Amazing Stories in May 1939. He’d write only short stories, some nineteen of them, over the next twenty years. Genre adjacent, his Shadow of the Sphinx is a horror novel about an ancient Egyptian sorceress. He would be the Editor of two genre zines, Imagination for most of the Fifties, and Imaginative Tales during the Fifties as well. He published four issues of the Stardust fanzine in 1940, and contributed to the 1940 Worldcon program. He was best known for publishing adult magazines and books, which led to First Amendment litigation, and also a criminal prosecution that resulted in a jail term. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 14, 1949 Harry Turtledove, 74. I wouldn’t know where to begin with him considering how many series he’s done. I’m fairly sure I first read novels in his Agent of Byzantium series and I know his Crosstime Traffic series was definitely fun reading. He’s won two Sidewise Awards for How Few Remain and Ruled Britannia, and a Prometheus for The Gladiator. Hugos? Well there was one.  ConAdian saw him win for his “Down in the Bottomlands” novella, and his “Must and Shall” novelette picked up a nomination at L.A. Con III, and Chicon 2000 where he was Toastmaster saw his “Forty, Counting Down” honored with a nomination. 
  • Born June 14, 1955 Paul Kupperberg, 68. Scripted more a thousand stories of which I’ll only single out a very few: The Brave and the Bold, Green Lantern, Justice League of America,  House of Mystery, Justice League of America, and Star Trek. One of my favorite scripts by him was his work on The Phantom Stranger (with Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell). 
  • Born June 14, 1958 James Gurney, 65. Artist and author best known for his illustrated Dinotopia book series. He won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at L.A. Con III for Dinotopia: The World Beneath, and was twice nominated for a Hugo for Best Professional Artist. The dinosaur Torvosaurus gurneyi was named in honor of him.

(10) INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR WGA STRIKE. Variety checks in around the world: “’Screenwriters Everywhere’: Writers Strike Gets Global Support”.

From Argentina to New Zealand, support for the Writers Guild of America is officially going global.

Wednesday marks an International Day of Solidarity for the writers strike that is being branded “Screenwriters Everywhere,” with events taking place in major cities including Paris and London.

The Writers Guild of America has enlisted members from the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, Federation of Screenwriters in Europe and UNI Global Union to demonstrate global support for the union’s strike against Hollywood’s largest producers. The unprecedented rallying behind the WGA is especially relevant during this strike given the globalization of content, and the fast-growing international outposts of many “struck” companies, such as Netflix and Prime Video….

In London —

Titans of television turned up for the U.K. rally in support of WGA: “Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker, “Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong, “Doctor Who” showrunner Russell T. Davies and “His Dark Materials” writer Jack Thorne were among those who came to show solidarity with their U.S. counterparts.

Russell T Davies said:

…Russell T Davies was typically forthright about why he had made the effort to come down to London for the rally. “This is a fight to the death for drama,” he told Variety. “We’re looking at processes and software and attitudes and hostility that could drive these people into other jobs. These could be teachers and clerks and shop assistants in a few years time because our jobs are being erased. Absolutely erased with a happy smile on the accountants’ faces.”…

(11) STARFIELD. Forbes contributor Paul Stassi tries to wrap his brain around an elaborate video game that arrives in three months: “I Don’t Even Understand How ‘Starfield’ Exists”.

Microsoft promised that after all this time, we would finally get a proper look at Bethesda’s Starfield, set to be released in just over three months. No more in-engine footage, no more brief previews. Starfield instead did a showcase that was nearly as long as Xbox’s entire show. And I don’t think anyone expected it to be as wild as it was.

Very clearly, Starfield is using elements of No Man’s Sky as a base. A thousand planets, instead of infinite ones, but the same concept: exploration. Plus mining, plus cataloguing wildlife, plus building homes and finding ships to sail the stars.

But soon enough, the similarities stop, and you remember that oh wait, there’s also an entire mainline Bethesda RPG layered on top of this, and also, they are doing some things that almost sound too insane to be real….

Believe me, I understand how AAA video game hype works. We all remember being fooled by early looks at Cyberpunk 2077 or the aforementioned No Man’s Sky. But this feels different, namely because this game comes out in three months. This is not some years-early preview, and Bethesda has famously barely shown us anything about the game to this point outside of a few scarce minutes of gameplay and proofs of concept. What we’re seeing here is what the game is. Nothing is going to be cut or reduced in scale at this point.

There are questions, sure. How many of the thousand planets will have two neat buildings and then you move on? Or is there true exploration to be found? And just how buggy will this game launch, given that A) it’s this absolutely massive and B) it’s a Bethesda game, home of the most voluminous and hilarious bugs in the industry?

But it is hard not to be blown away by what was shown yesterday….

(12) DIDJA SEE THAT?! Inverse says “A Nearby Supernova Could Be Our Chance to Hear From Aliens”.

… The trick, of course, is that interstellar communication isn’t quick. Imagine there’s a three-car pileup on your street; you look out your window and see it, then yell downstairs to your neighbor, telling them to go take a look. All of that can happen within a matter of seconds.

But the space version takes a lot longer. Let’s say a star 21 million light years away explodes; it takes 21 million years for the light to reach you so that you can see the explosion. You send a radio message to your interstellar neighbor about 100 light years away, but that message will take 100 years to reach them.

Meanwhile, you’ve got to consider how far from the supernova your interstellar neighbor lives. Will the light from the explosion have reached them by the time they can hear your radio message?

As an example, Cabrales suggested that 32 star systems should already have seen the bright afterglow of SN 1987A, a supernova in our own Milky Way galaxy that lit up Earth’s skies in (you guessed it) 1987. If there’s anyone manning radio telescopes and transmitters on a planet around any of those stars, they’d have had time to see it and send a signal, and that signal would have had time to reach us here on Earth….

(13) MOVE OVER HABITABLE ZONES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] When considering the possibility of extraterrestrial life (exobiology) around other stars, astronomers often use the concept of the star’s ‘habitable zone’. There is now a new proposal put forward by three astrophysicists and a microbiologist all of whom are based in the US. This new concept is what they call the ‘photosynthetic habitable zone’.  

The ‘photosynthetic habitable zone’ is the overlap between two other zones: the ‘photosynthetic zone’ and the ‘habitable zone’. The ‘photosynthetic zone’ is different from the ‘habitable zone’.  The former, as the researchers define it, is where Earth-biology-type oxygen generating photosynthesis can take place, while the latter is where liquid water can exist on the planetary surface. (I mention Earth-biology-type photosynthesis which uses two non-oxygen generating photosynthetic systems – one gives a leg up to the other to get the energy to split water – as it has been hypothesised that a three photosystem mechanism might evolve around slightly redder stars than our own but the researchers do not include this.)

The photosynthesis zone is actually bigger than the habitable zone (as, for example, on Earth there are microbes that can photosynthesise while living in snow and ice).  So what you need to do is to look at the overlap between the two to get the ‘photosynthetic habitable zone’.

The researchers have done this plotting graphs for planets of varying atmospheric thickness (the thicker the atmosphere the less light reaches its surface for photosynthesis) with one axis of the graph being the star’s size and the other the distance of the exoplanet’s orbit from its star.  The graph shown here is for planets whose atmospheric thickness is similar to Earth’s.  There is a further refinement in that the planet should not be tidally locked to its star. (In the graph the upper limit is for those planets that take a billion years to become tidally locked.)

The researchers have plotted photosynthetic zone and habitable zone exo-planets on the graph. They identify just five that are in the photosynthetic habitable zone (PHZ) that are not tidally locked: Kepler-452b, Kepler-1638b, Kepler-1544b, Kepler-62e, and Kepler-62f, that are consistently in the PHZ. Of these, Kepler-452b seems to have conditions most like Earth. Kepler 452b was discovered in 2015. It is around 1,400 light years away (430 parsecs away) from Manchester’s Festival of Fantastic Films and a decent pint of beer. It is suggested that Kepler-452b be the focus of study looking for biosignatures. However, it is a long way off.

The primary research paper proposing this new concept is Hall, C. et al (2023) “A New Definition of Exoplanet Habitability: Introducing the Photosynthetic Habitable Zone”. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, vol. 948, L26.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George knows what it’s like to be going through airport security before the crack of dawn. You probably know, too. So how come you didn’t make this video instead of him? “Early Flights When You’re Not A Morning Person”.

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

Sci-FI London 2023 Report

By SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie: Well, that was the Sci-Fi-London film fest done and dusted for another year. So now’s the time for the reckoning….

Many film fests assemble a small panel of experts to ascertain their fest’s “best film”.  They also ask the audience for their view.  Sci-Fi London (SFL) do it differently, while they too ask the audience, they do not assemble a panel of experts as, since the organizers themselves select the programme, they already know the films and are quite capable of deciding which is the best, thank you very much. So, no panel of experts for good old SFL.

Here then are the best feature films and best shorts as decided by the marvelous SFL folk and also best as determined by the cinematically literate SF fans who attend the festival and give it meaning.

The SFL Organiser Best Feature was Once Upon A Time In The Future: 2121. The Earth’s surface has become uninhabitable due to the climate crisis and famine. Family units exist in underground homes run by a strict authoritarian regime. Population numbers are closely controlled and the old must be euthanised to make way for new lives…

The SFL Audience Best Feature was The Bystanders. Ever wonder why the animal excreta happens to you despite your best efforts…? Well, it might just be the “bystanders” screwing with your life because they are bored…! Bystanders are invisible immortals supposed to act like guardian angels. Each Bystander is tasked with watching a human, but they have been recruited from the human world and are mostly bitter people with no friends; a bunch of misfits and loners…

Into this comes new recruit Pete. He is being shown the ropes by his world-weary tutor Frank, who is mostly irritated by their subjects, and for fun suggests they swap their charges.

This is a superb sci-fi satire of modern life. Imagine the 1954 Phil Dick short story “Adjustment Team”, that was made into the film the The Adjustment Bureau, as an Ealing comedy.

The SFL Organiser Best Short was Sylvie Made It.  Ever been rude to customer service? Let me tell you, working in a call centre is literally hell…

The Sci-Fi London people say: “This short film (23 minutes from Belgium) reminded us of the best Twilight Zone stories.  It cleverly sets up a world we can feel very familiar with, and taps into so many frustrations we have all experienced. A brilliant performance by Isabelle Anciaux, and tight direction (Adrien Orville), this is a wonderful short film.”

The SFL Audience Best Feature was a tie – I do love it when that happens as we get a double shout out – with the shorts Lost In The Sky and Dark Cell.

Sweden’s Lost In The Sky’s screening at the fest was its UK premiere. Just 12 minutes long, it concerns a rescue robot who dreams of becoming a hero, but in his search for survivors he makes a dark discovery, leaving him with a devastating choice…

The screening at SFL of France’s Dark Cell was also a UK premiere. This 25 minute long offering sees two convicts in an orbital prison doing what they usually do, which is not much. Then two panicked guards, armed to the teeth, burst into their cell…

I could not find a trailer for Lost In The Sky, but then it is difficult to trail a short-short. However, here is the one for Dark Cell.

You can find Sci-Fi London here. Its YouTube channel is here.