Pixel Scroll 4/13/24 A Penchant For Multisyllabic Words

(1) MURDERBOT THEMES. Martha Wells has posted the text of the “Jack Williamson Lecture 2024” she delivered on April 12 in Portales, NM. Here are the opening paragraphs:

I’ve always been drawn to non-human characters, both as a reader and a writer. I’ve been writing them for most of my career. From Kade Carrion, the daughter of the Queen of Air and Darkness, in my first novel The Element of Fire, through the post-human Krismen in City of Bones, to my ant-lion-lizard-dragon-bee people in the Books of the Raksura series. But Murderbot was my first machine intelligence.

There are a lot of people who viewed All Systems Red as a cute robot story. Which was very weird to me, since I thought I was writing a story about slavery and personhood and bodily autonomy. But humans have always been really good at ignoring things we don’t want to pay attention to. Which is also a theme in the Murderbot series.

(Here’s an aside. (I do asides a lot, because Murderbot’s way of thinking was based on my own brain, except my attention span is a lot more limited.) One of the major publication reviews for Artificial Condition wondered why Murderbot was so wary of humans considering they were all so nice to it. That was also the novella where one of the characters was a ComfortUnit, which Murderbot called a sexbot, but I don’t know, maybe that was too subtle. So I’m not exaggerating about the way some readers ignore the fact that it was a story about enslaved people.)…

(2) ALL ABOARD THE TARDIS. The actor is making the jump from the Star Wars universe to the Whoniverse: “Varada Sethu to join Doctor Who in role as second companion” reports the Guardian.

Varada Sethu will join Doctor Who as one of the Doctor’s two companions for Ncuti Gatwa’s second series in the role, it has been confirmed.

She will appear onscreen in 2025, alongside the former Coronation Street actor Millie Gibson after speculation over her character Ruby Sunday’s future on the sci-fi show.

Sethu, who recently appeared in the Disney+ Star Wars series Andor, said it was an honour to be part of the long-running BBC series.

She said: “I feel like the luckiest person in the world. It is such an honour to be a part of the Whoniverse, and I’m so grateful to the whole Doctor Who family – because that is what they are – for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel so at home.

(3) POTUS PACKS A PUNCH. “‘Captain America: Brave New World’: Harrison Ford’s POTUS Wants Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson To Rebuild The Avengers In First Look At CinemaCon” says Deadline.

…Fanboys will have to wait until San Diego Comic Con to see footage from Marvel Studios‘ 2025 release Captain America: Brave New Worldbut exhibitors do not. On Thursday during Disney‘s closing CinemaCon session, the studio showed off the new Anthony Mackie movie that picks up after the events of the 2021 Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. In that series, Sam Wilson takes over the shield left behind by the late Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)….

… In the clip, Harrison Ford’s POTUS wants Sam Wilson to rebuild the Avengers. He’s impressed what the hero did down in Mexico. However, Wilson wonders what happens if they disagree on how to manage the new team. Next scene: Ford is making a presentation to a room full of authorities. However, a couple of people in the crowd become possessed — Carl Lumbly’s Isaiah Bradley and a general — and turn on the crowd, in particular Ford’s character. A la Air Force One, he’s a tough POTUS and punches the military guy in the face….

(4) SUNDAY MORNING TRANSPORT. “I Am Not the One Who Gets Left Behind” by Eric Smith is a free read at Sunday Morning Transport to inspire new subscriptions.

When I can smell my wife’s apple cinnamon French toast, I know the monsters are outside.

I peer out of our third-floor window to the darkened street below, and for a second, just a second, I can almost taste it again, but I know it’s all a lie. A trick. I lost my sense of smell after hitting my head in a car accident years ago. I’ve made it too long, and they’re not gonna get me….

(5) FARSCAPE WINS THE LONG GAME. “Farscape’s Ben Browder, Rockne O’Bannon on Series Legacy, Revival Ideas” at Syfy Wire.

…It’s taken a quarter of a century for Farscape to achieve the respect and appreciation that it boasts today. At launch, Sci Fi the channel was still growing so if you didn’t have basic cable TV that carried the network, there was no other way to access the series. But for those who had access and loved unique sci-fi storytelling, Farscape was like discovering a tingly aura morph. 

Brian Henson told SYFY WIRE that it’s been such a singular experience to watch the series go from niche audience, to convention darling and now well-respected series by both critics and audiences.

“It’s so interesting because we live in an industry where I’ve heard year after year after year, that you know you have a hit after the opening night. In my company, that has been 100% not true,” Henson laughed. “Well, I guess the first Muppet Movie was a hit on the first night. But other than that, everything grew on people because what we do is always very original. And that means nobody knows what to expect which always takes longer to find a fan base. And the fan base of Farscape just gets bigger and bigger.”…

(6) ESCAPE FROM OZ…TO GLENDALE. “The Oz Escape Experience” arrives in Glendale, CA on October 26, 2024. Tickets at the link. Learn when it’s coming to other locations, or about the company’s other experiences, at Questo: Play & Explore Fun Tours by Local Storytellers.

The magical world of Oz arrives to the streets of your city in the form of an outdoor escape room-style experience.

You will use your phone to follow hidden clues, solve witty puzzles and complete fun challenges as you walk around the city.

Follow the story of the iconic team of misfits trying to escape from Oz before the witch has her way! The event is entirely based on the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz novel by L. Frank Baum.

You can play at your own pace or against the clock to compete with friends or hundreds of other teams parading their fantastic costumes (wearing costumes is optional at the event).

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 74. Hellboy of course as we all well know. I was surprised that the Hellboy movie wasn’t nominated for a Hugo but Hellboy II: The Golden Army was at Anticipation. Both are excellent in different ways. 

Ron Perlman was in my opinion the perfect performer to be Hellboy. Not only did he have the physicality to pull off the role but he had the presence to pull off that role even though he was under Harbour’s makeup prosthetics to the point that he had to express himself by overcoming the limitations that those prosthetics placed upon his natural facial expressions. And he did that magnificently. 

Of course his voice was a major aspect of it. That deep, resonating voice. Perfect for a demon that liked a lot of cats. He used that voice later when there were two Hellboy animated films and a short, all quite well done.

Everything about him worked here. The outfit, the gun, the cigar, his backstory. Yes, I know it all came from Mike Mignola but getting it to the screen that way was amazing, it really was. And I have read all of the all Hellboy stories up to the last decade when it stopped really being interesting though I did keep reading the Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. series as I think that really fantastic.

The movie was likewise fantastic as I thought it was just perfect with everything being stellar. Well almost. I wasn’t thrilled by the Tom Manning character but I’m fairly sure that I wasn’t supposed to be.  So I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it, at least a half dozen now. 

Hellboy II: The Golden Army was excellent though a quieter film if that’s the right word for it. The absolute highlight here is the spectacular Goblin Market. I’ve not looked to see but is this based off a particular Mignola graphic novel? 

So now for other genre work. I’m only including that where he’s in makeup as I’ll be including images of him in each of those makeups. 

He was in The Island of Doctor Moreau film of the same name as the story by H. G. Wells. His character was a juicy role indeed, the Sayer of the Law, a blind sheep/goat/human hybrid who is the priest figure among the hybrids. 

He’s Deiter Rheinhart, a pureblood vampire and a member of the Bloodpack, a group of vampires specially trained by the House of Damaskinos to hunt Blade in Blade II. Need I say he comes to a bad end?

He’s the Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. Reman Viceroy was the title of Romulan Praetor Shinzon’s Reman adviser, Vkruk.

And of course, there’s the beloved by many Vincent in the Beauty and the Beast series. Loved the series, wasn’t at all fond of the way that they wrapped it up. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) STRANGE OLD WORLD. “Star Trek: Scotty played by Scottish actor for first time” enthuses BBC News.

For the first time in almost 60 years Star Trek character Scotty is being played by a Scottish actor.

Previously the role has been filled by Canadian actor James Doohan and Englishman Simon Pegg.

Now Scottish actor Martin Quinn is portraying a younger version of the character in the prequel series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Martin jokingly told BBC Scotland News, “We are rebranding him, he’s from Paisley now.”

(10) CREATURE COMFORTS RIDES AGAIN. “Claymation Magic: Aardman Teams with the BBC on ‘Things We Love’”Animation World Network tells where the dialog comes from.

Creature Comforts is a wonderfully inventive adult stop-motion comedy mockumentary franchise created by Nick Park and Aardman Animations. It originated with Park and Aardman’s hilarious, Oscar-winning 1989 animated short film of the same name, which matched animated zoo animals with voices of people talking about their homes, making it appear as if the animals were being interviewed about their living conditions. The film later became the basis of a series of television advertisements for electricity boards in the United Kingdom, and in 2003, a television series in the same style was released.

Things We Love is similar in that there was no script, so you don’t know exactly where you’re going with the short until you start to interview people,” shares Webber. “We got some lovely warmth, comedy, and natural conversation. We started with only a few questions and then let the conversation go where it wanted to go, keeping an ear out for possible animated scenarios or animals that would be a good fit for conveying what’s being said and who’s saying it.”

Aardman has created six short films in total for the BBC’s Things We Love campaign, transforming the interviewees into Claymation animals, from pigeons to hamsters. …The sixth and final short – which centers on an older and younger brother as mice – [was released] Saturday, April 6. 

You can watch all the released shorts here.

Here’s an earlier one about pigeons.

Mice Watching TV is the latest:

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

Pixel Scroll 3/20/24 He Will Know These Pixels As If Born To Them

(1) HE LIED. THANK GOODNESS! Former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat is writing an episode due to air in Ncuti Gatwa’s first season as the Fifteenth Doctor: “Steven Moffat returns to write episode for new season of Doctor Who”.

….Speaking on his return to the Whoniverse, Steven Moffat says:

“Yes, okay, fair enough – apologies to everyone I’ve very slightly misled – I am in fact writing an episode of the series of Doctor Who. Exactly like I said I never would. What can I tell you? There was begging, there was pleading but finally Russell agreed to let me have another go – so long as I got out of his garden. Working with old friends and a brand new Doctor I couldn’t be happier. Sorry I was a bit reticent on the subject for so long. It was all part of an elaborate plan that would have delighted millions but at the last minute I forgot what it was.”

(2) OCTAVIA E. BUTLER SCIENCE FICTION FESTIVAL. The Pasadena middle school once attended by — and in 2022 renamed for — the author Octavia E. Butler will hold its third Science Fiction Festival on Friday reports LAist in“Student Sci-Fi”. (The event schedule is here: “Octavia E. Butler Library Science Fiction Festival 2024”.)

…The multi-award winning and best selling author graduated from what was then Washington Junior High in 1962 and wrote some of her earliest stories while a student.

School librarian Natalie Daily organized the Octavia E. Butler Magnet’s first science fiction writing contest in 2020, the same year the school’s library was renamed in her honor. The school itself was renamed two years later.

“I want [students] to realize that their ideas matter,” Daily said. “I think that Butler is a testament to that, you know, she was writing stuff and thinking about really, really deep ideas when she was a student here.”…

(3) KINGFISHER AND COMPANY. Sarah Gailey interviews the Tor team behind the publication and promotion of T. Kingfisher’s new book. “The Mess That the Editor Fixes: What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher” at Stone Soup.

T. Kingfisher has been one of my favorite horror authors since I read The Twisted Ones, one of the only novels that has ever made me scream out loud with genuine terror. In 2022, Kingfisher released the Locus Award-winning novella What Moves the Dead, an early entry into the now-thriving world of Fungal Gothic Literature. It’s a tale of declining wealth and reanimation (sort of), and it includes some fascinating worldbuilding conversations about social constructions of gender. I got to connect with Kingfisher and the production team at Tor to discuss the upcoming sequel to What Moves the Dead. What follows is a deep dive into the process behind What Feasts at Night….

Gailey: Okay, T. Kingfisher, tell us what you do.

T. Kingfisher, Author, What Feasts at Night: I write the mess that the editor fixes. I always say that my dream is to sit in a room and write and have people shove food and checks under the door, and Tor is like “Here is a sandwich and a check and we wrote a list of all the advertisements the book has appeared in on the napkin.” It’s basically the perfect relationship, so far as I’m concerned. Lindsey Hall, my editor, is an absolute champ!…

(4) XENOMORPHS ON THE LOOSE AGAIN. Variety interviews the director of the next Aliens movie in “’Alien: Romulus’ Trailer: Fede Alvarez Teases Facehuggers, Frights”.

…“Alien: Romulus” marks the seventh film in the “Alien” franchise, and the overall ninth involving acid-blooded xenomorphs, if you include the “Aliens vs. Predator” crossover films. Writer-director Álvarez is about to complicate its already convoluted timeline even further with “Romulus,” which premieres August 16. But the more important question is, will it be better than some of the more lackluster chapters in this ongoing saga — which there are probably more of than great ones?…

How tough was it to find a balance between the little green computer monitors of “Alien” and the futuristic technology of the more recent films?

I know a lot of people felt like it makes no sense. But I think we make the mistake when we watch the Nostromo and assume that’s how the entire universe looks like. If I decide to make a movie on Earth today, and I go to the Mojave Desert and I take an old truck because a guy drives a Chevy, if you’re an alien, you’re going to go, “That’s what the world looks like.” But it doesn’t mean there’s not a guy in a Tesla in the city, which would be the “Prometheus” ship. The first movie is truck drivers in a beat-up truck. “Prometheus” is the ship of the richest man in the world….

(5) PRE-WORLDCON TOUR OF SCOTLAND OFFERED. Val and Ron Ontell are fans who have been running tours in connection with Worldcon since 1987. Past tours have included Britain, Australia, Ireland, Japan, and Scandinavia/St. Petersburg. They are currently organizing one for two weeks in Scotland beginning in Edinburgh and ending in Glasgow the day before the con begins.

Some of the highlights: Loch Ness, Inverness and the Highlands, the Isles of Arran and Skye, Stirling Castle, a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train (aka the Hogwarts Express), going into a Concorde SST at the National Museum of Flight, having a traditional Scottish dinner (including haggis), and attending the Edinburgh Tattoo. Click for the itinerary.

For complete information, visit their website at <ontell.org/Scotland> or contact them at <[email protected]>.

(6) FREE FLYER. Flaco, the escaped Central Park Zoo owl, died on February 23. The owl’s story is the premise for a book competition offering a $20,000 prize from Brazen House Inc. Contact [email protected] for full details.

The story of Flaco, the owl from Central Park Zoo, has touched people all over the world as a tale of inspiration and admonition for humans. The Eurasian eagle-owl escaped from his cage after thirteen years in captivity and moved about fearlessly in the concrete jungle of New York skyscrapers, pursuing freedom and a little perch he could call home. He found neither in that rich patch of America that stands for freedom and opportunity. Even though he had a legion of human supporters rooting for him, the authorities shadowed him, trying to get him back into his cage. As for finding a home, every inch of the land had been claimed by humans. After a year of striving and struggling, Flaco met with a tragic death when he crashed into a building on the Upper West Side.

If Flaco could speak to us from the other side of the veil, what would he say about his captive life and the brief freedom he enjoyed? What resentments would he have about the humans who for years kept him in a cage as an object of mere curiosity? What were his most joyful moments in freedom? What did he pine for most as he ranged over the concrete jungle of New York City?

Brazen House is soliciting proposals for an imaginative novel that will tell his story through his eyes and reflect on how humans regard other species. The book is intended for young adults, but the story and the writing should resonate with older readers as well. And it should make a distinguished contribution to the literature for young readers in enhancing their appreciation of other species with whom we share this Earth…

The submission should be exclusive to Brazen House. The winning proposal will be announced on September 1, 2024….

Somtow Sucharitkul sent the news item to File 770 with a disclosure, “I’m doing a new trilogy with his publishing house and I’m on his committee to pick the winning book for the 20,000 prize.”

(7) E PLURIBUS YRTH. And since we’ve mentioned Somtow’s new trilogy from Brazen House…

Yrth Trilogy by S.P. Somtow

An epic series by World Fantasy Award winning author S.P. Somtow

A timeless story reinvented for the 21st Century: with the sweep of Lord of the Rings and the spectacle of Dune

An eon from now, humans are mostly a memory, wiped out by war and their own hubris, living on the fringes. Yrth is a desolate wasteland, but life has started to return. New races have begun to live in the wasteland, finding their own harmony with their environment. Some have evolved from what were once thought of as animals. Others were created to make real the myths and imaginings of the departed humans. These races have created pockets of utopia.

But will they repeat the mistakes of past, and return Yrth to the realm of shadow? Can many species become a united world?

(8) LIGHTS…CAMERA…WATCH MEDIA! “Sci-Fi Series ‘Murderbot’ Officially Begins Filming at Apple TV+” reports Midgard Times.

The upcoming Apple TV+ sci-fi series, “Murderbot” has officially begun filming this Monday in Toronto, Canada. Starring Alexander Skarsgård in the leading role, the series is based on the award-winning books by Martha Wells.

“Murderbot” is described as an action-packed sci-fi series based on Wells’ award-winning novels about a self-hacking security android who is appalled by human emotion but lured to its weak “clients.” Murderbot must suppress its free will and perform a perilous mission when all it truly wants is to be left alone to watch future soap operas and find out its place in space….

…The 10-episode Murderbot is expected to take more than three months to complete the production. As per the current schedule, the sci-fi series will officially wrap filming on June 27, 2024. The series comes from Chris and Paul Weitz, who are writing, directing, and producing it, while also acting as showrunners….

(9) THY THREE SUNS. Critic Inkoo Kang tells readers of The New Yorker, “’3 Body Problem’ Is a Rare Species of Sci-Fi Epic”.

…“3 Body Problem” belongs to an all too rare breed: mainstream entertainment that leads its viewers down bracingly original speculative corridors. The scenario the show ultimately posits bears little resemblance to traditional sci-fi fare; the aliens are coming, but not for another four hundred years, putting humanity on notice for an encounter—and possibly a war—that’s many lifetimes away. This time span is as much a curse as a blessing. Forget the science for a second; what kind of political will—totalitarian or otherwise—is required to keep centuries of preparation on track? How do we get the über-rich to contribute to a new space race in a way that also flatters their egos? And what resources does it take to accelerate scientific discovery to a breakneck pace?…

(10) M. EMMETT WALSH (1935-2024). Character actor M. Emmet Walsh died March 19 at the age of 88 reports Variety.

…In Ridley Scott’s 1982 “Blade Runner,” Walsh was Harrison Ford’s LAPD boss, while he played the vicious private detective Loren Visser in the Coen brothers’ directing debut “Blood Simple.” Wearing a sickly yellow suit, Pauline Kael said he was the film’s “only colorful performer. He lays on the loathsomeness, but he gives it a little twirl — a sportiness.”

His other roles included the corrupt sheriff in the 1986 horror film “Critters” and a small role as a security guard in “Knives Out.”…

He also did voice work in Iron Giant.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. (Died 2004.) Jack Cady’s Wikipedia page says he’s known “mostly as an award-winning writer of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award.” I’m betting that he’s much more than just his ‘Wards, don’t you think?

So let’s see… Ghost stories are a good place to begin I think. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. 

Jack Cady

Now The Well is not quite a ghost story as such but it’s a haunted house story of sorts heavy on the horror, really heavy on the horror. 

Not a ghost story as such but equally impressive is Inagehi which is the story of a young Cherokee woman who inherits a mountain and the mystery of her father’s death. 

Now Dark Dreaming with Carol Orlockreminds me just a bit of He Who Shapes in its use of the darker side of dreams. Well much darker than Zelazny ever did. Don’t read later at night.

Cady’s The Man Who Could Make Things Vanish is a tale of a man who make anything disappear against an organisation that might or might exist wanting to rule the world. 

He wrote more novels than that but those are the ones I’m familiar with. 

He also wrote quite a bit of short fiction, some sixty pieces I figure. Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fanthoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2, both done a decade ago, collect about forty-five pieces of short fiction. Both are available at the usual suspects. 

Those ‘Wards? He won a Nebula and Stoker for a novella, “The Night We Buried Road Dog”; the World Fantasy Award was for a short collection, The Sons of Noah & Other Stories; and the final one was the International Horror Guild Award a warded for Outstanding achievements in the field of Horror and Dark Fantasy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) CONTINUAL HEALING. “’I’m still trying to recover’: Annie Potts on Ghostbusters, Toy Story – and the car crash that almost killed her” in the Guardian.

…Ask her why she thinks Ghostbusters is so enduring, and she replies: “Well, it’s made a lot of money.” But the reason for that is the affection audiences have for it. “It was uniquely hilarious and scary – it’s scalarious – and that turned out to be a very good combination.” For those of us who loved it as children, she thinks we’re trying to “get back to that moment where you’ve been both tickled and scared. And so here we are, 40 years later.” We’re speaking over Zoom; Potts is in New York for the premiere, and she’s warm, funny and has the straightforward air of someone who has seen it all….

…As well as Janine returning, the original team played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson are also back; Harold Ramis, who played Egon Spengler, died in 2014. Spengler’s estranged daughter and her children are part of the new crew (having been introduced in 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife). “So they have the young ghostbuster, and the mom ghostbuster, and then they have me, the old lady ghostbuster,” says Potts, delightedly….

…Just as her career was getting started, it was almost derailed by a car crash when she was 21. “Drunk drivers, three carloads of teenagers in the middle of the day were drag-racing down the wrong side of a two-lane highway and ran head on into the car I was in.” Virtually every bone in her body below the waist was broken, she says. “It took a very long time to recover. I’m still trying to recover.” It must have shattered her sense of security and invincibility, which many of us take for granted at that age. “Yes, when you almost lose your life, it becomes pretty dear. I don’t know if you can know how dear it is until you are faced with losing it.”…

(14) BUCKET TWIST. “The Surprise Ending of ‘Dune,’ the Popcorn Bucket” – the New York Times consults a nutritionist about the impact of the souvenir container.

In the “Dune” movies, a gigantic sandworm can rise from the desert and devour soldiers and military vehicles in its gaping maw. In real life, humans watching movies devour popcorn. These two ideas have been combined to spawn the “Dune” popcorn bucket, a sandworm-shaped tub that is having a cultural moment. The bucket arrives on the heels of other recent popcorn collectibles, like the 16-inch Barbie Corvette snack holder. But is there more to these vessels than meets the eye?

Lindsay Moyer thinks about popcorn. She is the senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group focused on food systems and healthy eating. She sat down with The New York Times to discuss what she sees when she considers “Dune: The Popcorn Bucket.” This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

…My colleague and I called some AMC locations this morning, and they all told us that the “Dune” bucket is like getting a large popcorn there, but that it varies by location. We talked to their employees and asked them how many calories are listed on the menu, and a large has 980 calories. My understanding is that would be before you added any buttery topping yourself, if you choose to add it…

(15) QUITE A COLLECTIBLE. “Manhattan Project Report Signed by J. Robert Oppenheimer Sells at Auction” at Smithsonian Magazine.

report describing the creation of the atomic bomb signed by J. Robert Oppenheimer sold for $53,594 at auction last week.

The RR Auction sale took place just a few days after Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer cleaned up at the Oscars, where it won in seven categories (including Best Picture and Best Director)….

The 200-page document—titled “Atomic Bombs: A General Account of the Development of Methods of Using Atomic Energy for Military Purposes Under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945”—was signed by Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who directed the Manhattan Project, and 23 other contributors, including Enrico FermiErnest LawrenceJames Chadwick and Harold Urey. It provides a detailed description of the “technical and administrative history” of the atomic bomb’s development….

… Nellie V. Sanderson, the secretary for General Leslie Groves (who oversaw the Manhattan Project), collected the signatures, intercepting the men as they came to meet with Groves and asking them to sign the report.

Along with the report, the anonymous buyer also got several items that belonged to Sanderson, including letters, documents and a Manhattan Project shoulder patch. One of Groves’ business cards was also included in the lot….

(16) A.I. REALLY MEANS ARTIFICIAL IMPRESSIONISM. Adam Gopnik seeks an answer to the question “What Can A.I. Art Teach Us About the Real Thing?” in The New Yorker.

…The range and ease of pictorial invention offered by A.I. image generation is startling; the question, though, is whether its arrival is merely recreational or actually revolutionary. Is it like the invention of the electric light bulb or like the coming of the lava lamp? Herewith, some thoughts.

The intersection of new machines with new kinds of images has a long history. I once owned a French drawing device—a kind of camera lucida, with reflecting mirrors and refracting prisms—that called itself a Machine to Draw the World. It took for granted that the task of image-making was to incise and adjust a drawing to a pattern of light—in itself, a fiendishly difficult action that preoccupied artists for centuries. (Whether actual machines like it played a significant role in the art of Vermeer or Rembrandt is an unsettled question.)

But systems like dall-e 2 don’t operate on light and shadow; they operate on art history—on the almost bottomless reservoir of images on which they’re trained. And the power of images lies less in their arguments than in their ambiguities. That’s why the images that dall-e 2 makes are far more interesting than the texts that A.I. chatbots make. To be persuasive, a text demands a point; in contrast, looking at pictures, we can be fascinated by atmospheres and uncertainties. Even images made to persuade—such as propaganda posters or altarpieces—are only communicative through the intercession of our outside knowledge of the narratives that they illuminate. When you don’t know the story, even tutelary religious pictures become enigmatic. 

…This is not a machine to draw the world. Instead, it proposes a recombinant approach to popular imagery as a means of making art. (The dialogue of popular imagery and modern art was, as it happens, the topic of that abandoned Ph.D. thesis.) In effect, it exploits, and has installed in it as a premise, an idea specific to a particular heritage of image-making, the heritage of Symbolism, and then of the Surrealism that Symbolism engendered. Appropriately enough, the system takes its punning name from a Surrealist painter, since dall-e 2 is ideally trimmed to make soft watches and derby hats on dogs and trains racing out of fireplaces….

(17) PUTTING HIS FOOT DOWN FOR SAFETY. “Godzilla was back on the streets of Tokyo — this time for a good cause”NPR’s “Morning Edition” has the story.

…Good morning, I’m Steve Inskeep. Godzilla, the monster of Japanese movie fame, was back on the streets of Tokyo. This time, the kaiju visited on a public service mission to encourage people to observe traffic safety laws. Godzilla was even made police chief for a day. Think of the size of his hat. The appearance was part of a campaign using Japanese movie characters to promote traffic safety. I wonder what job they gave Pikachu….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, JeffWarner, Robin Anne Reid, Kathy Sullivan, 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 Peer.]

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.]

Murderbot and Me: A Guest Post by Robin Anne Reid

2024 Jack Williamson Lectureship

The 47th Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, hosted by Eastern New Mexico University, will be held April 11-13 in Portales, NM with guest of honor Martha Wells and emcee Connie Willis.

  • Martha Wells is a science fiction and fantasy writer.  She has written novels, short fiction, young-adult novels, and non-fiction in addition to tie-in fiction for Star WarsStargate: Atlantis, and Magic: the Gathering. Her work has appeared on the USA Today Bestseller List, the Sunday Times Bestseller List, and the New York Times Bestseller List.  Her novella All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries (Tor.com) won the Hugo Award for Best Novella, the Nebula Award for Best Novella, and a Locus Award. Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries (Tor.com) was a Nebula Award finalist, a Locus Award winner, and a Hugo Award winner. Exit Strategy: Network Effect (Tor.com) was a Nebula Award Winner for Best Novel, a Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel, and The Murderbot Diaries as a whole won a Hugo Award for Best Series. System Collapse (Tor.com), the seventh book in the Murderbot Diaries series, was released in November 2023. More information about Martha Wells can be found on her website:  www.marthawells.com .
  • Connie Willis has been publishing science fiction and fantasy works for more than 50 years.  After her first novel was published in 1982, she was able to quit her teaching job and become a full-time writer.  She’s won multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and named a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master.  Themes in her works include time travel, romantic comedy, history, and Christmas – to name a few.  Her 2016 novel Crosstalk was named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR. Her most recent novel is The Road to Roswell which was released in June 2023 by Random House. Click here to watch author Melinda Snodgrass interview Connie at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe in 2017.  Click here to visit Connie’s blog.    

The annual Jack Williamson Lectureship includes a luncheon with presentations by the guest of honor and toastmaster, readings by guest authors, time for book sales and signing, and panel discussions on a variety of science fiction and fantasy topics. All events are open to the public and the luncheon is the only event that requires advance reservations and a fee.

The lectureship, named for the prolific sff author and academic, was established by the university when Dr. Jack Williamson retired from his position as professor of English at Eastern New Mexico University in 1977. Ever since then writers, editors, artists and other speakers have gathered at ENMU every spring to share ideas, insights and their work with students, readers, viewers, creators, collectors and fans.

Pixel Scroll 12/27/23 So Have You Looked Up And Seen How Pixels Twinkle Against The Midnight Sky? 

(1) UNFORSEEN INTERSECTION. Maya St. Clair draws a fascinating comparison between a current bestseller and Heinlein’s controversial classic in “Fourth Wing Review: Starship Troopers (for Girls!)”

…Criticisms of Starship Troopers’ themes, while hyperbolic, were not entirely off-base. In Heinlein’s world, the ideal military life is violent, abusive, and deindividualizing; death is and should be omnipresent at every stage of training. For example, there’s the basic training exercise in which

“… they dumped me down raw naked in a primitive area of the Canadian Rockies and I had to make my way forty miles through mountains. I made it [by killing rabbits and smearing fat and dirt on his body] … The others made it, too… all except two boys who died trying. Then we all went back into the mountains and spent thirteen days finding them…. We buried them with full honors to the strains of ‘This Land Is Ours’… They weren’t the first to die in training; they weren’t the last.”

Through the eyes of Johnnie, we experience an intensity of life that makes civilian existence seem anemic, even pathetic….

…With all that being said, it feels wrong to mention Fourth Wing in the same breath as Starship Troopers. Putting aside the fact that Fourth Wing is a poorly-written work whose prose has been critiqued to death by many people before me, the two books seem to represent opposing moments in publishing history. Heinlein, for all his faults, was writing “up” for an audience of teens, treating them as adults and including them in the sphere of “adult” science fiction, with complex worldbuilding and (relatively) sophisticated themes. Sixty years later, Fourth Wing and its team (author Rebecca Yarros and Entangled Publishing) represent a publishing world moving in the opposite direction: creating books for adults in an actively juvenile style, and cultivating an audience of adult readers who no longer demand that published books have good writing at all so long as they check necessary boxes of sensation and eroticism.

But thematically and content-wise, the two books are as close as one could possibly get. Fourth Wing, like Starship Troopers, sells a military coming-of-age story in which mass death is a part of the allure (“brutally addictive,” says the cover blurb). Someone on Reddit puts the death count of Fourth Wing at 222 cadets, plus an untold number of civilians — though it’s widely considered a “fluff” read. Its primary audience (and the primary audience of most mainstream fantasy now) is female, young, progressive, and would probably be aghast at being compared to grimdark bros, Heinlein apologists, or men in general. And yet here we all are, hooked on the same stuff….

(2) ICONIC LE GUIN COVER ART OFFERED. The estates of Carol Carr and her husband Robert Lichtman are in the news: “Original cover art for Le Guin sci-fi novel goes on sale” at Bay Area Reporter.

…First published in paperback by Ace Books, the novel sported cover art by award-winning artists and biracial couple Leo and Diane Dillon. Their painting featured profiles of the book’s protagonists in the left bottom corner looking off into the distance. Surrounding the pair is a blue and white celestial-like scene with what appears to be a brown planet and a spaceship hovering above.

(Leo Dillon, of Trinidadian descent, died in 2012. He was the first African American to win the prestigious Randolph Caldecott Medal for illustrators of children’s books, while the Dillons were the only consecutive winners of the award, having received the honor in 1976 and 1977.)

The Dillons’ original 17 and 1/4 by 13 inches acrylic painting is now being offered for sale for the first time at the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America global book fair taking place in San Francisco in early February. The asking price is $20,000.

“It is literally unique. This is it, the original and not a print,” said Mark Funke, a rare bookseller who lives in Mill Valley where his business is also located.

Scouting out shops in the East Bay several years ago looking for new material to sell, Funke had received a tip about the sale of various items from a home in the Oakland hills. It led him to receive an invite from the executor of the estate to come to the house.

To his amazement, Funke had stumbled onto the archives of three individuals involved in the world of science fiction writing. One was the late Terry Carr, an editor at Ace Books who published the works of Le Guin and other sci-fi authors and died in 1987. While most of Carr’s personal papers had gone to UC Riverside, Funke found several boxes still in the house and acquired them….

… Funke is now handling its sale on behalf of the Carr and Lichtman Estate. He will have it available on a first-come, first-served basis at his booth at the book fair.

“I am pricing it high for the artists but, I think, reasonable for it being Le Guin’s most famous novel. She won awards for it, and it ratcheted her up to the greats of science fiction,” said Funke. “It’s got very topical content; this idea of the planet Gethen and ambisexual individuals. I just think it is fascinating and a very active topic in today’s discussion.”

In a statement to the B.A.R. about the sale, the executor for the family estate said, “The Carr-Lichtman family has treasured this artwork for over 50 years and now it is time to find a new owner who will cherish this remarkable work of science fiction publishing history for the next 50 years.”…

(3) KORSHAK COLLECTION NEWS. The Korshak Collection announced on Facebook

We have partnered with the University of Delaware for an academic illustrated catalog of the Korshak Collection. We don’t want to give away all of our surprises, but the catalog will include a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman and entry by Pulitzer prize winner author Michael Dirda, as well as an interview with the Hugo Award winning artist Michael Whelan. We are so grateful for this partnership and all of the outstanding contributions that have made this project possible.

(4) MCU UK. James Bacon recommends David Thorpe’s account of his time as a creator for Marvel UK: “In Review: The Secret Origin of Earth 616 By David Thorpe” at Downthetubes.net.

… This is a fascinating book, and, for Captain Britain fans, a definite buy. For comic fans interested in Marvel UK, of great interest. Yet it is also an excellent autobiography, a very readable and personal exploration of a comic fans desires, aspirations and progression to be a writer and an insight into how Marvel UK was, and offers real honesty when it comes to a comics career that took an interesting turn that saw David Thorpe’s work in the industry elsewhere. The story is brimful, and includes how another comic related moment saw him turn to a very successful career beyond comics, one that arguably has made a real difference to the world….

… David Thorpe came up with the concept of Earth 616, and he describes it as a Stan Lee styled “Hoo Boy” moment when he heard Mysterio say “This is Earth dimension 616. I’m from Earth 833.” to Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Far From Home and that is something that any comic reader can appreciate, many of whom have imagined themselves as writers….

(5) IN FELLOWSHIP THERE IS STRENGTH. “Board Game Cafe Workers Went on a Quest for a Union and Won” reports the New York Times.

A golden glow illuminated the employees huddled inside a Hex & Co. cafe on the Upper East Side, a haven created for board game enthusiasts to gather for fantastical quests.

Meticulous campaigns were second nature to these workers — how many times had they infiltrated an obsidian castle or vanquished a warlock? They had been immersed in this particular adventure for months, navigating a labyrinth governed by strict rules and made harrowing by unfamiliar tasks and tests. Now they gathered to plot their final triumph: unionization.

On that Tuesday in September, Hex & Co. workers confronted their bosses with a demand for recognition. Less than two months later, they voted to join Workers United, the same group that has been organizing workers at Starbucks stores across the United States. The workers at the three Hex & Co. locations across New York City were just the first employees of a board game cafe in the city to unionize. Workers at the Uncommons and the Brooklyn Strategist followed this month.

All the stores fall under the ownership of either Jon Freeman, Greg May or both, and they pleaded with their employees not to unionize, saying that a union would wipe out the “flexible and open-door atmosphere we have tried to foster.”

Teaching board games is a far cry from swinging a miner’s pick or working numbing hours on an assembly line. In fact, many of the cafe workers said they hung out at their workplaces in their off hours. But in the end, complaints over dollar-an-hour raises and bands of unruly children reigned: Among the 94 employees who voted, only 17 dissented….

…Only 10 percent of American wage and salary workers were union members in 2022, a historical low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The food-service sector’s membership rate was less than 4 percent. But this fiscal year saw the most representation filings since 2015, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

Young workers “are willing to take risks, because they feel like their future is at stake,” said Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of labor education research at Cornell University.

After slogging through a recession and a pandemic, many found themselves earning minimum wage while corporate profits soared, she said….

(6) AI AS SEEN BY THREE SFF AUTHORS. The River Cities’ Reader tells fans how to access the “Virtual Event: ‘Speculating Our AI Future,’” with Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, and Martha Wells on January 11.

Designed for those fascinated by, or terrified about, the rise of artificial intelligence is invited to a January 11 virtual event hosted by the Rock Island and Silvis Public Libraries, when Illinois Libraries Present’s Speculating Our AI Future finds bestselling science-fiction writers Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, and Martha Wells in discussion on the promise, perils, and possible impacts that AI will have on our future, as well as AI as portrayed in contemporary and future science-fiction writing.

The Speculating Our AI Future panel discussion with Corry Doctorow, Ken Liu, and Martha Wells will begin on January 11 at 7 p.m., participation in the virtual event is free, and more information is available by calling (309)732-7323 and visiting RockIslandLibrary.org, and calling (309)755-3393 and visiting SilvisLibrary.org.

Cory Doctorow, Ken Liu, Martha Wells.

(7) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. Sam Thielman hits the high notes in a review of “The Year in Graphic Novels” for the New York Times.

Good graphic novels tend to appear in bookstores seemingly out of nowhere after years of rumors, scattershot serialization, “process” zines and snippets posted to social media. As literature, long-form comics are uniquely resistant to editing. As visual art, the cartoonist is in the weird position of having no access to the final product until it’s presented to the public. So it’s frankly miraculous when we get as many good comics as we do. This year there were remarkable new books from established masters and freshman graphic novels from brilliant young artists. Better still, a gratifyingly thick stratum of our 2023 stack was devoted to making us laugh. It’s a rich conversation, and one that promises to continue into next year and long beyond.

From the moment you open it, Daniel Clowes’s MONICA (Fantagraphics, 108 pp., $30) announces its ambition. Against the weird hellscape of its front endpapers, the title spread depicts the world at its lifeless, churning, brightly colored beginning. Then all of time (so far) goes by in a whoosh on the next two pages — the dinosaurs, Jesus, Hitler, Little Richard, Sputnik — alongside the copyright boilerplate and the names of the editors and publicist. In Clowes’s smooth lines and precise hues, the rest of the book borrows styles from war, horror and romance comics to tell the story of an ordinary woman trying to give her life some meaning. Is such a thing even possible? Could the attempt destroy everything?…

(8) EVA HAUSER (1954-2023). Past fan fund winner (GUFF) Eva Hauser died December 23 at the age of 69. Here is an excerpt from Jan Vaněk Jr.’s tribute on Facebook:

I am sad to announce that the 1992 GUFF delegate died on Friday 22nd. Eva Hauser[ová] travelled from Prague, still-Czechoslovakia to Syncon ’92 in Sydney, and then to Melbourne and back.

If you were there (despite the small attendance, the trip report reads like the Who Is Who of a golden age of the Australian fandom, and a testimony to their hospitality. Even though so much, and many, have already been lost in time, like tears in rain…), you may remember; and then you will understand why Eva is so much-lamented and widely eulogised from many different communities she was a part of….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 72. We have come tonight to honor a true film genius in Charles Band. He entered film production in the Seventies with Charles Band Productions. Dissatisfied with distributors’ handling of his movies, he formed his own company in the early Eighties. At its height, he would release an average of two films a month, one theatrically and one on home video. 

So what are you going to recognize out of his hundreds of films? 

Most of his films paid the cast next to nothing, were notoriously lax on safety measures according to State officials who fined him considerable amounts over the years and he paid screenwriters, well, guess. 

Trancers, also released as Future Cop, the first of a series, which I’ve seen and liked, had Tim Thomerson and Helen Hunt in the lead cast. Supposedly the detective here is homage to Bogart’s various detective roles.

As producer, he did Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.  Richard Moll who is in the cast and he shaved his head for his role here. The Night Court producers liked the look for Moll, so he continued shaving his head for the show.

Now he also produced a lot of more frankly sleazy SF such as Slave Girls from Beyond InfinityGalactic Gigolo, and Space Sluts in the Slammer, and the post-apocalypse zombie films, Barbie & Kendra Save the Tiger King and Barbie & Kendra Storm Area 51

His autobiography has a title that’s every bit has as over the top as most of some of film titles are, Confessions of a Puppetmaster: A Hollywood Memoir of Ghouls, Guts, and Gonzo Filmmaking

One final note. His entire financial house of cards collapsed in the late Eighties and was seized by various banks who in turned sold the assets off to MGM, so you’re likely to see one of his films streaming just about anywhere these days. 

(10) STORIES YES AND NO. Rich Horton reaches back to 1970 to tell Black Gate readers about “No More Stories — The Capstone to Joanna Russ’s Alyx Sequence: ‘The Second Inquisition’”.

“No more stories.” So ends Joanna Russ’s great novelette “The Second Inquisition.” But in many ways the story is about stories — about how we use them to define ourselves, protect ourselves, understand ourselves. It’s also, in a curious way, about Joanna Russ’s stories, particularly those about Alyx, a woman rescued from drowning in classical times by the future Trans-Temporal Authority….

(11) CORE TELEVISION. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Now, I don’t agree with everything in this article (for one thing, Foundation is execrable.) But it is an interesting look at what Apple+ is doing in SFF and why so much of it works. “The Best Sci-Fi Shows of 2023 All of Have One Shocking Thing in Common” at Inverse.

For All Mankind isn’t the only sci-fi show pushing the limits of the genre on Tim Cook’s dime. The Apple CEO has been quietly funding some of the best science fiction TV in recent memory, ranging from the centuries-spanning Isaac Asimov adaptation Foundation to the mind-bending near-future of Severance to the globe-trotting Godzilla spinoff series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters — to name just a few.

And while it’s hard to say what exactly defines an Apple sci-fi show, Inverse spoke to several showrunners and producers who all agree the tech giant brings a unique, futurist perspective to the genre that — when combined with endless cash — helps explain why, all of a sudden, it seems like the best science fiction television is all coming from the same company that sold you your iPhone….

… One thing you can say about pretty much any show or movie on Apple TV+ is that it probably looks gorgeous. While many Netflix productions have a certain flatness to them that can make it feel like the streamer has been cutting corners, Apple is pouring a lot of money into the look (and star power) of its original series — it helps to have a trillion-dollar cash pile, even if Amazon and Disney are still outspending the MacBook maker….

(12) MARATHON FAN. SYFY Wire understandably wants us all to know “How to Watch SYFY’s Twilight Zone New Year’s Marathon 2023-2024”.

Just as you can count on our planet making a full rotation around the sun every 365 days or so, you can also rest assured that SYFY will use the key of imagination to unlock its annual New Year’s marathon of The Twilight Zone. The honored tradition of airing Rod Serling’s groundbreaking anthology series won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, the 2023-24 edition is super-sized, with the marathon spanning a total of three whole days — starting Saturday (December 30) and ending Tuesday (January 2).

Who needs to smooch someone at midnight when you’ve got Jason Foster (Robert Keith) teaching his wicked family members a lesson they’ll never forget in “The Masks”? Fittingly enough, the classic episode — which revolves around a collection of vain and greedy individuals ordered to wear hideous masks until the stroke of midnight — will air about 40 minutes before the ball drops. If someone offers you a grotesque party favor along with that glass of Champagne, you might want to turn it down….

(13) CHINA’S MIXED SIGNALS ON VIDEO GAME PLAYING. “Will China Ease Its New Video Game Controls? Investors Think So.” The New York Times says, “After a market rout, gaming companies like Tencent and Netease rally on signals that regulators might apply proposed curbs on users less harshly than feared.”

 …The events of the past several days underline the push-and-pull forces in Chinese policymaking. The country’s top leaders have acknowledged they need to stabilize the economy, which has been slow to recover from being virtually locked down during the Covid pandemic. But the government’s tight control of how companies do business continues to inject uncertainty into the markets.

China’s National Press and Publication Administration, which issues licenses to game publishers and oversees the industry, unveiled a proposal on Friday aimed at effectively reducing how much people spend playing games. The plan took the industry by surprise, and investors dumped tens of billions of dollars in company stock.

The regulator issued a statement on Saturday stressing that the draft rules aim to “promote the prosperity and healthy development of the industry,” and said it is “listening to more opinions comprehensively and improving regulations and provisions.”

Then on Monday, the agency announced that it had licensed about 100 new games, after licensing 40 others on Friday. And a semiofficial association affiliated with the agency said that the additional game approvals were “positive signals” that the agency supports the industry.

The new regulations would cap how much money users could spend within games on things like upgrading the features of characters or procuring virtual weapons or other things used by the characters. It would also ban rewards that companies use to entice players to return. The proposal did not specify a spending cap…..

… The industry is still reeling from earlier restrictions first imposed in 2019 aimed at what the government deemed was an online gaming addiction among minors, as well as a broader crackdown against tech companies. Regulators also stymied publishers by not issuing any new game licenses for an eight-month stretch that ended in April 2022….

(14) CHART YOUR COURSE. Archie’s Press offers interesting “Outer Space” prints.

Outer Space is so huge, there’s really no way to wrap your head around the entire thing. This makes it all make sense.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Dann.] A tale of old Japan.  A tale as old as time.  A beleaguered hero looking to avenge past wrongs.  Western forces looking to control a local government.  A beauty of a beast.

When the culture and government deny any usual path to survival, much less happiness, our hero seeks unusual opportunities instead.  Learning the secrets of steel.  Surreptitiously learning the secrets of the sword.  All of them.

Eventually, our hero sets out on a path of vengeance leaving rivers of blood along the way.  Companions are found, whether or not our hero desires their companionship.

Each character is well-developed with unique strengths, flaws, and motivations.  Even the villains have a compelling story to tell.

Blue Eye Samurai is not to be missed.  And The Critical Drinker knows why.  Go watch the “The Drinker Recommends… Blue Eye Samurai”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Dann, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, James Bacon, 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 Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

There were presentations from the following Worldcons and bids:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) MEMORY LANE.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serling ends with this narration:

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/23 Because My Pixels Are Delicious To Scroll

(1) ALL SYSTEMS GREEN. Martha Wells’ series is coming to TV: “Alexander Skarsgård Stars In ‘Murderbot’ Sci-Fi Series Ordered By Apple”Deadline carried the announcement.

Apple TV+ has officially picked up Murderbot, a 10-episode sci-fi drama series starring and executive produced by Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgård (Succession). Based on Martha Wells’ bestselling Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning book series The Murderbot Diaries, the project hails from Chris and Paul Weitz (About a Boy) and Paramount Television Studios.

The action-packed Murderbot received a blinking green light a year ago, with the casting of the title character interrupted by the strikes. The series centers on a self-hacking security android (Skarsgård) who is horrified by human emotion yet drawn to its vulnerable “clients.” Murderbot must hide its free will and complete a dangerous assignment when all it really wants is to be left alone to watch futuristic soap operas and figure out its place in the universe….

(2) THE END IS NEAR. Good Omens is getting another curtain call: “Good Omens Renewed for Season 3 at Amazon” says The Hollywood Reporter.

The streamer has renewed Good Omensthe fantasy-comedy that started as a limited series, for a third and final season. Production on the show from BBC Studios, and based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, is expected to begin soon in Scotland.

“I’m so happy finally to be able to finish the story Terry and I plotted in 1989 and in 2006,” Gaiman said in a release announcing the news Thursday. “Terry was determined that if we made Good Omens for television, we could take the story all the way to the end. Season one was all about averting Armageddon, dangerous prophecies and the End of the World. Season two was sweet and gentle, although it may have ended less joyfully than a certain Angel and Demon might have hoped. Now in season three, we will deal once more with the end of the world. The plans for Armageddon are going wrong. Only Crowley [David Tennant] and Aziraphale [Martin Sheen] working together can hope to put it right. And they aren’t talking.”…

(3) WHO COUP. Sir Derek Jacobi will be a headline guest at Gallifrey One, the annual LA Doctor Who convention, happening February 16-18.

Star of stage and screen, and one of Britain’s national treasures, Sir Derek Jacobi portrayed the Master (and his alter ego, Professor Yana) opposite David Tennant in 2007’s “Utopia,” fulfilling a life-long ambition of the actor to star in Doctor Who. He also voices the character in audio adventures for Big Finish Productions, credited as the War Master; also voiced the Master in the 2003 Doctor Who audio play “Scream of the Shalka”; and starred as Martin Bannister in the Doctor Who Unbound audio release “Deadline.”

…We are honored to be able to welcome Sir Derek to Gallifrey One this year, his first-ever Doctor Who appearance in North America, courtesy our friends at Showmasters Events.  Sir Derek will participate in two main stage interviews during his visit, one on Friday afternoon, and one Saturday, included with general admission.  He will also be autographing and doing photo ops on Saturday and Sunday, will do a VIP script reading on Sunday morning, will participate in our guest receptions on Friday & Saturday evenings, and has a separate Diamond Pass; all of these require purchase (see below.)  Additionally, he is included in the TARDIS Tag package….

The con will also have Billie Piper, Alex Kingston, and a flock of other Doctor Who actors, writers, and production people.

(4) WHO HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Inverse tells how “2023’s Wildest Sci-Fi Show is Bringing Back Its Most Underrated Secret Weapon”.

… With this episode being the first one to contain Gatwa as the sole Doctor, this could mean a shift in the Doctor Who we know and love. Original reboot showrunner Russell T. Davies may be back, but there’s a new Doctor and a new companion at the start of a new season, why not try a new (old) genre as well?

Even if this is just a temporary jaunt into the world of fantasy, it’s proof of exactly what the third special “The Giggle” established: The Doctor took a break to rest and deal with the literal centuries of trauma that he has undergone, and now he can find himself in silly high jinks that are more suited to a classic children’s novel instead of a hardboiled sci-fi paperback….

(5) ECCLESTON’S PRICE. CBR.com listens in as “Christopher Eccleston Reveals His Conditions for Doctor Who Return”.

Eccleston, who played the ninth Doctor in the first season of the show’s revival in 2005, had a relatively brief spell at the helm before being replaced by David Tennant. Eccleston has since been vocal about his mixed feelings about his time on the show. While speaking at the For The Love of Sci-Fi fan convention over the weekend, Eccleston was asked about if he would come back to Doctor Who, and what the BBC would need to do in order to make that happen. Eccleston was brutally honest with his answer, telling audiences, “Sack Russell T Davies. Sack Jane Tranter. Sack Phil Collinson. Sack Julie Gardner. And I’ll come back. So can you arrange that?”…

(6) MOVE TOWARDS STREAMER TRANSPARENCY. Netflix today debuted its first semi-annual report of hours of content viewed on the streaming site. Or as The Verge puts it: “Netflix reveals how many hours we spent watching The Night Agent and Queen Charlotte”.

Netflix is going to start publishing a new report twice a year that details the most popular shows and movies on the platform. The first report, released today, details the most-watched content from January to June 2023, and it’s perhaps the best look yet at how much people are actually watching Netflix’s gargantuan library of titles.

“What We Watched: A Netflix Engagement Report” will track three metrics: hours watched, whether a show is available globally, and a show’s release date. In this first report, the first season of The Night Agent tops the list with more than 812 million hours viewed, followed by Ginny & Georgia’s second season (665.1 million hours viewed), The Glory’s first season (622.8 million hours viewed), Wednesday’s first season (507.7 million hours viewed), and Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (503 million hours viewed). Those are only the top five; the full list contains more than 18,000 titles. (Content is included if it has been watched for more than 50,000 hours.)

(7) SUBSTACK’S NAZI PROBLEM. Max Gladstone, in “Substackers Against Nazis”, told readers:

I’m taking part in a collective action on Substack today. I did not help draft the letter below, but I agree with it. I’ve been planning to shift this newsletter off Substack for a while now, and this is one of the reasons why.

Gladstone signal-boosted a mass letter which begins:

Dear Chris, Hamish & Jairaj:

We’re asking a very simple question that has somehow been made complicated: Why are you platforming and monetizing Nazis

According to a piece written by Substack publisher Jonathan M. Katz and published by The Atlantic on November 28, this platform has a Nazi problem

“Some Substack newsletters by Nazis and white nationalists have thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers, making the platform a new and valuable tool for creating mailing lists for the far right. And many accept paid subscriptions through Substack, seemingly flouting terms of service that ban attempts to ‘publish content or fund initiatives that incite violence based on protected classes’…Substack, which takes a 10 percent cut of subscription revenue, makes money when readers pay for Nazi newsletters.”

As Patrick Casey, a leader of a now-defunct neo-Nazi group who is banned on nearly every other social platform except Substack, wrote on here in 2021: “I’m able to live comfortably doing something I find enjoyable and fulfilling. The cause isn’t going anywhere.” Several Nazis and white supremacists including Richard Spencer not only have paid subscriptions turned on but have received Substack “Bestseller” badges, indicating that they are making at a minimum thousands of dollars a year….

Filer Robin Anne Reid also circulated the letter to her Substack readers.

(8) CHENGDU CATCHUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]

Two new articles published by Southern Weekly

On Wednesday 13th, Southern Weekly published two long articles following up from the Worldcon.

The first is titled ‘“They gave me comfort, and I risked my life to do something for them”: The birth of a Hugo-award winning science fiction fanzine’, and is an interview with Best Fanzine winner and Best Fan Writer finalist RiverFlow.  Extracts via Google Translate, with manual edits:

“In those two years, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t communicate with people normally, and I couldn’t take care of myself to a certain extent.  My daily spiritual support was to communicate with a group of science fiction fans on the Internet,” he said.  “They could give me some comfort. Even if I risk my life, I can do something for them.”  For a young man who is used to being self-isolated, these kindnesses and comforts from strangers are almost unbelievable…

He decided that he was not a “science fiction fan” in the strict sense, but a “fan of science fiction fans.”

So, he found another way to do something for his friends.  The idea of starting a fan magazine was mentioned by someone in the group, and it stirred something in his heart. He searched for public information about Chinese science fiction fans and found that there was almost no specialized research in the country.  “Why do the groups of science fiction fans who cared about me seem to have no part in the narrative of the entire history of Chinese science fiction and seem to have disappeared?”

In July 2020, the first issue of “Zero Gravity News” was released.  RiverFlow only took one day to typeset it in Word.  The issue was not detailed, just excerpting some science fiction news, group discussions, etc.  But the sci-fi fanzine had taken one small step.

RiverFlow also posted some comments on Weibo about the piece.

The second article is ‘A conversation with science fiction scholar San Feng: Why is science fiction fan culture important?’  Much of the article covers the history of the Worldcon, western SF fandom etc and seems to be aimed at a general audience, and so will be already familiar ground to File 770 readers.  Later on it moves onto SF in China, which will probably be of more interest.  (Again, this is via Google Translate with manual edits.)

Southern Weekly: Does the Chinese science fiction circle also have a similar structure [to SF in the West]?

San Feng: Our science fiction fan culture is relatively recent. According to our research, it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that science fiction fans in the strict sense began to appear.

Liu Cixin said that he is the first generation of science fiction fans, including Han Song, Yao Haijun, etc. It can be understood that people born in the 1960s fell in love with science fiction in the early 1980s. At that time, Chinese science fiction did not have a distinct cultural identity of science fiction. Science fiction clubs or science fiction research societies were established in many places, but most of them were in a top-down manner. Many places wanted to organize people to write science fiction, so they set up science fiction research associations.

To truly build a science fiction fan community from the bottom up, I think the landmark event was Yao Haijun’s founding of the science fiction fan magazine “Nebula” in 1988 (note: some say it was 1986).  At that time, he was still working as a lumberjack in Yichun [in northeast China].  Because he liked science fiction, he used a mimeograph in his spare time to publish a science fiction fan magazine “Nebula”, which was shared with science fiction fans all over the country.  If you got in touch with him and sent a little money to him, maybe a few cents, he would send you a mimeographed magazine.

(Note: both of the above links are to mobile versions of the articles, and have subheadings stating that they will only be freely available for some unstated time period, before going behind a paywall.  There are desktop versions of those pages, but those have truncated content, requiring a login to see the full article.)

Three Worldcon reports

The following Chinese-language con reports all strike quite different tones from each other.  (All extracts via Google Translate, with manual cleanup edits.)

The first one is by Shen Yusi, and was posted on the Zero Gravity Weixin/WeChat account on November 15th.  This one is very positive about the event.

If Liu Cixin won the Hugo Award and let the world hear the strongest voice in Chinese science fiction, then in 2023 the World Science Fiction Convention held in Chengdu allows the world to truly see what the Chinese science fiction community looks like…

I had seen the aerial view of the Chengdu Science Fiction Museum on the official website, which is quite shocking. It looks like a huge piece of silver metal foil flying down by the lake. I once joked that I would never be able to witness this form of the venue with my naked eyes – after all, I can’t fly. From the ground, the venue looks like a huge alien aircraft, with a silver-white outer shell and mostly icy blue light inside. From an aesthetic point of view, this sci-fi feel is relatively avant-garde, rather than being something from the present day…

There were many young people and children at the event, which I had never thought about before.  Groups of primary school students visited this event under the guidance of their teachers.  There was also an award ceremony for the essay competition in an exhibition hall on the second floor.  I can’t do anything other than praise Chengdu’s education sector!  Maybe the next Liu Cixin will emerge from these children?

There were many college students on site, including booth staff and student media interviewing guests.  As a person who was very capable of making waves when they were in college, I can’t help but sigh and think that it’s great to be young! Many of these college students have not yet shed their youthfulness, and they are full of bookishness and strong idealism. After all, science is “fantastical”. If you don’t have a little bit of the second spirit, how can you have the ambition to conquer the stars and the sea?

The second report was posted to Zhihu – which I think usually gets compared to Western Q&A websites like Stack Overflow or Quora – by Chen Mengyu on November 6th.  This one is slightly more mixed; it seems like they enjoyed the more literary, fannish or creative activities, but were bored stiff by some of the more “corporate” events that they stumbled into.

At lunch, the sun was just right and the lake was like a mirror. I lay on a soft chair and had a bite of fried chicken and a Coke, feeling comfortable.

[A woman I’d met previously] invited her friends over, and there were more people.  Everyone had finished eating and wandered around chatting. While chatting, I felt that most of the people who like science fiction are middle-class people. There was also a man who flew over from Guangzhou to attend the conference.

I went to the Trisolaris [Three-Body Problem] fan meeting and found that there was a queue of two to three hundred meters. Haha, the last time I saw such a queue was at the National Museum. We gave up on queuing.

Soon we found an area where people were playing a creative game. We were divided into several groups, and given a common starting prompt, each group would start writing one sentence at a time, and at the end there was a vote for the group with the best writing…. My group won first place, and as a reward each person chose a book. I chose

[2021 novel] Tales from a Small Town, and I was very happy….

Then I went to the Shenzhen Science and Fantasy Growth Fund panel. My friends became bored, so instead they queued up for the The Three-Body Problem panel. I was the only one who stayed, and I have to admit that it was really boring… The top ten sci-fi cities in the country, as calculated by complex formulas, were announced in the panel: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan and Nanjing.  This looked familiar to me – the top ten cities ranked by GDP.  The list was exactly the same except that Xi’an is not in the top ten by GDP… Then I wrote down a piece of data and was shocked! Beijing and Chengdu have the highest density of science fiction writers, reaching a level of 27 science fiction writers per million people…

Because I drew a lottery ticket for the closing ceremony, I attended it on the next day, but there was nothing interesting in the closing ceremony… there were only two things worth  mentioning; one was the simultaneous interpretation, either English to Chinese or Chinese to English.  After choosing, if someone speaks English, the interpreter would translate it on the spot and read it out into the earphones, which I found very interesting.

[The other was that] next year’s science fiction convention was represented by Vincent in a kilt.  It is foreseeable that there will be many Scottish hunks in kilts at next year’s Worldcon.

(Attached images: chenmengyu[123].jpg)

The final report is a Weibo post from October 23rd, which to be honest is a bit of a snarky rant.  This isn’t completely unjustified, as the poster was unable to attend due to the rescheduling, despite living relatively close to Chengdu in a neighbouring province, nor did they have much success with the online component of the con, with both the livestreams and the Hugo voting failing for them.

Your science fiction conference this year is really terrible. I really can’t help but want to curse, but after thinking about it, I might as well forget it…

Since I couldn’t attend in person, I bought an online ticket.  However the website locked up, and I couldn’t get in to watch the live broadcast. They didn’t give me a refund. When I asked, they said it wasn’t allowed.

It’s 2023, and a “science fiction conference” that can’t even be broadcast online is awesome.

The Hugo Awards have always been voted for by members who spend money, and I have been a member for a long time.  I have been voting for the Hugo Awards in the past few years, but this year I was inexplicably unable to vote.  I really admire this organizer.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. (Died 1965.) I was surprised to learn how prolific she was — she composed six novels, two memoirs, and more than two hundred short stories! 

Shirley Jackson in 1940.

Her first novel, The Bird’s Nest, she considered a mainstream work of fiction but the publisher didn’t and marketed it as the publishing house marketed it as a psychological horror story. She was right as it’s a woman with multiple personalities, not horror at all.

Her following novel, The Sundial, concerned a family of wealthy eccentrics who believe they have been chosen to survive the end of the world, and was definitely genre as there’s a ghostly presence. 

Jackson’s fifth novel, The Haunting of Hill House, Is one that we all know about it. It has been made into two feature films and a play, and is the basis of a Netflix series. It was done as The Haunting in 1963, and then as, errr, The Haunting thirty-six years later. The latter is not faithful to the novel as it is (SPOILER ALERT) an explicit fantasy horror film in which all the main characters are terrorized and two are killed as explicitly supernatural deaths (END SPOILER). 

Elizabeth Hand’s A Haunting on the Hill is the first authorized novel set in the world of Hill House. The novel takes place decades after the events of The Haunting of Hill House, as a group of theater professionals rent Hill House to workshop a new play. Lis is reviewing it for us. 

The same year she wrote The Bad Children, a one-act children’s musical based on the “Hansel and Gretel” tale. She wrote the book and lyrics with the music being by Allan Jay Friedman.

I’d talk about “The Lottery” short story but I’ve honestly never figured out the appeal of that frankly abhorrent story, so I won’t. If you won’t to, go ahead. Now “The Missing Girl” short story first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in their December 1957 issue is a chilling work of horror well worth you reading.

It’s available in a collection comprising fifty four stories of the hundred and four that she did called Just an Ordinary Day. Remarkably it’s a Meredith Moment I’d say at just $7.99! 

Though in extremely poor health, she produced two final works of note. The first being We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a Gothic mystery novel. Time magazine noted it as one of the Ten Best Novels of 1962.

The following year, she published Nine Magic Wishes, an illustrated children’s novel about a child who encounters a magician who grants him numerous enchanting wishes.

At just one forty-eight years of age, her heart failed, according to both of her biographers, due to a combination of heavy smoking, alcoholism and extreme dependence on pain killers prescribed by physicians who didn’t know better at the time. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz is for those of us who like big words.
  • Shoe goes well with Frazz.

(11) I SEE NONEXISTENT PEOPLE. “Imaginary Friends ARE Real in ‘IF’ Teaser Trailer”Animation News Network explains how it works.

…Ask yourself the question, “What if all your imaginary friends were real?” And what if your superpower was you could see them all? Then your life would look a lot like the story of IF, John Krasinski’s upcoming comedy adventure about a girl who discovers that she can see everyone’s imaginary friends and the magical adventure she embarks upon to reconnect forgotten ‘IFs’ with their kids….

(12) MR. ROBOT NOW HAS A UNIVERSE. GQ tells readers, “Confirmed: ‘Leave the World Behind’ Takes Place in the ‘Mr. Robot’ Extended Universe”.

Leave the World Behind, Sam Esmail’s first feature film since the success of his tech-thriller series Mr. Robot, deals with themes similar to those of his acclaimed USA Network show. But the connections may not stop there. As one keen-eyed Reddit user noted, the film references a hacking in the tri-state area that nearly led to a catastrophic meltdown at a nuclear power plant. This seems to clearly be a nod to the 11th episode of Season 4, “eXit,” in which Rami Malek’s Elliot nearly hacks a nuclear plant, with catastrophic potential damage….

(13) FIRST, LET’S IGNORE ALL THE LAWYERS. As usual, people aren’t interested in legal advice that would keep them from doing what they’ve already decided to do: “Meta used copyrighted books for AI training despite its own lawyers’ warnings, authors allege”Reuters has the story.

…Meta Platforms’ (META.O) lawyers had warned it about the legal perils of using thousands of pirated books to train its AI models, but the company did it anyway, according to a new filing in a copyright infringement lawsuit initially brought this summer.

The new filing late on Monday night consolidates two lawsuits brought against the Facebook and Instagram owner by comedian Sarah Silverman, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon and other prominent authors, who allege that Meta has used their works without permission to train its artificial-intelligence language model, Llama.

… In the chat logs quoted in the complaint, researcher Tim Dettmers describes his back-and-forth with Meta’s legal department over whether use of the book files as training data would be “legally ok.”

“At Facebook, there are a lot of people interested in working with (T)he (P)ile, including myself, but in its current form, we are unable to use it for legal reasons,” Dettmers wrote in 2021, referring to a dataset Meta has acknowledged using to train its first version of Llama, according to the complaint.

The month prior, Dettmers wrote that Meta’s lawyers had told him “the data cannot be used or models cannot be published if they are trained on that data,” the complaint said….

(14) SOUNDS LIKE THE NEEDLE IS STUCK. “NASA working to solve Voyager 1 computer glitch from billions of miles away” reports CNN.

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced a computer glitch that’s causing a bit of a communication breakdown between the 46-year-old probe and its mission team on Earth.

Engineers are currently trying to solve the issue as the aging spacecraft explores uncharted cosmic territory along the outer reaches of the solar system.

Voyager 1 is currently the farthest spacecraft from Earth at about 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) away, while its twin Voyager 2 has traveled more than 12 billion miles (20 billion kilometers) from our planet. Both are in interstellar space and are the only spacecraft ever to operate beyond the heliosphere, the sun’s bubble of magnetic fields and particles that extends well beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Voyager 1 has three onboard computers, including a flight data system that collects information from the spacecraft’s science instruments and bundles it with engineering data that reflects the current health status of Voyager 1. Mission control on Earth receives that data in binary code, or a series of ones and zeroes.

But Voyager 1’s flight data system now appears to be stuck on auto-repeat, in a scenario reminiscent of the film “Groundhog Day.”

A long-distance glitch

The mission team first noticed the issue November 14, when the flight data system’s telecommunications unit began sending back a repeating pattern of ones and zeroes, like it was trapped in a loop.

While the spacecraft can still receive and carry out commands transmitted from the mission team, a problem with that telecommunications unit means no science or engineering data from Voyager 1 is being returned to Earth.

The Voyager team sent commands over the weekend for the spacecraft to restart the flight data system, but no usable data has come back yet, according to NASA….

(15) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED…OUR ANCESTORS. IndieWire sets the frame for “’Out of Darkness’ Trailer: A Stone Age Survival Horror Story”.

Set during the Stone Age, the horror film “Out of Darkness” brings a modern twist to the survival story.

The film, which marks both director Andrew Cumming and screenwriter Ruth Greenberg’s respective feature debuts, centers on a teenager (Safia Oakley-Green) who must survive immigrating across the sea and into a foreign land that may or may not house monsters.

The official synopsis for the indie horror film reads: “A group of six have struggled across the narrow sea to find a new home. They are starving, desperate, and living 45,000 years ago. First they must find shelter, and they strike out across the tundra wastes towards the distant mountains that promise the abundant caves they need to survive. But when night falls, anticipation turns to fear and doubt as they realize they are not alone. Terrifying sounds suggest something monstrous at large in this landscape, something that could kill or steal them away. As relationships in the group fracture, the determination of one young woman reveals the terrible actions taken to survive.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Loontown is a nearly 18-minute animated noir set in a city reminiscent of Los Angeles, whose denizens are talking balloons, gasbags and others of their ilk. It was written by World Fantasy Award winning author Lavie Tidhar and directed, animated and scored by Nir Yaniv, who had previously collaborated with Tidhar on the 2009 novel The Tel Aviv Dossier. Loontown can currently be viewed on YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/8/23 Strange Scrolls Lying In Ponds Passing Out Pixels

(1) MARTHA WELLS Q&A. Kelly Jennings interviews Martha Wells for IZ Digital: “Out of Trauma”.

Kelly Jennings: I also saw somewhere that you used to work as a programmer – is that right? Can you talk about how that’s helped you create the bots in your books, including Murderbot?

Martha Wells: Yes, in the late 80s and 90s I was a COBOL programmer and also built and worked with SQL databases and early CGI programs for web sites. I also did a lot of user support and wrote instructions and documentation, and worked with several different systems. I’ve had people assume I’m an expert on artificial intelligence, which I absolutely am not. What really informed Murderbot’s experience was creating a database according to what the users said they needed, and then finding that what they actually needed it to do was something else, and instead of asking for it to be adjusted they cram extra information into the fields and are then surprised when it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to anymore. And being yelled at by people who don’t know how to turn their workstation on. I have lots of stories about this kind of thing….

(2) “TRUTH ISN’T ALWAYS ENLIGHTENMENT”. “Joanna Russ Showed Us the Future: Female, Queer but Far From Perfect” explains Annalee Newitz in a review of a new Russ collection.

Joanna Russ (1937-2011) was one of the great writers of the 20th century, but she is also one of those authors you either know intimately or have never heard of. She wrote prickly, violent stories about lesbian heroes who slay patriarchs, and adventure tales about bold women who swashbuckle across the multiverse. These tropes win fans and Oscars today, but Russ was publishing in the 1960s and ’70s, when women simply weren’t supposed to write like that. At least, not if they wanted to be taken seriously. She was an outsider in the literary world for writing about the future, but her space marauders were too queer for the science fiction crowd. And so she never really found a comfortable place in literary history.

Now a new collection of her most significant works, JOANNA RUSS: Novels & Stories (Library of America, 711 pp., $37.50), offers a valuable introduction to a pioneer who defied categories. It contains Russ’s best-known novel, “The Female Man” (1975), a potent mixture of science fiction and dark satire; her early stories about a savvy, tough time traveler named Alyx; and her painfully realistic coming-out novel “On Strike Against God” (1980).

Together, these works and a few others showcase Russ’s furious, chaotic style. She focuses on messy characters whose racing minds she populates with fragments of music and theatrical dialogue, interleaving their sharp social observations with futuristic speculation based in real science. It’s like listening to your smartest, funniest friend tell you why the whole world is garbage….

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

Test images lead to erroneous speculation about possible guests

A photo posted to Weibo of an apparent promotional image of George R. R. Martin, which was taken to imply that he might be at a GoT/ASoIaF panel.  One comment exchange (via Google Translate, with minor edits):

User A: Martin is coming?

User B: Or maybe it’s just a schematic diagram of the scene. Or [he’s] connect[ing] remotely. It is impossible [for him] to come. If [he] really comes, I will never criticize the organizing committee again [laughing and crying emojis]

This speculation was dashed when it transpired that the image was some sort of test or mockup that had somehow escaped into the wider world.  A similar one with James Cameron and an Avatar panel was also posted, along with a few others.

Chengdu light rail train with Worldcon livery

The official Twitter and Facebook accounts posted some photos of a light rail train in Worldcon livery.  There was also a short video posted to Xiaohongshu.

Photos of Hugo Hall and other interior areas

Those official accounts also posted some photos of the Hugo Hall, which looks a lot more finished than in the video posted here a few days ago.  Based on that video, I think the third and fourth images are of the media room, rather than the Hugo Hall.

The Weibo account of the SF World Translation magazine posted several more images of the interior of the museum.

Three Xiaohongshu posts about the surrounding area

(i) This Xiaohongshu post is a relatively slow and long video compiling aerial shots of JIngrong town, the vicinity of the con.  The locale seems to have a lot more high-rise blocks than I thought, compared to what’s been seen in other videos.  Perhaps that is down to angle and shot selection?

The accompanying text is quite informative.  Via Google Translate (with manual edits to fix tenses and grammar, and with bits that came out incoherent removed), it says:

Jingrong Town is a town under the jurisdiction of Pidu District, Chengdu City.  The Pidu District of Chengdu has transformed Deyuan New Town, which was on the verge of becoming a “hollow town” in terms of industrial development, into Jingrong Town, a well-known “maker’s paradise”.  At the same time, it has set off an upsurge of innovation and entrepreneurship in the entire district.

(ii) This post from October 5th is perhaps more interesting for the text notes and comments than the images; via Google Translate (minor manual edits):

The whole place is still under construction, and there are security guards all around to prevent you from entering. If you want to check in at the best place, you should wait until it opens. 

Moreover, the surrounding supporting facilities are not yet complete… I want to say that there are no restaurants around. The nearest community is probably nearly 2 kilometers away. There are only three or four food stalls outside. And the nearest subway station is Wangcong Temple, which takes three stops. This venue can only be reached by tram.

(iii) Most of the shots in this Xiaohongshu slideshow are by now fairly familiar, but there’s “(In Chengdu) Meet The Future” sculpture/statue/something that I haven’t seen before.  (If you have that app, several of the images will display as short videos, but this doesn’t seem to work in a browser.)

Staff badges and training material

This post contains three images:

  • A photo of the (volunteer?) staff ID badges.  I’ve seen a couple of other posts with these posted in the past day or so, so maybe they’ve just been issued?
  • The second photo looks like it might be the cover page of a training manual for the Hugo Awards Ceremony?
  • The third is possibly a banner flying in the area outside the SF museum?

PandaBot: “It’s coming”

I’m not sure what this is – quite possibly it’s just some unofficial fan art project – but these images of a robotic panda that (per the final image) is “helping the World Science Fiction Convention” were also posted to Xiaohongshu.

(4) EMMY-NOMINATED COSTUME DESIGNER. “Shawna Trpcic Dies: ‘The Mandalorian’, ‘Ahsoka’ & ‘Firefly’ Costume Designer Was 56” reports Deadline.

…She worked on such Joss Whedon series as Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. as well as his movie The Cabin In the Woods.

Firefly fan who worked at Skywalker Ranch asked her if she would like a tour, and there Trpcic met George Lucas.  Fifteen years later, she received a call to work on The Mandalorian, fulfilling a lifelong dream to design for Star Wars.

Trpcic set up shop at Lucasfilm in 2019, joining the second season of The Mandalorian. She has since continued her work on that series and also served as costume designer of The Book of Boba Fett, and Ahsoka. Trpcic was nominated for an Emmy for her work on The Mandalorian Season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett, and won a Costume Designer’s Guild Award for her work on the latter. She is currently nominated for an Emmy for her work on The Mandalorian Season 3….

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing — by far, my favorite depiction of his novel in other media. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. Yes I’ve read much more by him but all that I remember vividly.  No, I’ve not seen the film. Did y’all enjoy it? (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1943 R.L. Stine, 80. He’s been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature” and is the author of hundreds of horror novels including works in the Goosebumps, Fear StreetMostly  Ghostly, and The Nightmare Room series. Library of Congress lists four hundred and twenty-three separate entries for him.
  • Born October 8, 1949 — Richard Hescox, 74. An illustrator who between the Seventies and early Nineties painted over one hundred and thirty covers for genre books, and is now working exclusively in the games industry and private commissions. Here’s his cover of Spider Robinson’s Lady Slings The Booze, another one of Spider’s clever puns.
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 74. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and Lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film Best Dramatic Presentation Award after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. And yes, I know Conspiracy ‘87 gave Aliens a Best Dramatic Presentation Award as well but I’m really not a fan of that franchise.
  • Born October 8, 1951 Terry Hayes, 72. Screenwriter of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior which he co-wrote with George Miller and Brian Hannant, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome with Miller, and From Hell (from the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell novel) which he co-wrote with Rafael Yglesias. He’s also the writer of an unused screenplay, Return of the Apes.
  • Born October 8, 1974 Lynne M. Thomas, 49. Librarian, podcaster and award-winning editor. She has won ten Hugo Awards for, among other things, as one of many involved in the SF Squeecast fancast, and editing Uncanny magazine with and husband Michael Damian Thomas. She and her husband are fanatical Whovians, so it’s no surprise that with Tara O’Shea, she edited the superb Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly C. Quinn, 30. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Arthurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

(7) POLISH GAME DEVS UNIONIZE. “CD Projekt Red devs unionise after its third round of layoffs in three months” reports Eurogamer.net.

Staff at CD Projekt Red are uniting with others in the Polish video game industry to unionise.

The union was formed after CDPR announced a third wave of job cuts in as many months, driving developers to unionise as a means of “improving their workplace/industry standards in a way that has legal power and amplifies their voices”.

“We started talking about unionizing after the 2023 wave of layoffs when nine per cent of Reds (that is roughly 100 people) were let go,” the union explains on the Gamedevunion.pl website (as translated by Google Translate)….

(8) HOLLYWOOD KITSCH. The “Again L.A. – Huge Toy and Hollywood Ephemera Sale starts on 10/6/2023” webpage at EstateSales.net is especially interesting for the vast photo gallery of treasures from past childhoods and other collectibles. I promise – a fair number are tasteless.

(9) PAPERBACK WRITER. The New York Times visits a local exhibit about “How the Humble Paperback Helped Win World War II”.

When American soldiers fought on the battlefields of World War II, they were carrying more than weapons. They also carried ideas — quite literally.

The Armed Services Editions, a series of specially designed pocket-size paperbacks, were introduced in the spring of 1943. Over the next four years, roughly 120 million were printed, finding their way everywhere from the beaches of Normandy to German P.O.W. camps to remote Pacific islands….

… The program, one of the more heroic chapters in American publishing history, is the subject of “The Best-Read Army in the World,” an exhibition at the Grolier Club in Manhattan. The show, on view through Dec. 30, is curated by Molly Guptill Manning, a law professor who accumulated more than 900 of the volumes while researching her 2014 book “When Books Went to War.”…

… The editions also boosted the fortunes of some authors. When F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940, “The Great Gatsby,” published in 1925, had barely sold 20,000 copies. Then it was selected as an Armed Services Edition, and more than 120,000 copies were distributed, spurring its transformation into a classic….

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ‘Tis the season – Halloween, that is. “Toxicity (System of a Down) 2023 Halloween Light and Fire Show”.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/21/23 The Long And Winding Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

(1) HWA WORLD OF HORROR INTERVIEW SERIES. The Horror Writers Association is running a worldwide interview series in August. Alan Baxter launched it with “World of Horror: Introduction to International Horror Month 2023”:

It has long been recognised that the USA is the main focus of attention when it comes to horror fiction. If that hasn’t been noticed by people in North America, it most certainly has by everyone outside the country. But there is a growing interest in horror set beyond America’s shores, and for stories written by authors from other countries and other cultures…

Here’s an example of the many interesting responses, from “World of Horror: Interview with Austrian Spencer”:

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

It’s the most honest of the genres—it asks its readers to understand their own capabilities for violence, fear, loathing, and our need to overcome them or embrace them. Horror writers ask the questions we all shy away from—because the commitment to face those emotions is too personal. We don’t address those situations daily, so it forces us to learn. Plus—I love turning on that cold hard place inside of me and destroying, clinically, that which I have built.

There’s probably a lot to work on in therapy in that admission.

These are the links to the rest of the series as of today, with more to come.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Martha Wells is currently in the middle of treatment for breast cancer, which she’s been blogging about on Dreamwidth. She’s had one surgery and will have a second one in the next week. She’ll also be undergoing radiation treatment for a month. Prognosis is good, however, her husband Troyce wrote in a comment here.

(3) 103 YEARS OF RAY BRADBURY. The Bradbury 100 Podcast will follow its time-honored tradition of doing a live episode on Ray Bradbury’s birthday. Tomorrow — August 22 — is the 103rd anniversary of Ray’s birth. Just drop by this page, and catch the live stream: https://www.facebook.com/bradburymedia/

They’ll be taking you back 70 years to 1953 – one of the biggest years of Ray’s life!  

(4) IT IS YOUR DESTINY. The Guardian’s Philip Ball comes up with many answers to the question “Should we colonise other planets?”

…Let’s go with that, and assume something like Musk’s big fat rocket can get us there. What might life in Mars City be like? Advocates for off-world colonies love to show images like those in the physicist and space activist Gerard O’Neill’s 1977 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space – an orderly, utopian American suburbia of chic apartments and parks, simply transplanted elsewhere in the solar system. Science fiction, on the other hand, is full of grim outposts on bleak, frozen planets, and savage prison or mining colonies. If history is any guide, frontier settlements are no picnic, and certainly not the kind of places that nurture harmonious, tolerant societies. If you want to know what to expect from colonies established by “billionauts” such as Musk or Jeff Bezos, perhaps ask their employees in Amazon warehouses or the Twitter offices…. 

(5) A WRITER CAN CHANGE HIS MIND. In case you wondered: “Why Stephen King Retired In 2002 (& Why He Came Back)” at ScreenRant.

In 2002, Stephen King told the Los Angeles Times (via People) he was going to retire from writing once he finished five more books he had lined up and work on a limited series for ABC (Rose Red, which isn’t based on a book by King but was scripted by him). King told the Times he was “done writing books”, explaining that it gets to a point where “you get to the edges of a room and you can go back and go where you’ve been” so you end up recycling stuff. King admitted to seeing this in his own work, explaining that when people read his recently published novel, From a Buick Eight, were going to think about his 1983 novel Christine, about a car possessed by malevolent supernatural forces. King added that he would retire then as he was still on top of his game, but this “retirement” didn’t last long, and he has continued to write a variety of stories….

That wasn’t the only reason. You can find out the rest at the link.

(6) WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? We don’t know. Ursula Vernon’s language lesson was interrupted.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bears one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.” and “Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.)
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Although it is said that she started writing SF when Boucher became editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she only published five of her eighteen late Forties through Fifties works there. One published there, “Mary Celestial“, was written with Boucher. And one, “A Death in the Family”, was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Best remembered as a mystery writer.  I see no indication that she’s in print in any manner these days for her SF (but three of her mysteries are available from the usual suspects) though she had two SF collections, Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow and Xenogenesis. (Died 1975.)
  • Born August 21, 1911 Anthony Boucher. I’m reading Rocket to the Morgue which the folks at Penzler Publishers sent me. Really great read. Oh and  The Case of The Crumpled Knave, one of his superb mysteries, is quite good as well. If you can find a copy, The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher is a most excellent read. The Case of The Crumpled Knave, The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction are available digitally and a lot are more at the usual suspects. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Life During Wartime is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I don’t remember reading “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 21, 1927 Arthur Thomson. Fanzine writer and editor and prolific artist known as ATom. Artist for the well known Hyphen zine, he won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 1964 and visited the States. He was nominated five times for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist, but never won. After Thomson won the 2000 Rotsler Award, it was decided not to present the Rotsler posthumously again. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 21, 1938 Ted Pedersen. Writer and producer. As a screenwriter, he wrote a number of scripts for Jason of Star Command and Flash Gordon. He wrote for a lot, and I do mean a lot of animated series such as Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStargate: Infinity and Batman: The Animated Series (“Be a Clown”). (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 21, 1966 Denise Mina, 57. Genre wise, she’s best known for having written thirteen issues of Hellblazer. Her two runs were “Empathy is the Enemy” and “The Red Right Hand”.  ISFDB lists The Dead Hour as genre but it’s very much not. Excellent novel but think rather in the vein of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels.

(8) BLADE CO-CREATOR MARV WOLFMAN RETURNS TO MARVEL COMICS HORROR. Marvel Comics welcomes back legendary writer Marv Wolfman as he teams up with artist David Cutler in What If…? Dark: Tomb Of Dracula #1, a tale that sees Blade transformed by Dracula. For more information, visit Marvel.com.

Wolfman redefined comic book horror storytelling in his groundbreaking run of The Tomb of Dracula where he introduced Dracula to the Marvel Universe and co-created Blade and the daughter of Dracula, Lilith Drake. Now decades later, he’ll revisit his mythology-molding work with a new What If…? story that asks the question, “WHAT IF…the legendary Dracula transformed BLADE the vampire slayer…into a vampire?!”

 “In 1972 I was a fledgling comics writer who mostly wrote short 2 to 8 page ‘monster’ stories when Editor Roy Thomas asked if I’d like to write Tomb of Dracula, my very first series for Marvel, and the book that would jump-start my career,” Wolfman recollected. “So it is a real thrill now that 50-plus years later Marvel asked me to once again dive into that pool with this very special What If…? story, and to bring back that great cast of characters that artist Gene Colan and I created so many years ago. Thank you, Marvel, for giving me the chance to play with old friends one last time.“

(9) I SWEAR THAT IT’S ALL TRUE. José Pablo Iriarte remembers childhood 50 years ago.

(10) CHEESE SCANNERS LIVE IN VAIN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Microchips in the Parmigiano and Other Ways Europeans Are Fighting Fake Food” at MSN.com.

… Now, makers of Parmigiano-Reggiano, as the original parmesan cheese is officially called, are slapping the microchips on their 90-pound cheese wheels as part of an endless cat-and-mouse game between makers of authentic and fake products….

Other European food producers are also going to ever greater lengths to protect their hallowed brand names against knockoffs. Guaranteeing food authenticity is big business in the European Union and more than 3,500 EU products have received protected status in addition to Italy’s Parmigiano, including Greek feta cheese, French Champagne and Italian Parma raw ham.

The market is worth almost €80 billion annually, equivalent to $87 billion, according to an EU study published in 2020. The market has grown considerably in recent years, in part due to the addition of new products to the list, according to food industry analysts. 

Because the protected products command premium prices, in some cases double those of similar but unprotected products, the market in Europe and farther afield is awash with fakes. Estimates put the market for knockoff products at about the same size as that for the originals….

(11) POSTHUMOUS FAME. The New York Times continues its series of obituaries for people whose deaths went unreported in the paper at the time: “Overlooked No More: Robert M. Budd, Whose Newsstand Was Unlike Any Other”.

…It was the height of the Civil War, and a young Robert M. Budd was hitching a ride from a Union Army encampment in Northern Virginia to his home in Washington, D.C. Boarding a wagon, he found that it was carrying federal soldiers — some wounded, others dead.

Robert was brave. Not only was he risking getting shot in a theater of war, but, because he was Black, he was also in danger of being kidnapped and enslaved. But he had accepted those risks to earn some money: selling newspapers to the troops as a newsboy.

Some soldiers, he found, were willing to pay more for older issues carrying stories about battles they had fought in — $3, for example, for a paper that carried reports of the second Battle of Bull Run, in August 1862, rather than the typical price of three cents.

And with that discovery, a business idea was born.

Later moving to New York, Budd, in the early 1880s, opened a newsstand in Manhattan, where for a time he was recognized as the sole purveyor of old newspapers and magazines, also called back numbers. The New York Sun in 1895 described him as “the only man in America in the back number newspaper business” (though some book stores also had a few old papers on hand).

Stairs next to his newsstand, in Greeley Square, led to a tunnellike gaslit basement, which, as The Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote, Budd filled with “the world’s largest collection of old newspapers” as well as magazines, sensational dime novels and theater programs. Budd became known as the Back Number King or, more often, Back Number Budd, which was how he signed his checks….

(12) ICE AGED. Smithsonian Magazine has Ötzi’s ancestry report: “Famed 5,300-Year-Old Alps Iceman Was a Balding Middle-Aged Man With Dark Skin and Eyes”.

…The study also used comparisons with other ancient individuals’ DNA to suggest that the Iceman is descended, in large part, from the Anatolian agriculturalists who first brought farming to Europe about 9,000 years ago, through what is now Turkey into Greece and the Balkan Peninsula. Ötzi’s genes show little mixing with the hunter-gatherer populations already living in Europe during that time, suggesting that his community was small and relatively isolated in their beautiful but remote alpine environment….

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