Pixel Scroll 2/6/24 Scrollerman vs. Mr. Mixy-Pixel-like

(1) GLASGOW 2024 REOPENS HUGO NOMINATIONS. Members of Glasgow 2024 were notified today that online nominations for the Hugo Awards are working again.

One day after they initially went live on January 27, the committee announced in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” There is no extension to the originally announced deadline; all nominations must be received by Saturday, March 9, 2024, 16:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) (UTC+0). Detailed instructions for how to nominate, plus more specific information about the nomination categories and eligibility, are available here.

(2) CASHING IN. AbeBooks shared their “Most expensive sales in 2023”, and several are sff or comics.

1. Thomas Pynchon Collection – $125,000

Thomas Pynchon is one of America’s most reclusive novelists and the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity’s Rainbow, Slow Learner, Vineland, Mason and Dixon, Inherent Vice, and Bleeding Edge.

This is a collection of 246 items comes from a fine private library.

Highlights include: an advance reading copy of V. (1963), Pynchon’s first novel, in its original wrapper, as well as a first edition copy of V. in a dust jacket, advance unbound signatures and an uncorrected proof of Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), the binder’s dummy of Mason & Dixon (1997) in a proof dust jacket, and more.

“Assembled over a lifetime by a dedicated private collector, this remarkable collection of Thomas Pynchon’s work contained over 240 items. One would be hard-pressed to find a more bibliographically complete collection containing so many Pynchon rarities in such perfect condition.”

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – $85,620

This true first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published by Bloomsbury in June of 1997. Only 500 copies were printed, 200 of which were used to promote the book, and 300 were provided to libraries. This copy was originally owned by Edinburgh Public Library in Rowling’s hometown. She wrote the novel while sitting in various cafes around the Scottish city.

The book’s library card shows that it was borrowed 27 times between December 15, 1997 and October 12, 1999 before it was withdrawn from service. Those 27 readers were among the first people to experience the magic of Hogwarts.

This copy is a hardcover and was issued without a dust jacket. It has been restored and housed in a full red leather box lined with black suede. The sale marks our second most expensive sale of all time, and shows that the Harry Potter phenomenon, which began in 1997, has not diminished.

This is likely the most expensive online sale of a first edition of the Philosopher’s Stone. Another first edition sold at a live auction for $471,000 in 2021….

7. The Chronicles of Narnia Set by C.S. Lewis – $45,699

This remarkable set is made up of the first editions of each book in the author’s classic Chronicles of Narnia series, which has sold over 100 million copies and been translated into 47 languages….

10. Calvin and Hobbes: The Last Sunday, “Let’s Go Exploring” by Bill Watterson – $35,000

A rarity, this large color proof of the final Calvin and Hobbes strip is signed by Bill Watterson.

Calvin and Hobbes was a daily comic strip that ran between 1985 and 1995. It became hugely successful and was featured in thousands of newspapers around the globe.

This signed color proof was one of a small number produced and sent as a thank-you gift from Watterson to select newspapers who carried the strip.

(3) FREE READS. Analog and Asimov’s are offering their short fiction that made the Locus Recommended Reading List for readers to enjoy.

Novella:

“The Tinker and the Timestream”, Carolyn Ives Gilman (3-4/23)

Short Stories:

“Secondhand Music”, Aleksandra Hill (9-10/23)
“An Infestation of Blue”Wendy N. Wagner (11-12/23)

Novellas:

“Blade and Bone”, Paul McAuley (11-12/23)
“The Ghosts of Mars”, Dominica Phetteplace (11-12/23)

Novelettes:

“The Unpastured Sea”Gregory Feeley (9-10/23)
“Planetstuck”Sam J. Miller (3-4/23)
“Deep Blue Jump”, Dean Whitlock (9-10/23)

Short Story:

“Jamais Vue”, Tochi Onyebuchi (1-2/23)

(4) 100. Sunday Morning Transport, in search of subscribers, also has a free read: “A Hundred Secret Names” by Margaret Ronald.

My forty-eighth secret name is Accurate-in-Speech, so you will know that every word I say to you tonight is true.

I was born under the ice mountains, the second-youngest of a clutch of five. Like me, my siblings were loud and demanding in our fiery infancy, and unlike me, they are uninteresting. My mother was much the same; the only importance she has is that before she left us for good (for we had grown near her size and would soon be extinguished enough to venture out), she took each of us aside and whispered to us our first secret names. My siblings, being what they were, immediately told each other and reveled in this new ability to be individually loud. I, being as I am, wisely kept my name to myself….

(5) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. It’s really a thing. And Mashable conducted blindfolded testing. See video here: “We tested the Dune 2 Sandworm Popcorn Bucket. It was uncomfortable” reports Mashable.

“This was a choice!”

We blindfolded 5 Mashable employees and asked for their honest reactions to Dune: Part 2sandworm popcorn bucket. They did not disappoint. Dune: Part 2 premieres in theaters March 1st, 2024.

An even better video, however, is last weekend’s Saturday Night Live parody the “Dune Popcorn Bucket”.

A group of teenagers sings a song about a special night.

(6) ELON SAYS HE’S FOOTING THE BILL. An actress’ wrongful termination suit has an angel, of sorts: “Gina Carano Sues Disney for ‘Mandalorian’ Firing — With Elon Musk’s Help” in Variety.

Actor Gina Carano sued Disney and Lucasfilm on Tuesday for firing her from “The Mandalorian” in 2021, over a social media post in which she compared being a Republican to being Jewish during the Holocaust.

The suit, filed in California federal court, alleges wrongful termination and discrimination, as well as a demand that the court should force Lucasfilm to recast her and pay at least $75,000 in punitive damages.

Elon Musk is funding the suit, following his promise to pay for legal actions taken by people claiming discrimination from posts to Twitter/X. However, the posts in question originated on Carano’s Instagram Stories….

(7) IS IT WORTH WHAT YOU PAY FOR IT? An employee of Heritage Auctions answers the question “Is Toy Grading A Good Idea?” for readers of Intelligent Collector.

If you are a toy or action figure collector, you likely have a strong opinion on the subject when it comes to your personal collection. But whether it is a go0od idea for positive future monetary returns is an entirely different question.

While many collectors have long seen the encasement of their treasures as a separation from their tactile enjoyment, others have maintained that it preserves them in their highest quality state as time moves forward. Neither is wrong, strictly from a personal collecting perspective, but grading action figures and toys can have a significant effect on the value when sold. That is not to say that every toy should be graded as there is a real cost associated with it, but the right pieces with good grades can multiply the value from hundreds to thousands of dollars per item.

My general rule of thumb is that a toy is worth grading if the value of it is increased by at least 150% of the grading fee when added to the ungraded value. This is the case for items that already have value and a demonstrated history of selling in graded and ungraded condition. Of course, the final value will depend on the grade that the item receives as buyers pay more for higher-graded toys. For example, if a carded action figure is worth $300 and costs $100 to grade, I would grade it if it were certain to bring at least $450 at the lowest conceivable grade it could get.

On the opposing side, I would not recommend grading most brand-new items as they have not yet proven their value in the longer term. Many of the newer toys graded today may never increase in value over the grading cost and I have seen many toys over the years that are still unable to recoup the money paid for the service. Because many collectors now save packaged toys, there are many more in circulation than have ever been in the past due to the speculation of future value. If there is the potential of significant future value, I would recommend bagging and boxing the toys separately or using temporary clamshell cases made to preserve their condition.

As for vintage toys from the 1980’s and before, if the value is significant and the grade is expected to be 80 or above, I highly recommend grading to increase the value. It makes buyers more comfortable with their purchase of a graded item and its confirmed condition. Of course, these are general guidelines and there are many situations where exceptions would be made….

(8) SEW WHAT? The Huntington shares an item of Civil War history in “Guns, Secession, and a Secret Message in a Spool”.

…Yet the envelope’s contents turned out to be rather curious. There are several labeled items, apparently intended for a museum of the War Department that Townsend was trying to develop after the Civil War. Along with a piece of a British flag captured in 1781 at Yorktown and a length of red tape used by Confederate President Jefferson Davis during his detention at Fortress Monroe, there was a spool of thread wrapped in a piece of paper.

Spools like this were found in the numerous sewing kits (known as “housewives”) carried by U.S. soldiers. But it was the wrapper that caught my eye. It contained a typescript message dated 1861—several years before the typewriter was invented. A note written in Townsend’s hand along the bottom of the page read: “Sent this way to pass thru rebel lines. Message in spool of thread from one Union officer to another.”

I peered into the hole of the spool. Sure enough, inside was what appeared to be a tightly rolled piece of paper. I immediately contacted The Huntington’s superb conservation lab, where project conservator Cynthia Kapteyn managed to extract the paper and smooth it out. (You can watch a video of the extraction here.) The unrolled page revealed a handwritten message, hastily scribbled in pencil. The text matched the typed transcription.

The humble spool and the grubby note shed new light on the dramatic events that unfolded shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860….

(9) WORLDCON IN MEMORIAM CHANGES PLATFORMS. Steven H Silver announced that he’s moved the Worldcon In Memoriam account from Twitter (theoretically known as X) to Bluesky. Please can follow it at “Worldcon In Memoriam” (@wcinmemoriam.bsky.social).

(10) TONY BENOUN OBITUARY. Twenty-five year LASFS member Tony Benoun died January 18 after a long illness. He was active in Doctor Who fandom and helped found the Gallifrey One convention as Shaun Lyon recalls in his tribute “Tony Benoun remembered by Gallifrey One”.

Throughout the year 1988, following the Doctor Who Traveling Exhibition’s visit to Los Angeles the prior October, scarcely a month went by at the meetings of our local Doctor Who club, the Time Meddlers of Los Angeles, without someone giving voice to the idea that we should run a convention of our own. Tony Benoun was one of those loud and frequent voices in 1988, clamoring for us to step up to the plate and run our own event. He’d been part of Los Angeles Doctor Who fandom since the early 1980s, as part of the Chancellory Guard fan group; had participated in phone banking at KCET during Doctor Who pledge breaks; and had worked many other events, including as security for Creation Conventions. Tony was right with us in early 1989 when our club at large decided to move forward with the dream that would become Gallifrey One; he was with us in 1990, when that dream became reality; and he was with us ever since, as Gallifrey One persists through to this day.

As one of the longest-serving members of the Gallifrey One staff –and one of the few of us still left from those early days — Tony had been co-lead of what we’ve always called our Special Projects division: working on (and selling) our convention merchandise, T-shirts, tote bags, playing cards, stickers and more; supervising the moving and maintenance of our homegrown TARDIS for many years (he was part of a small group that created it, a group we’ve always referred to with a wink as the TARDIS Movers Union Local 42)….

He is survived by his wife Sherri, another member of the Gallifrey One team, and innumerable friends.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. (Died 2015.) So let’s talk about Patrick Macnee. Even the character of Patrick Macnee as John Steed in The Avengers is more complicated than we generally think of him. Steed started as a rougher agent than the gentleman he would become during the Gale and Peel eras. 

His dress as Dr. David Keel’s sidekick was a trenchcoat and suit, though the famous bowler hat and umbrella showed up very occasionally part way through the first series.

The gentleman agent in look and manner came to be in the second series when the actor who played Keel quit to pursue a film career. Once Macnee was promoted to star he adapted permanently that Saville Row suit and bowler hat with the sword cane look that he’d keep for the entire series and the New Avengers as well. 

So what else do I find interesting about his career? (My way of saying don’t expect me to cover everything he did here.) 

Now you might well guess the first role I’ll single out.

He may, and I say may deliberately, played Holmes twice in two television films, The Hound of London and Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Temporal Nexus. The latter may or may not exist as commenters online say they cannot actually find this case of paranormal murders and extraterrestrials. Holmes meets War of the Worlds? Surely in those nearly one and fifty films involving him, that been done, hasn’t it? Or not. 

Of his Watson performances, more is certain. He played him three times: once alongside Roger Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in these television films:  Sherlock Holmes in New York, and then twice with Christopher Lee, first in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady, and then in Incident at Victoria Falls.

He sort of plays him a fourth time. He appeared in Magnum, P.I. as, what else?, a retired British agent who suffered from the delusion that he was Sherlock Holmes, in the episode titled “Holmes”.  

What next? In a one-off, he took over Leo G. Carroll’s role as the head of U.N.C.L.E. as Sir John Raleigh in Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair.  Anyone see this?

He’s in A View to Kill as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a Roger Moore Bond film, as a horse trainer who helps him infiltrate Zorin’s chateau and stables.

Since everyone it seems showed up on this series, it probably won’t surprise you I that he was on Columbo in the “Troubled Waters” where he’s Capt. Gibbon. They filmed it on a real cruise ship, called the Sun Princess at the time. It was later sold many times and renamed Ocean Dream finally. It was abandoned off the coast of Thailand and sank there. Don’t you love my trivia? 

Finally, I think, he appeared on Broadway as the star of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth in the early seventies. He then headlined the national tour of that play.

No, I forgot an appearance I wanted to note. My bad.  He appeared on The Twilight Zone in “Judgement Night”. There he played the First Officer on the S.S. Queen of Glasgow, a cargo carrier, headed out on London to New York with a passenger with no memory but a feeling that something very bad will happen. 

I’m going now. Really I am.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) EGYPTIAN GRAPHIC STORIES. Hear about “Cairo in comics” in The Documentary at BBC Sounds.

Modern Cairo is a crowded metropolis. The city’s ‘thousand minarets’ are now dwarfed by a new skyline of slick tower blocks. Modern highways fly over bustling kiosks where residents gather to smoke and buy soda drinks. 

Inspired by the lives of their neighbours, playing out among mosques, high rise buildings and on busy streets, Egyptian writers and graphic artists, including Deena Mohamed, Shennawy and Mohamed Wahba bring their thousand-year-old capital to life. They tell the stories behind their own books and comics – Tok Tok, Shubeik Lubeik, and A Bird’s Eye View over Cairo. And how today, the city’s dedicated festival Cairo Comix has become an annual destination for artists and fans from around the world. 

(14) FROM SPACE COWBOY BOOKS. Released on February 4: Another Time: An Anthology of Time Travel Stories 1942-1960 edited by Jean-Paul L. Garnier.

The nature of time has forever perplexed humankind. Add the many ripe paradoxes of time travel and the situation gets complicated. While science has shown us that time travel is technically possible, at least on paper, we still know little about what time actually is, or our place within it. Science fiction has long explored this theme and it has become one of the cornerstones of the genre. In this collection of stories, we find visions of what time travel could be, what could go wrong, and dive headlong into the paradoxical nature of what it might entail. Tales ranging from 1942 to 1960 bring us into these mysterious worlds and provide a window into what the writers of this era grappled with when exploring time and the possibilities of traveling within the fourth dimension. Readers will also delight in traversing another time in literature, with stories that first appeared in Worlds of IF, Astonishing Stories, Galaxy Magazine, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Startling Stories, and Imagination Stories of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

 With stories by:

  • C. Shook
  • Darius John Granger
  • Evelyn E. Smith,
  • Sylvia Jacobs
  • Rog Phillips
  • Miriam Allen deFord
  • Anthony Boucher
  • Henry Kuttner
  • Alfred Bester

 With an introduction by Dr. Phoenix Alexander. Original cover art by Zara Kand. Get your copy at Bookshop.org.

(15) THIS YEAR’S CROP. Apple+ announced several new shows yesterday, including two intriguing sf series: “Apple TV+ Unveils New Slate Of Originals for 2024” at AllYourScreens.

Constellation
Premiere date: 
Wednesday, February 21
A new, eight-part conspiracy-based psychological thriller starring Noomi Rapace and Emmy Award nominee Jonathan Banks that will premiere globally on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 with the first three episodes, followed by one episode weekly, every Wednesday through March 27 on Apple TV+.  

Created and written by Peter Harness, “Constellation” stars Rapace as Jo – an astronaut who returns to Earth after a disaster in space – only to discover that key pieces of her life seem to be missing. The action-packed space adventure is an exploration of the dark edges of human psychology, and one woman’s desperate quest to expose the truth about the hidden history of space travel and recover all that she has lost. The series also stars James D’Arcy, Julian Looman, Will Catlett, Barbara Sukowa, and introduces Rosie and Davina Coleman as Alice. 

“Constellation” is directed by Emmy Award winner Michelle MacLaren, Oscar nominee Oliver Hirschbiegel and Oscar nominee Joseph Cedar. Produced by Turbine Studios and Haut et Court TV, the series is executive produced by David Tanner, Tracey Scoffield, Caroline Benjo, Simon Arnal, Carole Scotta and Justin Thomson. MacLaren directs the first two episodes and executive produces the series with Rebecca Hobbs and co-executive producer Jahan Lopes for MacLaren Entertainment. Harness executive produces through Haunted Barn Ltd. The series was shot principally in Germany and was series produced by Daniel Hetzer for Turbine Studios, Germany…

Dark Matter
Premiere date:
 Wednesday, May 8

Dark Matter is a sci-fi thriller series based on the blockbuster book by acclaimed, bestselling author Blake Crouch. The nine-episode series features an ensemble cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Connelly, Alice Braga, Jimmi Simpson, Dayo Okeniyi and Oakes Fegley. Dark Matter makes its global debut on Apple TV+ on May 8, 2024, premiering with the first two episodes, followed by new episodes every Wednesday through June 26. 

Hailed as one of the best sci-fi novels of the decade, Dark Matter is a story about the road not taken. The series will follow Jason Dessen (played by Edgerton), a physicist, professor, and family man who — one night while walking home on the streets of Chicago — is abducted into an alternate version of his life. Wonder quickly turns to nightmare when he tries to return to his reality amid the mind-bending landscape of lives he could have lived. In this labyrinth of realities, he embarks on a harrowing journey to get back to his true family and save them from the most terrifying, unbeatable foe imaginable: himself.

Crouch serves as executive producer, showrunner, and writer alongside executive producers Matt Tolmach and David Manpearl for Matt Tolmach Productions, and Joel Edgerton. Dark Matter” is produced for Apple TV+ by Sony Pictures Television.

(16) FANCY EDITION. The Illustrated World of Tolkien from Easton Press is pretty.

An excellent guide to Middle-earth and the Undying Lands, including vivid descriptions of all Tolkien’s beasts, monsters, races, nations, deities, and the flora and fauna of the territory. Full-color pages with stunning illustrations create an enchanting source for information on all the fantastical places and creatures that sprung from Tolkien’s mind….

(17) THE SINGULARITY WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. Is ChatGPT compiling clinical information or drumming up business? “FDA medical device loophole could cause patient harm, study warns” at Healthcare IT News.

Doctors and researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the UMD Institute for Health Computing and the VA Maryland Healthcare System are concerned that large language models summarizing clinical data could meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s device-exemption criteria and could cause patient harm.

WHY IT MATTERS

Artificial intelligence that summarizes clinical notes, medications and other patient data without FDA oversight will soon reach patients, doctors and researchers said in a new viewpoint published Monday on the JAMA Network.

They analyzed FDA’s final guidance on clinical decision support software. The agency has interpreted it as involving “time-critical” decision-making as a regulated device function, and that could include LLM generation of a clinical summary, the authors said. 

Published about two months before ChatGPT’s release, the researchers said the guidance “provides an unintentional ‘roadmap’ for how LLMs could avoid FDA regulation.”

Generative AI will change everyday clinical tasks. It has earned a great deal of attention for its promise to reduce physician and nurse burnout, and to improve healthcare operational efficiencies, but LLMs that summarize clinical notes, medications and other forms of patient data “could exert important and unpredictable effects on clinician decision-making,” the researchers said.

They conducted tests using ChatGPT and anonymized patient record data, and examined the summarization outputs, concluding, that results raise questions that go beyond “accuracy.”

“In the clinical context, sycophantic summaries could accentuate or otherwise emphasize facts that comport with clinicians’ preexisting suspicions, risking a confirmation bias that could increase diagnostic error,” they said. 

…However, it’s a dystopian danger that generally arises “when LLMs tailor responses to perceived user expectations” and become virtual AI yes-men to clinicians.

“Like the behavior of an eager personal assistant.”…

(18) A BIT SHY OF THE MARK. Damien G. Walter’s history “The war for the Hugo awards” begins by saying that the first Hugo Awards (1953) were “so small scale that no plans were made to run them again.” Although the runners of the 1954 Worldcon didn’t give them, Ben Jason, who was instrumental in resuming the Hugos in 1955 (see “The Twice-Invented Hugos”) told me that the people who created the awards intended them to be annual. So that’s Walter taking a bit of literary license. You’ll have to check to see how closely the rest of his video hews to history. 

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, Kathy Sullivan, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Steven French for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article ends:

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

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

Jason Sanford disavowed the last paragraph on Bluesky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz ponders the power of story.

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

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

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

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

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

Category: Talking About Tolkien

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

Wrong question: What is the Oxford group?

Right question: What is the Inklings?

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

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

Right question: What is Ronald?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/24 Yippie-i-ay (Yippie-i-ay), Yippie-i-oh (Yippie-i-oh), Ghost Pixels In The Sky

(1) EMSH REVIVAL FOR AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS. J. Michael Straczynski told Facebook readers about the work he’s doing to get the second Ellison anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions, ready for publication. It involves the interior art and graphics.

Now that Harlan’s first Dangerous Visions is locked for print, we’re now moving to getting a proper galley for Again, Dangerous Visions. The main problem, in my eyes, with that process is that many of the later editions used the same Ed Emshwiller graphics/stats made for the original book (second generation images), or worse still, simply copied/reproduced the graphics from the printed pages themselves (third generation images).

This needs to be the most pristine version of the book done since the original print run, so after an exhaustive search, Ed’s original stats/graphics were discovered, and despite being sick as a dog (long story) I’ve spent every night for the past several days, going until dawn in most cases, carefully scanning every one of those eighty-plus images at high res, using air-blowers to remove dust, and gloves to avoid getting finger oil on anything.

I’ve just finished the last of the scans, and these images are just gorgeous, in astonishing detail and clarity. Honestly, so many of them could have been book covers all by themselves. Thinking that assembling these along the lines we see in the book, joined by ECG like pulses, might make a really cool promotional poster (but that’s just a thought for the moment, haven’t discussed it with anyone yet).

(2) ON THE NOSE. Philip Athans describes the use of an evocative fiction technique in “Smells Like Vivid Description” at Fantasy Author’s Handbook.

…I was surprised to hear in this video that, “Smell is apparently the strongest inducer of memories—of early memories. And the beauty is, even people suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia, never lose their olfactory memory.”

If you look back to last week’s post about How to Tell, it’s all about triggering memories. So a particular smell can help introduce some further detail about either or both of the world and the character. For instance, I find the smell of old books particularly delightful. This is my childhood love of the old books in the library coming to the forefront, and helping to propel my own love of collecting vintage books decades and decades later. If I were a character in a novel the smell of an old book could trigger a two-paragraph mini info dump about my childhood spent primarily in books, which turned into an adulthood spent primarily in books….

… Smells can also poke certain emotional triggers in your POV character, and go a long way to establishing the atmosphere of a scene….

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB speculative fiction reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present P. Djéli Clark and Eric Schaller on Wednesday, January 10. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003 (Just off 2nd Ave, upstairs).

P. DJÉLI CLARK

Phenderson Djéli Clark is the award-winning and Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Sturgeon nominated author of the novels Abeni’s Song and A Master of Djinn, and the novellas Ring Shout, The Black God’s Drums, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. His short stories have appeared in online venues such as Tor.com and in print anthologies including, Hidden Youth and Black Boy Joy. His upcoming novella, The Dead Cat Tail Assassins, will be out in 2024.

ERIC SCHALLER

Eric Schaller’s latest collection of dark fiction, Voice of the Stranger contains stories selected for Fantasy: Best of the Year, Best of the Rest, and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction. His fiction can also be found in his collection Meet Me in the Middle of the Air and in many anthologies and magazines. His stories are influenced in part by his studies in the biological sciences and the uneasy relationship humans have with each other and the world around them.

(4) WHAT TECH FORESEES IN 2024. Tech.co’s post “Experts’ Predictions for the Future of Tech in 2024” begins with a survey of sff:

2024 is about to dawn on the world. But in one of the most precient novels of the science fiction genre, it already has: Octavia Butler’s decades-old novel Parable of the Sower opens in Los Angeles in 2024.

Butler’s fictional world dealt with many of the social and environmental pressures that we’ll definitely be seeing a lot of in the real 2024. Climate change has boosted sea levels and increased droughts, increased privatization from greedy corporations is threatening schools, police forces are militarized, and a Presidential candidate is literally saying he’ll “make American great again.”

It’s hard to beat Butler’s entry when it comes to predicting what’s coming down the pike in the new year, and no one has really come close. Honorable mention goes to a 1995 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine featuring a time-travelling social-commentary jaunt to 2024 San Francisco that deals with revolutionaries and homelessness encampments. A distant finalist is a grim tale by Harlan Ellison, A Boy and His Dog, which features a dystopian 2024 set among post-nuclear war mutated cannibals.

Things aren’t looking quite as bad for the real 2024, however. None of the dozens of industry experts and tech leaders that we’ve looked to for opinions about the future predicted a single incident of cannibalism….

(5) NOMINATE FOR THE REH AWARDS. “The 2024 Robert E. Howard Awards Are Open for Nominations!” announces the Robert E. Howard Foundation. You do not need to be a Foundation member to nominate.

…Under the new rules, nominations are due in to the Awards committee by February 15, 2024, with the Awards committee selecting the top nominees in each category for the final ballot by March 1, 2024….

(6) CRITTERS READERS’ POLL. Meanwhile, the “26th Annual Critters Readers’ Poll” is open through January 14. The Readers’ Poll honors print & electronic publications published during 2023. Its newest categories are Magical Realism, and Positive Future Fiction (novel & short story).

(7) MAYOR SERLING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Slashfilm reminds us of the time that Jack Benny took a detour through the Twilight Zone. No, not any of The Twilight Zone TV series nor the theatrical nor TV films. Not even the radio dramas. It all happened inside Jack Benny‘s own eponymous TV show. “Rod Serling Played The Mayor Of The Twilight Zone On The Jack Benny Program”.

…Serling’s episode aired on January 15, 1963, and, as was the show’s custom, he also played himself. In the fictionalized universe of the series, Benny hires Serling to help his struggling writers smarten up their material. Though Serling acknowledges he has little experience with comedy (before “The Twilight Zone,” he was probably best known as the Emmy-winning writer of “Requiem for a Heavyweight”), he’s excited to collaborate with Benny’s two-man staff.

This does not go well.

After repeated clashes with Benny’s writers, Serling gives up, citing his desire to tell stories with deeply considered characterizations and thought-provoking themes. Benny takes issue with Serling’s dismissive opinion of his style of comedy and fires back that “The Twilight Zone” can’t possibly tell stories of significance because the Twilight Zone does not actually exist. And you can probably guess what happens next.

After quarreling with Serling, Benny decides to take a leisurely walk home. On the way there, he gets lost in a thick fog and finds himself in an area of town he doesn’t recognize. Eventually, he encounters a road sign which tells him exactly where he is. It reads: “Welcome to Twilight Zone, Population: Unlimited.” Below this is an arrow pointing left to “Subconscious 27 Mi,” and one pointing right to “Reality 35 Mi.”

This is when matters take a distressingly surreal turn….

(8) JUST SEWN THAT WAY. Camestros Felapton gives the film a thorough critique in “Review: Poor Things”. Beware spoilers.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2023 film starring Emma Stone is a dark comedy fantasy set in an unreal, stylised world suggestive of the late 19th century. Based on the novel by Alisdair Gray (which I haven’t read) but stripped of its Scottish setting and metatextual elements, the film follows the strange life of Bella Baxter.

Dr. Godwin Baxter is a surgeon and a mad-scientist like figure who resembles Victor Frankenstein in his obsession to reanimate corpses surgically but who also resembles Frankenstein’s monster physically due to experiments conducted on him by his own father…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1990 — Isaac Asimov’s “The Fourth Homonym” story is the source of our Beginning this time. His Black Widowers stories of which this is one I think are some of the cleverest bar style stories ever done even if they weren’t set in a bar like Clarke’s White Hart tales.  

These stories which were based on a literary dining club he belonged to known as the Trap Door Spiders.  The Widowers were based on real-life Spiders, some of them well known writers in their own right such as Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison and Lester del Rey.

This story was first published thirty-four years ago in The Asimov Chronicles: Fifty Years of Isaac Asimov. It may be the only Black Widower story not collected in the volumes that collect the other stories. 

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

And now for one of the best Beginnings done I think in the Black Widowers stories…

“Homonyms!” said Nicholas Brant. He was Thomas Trumbull’s guest at the monthly banquet of the Black Widowers. He was rather tall, and had surprisingly prominent bags under his eyes, despite the comparative youthfulness of his appearance otherwise. His face was thin and smooth-shaven, and his brown hair showed, as yet, no signs of gray. “Homonyms,” he said.

“What?” said Mario Gonzalo blankly.

“The words you call ‘sound-alikes.’ The proper name for them is ‘homonyms.’ “

“That so?” said Gonzalo. “How do you spell it?”

Brant spelled it.

Emmanuel Rubin looked at Brant owlishly through the thick lenses of his glasses. He said, “You’ll have to excuse Mario, Mr. Brant. He is a stranger to our language.”

Gonzalo brushed some specks of dust from his jacket sleeve and said, “Manny is corroded with envy because I’ve invented a word game. He knows the words but he lacks any spark of inventiveness, and that kills him.”

“Surely Mr. Rubin does not lack inventiveness,” said Brant, soothingly. “I’ve read some of his books.”

“I rest my case,” said Gonzalo. “Anyway, I’m willing to call my game ‘homonyms’ instead of ‘sound-alikes.’ The thing is to make up some short situation which can be described by two words that are sound-alikes – that are homonyms. I’ll give you an example: If the sky is perfectly clear, it is easy to decide to go on a picnic in the open. If it is raining cats and dogs, it is easy to decide not to go on a picnic. But what if it is cloudy, and the forecast is for possible showers, but there seem to be patches of blue here and there, so you can’t make up your mind about the picnic. What would you call that?”

“A stupid story,” said Trumbull tartly, passing his hand over his crisply waved white hair.

“Come on,” said Gonzalo, “play the game. The answer is two words that sound alike.”

There was a general silence and Gonzalo said, “The answer is ‘whether weather.’ It’s the kind of weather where you wonder whether to go on a picnic or not. ‘Whether weather,’ don’t you get it?”

James Drake stubbed out his cigarette and said, “We get it. The question is, how do we get rid of it?”

Roger Halsted said, in his soft voice, “Pay no attention, Mario. It’s a reasonable parlor game, except that there don’t seem to be many combinations you can use.”

Geoffrey Avalon looked down austerely from his seventy-four-inch height and said, “More than you might think. Suppose you owned a castrated ram that was frisky on clear days and miserable on rainy days. If it were merely cloudy, however, you might wonder whether that ram would be frisky or miserable. That would be ‘whether wether weather.’ “

There came a chorus of outraged What!’s.

Avalon said, ponderously. “The first word is w-h-e-t-h-e-r, meaning if. The last word is w-e-a-t-h-e-r, which refers to atmospheric conditions. The middle word is w-e-t-h-e-r, meaning a castrated ram. Look it up if you don’t believe me.”

“Don’t bother,” said Rubin. “He’s right.”

“I repeat,” growled Trumbull, “this is a stupid game.”

“It doesn’t have to be a game,” said Brant. “Lawyers are but too aware of the ambiguities built into the language, and homonyms can cause trouble.”

The gentle voice of Henry, that waiter for all seasons, made itself heard over the hubbub by some alchemy that worked only for him.

“Gentlemen,” he said. “I regret the necessity of interrupting a warm discussion, but dinner is being served.”

(10) TEA FOR 2(ND). Before reading Cat’s birthday, pour yourself a cup of “Second Breakfast – Chapters Tea”.

Small batch hand blended English breakfast tea with Marigold petals. Perfect for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, and afternoon tea. Enter our fan drawn rendition of a realm where friendship, nature, and the simple pleasures of life come first. Inspired by, but not affiliated with, our favorite series with a ring.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. (Died 1973.) Obligatory preface — this is my personal encounters with Tolkien, so if I’ve not been up close with something say The Silmarillion than it isn’t here. And I haven’t with that work. Some works I haven’t read get included anyways as they passed through Green Man and have a Story attached to them. 

Tolkien in 1972.

J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the individuals who I always picture in the photo of him that must be of in his seventies with his pipe with that twinkle in his eye. He looks like he could be akin to a hobbit himself about to set down to elevenses. 

The Hobbit, or There and Back Again which was published by George Allen & Unwin  eighty-six years ago written for his children but obviously we adults enjoy as much, and so it is my favorite work by him.  Dragons, hobbits, epic quests, wizards, dwarves — oh my!  

I’ve lost count of the number of time I’ve read over the years, and the recent time, just several back as a listening experience showed the Suck Fairy enjoys it as much as I do.

I hadn’t realized until putting together this Birthday that all three volumes of the Lord of The Rings were published at the same time. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers in 1954, The Return of The King the following year. I’m so used to trilogies being spread out over a longer period of time. 

Though I’ve not read the trilogy nearly as much I’ve read The Hobbit, and that shouldn’t surprise you, I do enjoy it though I will confess that The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite of the three novels here. 

It was nominated at Tricon for a Best All-Time Series Hugo. Asimov’s Foundation series won that year. It did garner an International Fantasy Award first Best Series and the same for a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. I’m more than a bit surprised that it didn’t get nominated for a Retro Hugo.

Now unto a work that I like just as much as the sister of Kate Baker, Kathleen Bartholomew, does. That being Farmer Giles of Ham. Kathleen, who now has Harry, Kage’s Space Pirate of a parrot, says “Farmer Giles is a clever, solid, shrewd fellow, clearly cut from the same cloth as the most resourceful hobbits elsewhere in Tolkien’s most famous universe.” It’s a wonderful story indeed.

We got in a custom bag from the United Kingdom that the USPS made me sign for so that HarperCollins UK could sure that all twelve volumes of The History of Middle-Earth got here. No, I didn’t read it, but I did skim it. Liz reviewed it for Green Man and here’s that review thisaway. A hobbit sitting down and having elevenses is shorter than it is. 

A much, much shorter work is The Road Goes Ever On is a song cycle and much more first published in 1967. It’s a book of sheet music and as an audio recording. It is largely based off poems in The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien approved of the songs here. 

Why it’s important is that side one of this record consisted of has him reading six poems from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, than the first track on side two has him reading part of the Elvish prayer of “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” from The Lord of the Rings

I love Letters from Father Christmas which were originally written for his children. I see Allen and Unwin gave what I think was the better title of The Father Christmas Letters when they first published then collectively in 1976 which was more declarative. A local theatre group dud a reading of them some twenty years back — it was a wonderful experience as it was snowing gently outside the bookstore windows where they were doing it as we had hot chocolate and cookies.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something by him that I like but I think that I’ve prattled on long enough this time… 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Nonsequitur has a nice variation on the old Hans Christian Andersen tale.
  • Carpe Diem is a vision of the future.
  • Dog Eat Doug shows when the bark(er) is as fierce as the bite.

(13) BEGUILE THE DIAL. [Item by Steven French.] A call for more weirdness on U.K. TV: “Britain is plagued by bland, box-ticking television. Bring back weird TV” in the Guardian.

…Schedules from the 60s and 70s – the height of Britain’s TV weirdness –contained nuclear attacks, ghosts, war stories, brutal public safety films and intellectually demanding folk horror dramas such as Robin Redbreast, Penda’s Fen and Artemis 81….

(14) WOULD YOU BELIEVE…IRISH REUNIFICATION? Gizmodo reminds fans that “2024 Is a Hell of a Year in Star Trek History” with a slideshow that starts at the link.

A lot—a lot—happens historically in Star Trek’s 2024, crucially important events that go on to not just shape Earth as it is in the early 21st century, but form foundational pillars for the contemporary Star Trek timeline. It’s a year we’ve heard about, and visited, multiple times across several Trek shows. So what’s exactly wild about it? Well, let us take a look through Trek’s past to find out… and perhaps, our future?

(15) AI IN LAW ENFORCEMENT. “’Proceed with caution:’ AI poses issues of discrimination, surveillance” at WBUR.

There are many uses for AI as the technology becomes more accessible and normalized, but not everyone is excited about that premise. AI scholar and activist Joy Buolamwini is one of those critics. She’s the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League and author of the book “Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines.”

She started her journey as a scholar enamored by the promise of AI. But her views changed when she tried face-tracking software and it didn’t work well on her dark skin. However, the software registered her when she put on a white mask.

Buolamwini questioned whether her problem was unique or would happen to others with dark skin. And she found that the data was skewed.

“The data sets we often found were largely male and largely pale individuals,” Buolamwini says.

This poses problems especially when AI is used by law enforcement agencies to identify suspects, assess whether a defendant will commit another crime, and assign bond limits or flight risk status. Buolamwini uses Porcha Woodruff’s story as an example. Woodruff was 8 months pregnant when she was mistakenly arrested for carjacking after being misidentified by Detroit police’s facial recognition software.

“We’re creating tools for mass surveillance,” Buolamwini says, “that in the hands of an authoritarian state can be used in very devastating ways.”

Buolamwini stresses that even if data set bias was addressed, accurate artificial intelligence could still pose problems and be abused….

(16) UNFORGETTABLE IMAGES. This Yardbarker slideshow might just live up to its title: “The 20 most epic moments in sci-fi movies”. At least, there’s a bunch of my favorites here.

Science fiction excels at pushing the boundaries of the possible, both in terms of the stories it tells and the methods by which it brings those stories to life. People often go to sci-fi films to see the world brought to life in ways new, strange, and sometimes terrifying, precisely because the genre is so adept at taking things in the present and exploring what they might look like in the future. Some of the best scenes in sci-fi films take the viewer out of themselves, allowing them to encounter something akin to the sublime.

In sixteenth place:

The assembling of the Avengers during the battle against Thanos in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

Throughout much of the 2010s, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the franchise that couldn’t be beaten, and it had its fair share of epic moments. The pinnacle, however, was during the climactic battle against the genocidal Thanos in Avengers: Endgame, when at last, the Avengers and all of those who have been restored appear to strike back against the Titan. It evokes the moment in the first Avengers film where the beloved characters first united, and it is also a climactic moment for those devastated when so many were killed with the Snap. In the world of comic book movies, no one ever remains truly dead.

(17) ‘TIL THEN HE’S COPYRIGHT KRYPTONITE. Someday you may ask “When Do Superman & Batman Enter the Public Domain?” Yahoo! has anticipated your interest. First on the list:

When does Superman enter the public domain?

As per US law, 2034 is the year when Superman would be joining the public domain.

In 2034, fans of Man of Steel and a few other DC characters will be able to use Superman in their content up to a certain extent without being afraid of copyright, trademark, or patent laws as that’s when Superman will be joining the public domain (PD).

According to US law, a property introduced before 1978 makes its way into the public domain if 95 years have passed after its first publication. So, because Superman made his debut on April 18, 1938, in Action Comics #1, he will be joining the public domain in 2034.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/23 He Was Scrolling Pixels When Scrolling Pixels Wasn’t Cool

(1) FOR ART’S SAKE. If you want to read “Bodily Autonomy in the Murderbot Diaries: Martha Wells Interviews Herself and ART” you need to buy F(r)iction’s “The Bodies Issue (No. 20)” – digital for $12, print & digital for $20. But Murderbot, right?!

(2) GET READY FOR SMOFCON $ALE. Marah Searle-Kovacevic, Chair, Smofcon 41announced they will be having a post holiday membership sale! From December 26-31, attending memberships will be $65! Get yours, they’ll never be any lower! Sign up here starting next week: “Membership – Smofcon 41”

(3) WORLDCON BID Q&A SESSIONS. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] SMOFCon 40 allowed the Worldcon Events YouTube channel to extract the presentations from past and future Worldcons and from those bids who had representatives either in person or remotely.

I tried to trim these down to just the presentations/Q&A, not including the changeover time between presenters or any issues with getting the tech set up.

There were presentations from the following Worldcons and bids:

None of the other bids that have previously announced interest and that are currently listed on our Worldcon bids page (Tel Aviv in 2027, Brisbane in 2028, Texas in 2031, Minneapolis in 2073) had representatives at SMOFCon 40.

(4) TALKING ABOUT TOLKIEN. Tom Emanuel of the University of Glasgow is looking for nonreligious people to interview about Tolkien:

Are you a fan of The Lord of the Rings? Do you identify as nonreligious? Would you be interested in talking to me (Tom Emanuel) for 1-2 hours about why you love Tolkien?

If you answered “yes” I would love it if you filled out this questionnaire for my PhD research at the University of Glasgow!

Robin Anne Reid forwarded the request with a couple of links to Tom’s previous scholarship that is open-access if people are interested in seeing what sort of work he does in Tolkien scholarship. 

(5) GOBLIN SONG FALLING AFTER SPLASH DEBUT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] After climbing to number 12 in its first week in release, Doctor Who’s “The Goblin Song” has now slipped to 52 on UK charts.

There had been a concerted campaign to make it number one.

(6) MIKE NUSSBAUM (1924-2023). [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Actor Mike Nussbaum was The Principal in Field of Dreams, Gentle Rosenberg in Men in Black, Yuri Rosanov in Early Edition, and Mr. Wallace in The Water Engine. Look the last one up, it’s fascinating. No series work at all of a genre nature save a character on the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas called Nathaniel Harris. 

Deadline’s complete tribute is here: “Mike Nussbaum Dies: Veteran Actor In ‘Men In Black’ And ‘Fatal Attraction’ Was 99”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

December 23, 1960 Twilight Zone’s “The Night of The Meek”

On December 23rd in 1960, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. It was one of the six episodes of the second season which was shot on videotape in a failed attempt saved to cut costs. Networks and their bean counters.

This was a Christmas themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. But before we learn that we have this opening scene and narration:

As snow begins to fall, a drunk Henry Corwin ((Carney) wearing his Santa Claus suit, leans against a curbside lamppost. He is approached by two tenement children begging for toys, a Christmas dinner, and “a job for my daddy.” As he begins to sob, the camera turns to Rod Serling standing on the sidewalk:

This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in the uniquely popular American institution, that of the department-store Santa Claus in a road-company version of ‘The Night Before Christmas’. But in just a moment Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found… in the Twilight Zone.

The script would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. 

Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”,  but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties for reasons never made clear and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series. The series runs on Paramount+ now in its original full, uncensored version. The line is still missing from all the DVD versions.

John Fielder who is Mister Dundee here would have a second Twilight Zone appearance in “Cavander is Coming” in which he has the lead as the Angel Harmon Cavender.

Oh, and let’s note that it’s a cat that mysteriously starts off this tale by knocking down a large burlap bag full of empty cans, which when Corwin trips over it, is then filled with gifts. See cats are magical! 

Serling ends with this narration:

A word to the wise to all the children of the Twentieth Century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas and there’s a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek. And a Merry Christmas to each and all.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s Christmas shopping advice.
  • Or maybe the person on your list has dropped a heavy hint?

(9) SNYDERVERSE’S LATEST. Camestros Felapton has a very wry way of telling everyone how little he thinks of Zack Snyder’s new production: “Review: Rebel Moon (Netflix)”. There are three or four lines even funnier than this:

…This is Part 1 of 2. The Seven Samurai haven’t got to the village yet, Thanos knows Gamora is leading them and Darth Vader isn’t actually dead (spoiler), so there is a lot to expect in Part 2 including the whereabouts of the magic space princess….

(10) THE VOICE-CLOCK SANG. The National Review pointed readers to “Ray Bradbury’s ‘There Will Come Soft Rains’” with a commentary by Luther Ray Abel that says in part:

…Something splendid this way comes from “Rains”: its treatment of the works of man. Even the seemingly immortal machines we build — contraptions subservient to our whims and intelligence that can operate without our input — will disappear in time, much faster than one would expect, even.

There’s this idea from the utopianists among us, many of them progressives, that technology will undergird the socialist state — that objects will remove the necessity for man to do and to make, and, ultimately, be answerable for anything. Scruton refuted this irrational optimism as only he could, “[Political optimists] ignore or despise the findings of experience and common sense. The millions dead or enslaved do not refute utopia, but merely give proof of the evil machinations that have stood in its way.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, but with its false promises, we pick through the ruins of Babel and dream of raising her again. Man cannot save himself, even with infinite microprocessors and processes. To think of technology as anything other than a temporary salve — a way to soften the effects of the Fall — is folly; the family vaporized on the wall of their home consider the purported benefits of progress fatally unfulfilling….

(11) TYPE LIKE TOLKIEN. Slashfilm has its Eye on “Cool Stuff: Colorful Lord Of The Rings Custom Keyboards Come In Elvish, The Black Speech & More”.

Taking cues from the various realms of Middle-earth… Drop’s keyboards and keycaps utilize various fantastical languages, including Elvish, Dwarvish, and even the sparsely spoken Black Speech that adorns the Ring of Power, to give your mundane keyboard a beautiful upgrade. Don’t worry if you don’t speak any of those languages fluently; these keyboards still have English where needed to define keys you might not use frequently….

With another green color scheme, you might also be interested in the Elvish keyboard featuring custom artwork by OSHETART depicting the Two Trees of Valinor (because the time of the elves is not over)….

(12) CHECKING IT TWICE. Santa’s feeling the last-minute stress, too, in this old Emsh cover for Galaxy Magazine.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Kathy Sullivan, Robin Anne Reid, 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 Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/23 Scrollabye Of Cordwainer Birdland

(1) BRAND NEW AUDIO FEATURE. Daniel Dern sent a music video playlist to accompany his Pixel Scroll title today.

“Lullabye of Broadway” (from 42nd Street)

“Birdland”

Optional play(list)

(2) NEW VOICE CHIMES IN. There’s a slight changing of the guard at the “Worldbuilding for Masochists” podcast. Marshall Ryan Maresca and Cass Morris will now be joined by Natania Barron, who’s taking over from Rowenna Miller.

Cass Morris made the announcement on her Scribendi newsletter.

There’s been some change and excitement on the Worldbuilding for Masochists podcast! Rowenna Miller, who’s been a co-host since the beginning, is stepping back for reasons of Life And Everything. She’s not disappearing forever; she’s still working on the anthology with us, and we’ll certainly pull her in to be a guest in the future. Marshall and I will miss her, but we’re also very excited to welcome Natania Barron as our new co-host!

Natania is a fantastic person who I first met through, if I’m remembering it correctly, yelling about corsets on Twitter-that-was. She had the popular #ThreadTalk feature there, showcasing her expertise as a fashion historian. She’s also a medievalist and Arthuriana-ist! I got to hang out with her at ConCarolinas a couple of years ago, and she’s as delightful in real life as she is online. Listeners can get to know her a bit in this week’s episode, Passing the Torch.

(3) THE RUNAWAY BRIDE IS RUNAWAY WINNER. When Radio Times finishes counting the votes, “David Tennant bests Matt Smith in Doctor Who Christmas episode poll”. And Cat Eldridge says, “Why we should be in the least bit surprised that David Tennant bested Matt Smith in this particular poll?” He’s been the best loved Doctor of the modern era in almost every poll taken, if not all of the them.

… The first round, in which they were split by Doctor (with the Tenth Doctor getting two separate polls due to the vast number of his specials) saw The Runaway Bride, The End of Time Part 2, A Christmas Carol, The Husbands of River Song and Eve of the Daleks all sail through.

Meanwhile, in the second round, it was just The Runaway Bride and A Christmas Carol which made it through, with the former going on to take the crown, with 53.4 per cent of the final vote, against the latter’s 46.6 per cent….

(4) MAIL FROM THE NORTH POLE. [Item by Steven French.] This is well known but it’s still lovely to see his drawings: “J.R.R. Tolkien Is Our Favorite Father Christmas” at Atlas Obscura.

On December 24, 1920, J.R.R. Tolkien sat down in his study and wrote a letter to his three-year-old son, John, who had recently asked about Father Christmas. In spidery handwriting, in red ink, Tolkien replied as Father Christmas (the English folkloric figure now widely equated with Santa Claus), addressed from “Christmas House, North Pole.”

The accompanying picture that he drew is charmingly Tolkien-esque. A red-coated figure with a long white beard and a rosy red nose walks through the snow. His dome-shaped house glows from a wintery hillside, at the end of a staircase lit with lanterns.

For the next 23 years, every Christmas Eve, Tolkien wrote a letter to his four children from Father Christmas. What began as short, informative letters—“I am just now off to Oxford with a bundle of toys”—evolved into longer tales about life at the North Pole. The 1932 letter begins, “Dear Children, There is alot to tell you. First of all a Merry Christmas! But there have been lots of adventures you will want to hear about. It all began with the funny noises underground … ”

(5) A MOVING TRIBUTE. “Lord Of The Rings Lego Rivendell Set Comes to Life in Epic Stop-Motion Video” at Nerdist.

Earlier in the year, Nerdist went on its own epic journey and built LEGO’s Rivendell set. As expected, the results were astounding. The build features all the hallmarks of The Lord of the Rings movies’ elven sanctuary, including the bridge and gazebo where Arwen and Aragorn share a moonlit moment and the Council Ring where our favorite fellowship forms. Not to mention, it comes with 15 Minifigures. In short, it gives you everything you need to recreate sequences from the beloved franchise in LEGO form. And in a gorgeous stop motion video, shared by Warner Bros. itself, DigitalWizardsStudios did exactly that. Watch as LEGO’s The Lord of the Rings Rivendell set transforms into a stop-motion animation masterpiece that reimagines all our favorite cinematic scenes….

(6) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 99 of Octothorpe is “Keep Sending Ops Until They Fix It”.

Merry Christmas! The three of us are scattered to the four winds this week, so we’ve recorded something to tide everyone over until 2024. We play “If I Ran the Zoo…Con”, a game which models conrunning. Will we succeed in running a great convention? Or will our decisions have dire consequences? Listen here, and we’ll see you next year! 

(7) HARLAN’S 4-HOUR CAREER AT DISNEY. Part of Lifehacker’s article “Is Disney Actually Woke, or Is It All a Conspiracy Theory?” detours to pull in this story:

Truth: Harlan Ellison was fired from Disney for imitating Disney characters having sex

Irascible science fiction writer Harlan Ellison once worked for Disney, and according to an autobiographical essay in his 1982 book Stalking the Nightmare, Ellison’s tenure ended after one day at lunch with his co-workers when he jokingly suggested Disney should make a porn movie starring his well-known creations. He then acted out the noises various Disney characters might make in said porn movie. What Ellison didn’t realize was that Roy Disney was at the next table and overheard the whole routine. Roy apparently didn’t find it amusing, and Ellison was terminated. 

Yes, it’s true. And Harlan tells the story in full, complete with dialogue and sound effects, in “The 3 Most Important Things in Life” at the Internet Archive.

(8) IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] There’s only a few interesting (to me) bits in “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Flash Gordon (1980)” but watching this is enough to add a re-re-watch to my mental list (particularly now that I’m somewhat more attuned to the sound of Queen). Two particular Things to report:

  • George Lucas originally wanted to make the movie, but that didn’t happen. So instead, he went on to create his own space opera. (The one with the Force and lightsabers etc.)
  • Music almost done by Pink Floyd rather than Queen. That would have been very different!

Also, there’s several cast overlaps between this movie and Bond movies.

(9) DR. JAMES HOSEK (1964-2023). The SFWA Blog paid tribute to Jim Hosek, who died December 3. “In Memoriam: Jim Hosek”.

Dr. James Hosek (13 October 1964 – 03 December 2023) known to many in the community as Jim, was a writer of veterinary mystery and philosophical humor. Especially proud of his role as Nebula Award Commissioner, his own story “Total Loss” was published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine. He wrote the Dr. At stories about a house call veterinarian who lands in the middle of mysteries, and the novel, A Really Good Day, a lighthearted and humorous story about an underdog golfer whose story of an incredible single day on the course finds an unexpectedly happy ending….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 86. I know that I saw Barbarella, her seventeenth film, on a large screen  but it would been years after it came out so this was one of the arts cinemas, and I’m guessing it was in Seattle. It’s a very impressive looking film though I’m not sure I can say much for the script. 

Roger Vadim, the director had attempted to cast other actresses to wit Brigitte Bardot, Virna Lisi and Sophia Loren for this role before choosing Fonda, his wife. I wonder what he’d have done if she turned him down?

So what else for genre roles? Well she’s Countess Frédérique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” story of the three stories in Histoires extraordinaires directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini. It was dubbed in English as Spirits of The Dead.

Next up is Klute which I know as a “neo-noir psychological thriller” isn’t even an associational mystery but I think her role in it is fascinating so I’m including it here. 

The Blue Bird in which she played Night being a children’s fantasy is most definitely in our wheelhouse. It was the fifth screen adaptation of the play, following two silent films, the studio’s 1940 version starring Shirley Temple, and a 1970 animated feature. 

This was Twentieth Century Fox’s attempt forty-seven years ago at recapturing the magic of the highly successful Temple version. It was a disaster.  Interesting note: Elizabeth Taylor who had a lead role here approached David Bowie to star in the film but he turned it down.

In Elena and the Secret of Avalor, she has her first animated voicing gig as Shurkiki. Next in Luck, she’s voicing Babe, a female dragon who is the really cheerful Good Luck CEO. Finally, she voices Grandmamah, the Warrior Queen of the Seven Seas in the Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken film. 

(11) I’VE GOT A SECRET. [Item by Andrew (not Werdna).] Critic Peter C. Baker says “Joanne McNeil’s ‘Wrong Way’ Takes the Shine Off the Self-Driving Car” in The New Yorker.

For sci-fi writers, driverless cars have long been a supremely efficient shorthand for dramatic change, an effective way of immediately grounding a story in the future, where things are different. The Czech American physician and author Miles J. Breuer’s 1930 novel, “Paradise and Iron,” is set largely on an island where most technology works without human input.  The narrator gets a “queer feeling at the complete absence of wheel and gear-shift levers,” or any person operating them. Sci-fi storytellers have been leveraging that queer feeling ever since, often-in the case of movies-with help from carmakers. Audi helped design the autonomous cars in “I, Robot” (2004) and “Ender’s Game” (2013), which concretize the films’ visions of the future.. But what happens when a long-standing symbol of the future arrives in reality? How do you write about it?

Joanne McNeil’s début novel, “Wrong Way,” is a useful literary bellwether of this shift: a novel about the self-driving-car business that feels less like a vision of the future than a dispatch from the present. The story is told from the perspective of Teresa, a forty-eight-year-old Massachusetts woman who responds to a vague “Drivers Wanted” Craigslist ad posted by a recruiter on behalf of a Google-ish tech conglomerate called AllOver. At her orientation, she’s shown a video advertising an AllOver driverless electric taxi called the CR. But each CR, it turns out, has a human backup operator stashed inside, hidden from passengers, watching the road on a video screen. Teresa is a safety driver, of sorts, but a secret one: her passengers, she’s told, won’t know she’s there….

(12) TARNATION. At The Mary Sue, Jack Doyle sure has a funny way of celebrating that “’La Brea’ Is Returning To Wreak Prehistoric Havoc on Los Angeles”.

….What I want is to go out into my backyard on Christmas morning, where I have left the figgy pudding from the night before to congeal in a kiddie pool. I will then strip naked in the cool December air, and submerge myself entirely in the figgy pudding. And I will lie there in wait, for thousands—perhaps millions—of years. At least until a concerned relative comes out to check on me. Then I will leap out from the figgy pudding, roaring like a saurian of old, and pounce upon my in-laws who made the foolish decision of attempting to look out on the backyard Christmas lights in my domain. Dinosaurs are not merciful, and neither am I.

That is why—more than anything in the world—I want La Brea season 3 to arrive as soon as possible. I wish to learn the hunting skills of the dinosaurs of old. I will wait. I am many things, but above all else … I am patient….

(13) WARHAMMER COMING TO PRIME. T3 reports “Amazon Prime Video is new home to the most exciting sci-fi TV and movie franchise out there” – streaming content based on the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop games by Games Workshop.

…Games Workshop has confirmed that the contract has been signed and Warhammer 40K movies and TV shows are planned for Amazon Prime Video….

…There’s certainly a wealth of stories that can be told within such a massively detailed franchise. Warhammer 40,000 was first created as a tabletop wargame offshoot of the fantasy equivalent Warhammer in 1987. Since then, it has been expanded upon greatly, with hundreds of novels, video games, and rulebook revisions now available.

What made it unique at the time is that it combined the fantasy theme of Warhammer including orcs, goblins, and necromancy, with the high tech, spacefaring tropes of sci-fi. Oh and guns… many, many guns….

…It will certainly make for a visual feast when it finally does make it onto our screens via Amazon. However, don’t expect it anytime soon – Games Workshop warns that it could take years yet: “TV and Film production is a mammoth undertaking. It’s not unusual for projects to take two to three years from this point before something arrives on screen,” it said….

(14) BURIED ALIVE. NPR’s “The Indicator from Planet Money” feature tells “What Coyote vs. Acme reveals about Hollywood economics”. Audio – no transcript.

The movie Coyote vs. Acme was set to release this summer featuring characters from the iconic Looney Tunes cartoons. The studio behind the film, Warner Bros. Pictures, had some other ideas. Instead of releasing the completed film, the studio canceled Coyote vs. Acme, with no intention of ever releasing it.

Today on the show, we explain the Hollywood economics behind why Warner Bros. Discovery might not want to release movies that its own studio spent years putting together.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/23 Happiness Is A Scrolled Pixel

(1) CAN YOU DIG IT? “And the winner for San Jose BART’s boring machine name competition is…” The Mercury News tears open the envelope.

After more than 400 submissions and 1,175 votes on a name for San Jose BART’s tunnel boring machine, we have a winner — and it’s sure to make sci-fi fans giddy.

“Shai-Hulud” came in first place, with 229 votes, a nod to the sand worm creatures in the popular “Dune” novels and movies that many readers say resemble the boring machine that will carve a nearly five-mile tunnel underneath San Jose for the future BART extension. The Valley Transportation Authority purchased the $76 million dollar device in November from Germany and it will be shipped to the South Bay in pieces before being reassembled. Construction is set to begin in 2025.

…In second place is “Boris,” with 220 votes. In third: “Chewy” with 200 votes.

Here are the names that didn’t make it into the top three for BART’s project:

– Diggy McDigface – 127 votes

– Dionne Warwick (Grammy Award-winning singer of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”) – 114 votes

– Boring McBoringface – 87 votes

– Janet Gray (San Jose’s first female mayor) – 86 votes

– Sarah Winchester (Designer and resident of San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House) – 64 votes

– Susan Hammer (San Jose’s second female mayor) – 26 votes

– Dianne Feinstein (Former California senator) – 22 votes

(2) COURT SQUELCHES FANFIC PUBLISHER’S SUIT AGAINST AMAZON, TOLKIEN ESTATE. The BBC tells what the court decided after “Lord of the Rings fan fiction writer sued for publishing own sequel”.

A fan fiction writer has been sued by the estate of JRR Tolkien for copyright after publishing his own sequel to The Lord of the Rings.

US-based author Demetrious Polychron published a book called The Fellowship of the King in 2022.

He dubbed it “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings.”

The court ruled that Polychron must stop distributing copies of the book and destroy all physical and electronic copies.

In April 2023 Polychron attempted to sue the Tolkein estate and Amazon, claiming the TV series, Rings of Power, infringed the copyright in his book.

The case was dismissed after the judge ruled that Polychron’s own book was infringing on Amazon’s prequel that was released in September 2022.

Judge Steven V Wilson called the lawsuit “frivolous and unreasonably filed” and granted the permanent injunction, preventing him from selling his book and any other planned sequels, of which there were six….

Deadline’s story has additional details: “The Tolkien Estate & Amazon Win ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Lawsuits”.

The Tolkien Estate and Amazon have been victorious in their court battle with an author who first published a book titled The Fellowship of the King and then demanded $250M after claiming Prime Video had stolen the idea for its TV series.

In court documents issued by the District Court of California on December 14, both cases brought by Demetrious Polychron were thrown out by Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who ordered Polychron to pay the Tolkien Estate and Amazon’s legal fees totalling around $134,000 (read the Tolkien order here).

In 2017, the same year Warner Bros and the Tolkien Estate settled their five-year $80 million rights legal battle, Polychron registered a fan fiction sequel book titled The Fellowship of the King, which he claimed to be the  “the pitch-perfect sequel to The Lord of the Rings,” according to the Tolkien Estate lawyers. Rather incredibly, he then commenced a $250M lawsuit against the Tolkien Estate and Amazon in April of this year, claiming that Amazon’s TV series The Rings of Power infringed the copyright in his book.

Wilson’s judgment threw out the claims around the Amazon TV series and granted a permanent injunction, which prevents Polychron from ever distributing any further copies of The Fellowship of the King, his planned sequels to that book, or any other derivative work based on the books of JRR Tolkien. He is also required to destroy all physical and electronic copies of his book and to file a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that he has complied. The judge also turned down Polychron’s requests to have his legal fees paid by Amazon and the estate….

(3) SLF WANTS ART. The Speculative Literature Foundation has put out a call for its “Illustration of the Year 2024” seeking a piece of original artwork, ideally combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustration of the Year or Artwork) for 2024.  Full guidelines at the link.

The Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF) announces an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes to be featured as its 2024 Illustration of the Year.

The winning artist will receive $750.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected artwork, on SLF’s website and social media and in a press release. The winning artwork will be displayed on the SLF’s website and social media accounts and used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag.

Submission Dates: The deadline for submissions has been extended to December 31, 2023. The winner will be announced in January 2024.

Submission Instructions: Email submissions to [email protected] with subject line: “YOUR NAME – Illustration of the Year 2024.” In the body of the email, please include your name, email address, phone number, name of your artwork (if any), and short bio.

For more information and complete criteria and terms, visit speculativeliterature.org/ioty .

(4) JAPAN SCIENCE FICTION AWARDS FINALISTS. The Science Fiction Writers of Japan have announced the finalists for the 44th Japan Science Fiction Awards. Names and titles from computer translation.

  • Mitsunori Yuki, “Absolute Cold” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Yuki Shinsendo, “Kaiju” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Fumio Takano, “Graf Zeppelin: That Summer Airship” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Toshiji Hase, “Protocol of Humanity” (Hayakawa Shobo)
  • Mikihiko Kunaga, “Our Monster” (Tokyo Sogensha)

(5) OUTCOME OF ACTIVISION SEXUAL HARASSMENT ALLEGATIONS. The New York Times analyzes “The Questions Raised by California’s Dropped Sexual Harassment Suit Against Activision”.

On Friday, the California state agency that accused the video game maker Activision Blizzard of fostering a culture of sexual harassment against women withdrew those allegations in a $54 million settlement with the company.

The California Civil Rights Department found that “no court or any independent investigation has substantiated any allegations” about “systemic or widespread sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard.”

As part of the settlement, however, Activision agreed to pay as much as $47 million to address accusations of pay disparity and discrimination. All female employees who worked at the company between 2015 to 2020 will be offered a kind of monetary relief; they will get paid based on a formula. The company maintains it has offered equitable pay.

It is a stunning reversal. In 2021, the state agency estimated that Activision’s liability was about $1 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. How the state agency went from accusing Activision of fostering a culture in which female employees were “subjected to constant sexual harassment” to withdrawing those claims a couple of years later isn’t clear.

Was it enforcement zeal? This all started with an anonymous complaint in 2018. That letter was followed by a lawsuit from the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2021 and shortly later another from the California Civil Rights Department, which was then called the Department of Fair Employment Housing. The state agency objected to the settlement reached in the E.E.O.C. case. And then finally came a scathing Wall Street Journal story about accusations that the company didn’t handle sexual misconduct allegations properly.

The journalist Matt Taibbi wrote about this investigation: “Corporate regulation often begins with an investigation and ends with a devastating headline, but California flipped the script.”

The settlement leaves big questions unanswered. In a news release, the California Civil Rights Department declared victory, heralding the $54 million payout and stating that “California remains deeply committed to promoting and enforcing the civil rights of women in the workplace.” That the agency found no legal wrongdoing doesn’t mean it found no wrongdoing at all.

But the case utilized vast resources. The chief counsel at the agency was fired last year. And it all comes about a year after Microsoft, which presumably conducted its own due diligence, paid $69 billion to acquire the gaming company, whose shares took a hit after the allegations came to light.

(6) SPECTRAL DOGS. The first episode of Rhianna Pratchett’s BBC Radio 4 program Mythical Creatures is “Black Dogs”. Hear it at the link.

Fantasy writer Rhianna Pratchett takes us across an enchanted British Isles to discover mythical creatures that lurk in all corners of the land. She uncovers what they can tell us about our history, our world and our lives today.

In the first episode of the series, Rhianna is on the trail of Black Dogs. She visits Suffolk, to hear a tale of a hellhound that left its mark on the small town of Bungay. It’s one of many spectral black dogs that are said to stalk coastal paths and lonely crossroads. Rhianna explores why Black Dogs appear so often in folklore, and their psychological link to fear and negative emotions.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the fuller name being Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!) first aired fifty-seven years ago this night on CBS. It was directed and co-produced by Chuck Jones. Who of course did the stellar animation. 

Jones and Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) had worked together on the Private Snafu training cartoons at Warner Bros. Cartoons during World War II. Jones’s considered Grinch the equal of Scrooge for Christmas villains. 

The show is based on the 1957 children’s book of the same name by Dr. Seuss, and tells the story of the pre-reform Grinch, who tries to ruin Christmas for the townsfolk of Whoville below his mountain hideaway. (Whoville which lives on the trunk of Horton.) Will Christmas be saved? Will the Grinch be getting a bigger heart? I’m assuming I don’t need any spoilers here.

Boris Karloff is the Grinch and the narrator, and Thurl Ravenscroft sings that song which you know all so well: “You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch. You have termites in your smile! You have all the tender sweetness. Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch.” 

Additional casting here is June Foray as Cindy Lou Who, Dallas McKennon as Max and the MGM Studio Chorus as the ever so talented Citizens of Whoville. Damn I loved those voices.

And now I must go watch it again…

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 77. One of my favorite directors ever. Not as risk-taking as say Terry Gilliam but definitely one who’s done a lot of work that I find pleasing and that in my book counts for a lot.

I’m going to do a rewatch of Columbo this winter, so I was delighted to discover that he directed the first non-pilot episode of the series, “Murder by the Book”. He is credited with giving us the mannerisms of the detective and the look of the series.

He got that gig for having worked with Rod Serling on The Night Gallery where in one episode he directed Joan Crawford, that being “Eyes”. What other episodes that he directed are unclear because as a new director credit may gone to more senior directors, so it is thought that “A Matter of Semantics” that featured Cesar Romero and was credited to Jack Laird might have been his work. 

His first major hit was Jaws which is not my fish and chips so I’ll pass by it here as we’re discussing what I like by him. 

He made up for Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind which is simply brilliant, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which still makes me sniff, and two out of three of the Indiana Jones trilogy. 

No, I vehemently did not like the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I saw it once and that was more than enough, thank you. 

Now Jurassic Park is one of the best monster films ever. Why it was so excellent that it even won a Hugo at ConAdian! Who came and accepted that Hugo? 

There is a lot of lot films next in his career that I didn’t care for until we come to the extraordinary undertaking that is The Adventures of Tintin from the French strip by Hergé. A true treat in animation this was. 

(Digression for a moment. He was an Executive Producer or Producer on way too many undertakings to list here that I liked. Who Framed Roger RabbitGremlinsAnimaniacs (both series), Pinky and the BrainFreakazoid! — that’s just a few I like.) 

Then there’s Hook with Robin Williams as an adult Peter Pan, Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell and the Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook. Need I say more. Well there is the crocodile…

I think I’ll finish with The BFG, his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book. Fantastic film that’s true to the book, no mean feat.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MAIL FROM RAY. Critic Dwight Garner throttles the new Ray Bradbury letter collection and its editor, Jonathan R. Eller, in a New York Times review: “What Wonders Do Ray Bradbury’s Letters Reveal?”

…There is no sugarcoating it: Bradbury’s letters are amazing in their dullness and sterility. If I had to sum up their tone and content in a sentence, it would be: “Thank you for your eight tons of sycophantic bloviating, here are 16 tons in return.” While reading “Remembrance” I began to dream about cutting off my fingers, like Brendan Gleeson in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” one by one, so I wouldn’t have to turn another page.

You can’t blame writers for the quality of their letters — unless they sought to have them published. Apparently, late in life, Bradbury did so. This collection was edited by Bradbury’s biographer, Jonathan R. Eller, who is also a co-founder of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University.

His trilogy of Bradbury biographies is comprehensive and sympathetic, but here he’s done his subject no favors. I am going to resort to making a short list of this book’s drawbacks, to provide scaffolding for my inchoate feelings of distress.

A) The introduction doesn’t introduce Bradbury. The reader requires a certain amount of core information — a gloss of Bradbury’s childhood, education, career, prizes, family, homes, travel, the themes of his work — so as not to enter blind. The introduction is instead a summary of what is to come in the book. This is the least felicitous type of introduction, for the same reason that “as I will demonstrate later” are the worst five words in the English language, after “brace for a water landing.”

B) This book is oddly sorted. Bradbury’s letters are presented not in chronological order but grouped by theme and then, in sub-groupings, by correspondent, so that we are always pinging around in time, like Bill and Ted on their excellent adventure. A letter from 1965 will be followed by one from 2004, and then we are suddenly back in the 1950s. This prevents us from charting the development of Bradbury’s voice and of his inner resources. The hero of our narrative is lost in a maze.

C) Many letters not from Bradbury but to him are included. These are filler and might have been summarized. More to the point, they’re confusing. It’s easy to forget, in a book of Bradbury’s letters, that you are not currently reading Bradbury….

(11) TUNED UP. Neil Gaiman will be singing in the Sydney Opera House reports the Guardian: “’Like a gothy yoghurt starter’: how Neil Gaiman and an Australian string quartet fell in love”.

Neil Gaiman is well known for his melodic, dreamy voice, which has been put to use on everything from audiobooks to voicing the Simpsons’s cat Snowball. But Neil Gaiman the singer? When he’d occasionally perform live with his ex-wife, the musician Amanda Palmer, his voice was described by the New York Times, perhaps a little unkindly, as “a novelist’s version of singing”.

Next month Gaiman is bringing that voice to the Sydney Opera House, where he’ll be performing with the Australian string quartet FourPlay. How is he feeling about singing on one of the most prestigious stages in the world?

“Terrified. Absolutely terrified,” Gaiman sighs. “I’ve had to learn to trust FourPlay. I’m always reassured by the fact that Lara can actually sing.”

“I’ve been a singer for 30 years and I’m equally terrified, Neil!” interjects Lara Goodridge, one part of FourPlay along with Shenzo Gregorio and brothers Tim and Peter Hollo. “We are all vulnerable on stage together. But I think that’s a really lovely part of it – we’re there to catch each other. It’s exciting to be that alive.”…

(12) SHORE THING. [Item by Steven French.] From Viking longboats to satellites: “Shetland island to house UK’s first vertical rocket launch spaceport”.

For centuries, Unst has been famous for its richly varied wildlife, pristine beaches and unspoilt sea views. Now the remote Shetland island is leading Britain into space.

A former RAF base on a remote peninsula of the island has become the UK’s first licensed spaceport for vertical rocket launches. It will allow up to 30 satellites and other payloads to be launched into commercially valuable polar, sun-synchronous orbits, which are in high demand from satellite operators for communications and Earth observation.

The site, SaxaVord spaceport, was identified in a 2017 report as a place where rockets carrying the greatest payloads could be launched into space with the lowest risk to people on the ground, if the spacecraft failed and crashed back to Earth.

The island, which has about 650 inhabitants, is at the northernmost tip of the British Isles and was one of the first Viking outposts in the North Atlantic. Its location means that rockets lifting off from the site do not need to pass over populated areas, unlike those launched from other sites, which have to perform dog-leg manoeuvres, limiting the weight of the payload they can carry…

…Developing the spaceport, which includes three launch pads and a hangar for assembling rockets, has cost just under £30m so far. There are also plans to build a hotel and visitor centre at SaxaVord….

(13) FIRST ONE SHOE DROPS, THEN THE OTHER. The actor who played Kang lost in court, then lost his MCU role. Variety reports: “Jonathan Majors Guilty of Harassment and Assault”.

Jonathan Majors was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari. A Manhattan jury found the Marvel actor guilty on Monday of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault but acquitted him on two other counts. 

The six-person jury found Majors not guilty on one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree. Majors, wearing a dark gray suit and seated in the courtroom with his attorneys and current girlfriend Meagan Good, did not react when the verdict was read….

…Majors was arrested in March in New York City after he assaulted Jabbari in the backseat of a private vehicle. Jabbari, a 30-year-old choreographer who met Majors on the set of Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” testified she grabbed Majors’ phone after seeing a text message from another woman. Jabbari described that as Majors attempted to forcefully retrieve his phone from her, she felt “a hard blow” across her head that resulted in bruising, swelling and substantial pain….

Variety followed with news that “Jonathan Majors Dropped by Marvel Studios After Guilty Verdict”.

Marvel Studios has parted ways with Jonathan Majors — the actor cast to play Kang, the central antagonist in the Multiverse Saga of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — after he was convicted on Dec. 18 of two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault of Grace Jabbari, his ex-girlfriend. A source close to the studio confirmed the decision to Variety.

In the verdict, Majors was also found not guilty of one count of intentional assault in the third degree and one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree….

(14) FAST EXPOSURE. “MIT camera can capture the speed of light” at Upworthy.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.

The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, “If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years.”…

(15) THE FINAL GIFT. What the kids want to find under the tree. Humor or horror? “Pongo” on Saturday Night Live.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Pitch Meeting”.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/9/23 To Seek Out New Files And New Pixelations

(1) NEWS FROM ‘THE SECRET LIBRARY’. [Item by Steven French.] For those Filer folk who might be around Yorkshire over Xmas here’s a piece on the Leeds Library blog about their current exhibition, Fantasy Realms of Imagination, scheduled to run in parallel with the much grander affair at the British Library.

Having said that last bit, the British Library for all its architectural style, doesn’t have the Victorian grandeur of Leeds Central Library:

Our new exhibition, inspired by Fantasy: Realms of Imagination at the British Library opened in November and aims to bring a bit of magic to Leeds Central Library over the cold winter months, before touring to community libraries across the city.

The beautiful grade II* listed building with its winding staircases and heraldic beasts lends itself perfectly to the fantasy theme and this exhibition encourages visitors to embark on their own quest to explore parts of the library they may not have ventured to before.

(2) STEVEN BARNES PENS STAR WARS NOVEL. “’Star Wars: The Glass Abyss’ Revealed; New Novel by Steven Barnes Finds Mace Windu Honoring Qui-Gon’s Legacy” at StarWarsNews.net.

The Phantom Menace is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. Therefore, cue Lucasfilm’s foolproof promotional strategy of new books. StarWars.com has announced that Mace Windu will headline a new novel titled Star Wars: The Glass Abyss. Coming August 6, 2024, the novel will be written by Steven Barnes, returning to the Star Wars-fold for the first time since 2004’s The Cestus Deception.

Taking place immediately after The Phantom MenaceThe Glass Abyss will send Mace Windu on a mission to fulfill Qui-Gon Jinn’s final request. The twist? This request is specifically for Mace, only to be received after the fallen Jedi Master’s death….

(3) LAW TACKLES A.I. RISKS. “E.U. Agrees on Landmark Artificial Intelligence Rules” reports the New York Times.

European Union policymakers agreed on Friday to a sweeping new law to regulate artificial intelligence, one of the world’s first comprehensive attempts to limit the use of a rapidly evolving technology that has wide-ranging societal and economic implications.

The law, called the A.I. Act, sets a new global benchmark for countries seeking to harness the potential benefits of the technology, while trying to protect against its possible risks, like automating jobs, spreading misinformation online and endangering national security. The law still needs to go through a few final steps for approval, but the political agreement means its key outlines have been set.

European policymakers focused on A.I.’s riskiest uses by companies and governments, including those for law enforcement and the operation of crucial services like water and energy. Makers of the largest general-purpose A.I. systems, like those powering the ChatGPT chatbot, would face new transparency requirements. Chatbots and software that creates manipulated images such as “deepfakes” would have to make clear that what people were seeing was generated by A.I., according to E.U. officials and earlier drafts of the law.

Use of facial recognition software by police and governments would be restricted outside of certain safety and national security exemptions. Companies that violated the regulations could face fines of up to 7 percent of global sales….

(4) PODCAST-PALOOZA. [Item by Dann.] bonus episode of The Reason Podcast recently featured Reason Editor Peter Suderman interviewing former Reason Editor-in-Chief Virginia Postrel and American Enterprise Institute Fellow James Pethoukoukis about the future and how we might get a better future. Mr. Pethoukoukis is the author of the recently released The Conservative Futurist—How to Create the Sci-Fi World We Were Promised.

The interview included a discussion of works by Isaac Asimov, Neal Stephenson, and Ian Banks. It also included some thoughts on whether sci-fi has changed modes from an optimistic vision of a future enabled by technology to a pessimistic vision of the future.


Author and Podcaster Paul J. Hale recently concluded his 7-part series comparing JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit with the Rankin/Bass animated movie as well as the recent trilogy of movies from New Line Cinema. The series starts here.

He has begun a new series comparing Robert Bloch’s Psycho with the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name. No idea about how many episodes there will be in the Psycho series. Thus far, two episodes have been released.

(5) OSCAR WORTHY BIRD AND BOT. Variety says these are “10 Movies Oscars Voters Should Watch”. They include The Boy and the Heron and Robot Dreams.

The Boy and the Heron

Animator Hayao Miyazaki is renowned for conjuring up dazzling cinematic worlds. And at 82, he hasn’t lost a step. His latest movie is a visual feast, filled with magical lands and creatures only he could dream up. It’s also a deeply personal tale, one that unfolds against the backdrop of World War II Japan, as a boy undertakes a perilous journey that helps him come to terms with the death of his mother. The first best picture nomination for a non-Disney animated movie would be worthy recognition for Miyazaki’s contributions to the medium.

(6) DOWN THESE FAE STREETS. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Douglas A. Anderson posts about Raymond Chandler’s few published fantasy stories, and his (unfulfilled) desire to write more in their vein. “Raymond Chandler’s Fantasies” at Wormwoodiana.

…In a letter written on 19 June 1956, Chandler wrote:

“I love fantastic stories and have sketches of perhaps a dozen that I should love to see in print. They are not science fiction. My idea of the fantastic story–possibly a little out of date–is that everything is completely realistic except for the basic impossible premise. Both of those I have mentioned are concerned with vanishing or invisibility. I have one about a man who got into fairyland but they wouldn’t let him stay. Another about a princess who traded her tongue for a ruby and then was sorry and it had to be retrieved. One about a young society novelist whose father was a magician and kept making a duke disappear so his son could make love to the duchess. I may add that the duke took it with good grace (a joke) although he was rather annoyed. That sort of thing. Quite rare nowadays.”

(7) GAIMAN Q&A. “Neil Gaiman’s Son Thinks His Dad Is in Charge of ‘Doctor Who’” – excerpts of the New York Times’ conversation with the author.

‘Doctor Who’

I loved “Doctor Who” growing up. In fact, the moment that I felt probably most like God was in 2009, getting to write my first episode. But the trouble with me having written a couple of episodes is that my 8-year-old is now convinced that I must be in charge of “Doctor Who.” He’ll come over to me and say, “Dad, this needs to happen.”…

Charles Addams at the New York Public Library

I remember discovering that if you went up to the third floor on the way to the men’s toilets there was a little room with Charles Addams cartoons on display. I would go there four times a year and the cartoons would be changed out. Then one day they were putting them away. It was explained to me that the artwork had been a loan by his ex-wife. But the agreement was that as soon as everything had been displayed, it was over. I still think that’s heartbreaking….

(8) THE TRUTH WAS OUT THERE. “Internet sleuths identify lost ‘X-Files’ song, solving 25-year mystery” reports the Washington Post. (Gift link to article.)

Lauren Ancona wasn’t really paying attention to the “X-Files” episode she had on her TV on Monday night. Then she heard the song. It played as a character walked into a rural bar, a lilting country track that set a soothing tone as a singer crooned: “In my memory you are moonlight, starlight …”

Ancona liked it. She paused the episode, rewound it and opened Shazam, an app that identifies songs, but it couldn’t find a match. Details about the track weren’t on an IMDb page about the episode either. Perplexed, Ancona searched for the lyrics online and found nothing — except forum posts from other “X-Files” fans asking the same question. Some said they’d been searching since 1998, when the episode first aired.

It was a mystery fit for Mulder and Scully themselves. Who was the songwriter behind the mysterious country tune with no name and no credit? And how had legions of “X-Files” fans failed to identify it in 25 years?…

(9) MARK SAMUELS (1967-2023). Four-time British Fantasy Award nominee Mark Samuels died December 3. The first pair of nomination came in 2004 for his short story “The White Hands” and for the collection in which it appeared, The White Hands and Other Weird Tales.

R.B. Russell has written a tribute for Wormwoodiana: “RIP Mark Samuels”.

…Mark was a member of the original Arthur Machen Society in the 1990s, and would later become active in its successor, the Friends of Arthur Machen, becoming Secretary for two different terms. He will be remembered from many meetings of the Friends (from annual dinners, to more ad hoc pub crawls), as great company; he was a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for writers such as Machen, Lovecraft and Ligotti, as well as enjoying, like Machen, good conversation, drink, food and tobacco….

…From the outset, Mark’s stories take place in a strange and decaying world—one that is often blighted, if not diseased. This gives his fiction a bleak vision and an intensity that has been admired by many readers as well as fellow-authors, since the first magazine appearances of his stories in the 1980s. Apart from in his own books, his stories have been published in such prestigious anthologies as The Mammoth Book of Best New HorrorYear’s Best Fantasy and HorrorA Mountain Walks, and The Weird….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 9, 1934 Judi Dench, 89. Need I say Judi Dench is one of my favorite performers? So let’s look at her work in this genre, both as a stage and onscreen thespian. 

Judi Dench in 2007

So let’s look at her theatrical work.  Her first professional role was as Ophelia in Hamlet . Not sure if we consider Hamlet to be genre or not, but her first genre role was a West African tour as Lady Macbeth for the British Council in the early Sixties. 

In the Sixties, she was in a small role in a Sherlock Holmes A Study in Terror play. 

She’d reprise Lady Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Company with Ian McKellen posing Macbeth. Now there’s a play I’d have liked very much to have seen! 

In the early Eighties, she was to play Grizabella in the first production of Cats, but had to pull out due to a torn Achilles tendon. Even cats injure themselves. Don’t worry, she’ll get to be in the Cats film where she’ll play Old Deuteronomy where unfortunately she’ll get to play the very rare embarrassing performance of her life. 

Now to her work in genre films. Her first was the Sherlock Holmes A Study in Terror in which she was Sally. 

That was followed by the much better A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream where she was Titania. The one which also had as performers Ian Holm, Helen Mirren, Diana Rigg and David Warner! 

She was cast as M in GoldenEye, a role she continued to play in the Bond films through to Spectre.

She’s Queen Elizabeth the First in Shakespeare in Love, one of my all time comfort films. 

And she’s in Chocolat as Armande Voizin, Caroline’s mother. Sure that’s film is touched by magic as it’s about chocolate affecting an entire French village, no?  

Back in the SF realm, she’s in The Chronicles of Riddick as Aereon, but verging back to fantasy, she’s a society lady in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I see she’s in Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express as Princess Natalia Dragomiroff. Speaking of Brannagh, he directed Artemis Fowl, where she’s Commander Julius Root. 

She’s the medium Madame Arcati In Blithe Spirit.

So I was going to include Spirited here which a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol and a satire of the various adaptations since, but I don’t think she has much of a role in it as she appears it as herself. Who’s seen it? 

That’s her for now. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss is an attempt at topical humor. Haven’t made up my mind if it’s actually funny.
  • Free Range however, is definitely funny.

(12) GREATCOATS. Sebastien de Castell’s next Greatcoats novel, Crucible of Chaos: A Novel of The Court Of Shadows, arrives February 6, 2024.

A mortally wounded magistrate faces his deadliest trial inside an ancient abbey where the monks are going mad and the gods themselves may be to blame!

Estevar Borros, one of the legendary sword-fighting magistrates know as the Greatcoats and the king’s personal investigator of the supernatural, is no stranger to tales of ghosts and demons.  When the fractious monks of the abbey rumored to be the birthplace of the gods begin warring over claims of a new pantheon arising, the frantic abbot summons him to settle the dispute.

But Estevar has his own problems: a near-fatal sword wound from his last judicial duel, a sworn knight who claims he has proof the monks are consorting with demons, a diabolical inquisitor with no love for the Greatcoats, and a mysterious young woman claiming to be Estevar’s ally but who may well be his deadliest enemy.

Armed only with his famed investigative talents, his faltering skill with a blade and Imperious, his ornery mule, Estevar must root out the source of the madness lurking inside the once-sacred walls of Isola Sombra before its chaos spreads to the country he’s sworn to protect.

Pre-order from —

(13) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. “Thief in Australia Steals Truck With 10,000 Krispy Kreme Doughnuts” – a crime that made news in the New York Times.  

…  I’ve heard of stealing some dough, but this is ridiculous….

…The tale began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday in Carlingford, Australia, near Sydney, when a delivery driver working the night shift stopped his van to make a quick stop at a 7-Eleven.

Closed circuit footage of the scene shows a woman milling around the gas pumps at the attached service station — or “servo” to Australians — and then climbing into the unattended van and driving away.

What makes the story more compelling than a typical opportunistic vehicle theft is the van’s contents: 10,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The treats were bound for shops in Newcastle, but instead have now disappeared to parts unknown.

As of Friday, the New South Wales police had not made any arrests, although they are, well, hungry to. The department posted an appeal for help from the public, next to items about a brawl in Warrawong and a missing man from Wagga Wagga….

(14) NUMBER PLUCKERS. “Quantum-computing approach uses single molecules as qubits for first time” in Nature.

Physicists have taken the first step towards building quantum computers out of individual molecules trapped with laser devices called optical tweezers. Two teams report their results in Science on 7 December, in both cases making pairs of calcium monofluoride molecules interact so that they became entangled — a crucial effect for quantum computing….

… Both studies used arrays of optical tweezers with one molecule trapped in each tweezer unit. Through laser techniques, they cooled the molecules to temperatures of tens of microkelvin, just millionths of a degree above absolute zero. In this state, the molecules were close to being completely still. Their rotation could be stopped, or they could be made to rotate with just one quantum of angular momentum, called ħ — the smallest rotational frequency they can possibly have. Both teams used non-rotating molecules to represent the ‘0’ state of their qubits, and rotating ones to represent the ‘1’….

Which makes me think of Tom Digby’s filksong “Little Teeny Eyes” (1966):

Oh we got a new computer but it’s quite a disappointment
‘Cause it always gave this same insane advice:
“OH YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES FOR READING LITTLE TEENY PRINT
LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY HANDS FOR MILKING MICE.”

(15) TOMATOMETER: FRESH OR NOT? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Holy leaping Dr. Smith! This saga gives a whole new meaning to Lost in Space. “Tomato lost in space by history-making astronaut has been found” on CNN.

Perhaps nowhere in the universe is a fresh, ripe tomato more valuable than on the International Space Station, where astronauts live for months at a time subsisting mainly on prepackaged, shelf-stable goods.

That’s why astronaut Frank Rubio became the central figure in a lighthearted whodunnit that has taken months to solve.

After Rubio harvested one of the first tomatoes ever grown in space earlier this year, according to the astronaut, he admitted he misplaced it.

“I put it in a little bag, and one of my crewmates was doing a (public) event with some schoolkids, and I thought it’d be kind of cool to show the kids — ‘Hey guys this is the first tomato harvested in space,’” Rubio said during an October media event. “I was pretty confident that I Velcroed it where I was supposed to Velcro it … and then I came back and it was gone.”

In the microgravity environment of space, anything not anchored to a wall is at risk of floating away — destined to spend eternity hidden behind a nook or cranny within the football field-size orbiting laboratory and its labyrinthian passageways.

Rubio said he probably spent eight to 20 hours of his own free time just searching for that tomato.

“Unfortunately — because that’s just human nature — a lot of people are like, ‘He probably ate the tomato,’” Rubio said. “And I wanted to find it mostly so I could prove like I did not eat the tomato.”

But he never found it.

Rubio returned to Earth on September 27 with the precious produce still lost aboard the space station.

It remained lost — until now.

During a Wednesday news conference, members of the seven-person crew remaining on the space station revealed they had finally located the tomato.

Rubio had “been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato,” NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli said. “But we can exonerate him.”…

However, they don’t say where on the ISS it was found.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The PBS Space Time YouTube channel is primarily all about physics. However, occasionally they do physics-adjacent science and sometimes stray into genre adjacent territory, this week being one such occasion when Matt O’Dowd asks whether our human civilisation could be the first technological civilisation on Earth or even visit our planet…

We’re almost certainly the first technological civilisation on Earth. But what if we’re not? We are. Although how sure are we, really? The Silurian hypothesis, which asks whether pre-human industrial civilizations might have existed…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/25/23 The Pixelman’s Scroll is Half-Constructed

(1) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Her rejection slips are a key part of the display: “Malorie Blackman’s career honoured in British Library exhibition” in the Guardian.

“To my great embarrassment, I’ve just discovered that I have been holding onto your novel, HACKER, since February 1990”, read a letter to Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman from the senior commissioning editor of Simon & Schuster, dated nearly two years later. “I’m afraid we are not publishing any teenage novels in the near future”. The printed letter, addressed to “Marlorie”, with the extra “r” struck through in pen, was one of 82 rejection letters the writer received before her first book was published.

Hole-punched and stored in a ring binder, the letter is now on display at a British Library exhibition about Blackman, who has gone on to write more than 70 books for children and young adults, including the million-selling Noughts & Crosses series. The rejections folder is one of the artefacts that the author is most excited for the public to see, she says. “I hope that does encourage people.”…

…The exhibition traces Blackman’s young adulthood: the Lewisham homeless shelter she lived in aged 13 is pictured; the comics she turned to as a “shield against the real world” are displayed. In the local library, which she says “saved my life”, she would read novels, including classic fiction – the likes of Jane Eyre. Later, at 22, she came across Walker’s The Color Purple – the first novel she had read that was written by a Black author and featured Black protagonists. “It had a profound effect on me,” says Blackman. “She was a Black woman author. They existed!”…

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Jane Yolen suffered a fall the other day and required surgery. Her daughter Heidi has been posting updates on Facebook and says the surgery went great.

(3) REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED BY PROCESS SERVERS. “‘Squid Game: The Challenge’ Contestants Threaten Lawsuit After Claiming They Suffered Hypothermia & Nerve Damage During Filming” reports Deadline.

Squid Game: The Challenge contestants are threatening legal action against Netflix and producers after claiming they were injured during the filming of the game show.

A British personal injuries law firm is representing two unnamed players who say they suffered hypothermia and nerve damage while shooting in cold conditions in the UK.

Express Solicitors said in a press statement that it had sent letters of claim to Studio Lambert, the co-producer of Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge.

The contestants’ allegations concern their experience shooting the show’s opening game ‘Red Light, Green Light,’ in which players must evade the attention of a menacing robotic doll.

The game was filmed at Cardington Studios, a former Royal Air Force base in Bedford, during a cold snap in Britain. Netflix confirmed at the time that three of 456 players required medical attention.

Express Solicitors, which specializes in no win no fee claims, said its clients risked their health by having to stay motionless for long periods during the shoot as they attempted to stay in the competition….

(4) AUTHORS’ RIGHTS IN THE AGE OF AI. [Item by Francis Hamit.] The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society is the UK outfit that manages the Public Lending Right. I’ve been a member for several years and get regular payments for my photocopying royalties, something that does not exist in the U.S. 

The ALCS’ two-page white paper “Authors and AI principles” is the most sensible thing I’ve seen yet about AI and Authors’ rights. 

First on the list of principles:

1. Human authors should be compensated for their work and have transparent information of uses of their work – new technologies and types of uses should respect the established precedent that there must be fair payment for use and transparency regarding how works have been used.  

There should be no use without payment. While many systems of remuneration reflect the ways in which we consume media at the time, the principles of copyright remain: that authors should share in the enjoyment of their work, especially financially. Licensing continues to be an effective way to adapt to, support and remunerate a wide range of uses of original works. As authors works are often used in ways to develop AI technology, authors must also have transparent information regarding when and how their work has been used….

(5) DIY DALEK. Dr. Glyn Morgan pays tribute to fans in a post to the UK Science Museum blog — “Building for the Fans: Daleks and Doctor Who”.

…Fans are the lifeblood of any creative endeavour, but this is particularly powerful point for science fiction: were it not for the continued enthusiasm from fans then Doctor Who might have died never to be regenerated after initially leaving the air in 1989, or after the underperforming TV-movie in 1996 (starring the criminally underrated Paul McGann)….

…Along with the Doctor’s equally iconic TARDIS, the Dalek is a firm favourite construction project for fans and has been since they first appeared, inspiring people’s creativity and technical innovation at home. Indeed, building your own Dalek became such a recognised rite of passage for fans that the BBC issued official instructions on how to build your own as part of a Radio Times special issue celebrating the tenth anniversary of Doctor Who in 1973. The article suggested that the project would be particularly good ‘as an exercise for a well-equipped school, using the resources and facilities of several departments- woodwork, metalwork, art and so on.’ The practicality of the design was tested by students of London’s Highbury Grove School (now City of London Academy Highbury Grove): ‘With help from their staff, they produced [a] magnificent black-and-orange specimen in two weeks, at a cost of £12’, which is a considerable saving on the approximately £250 the 1963 originals cost: although the Radio Times models were designed to be static, not operational TV props. Either way, I suspect it would cost a little more now…. 

(6) HOW HAS THE LAST WHO ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL AGED? Very well decrees Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook in “10 Years Later, Doctor Who’s ‘Day of the Doctor’ Still Hits”.

For a show that is about the capability to be everywhere and anywhere, any period in time, Doctor Who is a show that is arguably burdened with context. Now 60 years old today, the thought of navigating any of its stories without an awareness of its place in that history is almost unthinkable. But every once in a while, in a very long while, Doctor Who wields that context to set itself free.

That’s the paradox—as well as the philosophy of John Rawls—that sits at the heart of “The Day of the Doctor,” Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special that climaxed a blockbuster period of celebrations for the series 10 years ago tonight. It is, of course, almost impossible to think of “Day” outside of this context—metatextually, we now know so much of what almost happened during its production and ideation that it’s almost a miracle to revisit the final product and not deem it miraculous for simply existing. 

…And it is about the weight of context. The tragic heart of “Day of the Doctor” is John Hurt’s aforementioned “War” Doctor: the regeneration that took part in the Time War, an incarnation left to banished memories out of the shame of what he had to do to end the conflict between the Time Lords and the Daleks once and for all, one petrified to even call himself a Doctor for the hurt he wielded to do so. Following him on the eve of the final days of the conflict as he steals a weapon of mass destruction from his own people—the Moment, a weapon so powerful, so horrifying, it developed its own conscience to almost stop itself from being—the War Doctor’s arc is one about wrestling with the weight of his own personal history, a push and pull that haunts him, and is compacted when he comes face to face with his future: two further incarnations of himself that yes, still feel the pain of the Time War, a pain muted in some ways, but still, a future for himself that exists beyond the horrifying task he has burdened himself with…

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Robot Takes Order at Wendy’s. It Catches an ‘Attitude’” claims the Daily Dot.

Wendy’s has started rolling out its new AI chatbot system that is supposed to be handling customer orders at the drive thru. However, according to one TikTok video, what was intended to be a seamless transition turned into a comical and frustrating experience.

The video, which was posted by Macey (@maceitrain) this week, kicks off with Macey already mid-order, requesting a Coke. The Wendy’s robot promptly responds with a simple, “Anything else?”

The TikToker then proceeds to modify her order. “Can I make the junior bacon cheeseburger Biggie bag a medium, please?” she says.

After each update to the order, the robot mechanically repeats, “Anything else?”

…The video has since accumulated over 944,200 views with over 550 comments. Some commenters were not overly impressed by the speed of the new ordering system.

“I feel like that took longer than having a human take the order,” one commenter said….

(8) MARTY KROFFT (1937-2023). Marty Krofft, who partnered with his older brother Sid to build a kids’ TV empire around shows like The Banana Splits Adventure HourH.R. Pufnstuf and Land of the Lost, died November 25. The Hollywood Reporter profile is here.

The Kroffts followed Pufnstuf with The Bugaloos (1970-72), the Claymation series Lidsville (1971-73), Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (1973-75) and Land of the Lost (1974-76)…

Indeed, the Kroffts’ style was so popular that McDonald’s copied it to create Mayor McCheese and McDonaldland for an early ’70s advertising campaign. The Kroffts sued, winning a reported seven-figure settlement in 1977….

…Marty joined his brother full-time in 1958 after Sid’s assistant left, and they opened Les Poupees de Paris, an adults-only burlesque puppet show that played to sold-out crowds at a dinner theater in the San Fernando Valley….

Les Poupees went on the road and played world’s fairs in Seattle in 1962, New York in 1964 and San Antonio in 1968. It featured 240 puppets, mostly topless women, and Time magazine called it a “dirty puppet show.”

After that, it was so popular, “we couldn’t even get our own best friends in the theater,” Sid said. It drew an estimated 9.5 million viewers in its first decade of performances….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 25, 1926 Poul Anderson. (Died 2001.) Need I say that he’s one of my favourite writers? I’m reasonable sure that along with Heinlein, Bradbury and Le Guin that he was the first of the writers that I read extensively. And as Algis Budrys said in his Galaxy review column of February 1965, “we will all soon realize he has for some time been science fiction’s best storyteller.”

Poul Anderson

Poul was really, really prolific which will mean that I’m not going to detail everything he did here. Indeed, ISFDB list twenty-three novels and an amazing thirty-three collections of his short stories! So where to start? 

Well in my case, that is quite easy as my go to works by him when I want to be entertained at length by great storytelling is the Technic History stories with those of Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry being the ones I like the best. Not that other stories aren’t excellent in their own as they are. 

Now there’s the ever so fun Hoka novels (Earthman’s Burden and Star Prince Charlie) and the Hoka! short stories, a sequel to the first novel, that were co-written with Gordon R. Dickson. 

I’ve always enjoyed his Time Patrol stories as they’re some of the best such tales that were ever written. These of course, as are all of his short stories, to found in The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson that NESFA published. All seven volumes are now available as epubs! 

What’s next?  Orion Shall Rise remains one of my most read novels by him. It’s part of his Maurai & Kith series, a most interesting future history. The short stories, also excellent, were collected in, not surprisingly, his Maurai & Kith collection. 

I was surprised to find that Operation Chaos and Operation Luna actually had a handful of short stories as well, six to be exact, one written by Eric Flint. I shall need to seek them out. Another set of novels that I’ve read several times. 

Let’s not forget The Unicorn Trade that he and Karen collaborated on. Such a wonderful collection it is.

Yes, there’s lots more, but I’m going to finish off with A Midsummer Tempest which is always a delight to experience. 

No, I didn’t forget he won seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. All well deserved. 

And if you go here, you get to hear the delightful story of Karen and her role role in filk songs. I’m told that Poul had a fine singing voice. I wonder if there’s any recording of him and her singing.  

(10) MONITORING WHO MEDIA. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] More from Beeb.  Alas you have to have a BBC Sounds account to download in this case… “Doctor Who: 60 years of Friends and Foes”.

As Doctor Who celebrates its 60th anniversary, Sue Perkins explores how the programme has reflected our social history across the decades both on and off screen. From advances in technology to politics, violence, gender and sexuality.

Featuring archive footage, interviews and new conversations with showrunner Steven Moffat, script editor Andrew Cartmel, former companions including Anneke Wills, Katy Manning and Janet Fielding, and the voice of the Daleks Nicholas Briggs along with Dalek Operator Barnaby Edwards. Also, there’s analysis from several academics who have published books on the subject.

Sue examines how progressive the show has been, questioning if our favourite time traveller has kept with the times.

Sue Perkins

(11) BEWARE SPOILERS. If you have already seen the newest Doctor Who special, or don’t care about spoilers, you’re a candidate to read this Inverse profile about the latest iteration of the sonic screwdriver: “54 Years Later, The Oldest TV Sci-Fi Hero Just Got A Massive Tech Upgrade”.

(12) CULTURAL CORNER. Lavie Tidhar tweeted a fresh humorous sendup of the classic poem.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Tolkien explains on BBC how he started The Hobbit” is a brief clip from a 1968 interview.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/14/23 Give Me Forty Pixels And I’ll Scroll This Rig Around

(1) WON’T BE THE FIRST TIME. The organizers anticipate some accepters will make some political statements from the stage of the National Book Awards ceremony on November 15: “Israel-Hamas War Sows Disruption at the National Book Awards” in the New York Times.

As the cultural fallout from the war in the Middle East continues, several finalists for the National Book Award plan to call for a cease-fire in Gaza during the ceremony on Wednesday. Two sponsors have decided not to attend the ceremony after learning authors were planning a political statement.

“I don’t want to look back on this time,” said Aaliyah Bilal, a finalist in the fiction category and one of the authors planing to speak out, “and say that I was silent while people were suffering.”

Rumors that authors would take a stand regarding the Israel-Gaza conflict during the ceremony were flying in the days leading up to the event, but it was unclear what the statement would include, leaving several sponsors concerned.

One of the sponsors that withdrew after learning that some authors were planning a political statement was Zibby Media. Zibby Owens, the company’s founder, wrote in an essay published on Substack that her company had withdrawn because she was afraid the remarks at the ceremony would take a stance against Israel, noting that “we simply can’t be a part of anything that promotes discrimination, in this case of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Another sponsor, Book of the Month, has also decided not to attend. In a statement, the organization said it continued to support the event.

On Tuesday, the National Book Foundation sent a message to all the sponsors and those who purchased tickets, alerting them to the likelihood that winners were planning to issue political statements from the podium. The letter said that one group had decided to withdraw its sponsorship altogether….

(2) PROTESTORS AT GILLER PRIZE CEREMONY. Last night’s Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto was interrupted twice by protestors: “Three people charged in Giller Prize protest” at CP24.

Toronto police say three people are facing charges after a surprise protest which hijacked a gala for the Scotiabank Giller Prize – one of the biggest nights in Canadian literature.

The glitzy awards ceremony was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville Monday night.

The $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize went to Montreal native Sarah Bernstein for her novel, “Study for Obedience.”

Just as the prize was being announced, a protester posing as a photographer interrupted the ceremony – which was being broadcast live on CBC – with antiwar slogans.

A video of the incident posted to social media shows a woman yelling at the room while several others held up signs accusing Scotiabank of “genocide” for investment in an arm’s company that deals with Israel.

Publishers Lunch reports a Scotiabank asset investment fund holds a five percent stake (worth roughly $500 million) in Elbit Systems, the “largest non-government-owned defense company in Israel.”

(3) NANOWRIMO CONCERN. This report about the NaNoWriMo Youth Forums says the Board of Directors had to step in because of allegations against a moderator. The following is an excerpt from a thread which begins here.

And this tweet links to a 5-minute Rebecca Thorne Tik-Tok video commentary on the situation where she says “Now is the time to change your password, your email, and check your kids if they’ve been on these forums”.

(4) 2024 GRAMMY BALLOT INCLUDES SFF NOTABLES. The “2024 GRAMMY Nominations” were released on November 10, with nearly one hundred categories. William Shatner stands alone in his category, but the next four are almost entirely filled by musical works of genre interest.

68. Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording

Boldly Go: Reflections On A Life Of Awe And Wonder
William Shatner

69. Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media

Award to the principal artist(s) and/or ‘in studio’ producer(s) of a majority of the tracks on the album.  In the absence of both, award to the one or two individuals proactively responsible for the concept and musical direction of the album and for the selection of artists, songs and producers, as applicable. Award also goes to appropriately credited music supervisor(s).

AURORA
(Daisy Jones & The Six)

Barbie The Album
(Various Artists)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By
(Various Artists)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3: Awesome Mix, Vol. 3
(Various Artists)

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Weird Al Yankovic

70. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television)

Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current legitimate motion picture, television show or series, or other visual media.

Barbie
Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, composers

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Ludwig Göransson, composer

The Fabelmans
John Williams, composer

Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny
John Williams, composer

Oppenheimer
Ludwig Göransson, composer

71.  Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media

Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, video games and other interactive media.

Call Of Duty®: Modern Warfare II
Sarah Schachner, composer

God Of War Ragnarök
Bear McCreary, composer

Hogwarts Legacy
Peter Murray, J Scott Rakozy & Chuck E. Myers “Sea”, composers

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Stephen Barton & Gordy Haab, composers

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical
Jess Serro, Tripod & Austin Wintory, composers

72. Best Song Written For Visual Media

A Songwriter(s) award. For a song (melody & lyrics) written specifically for a motion picture, television, video games or other visual media, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

Barbie World [From “Barbie The Album”]
Naija Gaston, Ephrem Louis Lopez Jr. & Onika Maraj, songwriters (Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua)

Dance The Night [From “Barbie The Album”]
Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Dua Lipa)

I’m Just Ken [From “Barbie The Album”]
Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Ryan Gosling)

Lift Me Up [From “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By”]
Ryan Coogler, Ludwig Göransson, Robyn Fenty & Temilade Openiyi, songwriters (Rihanna)

What Was I Made For? [From “Barbie The Album”]
Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)

(5) LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The last day of the current LearnedLeague off-season featured a fun quiz on invented religions in a wide range of SF and fantasy. I got 9/12. You can find the questions here: “Fictional Theology”.

(6) SACRIFICIAL RAMMING SPEED. While you may have missed the latest NCIS television spinoff (I certainly did), Camestros Felapton confesses “I watched NCIS Sydney.

…The choice of city is obvious from the opening shots which take in the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House before taking us to the naval base near Woolloomooloo. You really can’t go wrong with filming Sydney Harbour, it is genuinely photogenic and really does have visiting naval vessels in it. Apparently, the real NCIS does have an Australian sub-office but it is in Perth, which is a lovely city but lacks the kind of recognisable landmarks that invading aliens or kaiju like to destroy….

(7) IT TURNS OUT MOUNT DOOM IS FREEWAY CLOSE TO POMPEII. In Italy, where the right wing is trying to appropriate Tolkienesque icons and themes, Politico takes readers “Inside Giorgia Meloni’s Hobbit fantasy world”.

Introducing soon-to-be Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at her final election campaign rally last year, the compère lifted a line from a battle speech in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings: “The day of defeat will come, but not today.”

Meloni has made it no secret that the fantasy epic is her favorite literary work. As a young activist she dressed up as a hobbit; after she became a minister, she posed next to a statue of Gandalf for a magazine photoshoot….

…The Ministry of Culture is funding an exhibition in Rome marking 50 years since the author’s death at a cost of €250,000, according to an official, who said the ministry hopes to recoup the funds from ticket sales. Meloni herself will open the show on November 15 at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art before it moves to other Italian cities.

Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano announced the show to the youth wing of Meloni’s party in July as “a gift.”

On Wednesday, presenting the exhibition, Sangiuliano said the show was “not by accident but deliberate and desired.” In response to a question by POLITICO, he insisted that Meloni had not requested the show but “only found out later.”

In the 1970s the far right would organize “Hobbit camp” festivals; Meloni has recalled that her friends were nicknamed Frodo, Gandalf and Hobbit, after central characters from the books.

She has quoted liberally from Tolkien throughout her career, from one of her first political speeches as a youth leader in 2002, to her autobiography in 2022. In 2015 she called on followers to combat that “sly enemy that Tolkien called the rings of power,” referring to the global financial elite….

(8) A BIG IMPROVEMENT. Christopher Nieman’s cover for The New Yorker shows robots are here to help us. (Click on item to see all panels.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i LönnebergaKarlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s eighteenth most-translated author, and the fourth-most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter was an animated series in Japan recently. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 72. In 1984, she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor until her retirement.  She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction.  A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy that she co-wrote wrote with Michael Franklin and Baird Searles was nominated for a Hugo at L.A. Con II. She has been nominated for six Hugos as Best Professional Editor or Best Editor Long Form.
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 60. All around great person. Past President of SFWA.  She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 nomination in the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional category. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a 2020 Nebula, and her short story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain” was a 2013 Nebula Award finalist.  Her impressive fantasy Tabat Quartet quartet begins withBeasts of Tabat, Hearts of Tabat, and Exiles of Tabat, and will soon be completed by Gods of Tabat. She also writes amazing short fiction as well.  The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills through live and on demand classes about a range of topics. You can get details here. Her latest, Devil’s, was a stellar listen and an outstanding sequel to You Sexy Thing.
  • Born November 14, 1969 Daniel Abraham, 54. Co-author with Ty Franck of The Expanse series which won a Hugo at CoNZealand. Under the pseudonym M. L. N. Hanover, he is the author of the Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series.  Abraham collaborated with George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to write the Hunter’s Run. Abraham also has adapted several of Martin’s works into comic books and graphic novels, such as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, and has contributed to Wild Cards anthologies. By himself, he picked up a Hugo nomination at Denvention 3 for his “The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics” novelette. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! has a grotesque Wolverine joke.

(11) ARMOR MUSEUM EXHIBIT IN HUNTSVILLE. [Item by Marc Criley.] Armor frequently plays a key supporting role in high fantasy and historical fiction set in a certain era.

Pay a visit to the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama to see what really protected those that became the storytellers’ myths and legends. The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum on display now until January 14, 2024.

Far from the ungainly exoskeleton we often imagine today, the suit of armor was made to be sleek and stylish—painstakingly engineered, elegantly designed, and treasured as the expression of its owner’s taste, sophistication, and prowess.

Wolfgang Stäntler, Swept-Hilt Sword for the Munich Town Guard, about 1600,

(12) DISGRACELAND. “Shock of the old: eight abandoned and appalling theme parks” – the Guardian has a little list. Here’s one example:

Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan

Given its wholesome location, nestled up against the Aokigahara “suicide forest” and the Aum Shinrikyo cult headquarters in Japan, it’s impossible to imagine why this Jonathan Swift tribute park didn’t catch on. It’s the kind of thing you could threaten your kids with: “Be good, or we’ll go and see the vast, nightmarish statue of a man in a book you’ve never read.” Did they serve Modest Proposal burgers? It’s been demolished now; probably best for the planet’s collective psychological wellbeing.

(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. [Item by Steven French.] Well, who hasn’t lost a ring at some time or another …?! “Saturn’s Rings Will Temporarily Disappear From View in 2025” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

… In reality, it all has to do with planetary alignment. Saturn’s rings are so thin that they seemingly vanish when viewed edge-on. And as Earth and Saturn travel around the sun on their respective orbital paths, our planet reaches this particular vantage point like clockwork, roughly every 13 to 16 years.

As Saturn completes its orbit over approximately 29.4 Earth years, it leans at an angle of 26.7 degrees. This means that our view of Saturn toggles between the upper side of its rings when it’s tilted toward us and the lower side when it’s tilted away. We get the special, ringless view of the planet when Earth transitions between each of these perspectives and passes through Saturn’s “ring plane,” essentially, any area of space that’s in line with the edge of its rings.

From that angle, “they reflect very little light and are very difficult to see, making them essentially invisible,” Vahe Peroomian, a physicist and astronomer at the University of Southern California, tells CBS News’ Caitlin O’Kane…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Anne Marble, Marc Criley, Nicholas Whyte, Steven French, Lise Andreasen, 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 Bill.]