Pixel Scroll 2/8/24 It’s The Great Singularity, Charlie Brown

(1) SEE ICONIC ARTWORK IN BAY AREA THIS WEEKEND. Leo and Diane Dillon’s original cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness, recently in the news as one of the items sold from the Carr-Lichtman estate by Mark Funke, will be on display at the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco, February 9–11 reports KQED in “The Painting That Became an Ursula K. Le Guin Book Cover”.

…“When I talk to other LGBTQIA+ science fiction writers and people who are immersed in science fiction, they always point to The Left Hand of Darkness as a book that kind of showed them how expansive, how rich and how multilayered speculative fiction could be in its approach to gender and sexuality,” says Charlie Jane Anders, a San Francisco-based transgender science fiction writer, who wrote the afterword for the 50th anniversary edition of the novel….

How the cover was acquired by Terry Carr for the Ace paperback edition, and the artistry of Leo and Diane Dillon, is discussed at length in the KQED article.

…Diane Dillon says science fiction writers inspired some of their best work. Leo introduced her to the genre when they met as students at Parsons in the ’50s. They were drawn to sci-fi’s imaginative worlds and the promise of what could be possible.

“Science fiction, fantasy and myth gave us the freedom to invent and challenge our imagination,” Diane wrote via email.

In a 2000 interview, Leo said he and Diane wanted their illustrations to “take science fiction out of that spaceship-and-craters-on-the-planet look.” (Leo died in 2012.)

In the case of The Left Hand of Darkness, the Dillons drew inspiration from Gustav Klimt. The original 24-by-19-inch acrylic painting evokes an uncanny world. Two figures with blurry features melt into a muted luster — an allusion to the icy planet of Gethen that provides the setting for the novel.

“That’s a sprawling piece, and it says volumes in just that one image,” says Paul Gulla, manager of R. Michelson Galleries, which represents the Dillons, in Northampton, Massachusetts.The Dillons’ work was recognizable, but the duo enjoyed experimentation. They used various techniques and materials — including stained glass, woodcarving and clay — throughout their decades-long career, which spanned book covers, album covers, kids’ picture books and advertisements.

The Dillons even forged a new artistic identity. They described their collaboration as a “third artist,” drawing on the combined powers of their own individual styles….

Leo and Diane Dillon’s painting for the cover of Harlan Ellison’s ‘No Doors No Windows.’ (Courtesy R. Michelson Galleries)

The article also has this photo of another item – an album of fan photos, some dating back to the Fifties.

(2) ON THE FRONT. Austin Conrad has more advice for SFWA Blog readers in “Sourcing Art on a Budget (Part 2)”

High-quality art plays an important role in creating the well-presented products expected by most consumers of tabletop games, but commissioning bespoke art can be expensive. Like a novel’s cover, an RPG’s interior graphics evoke the game’s aesthetic and market the game to the audience. Many tabletop writers—especially new creators—don’t have the resources to commission the expected quantity of art. What, then, are a tabletop writer’s ethical alternatives?…

(3) 2024 FANAC FAN HISTORY ZOOM SERIES: AUSTRALIA. [Item by Joe Siclari.] In 2022, we had a very interesting Fan History Zoom Session on Australian history with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. We didn’t even get to the first Australian Worldcon so we are going to continue.

Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track, Part 2 with Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. Saturday, February 17, 2024. Time: 7PM EST, 4 PM PST and 11AM Feb. 18, Melbourne AEDT

To attend, send a note to [email protected]

(4) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE WINNERS Q&A. Space Cowboy Books will host four Writers of the Future winners in an online event late this month. Register for free HERE.

Online Reading & Interview with Writers of the Future Winners

Tuesday Feb. 27th 4:30pm PT

Reading and Interview with Writers of the Future Winners: David Hankins, Elaine Midcoh, Jason Palmatier, & TJ Knight.

Be amazed. Be amused. Be transported … by stories that take you by surprise and take you further and deeper into new worlds and new ideas than you’ve ever gone before…. Twelve captivating tales from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy accompanied by three from masters of the genre.

Get your copy of the book at Bookshop.org.

(5) VERSE IS BETTER. Holly Henderson recommends “Using Poetry to Enhance Your Writing” at the SFWA Blog.

Poetry can be one of the shortest forms of fiction, but it has the ability to make an outsized impact on the reader. This is especially true when poetry is combined with fantasy and science fiction—both forms aspire to express common concepts in uncommon ways.

From classics like The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien to recent Hugo Award winner A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, poetry has been used throughout the history of speculative fiction to jumpstart brainstorming, enhance worldbuilding, and reinforce themes so they resonate far beyond the last page….

Effective Poetry Is Its Own Skill Set

Study poetry as you would any other aspect of your craft. Read collections with a wide variety, such as Chris Riddell’s Poems to… series. Pick apart your favorites to figure out why they work. Explore different forms to expand your horizons beyond the ABAB rhyme scheme.

That being said, you don’t need an MFA in Poetry to incorporate it into your novel. Just like with prose, there’s a lot to be said for writing poetry you like to read. Don’t get caught in the trap of it having to be a certain way to be “right.” One of the most beautiful things about poetry is that it encourages you to break the rules….

(6) SWANWICK’S TRIBUTE TO WALDROP. “Howard Waldrop, Implausibly, Is No More” mourns Michael Swanwick at Flogging Babel.

Howard Waldrop is dead. This seems impossible–almost as impossible as that he could have existed in the first place. He was unlike anybody else. I once labeled him in print as “the weird mind of his generation,” and it was true. He simply didn’t think the way other people did.

You could see it in the best of his stories. People would come back from conventions where he’d read a new story (he incubated them in his mind for a long time and didn’t write anything down until the story was letter-perfect; fans learned that you could squeeze a new one out of him by making him the guest of honor at a con and requesting that he read something new at it; the night before the reading, he’d sit down and write out… something amazing) and say something like, “Howard wrote a story about dodo birds surviving in the American South,” or “Howard wrote a story about Dwight D. Eisenhower becoming a jazz musician,” and I’d think: Damn. I wish I’d had that idea! One day somebody said, “Howard wrote a story about Izaak Walton and John Bunyan going fishing in the Slough of Despond.”…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 55. Author, puppeteer, voice actor. Mary Robinette Kowal is an amazing individual indeed.

As I always find out who is narrating the audio works I’m listening to, I first encountered her when she was voicing some of the works that I like best, such as Seanan McGuire’s Indexing novels which are so wonderfully narrated by Kowal. 

Mary Robinette Kowal

She has an ability to give life to each character in a novel so that the listener can tell each of them apart by the way that she voices them. Her narration of her novel is Ghost Talkers is both properly spooky and horrifying in equal measure. 

While doing this essay I got curious about the idea of her as a puppeteer. She has been one for over thirty years and her production company is the Other Hand Productions. So she worked for Jim Henson Pictures in the Elmo in Grouchland film, she assisted Martin P. Robinson who was Sesame Street’s Telly Monster in “Jackstraws” piece, and her design work has been recognized with UNIMA-USA citations of excellence for Mark Levenson’s Between Two Worlds and Other Hand Productions’ Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom. The Citation of Excellence was founded by Jim Henson and is the highest award possible for an American puppeteer. Cool, eh? 

Now for the third part of her quite impressive career. I asked one of our Filers, Paul, to talk about that as I figured he’d read more deeply of her than I have. (I personally loved The Spare Man, Ghost Talkers and the Glamourist series. Her narration of The Spare Man is an  amazing experience speaking as one who only gets his long form fiction now in that way.)

So here’s Paul: “I was immediately enchanted with her first Glamourist history novel, Shades of Milk and Honey. I enjoyed the characters, the magic system and saw her homage to Regency romances, and liked it. I also particularly think that the last book in that series, Of Noble Family, engaging with some difficult subjects of class and race, is a strong entry that shows Kowal’s willingness to work with such material and face the issues therein.  Her recent The Spare Man encapsulates a lot of what she does, on a luxury liner, in SPAAACE.  And while many will point at her Lady Astronaut series as her current pinnacle of work (and I did borrow Elma York’s mental trick of composing fibonacci numbers in my head while hiking in Nepal), I think her alternate WWI fantasy novel Ghost Talkers is very unjustly overlooked as a compelling novel of a woman caught by her duty and needs in a terrible, dangerous wartime.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest has an encounter with a librarian about Robin Hood. But they’re not arguing whether it’s sff….
  • F Minus says there’s a downside to owning a superpet.

(9) PATRICK S. TOMLINSON. The Independent invites readers to “Meet the most ‘swatted’ man in America”.

Mr Tomlinson told The Independent he had woken in the middle of the night to find officers banging on his door, been handcuffed, and had guns shoved in his face during the yearslong ordeal. He was once swatted four times in one day.

Mr Filion has not been charged in relation to the swats on Mr Tomlinson’s home, and investigators believe there are at least two individuals behind the Torswats account.

The FBI, Milwaukee Police Department and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida where the teenager is facing four felony counts declined to provide further information, beyond an extensive account of Mr Filion’s activities in a probable cause charging document.

After Mr Filion was arrested on 18 January at his home in Lancaster, Los Angeles County, Mr Tomlinson said he and his wife Niki Robinson had their first decent night of sleep in years.

Their relief was short-lived. Within a day of Mr Filion’s arrest, a Telegram channel named “Torswats Return” was created by someone claiming that their “partner has been arrested”, according to posts viewed by The Independent.

The channel stated that it would continue offering “swats” for as little as $40, and offered returning customers a discounted rate. It also posted derogatory photographs and text about Mr Tomlinson — noting that there would be no charge for requested swats against him.

“And of course swats to Patrick… are free,” read the Telegram message.

… The science fiction author has endured relentless harassment from an anonymous online army of what he describes as “cyber terrorists”. He says they have stalked and impersonated him, defaced his home, and continue to send a daily avalanche of abusive phone calls, voicemail messages and emails.

“I wont stop until one of them die (sic),” a message posted to the channel, referring to Mr Tomlinson, on 6 January stated.

As swatting incidents have spiked in recent months, victims and cybersecurity experts say law enforcement are failing to deal with the threat.

Last month, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley revealed she was targeted by swatting hoaxes twice in two days, and has requested Secret Service protection amid the rising threats to her safety. She is among the dozens of lawmakers, judges in Trump trials and public figures who have experienced tactical response teams turn up at their homes in response to the false callouts.

Swatting, defined by the Anti Defamation League (ADL) as a “malicious act of reporting a false crime or emergency to evoke an aggressive response”, emerged from online gaming communities in the early 2000s, where rivals would call 911 on each other and watch the armed response on livestream.

The ADL estimates there were over 1,000 swatting incidents in 2019, but the true figure is unclear as there is no federal statute against swatting that would enable convictions to be recorded….

(10) IF COVER REVEAL. Worlds of IF magazine has shared Bob Eggleton’s cover art and the table of contents for the relaunch’s inaugural issue. Issue #177 will be released later this month as both a digest-sized print version and digital download. The PDF version will be free for a limited time at this link. Subscribe to the mailing list for updates.

Featuring stories, poetry, and art by:

  • Renan Bernardo
  • David Brin
  • Michael Butterworth
  • Tara Campbell
  • Kwame Cavil
  • J. Dalton
  • Tatiana Daubek
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Zdravka Evtimova
  • Richard Grieco
  • Akua Lezli Hope
  • Pedro Iniguez
  • Ai Jiang
  • Leslie Kean
  • Rodney Matthews
  • Bruce Pennington
  • Charles Platt
  • Daniel Pomarède
  • Paulo Sayeg
  • Robert Silverberg
  • Andrew Stewart
  • Nigel Suckling
  • Dave Vescio 

(11) CLASSIC FILM MAGAZINE BACK IN PRINT. L’Incroyable Cinema: The Film Magazine of Fantasy and Imagination is available once more. The five issues published in the Sixties and Seventies have been reproduced in paperback editions for sale at Amazon.uk.

For example, issue #4 with Hitchcock on the cover includes the writing of Harry Nadler, Steve Vertlieb, Allan Asherman, and Charles Partington and their coverage of  Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and “Hitchcock – Master of the Eloquent Absurdity”.

Please note: This is a REPRODUCTION scanned from an original printed copy – whilst every care has been taken to make this as accurate as possible to the original some flaws etc will be evident. The only changes made to the layout have been to comply with Amazon printing guidelines. They have been reproduced with the permission of Tony Edwards who printed the originals way back when. Brought to you by Steve Kirkham and Tree Frog Publications.

Issues #2-#5 had color cover artwork by Eddie Jones, featuring Boris Karloff, Star Trek’s Spock and Kirk, Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Harryhausen. All issues had extensive picture coverage of sf and horror films.

(12) HOW TO READ A CHARCOAL SCROLL. “First complete passages from ancient Herculaneum scroll decoded” at CNN.

After using artificial intelligence to uncover the first word to be read from an unopened Herculaneum scroll, a team of researchers has revealed several nearly complete passages from the ancient text, giving insight into philosophy from almost 2,000 years ago.

The Herculaneum scrolls are hundreds of papyri that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. In their charred state, the ancient documents would crumble if anyone attempted to unroll them, and any writing on surviving pieces would be nearly illegible to the human eye.

By using computer technology and advanced artificial intelligence, researchers can now analyze the Herculaneum scrolls without unrolling and risking damage to the extremely fragile documents. More than 2,000 characters — the first full passages — have been deciphered from a scroll, according to an announcement Monday by computer scientists who launched the Vesuvius Challenge, a competition designed to accelerate the discoveries made on the scrolls….

… The recently decoded passages were pulled from the end of a scroll and reveal words written by the philosopher Philodemus, who was believed to be the philosopher-in-residence working at the library in which the scrolls were found, the announcement said.

…In the deciphered text, Philodemus writes on “pleasure,” and whether the abundance of goods available can affect the amount of pleasure they give. “As too in the case of food, we do not right away believe things that are scarce to be absolutely more pleasant than those which are abundant,” the first sentence reads….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. TheHow It Should Have Ended crew say that when it comes to Dune what they really need to fix is “How It Should Have Started”.

An animated Dune cartoon. When House Atreides dares to pass on the spice, who will take on the job? Only a Lethal Company will do.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/24 Mission Of Impossible Gravity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY.

[Written by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Pamela Dean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 9/20/23 All That Is Scrolled Does Not Pixel

(1) NEW COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT SUIT OVER AI TRAINING. “The Authors Guild, John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, David Baldacci, George R.R. Martin, and 13 Other Authors File Class-Action Suit Against OpenAI”. The Authors Guild explains the case.

The Authors Guild and 17 authors filed a class-action suit against OpenAI in the Southern District of New York for copyright infringement of their works of fiction on behalf of a class of fiction writers whose works have been used to train GPT. The named plaintiffs include David Baldacci, Mary Bly, Michael Connelly, Sylvia Day, Jonathan Franzen, John Grisham, Elin Hilderbrand, Christina Baker Kline, Maya Shanbhag Lang, Victor LaValle, George R.R. Martin, Jodi Picoult, Douglas Preston, Roxana Robinson, George Saunders, Scott Turow, and Rachel Vail.

“Without Plaintiffs’ and the proposed class’ copyrighted works, Defendants would have a vastly different commercial product,” stated Rachel Geman, a partner with Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel for Plaintiffs and the Proposed Class. “Defendants’ decision to copy authors’ works, done without offering any choices or providing any compensation, threatens the role and livelihood of writers as a whole.”

Scott Sholder, a partner with Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard and co-counsel for Plaintiffs and the Proposed Class, added, “Plaintiffs don’t object to the development of generative AI, but Defendants had no right to develop their AI technologies with unpermitted use of the authors’ copyrighted works. Defendants could have ‘trained’ their large language models on works in the public domain or paid a reasonable licensing fee to use copyrighted works.” …

(2) THE RULE OF THREE. Didn’t Gallagher have a routine about that rule? “Amazon restricts authors from self-publishing more than three books a day after AI concerns” – the Guardian has the story.

Amazon has created a new rule limiting the number of books that authors can self-publish on its site to three a day, after an influx of suspected AI-generated material was listed for sale in recent months.

The company announced the new limitations in a post on its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) forum on Monday.” …

The rule change will “probably not” be a “gamechanger for managing the influx of AI-written content on Amazon’s platform,” said Dr Miriam Johnson, senior lecturer in publishing at Oxford Brookes University. “It will dent the numbers a bit, but for those who are making money by flooding the market with AI-generated books and publishing more than three a day, they will find a work-around.”

The three-book limit announcement comes a week after Amazon introduced the requirement for authors to inform the company when their content is AI-generated and added a new section to their guidelines featuring definitions of “AI-generated” and “AI-assisted” content….

The new sets of rules come after Amazon removed suspected AI-generated books that were falsely listed as being written by the author Jane Friedman. Earlier this month, books about mushroom foraging listed on Amazon were reported as likely to have been AI-generated and therefore containing potentially dangerous advice. AI-generated travel books have also flooded the site.

(3) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.] Watch these videos at the links.

This was posted by a Chengdu-related account – the Google Translation of their account bio states “Chengdu People’s Government Press Office” – yesterday (Tuesday 19th), but the card at the end indicates the video was produced by some division of the Red Star media organization.  (Are they maybe some sort of sponsor or partner?)  No new information; it’s a vaguely comedic skit, presumably aimed at a general audience.

This is over a week old, but I only just came across it, because it’s not hashtagged with any of the more commonly used tags.  A Three-Body Problem-inspired 3D effect public display counting down to the start of the Worldcon.  The captions refer to it being a 1000-hour countdown, but you can see in the video it actually starts at 1200-hours.

This seems to be another product of Red Star media and posted by a Chengdu local government account.  It’s a fairly random collection of CG imagery of the con venue, (likely) copyright infringing clips from Hollywood films, and stock footage, but the Hugo Awards get namechecked a couple of times.

From September 10th, it looks like this Yahoo-ish site is running a few Worldcon-related articles.  It looks like this interview was carried out at an science-related event earlier in September, that might have some ties to the Worldcon.  A brief extract from the interview (via Google Translate):

Reporter: What are your views and expectations on the World Science Fiction Convention being settled in Chengdu?

Jiang Bo: For a long time, Chengdu has been a “source” for Chinese science fiction, and the reputation of “science fiction capital” is completely deserved. The World Science Fiction Convention can be held in Chengdu, which has a very positive effect on further expanding the influence of Chengdu in science fiction, and allows the world to witness why Chengdu is a “science fiction capital”.

I know that the World Science Fiction Convention is held in Chengdu’s Pidu District very grandly, and this excellent hardware facility will attract more opportunities, which is a positive effect for Chengdu. Similarly, it can also promote the world, especially the majority of “science fiction fans” to understand Chengdu.

What I am most looking forward to is meeting science fiction authors from all over the world and communicating with them. I also look forward to their trip to have a deeper understanding of our Chinese writers, learn from each other, and jointly promote the development of science fiction culture.

Red Star News is part of the Chengdu Business Daily media organization that seems to be running the Chengdu Worldcon, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re putting out lots of stories about the event.

(4) JAPANESE FILM FAVORITES. “Notorious Film Nerd Hideo Kojima Reveals His Criterion Collection Picks” at IGN. Several are horror.

…Criterion, the organization behind the Criterion Collection, invited Hideo Kojima to do a video in its ‘Closet Picks’ series on its YouTube channel. The series is dedicated to highlighting notable voices in creative industries where a selected luminary picks their favorites from the “Criterion Closet,” which is exactly what it sounds like; a closet containing physical copies of each film in the Criterion Collection….

Here are a couple of Kojima’s picks.

Onibaba

“Again, I watched this at night as a kid and it shocked me,” he said, before he recalled discussing Kaneto Shindo’s folk-horror set in medieval Japan with Guillermo Del Toro when they met for the first time. He added, “He loves this film as well. There’s a monster called Onibaba in Pacific Rim.”

Woman in the Dunes

Kojima got discovered Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1960 art-house darling after reading Kobo Abe’s book (also called Woman in the Dunes).

If you’d like to watch the full video–and watch Kojima light up as he talks about some of his favorite Japanese movies–check it out on Criterion’s YouTube channel.

(5) DISTILLATION OF A CAREER IN SFF. Alvaro Zinos-Amaro’s Being Michael Swanwick, a collection of interviews, will be released in November 2023.

In 2001, Michael Swanwick published the book-length interview Being Gardner Dozois. Now Swanwick himself becomes the subject of inquiry. During a year of conversations, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg) set about discussing with Swanwick his remarkable career, with a particular focus on his extraordinary short fiction. 

The resulting collection of transcribed interviews is a tribute to the similarly-named book that inspired it, a discussion of writing craft, an anecdotal genre history, and a chronological survey of the work of a modern master.

 “Michael Swanwick shows a rare, writerly combination: He’s articulate about his own work and also one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. What can I say other than I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt privileged to have read it.” — Samuel R. Delany

(6) SPEAK, MEMORY. Cat Rambo came up with a great perk for her $10 level Patreon supporters:

Here are four audio files that can be used as ringtones or other places requiring audiofiles. They feature me saying the following things:

  • You should be writing.
  • Why aren’t you writing?
  • Stop fucking around and write.
  • Be kind to yourself.

(7) EARLIEST LE GUIN. In “Ursula K. Le Guin on Writing Fantasy as a Young Girl”, Literary Hub invites readers to watch the second in a series of videos about the author.

The Journey That Matters is a series of six short videos from Arwen Curry, the director and producer of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guina Hugo Award-nominated 2018 feature documentary about the iconic author.

In the second of the series, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas introduces “Elves, Dragons, and Countries That Didn’t Exist,” in which Ursula reflects on how her childhood influenced her development as a writer.

Watch the video on Vimeo: “The Journey That Matters: Elves, Dragons, and Countries That Didn’t Exist”.

(8) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE AND ASK THE HORSE. Have the producers offered a good deal? This striker says nay.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1995 [Written by Cat Eldridge.]

Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt is where our Beginning is taken from. 

It was released as a hardcover edition twenty-eight years ago by Harcourt Brace with copious illustrations and cover art by Francisco Mora, a pupil of Diego Rivera, who was deep into the Mexican political scene making posters for trade unions and government literacy campaigns.

If one takes into account the illustrations it’s not a novel really as there’s not that much text, so I’d say it’d be a novella if judged by length alone. 

I’ve got my personally-signed copy on hand and I read every Winter. Yes, she is on the chocolate gifting list. She prefers no more than seventy percent chocolate. 

It is that rare wonderful work where the text and the illustrations (see the cover illustration below of The Wild Hunt) are truly intrinsic to each other. I cannot imagine it as just text, though I can imagine it as a spoken work as Yolen’s language here is brilliant.

So let’s have just the introduction now…

A wild winter storm rages around a large house that is isolated from the rest of the world. Traditionally, the Wild Hunt appeared around the time of Epiphany— January 6 in the Church Calendar—when winter was at its most severe in Northern Europe. No country is specified, but this is, after all, a fantasy world. The house is both a comfortable dwelling with a large library in keeping with Jerold’s quiet personality, and a parallel setting that matches Gerund’s much more active one. A hundred yards from the house is a granite outcrop where the Hunt gathers: “This rock might have been a thousand miles away. Or a thousand years.” 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. I’ve downloaded his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock, from one of the usual digital suspects where he’s very well stocked.  Oh and he has four BSFA Awards including ones for the artwork for the cover of his own first edition of Kaeti & Company. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 20, 1948 George R. R. Martin, 75. I’ll admit that I’ve only read the first two volumes of A Song of Fire and Ice as I lost interest at the point — massive volumes in general don’t appeal to me given how much great fiction there is to read.  I loved The Armageddon Rag and think that he’s a wonderful short story writer.  And no, I’ve not watched A Game of Thrones. 
  • Born September 20, 1950 James Blaylock, 73. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives which collects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. He’s generously stocked at the usual suspects these days.
  • Born September 20, 1974 Owen Sheers, 49. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 37. He plays Alec Hardison on Leverage. Ok, I know it’s not SFF but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek Discovery’s and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro reveals what collectible is at the top of the heap.
  • Tom Gauld knows some people just can’t help being who they are.

(12) SIGNPOSTS TO A GOLDEN AGE. Charlie Jane Anders, who says “We are living in a new golden age of space opera,”  discusses “11 Books That Changed How I think About Space Opera” at Happy Dancing. Second on the list:

2) The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison

Okay, continuing the theme of ridiculousness… in high school, my friend John turned me on to these bonkers books, about an interstellar con man who falls in love with the super-assassin who keeps trying to kill him. And he runs for president of a planet! (Back then, the notion of a slimy con man getting elected president felt satirical.) Unlike Arthur Dent, “Slippery” Jim di Griz is hypercompetent and he definitely knows where his towel (and blaster) are. In a corrupt, rotten galaxy, an amoral con man can become kind of a good guy, using dirty tricks to clean up a planet. I often think about Harrison’s clever explanation of why an interstellar war would make no sense — essentially because given the costs of transporting goods between star systems, there’s nothing worth going to war for.

(13) THE MAJOR AND THE MISSIONARY. The Habit podcast features “Diana Glyer on Warnie Lewis’s Letters”.

Diana Glyer teaches in the honors college at Azusa Pacific University. Her writing and research focus on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other Inklings. Her most recent book is The Major and the Missionary. Dr. Glyer edited this collection of letters between Warren Lewis, the brother of C.S. Lewis, and Dr. Blanche Biggs, a medical missionary in Papua New Guinea. Their conversation spans faith, literature, fear, doubt, tragedy, sickness, health, friendship, and life & death itself. 

(14) CHRISTOPHER NOLAN WILL SPEAK. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists “Conversations Before Midnight — 2023” online event will take place November 6 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Central. Full information and purchase tickets at the link.

For our annual gathering, Conversations Before Midnight (CBM) 2023, we will remain virtual, acknowledging that our audience is spread throughout the United States and around the world. This year we are thrilled to feature award-winning and Academy Award-nominated director Christopher Nolan as our keynote speaker. As with past gatherings, we also will continue to provide unique access to high-level conversations with world-renowned experts on a variety of topics including nuclear risk, climate change, disruptive technologies like AI, and biosecurity.

For those that have purchased Zoom room (“tables”) in the past, we have a few exciting changes to enhance your experience. This year, each attendee can select which conversation to join based on their area of interest, rather than travel through the evening together as a table. Participants will still have the opportunity to ask questions of the experts, who will be led in discussion by a seasoned moderator.  Then, following these focused discussions, your guests can return to your private Zoom room to share what they heard over the course of the evening.

You get the opportunity to interact with guests at your hosted table during the evening, but you also join other groups in your topic of interest. Here are the dynamic conversations we have planned for you:

(15) AND IF WE DON’T BLOW OURSELVES UP. The Smithsonian Magazine says “Humans Have Exceeded Six of the Nine Boundaries Keeping Earth Habitable”.

… According to the paper, Earth’s ability to sustain human society depends on nine primary “planetary boundaries,” or global systems that are key indicators of its health. Of these nine limits, humans have blown past six: climate change, biosphere integrity (which includes biodiversity), freshwater availability, land use, nutrient pollution and novel entities (meaning human-made pollution, such as microplastics and radioactive waste). Only the categories of ocean acidification, air pollution and ozone depletion remain within the constraints….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George takes us inside the “Maze Runner: The Death Cure Pitch Meeting”. “So now six months have passed.” “What was everybody doing for six months?” “Stuff.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Ersatz Culture, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Steven French, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/27/23 An Intrepid Pixel In The Twenty-Fourth-And-A-Half Century With His Faithful Companion, The Scroll

(1) PRATCHETT REDISCOVERIES. None set on the Discworld, but they are genre: “Rediscovered Terry Pratchett stories to be published” – the Guardian has details.

A collection of newly rediscovered short stories by Terry Pratchett, originally written under a pseudonym, are to be published later this year.

The 20 tales in A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories were written by Pratchett in the 1970s and 1980s for a regional newspaper, mostly under the pseudonym Patrick Kearns. They have never been previously attributed to Pratchett, who died in 2015 aged 66, eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The collection was bought by Pratchett’s longtime publisher Transworld for a six-figure sum, and will be published on 5 October.

The discovery of the stories is down to a group of Pratchett’s fans. One of the longer stories in the collection, The Quest for the Keys, had been framed on Pratchett fan Chris Lawrence’s wall for more than 40 years. When he alerted the Pratchett estate to its existence, the rest of the stories were unearthed by fans Pat and Jan Harkin, who went through decades’ worth of old newspapers to rediscover the lost treasures.

… None of the stories are set in Pratchett’s Discworld – the first book of which, The Colour of Magic, was released in 1983 – but according to the publisher they “hint at the world Sir Terry would go on to create”.

Readers, said the publisher, could expect to “meet characters ranging from cavemen to gnomes, wizards to ghosts, and read about time-travel tourism, the haunting of council offices and a visitor from another planet”….

(2) ADD TO MT TBR? Michael Swanwick calls it “Joanna Russ’s Mainstream Masterwork”.

The latest book I have been knocked flat and wowed by (they come less frequently with age, so read fast, young people) is On Strike Against God by Joanna Russ. She being one of the crown gems of science fiction, you’d expect it to be genre. But it’s not. It’s mainstream. It’s subtitled A Lesbian Love Story. And if you had to fit it into a subgenre, it would be Feminist Fiction.

Strike three, you’d think, for a guy who’s rapidly heading toward the category of Dead White Male. But no, Joanna managed the near-miraculous feat of writing prose that was simultaneously white-hot with anger and laugh-out-loud funny….

(3) NINTENDO DIRECTOR Q&A. “Nintendo’s Miyamoto says inspiration comes from his childhood experiences in nature” at NPR.

The person who made it possible is Nintendo’s game director, Shigeru Miyamoto. He’s the creator of some of the most influential and bestselling games in the industry. In addition to Mario Brothers, you got Donkey Kong and the Legend of Zelda. He joined Nintendo straight out of art school in 1977 and says a lot of his inspiration comes from his childhood experiences in nature. I sat down with Miyamoto to learn more about why his characters and games have had such a lasting impact.

When it comes to Mario, what do you think accounts for his ability to just be in the hearts of so many people?

SHIGERU MIYAMOTO: (Through interpreter) You know, before, when I was asked this question, I thought that it’s perhaps because the game sold well. And a lot of people have this experience of playing this game and playing it over and over, that it becomes commonplace for them. But now I feel that it’s a little bit different in that Mario is kind of like a – your avatar or the person that represents you in this world. And that experience is, you know, because it’s been around for so long, an experience that can be shared multi-generations, you know? A father and their children can share that experience….

(4) YOU KNOW HOW SUCCESSFUL PROHIBITION WAS. Richard Charkin “On the ‘Desecration of Authors’ Works’” at Publishing Perspectives.

Taking a Leaf Out of Dr. Bowdler’s Book

The idea of editing Shakespeare to eliminate doubles entrendres and naughty words to fit in with 19th-century social mores now seems preposterous, although presumably his publishers—Messrs. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown—thought it was a pretty good idea at the time.

Their 1818 The Family Shakespeare offered the assurance that “Nothing is added to the original text but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud by a family.” Thomas Bowdler’s work on this gave rise to the term bowdlerize, meaning “to remove matter considered indelicate or otherwise objectionable,” per Merriam-Webster.

Doubtless, the Roald Dahl Story Company and Messrs. Bertelsmann, PRH, and Puffin also thought it was a pretty good idea to subject the works of Roald Dahl to the same sort of treatment for the same sort of reasons.

I’ve had a few brushes with attempts to change or stifle books.

The obvious case was Peter Wright’s tedious Spycatcher, for which Mrs. Thatcher, in a rare case of support for publishers’ profits, appointed herself marketing director for the book by trying to have it throttled.

She forgot that the United Kingdom was only able to ban books in its jurisdiction. At Heinemann, we happily imported books from Australia to satisfy the demand she had created. We even hired tele-sales people to call British booksellers to drum up orders. Phone calls from Australia were expensive, so we found traveling Australians living in London to make the calls.

(5) CAN WE PAY FOR THE FUTURE? Pitchfork Economics presents “Sci-Fi Economics (with Kim Stanley Robinson)” – listen to the podcast, or read the transcript.

We can’t tear down the existing economic framework and replace it with a better one without first telling a persuasive story about how the economy actually works. And few people in the world are more compelling storytellers than science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson.

In his speculative near-future novel The Ministry for the Future, Stan explains complicated economic theories better than most economists. He joins Nick and Goldy for a fascinating conversation about the role of economics in both climate change fiction and climate change reality.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed New York 2140 and The Ministry for the Future.

A brief excerpt from the transcript:

David Goldstein: Well, this raises a question. This book was recommended to me by a number of people. Ostensibly, I thought it was about climate change. But really, it’s a book about economics. I’m wondering, was that your intention when you started the book, or did the economics come out in the writing?

Kim Stanley Robinson: Oh, I knew it was going to be there from the start. As I mentioned, I wrote New York 2140 in probably 2016. It’s a description of New York after sea level rises something like 50 vertical feet, so Lower Manhattan is underwater and is a supervenience, and it’s all about the financialization essentially. It’s not quite a metaphor for our current meltdowns, but it has a lot about the present, as well as the ostensible year of 2140.

So I had been working on it then, and I’d been working on the economics of climate change this whole 21st century. My Washington DC trilogy, set in DC in the near future during climate change, had a economic strand in it, but it wasn’t strong enough. It was more of, what would the federal government do, or the National Science Foundation? But, it became more and more obvious that, although we have various technical solutions to climate change, we don’t have a good way to pay for installing those technological changes, nor do we have a good way of assessing the actual economics of what we’re doing on Earth.

In other words, the gross world product, gross domestic product, whatever you want to call it, the highest rate of return profit itself, these are all crappy, cheesy, short rate, cheating rating systems that the world was run by. So, I needed to keep hammering away at it. Ministry for the Future is just the last of a long series of projects where economics take center stage because it’s crucial.

(6) BURNY MATTINSON (1935-2023). “Burny Mattinson, Animator and Disney’s Longest-Serving Employee, Dies at 87”The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute. See his many credits at the link.

Burny Mattinson, who worked as an animator, director, producer and story artist during a 70-year career as the longest-serving “castmember” in the history of The Walt Disney Co., has died. He was 87.

Mattinson died after a short illness on Monday at a Canoga Park assisted living facility in Los Angeles, the studio announced. He was due to receive his 70th anniversary service award — the studio’s first ever — on June 4.

Mattinson was working full time at Walt Disney Animation Studios as a story consultant and mentor at the time of his death….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1962[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Tonight’s Beginning comes to us direct from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, the title poem to the collection of the same name. Written by Tolkien as if they were poems written and enjoyed by hobbits, one of the writers being Sam Gamgee. 

Two of the poems which feature Tom Bombadil, a character encountered by Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. And three of the poems appear in the Trilogy.  Only one of the poems, “Bombadil Goes Boating”, was written specifically for The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

Published first by George Allen & Unwin in 1962, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes, both the cover and all of the interior art as well.

And now here’s our first poetic Beginning…

Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow; 
bright blue his jacket was and his boots were yellow, 
green were his girdle and his breeches all of leather; 
he wore in his tall hat a swan-wing feather. 

He lived up under Hill, where the Withywindle 
ran from a grassy well down into the dingle. 
Old Tom in summertime walked about the meadows 
gathering the buttercups, running after shadows, 
tickling the bumblebees that buzzed among the flowers, 
sitting by the waterside for hours upon hours. 

There his beard dangled long down into the water: 
up came Goldberry, the River-woman’s daughter; 
pulled Tom’s hanging hair. In he went a-wallowing 
under the water-lilies, bubbling and a-swallowing.
 ‘Hey, Tom Bombadil! Whither are you going?’ 
said fair Goldberry. ‘Bubbles you are blowing, 
frightening the finny fish and the brown water-rat, 
startling the dabchicks, and drowning your feather-hat!’

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1851 James Churchward. He is remembered for claiming he discovered a lost continent named Mu in the Pacific Ocean. Mu shows up in Lovecraft’s “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, and “Out of the Aeons” which he co-wrote with Hazel Heald. It also appears in Philip K. Dick’s Confessions of a Crap Artist. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 27, 1902 John Steinbeck. Yes, John Steinbeck. ISFDB lists one novel, The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication, Plus a bevy of short fiction such as “The Wedding of King”, “The Affair at 7 Rue de M—“ and “The Death of Merlin”. I’ll admit that I didn’t know these existed. So, has anyone read these? (Died 1968.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve read and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. Who’s read them? (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 66. He’s both an artist and writer so I’m not going to untangle which is which here. What’s good by him? Oh, I love The Dark Knight Returns, both the original comic series and the animated film, though the same is not true of Sin City where I prefer the original series much more. Hmmm… What else? His runs on Daredevil and Electra of course. That should do. 
  • Born February 27, 1950 Michaela Roessner, 73. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer for Walkabout Woman. Her The Stars Dispose duology is quite excellent. Alas, none of her fiction is available digitally. 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 63. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil. He’s won a very impressive eleven Harvey Awards and ten Eisner Awards! Kindle, though not Apple Books, has the complete Bone for a very reasonable twenty dollars.
  • Born February 27, 1966 Peter Swirski, 57. He’s a academic specialist on the late SF writer and philosopher Stanislaw Lem. As such, he’s written the usual treatises on him with such titles as Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the FutureLemography: Stanislaw Lem in the Eyes of the World and From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Bob the Angry Flower tries to join Blake’s 7.

(10) THE 700 CLUB. In May, Marvel Comics will mark the 700th issue of Fantastic Four with a giant-sized wraparound connecting cover by artist Scott Koblish that will adorn both May’s Fantastic Four #7 and June’s Fantastic Four #8. This massive piece features over 700 characters, each one having appeared in a prior issue of the comic — the Fantastic Four’s fellow super heroes, past members, loyal allies, and of course, their iconic villains. For more information, visit Marvel.com. (Click for larger image.)

(11) A LOOK AHEAD. At Media Death Cult “Alastair Reynolds Reveals…..What’s Next”.

(12) JOHN WILLIAMS Q&A. “For ‘Indiana Jones 5,’ John Williams Scored 90 Minutes of Music”, so he tells Variety.

…. The composer finished recording the score for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” on Feb. 10 and, while he suggested last summer that the final Harrison Ford adventure would be the last of his 100-plus film scores, that’s not quite the truth.

“I might have meant that at the moment,” he says with a smile, “but you never want to say no unequivocally. If Steven or another director should come along with something that is so moving that you want to drop the phone and rush to the piano and have it all come out — should that happen, with the appropriate energy needed to do it, I wouldn’t rule out a situation like that.”

Recording for the final “Indiana Jones” film – and three of the previous editions, starting with 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” were Oscar-nominated for their music – began last June 28, and has continued off and on since then.

“It’s certainly got to be an hour and a half of music, maybe more,” Williams estimates. “But I’m quite happy with it. There’s a lot of new material. The old material works very well as a touchstone of memory, but I had great fun, and I have a theme that I’ve written for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the wonderful actress.” She plays Helena Shaw, reportedly Indy’s goddaughter….

(13) I AM PUTTING MYSELF TO THE FULLEST POSSIBLE USE. Daniel Dern quips, “Hopefully, these computers haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey.” “KIOXIA and HPE Team Up to Send SSDs into Space, Bound for the International Space Station”.

Just announced – KIOXIA is participating in HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2 program, the first in-space commercial edge computing and AI-enabled system to run on the International Space Station.

Spaceborne Computer-2 is part of a mission to significantly advance computing and reduce dependency on communications as space exploration continues to expand. For example, astronauts can achieve increased autonomy by processing data directly on the ISS, eliminating the need to send raw data to Earth to be processed, analyzed and sent back to space….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Ryan George shares visuals of the meeting that explains “How Animals Got Their Names”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/6/23 Something In The Way She Scrolls Attracts Me Like No Other Pixel

(1) FRUSTRATED HARD SF FAN. Thaddeus Howze reviews a SyFy TV series in: “The Ark: Rage Against The Dying Of The Science In Sci-Fi” on Facebook.

The SyFy television series The Ark happened. I stayed away from it until I was able to be rested and give it the benefit of the doubt….

… I enjoy the exteriors and the flyby’s and all of the other beautiful effort made to showcase the exterior of the ship BUT there were so many things wrong with the ship which you might only know if you have any interest in space ships, extrasolar arks, or naval ship design.

For example and let’s start with the elephant in the room:

• WHO PUTS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEMBERS OF THE CREW IN ONE SECTION OF THE SHIP? Convenient for the plot but unrealistic for the crew of a space exploration vehicle, since if the goal is to provide maximum redundancy, that specialized personnel should be scattered among the crew to reduce the possibility of the command crew being wiped out in a single event.

• I love the fact they knew part of such a generation ship should have rotating sections to provide pseudo-gravity. But that gravity should be confined to the spinning regions of the ship….

(2) THE FIRST ‘THREE-BODY’ ARRIVES. The New York Times’ Mike Hale, in “‘Three-Body’ Review: A Chinese Series Beats Netflix to the Screen”, overviews the 30-episode series. It begins with a spoiler warning.

This review contains spoilers for the novel “The Three-Body Problem” and the television series “Three-Body.” There’s no way around it.

The highly acclaimed trilogy of Chinese science-fiction novels collectively known as “Three-Body,” in which Earth is threatened with invasion by technologically superior aliens, is generally understood to reflect historical Chinese anxieties about Western domination. Which makes it a little amusing that, 17 years after the story was first serialized, the books are about to get more attention than ever because of a big-budget American adaptation, due later this year on Netflix. Comments about appropriation and cultural sensitivity will start to pour in minutes after the episodes are posted.

In the meantime, little attention is being paid in the United States to an ambitious Chinese series, “Three-Body,” that has beaten Netflix’s “3 Body Problem” to the screen. No trade barriers or worries about state secrets here: The 30 episodes of “Three-Body” are premiering on Rakuten Viki in the United States, with subtitles in English (among many other languages), on the same day they appear in China, where they are reportedly setting viewing records for Tencent’s WeTV streaming service. Outside of the sci-fi fan base, however, they don’t appear to be causing a ripple in America. (The 21st episode arrived on Friday; early episodes can be watched free with ads.)…

(3) HE DOES THE TWIST. In “What Will It Take to Trust M. Night Shyamalan?” the New York Times contends, “The director, whose latest is ‘Knock at the Cabin,’ has been working to regain audience faith, one B-movie at a time.”

… The disaster that was “Lady in the Water” kicked off a four-film slump in which Shyamalan’s budgets were pricier than ever, peaking at $150 million for “The Last Airbender” (2010), yet even added together, their total Rotten Tomatoes score is still rotten.

Shyamalan had hoped that splashy blockbusters would prove he deserved creative freedom. He’d put his faith in a false narrative of Spielbergian success. And he’d failed.

The master manipulator was scared by his own choices.

As for what to do next? The answer was obvious — if he went back to the beginning. Shyamalan borrowed money against his house to make the $5 million found-footage horror flick “The Visit” (2015). Every Hollywood studio passed on distributing it, so he flew home to Philadelphia and polished his edit until Universal said yes. “The Visit” grossed $98 million worldwide, and the director used a cut of his windfall to fund the next film, “Split,” which grossed $278 million, and the next, “Glass,” $247 million; each was shot on his own dime with complete creative independence and all but one of them shot in, essentially, his own backyard. The exception is “Old” (2021), which, because of the pandemic, was filmed at a locked-down resort in the Dominican Republic. He paid for that out of pocket, too.

The truth is, today’s shaky cinematic landscape can barely support the current Spielberg, let alone the next. Instead, Shyamalan is blueprinting a new paradigm. 

(4) MEMORY LANE.

1999 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Some novels have a short and lovely Beginning and so it is with Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. It is my second favorite novel by him with Neverwhere being the one I like the most and Anansi Boys really the only other one that I like enough to have re-read.

It is, I think, a lovely novel that is very sweet with characters that lack the edges of many Gaiman characters. The setting is fascinating and the story is stellar as well.

There is a recording of him reading it and I strongly recommend y’all go hear it – it’s very obvious that he loves this story.. Neil writes wonderful text, and the reading he does here blends so well with his writing that it’s just a treat. 

It garnered a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature which makes perfect sense, and the film version won a Hugo at Denvention 3. 

And here’s that oh so perfect Beginning…

In Which We Learn of the Village of Wall, and of the Curious Thing That Occurs There Every Nine Years

There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire. And while that is, as beginnings go, not entirely novel (for every tale about every young man there ever was or will be could start in a similar manner) there was much about this young man and what happened to him that was unusual, although even he never knew the whole of it.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a role he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as BloodsuckersFreedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. Stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely shitty remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1927 Zsa Zsa Gabor. Her first venture into SF was the Fifties very camp Queen of Outer Space which she followed up by being in Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie. She had a cameo in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. She’s Erika Tiffany Smith on Gilligan’s Island, and Minerva on Batman. One of her last appearances was as herself on The Munsters Today as she retired from acting in late Nineties. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 6, 1943 Fabian, 80. Bill Dexter in Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. He doesn’t have much of a genre resume appearing only once on Fantasy Island, plus being in Kiss Daddy Goodbye. The latter would be shown on Movie Macabre, Elvira’s early Eighties movie show.
  • Born February 6, 1943 Gayle Hunnicutt, 80. I’m giving her Birthday Honors as she was Irene Adler, opposite Jeremy Brett, in the first episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “A Scandal in Bohemia”. She also shows up in The Martian ChroniclesThe Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Legend of Hell HouseFantômas (a French series) and Tales of The Unexpected
  • Born February 6, 1958 Cecily Adams. She played Ishka (aka Moogie), mother of the Ferengi brothers Rom and Quark, in four of her five appearances on Deep Space Nine. (Andrea Martin played her the first time.) Most of her genre experience was in such concerns as Who Framed Roger RabbitFlash ForwardLost on EarthBone Chillers and 3rd Rock from The Sun. (Died 2004.)

(6) GENERAL OTTO MATIC. In “How Smart Are the Robots Getting?” the New York Times notes that the Turing Test is no longer the final exam.

Franz Broseph seemed like any other Diplomacy player to Claes de Graaff. The handle was a joke — the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I reborn as an online bro — but that was the kind of humor that people who play Diplomacy tend to enjoy. The game is a classic, beloved by the likes of John F. Kennedy and Henry Kissinger, combining military strategy with political intrigue as it recreates the First World War: Players negotiate with allies, enemies and everyone in between as they plan how their armies will move across 20th-century Europe.

When Franz Broseph joined a 20-player online tournament at the end of August, he wooed other players, lying to them and ultimately betraying them. He finished in first place.

Mr. de Graaff, a chemist living in the Netherlands, finished fifth. He had spent nearly 10 years playing Diplomacy, both online and at face-to-face tournaments across the globe. He did not realize until it was revealed several weeks later that he had lost to a machine. Franz Broseph was a bot.

“I was flabbergasted,” Mr. de Graaff, 36, said. “It seemed so genuine — so lifelike. It could read my texts and converse with me and make plans that were mutually beneficial — that would allow both of us to get ahead. It also lied to me and betrayed me, like top players frequently do.”

Built by a team of artificial intelligence researchers from the tech giant Meta, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other prominent universities, Franz Broseph is among the new wave of online chatbots that are rapidly moving machines into new territory….

(7) THE CROWDED SKIES. Space.com tells readers “Jupiter now has the most moons in the solar system, beating Saturn thanks to 12 newfound satellites”. (Via Scifi Radio.) Or as Michael Swanwick put it on Facebook, “Jupiter is once again the mooniest planet in the Solar System. Suck it, Saturn!”

Jupiter isn’t just the largest and most massive planet in the solar system — now, the gas giant also boasts the largest number of moons orbiting it after scientists discovered another 12 moons, bringing the behemoth’s total up to 92.

The orbits of the 12 hitherto undiscovered moons of Jupiter have been published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, according to a new report from Sky and Telescope. The dozen new moons represent a 15% increase in the planet’s known moons. With these new discoveries, Jupiter seizes the record for “solar system planet with most moons” from the previous record holder, Saturn

Scientists have found 83 moons to date around the ringed gas giant, the second-largest planet in the solar system. However, astronomers have also found tons of rocks down to about 2 miles (3 kilometers) wide around Saturn without yet tracking the objects precisely, according to Sky and Telescope(opens in new tab). As instruments become capable of studying these smaller moons, Jupiter may have to relinquish its new title back to Saturn. 

(8) WHO KNEW? “Scientists Discover Ants Can Sniff Out Cancer in Urine” says ScienceAlert.

… They conditioned 35 silky ants (Formica fusca) to associate healthy mouse urine with a sugar-water reward and another 35 to associate the smell of urine from mice carrying human cancer tumors.

It took only three training sessions for the ants to discriminate between odors. These ants are known for their fast learning and memory retention; they can be tested nine times without a reward before their responses start to fade.

In their previous study, the researchers found ants can distinguish between cancerous and healthy cell samples and different types of cancer cells.

Once trained, the ants spent around 20 percent more time near the target odor than others, looking for that sugary reward and incidentally providing a clear and accurate signal of the presence or absence of breast cancer in the mouse urine….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Barkley for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day by Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 11/4/22 All Hearts Is Turned To Gizzards

(1) ABOUT THE BIRD. Neil Clarke, Editor of Clarkesworld, tweeted a series of thoughtful insights in reply to the current anxiety about Twitter’s future as a vehicle for marketing short fiction magazines. Thread starts here. Excerpts follow.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to munch Carnitas Benedict with the award-winning Michael Swanwick in Episode 184 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Swanwick

Michael has won five Hugo Awards and three Locus Awards, as well as a Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award — plus has been nominated for and lost more of these major awards than any other writer. His novels include Vacuum FlowersStations of the Tide, and Bones of the Earth, plus his most recent, City Under the Stars, a novel co-authored with the late Gardner Dozois. He’s also published a baker’s dozen of short story collections over the past three decades, starting with Gravity’s Angels in 1991 and most recently Not So Much Said the Cat in 2016, as well as the 118 short stories included in The Periodic Table of Science Fiction, one per each element. His recent novel The Iron Dragon’s Mother completed a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter in 1993, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Two of his short stories — “Ice Age” and “The Very Pulse of the Machine” — were adapted for the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots.

We discussed his response to learning a reader of his was recently surprised to find out he was still alive, how J. R. R. Tolkien turned him into a writer, why it took him 15 years of trying to finally finish his first story, how Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann taught him how to write by taking apart one of his tales and putting it back together again, why it was good luck he lost his first two Nebula Awards the same year, the good advice William Gibson gave him which meant he never had to be anxious about awards again, which friend’s story was so good he wanted to throw his own typewriter out the window in a rage, the novel he abandoned writing because he found the protagonists morally repugnant, why he didn’t want to talk about Playboy magazine, the truth behind a famous John W. Campbell, Jr./Robert Heinlein anecdote, and much more.

(3) NEW YORK STATE OF MIND. Chris Barkley, Astronomicon GoH, is a newsmaker on CBS affiliate WROC as “Sci-fi convention ‘Astronomicon’ returns to Rochester”.

…Various authors and artists are invited to come to the event, including Chris Barkley who is Astronomincon’s guest fan of honor this year.

“Science fiction conventions have been around for much longer than people think. Most people believe the mythology that Star Trek conventions were the beginning start of science fiction conventions. No, the first science fiction conventions actually took place in the 1930s, 1936. And the first World Science Fiction Convention took place in New York City in 1939,” Barkley said….

(4) LOTS OF POSSIBILITIES. At The New Yorker, Stephanie Burt asks if the Multiverse is where originality goes to die or if it unlocks new storytelling possibilities. Includes references to Leinster and Stapleton (and Borges) with quotes from Sanifer. “Is the Multiverse Where Originality Goes to Die?”.

…All these multiverses might add up to nothing good. If all potential endings come to pass, what are the consequences of anything? What matters? Joe Russo, the co-director of “Endgame,” has warned that multiverse movies amount to “a money printer” that studios will never turn off; the latest one from Marvel, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” a sloppily plotted heap of special effects notable for its horror tropes, cameos, and self-aware dialogue, has earned nearly a billion dollars at the box office. This year, Marvel Studios announced the launch of “The Multiverse Saga,” a tranche of movies and TV shows that features sequels and trequels, along with the fifth and sixth installments of the “Avengers” series. (“Endgame,” it turns out, was not the end of the game.) Warner Bros. has released MultiVersus, a video game in which Batman can fight Bugs Bunny, and Velma, from “Scooby-Doo,” can fight Arya Stark, from “Game of Thrones.” Even A24, a critically admired independent film studio, now counts a multiverse movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022), as its most profitable film.

There’s a reason that studios plan to spend billions of dollars—more than the economic output of some countries—to mass-produce more of the multiverse: tens of millions of people will spend time and money consuming it. Is the rise of the multiverse the death of originality? Did our culture take the wrong forking path? Or has the multiverse unlocked a kind of storytelling—familiar but flexible, entrancing but evolving—that we genuinely need?

Andrew (not Werdna) dissents on one count: “I wouldn’t consider Endgame to be a multiverse movie.”

(5) PERSONAL WORLDS. At the Guardian, Tom Shone uses Avatar as a takeoff point for an interesting article about worldbuilding and paracosms: “’Storytelling has become the art of world building’: Avatar and the rise of the paracosm”.

…Developmental psychologists have their own vocabulary for what [James] Cameron was up to in math class. His teenage dream of Pandora was somewhere between a heterocosm – the imaginary world of an adult author intended for publication such as Thomas Hardy’s Wessex or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast – and a paracosm, an imaginary world conjured by a child that, in its original form, is almost entirely private. Usually begun between ages six and 12, they seem to be linked to all the private clubhouses, hidden rituals and secret societies of middle childhood, in that they are maintained over a period of time, sometimes years, as the child builds a logically consistent, satisfyingly complete alternative universe for themselves. They tend to peter out with adolescence, about 12 or 14.

Many cultural figures have been drawn to these imaginary worlds. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister, for example, shared a secret language and addressed one another as “King” and “Queen” of their fictional kingdom. The Brontës imagined an “infernal world” of Byronic villains and architectural majesty. CS Lewis made up a land of animals where cats acted like the knights of the round table. Robert Louis Stevenson drew maps. JRR Tolkien invented languages, while the Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem issued fake passports. Friedrich Nietzsche and his sister Elisabeth created an imaginary world revolving around an inch-and-a-half-tall porcelain squirrel. “Everything that my brother made was in honour of King Squirrel; all his musical productions were to glorify His Majesty; on his birthday poems were recited and plays acted, all of which were written by my brother.”

Today, the Nietzsches would be show-runners with a deal with Apple+ to write and direct their own long-running King Squirrel series (“From the mind that brought you Thus Spake Zarathustra and the studio that brought you God is Dead: A CSI investigation …”).

(6) HORROR FOR LAUGHS. At the Guardian, Rich Pelley interviews Garth Marenghi (a.k.a. comedian Matthew Holness) from the British cult TV show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace“Garth Marenghi: ‘Many writers cite me as an influence … and I will be suing them all’”

Anyway, you’re back with brand new horror book Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome. Apparently it’s been 30 years in the making. How come it took so long?
[Wiping anti-bacterial gel into hands] The nature of time has been the main issue. Seconds and minutes quickly form themselves into hours, transmuting by degrees into days, weeks, months and, ultimately, years. Before you know it, decades have elapsed. The essential issue was the ever passing of time between the commencement and conclusion-ment of my task.

Would it have been quicker had you bothered to learn how to type with more than two fingers?
Writing balls-to-the-walls horror is extremely physical. Typing with more than two fingers is counterproductive for any horror writer; you need to concentrate your strength on two fingers alone. I get quite hard when I write, so the best way to channel that energy is by banging – bang, bang, bang. If you type with your hands dancing all over the keyboard [mimes touch-typing], you’re essentially rubbing without release. It’s far more potent to jab….

(7) THE LAST ROUNDUP. “HBO Cancels ‘Westworld’ in Shock Decision”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

…The network has decided to cancel the sci-fi drama after its recent fourth season.

It’s an unexpected fate for a series that was once considered one of HBO’s biggest tentpoles — an acclaimed mystery-box drama that racked up 54 Emmy nominations (including a supporting actress win for Thandiwe Newton).

… Yet linear ratings for the pricey series fell off sharply for its third season, and then dropped even further for season four. Westworld’s critic average on Rotten Tomatoes likewise declined from the mid-80s for its first two seasons to the mid-70s for the latter two. Fans increasingly griped that the show had become confusing and tangled in its mythology and lacked characters to root for. Looming over all of this is the fact Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has pledged aggressive cost-cutting, though network insiders maintain that saving money was not a factor in the show’s cancellation….

(8) SHE REALIZED HER DREAM. Fanac.org has posted a video interview, “Maggie Thompson:  Before, During and After the Origins of Comics Fandom”, in two parts. Maggie Thompson has the unique distinction of being a second generation science fiction fan, one of the architects of comics fandom in the early 60s, and is a much-revered professional in the comics field.  She is interviewed by Dr. Chris Couch.

Part 1: In this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her lifelong experiences with science fiction, science fiction fandom, and popular culture. From her early love of the Oz books and her delight in John Campbell’s magazine Unknown, to her convention and masquerade experiences, to her professional successes, Maggie’s anecdotes are engrossing. There are great stories here – how she acquired her complete set of Unknowns, the origins of her publications Comic Art and Newfangles, the family connection to Walt Kelly (and the Pogo comic strip), her friendship with Carl Barks, and more.

Endearingly, when asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, Maggie answered “I want to be a BNF” (Big Name Fan). She has certainly accomplished that ambition. 



Part 2: In this part of the interview by Dr. Chris Couch, we learn more about Maggie Thompson and her influence on comics. With husband Don Thompson, she published fanzines Comic Art and Newfangles, and went on to edit The Comics Buyer’s Guide and others. Maggie is a respected professional in the field and has been recognized with many awards, including the Eisner, the Harvey, the Inkpot, and the Jack Kirby awards.

Continuing this absolutely delightful interview, Maggie talks about her segue into the professional field, the end of Newfangles and the start of the The Comic Buyers Guide. The engrossing anecdotes continue, with the nature of cosmopolitan Iola, Wisconsin,  her articulation of “perpetual but non-exclusive rights”, Dark Shadows, and the Done in One label for comics.  There are stories of some of the field’s great figures, including Harlan Ellison, Stan Lee, and Carl Barks.  You’ll see questions from the audience as well. 

After decades of furious activity in science fiction and comics, Maggie remains bubbling and full of enthusiasm for her chosen community. There was no need to ask Maggie what keeps her involved—the answers are more than clear. 

(9) THE SUCCESSOR TO SMALL, CUTE ROBOTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw this documentary about the rover Opportunity tonight. The film has very good special effects from ILM. But people should know the film, as the trailer points out, tries to turn the rover into Wall-E (“She” “has a face”). I would have liked at least five minutes about the science Opportunity discovered instead of having NASA people who have spent too much time in media training talk about how brave the robot was. *Sigh* “Good Night Oppy – Official Trailer”.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1983 [By Cat Eldridge.] Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise (1983) 

There was a man called Mael the Red who dwelt in Ar-Mor. That was the far western end of Brezh, which was itself the far western end of the Domain. Seen from those parts, Skyholm gleamed low in the east, often hidden by trees or hills or clouds, and showed little more than half the width of a full moon. Yet folk looked upon it with an awe that was sometimes lacking in those who saw it high and huge. — first words of Orion Shall Rise

Some novels I really like. Such is the case with Poul Anderson’s Orion Shall Rise. By now, I must’ve read it at least a dozen times.

It was first issued by Phantasia Press Inc., a small publisher created  by Sidney Altus and Alex Berman. (This I did not know having, the Timescape Books from 1983.) They published short-run, hardcover limited editions of science fiction and fantasy books with an emphasis L. Sprague de Camp C. J. Cherryh, Philip José Farmer, and Alan Dean Foster. It was lasted from 1978 to 1989.

The book is said to be part of his Maurai series which really is a bit of lie. There are is only three more stories in total, “The Sky People”, “Progress” and “Windmill” I wonder if he meant to write more, but didn’t.  And yes, the Maurai world is visited by the time-traveling character of There Will Be Time.

SPOILERS BEWARE ARE SWIMMING AROUND, AND FLYING TOO

The novel is set apparently several hundred years after a devastating nuclear war which has set back civilization on Earth from a technology viewpoint. and vastly reduced the population as well, by billions it seems. Most of the planet has no advanced technology at all, and The Maurai Federation, the radically anti-technology society in the Pacific Ocean region, is dominated by the Maurai peoples of N’Zealann.

Meanwhile on the other side of the planet, the Domain of Skyholm, a class-based European society, rules over much of lower Europe from their pre-war dirigible aerostat.

Let’s not forget the Northwest Union, a clan-based society based in Pacific Northwest is the most technologically advanced and, and here comes the major spoiler — I did warn you, didn’t I? — they’ve been scavenging pre-War nuclear material to fuel the Orion class starship they have been constructing.

NOW BACK YO MY IMPRESSIONS

So why do I like the Orion Shall Rise so much? Well the story writing is damn perfect and doesn’t slip up at all. I do wish that Anderson had indeed written an actual Maurai series as there’s much here that could’ve been expanded upon.

There is one other thing that is wonderful and that is his characters. It is quite obvious to me that he loves his characters here, so let me quote a lengthy description of one early on:

Clansman was unmistakable. Even his clothes – loose-fitting shirt beneath a cowled jacket, tight-fitting trousers, low boots – were of different cut from their linen and woolen garb, and of finer material. At his ornate belt, next to a knife, hung a pistol; a rifle was sheathed at his saddlebow; and these were modern rapid-fire weapons. His coat bore silver insignia of rank on the shoulders, an emblem of a gold star in a blue field on the left sleeve. Before all else, his body proclaimed what he was. He sat tall and slender, with narrow head and countenance, long straight nose, large gray eyes, thin lips, fair complexion but dark hair that hung barely past his ears and was streaked with white. Though he went clean-shaven in the manner of his people, one could see that his beard would be sparse. He carried himself with pride rather than haughtiness, and smiled as he lifted an arm in greeting.

Everything here feels right, feels alive. I truly regret that was never told in an oral form as its sounds so much like a spoken tale.

It is available from the usual suspects. The Timescape trade edition is available, errr, new for just ten dollars on Amazon. They must have a time machine sitting around. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 4, 1912 Wendayne Ackerman. Wife of Forrest J Ackerman in the Forties. After eight years of marriage, she and FJA divorced but remained friends and companions. Later she translated the German language Perry Rhodan books he acquired for English-language publication. (Died 1990.)
  • November 4, 1934Gregg Calkins. Writer, Editor, and Fan. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him reads: “Longtime fan Gregg Calkins died July 31, 2017 after suffering a fall. He was 82. Gregg got active in fandom in the Fifties and his fanzine Oopsla (1952-1961) is fondly remembered. He was living in the Bay Area and serving as the Official Editor of FAPA when I applied to join its waitlist in the Seventies. He was Fan GoH at the 1976 Westercon. Calkins later moved to Costa Rica. In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates. He is survived by his wife, Carol.” (Died 2017.)
  • November 4, 1953Kara Dalkey, 69. Writer of YA fiction and historical fantasy. She is a member of the Pre-Joycean Fellowship (which if memory serves me right includes both Emma Bull and Stephen Brust) and the Scribblies. Her works include The Sword of SagamoreSteel RoseLittle Sister and The Nightingale. And her Water trilogy blends together Atlantean and Arthurian mythologies. She’s been nominated for the Mythopoeic and Tiptree Awards.
  • November 4, 1953Stephen Jones, 69.  Editor, and that is putting quite mildly, as he went well over the century mark in edited anthologies quoted sometime ago. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror accounts for seventeen volumes by itself and The Mammoth Book of (Pick A Title) runs for at least another for another dozen. He also, no surprise, to me, has authored a number of horror reference works such as The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated HistoryBasil Copper: A Life in Books and H. P. Lovecraft in Britain. He has also done hundreds of essays, con reports, obituaries and such showing up, well, just about everywhere.
  • November 4, 1957Jody Lynn Nye, 66. She’s best known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent  MythAdventures series.  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out which sounds intriguing. And she has written novels with Travis Taylor, Moon Beam and Moon Tracks.
  • November 4, 1958Nancy Springer, 64. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. She won an Otherwise Award for her Larque on the Wing novel. The Oddling Prince came out several years ago on Tachyon. 
  • November 4, 1958Lani Tupu, 64. He’d be here just for being Crais and the voice of the Pilot on the Farscape series but he’s actually been in several other genre undertakings including the 1989 Punisher as Laccone, and  Gordon Standish in Robotropolis. He also had roles in Tales of the South SeasTime Trax and The Lost World. All of which we can guess were filmed in Australia. Lastly, he appears in the Australian remake of the Mission: Impossible series which if you haven’t seen it is quite excellent. I just found it in DVD format sometime in the past several years.
  • November 4, 1960John Vickery, 62. In Babylon 5, he played Neroon which is where I remember him from as he was a Right Bastard there.  His major Trek universe role was as Rusot, a member of Damar’s Cardassian resistance group, appearing in the DS9 episodes “The Changing Face of Evil”, “When It Rains…” and “Tacking Into the Wind”.  He also played a Betazoid in Next Gen’s “Night Terrors” and a Klingon in Enterprise‘s “Judgment” episode. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) QUANTUM OF KNOWLEDGE. Available to watch now, a Quantum Week webinar exploring the forthcoming quantum technology revolution: “Perspectives on societal aspects and impacts of quantum technologies” at Physics World. The participants are listed with brief bios at the link.

Quantum science and technology is advancing and evolving rapidly and, in the last decade, has shifted from foundational scientific exploration to adoption by commercial and government organizations. It is essential that scrutiny and guidance is applied to this quantum revolution to bring other societal stakeholders onboard and ensure that the benefits can be maximized for all society.

What considerations exist for quantum technologies? How should we engage as a society in the future, as promised and created by this emerging sector? We will discuss some key questions that will shape the forthcoming quantum technology revolution.

(14) FROM THE VAULT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Charles Schulz tells the BBC’s Peter France about the importance of perseverance and draws a strip with Snoopy in this 1977 BBC clip that dropped today.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “She-Hulk Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George says She-Hulk is “one of the most meta” Disney Plus shows ever.  It has a gratuitous twerking scene with Megan Thee Stallion which is put in there “to rile up angry internet dudus, and then we’re going to make fun of them for getting angry.” This is the show where She-Hulk smashes into the show’s writer’s room, demands they produce better scripts, and then meets the writers’ boss, who is not Kevin Feige.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, Steven French, Andrew (not Werdna), JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day a Civil War farmer.]

Michael Swanwick Resigns International Union of Writers Presidency in Response to Russian Invasion

IUW logo

Author Michael Swanwick announced on his blog yesterday “My Resignation from Honorary President of the International Union of Writers”. As background he explained —

Most of those reading this are not aware of my position as the Honorary President of the International Union of Writers, a writers’ organization headquartered in Moscow. However, it meant a great deal to me. I have good friends in Russia and I believe in reportage and literature, particularly science fiction, and specifically Russian science fiction, as a force for good. 

Swanwick added in a cover email to File 770: “I have resigned from my position as honorary president of the International Union of Writers as of February 22 of this year. This was an unhappy decision to make, but I can see no alternative.” A copy of his resignation letter is below.


To

Alexander Nikolaevich Gritsenko
Chairman of the Board
International Union of Writers

Sir,

It is with deep regret that I am compelled to submit my resignation as honorary president of the International Union of Writers, effective immediately. Given the Russian invasion of Ukraine I cannot, however indirectly, support Vladimir Putin, his government, and their expansionist ambitions.

I am grateful for the honor that the IUW afforded me, and I still believe in the importance of honest writing and its potential to create a better world. If I can be of assistance in the furtherance of those goals, I will do what I can.

Sincerely,

Michael Swanwick

Barkley: DisCon III, the Third Day

The File 770 DisCon III News Desk

To Be Fair, I Was Left Unsupervised: A Disjointed Chronicle of 79th World Science Fiction Convention, DisCon III — December 17-18, 2021

By Chris M. Barkley:

DAY THREE

After yesterday’s events, I decided to sleep in a bit, until about 9 a.m. Because, you know, Worldcon.

The first bit of news came from Newsletter Number 3, which was published late Thursday evening. The middle column had the BIG news: that the proposal to create a Best Audiobook category had passed muster at the Preliminary Meeting and would be debated at the Main Session on Friday. After my blistering attack on the Business Meeting I feel slightly encouraged. But let’s see what happens next. Watch This Space, as Rachel Maddow intones on a regular basis…

At 10 a.m., I was on the move; today was the day I was going to race around like a whirling dervish and get books signed, come hell or high water!

I dashed down to the Dealers Room eagerly to seek out Mary Robinette Kowal, only to find out her signing session had been rescheduled due to a conflicting panel. So, you may wonder, who else would be crazy enough to get up that early in the morning to sign autographs? Yeah, THIS GUY, fellow Ohioian John Scalzi…

On my way back to my room, I made a stop at the Press Office. Peter Thomas was there and he informed me that a dozen media reporters had registered and that he did not have a firm number on how many warm bodies were on site, but had heard unofficially form the folks in Registration that the figure may or may not be around 2,500 people. He promised to text me directly if he got any solid information. (As of Friday evening, he did not have any additional information.)  

After tempering my disappointment, it was time for breakfast. The weather remained unusually warm with moderate winds and an overcast sky. Our destination was Open City again because our companion Anna, Juli and I were wondering if their breakfast menu was as good as their dinner menu. Readers, we were not disappointed!

Juli had the Chorizo Scramble with an arugula salad, Anna had the California Scramble with a side of fruit. I decided to go big and have the Biscuit (singular!) and Gravy with a Breakfast Burrito. And yes, they serve animal crackers with their tea and coffee!

[Chris Barkley’s report continues after the jump.]

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 6/23/21 Second Stage Lesnerizer

(1) STARTING A STORY. This compelling thread starts here.

(2) BUTLER BIO ON THE WAY. Yesterday’s Oprah Daily acknowledged the author’s birthday with an excerpt from a new biography: “Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler: Excerpt”.

…But the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism, and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read now than ever, and that phenomenon is destined to grow with the publication Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, due out in January of 2022.

Zoboi, who was a National Book Award finalist for her young adult novel American Street, is not just a Butler devotee, but was mentored by the writer. Now, she has written an ode to her told in poems and prose. Here, Oprah Daily shares an exclusive sneak peak of the forthcoming volume, just in time to say: Happy Birthday Octavia Butler.

(3) THE PLAY’S THE THING. (Except she’s talking about a different play than Hamlet.) Connie Willis shared “Some Midsummer Night’s Dreams for Midsummer Night” on Facebook.

…The first night of our film festival, we watched GET OVER IT, the teen movie with Ben Foster, Kristen Dunst, and Martin Short. Berke, played by Ben Foster, has been dumped by Allison for another guy, so he tries out for the school musical DeFores-Oates (Martin Short) is directing, to try to get her back. He’s helped by Kelly (Kirsten Dunst) who really likes him, but he doesn’t even see her because he’s completely obsessed with getting Hermia back. Sound familiar?

The movie doesn’t do the whole play–there’s no Pyramus and Thisbe and Bottom’s just a walk-on, but there are fairies (including the rapper Sisqo), and a stoned stage crew who double as Puck, and the movie’s surprisingly faithful to the play, except for the ending, when Berke takes things into his own hands. GET OVER IT captures even better than Shakespeare the agony you go through when you’re in love with someone who doesn’t even know you exist.

The second night we watched the 1999 A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM (or as I call it, the Ally McBeal version,) starring Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale, with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Puck. It’s a good movie overall and lots of stuff I loved–the lovers flee to the woods on bicycles, Puck is very funny and as much of an annoyance to his boss Oberon, Michelle Pfeiffer makes a sexy and funny Titania, and Max Wright is beyond wonderful as the reluctant actor dragged into the play at the last minute to be the Man in the Moon, with a cigarette dangling from his lip and a dog getting into the act.

But there are three moments of true genius in the play…

(4) GOODBYE TO AMAZON. Amanda S. Greene continues her step-by-step explanation of everything involved in shifting her books away from the Amazon platform in “Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever” at Mad Genius Club. There are a lot of issues that require thoughtful decisions.

 …I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website…. 

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS KERFUFFLE. Michael Swanwick offered “A Few Quiet Words of Thanks for the People Putting on Discon III” at Flogging Babel.

Yesterday, I reserved my hotel room for Discon III. And that put me in mind of the first and only time I was on a con committee.

This was in the 1970s, before I made my first sale. I’d only been to a few science fiction conventions but I knew the guy in charge of putting on a con whose name I conveniently forget and, doubtless for reasons of fannish politics, he filled the committee with his friends, despite the fact we none of us had any experience at the tasks we were assigned.

Long story, short. I did a terrible job. And I’ve never volunteered to serve again. Because even if everything goes perfectly, your reward for putting on a convention is not getting to experience it.

So I’d like to express my gratitude to the Discon III staff, both present and past. That includes everybody who quit for reasons of principle and everybody who decided to tough it out, also for reasons of principle.

This has been a star-crossed year for the Worldcon. I won’t bother to list all the problems: Acts of God, acts of Man, acts of Fans. We all know them. It must have been maddening to be at the white-hot center of them all.

Which makes this a good time to say: Thank you.

(6) FINE DISTINCTION. And one of John Scalzi’s comments:

(7) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. Jo Martin will be a guest at Gallifrey One: Thirty Second to Midnight, to be held in LA in February 2022.

It’s with great pleasure that we can now announce that JO MARTIN will be joining us next February as a confirmed guest, for her very first Doctor Who convention appearance in North America!

Jo Martin became an immediately beloved part of Doctor Who mythology when she appeared as Ruth Clayton in series 12’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” opposite Jodie Whittaker… a woman who was, in fact, a previously unknown earlier incarnation of the Doctor herself!  As the landmark first Doctor of color to be shown in the long-running series, she also appeared in the season finale “The Timeless Children.”…

(8) ONLINE PROMETHEUS AWARDS TO INCLUDE LFS-REASON PANEL. The Libertarian Futurist Society couch plans for their online award ceremony in these terms:

In 2021, LFS members will have a rare opportunity to watch and enjoy the annual Prometheus Awards ceremony and an interesting related panel discussion for free online – without having to register for a Worldcon.

Reason magazine will be the media sponsor of the hour-plus panel discussion, which will immediately follow the online half-hour Prometheus Awards ceremony for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame). Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward and Reason’s book editor Jesse Walker will join LFS leaders, including board president William H. Stoddard, on the hour-plus panel discussion along with, we hope, the 2021 Prometheus Award-winning novelist (tba).

(9) VETERAN COMICS READER. James Bacon was interviewed by Football Comics Podcast Champ/We are United, as hosts Rab and Gull take a little break from all the footie and have a look at War Comics, covering classic titles like Battle, Commando, Victor, Warlord, and many more. “Champ/We Are United Episode 13: War Comics”.

(10) COSPLAY DATING. Yahoo! says “Singles Dress Up as Creatures for Blind Dates” is the premise of Sexy Beasts.

Given the popularity of The Masked Singer, we can ascertain that viewers enjoy watching people dressed up in strange costumes. And given the general state of reality television over the past two decades, we can also conclude that people enjoy watching people go on bizarre dates. Netflix has endeavored to combine these two irrefutable tenets in one convenient package. Thus, we have Sexy Beasts, in which elaborate-prosthetic-laden singles meet for a night of “nonjudgmental” romance. At least that’s how they’re touting it. Take a look at the trailer, which features dolphins, demons, canids, scarecrows, insects, bovines, and a handful of uncategorizables….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1976 — On this date in 1976, Logan’s Run premiered. It was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Saud David. The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is based on the 1967 Logan’s Run novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. Though critical reception was at best mixed, it was a box success and is considered to have MGM from financial ruin. It was nominated at SunCon, a year in which no film was awarded a Hugo. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 76. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1951 — Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1953 — Russell Mulcahy, 68. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company really messed with production. He would later released this film in Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 64. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which in on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything genre worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 — Cixin Liu, 58. He’s a winner of a Hugo Award  for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, the Chinese State sponsored SFF Awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? Is it still on? 
  • Born June 23, 1964 — Joss Whedon, 57. I think I first encounter him with the Buffy tv series. And I hold that Angel was far better told. Firefly was a lovely series that ended far too soon. And don’t get me started on the Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 49. Liz Sherman in Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 21. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon for New Scientist.

(14) WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD. CrimeReads excerpts a new history of comic books by Paul S. Hirsch: “The Early, Wild, Exploited, and Sometimes Radical Days of the Comic Book Industry in America”.

The American comic book is inseparable from foreign policy, the great twentieth-century battles between capitalism and totalitarianism, and the political goals of the world’s preeminent military and cultural power. The history of the American comic book is a story of visual culture, commerce, race, and policy. These four fields are analogous to the four colors used to print comic books: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. They lie atop one another, smearing, blending, and bleeding to create a complete image. To separate them is to disassemble a coherent whole and to shatter a picture that in its entirety shows us how culture and diplomacy were entangled during the mid-twentieth century.

THE EARLY YEARS, 1935–1945

The period from 1935 to 1945 was defined by images of darkness and light. The comic industry itself—populated by otherwise unemployable immigrants, racial minorities, and political radicals—emerged from the shadows of the New York publishing world….

(15) BOOK RESURRECTION. “’Most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print’: the fight to rescue a nation’s lost books” in The Guardian.

…This is the unfortunate fate of most books, even literary prize-winners. In fact, of the 62 books that won Australia’s Miles Franklin Award between 1957 and 2019, 23 are currently not available as ebooks, 40 are not available as audiobooks, and 10 are not available anywhere, in any format whatsoever. They’re officially out of print. This is something that Untapped: The Australian Literary Heritage Project is trying to rectify.

“Untapped is a collaboration between authors, libraries and researchers, and it came about because most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print. You can’t find it anywhere,” says project lead, Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin from Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. “Think about it. If so many Miles Franklin winners are out of print, you can imagine how bad availability must be for memoir, and histories, and other local stories.”

Untapped’s mission is to digitise 200 of Australia’s most important lost books, preserving them for future generations and making them available through a national network of libraries. They include books such as Anita Heiss’s I’m Not Racist, But … (2007) and Frank Hardy’s The Unlucky Australians (1968). “One exciting thing is that all these books will now be part of the National E-deposit scheme,” Giblin says, referring to the legal requirement for all publishers to provide copies of published works to libraries – a framework only recently extended to electronic publishing. “This means they’ll be preserved forever. These books will now be around as long as we have libraries.”

(16) WEIR Q&A. Suspense Radio, a thriller podcast, interviews Andy Weir: “LaunchpadOne: Interview with Andy Weir”.

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(17) ROY HOWARD GOH SPEECH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Cromcast has a recording of Roy Thomas’ guest of honor speech at the 2021 Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains. Lots of interesting stuff about working at Marvel in the 1960s and 1970s, not just Conan related, though there is a lot of that, too. “Howard Days 2021 – When Conan Went Public!”

(18) BUILDING UP THEIR INVENTORY. James Davis Nicoll knows where the cargo in their holds came from — “Risky Business: Five Books About Interplanetary Trade” at Tor.com.

Humans have, starting in prehistoric times (with obsidian, red ochre, etc.), established vast trade networks that cross mountains, deserts, and oceans. Presumably, this will be true in the future as well, even as humanity expands out into SPAAACE. While there are reasons why larger concerns will tend to dominate, the little guys will often provide more engaging narratives. Thus, these five heartwarming tales of working traders enthusiastically engaging in commerce among the stars…

The Trouble Twisters by Poul Anderson (1966)

Hyperdrive gave humans the stars…also vast fortunes to Polesotechnic League merchant princes like Nicolas van Rijn. Great men cannot be everywhere, however, which is why this collection of short pieces focuses not on van Rijn but his employee, David Falkayn (don’t worry! David eventually gets into management by marrying the boss’s beautiful daughter). Whether upending religious prohibitions, obtaining state secrets, or intervening in bitter ethnic strife, Falkayn and his co-workers always find the solution that delivers profit.

Long after the events in this book, Falkayn would become disenchanted with the League’s conscience-blind focus on immediate profits. This would have regrettable implications for Falkayn’s relationship with van Rijn, but without actually saving the League or humanity from the consequences of the League’s short-sighted policies. But at least they generated lots of profit for the shareholders before the League-armed space barbarians descended from the skies….

(19) SPIDER-MAN BEYOND. A Marvel press release tells me – “Stay tuned tomorrow for information on this exciting new Amazing Spider-Man era from Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Cody Ziglar, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells!”

(20) MARVEL MARKETING. Did that previous item come from this guy? This video from Screen Rant, which dropped today, features Ryan George as master marketer Normantula McMan, who says, “I get butts in seats.  I influence butts in ways you can’t imagine.”  And McMan knows butts, because his grandpa came up with the idea that four out of five doctors recommended a particular smoke!

(21) ASTRONAUTS TO EXPERIENCE TIDE EFEFCT. Yep, here’s the science entry in today’s Scroll courtesy of the AP: “Dirty laundry in space? NASA, Tide tackle cleaning challenge”. It turns out there’s a simple reason why the International Space Station smells like an old gym sock.

How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t.

They wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the filth and stink anymore, then junk them.

NASA wants to change that — if not at the International Space Station, then the moon and Mars — and stop throwing away tons of dirty clothes every year, stuffing them in the trash to burn up in the atmosphere aboard discarded cargo ships. So it’s teamed up with Procter & Gamble Co. to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years, just like on Earth.

The Cincinnati company announced Tuesday that it will send a pair of Tide detergent and stain removal experiments to the space station later this year and next, all part of the galactic battle against soiled and sweaty clothes….

(22) RETURN TO SENDER. Yahoo! draws our attention to a remarkable working model: “Fan-Made Captain America Shield Actually Bounces Back”.

…We have to give big props to the YouTuber here. Unlike other “make your own Cap shield” videos, he didn’t go the drone route. Which is kind of cheating. The MCU shield bounces after all, it doesn’t fly. According to their own description, the shield they made was created with carbon fiber with a fiberglass ring, to provide bounce while keeping maximum strength. The shield also magnetically connects to the user’s wrist, and can be thrown overhand just like Cap. We think the final results are pretty darn impressive….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Swanwick Wins Aelita Award

Aelita Award

Michael Swanwick is the first U.S. writer to win the Aelita Award.

Swanwick explained the award’s history to old readers of his blog:

The Aelita was named after the 1923 science fiction novel Aelita by Alexei Tolstoy and is presented at Aelita, (also named after the novel), Russia’s oldest science fiction convention. The award was created in 1981 to honor a lifetime contribution to Soviet science fiction. Later, this became Russian science fiction and last year it was decided to expand the remit to cover SF globally.

I am gobsmacked, as our British cousins say, to be the first American  ever to receive this award. For reasons that are all too familiar to everyone, the Aelita conference was virtual this year so I didn’t get to return to Ekaterinburg, a city I am very fond of, But that didn’t make the honor any less sweet.

For more information, see the Wikipedia entry about the Aelita Award.