Pixel Scroll 5/19/24 Come For The Chocolate, Stay For The Pixels

(1) SMALL WONDERS IS KICKSTARTING YEAR 2. Cislyn Smith and Stephen Granade have launched a Kickstarter to fund the year two of Small Wonders, a monthly online SFF magazine for flash fiction and poetry.

For the past year, Small Wonders has published original and reprint flash fiction and narrative poetry, all tinged with the wonder of other worlds both science fictional and fantastic. Now the magazine is raising funds to cover Year Two, with an initial goal of $11,000. Stretch goals include publishing a Best of Year One collection, an issue guest edited by Premee Mohamed and Chimedum Ohaegbu, and more. Backers can get discounted yearly subscriptions; a Kickstarter-only mini issue with new works by Nino Cipri, Myna Chang, Jennifer Mace, Avra Margariti, and more; and pins and stickers themed to stories and poems from Year One. The Kickstarter runs through June 3.

Each issue of Small Wonders contains three original pieces of flash fiction, three new poems, and three re-printed flash fiction stories. Issues are published as ebooks (mobi, epub, and pdf) at the first of the month, and subscribers can receive every story and poem in their inboxes as they’re published on the website.

The first year of Small Wonders succeeded beyond Cislyn and Stephen’s expectations. It published new authors and poets as well as familiar names such as John Wiswell, Ali Trotta, Premee Mohamed, and Mary Soon Lee. and included multiple Rhysling-nominated poems. They’re excited to see what year two will bring, and hope you’ll be a part of it through the Kickstarter.

(2) VOTE FOR BEST FRENCH SFF SHORT STORY OF 2022. SFSF Boréal invited readers during the month of March to nominate the best French-speaking sff short stories that were published in 2022 in Canada. The four finalists for the Prix Aurora-Boréal have been announced. Members of SFSF Boréal are invited to vote for the best story at this link. Votes must be cast by June 1. The finalists are:

  • Blouin, Geneviève, “La Vie secrète des carapaces” (Solaris 223)
  • Côté, Philippe-Aubert, “À l’Ère des Jumeaux errants” (Les Six Brumes)
  • Kurtness, J.D., “Bienvenue, Alyson” (Hannenorak)
  • Vonarburg, Élisabeth, “Into White”, (Les Six Brumes)

The Congrès Boréal will be held in Montréal, Québec from September 20-22.

(3) THE N-WORD. Wrath James White gives his conclusive answer to using the n-word in dialog: “Make It Make Sense” at Words of Wrath.

Wrath James White

I have been asked several times lately about non-Black authors using the n-word when writing character dialog. Because I am, frankly, weary of answering this question, I decided to answer it here, once and for all. 

So, here’s my answer. It is appropriate for a White author to put the n-word in a character’s mouth if it isn’t done gratuitously (ala Quinton Tarantino) where the word is just shoehorned in unnecessarily to sound cool or edgy. If the dialog feels natural and non stereotypical. If the characters themselves aren’t one dimensional caricatures and are the type of people who would use the word as part of their everyday vernacular. If it’s the appropriate word to use in the moment and another word wouldn’t work just as well, then by all means do it. Wherever another word would be just as effective, don’t do it. 

For example, if your story takes place in the 90s or early oughts, then “dog”, “playa”, “gangsta”, “playboy”, “sistah” and “bruh” would all work just as well in most situations where one Black person is talking to another. Using the n-word in place of these words is a choice and the author should definitely question their motives for making that choice. That is unless you are writing a racist character. 

Obviously, it would be absurd to have a racist character avoid using the n-word unless he’s a closeted racist. Still, even a racist doesn’t use the word in every sentence, and might even use other more creative pejoratives. And, most racists are not blatant in their racism….

…The bottom line, I can’t grant you a pass to use the n-word. Nothing I have said above will guarantee that you won’t get the taste slapped out of your mouth for including it in yourwriting. But, if you do find it necessary to use it, just like I said in a previous article about grossout and gore, make it make sense. Make it feel natural and not like a teenager or adolescent trying to shock their parents. If you don’t think you can pull that off, use another word.

(4) LEFT BEHIND? “Some fight change, while others adapt. It’s a Toy Story sort of deal,” says Ronald Kelly in “Woody, Buzz, & the Changing of the Guard” at Fear County Chronicle.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my place in an ever-growing, ever-changing horror genre. How it once was, how it is now, and if Ol’ Ron has the willpower and stamina to hang in there and keep up the pace with all the new and wildly talented authors who are flooding a market that was once relatively small and limited, both in ranks and growth. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Pixar movie Toy Story….

You see, I’m Woody. Most of us veteran horror authors are. Woody is old-fashioned, leery of change, and a little hesitant to hand over the reins to anyone else because he likes the position he’s held for so long (Andy’s favorite and the leader of the toys). Deep down inside, he believes that he deserves to retain that position, perhaps indefinitely. Could be that he was pretty special and popular in the past, along with some of his peers (Woody’s Roundup stars Jessie, Bullseye, and even Stinky Pete in Toy Story 2). Woody likes how it is in Andy’s Room because it’s familiar, comfortable, and safe. He feels like he’s the head honcho there… not necessarily giving the orders but holding some measure of respect and authority among those around him. Even the mouthy and cantankerous Mister Potato Head looks to him for stability and guidance….

…Truthfully, very few veteran writers feel contempt and suspicion toward the swell of new storytellers bursting on the scene, but unfortunately some do. They feel challenged by progress and diversity and aren’t receptive to those who want a piece of the action. They also don’t approve of how the rules have changed, and how the dynamic of the writing world is evolving at a rapid pace. The mere thought of the Changing of the Guard horrifies them. We’ve seen it happen in social media in the past few years; an old-dog author bristles at the sudden influx of new talent in the genre and cries foul, sometimes in very volatile and unflattering ways. Some have even gone as far as losing all respect in the genre they helped trailblaze and end up being cast from the ranks for their nearsightedness, prejudice, and insolence….

(5) IN THE BEGINNING. “A Closer Look At Great Animated Title Sequences” at CartoonBrew.

In honor of Saul Bass’s birthday this month, we’re taking a look at some of the greatest animated title sequences from live-action movies (the topic of great credits sequences in animated movies is a subject for another time)….

… As Walt Disney suggested above, opening credits in the early days of movies tended to be straightforwardly informational, often created quickly by in-house art departments superimposing text over static background paintings. Even so, there are a handful of movies from the 1930s and ’40s that contain brief bits of animation during the credits. One great example is the cartoon opening of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). This scene is frequently attributed to Walter Lantz, but was actually directed by Dave Fleischer….

… Maybe the all-time classic title sequence comes from The Pink Panther (1963), by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which not only introduced a cartoon star but also introduced one of the best movie themes ever composed (by Henry Mancini). Looney Tunes director Friz Freleng supervised the sequence, while Freleng’s longtime layout artist Hawley Pratt designed the panther and Ken Harris primarily animated him. Producer David DePatie remembered the movie’s premiere: “The memories of that night will remain with me forever. The projector started to roll and as the Panther first appeared there was a ripple of laughter from the audience which quickly became whistles and roars of approval as the Panther toyed with the various titles. At the conclusion of the main title, the crowd went bananas.”…

(6) REESE WITHERSPOON, LITERARY TASTEMAKER. “When her career hit a wall, the Oscar-winning actor built a ladder made of books — for herself, and for others.” Link bypasses Paywall, courtesy Brad Verter: “Inside Reese Witherspoon’s Literary Empire”

…First and foremost, she wants books by women, with women at the center of the action who save themselves. “Because that’s what women do,” she said. “No one’s coming to save us.”

Witherspoon, 48, has now been a presence in the book world for a decade. Her productions of novels like “Big Little Lies,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and “The Last Thing He Told Me” are foundations of the binge-watching canon. Her book club picks reliably land on the best-seller list for weeks, months or, in the case of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” years. In 2023, print sales for the club’s selections outpaced those of Oprah’s Book Club and Read With Jenna, according to Circana Bookscan, adding up to 2.3 million copies sold.

So how did an actor who dropped out of college (fine, Stanford) become one of the most influential people in an industry known for being intractable and slightly tweedy?

It started with Witherspoon’s frustration over the film industry’s skimpy representation of women onscreen — especially seasoned, strong, smart, brave, mysterious, complicated and, yes, dangerous women…

(7) PUBLIC FROCKING. Attention 18th-century re-enactors! “You Can’t Live in the Past, Even in a Period-Accurate Frock” contends the New York Times, although they know where you can get one.

In 2012, not long after he decided to dedicate his professional life to 18th-century wares, Casey Samson spent a weekend at a colonial-era fair in Bardstown, Ky., selling leather mugs out of a tent.

On his first night there, Mr. Samson sat alone by a crackling campfire, smelled the wood smoke and felt as if he had been transported to a different time. He knew then, he said, that he had made the right choice.

Today, Mr. Samson and his wife, Abbie, own and operate Samson Historical, a three-story business that doubles as a pseudo-museum on the downtown square in Lebanon, Ind., about 30 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

On a recent morning, Mr. Samson, 32, walked into a small warehouse tucked behind the retail space and waxed poetic about the shop’s “great wall of waistcoats.” But there was more: “These are original sugar dippers.” And: “One of Abbie’s passions is clay pipes.” And: “All right, so: gun flints.”

There were breeches and bonnets, frocks and cloaks, candles and lanterns, hip kidneys (for extra support) and bum rolls (for that perfect silhouette). And while Samson Historical has 10 full-time employees and manufactures its own merchandise, it also works with about 40 artisans from trades that are teetering on the edge of extinction: blacksmiths, woodworkers, glass blowers, horners. A fifth-generation pipe maker from Germany handcrafts the store’s pipes.

“A lot of what we do,” Mr. Samson said, “is trying to help keep these things alive.”…

(8) MAYBE YOU WONDERED. “How the ‘B Movie’ Got Its Name” at MSN.com.

When the legendary filmmaker Roger Corman died on May 9 at the age of 98, obituaries dubbed him “the King of the B Movies”—or, even more snappily, “King of the B’s.” He earned that sobriquet by churning out hundreds of low-budget productions, often sensationalistic “exploitation films” or genre fare like horror or science fiction….

In the silent era, motion picture studios began using a tiered approach to categorize productions. When Adolph Zukor founded his Famous Players film company in 1912, he used a three-way classification. As Gerald Mast recounted in his 1971 book “A Short History Of The Movies,” Zukor initially divided his pictures into “Class A (with stage stars and stage properties, the artsy films); Class B (with established screen players); and Class C (cheap, quick features).” Mary Pickford started as a “B” actress in 1914, but her movies quickly proved more popular than Zukor’s “Class A” productions.

A two-tiered system with “Class A” and “Class B” films became the industry standard, catching on during the Great Depression when the “double feature” offered two-for-one pricing to attract customers. The main feature would have the prestigious stars and high production values, while the “B” feature would be an inexpensive, quickly produced genre film like a Western. Studios set up “B units” to produce second features, and the slapdash “B movies” were aptly nicknamed “quickies” or “cheapies.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 19, 1946 André the Giant.  (Died 1993.) This Birthday for André René Roussimoffwho performed as André the Giant came about because (a) I really, really like The Princess Bride film and have seen it way too many times, and (b) I thought that he was charming in it as Fezzik. That said, I knew nothing about him and all his other performances, or his life story, at all.

He was a French professional wrestler of impressive height, seven feet and four inches to be precise. He would wrestle his entire life right up until he died at age forty-six of congestive heart failure after an apparent heart attack in his sleep in the Paris hotel he was staying at in order to attend his father’s funeral. It was likely associated with his untreated acromegaly which had been diagnosed some twenty-five years earlier.

His first genre role was being Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man on “The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 1” and “The Secret of Bigfoot Part 2”. Naturally I’m giving you a photo of him in that role. 

Next up is being the Monster in “Heaven Is in Your Genes” on Greatest American Hero. Monster, just Monster? So, what did he look like there? Ahhh…. They apparently didn’t a budget for creating a monster which explains the generic name. I’m giving you a photo anyway so you can see what he looked like sans makeup. 

Andre the Giant on Greatest American Hero

He got to be in a film with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Destroyer. He played Dagoth the Dreaming God, the main antagonist of Conan. For some reason, he was uncredited. Considering what he looks like in the film, it was easy for him to go uncredited. 

Andre the Giant as Dagoth

And that brings us to his best and last genre role, that of Fezzik, the giant in The Princess Bride. He’s played as Goldman describes him in his novel, “Fezzik. The timid, large-hearted and obedient giant who accompanies Vizzini. Fezzik loves rhymes and his friend Inigo, and he is excellent at lifting heavy things.”  

Not a long career, but an interesting one I’d say. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld shared his latest:

(11) SAURON TURNS HIS EYE TO YOUR WALLET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Palantír viewing room included. Hopefully without a working Palantír just in case Melkor find a way to open the Door of Night. I mean, if you thought Sauron was bad news, you sure don’t want to deal with the OG baddy. “$460, 5,471-piece Lego Barad-dûr set comes for LOTR fans’ wallets in June” at Ars Technica. (See the set in detail at the LEGO® Icons website.)

…Sauron, Base Master of Treachery, will keep his Eye on you from atop the tower, which will actually glow thanks to a built-in light brick. The tower includes a minifig of Sauron himself, plus the Mouth of Sauron, Gollum, and a handful of Orcs.

The Lego Barad-dûr set will launch on June 1 for Lego Insiders and June 4 for everybody else. If you buy it between June 1 and June 7, you’ll also get the “Fell Beast” bonus set, with pose-able wings and a Nazgûl minifig. It doesn’t seem as though this bonus set will be sold separately, making it much harder to buy the nine Nazgûl you would need to make your collection story-accurate….

(12) SPACE AT LAST. “90-year-old Ed Dwight, 5 others blast into space aboard Blue Origin rocket”NPR has the story. (This was Blue Origin’s 25th mission to space. The New Shepard Mission NS-25 Webcast replay is on YouTube.)

Ed Dwight, the man who six decades ago nearly became America’s first Black astronaut, made his first trip into space at age 90 on Sunday along with five crewmates aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

The flawless liftoff from a West Texas launch site marked the first passenger flight in nearly two years for the commercial space venture run by billionaire Jeff Bezos. The approximately 10-minute suborbital flight put Dwight in the history books as the oldest person ever to reach space. He beat out Star Trek actor William Shatner for that honor by just a few months. Shatner was a few months younger when he went up on a New Shepard rocket in 2021.

(13) INDIA’S NEXT MARS MISSION. Space.com says “India’s ambitious 2nd Mars mission to include a rover, helicopter, sky crane and a supersonic parachute”.

India is preparing to launch a family of seemingly sci-fi robots to Mars, perhaps as soon as late 2024.

The Mars Orbiter Mission-2 (MOM-2), or Mangalyaan-2 (Hindi for “Mars Craft”), is set to include a rover and a helicopter, like a robotic NASA duo already on Mars — the Perseverance rover and now-grounded Ingenuity. A supersonic parachute and a sky crane that will lower the rover onto the Martian surface will also be part of Mangalyaan-2, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) officials said last week during a presentation at the Space Applications Centre in Gujarat, India Today reported….

Media reports from late last year suggest that Mangalyaan-2 will have at least four science instruments designed to study the early history of Mars, analyze its leaking atmosphere, and look for a hypothesized dust ring around the planet generated by its two moons, Phobos and Deimos….

(14) SPEEDING UP TRAVEL TO MARS. “NASA-funded pulsed plasma rocket concept aims to send astronauts to Mars in 2 months” reports Space.com.

An innovative rocket system could revolutionize future deep space missions to Mars, reducing travel time to the Red Planet to just a few months. 

The goal of landing humans on Mars has presented a myriad of challenges, including the need to quickly transport large payloads to and from the distant planet, which, depending on the positions of Earth and Mars, would take almost two years for a round trip using current propulsion technology.The Pulsed Plasma Rocket (PPR), under development by Howe Industries, is a propulsion system designed to be far more efficient than current methods of deep space propulsion, enabling the trip between Earth and the Red Planet to be made in just two months. Specifically, the rocket will have a high specific impulse or Isp, a measure of how efficiently an engine generates thrust. This technology could therefore enable astronauts and cargo to travel to and from Mars more efficiently and rapidly than existing spacecraft, according to a statement from NASA…

(15) THE FINEST SUPERNATURAL TALE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at the Media Death Cult YouTube Channel invites us to consider Algernon Blackwood’s 1907 novelette, ‘The Willows’, as a contender for the grand chief fountainhead of the insidious order.  It did though inspire the likes of H. P. Lovecraft.  You don’t have to buy in to the pronunciation of Danube as ‘dan-noob’ but it is the Moidelhoff way…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/24 Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Pixel Was In

(1) RAPHAEL HYTHLODAEUS’ UTOPIA. Go back to where Utopia began in “Utopian Realism, a speech by Bruce Sterling”.

…So, Thomas More and Peter Gillis are in this private home, avoiding actual work. They enjoy many free-wheeling, private, intellectual discussions, which are all about law, and justice, and business, and economics, and politics, and the general state of the world.

These two intellectuals agree that the state of the world is pretty terrible. Clearly the real world is quite bad, it’s not a Utopia at all. In fact the first part of the book “Utopia” is pretty much all dystopia. It’s about how bad things are in Europe, and it’s rather realistic too — these are grim assessments.

So, Thomas More and Peter Gillis, while discussing the world together, decide to invent this wandering scholar named Raphael Hythlodaeus. The wise and learned Raphael can speak Latin and Greek, just like they do — but Raphael has been to a country where everything works.

Peter Gillis even invents a Utopian alphabet, and he writes some poetry in the language of Utopia — just to demonstrate that he can play this fun Utopian game with his guest Thomas More.

Peter Gillis is willing to cooperate. He even pretends to personally introduce Thomas More to Raphael Hythlodaeus.

In the book, Raphael appears, and he starts talking. He recites the entire story of Utopia. Raphael speaks the book “Utopia,” aloud. It’s 30,000 words of text, so Raphael recites this book in one long afternoon. It’s a three and a half hour lecture, and Thomas More writes it all down.

However, it’s somehow not boring. It’s a brilliant, world-class lecture, because Raphael Hythlodaeus is quite an amazing guy. Raphael doesn’t look rich or famous. Basically, he looks like a sailor. He’s got a long beard, and he’s kind of weatherbeaten. He’s a long-haired wanderer in beat-up old clothes…

(2) WHO FELL? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired a dramatisation of a mid-twentieth century classic The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963) by Walter Tevis. This was made famous beyond the SF book-reading community with the 1976 UK film starring starman David Bowie as the man himself from a dying world who comes to Earth for help and who uses his knowledge to create a techno-industry to fund his own space mission home, but whom the authorities rumble and capture…

This 1-hour radio play co-stars Doctor Who’s northern incarnation, Christopher Eccleston (also known for the apocalyptic 28 Days Later and a bit-part in the US series Heroes among much else) as Bryce. Harry Treadaway stars as Thomas Newton.

Prior to the radio play there was a separate introductory programme that most interestingly includes an audio clip of an interview with Tevis himself. This reveals that the story is as much about alcoholism: a man struggling to cope in a strange, hostile world, separated from his family.

“The Man Who Fell to Earth by American writer Walter Tevis was published in 1963. Unlike most sci-fi of its time, it’s not about space, far-off galaxies or a distant future, but set only a decade or so from the time of writing.”

I was unaware that a few years later Tevis modified the novel to include a reference to ‘Watergate’ but that (apparently (I’ve not read it)) this was unnecessary for the core of the story. Here’s  the BBC descriptor for the play…

“The classic novel that spawned the acclaimed film starring David Bowie, from the writer of The Queen’s Gambit and The Hustler.

An alien arrives in Kentucky with five years to save the handful of survivors of his dying planet, and to save humanity from itself. Calling himself Thomas Newton, his plan is to use his race’s advanced technology to make millions, and then build a spaceship to bring the last of his people to live on Earth.

But Newton begins to doubt his purpose, and finds himself unable to cope with the emotional weight of being human. He finds solace with two fellow outsiders – cheery functioning alcoholic Betty-Jo, who falls quietly in love with him, and widowed scientist Nathan Bryce, who tracks him down after recognising his tech as impossible.

Little do they realise that the Government are watching…”

You can download the introduction as an MP3 here.

You can download the play as an MP3 here.

(3) BAFTA TV AWARDS 2024. There was only one winner of genre interest in last night’s BAFTA TV Awards 2024.

REALITY

  • Squid Game: The Challenge Production Team – Studio Lambert, The Garden / Netflix

In contrast, there were many genre winners when the 2024 BAFTA Television Craft Awards were previously announced on April 28.

(4) QUIRINO AWARDS. Animation Magazine reports the winners of the “Quirino Awards: ‘Robot Dreams,’ ‘Jasmine & Jambo,’ ‘Lulina and the Moon’”.

The Ibero-American Animation Quirino Awards closed its seventh edition with the awards ceremony on Saturday. Streamed worldwide, the Tenerife event was swept by animation from Spain, which won five of the 10 awards….

7th Quirino Awards Winners

  • Best Feature Film – Robot Dreams by Pablo Berger. Arcadia Motion Pictures, Lokiz Films, Noodles Prod., Les films du Worso (Spain, France).
  • Best Series – Jasmine & Jambo – Season 2 by Sílvia Cortés. Teidees Audiovisuals, Corporació Catalana de Mitjans Audiovisuals, with the participation of IB3 (Televisió de les illes Balears), Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals (Spain).
  • Best Short Film – Lulina and the Moo by Marcus Vinicius Vasconcelos and Alois Di Leo. Estudio Teremim (Brazil).
  • Best Animation School Short Film – The Leak by Paola Cubillos. KASK & Conservatorium Hogeschool Gent, Vrije Universiteit Brussels (Belgium, Colombia).
  • Best Commissioned Animation – In the Stars by Gabriel Osorio. Punkrobot Studio, Lucasfilm (Chile, US).
  • Best Music Video – SIAMÉS “All the Best” by Pablo Roldán. Rudo Company (Argentina).
  • Best Video Game Animation – The Many Pieces of Mr Coo directed by Nacho Rodríguez. Developed by Gammera Nest (Spain).
  • Best Visual Development – Sultana’s Dream by Isabel Herguera. Abano Producións, El Gatoverde Producciones, UniKo Estudio Creativo, Sultana Films, Fabian&Fred (Spain, Germany).
  • Best Animation Design – Cold Soup by Marta Monteiro. Animais AVPL, La Clairière Ouest (Portugal, France).
  • Best Sound Design and Original Music – Robot Dreams by Pablo Berger. Arcadia Motion Pictures, Lokiz Films, Noodles Production, Les films du Worso (Spain, France).

(5) FURRY STEM. “Furries, Neurodivergence, and STEM: Finding Your Path from Zero to One to One Billion” is Furries at Berkeley’s inaugural Furry Masterclass event, the first in a series of talks featuring prominent academic voices from within the furry community.

This talk is hosted by the fantastic Dr. David “Spottacus” Benaron! Spottacus is an inventor, entrepreneur, biochemist, a founding editorial board member of the Journal of Biomedical Optics, and a former professor at Stanford University. Among his achievements are the invention of the green light heart sensor, the first in vivo imaging of light-emitting genes, and the multispectral wearable optical sensor for tracking hemoglobin and hydration levels. Last year, Spottacus won a lifetime achievement award in biomedical optical physics from the International Society for Optics and Photonics. Spottacus is also a furry; a member of a community based upon the appreciation of anthropomorphic animals, featuring all kinds of creative self-expression. While furry has long been the target of misinterpretation and vitriol, folks like Spottacus show that fandom engagement and living outside the box can be boons rather than limitations. Spottacus’ talk explores his personal experiences with; as well as the intersections between; his career in STEM, the furry fandom, and neurodivergence.

(6) SFF FILMS THAT PASS MUSTER. BGR conducts a roll call of “The best sci-fi movies ever, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson”.

Celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has never been shy about expressing his opinion about movies on X/Twitter — and, specifically, weighing in as to whether they got the scientific elements right or not. On a recent episode of his show StarTalk, meanwhile, he decided to actually share a detailed list of the sci-fi movies that he thinks are the best of the best, detailing what they got right, what they missed the mark on, and why some of them are so good that they deserve a “hall pass” for any errors….

These are two of the films on his list:

The Martian (2015): Tyson describes this one, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars, as “the most scientifically accurate movie I’ve ever witnessed.”

The Blob (1958): Reaching deep into the past for this one, Tyson gives this old-school creature feature high marks because of the way it imagines aliens looking amoeba-like — totally different, in other words, from almost every other movie in which you see an alien depicted as something like a little green man.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. (Died 1995.)

By Paul Weimer: The author that got me into Science Fiction and Fantasy? Maybe.  My first science fiction and fantasy was Asimov (I,Robot), Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles) and Tolkien (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings).  But it was Roger Zelazny who really made it stick. Sure, I read more of Asimov, and I tried to read The Silmarillion and failed, but it was reading Nine Princes in Amber and its sequels that really convinced me to get on the endless road through shadow to seek out other science fiction and fantasy. 

It is ironic that for a writer best known for his short stories that I started with, and for a while stuck with, Zelazny’s novels. After Amber came Jack of ShadowsDeus IraeDilvish the DamnedLord of Light and others. 

Roger Zelazny

If I had to point a single novel at a reader for Zelazny, I would go with Jack of ShadowsJack of Shadows does a lot of things that the second Amber series tries to do (and not always successfully) . And I have mentioned before and elsewhere science fantasy IS my jam. How can I resist a novel where the dayside of the Earth is run on science, and the darkside is run on magic? 

 It took me a while to actually find and delve into the short fiction that everyone had raved about.  The Last Defender of Camelot was the first collection of his I read, and then I started hunting his stories in “Best of” collections and other anthologies, and started filling in hjs oeuvre and trying to read all of his work. 

This is a process that continues to this day. 

Reading the NESFA collections of Roger Zelazny, which I have been reviewing here at File 770, I have realized how much of the Zelazny stories I have missed, and how much, for even the author that got me into SF and Fantasy, I still have a lot to learn about. My love for Roger Zelazny and his work is a lifelong journey. I suppose in theory there will come a day where I can say I have read all of Zelazny’s work. Someday. 

There are always surprises. I remember reading and liking a story in an old anthology of “best stories” that, much to my surprise, I only recently learned was a Zelazny story. (“The Game of Blood and Dust”). Zelazny continues to delight me.

But why do I like Zelazny’s work in the first place?  Even long before I picked up a camera, I’ve always been interested in imagery, in capturing moments. Zelazny captures these moments, that imagery, those scenes that resonate in my mind. Those moments captured, that lovely writing demands my attention. From Corwin walking down the stairs to Rebma, to Jack coming back from the death at the eastern pole of the world, to the Tristan and Isolde imagery of The Dream Master, to Hellwell in Lord of Light. And on, and on, and on. 

And such well drawn characters in often very limited space. They are often driven, and yes, the women very often have green eyes and red hair. (Zelazny had a type, you see) but I see that as feature, not bug. And yes, too many of them smoked, and that helped take him from us way way too soon. I never got to meet him, much to my sorrow. (He, Pratchett and Banks are three of my regrets in that regard). Dilvish the Damned, particularly comes across as a character we learn in bursts, in small bits of backstory and worldbuilding. (Also a lot of Zelazny’s characters are driven, almost to obsession.  They are passionate and seize things by the horns, and sometimes get the horns as a result.

But, finally, what other SFF author has written properties that I’ve mined and run roleplaying games out of for three decades, after all? Long live the work of Roger Zelazny.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld has been busy again.

(9) IT’S A WRAP. “’The Mummy’ at 25: Director on Brendan Fraser, Dwayne Johnson, Reboot” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Brendan has talked about doing some of his own stunts, during which he endured some bumps and scrapes.

We had a great stunt team, but Brendan [Fraser] is a big, tough guy, and he was younger back then. We kind of beat the crap out of him. Everybody talks about the scene when he gets hung. Usually when somebody gets hung, it’s a dummy, and that’s why they put bags over people’s heads. Brendan was always gung-ho, and he was like, “Make the noose really tight on me.” Then he decided to let his knees sag a little bit. But what he forgot is that the minute you put that much pressure on your carotid arteries, it knocks you out. We all looked, and he’s completely unconscious. It was fine, and he recovered in 10 seconds. But he woke up like, “What happened?”

(10) AGATHA UPDATE, MAYBE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “What the Heck Is Happening With Marvel Studios’ Agatha Show?” asks Gizmodo. The studio must be telling them it’s “Narnia business!”

The fact that a show about a devious witch has us so confused feels completely on brand. It started back in late 2021 when Marvel revealed it was working on a WandaVision spinoff series focused on Kathryn Hahn’s breakout character, Agatha Harkness. Since then, the show has had at least four publicly announced titles, with a possible fifth revealed in the most Agatha of ways. All of which (witch?) is to say, what the heck is happening?

The first title revealed back in 2021 was Agatha: House of Harkness. A few months later, at Comic-Con 2022, that was changed to AgathaCoven of Chaos. A year or so after that, it became AgathaDarkhold Diaries. Finally, earlier this year, it became just plain Agatha. You’d imagine it couldn’t change again (unless, of course, Marvel finally goes with the always-best choice Agatha All Along) but that may not be the case. Monday morning, the official Marvel Studios account tweeted a new Agatha title which was deleted only minutes later. The title was Agatha: The Lying Witch With Great Wardrobe….

(11) SPACE MINING. Ars Technica tells how “In the race for space metals, companies hope to cash in”. If they can get their tech to work.

…Potential applications of space-mined material abound: Asteroids contain metals like platinum and cobalt, which are used in electronics and electric vehicle batteries, respectively. Although there are plenty of these materials on Earth, they can be more concentrated on asteroids than mountainsides, making them easier to scrape out. And scraping in space, advocates say, could cut down on the damaging impacts that mining has on this planet. Space-resource advocates also want to explore the potential of other substances. What if space ice could be used for spacecraft and rocket propellant? Space dirt for housing structures for astronauts and radiation shielding?…

… To further the company’s goals, AstroForge’s initial mission was loaded with simulated asteroid material and a refinery system designed to extract platinum from the simulant, to show that metal-processing could happen in space.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned. After the small craft got to orbit, it was hard to identify and communicate with among the dozens of other newly launched satellites. The solar panels, which provide the spacecraft with power, wouldn’t deploy at first. And the satellite was initially beset with a wobble that prevented communication. They have not been able to do the simulated extraction.

The company will soon embark on a second mission, with a different goal: to slingshot to an asteroid and take a picture — a surveying project which may help the company understand which valuable materials exist on a particular asteroid….

(12) TO AIR IS HUMAN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This Earth-like exoplanet is the first confirmed to have an atmosphere. “‘Milestone’ discovery as JWST confirms atmosphere on an Earth-like exoplanet” in Nature. This is an important milestone in exo-planet astronomy.  55 Cancri e is too hot to support life as we know it, but could provide clues about Earth’s formation.

 Astronomers say that they have used the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to detect for the first time an atmosphere surrounding a rocky planet outside the Solar System1. Although this planet cannot support life as we know it, in part because it is probably covered by a magma ocean, scientists might learn something from it about the early history of Earth — which is also a rocky planet and was once molten.

Finding a gaseous envelope around an Earth-like planet is a big milestone in exoplanet research, says Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who was not involved with the research. Earth’s thin atmosphere is crucial for sustaining life, and being able to spot atmospheres on similar terrestrial planets is an important step in the search for life beyond the Solar System.

Primary research here (abstract only as rest is behind a pay wall).

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at the Media Death Cult  YouTube channel has had a look at a book by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, who was married to the Duke William Cavendish.  One of her books inspired Alan Moore…

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

Pixel Scroll 5/6/24 You Saved The Ringworld Old Wu, Louis

(1) TOMLINSON CRITICIZES PENGUINCON FOR CAVING TO HIS CYBERSTALKERS. In “PenguiCon 2024 Postmortem or How Not to Handle Cyberstalking”, Patrick S. Tomlinson explains how he was disinvited from a convention – one he didn’t originally apply to present at, until he was contacted by the committee about a proposal submitted by a cyberstalker.

…Now we can fast forward to this year, specifically February. I didn’t apply to attend PenguiCon in 2023 because my wife and I were traveling internationally too close to the convention to make it work logistically. So, I was surprised and happy to receive an email from the person who’d invited me in 2022 asking about scheduling for 2024. The surprise quickly turned to confusion when they asked if I’d submitted a panel suggestion Alien Crabs and Dragonpox: How STDs are depicted in SFF and why we need more sex-positive representation.”

Reader, I had not. I’m all for sex positivity, but no I didn’t want to run a panel on space herpes.

What had actually happened was a member of the stalking cult had impersonated me to abuse the convention’s unsecured panel suggestion form. I politely declined to run their panel but offered to do another presentation of my own choosing. My counteroffer was quickly accepted and a presentation “Why not Venus?” about terraforming our closest planetary neighbor was put on the official schedule. I booked my room and set to work researching, preparing, and practicing the presentation, an intermittent process which took a total of about two weeks.

Again, I need to reiterate the organizers of this convention were not only aware of the cult stalking us, but had previous experience identifying, confronting, and mitigating their criminal harassment to the benefit of all involved. I therefore approached the coming convention confident any stalker attacks would be properly wrangled, which is why what happened next caught me so completely off guard.

Two Mondays ago, just hours after putting the finishing touches on my presentation, the same person who had booked me was tasked by the PenguiCon board to inform me I’d been disinvited from the convention because the cult stalking my family had sufficiently harassed and threatened other attendees through social media and other vectors to the point I learned later a Guest of Honor was forced to withdraw out of concern for their safety….

I wanted to handle this privately, I really did. Both to try and salvage the relationships and to help everyone involved avoid embarrassment. But between the PenguiCon board ceasing all communication with me, and these libelous statements being made public by our stalkers as a result of poor OpSec on the part of at least one board member, I’ve been forced to present the facts and refute the false narrative being presented by both our stalkers AND the PenguiCon board itself, even if accidentally….

…I want to reiterate that all of this was a known issue that PenguiCon had prior experience with and had handled professionally and competently the last time around. Which is why I find the results and fallout from this year, which again I didn’t even sign up to appear at initially, so incomprehensible. I realize this means my chance of appearing at future PenguiCons now hover near absolute zero, and I’m genuinely upset about that. They have a great con with a unique blend of creators and builders from diverse disciplines that encourages conversation and cross pollination. And as someone who’s hand sold thousands of books, their co-op style bookstore for attending authors should be a model for conventions everywhere.

But for everything they do well, the way they handled cyberstalking, especially for a convention focused on sci-fi and tech, needs to be held out as an example of what not to do for other con runners and boards. Our situation is an extreme example, but when you’re working with guests who are quasi-public figures or even celebrities like authors, artists, and actors can be, you need awareness of the potential for cyberstalkers and have policies and procedures in place.

Policies which do not include victim-blaming their targets and rewarding their criminal behavior.

(2) TOMLINSON ON AGENT LESLIE VARNEY. Tomlinson today also wrote a thread on X.com — that starts here – criticizing literary agent Leslie Varney. It begins: “And now I have to deal with Leslie Varney. Again. Leslie is a literary agent representing other authors like me. Over the last 11 months, she has also made the conscious choice to closely align herself with the criminal cult stalking and SWATTing my family.”

(3) PULITZER PRIZES. The 2024 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced today. The complete list is at the link.

The lone winner of genre interest is film critic Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times, for his writings about sff movies. The Pulitzer Prize website cites the reviews listed below. Unfortunately, you will probably find them paywalled.

(4) ON THE TRACK OF MIDWEST FURFEST GAS ATTACK. Fur and Loathing has dropped the first of six episodes in a “Furry True Crime podcast of six episodes, releasing weekly”. Connect at the link.

Dogpatch Press reminds fans what is being investigated in its post “Midwest Furfest 2014 chemical attack – new findings by Fur And Loathing podcast”.

Think you’ve heard everything about the 2014 chemical attack on Midwest Furfest? Wait until you hear this.

The intentional release of chlorine gas sent 19 people to the hospital. It was one of the largest chemical weapons terrorist attacks in American history.

Who did it? And… why?

The targets deserve to know, because they were lucky to survive. The weapon’s deadly potential was only avoided by fast response. The level of crime fell just behind the 2001 anthrax attacks, but strangely, nobody was ever charged for it. The story faded into underreporting, disrespect towards the community, murky rumors, and hopes that it won’t happen again. There’s pride in resilience — but 10 years later, justice wasn’t served. It’s the biggest cold case in furry fandom.

The case revived when investigation by Dogpatch Press drew journalist Nicky Woolf and Project Brazen to seek FBI records, identify suspects, and fly across America to interview sources. Nicky is a journalist who reports on internet culture, with stories in The Guardian, and his original podcast series Finding Q and The Sound: Mystery of the Havana Syndrome. Nicky and Brazen’s series Fur And Loathing delivers never-before reported findings to empower the community….

(5) AMAZON’S UNION-BUSTING. Cory Doctorow tells how “Amazon illegally interferes with an historic UK warehouse election” at Pluralistic.

…When it benefits Amazon, they are obsessive – “relentless” (Bezos’s original for the company) – about user friendliness. They value ease of use so highly that they even patented “one click checkout” – the incredibly obvious idea that a company that stores your shipping address and credit card could let you buy something with a single click: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click#Patent

But when it benefits Amazon to place obstacles in our way, they are even more relentless in inventing new forms of fuckery, spiteful little landmines they strew in our path. Just look at how Amazon deals with unionization efforts in its warehouses.

Amazon’s relentless union-busting spans a wide diversity of tactics. On the one hand, they cook up media narratives to smear organizers, invoking racist dog-whistles to discredit workers who want a better deal: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/02/amazon-chris-smalls-smart-articulate-leaked-memo

On the other hand, they collude with federal agencies to make workers afraid that their secret ballots will be visible to their bosses, exposing them to retaliation: https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-violated-labor-law-alabama-union-election-labor-official-finds-rcna1582

They hold Cultural Revolution-style forced indoctrination meetings where they illegally threaten workers with punishment for voting in favor of their union: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/31/business/economy/amazon-union-staten-island-nlrb.html

And they fire Amazon tech workers who express solidarity with warehouse workers: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-fires-tech-employees-workers-criticism-warehouse-climate-policies/

But all this is high-touch, labor-intensive fuckery. Amazon, as we know, loves automation, and so it automates much of its union-busting: for example, it created an employee chat app that refused to deliver any message containing words like “fairness” or “grievance…

(6) CHRIS HEMSWORTH TAKES A LIE DETECTOR TEST. Vanity Fair wired up actor Chris Hemsworth and asked him some uncomfortable questions.

Vanity Fair’s May cover star Chris Hemsworth takes our infamous lie detector test. Between him and Matt Damon, who usually pays the bill? Does he think he’s fashionable enough to be a co-chair for the 2024 Met Gala? Is it true that his little brother Liam also auditioned for “Thor”?

(7) THEY’RE THE TOPS. MoovitApp ended up with a list of 30 titles as they went about “Ranking The Most Popular and Beloved Books Of All Time”. Works by Hemingway, Tolkien, Harper Lee, and Nabokov are here – would you like to guess in what order?

It’s hard to say exactly what makes a book great; they are after all, pieces of art that are just as subjective as anything else. However, there are some books that seem to endure for longer and resonate with more readers. Whether or not you’re a fan of literature, these are the stories that some might consider required reading. So, did you read all the best ones, and did your favorite make the list? Read on and see!…

(8) ROGER BOZZETTO (1937-2024). French academic and literary critic Roger Bozzetto died March 20. His passing was reported on Facebook.

The specialist in science fiction and fantastic literature was one of the most important and relevant European SF&F critics and theoreticians.

He was Professor Emeritus of general and comparative literature at the University of Provence, France.

He was also a member of CERLI (Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur les Littératures de l’Imaginaire/Center for Studies and Research on the Literatures of the Imagination, founded in 1979, the pool of great SF&F specialists of the last three decades in the French university landscape).

(9) JEANNIE EPPER (1941-2024). Stuntwoman Jeannie Epper, who worked on myriad films, many genre or genre-adjacent, died May 5 at the age of 83. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute:

Jeannie Epper, the peerless, fearless stunt performer who doubled for Lynda Carter on Wonder Woman and swung on a vine across a 350-foot gorge and propelled down an epic mudslide as Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, has died. She was 83.

Epper died Sunday night of natural causes at her home in Simi Valley, her family told The Hollywood Reporter.

Just one member of a dynasty of stunt performers that Steven Spielberg dubbed the “Flying Wallendas of Film” — starting with her father, John Epper, there have been four generations of Eppers in show business since the 1930s — she worked on 150-plus films and TV shows during an astounding 70-year career.

In 2007, Epper received the first lifetime achievement honor given to a woman at the World Taurus Awards and ranks among the greatest stuntwomen of all time.

Known for her agility, horse-riding skills and competitiveness, the 5-foot-9 Epper also stepped in for Linda Evans on the ABC shows The Big Valley in the 1960s and Dynasty in the 1980s. When Evans’ Krystle was engaged in one of those knock-down, drag-out catfights with Joan Collins’ Alexis, chances are it was Epper you saw mixing it up.

Epper also put herself in harm’s way for Kate Jackson on Charlie’s Angels, for Lindsay Wagner on The Bionic Woman, for Angie Dickinson on Police Woman, for Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me (1971), for Jill Clayburgh in Silver Streak (1976) and for Nancy Allen in RoboCop (1987).

… Epper worked for Spielberg (as director or producer) on eight films, among them Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), 1941 (1979), Poltergeist (1982), Catch Me If You Can (2002) and Minority Report (2002)….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Paul Weimer.]

Born May 6, 1969 Annalee Newitz, 55. By Paul Weimer: Newitz’s work for me has been far less about their science fiction and much more about their non fiction writing. Sure, Autonomous is a solid novel with a lot of things to say about autonomy, slavery, and a heck of a lot about economics and the free market, and gender dynamics. But it is Newitz’s  journalism at i09, Gawker, Gizmodo and elsewhere, writing about society and technology that really drew my attention to their work. That would also include the podcast Our Opinions are Correct, which Newitz co-hosts with Charlie Jane Anders. While I don’t always agree with them and their opinions, I have always found Newitz’ point of view (as well as Charlie Jane’s) to be interesting, strongly reasoned and worthy of engaging in and thinking about. 

Annalee Newitz in 2023. Photo by Scott Edelman.

Newitz’s book Four Lost Cities, to date, is my favorite of their works. Strongly grounded in their journalism chops, the book looks at four cities that have fallen into decay and ruin:  Çatal höyük, one of the very first and earliest of cities, Pompeii, perhaps the most famous and well known of the four cities, Cahokia, the Mound city whose mounds still remain on the other side of the Mississippi from St. Louis, and finally, Angkor Wat.  The last, particularly, was a revelation for me, as I didn’t quite realize the hydraulic engineering that went into and kept Angkor Wat running. Given Newitz’s interest in science and engineering, Newitz is particularly interested in how and when circumstances caused that engineering to slip. And consequently, just how the city’s inhabitants had to face a slow motion collapse and apocalypse. The fall of cities due to internal and external factors definitely loom over the other three cities in the volume as well, but Angkor Wat, as their capstone, definitely is where the themes of the book, and perhaps of a lot of Newitz’s concerns in general, really come to the fore and in full flower and their full powers.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Eek! shows the beginnings of an eternal problem.
  • Tom Gauld teases about AI:
  • And here’s Teddy Harvia’s contribution!

(12) UNICORN. Michaele Jordan has allowed File 770 to share her latest micro story published by 50 Give or Take.

(13) VINTAGE X. The final trailer for Marvel Animation’s X-Men ’97 dropped a week ago. The series is on Disney+.

(14) STAR WARS THAT NEVER WAS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff at Media Death Cult goes all alternate future with a Star Wars film that could have been… “The Star Wars Sequel That Was Never Made”.

We dive into the Star Wars sequel that could have been, Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye.The novel written by Alan Dean Foster.

(15) LEGO STAR WARS. And here’s some more Star Wars that should never be – but which Gizmodo tells us is going to get its own four-part Disney+ animation: “Darth Jar Jar Strikes in Lego’s Crazy New Star Wars Series”. (Can anything including Jar Jar really be called “intellectual property”?)

The Star Wars Universe gets turned upside down in Lego Star Wars: Rebuild the Galaxy, a fun what-if style series. When ordinary nerf-herder Sig Greebling (Gaten Matarazzo) unearths a powerful artifact from a hidden Jedi temple, the galaxy as we know completely changes.

In the four-part special debuting on Disney+ September 13, the good guys are bad, bad guys are good, and it all falls on Sig’s shoulders to become the hero the galaxy needs to put everything back together…. 

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michaele Jordan, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, and Kathy Sullivan for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern. (Daniel was inspired by this Allan Sherman parody.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/24 I’m All Lost In The Pixel-Market, I Can No Longer Scroll Happily

(1) SIC SEMPER HEAVENLY TYRANT. [Item by Anne Marble.] Xiran Jay Zhao’s social media offers a window onto their problems with the publisher of their next book, Heavenly Tyrant. They began on January 24 with these messages:

Then today, Xiran Jay Zhao implied that their publisher threatened legal action over those X.com. posts

And later:

In response to some of these posts, horror & SFF writer Zachary Rosenberg suggested at this point, Xiran Jay Zhao should get a lawyer and stop posting to protect their interests.

The hardcover was published by Penguin Teen. (Wikipedia says that they signed with Penguin Teen Canada. I’m not sure if they had a separate U.S. edition.) The paperback is published by Tundra Books, an imprint of Tundra Book Group, which is part of Penguin Random House of Canada Limited. The author lives in Canada.

(2) LUKYANENKO ENDORSES PUTIN. Well, what else did you think the Chengdu Worldcon’s absent guest of honor was going to do? “Писатель Сергей Лукьяненко поддержал решение Владимира Путина участвовать в выборах” at Звездный Бульвар (Star Boulevard) — “Writer Sergei Lukyanenko supported Vladimir Putin’s decision to participate in the elections”.

The collection of signatures in support of Vladimir Putin’s participation in the presidential elections continues in Moscow. The famous Russian science fiction writer Sergei Lukyanenko spoke about his support for the candidacy of the current president in Moscow today in a conversation with journalists from the Moscow News Agency.

“I support Vladimir Putin’s decision (to nominate his candidacy for the presidency). I think that the changes in the country are visible to everyone who has lived at least more than 20 years,” he said….

(3) DON’T SAY WORLDCON. This odd phenomenon in Chinese social media was reported earlier today. Later it was learned the ban only affected one group.

(4) FURRY CON STAFF UPRISING. [Item by Patch P.] There’s turbulent convention organizing, and then there’s having staff resign in protest to force a leadership change: “Grassroots action: Leadership changes and weeding out hate at Garden State Fur The Weekend”. Dogpatch Press has the full story, which begins —

Garden State Fur The Weekend is an upcoming furry convention set for May 3-5, 2024 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. With their launch only months away, something unusual happened. GSFTW posted an official statement about opposing hate and Nazi-fur groups….

It was followed by an announcement of the con chair stepping down and a new one stepping up. It blames medical issues of the ex-chair, Dashing Fox. Dogpatch Press wishes good health to him. The story could end there, but unofficially, the change was forced by staff resignations. You’re seeing the aftermath of revolt behind the scenes, then getting back on track for launch. Yes, they stood up with the power of collective will to change the leadership for the better….

…Let’s not beat around the bush about why staff resigned to uproot the ex-chair: He actively associated with the Furry Raiders. They are a nazifur group who wither everything they touch. Their ties to alt-right hate groups and criminal schemes could fill a book….

(5) RABBIT TESTERS. Michael Grossberg opens a discussion of “Rabbit Test: Samantha Mill’s story, which swept this past year’s sf awards, has been hailed as libertarian (But that depends on your view of its central issue.)” on the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Blog. One learns from his post there are people who classify themselves as Libertarians and do not agree with a woman’s freedom to choose to have an abortion. However, the post doesn’t explain whether that is on religious grounds, or why.

…That story is “Rabbit Test,” by Samantha Mills.

According to at least one veteran libertarian sf fan, Mill’s story fits the distinctive focus of the Prometheus Award.

“The well-written story has a strong individual-liberty theme,” said Fred Moulton, a now-retired former LFS leader and Prometheus judge.

But does it?…

…That’s been a hot-button issue even within the libertarian movement. Since libertarianism began to be popular in the 1960s and 1970s, most libertarians have supported a woman’s right to abortion (perhaps influenced partly by Ayn Rand, whose novels and essays helped spark the modern movement).

Yet, some libertarians have always disagreed, even while being consistently “pro-choice” on everything else that doesn’t violate the basic libertarian principles of non-aggression….

(6) GASTRONOMICAL AND OTHER BALONEY. In “Around the World in Eighty Lies”, The Walrus reveals an Atlas Obscura contributor’s mystifying pattern of fabricated facts.

THE STORY WAS CHARMING: a short article about soups, continually replenished for decades, secreted in jars across oceans. The soups, according to one source, were “older than Taylor Swift.” I devoured the article, published in December 2022 on Atlas Obscura, an online publication billed as “best-in-class journalism about hidden places, incredible history, scientific marvels, and gastronomical wonders,” and texted it to a few soup-obsessed friends. Then I forgot about it for months until the weather turned chilly and I pulled up the link again, only to notice the article had changed. An italicized editor’s note had been added to the top, which began: “This article has been retracted as it does not meet Atlas Obscura’s editorial standards.” The note went on to state that multiple details and interviews had been fabricated.

Intrigued, I did a Google search for the author, Blair Mastbaum. His social media profiles and Wikipedia page suggested an American writer in his mid-forties, very active on Instagram, where he posted captionless photos of his travels in Europe. Mastbaum had written ten other articles for Atlas Obscura, eight of which, it turned out, had similar retractions. Topics ranged widely: acoustic archeology, Hawaiian cultural appropriation, an obscure dialect of sign language. Mastbaum’s first retracted story had been published in January 2022; the last one more than a year later….

(7) ONE THUMB UP. [Item by Steven French.] For folks in Chicago, a “Science on Screen” series that includes Godzilla, Don’t Look Up, Contagio and War Games at Siskel Film Center from February 9-12.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…and, if we’re being honest, we could use some help in feeling fine. From pandemics to nuclear war, from planet-pulverizing meteors to a city-smashing monster, these films explore all the ways we’re risking destruction. Watch the films with experts from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, keepers of the Doomsday Clock, to discuss the end times—and how we can avoid them. Presented in partnership with the University of Chicago Existential Risk Laboratory, the Japanese Cultural Center (JCC), and the DePaul Humanities Center. Additional speakers to be added.

(8) WHAT WHO’S FIGURES WERE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This month’s SFX magazine has the final low-down on Britain’s Doctor Who viewing figures which now includes 7-day catch-up views. (Remember, for comparison the US has five times the population of the UK.)

First up, The Goblin Song by Murray Gold reach number one on the iTunes chart on the day of its release and no12 in the official single sales chart that week and number six on the official singles download chart and number four on the official top 40.

Doctor Who ‘The Star Beast’ consolidated at 9.5 million viewers including catch-up. Overnights for ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ were 4.83 million with 7.14 million adding in 7-day catch-ups. ‘The Giggle’ obtained 4.62 million overnight and 6.85 million with 7-day catch-ups added in.  ‘The Church on Ruby Road’ was the most watched scripted show (which excludes things like the King’s address to the nation) on Christmas day with 4.73 million viewers which increases to 7.49 million with 7-day catch-ups added in.

(9) BRIAN LUMLEY (1937-2024). Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner Brian Lumley died January 2 his website has reported. He came to prominence in the 1970s writing in the Cthulhu Mythos featuring the new character Titus Crow, and in the 1980s began the best-selling Necroscope series, initially centered on character Harry Keogh, who can communicate with the spirits of the dead. His other series included The Primal Lands, Hero of Dreams, and Psychomech. He wrote around 60 books and many works of short fiction.

Lumley also had a 22-year career as a Royal Military Policeman. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Ann (Silky) Lumley, his daughter Julie and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Brian Lumley at 1992 World Horror Con. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born January 29, 1958 Jeph Loeb, 66. It’s not likely that you’ve heard of Jeph Loeb but you’ll definitely have heard of the work he first did as a comics writer and later film writer/producer. So let’s get started.

Loeb, a four-time Eisner Award winner, started out as comic writer, with his first work being on Challengers of the Unknown with Tim Sale.  Loved that series! 

They notably would somewhat later do Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman: The Long Halloween. The latter you’ll no doubt recognize. The former is a collection of really interesting stories. It is available from the usual suspects. 

Jeph Loeb

(As always I’m not listing everything, just what I’m interested in.)

They did a really great Catwoman series, Catwoman: When in Rome. I’ll do no spoilers as it’s a six-issue story extraordinary told. If you’ve got lots of money to spare, the absolute edition is, well, absolutely amazing.

At the end of the Nineties, he started a nearly three-year run on Superman with Ed McGuinness largely being the artist. It ended with the rather amazing Emperor Joker storyline. 

Of course this being the two major comic producers, Loeb and McGuinness soon got another a series going, Superman/Batman, and that in turn led to a new ongoing Supergirl series.

Now Marvel. 

He destroyed his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut in the first issue of the Civil War series. Oh poor Stamford.

His Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America series got coverage by the Associated Press and The Washington Post. Impressive. 

Film scripts he has, oh yes.

With Matthew Weisman,  he wrote the script for Teen Wolf, you might recognize for having a major role for Michael J. Fox. Completely different in tone was his next script with Weisman, Commando, the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. And he did Teen Wolf Two as well, this time with Weisman and Tim Kring.

Somewhere in the vaults of Warner Bros is his Flash film script.  Now that would really interesting to read, wouldn’t it?

He wrote a script for an episode of Smallville, after which he became a supervising producer and has written many episodes since then. He had a three year contract extension to stay on the series but left when his son developed cancer. (The son sadly passed away.)

He was writer/producer on Lost during its second season. After leaving Lost, he was co-executive producer and writer on Heroes. Tim Sale’s art was prominently featured. 

Thirteen years ago, Marvel Entertainment appointed him to the position of Executive Vice President, Head of Television of its new Marvel Television. If you’ve watched a Marvel series since then be it Agent Carter or Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., he’s listed as executive producer.

He left Marvel five years ago. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Loose Parts has its own peculiar idea about saving the Earth.
  • Candorville has a debate about whether to waste words on a genre topic.

(12) REINVENTING THE WHEEL, ER, GRID? “14 Years Later, a Classic Sci-Fi Franchise Is About to Take its Biggest Risk Yet” claims Inverse.

It’s time to get back on the grid. As of now, the third film in the Tron franchise — titled Tron: Ares, but styled as Tr3N — is officially filming. Fourteen years after the second film, Tron: Legacy, and 42 years after the 1982 classicTron will finally become the weirdest sci-fi trilogy of all time.

How should Tron-heads feel about all this? Will Tr3N fix everything or destroy all programs, now and forever? At this point, it feels like Tr3N will either be great or terrible, with no room for a middle ground. Here’s why….

… Whether the movie is great or horrible, the third Tron movie will have to tackle the paradox of Tron’s essential weirdness. As a concept, Tron was both ahead of its time and terribly shortsighted. In the first film, we got an entire virtual world populated by living, sentient Programs, who manifest as people; imagine The Matrix, but most characters are Agent Smith.

Because it came out in 1982, Tron used arcade game logic to imagine this alternate digital realm, which gave the film its beautifully minimalistic aesthetic. However, this vibe also made “The Grid” seem small and empty compared to the kinds of virtual worlds that have existed in science fiction ever since.

The limitations of Tron’s world-building were so obvious that Tron: Legacy explicitly states Kevin Flynn created a bigger and better second version of the Grid. Still, this Grid feels limited in the same way the first one did, simply because the world-building feels contingent on the real world mattering more than the Grid. The paradox at the heart of Tron is the struggle to make a virtual world matter more than the real world….

(13) BOMBS AWAY. “Dr Strangelove at 60: is this still the greatest big-screen satire?” asks the Guardian.

…The message of Fail Safe: human beings are fallible. The message of Dr Strangelove: human beings are idiots.

On balance, Kubrick’s message is more persuasive. Dr Strangelove remains the greatest of movie satires for a host of reasons, not least that it hews so closely to the real-life absurdities of the cold war, with two saber-rattling superpowers escalating an arms race that could only end in mutual annihilation. There’s absolutely no question, for example, that the top military and political brass have gamed out the catastrophic loss of life in a nuclear conflict, just as they do in the war room here. Perhaps they would even nod sagely at the distinction between 20 million people dead v 150 million people dead. All Kubrick and his co-writers, Terry Southern and Peter George, have to add is a wry punchline: “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed.”…

(14) SLIM NOT-SO-SHADY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] When it first landed on the Moon a week or so ago, JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) first ever Moon lander was unable to generate solar power and quickly lost energy from the battery. Now, however, it appears that the solar panel was misoriented and SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) is back online. “Japan’s SLIM probe regains power more than a week after moon landing” reports Reuters.

… SLIM lost the thrust of one of its two main engines shortly before the touchdown for unknown reasons and ended up drifting a few dozen metres away from the target. The lander safely stopped on a gentle slope but appeared toppled with an engine facing upward in a picture taken by a baseball-sized wheeled rover it deployed.

The probe’s solar panels faced westward due to the displacement and could not immediately generate power. JAXA manually unplugged SLIM’s dying battery 2 hours and 37 minutes after the touchdown as it completed the transmission of the lander’s data to the earth.

JAXA does not have a clear date when SLIM will end its operation on the moon, but the agency has previously said the lander was not designed to survive a lunar night. The next lunar night begins on Thursday.

(15) DON’TCHA JUST LOVE DYSTOPIAS….? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Dystopias are great (provided you just read about them and not begin to live in them as we now seem we are about to….) Moid over at Media Death Cult has a dive into dystopic fiction.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Barbie with a Cat” is a parody of the movie with Owlkitty.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/28/23 Scrollmas Won’t Be Scrollmas Without Any Pixels

(1) WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION 2025 ACCESSIBILITY. Karen Fishwick, Chair of World Fantasy Convention 2025, responded to Mari Ness’ comments about accessibility issues at the 2025 WFC hotel quoted in yesterday’s Scroll.

There have been some very valid concerns raised on social media about the accessibility of World Fantasy Convention 2025. 

Some of these concerns are based on experiences at a previous WFC held at the same Hotel, so I wanted to make sure that these were put into context. 

  • The hotel has recently undertaken some renovations in the front/lobby area, which has improved access. 
  • The bedrooms have been renovated since 2013. 
  • We are not using function rooms in the hotel that are not accessible to people in wheelchairs (including the mezzanine room on the staircase). The function rooms we are using are on the lower ground floor and the upper ground floor. We do also have options to use rooms on Floor M as well.
  • Details of the entrances to the hotel are on our Accessibility Audit https://worldfantasy2025.co.uk/accessibility-audit/

There are still some things we are working on:

  • Parking for high sided vehicles – this particularly affects dealers, event organisers and people with larger mobility vehicles – There is space to drop people/unload at the venue, but the car park is height limited. We are looking for parking options. If these are further away from the venue, we will look at the logistics of getting drivers to and from that site. Details of the current provision and height limits are on our Accessibility Audit. https://worldfantasy2025.co.uk/accessibility-audit/
  • We will be talking to adjacent hotels to identify options for people with different budgets and access needs to make sure that people have a range of options to choose from. 

We would very much like people to read our Accessibility Policy https://worldfantasy2025.co.uk/accessibility-policy/ that sets out the measures we are taking to improve the accessibility of our event. We will add any additional measures/accommodations to this page as they are confirmed. 

If anyone has specific concerns or have a question about the venue, they can contact me directly on [email protected]

On a personal note, I myself am physically disabled, so we do take these concerns very seriously and want to work with our potential attendees to ensure they enjoy the event. 

(2) OF COURSE THERE WERE VFX. “No Visual Effects in ‘Barbie’? Glen Pratt Reveals the Truth”Animation World Network sets the record straight.

Much has been made of Barbie and Oppenheimer sharing the same theatrical release date to the point that clever fan posters were created to promote a possible double bill coined Barbenheimer. Both productions also notably shared the declaration that they contained no visual effects when in fact, the famed physicist’s biopic, directed by Christopher Nolan, utilized digital compositing; and there are full CG shots as well as CG augmentation used to bring the adventures of a Mattel doll to life by Greta Gerwig. 

Caught the middle of the controversy are Glen Pratt and Andrew Jackson, the visual effects supervisors responsible for the two projects. Their presence on the credit list highlights the ludicrous nature of the public statements….

… “Even if you look at the sets that were physically built like the Barbie Dream House,” Pratt continues. “We shot clean plates of that for certain shots and in those clean plates, when you looked at them without any actors or crew in them, it looked like a toy.  We were taking that and extrapolating further upon that language.”

There are over 20 fully CG shots in the film. “In the Dawn of Women sequence, which is Greta’s version of 2001: A Space Odyssey there is an entirely CG shot of the original Barbie doll which doubles as the monolith,” Pratt reveals. Framestore did concept art, visual development, previs, postvis, and virtual production, totalling 1,300 shots, while Chicken Bone FX, FuseFX, UPP, and Lola VFX contributed 300 shots. 600 of the 1,600 shots required extensive visual effects work.  “When Barbie is first driving out onto the open road environment and you have the big Barbie Land rainbow, all of that was essentially bluescreen,” Pratt shares. “There was a tiny bit of set and pink road but the car had to be moving.  The sky, distant vista of Barbie Land and the mountains were created digitally from reference photography of the sets that were built.  We created an entirely CG environment.”…

(3) LIST OF PRIORS. [Item by Jim Janney.] Ars Technica has a long dive into movie time travel, from George Pal to Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, with separate scores for entertainment and science. Includes some I haven’t seen and some I hadn’t even heard of.  “The Ars guide to time travel in the movies”.

…Even without scientific accuracy, we can still ask for logical consistency. Alas, that is also pretty thin on the ground, although in this case, there are true exceptions. The most straightforward way for travel to the past to make sense is if you can visit but you can’t actually change anything—“Whatever happened happened,” in the memorable formulation of fictional physicist Daniel Faraday in the TV show Lost. Physicists have dubbed this the “Novikov self-consistency principle,” but it can really just be summed up as “making sense.” Somewhat more ambitiously, we can imagine one or more alternative parallel timelines that are created by a sojourn into history. For the most part, however, our cinematic heroes make a cheerful hash of logic and narrative sense as they traipse through their pasts….

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

…You will not be surprised to learn that Hot Tub Time Machine doesn’t work too hard to maintain scientific plausibility in its portrayal of time travel….

(4) EGGSCLUSIVE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Did you there was an Alien series? I didn’t.

But Deadline does: “’Alien’: Timothy Olyphant Cast In Noah Hawley’s FX Series”.

Timothy Olyphant is reuniting with Noah Hawley and FX, signing on for a major role in the upcoming Alien series. Olyphant, who recurred on Season 4 of Hawley’s FX anthology series Fargo, is set to star opposite Sydney Chandler in Hawley‘s prequel to the Alien franchise, sources tell Deadline.

Details about Olyphant’s character are not being disclosed. I hear he plays Kirsh, a synth who acts as a mentor and trainer for Chandler’s Wendy who is a hybrid, a meta-human who has the brain and consciousness of a child but the body of an adult….

(5) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. “From Local, to Global, to Gone: On the Rise and Fall of Borders Books” — an excerpt from Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing & Bookselling in the 20th Century, edited by Buz Teacher and Janet Bukovinsky Teacher — at Literary Hub.

… Rookie Mistake #2: they ordered some new books and mixed them with used books on the same shelves. Customers were confused, not knowing if a slightly worn new book was “used,” or if a gently used book was “new.”

Rookie Mistake #3: They finally understood that Ann Arbor was a readers’ town and that antiquarian books were of marginal interest to the local avid readers. All the used books were culled from the shelves. After surviving three moves in two years, Borders Book Shop was in a good location with enough space to make a splash, and selling the kind of books people wanted. Their ambitions were rekindled.

That year, Joe Gable, fresh from Madison, Wisconsin, swaggered into Borders Book Shop. During a stand-up job interview in front of the fiction section Tom asked him “What do you know about books?” Sounding a bit like Marlon Brando, looking straight into Tom’s eyes, Joe said humbly: “I know more about books than anyone in this store.” Tom was momentarily stunned by the hubris of the comment. But he took the insult like a man, and after a few pointed questions, he hired Joe on the spot. In fact, Joe did know more about books than anyone in the store. And he proved it over the next quarter century….

(6) RECOMMENDED CLASSICS. The Martian Chronicles and Lord of the Rings are on Her Campus’ list of “ Classics That Are Worth The Read”.

Often it feels like to consider yourself a true reader, you have to know the classics. But the most classic of classics can feel impossible to read. I’ve read my fair share of incredibly boring classics, but have also managed to find some entertaining and important stories among them. Here is my list of five classics that are absolutely worth the read….

(7) DAVID ELLIOTT (1931-2023). Director David Elliott, who worked on several Gerry and Sylvia Anderson series, died November 10. Stephen La Riviere paid tribute in the Guardian.

Like many film back-room boys, my friend David Elliott, who has died aged 92, was not a household name, although he had seven decades worth of credits. Many thousands, however, will remember the happy childhood images he created as a director on the classic 1960s puppet TV series Thunderbirds, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.

David first met Gerry Anderson while they were both working on feature films in the 50s. When Anderson went on to become a producer of puppet series for the fledgling medium of television, he brought David over to picture edit. A back-breaking schedule saw him cut one episode of The Adventures of Twizzle (1957-58) a day. The work paid off and soon a marionette empire was born.

David then started directing, shooting puppet stars as if they were film stars. Each production brought greater worldwide success. Four Feather Falls (1960), Supercar (1961-62), Fireball XL5 (1962-63), Stingray (1964-65) and Thunderbirds (1965-66) entertained and pushed the boundaries of TV. At one point, Anderson’s production company AP Films was the largest consumer of colour film, when TV was still black and white. It was a far-sighted decision that ensured new audiences for their work for decades….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 77. He started off as one as us as he wrote columns and articles for fanzines and APAs.  

Now let’s look at what he’s done that I find interesting.

The first would be his collaboration with John Sayles when they completely rewrote the first draft of Gary Brandner’s The Howling novel for that film. Brandner was said to extremely angry with the film that was produced.

Because of The Howling, Speliberg offered up Gremlins, one of my all time favorite films, to him. I’ve watched it more times than I can count and I enjoyed it each time. Gremlins II, not so much. 

Spielberg also brought him on as one of the directors on John Landis’ Twilight Zone: The Movie. Dante’s segment, a remake of the original Twilight Zone “It’s a Good Life” episode as written by Serling. That story was based off a Jerome Bixby story published in 1953 in the Star Science Fiction Stories anthology series, edited by Frederik Pohl.

Ahhh, Innerspace with Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan. The Studio  hated it, Dante made the film he wanted to despite the Studio and audiences stayed home. I thought it was sweet. 

I hadn’t realised to now that Dante was responsible for Small Soldiers, an interesting film. Not a great film but it have a possibility of being something. Not sure what that something would have been. Dante says that there were twelve writers involved in writing the script. Ouch. 

So Dante directed Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Moving on.

Finally Dante came back to Gremlins by serving as a consultant on the Max Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai prequel series. Don’t get too excited as this is an animated series and I’ll give you the promo poster of this kid friendly series as I take leave of you.

(9) PROTEST DAMAGE TO LIBRARY. “New York Public Library facing steep graffiti cleanup costs after protests”Gothamist forecasts the bill.

…Protesters have caused at least $75,000 in graffiti damage to the famous New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman building, where some carved reliefs may need to be replaced.

The damage was caused by at least three separate pro-Palestinian protests over the last few weeks, officials said. The worst damage, however, occurred on Thanksgiving Day when protesters sprayed “Free Palestine” in dark green paint and smeared red handprints on the steps, fountain and facade.

The graffiti damage from Thursday covered parts of marble where donors’ names are engraved with delicate crevices that can be easily eroded by cleanup efforts, said Garrett Bergen, director of facilities for the library.

Cleaning dark paint from the building requires applying a number of applications of solvent for days at a time, he said.

“We could have to replace certain elements if a rosette is too damaged for the paint to be removed. So it’s a little unclear,” Bergen said….

(10) SNAKES, IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. “Box Office: ‘Hunger Games’ Beating ‘Wish’ With $43M, ‘Napoleon’ $30M+ Over Thanksgiving” reports Deadline.

Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes won Black Friday and Saturday at the box office, respectively with $11.4M and $11.2M, soaring above a Disney animated movie (Wish) which are typically the champs of Thanksgiving weekend, and big streamer Apple’s $200M war epic, Napoleon, for a No. 1 win over the holiday stretch with a 3-day $28.8M and 5-day of $42M….

… Disney Animation’s Wish came in third on Friday and Saturday (eeks) with respectively $8M and $7M, behind Apple Original Production’s Sony-distributed Napoleon, which earned an estimated $8.4M on Friday and $7.5M [Saturday]…

(11) PAYING IT FORWARD. “Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s advice to writers from advice given to him by Robert Heinlein” – a Writers & Illustrators of the Future video from a number of years ago.

(12) LAUGHING WITH BARBIE. “’Barbie’ Gotham Awards Tribute: Watch Greta Gerwig & Margot Robbie Get Silly” – an invitation from Deadline.

Barbie writer-director Greta Gerwig and star-producer Margot Robbie showcased their comedy chops in a one-two bit tonight, thanking the Gotham Awards for a Global Icon & Creator tribute. Watch their speech above.

“We love a restaurant in a bank!” said Gerwig of the Cipriani Wall Street locale, which is just that. 

The duo was lovingly introduced by Laura Dern. …… “Four years ago, I asked Greta to come and write Barbie with me,” said Robbie. Gerwig and her husband and co-writer Noah Baumbach “took an object — a doll with no character or story — and cooked up the most ridiculous, outrageous, bananas script in an attempt to conjure back what they loved about the movies.”

Said Gerwig about making the film during the Covid lockdown: “We figured that if no one was making movies anyway, they might as well not make this one. And we showed it to everyone. And Warner Bros., miraculously, said yes, and Mattel, miraculously, said yes.” 

Robbie: “Essentially. Mostly. With some notes, which Greta and Noah ignored.”

Gerwig: ”We carefully considered the notes. And then we presented our case.”

Robbie: “You ignored them.” …

(13) THE EVOLUTION OF THE BOOK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] This is a charming, and surprisingly informative 15 minute documentary from the one and only Moid Moidelhoff over at  Media Death Cult. Actually, this came out a couple of weeks ago, but I have only just watched my downloaded copy. Trust me, I think you’ll find two or three things you did not know. (Have you ever heard of the paperback original revolution of the 1950s?…) In the middle of domestic chaos, Moid took the trouble to make this the week before he moved house.  So make a mug of builders and join Moid…

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

Pixel Scroll 11/1/23 Eat, Pray, Jaunt

(1) 4 YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF book lovers had an hour of delight on BBC Radio 4 last Sunday with two half-hour programmes.

First up there was Open Book that saw a led discussion of a panel of three authors that looked at artificial intelligence (AI) in their work as well as the possible effects of AI on novels writing.

The overall drift – of what was an interesting conversation – was that AI is not developed enough at the current moment to have a significant impact on (commercial) writing/publishing but there is clearly a trajectory and that in a few years time things could well be different..

One point made was that eventually AI writing might possibly induce a revolution in writing with a new type of novel. The panel took this notion further and said it may be that in the future some AI writing will only be able to be appreciated by AI (non-human) readers.

You can listen to the programme here,

Elizabeth Day and Johny Pitts present a special edition of the programme exploring AI and the novel.

Recorded at the London Literary Festival at the Southbank Centre; novelists Naomi Alderman, Adam Thirlwell and Julianne Pachico join Elizabeth and Johny on stage to discuss depictions of AI in their fiction – and what AI might mean for fiction.

Naomi Alderman’s new novel, The Future, is the tale of a daring heist hatched in the hope of saving the world from the tech giants whose greed threatens life as we know it. Adam Thirlwell’s The Future, Future takes us from the salacious gossip of pre-revolutionary Paris to a utopian lunar commune, and Julianne Pachico tells the story of a young girl raised by artificial intelligence in her novel Jungle House.

The second programme was The Exploding Library that in this episode looked at Angela Carter’s Night at the Circus.

“Am I fact or am I fiction?”

So asks the six-foot-something winged woman, Fevvers, the acclaimed aerialiste at the heart of Angela Carter’s epic, Nights at the Circus. It’s a question that has haunted almost every performer who’s stepped onto a stage and seen their ‘real’ self and ‘stage’ selves blur.

Yet a woman with wings with the world at her feet is almost run-of-the-mill in this extravaganza. There’s dancing tigers, murderous clowns, shamanic visions in the Siberian wilderness, and the odd pair of stinky tights.

Labels and genres are flung around – gothic, magical realism, fantasy – but the book, like Angela Carter’s writing in general, evades categorisation at every turn. Twist the kaleidoscope and another vision emerges, twist again and the human condition is re-revealed.

Kiri Pritchard Maclean runs off with the circus to consider the performer underneath the greasepaint, and find out what happens when the performance comes to an end. (Plus chickens).

You can listen to the programme here.

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

Two part convention report by Chengdu fan/business owner

(via SF Light Year)

I’m not exactly sure who Huawen is; I think they are a fan who set up an SF-related company/museum/library (?) based in Chengdu.  (Per the website URL listed in the leaflet image listed in the leaflet image, “[their company] was established in 2021 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. It is a media company dedicated to promoting excellent science fiction culture.”  Per the first part of their report, had some involvement in the early days of the Chengdu bid/con organization, but dropped out.  

Part 1Part 2

Extracts from Part 1 of their report, via Google Translate with manual edits.

I was a little afraid of the World Science Fiction Convention.  Previously, I’d only heard about this science fiction convention which has lasted for more than 80 years, from news reports and a few words from friends. There was always a sour grapes mentality of “looking at what other people’s families were doing”.

But now after experiencing it personally, I feel more or less disenchanted. Let me expand upon this first.

First of all, the Worldcon has a long history and many traditions. This is the 81st edition. With 80 previous events, it has accumulated a lot of experiences and traditions. I had never participated in it before, and felt that it would always be a bit of a mystery to me.

And then there’s the scale. Every time, thousands of science fiction fans and practitioners participate, with hundreds of stalls and hundreds of activities. Such a large scale has never been seen before in China.

Then there is the difficulty of organization. The complexity and organizational difficulty increases exponentially with the increase in scale. What’s more, except for a few members of the organizing committee, almost all of them are involved for just a short time. This level of difficulty is simply hellish. Think about it – it’s scary…

I saw from the WeChat official account of the convention that collections related to the history of science fiction were being solicited. I was originally thinking of doing a big presentation, but I succumbed to procrastination.  However, if I rushed to catch up with my preparations, maybe the visual effect could be good? …

In the end, as an exhibitor, I briefly displayed a small collection in two cabinets, and fortunately everyone reported that they had good impressions of it.

Therefore, my main participation in this conference was as an exhibitor, and secondarily as a guest 1, 3, and 5.   [I think this is a reference to the badge numbering, about what access individual attendee types had?]  I constantly switched between the two identities whilst at the con.

Precisely because of the resource-draining nature of being an exhibitor, I was unable to participate in many activities, and was unable to observe the full picture of this convention, which really was a pity.  If I had been able to attend more events, there would definitely be more [in this report]. However, I can summarize my experiences, to learn from [them in the future]

1. The venue is the basic determining factor for almost any event / Unparalleled, beyond imagination, 900 million yuan [approx $123m USD]  can convince people with reason…

The venue and facilities were so good, but my preparations were so unsatisfactory, and I completely underestimated the scale of this conference.

2. The youth trend is obvious, directly reversing the aging trend of the World Science Fiction Convention

I heard a long time ago that the participants at foreign world science fiction conventions are mainly middle-aged and elderly people, with only a small proportion of young people.  This phenomenon is not recent; it has a history of at least more than 20 years.

The same is true from my observations at my table. The foreign science fiction fans who came to the conference are generally older.  I never saw any children or teenagers, and young people in their twenties and thirties were also relatively rare.  [Note: the default Google Translate output says, “…were relatively preferred”, which didn’t make much sense to me.  I’ve taken the liberty of replacing that with something that makes more sense to me.]

By contrast, the clear main participants of this Chengdu Science Fiction Convention are minors, mainly primary school students, followed by junior high school students, and many high school students. Excluding the parents and adults accompanying children, the proportion of adult science fiction fans attending the conference was a long way down – less than one tenth….

I speculate that the average age of all participants this time was most likely no more than 18 years old.  Science fiction makes people young, if I’m honest.

I bet that no subsequent World Science Fiction Convention in the next fifty years will be able to gather such a group of tens of thousands of primary and secondary school science fiction fans – no, a hundred years.

I think foreign science fiction fans will have received a little shock from Chengdu 🙂

3. We ran out of materials and lacked preparations. We really couldn’t squeeze out another drop …

All the books that I planned to sell were sold out on the first or second day.

The three new commemorative medals made for this science fiction convention were almost completely out of ink the next day, and I had to replenish them twice a day. [Note

Not only were there not enough badges, but the 3,000 ribbons prepared for the previous 2,000 people did not last until the end, even with the restriction that “each person could only choose one.”

The only thing that I still had some inventory of, was a leaflet that had 5,000 copies printed.

I have skim read the second post, but haven’t had time or energy to do a similar write-up; it will probably appear in tomorrow’s Scroll.

The Space-Time Painter and the Hugos being used in school work and tests

I spotted these Xiaohongshu posts earlier today (1)(2).  There are other unusual references to this Hugo winner that I’ll include in a future Scroll.

Photos from Shanghai Halloween

These have absolutely nothing to do with the Worldcon, but they came up in my Xiaohongshu default feed late last night, and I thought they might be of mild interest to Filers.  Sorry that there’s no link to the source post, but I was afraid that if I spent too long looking at that post, the algorithmic feed might determine that this is the sort of content that it should continue to show me in future… There’s more in a short Twitter video from the Chinese news site Sixth Tone, and also a three-minute English-language explainer video on YouTube.

(3) MARVEL’S PROBLEMS. “Crisis at Marvel: Jonathan Majors Back-Up Plans, ‘The Marvels’ Reshoots, Reviving Original Avengers and More Issues Revealed” in Variety.

…[E]veryone at Marvel was reeling from a series of disappointments on-screen, a legal scandal involving one of its biggest stars and questions about the viability of the studio’s ambitious strategy to extend the brand beyond movies into streaming. The most pressing issue to be discussed at the retreat was what to do about Jonathan Majors, the actor who had been poised to carry the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but instead is headed to a high-profile trial in New York later this month on domestic violence charges. The actor insists he is the victim, but the damage to his reputation and the chance he could lose the case has forced Marvel to reconsider its plans to center the next phase of its interlocking slate of sequels, spinoffs and series around Majors’ villainous character, Kang the Conqueror.

At the gathering in Palm Springs, executives discussed backup plans, including pivoting to another comic book adversary, like Dr. Doom. But making any shift would carry its own headaches: Majors was already a big presence in the MCU, including as the scene-stealing antagonist in February’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” And he has been positioned as the franchise’s next big thing in this season of “Loki” — particularly in the finale, which airs on Nov. 9 and sets up Kang as the titular star of a fifth “Avengers” film in 2026.

“Marvel is truly fucked with the whole Kang angle,” says one top dealmaker who has seen the final “Loki” episode. “And they haven’t had an opportunity to rewrite until very recently [because of the WGA strike]. But I don’t see a path to how they move forward with him.”

Beyond the bad press for Majors, the brain trust at Marvel is also grappling with the November release of “The Marvels,” a sequel to 2019’s blockbuster “Captain Marvel” that has been plagued with lengthy reshoots and now appears likely to underwhelm at the box office….

(4) MORE LEARNEDLEAGUE. [Item by David Goldfarb.] Some One-Day Special quizzes that Filers might enjoy:

(Xena has gods and sorceresses; Randall Munroe has won a Hugo Award, so I claim that both of these are at least genre-adjacent.)

(5) HWA SUMMER SCARES SPOKESPERSON IS CLAY MCLEOD CHAPMAN. The Horror Writers Association yesterday announced their Summer Scares Reading Program 2024 Spokesperson and Timeline.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, Booklist, and NoveList®, a division of EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO), is proud to announce the fifth annual Summer Scares Reading Program. Summer Scares is a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. It introduces readers and librarians to new authors and helps start conversations extending beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Summer Scares is proud to announce the 2024 spokesperson, author Clay McLeod Chapman:

“To this day, I still have vivid memories of my grandmother escorting six-year-old me through our local library — Go, Bon Air! — and striking a deal: Pick two books, any two books, one for her to read to me and one for me to read to myself. When we both finished our individual reads, we could always come back and pick another pair. I can still list off practically every book I selected — beginning with “Monsters of North America” by William A. Wise — returning to the library to replenish our endless reservoir of reading every week of my childhood. Now I feel as if I’m returning to the library all over again, thanks to Summer Scares, where the deal this time is to pick those books that continue to make an impact on me and share them with as many readers as humanly possible.”

Chapman is joined by a committee of six library workers who, together, will select three recommended fiction titles in each reading level, totaling nine Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries around the world, and ultimately attract more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also make themselves available at public and school libraries.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14, 2024, Library Lover’s Day. Chapman, along with some of the selected authors, will kick off Summer Scares at the 8th Annual HWA Librarians’ Day, Friday, May 31st, during StokerCon® 2024 at the San Diego Mission Bay Marriott….

(6) HOWARD STATEMEN DEATH LEARNED. [Item by Rick Kovalcik.] Howard “Howeird” Statemen (1950-2022) was a past Boskone participant. In response to an email, his sister informed us that Howard passed away last year on October 5, 2022 of an aneurysm. Here’s the link to his memorial presentation on YouTube. He also had a website which may be of interest to some people: Howeird Dot Com at WMP

(7) SHERRIE R. CRONIN (1954-2023). Author Sherrie R. Cronin died October 23 at the age of 68. The SFWA Blog has posted a tribute.

…A geophysicist by trade and extensive traveler by passion, Cronin lived in seven cities and visited forty-six countries, while staying dedicated to her writing. Cronin wrote 13 works within the “46. Ascending” and “The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters” series. Additionally, she was dedicated to writing and blogging about world peace, empathy, and what she called intra-species harmony. She joked that she’d love to tell these stories, stories of peace—or be Chief Scientist Officer—on the Starship Enterprise, and admitted to occasionally checking her phone for a message from Captain Picard. Just in case….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1939 [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Our Beginning is not from a genre work this time, but from a mystery, that of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. We do cover mysteries here, so I thought I’d look at Chandler and this work.

He turned to writing mysteries relatively late at age forty four after losing his job as oil company exec during the Great Depression. “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, his first story, was published in 1933 in Black Mask, one of many mystery stories he’d write. The Big Sleep, his first novel, followed six years later. 

The Big Sleep would first be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1939. It is based off of two Black Mask stories, “Killer in the Rain” (published in 1935) and “The Curtain” (published in 1936) as Chandler based his novels off previously written material. Well, he said “cannibalised” those stories. 

It would be made into two films, the 1946 film that Leigh Brackett helped write the screenplay and which co-started Humphrey Bogartand Lauren Bacall,  and a 1978 one that’s remembered mostly, well, for Robert Mitchum being at sixty twice as old as the character he playing, Philip Marlowe. Mitchum had previously been an aging Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely, a 1975 release. 

The 1946 film’s 38-year-old Marlowe played by Bogart who was 44 at the time. Why the script aged him by five years is unknown. 

There was a television adaptation starring Zachary Scott, who had done mostly Westerns, as Marlowe, that was broadcast on September 25, 1950. I can’t find any record of it existing now. 

Oh, and none of Chandler’s novels will move into the public domain until 2034, the year the rights to The Big Sleep are set to expire. 

And now our Beginning…

IT WAS ABOUT ELEVEN O’CLOCK in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars. 

The main hallway of the Sternwood place was two stories high. Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some very long and convenient hair. The knight had pushed the vizor of his helmet back to be sociable, and he was fiddling with the knots on the ropes that tied the lady to the tree and not getting anywhere. I stood there and thought that if I lived in the house, I would sooner or later have to climb up there and help him. He didn’t seem to be really trying. 

There were French doors at the back of the hall, beyond them a wide sweep of emerald grass to a white garage, in front of which a slim dark young chauffeur in shiny black leggings was dusting a maroon Packard convertible. Beyond the garage were some decorative trees trimmed as carefully as poodle dogs. Beyond them a large green house with a domed roof. Then more trees and beyond everything the solid, uneven, comfortable line of the foothills.

On the east side of the hall a free staircase, tile-paved, rose to a gallery with a wrought-iron railing and another piece of stained-glass romance. Large hard chairs with rounded red plush seats were backed into the vacant spaces of the wall round about. They didn’t look as if anybody had ever sat in them. In the middle of the west wall there was a big empty fireplace with a brass screen in four hinged panels, and over the fireplace a marble mantel with cupids at the corners. Above the mantel there was a large oil portrait, and above the portrait two bullet-torn or moth-eaten cavalry pennants crossed in a glass frame. The portrait was a stiffly posed job of an officer in full regimentals of about the time of the Mexican war. The officer had a neat black Imperial, black mustachios, hot hard coalblack eyes, and the general look of a man it would pay to get along with. I thought this might be General Sternwood’s grandfather. It could hardly be the General himself, even though I had heard he was pretty far gone in years to have a couple of daughters still in the dangerous twenties. 

I was still staring at the hot black eyes when a door opened far back under the stairs. It wasn’t the butler coming back. It was a girl. 

She was twenty or so, small and delicately put together, but she looked durable. She wore pale blue slacks and they looked well on her. She walked as if she were floating. Her hair was a fine tawny wave cut much shorter than the current fashion of pageboy tresses curled in at the bottom. Her eyes were slategray, and had almost no expression when they looked at me. She came over near me and smiled with her mouth and she had little sharp predatory teeth, as white as fresh orange pits and as shiny as porcelain. They glistened between her thin to taut lips. Her face lacked color and didn’t look too healthy.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 1, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen which Terri Windling called “a lost classic” and The Bull Calves but also SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman. She was also a good friend of Tolkien, and was one of the proofreaders of The Lord of the Rings. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 1, 1917 Zenna Henderson. Her first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951. The People series appeared in magazines and anthologies, as well as the stitched-together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh. Other volumes include The People Collection and Ingathering: The Complete People Stories. She was nominated for a Hugo Award at Detention for her “Captivity” novelette. Her story “Pottage” was made into the 1972 ABC-TV movie, The People.  “Hush” became an episode of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside which first aired in 1988. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 1, 1923 Gordon R. Dickson. Writer, Filker, and Fan who was truly one of the best writers of both science fiction and fantasy. It would require a skald to detail his stellar career in any detail. His first published speculative fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic StoriesChilde Cycle, featuring the Dorsai, is his best known series, and the Hoka are certainly his and Poul Anderson’s silliest creation. I’m very fond of his Dragon Knight series, which I think reflects his interest in medieval history.  His works received a multitude of award nominations, and he won Hugo, Nebula, and British Fantasy Awards. In 1975, he was presented the Skylark Award for achievement in imaginative fiction. He was Guest of Honor at dozens of conventions, including the 1984 Worldcon, and he was named to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the Filk Hall of Fame. The Dorsai Irregulars, an invitation-only fan volunteer security group named after his series, was formed at the 1974 Worldcon in response to the theft of some of Kelly Freas’ work the year before, and has provided security at conventions for the last 34 years. (Died 2001.) (JJ)
  • Born November 1, 1923 Dean A. Grennell. Writer, Editor, Firearms Expert, Conrunner, and Fan who edited numerous fanzines including La Banshee and Grue, which was produced sporadically from 1953 to 1979 and was a finalist for the Hugo Award in 1956. He published several short fiction works, and even dabbled in fanzine art. He ran a small U.S. gathering held the same weekend as the 1956 UK Natcon which was called the Eastercon-DAG, and another called Wiscon, which preceded the current convention of that name by more than twenty years. He is responsible for the long-running fannish joke “Crottled Greeps”. (Died 2004.) (JJ)
  • Born November 1, 1942 Michael Fleisher. A writer best known for his work at  DC Comics of the Seventies and Eighties, particularly for the Spectre and Jonah Hex. He wrote Hex for over a dozen years, both as an Old West and a SF character. Fleisher wrote three volumes of The Encyclopedia of Comic Books Heroes, doing some research on-site at DC Comics. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 1, 1959 Susanna Clarke, 64. Author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I think wins my award for the most-footnoted work in genre literature. It won a World Fantasy, Nebula, Mythopoeic and of course a Hugo Award, that being at Interaction. It was adapted into a BBC series, most likely without the footnotes. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works and is splendid indeed with artwork by Charles Vess. Her Piranesi novel as nominated for a Hugo at Discon III, the year that Martha Wells Network Effect got it.

(10) HWA INDIGENOUS HERITAGE MONTH. “Un-Settling Horrortellers: Introduction to Indigenous Heritage Month 2023” by Shane Hawk kicks off another Horror Writers Association blog series.

…The HWA has put great effort into recognizing the need for diversifying Horror and the association itself over the last few years. It’s been so wonderful to see. Owl Goingback has earned the Lifetime Achievement Award and won two Stokers, Jewelle Gomez also has earned a Lifetime Achievement Award, Stephen Graham Jones has won four Stokers, and the HWA has highlighted Indigenous writers just outside of the Horror genre like Daniel H. Wilson, Darcie Little Badger, and Tim Tingle.

Indigenous Horror is a small space to spill blood on the ground, smell the organ meat slopping out of the clawed-open abdomen, but it is growing at a nice pace. My main mission with Never Whistle at Night: An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology was to increase that small percentage and rid ourselves of that pesky “less-than” mathematical symbol when it came to describing Indigenous market share of genre works. The anthology has only been out for six weeks, but its status as an international bestseller since its first week (and every week since) has proven that there is an absolute hunger for Indigenous Horror and dark fiction. Over are the days of the non-Native genre writer killing us off after we help the white folks understand the monster’s weaknesses, exploiting our religions, our traumas, our cultures, our “esoteric” folklore. Also, the days wherein Holt McCallany of Mindhunter fame sported brownface to become Navajo in Creepshow 2 are over (“What the hell was that?” all the Natives asked in unison). Like I wrote in the original proposal sent to Penguin Random House: Now it’s our turn. (Or like Barkhad Abdi sternly told Tom Hanks in that one Boat Movie, “We’re da captain now…”

(11) OFF TO THE RACES. Mark Hamill helps plug the “Star Wars scheme for Bubba Wallace at Phoenix”.

Bubba Wallace will run a special Star Wars X-wing fighter scheme on his No. 23 Toyota this weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway.

The scheme is inspired by Columbia Sportswear’s Star Wars collection.

(12) WILEY POST’S EERIE PRESSURE SUIT. The National Air and Space Museum’s podcast AirSpace devotes its latest episode “Jetstream” to an item of history-making pilot wear.

No, this isn’t a spooky Halloween costume. It’s one of the earliest pressure suits.

In the 1930s, aviation icon Wiley Post reached the stratosphere for the first time in his Lockheed Vega Winnie Mae. The aircraft didn’t have a pressurized cabin, so he wore a pressure suit and helmet designed for him by the B.F. Goodrich Company. 

***

We get it—the early days of aviation were full of outlandish characters, and it can be a little exhausting. But trust us on this one—it’ll be worth it. Wiley Post was an oil-worker and armed robber-turned-record breaking pilot who discovered the jet stream while wearing a sweet eye-patch and a suit straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (it was a lewk). That should be enough but wait! There’s more! That steampunk getup, which Wiley designed and built with tire company BF Goodrich, was the very first successful pressure suit. And it did more than unlock the stratosphere, it laid the groundwork for the first spacesuits—and modern spacesuits aren’t much different. This tall tale keeps getting higher, but again—trust us (we’ve got the suit!). Special thanks to Tested’s Adam Savage, whose answer for “history’s most important spacesuit” was both unexpected and absolutely on the mark.

(13) ROBOBOOKS ON THE WAY. According to Publishers Weekly, “Kindle Direct Publishing Will Beta Test Virtual Voice–Narrated Audiobooks”.

In a post today in the Kindle Direct Publishing community forum, the self-publishing giant announced that it has begun a beta test on technology allowing KDP authors to produce audiobook versions of their e-books using virtual voice narration. The ability to create an audiobook using synthetic speech technology is likely to result in a boom in the number of audiobooks produced by KDP authors. According to an Amazon spokesperson, currently only 4% of titles self-published through KDP have an audiobook available.

Under the new initiativeauthors can choose one of their eligible e-books already on the KDP platform, then sample voices, preview the work, and customize the audiobook. After publication, audiobooks will be live within 72 hours, and will distributed wherever Audible titles are sold. Prices can be set between $3.99 and $14.99 and authors will receive a 40% royalty. All audiobooks created by virtual voice, the post says, will be clearly labeled and, as with any audiobook, customers can listen to samples….

(14) A FRIGHTENING COINCIDENCE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at the Media Death Cult YouTube Channel has a short, 10-minute video on “The History Of Science Fiction Horror”. Funny that this should come out Halloween week. Spooky or what?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Disney+ Shares ‘LEGO Marvel Avengers: Code Red’ Poster”Animation World Network has the story and a gallery of images from the production.

…In the special, the Avengers assemble to save New York City from the threat of the Red Skull and his Hydra forces. Amid the battle, the Avengers are unexpectedly joined by Black Widow’s father, Red Guardian, which doesn’t go over well with Natasha. 

In the show, after an argument with his daughter about his well-intentioned helicopter parenting, Red Guardian disappears under mysterious circumstances. As Black Widow and the Avengers investigate, they discover that the villainous Collector is kidnapping every character who has “red” in their name. But despite their best efforts, the Avengers are unable to stop the Collector from kidnapping his next victim, their friend Red She-Hulk….

Here’s the trailer:

[Thanks to Ersatz Culture, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, David Goldfarb, JeffWarner, Rick Kovalcik, Cat Eldridge, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/24/23 They Say It’s Only A Rebel Moon

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

Hugo winner RiverFlow’s con report

Some of the events in this length con report, with lots of photos, have been briefly covered in a prior Scroll, and comments, but this report is absolutely worth reading all the way through, for all the extreme highs and lows.  Via Google Translate, with very slight edits:

But when the opening ceremony progressed to the interactive session between [Cixin] Liu and the fans, I felt that my breathing rate was significantly accelerated and became more and more difficult. My chest felt tight and painful, my airway was extremely stiff, I had waist pain and abdominal numbness, and I felt dizzy and wanted to sleep. I asked the person next to me, Lu Ban, if I could leave early.

Lu Ban communicated with the volunteers, and then helped me walk to the medical aid room. The doctor gave me oxygen, asked about my various conditions and conducted a preliminary examination. Two other volunteers also arrived. The doctor said that to be on the safe side, he suggested staying at the Pidu District People’s Hospital for one night for observation. As a result, I became the first patient hospitalized during this World Science Fiction Convention.

(Note: for some reason, machine translation often renders 河流 as Hehe rather than Heliu; the latter being the Chinese for RiverFlow.  Also note that “Tianjue” is Hugo Fan Writer finalist Arthur Liu, who uses the online name HeavenDuke, an anglicization of 天爵/Tian Jue.)

Although it’s not clear from the page itself, he also posted the full text of his acceptance speech; per his con report, he was not able to read all of it out on stage.

Zhang Ran’s con report

I wasn’t aware of Zhang Ran, the author of this Chinese-language piece, but a search for “Taiko Science Fiction Academy” came up with this English language article which provides a fair bit of background.  Some of the text (as processed through Google Translate) in his report on the Chengdu Worldcon raises eyebrows.

The Chengdu Science Museum, which cost more than 1 billion yuan ($137 million USD) and was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, is a spectacle…

It was held in Asia for the second time since Nippon 2007 Worldcon in Yokohama in 2007. This should be a carnival for Chinese science fiction fans, but I couldn’t find any carnival look on the faces of many people attending the conference.

The volunteers were stiff and frightened, as if they were fulfilling some grand historical mission. The security check is dense and solemn, as if guarding some mysterious core…. The science fiction market, which should be reserved for ordinary fantasy fans, will naturally be run by companies that have little to do with science fiction.

It is commendable that this conference effectively compressed the time of leaders’ speeches to a length that foreign friends can understand. However, hundreds of primary school students walked in uniform steps at the conference venue, which was inevitably confusing….

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support China’s hosting of the World Science Fiction Conference, and I also understand that this conference has given Chengdu, Sichuan, and China a boost in Chinese science fiction.

But if, just if, the investment spent on the facade is shifted a little bit to the fans, so that they can reduce the walking distance, attend two more panels with the guests sitting next to them (rather than on the stage), and participate in one It is possible, just possible, to set up two stalls selling bookmarks and second-hand books during a parade and have lunch near the venue without having to fight for a seat. It would make the guests and hosts enjoy themselves more like a great country.

If I were a member of the organizing committee, I would definitely not invite myself to be a guest next time. It would be shameless for me to be a good person after getting an advantage.

But if I can attend a conference where everyone has smiles on their faces instead of solemn expressions, such as singing songs around a campfire, then I will definitely come at my own expense.

(Note: I put the text through DeepL and Vivaldi’s Lingvanex translation software, and got similar results, so I assume the above is reasonably accurate, whilst suffering a fair number of ungrammatical bits that I didn’t have time to clean up.)

Chinese reaction to one of their Hugo winners

Arthur Liu made some interesting observations in reply to a Hugo Book Club reposting of one of their old tweets  (1)(2)(3).

I’ve not had time to uncover much of the negative discussion referred to – I suspect that it’s happening in WeChat/Weixin groups, which I don’t have access to.  On Weibo, I did find this negative review and another brief comment, but both of those postdate Arthur’s tweets.

I suspect such discussion is also the reason behind SF Light Year reposting an earlier Weibo post of that Hugo Book Club tweet.

Hai Ya can hopefully console himself with being featured on a TV news report.  The ballad playing in the background probably wasn’t part of the original broadcast.

An observation on the different preferences between Chinese authors and readers

In an English-language Mastodon post, author Taiyo Fujii reported a recent chat he had about the Chinese SF industry (slight edits for style and grammar):

At Tianfu airport, I met a young scholar who studies Asian SF history.  I met her once before in Chengdu in 2019.  At that time, I only gave her an autograph, but we had a good discussion around SF.

Her worry about Chinese SF is a conflict between hard and soft SF.  Publishers say that readers love scientific hard SF, but young writers prefer to write more human related works.

I agreed, and gave some examples of workarounds.

And we discussed the theme of Ted Chiang, Gu Shi and Kim Choyop.

An attendee’s video of the con

The first minute or so of this Bilibili video is perhaps a little too Cixin Liu heavy, but then we get a good look at the fan table and dealers area.  That section of the video has been sped-up, but Bilibili does have a button to let you change the playback speed to 0.5x or 0.75x, allowing you a better look at things.

(2) HARRY POTTER AND THE PARALYZED STUNT PERFORMER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] One stuntman — stunt boy, really — subbed for Daniel Radcliffe through almost all of the Potter movies. Until, that is, a tragic accident on the set of the penultimate film left David Holmes paralyzed.

Now a documentary about Holmes is coming out. Radcliffe not only is interviewed during the film, but signed on as an executive producer. Variety has the story: “Daniel Radcliffe’s ‘Harry Potter’ Stunt Double Was Paralyzed After ‘Deathly Hallows’ Set Accident — Now They’ve Teamed Up for a Doc to Tell His Story”.

… The documentary features “candid personal footage shot over the last decade, behind-the-scenes material from Holmes’ stunt work, scenes of his current life and intimate interviews with David, Daniel Radcliffe, friends, family, and former crew,” HBO adds. “The film also reflects universal themes of living with adversity, growing up, forging identities in an uncertain world, and the bonds that bind us together and lift us up.”

“David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived,” directed by “Lad: A Yorkshire Story” filmmaker Dan Hartley, is just the latest collaboration between Radcliffe and Holmes following their work together across the “Harry Potter” movies. During the pandemic in 2020, the two joined forces to launch the “Cunning Stunts” podcast in which they shined a greater light on stunt performers across Hollywood.

“I think there’s a myth around stuntmen that they are just superhuman in some way,” Radcliffe said at the time about the podcast. “When the public see something really painful or horrible, they think it was a visual effect or that there’s some clever, safe way of doing it. Often that’s not the case. There’s no way of faking, for example, falling down stairs. When you get hit by a car, you’re still getting hit by a car, even if it’s going slower than it would. They find the safest way of doing it, but it can still hurt.”…

(3) PEN NAME PRO TIPS. The SFWA Safety Committee today posted “Safety Dispatch: How to Establish and Use a Pen Name” at the SFWA Blog.

Have you ever considered writing under a pen name? Some authors use pseudonyms to separate works under different genres, reboot their careers after a dry spell, or replace the names of multiple authors on the cover. These are all great reasons, but some authors want to use a different name for privacy or safety reasons, and that’s what we’ll cover here.

Maintaining anonymity in the digital age can be challenging. Most publishers expect authors to have some way to communicate with fans. This kind of interaction is even more critical for indie authors, who often rely on newsletters and hand-selling to move their books. It might seem daunting to separate your legal identity from your author-life, and a determined hacker can trace your pen name back to your legal name, but here are some best practices that can help safeguard your privacy….

(4) ALIENS BEFORE TV GOT HOLD OF THEM. BBC Futures introduces us to “The weird aliens of early science fiction”.

…Humanity’s ideas about aliens have been evolving for millennia – but in the era before television, they were considerably stranger….

…Generations before, the aliens of early science fiction were considerably more fantastical – bloodcurdling octopus-beings, intelligent swarms of insect-creatures and monstrous reptiles.

In 1887 – before the invention of sliced bread, ice lollies or even the word “teenager” – the science fiction author Joseph Henri Honoré Boex set pen to paper in his Brussels office and imagined up Les Xipéhuz. 

The book is set on Earth, a thousand years before the ancient Mesopotamian cities of Nineveh and Babylon were founded, and begins with a dream-like encounter in a forest clearing. A nomadic tribe of people are looking for somewhere to rest one night, but instead they stumble upon “Les Xipéhuz”, translated as “The Shapes”.

The bizarre, geometric creatures resembled “bluish, transparent cones” with their point facing upwards. Each was around half the size of a human, with some stripey markings and “a dazzling star near its base like the sun at midday”. The creatures are considered among the first non-humanoid aliens in science fiction, within a cautionary tale that shows how devastating first contact can be with an unfamiliar “other”. After many battles, (spoiler alert), it becomes clear that there’s no room for diplomacy. Even the way the Shapes communicate, by tracing symbols on each other’s bodies using the rays of their stars, is alien. In the end, they are exterminated.

As it happens, the timing of this story is no accident….

(5) STINKER REX. There’s a meme going around poking fun at those who frequently think about the Roman empire. When this new Mary Beard book arrives they won’t be doing it any less! “A Very Bad Emperor Indeed: An Exclusive Guest Post from Mary Beard, Author of Emperor of Rome” at Barnes & Noble.

…Elagabalus was an extreme version — almost a caricature — of a very bad Roman emperor indeed.

But when I came to write my new book Emperor of Rome, I began to think about Elagabalus rather differently. It’s not that I decided he had been terribly maligned and was probably a decent kind of chap after all. But I did see that many of the stories told about him were more pointed than just random tales of capricious misbehaviour on the part of a teenaged emperor — he was about 18 years old when he was, predictably, assassinated in 222 CE.

True or not (and many, I suspect, were not), these flamboyant anecdotes often highlight the fears and suspicions that the Roman population had of their rulers…. 

(6) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. Victoria Strauss explains “Why Writer Beware Doesn’t Recommend or Endorse Agents or Publishers” at Writer Beware.

“You warn about so many bad literary agents and publishers, why don’t you ever tell us about the good ones?”

It’s a question Writer Beware has been getting for almost as long as we’ve been around, from writers bewildered about where to go for reliable information, frustrated by the abundance of author-focused schemes and scams, or just exhausted by the work of finding a good home for their manuscripts.

I have a standard answer that I provide when people email me with this question or ask me on social media. But with writing scams more prevalent than ever, and writers more beleaguered by fraudulent solicitations than at any time in Writer Beware’s history, I thought it would be helpful to offer a more detailed explanation of why we call out the bad guys but don’t focus on the good guys.

1. Writer Beware has a relatively narrow mission, and it’s all about fraud.

Our purpose is to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other bad practice in and around the publishing industry, with the aim of providing writers with the information they need to protect themselves from exploitation. (More detail is here.)

In other words, we’re not an everything-about-publishing organization; we are laser-focused on just one aspect of the publishing world. We feel it’s better to do one thing intensively and well than to try and be all things to all people.

More practically, we are a small, all-volunteer group–we simply don’t have the staff to handle the time-consuming, careful research that would be needed to maintain and update a database of “good” agents and publishers and bring that information to the public. Instead, by identifying the characteristics of common schemes and scams and shining a light on their inner workings–by educating writers on what to avoid, in other words–we try to give them tools they can use to safely research agents, publishers, self-publishing platforms, etc. on their own.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 24, 1915 Bob Kane. Writer and Artist who co-created, along with Bill Finger, the DC character Batman. Multiple sources report that “Kane said his influences for the character included actor Douglas Fairbanks’ movie portrayal of the swashbuckler Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings; and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers, based on Mary Roberts Rinehart’s mystery novel The Circular Staircase.” He was inducted into Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The character he created has been featured in countless comic books, stories, movies, TV series, animated features, videogames, and action figures in the last eight decades. The 1989 movie based on his creation, featuring Michael Keaton in the title role, was a finalist for both Hugo and British Science Fiction Association Awards. (Died 1998.) (J) 
  • Born October 24, 1948 Margaret “Peggy” Ranson. Artist, Illustrator, and fan, who became involved with fandom when she co-edited the program book for the 1988 Worldcon in New Orleans. She went on to provide art for many fanzines and conventions, and was a finalist for the Best Fan Artist Hugo every one of the eight years from 1991 to 1998, winning once. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a DeepSouthCon. Sadly, she died of cancer in 2016; Mike Glyer’s lovely tribute to her can be read here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 24, 1952 Jane Fancher, 71. In the early 80s, she was an art assistant on Elfquest, providing inking assistance on the black-and-white comics and coloring of the original graphic novel reprints. She adapted portions of C.J. Cherryh’s first Morgaine novel into a black-and-white comic book, which prompted her to begin writing novels herself. Her first novel, Groundties, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and she has been Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at several conventions.
  • Born October 24, 1952 David Weber, 71. Best known for the Honor Harrington series, known as the Honorverse. He has three other series (DahakWar God and Safehold), none of which I’m familiar with. The Dragon Awards have treated him well giving him three Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels for Hell’s Foundations QuiverA Call to Vengeance and Uncompromising Honor. His only other Award is a Hal Clement Young Adult Award for A Beautiful Friendship.
  • Born October 24, 1954 Wendy Neuss, 69. Emmy-nominated Producer. As an associate producer for Star Trek: The Next Generation, her responsibilities included post-production sound, including music and effects spots, scoring sessions and sound mixes, insertion of location footage, and re-recording of dialogue (which is usually done when lines are muffed or the audio recording was subpar). She was also the producer of Star Trek: Voyager. With her husband at the time, Patrick Stewart, she was executive producer of three movies in which he starred, including a version of A Christmas Carol which JJ says is absolutely fantastic, and a rather excellent if stylistically different The Lion in Winter too. 
  • Born October 24, 1955 Jack Skillingstead, 68. Husband of Nancy Kress, he’s had three excellent novels (HarbingerLife on the Preservation and The Chaos Function) in just a decade. I’ve not read the third one yet but I’ve no reason not to assume that it’s not as good as his first two works. He’s due for another story collections as his only one, Are You There and Other Stories, is a decade old. All of his works are available at the usual suspects for quite reasonable rates. 
  • Born October 24, 1956 Dr. Jordin Kare. Physicist, Filker, and Fan who was known for his scientific research on laser propulsion. A graduate of MIT and Berkeley, he said that he chose MIT because of the hero in Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. He was a regular attendee and science and filk program participant at conventions from 1975 until his untimely death. He met his wife, Mary Kay Kare, at the 1981 Worldcon. He should be remembered and honored as being an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a crucial filksong collection, and later as a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the very first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings. Shortly after the shuttle Columbia tragedy, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, on live TV, attempted to read the lyrics to Jordin’s Pegasus Award-winning song “Fire in the Sky”, which celebrates manned space exploration. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was named to the Filk Hall of Fame. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him can be read here. (Died 2017.) (JJ)
  • Born October 24, 1972 Sofia Samatar, 52. Teacher, Writer, and Poet who speaks several languages and started out as a language instructor, a job which took her to Egypt for nine years. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of two wonderful novels to date, both of which I highly recommend: Stranger in Olondria (which won World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards and was nominated for a Nebula) and The Winged Histories. Her short story “Selkie Stories are for Losers” was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, and BFA Awards. She has written enough short fiction in just six years that Small Beer Press put out Tender, a collection which is an amazing twenty-six stories strong. And she has a most splendid website. (Standback)

(8) STRONG OATHS. After reading this installment of Hagar The Horrible Daniel Dern asks, “Is this Mandarin grawlix?”

Grawlix is the term for symbols denoting swearing in comic strips.

(9) SUPERCREDENTIALS. In January,“’Marvel Meow’ Makes Its Print Comic Debut!”.

The cats of the Marvel mythos will claw their way to comic shops this January! Marvel Meow #1 collects Nao Fuji’s hit Marvel Unlimited Infinity Comic and features brand-new covers and an exclusive new Marvel Meow story. The series spotlights adorable interactions between the cats of the Marvel Universe and your favorite heroes and villains. These delightful adventures are perfect for all ages and are sure to delight Marvel fans, cat lovers, and everyone in between! 

Marvel’s most fearsome – and furriest – heroes are here to save the day and beg for treats in the process! Follow Chewie, Liho, Alpine and the rest of the Avengers’ feline friends as they cause a few cat-tastrophes…and maybe vanquish some villains in the process! Whether it’s crashing Captain Marvel’s apartment or defeating Doc Ock, you can always count on these cats for some cute chaos!

(10) LOTR LAGNIAPPE. GameRant calls these “The Best Lord of the Rings Books That Aren’t The Tolkien Series”.

Whether you’re a crafty, good in the kitchen, or just a major nerd for Middle-earth history, there’s a LOTR-adjacent book out there that you’re sure to fall in love with. These books are ranked as the best you can get for their attention to canon and lore and the value they offer for those LOTR lovers who are looking to either expand their knowledge or celebrate Tolkien’s magical world….

For example:

The Unofficial Lord of the Rings Cookbook

If you’re handier in the kitchen, this LOTR cookbook that includes over 60 recipes inspired by Tolkien’s stories will be perfect for you! The recipes come with stunning full-color photographs so you can have a good idea of what you’re making, with Middle-earth recipes ranging from Lembas Bread to Sam’s Coney Stew.

(11) SFF SPECIAL EFFECTS HUB CELEBRATED. The Gunnersbury Park and Museum in the UK is hosting the “Set to Stun: Designing & Filming Sci-Fi in West London” exhibit through June 2, 2024.

Beyond the stars and behind the scenes… for nearly a century west London has been home to a hive of workshops and design studios that fed into some of the country’s most iconic Sci-Fi films and TV shows.

Our major new exhibition ‘Set to Stun’ will celebrate sci-fi film and television from the 1960s through to today, turning the camera onto the west London artisans, artists and crafts people who brought it all to life.

From laser beams to paranoid androids, exploring faraway planets to alien invasions – visitors will get to enjoy an engaging and interactive showcase of the sets, costumes, prosthetics, props, and artistic visualisations that went into British Sci-Fi classics, including Doctor Who, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf. We’ll also bring the story up to date with a motion capture interactive.

The exhibition will encompass informative and engaging content for enthusiasts and fun and fascination for families, with workshops for both adults and kids.

(12) WEIRD FICTION EXPLAINED. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has a stab at explaining weird fiction in under 13 minutes.  Unlucky for some, weird or what?

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/23 Nobody Knows The Pixels I’ve Screened

(1) CHENGDU WORLDCON PROMO VIDEO UNVEILED. “Chasing Dreams for the Future_Worldcon” on YouTube.

A two-and-a-half minute video was released today on various platforms, including the official con site.  It features animated characters, against imagery based on a variety of SF works, and also references prior Worldcons.

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

No reference to Lukyanenko in latest PR material

This Weibo post from the con’s official account has a couple of interesting details.   Google Translate rendition of the post text (minor manual edits to fix mangled names):

The World Science Fiction Conference is held for the first time in China. This science fiction event brings together the best science fiction writers and industry insiders from the East and the West in Chengdu, where the past and the future are intertwined.

Liu Cixin, Robert Sawyer, Richard Taylor, Lezli Robyn, Michael Swanwick, David Hull, Satoshi Hase, Neil Clarke, Wu Jing, Guo Fan, Wang Jinkang, Han Song, He Xi… these shining names in the science fiction world, these stars who evoke the exciting dreams of countless science fiction fans, will all be unveiled at the 2023 Chengdu World Science Fiction Conference. 

I think this might be the first official mention of Michael Swanwick’s attendance?  Also, Japanese novelist Satoshi Hase is a name that I don’t think I’ve previously seen mentioned as a guest.

The linked weixin.qq.com page has an article by a reporter from the Chengdu Business Times org, which is involved in the running of the con.  The piece is titled (via Google Translate) “Liu Cixin and Robert Sawyer: Representative figures of hard science fiction from the East and the West will appear together in Chengdu!” Liu and Sawyer are interviewed, and it seems this will be the first in a series of interviews with con guests:

Starting today, we are launching a series of reports called “When Science Fiction Stars Shine” to introduce the science fiction writers, academicians, experts, and industry figures who will appear at this conference, and look forward to and welcome the event with everyone.

There’s also a slightly puzzling statement which says “Robert Sawyer and Liu Cixin will appear together at The 81st World Science Fiction Convention Industrial Development Promotion Conference (WSDF)”, with “WSDF” being an acronym appearing in the Chinese text.  Whilst I’ve seen a bit of con-related material that has references to “industry” and “promotion”, this is the first I’ve heard of something called the “WSDF”.  This “WSDF” term also appears in Weibo posts today from the HELLOChengdu and GoChengdu accounts, which reference the same news item.

Sawyer/Liu/Lukyanenko anthology published

It is reported that the “Stellar Concerto” Chinese-language anthology featuring stories from the three (ahem) Worldcon GoHs, which was previously covered in the September 28th Scroll, has now been published.  The ToC shows that of the 18 stories, 7 are by Sawyer, 6 from Lukyanenko and 5 from Liu.

Special edition coffee packaging

I guess I jinxed things in yesterday’s updates when I said I hadn’t seen any evidence of sponsor branding, because guess what showed up today?  Coffee cups and bags adorned with a stylized representation of the con venue. In fairness, they seem to be licensing from the science museum rather than the Worldcon — the text in the photos only mentions the former.  

A couple more  Xiaohongshu posts

A short video of street artists decorate an electricity substation.

This post has a handful of images, most of which are fairly familiar views of the interior and exterior of the venue, but there are a couple of things I haven’t seen before: a topiary of something that I can’t quite fathom, and what I assume is interior signage for the fan area.

(3) ON THE DRAWING BOARD. Jeremy Zentner offers advice about “Designing Your Fictional Spaceship” at the SFWA Blog.

Spaceships have been iconic in science fiction ever since Jules Verne wrote From the Earth to the Moon. There are many features for writers to consider when designing their craft, including microgravity, faster-than-light (FTL) capabilities, journey time, habitation and resources, whether there’s a menacing AI on board, and so much more. In this article, we’ll examine how many published authors designed their sci-fi spaceships, so strap in and get ready for launch!

Interstellar travel: To FTL or not to FTL. In general, books that describe interstellar travel write about ships with FTL capability. In The Indranan War series, K.B. Wagers uses the Alcubierre drive, a concept developed by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre to enable interstellar travel. Other books use wormhole technology. In John Scalzi’s The Interdependency series, ships penetrate a network of wormholes called the Flow to travel to other star systems. Since the Flow is a natural phenomenon, it’s also subject to cosmic events that can change the nature of its location, culminating in a great plot point. In Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, the Galactic Commons uses artificial gates that tunnel through the fabric of subspace, built by scrappy crews like that of the Wayfarer….

(4) CROWDFUNDING FOR APEX ANTHOLOGY. The Kickstarter campaign for The Map of Lost Places, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas and Lesley Conner, is now live. Click here – “The Map of Lost Places: A Horror Anthology by Apex Publications” to join in bringing this anthology to life. Check out the submission guidelines as well if you’re interested in sending a story to the open call in December.

Here are the perks:

Beyond the anthology itself, we’ve got all sorts of fantastic rewards, add-ons, and stretch goals included in this Kickstarter. Ai Jiang has contributed a beautiful handmade planner as an add-on, and there are five slots available for 15-minute Zoom calls with Brian Keene. A little ways down the line, we’ll have a few surprises from co-editor Lesley Conner, and maybe one or two other things up our sleeves….

Lesley and Apex Magazine managing editor Rebecca Treasure are also offering critiques on up to 7,500 words. Additionally, we have ten explorer care packages available, which will include items to keep you safe on your travels: a train ticket, holy water, a book of protective phrases…visit the Kickstarter page to find out more! Stretch goals include excitements like more open call slots, a new dark microfiction anthology from Marissa van Uden, art for the interior of the Map of Lost Places anthology, and an introduction written by Linda D. Addison.

(5) WARNING ABOUT KOSA. Charlie Jane Anders is quoted in the Sacramento Bee’s paywalled article “CA senators quiet on bill allowing removal of LGBTQ content”.

“Simply put, KOSA as currently written would allow (Texas Attorney General) Ken Paxton and other red-state attorney generals to bring frivolous lawsuits against any content they believe is harmful to kids — which includes LGBTQIA+ content in their view. The states are already passing state laws to censor the internet, but a federal law would give them much more leeway,” said writer and commentator Charlie Jane Anders in an email interview with The Bee.

(6) NOT QUITE THE ELEVENTH HOUR. The latest (in 1968) episode of Star Trek did not wow Gideon Marcus: “[October 10, 1968] Going Native (Star Trek: ‘The Paradise Syndrome’” at Galactic Journey.

With two episodes under its belt, the third season of Star Trek has both disappointed and elated.  The general reaction to “Spock’s Brain” amongst the fan population (beyond the Journey) was universally negative.  Buck Coulson of Yandro has even called for this season’s producer Fred Freiberger to be ridden out on a rail.  On the other hand, “The Enterprise Incident” wowed everyone.  And so, we waited eagerly for Trek at 9:59 PM on a Friday night, a night when we could have been out drinking and carousing (who are we kidding—we’re probably the only group for whom the Friday night “death slot” is actually perfect timing).

What we got was…well, closer to “Spock’s Brain” in terms of quality….

(7) WHEN FRANCHISES LOSE THEIR WAY. Not behind a paywall! “Jedi Knights and Vulcans Both Suck Now. What Happened?” asks Charlie Jane Anders at Happy Dancing.

Something strange happened to both Star Wars and Star Trek around twenty-five years ago: both franchises suddenly became disillusioned with their spiritual, selfless bands of heroes.

The Jedi knights and the Vulcans had been an essential part of these iconic universes from the very beginning, and twentieth century viewers would have come away with a mostly positive impression of them. That changed drastically in the late 1990s, when both Trek and Wars started portraying their respective bands of detached, disciplined seekers of truth as uptight jerks. It was a jarring transformation, and I’m still wondering what exactly happened….

(8) THERE IS ANOTHER. And what about Battlestar Galactica? To find out what Charlie Jane Anders thinks you’ll need to listen to episode 138 of Our Opinions Are Correct “Battlestar Galactica, 20 Years Later”.

One of the greatest science fiction shows on TV debuted twenty years ago: the rebooted version of Battlestar Galactica. This show broke new ground in depicting realistic politics — and a nuanced view of a society of artificial people. How does it hold up? To find out, Charlie Jane went back and watched the entire series — here’s what she found.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Ed Wood, Jr. Best remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space which inexplicably has a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Really how could they? He did a lot of terribly bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver which I submit is possibly genre, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. He attended his last convention, in a wheelchair, assisted by his daughter Sabra, after a debilitating stroke at the age of 70. His health continued to get worse until he died from heart failure. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 82. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvement.
  • Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 76. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa”. She’s credited for the cover art for New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow.
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 57. She’s Miss West in that wretched Wild West West and the Mysterious Women in the exemplary Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy. Nope, not seen that one. Her last genre role was Zillia in Conjuring: The Book of the Dead, a horror film riffing off Alastair Crowley. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pearls Before Swine – “I’ll just say — it hits pretty close to home even with my minimal experience at autographings!” says Rich Horton.
  • Wizard of Id has a Dune reference.

(11) DUBLIN COMIC ARTS FESTIVAL. James Bacon’s report about the other con he went to last weekend: “In Review: Diving deep into DCAF 2023, the Dublin Comics Art Festival” at Downthetubes.net.

The Dublin Comics Art Festival, held this year over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday 7th and 8th of October, has been connecting comics and comic fans for years and I got the opportunity to go to their new venue, Richmond Barracks, which is now repurposed as a community cultural centre and library.

I depart Octocon, the National SF convention taking place at the Gibson Hotel and jump onto a Luas (tram), which terminates outside the hotel door and get off at Golden Bridge and its a very short walk to this excellent venue.

This gathering is in a lovely open and airy hall, filled with excitement and art, it’s a welcoming space and it’s busy. 

… In many respects I found DCAF as rewarding as Thought Bubble when it comes to small press, entry level publications, zines and art. It’s a good show, with a wide and desirable selection of vendors. I also liked how relaxed everyone was. It was friendly but there is no hard sell. An occasional “feel free to browse” or “happy to answer questions” and I have to bite my tongue and not ask “why haven’t Marvel hired you for covers” because actually, the creative art of writing and drawing ones own unique story, for me as a reader, is hugely rewarding. I’ll take this, thanks….

(12) HE MADE A LITTLE MISTAKE. The New York Times reports “Unity Chief Resigns After Pricing Backlash” “John Riccitiello angered video game developers who use Unity’s software when he announced a new fee structure that could have significantly increased their costs.”

John Riccitiello, the chief executive of Unity Technologies, abruptly stepped down on Monday, less than a month after a change to the company’s pricing structure infuriated thousands of software developers who rely on the video game company’s tools.

Unity, which makes the underlying software that powers video games, has long imposed an annual licensing fee on developers. But in September, the company said it would begin charging developers additional money each time someone downloaded one of their video games. That meant developers would pay more as their games increased in popularity. Mr. Riccitiello was one of the main proponents of the change….

…His swift exit underscored the precarious position Mr. Riccitiello found himself in after an attempt to fix a corporate balance sheet awash in red ink. But the abrupt shift in the company’s financial model angered many programmers who rely on Unity for their own businesses….

(13) IN THE ZONE. In “20 Best Quotes From The Twilight Zone (& What They Mean)”, ScreenRant sifts through the series’ twists and morals. Among them:

 Season 4, Episode 1, In His Image

“In His Image” follows an android man named Alan, created by Walter Ryder to be a perfect version of himself. However, as the ending reveals, Alan has unexplained flaws that cause him to want to kill others. Walter takes over his life at the end of the episode, realizing he is actually a perfect version of Alan. The episode’s quote, “There may be easier ways to self-improvement, but sometimes it happens that the shortest distance between two points is a crooked line.”

The common phrase says the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but The Twilight Zone turns this on its head. The quote is saying the bizarre scenario in which Walter created a robot version of himself was the quickest way for him to realize that he is actually the best version of himself. There may have been an easier way, but this is the fastest way he came up with. This could be applied to various areas in life, as sometimes unusual circumstances can be the most effective way to realize or accomplish something.

(14) THE EVOLUTION OF WOMEN. “Eve by Cat Bohannon review – long overdue evolutionary account of women and their bodies” in the Guardian.

…This long overdue evolutionary account is the pre-history to Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women (2019), showing how wrong it is to think of women as just men with breasts and wombs bolted on. Over hundreds of thousands of years, women have developed more sensitive noses (particularly around ovulation and pregnancy), finer hearing at high frequencies, extended colour vision, and longer life expectancy than men by an impressive half decade. Forget plasma exchange and supplementation – entrepreneurs trying to extend human life should be studying women, who comprise around 80% of today’s centenarians.

American academic and author Cat Bohannon asks how this came to be, tracing defining female features back to our “presumed true ancestors”, our Eves as she calls them. The story starts more than 200m years ago in the Jurassic period with a rodent, Morganucodon, nicknamed Morgie, which still laid eggs but also had glands on its tummy that began secreting milk. It was perhaps the first breastfeeder….

… There is no fossil record of brains or wombs. Where any organ once was becomes a cavity of uncertainty. Bohannon finds the gaps “incredibly fun”, excavating possibilities from silence. She revises the opening of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, replacing the testosterone-filled scene of early man as the “primordial inventor” of weapons, with women who were sharpening the tools while also making the babies…

(15) IS STEPHEN KING ‘KING’? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult channel on YouTube is teasing us as to whether Stephen King the horror writer is a king of SF????

The Science Fiction Of Stephen King Filmed in a haunted forest in the pouring rain.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/2/23 Mammas Don’t Let Your Pixels Grow Up To Be Scrollboys

(1) THIS WEEK. My mother has been hospitalized since last Friday. While her main medical problem is abating, it’s still not clear to me what will happen next. She’ll be 97 next week, which makes the outcome hard to predict. I’ve been with her four or five hours a day, then coming home and working on the daily roundup. If something develops and I want to spend more time there, I will put up a placeholder Scroll for the day.

(2) CAINE PRIZE WINNER. “A Soul of Small Places” by Mame Bougouma Diene and Woppa Diallo is the 2023 winner of The Caine Prize for African Writing. The story appeared in Africa Risen edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Z. Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki.

(3) THE DARK: CASE STUDY. The Dark’s Sean Wallace lays bare the facts about what the end of Amazon Newsstand did to his magazine. Thread starts here. Subscriptions absolutely welcome here.

(4) COIN OF THE REALM. Todd Allen has launched a Kickstarter for the audiobook of The Dragon Who Dabbled in Crypto.

Something wanted the podcaster dead.

An attempt to blow the whistle on a cryptocurrency scam drew a response: a botched assassination by supernatural means. Management brought in a consultant to “fix” the problem, but a trail of scorch marks from incinerated bodies leads into a web of demonic financial crimes, purloined precious metals and eSports game fixing. What is the secret of the “Schatzhorde des Drachen” coin and will it lead Mister Lewis into the lair of… The Dragon Who Dabbled in Crypto?

[No actual dragons were harmed in the writing of this book. Egos, on the other hand…]

 And Todd hopes you want to ask:

How did I come up with “The Dragon Who Dabbled in Digital?”

I typically lampoon the tech world or business world as a subtext for the Hardboiled Magic books. When I was looking around for something worth poking at the things that were bubbling to the surface were questionable behavior across the crypto world and the Gamestop stock shorting incident was still a meme until itself, if I could get a little punny.  When you bring memes into stock trading, the lines between that and crypto start to blur when you look at meme-based cryptocurrency like Dogecoin, so I felt confident putting those two things side by side in the plot.

And since Dumb Money came out as I was finalizing the release schedule, I’m apparently not the only person who was thinking in this general ballpark

The working title for quite awhile was “Dragoncoin,” and then I got to the point where I had finalize a name for the cryptocurrency the scam in the title would be based around. Would you believe most of the good crypto names are already taken. I retreated to German and named it “Schatzhorde des Drachen” or Dragon’s Treasure Hoard.

As I was thinking about names for the book, Dragoncoin is just way too close to some actual coins, I was bouncing around “Dragon” and “cryptocurrency” and “The Dragon Who Dabbled in Crypto” popped out when I was thinking about some of the more verbose titles I’ve seen lately. 

Todd Allen and narrator Erik Braa “The King of Voice” put together a promotional video.

(5) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [By Ersatz Culture.]

  • Various con merchandise on sale

Mostly badges, but there’s also a pillow, fridge magnets, ornaments and brooches.  I’ve struggled to navigate the Taobao shop page, because it keeps wanting me to log in whenever I click on anything.

Weibo announcement: https://weibo.com/7634468344/Nm11GjBkX

Taobao store page: https://shop58985787.taobao.com/

  • Summary of the ticket/event schedule situation

Here’s a long Weibo post from SF Light Year aka commenter Adaoli, summarizing the current state of play.  A precis of the numbered points is (via Google Translate, and my summarizing skills, so there’s plenty of scope for error here):

  1. The 5-day in-person tickets that were priced at 320 yuan (approx $44 USD) were discontinued (over a week ago).
  2. Single day passes – reportedly costing 128 yuan (approx $18 USD) – have been promised, but are not yet available.  Holders of these tickets will not be able to attend the opening, closing or Hugo ceremonies.
  3. Supporters of the Chengdu bid at DisCon III will also have to apply via the lottery to attend any of those ceremonies
  4. People who already bought the 5-day in-person tickets also have to apply via the lottery to attend those ceremonies.  It won’t be possible to attend all the ceremonies.
  5. Foreigners don’t have to apply via the lottery, if they’ve previously applied to the “1/100 Light Second Plan”.  That said, if the “3000km travel distance” mentioned is strictly enforced, I think that might exclude people travelling from places like Korea, Thailand or the west of Japan?
  6. Hugo Finalists also don’t have to apply for the lottery, although I think they need to have had contact with someone from the organizing staff.
  7. Ditto Guests of Honour.
  8. Apparently announcements of the schedule are/were expected during China’s National Day Holiday, but that ended a few hours ago as I type this, and I don’t think anything has been announced.  However, the “Golden Week” holiday period runs until Saturday 7th, so it’s possible that’s the timeframe those announcements are expected in?
  • Three-Body Problem immersive experience

Here are a couple of posts to the Xiaohongshu social network, and a news report, showing a Three-Body Problem branded attraction that has just – I think – opened in Chengdu.  The images in the first linked post are actually short videos, although I could only get them to play in the app; I tried the website in a couple of different browsers, and they only appeared as static images.

  • More images of the con venue

I suspect these have long lost their novelty, but if not, here are some new aerial shots — https://weibo.com/1649289953/NlqFZcgzH?refer_flag=1001030103_

(6) LOST AND FOUND CAUSES. [Item by Bill.] An interesting thread about recent Russian propaganda novels in service of generating support for Putin and the invasion of the Ukraine, including a uniquely Russian strain of Alternate History. Thread starts here.

Here are a few excerpts from the 52-tweet thread.

(7) SCARIER THAN PUMPKIN SPICE. Variety gives us the “Best Halloween Movies Ever, Ranked”. Here’s one I wasn’t expecting —

13. Casper (1995)

This sweet film centers its biggest reveal around a tween Halloween party. A father and daughter (played by Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci) move into a haunted mansion to rid the pad of its poltergeist tenants (Casper and his three uncles, the Ghostly Trio). After lots of spirited capers and calamities, the true story behind Casper the friendly ghost is revealed. But the record scratch moment is truly when Casper is transformed into a human boy in the form of 90’s Tiger Beat sensation, Devon Sawa. The new boy surprises Ricci at the party and whisks her into the air for a floating dance that ends with a kiss as the human boy then returns to his original ghostly shape. It’s charming, it’s innocent and his presence scares all the other kids away. — M.W.

If you think you can guess what’s #1 on the list, you are probably right.

(8) KICKIN’ IT GUNDAM STYLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] For only $3 million (give or take, depending on the ¥/$ exchange rate) you could be running the controls inside your own Mobile Suit Gundam-inspired robot. Start-up Tsubame Industries plans to build 5 of the 3.5 ton, nearly 15-foot tall, bots. “Japan startup develops ‘Gundam’-like robot with $3 mln price tag” at Reuters.

… Called ARCHAX after the avian dinosaur archaeopteryx, the robot has cockpit monitors that receive images from cameras hooked up to the exterior so that the pilot can manoeuvre the arms and hands with joysticks from inside its torso….

“I wanted to create something that says, ‘This is Japan’.”

Yoshida plans to build and sell five of the machines for the well-heeled robot fan, but hopes the robot could one day be used for disaster relief or in the space industry….

(9) SAUNDERS TRIBUTE. The Washington Post’s Michael de Adder wrote a piece about colleague Charles R. Saunders, who died in 2020. Saunders was an African-American author and journalist, a pioneer of the “sword and soul” literary genre with his Imaro novels. 

(10) ED YOUNG (1931-2023). Ed Tse-chun Young, children’s book illustrator and author died September 29 at the age of 91. Young illustrated more than 100 children’s books, including Jane Yolen’s The Emperor and the Kite, which received a Caldecott Honor in 1968. The annual award from the American Library Association recognizes the previous year’s “most distinguished American picture book for children”. He also wrote and illustrated Lon Po Po, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1991, and Seven Blind Mice, which received a 1993 Caldecott Honor.

For his lifetime contribution as a children’s illustrator, he was U.S. nominee in both 1992 and 2000 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition available to creators of children’s books. In 2016, Young was honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Eric Carle Museum and the Society of Illustrators.

(11) DOUG BERRY OBIT. Bay Area fan Doug Berry died on September 30. Kevin Standlee said, “While he wasn’t a high flyer known much outside of certain SF Bay Area fan circles, he was a nice person who had a hard life, and he and his wife Kirsten (who is fighting cancer herself) were friends of Lisa and mine. They worked on the newsletter staff at Worldcon 76 in San Jose, and were active members of the local fandom.”

Dave Gallagher told Facebook readers, “Doug had medical issues that did not keep him from a job that he loved as a school crossing guard with the Santa Clara Police Department. He was also a rabid San Francisco Giants fan. His health took a turn for the worse a couple of weeks ago and was hospitalized.”

He also was a former game writer and served in the Army. He did this self-introduction video on his YouTube channel.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 2, 1909 Alex Raymond. Cartoonist, generally only known for creating Flash Gordon for King Features in 1934. The strip has been adapted into many media, from a series of movie serials in the Thirties and Forties to a Seventies TV series and the Eighties feature film not to be confused with the American-Canadian tv series of the same vintage. Radio serials, myriad films, comic books, novels — any medium that exists has seen Flash Gordon fiction. And more action figures than I care to think about. Here’s a review of one of the better ones. There are at least fifteen authorized strips and a number of bootleg strips as well. Needless to say there are bootleg films and serials too. (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 2, 1911 Jack Finney. Author of many novels but only a limited number of them genre, to wit The Body Snatchers, Time and Again and From Time to Time. He would publish About Time, a short story collection which has the time stories, “The Third Level” and “I Love Galesburg in the Springtime”. The film version of The Body Snatchers was nominated for a Hugo at Seacon ‘79. He has a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 2, 1919 Edward Wellen. Mostly remembered for the most excellent mysteries he wrote in great number that showed up in the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and other outlets. He’s here because he wrote an ongoing column in Galaxy called Spoofs with first one in July entitled “Origins of Galactic Slang”. It was followed by similar Galactic Origins well call them for lack of a better term spoofs over the following decade. He wrote a fair amount of short fiction, all if it quite good, most, if not all, is collected in two digital Golden Age Metapacks. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 2, 1921 Edmund Crispin. He’s well remembered and definitely still read for his most excellent Gervase Fen mystery series. It turns out that he was the editor of the Best SF anthology series that ran off and on between 1955 and 1972. Writers such as Kuttner, Moore, Blish, Bradbury and Von Vogt had stories there. These anthologies alas are not available digitally or in hard copy except in gently or not so gently remaindered copies.  Buyer beware. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 2, 1944 Vernor Vinge, 79. Winner of five Hugo Awards, none for what I consider his best series which is the Realtime/Bobble series. I’m also very fond of his short fiction, much of which is collected in The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge, though the eighteen years’ worth of his work since remain uncollected.
  • Born October 2, 1954 Diane Carey, 69. A major contributor to the Trek multiverse of novel. I mean really, really major contributor. I learned there are lines of Trek novels that I never knew existed. She uses three pen names (Lydia Gregory, Diane Carey, and D. L. Carey) which helps when you’re pumping out a lot of product. She has novels in the Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise franchises. So nothing surprising there you say. Then under Diane Carey, she has the New Earth series and there’s at least three other series which extrapolate off the existing series. She also did a novel about Kirk as a cadet at Starfleet Academy. 
  • Born October 2, 1972 Graham Sleight, 51. Editor of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction between 2007 and 2011, and was a Locus reviewer 2005 to 2012. He is the Managing Editor of the 3rd edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and was so when the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Related Work was given to it. He oft times writes about Doctor Who. He co-edited (along with Simon Bradshaw and Antony Keen) The Unsilent Library, a book of essays about the Russell T Davies era. His other Doctor Who work, The Doctor’s Monsters: Meanings of the Monstrous in Doctor Who, is now available in a trade paperback edition. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) ALT RIGHT FOOD FIGHT. Camestros Felapton’s “Yet more scuttlebutt” is all about butts being shown, belonging to brawling authors Larry Correia, Jon Del Arroz, and Vox Day. If you can never get enough of that, uh, why?

It’s over ten years since the first Sad Puppy campaign, its over six years since this blog began covering Jon Del Arroz and yet the storm keeps rumbling. Adding to the Correia v Arroz fight is, of course, Vox Day. Unlike JDA, Day does exercise some diplomatic phrasing before joining the fray… However, Day feels he must defend JDA…

(15) SPACE FOR SURPRISES. Explore the eerie depths of the cosmos on Halloween in the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater. The American Museum of Natural History in New York is offering an in-person event “Spooky Space: Planetarium Tour of the Universe” on October 31 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Ticket info at the link.

Prepare to be spellbound by hauntingly spectacular views of monstrous stars, devilish supernova explosions, and frightful collisions that await you in the eerie depths of the cosmos!  

Join Jackie Faherty, senior scientist in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, for a spooky tour of our universe.  As you settle into the darkness of the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, the universe’s most spine-tingling phenomena will be unveiled before your eyes, leaving you in awe of the cosmic mysteries and eerie enigmas. 

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERE. Chris Barkley asks, “Could this be Hugo-worthy in the Best Related category? Stay tuned.” “U2’s Sphere Opening Night Lives Up to the Hyperbole: Concert Review” in Variety.

This is pretty much the antithesis of any accepted, traditional rock ‘n’ roll orthodoxy. It is also the natural human reaction to just about any or all of “U2:UV Live at Sphere Las Vegas,” the greatest-show-on-earth that opened Friday night in an enormous dome just off the Strip. The just-over-two-hour show marks the apotheosis of a bigger-is-better ethos that has regularly occurred throughout the band’s career, and which they are not about to give up now that they’re in their 60s for any back-to-basics false modesty. The group that has spent so much of its recording output urging you to think about God, and other only slightly less weighty matters, is in Sin City mostly to make you say: “Oh my God.” And we can vouch that we were hearing that utterance, from people above, below and around us, in a kind of reactive, quadrophonic effect that nearly matched Sphere’s vaunted 22nd-century sound system….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid over at Media Death Cult has recreated that scene from Everything, Everywhere, All At Once

It’s the Moideverse…

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, Todd Allen, James Reynolds, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, and SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 9/17/23 You Don’t Need A Pixelman To Know Which Way The File Scrolls

(1) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! The Daily Beast’s article “Gay Talese on Resisting His Frank Sinatra Assignment, and What Really Matters in a Marriage” goes into the Sinatra-Ellison confrontation at length. (Which, if you’ve never read the piece, is here,)

Harlan Ellison Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty images
Harlan Ellison Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty images

“… Gay Talese, at 91 years old, perhaps the world’s oldest living bestselling author with 17 books to his credit, and a new one just out— Bartleby and Me: Reflections of an Old Scrivener (Mariner Books)—knew exactly what I was talking about….”

This is the last half of the article’s passage about Ellison and Sinatra:

…“Truman Capote thought he had total recall,” Talese chuckled again, “But I don’t have total recall, but I recall pretty well, and then I go over it later with the person I’m interviewing. I called Harlan Ellison the next day, confirmed that I heard what I heard as to the confrontation, and Harlan added a few things.”

As the late Harlan Ellison later verified on a YouTube video, “I told him what happened and Talese says, ‘Yeah, that’s what happened,’ I said, ‘But how do you know I’m telling the truth?’ And he said, ‘Because I was there.’ Whaaaat?

Cut-up shirt carboards is why Gay Talese can write such extraordinary paragraphs, like this one that concludes “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold”:

“It was the morning after. It was the beginning of another nervous day for Sinatra’s press agent, Jim Mahoney. Mahoney had a headache, and he was worried but not over the Sinatra-Ellison incident of the night before. At the time Mahoney had been with his wife at a table in the other room, and possibly he had not even been aware of the little drama. The whole thing had lasted only about three minutes. And three minutes after it was over, Frank Sinatra had probably forgotten about it for the rest of his life—as Ellison will probably remember it for the rest of his life: he had had, as hundreds of others before him, at an unexpected moment between darkness and dawn, a scene with Sinatra.”…

(2) ON THE ROCKS. The OSIRIS-Rex mission will soon deliver its payload. “NASA’s asteroid sample mission calls on Vatican for help” at Mashable. It won’t come as a surprise to most readers here that the Vatican staffs an observatory. Many of you have met one of the astronomers at a Worldcon (but he’s not the subject of this article).

…If it works, a capsule containing bits of Bennu will fall from the heavens to Utah on Sept. 24.

In the meantime, you could say NASA has called upon the Vatican for a Hail Mary.

Brother Robert J. Macke, curator of the Vatican’s meteorite collection, has designed a custom device that will fit inside the glovebox where scientists will handle the sample. Within days of OSIRIS-Rex’s arrival, the Jesuit will leave Castel Gandolfo, where the pope sometimes summers, and head for Johnson Space Center in Houston. There he will don a protective coverall over his Roman collar and help scientists use his pycnometer, an instrument for measuring the density of tiny grains of gravel. Through these measurements, NASA hopes to get to the bottom of Bennu’s mysterious boulders….

(3) SHE HAD A WAY WITH EDITORS. “’A true original’: Katherine Rundell on the genius of Diana Wynne Jones” in the Guardian.

In 1977, the novelist Diana Wynne Jones finished a children’s fantasy novel and posted off the manuscript of the final draft to her publishers. There, an editor asked her to make further changes to the book – which she had no intention of doing. But rather than say so, Jones took her carbon copy of the draft and chopped some of the pages up into sections, pasting them back together – exactly the same words in the same order – to look as though the book had been heavily revised. She sent it back to her publishers; the book was now perfect, they declared. That was the thing: it had been all along. The book was Charmed Life, one of the wittiest, sharpest children’s fantasies ever written. There are some writers whose voices are so vividly their own that you can detect the distinctive ring of it 10 miles off in a headwind: Jones is one of them.

Jones, who died in 2011, was a true original. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Wilkins’ Tooth, her first children’s book: it would be a good year to begin reading her….

(4) IT’S NOT HEINZ 57. It’s Star Trek at 57. The Saturday Cinema podcast plays many examples of Trek theme music in its episode titled “To boldly go where no music has gone before”.

On the latest episode of Saturday Cinema, Lynne Warfel celebrates the much more than five-year mission of Star Trek on its 57th anniversary with a survey of the fine music composed for the original TV series and later incarnations.

(5) HAPPY BLOBBIVERSARY. “65 Years Ago, a Quirky Sci-Fi Classic Created The Perfect Movie Monster” – let Inverse tell you all about it.

…In The Blob, teenagers battle an alien blob that’s consuming a small town. Infamously, Steve is played by Steve McQueen in his first major movie, billed here as Steven McQueen, although if you’re looking to start your McQueen cinematic education, you should probably go straight to 1968’s perfect action flick, Bullitt. The pacing of The Blob isn’t just bad for its time; other monster movies from the 1950s were far more thrilling. Even the blob chasing teenagers through a grocery store near the end feels less exciting than it should be. The Blob is a monster movie that often seems to forget it’s a monster movie, which is a large part of why the film has such a mixed reputation.

However, the idea of The Blob is fantastic. The blob is a perfect sci-fi monster. It doesn’t have a goal, it doesn’t look like a monster-ish take on any kind of animal. It can — and will — eat anything. When the movie begins, Steve and Jane observe a meteorite crashing, which is how the blob gets to our planet. What kind of horrifying sci-fi critter could survive on a freaking meteor?…

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1908 John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5. There’s a lot of his novels available from the usual suspects. And I do many really a lot, so I’m going to ask all of you where to start reading his SF novels as I am curious as to how they are. (Died 1973.)
  • Born September 17, 1915 Art Widner. Fanzine editor. He was a founding member of The Stranger Club which created Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II which were held in 1941 and 1942, they being the very first two Boston cons. Fancyclopedia 3 has a very detailed look at him here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born September 17, 1928 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he superbly voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Lee Gimpel, 84. In Trek’s “The Cage”, she played a Talosian. That led her to being cast as the M-113 creature in “The Man Trap”, another first season episode. She actually had a much larger work history as student double, though uncredited, showing up in sixty eight episodes of Lost in Space and fifty seven of The Bionic Woman plus myriad such genre work elsewhere including They Come from Outer Space where she was the stunt coordinator
  • Born September 17, 1950 Roger Stern, 73. Comics writer who’s most noted work who was on AvengersCaptain AmericaDoctor Strange, and Starman. I’m very, very impressed of his work on the first twenty-eight issues of Starman, which were published from 1988 to 1990. 
  • Born September 17, 1951 Cassandra Peterson, 72. Definitely best remembered as Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, a character she played on TV and in movies before becoming the host of Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation in LA in 1981. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold. 
  • Born September 17, 1979 Neill Blomkamp, 44. South African born Canadian filmmaker of District 9 which was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Aussiecon 4. EofSF says also, “Of particular note were Tetra Vaal (2004), a RoboCop-inspired advertisement for a fictional range of third-world law-enforcement drones; Alive in Joburg (2005), about an influx of Alien immigrants from a Spaceship stalled over Johannesburg; and Tempbot (2006), about a Robot office worker attempting to parse cubicle culture.” Other genre films include Elysium and Chappie.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) TIMES OUT OF JOINT. Australia’s ABC News remembers: “The New York Times mocked this scientist in 1920. His discoveries could now take us to Mars”.

…The New York Times got hold of his paper and decided he was an idiot because rockets don’t work in space. They dubbed him the “moon man”.

“That professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution [from which Goddard held a grant to research rocket flight], does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react — to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”

Goddard responded to a reporter’s question.

“Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realised, it becomes commonplace.”

Goddard became very famous, but not in a particularly good way. He was sent insulting letters for years, and started to operate in secrecy….

… Forty-nine years after the New York Times’s editorial, they issued an apology to Goddard — rockets clearly worked in space.

How did they know this? Because one was on its way to the Moon, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board.

Aldrin’s father, Edwin Aldrin Sr, studied rocketry under Goddard as an undergraduate.…

(9) SAIL ON. Universe Today theorizes how “Tiny Swarming Spacecraft Could Establish Communications with Proxima Centauri”.

…For many years, the i4is has been working through Project Lyra to find optimal ways to explore nearby star systems using fleets (1000 or more) of gram-scale spacecraft. Like Starshot, these efforts began with Project Dragonfly (a feasibility study hosted by i4is in 2015) for small, lightweight, distributed spacecraft propelled primarily by laser sails. Per the study’s specifications, these spacecraft would need to be realizable using technology and space infrastructure available in the coming decades and capable of reaching nearby stars within a century.

Among astrophysicists, gram-scale craft and laser sails are considered the only viable means for mounting interstellar exploration in the foreseeable future. But whereas some mission architectures envision sending a single mission with a large lightsail, Project Lyra envisions using a power laser array to send swarms of spacecraft that could explore distant star systems and exoplanets collectively…. 

(10) MEDIA DEATH CULT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  For those that have been following Moid Moidelhoff’s Media Death Cult on YouTube, he hasn’t moved home yet…  However, given the frequency of his posts is down, things may well be afoot… Also Media Death Cult regulars will also know that over the past few years he and his regulars have been working through Phil Dick’s major SF novels. His latest post looks at a few of these… The Zap Gun, Three Early Novels: The Man Who Japed – Dr Futurity – Vulcan’s Hammer. “Philip K. Dick – The Perfect Amount Of Weirdness”.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From GeekTyrant: “Darren Aronofsky Shares First Look at His Immersive ‘Sci-Fi Experience’ Film That Will Screen on the Largest Screen in the World”.

…The movie is titled Postcard From Earth and it’s a “part sci-fi story, part nature documentary” and it was specially commissioned to screen at the MSG Sphere, which opened in April 2023. This project is an “Immersive and innovative exploration of planet Earth through eyes of two human beings.”…

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