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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Boy and the Heron

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

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

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

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

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

‘Doctor Who’

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

Charles Addams at the New York Public Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

Judi Dench in 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s the medium Madame Arcati In Blithe Spirit.

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

That’s her for now. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-order from —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But he never found it.

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

It remained lost — until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 11/4/23 Pixels Of The Night, From Pixelated Pixelvania

(1) APPRECIATING A FINE ANTIQUE. James Davis Nicoll has a new assignment for the Young People Read Old SF panel.

This month’s Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists features Bruce Sterling’s 1988 ​“Our Neural Chernobyl”. Sterling was, of course, a grand figure in science fiction at the time, being nominated and winning too many awards to list here. The Hugo was merely one of those awards….

Bruce Sterling’s early works are “old sff” now, but wow, where did the time go….

(2) SENIOR BRITISH DIPLOMAT ON MUSK AND SF. The author of “Does Elon dream of electric sheep?” at Medium is Julian Braithwaite, former Director General for Europe at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and past Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UK Mission to the WTO, UN and Other International Organisations in Geneva.

One of the most interesting revelations from this week’s AI Safety summit in the UK was something I didn’t expect: the role science fiction plays in Elon Musk’s world.

Interesting to me at any rate, as a fan of the genre and what it says about each generation’s concerns and hopes for the future.

Musk is widely considered a voice of caution on AI, eloquently warning about the risks. The famous joint letter in March in which he and others called for a pause in the development of AI frontier models. His penchant for kill switches to shut down rogue AI.

So it was something of a surprise to find him sitting with Prime Minister Sunak on Wednesday, urging people to read Iain M Banks, the Scottish science fiction author, and his “Culture” novels.

Surprising for two reasons. First, because the AI depicted in these novels, the “Minds”, are incredibly powerful but benign partners for humanity, co-creators of a galaxy-spanning utopian civilisation based on individual freedom and superabundance. And second because, in the science fiction of AI, the benevolent Minds are very much an outlier….

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

How to access the online Chengdu Worldcon site from outside China

In Thursday’s Scroll, I wrote about how the con’s online site was no longer accessible outside China.  However, the error message reported by the browser made me think that there might be a workaround, and with the kind assistance of parties who will remain nameless, I can document a process whereby other con members can also regain access.

There is one slight caveat: I’m a Linux user, and haven’t had to touch OS X for over a year, and Windows for several years, so I can only reliably provide instructions for Linux.  I’m sure people who are more familiar with those other operating systems can provide addiitonal help in the comments.  (As for iOS or Android, I have absolutely no idea if or how you might be able implement a similar workaround.)  I’d also not be surprised if there is a more elegant solution to the problem than the one I’ve written up here; again, hopefully others can suggest things in the comments.

Basically, because DNS servers no longer have entries for online.worldcon.com to map it to an IP address, you have to add a manual override.  On a Linux machine, you can edit /etc/hosts to add a line “121.29.37.164 online.chengduworldcon.com” (no quotes) as shown in the screenshot.  You’ll need to do this via sudo, as that file should only be editable by the root user.

(Note that you can’t go directly to https://121.29.37.164/ in your browser; it just comes up with a “Forbidden” error.)

My recollection is that on current versions of OS X, you can do something pretty similar to the Linux /etc/hosts fix, but there’s perhaps some other faffing around you have to do to make sure the networking stack picks up your edits.

For the latest version of Windows that I was familiar with (10 I think?) the hosts file lived at C:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts – whether that’s still the case, I have no desire to research into.  You would also need to edit this file with Administrator privileges.

A couple of things to note:

  • Whilst this manual override should be fairly benign, if the DNS record is restored and the site moves to a different IP address, then you wouldn’t be able to access the site, until you remove the override.  (And it should go without saying, you should be very wary about taking advice from random people on the internet about changing your network settings, without having a reasonable understanding about what the change actually does.)
  • Even when you get into the site and the “Live Planet” area where the videos reside, you might not be able to play the “Grasping the Future” video.  This is because the link to the underlying video file is a http:// URL, which by default are blocked when being accessed from https:// pages.  (Filers may remember a pretty much identical problem affecting Voter Packet downloads on the Hugo site…)
  • Related to the “bitrot” comments on that Scroll, just in case something similar happens to the other Chengdu sites, here are their IP addresses:

Con report published on Chinese government science site

This is quite an interesting con report, in that whilst it was published on a Chinese government science website, it’s clear that the author, Cao Wenjun, is a fan.  She covers areas that are of more interest to File 770 readers than the majority of the Chinese media coverage I’ve seen, which focusses more on the showbiz and business aspects of the event.  There’s a long section about what happened with RiverFlow, which is the first time I’ve seen any professional media mention that.

Some extracts (via Google Translate, with minor manual edits):

An insider told me beforehand that late-night snacking is the essence of all science fiction activities. This time I personally participated in them, and suddenly realized that this statement was true.

After the formal activities every day, groups of people in the science fiction circle always gathered together for late-night snacks. Sometimes groups of people who were working separately met each other in the hotel lobby or halfway, and they would gather together to form a larger late-night snack team, as if the stars in the universe attracted each other and converged to form a galaxy. In the circle, everyone was very familiar with each other, and those who have known each other from beforehand will treat each other as brothers. Occasionally, when a new face appears, everyone will get closer to each other immediately. After all, as long as you love science fiction, you’re part of the family. I had a busy schedule during the day and didn’t have much time to look for delicious food, so I experienced almost all the Chengdu delicacies during this trip at these late night snacks. At the late-night snack scene, I was fortunate enough to meet science fiction writers and critics such as Baoshu, [File 770 contributor] San Feng, A Que, Huihu, Xie Yunning, Jiao Ce, Wang Nuonuo, Wu Shuang, Qiyue, and Yang Wanqing [note: I corrected a couple of names there, but I’m sure others will have been mangled by machine translation]…

This international science fiction convention has many foreign writers and science fiction practitioners participating, and we often met them whilst having late-night snacks. Many domestic science fiction writers are also translators of foreign works. Inspired by the spirit of science fiction, everyone communicates smoothly and happily.

Probably because writers are often used to writing at night, even if they attend meetings all day long and eat late-night snacks until midnight, no one seems tired. Everyone raised their glasses and talked freely, congratulating the nominees, congratulating the winners, and congratulating everyone around them, and their drinking levels increased along with the mood. People talked about reading and writing, about work and life, and about the land, and the vast starry sky above their heads. During the night, rain fell, and the shopkeepers put up their awnings. The lights shone on the awnings stained with water drops and on the wet ground. The whole street looked like a spiral arm of the Milky Way, studded with colourful stars. The writers sat around the long table, surrounded by warm mist, chatting, laughing and clinking glasses, creating a dreamlike Chengdu night that will never be forgotten…

[After the Hugo ceremony] when I arrived at the hotel after returning from the hospital, I saw several people getting off the shuttle bus from the venue.  One of them was Hai Ya, who was holding a Hugo Award trophy. The SF people who were at the door of the hotel immediately expressed their congratulations to him, and Hai Ya did not hide his happiness. But I could see from his heavy breathing that he was still in a state of shock beyond belief.

Everyone was sitting around the tea table in the hotel lobby, and the Hugo Award trophy was placed on the tea table, allowing us to watch, touch and admire it. Hai Ya didn’t sit on the sofa, but sat cross-legged on the steps next to it. At that time, I didn’t know that he was wearing his work attire; I just thought that the clothes fit him well, but sitting on the steps like this was a bit strenuous. Someone asked him how he felt at this time. He took a long breath and said that he had imagined this moment when he learned that his story had been shortlisted, but that was just his imagination. It had really happened, and he felt incredible. Someone told him that his real name and workplace had been posted online. Hai Ya shrugged, appearing a little troubled and helpless. He said that when standing in the spotlight, people always have two sides. When you receive an honour, you will also lose something. He mentioned that he always writes after work, so his level of output is not high, but it was just as a kind of adjustment and relaxation. In subsequent news reports, many media asked this question, and he responded in the same way, but it seemed that many netizens did not understand.

What I learned is that most science fiction writers are actually like this. They have their own day jobs. Some are college teachers, some are engineers, some are journalists, and they are from all walks of life. Writing is just their side job…

When asked about how he planned to take such a big and heavy trophy back on the plane, because it might not be allowed on board, Hai Ya said, “Let’s leave it to my publisher. I have to rush back to work first.”  Several writers smiled understandingly on the spot, saying that they had taken a day or two off from work before they could attend the meeting, and they had to go back to work on Monday.

In my opinion, Hai Ya is not very familiar to many people in science fiction circles. He seems to have always fully separated his work life and hobbies, and protected them well. In the end, everyone took turns taking photos with him, including me. It was the first time I had taken a photo with a science fiction writer since attending the conference, and it also fulfilled a long-held wish…

At the venue, I spent some time observing the children who came to the venue. Some of them came with their families, and some came with their schools wearing their uniforms. They looked at everything in the venue with curiosity and excitement, stopped in front of every picture in the science fiction exhibition, and flipped through science fiction novels that they might not fully understand at the book signing counter. When it was getting dark, I saw a mother holding her child and saying she wanted to go home. The child moved reluctantly and asked: “Mom, can you come tomorrow? It’s so much fun here!”

My son is five years old and is very interested in everything related to science. I brought him along this time to let him experience the atmosphere of the World Science Fiction Convention. Like other children, he ran around in the open space on the first floor of the hall, interacted with people cosplaying science fiction characters, watched robots playing drums, experienced science fiction games in the theme exhibition hall, and received souvenirs and ribbons from each booth, looked at paintings drawn by other children, and watching the robot dog for a long time, without ever wanting to leave. When I was listening to a panel where Korean science fiction writers such as Kim Cho-yeop talked about Korean science fiction works, he also slipped into the venue at some point, wearing a simultaneous translator, and listened quietly for a long time. I asked him what he thought of science fiction conventions, and he shouted, “It’s fun!” …

In my opinion, science fiction needs to open its doors and let everyone participate, make it fun for children, and let the public play like children. Perhaps we don’t have to worry that the current science fiction traffic is concentrated on Liu Cixin, because his science fiction works are also an open door. Just like many science fiction authors and science fiction fans in the past started to get into science fiction from “Little Know-it-All Roams the Future”, Liu Cixin’s works are now the beginning of many people’s enlightenment on the road of science fiction, and they are also the future of Chinese science fiction.

What makes me happy is that after five days of reporting daily experiences to my circle of friends, many of them who hadn’t paid much attention to science fiction, began to ask me to recommend some SF novels for introductory reading.  Other friends were very interested in telling me about the science fiction novels they had recently read. I feel that I myself have become a small window of Chinese science fiction, opening up with enthusiasm, calling to and embracing everyone around me.

Xiaohongshu image galleries

I suspect most of the items in this Xiaohongshu image gallery,have already been seen in previous Scrolls, but I don’t think I’ve seen too many of the stamps, which are based on some of the con reports, that were popular amongst kids.

Similarly this one has many familiar sights, but also photos of a wall of Post-Its (I think at the Three-Body Problem event) and some author handprints, neither of which I’d previously encountered.

And this post continues the theme, although there are more photos of the props and exhibits than I’ve usually seen. The accompanying note is a short report that’s also worth reading; here’s the nearly the entire text via Google Translate, with manual edits:

The science fiction conference was fruitful and I was very happy.

The World Science Fiction Convention was really fun. I really gained a lot from those days. I was lucky enough to get autographs from Liu, Sawyer and [German author Brandon Q.] Morris, and saw all kinds of interesting exhibitions… But when it comes to science fiction-related topics, I feel very happy. Especially when participating in the panels, I felt that the atmosphere was super good and everyone was very happy.  After all, SF was a topic that everyone was very interested in but usually can’t find friends to discuss it with. 

The volunteers working the con were are all very friendly students. Not only were they very interested in science fiction, but they were also very passionate. It makes people feel the vitality of young people in the science fiction convention, and also makes people feel the friendliness of the city of Chengdu. 

The musical fountain at the weekend was also particularly good. It performed for half an hour after the Hugo Awards, and was really beautiful.

Although the entire conference did not feel perfect during the organization process, and the venue was indeed too far away. It still took two hours to get to the venue by bus and subway every day, but attending the con will remain an unforgettable memory

(4) CHENGDU CONREPORT BY NEXT YEAR’S GOH. Ken MacLeod, who will be a Glasgow 2024 Worldcon guest of honor, blogs about his experience at this year’s con in China: “Chengdu Worldcon: Meet the Future” at The Early Days of a Better Nation. The post includes many photos.

Last month I spent far too few days in China, at the Chengdu Worldcon, to which I was invited as an international guest. My travel, and accommodation for me and my wife, were covered by the Committee of the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Convention, for which much thanks.

We had a wonderful time. The convention was a smashing success and easily the biggest, and most publicly celebrated, Worldcon ever….

…I took part in a couple of panels, one on Science Fiction and Future Science and one on cyberpunk, and was interviewed on video by an Italian documentary company and on voice recording for the Huawei news website. For two mornings I put in an hour or two at the Glasgow Worldcon stand. Never in my life have I been asked for so many autographs, or to pose with so many people for photographs. Nicholas Whyte, also at the stall, had the same experience, and others did too. Hardly any of the people whose notebooks and souvenirs we signed, or who stood beside us to have their photo taken, could have known who we were: that were overseas visitors with something to do with science fiction was enough. Among the few who did know us were some students from the Fishing Fortress College of Science Fiction in Chongqing. Our enthusiastic reception was nothing to that of Cixin Liu, author of the Three-Body trilogy and the story filmed as The Wandering Earth. His signing queue was like those I’ve seen for Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Science fiction in China is taken very seriously and sincerely by its fans….

(5) WONKA BIG B.O. ANTICIPATED. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Oh god, they made a third version! “’Wonka’: Timothée Chalamet Movie Eyes $20M+ Box Office Opening” reports Deadline.

Warner Bros‘ anticipated Paul King-directed feature musical Wonka has hit early tracking six weeks before its release on December 5, with box office analytics film The Quorum predicting a $20 million-$23 million opening. Note it’s still early in the campaign, so there’s potential for upside.

Unlike other tracking services that project three weeks before a movie’s release, Quorum is six weeks ahead.

In regards to Wonka‘s marketing campaign, there is material out there to move the needle: Two official trailers on the Warner Bros YouTube channel measuring at 31M and 9M views each, respectively; and lead star Timothée Chalamet will host Saturday Night Live on November 11 with the actor also on the cover of GQ. In addition, Warners has 17 one-sheets out there for the movie (in billboards, in-theater and online), and if there’s any barometer as to how much a studio is committing to a movie, it’s in the quantity of one-sheet posters….

(6) DOWNFOREVERYONE. “British Library Hit by Apparent Cyberattack” reports the New York Times.

On Saturday, the library was hit by what it is calling a “cyber incident.” Ever since, its website has been down and scholars have been unable to access its online catalog. The library’s Wi-Fi has also stopped working, and staff members haven’t been allowed to turn on their computers. 

In interviews this week, seven regular users of the library — including the author of a forthcoming book on classical music, a University of Cambridge lecturer, two postgraduate students and a Shakespearean scholar — said that the library had essentially gone back to a predigital age.

Now, according to a staff member in the library’s “rare books and music” reading room, ordering a book involves looking up its catalog number in one of several hundred hardback books or an external website, writing that number onto a slip of paper and then handing it to a librarian who, in turn, would check their records to see whether the book was available. Books are only available if they are stored at the main library location.

Any incident at the British Library tends to be high-profile news in Britain. 

Yet the British Library has issued only brief comments about the episode on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. On Tuesday, it posted a statement saying that the library was “experiencing a major technology outage as a result of a cyber incident. This is affecting our website, online systems and services, and some on-site services including public Wi-Fi.”

On Friday, a library spokeswoman said in an email that she could not provide further comment. She did not respond to questions on whether an attack had actually occurred….

(7) MICHAEL WHELAN ON AI-CREATED ART. “What Happens to Illustrators When Robots Can Draw Robots?” in the New York Times.

Michael Whelan has made a career painting aliens, dragons, robots and other fantastical creatures for books covers. While he finds A.I. tools useful for brainstorming, he is also concerned about its impact on younger illustrators….

The first time Michael Whelan was warned that robots were coming for his job was in the 1980s. He had just finished painting the cover for a mass-market paperback edition of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger,” a gritty portrait of the title character with the outline of a tower glimpsed through the haze behind him.

The art director for the project told him to enjoy these cover-art gigs while he could, because soon they would all be done by computers. Whelan dismissed him at the time. “When you can get a good digital file or photograph of a dragon, let me know,” he recalled saying.

For the next three decades, Whelan kept painting covers the old way — on canvas, conjuring dragons, spaceships and, of course, robots for science fiction and fantasy giants including Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Brandon Sanderson.

Over time, Whelan forgot the art director’s name, but not his words. Now, he said, the day he was warned about is here. Robots have already started taking book illustration jobs from artists — and yes, they can paint dragons.

Over the past few months, users working with A.I. art generators have created hundreds of images in Whelan’s style that were slightly altered knockoffs of his work, he said, forcing him to devote considerable time and resources to getting the images removed from the web.

“As someone who’s been in this genre for a long time, it doesn’t threaten me like it does younger artists who are starting out, who I have a lot of concern for,” Whelan said. “I think it’s going to be really tough for them.”

While much of the discussion in publishing around generative artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT has focused on A.I.’s unauthorized use of texts for training purposes, and its potential to one day replace human authors, most writers have yet to be directly financially affected by A.I. This is not true for the commercial artists who create their book covers….

(8) FEARS OF THE FIFTIES. You can view “Atomic Attack”, an adaptation of Judith Merril’s novel Shadow on the Hearth, originally aired on The Motorola Television Hour in 1954.

In this sobering film, a family living 50 miles outside of New York must escape the fallout from a nuclear bomb dropped upon the Big Apple.

(9) MARVEL STUNTMAN DIES IN CAR CRASH. “’Avengers’ stuntman dies in car crash along with two children” at USA Today.

Taraja Ramsess will always be remembered by those who knew him best as a loving brother, a devoted father and a hard-working stuntman. 

The “Black Panther” stuntman was killed alongside two of his children in a car crash on Halloween night on an Atlanta highway, according to reporting by local affiliate WSB-TV.

The 41-year-old was making his way back home with his children around 11 p.m. when he crashed into a tractor-trailer that had broken down near an exit on the left-hand side of the highway….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 4, 1912 Wendayne Ackerman. She was the translator-in-chief of 137 novels of the German space opera series Perry Rhodan, the majority published by Ace Books. She left Germany before WWII to escape anti-Semitism, working as a nurse in France and London. After the war she emigrated to Israel where she married her first husband and had a son. Following their divorce she moved to LA in 1948, and soon met and married Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 1990.)
  • Born November 4, 1917 Babette Rosmond. She worked as an editor at the magazine publisher Street & Smith, editing Doc Savage and The Shadow in the late Forties. Rosmond’s first story, co-written by Leonard M. Lake, “Are You Run-Down, Tired-“ was published in in the October 1942 issue of Unknown WorldsError Hurled was her only genre novel and she only write three short genre pieces. (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 4, 1920 Sydney Bounds. Writer, Editor, and Fan from Britain who was a prolific author of short fiction, and novels — not just science fiction, but also horror, Westerns, mysteries, and juvenile fiction. He was an early fan who joined Britain’s Science Fiction Association in 1937. He worked as an electrician on the Enigma machine during World War II, and while in the service, he started publishing the fanzine Cosmic Cuts. The film The Last Days on Mars (an adaptation of “The Animators”) and the Tales of the Darkside episode “The Circus” are based on stories by him. In 2005, two collections of his fiction were released under the title The Best of Sydney J. Bounds: Strange Portrait and Other Stories, and The Wayward Ship and other Stories. In 2007, the British Fantasy Society honored him by renaming their award for best new writer after him. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 4, 1934 Gregg Calkins. Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.” (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 4, 1953 Kara Dalkey, 70. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of SagamoreSteel RoseLittle Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Otherwise Awards. 
  • Born November 4, 1953 Stephen Jones, 70. Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies edited quite some time ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for eighteen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated HistoryBasil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He’s also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere. He’s won a number of World Fantasy Awards and far too many BFAs to count. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal brings a robot to debate how people with emotions interact with people without emotions.
  • Tom Gauld’s x-ray vision finds the truth is out there.

(12) CATGPT? “’AI can teach us a lot’: scientists say cats’ expressions richer than imagined and aim to translate them” in the Guardian.

If an unexpected meow, peculiar pose, or unusual twitch of the whiskers leaves you puzzling over what your cat is trying to tell you, artificial intelligence may soon be able to translate.

Scientists are turning to new technology to unpick the meanings behind the vocal and physical cues of a host of animals.

“We could use AI to teach us a lot about what animals are trying to say to us,” said Daniel Mills, a professor of veterinary behavioural medicine at the University of Lincoln.

Previous work, including by Mills, has shown that cats produce a variety of facial expressions when interacting with humans, and this week researchers revealed felines have a range of 276 facial expressions when interacting with other cats.

(13) IMPACT FACTOR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This week’s Nature cover story is “Impact Factor”.

The cover shows an artist’s impression of the collision between the protoplanet Theia and proto-Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. It has been suggested that it was this ‘Giant Impact’ that formed the Moon, but direct evidence for the existence of Theia remains elusive. In this week’s issue, Qian Yuan and his colleagues present combined results from simulations of the impact and mantle convection to explain why two large regions in Earth’s deepest mantle differ seismically and could be 2–3.5% denser than the surrounding mantle. The researchers suggest that the two dense areas are the remains of Theia’s iron-rich mantle that sank and accumulated above Earth’s core 4.5 billion years ago, surviving there throughout Earth’s history.

Primary research here “Moon-forming impactor as a source of Earth’s basal mantle anomalies”

(14) MARVELOUS MINI-MOON. [Item by Steven French.]  “Mini moon: Nasa spacecraft discovers asteroid orbited by its own tiny satellite” in the Guardian.

In one of the smallest, but still exciting, discoveries by Nasa in recent years, a spacecraft visiting a minor asteroid way out in the solar system has discovered that the chunk of space rock has its own tiny sidekick.

The spacecraft, called Lucy, was visiting asteroid Dinkinesh when it made the unexpected find of a moon companion.

The discovery was made during Wednesday’s flyby of Dinkinesh, 300m miles away in the main asteroid belt beyond Mars. The spacecraft snapped a picture of the pair when it was about 270 miles out.

In data and images beamed back to Earth, the spacecraft confirmed that Dinkinesh is barely a half-mile (790 meters) across. Its closely circling moon is a mere one-tenth of a mile (220 meters) in size.

Nasa sent Lucy past Dinkinesh as a rehearsal for visiting the bigger, more mysterious asteroids out near Jupiter.

Launched in 2021, the spacecraft will reach the first of these so-called Trojan asteroids in 2027 and explore them for at least six years. The original target list of seven asteroids now stands at 11.

Dinkinesh means “you are marvelous” in Ethiopia’s Amharic language….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Matt O’Dowd over at PBS Space Time this fortnight takes a look at “How Will We (Most Likely) Discover Alien Life?”

The first discovery of extraterrestrial life will almost certainly NOT be when it visits us, nor when we visit it. It won’t be when we see its stray TV signals. It’ll be in the excruciatingly faint changes in the color of alien sunsets glimpsed hundreds of light years away. Today we’re going to talk about the first such hint, why it’s probably not aliens, and why there’s a tiny chance that it still might not not be aliens.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Nicholas Whyte, Steven French, Cliff, Carl Andor, Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mark Roth-Whitworth.]

Pixel Scroll 6/15/23 Where Do Pixels Come From? They Are Born Of Scrolls. Where Do Scrolls Originate? Go Ask Mike

(1) BLACK MIRROR CREATOR. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show yesterday was devoted to Charlie Brooker. You can download the episode here.

Brooker in SF terms is best known for being the writer behind the Black Mirror whose first two seasons were on Britain’s publicly-owned but self-financed Channel 4 before it migrated behind Netflix’s pay wall. (Netflix could afford the show a bigger budget.)

Charlie Brooker is one of the most influential satirists working today. Having started out as a cartoonist, his razor sharp writing on culture and the media made his TV columns for The Guardian, begun in 2000, essential reading for many. It wasn’t long until his acerbic and frequently absurd world view found a home on BBC Four in the form of the TV review show, Screenwipe. He’s also behind acclaimed comedies like Nathan Barley. But he’s found global fame with the series Black Mirror, which has entered the lexicon for a singular form of technology-enhanced dread. In the week that the new season launches, Charlie Brooker joins</I> The Media Show <I>to look back at his career.

(2) WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION. The 2023 winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction is Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, which despite the thrilling sound of its title is a non-genre work.

(3) 2023 KAYMAR AWARDS. The National Fantasy Fan Federation has named Will Mayo and Justin E. A. Busch the winners of the 2023 Kaymar Awards. Each is a posthumous award, a first for the N3F.

The Kaymar Award recipient is selected by a committee consisting of previous winners who are still in the N3F, from nominations submitted by members.

The award, unlike many other awards in fandom, can be awarded only once. It is not given for talent or for popularity, but for work — work for the benefit of the club and its members. The award is a memorial to K. Martin Carlson [1904-1986], who originated, maintained, and financed it for 25 years. Carlson was a long-time N3F member who held many positions in the club, including club Historian. He went by the fan name of Kaymar.

(4) ELIO. Here’s a teaser for next year’s Pixar release, Elio.

Disney and Pixar’s 28th feature film is “Elio”. Jameela Jamil and Brad Garrett join previously announced America Ferrera and Yonas Kibreab in the intergalactic misadventure that is scheduled to take off next spring—March 1, 2024.   For centuries, people have called out to the universe looking for answers—in Disney and Pixar’s all-new movie “Elio,” the universe calls back! The original feature film introduces Elio, an underdog with an active imagination who finds himself inadvertently beamed up to the Communiverse, an interplanetary organization with representatives from galaxies far and wide. Mistakenly identified as Earth’s ambassador to the rest of the universe, and completely unprepared for that kind of pressure, Elio must form new bonds with eccentric alien lifeforms, survive a series of formidable trials and somehow discover who he is truly meant to be. 

(5) UPLIFTER. Steven Barnes showed Facebook readers his latest recognition, The Uplifter Ghost of Honor Award.

(6) ANOTHER COMPANION. “Doctor Who’ Casts BAFTA-Winner Lenny Rush As Morris” reports Deadline.

Lenny Rush, the BAFTA-winning star of BBC comedy Am I Being Unreasonable?, has joined the iconic sci-fi series as Time Lord companion Morris. No further details were given about his role.

Rush, 14, won Best Male Performance for Daisy May Cooper’s Am I Being Unreasonable? last month. He has previously appeared in shows including A Christmas Carol and Dodger.

Showrunner Russell T Davies said: “This is what Doctor Who‘s all about, brand new talent from the next generation, and no one’s more talented than Lenny. He joins the TARDIS team just in time for the Doctor’s greatest nightmare, so hold on tight.”

(7) IT’S A GAS. [Item by Steven French.] “Blending science and the supernatural, high art and gothic horror, Hamad Butt made work that was literally dangerous, in one case sparking fears of a gas leak. He is one of the stars of Tate Britain’s rehang”. “’Dicing with death’: the lethal, terrifying art of Hamad Butt – and the evacuation it once caused” in the Guardian.

But where’s the genre interest, you ask? The work being showcased at the art gallery is Transmission which features a circle of glass books displaying etchings of John Wyndham’s triffids.

…One particularly exciting addition is the little-known Pakistani-born artist Hamad Butt, whose striking 1990 installation Transmission has been given a whole room.

Created at the height of the Aids epidemic in Europe and the US, Transmission evokes multiple terrors. Donning safety goggles at the entrance, you encounter a darkened space with nine open glass books, lit by UV lamps, arranged in a circle on the floor as if for some cabalistic ritual. Through the eerie glow, an etching looms on each book of a triffid, the giant carnivorous plants that overrun Earth after a blinding meteor shower in John Wyndham’s 1951 sci-fi novel The Day of the Triffids. On the wall, nine cryptic statements pronounce things like: “We have the eruption of the Triffid that obscures sex with death” and “We have the blindness of fear and the books of fear”. The piece explores fears of the foreign invader, of deadly desire (through the distinctly phallic-looking triffid), of literal blindness as well as blind faith, the open tomes recalling a madrasa or a witch’s coven….

(8) ROBERT GOTTLIEB (1931-2023). Robert Gottlieb, an influential editor who worked at Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker during his career, died June 14 reports the New York Times. He was 92. He edited many successful books “by, among many others, John le Carré, Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Joseph Heller, Doris Lessing and Chaim Potok; science fiction by Michael Crichton and Ray Bradbury; histories by Antonia Fraser and Barbara Tuchman; memoirs by former President Bill Clinton and Katharine Graham, the former publisher of The Washington Post; and works by Jessica Mitford and Anthony Burgess.”

(9) MEMORY LANE.

2001[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

If memory serves me right, the first thing that I read by  Kelly Link was something in an early issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that she and Gavin Grant sent to Green Man of Small Beer Press for review.

They also edited the last four years of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror that Datlow and Windling founded. Same anthology, different tastes under their editorship. 

Our Beginning this Scroll comes from the Nebula-winning “Louise’s Ghost” novelette which is in the Stranger Things Happen collection which is where it was originally published twenty-two years ago. The entire collection being her writing is wonderful. 

And now for her Beginning here…

Two women and a small child meet in a restaurant. The restaurant is nice—there are windows everywhere. The women have been here before. It’s all that light that makes the food taste so good. The small child—a girl dressed all in green, hairy green sweater, green T-shirt, green corduroys and dirty sneakers with green-black laces—sniffs. She’s a small child but she has a big nose. She might be smelling the food that people are eating. She might be smelling the warm light that lies on top of everything. 

Hit

None of her greens match except of course they are all green.

“Louise,” one woman says to the other.

 “Louise,” the other woman says. 

They kiss.

The maitre d’ comes up to them. He says to the first woman, “Louise, how nice to see you. And look at Anna! You’re so big. Last time I saw you, you were so small. This small.” He holds his index finger and his thumb together as if pinching salt. He looks at the other woman. 

Louise says, “This is my friend, Louise. My best friend. Since Girl Scout camp. Louise.” The maitre d’ smiles. “Yes, Louise. 

Of course. How could I forget?

Louise sits across from Louise. Anna sits between them. She has a notebook full of green paper, and a green crayon. She’s drawing something, only it’s difficult to see what, exactly. Maybe it’s a house. 

Louise says, “Sorry about you know who. Teacher’s day. The sitter canceled at the last minute. And I had such a lot to tell you, too! About you know, number eight. Oh boy, I think I’m in love. Well, not in love.” 

She is sitting opposite a window, and all that rich soft light falls on her. She looks creamy with happiness, as if she’s carved out of butter. The light loves Louise, the other Louise thinks. Of course it loves Louise. Who doesn’t?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 15, 1942 Sondra Marshak, 81. Author of multiple Trek novels including The Price of the Phoenix and The Fate of the Phoenix, both co-written with Myrna Culbreath. She also wrote, again with Myrna Culbreath, Shatner: Where No Man …: The Authorized Biography of William Shatner which of course naturally lists Shatner as the third co-author. Finally she’s co-writer with Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and television producer Joan Winston of Star Trek Lives!
  • Born June 15, 1947 David S Garnett, 76. Not to be confused with the David Garnett without an S. Author of the Bikini Planet novels (StargonautsBikini Planet and Space Wasters) which should be taken as seriously as the names suggests. Revived with the blessing of Michael Moorcock a new version of New Worlds as an anthology. Last work was writing Warhammer novels.
  • Born June 15, 1960 William Snow, 63. He is best remembered as Lord John Roxton on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. (Yes, that’s its official title.) He also had the lead as David Grief on the Australian series Tales of the South Seas which had Rachel Blakey from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as Isabelle Reed. It was definitely genre. 
  • Born June 15, 1960 Sabrina Vourvoulias, 63. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. I’m assuming that the “Skin in the Game” story which appeared first on Tor.com is set in the future. Fair guess that “The Ways of Walls and Words” which also appeared on Tor.com is also set there.
  • Born June 15, 1963 Mark Morris, 60. English author known for his horror novels, although he has also written several novels based on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Given his horror background, these tend to be darker than many similar novels are, I recommend Forever Autumn and Bay of the Dead if you like a good chill. 
  • Born June 15, 1973 Neil Patrick Harris, 50. His first genre role was not Carl Jenkins in Starship Troopers, but rather Billy Johnson in Purple People Eater, an SF comedy best forgotten I suspect. Post-Starship Troopers, I’ve got him voicing Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier and Dick Grayson / Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He also voiced Peter Parker and his superhero alias in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Finally he’s Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events which he also produces. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! reveals something about smartphones and the undead.

(12) SIMULTANEOUS TIMES. Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, CA has released episode 64 of its monthly science fiction podcast Simultaneous Times. The stories featured in this episode are:

  • “The Runner” by Jonathan Nevair (with music by Phog Masheeen)
  • “The Last AI Editor on Planet Earth” by Toshiya Kamei (with music by Patrick Urn)

(13) DOES SOMEBODY OWE YOU $7.70? From the New York Times: “Google Might Owe You Money. Here’s How to Get It.” “As part of a legal settlement, Google agreed to pay $23 million to users who clicked on a search link from 2006 to 2013. Individual payments are estimated to be less than $8.”

Anyone who clicked on a Google search result link from October 2006 to September 2013 is entitled to a piece — however small — of a $23 million settlement that the tech giant has agreed to pay to resolve a class-action lawsuit.

The settlement’s administrators set up a website for people to submit claims. According to the site, the estimated individual payout stands at $7.70. But that figure can fluctuate based on the number of people who make valid claims.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., agreed to the settlement in August. The consolidated class-action lawsuit filed in 2013 accused the company of “storing and intentionally, systematically and repeatedly divulging” users’ search queries and histories to third-party websites and companies….

(14) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. Smithsonian Magazine can help you find “Seven Ways to Explore Space Without Leaving Earth”.

…Just up the road from the Cinder Hills is Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, another astronaut training site. In the early 1970s, commander Gene Cernan and geologist Jack Schmitt trained here before Apollo 17. The mission for this final lunar landing was to find evidence of volcanism on the moon. The two astronauts used the jagged Bonito lava flow, along with surrounding cinder fields and cones, to test equipment and practice geological survey techniques.

In December 1972, Cernan and Schmitt landed in a valley of the Taurus mountain range in the Sea of Serenity. Satellite imagery had suggested these lunar highlands might be volcanic in nature. The pair’s first extravehicular activity—as astronauts call such trips outside their spacecraft—turned up mostly breccias, conglomerate rocks created by the meteorite impacts that actually formed most lunar mountains. But halfway through their second excursion, Schmitt became ecstatic when he spotted something unusual: orange soil. Analysis back on Earth proved the mission a success. They had found remnants of volcanic glass. The eventual theory was that billions of years ago, the moon was a magmatically turbulent place, where lava explosively burst from the low-gravity surface to great heights before raining down as tiny grains of orange glass.

Today, the 3,138-acre Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument offers an excellent way to experience the Arizona landscape that once simulated the lunar environment. A series of short trails allow you to explore some of the volcanic processes that Artemis astronauts may search for when they return to the moon in coming years….

(15) QUANTUM COMPUTER HITS THE MARK. “IBM quantum computer passes calculation milestone”Nature explains the significance.

‘Benchmark’ experiment suggests quantum computers could have useful real-world applications within two years.

“Four years ago, physicists at Google claimed their quantum computer could outperform classical machines — although only at a niche calculation with no practical applications. Now their counterparts at IBM say they have evidence that quantum computers will soon beat ordinary ones at useful tasks, such as calculating properties of materials or the interactions of elementary particles.”…

(16) WHAT IS A SAFE DISTANCE FROM A SUPERNOVA? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] You know me… I do worry so.  So much so that it is a wonder I get any sleep.

Among many troubling concerns is the end of the world.  Now, I have to admit liking the end of the world: it is great fun, but with the firm proviso that is that it is firmly in science fiction.  The real deal is the thing that gets me.

So Matt O’Dowd (he’s a physicist but don’t let that put you off) in this week’s PBS Space Time is sort of re-assuring (only sort of) as to one way the world might end… being caught in the blast of a supernova…

(Best make a calming cup of tea before viewing.)

The deaths of massive stars results in one of the most beautiful and violent events in the universe: the supernova. They are so luminous we can see them here on Earth and historical records show that we can even see them into the day. But supernovas release deadly and violent radiation that could destroy our atmosphere. So how far away do these supernova have to be for humanity to be safe? And when will the next supernova occur…

Nobody panic…

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

Pixel Scroll 6/2/23 I Thought Muddy Waters Scrolled That Pixel

(1) JMS RETURNS TO MARVEL IN CAPTAIN AMERICA #1. Marvel Comics has announced that writer and filmmaker J. Michael Stracyznski will return this September in Captain America #1. Marvel previously shared the news with io9.

Stracyznski has written fan-favorite stories including AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and THORand now he’s ready to embark on a new adventure with Marvel’s star-spangled hero! Alongside superstar artist Jesús Saiz (PUNISHER, DOCTOR STRANGE), the talented duo is ready to take Steve Rogers on an exhilarating new adventure.

Decades ago, Steve Rogers changed the world forever. Now powerful and insidious forces are assembling to ensure he never does it again. Past, present and future collide as the man out of time reckons with an existential threat determined to set the world on a darker path at any cost…

 Speaking with io9, Straczynski says, “Overall, the goal is to do some really challenging stories, some really fun stories, and get inside Steve’s head to see who he really is in ways that may not have been fully explored before. If folks like what I did with Peter in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and Thor in, well… THOR, then they should give this a shot, because I’m really swinging for the bleachers in this one!”

 See the cover by Jesús Saiz below.

(2) ARTIFACTS OF AFROFUTURISM. The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC is displaying “Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures” through March 24, 2024. An online version of the exhibit is here.

Investigating Afrofuturist expression through art, music, activism and more, this exhibition explores and reveals Afrofuturism’s historic and poignant engagement with African American history and popular culture. From the enslaved looking to the cosmos for freedom to popular sci-fi stories inspiring Black astronauts, to the musical influence of Sun Ra, OutKast, Janelle Monae, P-Funk and more, this exhibition covers the broad and impactful spectrum of Afrofuturism.

A highlight of the exhibition is the Black Panther hero costume worn by the late Chadwick Boseman. The Black Panther is the first superhero of African descent to appear in mainstream American comics, and the film itself is the first major cinematic production based on the character.

The exhibition also utilizes select objects to elevate stories that speak to Black liberation and social equality, such as Trayvon Martin’s flight suit from Experience Aviation, and his childhood dream of being an astronaut.

Companion book: Afrofuturism: A History of Black FuturesNational Museum of African American History and Culture, Kevin Strait, and Kinshasha Holman Conwill

(3) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Mark Roth-Whitworth says, “I’m so tired of hearing how ‘character-driven’ stories are somehow ‘better’ than plot-driven, and I’ve written a rant, er, sorry, criticism.” “Character- or Plot-Driven – A False Dichotomy?”

As I’ve been developing as a writer, and submitting stories, I read and hear a lot about character-driven stories vs. plot-driven these days. Most novels seem to me to still are “plot-driven”, while a lot of shorter fiction that gets published in magazines is character-driven, or primarily thus, and I have issues with this.

Many years ago, in a long letter to my just-teenage children, speaking of people and relationships, I said that barring some life-changing event, whoever someone is at eighteen is who they will remain, only growing to be more of that. The result of that is that thinking someone is perfect, except for one little thing that you can fix… well, you can’t. In a story, the same is necessarily true….

(4) HAPPY WINNERS. Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser are ecstatic to have won Analog’s AnLab Award for their novella “Communion” in the Jan 2022 issue as you can see in this photo taken by Brianna Wu. The winning cover was Eldar Zakirov’s artwork for the same story. Frank’s elevator pitch for the story is –

 A space ship is about to crash and a 50-km-long mag wire is an essential part of the drive. During the crash, the robot saves the wire – and the mission and his human captain – by wrapping the wire around his arm and using his own body as a heatfield!

Frank Wu and Jay Werkheiser with their certificates recognizing their Anlab-winning novella “Communion” in the Jan 2022 issue. Photo by Brianna Wu.

(5) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT EASY. “How to be a Regency Lady Sleuth” by Alison Goodman at CrimeReads.

…For instance, the Regency era – officially from 1811 to 1820—was well before England had a police force. So where does a lady sleuth get her official back up and assistance?

What’s more, record keeping was patchy at best and, if it did exist, was not centralised or easy to access. This was particularly the case for women because a vast majority of them could not read. Education, my dear fellow, is wasted on women—or at least that was the majority opinion of the time. How then, does a lady sleuth track down the information she needs to solve her mysteries?

So, when it came to written information, my lady sleuths had to be the kind of women of that era who would be feasibly taught to read, and secondly have access to the various places these records were kept. That is why I decided to make Lady Augusta (aka Gus), and Lady Julia part of the highest rank in Regency society, the aristocracy. At this rank, they would have a chance of some education, as well as having access to private libraries (public libraries as we know them were not yet in existence). They would also have the social clout and contacts to obtain information from other sources. At that time, most of the government officials were men from the gentry class or the aristocracy and since Gus and Julia move in those circles, they literally have friends in high place: excellent sources of information….

(6) BANNED IN 2023. The Los Angeles Times discusses each of “The 15 most banned books in America this school year” before moving on to a list of challenged classics which include these genre works:

“Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. Modern Library’s editorial board ranked “Brave New World,” the 1932 novel about the discontents of a technologically-advanced future society, as the fifth most important novel of the 20th centuryNevertheless, the book was challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco Unified School District in 1993 because it is “centered around negative activity.” The novel also was removed from a high school library in Foley, Ala., in 2000 after a parent complained that it showed contempt for religion, marriage and family.

“Animal Farm” by George Orwell. The 1945 allegorical novella has been a target of complaints for decades, according to the ALA. In 1987, “Animal Farm” was one of dozens of books banned in schools in Bay County, Fla. Then 44 parents, students and teachers filed a federal lawsuit, and the school board reversed the decision. ‘’The only thing we have succeeded in doing is making sure every child in Bay County reads the books we banned,’’ a board member told the Associated Press.

(7) BEAGLE Q&A. Shelf Awareness is “Reading with… Peter S. Beagle”

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. If you’re going to write a historical novel, you’ve got to start with that one. It’s a fascinating book about the way that medieval England actually was, as opposed to the novels about it. It’s still a book that I go back to if I’m setting a story in anything like medieval England.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to dip into durian ice cream with William Shunn in Episode 199 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

William Shunn

It’s time to head to Anaheim, California to take a seat at the table with William Shunn, the first of five guests I managed to chat and chew with for Eating the Fantastic during last month’s Nebula Awards conference. I first met Bill in 1993 though his words alone, when I bought his short story “Colin and Ishmael in the Dark” for publication in Science Fiction Age magazine. We met in the flesh later that same year at the San Francisco Worldcon, and he’s been part of my life for the past 30 years.

Bill attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 1985, when he was only 17. (A class which included Mary TurzilloGeoffrey Landis, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Resa Nelson, and other writers with whom you might be familiar.) In addition to being published in Science Fiction Age, he’s also appeared in Asimov’sAnalogF&SFRealms of Fantasy, and other magazines. In 2002, he was nominated for a Nebula in the category of novelette for “Dance of the Yellow-Breasted Luddites,” and a few years later hit the nomination trifecta when he was up for a Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Award for his novella “Inclination,” which had been published in Asimov’s in 2006.

In addition, if you’re a writer, you might be familiar with what’s come to be called the “Shunn format,” a guide to proper manuscript preparation which first appeared online in 1995 and has since become the gold standard for numerous publications. His widely acclaimed memoir, The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary, was published in 2015, and in addition to detailing the youthful indiscretion which prevents him from ever returning to Canada, explains how Clarion changed his life and helped him become the writer he is today.

We discussed what he hoped would happen when he arrived at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop when he was 17 vs. what actually did happen, how his post-Clarion homelife was haunted by Ray Bradbury, the time Kate Wilhelm critiqued his critiquers, how an early rejection from Playboy got him in big trouble, the way a tragedy scuttled the sale of his memoir to a major publisher, how he and Derryl Murphy collaborated on a novella without killing each other, and so much more.

(9) RAJNAR VAJRA-LOEB (1947-2023). Rajnar Vajra-Loeb, known to the sff field as author Rajnar Vajra, died May 16 at the age of 75. Memorial comments are being gathered on his funeral information webpage.

He twice won the Analog Readers Poll, in 2002 for the short story “Jake, Me, and the Zipper” , and in 2005 for his novella “Layna’s Mirror”.

His 2015 Hugo-nominated story “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” was on both the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates, however, as reported by Chris Barkley at the time “he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.”

He lived long enough to celebrate the “book birthday” of his latest novel Opening Wonders released on May 2.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

2019[Written by Cat Eldridge from a choice by Mike Glyer.]

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a fantastic writer. Mexican born and raised, she moved to Canada in her twenties. Her debut novel, Signal to Noise, is a superb first novel. 

She’s the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press, a press devoted to weird fiction. With Lavie Tidhar, she edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review

Gods of Jade and Shadow, the source of our Beginning, a historical fantasy, was published by Del Rey four years ago.  Gods of Jade and Shadow was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel.

And now let’s go into our Beginning….

But what the lords wished was that they should not discover their names.—Popol Vuh, translated into English by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from the work by Adrian Recino

Some people are born under a lucky star, while others have their misfortune telegraphed by the eposition of the planets. Casiopea Tun, named after a constellation, was born under the most rotten star imaginable in the firmament. She was eighteen, penniless, and had grown up in Uukumil, a drab town where mule-drawn railcars stopped twice a week and the sun scorched out dreams. She was reasonable enough to recognize that many other young women lived in equally drab, equally small towns. However, she doubted that many other young women had to endure the living hell that was her daily life in grandfather Cirilo Leyva’s house. 

Cirilo was a bitter man, with more poison in his shriveled body than was in the stinger of a white scorpion. Casiopea tended to him. She served his meals, ironed his clothes, and combed his sparse hair. When the old brute, who still had enough strength to beat her over the head with his cane when it pleased him, was not yelling for his grandchild to fetch him a glass of water or his slippers, her aunts and cousins were telling Casiopea to do the laundry, scrub the floors, and dust the living room.

Casiopea, who had prayed at the age of ten for her cousin Martín to go off and live in another town, far from her, understood by now that God, if he existed, did not give a damn about her. What had God done for Casiopea, aside from taking her father from her? That quiet, patient clerk with a love for poetry, a fascination with Mayan and Greek mythology, a knack for bedtime stories. A man whose heart gave up one morning, like a poorly wound clock. His death sent Casiopea and her mother packing back to Grandfather’s house. Mother’s family had been charitable, if one’s definition of charity is that they were put immediately to work while their idle relatives twiddled their thumbs. 

Had Casiopea possessed her father’s pronounced romantic leanings, perhaps she might have seen herself as a Cinderella-like figure. But although she treasured his old books, the skeletal remains of his collection—especially the sonnets by Quevedo, wells of sentiment for a young heart—she had decided it would be nonsense to configure herself into a tragic heroine. Instead, she chose to focus on more pragmatic issues, mainly that her horrible grandfather, despite his constant yelling, had promised that upon his passing Casiopea would be the beneficiary of a modest sum of money, enough that it might allow her to move to Mérida.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 2, 1915 Lester Del Rey. Editor at Del Rey Books, the fantasy and science fiction imprint of Ballantine Books, along with his fourth wife Judy-Lynn del Rey. As regard his fiction, I’m fond of Rocket Journey and Police Your Own Planet, early works of his. His Jim Stanley series has much to say for it. And he got nominated for four Retro Hugos. (Died 1993.)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster. Author of the much beloved Phantom Tollbooth and its less known variant, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Adapted in 1970 into a quirky film, now stuck in development hell being remade again. He also wrote The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a story he says was inspired by Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. (Died 2021.)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 2, 1941 Stacy Keach, 82. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with being The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999 followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really likeMore horror, and a really silly title, await him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return where The Hollow has a tasteful title which the Man with the Screaming Brain does not provide him. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo. 
  • Born June 2, 1920 Bob Madle. Helped start his local sf club in 1934, went to what he considered to be the first-ever sf convention in 1936, and attended the first Worldcon (Nycon I) in 1939. Bob Madle and named the Hugo Awards. He was the first North American TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to an overseas con (Loncon, 1957). Twenty years later he was Fan Guest of Honor at the 1977 Worldcon (listen to his GoH speech here.) First Fandom has inducted him to their Hall of Fame, and given him the Moskowitz Award for collecting. He’s a winner of the Big Heart Award). This post about his centennial birthday in 2020 includes photos and a summary of his fannish life in his own words. (Died 2022.)
  • Born June 2, 1979 Morena Baccarin, 44. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in Deadpool and Deadpool 2; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham.
  • Born June 2, 1982 Jewel Staite, 41. Best known as the engineer Kaylee Frye in the Firefly verse. She was Jennifer Keller in Stargate Atlantis, Catalina in the Canadian series Space Cases, Tiara VanHorn in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show and “Becca” Fisher in Flash Forward. Genre one-offs? Oh yes: The Odyssey (twice), Are You Afraid of The Dark (again twice), The X-FilesSo WeirdSabrina: The Animated SeriesThe ImmortalSeven DaysStargate AtlantisSupernaturalLegends of TomorrowThe Order and The Magicians.

(12) A DOCKET FOR DEMETRIOUS. “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Trust Sues Author For Selling ‘Derivative’ Sequel To ‘Lord of the Rings’ As $250 Million Battle Heats Up”Radar Online has the story. “The legal moves comes weeks after Demetrious Polychron filed his own $250 million lawsuit against the Trust, Amazon and Jeff Bezos.”

J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate has filed a bombshell lawsuit accusing a writer of ripping off the late author’s iconic Lord of The Rings series and is demanding his books be taken out of stores, RadarOnline.com has learned.

According to court documents obtained by RadarOnline.com, The Tolkien Trust, which is responsible for managing the intellectual property of the late Professor J. R.R. Tolkien, is suing a man named Demetrious Polychron.

In the suit, the Trust said the lawsuit was brought due to Polychron’s “willful and blatant violation” of its copyright interests in the Lord of the Rings franchise.

The Trust said despite the author being aware of its rights in Tolkien’s work, he decided to “write, publish, market and sell a blatantly infringing derivative sequel to the Tolkien Trilogy entitled The Fellowship of the King (the “Infringing Work”). In addition to clearly mimicking the title of the first book in the Tolkien Trilogy, the Infringing Work constitutes a blatant, wide-ranging and comprehensive misappropriation of Professor Tolkien’s creative opus.”

The Trust said its aware that Polychron plans to release up to six additional books — all based on Tolkien’s characters.

“The Infringing Work is currently being offered for sale on various online platforms in the United States for $17.99 – $26.99 a copy,” the suit read.

The suit explained, “Neither Professor Tolkien nor the Tolkien Estate has ever authorized any written sequels to the Tolkien Trilogy. Not only was the Infringing Work unauthorized, but the Tolkien Estate had already expressly refused the [Polychron’s] request to publish any work of this nature, in keeping with its longstanding policy.”

(13) PAYING THOSE STORY IOUs. Charlie Jane Anders demonstrates with her own novel that “Revision is the Process of Going from General to Specific” at Happy Dancing.

I feel as if a big part of revision is going from the general to the specific. My first drafts, at least, always include a lot of details that are kind of fuzzy. Sometimes, a piece of information changes every time it comes up, because I haven’t made up my mind yet what the actual real version is, and I’m just hedging my bets. Sometimes there’s a highly specific piece of backstory, front story or side story, but it’s just really a placeholder — a supporting character is a stock character, or someone’s job is merely a sitcom job that doesn’t feel like a real employment situation. And sometimes, things are just left so vague that they could be anything, or there’s no information whatsoever.

So when I revise, I try to nail things down more. On one level, this is just a process of deciding on stuff. Where did this character grow up? Who were their parents? What kind of job do they have, and what specifically does the job ask of them? And so on….

(14) AWARD-WORTHY VISIT TO THE SPIDER-VERSE. Variety’s Clayton Davis makes the case why “’Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse’ Should Be a Best Picture Oscar Contender”.

Don’t tell me “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is merely a cartoon. It’s a visionary work that redefines what the animation medium can achieve, sitting alongside the handful of sequels such as “The Dark Knight” and “The Empire Strikes Back” that elevate their franchises by pushing them in surprising new directions.

On a personal level, this animated second installment of the web-slinging superhero is the closest I’ve ever come to seeing an accurate depiction of my life and culture on a movie screen – well, with a few fantastic elements added into the mix. That’s invaluable.

“Across the Spider-Verse” takes place a year after the events of the previous film with Miles Morales (a.k.a. Spider-Man) facing a new threat. Unfortunately, it’s one that causes him to interact with a new group of Spider-People from across the multiverse.

So why did I respond so deeply to this superhero story? Like Miles, I’m made up of an exciting ethnic mix of Puerto Rican and Black parents brought together in the melting pot that is New York City. Neither of us possesses the acceptable amount of Spanish fluency that our fellow Boricuas require. Nonetheless, we have a weakness for fried platanos, as well as an appreciation for our heritage. Just hearing the word “bendición,” a standard greeting and farewell term used in Latino culture, used in “Across the Spider-Verse, ” filled my eyes with tears and pride….

(15) COMMUNICAT. Salon reports “A ‘talking’ cat is giving scientists insight into how felines think”. And if you think only a hungry plant will say “Feed me”, stick around, it won’t be long until this cat does it.

…Considering Billi’s feline status, Baker was naturally a bit skeptical at first.

“I was concerned because they [the buttons] were quite large for a little tiny kitty, and I was not sure that she was actually going to be heavy enough to press them,” Baker said. “So I started with a word that I’d really not recommend that you start with, which is ‘food,’ because it becomes very motivating for them. And Billi loves food.”

Baker’s concerns quickly washed away once it became clear that Billi was able to press the button “food” — which she appeared to enjoy doing perhaps a little too much.

“She was definitely heavy enough for it,” Baker said. “And then I later regretted starting with food because it kind of backfired on me, but it definitely got the ball rolling.”

Today, Billi has 50 words on her board, and — like Bunny — is part of the ongoing research project called TheyCanTalk, whose goal is to understand if animals can communicate with humans through AAC devices. While the study is mostly made up of dogs, about 5 percent of the animals using AAC devices are now felines. It turns out that many cats have been successful at using the device.

“They have this reputation of just doing what they want and not really caring what the humans are doing, and I think this is a great opportunity to see that they actually are paying attention,” Smith said. “Seeing that they can be engaged, that they’re not just cat automatons, that aren’t driven by instinct 24/7 can function a great deal positively for their role in other studies.”

(16) PAYING DIVIDENDS ON BORROWED TIME.  Ingenuity, NASA’s record-breaking Mars helicopter, continues to fly two years after scientists expected it to fail. “NASA plays hide-and-seek with unrelenting Mars helicopter Ingenuity” in the Washington Post.

…On April 2, Ingenuity soared 52 feet up into the Martian sky — a record height for the drone — to take a suborbital photo of Mars’s landscape.

After landing, it disappeared. When scientists attempted to upload instructions for a subsequent flight, Ingenuity’s radio sign was gone.

Scientists eventually located Ingenuity after six days of searching as the helicopter’s companion on Mars, the Perseverance rover, crested a ridge and drove closer to where the helicopter had landed.

Ingenuity, controlled via radio signals relayed from Perseverance, completed its five-flight mission — a simple series to prove that the helicopter’s design would work in the thin Martian atmosphere — in May 2021. Then, Tzanetos’s team received approval to keep flying.

“At that point, we’re on borrowed time,” Tzanetos said. “None of the mechanisms were designed to survive longer than that.”

Somehow, they did — for months and months, and dozens more flights. By May 2022, it seemed as if Ingenuity’s miraculous story would finally plummet down to (Martian) earth. Winter was setting in, and NASA feared the lower temperatures would cause Ingenuity’s solar-charged batteries to fail, or even freeze overnight.

The helicopter entered a low-power state after its 28th flight in late April of that year, and scientists told The Post they weren’t sure if it would fly again.

Incredibly, Ingenuity’s delicate parts stood up to the Martian cold. But NASA still faced the challenge of reconnecting with the helicopter every time its components froze, Tzanetos said. The Ingenuity team adjusted by using data on Martian sunrises to calculate when the helicopter would thaw out each morning and regain enough charge to power on….

(17) CAN WE MOVE EARTH ACROSS SPACE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Shades of Stephen Baxter in this week’s PBS Space Time when Matt O’Dowd asks can we move planet Earth across the Universe?

Interstellar travel is horrible-what with the cramped quarters of your spaceship and only the thin hull separating you from deathly cold and deadly cosmic rays. Much safer to stay on here Earth with our gloriously habitable biosphere, protective magnetic field, and endless energy from the Sun. But what if we could have the best of all worlds? No pun intended. What if we could turn our entire solar system into a spaceship and drive the Sun itself around the galaxy? Well, I don’t know if we definitely can, but we might not not be able to.

(18) TALES FROM THE ZONE – ROADSIDE PICNIC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Media Death Cult Moid Moidelhoff considers Roadside Picnic. Roadside Picnic is in the Goldilocks zone, it is a perfect balance of a straight narrative that requires nothing more than standard plot and characters to make sense. But the sub-text is as thick as porridge… “Tales From The Zone – Roadside Picnic”.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Rich Lynch, Jennifer Hawthorne, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter. John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]

Pixel Scroll 5/20/23 I’m Not A Doctor, But People Are Saying Pixels Are A Perfect Cure For Social Isolation

(1) RIC BERGMAN UPDATE. [Item by Chris Barkley.] As of this past Tuesday, the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office were unable to locate any of the late Ric Bergman’s relatives. If no one had been found, Ric’s body would be processed and buried in a pauper’s area of a local cemetery.

I say would have been, had I not been very attentive Wednesday morning.

At just a little before 10:00 a.m, I received a message on Twitter from a fan named Paul Hattori. Mr. Hattori stated that he had read the tribute I wrote and was moved to contact me.

He provided the names and phone numbers of several relatives who live locally, including a sister, Beth Kelley.

I relayed all of this to my fellow CFG member Tanya Carter (who had been in contact with local authorities), who in turn contacted the family members.

The relatives quickly swung into action and forestalled any further action by Hamilton County. 

This past Thursday, Beth Kelley professed her thanks to the CFG for notifying the family members and wrote the following in the CFG Facebook page:

“Hi everyone, I’m Ric Bergman’s sister. Thanks so much for getting in touch with us. I should be getting access to his apartment sometime today.  I was thinking of having prayer cards made for him, but I want to do something that really says “Ric Bergman” … Please feel free to contact me. I’ll keep you all posted as I know more.  Thanks for being there for him.

If anyone is interested I was thinking about having a get together a little later in the summer.  He’s going to at least partially get his viking funeral!!   There’s a small park in Covedale I was going to rent for a day.  Also there are soooooooo many books and movies. I’ll try to get pictures of them today and tomorrow while we’re packing up his belongings. I will be selling a lot of that stuff to help pay for this….

Please let me know what you guys think and if anyone would like to attend.  Thanks again!”

(2) MARCHING TO A DIFFERENT DRUMMER. Meanwhile, in the Guardian “M John Harrison: ‘I want to be the first human to imitate ChatGPT’”.

How do you feel about the emergence of AI?
I’d separate the thing itself from the boosterism around it. We’re at a familiar point on the curve when it comes to the overenthusiastic selling of new scientific ideas, where one discovery or tech variant is going to solve all our problems. I’d say wait and see. Meanwhile I’ll be plotting to outwrite it; I want to be the first human being to imitate ChatGPT perfectly. I bet you it’s already got mimickable traits.

(3) FREE ONLINE POE READING. The Baltimore Sun tells about a marathon Poe reading that’s in progress NOW. “In Fells Point, reading Edgar Allan Poe through the night for ‘Doomsday’ is ‘quirky, like Baltimore’”. The article is behind a paywall, but the reading can be viewed free on YouTube.

If you stumble through Fells Point late enough Saturday (or early enough the next day), swing by the independent bookstore on the corner of Aliceanna and South Ann streets, and peer into the window, you’ll catch a glimpse of something strange: a group of people reading aloud while the city sleeps.

Don’t be spooked — they’ll be celebrating “Doomsday,” an annual event started last year by Baltimore’s National Edgar Allan Poe Theatre. This year, the 24-hour Poe-themed read-a-thon will be co-hosted at Greedy Reads’ Fells Point shop. Enoch Pratt Free Library is also a partner in the event.

“It’s quirky, like Baltimore is,” said Alex Zavistovich, the founder and artistic director of The National Edgar Allan Poe Theatre.

Zavistovich started “Doomsday” last summer as a locally oriented take on “Bloomsday,” an international celebration of the Irish writer James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

“Why focus on an inscrutable Irish writer when we have a perfectly inscrutable American writer, right here in Baltimore?” said Zavistovich, 62….

…Local celebrities, including Maryland State Del. Mark Edelson, WYPR host Tom Hall and Baltimore-based authors Brandi Collins-Dexter, Sarah Pinsker, Jeannie Vanasco and Jung Yun, are slated to participate….

(4) VERY BAD NO GOOD. Walter Jon Williams calls his visit to Malta the “Worst. Trip. Ever.” After you read the medical problems that beset him and his wife Kathy when they got to the island, you won’t disagree.

(5) KUANG Q&A. “Rebecca F Kuang: ‘Who has the right to tell a story? It’s the wrong question to ask’” in the Guardian.

… Yellowface’s protagonist, who describes herself as a boring “brown-eyed, brown-haired June Hayward from Philly”, is viciously jealous of fellow writer Athena Liu, a “beautiful, Yale-educated, international, ambiguously queer woman of colour”, whose education in British boarding schools equips her with “a posh, unplaceable foreign accent”. “Publishing picks a winner,” June thinks; Athena, with her string of bestsellers, is the anointed one. After Athena suddenly dies, June discovers a manuscript she had been working on, about the 95,000-strong Chinese Labour Corps who supported Britain in the first world war. It’s intimidatingly good. When June polishes it up and passes it off as her own, the book shoots her to literary stardom.

Reviewers then debate June’s right to tell the story, echoing familiar conversations on whether authors should write about characters and histories outside their own race or lived experiences. In Yellowface, that initial query spirals into increasingly outlandish backlashes, and everything that was once coherent and proportionate disappears under a mountain of tweets. Kuang’s view, however, is clearer. “I really do not like this framework,” she says. Concerns about “who has permission to tell these stories, or who has the right, or who is qualified” seem like “the wrong questions to ask”.

“We’re storytellers, and the point of storytelling is, among other things, to imagine outside of your lived experience and empathise with people who are not you, and to ideally write truthfully, and with compassion, a whole range of characters,” she continues. “Otherwise all we could ever publish are memoirs and autobiographies and nobody wants that.” For her, more interesting is how authors approach these stories: “Are they engaging critically with tropes and stereotypes that already exist in the genre? Or are they just replicating them? What is their relationship to the people who are being represented?” And, “most importantly, does the work do something interesting? Is it good?” While some concerns about the “permission to speak” come from desires to support underrepresented authors, Kuang thinks it “usually gets wielded as a double-edged sword against marginalised writers, to pigeonhole them into only writing about their marginalised experiences. And I hate this. It really functions as another form of gatekeeping.”

(6) CLASSIC FILK MANUAL. Fanac.org has added the 2001 combined edition of Bruce Pelz’s Filksong Manual.  Originally published in 4 parts, the combined edition is 101 pages long. Cover by Stu Shiffman.

This index is intended to be ordered chronologically, but I’ve listed this right after the original publication of part 2. If you’ve wanted to find the words to the Gilbert and Sullivan parodies, or “The Childish Edda”, here’s your chance. There are songs by Poul Anderson, Randall Garrett, Tom Digby, Ted Johnstone, and of course, Bruce Pelz. Plus many others. The original publications were in 1965-1969, and some of the songs are considerably older. “Think of the Old Tacky Stuff as Of Historical Interest. To Someone. Somewhere. Somewhen. And blame the appearance of this revision/reprinting -three years after I started it — on Lee Gold.”

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1980[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

So let’s talk about Walter S. Tevis whose Mockingbird is the source of our Beginning this Scroll. Tevis wrote not only The Man Who Fell to Earth which is definitely genre and I think has had at least two film versions so far, along with the near future SF novel The Steps of the Sun but also the delicious chess novel The Queen’s Gambit which also became a film of some distinction.

This novel was published by Doubleday in 1980. The cover illustration is by Fred Marcellino. 

It was nominated for both the Ditmar and Nebula Awards. 

And now for our Beginning…

Spofforth

Walking up Fifth Avenue at midnight, Spofforth begins to whistle. He does not know the name of the tune nor does he care to know; it is a complicated tune, one he whistles often when alone. He is naked to the waist and barefoot, dressed only in khaki trousers; he can feel the worn old paving beneath his feet. Although he walks up the middle of the broad avenue he can see patches of grass and tall weeds on either side of him where the sidewalk has long before been cracked and broken away, awaiting repairs that will never be made. From these patches Spofforth hears a chorus of diverse clickings and wing rubbings of insects. The sounds make him uneasy, as they always do this time of year, in spring. He puts his big hands into his trouser pockets. Then, uncomfortable, he takes them out again and begins to jog, huge and light-footed, athletic, up toward the massive form of the Empire State Building. 

The doorway to the building had eyes and a voice; its brain was the brain of a moron—single-minded and insensitive. ‘Closed for repairs,’ the voice said to Spofforth as he approached.

‘Shut up and open,’ Spofforth said. 

And then, ‘I am Robert Spofforth. Make Nine.’ 

‘Sorry, sir,’ the door said. ‘Couldn’t see…’ ‘Yes. 

Open up. And tell the express elevator to be down for me.’ 

The door was silent for a moment. 

Then it said, ‘Elevator’s not working, sir.’ ‘Shit,’ Spofforth said. 

And then, ‘I’ll walk up.’

The door opened and Spofforth walked in and headed across the dark lobby toward the stairway. He muted the pain circuits in his legs and lungs, and began to climb. He was no longer whistling; his elaborate mind had become fixed narrowly now upon his annual intent. 

When he reached the edge of the platform, as high above the city as one could stand, Spofforth sent the command to the nerves in his legs and the pain surged into them. He wobbled slightly from it, high and alone in the black night, with no moon above him and the stars dim. The surface underfoot was smooth, polished; once years before Spofforth had almost slipped. Immediately he had thought, in disappointment, If only that would happen again, at the edge. But it did not.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner F. Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including 1,500 for just DC Comics. For DC, He created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 95. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries which is definitely genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. And the audiobooks as narrated by Susan Boyce are a great deal of fun listening. She also did some more traditional genre fiction, none of which I’ve read in the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. 
  • Born May 20, 1936 Anthony Zerbe, 87. Zerbe played the major role of Matthias, the news anchor turned mutant albino cult leader determined to kill Charlton Heston’s Richard Neville in The Omega Man, the loosely-adapated 1971 film version of Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend. He  was the villain Milton Krest in the Licence to Kill bond film;  Roger Stuart in Steven King’s The Dead Zone; Admiral Dougherty in Star Trek: Insurrection; and Councillor Hamann in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Series wise, he showed up on the Wild, Wild West and five episodes of Mission: Impossible as five different characters, he was Dr. Charles Napier on the Asteroid series on NBC in 1997 that I never heard of. 
  • Born May 20, 1940 Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) She also played Fiona in Brigadoon which has to be genre, isn’t it? (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 77. Yes she was Alexandra Medford in The Witches of Eastwick, a film that I absolutely love and adore, (and no I’ve not read the novel) which is really her only genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she’s voicing herself in The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1951 Steve Jackson, 72. The UK game designer (not to be confused with the owner of Steve Jackson Games). With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d have been playing around the same time as Traveller.
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 62. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just-concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. I read most if not all of that series and it’s quite excellent. Keeping with my firm belief of never watching a series based on fiction that I really, really liked, I have not seen the series. 

(9) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. Space.com’s review says “’Crater’ on Disney Plus offers kids out-of-this-world charm”.

NASA’s Artemis program is stirring up renewed interest in lunar exploration, and retro-style coming-of-age flicks from Hollywood are proving to be very popular with audiences and viewers.

So Disney Plus has decided to merge those two elements for its new kid-friendly sci-fi film, “Crater.”

Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez (“C.O.G.”), “Crater” unfolds its gripping tale of five adventurous kids in the year 2257 living at a protected mining colony on the surface of the moon who steal a research rover and embark on a wild overland romp to explore a notorious crater….

(10) ROGER CORMAN APPEARANCE IN LA. Fans will have an opportunity to meet Roger Corman at Chris Alexander’s book signing on June 10.

Canadian writer, editor, music composer and filmmaker Chris Alexander (former editor-in-chief of iconic horror film magazine FANGORIA and editor-in-chief/co-founder of DELIRIUM magazine), and legendary American film director, producer and actor Roger Corman are meeting in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 10th for a signing of CORMAN/POE: Interviews and Essays Exploring the Making of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Films, 1960–1964. The book will hit shelves June 6th.

Written by author and filmmaker Chris AlexanderCORMAN/POE: Interviews and Essays Exploring the Making of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe Films, 1960–1964 is the only book to fully examine this important chapter in horror film history. In-depth conversations with the maverick Roger Corman are book-ended by engaging critical analyses of each of the eight films, which together stand as a fully realized and consistent creative vision.

WHEN: Saturday, June 10th, 3pm – 5pm PST

WHERE: Dark Delicacies, 822 N Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA 91505

(11) NEW FAMILY TRADITION. “Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same. But why?” Can Live Science really not guess the answer?

Orcas have attacked and sunk a third boat off the Iberian coast of Europe, and experts now believe the behavior is being copied by the rest of the population.

Three orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whales, struck the yacht on the night of May 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar, off the coast of Spain, and pierced the rudder. “There were two smaller and one larger orca,” skipper Werner Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht. “The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side.” 

Schaufelberger said he saw the smaller orcas imitate the larger one. “The two little orcas observed the bigger one’s technique and, with a slight run-up, they too slammed into the boat.” Spanish coast guards rescued the crew and towed the boat to Barbate, but it sank at the port entrance.

Two days earlier, a pod of six orcas assailed another sailboat navigating the strait. Greg Blackburn, who was aboard the vessel, looked on as a mother orca appeared to teach her calf how to charge into the rudder. “It was definitely some form of education, teaching going on,” Blackburn told 9news.

Reports of aggressive encounters with orcas off the Iberian coast began in May 2020 and are becoming more frequent, according to a study published June 2022 in the journal Marine Mammal Science. Assaults seem to be mainly directed at sailing boats and follow a clear pattern, with orcas approaching from the stern to strike the rudder, then losing interest once they have successfully stopped the boat.

(12) HUNGRY ALIENS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Over at Science and Futurism Isaac Arthur is more SFnal than usual with a second genre-related posting, this time on hungry aliens and another possible answer to the Fermi Paradox…

The galaxy is a dark, mysterious, and silent place – perhaps it is quiet and empty because some great predator already consumed all in its path, and if so, might we be next?

(13) LEAVING A BIG WAKE. PBS Space Time host Matt O’Dowd has been wondering whether we can detect alien space craft’s gravitational wake… “Could LIGO Find MASSIVE Alien Spaceships?”

Whenever we open a new window on the universe, we discover things that no one expected. Our newfound ability to measure ripples in the fabric of spacetime—gravitational waves—is a very new window, and so far we’ve seen a lot of wild stuff. We’ve observed black holes colliding, and their oddly high masses challenges our understanding of black hole formation and growth. We’ve seen colliding neutron stars that have forced us to rewrite our ideas of how many of the elements of the periodic table get made. But what else might be hiding in the ripples’ of spacetime? Oh, I know: how about the gravitational wakes caused by planet-sized alien spacecraft accelerating to near light speed….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/13/23 Scrolling To Filezantium

(1) INFLUENCERS. TIME Magazine today posted “TIME100: The Most Influential People of 2023”. Listed actors, icons, and titans with genre connections include Ke Huy Quan, Pedro Pascal, Salman Rushdie, Angela Bassett, Bob Iger. And writer Neil Gaiman, whose tribute was written by actor James McAvoy:

What I admire most about Neil Gaiman is his belief in the necessity of storytelling: it’s something we need on a DNA level.

I first read a book by Neil when I was 14 years old. It was Good Omens, his brilliant 1990 collaboration with Terry Pratchett. Two decades later, I got the opportunity to star in the 2013 BBC radio adaptation of Neverwhere. I remember feeling so excited that I was being inducted into his sphere of influence—one that has only grown. It’s fantastic to see Neil’s work gain new fans, most recently with the Netflix adaptation of his award-winning comic-book series The Sandman.

Neil’s point of entry into the storytelling realm is darkly fantastical and occultish. The way he writes makes you feel like you’re being let in on a massive secret. His worlds are hidden, shrouded in mystery, yet they’re never that far removed from ours. They’re always just barely within your peripheral vision—under the street or in a dark building or at the end of a lane. He brings dreamscapes to life.

(2) PITCH: A CROSS BETWEEN SURVIVOR AND THE MARTIAN. Plus Shat! “Fox Orders ‘Stars on Mars’ Reality Show With William Shatner” reports Variety.

Fox has ordered the reality series “Stars on Mars,” a new celebrity unscripted series featuring “Star Trek” star William Shatner in a host-like role. The series, set to air this summer, will follow stars as they are suited up to live in a colony set up to simulate what it might be like to be an astronaut on Mars.

“Stars on Mars” premieres on Monday, June 5, at 8 p.m. on Fox. The show comes from Fremantle’s Eureka Productions. The idea centers on the celebrity contestants competing in the Mars-like surroundings until there is just one “celebronaut” left standing. Shatner will deliver tasks to the celebs as “Mission Control.”

… Shatner, in a quippy quote, added: “Thanks to lower gravity on Mars, you’ll weigh 62% less. Bad news: the air is unbreathable, so if you’re from LA, it’ll remind you of home.”

The show will open with the celebrities living together as they “live, eat, sleep, strategize, and bond with each other in the same space station,” according to the network.

Here’s more from the show description: “During their stay, they will be faced with authentic conditions that simulate life on Mars, and they must use their brains and brawn – or maybe just their stellar social skills – to outlast the competition and claim the title of brightest star in the galaxy. The celebrities will compete in missions and will vote to eliminate one of their crewmates each week, sending them back to Earth. Cue the intergalactic alliances and rivalries. ‘Stars on Mars’ will send these famous rookie space travelers where no one has gone before and reveal who has what it takes to survive life on ‘Mars.’”…

(3) IS THIS THE CRÈME DE LA CRÈME? Earlier this week the LA Times rolled out The Ultimate L.A. Bookshelf, devoting one of the shelves to 13 works of Speculative Fiction.

For our Ultimate L.A. Bookshelf, we asked writers with deep ties to the city to name their favorite Los Angeles books across eight categories or genres. Based on 95 responses, here are the 13 most essential works of speculative fiction, from Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley, Salvador Plascencia and many more….

Although these are all books, since two of them are collections of short fiction – Dangerous Visions (1967) and Speculative Los Angeles (2021) – it seems to me there should have been a way to get quintessential LA stories like Heinlein’s “And He Built A Crooked House”, and Niven’s “Inconstant Moon” into the mix. I’ll leave aside Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” which doesn’t actually say what city it takes place in, though no one has ever had any doubt…

(4) CLI-FI CONTEST. Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors submissions will be accepted up to the June 13 deadline.

Imagine 2200 challenges entrants to write stories that help envision the next 180 years of climate progress. Whether built on abundance or adaptation, reform or a new understanding of survival, the contest celebrates stories that provide flickers of hope, even joy, and serve as a springboard for exploring how fiction can help create a better reality.

Stories will be judged by a panel of literary experts, including acclaimed authors Paolo Bacigalupi, Nalo Hopkinson, and Sam J. Miller. 

The winning writer will be awarded $3,000, with the second- and third-place winners receiving $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Nine additional finalists will each receive $300. All winners and finalists’ stories will be published in an immersive collection on Grist’s website. 

Read more and find out how to submit a story here.

(5) FAN HISTORY ZOOM. Fanac.org’s program on “Researching (& Saving) Fan History” with Rob Hansen, Andy Hooper, Mark Olson and Joe Siclari can be viewed online April 22, 2023 beginning at 4 pm EDT, 1 pm PDT, 9 pm BST London, 6 am Sunday in Melbourne, AU. See the details in the poster. To get a link to the program, write to [email protected].

Past sessions are all available on Fanac.org’s YouTube channel

(6) NPR LEAVES TWITTER. AP News reported on April 12“NPR quits Elon Musk’s Twitter over ‘government-funded’ label”. They obviously meant it – NPR usually tweets prolifically every day, but there were no new tweets from NPR today, April 13.

National Public Radio is quitting Twitter after the social media platform owned by Elon Musk stamped NPR’s account with labels the news organization says are intended to undermine its credibility.

Twitter labeled NPR’s main account last week as “state-affiliated media, ” a term also used to identify media outlets controlled or heavily influenced by authoritarian governments, such as Russia and China. Twitter later changed the label to “government-funded media,” but to NPR — which relies on the government for a tiny fraction of its funding — it’s still misleading.

NPR said in a statement Wednesday that it “will no longer be active on Twitter because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent.”…

(7) GATEWAY TO ORSON WELLES. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Celebrating the genius of this extraordinary artist with my published look at the turbulent life and career of Orson Welles, the fabulous, visionary film maker whose personal demons sadly overshadowed his staggering talent, and finally, tragically destroyed him.

Yet, in spite of his personal failings or, perhaps, because of them, Welles rose to become one of the most remarkable film makers of his, or any other generation.

From his groundbreaking first feature length motion picture Citizen Kane, regarded by many still as the greatest single film in motion picture history, to Touch Of Evil, his remarkable “Cinema Noir” tale of a squandered life and legacy corrupted by bribery and temptation, Welles remains one of the most extraordinary directors in the history of film.

His is a story of unwitting sabotaged achievement and haunting, incomparable genius.

Here, then, is “Xanadu: A Castle in the Clouds: The Life of Orson Welles” at The Thunderchild.

(8) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 81 of the Octothorpe podcast, “It Wasn’t an Interjection From the Room, It Was My Face”, is available.

Alison, Liz, John and Alison are live from Conversation! We talk about the convention, in a rather more haphazard way than normal. Art by the amazing Sue Mason.

(9) MORE WRITERS’ RESPONSES TO AI. The SFWA Blog has updated its webpage and now has over 50 SFWA members’ writing and thoughts on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications and considerations. “SFWA Members Weigh in on AI & Machine Learning Applications & Considerations”. In case you looked at the original version, the additions are designated “NEW” to make them easy to find.

SFWA also focused attention on a video is now available from the AI/ML Media Advocacy Summit, a free online event last month that brought together experts and creators to discuss the creative community’s response to AI/ML media generators. SFWA Vice President John Murphy served as a panelist for the writers’ forum, along with moderator Donna Comeaux, Ed Hasbrouck of the National Writers Union, and Mary Rasenberger of the Authors Guild.

With our discipline specific panels we will be talking to a variety of individuals from across the creative industries including visual artists, voice actors, musicians, animators, photographers and writers on the different types of AI media generators and the unique challenges they pose.

(10) VIRGINIA NORWOOD (1927-2023). Physicist and inventor Virginia Norwood, who devised the scanner that has been used to map and study the earth from space for more than 50 years, died March 27. The New York Times obituary detailed the unexpected triumph of her contribution to the first Landsat.

…In the late 1960s, after NASA’s lunar missions sent back spectacular pictures of Earth, the director of the Geological Survey thought that photographs of the planet from space could help the agency manage land resources. The agency would partner with NASA, which would send satellites into space to take the pictures.

Ms. Norwood, who was part of an advanced design group in the space and communications division at Hughes, canvassed scientists who specialized in agriculture, meteorology, pollution and geology. She concluded that a scanner that recorded multiple spectra of light and energy, like one that had been used for local agricultural observations, could be modified for the planetary project that the Geological Survey and NASA had in mind.

The Geological Survey and NASA planned to use a giant three-camera system designed by RCA, based on television tube technology, that had been used to map the moon. The bulk of the 4,000-pound payload on NASA’s first Landsat satellite was reserved for the RCA equipment.

Ms. Norwood and Hughes were told that their multispectral scanner system, or M.S.S., could be included if it weighed no more than 100 pounds.

Ms. Norwood had to scale back her scanner to record just four bands of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum instead of seven, as she had planned. The scanner also had to be high precision. In her first design, each pixel represented 80 meters.

The device had a 9-by-13-inch mirror that banged back and forth noisily in the scanner 13 times a second. The scientists at the Geological Survey and NASA were skeptical.

A senior engineer from Hughes took the device out on a truck and drove around California to test it and convince the doubters that it would work. It did — spectacularly. Ms. Norwood hung one of the images, of Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome, on the wall of her house for the rest of her life.

The first Landsat blasted into space on July 23, 1972. Two days later, the scanner sent back the first images, of the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma; they were astounding. According to a 2021 article in MIT Technology Review, one geologist teared up. Another, who had been skeptical about the scanner, said, “I was so wrong about this. I’m not going to eat crow. Not big enough. I’m going to eat raven.”

The RCA system was supposed to be the primary recording instrument aboard the satellite, and the M.S.S. a secondary experiment.

“But once we looked at the data, the roles switched,” Stan Freden, the Landsat 1 project scientist, said in a NASA report.

The M.S.S. proved not only better, but also more reliable. Two weeks after liftoff, power surges in the RCA camera-based system endangered the satellite and the camera had to be shut down….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1945[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

August Derleth’s “A Word From Dr. Lyndon Parker”

Sherlock Holmes pastiches must be almost as old as the stories themselves. The first credited one was sixteen years after the first Holmes story and was in Greek, Sherlock Holmes saving Mr. Venizelos (Ο Σέρλοκ Χολμς σώζων τον κ. Βενιζέλον).  Our Beginning tonight isn’t from a work that old as it’s taken from August Derleth’s In Re: Sherlock Holmes.

It came from the collection of short stories, In Re: Sherlock Holmes, first published seventy-eight years ago in the US by Mycroft & Moran which was an imprint of Arkham House. The imprint was in part created for these stories. Wise choice I’d say.

Pons, a Consulting Detective in the mold of Holmes, exists because Derleth desired so much to do Holmes stories after Doyle ceased that he wrote him and asked if he could. Doyle unsurprisingly said no. The Solar Pons name is supposedly syllabically similar to Sherlock Holmes. Huh.

I like them because Derleth is obviously a fanboy of Holmes and his detective. Pons isn’t Holmes but is what a fan would write if he was creating his own loving version of Holmes. 

And now for our very British Beginning…

A Word From Dr. Lyndon Parker

The way in which I first made the acquaintance of Mr. Solar Pons, who was destined to introduce me to many interesting adventures in crime detection, was exceedingly prosaic. Yet it was not without those elements suggestive of what was to come. Though it took place almost thirty years ago, the memory of that meeting is as clear in mind as if it had taken place yesterday.

I had been sitting for some time in a pub not far from Paddington Station, ruefully reflecting that the London to which I had returned after the first World War was not the city I had left, when a tall; thin gentleman wearing an Inverness cape and a rakish cap with a visor on it, strode casually into the place. I was struck at once by his appearance: the thin, almost feral face; the sharp, keen dark eyes with their heavy, but not bushy brows; the thin lips and the leanness of the face in general–all these things interested me both from a personal and a medical standpoint, and I looked up from the envelope upon which I had been writing to follow the fellow with my eyes across the floor to the bar.

A waiter, who was wiping tables next to me, noticed my interest and came over. “Sherlock Holmes’,” he said. “That’s who he is. The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street,’ is what the papers call him. His real name’s Solar Pons. Ain’t much choice between the two, eh?” 

Pons had had a few words with the man behind the bar and now turned to look idly over the room. I looked away as I saw that his glance was about to fall on me, and I felt him examining me from head to toe. I felt, rather than saw, that he was walking over toward my table, and in a few moments he came to stand beside my bag on the floor next to my chair. 

“Fine color,” he said crisply. “Not long back from Africa, I see. “Two days.”

“Your scarab pin suggests Egypt and, if I’m not mistaken, the envelope on which you have been writing is one of Shepheard’s. From Cairo, then.” 

“On the ship Ishtar.” 

“At the East India Docks.” 

I looked up and he smiled genially. “But, really, you know, my dear fellow–London is not as bad as all that.” 

“I should not like to think so,” I answered him, without at once realizing that I had given him no clue to my thoughts. “Obviously you have been walking.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverly Cross. English playwright, librettist, and screenwriter. Yes librettist. He’s here because he wrote the screenplays for Sinbad and the Eye of the TigerJason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. Not remotely genre related but worth mentioning, is that he worked uncredited on the script for Lawrence of Arabia although it is unknown if any of his material made it to the film we see. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1943 Bill Pronzini, 80. Mystery writer whose Nameless Detective has one genre adventure in A Killing in Xanadu. Genre anthologist, often with Barry N Malzberg, covering such varied and wide-ranging themes as Bug-Eyed Monsters (with Malzberg), Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (with Greenberg and Malzberg) and Arbor House Necropolis. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote “The Pillars of Salt Affair”, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novella that ran in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine.
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 73. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short which is elusive to find unfortunately). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno was followed quickly by being Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by the hard SF of being Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff Notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it. So who has watched it lately?) At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 72. The Fifth Doctor that I came to be very fond of. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. And let’s not forget he showed up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the Dish of the Day. I’m going to note that I first saw him in Tristan Farnon in the BBC’s adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small stories, a lovely role indeed. And I’m very fond of The Last Detective series where he played DC ‘Dangerous’ Davies. 
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 69. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His notable TV work includes work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape, Eerie, Indiana and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer. His latest piece of fiction was the “Aurora” novelette published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, March/April 2022. 
  • Born April 13, 1954 Glen Keane, 69. He’s responsible for all of the layout work on Star Trek: The Animated Series and also My Favorite Martians which I can’t say I recognize. As a character animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, he worked on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. Editor, writer and anthologist. He was founding editor of Warner Books’ Questar Science Fiction, and later served as managing fiction editor at TSR. He co-wrote the autobiography of Julius Schwartz. And yes I’ve actually read one of his anthologies, A Yuletide Universe, as I remember it from the cover art. (Died 2008.)
  • April 13, 1967 — Rogers Cadenhead, 56. This Filer is a computer book author and web publisher who served once as chairman of the RSS Advisory Board, a group that publishes the RSS 2.0 specification. Very, very impressive. He also gained infamy for claiming drudge.com before a certain muckraker could, and still holds on to it.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) RIVERS OF LONDON. Titan Comics has revealed the covers for Here Be Dragons – the next phase of Rivers of London comics, set in the world of the bestselling novel series. For this upcoming series, comic series writers Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London) and Andrew Cartmel (The Vinyl Detective) are joined by BAFTA-nominated scriptwriter, and award-winning New York Times bestselling author James Swallow, with artwork by José María Beroy

This cover preview shows the first look at a dangerous monster at large above the streets of London. After a Met Police helicopter on night patrol is attacked by an unidentified aerial phenomena, the Met’s only sanctioned wizard, Peter Grant, and his mentor, Thomas Nightingale, are called to investigate.
 
Rivers of London: Here Be Dragons issue #1 (on sale in comic shops and digital July 12th, 2023) features covers by series artist José María Beroy, alongside David M. Buisan and V.V. Glass. 

(15) SMITHSONIAN OPEN ACCESS. “The Smithsonian Puts 4.5 Million High-Res Images Online and Into the Public Domain, Making Them Free to Use” at Open Culture. And more items are being added to Smithsonian Open Access all the time,

That vast repository of American history that is the Smithsonian Institution evolved from an organization founded in 1816 called the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences. Its mandate, the collection and dissemination of useful knowledge, now sounds very much of the nineteenth century — but then, so does its name. Columbia, the goddess-like symbolic personification of the United States of America, is seldom directly referenced today, having been superseded by Lady Liberty. Traits of both figures appear in the depiction on the nineteenth-century fireman’s hat above, about which you can learn more at Smithsonian Open Access, a digital archive that now contains some 4.5 million images.

Just for practice I searched “science fiction” and one of the images that returned was Octavia Butler’s typewriter.

This Olivetti Studio 46 Typewriter belonged to Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), who wrote science fiction when few black writers did. Butler began writing at age 10 and eventually used a computer to compose, but noted, “I didn’t always. I wrote my first ten books on a manual typewriter of one kind or another….She [my mother] did day work; she made not very much money….here she had a daughter begging for a typewriter.” Butler’s blue typewriter dates to the 1970s….

(16) VONNEGUT SPEAKS. At Euronews:“Culture Re-View: Kurt Vonnegut’s five best quotes”.

…Over the following five decades, Vonnegut established himself as one of the most creative and humorous voices in science-fiction. Like an American Douglas Adams, his books would frequently deal with aliens, time travel, and metafiction, but always with the intent of getting to the heart of human nature itself….

The first example on their list is:

1. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

From Vonnegut’s third novel ‘Mother Night’, it’s a beautiful and quick summation of an appreciation of the stark importance as well as the flimsiness of human identity.

(17) DAY FOR KNIGHT. “’Game of Thrones’ Prequel Based on Dunk and Egg Books Series Order”TVLine has details.

Despite Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin once plainly stating that HBO was not going to make a TV show out of his Dunk and Egg novellas, those characters will be central in A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight, a Thrones prequel series that HBO greenlit Wednesday during Warner Bros. Discovery’s unveiling of its Max streaming service.

The series will be written and executive-produced by Martin and Ira Parker. Ryan Condal, who currently serves as House of the Dragon‘s showrunner, and Vince Gerardis also will be EPs.

“A century before the events of Game of Thrones, two unlikely heroes wandered Westeros,” the official logline reads. “A young, naive but courageous knight, Ser Duncan the Tall” (aka Dunk) “and his diminutive squire, Egg. Set in an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living memory, great destinies, powerful foes and dangerous exploits all await these improbable and incomparable friends.”…

(18) A FROZEN FLAME. And if you’d like to see George R.R. Martin posing with his Dragon Award from last year, click on this link to his March 29 blog entry.

My thanks to all of the attendees of last year’s Dragoncon, and to all the Dragon Award voters who chose ELDEN RING as the best game of the year.   Like all my friends at From Software, I am thrilled that you enjoyed the play… as challenging as it can be.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. PBS Space-Time’s Matt O’Dowd wonders “How Far Beyond Earth Could Humanity Expand?”

We humans have always been explorers. The great civilizations that have arisen across the world are owed to our restless ancestors. These days, there’s not much of Earth left to explore. But if we look up, there’s a whole universe out there waiting for us. Future generations may one day explore the cosmos and even settle entire other galaxies. But there is a hard limit to how much of the universe we can expand into. So, how big can humanity get?

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/23 Fifty Ways To Scroll Your Pixels

(1) WEBSITE SECURITY. “Safety Dispatch: How to Secure Your Author Website” from the SFWA Safety Committee. Sections on choosing a hosting service, domain registration, and the like, are followed with some wisdom about choosing content.  

Carefully Choose What to Share

Your author bio doesn’t have to list family members, your hometown, or any other identity markers you aren’t comfortable sharing. You’re not obligated to mention your birthday, your employer, or your involvement with other organizations, through which somebody might find details about your identity and location that you don’t wish to share. Some authors are transparent about all of these things, and some aren’t. There isn’t a single right answer to sharing information about your life online. But if you think about the boundaries you would like to set in advance, you’ll find it easier to avoid posting information that you can’t take back.

Photographs can also be sources of more information than you intend. Pay attention to what’s in the background of any photos you post on your website or on social media, such as exterior shots of your home or distinctive landmarks through your windows. Turn off geolocation metadata when you take photos or make sure you know how to remove it before posting images online. 

(2) TRADPUB PAY HIKES. Two publishers recently raised their starting salaries, perhaps hoping to forestall the labor action current facing HarperCollins – Publishers Weekly reports “HBG Raises Starting Salaries to $47,500” and “Macmillan Raises Starting Salaries to $47,500”. It’s hard not to notice the figures are identical – collusion, anyone?

(3) SOONERCON. Oklahoma pop-culture event Soonercon announced a new graphic design and branding yesterday, along with a new mascot.

We are excited today to reveal an all new look and feel for Soonercon! We’ve been working closely these past few months with our Diamond Sponsor Robot House to rebrand Soonercon for the modern era. We started this journey with the Soonercon story and two words came forward: community and hope. Armed with that (and whole heck of a lot more words about our special convention), Robot House designed these new logos for us, a friendly and forward color scheme, and fonts to take us into the future.

Even more exciting, say hello to Ripley Raccoon, Soonercon’s new mascot! Ripley is curious, always learning, loves art and reading, and has a whole lot of hobbies – just like our members.

In the Soonercon Cosplay Facebook group the change received a mixed greeting. Some liked it. Some criticized it for resembling sites aimed at kids, others for lacking any sci-fi identity.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to collaborate over breakfast with Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni in Episode 191 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Mary SanGiovanni and Brian Keene

Anyone who’s listened to more than a few episodes of Eating the Fantastic already knows — collaboration confuses me. Tell me two writers have managed to work together on the same project without blood on the floor and a lifelong feud and I’m baffled. So when I learned previous guests of the show Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni had collaborated on the short story collection Things Left Behind, released last year by Thunderstorm Books, I knew we’d have to chat about it.

We met for breakfast at Martinsburg, West Virginia’s Blue White Grill, which has been serving diner food since the ’50s.

Brian’s published more than 40 novels, including the best-selling The Rising, and he’s the winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award, while Mary is the author of The Hollower trilogy, the first volume of which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. There’s a whole lot more to know about each of them, as you’ll learn if you listen to those two earlier episodes.

We discussed how being intimidated by each other helps their collaborative process, their different tolerances for writing gore (and how that’s changed over time), the romantic reason (up until this episode known to only one of them) their collaborative short story collection came about, which of them once wrote 45,000 words in a day, how they came to agree on a joint dedication, who gives each story its final polish (and who get the final say on sending it to market), how Brian attempted to bleed all over Mary’s upcoming Alien novel, the way they approach their own deaths, their honeymoon book tour hitting every state but Alaska and Hawaii, their upcoming collaborative novel, and much more.

(5) MIDDLE-EARTH LEGO SET. “The 6,167-Piece Rivendell Is the One Lego Lord of the Rings Set to Rule Them All”Gizmodo takes readers on a tour. (See even more on the Lego website.)

…Although Lego’s Rivendell even includes the place where Aragon and Boromir first meet next to the shrine featuring the shards of Narsil, it appears as if the minifigure version of Boromir has yet to cut his finger on the still-sharp sword. But that’s nothing a red Sharpie can’t fix.

As peaceful as Rivendell appears, the elves are still well regarded for their weapons, and not only does this set come with a well-stocked armory, but also a glowing forge for creating Lhangs and other stabby tools for making short work of orcs and goblins.

There’s nothing worse than working your way through a textbook-sized Lego instruction manual only to come across a step that has to be repeated countless times that dramatically slows down your build progress. That is undoubtedly the case with the tiled roof atop Rivendell—each 1×1 Lego tile will have to be attached and aligned individually—but the results look like they’re definitely worth the effort.

Although Lego did release a mountain (of doom) of images of its new LOTR Rivendell set, there still appear to be lots of details not highlighted yet. So if you’re still on the fence over whether you want to make room to add this sizeable set to your collection, you can take a quick tour of its entire layout using this 360-degree animation….

(6) SOMETIMES THEY’RE RIGHT. [Item by David Goldfarb.] On last night’s episode of Jeopardy! in the Double Jeopardy round, “That’s Dedication”, $1200:

Douglas Adams dedicated this title guy’s “Holistic Detective Agency”,

“To my mother, who liked the bit about the horse”

Returning champion Matthew Marcus correctly responded, “Who is Dirk Gently?”


“Comedy Time”, $800:

1960s: General Buck Turgidson wants to explore the nuclear option

Dan Wohl responded, “What is Doctor Strangelove?”

(7) TCHAIKOVSKY Q&A. Moid Moidelhoff conducts “An Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky – Children Of Memory and Beyond” at Media Death Cult.

(8) OMNIVOROUS READER. A New York Times interview: “Jojo Moyes’s Grandmother Knew a Bookworm When She Saw One”.

Do you distinguish between “commercial” and “literary” fiction? Where’s that line, for you?

Not in terms of my appetite for reading — I read everything from thrillers to literary fiction to comic books. And I’m enjoying the fact that the line appears to have become increasingly blurred between them. If someone I trust tells me something’s good, I’ll give it a go.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I was an only child and a voracious reader. My grandmother called me a bookworm, and it wasn’t a compliment, as my weekly visits to her were usually spent with my nose buried between the pages. The books that have stayed with me are “The Black Stallion,” by Walter Farley, and “The Secret Garden,” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and, as a teenager, the books of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was also a compulsive reader of horror — I could not read horror now if you paid me.

(9) LEE MODER OBITUARY. Comics artist Lee Moder died around January 15 says Deadline.

Comic book artist Lee Moder, who co-created the Courtney Whitmore version of Stargirl with Geoff Johns in 1999, has passed away, according to ComicBook.com and statements from his peers. The web site cited a family friend, who indicated that Moder died quietly at home sometime on or before January 15th. No cause of his death was given. Moder was 53.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1982 — Paul Weimer offers us his thoughts on Robert Heinlein’s Friday

Heinlein’s Friday is, in my mind, unquestionably the strongest of the late Heinleins. It starts with a strong and indelible paragraph that introduces and defines the character. The world of the novel, a sequel to the story “Gulf” is also a refutation of that story’s thesis, and shows the evolved thinking Heinlein had about that earlier story’s assumptions. The balkanized America of the novel is a chaotic and interesting place, from its vividly imagined Democracy run amok California to the mighty and autocratic Chicago Imperium. 

Its ideas on corporations, artificial personhood, and more are thought provoking. Friday is far and away the most successful of the late Heinlein novels in what it tries to do, and remains the most readable by a large margin. 

And now the Beginning of that novel… 

As I left the Kenya Beanstalk capsule he was right on my heels. He followed me through the door leading to Customs, Health, and Immigration. As the door contracted behind him I killed him.

I have never liked riding the Beanstalk. My distaste was full-blown even before the disaster to the Quito Skyhook. A cable that goes up into the sky with nothing to hold it up smells too much of magic. But the only other way to reach Ell-Five takes too long and costs too much; my orders and expense account did not cover it.

So I had been edgy even before I left the shuttle from Ell-Five at Stationary Station to board the Beanstalk capsule…but, damn it, being edgy isn’t reason to kill a man. I had intended only to put him out for a few hours.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1863 Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says online sources but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of it? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with the legendary Ronald Coleman in the lead and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Rupert. (Died 1933.)
  • Born February 9, 1877 George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside’”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is badly marred by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 9, 1928 Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1935 R. L. Fanthorpe, 88. He was a pulp writer for UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s during which he wrote under some sixty pen names. I think he wrote several hundred genre novels during that time but no two sources agree on just how many he wrote. Interestingly nothing is available by him digitally currently though his hard copy offerings would fill a wing of a small rural library. He’d be perfect for the usual suspects I’d say.
  • Born February 9, 1946 Clive Walter Swift. His first genre appearance was as Snug in that version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968). Several years thereafter he was Dr. Black in “A Warning to the Curious” (based on a ghost story by British writer M. R. James).Then he’s Ector, whoever that character is, in Excalibur. He shows up next in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Revelation of a The Daleks” as Professor Jobel. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 9, 1951 Justin Gustainis, 72. Author of two series so far, one being the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series which he’s written three superb novels in so far, and the other being the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations series which has seven novels and which I’ve not read yet. Who’s read the latter series? 
  • Born February 9, 1953 Ciaran Hinds, 70. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
  • Born February 9, 1956 Timothy Truman, 67. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack with John Ostrander, along with Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volumes 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say get Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Heart of the City is about a family’s plans to go to a con. 
  • Bizarro’s Star Wars-themed joke today proves again why this comic bears the name it has.  

(13) EKPEKI Q&A. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues their Black History Month theme with “Black Heritage in Horror: Interview with Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki”.

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

It’s familiarity. The way that it approached all these very real issues we experienced and lived everyday in ways that were innocent and enticing enough to consume when we shied away from the stark reality of it.

Do you make a conscious effort to include African diaspora characters and themes in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Yes. It’s a conscious, deliberate decolonization process for me. A reclamation of my identity and these pieces of myself, culture, identity that were eroded with slavery and colonialism….

(14) LET THE WOOKIEE WIN. “Chewbacca: Peter Mayhew’s Wife Slams Auction for Star Wars Sale” reports Variety. Things the Mayhews abandoned in an attic when they moved were scheduled to go under the hammer.

Angie Mayhew, the wife of the late “Star Wars” actor Peter Mayhew, is speaking out against an upcoming auction in which Peter’s “Star Wars” memorabilia will be sold. Ryedale Auctioneers is selling “Star Wars” scripts, call-sheets and more that were discovered in Peter Mayhew’s attic after his death. Peter starred as Chewbacca in George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” trilogy. Angie took to Twitter to say the auction “really breaks [her] heart.”

“When we moved out of this house, Peter’s movement challenges made it impossible for him to get into the attic to get the rest of these memories,” Angie wrote. “It really breaks my heart to see our belongings auctioned off like this by [auction house founder] Angus Ashworth and Ryedale Auctioneers.”

“It was one of Peter’s and my biggest regrets that we had to leave these items behind,” Angie added. “His knees and joints had gotten to be so painful that he was no longer able to go into the attic to get them.”

Several hours after posting, Angie updated fans using the Peter Mayhew Foundation account and said that she had a Zoom meeting with the auction house.

“I communicated our desire that Peter’s items be returned to the Mayhew family,” Angie wrote. “Will keep everyone posted as progress is made – thank you for the continued support!”…

(15) INFLATION RATE. Not that you ever doubted it: “Chinese Balloon Had Tools to Collect Communications Signals, U.S. Says” in the New York Times.

The Chinese spy balloon shot down by the U.S. military over the Atlantic Ocean was capable of collecting communications signals and was part of a fleet of surveillance balloons directed by the Chinese military that had flown over more than 40 countries across five continents, the State Department said Thursday.

The United States used high resolution imagery from U-2 flybys to determine the balloon’s capabilities, the department said in a written announcement, adding that the balloon’s equipment “was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons.”

The agency said the balloon had multiple antennas in an array that was “likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications.” Solar panels on the machine were large enough to produce power to operate “multiple active intelligence collection sensors,” the department said.

The agency also said the U.S. government was “confident” that the company that made the balloon had direct commercial ties with the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, citing an official procurement portal for the army. The department did not name the company….

(16) SQUINTING IN SPACE. Nature reports the first space-based discovery of an exoplanet using microlensing. Primary research paper here.

K2-2016-BLG-0005Lb is the first bound micro-lensing exoplanet discovered from space-based data. 

The system lies at a distance of 5.2 ± 0.2 kpc (17,000 light years if my maths is right?) from Earth towards the Galactic bulge, more than twice the distance of the previous most distant planet found by Kepler. The sky-projected separation of the planet from its host is found to be 4.2 ± 0.3 au (1 au being the distance between the Earth and the Sun).

According to current planet formation models, this system is very close to the host mass threshold below which Jupiters are not expected to form…

(17) 00P$. “Google AI chatbot Bard sends shares plummeting after it gives wrong answer” reports the Guardian. “Chatbot Bard incorrectly said James Webb Space Telescope was first to take pictures of planet outside Earth’s solar system.”

Google’s response to ChatGPT has got off to an embarrassing start after its new artificial intelligence-powered chatbot gave a wrong answer in a promotional video, as investors wiped more than $100bn (£82bn) off the value of the search engine’s parent company, Alphabet.

The sell-off on Wednesday came amid investor fears that Microsoft, which is deploying an ChatGPT-powered version of its Bing search engine, will damage Google’s business. Alphabet stock slid by 9% during regular trading in the US but was flat after hours.

Experts pointed out that promotional material for Bard, Google’s competitor to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, contained an error in the response by the chatbot to: “What new discoveries from the James Webb space telescope (JWST) can I tell my nine-year old about?”…

(18) APPARENT VIOLATION OF THE ROCHE LIMIT. Of course you know what that is. Errr…. “Astronomers Discover Unexpected Ring around Distant Dwarf Planet” at Sky & Telescope.

The distant dwarf planet 500000 Quaoar appears to have a ring that spans far beyond where it ought to be stable. “That is not where it was supposed to be,” says Bruno Morgado (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), lead author of a team of 59 astronomers who report the discovery in Nature

French astronomer Edouard Roche defined the concept of the Roche limit in 1848, calculating where a planet’s tidal forces would exceed the gravitational force holding a moon together. Inside that region, the stronger gravitational force of the planet overpowers the moon’s gravity and that tidal pull eventually tears the moon apart. Only outside that limit can small objects, dust, and debris coalesce under their own gravity to form a moon. With the ring’s discovery, the Roche limit may need a rethink….

How much trouble can they get into for violating the Roche Limit? John A Arkansawyer guesses, “They might get thrown out of the Astronomical Union?”

(19) DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU? Matt O’Dowd of PBS Space Time displays multiple different ways of looking at the same question in “How Earth REALLY Moves Through the Galaxy”.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/23 But Oh, Saberish Padawan, Beware Of The Day, If Your Scroll Be A Pixel

(1) COLUMBIA SHUTTLE TRAGEDY ANNIVERSARY. NPR is “Remembering the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy 20 years on”.

…SIMON: Twenty years later, what have we learned about that day? What happened there in the sky? And what might have prevented it?

DUGGINS: Well, you know, it’s funny. I mean, if you talk to historians, who are much better at this than I am, they’ll say, you know, the Titanic, it can’t sink. Challenger – routine launch and landing, no problems there. And that hubris always seems to catch up with us. And with Columbia, it was the piece of falling foam that hit the vehicle. And NASA asked the engineers, do you know it’s a problem? And they said, well, we can’t be sure. And so the manager said, fine, we’ll just keep going with the mission and not tell anybody about it. And it wasn’t until the very end that they informed the astronauts ’cause they figured it was going to come up in a press conference. And that was what ultimately doomed the crew….

(2) LE GUIN POETRY VOLUME COMING. The Library of America edition of Ursula K. Le Guin: Collected Poems will be released April 23.  See a PDF of the Table of Contents.

Throughout a celebrated career that spanned five decades and multiple genres, Ursula K. Le Guin was first and last a poet. This sixth volume in the definitive Library of America edition of Le Guin’s work presents for the first time an authoritative gathering of her poetry—from the earliest collection, 1974’s Wild Angels, through her final publication, So Far So Good, which she delivered to her editor a week before her death in 2018. It reveals the full formal range and visionary breadth of a major American poet.

Le Guin’s poems engage with themes that resonate throughout her fiction but find their most refined expression here: exploration as a metaphor for both human bravery and creativity, the mystery and fragility of nature and the impact of humankind on the environment, the Tao Te Ching, marriage, aging, and womanhood. Often traditional in form but never in style, her verse is earthy and playful, surprising and lyrical.

This volume features a new introduction by editor Harold Bloom, written shortly before his own death in 2019, in which he reflects on his late-in-life friendship with Le Guin and the power of her poetic gift. “For many years I have wondered why her poetry is relatively neglected,” he writes. “Her lyrics and reflections are American originals. Sometimes I hear in them the accent of William Butler Yeats and occasionally a touch of Robinson Jeffers, yet her voicing is inimitably individual.” The book also presents sixty-eight uncollected poems, a generous selection of Le Guin’s introductions to and reflections on her poetry, including a rare interview, and a chronology of her life and career.

(3) OH GOODY. Futurism assures readers, “By 2030, You’ll Be Living in a World That’s Run by Google”.

…By 2030, Google will have that World Brain in existence, and it will look after all of us. And that’s quite possibly both the best and worst thing that could happen to humanity.

To explain that claim, let me tell you a story of how your day is going to unfold in 2030.

You wake up in the morning, January 1st, 2030. It’s freezing outside, but you’re warm in your room. Why? Because Nest – your AI-based air conditioner – knows exactly when you need to wake up, and warms the room you’re in so that you enjoy the perfect temperature for waking up.

And who acquired Nest three years ago for $3.2 billion USD? Google did.

You go out to the street and order an autonomous taxi to take you to your workplace. Who programmed that autonomous car? Google did. Who acquired Waze – a crowdsourcing navigation app? That’s right: Google did….

(4) WISH WE COULD BE THERE. Dr. Phil Nichols will speak about “Literacy, Censorship and Burning Books: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451” at the Wolverhampton Literature Festival on February 3.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the classic dystopian novel of book-burning firemen, is as relevant today as when it debuted seventy years ago. Its insights into censorship, television, drug abuse and the fall and rise of civilisation retain a freshness and plausibility rarely seen in other science fiction of that era.

Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury’s most successful novel. Ironically for a book which rages against censorship, it frequently shows up on lists of “banned books”. Adapted for the stage by Bradbury himself and twice filmed, it somehow doesn’t date, despite being seventy years old in 2023.

Phil Nichols is the editor of The New Ray Bradbury Review and Senior Consultant to the Ray Bradbury Centre at Indiana University. In this extensively illustrated talk, he explains the curious history of this classic science fiction dystopia. It’s a tale of diverse influences (Huxley and Koestler; but surprisingly not Orwell) and extensive re-writing, resulting in a work which Neil Gaiman calls “a love letter to books . . . a love letter to people.”

(5) DEFINITELY BELONGS TO THE SCIENCE FICTION CANNON. ScreenRant celebrates that “The First Science Fiction Movie Is Over 120 Years Old” and they’ll fight anyone who says it isn’t genre.

A Trip to the Moon is considered the first science fiction movie by most – but some say it is not science fiction, because it is not based on any realistic form of science, classing it more as a space fantasy. A Trip to the Moon features classic elements of the current sci-fi genre, such as aliens and sleek rockets, that would now be considered sci-fi because of how the genre has developed. However, some people do not classify films such as Star Wars as sci-fi because the science in it lacks plausibility, the same way A Trip to the Moon is not realistic with its science – highlighting how differently the genre is considered amongst audiences, as many would consider it a quintessential sci-fi series….

(6) QUITE A BUNCH OF CHARACTERS. Fonts In Use unravels “The Mystery of the Dune Font” and how devotees are keeping it alive.

… The liaison between Dune and Davison Art Nouveau started in September 1975, when the typeface was used by Berkley Medallion for a paperback edition of the first two novels. At the time, the Berkley imprint was owned by New York-based publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons. When Berkley Putnam published the first hardcover edition of the third novel, Children of Dune, in 1976, the new typographic identity was applied there, too. Later on, Putnam used the typeface on the jackets for hardback editions of other, unrelated books authored (or coauthored) by Frank Herbert…

 … In 2009, a Dune aficionado who goes by the moniker DuneFish (DFUK) and/or MEP made a digital font called Orthodox Herbertarian, “painstakingly traced from scans of the typeface that was used on the American Ace editions […] of Dune and many other Frank Herbert books”. This amateur digitization is freely available at kullwahad.com. The font is caps only (A–Z), with a basic set of punctuation characters and scaled-down caps in the lowercase. Because it’s based on the book covers (as opposed to the original typeface), it naturally adopts the narrowed proportions. Orthodox Herbertarian is a laudable effort, but it doesn’t include any of the alternates or the numerals. In 2020, Reddit user purgruv added lowercase letters and numerals to this freebie and offered it for download as Extended Herbertarian. The additions aren’t faithful to the original and unfortunately aren’t well drawn, either….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1923 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Following up on my essay yesterday, the quote tonight is from Agatha Christie’s “The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim”.  

It was first published in March of 1923 in Britain in the Sketch. The story was published in the States in the Blue Book Magazine in December of 1923 as “Mr Davenby Disappears”.  In 1924, the story appeared as part of the Poirot Investigates anthology. 

And yes, David Suchet got to perform the story here in which is Poirot wagers Chief Inspector Japp that he can solve the mystery of a missing banker without leaving his flat. 

And here’s the quote now…

Poirot and I were expecting our old friend Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard to tea. We were sitting round the tea-table awaiting his arrival. Poirot had just finished carefully straightening the cups and saucers which our landlady was in the habit of throwing, rather than placing, on the table. He had also breathed heavily on the metal teapot, and polished it with a silk handkerchief. The kettle was on the boil, and a small enamel saucepan beside it contained some thick, sweet chocolate which was more to Poirot’s palate than what he described as ‘your English poison’. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1910 Arnold Moss. Anton Karidian a.k.a. Kodos the Executioner in the most excellent “The Conscience of the King” episode of Trek. It wasn’t his only SFF role as he’d show up in Tales of TomorrowThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourTime Tunnel and Fantasy Island. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 28, 1920 Lewis Wilson. Genre wise, he’s remembered for being the first actor to play Batman on screen in the 1943 Batman, a 15-chapter theatrical serial from Columbia Pictures. A sequel to the serial was made in 1949, but Robert Lowery replaced Wilson as Batman. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1965 Lynda Boyd, 58. Let’s start off with she’s a singer who starred in productions The Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Film-wise, she had roles in Final Destination 2, The Invader, Mission to Mars and Hot Tub Time Machine. She’s had one-offs in X-Files, Highlander, Strange Luck, Millennium, The Sentinel, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (where she had a recurring role as Darla Mohr), Outer Limits, Twilight Zone and Smallville.
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 42. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman in Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
  • Born January 28, 1986 Shruti Haasan, 37. Indian film actress known for the Telugu fantasy film Anaganaga O Dheerudu, and the Tamil science fiction thriller 7aum Arivu. She voiced Queen Elsa in the Tamil-dubbed version of Frozen II.
  • Born January 28, 1998 Ariel Winter, 25. Voice actress who’s shown up in such productions as Mr. Peabody & Sherman as Penny Peterson, Horton Hears a Who!DC Showcase: Green Arrow as Princess Perdita and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly (Robin). She’s got several one-off live performances on genre series, The Haunting Hour: The Series and Ghost Whisperer.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Six Chix shows how hardcover books have learned to play rough at the airport.

(10) CATZILLAS. “The Army Corps of Engineers Made a Glorious 2023 Cat Calendar” and Gizmodo has a slideshow of the whole thing.

It’s hard to believe that the mighty, stone-faced U.S. Army would ever adapt adorable cat babies as its representatives, but this is the internet in the year of our lord 2023. Anything is possible.

That’s certainly what I thought when I stumbled upon this glorious 2023 cat calendar made by the Portland District of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While it’s not the product of a Photoshop wizard, the calendar earnestly features gigantic cats being their amazing furry selves. They play, they scratch, they think about life, and they stretch—all the while interacting with the Army Corps’ various dams, jetties, and heavy machinery….

(11) PLAUDITS FOR NEWITZ. Paul Di Filippo reviews The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz in the Washington Post [Archive.is link].

… This generously overstuffed tale has enough ideas and incidents to populate half a dozen lesser science fiction books. But the reading experience is never clotted or tedious, never plagued by extraneous detours. The story — which begins nearly 60,000 years in the future and unfolds over more than a millennium — rollicks along at a brisk clip while allowing Newitz space to dig into characters and milieu, and pile on startling speculative elements….

(12) NUKE THE MOON. In the New York Times: “‘The Wandering Earth II’ Review: It Wanders Too Far”

Upon its release, “The Wandering Earth,” Frant Gwo’s 2019 film about a dystopia in which Earth is perilously pushed through space, was minted as China’s first substantial, domestic sci-fi blockbuster, with the box office returns to prove it.

The film was entertaining enough, but its ambitious scope had something of an empty gloss to it, partly because the story’s drama wasn’t grounded in anything beyond the showy cataclysm. Its audaciously messy sequel, “The Wandering Earth II,” seems to have taken note and sprinted, aimlessly, entirely in the other direction. Losing all of the glee of its predecessor, the movie instead offers nearly three hours of convoluted story lines, undercooked themes and a tangle of confused, glaringly state-approved political subtext….

(13) KEEP YOUR DRAWERS ON. The Takeout tells how “Fox News Fell for an A&W Joke About Its Pantsless Mascot”.

…As you can see, the A&W tweet is simply parroting M&M’s tweet closely (the internet age is weird, everyone) and riding the same jokey wave. Rooty, typically pantsless, will wear jeans now. Funny gag! However, Fox News took A&W’s post as an opportunity to wage a culture war.

At first the outlet reported A&W’s Rooty announcement as a serious matter….

“First it was an M&M’s, now a bear has to wear [pants],” noted Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone. “This is the woke police. Cancel culture has gone—ridiculous.”

Later, however, after all that lamentation, Fox realized the error, clarifying that A&W followed up its original tweet with another one that said, “Is now a good time to mention that this is a joke?”

(14) IT COULD HAPPEN ANYWHERE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] It’s Saturday, I’m up early, had croissant and coffee and done work chores for today already 10.20. (I’m so hot it’s untrue…) So here is an extra from today’s Science. “Earth-like planets should readily form around other stars, meteorites suggest”.

Samples from space rocks suggest water and light elements are present in warm inner part of planet-forming disks

How hard is it to give birth to an Earth? To assemble the right mix of rock, metal, and water, in a balmy spot not too far from a star? For a long time, planetary scientists have thought Earth was a lucky accident, enriched with water and lighter “volatile” elements—such as nitrogen and carbon—by asteroids that had strayed in from the outer edges of the early Solar System, where those materials were abundant. But a series of new studies, including two published today in Science, suggests all the ingredients were much closer at hand when Earth was born…

Also Matt over at PBS Space Time contemplates Silicon based aliens

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Everything’s up to date on Ukraine’s farms.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/23 Scrolling About Pixels Is Like Stardancing About Naval Architecture

(1) SHORT SFF REVIVAL. Charlie Jane Anders diagnoses the problem and then brings forward “Some Ideas for How to Save Short Fiction!”

Short fiction is once again in crisis. After an era when the Internet seemed to be helping a lot of short stories find a bigger audience, the same thing is now happening to short stories that are happening to a lot of other content: the invisible hand is raising a big middle finger. Among other things, Twitter is getting to be much less useful in helping to spread the word about short stories worth reading, and Amazon just announced that it’s ending its Kindle subscription program from magazines, depriving magazine publishers of a pretty significant slice of income….

Here’s a short example out of several ideas Anders pitches.

I’d love to see more short fiction turning up in incongruous contexts

This is something I talked about a lot in the introduction to my short story collection Even Greater Mistakes (shameless plug alert!). I am always happy to see short stories show up on coffee bag labels, in pamphlets on public transit, scrawled on bathroom walls, or in the middle of a publication that mostly includes serious non-fiction pieces about politics and culture. I feel like we could be doing more to leverage the ability of short stories to show up in surprising places and suck us in with their narrative power.

(2) MEDICAL UPDATE. Paul Di Filippo’s partner Deborah Newton wrote to friends that on January 19 Paul was hit by a large SUV. 

The driver stopped, spoke to Paul and gave him her phone to call Newton.

I ran the three blocks to where the accident had occurred — the ambulance passed me as I ran.  Luckily there was a witness whose moving car was facing the accident when it happened and had a video camera on the dashboard.  He made arrangements with the police, who had already arrived, to share the video.  

Those of you who have met Paul in the flesh will not be surprised that he dragged himself up after the huge hit, and even climbed by himself into the ambulance.  The Dr. at the ER later called that “adrenaline”, but I believe Paul has a stronger energy and will than most of us mere mortals.

After extensive testing in the ER it was determined he sustained no head wounds or broken bones. However, writes Newton, “He is covered with bruises and has a large hematoma on his left thigh. His hip, where he believes he landed after the hit, is excruciatingly painful.”

He is back home, presently using a walker to get around.

(3) LIVE FROM 1968. Cora Buhlert returns to Galactic Journey as one of the contributors to a “Galactoscope” column, reviewing Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber — and also talking about some of the biggest protests her hometown has ever seen. There are also reviews of Picnic on Paradise by Joanna Russ, a Jack Vance book, an Andre Norton book and several others: “[January 20, 1968] Alyx and Company (January 1968 Galactoscope)”.

… However, with the sale of the Ziff-Davis magazines to Sol Cohen, the appearances of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser in the pages of Fantastic became scarce. It seemed the dynamic duo was homeless once again, unless they shacked up with Cele Goldsmith Lalli over at Modern Bride magazine, that is.

So imagine my joy when I spotted the brand-new Fafhrd and Gray Mouser adventure The Swords of Lankhmar in the spinner rack of my trusty import bookstore…

(4) 2024 NASFIC UPDATE. Sharon Sbarsky, the Pemmi-con/2023 NASFiC committee member in charge of NASFiC 2024 Site Selection, announced today that the Buffalo in 2024 bid has filed. She published the following extract from their letter of intent.

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance Inc. is pleased to present this letter of intent, along with Visit Buffalo Niagara, to host the 16th North American Science Fiction Convention in Buffalo, New York USA in 2024 .

Details of the bid

Proposed date: July 18-21, 2024

Proposed site: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center & Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

Proposed Headquarter Hotel: Hyatt Regency Buffalo Hotel and Convention Center

Upstate New York Science Fiction and Fantasy Alliance, Inc. is a NYS registered not-for-profit corporation focused on encouraging and running fannish activities in New York State. Members of our bid committee include individuals who have experience working on Worldcon / NASFiC events, as well as others who have organized small conventions and other events across New York and Southern Ontario
https://buffalonasfic2024.org/

Sbarksy added: “Members of Pemmi-con will be able to vote in the Site Selection. Details will come at a later time. We hope to have electronic voting, similar to the Worldcon and NASFiC selections at Chicon 8. 180 days before the Start of Pemmi-Con is January 21, 2023, so the ballot is still open for additional bids.”

(5) GETTING UNSTUCK. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware delivers another warning: “Bad Contract Alert: Webnovel”.

A bit over two years ago, I wrote about two companies, A&D Entertainment and EMP Entertainment, that appeared to have been deputized by serialized fiction app Webnovel to recruit authors to non-exclusive contracts. The contracts from both companies were (and continue to be) absolutely terrible.

EMP Entertainment no longer appears to be active (it has no website and I’ve heard nothing about it since 2020), but A&D is still going strong, and over the past two years I’ve been contacted by a lot of (mostly very young and inexperienced) writers who are confused about its complicated English-language contract, or have changed their minds about signing up and want to know how to get free (as with the contracts of so many serialized fiction apps, there’s no option for the author to terminate).

A&D recruits via a bait and switch. Writers are solicited by an editor or Author Liaison who claims to have discovered the writer’s work on Amazon or elsewhere, and invites them to publish on the Webnovel platform (the bait)….

(6) DON’T JUST ROLL THE DICE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “5 Things SecOps Can Learn from Dungeons & Dragons” at Tech Beacon. Note, “SecOps” is tech shorthand for “Security Operations” (or possibly “Security Operators”)

… Anyone who has ever experienced a SOC 2 or ISO 27001 audit might see the parallels between a lengthy framework of rules and their arbiter. Still, D&D is significantly more fun than a cybersecurity audit. In fact, when it comes to security preparedness there are quite a few lessons that security operations (SecOps) teams that are responsible for the security of connected assets—including myriad Internet of Things (IoT) devices—can learn from D&D. And they might just have a bit of fun along the way.

Assemble Your Party

From wizards and warriors to clerics and rogues, there are a wide variety of classes in D&D—each with its own specializations. The key to an effective adventuring party is to combine them in a way that the strengths of one character can mitigate the weaknesses of another. Building a cybersecurity team is no different. Aside from all the specialized roles within cybersecurity, such as incident-response or threat-hunting teams, an effective approach to security preparedness requires cross-functional collaboration between IT teams, operational-technology (OT) teams, and other lines of business to better understand how to balance business objectives with security requirements….

(7) A THEORY ABOUT THE HOBBIT.  Scott McLemee poses the questions in an “Interview with Robert T. Tally Jr. on historicizing ‘The Hobbit’” for Inside Higher Ed.

Q: You don’t historicize The Hobbit in the naïve or narrow sense of interpreting it as a fictionalized response to real-world events. Your approach owes a great deal to the American Marxist literary theorist Fredric Jameson—the subject of your first book. What does it mean to read Tolkien as a Jamesonian?

A: “Modernism” is a dirty word among many Tolkien enthusiasts, and perhaps for Tolkien himself, but I see his desire to “create a mythology for England” as a powerfully modern thing to attempt, more like Yeats or Joyce than most mere medievalism. Also, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are clearly novelistic in form, even if they deal with “epic” or “romantic” ideas.

In his work on postmodernism, Fredric Jameson refers to the “attempt to think the present historically in an age that has forgotten how to think historically in the first place.” Coming from an entirely different direction politically, I think Tolkien was deeply concerned with the modern world’s inability to “think historically,” and thus his desire to connect elements of the medieval historical world with our own time, even if—or especially if—that meant using fantasy as a way of sort of tricking us into “realizing” history.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

2021 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing was a novel that I nominated for a Hugo. Why so? Because it is damn good. It made my top ten novels of that year by having a fantastic story, great characters that for the most part I could care about and not one but two truly interesting settings, the first being the intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing, and the other being a restaurant situated near a defunct star gate.

Now unlike the restaurant in the Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy, this one is not played for laughs and is real, working environment. I don’t know if Rambo has worked in such a place but she captures the feel of it very nicely as I have a very long time ago and it seems quite right.

Now before we get to the quote, I’m very, very pleased to note that the next novel in the series is indeed out relatively soon. Here are the details courtesy of the author:

Devil’s Gun, available this August, follows the adventures of intelligent bioship You Sexy Thing and its crew. While seeking a weapon against the pirate king Tubal Last and operating a pop-up restaurant near a failed star gate, Niko and her friends encounter a strange pair of adventurers who claim to have power over the gates that link the Known Universe.  But following the two on an intergalactic treasure hunt will require going into one of the most dangerous places any of them have ever faced.

Of course it will be available from all the usual suspects in both print and epub formats. 

Now I normally choose the quote, but this time I’m honored to say that Cat chose her favorite quote about food from You Sexy Thing:

[Niko] looked at Dabry, who stood ignoring them, caressing the eggplant with all four hands and his eyes half closed. “Sweet Momma Sky, should we leave so you can have your way with that eggplant or should I just let you take it to your bunk?”

His eyes closed entirely, expression blissful. “Baba ganoush,” he said. “Flat wheat bread dusted with cumin. Seared protein tinctured with lemon and garlic…”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. He’s available at the usual suspects. (Died 1943.)
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” They’re his only ones — he didn’t do SF as he really preferred Westerns. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 89. The Fourth Doctor and still my favorite Doctor. My favorite story? The “Talons of Weng Chiang” with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worst of the stories were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. And yes, he turns up briefly in the present era of Who rather delightfully. Before being the Doctor he had a turn as Sherlock Holmes In “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, and though not genre, he played Rasputin early in his career in “Nicholas and Alexandra”! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad,The MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech-made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of ten percent among audience reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 77. Director of the first Dune movieWent on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1960 Kij Johnson, 63. Faculty member, University of Kansas, English Department. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories. She has won a Best Novella Hugo for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” had several other nominations. Much of her work is available at the usual suspects.
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 59. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Get Fuzzy makes a noble pun about a bestselling horror writer.
  • Eek! deals with a young superhero’s fib.

(11) FRANKLY SPEAKING. In “When Monsters Make the Best Husbands”, a New York Times reviewer tells about two plays, one of genre interest.  

The monster is nestled in a glacier when the villagers dig him out, frozen but not dead, because he was undead already. Tall, broad-shouldered, hulking in his platform boots, he is instantly recognizable, and once he thaws, proves unpretentious despite his Hollywood fame.

It is 1946 in a tiny European village, and he is the most endearing of monsters: awkward, uncertain, just wanting to help out. And in “Frankenstein’s Monster Is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences,” a winsome cartwheel of a show that’s part of the Origin Theater Company’s 1st Irish festival, he finds lasting romance — with a local outcast who falls in love with him at first sight. Never mind that by his own account he is “constructed from the dismembered body parts of a number of different corpses”; their sex life is fabulous….

(12) BEGIN AGAIN. The Cromcast, a sword and sorcery podcast that started as a Conan readthrough, are rereading all the Conan stories again ten years after they launched. They started with “The Phoenix on the Sword”, the very first Conan story: “Season 18, Episode 1: The Phoenix on the Sword!”

“Know, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of…”

(13) HE-MAN. The For Eternia YouTube channel has a great interview with Tim Sheridan, one of the writers of Masters of the Universe Revelation/Revolution, about why the Filmation Masters of the Universe cartoon resonated with so many gay people: “The Power of Pride: Talking Importance of 1980’s He-Man on the LGBTQ+ Community with Tim Sheridan”.

(14) THE NATURE OF REALITY COUNTS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] I know from being involved with SF2 Concatenation that quite a few fans are interested in the interface between science and science fiction: after all, the term ‘science fiction’ contains ‘science’. Consequently, it should not be any surprise that all of the four YouTube Channels I invariably check out each week are SF and/or science related.

One of these is PBS Space-Time. It is ostensibly a physics channel (though often there’s astronomy and cosmology) and there’s nothing like at the start of the day having a mug of Yorkshire builders tea (sufficiently strong that the teaspoon stands up in it) along with a short episode of PBS Space Time: it is good to limber up with some physics before embarking on the serious biological and geoscience business of the day (tough as that is for Sheldon Cooper to take).

One aspect of the SF-science border is an exploration as to the true nature of reality. Are we living in a holographic universe? Are we living in a Matrix simulation? And if so is there a simulator?

This week’s PBS Space Time asks the question as to whether the Universe is simply, and purely, mathematical (not physical)? And if so, what of parallel Universes, dimensions and alternate Universes? Indeed, are there different levels to the multiverse?

Be assured, despite maths (or ‘sums’ as we environmental scientists call it) being in the title, there are no heavy mathematics in this short video, rather it is a somewhat deep philosophical discussion. Nonetheless, don’t worry if you find your mind being stretched: that’s what daily limbering up exercises are all about.

So, sit down with your mug of builders and enjoy this 16 minute slice of Space Time“What If The Universe Is Math?”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/17/22 Some Scroll Titles Make Me Laugh Out Loud, Some Make Me Wish I Thought Them Up, Others I Never Figure Out

(1) AUDIOBOOKS OF THE YEAR. Audible.com has named its picks for “Best of the Year: The 12 Best Sci-Fi Listens of 2022”.

This year’s sci-fi didn’t shy away from heavy, timely topics like climate change, pandemics, and social justice, but even as the subject matter hit close to home, the listening reached to new heights. Several stunning multicast productions make up this list—as well as narrators we can’t hear enough of. In a world that seems increasingly science fictional by the year, the bar is only set higher for creators in this genre—and this year’s list dares it to inch up just a little more….

Audible’s Sci-Fi Audiobook of the Year, 2022 is Upgrade Soul, an adaptation of Ezra Claytan Daniels’s graphic novel.

…Adapting a visual story to an audio medium is a feat in itself, and rather than simply match frame-for-frame, the author took the opportunity to evolve the story by pushing the boundaries of voice and sound. The production value is stunning, and the cast—Marcia Gay Harden, Wendell Pierce—puts on a masterful performance, quite literally transforming their delivery alongside their characters’ journeys. It’s a listen for sci-fi fans, horror fans, and anyone who has ever felt the fear of being left behind….

(2) THE UNADORNED TEXT. And Bookpage adds to the array of year-end roundups with “Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2022”.

There is probably no better way to sum up 2022 than to say it was a year dominated by both horror and hopepunk—sometimes even in the same book….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to eavesdrop on Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki in Episode 185 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Ekpeki — who won the Best Novelette Nebula Award earlier this year for “O2 Arena” — was up for two Hugo Awards that weekend. Not only as a writer for “O2 Arena” again — but also in the category of Best Editor, Short Form. Plus earlier this month, he won a World Fantasy Award in the category of Best Anthology for The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. He has also won the Otherwise, Nommo and British Fantasy Awards, plus has been a finalist for the Locus, British Science Fiction Association, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, and This Is Horror awards.

His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in or are forthcoming in TordotcomApex MagazineStrange HorizonsAsimov’sGalaxy’s EdgeCosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and more. In addition to editing that first ever — and now award-winning — Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction anthology, he also co-edited the award-winning Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora, as well as — most recently — the Africa Risen anthology from Tordotcom, co-edited with Sheree Renée Thomas and Zelda Knight.

We discussed the reason “shocked” seemed an inadequate word to describe his feelings about winning a Nebula Award earlier this year, what he considered the true prize he won over his Worldcon weekend, how growing up next to a library changed his life, how writing fan fiction helped him get where he is today, the way reading the struggles of a certain character in a Patrick Rothfuss novel helped him deal with his own struggles, what caused him to say “the law cannot help you change the law,” when he decided his novella “Ife-Iyoku, Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” deserved to be a trilogy, the way he does his best work when backed into a corner, how it’s possible for three editors to edit an anthology, and much more.

(4) UNPACKING AFTER THE WORLDCON. Read Morgan Hazelwood’s notes about the Chicon 8 panel “Reaching Past Riordan” or view the video commentary at Morgan Hazelwood: Writer in Progress. The panelists are Beth Mitcham, Kathryn Sullivan, Samantha Lane, Marines Alvarez, and Donna JW Munro.

Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series has led to an explosion of YA speculative fiction that explores mythology and folktales through the adventures of modern-day characters. What’s made this subgenre so popular? And who are some authors to pick up after Percy Jackson? And how has the genre expanded to feature non-Western mythologies?

(5) DAW BOOKS ACQUIRES FIVE NEW FANTASY NOVELS FROM MERCEDES LACKEY. Betsy Wollheim, Publisher at DAW Books, has acquired North American rights to five new books by Mercedes Lackey, represented by Russell Galen at Scovil Galen Ghosh Agency, Inc. 

Mercedes Lackey. Photo by Hudson Stryker

Two books will be set in Lackey’s beloved fantasy world of Valdemar, while the other three will continue her long-running Elemental Masters novels. Lackey is a New York Times-bestselling author and was named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association in 2022. 

The first of the new Valdemar novels, written in collaboration with her partner Larry Dixon, is scheduled for Spring 2024. Lackey’s expansive fantasy world of Valdemar includes over thirty novels that span the history of the kingdom. Her most recent books explore the long-awaited story of the founding of the nation by the legendary Baron Kordas Valdemar.

Elemental Masters #17 is scheduled for Fall 2024, with books #18 and #19 to follow in 2025 and 2026. Set in the Regency era, these novels combine historical fantasy and fairytale retellings with powers of elemental magic.

(6) NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. The National Book Awards 2022 were announced this week. None of the winners is of genre interest, except that one of the stories in Samantha Schweblin’s collection Seven Empty Houses (Best Translated Literature) involves a ghost. The complete list of winners is at the link.

(7) REALLY MAD. Mad Genius Club’s Karen Myers is irate about “Authors misusing tools they don’t understand”. In particular she’s offended by the misuse of sentence fragments, and says she finds Lee Child’s Reacher series delivers endless bad examples. While I like the Reacher books, I have noticed this tendency myself…

…Men’s Adventure Stories™ have certain conventions. When you read the genre, you expect explosive action, mortal peril, expertise, heroes & villains, suffering, triumph (contingent). One of the methods used to convey some of this (action, peril, expertise, suffering) is the use of short sentences, or even sentence fragments. The reason this works is that it mimics, in rhetorical form, the experience of hyper-focus or shock — the ability or need to concentrate, in whole or in part, on single things that absorb all attention in a moment of importance. It therefore puts the reader into the head of the person telling the story, a head which can only look at things that way in that moment. It is vivid.

At least, when it’s done right….

(8) TODAY’S DAY. Craig Miller reminds Facebook readers that today is “Life Day” in the Star Wars universe, and explains its origins with an excerpt from his book Star Wars Memories:

The holiday around which “The Star Wars Holiday Special” was centered. The celebration date was chosen because it’s the anniversary of when the show aired its one and only time on television.

To mark the occasion, here’s an excerpt from “Star Wars Memories”, talking about the special’s creation.

The Star Wars Holiday Special

I had no real involvement with “The Star Wars Holiday Special”. It wasn’t a project I was assigned. I didn’t work on it. But I was at Lucasfilm while it was happening, received copies of each draft of the script as they came in, and heard about what was going on from some of the people working on it. So I have a few insights about it….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1963 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Pink Panther

Fifty-nine years ago — though I’ll admit not even close to this evening — the first of The Pink Panther films came out. I was thinking about Blake Edwards earlier because of Victor/Victoria, hence this essay. Don’t think about that too much.

The first quite naturally was called The Pink Panther

WARNING SPOILERS THAT WOULD ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF A CERTAIN PINK PANTHER FOLLOW.

The Pink Panther first shows up in the opening credits which you can see here.

Its story follows inspector Jacques Clouseau as he travels from Rome to Cortina d’Ampezzo to catch a notorious jewel thief known as “The Phantom” before he is able to steal a priceless diamond known as The Pink Panther, so called because one can see a leaping pink panther within it supposedly.

It is held by the heiress to a country now ruled by a military junta. She and the Phantom are at the same resort as is the Inspector. Somehow against all logic the Inspector, played throughout the series by Peter Sellers, is accused of being The Phantom, arrested, and jailed. More amusingly for me, a woman at the resort falls in love with him. 

The film ends after the police car carrying the Inspector to prison runs over a traffic warden which again is the Pink Panther. He gets back up as we hear the crash sound that was coming from the police car, holding a card that reads “THEND” and swipes the letters to somehow read “THE END.”

(A lot of comic mayhem happens that I’ve not covered of course.) 

THE PINK PANTHER SAYS IN SIGN LANGUAGE THAT YOU CAN COME BACK. 

Blake Edwards directed from a screenplay by him and Maurice Richlin. It had a steller cast of David Niven, the aforementioned Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner and Claudia Cardinale. 

Niven who played The Phantom here portrayed had previously played Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman, a character closely resembling the Phantom, in the Raffles film of 1939. Apparently this was presented to him as the beginning of a new series of Raffles-style movies. However Peter Sellers stole every scene, and it became a Sellers vehicle instead.

Peter Ustinov was to play Clouseau, with Ava Gardner as his wife.  After Gardner backed out because The Mirisch Company would not meet her demands for a personal staff, Ustinov left as well. 

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent seventy-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1915 Raymond F. Jones. Writer who is best remembered for his novel This Island Earth, which was made into a movie which was then skewered in Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie. However, he produced a significant number of science fiction novels and short stories which were published in magazines such as Thrilling Wonder Stories, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy, including “Rat Race” and “Correspondence Course”, which respectively earned Hugo and Retro Hugo nominations. (Died 1994.)
  • Born November 17, 1925 Rock Hudson. Best known genre role was as Col. John Wilder in The Martian Chronicles series. He also played President Thomas McKenna in the World War III miniseries which you may or may not consider SF. That’s it. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 17, 1932 Dennis McHaney. Writer and Critic. Pulp writers in particular seem to attract scholars, both amateur and professional. Robert E. Howard was not an exception. So I give you this individual who, between 1974 and 2008, published The Howard Review and The Robert E. Howard Newsletter. Oh, but that was hardly all he did, as he created reference works such as The Fiction of Robert E. Howard – A Pocket Checklist, Robert E. Howard in Oriental Stories, Magic Carpet and The Souk, and The Fiction of Robert E. Howard: A Quick Reference Guide. A listing of his essays and other works would take an entire page. It has intriguing entries such as Frazetta Trading CardsThe Short, Sweet Life and Slow Agonizing Death of a Fan’s Magazine, and The Films of Steve Reeves. Fascinating… (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 17, 1936 John Trimble, 86. Husband of Bjo Trimble. He has assisted her in almost all of her SF work, including Project Art Show. They were GoHs at ConJose, the 2002 Worldcon. He’s a member of LASFS. He’s been involved in far too many fanzines and APAs too list here. 
  • Born November 17, 1956 Rebecca Moesta Anderson, 66. Wife of Kevin James Anderson with whom she collaborates more often than not. They’ve done dozens of Star Wars novels including the Young Jedi Knights series, and even one in the Buffyverse. 
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 56. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The AuthorityBatmanCaptain AmericaDaredevilCatwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan.
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 39. He is the author of the Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books EragonEldestBrisingr, and Inheritance. A film version of the first novel came out in 2006. The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published in 2018.

(11) MARTHA WELLS Q&A. Media Death Cult’s “Sci Fi Spotlight” interviews Martha Wells. Along the way she mentions that Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London is one of her favorites, which one of our reviewers will happy to hear.

Martha Wells is a Hugo and Nebula Award winning author from Texas, she won’t mind me saying that she is most well known for Murderbot.

(12) PARADOX FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] 50 years ago the first edition of the H G Wells Society clubzine Paradox came out. The Romanian writer Silviu Genescu reminded Facebook readers it had no issue number as the authorities (the communist regime) said that there would be no other issues.

In fact the regime almost did not allow the HG Wells Society to be so named as H G Wells was a western author. However the student club members of the society pointed out that Wells was a socialist in outlook and so the authorities granted permission.

This weekend the 50th anniversary edition of Paradox is coming out.

I know a number of H G Wells members as we, SF2 Concatenation, ran cultural exchange ventures with Hungarian and Romanian SF fans and authors back in the 1990s following the fall of the Iron Curtain. So I am still in touch with a few of them.

(13) YEAR’S TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna declares these are “The 10 best graphic novels of 2022”.

The engine of graphic-novel publishing — fine-tuned to so many demographics and markets — has run on all cylinders in 2022.

Textured memoirs. Throwback superheroes. Chilling fictional thrills and riveting real-life horror. And retrospectives that dazzle in their devotion to the medium’s history.

Our recommendations could easily number in the hundreds, but to distill our picks, here are 10 stellarcomics that represent an array of genres and styles:

The list includes –

‘The Keeper,’ by Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes and artist Marco Finnegan

The acclaimed husband-and-wife horror authors (NAACP Image Award winners both) team with the gifted Finnegan to render a taut and thrilling tale in which an orphaned Detroit girl must come to terms with the titular spirit. The truth lurks in the omnipresent shadows, and revelations reveal themselves with expert pacing and craft.

(13) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. “Canada’s CBC Books Names Five Finalists for Its 2022 Poetry Prize” and one of them is at least genre adjacent — “To the Astronaut Who Hopes Life on Another Planet Will Be More Bearable” by Brad Aaron Modlin. (Read it at the link.) The winner will be announced on November 24 and will receive a cash prize of 6,000 Canadian dollars (US$4,501) from the Canada Council for the Arts. In addition, the winner gets a two-week writing residency at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity in Alberta. Each finalist receives 1,000 Canadian dollars (US$750).

(14) HOW THEY DID IT. The New York Times’ “Dressing Wakanda” has a detailed commentary by costume designer Ruth E. Carter about five outfits created for Wakanda Forever. Photos at the link.

…Given that Ms. Carter designed “hundreds of character pieces” for the film, working with ateliers and artists in Los Angeles, Paris, India and New Zealand, not to mention brands including Adidas and Iris van Herpen, the choice was not exactly an easy one….

Carter begins with —

Queen Ramonda, in purple dress and crown

Queen Ramonda’s dress, a combination of computer-generated designs and handwork, took four to six months to make.Eli Adé/Marvel Studios

“She wears this to a U.N. meeting in Geneva, and I wanted you to recognize right away that this is the queen, but because of T’Challa’s death, she is now both the queen and the king. The purple dress represents the color of the royal family — color impacts the audience and story enormously — and she has a 3-D printed crown and collar.

The crown is the same style she wore in the first film, which was also 3-D printed to reflect the fact that Wakandans are technologically advanced enough to create wearable art, and modeled on the isicholo, a Zulu married woman’s hat. The collar has additional gemstones that were added by jeweler Douriean Fletcher. So it’s a combination of computer-generated designs by the artist Julia Koerner and handwork. The dress has a series of Wakandan hieroglyphs going down the center and sides and converge at the neckpiece, so she almost becomes a totem. That is her stature now. It probably took four to six months to make.”

(15) SPLASH LANDING. “Winchcombe meteorite bolsters Earth water theory”BBC News explains.

A meteorite that crashed on the Gloucestershire town of Winchcombe last year contained water that was a near-perfect match for that on Earth.

This bolsters the idea rocks from space brought key chemical components, including water, to the planet early in its history, billions of years ago.

The meteorite is regarded as the most important recovered in the UK.

Scientists publishing their first detailed analysis say it has yielded fascinating insights….

This is the link to the scientific paper: “The Winchcombe meteorite, a unique and pristine witness from the outer solar system”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Dr. Matt O’Dowd takes up the question “Are there Undiscovered Elements Beyond The Periodic Table?” on PBS’ Space and Time.

Adamantium, bolognium, dilithium. Element Zero, Kryptonite. Mythril, Netherite, Orichalcum, Unobtanium. We love the idea of fictional elements with miraculous properties that science has yet to discover. But is it really possible that new elements exist beyond the periodic table?

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