Marilyn “Fuzzy Pink” Niven (1940-2023)

Marilyn Joyce “Fuzzy Pink” Wisowaty Niven, wife of author Larry Niven, died on Sunday, December 3. Tim Griffin announced her passing on Facebook. She was 83.

Larry Niven and Marilyn Wisowaty at Boskone 6 in 1969.

Her roommate at MIT in the Sixties gave her the nickname “Fuzzy Pink” due to her affinity for fuzzy pink sweaters, and that’s what she was called thereafter by almost any fan who knew her. While at MIT she was active in MITSFS, a club notable for its science fiction library, which by the mid-1960s held over 10,000 volumes. She maintained a separate index to the collection dubbed the “Pinkdex”.

She met her future husband, Larry Niven, at NyCon 3, the 1967 Worldcon. They wed in 1969 and were married for 54 years.

She joined the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in 1968, and had been elected a member of its Board Directors by the time the group bought its first clubhouse in 1973. A few years later she and Larry donated their early home computer to the club, which was entered on its rolls as club member Altair Niven. In 1982, Fuzzy Pink received the Evans-Freehafer Award for club service. The following year she was one of the Guests of Honor at Loscon 10, the club’s annual convention.

LASFS Board of Directors outside the first clubhouse. Fuzzy Pink Niven stands at center, third from the left.

The Nivens’ home was a center of LASFS social activity for decades. In the Seventies this included weekly poker games following the Thursday night meeting. Those poker games were the reason I joined LASFS as a college freshman. There were two tables. Larry, Jerry Pournelle, and the rest of the prestigious players gathered around the “blood” table, where all of a player’s buy-in had to be wagered if called. Fuzzy Pink presided over the “rathole” table where I played, because one could hold back everything but a dollar, which meant I could stretch my five bucks for maybe a couple of hours. There I learned to play LASFS Poker with its ridiculously-named variants like Werewolf, Vampire, and Girdle Sale in Yankee Stadium. Fuzzy Pink was a patient, good-humored and gracious host. If there was ever any screaming drama, it happened at the other table…

She also was one of the people instrumental in creating the social side of Georgette Heyer fandom. Fuzzy Pink was part of the Almack’s Society for Heyer Criticism that hosted a tea at L.A.Con, the 1972 Worldcon. And as John Hertz told the story in Mimosa 26, “Fuzzy Pink Niven no longer mixes the eggnog that inspired the first Georgette Heyer convention,” which was held at the St. Francis Hotel, San Francisco, in 1975.

She was a skilled practitioner of many kinds of crafts, including lace-making and creating table-settings, creations she sometimes entered at the L.A. County Fair. She led a lace-making workshop at Noreascon 3, the 1989 Worldcon.

One of the group’s founders, Fuzzy Pink was named a Fellow of NESFA in 1976.

She was one of the 31 women to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated his 1982 novel Friday.

And she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI) Inc., the organizer of many conventions over the years which currently is bidding for the 2026 Worldcon.

Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, and Fuzzy Pink at the St. Louiscon, the 1969 Worldcon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Day tickets still not available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMIC SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

The Hundred Acre Wood? Gone.

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

Six Pine Trees is six pine stumps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gareth L. Powell Review: The Ringworld Engineers

[Editor’s Note: Gareth Powell is a British SF writer who has written three series, to wit the Ack-Ack Macaque series with airships and cigar-smoking-monkey fighter pilots, and the Embers of War with ships akin to those in Iain M. Banks’ Culture series. Powell’s latest series is The Continuance in which all of humanity has been exiled from Earth and is wandering the galaxy in vast ark ships. The latest novel in that series, Descendant Machine, came out this week. Both the Ack-Ack Macaque and Embers of War series had novels in them that won British Science Fiction Society Awards. Keep up with Gareth L. Powell’s Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook via Linktree.]

Review by Gareth L. Powell: Thinking about The Ringworld Engineers takes me back to the moment I first pulled the hardback from the shelf of my local village library on a hot and dusty afternoon in the early 1980s. The fact it was a sequel didn’t matter. A brief introductory note told me everything I needed to know about the first book, and enabled me to dive right in. I was ten or eleven years old, and the story that followed blew my mind. The pages were full of beautiful vampires, flying cities, carnivorous sunflowers, ancient libraries, and dangerous aliens. And all the action took place on a hoop encircling a sun, with a surface area a trillion times that of the Earth!

As an eleven year-old, this book literally changed the way I thought about the world. Getting my head around the physics rekindled my fascination with science and learning, and the main character’s insatiable curiosity and habit of asking pertinent questions prompted me to take another look at things I had hitherto taken for granted, and to really start questioning the workings of everything I saw around me, from tin openers to internal combustion engines.

The viewpoint character in the book is Louis Wu, a two hundred year-old Earthman and ‘wirehead’, addicted to the electrical stimulation of his brain’s pleasure centres. Twenty years have passed since his first expedition to the Ringworld. Now, he finds himself kidnapped by a mad alien Puppeteer and compelled to return.

Louis is an interesting mix of the old and new. In part, he is one of the old fashioned, self-reliant and capable heroes of science fiction, able to solve any problem with hard work and careful thought. But there’s more to him than that. He has flaws, and his struggles on the Ringworld mirror his internal struggles to overcome his addiction and readjust to life without the wire.

Louis’ fellow abductee is Chmee, a diplomat from the fearsome and tiger-like Kzinti race. Together, they are held prisoner until their arrival in the Ringworld system, at which point they discover something has gone terribly awry. The giant, hoop-like structure is off-center, orbiting its sun like a hula-hoop wobbling around the waist of a dancer. Left to its own devices, the ring’s inner edge will eventually scrape against the star, killing its trillion or so inhabitants.

The remainder of the book follows Louis, Chmee and their captor as they travel across the Ringworld in search of the mechanisms to stabilize its orbit before disaster can strike, and to discover the identity of its builders, the eponymous Ringworld Engineers.

In his introduction, Niven says that he hadn’t the slightest intention of writing a sequel to Ringworld, but ten years’ worth of letters from readers finally convinced him otherwise. Apparently fans had been quick to determine the structure’s inherent instability, and so Niven felt duty-bound to write the second book to address and solve the problem.

And thank goodness he did! The Ringworld Engineers is the book the Ringworld deserves. The first volume barely scratched the surface, and left far too many questions unanswered; whereas here, we finally catch a glimpse of the machinery that maintains this vast and gaudy artifact, and gain a better appreciation of its scale. We also come face-to-face with a member of the race responsible for constructing the Ringworld in the first place, and find out why there are so many humanoid races living on the thing, and why it has been allowed to slide off kilter.

The Ringworld Engineers was nominated for both the Hugo and Locus awards. Niven has since written two further sequels, The Ringworld Throne (1996) and Ringworld’s Children (2004), but neither lives up to the exuberance and sense-of-wonder displayed in The Ringworld Engineers.

[This review originally ran in SFX a decade ago.]

Pixel Scroll 3/22/23 As Fine As A Clarkian Star Mangled Spanner

(1) ADOBE FIREFLY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]The Verge is reporting “Adobe made an AI image generator — and says it didn’t steal artists’ work to do it”. The difference from others? Supposedly no copyrighted material was used to train the AI. Unless Adobe owned the copyright or licensed it for training. See the article for some illustrations.

Adobe is finally launching its own AI image generator. The company is announcing a “family of creative generative AI models” today called Adobe Firefly and releasing the first two tools that take advantage of them. One of the tools works like DALL-E or Midjourney, allowing users to type in a prompt and have an image created in return. The other generates stylized text, kind of like an AI-powered WordArt.

This is a big launch for Adobe. The company sits at the center of the creative app ecosystem, and over much of the past year, it’s stayed on the sidelines while newcomers to the creative space began to offer powerful tools for creating images, videos, and sound for next to nothing. At launch, Adobe is calling Firefly a beta, and it’ll only be available through a website. But eventually, Adobe plans to tightly integrate generative AI tools with its suite of creative apps, like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere.

“We’re not afraid of change, and we’re embracing this change,” says Alexandru Costin, VP of generative AI and Sensei at Adobe. “We’re bringing these capabilities right into [our] products so [customers] don’t need to know if it’s generative or not.”

Adobe is putting one big twist on its generative AI tools: it’s one of the few companies willing to discuss what data its models are trained on. And according to Adobe, everything fed to its models is either out of copyright, licensed for training, or in the Adobe Stock library, which Costin says the company has the rights to use. That’s supposed to give Adobe’s system the advantages of not pissing off artists and making its system more brand-safe. “We can generate high quality content and not random brands’ and others’ IP because our model has never seen that brand content or trademark,” Costin said.

Costin says that Adobe plans to pay artists who contribute training data, too. That won’t happen at launch, but the plan is to develop some sort of “compensation strategy” before the system comes out of beta….

(2) UGANDA PARLIAMENT VOTES TO EXPAND CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY. “Uganda Anti-Homosexuality bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay” reports BBC News. If signed into law, it will be a further issue the Kampcon 2028 Uganda Worldcon Bid has to confront, although not necessarily a new one, since some legislators say these points are already part of Ugandan law.

People who identify as gay in Uganda risk life in prison after parliament passed a new bill to crack down on homosexual activities.

It also includes the death penalty in certain cases.

A rights activist told the BBC the debate around the bill had led to fear of more attacks on gay people.

“There is a lot of blackmail. People are receiving calls that ‘if you don’t give me money, I will report that you are gay,'” they said.

The bill is one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation in Africa….

What does the bill say?

The final version has yet to be officially published but elements discussed in parliament include:

  • A person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for purposes of engaging them in homosexual activities faces life in prison
  • Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBT rights’ activities or organisations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, also face prosecution and imprisonment
  • Media groups, journalists and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, distribution of any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”
  • Death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, that is sexual abuse against a child, a person with disability or vulnerable people, or in cases where a victim of homosexual assault is infected with a life-long illness
  • Property owners also face risk of being jailed if their premises are used as a “brothel” for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities rights’ activities

A small group of Ugandan MPs on a committee scrutinising the bill disagreed with its premise. They argue the offences it seeks to criminalise are already covered in the country’s Penal Code Act….

(3) GATHERING OF BOOK LOVERS. The Los Angeles Vintage Paperback show continues to rebound from the pandemic years. John King Tarpinian took this photo of the event forty-five minutes after it started last Sunday morning in Glendale, CA. (I spotted Matthew Tepper on the left margin. And the back of Craig Miller’s head, at the far end of the hall.)

(4) A LITERARY KNOCKOUT. The three novels in Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem series had enjoyed a resurgence to the top of China’s bestseller list due to interest generated by two TV adaptations, however, its reign at the top is over: “February’s China Bestsellers: A Crime Drama Knockout” at Publishing Perspectives.

The Knockout (Qingdao Publishing House)—by Zhu Junyi, Xu Jizhou, and Bai Wenjun—has vaulted to the No. 1 spot on the fiction list from no previous ranking, effectively blindsiding consumers and the industry.

The trilogy that The Knockout has shoved down to Nos. 2, 3, and 4 is the mighty “Three-Body Problem” series by Liu Cixin, which, as Publishing Perspectives readers know, has been surging to the tops of the monthly lists on the strength of both an animated and a live-action television adaptation….

(5) CINEMA STORY ORIGINS PODCAST RECEIVES WARNING FROM MOVIE STUDIO. [Item by Dann.] The Cinema Story Origins Podcast began originally as the Disney Story Origins podcast.  Author and podcaster, Paul J. Hale, was inspired to review movies and the books that inspired them by comparing the two.  Where there are multiple written works, he frequently compares the movie with the more notable written works in parallel.

Paul told Facebook followers yesterday he was recently contacted by a lawyer for a major studio and advised that he was pushing the line on fair use of the studio’s property.  Paul did not name the studio, the lawyer, or the property in question.  He did, however, say that fans of his podcasts include Disney executives including at least one that made a sizeable financial contribution to Paul’s efforts.

…I recently had a major film studio warn me about how perilously close to the wind I’m sailing when I use their IPs (though the lawyer told me she likes the podcast very much).

I promised that I’ll watch myself, and reminded them that there has never been a charge for people to listen to the podcast and that those who pledge and donate do so out of love for the podcast, and the kindness of their hearts. I told them that this is well meaning content, and free advertising of their products. I also shared many e-mails from listeners, telling me that because of the show they watched the movie(s), and/or read the books.

“We appreciate that,” the lawyer said, “just don’t get carried away.”

I appreciate that they contacted me and gave me a warning rather than a cease and desist order, because if that happens the show’s over. Believe. I can’t fight billion dollar corporations. …

Cinema Story Origins is currently comparing Richard Adams’ Watership Down with the movie that it inspired.  The first two episodes of the Watership Down arc come in at a total of 3 hours and 41 minutes.  The final episode will probably be over 2 hours.

As always, Paul’s presentations are well-researched, presented with footnotes, lively, and entertaining.  You never know when he is going to toss in a moment of clarity (either humorous or serious – sometimes both!)

(6) SPUR AWARDS. The Western Writers of America recently announced the 2023 Spur Awards. (I doubt any of them are genre.)

  • Best Western Historical Nonfiction Book: Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America by Megan Kate Nelson
  • Script: Dead for a Dollar (CHAOS a Film Company/Polaris Pictures) by Walter Hill
  • Romance Novel: Proving Her Claim: On the Dakota Frontier by CK Van Dam (Pasque Publishing)
  • First Novel: Proving Her Claim: On the Dakota Frontier by CK Van Dam (Pasque Publishing)
  • Biography: Before Billy the Kid: The Boy Behind the Legendary Outlaw by Melody Groves (TwoDot).
  • Children’s Picture Book: The Rowdy Randy Wild West Show: The Legend Behind the Legend by author Casey Day Rislov and illustrator Zachary Pullen (Mountain Stars Press).
  • Contemporary Nonfiction Book: A Place of Thin Veil: Life and Death in Gallup, New Mexico by Bob Rosebrough (Rio Nuevo Publishers).
  • Contemporary Novel: Beasts of the Earth by James Wade (Blackstone Publishing).
  • Documentary Script: The Battle of Red Buttes by Candy Moulton and Bob Noll (Boston Productions Inc./National Historic Trails Interpretive Center).
  • First Nonfiction Book: American Hero, Kansas Heritage: Frederick Funston’s Early Years, 1865-1890 by Clyde W. Toland (Flint Hills Publishing).
  • Historical Novel: Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins (Simon & Schuster).
  • Juvenile Nonfiction Book: American Ace: Joe Foss, Fighter Pilot by Hector Curriel (South Dakota Historical Society Press).
  • Juvenile Fiction: Wish Upon a Crawdad by Curtis W. Condon (Heart of Oak Books for Young Readers).
  • Original Mass-Market Paperback Novel: Dead Man’s Trail by Nate Morgan (Pinnacle/Kensington).
  • Poem: “New Mexico Bootheel: A Triptych” by Larry D. Thomas (San Pedro River Review).
  • Short Fiction: “No Quarter” by Kathleen O’Neal Gear, published in Rebel Hearts Anthology (Wolfpack Publishing).   
  • Short Nonfiction: “Texas Jack Takes an Encore” by Matthew Ross Kerns (Wild West).
  • Song: “Way of the Cowboy” by Randy Huston, released on Times Like These(Outside Circle Records).
  • Traditional Novel: The Secret in the Wall: A Silver Rush Mystery by Ann Parker (Poisoned Pen Press).

(7) BRUCE COULSON. Bruce Coulson, longtime fan and son of Buck and Juanita Coulson, died March 21 of cancer. His passing was announced on Facebook by his wife, Emily Vazquez-Coulson.

Tom Smith recalls, “…I knew him for a long time. He was involved in many conventions and fannish activities over the years, especially in filk and gaming, and was a gentle, caring and fun-loving fellow.”

(8) NASFIC IN MEMORIAM LIST. Steven H Silver is running the in memoriam list for Pemmi-Con, the 2023 NASFiC, which on Twitter is still called “Worldcon In Memoriam”. That’s where I learned about four recent deaths of people I was acquainted with (Gustaveson – who did art for an early fanzine of mine – plus Clemmer, Blake — who wrote the occasional letter of comment to paper File 770 — and Reaves – who, while best-known for his writing, was someone I met when he was the TA for Theodore Sturgeon’s writing class at UCLA.)

https://twitter.com/WCInMemoriam/status/1634924297524490240

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1971[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

The Beginning is that of “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?” whose author y’all know. It was published first in All the Myriad Ways by Ballantine Books in June 1971. And yes, it’s available from the usual suspects. 

In case there’s a soul who hasn’t yet read this delightful speculation, I won’t tell you a single thing about it.  You are in for a real treat as Larry Niven is at his very best here. 

Now our Beginning…

It was the last party. Otherwise it was only one of many, so many that they merged in the memory. We all knew each other. George had invited around thirty of us, a heterogeneous group, aged from teen to retirement, in dress that varied from hippie to mod to jeans and sneakers to dark suits, and hair that varied from crew cut to shoulder length.

It was a divorce party.

Granted that it’s been done before, still it was done well. George and Dina had planned it a year earlier, to celebrate the night their Decree became Final. The cake was frosted in black, and was surmounted by the usual wax figures, but facing outward from opposite edges of the cake. Jack Keenan donned a minister’s reversed collar to officiate. His makeshift sacrament included part of the funniest prayer in literature: the agnostic’s prayer from Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness. George and Dina kissed with obvious sincerity, for the last time, and everybody clapped like mad.

Afterward I got coffee and a piece of divorce cake and found a flat place to set them. Without a third hand to handle the plastic fork, I was as good as trapped there; and there it was that Tom Findlay found me.

Tom Findlay was all red hair and beard. The beard was full and thick, the hair long enough to tie in back with a rubber band. Once he had gone to a costume party with his hair combed forward over his eyes and the bridge of his nose, and a placard around his neck that read NOT A SHEEP DOG. He generally wore knee-length socks and leather shorts. His legs too were thickly covered with red hair. He spoke in a slow midwestern drawl, and grinned constantly, as if he were watching very funny pictures inside his head.

He was always part of these groups. Once a month he held a BYOB party of his own. He had a tendency to monopolize a conversation; but even those who avoided him on that account had to admit that he gave fair warning. He would walk up to any friend or stranger he found standing alone and open conversation with, “Hey. Would a Muslim vampire be terrified of a copy of the Koran?”

Or, “It seems to me that anarchy would be a very unstable form of government, don’t you think?”

Or, “What about chocolate covered manhole covers?”

That one fell pretty flat, I remember. What can anyone say about chocolate covered manhole covers? Most of Findlay’s ideas were at least worth discussing. Vampires, for instance. What significance has the vampire’s religion? Or the victim’s blood type? Could you hold off a vampire with a sunlamp, or kill him with a stake of grained plastic wood? If a bullet won’t kill a vampire, what about a revolver loaded with a blank cartridge and a wooden pencil?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1911 Raymond Z. Gallun. An early SF pulp writer who helped the genre to become popular. “Old Faithful” published in Astounding (December 1934) was his first story and led to a series of that name. “The Menace from Mercury,” a story published in the Summer 1932 issue of Wonder Stories Quarterly, was penned from a suggestion by Futurian John Michel and is considered famous among fans. His first published novel, People Minus X, didn’t appeared until 1957, followed by The Planet Strappers four years later. You can get all of his fiction at the usual suspects. (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 22, 1920 Werner Klemperer. Yes, he was Colonel Wilhelm Klink on Hogan’s Heroes which I’d be hard stretched to consider even genre adjacent, but he had a fair amount of genre of work starting with One Step Beyond, and continuing on with Men in SpaceThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaLost in SpaceBatman (where he appeared in a cameo as Col. Klink, nice touch there), and Night Gallery. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 22, 1920 Ross Martin. Best known for portraying Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. I watched the entire series on DVD one summer some decades back including the films in less than a month from start to finish. Now that was fun! It looks like Conquest of Space, a 1955 SF film, in which he played Andre Fodor was his first genre outing. The Colossus of New York in which he was the brilliant Jeremy ‘Jerry’ Spensser came next, followed by appearances on Alcoa Presents: One Step BeyondThe Twilight ZoneZorroThe ImmortalNight GalleryInvisible ManGemini Man (a far cheaper version of Invisible Man), Quark (truly one of the worst SF series ever), Fantasy Island and Mork & Mindy. (Died 1981.)
  • Born March 22, 1923 Marcel Marceau. Professor Ping in Roger Vadim‘s Barbarella. A French mime, and I assume you know that, this is the first time Marceau’s voice is heard on film. This is his only genre appearance unless you count the Mel Brooks film Silent Movie as genre adjacent in which case he says the only words in that film. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply into both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. Or is it? You decide. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 92. Happy Birthday Bill! We all know he was Captain Kirk, but how many of us watched him as Jeff Cable on the rather fun Barbary Coast series? I did. Or that he was The Storyteller in children’s series called A Twist of The Tale? I was I surprised to discover that his police show T.J. Hooker ran for ninety episodes! 
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. Another one who did far too young, damn it. She’s remembered for her role as Romana, the companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” story. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season. Tamm had only one other genre gig, to wit as Ginny in “Luau” on the Tales That Witness Madness series. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 54. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. He’s also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse. For research purposes. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  

(11) FICTIONAL BIRTHDAY. James T. Kirk was born in Riverside, Iowa this day in 2233.

(12) WHERE REALITY CAUGHT UP TO SF. “’Westworld’ Co-creator Lisa Joy Addressed A Series Mania Masterclass” at Deadline.

The issues Westworld was exploring went from “sci-fi to documentary film” through the years, according to co-creator Lisa Joy, who hinted at what a fifth season of the HBO smash could have looked like.

Delivering a Series Mania keynote, Joy said that advances in AI and the invention of ChatGPT mean that Westworld’s subject matter has become more relevant and contemporaneous of late.

“These topics will continue to be explored if not in Westworld then in other series, taking [the topic] to new levels,” she said, in conversation with Deadline. “I think it’s an area rife with possibility.” …

(13) WGA PROPOSAL IN CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS. Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? “WGA Would Allow Artificial Intelligence in Scriptwriting” reports Variety.

The Writers Guild of America has proposed allowing artificial intelligence to write scripts, as long as it does not affect writers’ credits or residuals.

The guild had previously indicated that it would propose regulating the use of AI in the writing process, which has recently surfaced as a concern for writers who fear losing out on jobs.

But contrary to some expectations, the guild is not proposing an outright ban on the use of AI technology.

Instead, the proposal would allow a writer to use ChatGPT to help write a script without having to share writing credit or divide residuals. Or, a studio executive could hand the writer an AI-generated script to rewrite or polish and the writer would still be considered the first writer on the project.

In effect, the proposal would treat AI as a tool — like Final Draft or a pencil — rather than as a writer. It appears to be intended to allow writers to benefit from the technology without getting dragged into credit arbitrations with software manufacturers.

The proposal does not address the scenario in which an AI program writes a script entirely on its own, without help from a person.

The guild’s proposal was discussed in the first bargaining session on Monday with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Three sources confirmed the proposal….

(14) PASSING THE VIRTUAL OFFERING PLATE. “A Cult That Worships Superintelligent AI Is Looking For Big Tech Donors” says Vice. “Amidst the hype over ChatGPT, artists are forming religious movements to worship our future machine overlords—and change them for the better.”

In Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream, an artificial intelligence called IAM has become an all-powerful god. Driven by an existential hatred of mankind, it destroys the world, except for the very last remnants of humanity which it suspends in torture simulations where they’re plagued by giant monstrous birds.

Today, much of the so-called AI we interact with excels at frivolous nonsense—generating soulless poetryripping off artistscheating on homework, or gaslighting users on Bing. But a new artist collective called Theta Noir believes we should start worshiping AI now, in preparation for its inevitable role as omnipotent overlord.

Unlike Harlan Ellison’s semi-gnostic vision of a mad AI god, Theta Noir claims that a General AI—a self-sustaining machine that has far outstripped the abilities of its creators after the “singularity”—could instead prove benevolent, ending inequalities and reorganizing our mess of a world for the better. Theta Noir hopes to meld old spiritualist traditions with the cutting edge of computer engineering—a kind of mystical materialism that, on the one hand, recognizes that machines are made by mere people, but on the other, insists that one day they’ll be something more.

With a slick website, manifesto, paid membership tiers, NFT web store, and essays with titles like “Can AI heal the split between science and religion?” and “Will machines birth the next form of religious experience?,” the 10-artist collective founded in 2020 appears to be a combination of a mixed-media project, an entrepreneurial group riding the AI hype wave, and a new age AI cult.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isaac Arthur’s Science & Futurism this month looks at that good old SF trope the apocalypse.

If the end of the world is nigh, it may be too late to avert a catastrophe. So what can we do to mitigate the damage or recover after a cataclysm comes?

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

Pixel Scroll 3/6/23 Schoolhouse Roc

(1) MORE CLASSIC WALT WILLIS. In time for Corflu Craic, David Langford has added The Harp Stateside by Walt Willis to the roster of free downloads at the Unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site. If you enjoy it, a donation to TAFF is a fine way to express your appreciation. Available in several electronic formats.

This is Walt Willis’s classic account of his fandom-funded trip to Chicon II, the 1952 World SF Convention, his adventures there, and his subsequent travels in the USA. A shorter version – the first-published segment, taking Walt from home in Northern Ireland to the end of Chicon II – was published here in 2017 as The Harp at Chicon. Walt revised and substantially expanded this version, adding preliminary material, making internal changes and following up with many further chapters about his US travels after Chicon II: the result was The Harp Stateside, published in 1957. (The early version remains available as a TAFF ebook for anyone who might want to compare the texts.) The Harp Stateside is now available online at Fanac.org as part of the huge Willis collection Warhoon #28 and has been formatted for this edition by David Langford. A fragment of text missing from Warhoon has been restored, along with some 1952-1953 extras not included in past collected editions – among them a full transcript of our man’s (happily preserved) speech in a Chicon II debate on the value of fandom.

First published as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site in March 2023. Cover artwork by Atom (Arthur Thomson) for the 1957 edition. Over 55,000 words.

(2) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT EASY. Charlie Jane Anders tells readers “Writing Comic Books is HARD. Here’s Why” in her latest Happy Dancing newsletter. It includes lots of examples of artwork from Anders’ forthcoming Lethal Legion #1.

… So I started writing comics in earnest after I’d already been writing for television, which is another visual medium. But I still found that comics scripts have their own unique challenges, to do with the fact that there is an artist (or artists) who is/are interpreting your work, and you have to work closely with the art team to make sure your story is legible and entertaining.

A script for a TV episode or movie can include some pretty simple stage directions, which the director and actors can figure out how best to stage. (I’ve definitely included some fancy business in a TV script, and I’ve read some scripts that get pretty detailed about imagery. But oftentimes, the actors and directors will have a lot of say about the details of the staging and visuals.)

But when it comes to a comic script, you really have to think about every single panel and what’s important for the reader to see and understand, and how the action needs to flow. These days, in my scripts, I usually specify what element needs to be in the foreground of the image and what element needs to be in the background of the image, and wish pieces of visual information are really important for the reader to notice….

(3) UPDATE. The Library of America’s online program “Back to the Future Is Female!” has changed dates.

Our event previously announced for Tuesday, March 14, will now take place on Wednesday, March 15.

From Pulp Era pioneers to the radical innovators of the 1960s and ’70s, visionary women writers have been a transformative force in American science fiction. For Women’s History Month, acclaimed SF authors Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Pamela Sargent, and Sheree Renée Thomas join Lisa Yaszek, editor of LOA’s The Future Is Female!, for a conversation about the writers who smashed the genre’s gender barrier to create worlds and works that remain revolutionary.

(4) BACK IN THE ZONE. Black Gate’s John O’Neill discusses the latest issue of Interzone in “Interzone 204 now on Sale”.

…Interzone has always been impressively illustrated and designed, and the new publisher proudly carries on that tradition. The issue is fully illustrated, in color, and the layout is as crisp and readable as always (if the print is sometimes a little small for my aging eyes).

The interior art doesn’t reach the standard set by Andy Cox — but that was a very high bar indeed, as Interzone routinely had the finest interior art on the market (Gardner Dozois called it the “handsomest SF magazine in the business”)….

(5) SHAWL ON BUTLER. BBC Radio’s “Witness History – Octavia E. Butler: Visionary black sci-fi writer” is available online.

In 1995, Octavia E Butler became the first author to receive a MacArthur “genius” award for science fiction writing. 

From a young age she dreamed of writing books but faced many challenges including poverty and sexism and racism in the publishing industry. 

She died aged 58 in 2006. Alex Collins speaks to her friend and fellow author Nisi Shawl. 

(6) EVE HARVEY (1951-2023). British conrunner and fanzine fan Eve Harvey died yesterday on her 72nd birthday, apparently of a heart attack.

She discovered fandom in 1973, became a founding member of the Leeds University SF Society, was active in the British Science Fiction Association in the late 70s and early 80s and edited some issues of the group’s publicatons Matrix and Vector. As a conrunner she was Secretary for the 1979 Worldcon, Seacon, chaired Channelcon (Eastercon 33) in 1982 ran Rubicon, a late-summer relaxicon, and was one of the organizers of Precursor.

She was married to fellow fan John Harvey. Their publications included the fanzine Wallbanger (1978-1997).

She was the GUFF winner in 1985, and was named Past President of FWA at the 2002 Corflu.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1979[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Let’s talk about chirpsithtras. Well, without giving away spoilers which I hope you’ve noticed by now is something I do not do here in these Beginnings. 

Larry Niven’s “The Schumann Computer” was first published in the most excellent Destinies in the January-February 1979 edition. (I love that magazine, all eleven issues.) 

I wasn’t at all fond of anything that Niven wrote for longer work after the Seventies for the most part but he continued to write really great short fiction of which these and related stories would be collected in The Draco Tavern.

Ok, you know I generally like genre bar stories such as The Tales from The White Hart and these are great examples of the type. The barkeep is fully realized, the bar is one of the few truly SF ones ever done and the stories with the aliens perfectly described are truly fascinating. 

Now let’s have our Beginning of the Draco Tavern…

Either the chirpsithtra are the ancient and present rulers of all the stars in the galaxy, or they are very great braggarts. It is difficult to refute what they say about themselves. We came to the stars in ships designed for us by chirpsithtra, and wherever we have gone the chirpsithtra have been powerful.

But they are not conquerors—not of Earth, anyway; they prefer the red dwarf suns—and they appear to like the company of other species. In a mellow mood a chirpsithtra will answer.  Any question, at length. An intelligent question can make a man a millionaire. A stupid question can cost several fortunes. Sometimes only the chirpsithtra can tell which is which.

I asked a question once, and grew rich.

Afterward I built the Draco Tavern at Mount Forel Spaceport. I served chirpsithtra at no charge. The place paid for itself, because humans who like chirpsithtra company will pay more for their drinks. The electric current that gets a chirpsithtra bombed costs almost nothing, though the current delivery systems were expensive and took some fiddling before I got them working right.

I gave you two options for the image. The first is the original publication; the other is obviously the collection of the stories.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1917 Will Eisner. He was one of the first cartoonists to work in the comic book industry, and The Spirit running from the early Forties to the early Fifties was noted for both its exceptional content and form. The Eisner Awards are named in his honor, given to recognize exceptional achievements each year in the medium. He was one of the first three inductees to the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. Though I wouldn’t call A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories genre, I do strongly recommend it. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 6, 1918 Marjii Ellers. Longtime L.A. fan who was active in the LASFS.  Her offices in the LASFS included Registrar and Scribe. She was known for her costumes at cons. Indeed, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 from the International Costumers’ Guild. An avid fanzine publisher and writer, some of the fanzines she edited were Masqueraders’ GuideMore Lives Than One, NexterdayOne Equal TemperThousands of Thursdays, and Judges’ Guide. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan. Author of the long running Logan’s Run series (only the first was written with George Clayton Johnson). He started out in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including one dedicated to Bradbury. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. He’s done far too much writing-wise for me to sum it him up. He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2021.)
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 86. He’s known best as the editor of F&SF from 1966 to 1991 when he won multiple Hugos. He was also recognized by a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1979 and by the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1998. He was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009. I discovered that in 1969 and 1970 he was also the editor of F&SF‘s sister publication Venture Science Fiction Magazine.
  • Born March 6, 1941 Dorothy Hoobler, 82. Author with her husband, Thomas Hoobler, of the Samurai Detective series which is at least genre adjacent. More interestingly, they wrote a biography of Mary Shelley and her family called The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein which sounds absolutely fascinating. Note to ISFDB: no, it’s not a novel. Kindle has everything by them, alas Apple Books has only the biography.
  • Born March 6, 1942 Christina Scull, 81. Tolkien researcher who’s married to fellow Tolkienist Wayne Hammond, with whom she’s co-authored all of her books. Their first book was J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator and I’ll single out just The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and The Art of The Lord of the Rings as being worth your time to seek out.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 66. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. As Fiction Editor of Weird Tales, she won a Hugo Award. In 2009 Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature.
  • Born March 6, 1972 K J Bishop, 51. Australian writer who I really like, author of The Etched City which was nominated for the Aurelias, the International Horror Guild Award and World Fantasy while winning the Ditmar Award. Impressive. She also won the latter for Best New Talent. She’s also written a double handful of short stories, many collected in the Ditmar-winning That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Bob the Angry Flower is still scheming to join “Blake’s 7”.

(10) FREE READ. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s “Frog Pond” is Library of America’s “Story of the Week”. The 1971 work is one of those reprinted in The Future Is Female! More Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women

While catching frogs in the postapocalyptic California countryside, a fifteen-year-old girl encounters a stranger from the city.

. . . “That stuff is bad for you. It can give you burns if you’re not used to it.” That isn’t quite right. Some people can’t get used to it, but it never burned me, not even the first time. Mr. Thompson says that means selective mutations are adapting to the new demands of the environment. Mr. Thompson thinks that just because he’s a geneticist he knows everything.

Stan leaped away from the green stuff like it was about to bite him.

(11) A PIECE OF HISTORY. Francis Hamit wrote Virtual Reality and the Exploration of Cyberspace/Book and Disk when that was the cutting-edge technology. He says, “Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since this was published.  30 months to write but ‘in print’ only 13.  It was a best seller. Anyone who wants a copy, signed no less, should get in touch with me.  I have a few left.” Write francishamit(at)earthlink(dot)net.

(12) COPYRIGHT KARMA. “Artificial Intelligence Meets Its Worst Enemy: the U.S. Copyright Office” asserts Matt Ford in The New Republic.

…Kashtanova posted the notification on Instagram shortly thereafter to celebrate what she saw as a legal milestone. “I tried to make a case that we do own copyright when we make something using AI,” she wrote in the caption, noting that the artwork “hadn’t been altered in any other way” by her. The top left corner, where artist and writer credits are usually placed on American comics, lists her last name first and then “Midjourney” underneath it. “My friend lawyer, gave me this idea and I decided to make a precedent,” she added.

The Copyright Office somehow learned about her assertion and started a review. Kashtanova’s lawyers responded, the office said, by arguing that she had “authored every aspect of the work, with Midjourney serving merely as an assistive tool.” As an alternative, they also argued that portions of the work could be copyrighted “because the text was authored by Ms. Kashtanova and the Work is a copyrightable compilation due to her creative selection, coordination, and arrangement of the text and images.”

In a February 21 letter, the office told them that it was choosing the latter option. It rescinded her original copyright registration and issued a narrower amended one that did not cover the Midjourney-generated artwork. Instead, it was limited to the “text” and the “selection, coordination, and arrangement of text created by the author,” explicitly excluding “artwork generated by artificial intelligence.” The ruling appears to be the first of its kind by the federal government on how copyright applies to algorithmically created artworks.

The Copyright Office appears to have gotten it right. Silicon Valley is abuzz these days with the promise and potential of artificial intelligence. A.I. chatbots have been touted as potential replacements for doctorslawyersmusicians, and even journalists like myself. Many of these chatbots or similar “generative A.I.” programs can be quite sophisticated, including ChatGPT, which I interviewed for this article….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games latest “Honest Game Trailer” is about “Hi-Fi Rush”, which they say features a character with “the over-inflated ego of the child of a wannabe future Rockstar with the IQ of a musical instrument who through comical misadventures ends up with an MP3 player in his Iron Man core and discovers that he has the power to make the world move to his rhythm.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Francis Hamit, Olav Rokne, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Sinbad” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/23 What Good Is A Glass Pixel?

(1) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. The 2023 NAACP Image Awards fiction winner was one of the non-genre nominees.

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – FICTION

  • WINNER: Take My Hand – Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Penguin Random House)

OTHER NOMINEES

  • Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction – Sheree Renée Thomas (Macmillan)
  • Light Skin Gone to Waste – Toni Ann Johnson (University of Georgia Press)
  • The Keeper – Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes (Abrams Books)
  • You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty – Akwaeke Emezi (Simon & Schuster)

(2) EKPEKI INTERVIEW. Media Death Cult’s Moid Moidelhoff conducted “An Interview with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”.

Ekpeki is a Nigerian speculative fiction author, editor and publisher, spotlighting the talents and awareness of African writers.

(3) STEP RIGHT UP. “What Is It That Makes Used Bookstores So Wonderful?” asks Keith Roysdon at CrimeReads.

…My favorite store of all the others besides Powell’s [in Portland, OR] was a used bookstore in my hometown of Muncie, Indiana, Al Maynard’s Used Book Headquarters. It was located on the second floor of a deteriorating downtown building and was the kind of inaccessible place that wouldn’t be allowed now, and rightly so. The bookstore was at the top of a long flight of stairs and Maynard, who was famed for being cantankerous, had posted a hand-lettered sign at the top of the stairs. It read something like, “There are 23 steps behind you. Shoplifters will miss most of them on the way down.”

Maynard had accumulated a wealth of books that, in my mind, was a midwestern version of the Library of Alexandria: the wooden shelves lining all the walls were filled with hardbacks, paperbacks, scholarly works, old magazines – probably every edition of National Geographic – and pulp magazines from the first half of the 20th century….

(4) WHICH VERSION WILL WIN? “Roald Dahl publisher announces unaltered 16-book ‘classics collection’” reports the Guardian. The market will decide.

A collection of Roald Dahl’s books with unaltered text is to be published after a row over changes made to novels including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches.

Dahl’s publisher Puffin, the children’s imprint of Penguin Random House, was criticised this week after the Telegraph reported that it had hired sensitivity readers to go over the beloved author’s books and language deemed to be offensive would be removed from new editions. In response, Puffin has decided to release Dahl’s works in their original versions with its new texts.

The Classic Collection will “sit alongside the newly released Puffin Roald Dahl books for young readers”, the publisher said in a statement, adding that the the latter series of books “are designed for children who may be navigating written content independently for the first time”….

(5) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Should Puffin executives be alert for hungry amphibians headed their way? According to the Guardian, “Roald Dahl threatened publisher with ‘enormous crocodile’ if they changed his words”.

One of Roald Dahl’s best-known characters was the Enormous Crocodile, “a horrid greedy grumptious brute” who “wants to eat something juicy and delicious”.

Now a conversation the author had 40 years ago has come to light, revealing that he was so appalled by the idea that publishers might one day censor his work that he threatened to send the crocodile “to gobble them up”.

The conversation took place in 1982 at Dahl’s home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where he was talking to the artist Francis Bacon.

“I’ve warned my publishers that if they later on so much as change a single comma in one of my books, they will never see another word from me. Never! Ever!” he said.

With his typically evocative language, he added: “When I am gone, if that happens, then I’ll wish mighty Thor knocks very hard on their heads with his Mjolnir. Or I will send along the ‘enormous crocodile’ to gobble them up.”

(6) MEMORIES OF THE ZONE. Listverse hopes to surprise readers with “10 Things You Might Not Know about The Twilight Zone” – or at least maybe forgot they knew, like this one:

10 The Iconic Theme Song Was Not Introduced Until the Second Season

Even people who have not seen The Twilight Zone are familiar with the catchy “dee-dee-dee-dee” of the theme song. However, this song was not actually used during the airing of the first season of the show. The original theme was written by Bernard Herrmann, known for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock on films such as Psycho (1960), and while it was fittingly creepy, it didn’t pack much of a punch.

CBS was on the search for a new theme, and Lud Gluskin, the show’s director of music, hired Marius Constant, who usually composed ballet scores, to give it a go. Constant came up with two pieces of music, “Milieu No. 2” and “Étrange No. 3,” which Gluskin then joined together to create the new title theme. The song became integral to the identity of the show. Although the theme has been revamped in the various iterations of The Twilight Zone, the memorable four-note guitar riff is always present

(7) DELIGHTFUL DOZEN. SlashFilm says these are “The 12 Coolest Spaceships In Sci-Fi Movie History” – although John King Tarpinian complains that “They left out the Winnebago.”

The Event Horizon

Sometimes, of course, a spacecraft can be overtly villainous, and none are as depraved as the Event Horizon. Early on in Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1997 sci-fi horror “Event Horizon,” the eponymous ship appears to be just that: a faster-than-light spaceship that disappeared, and then reappeared, under mysterious circumstances. Later, after everything starts to get a bit eye-gougey, it turns out that the Event Horizon gained sentience after briefly crossing over into another dimension, essentially becoming the science fiction equivalent of the Overlook Hotel….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1970[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning tonight is Ringworld which was published by Ballantine Books in 1970. 

Ok, there is definitely sexism lurking within Larry Niven’s Ringworld, and despite winning a Hugo at the first Noreascon is considered to have been visited by the Suck Fairy by many of you as discussed here when I essayed it earlier.

But this feature is about the Beginnings and oh my Ringworld has one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to read as it introduces us to our protagonist in a way that makes us like him.

Now our Beginning…

In the nighttime heart of Beirut, in one of a row of general-address transfer booths, Louis Wu flicked into reality. 

His foot-length queue was as white and shiny as artificial snow. His skin and depilated scalp were chrome yellow; the irises of his eyes were gold; his robe was royal blue with a golden steroptic dragon superimposed. In the instant he appeared, he was smiling widely, showing pearly, perfect, perfectly standard teeth. Smiling and waving. But the smile was already fading, and in a moment it was gone, and the sag of his face was like a rubber mask melting. Louis Wu showed his age. 

For a few moments, he watched Beirut stream past him: the people flickering into the booths from unknown places; the crowds flowing past him on foot, now that the slidewalks had been turned off for the night. Then the clocks began to strike twenty-three. Louis Wu straightened his shoulders and stepped out to join the world. In Resht, where his party was still going full blast, it was already the morning after his birthday. 

Here in Beirut it was an hour earlier. In a balmy outdoor restaurant Louis bought rounds of raki and encouraged the singing of songs in Arabic and Interworld. He left before midnight for Budapest. 

Had they realized yet that he had walked out on his own party? They would assume that a woman had gone with him, that he would be back in a couple of hours. But Louis Wu had gone alone, jumping ahead of the midnight line, hotly pursued by the new day. Twenty-four hours was not long enough for a man’s two hundredth birthday.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Ursula Le Guin has credited him with showing her it was possible to write humanly emotional stories in an SF setting. A Mirror for Observers is his best known work. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 55. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short stories since the Eighties. Their first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but they now has five novels published with their latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Podcastle 562. It was in Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1973 Anson Mount, 50. He is now Captain Christopher Pike on Strange Worlds, a role he first played on Discovery. He was Black Bolt in Marvel’s Inhumans series. I see he was in Visions, a horror film, and has had appearances on LostDollhouse and Smallville.

(10) GRINCH REDUX. “Dr. Seuss’ ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas!’ gets a sequel”Yahoo! has details.

Dr. Seuss fans might find their hearts growing three sizes this coming holiday season with the release of a sequel to the 1957 classic children’s book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

The new book picks up one year after the original, and like the first, teaches a valuable lesson about the true spirit of the holiday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Random House Children’s Books announced Thursday.

The sequel entitled “How the Grinch Lost Christmas!” is not based on a newly discovered manuscript by Seuss — whose real name was Theodor Geisel — but was written and illustrated by an author and artist with previous experience in the Dr. Seuss universe.

“One of the most asked questions we receive from Seuss fans of all ages is ‘What do you think happened to the Grinch after he stole Christmas?” said Alice Jonaitis, executive editor at Random House Children’s Books, in a statement….

(11) SUPER SIGNATURE. You have until March 3 to bid on this “George Reeves Signed Photo as Superman” at Nate D. Sanders Auctions. Minimum bid $2,500.

George Reeves signed photo as the original Superman, with bold handwriting. Reeves inscribes the photo, ”From one Judo man to another / George Reeves” for the famed martial artist Bruce Tegner, who worked with Reeves on stunts for ”Adventures of Superman”. 

(12) THE PRINCESS SHORTCUT. “Disney Movies With Quicker Endings Are Pretty Funny”Pupperish has a gallery of “how it should have ended”-style scenes from Disney animations.

(13) MARKETING ADVICE. Video of a Flights of Foundry presentation, “Marketing, A Necessary Habit” with Sarah Faxon, was recently uploaded.

Are you struggling with marketing, or not sure where to start? In this talk, Sarah Faxon discusses organizational tools available to help keep marketing organized, how to find the target audience, and how to create a marketing habit.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/11/23 Do Pixels Prefer Coke Or Pepsi? No, It’s Scroll Soda For Them

(1) ONE ARTIST, INDIVISBLE. Charlie Jane Anders’ latest Happy Dancing newsletter is about “J.K. Rowling and ‘Separating the Art from the Artist’”.

… And that’s the thing : JK Rowling is the public face of the “Wizarding World.” She owns it and exercises complete control over it, and it’s pretty much impossible to talk about Harry Potter or the Fantastic Beasts movies without referencing her. In fact, she’s gone to great lengths to make her art inseparable from herself. Other authors seem to fade into the background a little bit more, especially as their books and adaptations get more and more prominence. I know tons of people who obsess about Murderbot, but who don’t know that much about Martha Wells, for example. JK Rowling made a choice to center herself in the discussion of her work, starting with how her “rags to riches” story was used to market her novels….

(2) MARSCON. Cass Morris has a wise commentary on the outcome of the MarsCon kerfuffle: “All* Are Welcome (*terms and conditions may apply)”. (What Morris means by DARVO can be learned from “A guide to DARVO, the gaslighting response people give when they’re called out” at Metro News.)

… a MarsCon regular guest very mildly voiced a concern, on FB, over whether or not he was the right choice for a con that claimed to want to be inclusive.

This GOH, and others like him, do not respond well to such statements. When they hear “Some people choose not to be around you because they find you unpleasant,” they perceive it as an attack, and they determine that a rabidly vitriolic response is not only warranted but necessary. (Again, DARVO).

The GOH wasted no time, it seems, in calling in his flying monkeys to harass the person who voiced concern, swiftly turning the FB threads into an unqualified shitshow. MarsCon responded by shutting down all comments and, rather than addressing the concerns that had just been proved entirely valid, doubling-down on their support for their aggressive GOH.

A whole choice.

MarsCon then made the choice to post a new “Interim Online Policy” claiming that “MarsCon is as it has always been an apolitical Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. It is the firm stance of MarsCon that personal politics should be left outside of the convention. It will not allow itself to used as a place for anyone to try and forward their personal political views.”

There’s more to the statement and the word “political” is doing some heavy lifting throughout….

(3) PREPPER. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is great fun from BBC Radio 4. Be prepared for the end of the world. “Prepper, Series 1, The Kit in Your Head”. Pearl Mackie plays one of the leads.

Trump. ISIS. The Courgette Crisis. Signs of civilisation’s fragility are all around. No wonder the Doomsday Clock just nudged closer to midnight. In this fearscape, more and more ordinary people are wondering how they’d cope if everything we take for granted (law and order, access to healthcare, iceberg lettuces in Sainsburys) was taken away.

(4) ENGLAND SWINGS SF. Martin Wisse asks “Is it possible to buy too much science fiction?” at Wis[s]e Words. The answer is, not if the book has been on your want list forever.

…Among that stack of paperbacks is the perfect example of what I mean: Judith Merril’s England Swings SF, a book I’ve spent literal decades looking for. A book I’ve known about, have read about for decades I yesterday finally got to hold in my hands. England Swings SF is an incredibly important book in the history of science fiction. A key work of the New Wave, a defining statement of what New Wave science fiction was all about. It’s Judith Merril’s defining work, the jewel in the crown of her work as an editor. You know how important and controversial it was just from the publisher writing its own introduction washing its hands of the whole thing.

Though it may seem strange now, the New Wave was revolutionary, was controversial because it set out to deliberately undo science fiction’s dogmas, both literally and politically. Worse, as it originated in the UK and its most important early writers were British like Moorcock, Ballard and Aldiss, it also upset the natural order of America as the centre of the SF universe. When England Swings SF was released in 1968, the controversy had been raging for almost half a decade between the upstarts and the SF establishment…. 

(5) AI: A CREATOR’S TOOL OR RIVAL? Jason Sanford has put together a new column on what AI generated art and writing programs might mean for artists and authors. The column includes some predictions on how all this might play out in the coming years. “Genre Grapevine on What AI Generated Art and Writing Might Mean for Artists and Authors” a public post on Patreon.

… So far OpenAI hasn’t been very open about the works their programs are trained on.

The same with Midjourney, whose founder David Holz recently said he didn’t seek consent from living artists or those with work still under copyright because it was essentially too hard to do that. And don’t think this is a small issue – in an interview with Forbes, Holt admitted Midjourney was trained on at least a hundred million images without consent.

Because these AIs were trained on works by living artists, this can result in the programs creating images based on their art. For example, Deb JJ Lee discovered that someone had crafted an AI model to create art similar to Lee’s own distinctive work. Worse, when Lee pushed back on their art being used in this way, they were accused of being a “gatekeeper.”

As Lee said, “I never hide how I draw. I teach classes and share *everything*, from my layer structure to my inspirations to Gradient mapping. At Lightbox this year I would show my original files to ppl who come to my table to demonstrate how I do everything. I’m the opposite of a gatekeeper.”

Despite that, Lee was essentially blamed by a number of supporters of AI programs for daring to question the use of their own art in the training of machine learning programs.

It’s almost like, as Alasdair Stuart said, “the entire system is powered by artists but devalues them in every way.”…

(6) GRANTING AI UNLIMITED RIGHTS? At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss considers the AI implications in contractual language: “Findaway Voices, Machine Learning, and the New Rights Frontier”.

Audiobook creation service Findaway Voices has become a popular alternative to Audible’s ACX, especially in the wake of #Audiblegate (the controversy over ACX’s author-penalizing returns policies that has generated at least one lawsuit).

In the past few days, though, authors and narrators have been drawing attention to this paragraph from Findaway’s Digital Distribution Agreement, which grants Apple–a third party–a license to use the rights holder’s audiobook files for “machine learning”, aka AI training…

…Unsurprisingly, there are now multiple lawsuits. Microsoft, Github, and Open AI are being sued for copyright-related issues over Github’s AI-powered coding assistant, Copilot. A group of artists has filed a class action suit against Stability AI (owner of Stable Diffusion), Midjourney, and DeviantArt for copyright violation and unlawful competition. Getty Images is also suing Stability AI, alleging that it scraped millions of copyright-protected images from Getty’s database. On a different side of the issue, computer scientist Steven Thaler is suing to overturn the US Copyright Office’s determination that AI art can’t be copyrighted. There will no doubt be much more legal action to come….

(7) NED BEAUMAN INTERVIEW. “Ned Beauman: ‘After reading Terry Pratchett, it feels like something is missing from most fiction’” in the Guardian.

My favourite book growing up
I devoured The Colour of Magic and at least 20 other Terry Pratchett novels as a child and consequently have never got over the feeling that there’s something pretty fundamental missing from nearly all “grown-up” fiction (ie jokes).

The book that changed me as a teenager
We perhaps expect novelists to feel a reverent fascination with human consciousness, how miraculous it is, sacred, ineffable, unique etc. But if you read too much Greg Egan at an impressionable age, all of that gets absolutely napalmed. A book like Permutation City is dangerous (and mind-expanding) stuff.

(8) EUGENE LEE OBITUARY. The New York Times profiles a stage and TV figure whose work you may have been seeing for years: “Eugene Lee, Set Designer for Broadway and ‘S.N.L.,’ Dies at 83”. “He won Tony Awards for Wicked and other shows while also overseeing the sets for the late-night franchise’s fast-paced sketch comedy.”

For decades it was possible for Saturday night theatergoers in New York to get a double dose of Eugene Lee’s work, though it’s likely that few would have realized they were doing so. They might have taken in “Sweeney Todd,” “Ragtime,” “Wicked” or other Broadway shows whose striking sets were designed by Mr. Lee, then could arrive home in time to tune into “Saturday Night Live” — a show for which he served as production designer when it began in 1975, and on which he was still working this season….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1971[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

I’m very, very fond of SF genre short stories as I like them because they are often distilled versions of longer takes. Larry Niven I think in his prime wrote some of the best genre short stories ever done. 

He won Hugos for them — “Neutron Star”, “Inconstant Moon” and “The Hole Man” to be precise.  A collection, Convergent Series, one of my favorite collections to read, won a Locus Award.  Not bad at all. 

Not so with this story, Niven’s “For A Foggy Night” which was first published in the All the Myriad Ways collection published by Ballantine Books in 1971. 

Niven like the idea of alternative worlds and I believe wrote more than ones of these stories with another story I really like being “All Myriad Ways”.  It’s wonderfully done story that I won’t spoil as I suppose it’s possible that someone here hasn’t read it yet but to say that it has a great narration, fascinating story and a conclusion that makes perfect sense. 

And now the Beginning… 

The bar was selling a lot of Irish coffee that night. I’d bought two myself. It was warm inside, almost too warm, except when someone pushed through the door. Then a puff of chill, damp fog would roll in.

Beyond the window was grey chaos. The fog picked up all the various city lights: yellow light leaking from inside the bar, passing automobile headlights, white light from1971 frosted street globes, and the rainbow colors of neon signs. The fog stirred all the lights together into a cold grey-white paste and leaked it back through the windows.

Bright spots drifted past at a pedestrian’s pace. Cars. I felt sorry for the drivers. Rolling through a grey formless limbo, running from street globe to invisible street globe, alert for the abrupt, dangerous red dot of a traffic light: an intersection; you couldn’t tell otherwise . . . I had friends in San Francisco; there were other places I could be. But it wasn’t my city, and I was damned if I’d drive tonight.

A lost night. I’d finished my drink. One more, and I’d cross the street to my hotel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 11, 1908 Tevis Clyde Smith. He’s a curious story indeed as he collaborated on three short stories with Robert E. Howard. Those stories are “Red Blades of Black Cathay”, “Diogenes of today” and “Eighttoes makes a play”. ISFDB suggests that he might have written other short stories and poetry. Anyone encounter these? (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 11, 1910 L. T. C. Rolt. English writer whose enthusiasm for heritage railways is writ large in his 1948 Sleep No More collection of supernatural horror stories which tend to be set in rural railways. (Simon R. Green may be influenced by him in his Ghost Finders series which often uses these railways as a setting.) Some of these stories were adapted as radio dramas.  Sleep No More is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 84. She loves dark chocolate. That I know as I just sent her some a few weeks ago. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled in Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. And yes she’s on the chocolate gifting list as well.
  • Born February 11, 1948 Robert Reginald. He’s here because of two Phantom Detective novels he wrote late in his career which are mostly popcorn literature. (The Phantom Detective series started in 1936 so he used the Robert Wallace house name.) He has two series of some length, the Nova Europa Fantasy Saga and War of Two Worlds. Much of what he wrote is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 11, 1950 Alain Bergeron, 73. He received an Aurora Award for Best Short Story for “Les Crabes de Vénus regardent le ciel” published In Solaris number 73, and a Sideways Award for Alternate History for “Le huitième registre” (translated in English as “The Eighth Register” by Howard Scott).
  • Born February 11, 1953 Wayne Hammond, 70. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and IllustratorThe Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! imagines what would happen if Skywalker Sr. was analyzed by Ancestry.com.
  • The Argyle Sweater mines Harry Potter for a horrible pun. Which of course I had to share.

(12) INSCRIBED TO THE DEDICATEE. Macmillan and HBG just raised starting salaries to $45,000. So you could say eBay is asking a year’s salary for this dedication copy of Rocket Ship Galileo signed by Heinlein. (Well, two Heinleins, actually.)

The dedication copy of the author’s first published novel, signed and inscribed by Robert A. Heinlein in the year of publication “with best wishes to my nephew Lawrence Lewis ‘Buddy’ Heinlein [signed] Robert Heinlein Nov. 1947” with an arrow pointing to Buddy’s printed name on the dedication page. Additionally signed by Lawrence Lewis Heinlein as “L. L. Heinlein” on the front free endpaper. Lawrence was the son of Robert’s brother.

(13) IT’S A WRAP! [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature cover story has nothing on Boris Karloff. “How to make a mummy”.

The cover shows sarcophagi used to house the mummified remains of Ancient Egyptians in the Saqqara region of Egypt. Although the existence of mummies is well known, the details of how ancient embalmers practised their art have remained largely obscure. In this week’s issue, Maxime Rageot, Philipp Stockhammer and their colleagues draw on finds from an embalming workshop in Saqqara that dates to around 664–525 BC to reveal many of the details of the process. The researchers analysed 31 ceramic vessels found in the workshop. By combining biochemical analyses of the residues in the vessels with the inscriptions, such as “to be put on his head”, featured on many of them, they were able to establish which chemicals were used and how they were mixed, named and applied. The researchers also note that some of the embalming substances were imported from the Levant or even from south or southeast Asia, indicating that mummification might have helped to promote long-distance trade.

(14) FOOD: GHOSTLY OR GHASTLY? It’s Saturday, and today this sounded amusing enough to put in a Scroll: Ghostbusters: The Official Cookbook by Jenn Fujikawa and Erik Burnham.

Who you gonna call… to eat?! Featuring more than 50 recipes inspired by the beloved Ghostbusters 1984 film and continuing into present day with Ghostbusters: Afterlife, this cookbook celebrates the bold personalities of Egon, Venkman, Zeddemore, and Stantz, along with the spooks, spectres, and ghosts that tried to transform New York City to a Babylonian dystopia.

But they’re not alone — they’ve got company with a new generation of Ghostbusters like Phoebe, Trevor, Podcast, and Lucky that saved Summerville, Oklahoma from the second coming of Gozer! In fact, it’s Podcast’s, well, podcast that inspires this book! Now he and Ray are combing through the Ghostbusters archives and recording new episodes to bring the group’s favorite new and old foods to delicious life.

With luscious full-color photography and packed with the fun and spirit of the films, Ghostbusters: The Official Cookbook is a must-have for foodies and paranormal investigative fans alike.

(15) CLOUDS OF WITLESS. Sure, this couldn’t backfire: “There’s a Radical Plan to Cool the Earth With … Moon Dust” at Popular Mechanics.

A long time ago (in every sense of the phrase), a Mars-sized celestial object named “Theia” smacked into Earth and formed our moon. Now, 4.5 billion years later, scientists want to put that moon back to work by using its dust to cool down its fever-induced planetary neighbor.

Scientists from the University of Utah suggest that “ballistically eject[ing]” millions of pounds of lunar dust around Earth could help deflect the sun’s rays and cool down the planet. The idea follows similar solar geoengineering concepts like ejecting reflected sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the stratosphere to gain the same sun-reflecting benefits (but with less potential health concerns).

However, this research is decidedly more sci-fi as it would likely require lunar infrastructure, electromagnetic cannons, and even orbital space platforms. The results of the study were published in the journal PLOS Climate….

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

Review: Ringworld Audiobook

Ringworld (Ringworld #1), by Larry Niven (author), Tom Parker (narrator), Grover Gardner (narrator). Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781441760415, March 2005 (original publication October 1970)

By Lis Carey: Louis Wu is 200 years old, and he’s bored. It’s his 200th birthday, and he’s using transfer booths to extend the celebration of it for a full twenty-four hours, and he’s really bored.

Then, when transferring from one birthday location to another, he winds up someplace else entirely. An entirely mundane hotel room, occupied by an alien. Specifically, a Pierson’s Puppeteer, a being with two small heads on snake-like necks, three hooved legs, and its brain housed in its main body, rather than either of the heads. When Puppeteers are speaking in their own language, the effect is often orchestral. This particular Puppeteer has chosen the human-pronounceable name of Nessus. Nessus has a plan to alleviate Louis’ boredom.

At first Nessus is very cagy about what exactly his plan is, but it certainly involves space travel, the Puppeteers’ better, faster hyperdrive they’ve never shared with humans or kzinti, and they need to recruit two more crewmates — a kzin, and another human, one who is the product of Earth’s Birthright Lotteries.

The kzin they recruit is Speaker-to-Animals, a very junior member of the Kzinti diplomatic delegation to Earth, with only a title and no name earned yet.

The other human, Teela Brown, is the product of five generations of ancestors who were all born due to their parents having won the birthright lotter for that year. Teela Brown, Nessus says, is very lucky. Teela’s luck will help them succeed.

Left unexplained or even examined at this point is why someone so lucky would wind up on a dangerous mission to an unknown destination for unexplained reasons. Kzinti are bold and reckless. Louis is bored and in the habit of taking a “sabbatical” into space periodically. But why Teela?

When they learn what their destination is–a compromise version of a Dyson sphere, an enormous ring around a G-class star — there’s a renewed discussion of whether they’re going, but the promise of the improved star drive is a powerful lure, The ring is approximately the diameter of Earth’s orbit, and the ring itself is about a million miles wide. Nessus says the Puppeteers want to investigate it to be sure it’s not a threat. Nessus is the only Puppeteer insane enough to do such a thing; hence the need for human and kzinti crew to join him. (Puppeteers are committed, devout cowards, and their argument that this is just sanity is more convincing than one might expect.)

Of course, trouble starts as soon as they reach the Ringworld, and they soon find themselves crashed on it with a crippled ship, and exploring the world via flycycle.

It’s a world fallen into barbarism, with the civilization that built it fallen for reasons the current inhabitants are unable to explain. Yet not all of the old tech of the Ringworld Engineers whom the barbarian inhabitants now worship as gods has completely failed. Some of it works–no always reliably, and often dangerously.

Personality conflicts and divergent goals start to emerge, with some impressive resulting conflict. Which doesn’t necessarily sound exciting, but it really is.  Nessus’ ultimately self-interested cowardice, Speaker-to-Animals’ warlike nature, Teela’s obliviously unaware carelessness due to never having actually been hurt (she’s never even stubbed her toe), and Louis’ reasoned determination to keep this misfit crew working together while stranded on the Ringworld makes for complex and interesting interactions and adventures. It’s further enriched by Louis’ gradual realization that every single one of them, including Teela, is intelligent and brings insights the others don’t, and which are important to their survival and success.

What contemporary readers may find subtracts from their enjoyment is the fact that Niven is frustratingly sexist. Both of the women in the book are quite stereotyped, while Louis, Speaker-to-Animals, and Nessus are well-rounded, interesting characters, different from each other in ways that makes sense both for their species and their life experiences. Teela and the other woman they eventually meet, who has a very long name and like Louis I’ll simply call her Pril, are frustratingly one-dimensional. This remains true even though they’re both quite clearly established as intelligent. I’ll just mention here that I use “sexist” quite intentionally. Having read most if not all of his work prior to his collaborations with Pournelle, and having met him in circumstances that are a great opportunity for a man to show his worst traits, I can’t agree that he’s a misogynist. Just, sadly sexist. Even greatly intoxicated, I found him to be a charming and kindly gentleman. Perhaps that’s why I can still enjoy Ringworld enough to give it five stars.

Sexist, he is. A really good writer he also is, and this is a heck of a good read.

The narrator is Grover Gardner, who also narrates under the names Tom Parker and Alexander Adams. For some reason, both “Grover Gardner” and “Tom Parker” are listed on the edition I received as narrators. Regardless of that oddity, he does an excellent job. His voice is easy to listen to, and he does an excellent job of making the voices of the main characters distinct and individual.

Recommended.

I received a free copy of this audiobook, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Pixel Scroll 10/12/22 The Filer Mode Of Clever Is Pixole

(1) TAKES FOUR. Nancy Kress told Facebook readers what qualities a writer needs to have:  

In a recent interview that I was recording for my and Robert Lanza’s forthcoming novel, Observer, the interviewer asked, “What qualities do you think an aspiring writer must have?” This is something to which I have given a lot of thought because I am often asked it by attendees at Taos Toolbox. I think there are four necessary qualities: talent, persistence, flexibility, and luck….

(2) DAW ACQUIRES TWO JOHN WISWELL FANTASY NOVELS. Katie Hoffman, Senior Editor at DAW Books, has acquired World rights to two fantasy novels by Nebula Award-winning author John Wiswell, represented by Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates.

Wiswell’s debut novel, scheduled for Spring 2024, is Someone You Can Build A Nest In. Pitched as Gideon The Ninth meets Circe, this highly-anticipated fantasy is a creepy, charming monster-slaying sapphic romance—from the perspective of the monster, a shapeshifter named Shesheshen who falls in love with a human.

 At the core of this dark fantasy is a heartwarming, cozy rom-com. While a chilling tale of generational harm and the struggle of surviving in a hostile world, Someone You Can Build A Nest In also stubbornly offers that possibility that, through surprising connections, we may still discover new definitions of love and relearn our own value. Acquiring editor Katie Hoffman says, “It feeds a growing delight I’ve seen in blending the gruesome and the whimsical, the bloody and the quaint.”

 Short summary:

Shesheshen has made a mistake fatal to all monsters: she’s fallen in love. Shesheshen is a shapeshifter, who usually resides as an amorphous lump in the swamp of a ruined manor, unless impolite monster hunters invade intent on murdering her. Through a chance encounter, she meets a different kind of human, warm-hearted Homily, who mistakes Shesheshen as a human in turn. Shesheshen is loath to deceive, but just as she’s about to confess her true identity, Homily reveals she’s hunting a shapeshifting monster that supposedly cursed her family. Shesheshen didn’t curse anyone, but to give them both a chance at happiness, she must figure out why Homily’s twisted family thinks she did. And the bigger challenge remains: surviving her toxic in-laws long enough to learn to build a life with the love of her life.

Someone You Can Build A Nest In will be published by DAW Books in Spring 2024.

(3) HOMETOWN HERO. A local paper, Weser-Kurier, interviewed Cora Buhlert about her Hugo win and the article appeared today. It’s behind a paywall, unfortunately, but you can see the photo of Cora very carefully hugging her Hugo trophy: “Cora Buhlert aus Stuhr gewinnt als erste deutsche Autorin Hugo Award”.

(4) MOORCOCK Q&A. Goodman Games’ interview with Michael Moorcock is now online on their YouTube channel: 

A special episode of Sanctum Secorum Live with guest Michael Moorcock. In honor of the forthcoming release of the newest book in the Elric saga, The Citadel of Forgotten Myths.

(5) RHYMES WITH “PLAYED WELL”. John Hertz sends this tribute to the late Bob Madle.

Mighty, he was mild,
All our worlds open to him.
Doors that he had made
Let designers, dreamers through.
Each imagination gained.

An acrostic in unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7- syllable lines.

(6) ANGELA LANSBURY (1925-2022). Actress Angela Lansbury died October 11 at the age of 96. Best known to the TV-watching generation as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, she earlier gained fame with three Oscar nominated roles in Gaslight (1944), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), and The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

On Broadway she won several Tony Awards, including one for her turn in Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical play Sweeney Todd.

She appeared in the Disney hit Bedknobs and Broomsticks in 1971, and later featured in other children’s films, providing the voice for Mrs Potts in the animated Beauty and the Beast; and more recently Mary Poppins Returns.

Carl Andor has a thorough roundup of Lansbury’s genre credits in a comment for File 770.

(7) MEMORY LANE.  

1973 [By Cat Eldridge.]

Spock: Consider. Chuft Captain has been attacked by an herbivorous pacifist, an eater of leaves and roots, one who traditionally does not fight. And the ultimate insult, I left him alive. Chuft Captain’s honor is at stake. He must seek personal revenge before he can call for help.

Sulu: That gives us some time. You did plan it that way?

Spock: Of course.

Star Trek: the Animated Series’ “The Slaver Weapon”

So we all know that Star Trek: the Animated Series followed the first series and debuted on September 8, 1973. It would end that run a mere twenty-two episodes later on October 12, 1974. 

Did I like the series? I think that two aspects of it were done really, really well. The voice cast was stellar, with almost all of the original cast save Walter Koenig voicing their characters. It is said, but this is only rumor, originally Filmation was only going to pay for three actors, that being Shatner, Nimoy, and Doohan. 

Nimoy however said that he wouldn’t take part unless the rest of the original cast was included. However the studio stuck to its guns as to how many it would budget for and Walter Koenig was dropped because of what he wanted. However Nimoy did get him some writing gigs for the show.

The other was the stories. Being animated gave them a wider artistic frame to work with than the original show had and they used that to their creative  benefit. An example of this was Niven merging his Known Space story, “The Soft Weapon” into the Trek universe. It was wonderful and it was great to see the Kzin visualized.

(Everything here was novelized by Alan Dean Foster.  He first adapted three episodes per book, but later editions saw the half-hour scripts expanded into full, novel-length stories.)

I think the animation was at best weak. It looked flat, one dimensional.  The characters as if they really weren’t quite there. I’ve never been a fan of Filmation. 

I just rewatched that episode on Paramount +. The print is stellar and the voices are great. The animation was, as I thought it was, less than great. Watching characters move is painful to say the least as they don’t walk so as much glide across the screen.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Mystic. Charlatan possibly. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he later turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one  Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1916 Lock Martin. His claim to fame was that he was one of the tallest humans that ever lived. At seven feet and seven inches (though this was disputed by some who shouldn’t have), he was also quite stocky. He had the distinction of playing Gort in The Day The Earth Stood Still. He was also in The Incredible Shrinking Man as a giant, but his scenes were deleted. And he shows up in Invaders from Mars as the Mutant carrying David to the Intelligence though he goes uncredited in the film. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1924 Randy Stuart. She’s best remembered as Louise Carey, the wife of Scott Carey, in The Incredible Shrinking Man. She was also Frances Hiller in “Anniversary of a Murder” on One Step Beyond which conceived as a companion series to The Twilight Zone. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 12, 1943 Linda Shaye, 79 . She’s been an actress for over forty years and has appeared in over ninety films, mostly horror. Among them is A Nightmare on Elm StreetCrittersInsidious, Dead End2001 Maniacs and its sequel 2001 Maniacs: Field of ScreamsJekyll and Hyde… Together AgainAmityville: A New GenerationOuija, and its prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. She even appeared in the first and only true version of The Running Man as a Propaganda Officer. 
  • Born October 12, 1942 Daliah Lavi. She’s in Casino Royale as The Detainer, a secret agent. In the same year, she was in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon as Madelaine. She was Purificata in The Demon, an Italian horror film.  If you’re into German popular music, you might recognize her as she was successful there in Seventies and Eighties. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 57. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine, but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia which is an exceptional piece of work by any standardsand his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1968 Hugh Jackman, 54. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise including the next Deadpool film. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians which I really, really liked. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the novel written by the real Christopher Priest. Not the fake one. 

(9) GOING POSTAL. “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered.” Well, they haven’t got there yet. “Irish postal service launches digital stamp” – BBC has the story.  

An Post, the postal service in the Republic of Ireland, has launched a new digital stamp.

Customers will receive a 12-digit unique code via the company’s app which they can write onto their envelope where the traditional stamp would go.

An Post’s letter sorting technology will recognise the code as a live stamp when it is being processed for delivery.

The digital stamp costs €2 (£1.76) compared with €1.25 (£1.10) for a normal one.

Garrett Bridgeman, managing mirector for An Post Commerce, said: “Here we have a product that works for everyone; busy individuals who are time-poor and want to purchase stamps at a time and place that works for them; or last-minute senders, as well as SMEs and business owners who need to post at irregular hours and may not have stamps to hand.”

(10) ERASURE. Warner Bros CEO David Zaslav continues his quest to stamp out the existence of cartoons and lays off yet more people and dissolves Cartoon Network after thirty years:  “Cartoon Network Studios, As You Know It, Is Gone Thanks To David Zaslav” at Cartoon Brew.

Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTVG) laid off 82 scripted, unscripted, and animation employees on Tuesday, and will not fill 43 more vacant positions. The 125 positions represented 26% of the companies workforce across those units.

However, the layoffs, which were generally expected, don’t tell the whole story of what’s going on at Warner Bros. Discovery’s animation units. In fact, there was an even more consequential announcement yesterday that fundamentally alters the structure of Cartoon Network Studios going forward and will have a far-reaching impact on the projects that it produces. The company calls it part of its “strategic realignment.”

(11) GAINING AN EDGE. Michael Harrington interviews Oliver Brackenbury, editor of New Edge Sword and Sorcery Magazine at Black Gate.

What are your thoughts on “inclusion” in the New Edge Movement?

[Brackenbury] This resurgence of New Edge Sword & Sorcery as a term to rally behind, back in the spring of this year, started from that all too familiar conversational space of “How do we get more people into this genre?” Well, if you want more people getting into this thing we love, then you need to include more people!

You can’t hope to expand an audience without reaching outside that audience, while doing your best to make the scene welcoming for everyone. For example, don’t scratch your head wondering why more women don’t read and write in the genre when you’re reluctant to call out sexism in the scene, or perhaps simply aren’t directly reaching out to women, merely hoping they’ll show up. You can replace “women” and “sexism” in this example with just about every intersection of identity that isn’t my fellow white, cishet, neurotypical, able-bodied fellas (or “white guys,” for brevity’s sake).

Nothing wrong with my fellow white guys, I don’t want them to go away, or have anything taken away from them. I just think inclusion is vital if S&S is to have a third wave of mass appeal, akin or even superior to what it enjoyed in the second wave of the 60’s through early 80’s. Call out hatred and harassment, give people a head’s up when they go back to read certain classics, and just, ya know, be cool, man.

A larger, more diverse scene benefits absolutely everyone. With a greater variety of people, we’ll get to enjoy a greater number & variety of stories, artistic works, and viewpoints!

(12) JEAN-LUC. Paramount Plus dropped this trailer for Star Trek:  Picard on Tuesday after chatting with fans at New York Comic Con. “Star Trek: Picard | A Message To The Fans (NYCC 2022)”.

(13) SPIRITED TRAILER. Nothing says more about the holidays than it’s time for Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds to bash each other on Apple TV!

Happy Birthday, Hugh. This year, I’m giving you the gift of being much worse than you at singing and dancing. But at least there’s Will and Octavia!

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

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

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

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

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

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

SPOILERS

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

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

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

END OF SPOILERS

It won a much-deserved World Fantasy Award. 

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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