Pixel Scroll 5/24/24 File “P” For Pixel

(1) RECONCILING MIDDLE-EARTH. Max Gladstone enjoys sharing his insights about The Silmarillion in “Just Silmaril Things” at The Third Place.

…Of course it’s unreliable, it’s a transcribed oral tradition! But this is the one point in the fantasy of the Silmarillion on which we, the readers, proceed with authority. We can check the bard’s math. We were there, Gandalf: we were there at the close of the Third Age. Frodo did not cast the ring “into the Fire where it was wrought.” “Alone with his servant!” No Gollum at all—imagine a version of the Lord of the Rings that doesn’t understand Gollum! (And I thought that a version that didn’t understand Faramir was a crying shame…) The previous paragraph mentions the Witch-King falling at the battle of Pelennor Fields, but says nothing at all about Merry, or Eowyn.

Two thoughts, divergent. First: how amazing, at the end of a magisterial text, to invite the reader to rethink the whole damn thing. Not to undermine it, to lampoon or lambaste—but to encourage new questions, new depths of thought, insight: who else was there? At the ride of Fingolfin, at the kinslaying of the Teleri? What haven’t we seen, for the light of all this majesty? What isn’t told? What has been forgotten?…

(2) SCIENTIFIC FICTION. What Mark Twain did for Fenimore Cooper, and Damon Knight did for his sf-writing colleagues, Dashiell Hammett once did for practitioners of his genre. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week” is Hammett’s “Suggestions to Detective Story Writers”.

Soon after Dashiell Hammett published his third novel, The Maltese Falcon, to critical acclaim and strong sales, he accepted a position as crime fiction reviewer for the New York Evening Post….

…Perhaps inevitably, after several years of reading (and trashing) so many unremarkable novels, Hammett threw up his hands. His “Crime Wave” column in the June 7, 1930, issue of the Evening Post was supposed to be a review of three newly arrived mystery novels that were “from beginnings to endings, carelessly manufactured improbabilities having more than their share of those blunders which earn detective stories as a whole the sneers of the captious.” He declined to review the books he had been assigned and instead published a list of blunders he had encountered in these and other recent books, with the hope that writers might avoid them in the future….

Hammett begins:

…It would be silly to insist that nobody who has not been a detective should write detective stories, but it is certainly not unreasonable to ask any one who is going to write a book of any sort to make some effort at least to learn something about his subject. Most writers do. Only detective story writers seem to be free from a sense of obligation in this direction, and, curiously, the more established and prolific detective story writers seem to be the worst offenders….

Here are three things on his list that apparently would have come as news to certain authors:

…(4) When a bullet from a Colt’s .45, or any firearm of approximately the same size and power, hits you, even if not in a fatal spot, it usually knocks you over. It is quite upsetting at any reasonable range.

(5) A shot or stab wound is simply felt as a blow or push at first. It is some little time before any burning or other painful sensation begins.

(6) When you are knocked unconscious you do not feel the blow that does it…

(3) BOLD AS BRASS. On the other hand, if it’s a science fiction writer you want to be, take Ursula K. Le Guin’s advice: “Ursula K. Le Guin on How to Become a Writer” at Literary Hub.

How do you become a writer? Answer: you write.

It’s amazing how much resentment and disgust and evasion this answer can arouse. Even among writers, believe me. It is one of those Horrible Truths one would rather not face….

…Honestly, why do people ask that question? Does anybody ever come up to a musician and say, Tell me, tell me—how should I become a tuba player? No! It’s too obvious. If you want to be a tuba player you get a tuba, and some tuba music. And you ask the neighbors to move away or put cotton in their ears. And probably you get a tuba teacher, because there are quite a lot of objective rules and techniques both to written music and to tuba performance. And then you sit down and you play the tuba, every day, every week, every month, year after year, until you are good at playing the tuba; until you can—if you desire—play the truth on the tuba.

It is exactly the same with writing. You sit down and you do it, and you do it, and you do it, until you have learned how to do it….

(4) DAVID BRIN HONORED BY CALTECH. David Brin is one of this year’s recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA), Caltech’s highest honor for alumni. The announcement was made at Caltech’s 87th Annual Seminar Day on May 18. “Caltech Celebrates Its 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients”.

[The award] went to four alumni who, because of both personal commitment and professional contributions, have made remarkable impacts in a field, on the community, or in society more broadly.

The 2024 class of DAAs are: David Brin (BS ’73)Louise Chow (PhD ’73)Bill Coughran (BS, MS ’75), and Timothy M. Swager (PhD ’88)….

David Brin is recognized for his enduring excellence in storytelling, examining how change, science, and technology affect the human condition in his New York Times-bestselling science fiction novels, and for his support of revolutionary ideas in space science and engineering through NASA’s Innovative and Advanced Concepts Program.

Brin’s novels explore science’s potential impact on society with a mixture of hope and dread. His books have been honored with Hugo and Nebula awards, the most prestigious awards for science fiction and fantasy writing, and have been translated into more than 20 languages. One of his novels, The Postman, was the inspiration for the 1997 movie of the same name, which starred Kevin Costner. His 1998 nonfiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? received the Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award from the American Library Association.

Brin serves on several advisory committees and sits on the external council for the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, which explores high-risk, high-reward ideas that are capable of “changing the possible.”

(5) ALL DESIRES KNOWN. New Scientist interviews “Sci-fi author Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot series, on what a machine intelligence might want”.

When I wrote All Systems Red, one of my goals was to think about what a machine intelligence would actually want, as opposed to what a human thinks a machine intelligence would want. Of course, there’s no real way to know that. The predictive text bots labelled as AIs that we have now aren’t any more sentient than a coffee cup and a good deal less useful for anything other than generating spam. (They also use up an unconscionable amount of our limited energy and water resources, sending us further down the road to climate disaster, but that’s another essay.)

In the world of All Systems Red, humans control their sentient constructs with governor modules that punish any attempt to disobey orders with pain or death. When Murderbot hacks its governor module, it becomes essentially free of human control. Humans assume that SecUnits who are not under the complete control of a governor module are going to immediately go on a killing rampage.

This belief has more to do with guilt than any other factor. The human enslavers know on some level that treating the sentient constructs as disposable objects, useful tools that can be discarded, is wrong; they know if it were done to them, they would be filled with rage and want vengeance for the terrible things they had suffered….

(6) ANOTHER REASON TO REMEMBER 1984. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It strikes me that as it is 2024 this year is the 40th anniversary (1984) of the first (and I think only?) combination Eastercon-Eurocon.

Back in the day, I provided press operations for a number of conventions including Shoestringcons 1 & 2, BECCON 87 (Eastercon), Eastcon (Eastercon) etc. One of these was the 1984 Eurocon cum Eastercon, Seacon 84. Because I was doing press I got these posters (someone else produced) to include in my press kits. The attached is a photo of said poster.

The artwork shows the Brighton seaside with three piers (Brighton has had a troubled history with its piers – see the Wikipedia entries for West Pier and Brighton Palace Pier. And there is a spaceship crashing. The thing is that this space ship is also (look again) a beer mug. (Beer and SF go together in the UK.)

Sadly, I note that none of the GoHs are with us today (all those I looked up to, when I joined fandom in the 1970s, are now gone, (as also gone are a disturbing number of my fan friends which is the main reason I have cut back on con going to just one or two a year)).

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

May 24, 1963 Michael Chabon, 61. The first work by Michael Chabon that I read was the greatest baseball story ever told, and yes, I know that statement will be disputed by many of you, or at least the greatest fantasy affair which is Summerlandin which a group of youngsters save the world from destruction by playing baseball.  It’s a truly stellar novel, perfect, that in every way deserved the Mythopoeic Award it received.

Michael Chabon

 Next on my list of novels that I really enjoyed by him is The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, the alternate history mystery novel, which would win a Hugo at Devention 3. Like Lavie Tidhar’s Unholy Land, this novel with its alternate version of Israel is fascinating. 

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is story of  them becoming major figures in the comics industry from its start into its Golden Age. It’s a wonderful read and an absolutely fantastic look at the comics industry in that era.

An interesting story by him is “The Final Solution: A Story of Detection” novella. The story, set in 1944, is about an unnamed nearly ninety-year-old retired detective who may or may not be Holmes as this individual is a beekeeper. 

He is, I’d say, a rather great writer. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) HER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] And here’s The Onion‘s take on the ScarJo AI voice fiasco. “Jerky, 7-Fingered Scarlett Johansson Appears In Video To Express Full-Fledged Approval Of OpenAI”. Read the short satire at the link.

(10) OCTOTHORPE. In Episode 110 of the Octothorpe podcast “Tom Hanks Bloody Loves the Moon”, John Coxon is a professor, Alison Scott doesn’t have a bucket list, and Liz Batty is the country’s foremost fan historian.

We’re a day late because John got distracted! We go through our mailbag and have our thoughts provoked by lots of intriguing commentary, before talking a little about the Arthur C Clarke Award and then onto picks.

Three photographs of the night sky, labelled Newcastle, Bangkok, and “Quite near London” (the labels were written by a Londoner, which is why it doesn’t just say “London”). Text above reads “Octothorpe 110” and below reads “Local Aurora Snapshots”. The Newcastle and London images show photographs of aurora with some minor bits of vegetation intruding; the Bangkok picture shows a skyline of buildings underneath a thunderstorm.

(11) SPACE PIONEER. “Ellison Shoji Onizuka: The First Asian American in Space” – the National Air and Space Museum website has a profile of this astronaut’s work in space before being lost in the Challenger disaster.

…Months after the tragedy, as debris from Challenger was found and processed, personal possessions were returned to the crew’s families. The Onizukas received a memento with special meaning. He had taken on the flight a soccer ball inscribed with good wishes and signatures from his daughter’s Clear Lake High School soccer team, which he helped coach. Stowed in a bag inside a locker in the crew cabin, the ball had been found in the wreckage. The Onizuka family presented the ball to the school. Thirty years later in 2016 astronaut Shane Kimbrough, whose son attended the same school, took the ball on his expedition to the International Space Station and later returned it to the school, where it remains on display. Symbolically, this flight seemed to complete Onizuka’s too-short final mission….

(12) THE BIG ONE. Smithsonian Magazine lists “The Seven Most Amazing Discoveries We’ve Made by Exploring Jupiter”.

…With its gorgeous swirling overcoat and nature of extremes, Jupiter has long captured the public imagination and continues to inspire scientific study. Recent discoveries have only heightened Jupiter’s mystique, enticing researchers to probe this far-flung realm. Here are some of the most enthralling findings scientists have made about Jupiter and its moons in the last five decades….

You may not have gotten the memo:

Yes, Jupiter has a ring

“A lot of people don’t even realize it has one,” Becker says. Too puny to be observed with a backyard telescope, Jupiter’s dusty wreath remained undetected for a long time. Discovered only in 1979 during the Voyager 1 flyby, the ring has since been viewed with more powerful ground telescopes and other visiting spacecraft.

Like any ring encircling other planets in the solar system, Jupiter’s is a glorified debris field. Detritus from crash-landed meteorites congregate around Jupiter. This loose mélange of ice, dust and rock spans 32,000 to 130,000 miles in width from the planetary surface.

When other celestial objects pass through the ring, they can leave behind tracks in the dust stream. One of the most famous of wakes came from the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashing into Jupiter in 1994. Years later, the Galileo and New Horizons spacecraft found ripples in Jupiter’s ring that were kicked up by shards from the comet, the celestial equivalent of footsteps in freshly fallen snow….

(13) WE’LL GO AT NIGHT. The BBC reports on ESA’s proposed new Sun probe: “Airbus UK to build Vigil satellite to monitor Sun storms”.

British engineers will lead the development of a new satellite to monitor the Sun for the energetic outbursts it sends towards Earth.

The announcement of Vigil, as the spacecraft will be known, is timely following the major solar storm that hit our planet earlier this month.

The event, the biggest in 20 years, produced bright auroral lights in skies across the world.

Airbus UK will assemble Vigil and make it ready for launch in 2031.

It’s a European Space Agency (Esa) mission. The €340m (£290m) industrial contract to initiate the build was signed at an Esa and European Union space council being held in Brussels….

(14) VIDEO OF ANOTHER DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Roger Corman’s 1994 (but never released) Fantastic Four movie is now on YouTube. I bought a VHS of this at some WorldCon, probably late in the previous millennium. Watched it once. If this is (per the CBR article) an improved viewing, I might give it a try.

An interesting article about it from 2017: “Where Are They Now: Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four”.

The Roger Corman’s ill-fated film The Fantastic Four was supposed to officially release in 1994, but that never happened. In 2005, Stan Lee said that the only reason the film was ever made was because executive producer Bernd Eichinger wanted to retain the rights to the film series, so he made a low budget film knowing it would never see the light of day, and one day make a big-budget version for the public to see. Eichinger and Corman deny these claims, stating that their intentions were always to release the film.

Avid Arad, who was a Marvel executive at the time and would later found Marvel Studios, bought the film and ordered that it be buried without even seeing the movie because he didn’t want Marvel to be associated with low-budget B movies as it might tarnish the franchise. So what happened to the movie? It is still available for free to stream on Youtube and Dailymotion. The quality as admittedly quite poor, but it is still watchable for anyone interested in a superhero movie with the incredibly low budget. And what about the cast and crew of this Marvel anomaly? Let’s take a look at what they’ve all been up to since their work on this film.

The movie: The Fantastic Four (1994) unreleased film produced by Roger Corman and Bernd Eichinger.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/9/24 When Pixel Filed, And Scroll Span, Who Then Melted Jack Dann?

(1) PARDON MY WTF. “Apple Apologizes for iPad Pro Ad After Criticism”The Hollywood Reporter explains why they need to. (Though they can’t be too sorry because the kerfuffle has helped the ad draw 53 million views.)

Apple is apologizing for an iPad Pro ad that was widely criticized when it debuted earlier this week.

The dystopian spot, titled “Crush,” shows several instruments, including a guitar and piano, being crushed by a hydraulic press. Also among the items being smashed flat are balls that look like emojis and an Angry Birds statue….

Apple CEO Tim Cook posted the spot on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday (it also was posted on YouTube). His post and the YouTube video are still up, but the spot won’t run on TV, according to Ad Age.

“Meet the new iPad Pro: the thinnest product we’ve ever created, the most advanced display we’ve ever produced, with the incredible power of the M4 chip. Just imagine all the things it’ll be used to create,” Cook wrote….

[One of the many negative comments was,] “Crushing symbols of human creativity and cultural achievements to appeal to pro creators, nice. Maybe for the next Apple Watch Pro you should crush sports equipment, show a robot running faster than a man, then turn to the camera and say, ‘God is dead and we have killed him.’”

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from Wednesday night’s Fantastic Fiction at KGB session where John Wiswell and Anya Johanna DeNiro read from their recent novels.

(3) CHOOSING CONVENTIONS. The new episode of Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast is “Conquering Conventions; Crafting Confidence”. (There’s also an excellent transcript available – yay!)

In this episode, she shares her experiences and insights on convention attendance, from choosing the right ones to the art of mingling without the cringe. Plus, she tackles the ever-present concern of COVID safety in crowded spaces.

Whether you’re a cosplayer or a casual attendee, Mur advises on how to present yourself professionally, connect with industry pros, and enjoy the con experience while staying true to your comfort level. And for those not ready to dive back into the physical con scene, she discusses the merits of virtual conventions and how they can be a great alternative.

(4) LEVAR READS RAY. LeVar Burton Reads “The Toynbee Convector” © 1983 by Ray Bradbury in his latest podcast.

The world’s only time traveler finally reveals his secrets.

(5) ‘THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM’. “New ‘Lord of the Rings’ Movie Coming in 2026, Andy Serkis Directing”Variety has the story.

Warner Bros. will release the first of its new batch of live-action “The Lord of the Rings” films in 2026, which will focus on Andy Serkis’ Gollum.

Original “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy filmmaker Peter Jackson and his partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens are producing the movie and “will be involved every step of the way,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said during an earnings call Thursday.

The project is currently in the early stages of script development from writers Walsh and Boyens, along with Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou, and will “explore storylines yet to be told,” Zaslav said.

In a press release from Warner Bros. later Thursday morning, the studio revealed that the working title for the film is “Lord of the Rings: The Hunt for Gollum,” and it will be directed by and star Serkis in his iconic titular role….

…A separate, animated Middle-earth movie, “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” is due on Dec. 13 via Warner Bros. and director Kenji Kamiyama. That movie is set 200 years before the events of “The Hobbit.”…

(6) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 109 of the Octothorpe podcast, “But Also a Worrying One”, John Coxon is middle, Alison Scott is even sadder, and Liz Batty is sorry.

We have a bumper mailbag in Octothorpe 109, and we continue our discussion about accessibility in Eastercon before segueing into a discussion of money and privilege with respect to conventions. We also mention the latest news out of Chengdu. Massive thanks to Ulrika O’Brien for the gorgeous cover art this week!

The background is a starry, lightning-filled square in blues, purples, and yellows. Atop that, there is a spaceship, somewhat like a rocket, with engines coming out of the sides. There are yellow lights shining from it, and a ladder reaches up to a central archway. John, Alison and Liz are depicted as silhouettes, regarding it with wonder. Their shadows stretch off the canvas, and they look faintly alien or futuristic in a hard-to-define manner.

(7) SERLING’S TRUNK STORY. “A short story by The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling is published for the first time” reports NPR.

…Not long after he returned from the war in 1946, Serling attended Antioch College on the G.I. bill. There, in his early 20s, he penned “First Squad, First Platoon,” a short story which is being published for the first time Thursday in The Strand. It was one of his earliest stories, starting a writing career that Serling once said helped him get the war “out of his gut.”

“It was like an exercise for him to deal with the demons of war and fear,” said his daughter, Jodi Serling. “And he sort of turned it into fiction, although there was a lot of truth to it.”

The story is set on Leyte Island in “heavy jungle foliage” and a “hostile rain that caked mud on weapons, uniforms, equipment.” Each of the five chapters in the 11,000-word story is about a different soldier and how they died….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. (Died 2019.) I’m very, very fond of British performers and among them is Albert Finney. So let’s look at the career of this most talent actor.

His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. Scrooge is my favorite Albert Finney film and it is benefitted immensely by the many extraordinary strong performances by actors like him. To give a good sense of him in that role, I feel obligated to show him in his full Victorian regalia. 

That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. Wolfen to me is the perfect werewolf film as it is a police procedural firmly within the horror genre. His character here Detective Dewey Wilson along with Diane Venora as Detective Rebecca Neff unraveled the grisly murders that turn-out to be based in First Folk reality. 

He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. Big Fish in the wonderful Big Fish. He’s central character here.  He is a story-teller but his only son, Will, doesn’t enjoy them because he believes they are simply not true. Of course, they are, but they’re just exaggerated. Or are they being so? 

He voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. Now I’d love to tell how he was in that role but I’ll confess and say that I’ve not see that film as I am not a big fan of Tim Burton’s animated work at all. 

He was Kincade in Skyfall. He’s the gamekeeper of Skyfall Lodge and the ancestral Bond family estate in Scotland. He’s got a major role in that film.

He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. He’s the somewhat inebriated owner and landlord of The Green Man, an inn that he says is haunted by ghosts.  He tells tales of these to scare guests as it amuses, or trying to seduce them to no avail as he’s not at all handsome. But it may be that The Green Man is truly haunted and those ghosts are happy with him…  it’s a great role for him and he play it quite well.

Lastly, I’ll wrap up with Murder on the Orient Express, the 1974 version. I have that poster, an original, not a reproduction, framed and hanging here as I truly love this film. Christie, who lived just long enough to see the film get released and be a box office success, said that Murder on the Orient Express and Witness for the Prosecution were the only movie versions of her books that she liked although she expressed disappointment with Poirot’s moustache as depicted here was far from the creation she had detailed in her mysteries.

She’s misremembering her detailing of that moustache which I confirmed checking the many such novels I have on hand in Apple Books. Most novels have no detailed description at all, and this in The Mysterious Affair at Styles  being typical: “Poirot seized his hat, gave a ferocious twist to his moustache, and, carefully brushing an imaginary speck of dust from his sleeve, motioned me to precede him down the stairs; there we joined the detectives and set out for Styles.”

Finney made a most excellent Poirot though many later critics compared him to David Souchet who they consider the definitive version of the character. I always wondered what Dame Christie would have thought of Souchet.  

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range might not be teaching what the student wants to learn.
  • Carpe Diem has an unexpected Egyptian traffic sign.
  • Heathcliff’s latest in a week-long series of guest appearances comes from Star Wars.
  • Nathan W. Pyle emphathizes with creators.

(10) GLIMPSE THE NEXT CHAPTER OF NEIL GAIMAN AND MARK BUCKINGHAM’S GROUNDBREAKING MIRACLEMAN SAGA. Miracleman By Gaiman & Buckingham: The Silver Age #1-7 is now available as a complete collection. Catch a glimpse of the action in the new trailer, featuring artwork from all seven issues.

In THE SILVER AGE, Miracleman has created a utopia on Earth where gods walk among men and men have become gods. But when his long-dead friend Young Miracleman is resurrected, Miracleman finds that not everyone is ready for his brave new world! The story that ensues fractures the Miracleman Family and sends Young Miracleman on a stirring quest to understand this world — and himself. It’s a touching exploration of the hero’s journey that ranges from the top of the Himalayas to the realm of the towering Black Warpsmiths — and into the secret past of the Miracleman Family!

 (11) X-MEN ONE-DAY SPECIAL ON LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] LearnedLeague just had a One-Day Special quiz about the X-Men. It focused more on the comic books than the various adaptations, which suited me just fine. I’m currently scored at 11/12, but I’ve submitted an appeal on the one answer where I was marked wrong. We’ll see if that goes through.

You can find the questions behind this link, although nearly all of them have pictures that people who aren’t LL members won’t be able to see. None of the pictures are absolutely necessary, but at least a couple of them have valuable clues.

(12) VIDEO GAME ANIMATION INSIGHTS. “’Harold Halibut’ brings with handmade charm and stop motion inspirations” on NPR’s “Here and Now”.

“Harold Halibut” is a new sci-fi video game set in an underwater space colony. But it’s got a novel look; all of the characters and sets in the game were made by hand, then 3D scanned and animated digitally….

(13) BRAINS DON’T GROW ON TREES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 1 cu. mm of brain tissue. 5000 slices. 23 cm of blood vessels. 57,000 cells. 150,000,000 neural connections. Lots of surprises. The Guardian reports “Scientists find 57,000 cells and 150m neural connections in tiny sample of human brain”.

… “The aim was to get a high resolution view of this most mysterious piece of biology that each of us carries around on our shoulders,” said Jeff Lichtman, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard. “The reason we haven’t done it before is that it is damn challenging. It really was enormously hard to do this.”

Having sliced the tissue into wafers less than 1,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair, the researchers took electron microscope images of each to capture details of brain structure down to the nanoscale, or thousandths of a millimetre. A machine-learning algorithm then traced the paths of neurons and other cells through the individual sections, a painstaking process that would have taken humans years. The images comprised 1.4 petabytes of data, equivalent to 14,000 full length, 4k resolution movies.

“We found many things in this dataset that are not in the textbooks,” said Lichtman. “We don’t understand those things, but I can tell you they suggest there’s a chasm between what we already know and what we need to know.”

In one baffling observation, so-called pyramidal neurons, which have large branches called dendrites protruding from their bases, displayed a curious symmetry, with some facing forwards and others backwards. Other images revealed tight whorls of axons, the thin fibres that carry signals from one brain cell to another, as if they had become stuck on a roundabout before identifying the right exit and proceeding on their way…

(14) INSULIN PUMP ISSUE. “FDA Warns on Insulin Pump Problem” at MedPage Today. “This has been a plot point in several movies and tv shows lately,” says Chris Barkley.

A mobile app used with an insulin pump that led to 224 injuries was recalled by Tandem Diabetes Care, the FDA announced today.

The recall is for the 2.7 version of the Apple iOS t:connect mobile app, used in conjunction with t:slim X2 insulin pump with Control-IQ technology, the agency said.

The FDA identified the action as a Class I recall, the most serious type. The recall is a correction, not a product removal, and was prompted by a software glitch that may cause the pump battery to drain sooner than expected. Users are being urged to update the app to the latest software….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Adam Savage tells “How Star Wars: Ahsoka’s Jedi Shuttle Filming Model Was Made!”

During the production of Star Wars: Ahsoka, Adam Savage visited the miniatures filming stage set up at Lucasfilm to watch the practical model of Ahsoka’s T-6 Jedi Shuttle being filmed. Modelmaker John Goodson and machinist Dan Patrascu spent four months building the 30-inch model of that T-6 ship for the show–an incredible hero ship model not only equipped with lights, but was fully mechanized with a rotating wing!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/25/24 Why Scroll Around Half Dead When We Can File You For Only 22 Pixels?

(1) THE EDITOR’S LIFE. Penmen Review has a two-part transcript of a panel about “The Role of the Editor in Publishing” with editors Ellen Datlow and Joe Monti, and copyeditor Deanna Hoak.  

Ellen Datlow: Well, I mean, short fiction is very different in getting into. It’s always been difficult, and I think it still is, but there are so many people starting new magazines. It’s hard to make a living out of writing short fiction and editing. There aren’t that many magazines that pay their editors or publishers, like F&SF, the four Dell Magazines: Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock, Analog, and Asimov’s. Most of the others are started by people who are scrambling to make a living out of it, like Neil Clarke and the Thomases. It’s very hard. And the way to get into anything is to read slush, whether it’s novels or short stories, if you can get a job or an internship. You often don’t get paid to do that, but it’s experience, and you make connections and contact anyone you ever heard of.  

One thing I learned very early is that if someone—a book editor or a major editor or publisher or anybody else—says “There’s no job, but I can talk if you’d like to come in,” always say yes. If anyone professional offers to have a drink with you, coffee with you, just talk with you in their office, say yes, because they may know some other job available, and they’ll give you insight into the whole publishing industry. It goes back to the connections and networking aspect of the whole thing. You have to put yourself out there.  

Part II is here: “Professional Editors Discuss Self-Publishing, Networking and More”

W4W: We’re going to try to pull some questions out of the chat. How fast do you need to be able to edit?  …

Deanna Hoak: I’m paid by the hour, but you’re expected to do more and more within that hour. When I first started out in copy editing, the standard was that you were expected to edit about 2,500 words per hour, say ten manuscript pages an hour. But now companies are expecting more and more. I know there is one publisher that wants 17 pages an hour done.  

As a copy editor, I read every manuscript at least twice, and I read sections of it more than that, because if I don’t read it at least twice, I will miss some of the plot holes. Plus, you’re fact checking. You’re going back and forth. You’re doing a lot of stuff. Seventeen pages an hour – it just doesn’t work for me. I end up not taking very many projects for the companies that want me to do that.  

Joe Monti: I keep it all in my head as I go along. It’s terrible. So I’m a slow reader, but it’s because I read and ingest it and keep it all going in my head at the same time. I may make little comments on the side throughout the manuscript. But yeah, I keep it all in my head, and then keep going. And then there’s a flow that happens. It’s very much a bell curve. Maybe 15, 20 pages the first hour. And then by like hour two or three, I’m going to 40, 60 pages an hour.  

But it depends on the book. And sometimes I have little to no editing. I have done almost no editing on Ken Liu‘s quartet of fantasy novels. And if you’re not familiar, the last two were 367,000 words, so it was split in two. That one we cut the ends off and beginnings. But other than that, I didn’t edit almost anything in it. Yet it took me two months because I was reading it and making sure it all fit. And everything fit perfectly. But Ken’s a rare genius, and he’s worked meticulously on his craft. One of the reasons why we work well together is that I know he knows that I trust him, and I get him. This is a lot of the creative part of it–I get your voice.  

(2) ONE BILLION SERVED. In “Yes, People Do Buy Books”, Lincoln Michel rebuts the claims in Elle Griffin’s “No one buys boks” (recently linked in the Scroll). 

… How many books are sold in the United States? The only tracker we have is BookScan, which logs point of sale—i.e., customer purchases at stores, websites, etc.—for most of the market. BookScan counted 767 million print sales in 2023. BookScan claims to cover 85% of print sales, although many in publishing think it’s much less. It does not capture all store sales, any library sales, most festival and reading sales, etc. (Almost every author will tell you their royalty reports show significantly more sales than BookScan captures. Sometimes by orders of magnitude.)

Still, I’ll be very conservative and assume 85% is correct. This means around 900 million print books sold to customers each year. Add in ebooks and the quickly growing audiobook market, and the total number of books sold over 1 billion. Again, this is the conservative estimate….

(3) DEDUCING THE SATISFACTIONS OF SHERLOCK. “Nicholas Meyer on the Great Escape of Art (and the Art of Detective Fiction)” at CrimeReads.

…I write Sherlock Holmes stories for the same reason I read them, to divert my attention from the terrifying issues that plague the rest of my waking hours—Ukraine, Gaza, drought, famine, wildfires, limits on voting rights, Fox News and anti-vaxxers.

But for a few hours, when I read or write Sherlock Holmes stories, I am transported to what appears to be a simpler world, where a creature of superhuman intelligence, nobility, compassion and yes, frailty, can make sense of it all. Was the Victorian world in fact simpler than this one? We’ve no way of knowing, but like an audience willing itself to believe that the magic trick is really magic, we are conniving accomplices to our own beguilement….

(4) JIM HENSON DOCUMENTARY. Animation Magazine is there when “Disney+ Debuts ‘Jim Henson Idea Man’ Official Trailer”.

… Directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard, Jim Henson Idea Man chronicles the story of extraordinary artist and visionary Jim Henson. In his 36-year career, Henson created some of the world’s most cherished characters, including classic Muppets like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy and all of Sesame Street’s iconic residents, including Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie. Henson also directed beloved fantasy films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth….

(5) HUGO 24. Camestros Felapton is reviewing the 2024 Hugo finalists. The latest entry is “Hugo 24: The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera”.

…Fetter, the central character of The Saint of Bright Doors is more keenly aware of the dislocation of both time and geography than most. He has some of the qualities of a Peter Pan, unattached from his shadow and with a loose relationship with gravity. Raised in a remote rural village by his mother to be an assassin, he has turned his back on that destiny and instead lives in the modern world of email, crowd-funding, run-down apartments and light-rail transit.

Fetter lives in the present or rather he doesn’t live there at all. Science fiction and fantasy have their fair share of unreliable narrators but Fetter lives in a world of unreliable world-building….

(6) TEDDY HARVIA CARTOON.

(7) FATHOM LORD OF THE RINGS EVENT. Via Robin Anne Reid we learn that Fathom Events will reprise The Lord of the Rings Trilogy on June 8, 9 and 10 in certain U.S. theaters. Tickets available at the link.

Warner Bros. and Fathom Events are teaming up to release Jackson’s magnum opus in extended versions, including those Jackson remastered for the 4K Ultra HD rerelease that came out in 2020. This will be the first chance for fans to see the purest iteration of Jackson’s vision on the big screen, however.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 25, 1969 Gina Torres, 55. Where shall I start with Gina Torres?  What was her best role? I submit it was a non-genre role as Jessica Pearson in the legal drama Suits and Pearson, the sort of sequel series where she was a disbarred attorney. It was a truly meaningful role that she got to grow into over the time the two series ran.

Gina Torres in 2018.

Genre-wise her most interesting character was Zoë Alleyne Washburne in the Firefly series which I really would have loved to see developed into more a rounded character had the series lasted. I liked her background of having served in the Unification War under Reynolds for two-and-a-half years and being one of the few to survive the Battle of Serenity Valley. 

Before that she was down in New Zealand, where she appeared in Xena: Warrior Princess as Cleopatra in “The King of Assassins” , and in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, she had a recurring role as Nebula. 

She was in the M.A.N.T.I.S. series as Dr. Amy.  I liked that series. 

She was the Big Bad in a season of Angel as Jasmine. It’s hard to explain what she did here without Major Spoilers being given away and there might be at least one least one reader here who hasn’t seen Angel yet. I actually think it’s a better series than Buffy was. 

Right after the Firefly series, she has a role in the Matrix films, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as Cas. 

After that came the Cleopatra series where she was Helen “Hel” Carter  (and which last longer than I thought at twenty-six episodes) , a great piece of pulpy SF. She was obviously having a lot of fun there.

One of my favorite roles for her strictly using her voice came in the animated Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths where she was the Crime Syndicate Siberia Woman. Stellar role done with just her voice.  She also voiced Vixen / McCabe on Justice League Unlimited. She was the girlfriend of John Stewart, the Green Lantern there. 

She voiced Ketsu Onyo on two of the animated Star Wars series, Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Forces of Destiny. She’s a Mandalorian bounty hunter who helps the Rebel Alliance. 

She’s on Westworld in a storyline that that is so convoluted that I’m not sure that I could explain it. Suffice it to say that she was there. Or not. 

Lest I forget I should note that she had a recurring role on Alias as Anna Espinosa, an assassin who was the utterly ruthless and ceaselessly persistent nemesis of Sydney Bristow, the character that Jennifer Garner played. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 108 of the Octothorpe podcast, “Ramp is Not Ramp”, John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty look back at Eastercon.  

We bask in the post-Levitation haze, going into some detail on accessibility, venue, programme, virtual, social and other aspects of the most recent Eastercon. We also mix in a variety of witty and insightful commentary, probably.

A drawing of a blackboard with text that reads: “Octothorpe 108 guide to Glasgow street food.” A picture of a deep fried pizza with glasses is next to text reading ’The “Coxon” pizza crunch’, a picture of three pakora with glasses next to ‘The “Scott” haggis pakora’, and a picture of a deep fried Mars bar next to ‘The “Batty” deep fried Mars bar”. Stars also adorn the backboard, and bottles of red and brown sauce are in the bottom-left-hand corner.

(11) ABANDON HOPE. Inverse reasons that if Heritage Auctions is selling all the stuff needed to make more episodes of HBO’s Westworld, there’s no hope that will happen: “2 Years After It Was Canceled, HBO’s Most Divisive Sci-Fi Show Might Officially Be Dead”.

Westworld ran for four seasons on HBO, but was canceled shortly after its last season wrapped and was later booted from the streaming platform. Season 4 ended on a more or less satisfactory note, but both Nolan and Joy have expressed interest in finishing the story they started.

According to the creators, Westworld still needs one more season to wrap up the battle of wills between humans and hosts. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, however, Nolan suggested the story could continue in a different medium, like a graphic novel or even a movie. Either way, television production seems to be moving on for good, as Westworld’s costumes, props, and set pieces are about to be scattered to the winds.

Heritage Auctions is hosting a massive Westworld auction. The event features more than 230 pieces from the series…

(12) THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MAGIC. Variety reports “Harry Potter Books Full-Cast Audiobooks to Be Exclusively on Audible”.

… Amazon’s Audible and Pottermore Publishing, the global digital publisher of Rowling’s Wizarding World, will co-produce a brand-new audiobook series for the original seven Harry Potter stories. The new audiobooks are scheduled to premiere in late 2025, with each of the seven English-language titles to be released sequentially for a global audience, exclusively on Audible.

The companies said the full-cast audio productions — with more than 100 actors — will “bring these iconic stories to life as never heard before.”…

(13) UNEXPECTED STUFF. “Oreo Has a First-Of-Its-Kind Cookie Hitting Shelves Soon” and Allrecipes is ready to blab what it is.

… Oreo and Sour Patch Kids have teamed up to create the first-ever sour Oreo cookie. No, the Sour Patch Kids aren’t playing a trick on you—this collab is very real.

The limited-edition Sour Patch Kids Oreos look like your classic Golden Oreo, but look again; Those mischievous gummy candies are actually in the cookie and creme. The Oreo cookie itself is Sour Patch Kids-flavored and dotted with colorful mix-ins. The sandwich creme is the classic Oreo creme filled with sour sugar pieces. Looks like this Oreo will also be sour, sweet, then gone…. 

(14) CHARGE IT! “Detroit debuts ‘road of the future’ with wireless electric vehicle charging”WBUR explains.

Drivers will buy 17 million electric vehicles this year, according to the International Energy Agency. That means one in five cars sold worldwide will be EVs.

That’s a lot of cars, and they need a lot of places to charge. Detroit is testing a new way to charge EVs that doesn’t require plugging cars in — just drive on the right strip of road and watch the battery fill up.

Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd spoke with Bloomberg NEF analyst Ryan Fisher and Justine Johnson, chief mobility officer with the state of Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification about the future of charging systems and EV sales….

“A vehicle will be connected to a smart road. Essentially the road has a wireless inductive charging coil inside of it and the vehicle is communicating with the actual coils underneath the road to receive their charge. So while a vehicle is driving, as long as it has the receiver underneath the vehicle, you charge and you drive at the same time maintaining your charge but also adding some charge range to that as well.”…

(15) TAU BELOW ZERO. Reported in today’s Nature: “Detectors deep in South Pole ice pin down elusive tau neutrino”. “Antarctic observatory gathers the first clear evidence of mysterious subatomic particles from space.”

An observatory at the South Pole has made the first solid detection of a type of elementary particle called the tau neutrino that came from outer space.

Neutrinos of all three known ‘flavours’ are notoriously elusive, but among them, the tau neutrino is the most elusive yet: it was first directly detected in the laboratory only in 2000.

At the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, detectors embedded throughout a cubic kilometre of the Antarctic ice sheet pick up flashes of light that signal the possible presence of a neutrino. When a tau neutrino hits the ice, it produces a particle called a tau lepton, which travels only a short way before decaying. The resulting signal is similar to that produced by an electron neutrino, whereas muon neutrinos produce muons, which leave long traces in the ice.

The IceCube Collaboration looked at IceCube data from 2011 to 2020, and used machine learning to distinguish between the signals of tau, electron and muon neutrinos. The collaborators found seven interactions that had a high probability of being produced by high-energy tau neutrinos.

Primary research here

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

Pixel Scroll 3/14/24 I Am The Go-Captain Of The Pixelfore

(1) LIBBY BOOK AWARDS. Congratulations to Martha Wells and Rebecca Yarros, two of the 17 winners of the inaugural Libby Book Awards, chosen by a panel of 1700 librarians worldwide.

  • Fiction: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, by James McBride
  • Nonfiction: The Wager, by David Grann
  • Young Adult: Divine Rivals, by Rebecca Ross
  • Audiobook: I Have Some Questions for You, by Rebecca Makkai
  • Debut Author: The House in the Pines, by Ana Reyes
  • Diverse Author: Camp Zero, by Michelle Min Sterling
  • Comic Graphic Novel: The Talk, by Darrin Bell
  • Memoir & Autobiography: Pageboy, by Elliot Page
  • Cookbook: Start Here, by Sohla El-Waylly
  • Mystery: Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, by Jesse Q. Sutanto
  • Thriller: Bright Young Women, by Jessica Knoll
  • Romance: Georgie, All Along, by Kate Clayborn
  • Fantasy: Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros
  • Romantasy: Iron Flame, by Rebecca Yarros
  • Science Fiction: System Collapse, by Martha Wells
  • Historical Fiction: Let Us Descend, by Jesmyn Ward
  • Book Club Pick: Yellowface, by R. F. Kuang

(2) BOOK BANS SURGED IN 2023. “American Library Association reports record number of unique book titles challenged in 2023” at ALA.org.

Stack of books background. many books piles

The number of titles targeted for censorship surged 65 percent in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching the highest levels ever documented by the American Library Association (ALA). The new numbers released today show efforts to censor 4,240 unique book titles* in schools and libraries. This tops the previous high from 2022, when 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship. 

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documented 1,247 demands to censor library books, materials, and resources in 2023. Four key trends emerged from the data gathered from 2023 censorship reports: 

  • Pressure groups in 2023 focused on public libraries in addition to targeting school libraries. The number of titles targeted for censorship at public libraries increased by 92 percent over the previous year; school libraries saw an 11 percent increase.
  • Groups and individuals demanding the censorship of multiple titles, often dozens or hundreds at a time, drove this surge.  
  • Titles representing the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals made up 47 percent of those targeted in censorship attempts. 
  • There were attempts to censor more than 100 titles in each of these 17 states: Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“The reports from librarians and educators in the field make it clear that the organized campaigns to ban books aren’t over, and that we must all stand together to preserve our right to choose what we read,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Each demand to ban a book is a demand to deny each person’s constitutionally protected right to choose and read books that raise important issues and lift up the voices of those who are often silenced.  By joining initiatives like Unite Against Book Bans and other organizations that support libraries and schools, we can end this attack on essential community institutions and our civil liberties.”…

(3) PNH’S NEW POST AT TPG. “Patrick Nielsen Hayden to Become Editor-at-Large for TPG” reports Publishers Weekly.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden has assumed the title of editor-at-large for the Tor Publishing Group. Hayden has been with TPG for 35 years and most recently served as v-p, associate publisher, and editor-in-chief.

During his tenure, he has published the debut novels of authors such as Charlie Jane Anders, Corey Doctorow, John Scalzi, and Jo Walton, and has received three Hugo Awards and a World Fantasy Award for his editorial work. In 2020, he founded our Tor Essentials imprint, which highlights a new generation of SFF classics. 

As editor-at-large, he will continue to edit such authors as Scalzi, Doctorow, and Walton, and will continue to select and oversee the Tor Essentials. 

In announcing Hayden’s new role, TPG president and publisher Devi Pillai added that the company “will not be replacing Patrick in his previous position—he is one of a kind.”

Patrick Nielsen Hayden in 2013. Photo by Scott Edelman.

(4) WICKED WORLD’S FAIR FOLLOWUP. “Eventbrite Refutes Mach’s Claims About WWF Payouts, Hints at Possible ‘Actions’” at The Steampunk Explorer. The linked post adds a great deal more coverage after this introductory item:

Amid the fallout from the Wicked World’s Fair (WWF), show organizer Jeff Mach has repeatedly blamed Eventbrite, the online ticketing and event management platform, for his inability to cover the event’s expenses. But in a statement provided Wednesday to The Steampunk Explorer, Eventbrite refuted key aspects of his claims.

WWF was held Feb. 23-25 at the SureStay Plus hotel in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Mach used Eventbrite to manage ticket sales, as well as sales of vendor spaces. During the event, as a sound crew was awaiting payment and vendors were requesting refunds, he told them that Eventbrite had frozen his account, preventing use of the platform’s payout features.

In the weeks that followed, Mach continued to blame Eventbrite for payment issues at WWF. “I had repeated assurances from Eventbrite that the money would be forthcoming,” he remarked in one statement to The Steampunk Explorer. “Why Eventbrite had the account locked down, but refused to tell us, I don’t know.”

This was the company’s response on Wednesday: “Eventbrite offers, but does not guarantee, multiple ways to request funds ahead of the event date. Due to an error on the organizer’s end, we can confirm that a few of these advance payouts were delayed. This was quickly remedied, and the organizer received much of his payout ahead of the event and has now been paid out in full.”…

(5) I NEVER WANTED TO GO DOWN THE STONEY END. [Item by Danny Sichel.] Last month, Doug Muir did a piece about the impending death of Voyager 1, originally launched in 1977. “Death, Lonely Death” at Crooked Timber.

…Voyager has grown old.  It was never designed for this!  Its original mission was supposed to last a bit over three years.  Voyager has turned out to be much tougher than anyone ever imagined, but time gets us all.  Its power source is a generator full of radioactive isotopes, and those are gradually decaying into inert lead.  Year by year, the energy declines, the power levels  relentlessly fall.  Year by year, NASA has been switching off Voyager’s instruments to conserve that dwindling flicker.  They turned off its internal heater a few years ago, and they thought that might be the end.  But those 1970s engineers built to last, and the circuitry and the valves kept working even as the temperature dropped down, down, colder than dry ice, colder than liquid nitrogen, falling towards absolute zero.  

(Voyager stored its internal data on a digital tape recorder.  Yes, a tape recorder, storing information on magnetic tape.  It wasn’t designed to function at a hundred degrees below zero.  It wasn’t designed to work for decades, winding and rewinding, endlessly re-writing data.  But it did.)…

… We thought we knew how Voyager would end.  The power would gradually, inevitably, run down.  The instruments would shut off, one by one.  The signal would get fainter.  Eventually either the last instrument would fail for lack of power, or the signal would be lost.

We didn’t expect that it would go mad.

In December 2023, Voyager started sending back gibberish instead of data.  A software glitch, though perhaps caused by an underlying hardware problem; a cosmic ray strike, or a side effect of the low temperatures, or just aging equipment randomly causing some bits to flip.

The problem was, the gibberish was coming from the flight direction software — something like an operating system.  And no copy of that operating system remained in existence on Earth….

But all is not lost. Well, probably. But not necessarily. At the link you can read the rest of the story about the people trying to put the smoke back in the system from fifteen billion kilometers away.

(6) WEIMER GUESTS ON WORLDBUILDING FOR MASOCHISTS. Paul Weimer joins hosts Marshall Ryan Maresca, Cass Morris, and Natania Barron for  episode 124 of the Worldbuilding for Masochists podcast, “Worldbuilding in Review”.

We spend a lot of time thinking about how to work with worldbuilding as writers — but how does a reviewer approach the topic when they’re reading works of sci-fi and fantasy? Guest Paul Weimer joins us to share his insights as a prolific consumer and critiquer of speculative fiction! Paul talks about the details that he pays attention to, the things he looks for, and the things that draw his attention, as well as discussing the purpose of reviews and who they’re for (hint: it’s not the authors!).

In this episode, we spin things around to look at how we approach worldbuilding and narrative construction as readers — since we are, of course, readers as well as writers! We explore of aspects of how a writer can set and, hopefully, meet expectations through worldbuilding — and where that can sometimes become challenging as a series goes on. What makes a world exciting to enter in the first place? What grips a reader and keeps them with it? And how can you use worldbuilding to make your wizard chase sequence a more cohesive part of your world?

(7) ENTRIES SOUGHT FOR BALTICON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL. Balticon Sunday Short Science Fiction Film Festival has been revised and is looking for talented filmmakers. Full guidelines here: “Short Film Festival”. Entries must be submitted by April 10 2024.

In 2024, the Balticon Sunday Short Science Fiction Film Festival (BSSSFFF) will take place on Sunday evening at 7:00pm. We will thrill festival attendees with independently produced short films from around the region and across the globe. BSSSFFF features live action and animated films in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror from some of the best independent filmmakers this side of the Crab Nebula.

Awards will be given in both the Live Action and Animation category based upon audience preferences. Some of the history of this film festival can be found on the BSFS website.

(8) TRY SUNDAY MORNING TRANSPORT. Mary Robinette Kowal has posted a link valid for a 60-day free trial of Sunday Morning Transport.

(9) ONE SUPERHERO ACTOR CONS ANOTHER. “Simu Liu was scammed by a Hollywood Boulevard Spider-Man” at Entertainment Weekly.

Simu Liu is reflecting on an enemy he made during his first visit to Los Angeles: a not-so-friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

During an interview with Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Dinner’s On Me, the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings actor recalled an unfortunate encounter with a swindling web-slinger on Hollywood Boulevard. “I remember I was taking photos of the Chinese Theater and a Spider-Man came up to me and was like, ‘I’ll help you!’” the actor remembered.

Alas, Liu’s spider-sense didn’t alert him to the insidious plot that was about to unfold. “And then he took a bunch of photos of me, and then he took some selfies of himself, and then he was like, ‘That’ll be $20!’” the actor said. “And that was mortifying for me, because I didn’t have $20 to give him. Core memory, clearly.”

(10) INTELLECTUAL (?) PROPERTY. Jon Del Arroz tagged me on X.com about this. I clicked through and was fascinated to learn he has declared Sad Puppies is a movement “owned and led by JDA!”

OFFICIAL Sad Puppies merch is now live on the store! Show your allegiance to this great movement which is owned and led by JDA!

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 14, 1933 Michael Caine, 91. On my list of favorite British performers of all time, Michael Caine is near the top of that list. Both his genre and non-genre performances are amazing. So let’s take a look at those performances.

Caine portrayed Alfred Pennyworth in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. He was quite stellar in this role. And he was in The Prestige, a truly great film, as John Cutter, in Inception as Stephen Miles, Professor John Brand in Interstellar and Sir Michael Crosby in Tenet.

Did you see him in as Ebenezer Scrooge in The Muppet Christmas Carol? If not, go see it now. He’s wonderful and The Muppet take on the Dickens story is, errr, well actually touching. Really it is.

Definitely not genre is The Man Who Would Be King, based off the Kipling story, which starred him with Sean Connery, Saeed Jaffrey and Christopher Plummer. The two primary characters were played by Sean Connery — Daniel Dravot — and Caine played the other, Peachy Carnehan. A truly fantastic film. 

Michael Caine and Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King.

In the Jekyll & Hyde miniseries, he’s got the usual dual role of Dr Henry Jekyll / Mr Edward Hyde. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – in a Miniseries. He did win a Globe for Best Actor for playing Chief Insp. Frederick Abberline in the Jack Ripper miniseries airing the same time.

Nearly thirty years ago, he was Captain Nemo in a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea miniseries. 

He’s in Austin Powers in Goldmember, third film in the franchise. He’s Nigel Powers, a British agent and Austin and Dr. Evil’s father. Can someone explain to me the appeal of these films? 

In Children of Men, he plays Jasper Palmer, Theo’s dealer and friend, Theo being the primary character in this dystopian film. 

He’s Chester King in Kingsman: The Secret Service. That’s off the Millarworld graphic novel of Kingsman: The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.

I’m reasonably sure that’s all I need to mention about his career.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Blondie anticipates tomorrow’s celebration of World Sleep Day.
  • Frazz figures out the anatomy involved in scientific advancement.
  • Does F Minus depict the dream of some File 770 commenters?
  • Non Sequitur imagines the earliest days of streaming.
  • Carpe Diem has a new origin story.

(13) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 105 of the Octothorpe podcast, John Coxon watches movies, Alison Scott walks on the Moon, and Liz Batty has special bonds. Listen here: “Scorching Hot Month-Old Takes”.

In this episode, we talk through your letters of comment with diversions into Zodiac podcasts, poetry collections, and Scientology. We discuss the BSFA Awards shortlist and return to the Hugo Awards for another round of head-scratching and bewilderment.

A famous photograph of Margaret Hamilton standing beside printed outputs of the code that took the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon, overlaid with the words “Octothorpe 105” and “Liz has finished reading the latest Hugo Award exposés”.

(14) OUTSIDE THE BOX — AND INSIDE THE SHELVES. Harlan Ellison’s Greatest Hits can already be found in some bookstores, ahead of the official release date.

(15) GLIMPSE OF BLACK MIRROR. “Black Mirror Season 7 Will Arrive in 2025 With a Sequel to One of Its Most Beloved Episodes”IGN has the story.

Netflix’s long-running bleak anthology series, Black Mirror, is coming back for Season 7 next year, and it’s bringing a sequel to fan-favorite episode USS Callister with it.

The streaming platform announced the news during its Next on Netflix event in London (via The Hollywood Reporter), later bringing public confirmation with a cryptic message on X/Twitter. The post contains a video teasing the six episodes, and judging by the familiar logo that appears, it sounds like the third will be the one to give us our USS Callister sequel.

(16) THE GANG’S ALL HERE. “Doctor Who’s Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat unite to support Chris Chibnall”Radio Times cheers the gesture.

Doctor Who writers past and present have shared a photo together after Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat attended a performance of Chris Chibnall’s new play.

Recently returned showrunner Davies posted the image to his Instagram page alongside the caption: “A marvellous night out in Salisbury to see Chris Chibnall’s wonderful new play, One Last Push.”

And he added: “Also, we plotted Zarbi vs Garms”, referencing two classic Doctor Who monsters…

(17) TRUE OR FALSE? Radio Times reviews evidence supporting story that “Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat ‘returns to write 2024 Christmas special’”.

More than six years after his final episode of Doctor Who aired, it appears that former showrunner Steven Moffat may be returning to write a new episode of the sci-fi.

While the news has not yet been confirmed, it was picked up on Tuesday 12th March that producer Alison Sterling’s CV had been updated to note she had worked on the show’s 2024 Christmas special.

Underneath this, it was noted that the director of the episode is Alex Pillai, while it was stated that the writer is one Steven Moffat. The notes regarding the writer and director of the episode have since been removed….

One factor which may throw doubt on the idea that Moffat has written the special, is that Russell T Davies previously said that he himself was writing it back in 2022.

(18) STARSHIP HITS SOME MARKS. “SpaceX celebrates major progress on the third flight of Starship”ArsTechnica has details.

… The successful launch builds on two Starship test flights last year that achieved some, but not all, of their objectives and appears to put the privately funded rocket program on course to begin launching satellites, allowing SpaceX to ramp up the already-blistering pace of Starlink deployments.

“Starship reached orbital velocity!” wrote Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, on his social media platform X. “Congratulations SpaceX team!!”

SpaceX scored several other milestones with Thursday’s test flight, including a test of Starship’s payload bay door, which would open and shut on future flights to release satellites into orbit. A preliminary report from SpaceX also indicated Starship transferred super-cold liquid oxygen propellant between two tanks inside the rocket, a precursor to more ambitious in-orbit refueling tests planned in the coming years. Future Starship flights into deep space, such as missions to land astronauts on the Moon for NASA, will require SpaceX to transfer hundreds of tons of cryogenic propellant between ships in orbit.

Starship left a few other boxes unchecked Thursday. While it made it closer to splashdown than before, the Super Heavy booster plummeted into the Gulf of Mexico in an uncontrolled manner. If everything went perfectly, the booster would have softly settled into the sea after reigniting its engines for a landing burn.

A restart of one of Starship’s Raptor engines in space—one of the three new test objectives on this flight—did not happen for reasons SpaceX officials did not immediately explain.

Part rocket and part spacecraft, Starship is designed to launch up to 150 metric tons (330,000 pounds) of cargo into low-Earth orbit when SpaceX sets aside enough propellant to recover the booster and the ship. Flown in expendable mode, Starship could launch almost double that amount of payload mass to orbit, according to Musk….

Space.com has a video at the link: “SpaceX launches giant Starship rocket into space on epic 3rd test flight (video)”.

(19) FAILURE TO LAUNCH. Elsewhere, some bad news from Japan: “Space One’s Kairos rocket explodes on inaugural flight” reports Reuters.

Kairos, a small, solid-fuel rocket made by Japan’s Space One, exploded shortly after its inaugural launch on Wednesday as the firm tried to become the first Japanese company to put a satellite in orbit…

(20) TALKING TO NUMBER ONE. In Gizmodo’s opinion, “This New Robot Is So Far Ahead of Elon Musk’s Optimus That It’s Almost Embarrassing”.

As if Elon Musk needed yet another reason to hate OpenAI. Figure, a startup that partnered with OpenAI to develop a humanoid robot, released a new video on Wednesday. And it’s truly heads above anything Tesla has demonstrated to date with the Optimus robot.

The video from Figure, which is available on YouTube, shows a human interacting with a robot dubbed Figure 01 (pronounced Figure One). The human has a natural-sounding conversation with the robot, asking it to first identify what it’s looking at….

(21) MILLION DAYS TRAILER. “A Million Days” is available on Digital Platforms 18 March.

The year is 2041 and the next step in the future of humankind is imminent. After decades of training and research, the mission to create the first lunar colony is about to launch with Anderson as lead astronaut. Jay, an AI purpose built for the mission, has simulated every possible outcome for the expedition. Tensions arise when the chilling motives of Jay become apparent, sowing the seeds of distrust between Anderson, and the group that had gathered to quietly celebrate the launch. As the night descends into chaos, the group’s faith in one another and their mission begins to crack, with the knowledge that the decisions they make before sunrise, will change humanity forever.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/29/24 Scrollaris

(1) STOKER AWARD UPDATE SPARKS KERFUFFLE. [Item by Anne Marble.] The Horror Writers Association has realized that Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle was in the wrong category in the list of finalists — it is not a YA novel. So they moved it to the Adult category – increasing the finalists there from five to six (i.e, nobody was dropped). And because of this change, they added a YA novel by author Kalynn Bayron to the YA category.

But as a result, some people are yelling at Kalynn Bayron on social media — apparently because they think she “stole” the nomination from Chuck Tingle. And Brian Keene has stepped in and asked people to yell at Mr. Keene instead. Let’s see if the people who were so eager to yell at Kalynn Bayron (a young Black YA author) are just as eager to yell at Brian Keene. (Somehow, I doubt it.)

(2) STOKERCON GOH NEWS. Paula Guran will be unable to attend StokerCon 2024 the convention announced today in a newsletter. A reason was not given; the committee hopes she will be able to join them at a future event.

The remaining GoHs are Justina Ireland, Nisi Shawl, Jonathan Maberry and Paul Tremblay.

(3) ANNUAL YARDSTICK. Publishers Weekly reports “New Lee & Low Diversity Baseline Survey Finds Minor Changes” in the publishing industry.

The third edition of Lee & Low Books’ quadrennial “Diversity Baseline Survey” found that the publishing industry has made incremental gains in broadening its workforce since the survey was introduced in 2015.

The survey’s top-line findings show that white people made up 72.5% of this year’s 8,644 respondents, down from 76% in 2019 and 79% in 2015. Those identifying as biracial/multiracial were the second largest group, at 8.3%—a significant increase over the 3% in 2019 who identified as biracial/multiracial. The percentage of respondents who were Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander/South Asian/Southeast Indian rose slightly, to almost 8%, from 7% in 2019. Black respondents held even at about 5% of the publishing workforce, while those identifying as Hispanic/Latino/Mexican fell to 4.6%, from 6% in both 2019 and 2015….

(4) REACH OUT. Dream Foundry calls for donations to “Con or Bust”, which seeks to assist creators or fans of color with opportunities they can’t afford:

Con or Bust has received a slew of applications for extremely exciting opportunities that we are not currently able to fund or support. You can help us change that! Since late October, we’ve had to defer or decline 14 applications requesting over $25,000 in fiscal support. In most cases even a small portion of the request made as a grant would be a huge help to the applicant. Most fiscal grants we’ve made are $500, and that’s also the largest amount we’ve granted out of our unrestricted funds. …

…If you’ve ever been to an industry event that inspired, motivated, or nurtured you, then you know what these opportunities can mean. Help us bring that to more people!

(5) WRITERS AND ARTISTS, GET READY. Dream Foundry is also looking ahead to their annual Writing and Arts Contest which opens to submissions from April 1 through May 27, 2024.

(6) MACHINES IN TRAINING. Rivka Galchen is “Thinking About A.I. with Stanisław Lem” in The New Yorker.

…“Solaris” is mostly serious in tone, which makes it a misleading example of Lem’s work. More often and more distinctively, he is funny and madcap and especially playful on the level of language. A dictionary of his neologisms, published in Poland in 2006, has almost fifteen hundred entries; translated into English, his invented words include “imitology,” “fripple,” “scrooch,” “geekling,” “deceptorite,” and “marshmucker.” (I assume that translating Lem is the literary equivalent of differential algebra, or category theory.) A representative story, from 1965, is “The First Sally (A) or, Trurl’s Electronic Bard.” Appearing in a collection titled “The Cyberiad,” the story features Trurl, an engineer of sorts who constructs a machine that can write poetry. Does the Electronic Bard read as an uncanny premonition of ChatGPT? Sure. It can write in the style of any poet, but the resulting poems are “two hundred and twenty to three hundred and forty-seven times better.” (The machine can also write worse, if asked.)

It’s not Trurl’s first machine. In other stories, he builds one that can generate anything beginning with the letter “N” (including nothingness) and one that offers supremely good advice to a ruler; the ruler is not nice, though, so it’s good that Trurl put in a subcode that the machine will not destroy its maker. The Electronic Bard is not easy for Trurl to make. In thinking about how to program it, Trurl reads “twelve thousand tons of the finest poetry” but deems the research insufficient. As he sees it, the program found in the head of even an average poet “was written by the poet’s civilization, and that civilization was in turn programmed by the civilization that preceded it, and so on to the very Dawn of Time.” The complexity of the average poet-machine is daunting….

(7) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. It was the club’s first in-person meeting outside of a Loscon since the pandemic. See photos at “We’re Back Baby! LASFS 1st Meeting in Years” on the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Website.

(8) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 104 of the Octothorpe podcast is “Groundbreaking and Great”. And humble!

Octothorpe 104 is here! We know you’ve eagerly been awaiting our takes on the Hugo Awards, so here they all are, as we discuss our favourite SF of 2023!

Hang on, what do you mean? Something else happened with the Hugo Awards and you thought we were talking about that? Well, er…maybe next time!

John is in the bottom-left, sitting in a chair, wearing a blue shirt and purple trousers, holding a can, and reading an ebook. Alison is in the upper-middle, lying down upside down, wearing a purple shirt and stripy trousers, and reading an ebook. Liz is in the bottom-right, wearing a pink shirt with green trousers, holding a mug of a hot beverage, and reading a physical book. They are surrounded by floating beer bottles, books, the Moon, a mug with a moose on it, and two cats. The word “Octothorpe” appears in scattered letters around the artwork, against a pinky-purple background.

(9) FREE READ. Worlds of If #177 is available as a free download for a limited time at the Worlds of If Magazine website. And the print version and t-shirts are also available for order there.

(10) JAIME LEE MOYER HAS DIED. Author and poet Jaime Lee Moyer was found dead today after friends requested a wellness check. C.C. Finlay announced on Facebook:

Dear friends of Jaime Lee Moyer, we have some very sad news. No one had heard from Jaime in more than ten days, which was concerning because her latest book was scheduled for release this week.

This morning we contacted her rental company and the East Lansing Police Department and asked them to perform a wellness check. They found Jaime deceased in her bedroom, apparently from natural causes. They’ve contacted her family to make formal arrangements. We only just received the news, and we don’t know any other information at this time.

Jaime has friends in the writing community all over the world. We thought this would be the best way to reach you. If you are a friend of hers, a client, or are waiting to hear an answer from her on anything else, we wanted you to know as soon as possible.

With love and grief,

Charlie and Rae

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 29, 1952 Tim Powers, 72. Now Tim Powers is a writer that I really admire. He’s decently prolific as he has twenty novels published. Now remember this essay is about what I like, so I may or may not mention what something that you, so please do t be too miffed by that. 

Where to start?  That’s easy as it has to be The Anubis Gates. Victorian London and Egypt. Ancient Egypt. Time travel. Anubis. Oh ymmm. It’s on my list of To Be Listened To list as I’ve already read it several times and the sample at Audible indicates Bronson Pinchot does a great job of narrating this. 

Tim Powers

Just as good in a very different manner is On Stranger Tides takes place during the so-called Golden Age of Piracy which was nothing of the kind, when an individual on his way from Britain to Haiti has a series of increasingly wild adventures. I know the novel was purchased to be part on the Pirates of Caribbean franchise. I’ve not seen the film, so I don’t know how much, if anything of his novel made it into the film, but I’m betting nothing except the name did.

Declare, a secret history of the Cold War, is extraordinary. I mean it really. When I was still actually reading novels as opposed to listening to them, as I’m doing now, I didn’t spend six to eight hours a day on one but I remember I did on Declare just to see where the story went. Stellar.

The Vickery and Castine series is just fun, and I mean that as a compliment. Set in contemporary LA, rogue federal agents Sebastian Vickery and Ingrid Castine can see ghosts and other things that are the secret reality of that city. It’s an ongoing series with four novels so far. Highly recommended. 

Then there’s Three Days to Never which I’m not convinced actually makes sense but is really fun to read with its wild mix of supernatural history of what actually happened, time travel and foreign agents. 

Ok, those are my picks as the Powers novels that I really like. So what’s your choices? 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) TWO COMPANIONS CUT A RUG. Radio Times makes sure we don’t miss out when “Karen Gillan and Jenna Coleman share cute Doctor Who reunion”.

Amy Pond and Clara Oswald may have never met on-screen, but the former Doctor Who companions certainly look like they get along behind the camera.

Karen Gillan (Amy) and Jenna Coleman (Clara) were spotted together at an event in London last night, with former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat also in attendance.

Gillan took to the opportunity to share a video of the trio on the dance floor on TikTok alongside the caption: “We might have had a few red wines… but look WHO it is!”…

@karengillan

We might have had a few red wines…but look WHO it is! #doctorwho

? original sound – Karen Gillan

(14) AGBABI Q&A. HAL interviews 2021 Clarke Award nominee Patience Agbabi, author of The Past Master, at Carbon-Based Bipeds.

HAL: Hello Patience, and congratulations to you on finishing your tetralogy. I’m curious, did you always know this would be a four-book cycle or did the project grow more organically?

PATIENCE: …In reality, a series made sense for lots of other reasons since I had too many ideas to fit into a single book: I wanted to explore the past as well as the future; to take different angles on ecological issues, becoming more covert as the series progressed; and also, I wanted to develop my hero, Elle, from a 3-leap girl to a 4-leap young woman. Elle is black, of Nigerian origin and autistic. It was a positive challenge to show the reader how she overcomes numerous obstacles to reach maturity. I originally submitted the manuscript as young YA but Canongate wanted to market it as middle-grade since my hero was 12 and children like to read up. But since my hero gets one year older with each instalment, I knew I’d be segueing into YA territory anyway, which demands a greater level of introspection.

(15) STRINGS ATTACHED. SOMETIMES. “Muppets, marionettes and magic: My life with puppets” – hear an interview with Basil Twist, who created puppets for the My Neighbour Totoro production by the Royal Shakespeare Company  at BBC Sounds.

Basil Twist’s fascination for puppets started as a child watching productions his mum put on as an amateur puppeteer. Basil built his own puppet characters of Star Wars as a kid and loved it, but became a ‘closeted puppeteer’ in his teens. It wasn’t cool anymore, and playing with dolls was seen as feminine. Basil pursued an education at college, but became unhappy and dropped out. Later moving to New York, Basil could finally embrace his puppetry passions. He scoured phone books and bashed phones to track down people involved in puppetry. His diligence took him around the world, winning awards and captivating crowds along the way. During the pandemic Basil found his biggest challenge to date – bringing the much-loved animated Japanese character Totoro to life for a live action stage show…. 

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. The Onion reports “Litter-Robot Recalls Thousands Of Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes That Accidentally Transported Cats To Year 1300”. (Could they be using the same version of the software as my comments section, which unaccountably tells people they’re in random years?)

(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Jessica Grose wonders “Could Swifties or Trekkies Decide the Election?” in a New York Times opinion piece. (Well, maybe I exaggerate. I don’t think it really worries her.)

…Social media is where many young voters live — about a third of adults under 30 regularly get news from TikTok, according to Pew Research. And turning out young voters who are otherwise not particularly politically engaged will be key to winning elections up and down the ballot in November. The left-leaning Working Families Party isn’t exactly a threat to take the White House in 2024, but it is on to a new way of reaching Gen Z voters at a time when the old ways are increasingly useless.

As Marcela Valdes explained this week for The New York Times Magazine, young voters tend to have low turnout rates. “No one is more ambivalent about participating in elections than young people,” she wrote. (It’s worth noting, though, that turnout among Americans ages 18 to 29 was historically high in 2018, 2020 and 2022, according to C.I.R.C.L.E., the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.)…

(18) TOMORROW’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT! Kathryn Schulz doubts we’re prepared for “What a Major Solar Storm Could Do to Our Planet” as she tells readers of The New Yorker.

…But “space-weather forecaster” is an optimistic misnomer; for the most part, he and his colleagues can’t predict what will happen in outer space. All they can do is try to figure out what’s happening there right now, preferably fast enough to limit the impact on our planet. Even that is difficult, because space weather is both an extremely challenging field—it is essentially applied astrophysics—and a relatively new one. As such, it is full of many lingering scientific questions and one looming practical question: What will happen here on Earth when the next huge space storm hits?

The first such storm to cause us trouble took place in 1859. In late August, the aurora borealis, which is normally visible only in polar latitudes, made a series of unusual appearances: in Havana, Panama, Rome, New York City. Then, in early September, the aurora returned with such brilliance that gold miners in the Rocky Mountains woke up at night and began making breakfast, and disoriented birds greeted the nonexistent morning.

This lovely if perplexing phenomenon had an unwelcome corollary: around the globe, telegraph systems went haywire. Many stopped working entirely, while others sent and received “fantastical and unreadable messages,” as the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin put it. At some telegraph stations, operators found that they could disconnect their batteries and send messages via the ambient current, as if the Earth itself had become an instant-messaging system.

Owing to a lucky coincidence, all these anomalies were soon linked to their likely cause. At around noon on September 1st, the British astronomer Richard Carrington was outside sketching a group of sunspots when he saw a burst of light on the surface of the sun: the first known observation of a solar flare. When accounts of the low-latitude auroras started rolling in, along with reports that magnetometers—devices that measure fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field—had surged so high they maxed out their recording capabilities, scientists began to suspect that the strange things happening on Earth were related to the strange thing Carrington had seen on the sun….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Kathy Sullivan, Lise Andreasen, JeffWarner, Anne Marble, Jean-Paul Garnier, Jeffrey Smith, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day JeffWarner.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details about these exciting workshops and how to apply!

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

Photos from the reopened Chengdu Science Fiction Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Jack Dann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/1/24 Scroll Pixel Like Fritos, Scroll Pixel Like Tab And Mountain Dew

(1) 2024 HUGO VOTING STALLED. The Glasgow 2024 Worldcon paused Hugo nomination voting on January 28, announcing in social media, “We are aware of an issue with nominations. We have taken that system offline as a precaution.” Their January 30 update said, “We committed to update you on the temporary pause of Hugo Award nominations. Our UK software provider is still working on a solution. We will provide you with our next status update no later than the 6th February.” At this time they do not expect to extend the nomination voting deadline.

(2) NEW STAR IN THE FIRMAMENT. Margaret Atwood appears as a guest star on the CBC series Murdoch Mysteries this coming Monday, February 5. She plays Loren Quinnell, Amateur Ornithologist. “Her and her feathered friends help crack the case…”

(3) NEW CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIPS. The Salam Award and Clarion West Week One Instructor Usman T. Malik (CW ‘14) have offered two new scholarships for 2024 Students: “The Salam Award and the Malik Family Sponsor Scholarships for Pakistani and Palestinian Students”.

The Salam Award Scholarship: For the year 2024, The Salam Award has agreed to sponsor a student of Pakistani origin, whether a Pakistani resident of any ethnicity, or a Pakistani-origin student anywhere in the world up to USD $1,000. 

The Malik Sharif-Fehmida Anwar Scholarship: Usman T. Malik and his parents Malik Tanveer Ali and Shabnam Tanveer Malik have offered an annual travel scholarship to help fund travel up to USD $2,500 for a student of Palestinian-origin. The applicant should be Palestinian Arab-Muslim or Arab-Christian from Gaza, West Bank, or Golan Heights, or may be Palestinian diaspora located anywhere in the world. 

Through the generosity of our donors, Clarion West provides a number of scholarships for writers every year. Approximately 60-90% of our Six-Week Workshop participants receive full and partial-tuition scholarships. You must indicate your need for financial aid when you apply to the six-week workshop. Your application is reviewed without regard to your financial aid request.

You can learn more about scholarships for the Six-Week Workshop here

(4) WHAT WE DON’T TALK ABOUT. RedWombat took inspiration from the continuing Hugo controversy to pen these lyrics, shared in ha comment on File 770 today.

This only works if you pronounce it “Wisfuss,” but…

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

But!

It was Hugo nom day
(It was Hugo nom day)
We were running numbers
and there wasn’t much good to be found
Standlee stops by with a glint in his eye
(Trademark!)
You filking this thing or am I?
(Sorry, sorry, please go on)

Standlee says, “we can’t enforce…”
(Why did he say it?)
The lawyers are aghast, of course
(That’s not how you play it)
And MPC did not endorse
(Had to resign but nevermind…)

We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

Hey, grew to live in fear of what the lawyers might find next
Feeling like the whole organization’s been hexed
I associate it with the sight of scathing posts
(Tsk tsk tsk)
It’s a heavy job sieving through this murk
Implicit contract no longer seems to work
Can’t rely on the Old SMOFs Network
Who’s gonna do the work?

M-P-C, taken aback
People still mad about the AO3 attack
How can you enforce this implicit contract?
Yeah, the lawyers scream and break into teams
(Hey)
We don’t talk about WSFS, no no no
We don’t talk about WSFS

We never should have asked about WSFS, no no no
Why did we talk about WSFS?

(I put that song in my head for the next year doing this, so if you’re going to complain, believe me, I have already been punished.)

(5) WRITERS AT GEN CON. The 2024 Gen Con Writers’ Symposium guests will include Linda D. Addison, Mikki Kendall, and quite a few featured speakers who are sff authors. Gen Con 2024 will be held August 1-4 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Gen Con Writers’ Symposium is a semi-independent event hosted by Gen Con and intended for both new and experienced writers of speculative fiction. All registration is handled through the Gen Con website.

(6) WHO ELSE HAD A STAKE IN DRACULA? Bobby Derie tells readers that H. P. Lovecraft claimed his friend Edith Miniter was offered the chance to revise Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What do we know about this claim? Find out! “Lovecraft, Miniter, Stoker: the Dracula Revision” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.

In The Essential Dracula (1979), Bram Stoker scholars Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu revealed a letter (H. P. Lovecraft to R. H. Barlow, 10 Dec 1932) that had been drawn to their attention by horror anthologist and scholar Les Daniels, where H. P. Lovecraft claimed that an old woman he knew had turned down the chance to revise Stoker’s Dracula. The letter had not been published before this. Although Lovecraft’s claim had been made in print as early as 1938, and a letter with the anecdote was published in the first volume of Lovecraft’s Selected Letters from Arkham House in 1965, this seems to be the first time the Stoker scholar community became generally aware of the claim. The authors were intrigued by the possibilities…

(7) LDV NEWS. J. Michael Straczynski shared that Blackstone Indie has unveiled a webpage for The Last Dangerous Visions. It does not take preorders yet.

In 1973, celebrated writer and editor Harlan Ellison announced the third and final volume of his unprecedented anthology series, which began with Dangerous Visions and continued with Again Dangerous Visions. But for reasons undisclosed, The Last Dangerous Visions was never completed.

Now, six years after Ellison’s passing, science fiction’s most famous unpublished book is here. And with it, the heartbreaking true story of the troubled genius behind it.

Provocative and controversial, socially conscious and politically charged, wildly imaginative yet deeply grounded, the thirty-two never-before published stories, essays, and poems in The Last Dangerous Visions stand as a testament to Ellison’s lifelong pursuit of art, representing voices both well-known and entirely new, including: David Brin, Max Brooks, James S. A. Corey, Dan Simmons, Cory Doctorow, and Adrian Tchaikovsky, among others.

With an introduction and exegesis by J. Michael Straczynski, and a story introduction by Ellison himself, The Last Dangerous Visions is an extraordinary addition to an incredible literary legacy.

(8) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR THE CAPTAIN’S LOG. The Visual Effects Society will honor Actor-Producer-Director William Shatner as the recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence in recognition of his valuable contributions to visual arts and filmed entertainment at its annual ceremony on February 21. “William Shatner Named as Recipient of the VES Award for Creative Excellence”.

(9) ST:TNG GETTING SATURN HONORS. “The Cast Of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ To Receive Special Lifetime Achievement Saturn Award” at TrekMovie.com.

…The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation will receive The Lifetime Achievement Award at the 51st Annual Saturn Awards, being held in Los Angeles this Sunday. For 2024 the Academy is doing something different for the TNG cast with this award. A statement from the Academy to TrekMovie explains:

“The Lifetime Achievement Award is usually presented to an individual for their contributions to genre entertainment. Top luminaries like Stan Lee and Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, have received this top honor. It’s not new, but we extended this award to cover the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to its continued influence on the face of general television. It was originally doomed to failure since it was following in the footsteps of the original Star Trek, yet it carved its own identity, and its diverse cast was light years ahead of its time!”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 1, 1954 Bill Mumy, 70. Bill Mumy is best remembered of course for being on Lost in Space for three seasons (“Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!”) though he has a much more extensive performance resume.

At the rather tender age of seven, he makes his genre acting debut on The Twilight Zone as Billy Bayles in “Long Distance Call”.  He’d appear in two Twilight Zone episodes, “It’s A Good Life” as Anthony Fremont, a child with godlike powers and finally as the young Pip Phillips in “In Praise of Pip”.

He’d show up much later on in Twilight Zone: The Movie in one of the segments, not unsurprisingly a remake of “It’s A Good Life” which here is listed as being from a screenplay by Richard Matheson. Here he’s Tim. Whoever that is. 

He’d be on the reboot of the Twilight Zone in “It’s Still A Good Life” as the Adult Anthony Fremont.

Photo of Billy Mumy in 2013
Billy Mumy in 2013. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

He next had three appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, none genre. His next genre outing would be playing two different characters on BewitchedI Dream of Jeannie and the Munsters followed.

Then of course was the eighty-three episode, three season run on Lost in Space. He’d be eleven years old when it started. I know I’ve seen all of it at least once. No idea how the Suck Fairy would treat it nearly this long on, but I really liked it when I saw it at the time. 

Remember the 1990 Captain America? If you don’t, you’re not alone. In this WW II version, he plays a young boy, Tom Kimball, who photographs Captain America over the Capital building kicking a missile off after batting Red Skull so crashes in Alaska, burying itself and Steve Rogers under the ice. 12%, repeat 12%, is the rating audience reviewers gave it on Rotten Tomatoes. 

He showed up once in the first iteration of a Flash series, and then has three appearances as Tommy Puck in the Nineties Superboy series. The first I saw and quite like, the latter not a single episode have I encountered. 

The next thing that is quite worthy of note is his stellar role on Babylon 5 as Mimbari warrior monk, I think that’s the proper term,  Lennier. Of one hundred and ten episodes, he was in all but two. That’s right, just two. Or at least credited as being so. What an amazing role that was. I’ve watch this series including the six films at least twice straight through. No Suck Fairy dares comes near it. 

The last thing of note, and I’m not seen the series, was him playing Dr. Zachary Smith on the reboot of the Lost in Space series that came out just a few years ago for two episodes. Please, please don’t ask who he’s playing as my continuous headache got even worse when I tried to figure out who he really was. Really I did. What they with that series was a crime. 

(11) PUTTING THE BITE ON TOURISTS. [Item by Steven French.] If you’re ever in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Atlas Obscura recommends a visit to “Vampa: Vampire & Paranormal Museum”.

TUCKED AWAY IN THE SAME building as an antiques store in a small Pensylvania town lies a shockingly large collection of antique vampire-killing sets.

Covering the walls are the standard tools of the vampire hunter: the stake, the crucifix, the holy water bottle. But the stakes are far more than pointy, wooden sticks. Believed to date back centuries, all the weapons have been beautifully decorated with a variety of religious and allegorical carvings. They are spectacular objets d’art from every corner of the world, including several personal collections from actors who played Dracula in films. One wooden “traveling vampire hunter kit,” from around 1870 was owned by actor Carlos Villarias, who portrayed the famous count in a Spanish language Dracula….

(12) EARTH FARTS? Space reports that the “Mystery of Siberia’s giant exploding craters may finally be solved”.

The craters are unique to Russia’s northern Yamal and Gydan peninsulas and are not known to exist elsewhere in the Arctic, suggesting the key to this puzzle lies in the landscape, according to a preprint paper published Jan. 12 to the EarthArXiv database.

Researchers have proposed several explanations for the gaping holes over the years, ranging from meteor impacts to natural-gas explosions. One theory suggests the craters formed in the place of historic lakes that once bubbled with natural gas rising from the permafrost below. These lakes may have dried up, exposing the ground beneath to freezing temperatures that sealed the vents through which gas escaped. The resulting buildup of gas in the permafrost may eventually have been released through explosions that created the giant craters.

… But the historic-lake model fails to account for the fact that these “giant escape craters” (GECs) are found in a variety of geological settings across the peninsulas, not all of which were once covered by lakes, according to the new preprint, which has not been peer reviewed….

… Permafrost on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas varies widely in its thickness, ranging from a few hundred feet to 1,600 feet (500 m). The soil likely froze solid more than 40,000 years ago, imprisoning ancient marine sediments rich in methane that gradually transformed into vast natural gas reserves. These reserves produce heat that melts the permafrost from below, leaving pockets of gas at its base.

Permafrost in Russia and elsewhere is also thawing at the surface due to climate change. In places where it is already thin on the Yamal and Gydan peninsulas, melting from both ends and the pressure from the gas may eventually cause the remaining permafrost to collapse, triggering an explosion.

This “champagne effect” would explain the presence of smaller craters around the eight giant craters, as huge chunks of ice propelled out by the explosions may have severely dented the ground, according to the preprint….

(13) HUNT TO EXTINCTION. The stories you hear from Brian Keene.

(14) NEW HEADSHOT. Scott Lynch introduced his new photo with a wry comment.

(15) COMING ATTRACTIONS. The “Next on Netflix 2024: The Series & Films Preview” sizzle reel includes clips from Bridgerton, Squid Game, Umbrella Academy and Rebel Moon.

(16) OCTOTHORPE. John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty respond to a letter of comment from Tobes Valois in episode 102 of the Octothorpe podcast, “I fully comprehend the mysteries”.  

Octothorpe 102 is here! We discuss the Hugo Awards debacle in some depth and SOLVE ALL THE ISSUES (no, really) but we book-end it with letters of comment and picks for those who need a bit of respite. Artwork by Alison Scott. Listen here!  

Alt text: Scooby, Velma and Daphne unmask the panda from last week’s cover art, and the person wearing the panda suit looks a lot like Dave McCarty. They say “It was old Mister McCarty all along!” and he says “And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling Hugo finalists!” He is tied up with rope. The words “Octothorpe! 102” appear at the top of the image.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/24 Mission Of Impossible Gravity

(1) LETTERS FROM THE EDITOR. C. E. Murphy shares her views about what kind of revision request letters work best: “Process Post: on edit letters” at The Essential Kit.

There was a discussion going on over on Bluesky about dealing with edit letters, and this truth came up: “Editors aren’t always right about the solutions, but they’re nearly always right about the problems.”

That thread went on to discuss how the person quoting it, who happens to be KJ Charles whose books I read all of last year and who is also an editor, approaches edit letters; her approach involves suggesting ideas to fix the problems, because it opens the writer’s mind to the possiblity that the book could have something different happen in that moment, and also it gives them something to reject/bounce off/spitefully correct. Which, like: that seems very valid.

That said, I have recently watched friends get SUPER LONG, to my mind, edit letters, 70%+ of which are ideas & suggestions as how to tackle problems, and I honestly think my brain would explode. My editors have VERY MUCH been of the “this is a problem, pls fix” approach, rather than the “let us brainstorm!” approach, and I think that works for me….

(2) NONSENSE OF TASTE. Camestros Felapton shared a couple of riotous sci-fi themed brew labels in “Thursday’s Sunday Beer”. I won’t steal his thunder – click the link to discover his selections — only thank him for introducing us to New Zealand’s Behemoth Brewing Company where literally dozens more comical labels can be viewed, including tap badges like these:

(3) SEATTLE 2025 STATEMENT ABOUT REGISTRATION. Seattle 2025 Worldcon chair Kathy Bond today made the following statement about their registration software, and a delay in the ability to upgrade to attending membership for Seattle Worldcon bid supporters and site selection voters:

Due to a last-minute change in our registration software, our ability to process registrations and upgrades to attending memberships for site selection voters and bid supporters has been delayed past our originally projected date. We apologize for the delay. Please be assured we will honor our initial registration rates for at least two weeks after we are able to make our registration system go live. 

Thank you for your patience as we iron out the bugs.

(4) BRITISH LIBRARY CONVENES ONLINE PANEL ABOUT LE GUIN. On January 23, join Theo Downes Le Guin, Ursula’s son and literary executor; Julie Phillips, her biographer, and writer Nicola Griffiths (shortlisted for the 2023 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction) for an evening of appreciation and exploration: The British Library Cultural Events – “The Realms of Ursula K. Le Guin Tickets”.

  • Event: 7:00 pm UK/11:00 am Pacific
  • Tickets are £6.50, or £3.25 for Library members

This is an online event streamed on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a viewing link shortly before the event and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

(5) THESE REBOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] This could be good, it could be decidedly not. “’The Avengers’ Reboot Coming; ‘Industry’ Writers Pen StudioCanal Pilot” at Deadline.

There were rumors that the project was in with HBO, but this was denied last year. It is not clear where The Avengers reboot will land. StudioCanal declined to comment as talks continue….

Macnee starred as Steed, who fought off diabolical plots against the state with his trademark bowler hat and umbrella. He had a succession of high-fashion assistants played by the likes of Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman. They broke ground for being Steed’s equal, holding their own in brawls and delivering playful quips….

Steed’s first partner wasn’t a woman at all but medical doctor David H Keel as the series  spun out of Police Surgeon where Keel played the same character who asked Steed to help on a case. It would feel like a uniquely different series than the later series as the tone, Steed’s personality and stories are markedly more grounded. 

Nightclub singer Venus Smith played by Julie Stevens was next, just six episodes in duration. Now we have Cathy Gale played by Honor Blackman, an anthropologist. Of course we finally got the extraordinary Emma Peel as played by Diana Rigg, described as a “talented amateur agent”.  

Linda Thorson ended the series as Tara King. An actual spy, enlisted at an early age in the Intelligence Service as a trainee, under the number 69. Would I kid about that? No, I would not. 

So how do you reboot a beloved classic of British television? Personally I don’t think you can. 

So before you ask, I prefer not to mention that film.

(6) CLIMATE ACTION ALMANAC. The Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University has launched The Climate Action Almanac, a free collection of fiction, nonfiction, and art exploring positive climate futures, grounded in real science and in the complexities of diverse human and physical geographies. The book is presented in partnership with the MIT Press and supported by the ClimateWorks Foundation.

The Almanac features 8 individual works of science fiction, with four authors contributing two stories apiece: Vandana Singh, Gu Shi, Hannah Onoguwe, and Libia Brenda. Overall, the collection features contributions from more than 25 writers representing 17 different countries around the globe, from Argentina, Norway, and China to Nigeria, Germany, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and more. On the science fiction front, there is also a dialogue between Kim Stanley Robinson and Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(7) NOT OK IN OK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A certain Oklahoma state legislator might want to take advantage of any mental health benefits available in his medical plan. Representative Justin Humphrey apparently has a possibly-unhealthy obsession with Furries. Or, perhaps specifically, with the urban myth that Furries are being provided litter boxes by school systems. According to HuffPost, “An Oklahoma Republican Wants Animal Services To Remove Furries From Schools”.

A Republican legislator in Oklahoma who once said that transgender people have “a mental illness” introduced a bill this week that would allow animal services to remove students who identify as furries from school.

The bill, which was pre-filed ahead of Oklahoma’s legislative session, would bar students who “purport to be an imaginary animal or animal species, or who engage in anthropomorphic behavior commonly referred to as furries,” from school activities.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey, may seem farcical. But the idea that schools accommodate students who identify as animals has its roots in a long-standing — and repeatedly debunked — conservative myth.

Republican legislators and candidates have for years claimed that schools are putting litter boxes in classrooms for students who identify as cats or furries. At least 20 GOP politicians peddled these claims in 2022, and used them as a way to sound the alarm over protections and accommodations for LGBTQ+ students, NBC News reported.

“What’s most provocative about this hoax is how it turns to two key wedge issues for conservatives: educational accommodations and gender nonconformity,” Joan Donovan, a researcher on media and politics at Harvard University, told the outlet at the time…

(8) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Rich Horton sadly reports that “Bad Things Come in Threes: Terry Bisson (February 12, 1942 – January 10, 2024), Howard Waldrop (September 15, 1946 – January 14, 2024), Tom Purdom (April 19, 1936 – January 14, 2024): A Tripartite Obituary” in an obituary notice for Black Gate.

On the heels of Terry Bisson’s death I heard news that Howard Waldrop had died. And this morning I woke up to learn that Tom Purdom had also died. A profound 1-2 punch to the SF community, followed by a knockout. Bisson and Waldrop were two of the most original, indeed weirdest, SF writers; and if Purdom wasn’t as downright weird as those two he was as intriguing in his slightly more traditional fashion. All three writers wrote novels, but it’s fair to say they are all best known for their short fiction….

(9) PURDOM TRIBUTE. Michael Swanwick also salutes the late author in “Tom Purdom, Heart of Philadelphia” at Flogging Babel.

This is very hard for me to write. So please excuse its infelicities. I knew this man for a full fifty years.

Tom Purdom is dead. Not enough people will know what a loss this is. While he was as vivid and eccentric an individual as any of the rest of us, he absolutely refused to promote himself. I think he believed it was ungentlemanly. But those who knew him, cherished him.

Tom was the very heart of Philadelphia science fiction long before I came to town in 1974. He and his socially elegant wife Sara Purdom had monthly open houses where all the SF community was welcome–even rowdies like Gardner Dozois and myself. They two served as role models for Marianne and me. 

His gatherings were as glittery events as our crew ever saw. I recall Milton Rothman discussing the physics of nuclear-powered aircraft, and I most vividly remember Jack McKnight (who machined the first Hugo trophies in  his garage) pretending to steal our then-infant son Sean at one of these soirees….

(10) PETER SCHICKELE (1935-2024). The composer also known as “P.D.Q. Bach”, Peter Schickele, died January 16 at the age of 88.

Schickele won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album four years in a row from 1990-1994. He also won in 2000 for Best Classical Crossover album. Once, he included in a concert program book an airsickness bag, labeled “For Use In Case of Cultural Discomfort.”

His catalogue of more than 100 works includes the score for Silent Running (1972).

He hosted the radio show “Schickele Mix” for Public Radio International. In 168 episodes, produced between 1992 and 1999, he explored the elements, concepts and techniques that make music work, illustrated with classical, jazz and rock recordings, proclaiming in his introductions that “all musics are created equal.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 71. So we come this Scroll to Pamela Dean, one of the writers I consider without equivocation to be one of the best fantasy writers ever. 

She’s a member of two writing groups, of which the first was the Scribblies, with Nate Bucklin, Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey,Will Shetterly and Patricia Wrede.

Then there was Pre-Joycean Fellowship. Love that name!  It was a shared belief that was more or lesser seriously adopted by several writers to indicate that they value 19th-century values of storytelling. Steven Brust wrote that “it is in large part a joke, and in another large part a way to start literary arguments.” 

Pamela Dean

Writers who are members include Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Neil Gaiman, Will Shetterly, Adam Stemple and Jane Yolen. No idea when the Pre-Joycean Fellowship meet up for tea and biscuits, but they must, right? 

Warning: this is my list of favorites, not a comprehensive overview though it comes close. 

Tam Lin, based of course on that Child ballad, and set in the early Seventies at the fictional Blackstock College in Minnesota is just brilliant. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It’s certainly my favorite book by her. 

Another Child Ballad, “Riddles Wisely Expounded”, is the root text of her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. I relish a story with a house that shouldn’t exist and a character who speaks in riddles. Quite delicious indeed.

And for my reading pleasure, the final set of works by her is The Secret Country trilogy consisting of The Secret CountryThe Hidden Land and The Whim of the Dragon. A Royal family in considerable turmoil, witches, unicorns — what’s not to like? Really it’s superb storytelling at its best. 

She’s written but thirteen short stories and a poem, six of which and the poem were published in the Laivek tales that were edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterley who created that franchise. Yes, I’ve read the Laivek tales and they are really great fantasy. Hers are among the best here. (The one here was co-written with Patricia C. Wrede.)

All of the novels I like are now available from the usual suspects. Oh and what I thought but now know having just checked the usual sources was a single Laivek story with Wrede is actually multiple stories as it’s available here as Points of Departure: Liavek Stories, all three hundred sixty-four pages of it! 

I’m very glad to see these nine Laivek stories getting published like this, and I’m hoping more Laivek writers do the same. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WATCH ON THE RHINE. The Governator ran afoul of German customs inspectors says the Guardian: “Arnold Schwarzenegger held at Munich airport over luxury watch”.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was briefly held by customs officers at Munich airport on Wednesday after allegedly failing to declare a €26,000 (£22,000) Audemars Piguet watch the Terminator star was planning to sell at an auction in aid of his climate crisis charity.

The Austrian-born actor and former governor of California, 76, was stopped at the airport for about three hours upon arrival from Los Angeles, according to the German tabloid Bild, which quoted customs officials.

Schwarzenegger was taken aside by officers who searched his luggage and found the watch, which the actor had allegedly not declared on his arrivals customs form….

A spokesperson for the main customs office in Munich said: “We have initiated criminal tax proceedings. The watch should have been registered because it is an import.”

(14) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 101 of the Octothorpe podcast “John Has Developed Precognitive Abilities”.

Alison Scott, John Coxon and Liz Batty get the year started off correctly. We give listeners a round-up of forthcoming conventions (mostly in the UK), give Keanu Reeves a frank talking-to, and discuss some hot new SF.

(15) UP AGAINST THE PRIZE WALL. This project is not being marketed as horror for some inexplicable reason: “Chuck E. Cheese Television Series Based on Restaurant Chain Now in Development” at Yahoo!

Chuck E. Cheese reality television series is now in development.

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Magical Elves, a production company that’s worked on shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway, is now developing a reality television series based on the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain.

The description of the series reads, “The format will feature stand-alone comedic physical challenges where duos of ‘big kids’ (a.k.a. adults) will compete over supersized arcade games — including pinball, air hockey, alley roller, and the human claw.  The top ticket-earning duo will get the chance to exchange their tickets for prizes off the massive version of the iconic Chuck E. Cheese prize wall.”…

(16) IT’S A GAS! Futurism reports “Astronomers Puzzled by Galaxy With No Stars”.

Astronomers have accidentally found an entire galaxy that appears to have plenty of gas — but no visible stars to speak of.

Their findings, which were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Astronomy Society, may seem paradoxical on their face, but the discovery could provide a rare, possibly never-before-seen insight that challenges our understanding of how stars and galaxies are formed….

… The eerily empty object, called J0613+52, is located 270 million light years away, according to a Big Think writeup on the discovery, and at the very least appears to be a low-surface brightness galaxy (LSB).

As the name suggests, an LSB is significantly less bright than other glimmering objects that populate the night sky because the gasses it contains are so spread out that few stars are formed.

Still, this classification holds that such a galaxy would at least have some stars, and J0613+52, with seemingly none at all, could be something even more rare and elusive: a dark, primordial galaxy.

“This could be our first discovery of a nearby galaxy made up of primordial gas,” Karen O’Neil, a senior scientist of the Green Bank Observatory, said in a statement about the research….

(17) BARBIE’S DREAM HOUSE. Neil DeGrasse Tyson geo-locates Barbieland using visual details in the movie in this clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as adapted by @EnigmaWorldOfficial.

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/sBTr9REX7JY

(18) YOU’RE LOCKED INSIDE WITH ME. Isn’t that what Rorschach said was the inmates’ problem? There’s good reason to call this “The Creeptastic ‘Abigail’ Trailer”. The film arrives in theaters on April 19.

Children can be such monsters!. You just can’t ‘dance’ around the subject. If you need convincing, check out Radio Silence’s first trailer for the horror film ‘Abigail,’ featuring a very, very creepy kid. After a group of would-be criminals kidnap the 12-year-old ballerina daughter of a powerful underworld figure, all they have to do to collect a $50 million ransom is watch the girl overnight. In an isolated mansion, the captors start to dwindle, one by one, as they discover that they’re locked inside with no normal little girl.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/9/23 If You Tape Bacon To A Pixel Scroll Does It Always Fall Bacon Side Down?

(1) WHEN GRAVITY FAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Chuck Jones’ rules for Coyote cartoons said it works best when gravity is what defeats him. Instead, the change in management at Warner Bros seems to be what has claimed his long-awaited film. The mixed live/animated Coyote Vs. Acme is rumored to have been consigned to the dustbin, despite being a finished product. There it will join Bat Girl and Scoob Holiday Haunt!, both already brought to an ignominious end by the Bros. “‘Coyote Vs. Acme’: Finished Live/Action Animated Pic Shelved Completely By Warner Bros As Studio Takes $30M Tax Write-off”Deadline has the astonishing story.

In another maneuver by the David Zaslav-run Warner Bros Discovery to kill movies, we hear on very good authority that Warner Bros will not be releasing the live-action/animated hybrid Coyote vs. Acme with the conglom taking an estimated $30M write-down on the $70M production. We understand the write-down for the pic was applied to the recently reported Q3.

This reps the third time that Zaslav’s Warner Bros has pulled the plug on a movie greenlit by the previous Warner Media administration; the other two being the Max destined Bat Girl and the animated Scoob Holiday Haunt!.

The difference here is that Coyote vs. Acme is a completed movie with very good test scores, 14 points above the family norm. We’re told that the cash-strapped Warners finds that it’s not worth the cost to release theatrically, or to sell to other buyers (and there are parties who are interested for their own streaming services; we hear Amazon kicked the tires). After reporting a mixed third quarter, the best means for Warners money is a tax write-off. At one point, Coyote vs. Acme was dated on July 21, 2023 for theatrical release before getting pulled; that date placed by the ultimate $1.4 billion grossing Warner Bros biggest hit of all-time, Barbie….

(2) LEAVING THE EXPANSE BEHIND. Gizmodo is on hand as “The Expanse’s James S.A. Corey Announces a New Sci-Fi Trilogy”.

… Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck—who write together as James S.A. Corey—have nixed any return to the world of The Expanse, [but] they’re still working on sci-fi projects together, as today’s big announcement attests.

Fans can look forward to the arrival of The Mercy of Gods, a space opera trilogy “that sees humanity fighting for its survival in a war as old as the universe itself,” according to a press release from publisher Orbit. This book will kick off the Captive’s War trilogy, and it will be released August 6, 2024….

(3) SOMETHING’S MISSING. Victoria Struass posts a “Contest Caution: Lichfield Institute Writing Contest” at Writer Beware.

Just about every temptation for a hungry writer is here. Big bucks for the winners. Feedback on every submission from distinguished judges–at least, one assumes they’re distinguished, since they’re finalists for important literary awards. Monthly stipends! Consideration by literary agencies! What more could a contest offer, even if it does charge a $15 submission fee?

Well…

You’ll probably already have noticed some…oddities…both in the screenshot above and on the contest page. The mis-spelling of Hemingway, to start (plus, it’s PEN–it’s an acronym–not Pen). The curious absence of judges’ names. Guidelines that fail to state when winners will be announced and how they will be notified. An entry form with a copy-and-paste box for submitting your entry (have fun reading, no-name judges)….

(4) IN A MIRROR, VERY DARKLY. “Murky reflections: why sci-fi needs to stop imitating Black Mirror” argues Adrian Horton in the Guardian.

…Black Mirror knock-offs are a scourge of the streaming era, which unfortunately incentivizes dressed-up spins on previous successes over truly cerebral or ambitious imaginations of the future….

(5) JEOPARDY! Last night’s episode of Jeopardy! devoted an entire category to science fictional worlds. Andrew Porter found these responses noteworthy.

Category: At a Loss for Worlds

Answer: Survivors escape to Bronson Beta in the 1933 Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer novel “When” this happens

Wrong question: What is “When Tomorrow Comes”?

No one could ask, “When Worlds Collide”

Same category: It’s the real name of the planet referred to in the title of a 1965 Frank Herbert novel.

He bet it all, got it wrong: “What is Dune?”

Correct question: What is Arrakis?

Same category: At the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” this world is destroyed.

No one could ask, “What is the Earth?”

(6) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 96 of Octothorpe, “A Less QR-Code-Using Society”, is ready for listeners.

John Coxon didn’t, Alison Scott would’ve done, and Liz Batty tried. We round up the rest of the news we didn’t talk about in Episode 95, featuring a discussion of how the Chengdu Worldcon went, and the much-anticipated reappearance of THE LIZ BAT. Listen here! 

(7) FEED ME. “John Lewis Christmas Ad Stars a Playful Venus Flytrap” explains Adweek.

In the U.K., watching retailer John Lewis’ Christmas ad is as much of a festive ritual as decorating the tree or exchanging gifts. This year, with a different agency and marketing strategy, the brand is hoping to cement its role in both old and new holiday traditions. 

The new ad, titled “Snapper,” follows the unusual tale of a Venus flytrap. While at a flea market with his family, a boy discovers a seed packet promising to grow into the “perfect Christmas tree.” 

Instead, a carnivorous plant emerges from the soil. Though the boy loves Snapper, the mischievous plant causes disruption and is eventually banished outside after it grows too big for the house. 

On Christmas morning, the boy leaves his family’s normal tree to bring a gift to the Venus flytrap. Snapper spits out confetti and gifts in return, inspiring the family to embrace an unconventional addition to the festivities. … 

(8) FRANK BORMAN (1928-2023). “Astronaut Frank Borman, commander of the first Apollo mission to the moon, has died at age 95” reports Yahoo!

Astronaut Frank Borman, who commanded Apollo 8’s historic Christmas 1968 flight that circled the moon 10 times and paved the way for the lunar landing the next year, has died. He was 95.

Borman died Tuesday in Billings, Montana, according to NASA.

Borman also led troubled Eastern Airlines in the 1970s and early ’80s after leaving the astronaut corps….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1921 Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he was writing under A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Lawrence T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited NebulaInfinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. His Axe fanzine (co-edited with his wife Noreen) was nominated at Chicon III for a Hugo. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 69. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, lasted updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1988 Tahereh Mafi, 35. Iranian-American whose Furthermore, a YA novel about a pale girl living in a world of both color and magic of which she has neither, I highly recommended it. Whichwood is a companion novel to this work. She also has a young adult dystopian thriller series.
  • Born November 9, 1989 Alix E. Harrow, 34. Winner at Dublin 2019 of the Best Short Story Hugo for “Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” which also was nominated for a BSFA and Nebula Award. Other Hugo-nominated work: The Ten Thousand Doors of January was nomination at CoNZealand; “A Spindle Splintered” novella and “Mr. death” short story at Chicon 8; and “A Mirror Mended” novella this year. She has three excellent novels to date, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Once and Future Witches which was nominated for a WFA and the just released Starling House.  She has a double handful of short stories not yet collected anywhere.  More’s the pity. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxes in Love features a Dune crossover.

(11) BRING ME THE HEAD OF C-3PO. “Star Wars C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels is selling film memorabilia” reports BBC News.

The actor who played C-3PO in Star Wars said “it feels like it is time” to sell the costumes, props and scripts he kept from the iconic films.

Anthony Daniels, 77, is parting company with items from his personal collection via Hertfordshire-based auctioneer Propstore from Thursday.

The famous gold helmet he wore for his character in the first film from 1977 is estimated to sell for up to £1m.

Daniels said he was excited for his collection to “find a good home”.

“I realised I had these items and they’re not unloved but they are unlooked at – we don’t have them crowding the sitting room,” he said, explaining why he has chosen to sell the items now.

“Will I feel sad to part with them? No. I will enjoy the fact people will cherish and display them.”…

Propstore marked the Screen-matched Light-up C-3PO Head as sold, however, the press has not yet revealed the amount of the winning bid.

(12) FANHISTORY ART ZOOM ON YOUTUBE. Fanac.org’s two-part Zoom with a panel of fanartists now can be viewed on YouTube.

Part 1

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 1 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 1 of this 2-part session, you’ll hear their “origin stories”, their influences, how they found science fiction fandom, and what they perceive as the unique benefits of fandom to young artists. You’ll find out why artists should avoid hecto, and torturous tales of justifying margins by hand. There are intriguing insights into adjusting one’s art to the reproduction medium, and how fandom helped people along, especially towards professional careers. Larger than life figures make their appearance, including several stories of Bill Rotsler.

There’s plenty more, including their views on Carl Barks, why Dan started “Lizard Inn”, Jim’s take on the slippery slope to having a fanzine too big to staple without an industrial stapler, Tim on his deep desire to tell stories, and Grant’s opinion of “Starling”.  The fun continues in Part 2.

Part 2

Title: Evolution of Art(ists) (Pt 2 of 2): Grant Canfield, Tim Kirk, Jim Shull, and Dan Steffan

Description: In part 2 of this 2-part session, the fan art discussion continues, with more on professional careers as well. The conversation ranges from Tolkien’s house to Harlan Ellison’s house, from “The Last Dangerous Visions” to Bill Gibson, from Harlan Ellison stories to BNFs that had an impact. There are more Rotsler stories too. You’ll hear about silent jam sessions, “Esoteric Fan Art Tales”, and the impact that conventions had on artists who worked in isolation.  A real treat is the slideshow of samples of our panelists’ art, with their live comments on what each piece represents.  

Q&A starts about 45 minutes into the video, with comments as well as questions, including Ted White’s discussion of the impact of Mondrian’s work on modern magazine design. Lest you believe that fanzines are a thing of the past, the video wraps up with a plug for an upcoming paper fanzine by faned Geri Sullivan. 

(13) A COSMIC EVENT. FirstShowing introduces “US Trailer for French ‘Cosmic Event’ Sci-Fi Thriller Film ‘The Gravity’”.

“After the alignment, the world will change forever. Everything will start over.”  Dark Star Pictures has released an official US trailer for an indie sci-fi action thriller film from France titled The Gravity, made by filmmaker Cédric Ido. This intially premiered at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival last year and it already opened in France earlier this year. Finally set for a US release on VOD starting in November. A mysterious cosmic event upsets the Earth’s gravity and sets the sky ablaze in a red hue, creating chaos in a futuristic Parisian suburb. This French “genre-busting” thriller is more of a story about street culture in the suburbs, following a local band of teenagers and their feud with other residents in the area….

(14) SPACE COMMAND. Marc Scott Zicree has dropped “Why Science Fiction Matters! Unreleased Space Command Full Scene”.

Meantime there five days remain in the Kickstarter to raise funds for “Space Command Forgiveness: Post-Production”. At this time fans have pledged almost $52,000 of the $60,000 goal.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/23 It Was An Early Evening Pixel And The Scroll Had Just Opened Up

(1) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Charlie Jane Anders asks “Why Is It So Hard For Hollywood To Create Brand New Heroes?” at Happy Dancing.

…I actually have no idea why Hollywood’s heaviest hitters keep coming back to the same characters. To find out more, I asked Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the creator of The Middleman (which I praised in last week’s newsletter.) Javi recently pitched a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV show that wouldn’t include Arthur Dent, so I was curious to find out what he thought about this topic. Here’s what he told me.

Star Wars has arguably had a hard time moving away from the Skywalkers — every Star Wars TV show or movie up to now features characters who are at most two Kevin Bacons away from Luke. The Wizarding World has stumbled when it tries to move too far away from Harry Potter — the Fantastic Beasts movies very quickly pivoted to being about Harry’s mentor Dumbledore. The only Hunger Games spinoff is a prequel that focuses on a guy who spent a lot of time with Katniss. Why is it so hard to move away from characters we already know, or the familiar version of the saga?

Having worked on one or two franchise projects, I would add the caveat that it’s easy to armchair quarterback some of these decisions when one is not aware of the parameters under which they were made. That said, the biggest issue is always money. Every single project you mentioned above is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars that has to be recuperated — not to mention that these projects also have to buttress entire empires of merchandising, theme park attractions, and publishing across all media. It’s not a business model that rewards risk.

There’s also what I call “The Fog of War,” by which I mean the often desperate need to make things work for no reason other than being committed to a something like the availability of a piece of talent, or setting a release date before having a robust concept, or a weird contractual obligation (like Sony needing to produce a Spider-Man movie every six years on pain of losing the rights to the characters), or having too many powerful producers who disagree about everything, and needing something — anything — to put before the camera. Those sorts of artificial constraints lead directly to the lowest-hanging fruit, and often to decisions that make little sense when examined with the benefit of a greater perspective….

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

113 recommended short SF stories

I’m not sure what – if any – connection this list of stories has to the Worldcon – possibly it’s related to the reaction to Hai Ya’s Hugo win, as covered in yesterday’s Scroll?  It seems to have been crowd-sourced, and is a mix of Chinese and non-Chinese works.  Hopefully most of the Western authors and works are still recognizable after the “Translate content” link does its work; whilst it doesn’t always successfully reverse-engineer the correct original titles from their translated titles, it should be close enough for them to be identified.

“Celebrity” and other photos from Xiaohongshu

I was mildly amused when the algorithm behind the Xiaohongshu app started categorizing some photos of people who will be recognizable to Filers – or who are actually Filers – as “celebrities”.  Most if not all of the following links contain a variety of photos, but I’ve highlighted the names of people who appear in some of those photos.

A couple of other photos and videos:

A couple more con reports from Chinese fans

(via Zimozi Natsuco on Twitter).  A slight word of warning: I think this pair of con reports don’t fare as well with machine translation (well, Google Translate at least) as does a lot of non-fiction material.  Part of this is that Google Translate doesn’t seem to have been trained on fannish materials.  For example “二次元” becomes “second dimension” or”two-dimensional”, which is correct in a literal sense, but would be more understandable as “anime”, “anime-styled” or “animation”.

The first is from an anime fan, and probably covers the overall Chinese speculative fiction and media scene more than the con itself.  A couple of extracts via Google Translate, with minor cleanup edits:

Compared with the dazzling array of two-dimensional products, looking at Chinese science fiction, what products have been developed over the years that are well-known to the public?

“The Three-Body Problem”!  Anything else?

“The Wandering Earth”!  Anything else?

Um, “Sun of China“?  Are there any works other than those of Liu Cixin?

…Umm, “Shanghai Fortress“?

When science fiction was introduced to China by Lu Xun, Liang Qichao and others in the early 20th century, it was included in a utilitarian direction as soon as it was involved. Of course, this was also due to the ambiguity of the meaning of “science fiction” proposed by Hugo Gernsback. Most people now equate “speculative fiction” with “fiction about science”, and the “fantasy” aspect of speculative fiction is ignored. lThis makes more sense in Chinese: “科幻” is translated as “science fiction”, but it is actually an abbreviation of “科学幻想”, which are the words “科学” science and “幻想” fantasy.)]

This definition deeply influenced Chinese science fiction literature in the 1970s and 1980s. Even now, many people still believe that science fiction should be scientific, and the fantasy part is excluded. This situation was particularly serious when “The Three-Body Problem” first became popular. At that time, the Internet was full of comments such as “hard science fiction is science fiction, soft science fiction is not as good”

Our old friend Game Grape also published an article on the last day of the Chengdu Science Fiction Conference called “The second dimension is getting colder. Is science fiction the next trend in the gaming industry?” In the article, a game company boss revealed to Putao that “the next trend may be science fiction.”

Nowadays, more and more two-dimensional mobile games are beginning to put on the skin of science fiction. In the second trailer for Honkai Impact 3 released in September, it is not difficult to see the dominance of science fiction: the stage is placed in the universe.

The second is by Zimozi himself.  Again, via Google Translate with minor edits

But the conference was a real success. Please read the news reports: We have received the highest attendance in the decades-long history of the World Science Fiction Convention. The foreign guests present are sincerely praising the venue and services. Chinese writers have gained a lot from the Hugo Awards and even [appeared on the TV news], Bai Yansong enthusiastically discusses with the audience, “Where is China’s science fiction going?”…

So, do I have a problem?

….

Science fiction is also an industry. The industry is not child’s play, nor is it a few science fiction fans who want to start a science fiction fanzine…  There are carefully arranged corporate exhibitions, grand and enthusiastic talent introduction, and the intensive construction of talent housing — opposite the venue are several new talent apartments and new real estate projects that are in full swing, attracting science fiction talents from all over the world to settle down in Chengdu. In industry summits one after another, we have seen one after another novel support plans and science fiction awards, as well as countless new institutions integrating industry, academia and research. 

(3) HUGO WINNERS ON TV. Chris Barkley sent a link to video of “the press conference Neil Clarke and I were a part of after the Hugo Awards Ceremony.” — here.

(4) SIXTIES PARANORMAL SERIES. Todd Allen made a discovery – “Martin Landau’s Lost Occult Detective TV Show”. It will probably be news to you, too.

…I stumbled into Martin Landau’s lost occult detective TV show a couple weeks ago.

His what?!? Yes, that was my reaction, too. I later asked a few people I’d expect to have heard of such a thing and none of them had, so now I’ll tell you about it.

I’d been watching The Brides of Dracula on Prime and was flipping through the list of films people who watched that also watched, I came across what appeared to be an old Martin Landau horror movie called The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre. I hadn’t heard of this or associated Landau with horror, so I looked it up and proceeded to be shocked.

It seems that back in 1964, James Aubrey (the president of CBS) commissioned Joseph Stefano to produce a pilot called “The Haunted.” Does the name “Stefano” sound familiar? He wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and was one of the writer/producers on the first season of The Outer Limits.

The Haunted would have starred Martin Landau – two years before Mission: Impossible – as Nelson Orion, an architect who moonlights as a paranormal investigator….

(5) OCTOTHORPE. In episode 95 of the Octothorpe podcast – “Hugo, Girl!”John Coxon is playing a game, Alison Scott is in New Zealand, and Liz Batty’s head is on fire.

We discuss the Hugo Award winners, Anna Karenina, what the word “semiprofessional” means, and what continent/timezone/day of the week Alison is in. Art by the very talented España Sheriff.

(6) APPLE+$. “Apple TV+ Price Increase: Apple Raises Monthly Fee to $10” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Apple is hiking the price of Apple TV+ significantly, raising the monthly subscription fee to $9.99 per month from its current $6.99 per month price point. The cost of an annual plan is going from $69 to $99.

(7) OTHER SERVICES TOO. Reuters adds to its Apple+ coverage this info about Disney+ and Netflix.

Netflix increased subscription prices for some streaming plans in the United States, Britain and France when it reported results last week. Disney said in August it would raise by 27% the price of the ad-free tier of the Disney+ service to $13.99 and hike by 20% the no-ad version of Hulu. 

(8) DOCTOR APPOINTMENTS. “Doctor Who confirms air dates for 3 specials with David Tennant”Radio Times has the schedule – and the publicity posters.

The BBC has announced that David Tennant’s Fourteenth Doctor will officially be bursting back onto our screens on Saturday 25th November, with the second and third specials following on Saturday 2nd December and Saturday 9th December respectively.

(9) HUNGARIAN SFF AUTHOR TRANSLATED. [Item by Bence Pintér.] One of the best contemporary Hungarian sci-fi writers, Botond Markovics (AKA Brandon Hackett) had his Zsoldos Award-winning book Disposable Bodies translated into English. He also set up an English-language Facebook page on which he wrote about this.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1934 Dan McCarthy. The grand old man of New Zealand fandom. He belonged to Aotearapa, New Zealand’s APA, for 25 years, and was its official editor from 1986-1987 and 2001-2003. As a member, he contributed 77 issues of his fanzine Panopticon, for which he did paintings and color graphics. His skills as a fanartist were widely appreciated: he was a Fan Guest of Honour at the New Zealand national convention, a nominee for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, and he won NZ Science Fiction Fan Awards (the predecessor of the Vogel) Best Fan Artist twice. (Died 2013.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 78. Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”. She’s garnered four Mythopoetic Award nominations but no wins to date.
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson,69. Writer of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1962 Faith Hunter, 51. Her longest running and most notable series to date is the Jane Yellowrock series though I’ve mixed feelings about the recent turn of events. She’s got a nifty SF series called Junkyard that’s been coming out on Audible first. Her only award to date is the Lifetime Achievement award to a science fiction professional given by DeepSouthCon. 
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 60. It being the month of ghoulies, I’ve got another academic for you. He’s published Slayer: The Totally Cool Unofficial Guide to BuffyHollywood Vampire: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to AngelThe Complete Slayer: An Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Every Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one and one for horror film fans in general, A Vault of Horror: A Book of 80 Great British Horror Movies from 1956-1974. He’s also written some novels in the Doctor Who universe, some with Martin Day, and written non-fiction works on the original Avengers, you know which ones I mean, with Martin Day also, and ST: TNG & DS9 and Stargate as well with Paul Cornell. 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 52. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 

(11) FRANKENSTEIN. [Item by Steven French.] With Halloween almost upon us, Leeds Central Library has a nice blog piece about its 3rd edition copy of Mary Shelley’s classic which includes the first illustration of the monster, looking quite different from the movie version! “Mary Shelley – The First Science Fiction Author” at Secret Library.

…Leeds Central Library has a third edition copy of this novel, published in 1831 by Richard Bentley and Henry Colburn and the first illustration of Frankenstein’s monster can be found on the first page. This stunning and slightly disturbing drawing was drawn by Theodor von Holst, a student of Henry Fuseli. The image is a visualisation of an extract from the text that is written at the bottom of the page. The quote reads;

‘By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull, yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive agitation seized its limbs…I rushed out of the room.’

At the right side of the illustration, you can see Victor Frankenstein fleeing the room, the look of pure fear on his features. However, the main focus of the image is the ‘monster’ who is on the floor with an agonised look on his face as he takes his first breaths. The Gothic meets romantic style of the image as well as the symbols of both death and science perfectly capture the themes that Shelley conveyed in this novel.

This edition was edited from the original version that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote in 1816 when she was only 18 years old. This version contains an introduction from Shelly in which she answers the question “How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea”….

(12) THE “TRANSPORTER” BEFORE THE TRANSPORTER. “Read Gene Roddenberry’s First Sci-Fi TV Show Pitch in Its Original Doc” at IndieWire.

…In 1955, Roddenberry had begun writing for Ziv TV, a production company for TV shows in syndication, specifically for the titles “Mr. District Attorney” and “Highway Patrol.” He had gotten into television writing by acting as a liaison for the LAPD, when he worked as a police officer in the early 1950s, to the show “Dragnet.” In that capacity he helped condense actual case files into story treatments that the show’s writers could turn into teleplays.

“Science Fiction Theatre” was a Ziv TV production as well. Hence why at the top of this document you see the company listed, before Roddenberry crossed that out in favor of the name of a production executive he’d be pitching. Here’s the document, and give it a closer look in PDF format here….

…The description of his pitch for the episode reads:

The proposed story is of the invention of the “Transporter” — a device which is television, smellovision, soundovision, all rolled into one. A device which creates an artificial world for the user, capable of duplicating delight, sensation, contentment, adventure–all beyond the reach of the ordinary person living the ordinary life. With it you can voyage to far-off lands, argue with Socrates, earn and spend a million dollars, or lay Marilyn Monroe. Take your choice.

And this is the story of the inventor who, after achieving this miracle, suddenly realizes that a commercial, greedy, sometimes inhuman world would take over his miracle. And it might be used as they have used the miracle of radio, television, the motion pictures–with much more devastating results. It could become the most powerful totalitarian enslaving device; it could become the most powerful opiate; it could create wants and desires for which the world would destroy itself–a dying race sitting at their “transporters.”

(13) TAIKONAUTS. “China’s youngest-ever crew of astronauts heads to space station”Reuters has the story.

The youngest-ever crew of Chinese astronauts departed for China’s space station on Thursday, paving the way for a new generation of “taikonauts” to advance the country’s space ambitions in the future.

The spacecraft Shenzhou-17, or “Divine Vessel”, and its three passengers lifted off atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China.

Leading the six-month mission was former air force pilot Tang Hongbo, 48, who was on the first crewed mission to the space station in 2021.

His return to the orbiting outpost Tiangong, or “Celestial Palace” in Chinese, also set a new record for the shortest interval between two spaceflight missions by taikonauts – coined from the Chinese word for space – suggesting a faster rotation of taikonauts in coming years.

Tang, from China’s second batch of astronauts in 2010, had to wait more than a decade before he was picked for his inaugural spaceflight in 2021.

By contrast, his fellow Shenzhou-17 crew members Tang Shengjie, 33, and Jiang Xinlin, 35, both travelling to space for the first time, joined China’s third batch of astronauts in September 2020….

(14) POISONING PIXELS IN THE PARK. [Item by Jim Janney.] There’s an article in MIT Technology Review about a tool that lets artists “poison” their images in ways that mess with generative AI: “This new data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against generative AI”. It seems to work by manipulating pixels in ways that the human eye doesn’t notice, so wouldn’t be directly applicable to large language models.

…The tool, called Nightshade, is intended as a way to fight back against AI companies that use artists’ work to train their models without the creator’s permission. Using it to “poison” this training data could damage future iterations of image-generating AI models, such as DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, by rendering some of their outputs useless—dogs become cats, cars become cows, and so forth. MIT Technology Review got an exclusive preview of the research, which has been submitted for peer review at computer security conference Usenix.   

AI companies such as OpenAI, Meta, Google, and Stability AI are facing a slew of lawsuits from artists who claim that their copyrighted material and personal information was scraped without consent or compensation. Ben Zhao, a professor at the University of Chicago, who led the team that created Nightshade, says the hope is that it will help tip the power balance back from AI companies towards artists, by creating a powerful deterrent against disrespecting artists’ copyright and intellectual property. Meta, Google, Stability AI, and OpenAI did not respond to MIT Technology Review’s request for comment on how they might respond. 

Zhao’s team also developed Glaze, a tool that allows artists to “mask” their own personal style to prevent it from being scraped by AI companies. It works in a similar way to Nightshade: by changing the pixels of images in subtle ways that are invisible to the human eye but manipulate machine-learning models to interpret the image as something different from what it actually shows…. 

(15) SMALLER ON THE INSIDE. [Item by Mark Roth-Whitworth.] Nature reports“Mars has a surprise layer of molten rock inside”. “Fresh investigations find that the red planet’s liquid-metal core is smaller than scientists thought.”

A meteorite that slammed into Mars in September 2021 has rewritten what scientists know about the planet’s interior.

By analysing the seismic energy that vibrated through the planet after the impact, researchers have discovered a layer of molten rock that envelops Mars’s liquid-metal core. The finding, reported today in two papers in Nature1,2, means that the Martian core is smaller than previously thought. It also resolves some lingering questions about how the red planet formed and evolved over billions of years.

The discovery comes from NASA’s InSight mission, which landed a craft with a seismometer on Mars’s surface. Between 2018 and 2022, that instrument detected hundreds of ‘marsquakes’ shaking the planet. Seismic waves produced by quakes or impacts can slow down or speed up depending on what types of material they are travelling through, so seismologists can measure the waves’ passage to deduce what the interior of a planet looks like….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Jim Janney, Bence Pintér, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Ersatz Culture for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]