Pixel Scroll 10/18/22 Pixelitl Axolotl Pixelitl Axolotl Cheep Cheep Cheep! Axelot, Pixelitl More…

(1) CLARION WEST AUCTION AND GALA. The Clarion West After Dark 2022 Auction is open until October 21 at 9:00 PM Pacific Time. You must register for the event to begin bidding on auction items. Clarion West After Dark is a fundraising event and auction created to help support Clarion West’s year-round speculative program. 

Here are a couple of the many items on the block:

Clarion West board member Yang-Yang Wang (Dungeon Scrawlers) will serve as DM for a One Shot Dungeons & Dragons adventure (a single self-contained adventure) with author Seanan McGuire (Middlegame, Every Heart A Doorway, X-Men) and up to 3 of your friends.

Nisi Shawl is an award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They also make delectable, unique, and magical teas. Spend time with Nisi learning how they buy, dry, cut, stir, and steep the best cup of tea. Join Nisi at the home of board member Susan Gossman in Queen Ann.

Includes a signed copy of Nisi’s book Everfair.

There will also be a livestreamed Clarion West After Dark 2022 event on YouTube on October 21 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific with Special Guest Author Daniel J. Abraham. Register at the link.

Join us as we journey across the dark expanse of space for a night of celebration, imagination, and inspiration. Clarion West is all about stories, and our story is like a generation ship: students become instructors and scholarship recipients become donors, powering this journey across time and space as we go boldly into the creation of wild and amazing worlds.

(2) SFBC’S PROMO ART RARITIES. The fourth installment of Doug Ellis’ look at the art from the Science Fiction Book Club’s Things to Come bulletin is now available; this one covers 1964-1966 and includes seldom seen work by Virgil Finlay. “The Art Of Things To Come, Part 4: 1964-1966” at Black Gate.

…As I’ve noted in prior installments, the artists who contributed to these early bulletins are often unidentified. That’s usually the case during this period as well.

The notable exception to that rule is the great Virgil Finlay, who kicks off our tour with his illustration for Fifth Planet by Fred Hoyle and his son, Geoffrey Hoyle (misspelled as Goeffrey) from the Winter and March 1964 issue of the bulletin. The original of this lovely piece still exists in a private collection….

(3) PARAMOUNT PLUS HALF PRICE DEAL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Paramount Plus, where the new Star Trek shows (and some of the older ones) are available, is having a “temporary promotion” (not clear how that differs functionally from “a sale.” (Note: “Offer ends 11/3/22.”)

In particular (as in, the one I just went for), Paramount Plus’ with-ads version has a half-off year offer ($24.99 instead of $49.99). (And other offers which I ignored, because of lack of interest or frugality. We enjoyed no-ads on a previous promotion, which, when it expired, I cancelled our subscription.)

So if you plan to watch Star Trek (new seasons and some older ones, and, I believe, movies) (and/or want to watch the final season of The Good Fight), here’s a helpful article (where I learned about this) including a link: https://www.howtogeek.com/841103/you-can-get-an-entire-year-of-paramount-for-just-25

Quick notes:

(1) As HowToGeek cautions, “The only catch is that the subscription auto-renews, and the low price is only for the first year”.

If you don’t want to lose track and accidentally get auto-renewed, at full price, in a year, consider cancellation after, say, a month. (If you were able to get the free trial period, make sure you’re a few days past that.)

Paramount says: “If you cancel your subscription, the cancellation will go into effect at the end of your current subscription period, as applicable. You will have continued access to the Paramount+ Service for the remainder of your paid subscription period.”

(2) The HowToGeek article says [you] also get an Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite. https://www.amazon.com/fire-tv-stick-lite/dp/B07YNLBS7R ($29)

However, I didn’t see this offered in the actual subscribing process or the near-immediate confirmations from Paramount. I just did a Chat with Paramount customer service; they said I should have received an email with a PIN (didn’t comment whether that related to the promised Fire Stick), and will cause a new message-with-PIN to get sent to me.)

Even if you don’t need one for everyday use, if you’re actually travelling (within the US), it might be a convenient take-along.

(4) SCHULZ CENTENNIAL. Just to remind you, the new issue of Charles M. Schulz / Peanuts stamps is now available from the USPS.

New stamps salute the centennial of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz (1922–2000) whose “Peanuts” characters are some of the best known and most beloved in all of American culture. For five decades, Schulz alone wrote and drew nearly 18,000 strips, the last one published the day after he died. Each character reflects Schulz’s rich imagination and great humanity. His resonant stories found humor in life’s painful realities including rejection, insecurity and unrequited love.

In a celebratory mode, characters from “Peanuts” adorn 10 designs on this pane of 20 stamps and form a frame around a 1987 photograph of Schulz.

Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps from Schulz’s artwork and an existing photograph by Douglas Kirkland.

(5) DOCTOR WHICH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leslie S. Klinger provides background on Robert Louis Stevenson for a new edition of Dr Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.

… While RLS’s fiction never flagged in popularity, he was shunned by the critics for a long period. His work was excluded from major anthologies for much of the twentieth century. Today, however, he is highly regarded by academia as an original voice, an artist with a wide range of interests and insights, no longer to be relegated to the shelves of children’s literature or horror fiction. In 2004, the Journal of Stevenson Studies began publication, with an impressive editorial board and a mission: “The Journal of Stevenson Studies (JSS) is committed to the study and wider consideration of the work of Robert Louis Stevenson as a popular writer with an original and unique insight into the moral, psychological and cultural ambiguities of the modern world. This is the Stevenson admired by authors like Henry James, Graham Greene and Jorge Luis Borges….

(6) JEMISIN TAKES STOCK OF NYC. N. K. Jemisin was the guest on a New York Times podcast — The Ezra Klein Show: “A Legendary World-Builder on Multiverses, Revolution and the ‘Souls’ of Cities” on Apple Podcasts.

N.K. Jemisin is a fantasy and science-fiction writer who won three consecutive Hugo Awards — considered the highest honor in science-fiction writing — for her “Broken Earth” trilogy; she has since won two more Hugos, as well as other awards. But in imagining wild fictional narratives, the beloved sci-fi and fantasy writer has also cultivated a remarkable view of our all-too-real world. In her fiction, Jemisin crafts worlds that resemble ours but get disrupted by major shocks: ecological disasters, invasions by strange, tentacled creatures and more — all of which operate as thought experiments that can help us think through how human beings could and should respond to similar calamities.

Jemisin’s latest series, which includes “The City We Became” and “The World We Make,” takes place in a recognizable version of New York City — the texture of its streets, the distinct character of its five boroughs — that’s also gripped by strange, magical forces. The series, in addition to being a rollicking read, is essentially a meditation on cities: how they come into being, how their very souls get threatened by forces like systemic racism and astronomical inequality and how their energies and cultures have the power to rescue and save those souls.

I invited Jemisin on the show to help me take stock of the political and cultural ferment behind these distressing conditions — and also to remember the magical qualities of cities, systems and human nature. We discuss why multiverse fictions like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” are so popular now, how the culture and politics of New York and San Francisco have homogenized drastically in recent decades, Jemisin’s views on why a coalition of Black and Latinx voters elected a former cop as New York’s mayor, how gentrification causes change that we may not at first recognize, where to draw the line between imposing order and celebrating the disorder of cities, how Donald Trump kept stealing Jemisin’s ideas but is at the root a “badly written character,” whether we should hold people accountable for their choices or acknowledge the way the status quo shapes our decision-making, what excites Jemisin about recent discoveries about outer space, why she thinks we are all “made of exploding stars” and more.

(7) CINEMA FARAWAY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] I review the 1967 West German Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Snake Pit and the Pendulum at Galactic Journey as part of an overview post about recent movies. The other films covered are Quatermass and the Pit, The Day the Fish Came Out, which I have to admit I’d never heard of before, and Bonnie and Clyde, which is not even remotely SFF, but a film that reviewer Jason Sacks really likes: “[October 18, 1967] We Are The Martians: Quatermass and the Pit, Bonnie and Clyde, The Day the Fish Came Out and The Snake Pit and the Pendulum”.

… Compared to the many horrors of the real world, watching a spooky movie in the theatre feels almost cathartic. And so I decided to get away from the real world by watching the new West German horror movie Die Schlangengrube und das Pendel (The Snake Pit and the Pendulum) at my local cinema….

(8) ICONIC ARTIST. The Goodman Games website has a profile of Flash Gordon artist Alex Raymond: “A Profile of Legendary Illustrator Alex Raymond”.

Few people have influenced American comics as much as Alex Raymond. While “Jungle Jim” and “Rip Carson” [sic – Rip Kirby] may not be household names, Raymond’s most famous creation, Flash Gordon, is so ingrained into American pop culture that simply his name can be used as shorthand for a specific type of heroic, romantic science fiction. Alex Raymond’s career was short, and his death came far too soon, but his art and influence are immortal….

(9) SERIES COMPLETED. The Guardian interviews Malorie Blackman, author of dystopian YA fiction: “Malorie Blackman: ‘Thank God that’s done!’”.

…The sixth and final book in the Noughts & Crosses series, Endgame, came out last year. How do you feel now that’s over?
Mainly: Thank God I lived long enough to finish it! And: Thank God that’s done! OK, to be serious about it, it’s been a hell of a journey, which I’m really grateful for because it’s been 20-odd years. But I really do feel with the end of Endgame that really is it. And anyone who’s read it will know why. If there are more books written in that series, they won’t be by me….

(10) BE YOUR OWN SQUID. Also at the Guardian, Amelia Tait asks why immersive pop culture experiences are booming: “Dance like you’re in Bridgerton, play Squid Game: why are immersive experiences booming?”

…Welcome to the age of immersion. Dinosaurs and DC barely scratch the surface – this  summer also saw the launch of Stranger Things and Tomb Raider “experiences” in London, an I’m A Celebrity Jungle Challenge in Manchester, and an Alice in Wonderland “immersive cocktail experience” in Sheffield.

By September, fans were able to re-enact Netflix’s Squid Game at Immersive Gamebox venues in London, Essex and Manchester. In the coming weeks, London will also host an experience based on the horror franchise Saw, while Cheshire will see thousands visit Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience. And that’s without mentioning the boom in immersive art experiences, the most recent of which – Frameless – has just opened in central London….

(11) HAUNTED TRACKS. The Cromcast have launched their annual “Cromtober” event of reviewing spooky works in October. This time around, they discuss The Twilight Zone episode “A Stop at Willoughby”: “Episode 1: Get on the Ghost Train and Head to Willoughby”.

…For our first episode, we focus most of our discussion on the class Twilight Zone episode “A Stop at Willoughby” where our protagonist “Mr. Gart Williams, an ad agency exec, who in just a moment, will move into the Twilight Zone—in a desperate search for survival.”

Beyond our stop in the Twilight Zone, we also discuss why trains are kind of scary and the different things they symbols in folklore and ghost stories. Last but not least, let’s learn about President Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost TrainHop aboard, won’t you? …

(12) JIM MCDIVITT (1929-2022) Former astronaut Jim McDivitt, who played key roles in making America’s first spacewalk and moon landing possible, died October 17 at the age of 93. NPR paid tribute:

…In 1962, McDivitt was selected by NASA to become an astronaut. He was chosen to pilot Gemini 4 — becoming the first-ever NASA rookie to command a mission.

Considered NASA’s most ambitious flight at the time in 1965, the Gemini 4 mission was the first time the U.S. performed a spacewalk and the longest that a U.S. spaceflight had remained in Earth’s orbit: 4 days.

Four years later, McDivitt commanded Apollo 9 — a 10-day shakeout mission orbiting the Earth in March 1969 that involved testing the lunar landing spacecraft. It paved the way for NASA to successfully land humans on the moon four months later in July 1969.

Apollo 9 was his last trip to space. Despite his instrumental role in propelling NASA’s moon landing, McDivitt himself never reached the moon. Francis French, a spaceflight historian, said McDivitt chose not to command a moon landing mission and decided to take on a management role….

… McDivitt became manager of Lunar Landing Operations in May 1969, and in August of that year became manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program. He was the program manager for Apollo missions 12-16….

(13) MEMORY LANE.

2005 [By Cat Eldridge.] Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars (2005)

Once upon a time, a beloved SF series got cancelled, and yes there is absolutely nothing unusual in that happening, it happens more often than it should. What is extremely unusual is that it got a second chance to have a proper ending in the Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars seventeen years ago. 

So let’s tell the tale of how that happened. Farscape arrived here twenty-three ago when Deep Space Nine was just wrapping up and Voyager was well into its seven year run. It started fine and ratings were strong until the fourth season and that, combined with regime change here in the States on who was picking up the tab for the two million dollars per episode led it to end abruptly. 

Fans being fans weren’t going to let things end that way, nor should we. (Yes I loved the show. Deeply, unreservedly. I think it was one of the best series ever made, if not the best.) A massive campaign was undertaken with of course emails,  letters, phone calls, and phone calls pleading with the network to reverse the cancellation. 

Even Bill Amend who created the Fox Trot series had his Jason Fox character direct his ire at SciFi and demand that they change their mind.

Well they did, sort of. A fifth season didn’t happen after all. What did happen in some ways I think was even better though I know that isn’t a popular opinion among those who wanted a full season. 

What we got was the two episode, one hundred and eighty minute Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars which I thought splendidly wrapped things up. Every single storyline that wasn’t dealt with during the series was during this film.

SPOLER ALERT HERE.

We got a baby too. Yes, our Peacekeeper gives birth in a fountain in the middle of a firefight, insists she’s married while in labor, carries her baby unscathed through a battle. I assume that the baby was a puppet from the Henson labs. It was terribly cute.

END OF SPOILERS

I’ve watched it at least a half dozen times, probably more, in the last fifteen years. The Suck Fairy in her steel toed boots is obviously scared of those Aussie actors (and the non Aussie one as well) as she slinks away to harass someone else. 

Just looked at Rotten Tomatoes — not at all surprisingly, it carries a ninety-two percent rating among audience reviewers there. It’s streaming at Amazon Prime.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 18, 1934 Inger Stevens. She’s here for two appearances on The Twilight Zone. She had the lead as Nan Adams “The Hitch-Hiker” and she was again the lead, Jana, as the sensitive daughter of a creative genius in “The Late of The Hour”. Her only other genre credit was as Sarah Crandall in the post nuclear Holocaust film The World, the Flesh and the Devil. The coroner ruled her 1970 death a suicide. (Died 1970.)
  • Born October 18, 1938 Barbara Baldavin. She was a recurring performer on Trek first as Angela Martine in “Balance of Terror” and “Shore Leave”.  She would also appear in the final season’s “Turnabout Intruder” as communications officer Lisa.  After that, she had one-offs on Fantasy Island and The Bionic Woman. She retired from the business in 1993.
  • Born October 18, 1948 Dawn Wells. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided was genre.. She had genre one-offs on The InvadersWild Wild West and Alf. (Died 2020.)
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 76. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, was published in 2014. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great. 
  • Born October 18, 1951 Jeff Schalles, 71. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
  • Born October 18, 1952 Pam Dawber, 71. Mindy McConnell in Mork & Mindy. She did very little other genre work, such as Faerie Tale Theatre and the Twilight Zone. She was however in The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything as Bonny Lee Beaumont which is based off the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name. Go watch it — it’s brilliant! 
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 58 . I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series. Other favorite works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels. 

(15) FIGURES DON’T LIE. Cora Buhlert posted another “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre” photo story. This one is called “Fake Out”.

(16) SCI-FI BREAD. It turns out that the “Pan Solo” linked here the other day was only the latest genre baking stunt from this Benecia, CA bakery. The New York Times gets the goods: “Bakery Creates ‘Pan Solo,’ a 6-Foot Replica of ‘Star Wars’ Hero Made of Bread”.

…In 2018, the year they opened the family bakery, they made Game of Scones, featuring a White Walker made of bread, next to an iron throne of baguettes.

Encouraged by the positive response from the public, in 2020 they made the “Pain-dough-lorian,” clad in armor made of bread, “Baby Dough-Da” clothed in bread and “floating” in mixing bowls, and “the Pandroid,” made of pans and kitchen tools, all inspired by the television series “The Mandalorian.”

Last year, they created “Dough-ki,” a menacing alligator made of bread, with sharp teeth and curved horns, modeled after “Alligator Loki,” a creature on the Marvel television series “Loki,” starring Tom Hiddleston…..

(17) MERMAN FOR HIRE. The Los Angeles Times takes readers “Inside Southern California’s subculture of mermaid enthusiasts”.

…Laflin squirmed and flailed around on the floor for 45 minutes that first time. When he could finally sit up, he looked down his torso to inspect himself. Half fish, half man, it was a transformation that turned out to be life-altering.

Ten years after he first tried on the set piece in his apartment, Laflin, 40, is a full-time merman, part of a hub of mermaid enthusiasts in Southern California who inhabit personas that express everything from a yearning for childhood play and entertainment to environmental advocacy and gender identity. Going by the stage name “Merman Jax,” he runs a business that he christened Dark Tide Productions, which employs a team of about 10 men and women who perform at events such as birthday parties, corporate galas, and Renaissance fairs, sometimes in water, sometimes posing by a pool or the entrance of an event.

Mermaids tend to be more in demand, Laflin says, because most clients prefer to go with a performer who is female-presenting. But he loves the moments when he is swimming in a tank or lounging poolsidebecause of the sense of wonder it can inspire….

(18) THE MASKED HYMIE. “You probably forgot that Dick Gautier once filled in briefly as Batman” – let MeTV remind you.

In 1971, Adam West was done being Batman.

“I knew it was going to be hard to live down such a strong identification,” West told a TV columnist syndicated in The Newspaper Enterprise Association that year. “But it’s been even harder than I anticipated. And today the series is being widely rerun, so I’m still identified with Batman.”

This was three years past the series end, but the action series maintained a wide fan base, and that year, an idea was floated to use the popular characters of Batgirl, Batman, and Robin to run a public service announcement raising awareness for a movement to secure equal pay for women.

In the PSA, Batman and Robin are tied up, and Batgirl appears.

“Untie us before it’s too late,” Batman commands Batgirl.

“It’s already too late,” Batgirl retorts, refusing to set them free until Batman agrees to give her a raise. “I’ve worked for you a long time, and I’m paid less than Robin!”

The PSA was promoting awareness of the federal equal pay law, and it ends with a cliffhanger to tune in tomorrow to find out if Batman does his duty and gives Batgirl what she’s owed.

West refused to do this PSA, not because of politics, but because he just didn’t want to be Batman anymore….

(19) DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO: ONE REVIWER’S TAKE. “’Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’ Review: The Fantasy Master’s Distinctive Stop-Motion Take on the Old Story Carves Out Its Own Way” at Yahoo!

The possessive claim in the title “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is a gutsy one. There’s confidence — some would even say arrogance — in filming an oft-told story at least as old as the hills, and suddenly branding it as your own: Even two auteurs as ballsy as Francis Ford Coppola and Baz Luhrmann didn’t slap their own names on “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet,” respectively. Still, you can hardly blame del Toro’s stop-motion spin on Carlo Collodi’s 19th-century chestnut “The Adventures of Pinocchio” for wanting to advertise its distinguishing vision up top: After umpteen tellings of the wooden-boy tale, and coming on the heels of Robert Zemeckis’ wretched Disney remake, Netflix’s rival adaptation has to announce itself as something different. That it is; it’s often delightful too….

(20) THESE ARE THE MENUS OF THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE. “The New ‘Star Trek’ Cookbook Reveals the Challenges in Recreating Trek Food” reports Rachel P. Kreiter at Eater, who finds that making food green isn’t enough.

The Star Trek Cookbook is lightly bound by the conceit that Monroe-Cassel is a “gastrodiplomat” lecturing Starfleet cadets about how to further the Federation’s exploratory and expansionist goals through sharing a meal with representatives of other planets. The dishes themselves are all references I could ID from a lifetime of consuming Star Trek, but each dish’s franchise origin is noted. The book is organized by dish type, and not Star Trek series, era, or culture. In theory this makes it more usable for its intended purpose, that is, making and eating the food. This is (ugh) logical for a cookbook, and some of the recipes in here are good. Cardassian Regova eggs, for example: I boiled them, cracked the shells, and submerged them in dye diluted in water until they emerged a pretty, webby green. Spiked with some frilly bits of lettuce they looked striking; maybe I’d serve them at a Halloween party. They were also okay devilled eggs, and I learned a new trick: that you can slice off the tops and prepare them vertically.

But they’re also just devilled hen eggs, and nothing in the filling (yogurt, red pepper, garlic) makes them anything other than superficially a little weird. Everything about how the food looks — the plating, the reliance on dyes, the lightly modernist approach — broadcasts alienness, in a sci-fi aesthetic way. But making a traditionally structured cookbook with solid recipes for kinda odd-seeming food falls short of this project’s full potential, since nobody is going to a Star Trek cookbook first and foremost because it’s a cookbook…

(21) AI ART GENERATION. Camestros Felapton reviews one of the early books about the new AI art-creating systems, by a name that will be familiar to some of you: “Review: An Illustrated Guide to AI Prompt Mastery by Jack Wylder”.

…If the name sounds familiar, Jack Wylder does a lot of work with Larry Correia including producing Correia’s podcast. He’s recently produced a book which, unsurprisingly was promoted in former Puppy circles. That’s where I saw it but my interest wasn’t the connection to that particular circle of authors. Rather, I’ve been interested to see how independently published authors would start engaging with machine-learning art generation systems such as Midjourney and Dall-e for producing book covers.

An Illustrated Guide to AI Prompt Mastery attempts a system-agnostic approach to prompts. It doesn’t suggest a given system or discuss the syntax differences between systems. That is a sensible choice given that new systems are appearing regularly and the details of the syntax are better covered in their own documentation. The downside is that if you are expecting a kind of plug-and-play manual to AI-art syntax you’ll be disappointed….

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Overwatch 2,” Fandom Games says this comes from Blizzard, which “delivers controversies faster than new titles,” as development of the game led to a lot of the staff quitting and the company releasing a bug-ridden game that included times where 40,000 people were in front of you to play.  Overwatch 2 is  for “people who fear change so much that you want sequels that are five percent different than the last title,”  and that Blizzard should have fixed the bugs in Overwatch rather than come out with a “new” line extension.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/21/22 The Upside Down

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

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers, Halo” the Screen Junkies say that Microsoft has been trying to develop Halo as a movie or TV series for 20 years (Ridley Scott and Neill Blomkamp were attached to the project so it’s a bad sign the show has landed at Paramount Plus. The show features three battle scenes in nine hours, one character who runs the only “libertarian paradise” with a churro stand, and “a girl with a backstory as tragic as her haircut.”  The narrator suggests that gamers may find more entertainment playing Halo than watching this plodding series.

(16) A HAMMER FILM. Gizmodo declares “Thor Love and Thunder Footage Is Pure Marvel Studios Excitement”.

This new featurette for Thor: Love and Thunder is more exciting than all of its trailers combined. Which is saying something: the trailers for Taika Waititi’s latest, starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, and Christian Bale, have been excellent. There’s just something about seeing all that footage cut with the actors and filmmaker gushing over it that gives a whole new level of energy….

(15) NAPTIME FOR VOYAGER. “NASA is starting to shut down the Voyager probes, which launched in 1977 and made it deeper into space than anything since”: Yahoo! has the story.

The epic interstellar journeys of NASA’s acclaimed Voyager probes are due to come to an end as the agency starts switching off their systems, Scientific American reported.

The probes launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration ever since. They’re farther away from Earth than any other man-made object, a record that will likely stay unbroken for decades.

The decision to reduce power on the probes is meant to extend their life span a few more years and take them to about 2030, Scientific American said….

…The instrument’s hardwired electronics have survived the test of time remarkably well, in spite of its age.

The primitive computers onboard the probes don’t require much power. All of the data collected by the instruments on Voyager is stored on an eight-track tape recorder and sent to earth using a machine that uses up about as much power as a refrigerator light bulb, Scientific American said.

They have “less memory than the key fob that opens your car door,” Spilker said.

(14) GLUE GUY. Joe Moe holds forth on “The Importance of Building Monster Models!” for Heritage Auctions.

…Amidst the deluxe monster masks, 8mm film reels, books, magazines, and other horror novelties, there lurked the coveted monster models. These cast-plastic, puzzle figures came in a cardboard box with a glorious full-color lid featuring a vivid image (painted by the brilliant James Bama) of your favorite movie monster, which we’d ultimately use as our paint master. Once newspapers were spread across the kitchen table, the tight-fitting lid would vibrate and practically hum as we pried it off the box bottom to reveal, first, the industrial perfume of fresh plastic. Next, we’d regard all the split, hollow pieces of our particular creature, suspended in a plastic spider’s web matrix of flashing that we would twist each model piece free of as carefully as you’d extract a loose, wiggling baby tooth. Once the pieces were laid out, we’d unfold the graphic instructions, which weren’t needed, but served to get you even more excited about the finished masterpiece you were about to assemble and paint. Unlike other collectibles you could buy, once you’d finished painting and detailing, your monster model would be a one-of-a-kind display piece – unique from anyone else’s…. 

(13) ONE TOKEN OVER THE LINE. Archie McPhee expects the people who like their catalog will want to play “Go Go Gargoyle! The Game”.

The Horrible Horseman has defeated the gargoyles that defended Crowning Castle and thrown everything into chaos. A new batch of baby gargoyles has been birthed from the fire demon to retake the castle and protect it from future attacks. These gargoyles have got to save the kingdom! This simple game takes you through a magical kingdom full of ghosts, cryptids and grumpy wizards. Includes a fantastic detail-filled game board, four 1-1/8″ tall gargoyle tokens and 54 standard-sized, 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ illustrated cards.

(12) BRITISH TV NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Gabriel Tate discusses “The Lazarus Project,” which premiered on Sky Max and NOW in Britain on June 16.

The series begins on July 1,with George (Paapa Essiedu) waking up to his partner, Sarah (Charly Clive).  Later that day, he secures funding for his start-up app.  In the months that follow, Sarah becomes pregnant and the couple marry before the escalating pandemic puts everything off-beam.  Then one day George wakes up and finds it is again that same July 1. Everyone else seems oblivious…

…The field of time-loop-based fiction is a crowded one, from Groundhog Day and Source Code to Looper, among others. Yet while its predecessors have used the premise as a technical exercise, an excuse for action-packed thrills or a vehicle for humour, an eight-episode run allows “The Lazarus Project” to delve more deeply into moral considerations.  What could be a slightly silly show with good gags and terrific stuntwork becomes something else, asking serious questions about a modern world that feels increasingly out of control.  Who wouldn’t want to take hold of the tiller?

(11)  THEY PUT THINGS IN OUR EARS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] As an sff fan you might be forgiven for thinking that NextSense was founded by a bunch of zombie Ferengis. They are, after all, obsessed with ears—but what they’re really interested in is brains. “This Startup Wants to Get in Your Ears and Watch Your Brain” at WIRED.

… For years, people have been shifting from tracking their health through sporadic visits to a doctor or lab to regularly monitoring their vitals themselves. The NextSense team is gambling that, with a gadget as familiar as an earbud, people will follow the same path with their brains. Then, with legions of folks wearing the buds for hours, days, and weeks on end, the company’s scientists hope they’ll amass an incredible data trove, in which they’ll uncover the hidden patterns of mental health.

For now, that’s the stuff of dreams. What’s real is that on one day in 2019, a patient tucked a bud into each ear, fell asleep, and proceeded to astound NextSense’s scientists—by churning out brain waves that showed exactly how this product could save a person’s life.

Jonathan Berent is the CEO of NextSense. On a recent evening, the 48-year-old was talking like a podcast at 1.5 speed while we waited for our entrées on the patio of an Italian restaurant in Mountain View, California. The subject of his filibuster was how he’d gotten into brain health. His obsession wasn’t ears or wellness; it was sleep….

(10) “EVERYTHING IS SEEN IN CHINA”. “US TikTok User Data Has Been Repeatedly Accessed From China, Leaked Audio Shows” reports BuzzFeed News.

For years, TikTok has responded to data privacy concerns by promising that information gathered about users in the United States is stored in the United States, rather than China, where ByteDance, the video platform’s parent company, is located. But according to leaked audio from more than 80 internal TikTok meetings, China-based employees of ByteDance have repeatedly accessed nonpublic data about US TikTok users — exactly the type of behavior that inspired former president Donald Trump to threaten to ban the app in the United States….

Adweek carried the corporation’s denial: “TikTok Looks to Counter Report That US User Data Was Repeatedly Accessed in China”.

…TikTok fired back, asserting that no user data was shared in China, but the Trump administration kept applying pressure. No action was taken during the remainder of his term, however.

Calamug stressed in his blog post that TikTok’s data center in Virginia “includes physical and logical safety controls such as gated entry points, firewalls and intrusion detection technologies,” adding that the Singapore data center served as a backup….

TechCrunch says the company is trying to restore confidence: “TikTok moves all US traffic to Oracle servers, amid new claims user data was accessed from China”.

TikTok said on Friday it is moving U.S. users’ data to Oracle servers stored in the United States. Overshadowing its migration announcement was a damning report that followed, claiming that TikTok staff in China had access to its U.S. users’ data as recently as this January.

The report from BuzzFeed News, which cites recordings from 80 TikTok internal meetings it obtained, claims that U.S. employees of TikTok repeatedly consulted with their colleagues in China to understand how U.S. user data flowed because they did not have the “permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own.”

“Everything is seen in China,” the report said, quoting an unnamed member of TikTok’s Trust and Safety department as saying in a September 2021 meeting….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1969 — Christa Faust, 53. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one novel with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final DestinationFriday the ThirteenthFringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes.  Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 — Steve Niles, 57. Writer best  known for works such as 30 Days of NightCriminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 — David Morrissey, 58. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest of seeing as I don’t do zombies) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m not at all ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve listened the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1957 — Berkeley Breathed, 65. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is explicitly genre as they are fantastic creatures. And he contributed three cartoons to the ConFederation program book.
  • Born June 21, 1952 — David J. Skal, 70. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of items in his CV with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1947 — Michael Gross, 75. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well armed and very paranoid graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (based on the Niven story I assume) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters.
  • Born June 21, 1940 — Mariette Hartley, 82. She’s remembered by us for the classic Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays”, though, as OGH noted in an earlier Scroll, probably best known to the public for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner. She also had a role as psychologist Dr. Carolyn Fields in “Married”, an episode of The Incredible Hulk. 
  • Born June 21, 1938 — Ron Ely, 84. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  Other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY

1991 [By Cat Eldridge.] There are some films that I just like without reservation. One of these is The Rocketeer that premiered on this date thirty-one years ago. I’ve seen this one at least three or four times. It’s proof that the Disney can actually be creative unlike the Marvel films which have all the weakness of a franchise undertaking. (End of rant.) 

It was directed by Joe Johnston whose only previous genre film was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and produced by a committee of Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon and Lloyd Levin. None had done anything that suggested they’d be up to this level of excellence. (Yes, my bias is showing.) The script was by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo who did the most excellent Trancers. Bilson wrote the story along with Paul De Meo and William Dear.

Now the source material was the stellar Rocketeer graphic novel series that the late Dave Steven was responsible for. If you’ve not read it, why not? It’s a Meredith moment at the usual suspects at a mere six dollars.  

The cast of Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Sorvino and Timothy Dalton was just damn perfect. And there wasn’t anything the film from the design of Rocketeer outfit itself to the creation of the Nazi Zeppelin which was a thirty-two-foot-long model that isn’t spot on. Cool, very cool. The visual effects were designed and done by George Lucas’ ILM. 

Disney being Disney never did actually release an actual production budget but Variety figured that it cost at least forty million, if not much more. It certainly didn’t make much as it only grossed forty seven million at the very best. 

So what did critics at the time think of this stellar film? Well, Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times liked it: “The movie lacks the wit and self-mocking irony of the Indiana Jones movies, and instead seems like a throwback to the simple-minded, clean-cut sensibility of a less complicated time.” And Pete Travers of the Rolling Stone was equally upbeat: “But then the film is awash in all kinds of surprises that are too juicy to reveal. The Rocketeer is more than one of the best films of the summer; it’s the kind of movie magic that we don’t see much anymore — the kind that charms us, rather than bullying us, into suspending disbelief.” 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent sixty-five rating. 

(7)  TODAY’S PHRASEOLOGY QUESTION. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From the subject line of a press release I just got: “Eleven Madison Park went vegan. Then chaos unfolded.”

This is not, I think, intended as an SFnal reference, so, not a nod to Joanna Russ (And Chaos Died), David Gerrold (The Man Who Folded Himself), etc.

A quick web search shows that, much to my surprise, “unfolding chaos,” “chaos unfolding,” etc. this is a relatively common phrase/image, everywhere from economic to political news coverage, not to mention a company name, a poetry anthology (and no doubt, although I did not check, a magic trick).

I guess my questions include:

  • “Did it start as folded chaos?”
  • “If so, who/how folded it?”
  • “Can unfolded chaos be folded back again?”
  • “Is unfolded chaos bigger than folded chaos?”
  • “What did somebody roll to get this?”

(6) THINKING DEEPER. “Robotics expert Robin Murphy explains why ‘Star Wars’ robots don’t reflect reality” at Space.com.

Space.com: What are your particular associations with “Star Wars” and early gateway into science fiction?

Murphy: For the first book I read that wasn’t like a McGuffey Reader or “See Dick and Jane” stuff, I had snuck in and got my dad’s copy of “The Green Hills of Earth” anthology, by Robert Heinlein. It was game on! I consider myself, to this day, a Heinlein babe. The first story in that book is “Delilah and the Space Rigger,” about a space station under construction. [G.] Brooks McNye, the female electrical engineer in the story, was mouthy and guys might push on her, but she just pushed right back and kept going. And that’s pretty much been my career.

I stood in line to see “Star Wars” the second week it was out back in 1977, when it became the phenomenon. Then, years later, I saw Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” and thought, “Ah-ha!” and realized all the similarities, especially with “Star Wars'” two sidekick droids….

Space.com: If you had the keys to the “Star Wars” kingdom, what would you change in its depiction of robots? Or does it not matter to audiences?

Murphy: I don’t think it matters for entertainment purposes. But there’s one thing that I think is really inconsistent that would be interesting to try and figure out. In “The Mandalorian,” the insect-looking droid, Zero, tells Mando that it decided to join a criminal gang. How did it decide that? How does that work? Because C-3PO and R2-D2 were owned, and they just decided that they’re suddenly not owned by people anymore. Then, you’ve got the whole thing with IG-11. He’s constantly threatening to self-destruct, which could potentially kill or maim innocent bystanders. 

That self-destruct sequence is hard-coded by the manufacturers to protect their intellectual property, but they’d be liable for all that collateral damage. If they looked a little more consistently about the rules of when can a droid be free, when can it be its own agent and who built it, that would help. What are the legal and ethical liabilities associated with them?

(5) STRANGER THINGS. Entertainment Weekly warns us: Stranger Things 4 trailer teases possible fatalities in two-part finale: ‘Your friends have lost'”.

Queue up the Kate Bush because things are not looking good for our pals in Hawkins.

The full-length trailer for Stranger Things season 4’s two-episode finale comes with a warning: “It might not work out for us this time.” That can’t be good.

Adding to the ominous vibe of the teaser is Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower). “It’s over. Now I just want you to watch,” he says. The psychic demo-creature then tells Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown): “Your friends have lost.”

It’s the penultimate season and Netflix split the last two episodes into their own Volume 2, releasing on July 1. Together they run nearly four hours, so basically they are two back-to-back Stranger Things movies. It’s clear the stakes are high. Might someone — or several someones — not make it out alive? (You know, for real this time.)…

(4) AMBITIOUS PROJECT. African sff writers will create “The Sauúti Fictional World: A Partnership Between Syllble and Brittle Paper “.

Once every generation, there are defining events that reshape the landscape of the speculative fiction literary realm, this time ten African science fiction and fantasy authors from five African nations have gathered over the past few months of this year to bring to life a new and intricate fictional world called Sauúti

Born out of a partnership between Syllble, a sci-fi and fantasy production house based in Los Angeles that produces fictional worlds, and Brittle Paper Magazine, The Sauúti Collective has produced a unique science-fantasy world for and by Africans and the African Diaspora. 

… It all began after Dr. Ainehi Edoro, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Brittle Paper, Wole Talabi, Nigerian author and Editor of Africanfuturism: An Anthology, and I met to discuss what this collaboration could look like and the importance of bringing African voices together. Wole, now a Syllble Brain Trust member, has been facilitating the collaborative sessions between these nine creative minds leading to the creation of the Sauúti Universe.

Sauúti is taken from the word “Sauti” which means “voice” in Swahili. This world is a five-planet system orbiting a binary star. This world is rooted deeply in a variety of African mythology, language, and culture. Sauúti weaves in an intricate magic system based on sound, oral traditions and music. It includes science-fiction elements of artificial intelligence and space flight, including both humanoid and non-humanoid creatures. Sauúti is filled with wonder, mystery and magic….

In addition to Wole Talabi, the members are Kalejaye Akintoba, Eugen Bacon, Stephen Embleton, Dare Segun Falowo, Adelehin Ijasan, Cheryl Ntumy, Ikechukwu Nwaogu, Xan van Rooyen, and Jude Umeh. Each participant does a Q&A as part of the announcement here.

(3) 1932: A VERY GOOD YEAR FOR HOWARD FANS. The Cromcast shares another recording of a Howard Days panel on REH in 1932, which was a landmark year for him (among other things, he created Conan): “Howard Days 2022 – Part 2 – Robert E. Howard in 1932!”

The panelists discuss the 90th Anniversaries of Conan, Worms of the Earth, the poem “Cimmeria” plus other notable REH events in 1932. Panelists include Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Deuce Richardson, and Paul Sammon. The panel is moderated by Bobby Derie.

(2) PEN PINTER PRIZE. Malorie Blackman, author of the Noughts and Crosses dystopian YA series, has won the 2022 PEN Pinter Prize reports the Guardian.

Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman has become the first children’s and YA writer to be awarded the PEN Pinter prize.

The prize is given by English PEN annually to a writer of “outstanding literary merit” who is based in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. The recipient must also, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel prize, cast an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze on the world and show a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”.

Blackman said she was “incredibly honoured” to get the award, and said she was sure she would not be the last children’s and YA author to win the prize, as many “fearless” authors were writing for young people and “tackling complex issues in an entertaining, informative, and understandable way”.

… Blackman will receive the Pinter prize in a ceremony in October, where she will deliver an address. The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage, who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. Blackman will choose that winner from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The author said she was grateful to be given the chance to pick the writer of courage. “Such authors who seek to write their truth in spite of often intractable opposition define the word courage,” she said….

(1) IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, LETHEM THINKS IT’S TIME YOU MET HIM. “An Introduction to Stanislaw Lem, the Great Polish Sci-Fi Writer, by Jonathan Lethem” at Open Culture.

…Represented best in the pages of Astounding Stories and other sci-fi pulps, hard sci-fi “advertises consumer goods like personal robots and flying cars. It valorizes space travel that culminates in successful, if difficult, contact with the alien life assumed to be strewn throughout the galaxies.” The genre also became tied to “American exceptionalist ideology, technocratic triumphalism, manifest destiny” and “libertarian survivalist bullshit,” says Lethem.

Lem had no use for these attitudes. In his guise as a critic and reviewer he wrote, “the scientific ignorance of most American science-fiction writers was as inexplicable as the abominable literary quality of their output.” He admired the English H.G. Wells, comparing him to the inventor of chess, and American Philip K. Dick, whom he called a “visionary among charlatans.” But Lem hated most hard sci-fi, though he himself, says Lethem, was a hard sci-fi writer “with visionary gifts and inexhaustible diligence when it came to the task of extrapolation.”…

Pixel Scroll 9/11/21 TribblePlusUnGood

(1) THE BRONZE TROUSERS. “’Cheese!’: Bronze statue of iconic duo Wallace and Gromit unveiled in Preston by creator Nick Park” reports ITV News Granada.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park unveils the new statue in Preston. Photo credit: PA

A large bronze statue of the iconic, cheese-loving duo Wallace and Gromit has been unveiled in Lancashire.

The bench sculpture is based on the inventor and his loyal pooch as they appeared in short-film ‘The Wrong Trousers’, and now sits pride of place outside Preston Markets.

(2) WORDSMITH. John Scalzi celebrates “30 Years of Being a Professional Writer” with a not-very- shocking admission:

…Thirty years on I do not have the writing career I thought I would have when I started out. I’ve said this before and I think people disbelieve me, but: I had no intention of being a novelist, or, at the very least, I assumed that if I were to write novels, that they would be a nice occasional side hustle. What I hoped for at the time — and what I assumed would be the case — is that I would write for newspapers all my life. The gig at the Fresno Bee would lead to gigs at other newspapers, and eventually I would land up at the New York Times/Washington Post/Los Angeles Times/Chicago Tribune as a daily columnist, riffing off local and world events like idols such as Mike Royko or Molly Ivins. Twenty-two-year-old me fully expected an entire career of daily deadlines and 800-word bursts of opinion.

And, I’m not going to lie, part of me is sad I didn’t get that life. Not too sad, because, well. Hello, welcome to Whatever, which I have been writing at for twenty-three years come Monday…. 

(3) NOUGHTS & CROSSES AUTHOR. Guardian reporter Sian Cain interviews YA SFF writer Malorie Blackman: “‘Hope is the spark’”.

…The last 18 months, however, have been a significant challenge. Having been classed as extremely vulnerable due to a health condition, Blackman has been isolating for most of the pandemic – and it is clear that, as she puts it, she “loves a chat”. “It has been a very strange time,” she says. “I was getting government letters saying: ‘Don’t go out.’ I was trying to live as normal a life as possible, knowing full well it was extraordinary circumstances. But you do what you can, so I focused on my writing. Endgame was a good thing because it felt like I was doing something. I wasn’t saving lives, but I was doing something.

What she was doing is probably the hardest thing an author can do: writing the ending. After 20 years, six books and three novellas, Noughts & Crosses, Blackman’s most famous series, is finished. It is set in Albion, an alternative Britain that was colonised by Africa, where the black population call themselves Crosses (as they are closer to God), while the white are Noughts (poorer, institutionally discriminated against)….

(4) IT’S TIME TO BE SIMULTANEOUS. The good folks at Space Cowboy Books have released Simultaneous Times, Vol. 2.5, a free ebook anthology of stories featured at the Simultaneous Times podcast. One of them is by Cora Buhlert. Here is a book trailer for the anthology: 

(5) KRUGMAN, PALMER & WALTON. CUNY will host “Imagining the Future: Economics and Science Fiction” on November 10 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Register for Zoom webinar access at the link.

What do economics and science fiction have in common? Much in the way economists forecast the results of social and economic structures, science-fiction writers envision future civilizations, both utopian and dystopian, through systematic world-building. Paul Krugman, distinguished professor of economics at the CUNY Graduate Center, joins in a conversation about the connection between the social sciences and fantasy fiction, and how they often inspire each other. Featuring: Ada Palmer, author of the Terra Ignota series and associate professor of history at the University of Chicago; Jo Walton, whose many books include Tooth and Claw, Ha’Penney, and the recent Or What You Will; and others.

(6) FRAMING TOOL. Maybe an algorithm will help make that blank screen less empty: “New tool could help authors bust writer’s block in novel-length works” reports Penn State News.

… Researchers at the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology recently introduced a new technology that forecasts the future development of an ongoing written story. In their approach, researchers first characterize the narrative world using over 1,000 different “semantic frames,” where each frame represents a cluster of concepts and related knowledge. A predictive algorithm then looks at the preceding story and predicts the semantic frames that might occur in the next 10, 100, or even 1,000 sentences in an ongoing story….

The researchers’ framework, called semantic frame forecast, breaks a long narrative down into a sequence of text blocks with each containing a fixed number of sentences. The frequency of the occurrence of each semantic frame is then calculated. Then, the text is converted to a vector — numerical data understood by a machine — where each dimension denotes the frequency of one frame. It is then computed to quantify the number of times a semantic frame appears and signifies its importance. Finally, the model inputs a fixed number of text blocks and predicts the semantic frame for the forthcoming block.

…Authors could use the tool by feeding a part of their already-written text into the system to generate a set of word clouds with suggested nouns, verbs and adjectives to inspire them when crafting the next part of their story.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this date, Wonder Woman put away her lasso for the last time as her series came to end after three seasons. The show’s first season aired under the name of Wonder Woman on ABC and is set in the 1940s, during World War II. The last two seasons aired on CBS and was set in the then-current day late Seventies, with the title changed to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman. It starred Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman / Diana Prince and Lyle Waggoner as Steve Trevor Sr. There would be fifty-nine episodes and a movie before it ended. Currently you can find it on HBO Max along with everything Wonder Woman that Warner Media has done. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent eighty percent rating.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 11, 1934 — Ian Abercrombie. He played a most excellent and proper Alfred Pennyworth on the terribly well done Birds of Prey, a certain Professor Crumbs in Wizards of Waverly Place, he was Wiseman in Army of Darkness andvoiced Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 11, 1940 — Brian De Palma, 81. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well.
  • Born September 11, 1941 — Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 11, 1948 — Michael Sacks, 73. He’s best remembered as Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five. Given how short his film career was, as it lasted but little over a decade, that’s no surprise. His only other genre role was as Jeff in The Amityville Horror. He’s now in the financial services sector. 
  • Born September 11, 1951 — Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh, Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels in that series and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with the assistance of co-writer Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately like so many of these guides, it was done once part way through the series and never updated. 
  • Born September 11, 1952 — Sharon Lee, 69. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for significant contribution to SF in the spirit of the writer E.E. “Doc” Smith, and they won The Golden Duck, the Hal Clement Young Adult Award, for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born September 11, 1958 — Roxann Dawson, 63. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. Oh and she popped up once on the Seven Days series. She’s long since retired from acting. 
  • Born September 11, 1965 — Cat Sparks, 56. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction.” She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 

(9) NEAR TO THE MADDING CROWD. The DickHeads Podcast – so-called for their interest in Philip K. Dick – makes a side excursion to discuss someone who once gave an opinion about a PKD story: “Judith Merril Roundtable”.

Dick Adjacent is back. And it’s a good one too. The story goes that after David finished reading some of Judith Merril’s stories, he found a scathing review she wrote of PKD’s story Roog, and with that connection made, it seemed only appropriate to gather a panel of experts together and discuss her place in the science fiction universe. Considered a feminist force, she had to bully her way through a male-dominated business to make her voice heard. Incredible person. Incredible story. And a truly accredited panel. So listen in on David, Lisa Yazek, Gideon Marcus, Ritchie Calvin, and Kathryn Heffner as they discuss the legacy of Judith Merril.

(10) FLICKS BY THE BRIDGE. The Brooklyn SciFi Film Festival is back for 2021 with 160 sff films from 18 countries. All film selections will be available to stream online September 20-26 with live, in-person screenings to be held in Brooklyn at the Wythe Hotel Screening Room on September 25. Tickets available here. Special recognition in eight categories will be awarded by a panel of jurors and industry professionals on September 25.

This year, the BSFFF will feature all-new exclusive online events, screening parties, and filmmaker commentary. Another addition is the “The Future Sounds of Brooklyn,” which is a compilation of SciFi-inspired music from musicians across the globe. The popular  The Sixth Borough, a curated, BSFFF-developed series, which presents three fantastic science fiction short films united by a common theme each day of the festival, will return for the second year.

(11) A DIFFERENT WAY. Sebastien de Castell’s new YA fantasy Way Of The Argosi is pitched as “The Alchemist meets The Three Musketeers — with card tricks.”

A merciless band of mages murdered her parents, massacred her tribe and branded her with mystical sigils that left her a reviled outcast. They should have killed her instead.

Stealing, swindling, and gambling with her own life just to survive, Ferius will risk anything to avenge herself on the zealous young mage who haunts her every waking hour. But then she meets the incomparable Durral Brown, a wandering philosopher gifted in the arts of violence who instead overcomes his opponents with shrewdness and compassion. Does this charismatic and infuriating man hold the key to defeating her enemies, or will he lead her down a path that will destroy her very soul?

Through this outstanding tale of swashbuckling action, magical intrigue and dazzling wit, follow Ferius along the Way of the Argosi and enter a world of magic and mystery unlike any other.

(12) SAY AGAIN? [Item by David Doering.] Just the thing for the WSFS Business Meeting:

— Which the US Navy is also working on: “A New Navy Weapon Actually Stops You From Talking”. Like having that annoying kid who keeps repeating everything you say…on-demand!

The U.S. Navy has successfully invented a special electronic device that is designed to stop people from talking. A form of non-lethal weapon, the new electronic device effectively repeats a speaker’s own voice back at them, and only them, while they attempt to talk. 

It was developed, and patented back in 2019 but has only recently been discovered, according to a report by the New Scientist

The main idea of the weapon is to disorientate a target so much that they will be unable to communicate effectively with other people. 

Called acoustic hailing and disruption (AHAD), the weapon is able to record speech and instantly broadcast it at a target in milliseconds. Much like an annoying sibling, this action will disrupt the target’s concentration, and, in theory, discourage them from continuing to speak. …

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. First Fandom Experience tells “The Tale of Aubrey MacDermott”, who claimed to be the first active sff fan.

Aubrey McDermott was born in 1909 and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and claims to be the first active science-fiction fan. We’ll let Aubrey tell his own story through a letter that he sent to Andrew Porter around 1990…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Denny Lien, Todd Mason, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]